Friday, November 27, 2009

gratuitous art films event at jimmy's diner.

Gratuitous Art Films Gratuitously presents the Gratuitous Art Film Event
Dec 4th
at Jimmy's Diner
577 Union Ave
Brooklyn, NY
near the Lorimer stop of the L train
3 dollar beers!

"Sobredosis de la abuela" by Ovulo Punk

Find out more about Gratuitous art Films

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

rain comes and goes

it’s warm enough
you wouldn’t freeze to death
if you got wet.
i didn’t bring an umbrella.
they are a liability in light rain.
umbrellas in the hands of pedestrians
are as deadly as freezing weather.

birds are lively.
streets washed clean.
trees are just thinking
about what it takes
to make a bud.

yesterday in Brooklyn
we walked past an old asylum
bordered by a park and sprawling projects.
it’s hard to tell what the complex is used for now
and easy to tell it isn’t a good place.

the trees by a shut-up building
all want to get away.
hop the fence
flee in a tangled run.

here in front of st. mark’s church
i sit on a bench
safe between trees.
pigeons dance
and flap
and peck the cobbles.

the trees stand tall
and exult
in the prospect of coming spring.

Monday, November 16, 2009

mind y'own bizness


ride the 4 express to 125 and lex
get out and walk to the busstop
just miss a crosstown

an agitated man
near the busstop
yells across the street
‘you got to mind y'own bizness’
he hops slightly when he does it
to propel the words implicitly

i dont see the target
of his venom

i look around
wonder why this guy’s upset
he seems so serious
it’s hard to believe

another man appears
walks through cars
stopped at the light

‘you got to mind y'own bizness’
‘i got nothing to do with this’

the second man gestures
away all connection
says his business is his own
as the first man’s is his own

‘you got to mind y'own bizness’

the second man nears
this side of the street

the first man walks
to a nearby van
and slides the side door

he reaches fast inside
his hand emerges heavy
with the black shape
of a gun

125th street is dramatic
and exceptional
broad and open
lined by closed chain stores
the space is large
and big things happen here
it offers little cover

the second man renews
his plaintive claim
that the first man is plainly
mistaken and the second man
apologises for the confusion

he should have stayed
on the other side of the street

i refuse
to be caught
in another man’s

i stride purposefully cursing
under my breath
glance back and listen
to gauge the situation

i turn the corner and hear
‘you got to mind y'own bizness’

as i walk the block north
i look twice at the cop car across the avenue
and turn west on 126

nevermind the bus
i’ll just walk

after park ave my pace
slowed to usual stroll
through harlem home
nine blocks and 4 avenues away
to eat supper and chalk it up
one night i saw a gun

Sunday, November 15, 2009

snow again

past the middle of march
good, cold, wet.
i am pleasantly underdressed.
scarf and gloves and hood.

trees are white
with dark wooden shadows.

snow on each block
has a different pattern
of fall.

yesterday when i went out
the sun was shining warm
and the air felt fresh.

still i had my hoodie,
scarf and hat in my backpack.
i didn’t know it would snow.

here it is
adorning traffic
and passersby.

an elemental component of the landscape
in a transient state.

i enjoy it
as much as anyone
who throws a snowball.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

to build a fire

when it’s coldest
i stoke the fire in the night
home from town
after coffee
or television with friends
the only choices

grampa has an outdoor wood furnace
most days it needs to be filled twice.
it warms water that runs in pipes
underground to the basement.
air is blown over hot pipes and distributed
through dusty loud ductwork.
my room is furthest from the furnace.
the coldest room.

there is a small cinderblock building
twenty yards from the house
situated so the door of the furnace opens
inside the building.
it was constructed to hold wood.
that rarely happens.

there’s always been a woodpile
in the yard.
the little shed is filled
with empty beehives,
supers piled high to the trusses,
stored til they’re needed
come summer.

the furnace simplifies things.
daily maintenance is minimal.

dirt and smoke and ash
are kept out of the house
along with the hazard of fire.

the second coldest night of the year
the bottom door of the furnace got left open.
everything in the firebox burnt up quick.
the bottom door is for removing ashes.

grampa shovels them into metal buckets.
when the buckets are full
he spreads ashes on the garden
or the sidewalk if it’s slick
to melt what can.

it felt cold in the house.
14.7 degrees.
night before was 5.
i went out to check on the fire.

when i opened the door
there was one dim cinder
agleam in a bed of ash
at the back end of the furnace.

i rooted around in the brooder house
til i found three empty dogfood bags.
paper for the burning.

i pried small woodscraps and twigs
from the frozen ground.
no snow. just intense cold.

with three strike-anywheres
i set to warm the chill.

i arranged paper and kindling
bark and leaves
as a foundation to rebuild the fire.

i enjoyed the pop
of a strike-anywhere
match on a cinderblock
and began the complicated process
of coaxing flames from none.

