Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11, 2011

Ten years ago I was in graduate school working on a long forgotten poem at home when my wife called and alerted me to the morning's events. When I turned on the TV & checked the news online, I quickly realized the enormity of the tragedy.  My oldest daughter, who was 1 at the time, had just begun day care in the Federal Courthouse in Boston so I could go back to school. Because of the Oklahoma City bombing everyone had to be evacuated from all federal buildings. My wife, who was pregnant at the time with our second daughter, ran to the courthouse from her office, grabbed our daughter, & drove as fast as she could home.

There has been much written in the last 10 years about that beautiful late-summer morning and we all have our own saturation levels to contend with. I, for one, greatly appreciated the focus and attention that poetry received at the time as a way to deal with craziness of it all. Suddenly people were talking about poetry as something that matters. Something important.

There have been many good poems written in response to the events of Sept 11th; you can use the google-machine to find the one's you like best. This is one of my favorites, by Bob Hicok.

Full Flight

I'm in a plane that will not be flown into a building.
It's a SAAB 340, seats 40, has two engines with propellers
is why I think of beanies, those hats that would spin
a young head into the clouds. The plane is red and loud
inside like it must be loud in the heart, red like fire
and fire engines and the woman two seats up and to the right
resembles one of the widows I saw on TV after the Towers
came down. It's her hair that I recognize, the fecundity of it
and the color and its obedience to an ideal, the shape
it was asked several hours ago to hold and has held, a kind
of wave that begins at the forehead and repeats with slight
variations all the way to the tips, as if she were water
and a pebble had been continuously dropped into the mouth
of her existence. We are eighteen thousand feet over America.
People are typing at their laps, blowing across the fog of coffee,
sleeping with their heads on the windows, on the pattern
of green fields and brown fields, streams and gas stations
and swimming pools, blue dots of aquamarine that suggest
we've domesticated the mirage. We had to kill someone,
I believe, when the metal bones burned and the top
fell through the bottom and a cloud made of dust and memos
and skin muscled across Manhattan. I remember feeling
I could finally touch a rifle, that some murders
are an illumination of ethics, that they act as a word,
a motion the brain requires for which there is
no syllable, no breath. The moment the planes had stopped,
when we were afraid of the sky, there was a pause
when we could have been perfectly American,
could have spent infinity dollars and thrown a million
bodies at finding the few, lasering our revenge
into a kind of love, the blood-hunger kept exact
and more convincing for its precision, an expression
of our belief that proximity is never the measure of guilt.
We've lived in the sky again for some years and today
on my lap these pictures from Iraq, naked bodies
stacked into a pyramid of ha-ha and the articles
about broomsticks up the ass and the limbs of children
turned into stubble, we are punch-drunk and getting even
with the sand, with the map, with oil, with ourselves
I think listening to the guys behind me. There's a problem
in Alpena with an inventory control system, some switches
are being counted twice, switches for what I don't know—
switches of humor, of faith—but the men are musical
in their jargon, both likely born in New Delhi
and probably Americans now, which is what the flesh
of this country has been, a grafted pulse, an inventory
of the world, and just as the idea of embrace
moves chemically into my blood, and I'm warmed
as if I've just taken a drink, a voice announces
we've begun our descent, and then I sense the falling.

Monday, August 29, 2011

After the Storm

I've been reading C.K. Williams's Repair and came across this poem. After Hurricane Irene has come and gone it struck a chord with me. I hope you enjoy it, too.


Even when the rain falls relatively hard,
only one leaf at a time of the little tree
you planted on the balcony last year,
then another leaf at its time, and one more,
is set trembling by the constant droplets,

but the rain, the clouds flocked over the city,
you at the piano inside, your hesitant music
mingling with the din of the downpour,
the gush of rivulets loosed from the eaves,
the iron railings and flowing gutters,

all of it fuses in me with such intensity
that I can't help wondering why my longing
to live forever has so abated that it hardly
comes to me anymore, and never as it did,
as regret for what I might not live to live,

but rather as a layering of instants like this,
transient as the mist drawn from the rooftops,
yet emphatic as any note of the nocturne
you practice, and, the storm faltering, fading
into its own radiant passing, you practice again.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Gillian Welch

I saw Gillian Welch last night at the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw. She was supposed to perform in Wilmington but due to Hurricane Irene the show was rescheduled to Saxapahaw. Thank you Irene! What a phenomenal show! If you ever get the opportunity to see Ms Welch & Mr Rawlings play by all means do so.

