Saturday, July 7, 2012

here among the sacrificed.... a poem


Here among the sacrificed
The beautiful and the yellowed
Still grow the roses

They are growing alright,
In back alleys and down railroad ballast
Forget-me-nots, there are forget-me-nots
Growing behind red brick walled dive bars
Wilting over late autumn versions of the blues

Here among the abandoned
The lonely and the blue eyes
Still grow the roses

There are roses in Old Weller bottles
Daffodils in bar pint glasses
There are cracked seeds
Caked on the bottoms of hiking boots
Pacing downtown streets looking for
Forget-me-nots and roses
In smiles and chapped lips….

It’s a sad one, a bittersweet poem… loneliness and forget-me-nots… I think it might have been a poem to Denver as much as it was to anyone in particular.  I just finished revising it.  Its one of those I revisit again and again, at least the first stanza is something I have used and abused again and again, its one of my favorite beginnings to a poem I have come up with… one I will always come back to.  I like this version, there are other versions that are up there, but this one I keep revising hoping to one day reach perfection, maybe my place in the breath of poetry’s influence on peoples imagination and ears.  Who knows…

Solidarity fellow workers, ride free, ride fast, live slowly and with purpose.
Your faithful Muskrat.

Dear Mink a letter that says nothing and goes even short distances

Dear Mink

It’s raining a soft drizzle on a Muskrat’s whiskerless cheeks.  His stiff eyebrows wiggling beneath his tweed newspaper boy cap Muskrat smiles and tugs at the ripped olive green wool Harris Tweed further down over his soft blue eyes.  Peddling his small frame around in circles, an evening bike ride with headphones and songs about trains, Muskrat savors the small sharp drops dancing across his naked cheeks.  The neighborhood park is quiet a few days past the Fourth of July and he lets his peddling slacken a bit as his mind wanders.  The beach cruiser he had inherited from that marbled polecat Mink needed new brake pads and some love, affection and oil; otherwise she was in perfect riding shape in the garage.  For now his father’s old dark green French-made road bike carried his little frame leisurely through the darkened Albuquerque side streets in those perfect moments just before the streetlights hummed their evenings into being.  We may not have paparazzi lightning bugs flashing their bulbs at your every move down here in the desert, but the haphazard blinking of ageing streetlights shutting off as Muskrat peddled by passed for an electrical grid inspired insult and shrug of their wooden post slight.  The sudden shutting off of street lights as he rode past for some reason always offended Muskrat, it was as if his mere presence made the street lights turn themselves off, he did not emit enough consequence to the world to waste their precious electricity on, let this slight framed blue eyed Muskrat amble his way home in the dark.

As always Live free, live simple, ride free, ride hard, breath in the fresh air, Solidarity forever amigos.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

something short and new

Amigo’s, I know it has been months, an unforgivable amount of time since I have posted anything amongst these pages.  It’s been a long dry spell.  I aim to force these things as the long hot days of summer push themselves forward.  I hope to start forcing my way through Muskrat and transcribing its pages onto the interweb.  I Hope to offer you new poems and amblings and brain farts over the summer.  Until then, here is something simple, a few paragraphs, one new, one found in my cardboard box of typewritten pages from last year. 

The black silhouettes of a startled flock of birds on grey asphalt, early morning commutes from telephone line to telephone line.   Telephone line black bird silhouettes framing bicyclists in vintage frames of telephone wires in an era of online messages and phones meant for anything except talking.  Muskrat doesn’t do much talking in person much less over telephones these days, mumbles and stumbles over his words fine tuning them in conversations in his head he never manages to convert into appropriate gram to cup, mouth to ear ratios in face to face interactions. 

There is an Old Weller Whiskey bottle half empty and collecting dust in the back recesses of Muskrat’s Denver memories.  It sits on a drafting table surrounded by dead roses and unfinished art projects, a pen and ink portrait of Willie Nelson, bathroom comics, instructions for flushing grey water toilets and a southwest green chili cookbook.  A few years and a few hundred miles southbound, Smokey Robinson is singing over coffee shop airwaves and Muskrat is digging under dead snow pea vines.  Underneath a green candle is the first and final page of a scribbled attempt at a garden journal.  Over the Sandia’s and south towards the Manzano Mountains black rain clouds are gathering, skirting the issue and teasing the metro area with a light smell of rain filtering in through the swamp coolers. 

Until next time, be safe, ride free, solidarity in struggle and dreaming.

And dear dear Mink, I promise a full blog letter soon.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A rambling essay about space, ethnography and poetry and in the end A feeble attempt to explain Muskrat...

Reading over the rough draft of my last posting, a poem about space, a poem about the telling, re/telling of that perceived space I am brought back to two of my favorite ethnographies; James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (and the loss of my second edition copy of this book last semester I count as more tragic than my car accident and loss of vehicle) and Kathleen Stewart's A Space on the Side of the Road.  Stewart's treatment of anthropology, the practice of ethnography, modern ethnography becomes  an extension of the storytelling practiced by Agee's voice and his partner Walker Evan's breath taking photography (much less the ethnographic documentary photography of Dorthea Lange).  These poems I've laid on your door step over the past two thirds of a year, these Muskrat ramblings, are my fictionalized ethnography of a world I have existed within as a author, as a poet, as a human being, as a bartender, as an old trainrider exploring the idealized notions i've created of a settled life and balancing that with wanderlust and genuine intrigue of my fellow creatures i've encountered along the way

A friend of mine, a poet, a wayward soul, in her struggle to let go of her poems and let other people enjoy them, expressed her frustration that she was afraid that her words, her stories would be misinterpreted, misread.  To me this is the ultimate release of the story, the oral tradition, the mesh of poetry and life and lyric.  What I write, what I read from my own poems changes from day to day, from reading to reading.  It becomes the act, the performance, the as Goffman would interpret, presentation of that piece as self in everyday life.  This idealized presentation or performance of self, of art then in communicated as a sign/signifier relationship to my audience, my friends, and myself, from the inception of the idea of the poem, the perceived reaction/interpretation I want to convey and eventually the actual release and maintenance, and communication/ beautiful miscommunication of the poem, the release of authorial control.  (Goffman, 1959:51) Its performance, its subjection of itself onto the public, the Public sphere, (to paraphrase Pete Seeger) the body politic, is the essential release of the poem into performance and ergo the world.

Kathleen Stewart expresses that in essence, contemporary anthropology and more essentially ethnography as an exploration of culture, an exploration of ourselves and our neighbors becomes
"...a cultural critique that is not so much a decoding as an engagement, not so much a hermeneutical interpretation as a crafted mimesis or re/presentation in the same way that an "interpretation" of a piece of music or a play is not an exegesis but a performance.  It is a reading akin to what Barthes called the blissful reading of a text..." (Barthes, 1975:22) (Stewart, 1996:24)  This beautiful analogy of the social sciences as a performance, a means of understanding and in essence re/telling those around us about the things we experience in everyday life.  We, as writers are using narrative to translate and release into the wild our versions of the world around us.  Whether or not we a re successful doesn't matter.  Poetry and the words and stories we transcribe push into social scientists.  Whether we realize it or not we become the voice through which culture is transmitted, every culture, every utterance becomes narrative.  As Kathleen Stewart notes "narrative is first and foremost a mediating form though which 'meaning' must pass.  Stories, in other words, are productive" (Stewart, 1996: 29).   We live, we exist with art, with story, within narrative, a space in which we create an idealize version every morning when we open our eyes, percolate our first cup of coffee on the stovetop.  Watching the rings on the stove turning red, we create folk music in our imagination to our existences.  We create these stories, I create Muskrat as a means of translating the world through my eyes.  A fictionalized, idealized sad bastard country song, a Lightnin' Hopkins blues song in narrative about a fictionalized me.

I cannot help but insert Muskrat into Stewart's discussion of storytelling and ethnography.  To me, this blog and the on going ten year experiment of Muskrat as a means for me to explore my mental states, the world around me and the process of becoming comfortable in my own skin and the stage in which i, and Muskrat exist, is all about the performance.  Thus the release of Muskrat stories, recollections and poems into the body politic, no matter how limited is therapy, is social science, is ethnography, is my performance, my interpretation of the play in which whatever role I've been assigned in constantly changing.  I cannot help but inert myself, Muskrat then into Stewart's analysis of a conversation of a dialogue, an ordinary conversation. "Dialogic performance and dialogic exchanges within the story stretch the meaning of narrated events into the complex sociality of narrativity itself... he constructs his story, even at the very moment of his experience of its events, for a range of implied audiences... a world, then, in which events are always mediated by story... that things happen that places mark the space in lingering impacts and unseen forces that the world speaks to people who find themselves caught in it....(Stewart,1996: 32)  It is my every action that creates story, Muskrat, poetry and this blog in extension are merely interpretations of the world around me.  My favorite poetic exercise is the sitting poems, a variation of Wendell Berry's concept of Window Poems, in which I sit, and explore what I see, feel, and hear in my immediate vicinity and let my mind wander out, and bring it back in.  Staring at the glass of water on the red round table, the water shifting clock like in motion to the movement of my arms as they type, the black metallic chairs in the outskirts of my mental and visual range, all of this an exercise in the perception, the organization of narrative, in essence practice for simple character studies.  Which is in the end what Muskrat and my Muskrat poems have become, a character study.

thanks for putitng up with this rambling nonsense... I was fun to write.  I don't know if i want to read it yet now that its finished in extreme rough draft form... Mistly i was excited to share Kathleen Stewarts prose with you all.

God speed Lil animals... solidarity forever, ride free, live free, dig in the dirt... if i don't find love or someone to touch me, touch my face, I just may lose it and commit my life to Muskrat and strange rambling essays like this that go no where... So don't go down my path... love each other... be good to each other... and always work hard.

Friday, March 23, 2012

It is march and the snow peas are peaking their green heads above ground

It has been a while friends.  I’ve been neglecting writing as candidly and as often as I had hoped to.  Spring is teasing its way early into the state and I have been trying to resist the temptation to risk a late frost and plant rows of snow peas, spinach, pak choy, and other leafy greens.  There are a slew of seeds in the mail from various distributors on their way, and long eggplant starts in the living room.  As the season continues to warm and the ladies of the city don spring dresses and short sleeves, this little muskrat’s beard, as trimmed and cared for as he has ever maintained it, gets distracted by these long stretches of solitude.  It’s alright friends, I have a new poem here… nothing to write home about, something simple, an exercise I tried this morning on accident.  Started writing and noticed that the first four lines all started with the letter T, and so I continued and forced every line to start the same… It didn’t always work as smoothly and fluidly as a poem should but it was enjoyable, forced me to think about my words, my intentions and my thought processes.  A good meditation if nothing else.  I recommend it for those long stretches of writers block we all endure. 

There is a sense of space
That pervades our morning routines
That chair by the window facing outward
Tree branch constructed deer grazing in the upper garden
Three potted pansies in salvaged plastic containers
Twice I’ve stirred my coffee
Though I drink it black.

There is a sense of space
That soothes our ritual waking
The hot water of the shower on our kneecaps
Teal bathrobe hanging from an old hook on the bathroom door
These early mornings, starting the truck
Turning the key and waiting for permission to blow clean into the interlock
To start a half mile drive to work, an excuse for practice driving stick shift

There is a sense of space
That enters our movement through
Tying back the window shades
The morning paper next to the rear tires in the driveway
This movement through shifting into reverse
That seemingly long arc as we pull into the sidestreet
The calm morning interrupted by the Mississippi Shieks or Bruce Springsteen

There is a sense of space
That invades our nostrils pulling the quiche out of the oven
Turning the heat down to three hundred and fifty
Twisting our necks to stare at the clock
Teasing in a rack of chocolate chip scones on our mornings off.

As always solidarity forever, solidarity in struggle, live simple, ride free, live free, be safe, tell someone they are beautiful, god speed lil animals and for muskrat’s sanity sake grin and bear it growl and go!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Another oldie from days of whiskey and denver past

Found these typed in the middle of some scraps of muskrat, looked like the typewriter in was running as low as my patience had been.  I Hope to have a new poem and a letter to mink in the coming days, until then this is all I got. Two short untitled poems.  I promise to give them titles and a proper existence soon.

These days trickle by
Like poems off a typewriter
threats of an afternoon drizzle
            spent in frantic moments
            and relaxed cooking hashbrowns over a gas stove
eyeing green chili’s in the back recesses of the freezer
and tossed around like history books

Denver monsoons brought
Four in the afternoon cloud cover
Rumors of a small trickle
            Enough shade to watch the sun
            Set below the clouds.
It’s threatening rain and Albuquerque
a cold cup of coffee in Denver
 and a glass of canned apple juice
brought down in showers from the attic.

God speed little animals, solidarity forever, ride free, live free, don't give up... I'm trying not to.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

an old poem from denver life and a little muskrat

Over the past few days I've started transcribing old typewritten poems from when I lived in Denver. It was an period in my writing that reflected that stage in my drinking and living at the time. I've been working on putting together more and more old poems and muskrat ramblings from that era.  Slowly working on hopefully a collection of both old and new works and am hoping to be shopping it around by the end of the summer to mid fall.  Fingers crossed.  I hope you enjoy my lil animals.

1236 Corona

The moon was hanging heavy like a cinderblock dangling from one arm
And the hole in the blanket cut out like a broken thumbnail
The queen of spades dyed her hair red, while blue contacts give a false sunrise
Cigarette smoke off a second story balcony, a 747 comet tail heading for the coast.

There are two olives left in a shallow bowl next to the ranch dressing
There is no drama in the situation, just orange juice and cold coffee.
All the phone numbers she left on bar napkins turn out to be wrong numbers
Drinking soda at the bar makes for long nights and longer walks through downtown.

If my breath is as hard as ashtrays and my elbows face down in bed,
Wake me after two in the afternoon with black cat paws running across wood floors
Let the queen of hearts have her breakfast behind our shower curtains
Say hello to the folks and drive over fifty through the Wisconsin Dells for me.

Japanese literature in the morning, tequila after coffee and French fries at the diner
A punch drunk Qwest neon horizon forces its way through morning smog
Second story wood plank porches make for excellent cigarette litter boxes
There is snow on blank branches, garlic powder crusted hash browns in the kitchen,

Black tea bags collect mold on the dining room table
and orange juice wants more drama than the morning newspaper promises
the only head on his pillow is his own half bald and ink stained

I hope you enjoy mis amigos, as always solidarity forever, live free, ride free, be safe
god speed lil animals,

Monday, February 20, 2012

a new poem written while transcribing old poems

we write poems about other things than poverty and whiskey, just not this one

There are new poems to be written
Without references to evening glasses of whiskey
Or memories of rusted train cars
And the dirt that cakes underneath untrimmed toenails

Clean new poems about doing laundry
Watering gardenings and hammering nails
into cold frames for spinach in February.
The neighbor’s pitched roof
Instead of flat roofed shotgun row houses
and a tree growing up through the basement.

We won’t mention in these poems
Frozen fingertips and ice frozen on brown tarps
Sleeping through a railroad crew change in Havre, Montana.
Wanting nothing more than a hot shot of whiskey
and a juniper twig of a cigarette rolled without the cover of cotton gloves.

Bright poems about house plants
Walking their way around hallway corners
prayer flags getting tossed in forty mile an hour gusts
A new used pickup truck in the driveway
Silver like the tracks of the Burlington Northern through Abo Canyon
East of Belen and south of Albuquerque and a quiet sobriety

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mink, a letter to...

well this is no poetry and no work of fine literature but these letters to mink are an extension of the on going muskrat theme and methodology of my madness and exploration of the fine line between autobiography and fiction.  As the line between fiction and life blur, details and emotions give way to the story.  As one of my favorite ethnographer's Kathleen Stewart observed in her book A Space By the Side of the Road, its the telling or rather the act of re-telling that creates our truths.  Truth lies within the story and within the teller/re-teller.  Maybe i will further elaborate on this at a later date.  Here is my latest letter.  god speed lil animals...

Dear Mink-
Night has settled in nicely and a cold front is blowing in. They say rain turning to snow over night.  That’s just fine with this old Muskrat.  The edges of the gardeners plastic is weighed down well with cinder blocks and the spinach is well watered and almost a weeks worth of nights in the ground.  The cold frame is a well supported contraption of two by fours, pvc piping and rebar forming the skeleton.  Pansies and Violas are nestled in their pots for the hardy re-visitation of New Mexico February weather.  Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings are crackling over the record player, old 45’s I found at Charley’s Records.  It is quiet this year for Valentine’s and I am oddly content.  I have a Tupperware container full of buttermilk biscuits for the morning and white chocolate macadamia nut cookies for dipping in tea as I settle in for the night.

God speed lil animals, solidarity forever, ride free, live free and for the love of sanity fall in love with someone and tell them....

Sunday, February 12, 2012

new poems and it tried snowing early this morning

I know I am not faithful to you dear friends... I forget to write, or scribble things down and lose them.  But I have a few small short new poems for you.  Its not much this close to valentine's day but its better than roses I assure you.  Watching A Charlie Brown Valentine's last night by myself, sipping a grapefruit soda, I remembered our own theatrical version we performed in Denver a few years and a life time ago.  Those were good times.  I have the flier somewhere in a shoe box tucked in storage.  But enough is enough.

I- Valentines present for me from a sunday morning

Waking up to a brief Sunday snow
Pulling back the light blue sheets
a bathrobe and a wool blanket mingle
and curl like a pit bull at my feet
Small flakes line the cinderblock wall
A baking flour coating over red paving stones
Leading towards raised beds and pansies
Brush off the dusting and accept February’s attempt at weather
With a shrug and yellow and blue blossoms.

 II- backyard scenery in black and white

In stark black ink lines
Cottonwoods and aspen branches in winter
A yellow breasted finch
stands out like a morning dove
the blackbirds eating breakfast
in the Governor Bent Elementary school
parking lot and dirt playground
under the swing sets and along the chain link fence
we along stood twenty six years ago

 I know its nothing much but its what i have right now.  I have another letter to mink in the works for early next week. Until then love the people close to you, take care of your feet, touch your fingers to the pages of a book.  Ride free, live free, tell someone who doesn't already know it that you love them. God speed lil animals and solidarity forever.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

No drama in the situation, just orange juice

I once wrote the lines that there is no drama in the situation, just orange juice…

There is an almost finished Sunday crossword,
A number two pencil, whittled, buck knife chiseled
Loose leaf scrapes with thin blue veins balled
in the bottom of a blue backpack
Handwriting about frustrations
writers block away from comforts of computer screens
Wendell Berry essays and Otis Redding is moaning about these arms of mine
There is a loneliness that creates comfort
We make lonely into a dirty eruption
Two more than a four letter word
Dirty like the bourbon uncorked a year ago
untouched on a plastic lined pantry shelf

Darling let us make this night hurt
Make me desire the clicks of a typewriter’s keys
high heels tapping along the chipped tile floor
in a beer stained wood paneled dimly lit bar
Out of place
the pink eraser next to the delete key on a computer
the smile on the cashier with her dyed blonde hair at the health food store
putting my orange juice and yogurt into a small cardboard box
Her black roots exposed like her pink lips parted

Not that I am counting but it has been three years and six months
Since I pressed my lips against a woman’s face
My fingers back space in tempo to Otis singing
Mr. Pitiful and it is true I want you, I want you, I want you.
I just never know who. 
Instead of love waltzes to a typewriter
I am stuck sliding these rhythm and blues to a laptop keyboard.

Dear mink

After a brief conversation in the car about high school kids writing essays in text message grammar and perhaps the fallacies of these accusations and the apparent ability of today’s youth to maintain a balance our nation’s two worlds of technology, text talk and books and e-readers, I am having trouble avoiding words like dichotomy and other complex sociological and anthropological theoretical jargon.   Alas this all makes me remember an old college mentor and adviser whose elegy I missed in Iowa this past Saturday afternoon.  For you Mink and for Bill Flanagan I refuse to convolute my words.  I will try my best to always write in plain English and avoid all the pompous writing so relished by academia.

If all the movies were in black and white and sepia tones, all of our records were limited to titles including 1947 West Virginia field recordings, there would be no Bill Withers singing about Grandma’s Hands.  My Grandma’s hands just turned 87 less than fifteen days ago and still plays bridge with her church friends every third Sunday in Lakewood between Golden and Denver.  She still walks the icy stone steps down to the creek behind her house to sit or stand with Saint Francis several days a week.

Mink, there is little to no rhyme or reason to this letter, the weather is warmer than a January should be, and I am fighting a scratchy throat packing boxes full of boxes. 

As always god speed lil animals, ride free, treasure your friends and be good to each other.
solidarity  and hash browns and strong coffee mis amigos....

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A christmas and new years letter to winter and Muskrat's first letter to MInk

Here is a short spurt of short sputterings and oil pan drippings from Muskrat to winter and the introduction of a collabration between Muskrat and Mink ( Enjoy...


There is a slow crack forming along the lip of his coffee mug and his orange juice was lukewarm and everything he wanted and more.  Muskrat ran his thin black comb through the hair’s circling a thick crescent along the side of his head.  The stockpot heavy with arroz con gandules, pigeon peas and achicote powder and yellow rice were his latest discovery.  The house smelled like a home and bacon sizzled on the stovetop for breakfast as the espresso simmered in the metal percolator.  Outside the mist turned to a meditative drizzle on the skylight, cold and heavy.


The snow sits heavy and wet on the raised beds while tomato cages hibernate nestled inside each other’s skeletal frames.  It is a gray silence that covers Albuquerque tonight, bike paths slick and tempered with slush and settled exhaust fumes.  December 26th and fireplace smoke loiters lightly under the lampposts at four forty five in the morning.  A post Christmas brisk bites through the black bandana wrapped around his face and Morning is still a few hours sleeping behind the Sandia’s. 


Staring out the cracked blinds Muskrat’s been accused of never opening, there are a few errant snowflakes and a car bending the corner slow and methodically.  Somewhere down Comanche there is a basketball hoop stretching its neck from an evergreen.  There are old western paperbacks strewn across the desktop and Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash singing duets over the record player. 
It is still early January and the anxiety of a new year still resonates in Muskrats stomach.  The clipped edges of his thumbnail pick at stray hairs on his arms and blue pen ink stains dot sporadically along the veins in his forearms.   Muskrat has been mentally staring off into space more often as of late.  Some people call it the mid winter blues, Muskrat called it solace and wishing for a cold blast of air against his face and for winter to compliment his new pine green sweater and argyle socks. 


Dear Mink…
            Kris Kristofferson is singing over my dad’s old record player nestled next to my wooden duck lamp and a crate of old blues records.  We had a five-hour bust of a winter storm try and punch its way through the city this morning.  A dusting on the foothills and a crisp in the air, enough to remind a Muskrat about the things and smells of winter that make us fall in love with seasons, any seasons, seasons associated with new beginnings.  Kristofferson is complaining and mumbling romantically about Sunday mornings and hangovers.  I’ve believe I’ve booted that can a few times he watched the kid kicking, if there is something in a hangover and a Sunday that makes a body feel alone, there is also a relief and beauty that a fresh punch of cold air against my bearded face on a sober feeling Sunday morning that makes a Muskrat feel alone and ecstatic and alive.  There is a sobriety that makes a body feel like its redirecting its sinews back where they started twelve years ago when neglect and abuse and trains and a few broken ribs introduced themselves into his way of thinking and living. 

Here begins the letters of Mink and Muskrat… at least on my end the letters of Muskrat to Mink.  God speed lil animals, love your friends, breath in the cold air into your lungs and relax, take care of each other, yourselves and as always live free, ride free, solidarity forever in struggle for labor, life, love and living a life worth living