i lit the first bag.
it took a couple matches.
while i waited to see
if the fire’d take
i filled the wheelbarrow
from the woodpile.

i looked at the crisp moon,
clear stars
and crackling black branches.
sky’s clean when it’s coldest
moon makes flashlight obsolete.

i think i got a little moonburn.

i got something of a fire going
with the application of the third
and last strike-anywhere.
entropy won out.

i went in
to wait for the new fire
to keep my room
from getting colder.

it was barely fifty in the house
when i went to the kitchen
and looked out the window
(one of my favorite pastimes)
at the furnace
thinking to assist
the fire by willpower
and lurid blue moonlight.

around 5:30 i heard grampa rustling around.
it was cold
and we attacked the fire again.
something was still amiss.

grampa built a fire.
i filled buckets in the kitchen sink
carried them out
and poured them into the top of the furnace
like filling the boiler of a locomotive.

the intense mistaken fire
got so hot
and burned so quick
it cooked off most of the water
in the furnace.

it refills itself.
or it’s supposed to.
such drastic fluctuations are hard
for it to keep up with.

i don’t know how many armfuls
of water i poured
from the third rung
of a broken wooden stepladder
propped against the slick
stainless steel exterior
of the furnace.
an interminably pouring
bucket brigade
of one.

by late afternoon
the water’d been refilled long enough
to rise to the predetermined
temperature required to transfer heat
through its insulated subterranean path
into the basement.

the house warmed up.

problems with the furnace
come when it’s coldest.

Friday, November 13, 2009


last night brian put the coffeepot
on the parlor-size woodstove
and flipped the lid back on its hinges
to sit open–
not for coffee
to put a little moisture in the air–

we burn wood from pallets
we break with a heavy castiron counterweight
for a large window–
we also burn
scraps from dumpsters–things found
on the street–leftovers from construction
or demolition–the bequest of luck
or looking–easy kindling–
nothing so substantial as the rings
wrapped in a tree–
all through the time
grandma and grampa had an indoor woodstove
there sat a two-handled shallow aluminum pan
regularly filled with water
run into a quart mason jar
and poured
into a flat pan for increased surface area–

moisture infused into the house
to compensate for water lost
when wet particles collide
with the firebox and stovepipe
and dry the air–

the Dead Sea evaporates–
salt makes crystalline formations
where water once stood
the most buoyant in the world–

the house rests
near the summit
on a soft sidewinding ridge–
a limestone foothill
of what becomes the Ozarks–
mountains sunken so old
they lack the stature
of more than hills–
topography built
on limestone foundations–

the well runs deep
400 feet to pierce
the water table–
strata honeycombed
by water
and weight of land–

as water from the flat pan
calcium deposits,
caught in solution
and piped upward
to the top of the ridge,
in the hard water
produce crystalline formations
on the sides and bottom
of the pan–
the formations
are thin and brittle
like stalactites
in dripping caverns–

tonight, in Brooklyn,
when i started
a kindling blaze,
braced by heavier scraps,
i added water–
in the coffeepot
steam forms slowly
to escape
in unpredictable circles
that rise
like heat–

Thursday, November 12, 2009


it is a beautiful morning
sun and birds are seen

birds sing spring
sun melts snow

an amazing green
shines from the trees

buds come out
to show spring
in three days

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

bandit and girl

grandma and grampa started feeding an old stray
a little white dog
she was holed up in the culvert
down near the end of the driveway
likely she was thrown out along the gravel road
and that was where she went to have puppies.
she bore a litter in a wet-weather culvert.
couple days later she moved them up to the house
toted by their napes singly

in ’39 or ’40
when the foundation of the porch was poured
grampa laid in two metal barrels
to make little caves
to serve as doghouses

this is where she moved her litter
i’d guess at grampa’s suggestion
she was amenable to making the introductions

there must’ve been 5 or 6
maybe one didn’t survive to open its eyes
the pups were a slightly yellowed white
except one
a sandy brown
we kept him at the house
so girl wouldn’t feel lonely
when the others were given good homes.

i named him bandit
a good name for a dog

once their eyes were open
it took one step
out the screen door of the porch
to be in the ultimate luxury
of a small boy
a lapful of puppies

one of the two overlapping
scars on my knee
came from racing girl up the driveway
the day before first grade
grampa and girl and i
were making the final leg home
after a walk.

i tripped over rock or root
went down hard on my left knee
the one that usually gets hurt
girl came back (she had the lead)
and licked my hand

grampa wrapped a white handkerchief
around my knee
and carried me to the house.
another torn pair of pants
for grandma to patch.

grampa and bandit and girl
met me every day
down at the end of the driveway
where i got off the bus.
grampa’d be sitting
in some obscure spot in the shade
hands around one knee
the other leg fully extended.
we’d walk to the house
the dogs assisting me
in exploration.