They played this song last night & it has always been one of my favorites. Always reminds me of a good friend of mine when back in the day we used to go out dancing just about every night. Loved dancing with my friend, Dave, & it makes sad / happy whenever I hear this song.

              Elvis Presley Blues from the Time (The Revelator) album, 2001

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Big money funding school resegregation in Wake County NC

The Republican party really wants to takes us back, back into the dark ages. These attempts to end public education are taking place not too far from here. People need to wake up and understand how extreme these Republicans are. And vote the bastards out in the next election.

To read more about this issue you can read about it here:  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The new poet laureate

Here's a poem by the new poet laureate, Philip Levine. Enjoy!

M. Degas Teaches Art & Science At Durfee Intermediate School--Detroit, 1942

He made a line on the blackboard,
one bold stroke from right to left
diagonally downward and stood back
to ask, looking as always at no one
in particular, "What have I done?"
From the back of the room Freddie
shouted, "You've broken a piece
of chalk." M. Degas did not smile.
"What have I done?" he repeated.
The most intellectual students
looked down to study their desks
except for Gertrude Bimmler, who raised
her hand before she spoke. "M. Degas,
you have created the hypotenuse
of an isosceles triangle." Degas mused.
Everyone knew that Gertrude could not
be incorrect. "It is possible,"
Louis Warshowsky added precisely,
"that you have begun to represent
the roof of a barn." I remember
that it was exactly twenty minutes
past eleven, and I thought at worst
this would go on another forty
minutes. It was early April,
the snow had all but melted on
the playgrounds, the elms and maples
bordering the cracked walks shivered
in the new winds, and I believed
that before I knew it I'd be
swaggering to the candy store
for a Milky Way. M. Degas
pursed his lips, and the room
stilled until the long hand
of the clock moved to twenty one
as though in complicity with Gertrude,
who added confidently, "You've begun
to separate the dark from the dark."
I looked back for help, but now
the trees bucked and quaked, 

and Iknew this could go on forever.  

Philip Levine

You can  hear Mr. Levine read the poem here:

Monday, August 15, 2011

Stan Brakhage

Stan Brakhage, was an American non-narrative filmmaker who is considered to be one of the most important figures in 20th century experimental film.

The Dante Quartet is an experimental short film completed in 1987. The film was inspired by Dante's The Divine Comedy, and took six years to produce.

The Dante Quartet is divided into four parts, titled Hell Itself, Hell Spit Flexion, Purgation and existence is song, respectively. Brakhage described the sections as follows:

I made Hell Itself during the breakup with Jane [Brakhage] and the collapse of my whole life, so I got to know quite well the streaming of the hypnagogic that’s hellish. Now the body can not only feed back its sense of being in hell but also its getting out of hell, and Hell Spit Flexion shows the way out – it’s there as crowbar to life one out of hell toward the transformatory state – purgatory. And finally there’s a fourth state that’s fleeting. I’ve called the last part existence is song quoting Rilke, because I don’t want to presume upon the after-life and call it “Heaven."

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bill Knott

Bill Knott was one of my professors at Emerson College where I earned an MFA in poetry. Knott is the author of ten books of poetry, including his landmark first collection The Naomi Poems (Follett, 1968), Outremer, which won the Iowa Poetry Prize in 1988, and most recently The Unsubscriber (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004). He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2003. He could scare the bejusus out of the unitiated, but Knott knows his stuff and has to be admired for his tenacity in doing it his own way.
Knott has self-published collections of his work, which are available for free through his website:

Friday, August 5, 2011

Balkan Brass

I've spent the past couple of hours listening to Balkan brass bands and nearly catapulting myself through the roof in the process. Love the seismic energy of these sounds! Hope you enjoy it too. This is the Fanfara Transilvania Balkan Brass Band:

