Glossed Over

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Here’s a poem I left for dead and forgot about a long time ago but just resuscitated. The photo, by the way, has nothing in particular to do with the poem but someone told me you have to accompany your blogs with photos or no one will bother reading them.

Glossed Over

Everything about him, from the tall tuft
of gelled hair standing on his head, to his sleepy dignity
of expression, to the way his skinny jeans hug
his paltry little legs – everything inspires hatred,
and yet it worked. He seized the prize
we all wanted: an Italian beauty in a toupe studded
shimmering one shoulder mini.
Tonight they will leave early together, crawl
into some silky bed somewhere. There will be kissing,
caressing, great pillars of flame will sing.
While I sit here with a Kiwi, an Iranian-Englishman
and a Bulgarian-Swede, talking about manly things.
Football, corruption on Fiji, the Russian mob.
Things none of us have any control over.
We will spout and proselytize as though somehow
our opinions count. And then later, we will go
our separate ways, drunk and alone.
We will crawl into separate beds in quiet flats
alone. And sleep alone. Four lonely drunks.
Inspiring hatred in no one.

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Self-administered Q & A with M.P. Powers

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Here is a Q & A I’ve just self-administered. Stole the idea from Bryan Ray’s blog. https://tershyrad.blogspot.de/2017/09/qa2.html I figure so many unworthy people are doing interviews and Q & A’s these days, I might as well be one.

My parents were… convinced they knew what was best for me. They forgot I was nothing like them.
The household I grew up in… was cultivated to produce business people. It was successful with three of the four kids.
When I was a child I wanted to be… a baseball player. I was terrible at the sport until I was 10. Then I had a metamorphosis and became one of the best players in the league. The next year I went ninth in a draft of about five hundred kids and was convinced I’d eventually go pro. What I didn’t realize was that 9th out of five hundred kids means you’re 18th out of a thousand, give or take, and so on as the pool expands. Which made me about 1,000,000th in the nation. Then high school came and I turned into this tall gangly dork whose brain and body got thrown out of harmony. I couldn’t swat a cow’s ass with an oar. I started drinking after that.
If I could change one thing about myself… I would’ve started learning German in my youth. Instead I waited till I was 40 (six years ago) and still sound like I’m moving lead weights around in my mouth when I speak it.
You wouldn’t know it but I’m very good at… relaxing, procrastinating, avoiding doing things I don’t want to do.
You mayn’t know it but I’m NOT good at… being in crowds. They give me a sick feeling, starting in the gut, spreading to all my extremities and swelling in the blood. You will never see me at a large concert or mass protest of any kind.
I wish I had never worn… clothes that made me look like a poor man’s Sho Kosugi in high school.
At night I dream of… Tom Thumb, French overtures, lobster traps, dark magic, writing hot checks, small-engine mechanics, the Knights of Malta, molten rock, camshafts, flying, Country Music Night, whisky sours, dead people…
When I look in the mirror I see… a stranger whose keys, clothes, books, computer, furniture, bank account, data mines and life I’ve borrowed.
My house is… a dark, 54 square meter flat in Neukölln, ground floor, backs up to a garden. Outfitted with cheap Ikea furniture. Walls shouting for artwork. Everything in disarray.
Movie heaven… is a heaven where I am the movie. I’m sick of being a spectator.
I drive… nothing. I have driven drunk thousands of times, and it’s a miracle I’ve never gotten a DUI. I haven’t had a vehicle since I moved to Berlin in 2011.
My real-life villain… the Philistine.
The person who really makes me laugh… George Carlin. I still watch him on Youtube. I love his rage and wit and his gift of gab. He kept getting better the older he got.
My five-year plan… I used to plan years ahead but then I got smart. I look a few months ahead now at most.
What’s the point… it’s whatever you want it to be, mostly because there isn’t one, and very few people can accept the fact. The older I get the clearer this line by Shakespeare gets:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself—
Yea, all which it inherit—shall dissolve,
And like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

My life in six words… subservient to all that I love.

Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory

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This picture came rolling onto my iPod just before I went to sleep last night. It was sent by my German friend Thomas who was drinking on the boat I go on every Wednesday night. The boat, named the Eastern Comfort but called and cristened The Motherfucking Boat, is also a hostel, and remains forever docked on the Spree near the Oberbaumbrüke. The drink on the right of the picture is a Rothaus, a pilsner-style beer that’s been around since Frederick William II held the Prussian court. The drink on the left is what we call a Thomas Special. Tequila and lime juice on ice. This picture was accompanied by a note saying that I was missed, and that C. says hi. C. is an ever-cheerful thirty-something South African. I’ve only known her for about a month, but she’s there every week, and when we first met she kept saying how I had ‘kind eyes.’ I liked hearing that. More often people have told me I have crazy eyes. They don’t say it when I’m sober. Something must come over me several drinks in.