when i played with tractors
in the front yard by the big oak tree
bandit and girl
would find prime spots to lie down
to cool in the dirt and shade
diverting traffic and trampling fences.

i’d go out in the day
and call to them
in long syllables


and up they’d run
from whatever activities
occupy a dog
to join me
on escapades through the woods.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

the cat comes calling

the pride of cats
circulating between Laura
and Lynne’s houses
sometimes hunt
in complete tandem.
the five of them
can be seen to file
around corners
in a broken furry line.

excluded is the black and white
cat who comes to talk to me
down at grampa’s house
where the other cats
do not often venture.
he walks
the road past gas tanks, tractor shed,
workbench, rundown model T.
between the grain bin and chickenhouse
he keeps to the middle of the road.
there is a dog chained on either side
and they’ve been barking
since he passed the tractor shed.

the hounds pull their chains
til they gasp. they lunge and howl.

nothing more entices them
than small mammals

(let alone the pup’s especial liking for turtles)

the cat steps proudly
tail in the air
his flag of immunity,
a white tipped black banner,
defies their bondage.

Monday, November 9, 2009

between ruins & artifacts

there’s a model T truck
between the chicken house and the diesel tank
as testament to honest decay.
one day it broke down
and it’s been there ever since.

b’longed to a great uncle i never met
one of grampa’s six brothers.
windshield’s intact.
doors have a wooden frame.
wheels have wooden spokes.
skeleton springs of the truck’s seat
rest atop the gastank.

a dog called spike spent the leisure hours
of his entire life laying around
on the back of that rusted pickup
to sun or shade depending the time of day
on a bed of sheets of corrugated tin.

all through the woods
sit rusty forgot machines
cars, combines, cornpickers
hulks of halted motion
frozen by water’s unimproving stain.
streaks run to earth
wash machines left to rest
past being scavenged for parts.

there’s the old coupe out the bathroom window,
remnants of other model Ts along the driveway,
a fender, a front-end, a bumper
beside a far barn there’s a band of chevys from the fifties and an old buick

disused or spent
obsolete or blown over
til they gathered patina enough
to upstage reclamation.

horsedrawn wagons
metal fittings given shape
by grey mossy wood
that crumbles under scrutiny.

400 yards from the house grampa built
is the home place
the house grampa was born in.
three room frame house on a loose stone foundation
hand-hewn stone steps to the front porch
rock balanced on rocks
with no mortar
unoccupied since grampa’s father died in the early fifties
it’s been used for storage
by a bevy of relations

the remnants of long dead great-grandparents
the few things no one ever deemed of enough value to remove
mingle with things stored in the subsequent fifty years

some unknown relative’s easyboy
my little brother’s childhood books
my aunt’s console tv
broken 78s
old greeting cards sent with penny stamps
great-grampa’s overalls and shirts
hung on nails in a corner behind a door
the little pink chair of my childhood
more ruined furniture

the woodbox in the kitchen is full
the cookstove is gone

close to the homeplace is the old barn
and the fallen corncrib
where grampa got snakebit in the twenties
he had to ride a horse five miles to the nearest car
to get to the doctor

in any building hang signs of inhabitants
under hillsides and along the road

other buildings left behind:

the house on the Pappas place
is a sagging foundation.

the nearly absent tarpaper shack
on the far forty acres
a black man lived in after the war.

the house over in the bottom,
down the holler a couple miles from the big pond,
that belonged to one of grampa’s older brothers.
it folded in on itself
and the foundations filled with water.

the little shack of a log outbuilding
where i always wanted to live for a summer
and buzzards nest underneath.

a sawmill with a 4 foot blade
and a tin roof barely 5 feet high.

the garage at laura’s house
was put up and never sided.
the materials wait inside
after thirty years.
there’s a ’77 lincoln mercury,
a ’54 chevy, two pickups
and a lawn tractor
in and around the garage.
all of which have run
in the last 15 years.
otherwise the building is occupied
by furniture, a cookstove, tools and toys
dead leaves and any number of animals
that command the respect of a warning.

there’s a lot of stone fence
where barbed wire stands
to eliminate the necessity
of piling stones
that make their entropic progress
down off the fence.

things left to be what they are
when there’s no use
to put them to directly.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

new york doves

the courtyard

the space in the middle of the block
between architecture
inaccessible but through buildings
or the sky

it has its own weather
a garden where wind works different

a few trees reach for the fragment of sky
through the barren cold
they grow heavy encased in ice

doves coo in courtyards
tender notes of morning

they dont teem like pigeons
they choose ledges and viney walls to call home
with less stigma on their names

Saturday, November 7, 2009

from the park

the snow came over
the course of the evening.
we got more'n half a foot.

the sun's out in the afternoon.
kids off school get their fill in the snow.
they'll sleep well tonight.

i sit in the park to look.
squirrels fight over a hole in a tree.
a jilted lover croons at the hole
and keeps getting run off.

it's cold out.
not as bad as recent days.
snow warms the heart
and the streets seem less treacherous.
treetrunks are highlighted in white.

kids ride the swingset
and leap to soft snow.