Thursday, August 4, 2011

August 4th

I saw my first Great Blue Heron of the summer this morning. What a treat! I remember seeing them last year around this time. It must be part of their migration pattern. Happy to have them back in hood. They are truly magnificent creatures!  I've also been seeing more of the Red-shouldered Hawks. One flew about 5 feet over my head a few weeks back. What a fierce looking bird. And of course the Barred Owls are seemingly always around. Just the sound of them calling out to each other is enough to soothe the soul. Love my tree house in the forest and all its wondrous inhabitants!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Four Tet

I just began my morning listening to Four Tet aka  Kieran Hebded. This is a nice sample of his work.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Bolin Creek friends

I've been meeting a lot more of my neighbors now that it's springtime. Here are a few of them...


Barred Owl

Kingsnake (?)

Saturday, April 2, 2011


After a wet & unseasonable cold week it finally feels like spring again down here. Just in time for the last few days of spring break.  Whoo hoo!

Here's a fine spring poem by Louise Glück

The Silver Lily

The nights have grown cool again, like the nights
of early spring, and quiet again. Will
speech disturb you? We're
alone now; we have no reason for silence.

Can you see, over the garden—the full moon rises.
I won't see the next full moon.

In spring, when the moon rose, it meant
time was endless. Snowdrops
opened and closed, the clustered
seeds of the maples fell in pale drifts.
White over white, the moon rose over the birch tree.
And in the crook, where the tree divides,
leaves of the first daffodils, in moonlight
soft greenish-silver.

We have come too far together toward the end now
to fear the end. These nights, I am no longer even certain
I know what the end means. And you, who've been with a man—

after the first cries,
doesn't joy, like fear, make no sound?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The haves vs the have nots

Hoping President Obama & the Democrats can find it within themselves to come out more forcefully in favor of the middle class, the working class, & the Unions. The haves have been redistributing income upward for the last 30 years. It's time to fight back. I know which side I'm on.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire 100 year anniversary

Today is the 100th anniversary of Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. In a time when there were no unions or worker's rights. This seems particularly relevant today in light of all the Republican Governors' attempts at union busting and knocking down any hopes of a sustainable middle class in this country. It's class war, people, and the rich are winning right now.

Read more about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire here

This is a fantastic Robert Pinsky poem about The Great Fire from the perspective of a middle class man inspecting his own shirt.


by Robert Pinsky 

The back, the yoke, the yardage. Lapped seams,
The nearly invisible stitches along the collar
Turned in a sweatshop by Koreans or Malaysians

Gossiping over tea and noodles on their break
Or talking money or politics while one fitted
This armpiece with its overseam to the band

Of cuff I button at my wrist. The presser, the cutter,
The wringer, the mangle. The needle, the union,
The treadle, the bobbin. The code. The infamous blaze

At the Triangle Factory in nineteen-eleven.
One hundred and forty-six died in the flames
On the ninth floor, no hydrants, no fire escapes—

The witness in a building across the street
Who watched how a young man helped a girl to step
Up to the windowsill, then held her out

Away from the masonry wall and let her drop.
And then another. As if he were helping them up
To enter a streetcar, and not eternity.

A third before he dropped her put her arms   
Around his neck and kissed him. Then he held
Her into space, and dropped her. Almost at once

He stepped to the sill himself, his jacket flared
And fluttered up from his shirt as he came down,
Air filling up the legs of his gray trousers—

Like Hart Crane’s Bedlamite, “shrill shirt ballooning.”
Wonderful how the pattern matches perfectly
Across the placket and over the twin bar-tacked

Corners of both pockets, like a strict rhyme
Or a major chord.   Prints, plaids, checks,
Houndstooth, Tattersall, Madras. The clan tartans

Invented by mill-owners inspired by the hoax of Ossian,
To control their savage Scottish workers, tamed
By a fabricated heraldry: MacGregor,

Bailey, MacMartin. The kilt, devised for workers
To wear among the dusty clattering looms.
Weavers, carders, spinners. The loader,

The docker, the navvy. The planter, the picker, the sorter
Sweating at her machine in a litter of cotton
As slaves in calico headrags sweated in fields:

George Herbert, your descendant is a Black
Lady in South Carolina, her name is Irma
And she inspected my shirt. Its color and fit

And feel and its clean smell have satisfied
Both her and me. We have culled its cost and quality
Down to the buttons of simulated bone,

The buttonholes, the sizing, the facing, the characters
Printed in black on neckband and tail. The shape,
The label, the labor, the color, the shade. The shirt.


