Monday, December 4, 2017

La Dracu Arta! Or, Everyone in Romania Says Da, Da

Forests of slender trees, spaced at polite distances one from the other, wave at our passing automobile. “Since our forests are so well behaved, we Romanians feel free to go a little mad sometimes,” Ela tells me. Forbidden visual impression: look but don’t record. “No photos!” I’m admonished by a truck stop warden. Memory is an objective lie. Even anonymous prefers to be seen but not photographically recalled. Rosé is a poor compromise anyway you look at it. I’m not surprised—after all, the radical always hides in plain sight.
            The rules usually break me so I blush to be thus censured.
            My writing remains neutral in the war on the passive voice—for we’re awfully fond of empathy, all Voivode aside. There’s nothing quite like food in a paper sack as my own bones are woven of plant fiber, fish flesh, and stringy cat gut from the bottom of a snare drum. Culture is the camouflage I put on in order to circumvent the brutes. Wallachia’s mirror: the Turks. All mustaches are created equal. But our poets are bigger than your poets. Genocide’s only a part participle of national pride—usually in the third person plural. Sad in the homeland is only a backward way of saying nomad, (happyyes?); just another asshole, just another hominid in a dormitory of non-denominational dreaming. (He moved to Zurich—where else?)
            La dracu Tzara and his Dada, saying yes to everything twice. Bucharest should be the capital of Europe, so big and tactile are its endless cement precipices. Everything west of Wallachia has already been killed with kindness anyway.
            “If Vlad Tepes heard you say that he’d tell you to go impale yourself,” says Ela with aplomb.
            We climbed the Carpathians then, past his citadel (the Dracula Campground at its feet, impaled dummies up the steep slope for dramatic effect) to the glacier lake with its monkish tonsure of hairy October snow. But even here we can’t escape the barbarians nursed at our corporate teat all these years. I thank God for making Communists, so that there will be someone around to miss capitalism when it’s finally killed all of its practitioners. (I also thank God for making me an atheist—my mother only made me a sweater.) I’ve watched ‘em, worshippers of Moloch, these many years, throwing their lives at the feet of Telecom in supplication. He’s harsher than any heart-rending Incan virgin-eating deity. For the cellphone has finally found a way to coerce the bourgeoisie into choosing slavery over nothing.
This is why capitalism always wins: unlike humorlessly ethical and logical communism, it incorporates Dada into its barcode, never takes itself all that seriously (not even during its many genocidal binges), and lets its followers believe in advertising so that they can die desiring all the wars their little hands can muster—so many of them are dying to be martyred for their school, their boss, their country, and/or their god. (A word that can only be written between air-quotes these days.)
            Art, it appears from the glacier-lakeside at the top of the snow-dotted Carpathian Mountains on October 20th, 2017, has proven itself impervious to either promoting or destroying capitalism. Although it’s a rather uneasy truce—and one that gives art, like Switzerland, a bad name. It takes a real audience of slaves aware of the fact that they are slaves to be moved by images of resistance. Humor always escapes the belongers, parishioners, capitalists, and automobile ‘n’ cellphone enthusiasts.
            The bullfighter stands alone against history (in a somewhat warmer country southwest of here), brutally murdering his only friend again and again for reasons so buried in history, machismo, and the desire for self-annihilation that he refuses to even consider them.
            The artist sits for the model who, not being made of paint, gets bored and goes out for a smoke. Dada, on the other hand, gets things done these days—since the rest of the world has fallen into a period of argumentative languishing. The artist fails to sell anything by selling out, puts his or her soul on sale, and ends up slinging hash—leaving a pile of vile bodies outside in a heap.
            I wonder how our boy Tzara crossed the Carpathians back in his day on his way to Zurich and ridiculous history. In a caravan? The covered wagon my family must have once taken from Ohio to Iowa. To end up in Hayward, California in a Model A—being wayward becomes a way of life once you take to the latcho drom. Some places are better to be from than to end up in.
            “The road down the other side of the mountains was built by prisoners,” Ela tells us. “It’s one of the most beautiful and famous roads in the world. It’s paved with their blood.” (Somewhere beyond its foot lies Dracula’s castle.)

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Writer (a flash fiction recovered from an elderly notebook)

The writer doesn’t feel that she’s written her masterpiece yet. This is the best possible state of affairs. She actually fears writing the best thing that she’ll ever write for it might ruin her ability to push on into the search for the best writing she can do. For her life has come to revolve around this search.
            Everything that’s ever happened to her, both the good things and the bad, have helped. Every door that’s ever closed, shutting her out of something that she loved, has opened new possibilities of composition. Every good thing that’s ever happened to her has also helped by sustaining hope in a hopeless world too tired to give a shit about its own survival.
            Perhaps she will be one of those writers who pounds away at a typewriter or keyboard for years and years, writing works that never quite live up to her precocious talent and early promise. Perhaps this failure will be her greatest triumph: she will have no babies to kill, no early masterpiece to overcome when despair and alcoholism engulf her later middle age.
            Maybe she’s already written the best thing she’ll ever write but failed to notice. Distracted by the words, she just goes on composing, slashing, hyphenating, and shuffling them into new combinations. Probably being formed into a masterpiece isn’t in their best interest either.

San Francisco


Saturday, January 21, 2017


The day the fascists took Wash-
ington, it was night
in Rome, where I hid
in a rented house in Tras-
tevere, certain rooms locked—
because I could never afford
it all. I ran into Rosanna
,a good egg, and we didn’t speak
of the end of the world as the hope
,fighting against all odds for eight
complacent years, took two steps
back in five minutes. For
“No man’s fuck is holy
because man’s work is most war.”

                        Is good really so relative
its works can be blown away
in an instant in the winds of wrong?

                        I guess wrong knows
all the tricks—from open carry
to concealed weapon.

                        And right
is the bells ringing across Rome
this morning, signaling the loss
,again, of a good man gone down.