Saturday, 7 March 2015

Sometimes social media is a wild place where great and subtle things can be said and done; much, much more often it is like a casino whose slot machines pay out only joy enough to keep us dimly hopeful and coming back.  I can do better. We can do better.

Friday, 16 January 2015

"Voice in Headphones" by Lake Eerie is the best tribute to Bjork I know of, even with its awkward first couplet. In fact, the song is both powerful answer to and antidote for the vulnerable voice. "It's not meant to be a strife/It's not meant to be a struggle uphill."

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Light on the Hill

Gough Whitlam was a great man and one of the abiding inspirations of my life. My childhood home had photos of him. We are not a religious family but we are a family who believes in fairness even when it is uncomfortable to do so. I am deeply sad that Gough is gone.

Friday, 17 October 2014

To be called an optimist by a chance acquaintance at the end of a very hard week is high praise.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Sunday School

I saw a pick-up truck at the public market today with a bumper sticker of a stick figure family consisting of different sized guns.

I was struck suddenly by the knowledge that such defense systems used by the pro-gun lobby- angry, blindly hateful bumper stickers- are very similar to the defense systems used by some of the faux-menacing young urban black men I walk or ride by in my neighborhood.

In almost all cases the people behind the defenses  are nice people and any sincere effort to say 'hi' causes the defenses to fade out. And both sides have so much to talk about: guns, guns and more guns.

If only they knew how alike they are. I wish both sides knew how much public funding goes in to taking care of the victims of their understandable mistrust of publicly-funded authority.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

My dream a drink in Soho

Or to otherwise pause my perspective of time as though watching a movie or make things seem to go faster or slower so I could pull out ideas from each theme and image I see: something irreducibly great 

My dream a white tree.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Find the silence and beauty in above the noise, pressure, ambition, chaos and hostility of a world class city. If you can do that you can do anything. That is why the High Line is like a church to me.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Almost every person I have gotten to know in 14 years in the U.S. has asked me so what are you doing here? Next time you speak with an immigrant please don't ask this. There is no quick or light way to answer such a question authentically and it is not our task. Instead, perhaps ask yourself that question.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Outside the box

Where is that famous box of corporate folklore located exactly? I would like a nice quiet place inside which to think.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

When the dog bites.


My favorite thing is when people say the things in their head. Not so much the opinions in the front of their head- the stuff they watch for- but further back, the things that are right there with them keeping them company at their vantage point... Binoculars, trinkets, idioms, night skylines. All the best comedy is from there.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Nothing is secure but life, transition, the energizing spirit. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Circles"

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Friday, 1 August 2014

Friday, 11 July 2014

Taking Sides with my Asides

It is interesting to me that my poetry blog is currently dominated by the search for new music. But I like it and won't fight it.


Try listening: you might love this too.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Samsara Sera

“Hold the sadness and pain of samsara in your heart and at the same time the power and vision of the Great Eastern Sun."

- Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Sunday, 6 July 2014




Sunday, 29 June 2014

Bigger than Us

"Did you ever stop to think that maybe we were right?
...Let's start something bigger than us "

- The Smith Street Band

Saturday, 28 June 2014

The Waking

Sensing the hurts of others near and far and feeling extremely lucky to be alive, encircled by my friends' and family's love and yes, to be in Rochester, NY: a place which- after a decade of ambivalence- I am proud to call home. Sweet dreams l'il town.

The Waking by Theodore Roethke : The Poetry Foundation

Friday, 6 June 2014

The Silver Lining of Cliche

Cliches became that way because they were true so frequently that they ended up as a kind of shorthand or subscript. If they could be condensed down to single words they could be bricks
for making poems. For instance tonight I wrote with total conviction:

"What you do or fail to do makes a difference. What you say or are afraid to say makes a difference. What you dare to expect of life is the best you will get from it. Don't let acts of violence speak louder than compassion."

Here, on my poetry blog, I am aware that such sentiments may be viewed as simple-minded. Why aren't I ironic about my politics? Two reasons: 1. Irony isn't effective at getting a message across
only at obscuring the persona behind the message and 2. I mean what I say.

Poetry requires a different type of language. For poetry I need to turn this set of statements into a three dimensional object that can be used to build. A poem is one solid thing that can't be smashed or thrown. Nobody wages war with Shakespeare- the complexity of the writing, the irreducibility of it, defies cliche even as fragments of it become cliche.

Cliche, why do you scare us? Are we afraid you will stop us from thinking, prevent rigor? Maybe. It is much more likely that we are afraid you will make us feel.

We feel in cliche first before we can grasp our lives in all of their complexity. I feel very strongly that gun law needs national reform in the U.S. I feel that for a while and then eventually the force of that feeling topples me with more feelings. Thought doesn't leave the room. Thought isn't embarrassed. Thought says: "finally we have something to work with."