I am good, but not an angel. I do sin, but I am not the devil. I am just a small girl in a big world trying to find someone to love.” ~ Marilyn Monroe.

I was telling Thomas the other night about an old pill-addict friend of mine, now nine years underground, who had these strangely hypnotic eyes, kind of like Rasputin’s. Thomas said I do too sometimes, which I tacitly took as a compliment, although I don’t know how serious he was or if it’s even remotely true, mostly because no one else has ever told me that, nor do I see it when I look in the mirror. Of course in the mirror I don’t animate myself as I must do in public. I stand there catatonic. We must miss a lot when we stand in the mirror, our perspectives being mossed-over by self-loathing, self-love, and laid flat by the immobility of our features and the lack of play in the eyes.

I’ve always considered a man’s eyes to be his essence, the portals to his soul. They are the most telling feature. And yet to the expressiveness of our own we are mostly blind. Half the time, we don’t know what rays they’re giving off or how those rays are being received. Which is why my interest is always piqued when someone says something about mine. Some things you can’t gauge by yourself. It’s like your own writing. You never really know what rays it gives off till you hear from someone else.

Morning Commute, Melancholy and the Human Face

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Rainy, overcast day. A feeling of gray melancholy in the air. No one talking on the trains, just gazing into their iPhones or watching the monitor or looking around trying not to make eye contact with anyone. It was as if for a moment, they’d gone into some dank but safe place in themselves, the ennui and senselessness of the morning commute being too much to bear. They just sat there, existing but only half-alive, listening to the listless drone of the train and the commands of the robotic Teuton living in the speaker system.

Zurückbleiben bitte!”

Even she sounded more depressed than usual.

On days like this, you can see the sadness in everything from a platform advertisement to the way the sparrows sit in the trees to an empty bottle of malt beer, but it’s always most poignant in the human face, that treacherous, sublime and most fascinating landscape in the cosmos.

Have you ever wondered how many times you’ve lived and died in the cast and airs and changing weather of someone else’s face? Take your father or mother or spouse’s face for example. Do they not all have a kind of tragic and tyrannical quality to them that love often only exacerbates? My guess is yes. I think we are all run ragged trying to survive the landscape of each other’s ever-changing features. Which is why when we’re in public it’s so important to keep our gaze averted.

Bent down to the earth” ~ Sallust

There’s just too much power in the human face.

My Favorite Berlin Cafe: Cafe Kotti

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It’s 11 a.m. on a Tuesday and I am sitting here drinking an espresso at Café Kotti in Kreuzberg. This is my favorite café in Berlin. Right now it is relatively empty. There’s a Nigerian in headphones on the sofa to my right. Across from me there’s an old Turk wearing a doorknob-shaped lid and smoking a cigarette. And on a couch in the other room there’s an Arab in a black baseball cap drinking a cup of coffee and staring at his iPhone. The music playing is jazz. Not very good jazz. Though I confess the only jazz I like, with a few exceptions, is the late 50s early 60s stuff by John Coltrane and Miles Davis. A Love Supreme, Milestones, My Favorite Things, Kind of Blue and a few others. I can think no piece of music that goes better with being in a city on a rainy day than Kind of Blue. I’ve listened to it thousands of times and, like all songs with a hint of eternity in them, it never gets old.

I will now light this rolled cigarette to give accent to my espresso. I started smoking again just so I could have a cigarette here, though I must admit I’ve never really been a big smoker. I smoke when I drink, which some people say makes me a big smoker, but I’m not. I’ve always been able to quit whenever I wanted.

Okay, cigarette’s lit, and the music has improved. It’s Dave Brubeck, Take Five – not to be confused with Take That (boy band reference) – and the Turk across from me is beating time with his soft leather shoe.

I’ve heard this place gives free coffee and tea to refugees. That’s another thing I like about it. There’s usually a healthy mix of Syrians, Afghanis, Iraqis, Sudanese, and so on. No hipsters of the Starbucks variety. Pumpkin Spiced lattes and raspberry scones you will not find here. The sofas look like they’ve been left out in the rain after a yard sale, there’s a sign over my head that says Beware of Pickpockets, the walls and ceilings are covered with pamphlets and strange artwork, and on the mirror near the door there are two stickers that say #FREE AHMED. On the mirror closer to me there’s a sticker that advises you to SHAKE THAT ASS.

Well, now my cigarette’s done, and so is my espresso and it’s time to go back out in the sun. Sunny days are a rare commodity in Berlin, so I must take advantage. Not that I care that much about sunny days. I had enough in Florida to last me a lifetime. Blue skies can be depressing too, and nothing feeds my art like the dark and gloomy damp.

Here’s a poem of mine about this place that was recently published by the good folks at Red Fez.

Cafe Kotti

It’s best here in the early mornings
on an overcast autumn day.
Sitting on the plush orange sofa, in the semi-light.
Warmed by Turkish tea, smoking rolled cigarettes.
There’s only three of us here,
and the barmaid clattering dishes in the back.
An old French song tiptoes about the room.

It’s best here when outside the weather’s grim.
When there’s just a few yellow leaves left trembling on the trees.
Sitting in this dim, uncertain light.
Sitting under a sign that says Beware of Pickpockets.
Smoke curling from my ashtray. Mumbling as I write this.

It’s best here before the crowd comes,
when it’s gloomy and cold outside, the windowpanes
speckled with raindrops. A jar of sugar and a vase
of flowers on every coffee table.
And the barmaid who smiles every time I order a tea.

Art for Art’s Sake

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You’ve barricaded yourself in this dim groundfloor unit, your broken swivel chair groaning under you like an old man, a bright white screen gaping up at you, the cursor blinking. Your gleaming altar. The Computer God. Hunched forward at eighty-five degrees. You feel a knot in your back, your legs cramp. You stretch them under your desk.

You have been here all day, gone into it, lost in yourself, departed from the world and fighting against the clock.

Isn’t there something else you could’ve gambled your life on?

You think about all the hours you’ve spent bent-backed in the infertile orchid of literature, sewing, reaping, your dreams bound up in the harvest, only to watch it fail year after year, only to start all over like a scorned lover who can’t take no for an answer.

You think of all you’ve given up for that elusive chimera, how you bankrupted yourself, how you pared your possessions down to a backpack, how you left everyone behind to follow the blackbirds and the notes of some beautiful ancient instrument.

Only to find yourself years later living under altered circumstances and diminished odds, surrounded by different faces on another continent, working the same old crops – sewing, reaping, harvesting – still failing regularly, and yet wholly incapable of falling out of love.

On Donald Trump, Joel Osteen and Prosperity Poetry

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Just dropped my son off at Kita. I now have 4 hours to write about whatever comes to my mind. I don’t think today is a poetry day. I was brainstorming for a topic last night but couldn’t think of anything. How is that even possible? I have forty-six years of lifetime to work with, and not one two-minute event worth writing about could be summoned.

I had nothing.

I want to write more about Berlin. After spending the last two and a half years writing a novel about Florida people and what led up to my coming here, I am looking forward to putting together a book of poems and short stories or little vignettes about this place and my experiences here.

But again, last night, nothing.

And this morning I come home only to find out Joel Osteen, the prosperity preacher, just told his parishioners that Hurricane Harvey happened because God was testing them. Joel Osteen who didn’t want to let any of the displaced victims into his stadium-sized megachurch at first. Joel Osteen, with his net worth over $50,000,000, and his 17,000 square foot River Oaks mansion that has six bedrooms, six bathrooms, three elevators, five wood-burning fireplaces, a one-bedroom guest house and pool house. I’m not even going to bother stating the obvious. Anyone with 2 molecules of intellect to rub together can see he’s oxymoron to the New Testament and a flimflamming pantywaist of the first order. But unfortunately in America most don’t have 2 molecules. Most – and I say this with much love for the millions of wonderful exceptions – most are dumb, superficial, and tend to judge a man by what he has rather than who he is, and that’s why so many of Osteen’s ilk thrive. To figure out who a person is takes too much calculus. Much easier to hang a verdict on him based on his vacuum cleaner, or patio set, or the handlebar grips on his motorcycle, etc. etc.

Donald Trump became president, more or less, because he had the best, most gaudy and expensive stuff. He even took it so far as to have a gold-plated toilet in his Trump Tower apartment. To many this meant he was a genius. Maybe even a god because gods have golden thrones. And it wasn’t just the Republicans fault that a monster like him floated to the top. There were plenty of Liberals who saw nothing at all wrong with him until he took to the political stage. They knew exactly what he was like, but kept watching The Apprentice, and kept cheering for him on Letterman, Howard Stern, etc., and kept buying into the repugnant Trump brand.

They wanted a golden toilet too, let’s face it.

Anyway, I’m going to cut this discourse off here. I still have a few hours to go. I am going to pour myself another cup of coffee and start thinking about poetry. Maybe I do have something in me after all. Or maybe I’ll just sit here thinking about how I can make money with it.

M.P. Powers, the Prosperity Poet.

It does have a certain tonal quality to it. A perfect match to the five wood-burning fireplaces, three elevators, pool house & so forth I’m picturing for myself.

Yes…

2 Poems

I’ve had a good writing week this week, all of which is on this blog. So before I pick up my son for ten days with him while his parents are on their honeymoon in New York, here are my last two offerings.

Initiation    

The lantern is lit.
The music is Japanese.
The walls blossom with hyacinths.

I am the only guest here.
Sitting on a broken bamboo chair, a sense of spiders
infesting my heart.
Grief gathering in the carpets.
The scent of dawn expunged by the low ceiling.
The blown glass
on the table filled with oleander and bitter-root.

I drink up.
Strings vibrate.
Jewels tingle in the mouth of the captive bird.
Red-gold, yellow-bronze, gossamer spins itself.
The lantern shimmers and sighs.

An unborn child
gazes at me
from the muttering darkness.

Journey to the End of the Night

With my bottle of beer, I sit oblivious to Night,
until a thin green rain begins to fall
and I stagger under a maple tree, heavy
with leaves.

From here I can see
a wandering swan in the floating river
mists, a symbol of solitude and the light
of infinity.

From here I can see the broken black
branches and darkening leaves;
wild slashes
from the trembling pallet knife.

Pink flowers cut across the white clouds.
They sail off to distant skies
and other suns,
like friends I’ve had and people I’ve known,
dead, mysteriously absent,
gone away
forever.

They still speak to me.

A Review: The New Selected Poems of Seamus Heaney

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There were nine mosquitos standing upsidedown on the ceiling above my bed. I managed to kill three that came down, but the others stayed up there and were too high to reach, even standing on my bed waving a copy of Seamus Heaney’s Selected Poems. I turned out the light and waited for the others to descend. I could imagine them planting their feet on my skin, injecting me with their needle-like straws and sucking my blood out. I wrapped my sheets around me like a mummy and curled my pillow around my face.

It didn’t take long. Pretty soon there was a buzzing in the air that kept growing louder. I tried to ignore it. They won’t get through the sheets I said to myself and started thinking about Seamus Heaney and his poems that mostly seemed to be about peat and bog with a sprinkling of words no one ever uses in regular conversation. I couldn’t connect with them. Not because they weren’t technically proficient. I could appreciate the talent and skill it took to craft them. I just didn’t feel them. It was as though they were written for the head alone, and neglected the gut, the sinews, the bone marrow, the bloodstream and soul. They were as flat as the paper they were written on. They were – even worse – academic.

The poems for me have a living quality to them. They hold a mirror up to my experiences. They delight, they instruct, they weave the air and breathe. You can read them again and again. They’re like the rapid heartbeat of a bullfinch in your hand or a Komodo dragon hiding under the living room sofa – immediate and vibrating with life.

The poets for me are the ones who give you the sense of a deep heart, a heightened consciousness, humor, gamble, passion, tenderness, originality, a refusal to compromise or heed to public opinion.

“For whether we agree with the Greek poet that ‘Sometimes it is sweet to be mad,’ or with Plato that ‘A man sound in mind knocks in vain at the doors of poetry,’ or with Aristotle that ‘No great intellect has been without a touch of madness,’ only a mind that is deeply stirred can utter something noble and beyond the power of others.” ~ Seneca

Give me Horace, or Hafez, or Rimbaud, or Lorca, or e.e. cummings, or Pound or Bukowski or Tranströmer. Give me anyone but someone who has nothing to say and a million ways to prove the fact, whether it be via dribblings and runnings-on about peat and bog, or an overabundance of words like bullaun, or Pennines, or vowel-meadow, or hidebound, or Catkin-pixie, or whatever other clever contrivance it takes to tickle the mind but fail the senses and soul (of the universal man).

The buzzing grew louder and started circling my ear. Then it became a chorus. All six mosquitos must’ve been hovering over me, waiting to feast. There was no way I could sleep with that threat, I decided. My insomnia is bad enough as it is. I de-mummified, turned on the light, grabbed Heaney’s Selected Poems, and started batting away.

The book proved to be a good flyswatter at least. Well, it only cost me a pound. I bought it used at a bookstore in London.