old words

April 22, 2009

two poems i was proud of. maybe i still am.

“bike ride”

the mourning dove gives morning
its first rain-perfumed breath.

what specter on the log
its gaze steady with hunger
lifts to launch
in the potent half-dawn?

it draws all woodland eyes and ears
(the slow, smooth arc with thunderous flaps
echoes in the awestruck twitter
of chickadee and sleepy squirrel)

and i
the impostor
slip in
under this noisy distraction
and bend an ear to the still-yet-moving
self-fulfilling truth of nature
while the goose-trail on the stream blinks on and off and on.

whose soft skirt

there it was, but whose:
a form left wrapped in paper, left
to dusty grace, time’s loom,
the steady sag from each
redoubling circadian; wrapped
and beat over the doorstep. whose soft skirt:
dust of a hundred years, two lives,
six lovers, and an age’s creasing
a fixéd, bodied soul’s releasing
a heart that faltered
and steadier shoes
that flapped beyond the jamb.

the floor was cold in morning
when ghosts took up their residence
in curtains
and the folds that hide in air


Hemingway says you shouldn’t write something until you know something. Chuck agrees: “it might feel good, it might sound a lil somethin – damn the game if it don’t mean nuthin!” Then again, that’s the koan of a realist. What about the impressionist? He never aims for the whole picture, only the precise texture of its smear in the mind’s eye. The poetry from the eye of the storm is the truest – like Kerouac’s haikus, made up just as he went tramping along down Mt. Matterhorn.

Well, these arguments are the two poles of my apologetics. Hemingway and Public Enemy are excuse enough not to write until the words are so true that they just come pouring out. And Kerouac makes me want to write even when I’ve got nothing to say. Right now I’m making excuses – how could I have written about Spain? It’s such a blur, so confused; I would make a mess with my grasping interpretations. So I didn’t.

In any case, I’m nearly half done here, so it’s time to allow my plans for the future to coalesce on the horizon. And my writing’s a part of that. What will I have to write about when I go to work for a large corporation in the middle of the rust belt?

Well, maybe just that. In high school I was an unlikely candidate to go to engineering school, to work for a big company. Many people think I still am. But I’m convinced that the job is very much in line with my personal goals. And as an overly kind friend put it, “Better you in that position than someone without your progressive perspective.”

So I have the opportunity to bring my critical mind into the realm of corporate monotony and get inside the machine that produces injustice. And this is a source for material.

Right now I’m reading an introduction to my new company’s compliance policies. Some quotes are hinting at topics I’d like to explore during my time there.

“Virtually all of our…policies are based on government laws and regulations.”

Let’s call my company Standard Technology. All major companies should have baseline policies that apply when government regulations are not strict enough. For instance, ST should not hire 12-year-olds to work at their Indonesian factory, even if the local government would allow it.

Standard Tech likes to announce itself as a socially responsible and environmentally progressive company. So why aren’t they going beyond legal regulations in their self-policing?

“Improper payments should not be confused with reasonable and limited expenditures for gifts, business entertainment and customer travel and living expenses directly related to the promotion of products or services or the execution of a contract.”

The top of our economic pyramid lives in a dreamworld. Pleasure is manifold, and costs drift off and dissipate like bubbles in a champagne glass. When does this go too far? When does it the “productivity boost” become a myth? Is there a culture of decadence?

In analyzing the oil palm’s net potential for cellulosic ethanol production, I come across an interesting figure. In its 25-year lifespan, the oil palm produces 10,710 dry kilograms of fronds. When it is finally past its prime and its trunk is discarded, it weighs about 3068.

Even the trees are mostly transitional. More than three quarters of the mass it accrues in its lifetime is shed in less than a year. The trunk is only the channel, the highway, for this overflowing fountain of broadly bifurcated green lifestuff.

We are vessels at the center, and truth flows through us. We may try to bolster our permanence, but in vain. It is not us, but the things we shed, that define us.