Herbie Mann Comin' Home

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Tingling inside the entry hall, left of the foyer stairs

where guests have glanced in worry, hot, up at her shrine.

She's not here and this is a strange, after-hours tour

any room to be cooked by flashlight, meat smells in the air.

What was that song heard coming, coming in, about gone love?

Booties forensic with quietude and task

padding up to the second floor, toes outstretching like beast noses

toward one room and crack of the next for discriminate sniff

so when it comes to choice, one follows the wits, the point of it all

as if it were a jungle night, one can't be heard,

to her mumbled voice on tape by a bedside jug

garbling her text, her very own whisper that it's all okay, he's here

the country, it's in good hands, watch:  the last act's simple comedy --

and the world goes wet, spit pearls like the ones at her neck

making it a new day in the dark, turning it upside down.


My Main Man

One of us was a sour apple

and then there was none

It's always dwindling, I'm

someone, with bird vision,

ear on the tracks

doing the head count

ready with the barber blade

an accountant cutting costs

taking a big bite out of life

that's how this show is going

to be run, or my name isn't


Wednesday, December 21, 2011


 Who set this up that we're walking in the radiance of a Fall day

we, talking about it only in whispers, and then only when we're sure

they're in a good mood, catching a ballgame, eating a frank

or if we cuddle close to them to be unseen as not unlike,

some of us boutiquing at the shops, the same couture as them

the spitting junior image, same talk, same walk boulevardiers.

and why is it these same Mysterians came down came in

and made us slave to their digestion, our intestine -- just

relaxing fragmentarily to look clearly at ourselves, your eyes,

when busily a man in a camp and woman wide spread --

what's their intrigue, how did they get inside me, you, 

conspiring us to go along, play ball, play dead


Sunday, December 11, 2011

I Am Who

Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe.  

Charlotte Rampling as Charlotte Rampling.

Two films:  The Look and My Week With Marilyn.  These movies will get unequal public attention, yet they deal with very similar issues.  How does a public person, one known for physical beauty, form an art despite the beauty?  

I'd argue that Michelle Williams does, just as she inhabits the character of Marilyn, who died trying.  

Marilyn owned the screen, and if memoirs are right, had the personal chops to fill a room and dig holes in the psyche of those favored and cursed around her.  Monroe played, most successfully and often, comedic roles -- yet she yearned to be a serious actress consonant with the 'method' age in which she worked.  We might watch Bus Stop or The Misfits, but we remember Some Like It Hot or The Seven Year Itch.

Williams has the moves down.  The glances, the gallery-pleasing photo moves, the reclining postures, the depressive panics.  Women befriend or mother her.  She stuns or bewilders men.  Sometimes Marilyn's conditions are right, and a project completes.  This is the film world well-handling the real world of the film world. 

Charlotte Rampling, in The Look, isn't playing herself.  She is herself.  

This is documentary.  It's about her as an actress, and it does intersperse cuts from movies in which she's acted.  

She talks about acting, and in one interesting scene, she and her son, who's directing the actual film we're watching, engage in a stare-down, phrase-response acting exercise, wherein they repeat a random line back and forth and form a dramatic moment between one another.  At points, they 'blink' and move to another line conjured up by the context and continue on.  Fascinating.  

Yet she declares that such exercise bores her.  By contrast, we see her interacting -- for real -- with men and women whose artistic projects she shared -- novelist, photographer, poet, artist -- and with confidantes and friends.  Even, occasionally, random strangers.

Rampling, almost always in her film persona, plays the neurotic, the distant, the stern, the corrupt, the determined, the strong, the disarranged, the sinister, the seductive.  Some like it cold.  In The Look, we do see her British-French humor come out among close relationships.  Whatever the mood, she makes clear -- explains in the serious parts of her conversations -- that there's a 'space' that must be found, forged, secured, around her wherein an authenticity can emerge for whatever acting or photographic moment she's in.

Marilyn Monroe couldn't be Charlotte Rampling because she was Marilyn Monroe.  This may sound self-evidently silly, but the point is this:  beauty alone, what draws people -- a myriad people through the accident of a lens -- needs character.  Michelle Williams has done much to show she has the character to play a Marilyn who wanted it.  

Charlotte Rampling rejects a friend's remark that she's 'grounded'.  Though she doesn't say so, she may have preferred being called 'centered'.  One can't help seeing her intelligence and maturity, a kind of depth that an icon like Monroe might seek but find no easier to handle than a wet bar of soap.

An American like me might pause to ask:  is Monroe us?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Funeral Flight

The airport girl joked

teased him as 'Seattle guy'

storms shook all in him


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Process

Entering a room with a closet on a hushed late morning with rain heavy at times

only with the thought of keeping madness within bounds,

legislating reason into it, into the cross words merged with physicality,

hedging with restrictive clauses the feral urges.

Taking a test vote to register in public and hide a subcommittee fire -- 

who governs shall lead each for each into a dark called light,

bills getting passed as countries pass away,

then going into the kitchen and pretending nothing happened but nature.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Five

One normal way. In yellows and greys, in cheek-pinks and corneas moderated to a Carolina blue,the spirited hope of warm day time, loin love and the occasional aged whiskey -- 

that if it were just a matter of being alone, just a matter of self-solace -- this tenderness -- one would manage it like a watercolor, a paper sheet done within the breeze of half-an-hour, sun slapping the hand with its burn.

But then there's night to think of and the second self, impatient, ready for the baton of blood, 

the impetus to purge, to frizz the hair, dance around in nakedness, slap-happy deeds, to the i-don't-care, to the fuck-you, and its dualistic song of oh, oh, oh.

Why, my love, the birth of it!  That other, sequent life, das Kind

the leprechaun of a piece of yourself which calls your name in a cat yowl closing on a suckle, burping thrice before dozing into a body-warm swaddle.

Don't we gather here, my friends, open-hearted enough in our success to embarrass the look on each other's face, 

that there's a fraternity to acknowledge at the offramp where cold breath meets cardboard sign and one reaches for the limp bill stuffed in a pocket -- 

avoiding those central places where American men line-up and the bold and crazy women chart a circle of repugnance and you just cast them four odd coins that you scramble-for as you break into run to miss a witch's curse.

The other us, the fifth, we bring to that table, that table of one's own version of kosher

what's filled the heart like leftover canteen water, a secret, the slosh of worrying that it's just luck after all, 

that the salt taste is actually one of one's own tear-grieving and we bring in the chairs, vindicate the emptiness by inviting-in the whole world.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Weather Man

Aren't all cities built on a terrace of carnage, shifted layers of earth between the pottery and dead language of a first and next

embers cooled and dusted over, pocked by the shepherd staves, pig-shit-on, and trammeled by the wolf packs

whole periods of neighborhood, of relatives by marriage, of bedsharers,

of work life vulnerable to forgetting, to being forgotten, to have been.

Straw beach hats found in a trunk: such are opportunities.  And thinking of them in this city, figments of snap memories, things that might have happened if they did,

several of the friends I've had would remark on this casual reverie, the sitting here at the fresh front staring with a caffeine blank, no doubt to passers-by

puncturing any thought -- if they were inclined to let it breathe -- that here's where the work gets done, where worlds are reimagined

the old transmitting sharpness to the young in the breach, at just the right point, time's beauty mark.

Well here's something, the drunk espresso fine enough for it, clean, and my mood is forward with the ships,

the boats conveying the visitor, idler, the family with a hand-held happy child,

espresso fine enough with a cinnamon dash and unintrusive jazz --

tentative about this, but try it:

On a day of surprise, on the first day of an injustice,

a perpetrator jerks into action, musters his 'crazy' and acts on the unthinkable, and a whole Rube Goldberg of a process sets off -- no hitch -- on its way

and what happens to us, in this City On The Hill, enraptured --

I say to you, do this:  amo amas, you know, catch the U.S. in a swoon, get caught-up in the hurricane, the unconditional love, hoping for the wind to veer.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dead Ducks

Some statements elevate a man.

For instance, Kung Fu, circa years ago, 

prescribed that rules must play like music --

and the notes on Yeshua watch him urge

(in a throw-off line) to be like babes.

William Tecumseh Sherman,

man to fight all war, pronounced that war is all hell.

And there's Qoheleth's 'all turn to dust again',

and then, and then, there's Nietzsche,

or S. Freud, or even Groucho Marx.

J.P. Sartre, in fictional despair,

saw the omens present, the encroachment

on the eve of World War Two

of the throb -- if you heed -- that causes the heart

to burst its dam, to flood it all.

Some prophet, just to be one up,

to get the last word in, from his webcast shouts

Give me a match to strike and I'll fire the world

and the crowds somewhere, with butane near the stage,

flare-up the hall, bring the curtain down.


Monday, October 3, 2011

The Enabler

Night after night she loops through the nausea of word games

the drunken, petty moments in which the politics of speech

sounds like theirs, standing as a cluster of dry bushes, once

cherished tomatoes gone to seed withering in the first frost.

There's this too, the guarantee of garbled fear she slurs

making one think of the disappearance of all things

which amounts to saying goodbye to yourself, icy

and motionless, plunged in a horrible ecstasy, the other you.

To drive with her, this America, this lover,

pushes across the state-line edges around the clock,

just flight and risk, until the only sleep a neck-crick,

back-creak -- roadside sleep, refuge under a hunter's moon.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Constant Singers

That warm sleep of a cat counted in long hours, and we

we so dogged, crafting speech as if it were the climbing ivy, sure growth

You, you be my crystal ball, and I yours, we double the future

in our words -- as if that would, as were-it-so -- to bring the mutual end

of the entropy in the system called the universe, and we

the malcontents in its side, bearing ourselves from within and out

the brain-churned, tongue-loose lucifers, would-be bringers of light.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Bureaucratic Frisson, Part 2 Of 2

You haven't gotten the whole story.  During this waiting time, maybe 25 minutes in, a very personable young woman with a clipboard, after attending to a score of others south of the aisle, made her way to me over the three ranks of chairs where I sat, and asked if she had managed to talk with me yet.

I was prepared, having seen her 'work the room' up to then, and explained clearly my simple problem:  how to use the online system designed to prevent people from having to queue up in the local offices like this one, like I was doing now.  I left out anything that sounded remotely snide.

She was sympathetic, but pointed out, there's nothing I can do from here.

I went back to looking at the screen, and as my number was near to being called, I stuffed Sartre into my book satchel, zipped it, and prepared for what seemed to be the need for a modest dash to the proper window before the potency of my queue number deliquesced.

My turn, Window 8.  The lady there was girded like any pro to deal with what happened to come her professional way.  I threw her off-balance.  

I was hoping to get you!  I chirped.  

She locked her chin a bit closer down to her clavicle and pretended to finish-off some prior business on her computer screen before she asked how she might help.

I detailed cleanly and quickly my problem -- really a simple one, I underscored.  She had an answer oh-so-ready.  You'll have to call the national number.

Ah, but I have done, and it, too, could offer no access -- is this a systems problem, then?

Her distant frown emphatically denied knowledge of any, and told me to keep on trying.

I nodded and then asked her an allied question about how to change my email with the Agency.

She denied even the possibility that there was any email contact whatever between the Agency and any individual at any time, and began to explain how The Privacy Act interlocked with government programs.

I nodded and raised the question of what I must have been smoking at the time that the Agency screen seemed to show an email I may have inadvertently and irrelevantly given at the time of my online contact.  She began to smile strangely, but at that point we both heard very raised voices coming from another window south of the aisle.

You'll have to come back, someone was saying to someone else.

The other voice muttered something in a growl.

You'll have to come back, the first voice insisted again

Fuck you!

My window lady had her head turned in that direction.  I whispered to her, I used to work in a public office.  She said, Security should have stopped all that, but he's just standing there.

Our business was almost at an end, but I decided to play my trump card.

I used to work for SSA.

She perked up, now connecting up why in blazes I had been able to use, earlier in the conversation, the term 'T bens'.  Up here? She asked, now with true interest.

Mostly at Bay Area Regional, in Richmond.

We chatted shop talk for another few minutes, but by the time I left, it was as though we had worked in the same unit, desk-to-desk, for a dozen years.  No.  As though we had served, unit-to-unit, in the same theater of war.

So familiar we had become so quickly, that when I told her my stint of service, she dubbed me a 'pioneer', and when I told her I left with my retirement, she came close to 'high-fiving' me.

Sometime soon, she intimated, and to signal her intended exit, she scuttled the fingers of her left hand across the counter as if they were departing feet.

I actually did get up -- her time-per-conversation being measured for efficiency -- I went to shake her hand.  She seemed almost giddy, our talk a sun-break in her very cloudy workday.  She responded with a jazz riff of a handshake, fingers thrumming the inside of my palm.

This wasn't 'business' -- this was homecoming and fond departure.

Good talking with you, I said.

Remember to call that number, she chuckled.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Bureaucratic Frisson, Part 1 Of 2

I have become a card-carrying Medicare enrollee and am unashamed of it.

The application process, online, went smoothly, and the personal 'call-back' I expected from a 'live representative' didn't have to happen.  They just sent me the Award Letter and my card.

Later on, thinking about my access to online information, I re-entered the system, quickly realizing I hadn't yet established a password, so I followed the instructions to get one.  After going through four entry screens, the alert showed:  Unable to access at this time.

Ultimately understanding my standard American English pronunciation, the automated, sound-sensitive, multi-menu national phone number, which I went to next and which might have resolved things, also didn't.  After several of my vocal and numeric attempts over the phone, the alert sounded: Unable to access at this time.

This is not a major problem, since I'm still working -- functionally, happily, and getting better at what I do -- and when I do retire, I'll be applying online again, a new claim, a retirement claim, at which time my 'access' problem would likely be resolved.

But I'm something of a terrier, and I like to dig.

So I went into a local office.

Knowing fully ahead of time that the press of humanity would not be genteel, I readied myself with patience and a book.  The office itself is situated in a newly-constructed building, the fourth floor, and there is a greeting station wherein you punch your choice of reasons for visiting, get a 'triaged' number (four separate sets, depending on your query), and take a seat in an area set up like a private viewing room.

It's well-lit, has an aisle.  There's a big screen TV silently displaying the current numbers being served.  Those numbers were getting matched every so often over a loudspeaker directing people to particular windows.

General information also gets displayed on the big screen TV.  It shows in English and then in Spanish.  I deliberately avoided the English in order to practice my Spanish.  I also watched a close-captioned version of how Social Security works to one's advantage.  It stars Patty Duke-Astin and George ('Mr. Sulu') Takei and takes place on a mock-up of the Starship Enterprise, its bridge.

I'm sure it's a comedy, but I was too absorbed in the book I brought along, La Nausée, Sartre's seminal novel in which a bridge between Phenomenology and Existentialism is laid out in fictional form.

Although written in the late 30s in France just as fascism was rising as a plausible political force in Europe -- what with Mussolini, Franco, and Hitler saluting and huffing and shouting and lying and bashing -- the realization felt by the main character Roquentin that the existence of any thing was nothing more than an empty abstraction, that its reality was only a convenience, a relation between itself and any other thing, including oneself (!) -- that realization made him sick.  Movement and arbitrary assignment of meaning.  

I might say that I myself was getting a bit of vertigo trying to comprehend the missing floor that Roquentin had found himself unable to stand on.  And I was sitting.

I jerked myself away from the book's momentary abyss and looked at the screen.  My category of numbers (Roquentin would have rejected all categories as ephemeral?) had reached A32.  My number was A35.  I, for some inexplicable reason, began feeling butterflies in my stomach.  They flew around each other, one non-thing around another, one nerve impulse firing on the basis of chemical activity derived by my reading a book in a public office.  I had to stop this.  It was almost my turn.  Almost my time on stage.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Summer's Prime

Next to the sandstone coping of the kidney pool

what matters in the strict perplexity of a young life's

only the ease of the settling-in, inside the now,

a good youth body with its supple skin and muscle,

the worry -- of not 'being here' -- a simple school abstract

or film plot, here laughed-off -- un-thought -- a mere omission,

the extant world, the one of hankering for another touch

so as to be one flesh by fleshing-in, concentrating on

the plunge, stroking backward through the womb of water.


Monday, September 12, 2011


Symbolism is no fake.  Things are not just 'things' in themselves, blunt stuff that has no fourth or fifth or sixth dimension -- measured in a mind's eye.

The woman of a couple she's dismayed since much of the space, the ample flat being let, is dressed in white, fashionable teeth-like bright

Clean and pure, the bounce of 'no' color, the heart of a child ready for impress of primary hue and crying out loud for only the good we have to offer

So her eyes downcast, her mouth covered-up, she's rushed back to the real estate car and even thinking why did I trust this why even come close to this monster place

Brought to the spotlit rooms where shadows shall come, where a clear glow hints an eventual dusk, its ghost, just half-a-tick, half-a-tock, away


Sunday, September 11, 2011

In Two

I followed the news and cried or came close.

Airplanes and buildings made me sick.

I prayed the witness of peace in a book --

but I thrilled at video Gunga Din.

I wrote to a Quaker church:

The silent god, inside me, wanted out -- 

yet I thought I could enlist and man a desk,

and stood when the players sang to my flag.

I shut out all the hate talk,

cringed at the jingo Friday night carhonks --

yet I didn't read the church replies;

my parents lay in a Navy grave.

I swim this purposeful, blind wave,

where I crest with Mohandas Gandhi

and curl with G.I. Joe:  we're one -- but

we're too distant to clasp hands.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Violinist's Daughter

The last he saw her -- flimsy blouse and dirty feet, a little drunk and nails bit broken, speaking loose, and her heroin boyfriend out and in

in Amsterdam -- had she known that she was getting this, into the weatherbeating of steetwind, life as only suddenness, a joy of coming high

and welcoming old classmates prim from the States as though she spilled from the beatitude of orgasmic up-all-night collapse

the liver over-exercised, surmising rightly she'd be now long dead, an object of anecdote, a generational footnote.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Dinner Worry

In the midst of my modest wealth and ability to spend, 
it sets in, taking the comfortable chair, 
the chaise with the button-backed cushions, 
and frames its face by the window's changeable sunlight 
while I'm in the thick of wondering 
by whose invitation it comes by.

No one could arrange more awkward stay, 
a visitant whose not-so-veiled requests 
come on as knuckle cuffs, gloved punches, 
asking if another wine or fruit be served, 
no one other than me, the host, to fetch, 
nothing but 'just do', to handle the appetite.

If I were dreaming, this would pass on through, 
be gone like an intrusive aunt or a workman 
saving travel hours by sleeping in my garage, 
my habits thrown to a corner for just that while, 
all that I've grown to expect so disarranged like hair
but able yet to be combed -- if only I were dreaming this.


Sunday, July 31, 2011



What consoles you in a haunted house, not windows -- fierce eyes -- nor corridors of air -- breath of the beast -- and there's only a grey sun ever and the lands around, they're weeds, and you've always a chill and coming down with something

And the estate agent refrains from the stories of the prior owners, who've 'moved on' due to a death in the family they had to dispose of the property quickly which is why a place this large can be sold at such an available price

I rise very thirsty having trouble with the covers, my feet not finding the slippers and my calf cramping and there floats a tiny -- a fly that is just an infant -- fly in the water glass it must have dipped and been overwhelmed now placid on the calm

And in skimming it dry onto a raft of kleenex, its dim twitching and I rinse the glass and swab the lip before drinking so very much of the water and flipping a switch and having only the nightlight to follow back to the flat place where I am to lie

And it is nervous and 3 and I dream about pushing on the heavy doors and outside is my dad, he of the long-passed-on, wearing a sick-cap and smiling and glad to see me there and hugs my hand and I know that the house is a house for the dead

I want to say something true but grind mum.  Lilies.  Taken at long exposure, the recumbent quiet of Victorian child corpses.  The dream shakes, dehydrated by caffeine and cold-meds, and the dawn world, unrested, is unalive outside and by me goes a fly.