My passionate speech gets rewritten slowly for its new audience and in the process it changes and so do I. I no longer have a message, I no longer want you to vote my way. It's something I am making and must finish, that is all.

The words come slowly. They start with an electric blue sky and the smoky white trail of a light air plane. I give this thought.

Monday, 2 June 2014

How Many Miles

I enjoyed reading My Craft or Sullen Art: Poetry and Songwriting, by Joe Dolce in Meanjin.

Dolce makes a great point about the critical blindness that can afflict the best of us when contemplating iconic musical figures like Bob Dylan.

Two musicians

... sisters both still in their teens.


Saturday, 15 February 2014

The Bones Of Night


Images are not numbers. Freud
tried translating them. They are
notes towards themselves.

A walled city represents its own
interests. I want to go in
but I don't trust -- its symbol

is the horse, no, an upended
flask of water. I've been there
once creaking like an old door.

Soundly to venture forward
into desire. This film
I think I've seen, but it changes

memory. I dream an entire
film. A recurring dream. Always,
I am some actor, falling into trees.

My mind churns up such thoughts
to bother me on weekends.
Distract me towards the sea, or

to you. My mind on the whole
has betrayed me. Love is strong.
Sunny villas, much running water.

The grasses hush together
in greenness. This stolen city means
so little. I will write it flawed and beautiful.



Sunday, 17 November 2013

There are few things harder to parse than the minor acts of injustice and betrayal perpetrated by good people. Tonight, riding my bike home, I meditated on this and it finally dawned on me: these acts do not make sense because they are thoughtless. Injustice, for good people, is a kind of wave or gestalt that overtakes them when they are weak. The only answer to such wrongdoing is to feel rage - raw rage- at the fear, not at the person and to refuse to, yourself, be afraid. To respond any other way is bound to hurt someone else, if not today, then soon.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Last week I rode
Last week I rode my bicycle past
a construction site

Where a crane was high above
a sculpture
to cut a tree

And the worker for the city
called out
called out in a stutter



Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Community is: you are just as scared as I am, but you know you cannot figure it out alone. You can't solve it so you hold onto the hand of the next person, grip really. Then they do the same, and the person next to them. It's like Matisse's painting "The Dance" some days.

But mostly it is like walking through the sky, not daring to look down.


Thursday, 18 July 2013

I long for the day when civil rights are viewed the way that oxygen is: shared, essential and no less necessary to those whose morality is in doubt than they are to those with whom we sympathize. If the air is toxic nobody can breathe.The UN's website maintains the full text of this terrific refresher course in justice.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Running Out of Choices

Climate change - it's total impact on food prices, human costs from natural disasters, and in the context of a global economic slump- is, arguably, the instigator of a fearful zeitgeist, globally, that I think is being misdirected into all kinds of conservatism. We must direct our fear, instead, into action to offset and slow climate change and defend against climate disaster.

It is an interesting point in history. Just as the threat of nuclear war caused an uneasy truce to the arms race, I think climate disaster will ultimately result in a similar detente. What we are seeing now is the spinning wheels of fear.

Sexism is just one of the showers of sparks from those wheels.


Change is the only constant. This is not new. Some are already adapting to change.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Beauty stays longer

Beauty stays longer in some places, some faces, but none of us can lay claim to it forever except through forgetting ourselves and living.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Across the Wire

It is hard for me to understand how anyone could believe that guns make us safer. But when I walk around our neighborhood and see the probably-armed, probably-black teens who are committing most of the thefts around here, I almost, for a second understand the visceral ugly fear that would have one buy a gun and risk more lives rather than stand up and ask why all this is happening, stand up and make things better for that kid and every kid so that both the crime rate and gun violence are reduced. The argument that sickens me the most is that one must have a gun to "protect one's family". Protecting one child at the cost of another is not noble, not brave, not "patriotic". It's a rearrangement of miseries.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Nagging thought: Being an ordinary, nonviolent very young man in the U.S. today may be harder than anyone ever knows. The violent end of this age group spectrum is, to an extent, the canary in the coal mine. 

Here is a different point of view, one that I found refreshing: we need more courses in gender studies in community colleges.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

The Lesson

Grabbing the edge of the next step and swinging one's body up then scrambling to climb. A twisting set of steps with 5 feet high gaps between each one. Too high up to go back down, too low still to see what's up ahead.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Saturday, 30 March 2013

The word that's been on heavy rotation in my mind since my daughter's birth is "Generative". To have the power and will to make something new. After becoming a parent there is no denying one's power and one's will.

Such an awareness removes many limits to let strange objects loom in the headlights, in the rear view mirror.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Determinism is the other side of anger. If you know your rights and fight for them, there is no need to be angry.