I went to New York last week and it threw this blog out of whack. Such a fantastic city. This coming week my daughters are home on Spring break. Which surely means more neglect for this. Yu(c)k is the softer version of the band Yuck. Like them both. The Young kids keeps on rockin'. As a father of two girls I enjoyed this one the most from Yu(c)k's EP.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


We stand in solidarity with the Egyptian people! نقف تضامنا مع الشعب المصري 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Flux Density

This poem was originally published in The Watermark 


With different rules, under a new order,
the slant may tilt at an alternative angle,
the floor could become the ceiling,
creating a whole new set of circumstances.
Try imagining for a minute your life then.
Nuances, while not so subtle,
could save your life.
Then again, the very thing that wants
so badly to turn everything upside down
may very well be the inverted idea
of an idea already standing on its head.

And yet, with another set of rules,
the order could slant towards other,
more fantastic angles, where the weight
of change may grow too troublesome to bear.
And so, in order not to be crushed
by the process, another change
becomes necessary, leaving things
as they are, in a permanent state of flux.

©Peter Birckhead

Friday, January 28, 2011

According To Thomas Cook


the bullet train leaves before you're ready.
It hauls everything people say you need.

The rest of your life's going back: circular
notes & fees exchanged from barred windows,

scrawl scratched onto old boxcars, half-remembered
conversations in-between destinations.

At the station the lines are moving fast and slow.
Gentlemen in bow ties & mustachios are collecting tickets.

Try leaving ahead of time or showing up late.
The excursion's just the same.

With all the whacks and thwacks

that correspond with consciousness, just say
whoopee to that dog and pony show.

The bullet train arrives before you're ready.
It will wait for you the rest of your life.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


This poem was published in the Beacon Street Review in the fall of 1999.


“I’m not even trying,” Azalea said, as she zeroed in on the target.
Everyone was either limping or crawling
through the last five miles of the day.  Our mouths were dry
with the dust of past generations.  Dreams had been kicked
and scrambled into oblique forms against the red roofs
of our town.  Oceans were being drained
to re-fill the old vat of marketable rebellion.
There was no separation between the senses.

“Too many outfits,” someone else said,
as Azalea lifted off the ground in her blue swan feathers.
The dark November wind had settled her breathing
back into fire.  We took bets to see which alley she’d turn up in.
I couldn’t decide whether to turn away from the view or be sick
in my socks.  It was getting colder and all the tattooed
lovers were selling their stocks to keep their place
in line before she crashed. 

“It’s a world economy now,” I said, burying my father’s
hospital bills in the backyard.  Every hour was sponsored
by Microsoft or Mobil.  We wore sandwich boards to work
to ward off the inquisitors: “I am not a socialist.” 
Meanwhile, I dreamed of Azalea’s blue flight
as the last editions of independent thought
caught between my teeth like raw meat.  For now,
we wake to the lovesick strains of mediocrity
rubbing its dreary wings together. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Memorial in Arizona

The President gave a moving speech last in Arizona on behalf of the victims, victim's families, & the nation in the aftermath of the horrendous shootings in Tucson last weekend. Watch the full speech here:

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Bolin Forest

I moved last summer into a great community in a forest abutting a wonderful creek.  I spend a lot of time walking / running in these woods with my dogs.  Daily I'm stopped in my tracks by something beautiful.  Here are a few photos from my little corner of the world.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Rosendo Romero - FANTASIA

In light of the previous post I wanted to share this piece of fine accordion music from South America.  Last year I picked up a great collection of Colombian accordion music, "Ayomobe! The Heart of Colombia's Musica Vallenata" (Smithsonian Folkways) which I keep coming back to.  Truly wonderful music!
Check it out here: