Thursday, December 29, 2005

Lorraine Graham's Blog: Highly Recommended

I love Lorraine Graham's blog, "Spooks By Me," at The latest postings, references to Paul Bowles and the ecologically troubling history of the Fly River and the OK-Tedi copper mine in Papua New Guinea. The mine has been in production since 1985, and is unusual in that it produces gold as well as copper. It is a huge complex, and is pretty staggering to see, at least via photos.

Lorraine's photos possess a wonderful immediacy, and give a sense of the tactile. They blend her body (feet, legs, shadow forms) with building materials, earth, sky, for a sense of earthworks. Her recent photos of sand and surf in DelRay, California (near San Diego), are lovely. They contrast nicely with the steamy, mossy, vaguely cemeterial (is that a word?) views of Florida.

Her views and news on the Washington, DC poetry reading scene -- poets, publishers, artists, galleries, DC Art Center -- are refreshing and give sense of immediacy.

Finally, wonderful links abound in nicely organized categories, without clutter, in relaxing shades of green. I was a bit disappointed not to see a link to places to purchase Terminal Humming, Lorraine's chapbook published by Slack Buddha Press. I enjoyed reading Terminal Humming when I read it the first time, and I go back to it often. I love the way the language creates a sense of beginnings and endings by means of bodies in motion, and the mysterious suspension of time as one contemplates departure, leavings, arrivals. There are resonances with Lorraine's photos (things found while packing) ... perhaps what is most touching is the sense of wonder, the discovery or (re)discovery of a self in a non-reflective mirror comprised of (re)found objects.

Miniature Blowfish

Miniature Blowfish

""Blowfish in faceted clear crystal body with frosted crystal mouth and fins, jet eyes""

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Coming soon -- "Let Dogs Lie" -- a Play in 1 act, but presented on the Fringe Journal in 4 parts. I think you'll enjoy it -- I can't believe I wrote it almost 10 years ago... but, I think it might be fun to revisit it and perform it. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 30, 2005

Endangered - A Play in One Act (Part III)


ULFIE: What are you two doing here? Haven’t you caused me enough problems? What are you doing to the cats?

MERCK: You never told me you WORKED here.

MANDOLIN: Ulfie, you’re doing it again. Remember what I told you? Deception is only self-deception.

ULFIE: Oh. You’re still into your Zen-Master phase. I don’t need your fake-philosophy sound bites.

MERCK: She’s done this to you, too?

ULFIE: Where are the cheetahs?

MERCK: I thought we were at the leopard cage. I don’t see any monkeys.

MANDOLIN: What did you ever see in her?

MERCK: What we do is not relevent to each other -- only to the frame. The frame keeps us inside. The frame relates us to each other.

MANDOLIN: Frame? Bars of a cage?

ULFIE: Outside the frame, spiritual transformation is possible.

MERCK: You’re wrong. It all goes on inside the frame.

ULFIE: What about those outside, looking in?

MERCK: Like us looking at the cats?

ULFIE: And the cats looking at us.

MERCK: That’s not the same. They can’t get out.

ULFIE: And we can?

MERCK: As soon as the artist thinks she or he is outside the frame -- well, it’s not art any more. Art is inside the frame, too.

ULFIE: Inside the cage?

MANDOLIN: You two don’t know what you’re talking about.

MERCK: If you’re such an artist, you go into the cage.

ULFIE: Hey. Don’t do that. Can’t you read the sign?

(Boethius and Dante pop up from behind the rocks.)

BOETHIUS: Surely she’s not going to come inside here.

DANTE: That’s great. Zoops inside AND outside.

BOETHIUS: (sighing) Well, I guess I’ll just be forced to maul her.

DANTE: Look. He’s got his gun.

BOETHIUS: Forget it. I’m having some fun with this Zoop. She’s been getting on my nerves.

DANTE: Boethius!

MANDOLIN: I’m going inside. I’m talking to them. I understand their pain better than they do --

ULFIE: Mandolin!

(Mandolin sticks arms through bars of cage. Boethius runs toward her, yowling and roaring.)

BOETHIUS: Yah, yah, yah! Does this scare you? I’m a pacifist, you know -- I’d never hurt you.

(runs forward)

All my rage is directed inward. That’s why my fur is so ratty.

MANDOLIN: Merck! Photograph me while they shred me and gouge out my eyes. It will be my final artistic statement.

ULFIE: I don’t want to have to do this! (raises gun) Get away from the cage! I’m going to have to tranq the cat.

(shoots tranquilizer gun -- hits Mandolin by mistake. Mandolin falls to ground, arm inside cage)

BOETHIUS: Damn it! You missed me! I was looking forward to being tranqued out for the afternoon!

MANDOLIN: I’m dying -- I’m dyyyyiiiiinnnng.

ULFIE: No you’re not. You’re going to be sedated for a few hours. I told you to move out of the way, didn’t I.

MERCK: Will she be okay?

ULFIE: Oh, just a little dazed for a while, that’s all. Probably shouldn’t drive.

MERCK: What are you going to do about the cats?

(They look at Boethius and Dante. The two cheetahs are sitting down, looking very dejected.)

BOETHIUS: Dante, what’s going to happen to us?

DANTE: I don’t know.

ULFIE: People torment the cats all the time. I don’t know why they do it. I guess they think it’s fun to see them get angry.

MERCK: It’s cruel.

ULFIE: The more “natural” the habitat, the more we can blind ourselves to our insensitivity and arrogance.

MERCK: Can we let them go? Give them their freedom.

ULFIE: Of course not.

MERCK: Are you going to have them put down? Killed?



ULFIE: I’m going to give them bigger rocks to hide behind. Then I’m quitting.

MERCK: What are you going to do?

ULFIE: Will you marry me?

MERCK: I knew I wasn’t imagining things -- we DID have something together.

ULFIE: We always have --

MERCK: What about her? (gestures to Mandolin, who is seated on the ground, humming the theme to Andrew Lloyd Weber’s CATS, but it’s very offkey)

ULFIE: What do you want to do?

MERCK: Take her picture. (Takes her picture with a Polaroid. Places photo next to Mandolin). Well Mandolin. Here’s something for you. Hope you like it.

ULFIE: Let’s go -- I need to get rid of this tranquilizer gun.

MERCK: Wait. (Takes off sweater. Underneath is a baggy t-shirt which reads:)


Real Life

ULFIE: Good idea. (Takes off Zoo Security t-shirt. Underneath is a different t-shirt with the following word on it.)


MERCK: I love you, Ulfie.

ULFIE: I love you, Merck.

(They walk offstage.)

BOETHIUS: Did you see that?

DANTE: (wiping eyes) Yes.

BOETHIUS: What are you crying about?

DANTE: I always cry at weddings.

BOETHIUS: Oh, I know. We’re just a couple of old maids and we never get to do anything like that any more.

(Looks at Mandolin.)

You know, I feel sort of sorry for her.

DANTE: It’s all your fault. You should feel sorry.

BOETHIUS: Does she have a camera?

DANTE: Yeah, the other one left it there.

BOETHIUS: Why don’t we do her a favor. Let’s really give her something to photograph.

DANTE: What are you talking about?

BOETHIUS: Can you reach her hat?

DANTE: Ugggh. You want me to TOUCH that?

BOETHIUS: It’s fake fur, isn’t it?

DANTE: All the same, it looks real. (Extends paw through cage and grabs her fur hat.) You want me to get the fake fur bag, too?

BOETHIUS: Yes. Look at me. Just look at me. My fur is worse than ever -- even this fake fur is better.

DANTE: Will you stop? Mine is just as bad. What to you have in mind?

BOETHIUS: Put it on. (Dante puts on the hat) My don’t you look silly. Do you remember when we were both absolutely drop-dead beautiful? Throw me the bag. (Boethius draps it around her neck -- does some campy posing)

Now look. She’s waking up -- she’ll take a picture of us and she’ll be rich and famous.

DANTE: Are you sure?

BOETHIUS: Sure! Zoops love this dreck. Look at this.

DANTE: Look at this pose!

BOETHIUS: Aren’t we just the lovely pair!

(Mandolin staggers to her feet, gathers her belongings, clutches head -- finds hat missing. Looks in cage and shrieks.)

MANDOLIN: AARRGGH!!!!! HOW HIDEOUS!!!! What has happened?? What have you done? WHY ARE YOU WEARING THOSE THINGS? Who have you mauled????

(Runs shrieking offstage)

DANTE: Well. That was another failed attempt at art.

BOETHIUS: I give up. I don’t understand that Zoop at all. (walks toward rock) Well, I’m taking a nap. This has worn me out.

DANTE: Where’s breakfast?

(joins Boethius behind rock)

(Merck runs onstage -- obviously overjoyed -- holds up hand with ring on it)

MERCK: I knew I could trust my senses -- I knew he really cared! And now we’re married! What more can I ask of art? There is more to knowledge than the five senses. Knowledge is a simply a promise of more knowledge. It’s all in technique and not in the image. It’s how you see, not what you see.

And still. Action and perception. They go together.

Like mange and the perception of being caged.

Like being tranqed and fighting the realization we have to live somewhere in relation to a frame.

Like greeting cards and

(pauses. wipes eyes)


I feel happy and yet, I feel -- sad?

(looks toward the rocks)

I miss you two leopards -- no -- CHEETAHS. I miss you. Do you miss Africa?


Okay. I won’t ask things when I already know the answer. That’s cruel, too, isn’t it?

I just came back to tell you how beautiful you are.

(Pauses. Raises voice).

You’re beautiful! (turns to go offstage -- begins to run) I’ll be late -- but remember -- you’re beautiful. (offstage -- voice, echoing) And -- I love you!

The End.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Secrets of the Hidden Trunk


"What kind of treasure is this?" Marcus asked in sheer disgust, as he sifted through the contents of the tin trunk we found in the old mine workings. It was just exactly where the old map had indicated, except what we found inside was a far cry from the gold coins, jewelry, and nuggets were hoping for. "I can't believe someone would go to the trouble of hiding a chest in an old mine, and then to draw a map to show where is was."

Marcus rolled up the sleeves of his thick cotton twill khaki-colored shirt. The muscles in his thin, wiry arms twisted like rope as he lifted the metal chest and brought it to a flat place in the arroyo.

"There's some sort of water barrel in there, too," he said. "Should I get that out, too?"

"I have to say it's pretty weird," I said. "I wonder why someone would pack silk skirts, slips, and blouses in a trunk."

So far, all we found in the trunk was women's clothing. I found it to be interesting, and I suspected that the owner of the trunk had not been much older than I was. Perhaps she was 16 to my 15. Still, it was clear that whoever had packed this trunk was a teenaged girl. There was a card, a silk heart, a little journal with doves and flowers on it, and a daguerreotype of what appeared to be her mother and father. They were a grim set of individuals. The technology was to blame, though. Who could possibly look spontaneous while sitting frozen in one pose for 15 minutes at a time while the chemicals congealed into the patterns of light and shadow?

"Look at this pink silk blouse," I said. "Is this what they used to call a "mutton leg" sleeve?" I asked.

"How the heck would I know?" said Marcus.

"Marcus, you don't have to get testy with me," I said.

"Oh, no?" His voice dripped sarcasm.

"Look at this map. It clearly indicates treasure. It does not indicate used clothing, or a Goodwill store in the side of a ravine."

His negativity was getting on my nerves. I lifted another heavy silk skirt. It was black, with gray velvet trim. The articles of clothing were well-made, and were, in my opinion, quite beautiful. I was shocked that they were in such good condition. It must have been due to the arid climate, I surmised.

"Marcus, it's not all clothing, diaries, and photos," I said. "Here's a jewelry case."

"What?" Marcus lifted up another skirt to see if there might be something else secreted away in the depths of the chest. He sucked in his breath as his investigations revealed something even more startling than the jewelry case.

It was a dagger with a heavy gold sheath encrusted with colored gemstones. It was spectacularly beautiful and I could not believe a young teenaged girl would have such a thing.

"What on earth do you think she was doing with this?" I asked.

"Maybe she was getting to ready to run off with her boyfriend to get married. Maybe this was something she had inherited and she wanted to have it in case they ran out of money," said Marcus.

"Why did she leave it behind?" I asked.

"Maybe she died in the flash flood that happened here during the California Gold Rush," said Marcus.

"Or, maybe she was kidnapped," I said. "Perhaps she just simply never got away."

"Well, whatever it was, she did not come back to the old mine diggings. It must have been too dangerous," said Marcus.

We both sensed that to enter into the Scheherazade territory of a thousand and one narratives would save no one's life. It would merely extend our journey in this ambiguous land -- a territory that was painful in that occasionally the stories we spun came all too close to nerves and real pain.

I turned my attention to the small jewelry box. I opened the delicate black lacquered lid quite cautiously.

Inside was a tiny trove of treasure, of colored gemstones, gold chains, gold jewelry. It looked like a dowry chest, except for the clothing, which made it look like a girl preparing to elope. The jeweled knife was, to put it mildly, an oddity. It was inexplicable.

"Could it have been a girl from a local brothel?" I asked. "Was the owner a prostitute? Was she planning to run away?"

Marcus looked at the skirt and blouses with a strange expression. It approximated sadness and compassion without being obviously so. A breeze ruffled his dark, longish hair, his finely cut jaw was not yet hardened into adulthood. It occurred to me again that he could easily be on the cover of a teen heart-throb magazine. My stomach trembled and I looked down at the jewels.

"What bothers me most about this is the fact she never got away," said Marcus. "My mom was an amazing cook."

It was a jolting non-sequitur.

"I don't get it," I said. It wasn't true. I understood it perfectly.

His mom had dreams, but she never had the opportunity to pursue them in a form that made any sense to anyone but herself. So, she traveled in her mind, and she hunted treasure in the far reaches of her imagination. She would never have admitted that, however. For her, the work she did to detect "sympathetic vibrations" on a map, with rutilated quartz crystals accompanied by chanting was very real.

"There has go to be something here," said Marcus, grimly. "Something more."

He grabbed up his flashlight and returned to the old digging. Crashing through the brush, he used his rock hammer to clear more space. While he crashed about, I placed the small items of jewelry in the palm of my hand and contemplated them.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Fugue State


January 7, 1974.
I lay down on the x-ray table and tried to maintain a cynical, tough-as-rawhide attitude. The effort was exhausting and ultimately pointless since I had little or no recall of what had happened. Palm Springs General Hospital was decorated in desert pastels. The walls of the x-ray room were a pale sandy rose, and I wondered what they would find. My neck muscles ached from where I had clenched them tightly. "Take a deep breath, dear," said Raylene, the x-ray technician whose nameplate was also in a desert pastel color. "Now release."

Repeating the sequence several times, the x-ray machine clicked and whirred. I tried not to think of what they might find. Something was causing blackouts and whatever seemed to be happening to me. I could no longer deny it, nor could I conceal it. It was no wonder I was considered a freak and a nerd at school. Since I could never remember the "episodes," I shuddered to think how many I might have had in class or in the hall.

"You are a very pretty girl, Ophelia," said Raylene. "You look just like a painting I saw in a book once. Actually, I think it was called, 'Ophelia,' too. I'll bet you have lots of admirers back home."

"Not really," I mumbled, trying to be polite. What boy would possibly like me? I was an embarrassment, a blot on society. I thought briefly of Marcus, and wondered with alarm if I had suffered a brief "episode" in his presence.

In the doctor's office, I fixed my eyes intently on the reproduction of Marcel Duchamps' modernist painting, Nude Descending a Staircase. The fragmented, angular arms and legs, the multiple images of a body in motion made me think of frames of a film superimposed upon each other. It was the record of discrete moments in time frozen onto a single moment in time. It displayed repetition of an action, but with gaps, and with the color effectively bled from it. The painting effectively represented in visual form the condition of my memory.

"We can definitely rule out a brain tumor, aneurism, or any other dramatic organic cause for what is happening," said Dr. Spangarten to Dad and myself.

"It is a shame her mother cannot be here at this time, too," said Dad. "This is going to be a great relief for her."

It was not much of a relief for me, though. At least they could do something about something like a tumor or an aneurism. It would be an explanation.

"We could do more tests, but I don't really see the point," continued the neurologist. "I will recommend following up when you get back home, and I will make a few referrals. Do you have any questions?"

Dr. Spangarten looked at me. Dad responded instead.

"That should do it. We will definitely follow up," he said, then stopped suddenly as he noticed me starting to shift my weight and squirm in my chair.

"Sorry, Ophelia," he said. "Did you want to ask a question?"

I looked up, paused, and looked into Dr. Spangarten's ruddy face, thinning and well-groomed hair. He looked like he spent some time on the golf course, I thought. He probably had one of the houses I saw while riding my bike to the canyon horseback riding place. They were white stucco with ornate desert gardens and pools in the back. Or, it was possible he lived near Marcus. The thought gave me a small knot in my stomach.

In addition to Duchamps, Dr. Spangarten's wall had a reproduction of Giacomo Balla's painting of the multiple, superimposed moving images still painting of a dachshund on a leash. It, together with Nude Descending a Staircase, perfectly represented my emotional and cognitive states.

I nodded slightly.

"Yes. What is it that has been happening, then?" I asked. "I know we don't know why."

"I think that you have been having mild seizures. It could be a very mild form of epilepsy. Or, it could be a hormonal or an electrolyte imbalance. Those are things you can find out when you get home," said Dr. Spangarten. Despite the grim news, his voice sounded kind, non-judgmental.

"Oh. Is there anything they can do?" I asked.

"Yes, there are any number of things. I would recommend that you speak to a therapist as well. There may be something precipitating them as well that is not organic," he continued.

So he did think I was a nut case.

Oh well. That made two of us.


On the drive back to the hotel, I made a suggestion to Dad.

"I think we should call Marcus and see if he wants to go check out his map," I said. Dad nodded his assent.

"That's a good idea." He rolled down the window. The day was surprisingly cool, and the Santa Ana winds had died down. The air was crisp and so clear the colors stung the eyes.

"This weekend?" I asked.

"Good." He smiled. "Let's do it."

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Hidden Temple

Listen to the podcast (downloadable mp3 file)

The sickness was upon him again. It penetrated his bones and made him shiver with a dread so intense it felt like a fever. It was not precisely physical, nor was it completely psychological. However, like malaria, it recurred whenever he felt the slightest weakness.

Captain Harville had achieved the rank of captain. With his new rank came orders to go to a place he could never divulge. Harville was required by law and by protocol to deny he had ever flown over this land. Needless to say, he was not able to mention that he had also landed his helicopter on an awkward strip of land next to a rice paddy, nor could he describe the small cluster of bamboo huts on stilts where monsoon rains rolled down the palm frond thatched roof. The flat leaves kept out the rain, for the most part, but not the small animals, and certainly not the brown snakes that dropped from trees and coiled themselves around the bamboo rafters, waiting for the Burmese mice, the gold and black-striped salamanders, or even a bat or two.

At first, Captain Harville was well. He thanked the skies above that he was able to land, despite taking fire, some of it undoubtedly friendly, thanks to the secrecy that shrouded what he understood to be his mission.

Laos was beautiful, even magical, thought Harville. He might even enjoy it here.

However, the day he took the boat down the dark green waters of a tributary of the Mekong River, he knew his mind and his body had come under the thrall of something terrible and inexplicable. The jungle changed hue from lime green to dark, shadowy brown and green, and a humid, dank canopy covered the entire river. The sense of foreboding was as clammy as the sweat on his arms. Monkeys chattered, birds sounded shrill alarms, and the unearthly sound of a woman’s scream, which he knew to be a tiger, not a woman, made him question the wisdom of taking the boat alone.

Waterfalls flowed from underground channels and conduits. Where they encountered escarpments, the water cascaded out like water shot from spigots or bizarre horizontal fountains. In the gloom, Harville made out the three mounds of vines he had been looking for. Tying the boat near a small path cut through the jungle, Harville made his way toward the largest of the three. As he approached, he could see that the vines had been chopped back, and three almost identical structures revealed. Carved of limestone, with intricate patterns, the largest of the three was a stupa, a Buddhist temple.

Slashing some of the vines out of his way, Harville bared a small expanse where he saw the outline of a door. There were no visible knobs, but his instructions were clear. Clear the vines. Push the limestone block to the side, pull the iron ring, push the wooden lever. He did so, and a section of the wall moved smoothly inward, revealing a dark passageway.

It was not a gratifying success, Harville noted. This was the Golden Triangle, after all. Whatever was hidden here was likely to have a host of interested parties. He dreaded what he would find. The most likely possibilities were opium, arms, ammunition.

He saw nothing, however. Instead, he saw white smoke and sensed an overpoweringly sweet smell that generated a bitter taste in his mouth. The limestone walls seemed to bend, waver, and melt, when the sight of a man made him catch his breath in surprise. An impossibly small Buddhist monk in a crimson robe appeared in front of him, and addressed him in an impeccable British English.

“You must respect the fact that I have no choice in this matter. I am one of the last remaining Guardians,” said the tiny Buddhist monk.

Back in his base camp, Captain Harville awakened with no recall how he got back, nor why he was here. He lay in bed, vaguely nauseous, and he looked above into the bamboo beams and palm fronds. There his eyes followed the actions of 6 brown snakes as they coil, turn, writhe in the rafters.

Clutched in his hand was a small carving of iridescent green jade that, when turned a certain direction, changed colors and turns as peach as transparent flesh. It was a coiled dragon. Its eyes were black garnets, and there was a blood-red droplet of something on its tongue. Upon close examination, one can see that it was a fiery red garnet.

The impossibly small Buddhist monk appeared in the room with Harville. Harville heard a voice, a monk’s voice, imagined the monk perching somewhere on a bamboo rafter. The monk’s dark red robes glowed, brightened, darkened, faded. He wavered, then faded.

“Be not deceived. You cannot enter the temple without becoming one of us. You will be forever bound to the Bao Luong Min Temple.” The voice seemed to come from three places at once.

“Bao Luong Min,” said Harville. “What does that mean?”

High-pitched laughter came from the rafters. Instead of six snakes, there are now at least two dozen. The are writhing and coiling frantically. More high-pitched, cackling, hysterical laughter.

“God’s Hostage.”

Harville closed his eyes. He felt the bitterness in his mouth turn to pepper, then to licorice.

The sickness rose in his brain like a fever. The dragon in his hand crackled with energy, glowed, burned, seared images into his mind.

Later, when he awoke, a full day and a half later, nothing remained to indicate that anything at all had happened, not even the trip down the river.

Then, Harville looked down upon his hand. The carving was gone, but what remained were blood-red lines – the tattoo of a dragon.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Reich's Basement

listen to the podcast (downloadable mp3 file)

Dad’s laboratory, like all good laboratories with the exception, perhaps, of Dr. Frankenstein’s, was in the basement.

More precisely, it was in our basement, which annoyed Mother to no end, particularly when he was still allowed to smoke his cigars in the house.

“You are going to blow yourself up, and all of us with you, if you don’t stop smoking cigars around those chemicals.”

Mother was referring to the solvents he used to determine whether or not the rock samples from the wells he was drilling contained oil. At first, he used carbon tet, but when that was deemed a controlled substance due to its extreme efficacy as a carcinogen, he changed to toluene, and then to xylene, after toluene was also found to be carcinogenic. Toluene was flammable, and, according to the Manufactures’ Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) that came with every purchase, xylene was flammable in both liquid and vapor.

“I’m afraid she’s right, Dad,” I said. I regaled him with tales of my summer job in Tulsa at the Amoco Research Center. My job was to measure porosity and permeability in the tight gas sands cored while drilling wells. We had to clean out the hydrocarbons before we could take measurements, and to do so, we, in essence, boiled the cores in xylene.

Jimmy, one of the petroleum engineers in charge of the project, liked to come in and check out the progress. This was at a time when one could still smoke inside an office building, and he availed himself of the privilege. In fact, you rarely saw him without a lit cigarette between his lips, even when he leaned over beakers filled with boiling toluene and xylene.

Jimmy was amazingly diligent in checking the cleaning of the cores. In fact, he personally inspected every single core cleaning operation we ever did, which was at least one batch every two or three days, depending on the number of cores that had arrived from Wyoming and Colorado. He would smile apologetically at the door of the lab, then rapidly scurry in, his oversized white lab coat sailing up behind him, the tip of the cigarette in his mouth glowing red as he inhaled sharply. We had the cleaning operation under the ventilation hood: ten gas burners heating up large beakers of xylene, upon which we had placed a wire mesh screen and rows of cores. The xylene vapor would penetrate the cores and the hydrocarbons would drip down into the xylene-containing beaker.

The other lab assistants and myself theorized that he was getting a cheap high, somewhat akin to huffing glue.

He would lean his entire head under the hood and fuss with each rack of cores. We would stand transfixed, staring in horror at the lit cigarette.

“Excuse me, sir. Are you worried about the flammability?” I asked tentatively.

His head hit the hood as he jerked up in response to my question. “Whaddya think the hood’s for, little missy?” he said, his eye bloodshot and bleary.

One day, Jimmy was observed by a safety officer who immediately fined him and put him on two weeks administrative leave.

We wondered if he would take up building model airplanes or start cooking with anti-stick spray.

“Technically, it’s called inhalant abuse,” pronounced Butch, the lab supervisor. We were sorry to see Jimmy suffer, but we were desperately relieved to have such a menace removed from our daily lives in the lab.

After hearing my stories from the summer job trenches, Mother bought Dad the best chemical lab ventilation booth she could get her hands on. It had closed glass doors, a huge fan, and a warning system for fire and gases.

Dad was touched. “You care this much about my well-being?” he asked.

“I just don’t want you blowing up the neighborhood. Jill and Wendy just finished their landscaping project and their rose bushes are finally blooming. I think they’re pretty and I’m enjoying the view from the back patio. And, I want you to remember one thing: if you blow up this house, it will destroy theirs, too,” Mother said in her soft yet feisty Southern Belle accent.

“And furthermore, there will be no more smoking in this house. I’m tired of that cigar smoke giving me a sinus headache,” she continued.

Even on the sultriest day, Dad’s basement laboratory was always cool. Although most of his work was fairly pedestrian from a geoscientist’s point of view, it was mysterious and magical to me.

One half of the large laboratory was filled with standard laboratory equipment. Petrographic microscopes, microscopes, black-lights, high-intensity lamps for illuminating samples, gas flames, the famed ventilation system, glassware, equipment for cutting cores lined one wall of the lab. Another lab contained sample, and a locked glass cabinet with chemicals and samples. A bookshelf filled with reference books and lab notebooks filled the space next to the corner. There was nothing there I had not seen in my geology lab courses at the university. In fact, his microscopes were much better than the ones we used in optical mineralogy class.

A large worktable filled the middle of the room. The other half of the lab was filled with experimental devices one would never find in a standard laboratory in a university or a company.

I was not quite sure what they were, and when I asked Dad to explain them, he would often become a bit evasive. He preferred to talk about the results of his experiments rather than the actual provenance of the technologies. A few times, the words “chakra energy” made me realize he was far beyond the pale of the traditional science. The priceless collection of crystals of all the minerals I had studied at school were utterly breathtaking.

Crystals amply chakra energy,” he said.

“So what do you do with chakra energy once you’ve detected it?” I asked. Dad looked pensive. I knew he was wrestling with how much to tell me.

“That’s a difficult question to answer. There are many uses. The most obvious is healing,” he said. “But I’m more interested in the possibility that our chakra energies are affected by the energy of substances, waves, and forces.”

“Oh. Like being around a microwave station, or living under cross-country power lines?” I asked.

“It’s not like that. I’m interested in how one’s body can be attuned to the frequencies of certain substances – usually pure elements – so your body can be a detecting device,” he said cryptically.

“Like a magnet?” I asked. Whenever Dad talked like this, all I could think of were the New Age shops I had visited in Ojai, California and Sedona, Arizona– both reputed to be cosmic energy centers. In my opinion, the stores promised a lot but always failed to deliver. I had my astrological charts drawn up, my Toltec animal energy guide detected, and had even contemplated having a past life regression developed, but at the last minute decided that 50 bucks was too much to pay for something that would inevitably make me feel yoked to some sort of rancid pre-destiny. I preferred to feel free. I knew, of course, that freedom was an illusion. Even as I spoke with my dad, my future was being subtly altered by the conditioning I was receiving by listening to this crazy stuff.

“Can you reanimate dead cells?” I asked. “You can make a wet battery, like Luigi Galvani. I was just reading about how he studied the effects of electricity on animal nerves and muscles. He got a bad reputation later because Mary Shelley and others used his findings to go off the deep end.”

Dad looked at me curiously.

“The Frankenstein approach doesn’t work. Once the cell is really dead, electricity only seals its fate,” he said.

“I’m not interested in that anyway. I think it just creates a lot of problems to revive the dead. When your time is up, it’s up. If you think about it, eventually people are better off dead,” he said.

“What the heck do you mean by that?” I asked.

“Just that they’ve totally messed up their lives with negative thinking,” Dad said. “No. I’m interested in being able to detect elements with one’s body. I’m also interested in tuning the body so that it is as receptive as possible. I’ve been experimenting with Orgone Energy.”

“What??? Does Mother know?” I asked. I was truly shocked. I was used to Dad’s devices – the divining rods, the gold and platinum coils, the magnetometers, and infra-red devices. This was truly different. Apparently, he was following the teachings of Wilhelm Reich, who had tried to find a way to measure the energy expended when men became sexually aroused, and to find a measure for sexual energy. Reich believed in sexual healing, and he thought it could cure everything from depression to cancer.

So. Dad had no need of the electrical energy that so violently charged the air each spring and summer during tornado season. He was going to

“I think that the preventative removal of the prostate is a conspiracy to rob mature men of their orgone energy,” said Dad. “It’s criminal.”

Here is something I bought from Russ. It’s called the Orgone Energy Accumulator. It takes the wasted orgone energy from the atmosphere and keeps it in the coils. Then, when you plug it into your room, it releases the accumulated energy and charges you up.

“That’s a lava lamp, Dad,” I said. The lamp was a cone-shaped light fixture with the gooey purple-red substance that bubbled up in a way that resembled hot “pahoehoe” lava. It looked exactly like the “lava lamps” that were popular in the 1960s among hippies experimenting with LSD.

“Been doing any acid trips?” I asked, under my breath. Luckily, Dad did not hear me.

“Russ sent me this one. He charged it up with orgone energy.”

“How did he do that?” I asked, in spite of myself. I didn’t know if I really wanted to know.

“He has a friend who works at a sperm donor place in Las Vegas,” said Dad, rather placidly I thought. I felt my face blush.

“I was afraid you were going to say that he had a deal with brothels. He lives in Las Vegas, after all,” I said.

Dad looked at me. “That’s not a bad idea. But, I think that there might be too much negative energy in that. That’s not a very nice business.”

I sighed. It was interesting, but I was more interested in things on the other side of the lab. I wanted to find more gold and oil. In particular, I wanted to find a low-cost way to process “invisible gold” – the micro particles of gold found in gold deposits near Elko, Nevada, in the Carlin Trend.

“Well, you know what happened to Reich,” I said, darkly. I looked at Dad, who was adjusting the lava lamp Orgone Accumulator. He looked all the world like Wilhelm Reich in the famous photo of him with the “Cloudbuster” he kept in his back yard in Forest Hills, New York. Reich claimed to be able to channel orgone energy into the skies to create rain and to communicate with UFOs.

“Reich died in prison for practicing medicine without a license,” I said.

Dad wasn’t listening. He was staring into the depths of the lava lamp, lost in thought. Then, startling back to conversation he cleared his throat.

“It’s interesting, but I would not go as far as Russ does with this. I’m just interested to see if either the principles or the practice have any bearing on what I’m doing,” he said. “I’m about ready for a break. How about McDonald’s and coffee?”

“Sounds good to me,” I said. I wanted to ask him about my ideas about gold in Nevada.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Zero Latitude

Download the podcast (mp3 file).

Dirt stings. The sky is in strips. They are wafers of oblivion. As usual, I am wanting more than I know what to express, but unnerved by it all.

I’m sitting on a dusty rock, overlooking Quito. I’m not sure how or why I got here. They built the largest cathedrals in the western hemisphere on the Incan Temples of the Sun and Moon. Talk about a paradigm shift.

I’m here. No one knows or cares. Least of all myself. The dusty passageways scream to me. My Spanish is rusty, and I think of ways to shape my mouth into the syllables and consonants of Barcelona. Catalan is the language of independence. It is a philosophy of avant-garde that allows me to exist on the border between rational thought and dream. At least that is what I imagine. Barcelona is far from here.

Quito is a language of destiny, of geographical determinism. We’re here. You and I are together. You laugh? You are with me -- if not in body, in spirit.

The air is dry. Adrenaline is wet. Sweat comes to me like a vision, or stars falling down onto the equator. I am split in half.

You’ll have something to say to me, but I won’t know how to respond.

What do you say to someone who was once a child combatant? Unwillingly, I might add. What happens when the person who always expected to go out in a blaze of glory somehow survives? Does that mean one has outlived one’s relevance?

It’s a question I’ve been afraid to ask.

Finally, this is a new beginning, or at least something I can call a starting point. Somewhere night comes down to this – a conference call to the stars and the moon, and I’m wondering what the next day will bring.

We have places to go, but I’m not sure where my heart really lies. Security and fear are not the same thing. They’re not even related, although some would like to think so. The pager, cell phone, PDA and other forms of control I wear are forlorn imitations of logic, armor, control. Of course, they don’t work here.

A bus drives by. Women are looking at my blonde hair. I am preparing myself to get into a taxi and drive to a small mountain village where I will buy small hand-made bread-dough sculptures of the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus.

After that, what does my future hold?

I don’t know. I don’t want to ask.

Monday, February 28, 2005


Play the podcast.

This poem was inspired by Sylvia Plath (of course) -- but I was trying to do an anti-Plath with the rhythm, which is to say that there is no rhythm. But -- isn't that what you'd expect in a poem that is about electrocution -- a deliberate method of stopping heartbeats? You decide...


I drop the raw, live wire, plugged-in

into the pool of water where I am standing –

grape lips, scorched soles,

wired hair, convulsions –

remind me of you

in your touch inexplicable voltage –

the amperage is what kills

(or fails to)

and still, tears scar,

or didn’t I know that?

a room thick with charged vapor and wanting;

flames jolting the blue out of my eyes,

and yet the color refuses to budge

amnesia was the gift

this was supposed to deliver –

I can’t remember your name,

but the longing

is worse

than ever.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Asuncion (poem). From 1996 to 2000, I traveled to Paraguay approximately three times per year. Part of my enthusiasm was motivated by the desire to get to know Paraguayan women poets, their work, and their contexts. I was also motivated by the desire to bridge the cultures -- American and Paraguayan -- by setting up programs that encouraged partnering. As a result, I became involved with many programs, including educational exchanges, film festivals, art, culture, trade, and developing a free trade zone. It was a fascinating time, and I was lucky to have been able to gain an appreciation of Guarani culture, and the unique dialect of Spanish spoken there, which also reflected a certain mindset, unique to the world.

Play the podcast.


the night is hot
unbearably hot

I sleep on the floor
no breeze enters the window
traffic noises 5 stories below & night sounds
from the brothel down the street, drunken singing
accompanied by harps & guitars & songs
played over and over from a pirated CD --
the smell of diesel exhaust
settling into the pores of the city
ozone & other supercharged ions
make me long for you more
my world is between dream and day

the mattress on the floor
shudders when trucks rumble down the cobbled streets
heavy with goods undocumented & untrackable
like my mind imagining, wakeful
my body trembling in response
to memories traversing this heart of hope
& still you're half a world away

I sweat in my sleep
my arms, my legs
involuntarily searching; I do not perceive
the half-heard sound of sobbing
a young girl realizing for the first time
her body is a vehicle driven by someone else
the moment she gives up dreaming;
water splashing in the courtyard
she tries to wash the smells from her hands
the rest she gives to the poinsettia tree
its star-like leaves and yellow blossoms
rousing that dismal corner of this once-grand house,
its history
created its own oblivion.

but I am asleep four doors away;
my sheet will not peel away
the pillow will not muffle your voice
remembered from a world & a lifetime away;
we have not yet met
but soon we will; now
our moments are still on the other side of dreams
enigmatic, immaculate, joyous & sad
like starlight behind a film of clouds

when I awaken I see the dawn
cast shadows on the paint peeling from my walls
the tears that have stained my ceiling;
the mattress is warm on the cool concrete floor
your breath is already inside me
my hands somewhere brushing your neck
flowers bloom in the trees outside the window
the trucks grinding gears, the brothel silent
the daylight scents are sweet & only mildly sad;
morning is, thankfully, what happens
every day

Sunday, January 09, 2005

fringe-journaling at kramerbooks on dupont circle in washington, dc Posted by Hello

Friday, January 07, 2005

"Antidote to Vanity" is a poem dealing with people who have been displaced due to war or natural disaster (the tsunami comes to mind), and who have been living in limb -- sometimes decades. It is also a meditation the writings of a 5th-century Buddhist monk who lived in the Sri Lanka / India region, who suggested strategies for undesirable mental states -- attachment, desire, etc. This is a concept that is usually misunderstood. Think before judging.

Bones poured like wax gone bad,
I descended into the fire; my personal fear comes alive
in this ravine curling sidelong the highway

flames leap from the asphaltic shale
an artesian well of fire

I think Johnny Cash & Zarathustra;
did my dad & Nietzsche have so much in common?
Ring of Fire & Self-Overcoming –
gales cannot extinguish this blaze of glory
& associated smells; Oklahoma oil in a jar from the Hunton formation
my dad talking about the well near the Wynnewood refinery
& my brother sneaking charred hotdogs off the backyard grill

all the while, I'm here in the Absheron Peninsula, knowing
I’ve been here before; many times

We are nearing an ancient temple
Zoroastrians worshipped this same eternal flame
two thousand years ago, muffled by paisley carpets

Good vs. Evil
weavers repeated flames with brilliant wool and silk
in infinite tones of scarlet, burgundy, & simple red

thousands of miles away, my aunt served her daughter's wedding cake on silver
saved by an uncle who said Berlin was like Dresden –
fire bombing was a terrible way to discipline a city
some streets burned for days, asphalt ignited
where water had been long supplanted by dirt & defoliated dreams

my heart burns
my head erupts in paisley

just that small fact that history changes
but the same earth burns
the true good is in the flame itself
purity comes from the inner core of fire

thousands of years, we sometimes discover the ancient truths
sometimes not –

it’s just that now I see the way history was & will always be…
& my bones weep
like wax
passed close to the flame