Friday, 25 January 2013

[Tolerance]

To circumscribe another by defining them, rather than assessing their actions in good faith, is to limit the possibilities for myself. I want you to have the right to your silence, even as I struggle to speak. I want you to know that you are worthy as a human being. I want you to be given fair and equitable treatment before the law, and I want you to be healed when you are sick and to know that your children are safe. I will want these things for you no matter how many times you repeat rhetoric like a child rocking on their haunches, or add swagger to pirate words. I want you to see the afternoon sun reflecting and for your streets to be clean. I want the air to smell like a delicious thought. I cannot live alone; my family cannot live alone; and so I want your family to prevail so that we gain courage from your continuity.


I will fight for your dignity, and in doing so I will build a wall around the things that I love, not a high wall, not a mean wall, but a strong wall, and your dogma and your hate and your violence will never touch us even as your best self comes and goes.

Friday, 18 January 2013

"We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability..."

Martin Luther King,  Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Some Americans are accustomed to money leading the country, and they are afraid that money isn't more powerful than democracy anymore. The tragedy is that many of those who benefit most from Obama's presidency actively undermine him, hate him even, like a proud man giving back "charity" when in fact what he has been given back are his human rights. In this sense, Obama is indeed a revolutionary.  

I rub my eyes and he is still there: an unbelievably gifted leader with tremendous courage and character.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

[Dry Spell]

The New Normal 

"The abnormal is the new normal...from the United States to India, from Ukraine to Brazil, drought (has) decimated essential global crops. No one is immune to climate change - rich or poor. It is an existential challenge for the whole human race - our way of life, our plans for the future,"

U.N Secretary Ban Ki-moon, addressing delegates at the Doha climate talks in December.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Why Everyone Thinks They've "Done Their Homework"

It is human nature to seek evidence to prove what one already believes rather than to draw conclusions and form beliefs based on the evidence before us. It occurred to me today that maybe some of the more regrettable self-justifications one hears may be aided and abetted by personalized google search engine results. After all, isn't the idea behind "personalized results" to tell consumers what they want to hear?

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Manifest destiny

This is the lesson of Newtown: You can't move to a better neighborhood to avoid gun violence; you can't buy your children's safety with security guards; all you can do is make every kid safer, because every kid is your kid.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Interesting Read

Masculinity and Guns in America

Cronyism vs Friendship

I really tire of the kind of cronyism that puffs people up in poetry to the point where they forget why they started writing in the first place.

I never tire of friendship, which makes me want to write until I understand all things.

Here in an interview with the very good poet Brendan Ryan.
I rode my bike home tonight after work at 11:30pm: the roads were absolutely beautiful, very still, and very cold. Love my job.

Thursday, 27 December 2012


“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”
- Martin Luther King Jr

Friday, 21 December 2012

In the Wake of the the Newtown Massacre on 12/16/12

Quoting the very astute Timothy Yu: "We live in a nation where selfishness is a virtue; where community and caring for others are not just held in contempt but are legislated out of existence; where our foreign policy and our justice system are based on vengeance and retribution; where our politics are driven by fear and hatred; where physical and mental health care are still a privilege and not a right; where anyone can walk into Wal-Mart and buy a weapon capable of killing dozens in seconds. Our country is sick, and our children are dying because of it."

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Too Important to Wait for the Poem

The issue of gun regulation is more important right now in the United States than any poetry-related observations I care to share. This New York Times article is one of the better commentaries so far.


Do We Have the Courage to Stop This?

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

[Climate Change]

Sudden, gale-force understanding: the role of a poet in the face of catastrophic climate change is to shelter and incubate ideas, like seeds from lost species of plants.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Milestones

Starting to write again, uncurling my fists like a baby learning the social smile.

First Snow

Dreamed last week about the near future- my tiny daughter, seeing her first snow.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Irony and its Opponents

This article in the NY Times by Andy Newman posits naivete and irony as foes. But I wonder about this. By definition irony seems to me a creature turned upon itself - an awareness of the
duality of awareness.

Do you know where you are/
and will you follow your own gaze?

To me the central battle of the mind is to steer insight, noise and fear towards something like cohesion. My notion of a harmony of argument is one where the center holds, and one where thematic resonances allow disparate viewpoints to get along. In this worldview irony and naivete are parts of the same whole, and frequently co-dependent, to the point of canceling one another out. Over-the-top affect of many kinds flattens into an exquisitely painful cursive script, or grows into wrought iron as a vine might grow.

What am I leaving out to make an argument? What am I glossing over? The ridiculous can still be ridiculous but I must forgive it, I suppose, even as it occurs in self and my own two eyes do see. That is the central requirement. Irony can be a poor friend. Disbelief in God defines belief in a god, and upholds it. Irony mocks naivete through tinted windows, driving by, an unreliable witness.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Ugly, Lovely

Ugly

A forlorn identity
for self-defense.
Tightness in the chest,
dimensionless work.
Sleep deprivation at dawn.

Fearing silence,
fearing books,
fearing art.


Lovely

No total darkness,
no purity of light
just a large dusty house of faceted
laughter - even forests given room,
and in the morning there is not perfection.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Henry Rollins

Freaking amazing man. I saw my first Henry Rollins performance this week in Rochester and became a fan within the first 3 minutes of the 3 hour, nonstop monologue Rollins delivered, on topics ranging from vacationing in Pakistan to Van Halen, to the problems of the unexamined rallying cry.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Mandala, Mandela

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you ...

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

- Marianne Williamson (but often attributed to Nelson Mandela)

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Sound of Tomorrow

Newsflash!

Episode 15 of Sound of Tomorrow is now online. In the words of Jimmy Spaceboy:

"Were they lost in space? Victims of interstellar piracy? Stranded in the time of the dinosaurs?
Nah. They were just takin' a break. But the Spacebridge crew is back in the year 2008 with an all new episode. Sarah Smart is here to tell it like it is in her celebrity news round-up, and special guests George Getman and Cassie Lewis give us the lowdown on George's new photographs on display at the Image City Gallery in Rochester."

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Reel to Reel

Rochester lives and breathes the moving image in many ways. George Eastman House and its Dryden Theater; The Little Theatre; Kodak and its long history from box brownie cameras to silent film reels to disbursement in the digital age; a huge medical imaging industry (filming inside the body - how wonderful and strange, this medical breakthrough); Rochester Institute
of Technology's film school.

Photography, too, thrives here.

My writing process has always felt very much like film-making - my poems read as cinematic to me. However, my work is about crafting written language, however visual the results. The screen is only as big as I can write it.

My admiration for film-makers is strong. Anecdotally, it's hard not to love a great film, easy to pass over a beautiful poem without the screen lighting up.

Why is this so? Maybe expectations determine our responses to poetry, or maybe it is true that music and images are closer to consciousness. Is less translation required? Many see poetry reading as a kind of code-breaking. Certainly there are tropes and references that only the seasoned poetry reader picks up. But these are just the written equivalent of the cameo appearances we notice in films.

Personally, I have always written and read in response not only to the images that the literal sense of the words creates for me, but in response to the mood and 'weather' of the writing and its layout, style and grammar - these are like directors and producers of the work. Habitually I respond, in fact, to these things first, long before gaining a sense of a poem's story or literal sense, or of its postmodern disruption of literal sense.

This is the crafts person in me - this is how I read, how I write. The joy of film going for me lies in the fact that I don't rush to deconstruction - the story takes me by the hand, and the critique follows.

Some of my best celluloid memories of 2007 are of Juno, Into the Wild, No Country for Old Men, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (I hadn't seen this - incredible, I know), Crouching Tiger/Hidden Dragon (ditto), 28 Weeks Later (good but so desolate), Sicko and the magnificent TV series Planet Earth.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Happy New Year 2008

My new year's resolution is to keep moving. One of the places I'm moving towards is one of more frequent publication, on blogger and elsewhere.

Often, during silence, I have an image in my mind of walking through a dark field, towards a watery light in the distance. Stumbling over stones, through the grass, in the general direction of the light. I don't know the way, but if I walk towards that farm house window, I will learn it.

It often seems to me that knowing the destination constructs the map out of thin air.

Wherever you wish to go,
if you keep walking you will get there.

Wishing you a Happy New Year 2008!

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

A Word From Our Sponsors

For those who can spare some online minutes, here is some random fun - plus way too much of the sound of my voice! Actually this podcast is always really enjoyable and I am grateful to the hosts for inviting George Getman and myself for Episode 4.

Hope you enjoy, you can download it at www.soundoftomorrow.com

Thanks for your support!

Cassie

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Red roses too

I will never forget the watching the original BBC version of The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Like most things, the show was both funny and sad. In the final episode the Earth has been destroyed and a few stragglers begin rebuilding. A rudimentary economy springs up, trading leaves instead of money. Except, leaves have no value.

Someone has the insight that the trees must go, so that leaves are in demand.

The episode ends with Louis Armstrong singing It's a Wonderful World.

*

It would be nice if the current trend of retro '80s wear bore more relation to the experience itself - as a 10 year old, I not only wore leg warmers, but also dreamed about nuclear holocaust. We were Cold War kids - the risk rarely felt close but the possibilities were ghoulish.

Of course, I am now old enough to have experienced something retro firsthand, which does tend to sap the joy out of a fashion trend.

*

One often hears the argument, "it all comes down to money". But where does "it all" come from, prior to that concept, money?

*

Terror, in the literal sense, I would argue - not of death, but of disorientation. Who is good? Well, I must be, or how can I live? Except nothing is so simple, nothing stays the same. It gets to us.

*

I only allow myself about an hour a day of that emotion. There are limits.

*

We couldn't end global warming tomorrow. We could do essential damage control. After a while the actions outrun the woman, outrun the man.

*

To know terror to persist despite it - one definition of courage. I have never met a person who lacked courage.

*

This battle within a person. The body wearing down, the bills to pay. The clarion call of closer issues.

*

I recycle, I watch the news sometimes. I planted several herbs this summer and they bloomed. I bought an air purifier. I wrote this. All this adds up to something, doesn't it?

*

I hear a baby crying.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Thank you for smoking

I woke up in the middle of the night - about 20 minutes ago - and could not figure out what was wrong, why I was so restless. After much thought it seems to me that I never want another cigarette.

(I quit 2 months ago but have been smoking a few socially.)

Strange - very strange, and very wonderful, the tide washes back.

I will never be the moralistic type - I think the tobacco industry, and not smokers, are the ones who ought to lose sleep. But I do love my friends.

Tobacco aids in the blunting of pain until it becomes habitual - then it actually reinforces pain signals whenever tobacco is withdrawn.

The original psychic events that made you smoke may be of only archival interest but the true smoker cannot know this. Smoking makes you feel stuck.

Except you are not. It's like extricating yourself from any other bad scene - it starts with knowing your rights.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Night Comes on like a Documentary

Under an impudent blue sky
tanks churn up the strip.
.
Everything runs uphill, even water. There’s a fractured
black line between the hours,
like a bridge. Run to cross it
.
as night falls. Guns are fired because
words cannot describe the brute force of words.
.
This scented field full of dahlias, I arrive there, see my own
ghost walking there. This BBC film,
the blossoms of gunshot wounds on mens’ shirts. To surf
.
the gentlest crest
of white. It all runs uphill,
.
even living. The documentary of sleeplessness
runs on behind the eyes of children
.
as their fathers shoot nightmares
in broad daylight.
.
.
Cassie Lewis

Plato's dream

My house is full of ghosts -

Links

You may have noticed updates to this site - I'm now at work on a revised link list to other blogs, thank you for your patience. I also switched the blog language to Australian English from American English, only because it still feels more intuitive syntactically though this was a hard determination to make after 7 + years in the U.S.

A Short Story


Some weather. Some towns.



As a visitor to London last month, I felt just the right amount of deja vu.

I stayed with an old friend - I stayed with the past, in other words, but it has grown up. There are few things more precious than old friends. Stars' light might appear better, conceivably.

No ... To know a person well enough to sense profound good in them, this is what redeems a man.

____

Cities of sleep - The Law in its best sense continues to flourish, a gossamer structure straddling the rocks and steel, like dandelion at a bus stop. Law - like dandelion - grows where it is most needed.

There are green shoots whenever a man's knocked down.

Law to me is something felt in my gut. I don't mean as it is written but shit happens. For instance, when emphysema grabbed his dad, I wanted a chisel or something - to shape things. Guns maybe but it's only surfaces that would crack.

Running really hard along the Thames at dawn, as though to claim it before the tourists come with their sparkle and silver rain - that's something that could help with justice. Buildings are not permanent, not really.
____

I'll fight what happens until there's precedent.

Friday, 13 July 2007

Coffee & Cigarettes

Chantix, the latest FDA approved quit smoking medicine, works very well. If you are interested in quitting smoking, or even in just being less interested in it, this may do the trick.

Maybe they should make t-shirts: "Chantix - the choice of a generation" and then I should wear one. Well, OK. But here's why I am 'spruiking' (Australian word meaning 'advertising' that the U.S. spell check does not recognise ... damn it, spell check, recognise does NOT have a 'z' in it ... oh, forget it.)

Nicotine messes with one's head in terrible and wonderful ways. Quitting smoking before was always like having my heart broken by some charismatic friend. Now I can take or leave the friend.

The concept is that it satisfies the nicotine receptors in the brain so that that they feel as though they have already smoked. Consequently any cigarettes smoked (and of course I tested this one out) will have greatly reduced impact on the brain.

So now I am in the situation of the true 'social smoker' - the smoker who can smoke to be agreeable but feels no compulsion to do so. Every addict's dream. Except of course that, feeling no compulsion, I also feel little pleasure in the experience and almost no desire to repeat the behaviour.

It's a catch 22, guys - smoking is only fabulous when you are gravely addicted. Otherwise it is no fun at all. So the 'social smoker' ideal is a myth.

Chantix has no real side effects other than causing queasiness on an empty stomach. It's been three weeks since I stopped smoking and I've been taking the medicine for two weeks. I quit cold turkey and the medicine made it bearable enough that I have not relapsed and my 'slips' have left me non-plussed.

The problem with giving up smoking is that one still wants to smoke. The problem with Chantix is that one is also giving up the desire to smoke.

So mostly you are going to be left with your self. Your healing neurons. And questions you probably haven't asked yourself since the day you bought your first pack.

The upshot is that now I really want to want a cigarette, but I don't.

Wednesday, 28 June 2006

Bay Area Poetics

I recently recieved my copies of this new anthology from the San Francisco Bay Area's fascinating underground and all through the sky poetry scene.

I also have the privilege of being in the publication, which was edited by my dear friend Stephanie Young.

Go to www.fauxpress.com for a booster shot of passion, humor and clarity.

Monday, 1 May 2006

"I walk, needlessly on guard ..."

- Neruda, from The Night of a Soldier

Wednesday, 26 April 2006

Day One

I am actually finishing my last cigarette now. I slept unusually deeply last night and there is a little sun poking through the louvres. This blog is still on Californian time.

This is upstate New York. I will have fifteen minutes, at the most, to get ready for work and run to try to make the bus.

The cigarette hisses in my hand. It curls its notations around my fingers, flat statements all starting I completely understand.

That isn't possible. Complete understanding of another's circumstances is not possible. Least of all from burning leaves.

I've doused them. Shower, get to work. Hurry.

Tuesday, 25 April 2006

Filtered Sun

When I first started The Jetty, my online writing project, it was because I felt a huge momentum brewing, the start of a series what soon became seismic changes in my life. Quitting smoking was the very first of these.

Now it is three years, one marriage, one green card, four jobs, one cat, several yoga classes, one misdiagnosis, a blizzard or two, one cross country move and five apartments later. And I'm quitting smoking.

Nicotine etched itself in there, an untrustworthy sycophant, during the fray. It seemed harmless because time was falling all around me in pieces and nothing flowed as maps promise to flow, for a long time.

Actually if I met the person who handed me that cigarette the day I left my old life for good, I would not be angry. I needed something to put between myself and the glare of the sun, shining steadfast. I had no reply to it.

I didn't just suffer from an inability to plan long term, but from total dimensional uncertainty. "Where am I" was the constant question, because ground gave way and, just as fast, new terra firma rose up ... friends, work, the way life keeps on trucking.

My poetry seemed ... an expression of myself, a luxury. I needed all of it to keep my heart beating, I became miserly with it. I forgot that it, and the sun, both fuel themselves and need to burn, to live.

There's a kind of quantum leap required in art/in life
second-to-second

(That quote from Mother Teresa again)

"I have found the paradox that if one loves until it hurts, after a while there is no more hurt, only more love."

Tomorrow is Day One.

Tuesday, 17 January 2006

Talking to the Sun

'Little decisions are the kind I can make
Big resolutions are so easy to break'
- Paul Kelly


New Year arrives with a set of choices presented to me as the sum result of every other choice I have ever made. Words used, gestures of the hands and body, streets I've faced.

Frank O'Hara's poem 'Talking to the Sun at Fire Island' ... The ghetto, desert, tundra ... all are watched by the sun. A poet operates as such in all weather.

Seeing the film 'Munich' last night I remembered for the tenth time that day that the ends never justify the means. To kill one person to save a thousand is not justice.

Today's terrorist is tomorrow's hero. But none of us is objective. Who can make the call?

Freedom of choice requires recognition that there is a choice. Some things must be givens if we are to survive a single day, but what of the fallout?

My big resolutions are like images at the end of a telescope. They are visions and I walk towards them, in the process I make a million little decisions. A wrong decision moves me of course. 'Wrong' is not a moral judgement, in this context, more a navigational term.

Useless to judge anybody else. Who is objective? Who is an unbiased witness?

All I can do is draw lines in the sand and refuse to cross them ...

And feel sharp pain at a decision that sweeps me off course. Sometimes the effects are sweeping, unpredictable. Sometimes the decisions are arbitrary, they do not release their code.

Sometimes a line in the sand is covered over by more sand, sometimes a line in the sand appears insignificant but is sweeping in its effect.

The man I love parked a truck in a side street on Friday night, and a hit and run driver tore its door off a moment before he stepped out.

He could have died. But he didn't. It's useless to think about why catastrophe haunts our features. It's more productive to consider why we are so fully ina state of grace, most of the time, that we survive.

Why doesn't the air we breath kill us fast? Why don't our feelings drive us to madness fast? Why do we wake up, alone, over and over, with gladness for the coffee, the cat, the kitchen, the radiator?

Little decisions absorb me as I peer through the telescope. I must save this moment not my future. This moment contains all future moments, all past moments.

Suddenly I lose hold of an image. Confused, I wander around the campsite. I kick out blindly. I hurt the thing I love

(my understanding of love is the thing I love.)

I have not lost something that is here. Time is not how we make it out to be in calendars. Until I've answered the questions

(of my self-declaimed transgressions)

I can't inhabit time. Time is like a cloak
seamless

you don't know you're wearing it until you look close. You don't look close until you have to. You don't have to examine until you falter, or rather, until you are aware that you falter.

We all falter.

We are born into time.

Tuesday, 6 December 2005

Homes grow like sunflowers

Rain in mountain clouds gathering to make rivers
shows us how pressure builds,
drops.

Our minds are clouds
that darken.

Stormy woods.

We are mirrors holding up the sky. You are watching,
you are holding me.

Inside is a wolf running across the ice.

We are made of water,
blue is
                        see through. Concepts drag us down.
                        My life’s work was a confusing dream.
                        I cannot know more than myself,
                        meaning all of it.

                        The day I saw you

I woke up.


Cassie Lewis    

Holidays

Saturday, 1 October 2005

Louise Brooks

A woman I know told me that the actress Louise Brooks lived out
the last days of her life in the apartment building into which I just
moved.

She told me many woman had rebuilt their lives in this building.

*

I live on the ground floor and each night hear police sirens.

*

I imagine Louise. She looks in the mirror and sees her beauty,
and behind it her youthful beauty.

She attends to what must be done.

*

When she looks out onto the street she sees past herself,
past her street. Past her history.

*

One night she drinks a little too much. An anonymous man
passes her in the hall and says "sleep it off, lady", gruff but
as kind as the moon.

Friday, 30 September 2005

Classics

"We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."

- T.S. Eliot, from 'The Dry Salvages'

Monday, 26 September 2005

Katrina

In the wake of natural disasters one is more in touch
with the fragility of the earth, and its inhabitants, but
also with the strength that lies within this.

Grappling with this paradox until it was no longer a
paradox, I had this amazing dream.

*

The landscape is muddy, post-apocalyptic. There are
floating bodies, debris. Architecture flattened into a
dark soup.

It seems as though the world has ended. It seems so.

I am riding in a wagon with a few other, gaunt survivors.
We are angular, draped in rags. My rags are white, of
faded linen.

They look grey under a glowering red sun.

We encounter a few other stragglers, in a makeshift
cart of their own. I suppose there must be beasts pulling
these carts, I don't remember horses.

Someone addresses me faintly .... "I remember you ...
aren't you a writer of some kind?"

"No, that's all gone now, it's all lost in the mud."

Then I look down at my left hand. I have been unconsciously
gripping a plastic bag, slick with mud, all this way. It
was all I could save before we fled.

From inside of it, I pull out a blue flag, with a picture
of a white dove on it.

A peace symbol.


*

I woke up in tears, and homesick.

Thursday, 14 July 2005

Pass It On

Dear readers,


Thank you for your loyalty, and for peeking in the door
of the Little Workshop, from time to time.

There's sawdust in clouds and it is very hot here, and
the ventilation is poor. I am working long hours and
am exhilarated.

My body and mind extend themselves into each project.
I am working from a design that evolves from minute
to minute.

From instinct.

When I get a chance, I'll step back, open the door, sweep
the room, and see.

Maybe a wooden dinosaur, maybe a gazebo, maybe a
ladder poking through the roof.

Wednesday, 27 April 2005

Thursday, 21 April 2005

Look Closer

The line 'look closer' is from that most wonderful of films,
'American Beauty'.


Most of my reasons for becoming a writer have evaporated
with time and experience.

I used to think that intellectual pursuit would make me wiser.
I used to think that other intellectuals would be wiser than
bus drivers, or tax accountants.

I used to think that I would be very famous one day.

I used to think that whatever fame I attained would be deeply
satisfying, in direct proportion to its reach.

Long ago, I used to think that writers and artists had a value
system somehow elevated far above that of other people.

And I even believed, for a while, that artists were the only
people who made art, writers were the only ones exploring the
use of symbols.

Most of all, I used to think that writing would allow me to
communicate with more transparency than anything else.

*

What I have found is that none of these things have been
or ever will be reliably true.

The only remaining reason for me to be a writer is that I
love it. And I love it because I love beauty, and because I
love my heart to be full of love.

*

Does beauty have a function? Beauty in the broadest sense,
I mean: a sunset, a beautiful face and, yes, a poem?

Is building a poem like building a chair, and if so, how?

*

I believe, instinctively, that we all seek life and happiness
and the full expression of ourselves. I have constructed,
many times, convincing arguments to support this deep belief.

For instance, I have proposed that even deliberate planned
successful suicide might be a kind of poorly translated desire
to live, or at any rate a desire to preserve what is best in one's life,
by quitting while one is marginally ahead of darkness.

Effort of any kind requires motivation. Motivation has an ultimate
source, no matter how twisted or messed up or confused it might
become on its journey towards daily reality.

Actions are a poor indicator of motivation, because the journey
of an instinct from its deep source to its expression can be long,
treacherous and endlessly delayed.

A therapy subject might take twenty years to realise they miss
their father.

A convicted murderer may have never realised this, or else
realised a day too late.

The journey can be very long, but the source is always the same:

"To live! To live!"

This is my personal conviction.

*

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and yet, for most of us,
this simple observation and many like them secure William
Shakespeare's work a place in the ranks of the deeply beautiful.

Bus drivers, tax accountants, have tended to agree, in my
experience.

Beauty and truth seem to enjoy a happy marriage. Sometimes
they argue, rebel against an intimacy that can get stifling. But
they generally get along.

*

There is a simple truth to a chair. It holds us up. It helps us
reach the table, which holds our food, or our computer.

Between the two, they keep our posture relatively aligned, if
we let them, if they are well-matched in height, and sensitively
designed.

*

What can beauty do for us?
What can it do to us?

*


Only in rare instances do chairs upset us or destroy our
lives. Yet romantic attraction - a variant of the love for
beauty - contains this on its list of warnings. The warnings
that come with the package of self-exposure.

Apprehension of beauty is a kind of self-exposure. It can
make us scared, it can hurl us very far from the centre
of our names.

Partly a chair is very rarely so beautiful as a face can be,
because it is less animate, or seems so to us.

Beauty moves, as well as moves us. And though a chair
moves, too, at a molecular level, as everything does, we
see this movement less readily.

Animation is part of the spectrum of beauty that we are
able to see. Just as we cannot see all the colours in the
spectrum, hear all the sounds around us, it takes grosser
forms of animation to really get our attention.

A girl running, people making love. We notice these things.

Partly a chair feels less personal. We sit on it after various
days, with varying speeds and colours. The chair seems
about the same. It's still there, still friendly, it still holds us up,
while more animated beings argue, chastise, woo, threaten,
hire and fire us.

The chair is more beguiling because more simple to deal with.
Most times, we still feel okay about the chair. It still likes us,
mildly, we still return the feeling.

Partly the chair has less to offer, less complexity. But if we sit in
the chair too long we will, in fact, grow to hate the chair. Its
beauty will grow sour. We will begin to project other resentments
onto the chair, we will be bored. Or bodies will become tense.

If we are prisoners, the chair will become a variety of jailor. It's
support will seem menacing.At the first opportunity we will hurl
it at the glass of a window to shatter it.

With apologies to Sartre:

Hell might be spending eternity in a room with your favorite
chair.


*

A beautiful face is a poem is a chair.

*

The issue, then, is not that beauty has no function. The
issue is that the functions of all things in the world must be
balanced, harmonised.

If one can get too much of a good chair, equally, one can get too
much of a lover. Or a poem. Or an ideology, or a tax accounting
firm, or a bus route.

Repetition leads eventually to boredom.

*

But what I know is that beauty is in the animation, and animation
means constant change. We only notice the grosser movements,
but the chair is always moving.

The closer we look the more movement we see. And after a while
we understand that the chair is never the same chair twice.

A beautiful face changes every moment.

Love is change, and love changes us, and love is the only
motivation, and its journey from its source can be so very long.

Truth and change enjoy a good marriage. Sometimes they
don't communicate well, but at the end of the day truth
changes, changes everything.

*

My intention, here in The Little Workshop, is to build. A chair,
a table, a bench for the garden.

Something to show at day's end.

Monday, 28 March 2005

Introduction

Always far from the center of our names,
The little workshop of love
- W.H. Auden, from "In a Time of War XXVI"



Any new work begins with an instinct. Gradually, the instinct finds structures that will uphold it. And so writing this first post I hunt my immediate vicinity for driftwood for a fire.

Auden's line, "always far from the centre of our names" ... How to translate the crystalline intent of this phrase into a modus operandi? For me, the truth of the line is unmissable.

And we are, inexorably, in a "time of war". My instincts say that war is a natural corollary of living - as humans do - partially 'in absentia': the bills must be paid regardless of our heart's location at the time they arrive.

Other, more profound splits take place. Between what we want to say and what words are capable of expressing. Between experience and shared experience.

Language is the bridge or one of them. Music is another. Physical gestures can be exquisite, or a last resort. Do we touch the shoulder of a friend, or do we load a gun? Our concepts of ourselves divide and conquer us ...

Words are, for me, a kind of force, capable of many things.

Driftwood for the bonfire on the beach: Auden's quote, the warmer weather, the tinkling sound of a child laughing in the street outside my apartment.

Here in The Little Workshop, my intention is to build much as a carpenter builds. A chair, a table, a bench for the garden.

Something to show at day's end.