Friday, November 6, 2009

a coyote i wouldn't kill

a coyote in the news

a coyote
caught out on patchy ice
in the Rockaways
is on the news.

helicopters & cameras
monitor his progress
as rescue crews prepare
til finally the crumbling ice maze
is too much

& he swims to shore.

how that's news i don't know.
they show footage of him ashore
rolling in the snow
to dry off.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


the snow's stayed for days.
i wish it wasnt winter.

ideas swell in my craw
& make it hard to swallow.

i walk through cold, negotiating ice.
at least i have the home of my shoes.

it's hard to sit
without being cold or restless.

ice in the park makes it difficult
to get anywhere i want to go.

a couple plays a broken game
of tennis on the thin cleared path.

they are bundled & in sweats.
when on hits the ball

the other can never seem to hit it back.
they are very bad.
it is so cold.

it's just as cold on the sidesteps
of the Jefferson Library
across from Patchin Place.
somewhere i go to think.

the cold is like a cop
who wont let you loiter
and shoos you to your feet.

time to go. on to the next cup of coffee.
the traffic has no effect on the cold.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

why i am a nomad

why i am
a nomad:

in a world where i grew up
the only place i have
a room of my own.
where comfort is as simple
as a glass of water
and a hole has to be chopped in the ice
for the cattle when it's cold.

beyond the presence of family and its sacred farm
past trees, water, light and dark
access to memory and near silence
friends i've retained in this town
a roomful of books, dust and childhood trophies

i dont fit comfortable.
there's some thing lacking.
a lost pocket in the possibility of comfort.

i occupy myself with goings-on.
events offer limited distraction.

i see things
i want to hand to other people

so they'll get the picture told.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

an unexpected sheet of ice


the factors of location and cold
contribute to the thin sheet of ice
that covers the entire surface of the pond.
it's still up. it covers low spots
that are normally soggy but passable.

there are tracks out on the ice
something crossed without falling through.
my feet could not stay on top.
i dont think this boat would do
to play icebreaker.
its prow is not sharp enough
to crack the frozen surface.

the stream makes its cold but fluid way
under cedars and over stones down the channel.

i hear a sound and turn to see
a lizard twist around the leaves
and slowly search a stone to sun.

i had no idea such an animal
would be active in this cold
surely he's more vulnerable at this speed
but little else is out to look for lizards.

downstream the little waterfall
is trimmed by ice to the sides
where water splashes more than runs.

ice has encased leaves, tree roots and the stems of plants
not to mention the rocks that hold it all up.
the main course is free to the movement of water
the sound subdues its surroundings and water falls.

three days and i'll be gone
back east on a slow train
and i'll be unable to hear the water
or fight my desire to walk on ice
or sit here and watch the ice to see if it moves.

three days and i'll be gone
back home. back to love.
back to what's been missing
all this time.

i've seen some things i've never seen before.
what glaciers do to rocks, what an iceage does to water.
this is only winter. & barely that.
we get more sunlight every day.

in the woods i sit on a rock, feet on soft moss.

there are two roads to the pond.
one is short and quick and only slightly precarious.
the other is the back way, the old way to get here.
overgrown with brush
a few places the road crosses a sharp ditch
where rocks are piled for a bridge
the truck cant pass.

close to the pond the road has been covered
by a carpet of moss i'd feel guilty driving on.
the moss has taken a liking
to a road grown cold.

the sun is blocked from shining here
hours before it sets.
the hills that feed the pond allow a window
from midmorning til midafternoon
when the sun rakes the valley, pond and hillsides
with fresh light.
not long enough to dispell the ice of winter
not long enough to overheat a body in the summer
(when the window grows)

no storm today. the sky's an icy blue.

Monday, November 2, 2009

honey locust

found honey locust in the britannica
found honey locust over on the hill

i wasnt looking for either

honey locust is a thorn tree
driving in its general vicinity
is a sure bet to get a flat

Sunday, November 1, 2009

he is a long cat with black fur and white feet

he is a long cat with black fur and white feet

he is socks or is it boots?
i think of him as 'the cat'.

there are other cats around.
none so eloquent.

i saw the cat out the window,
topped off my coffee & went out to find him.
i meowed and listened
for his response.

he'd gone off past the listing outhouse
& was stalking through the branches
of an uprooted tree.
we tossed meows back and forth
& met up by the outhouse.
i petted him and we talked.

i walked toward the lawn table and chairs
to have a seat so this time might meet more than one end.

he sits at my feet again, cleaning himself.
my brother tells me this cat is shunned by the others.