My bearded friend and past teammate on The Bad Mother Faulkners, TX State’s MFA softball team, was interviewed by a snazzy new Austin website that is serializing excerpts from his forthcoming book, Punchline. He drops many truth bombs, but look closely for the one lie. An additional truth he failed to mention: in his final softball game, Nick, our pitcher, hit a home run.
Jeff Alessandrelli just published a “little book” called Erik Satie Watusies His Way into Sound. You can and should buy it here. I share many things with Jeff: an office, The Clean Part Reading Series, a love of arcane NBA references. Go to his website and ask him something. Here’s a sample poem:
THE VEILED HISTORY OF ERIK SATIE
No one, we are told, had been
in Erik Satie’s apartment for 27 years,
and when his brother and the four
chosen friends did enter inside
upon Satie’s death they discovered
an inordinate amount of umbrellas,
many of them still encased in wrapping,
obviously never used,
and four pianos in varying states
of disrepair, two with their backs
up against one another,
two more stacked upside down
on top of the other two.
Also, of course, a yellowed and trembling
packet of love letters,
never mailed, addressed
to the sole woman he ever slept with.
Which again tells us nothing.
"I squeeze the tips of your fingers
to make you cry,” Erik Satie once wrote
to a friend. And “I’ve not a single idea
nor do I want to have one,” he wrote
to another. And “I’m swimming
in happiness.” And “Do you know how
to clean sounds? It is rather a dirty process.”
And “Time will do
what at this moment I cannot.”
All tell us nothing, nothing.
My how the rain falls outside,
how the wind blusters.
I stumbled across this recent review of The Ardors, a 2004 book by Kathleen Peirce, a passionate teacher whose lessons are immovable. I think the review is quite good; it verbalizes why I’m drawn to Peirce’s presence.
Here’s a sample poem from the book:
The flower pod, green-white, hand-sized,
bloomed at night. As the dead increased,
the world of objects seemed more dense,
different from when our child-days dragged
or a sunflower’s face, which, once arrived,
was heaviness itself. And it was different from
parenting, when days were thick,
years thin, or a poppy with a stem. There were
more cadences ascending and descending nearer by.
We saw one of us not reach
the hand-sized pod before it broke
into the mouth of an ordinary night,
though the hand reached toward,
as if a touch would enter it, end it,
or as though by touching what was strange
there was relief in being plain, or one might love
to cause an opening as when a blade cuts under blades of grass,
or words are said, or if a mouth opens another mouth. We saw
the hand fly back, the trumpet-petals curl. It was perverse
to be afraid; when the scent began, one leaned in again.
1. Zhaghzhagh (Persian)
The chattering of teeth from the cold or from rage.
2. Yuputka (Ulwa)
A word made for walking in the woods at night, it’s the phantom sensation of something crawling on your skin.
3. Slampadato (Italian)
Addicted to the infra-red glow of tanning salons? This word describes you.
4. Luftmensch (Yiddish)
The Yiddish have scores of words to describe social misfits. This one is for an impractical dreamer with no business sense. Literally, air person.
5. Iktsuarpok (Inuit)
You know that feeling of anticipation when you’re waiting for someone to show up at your house and you keep going outside to see if they’re there yet? This is the word for it.
6. Cotisuelto (Caribbean Spanish)
A word that would aptly describe the prevailing fashion trend among American men under 40, it means one who wears the shirt tail outside of his trousers.
7. Pana Po’o (Hawaiian)
“Hmm, now where did I leave those keys?” he said, pana po’oing. It means to scratch your head in order to help you remember something you’ve forgotten.
8. Gumusservi (Turkish)
Meteorologists can be poets in Turkey with words like this at their disposal. It means moonlight shining on water.
9. Vybafnout (Czech)
A word tailor-made for annoying older brothers—it means to jump out and say boo.
10. Mencolek (Indonesian)
You know that old trick where you tap someone lightly on the opposite shoulder from behind to fool them? The Indonesians have a word for it.
11. Faamiti (Samoan)
To make a squeaking sound by sucking air past the lips in order to gain the attention of a dog or child.
12. Glas wen (Welsh)
A smile that is insincere or mocking. Literally, a blue smile.
13. Bakku-shan (Japanese)
The experience of seeing a woman who appears pretty from behind but not from the front.
14. Boketto (Japanese)
It’s nice to know that the Japanese think enough of the act of gazing vacantly into the distance without thinking to give it a name.
15. Kummerspeck (German)
Excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, grief bacon.
The steel worker on the girder
Learned not to look down, and does his work
And there are words we have learned
Not to look at,
Not to look for substance
Below them. But we are on the verge
There are words that mean nothing
But there is something to mean.
Not a declaration which is truth
But a thing
Which is. It is the business of the poet
‘To suffer the things of the world
And to speak them and himself out.’
O, the tree, growing from the sidewalk—
It has a little life, sprouting
Little green buds
Into the culture of the streets.
We look back
Three hundred years and see bare land.
And suffer vertigo.
Roses that wear roses
Roses that wear roses must enjoy
The flowers they are worn by.
Roses that wear roses are dying
With a mirror behind them.
None of us are younger but the roses
Men and women have weddings and funerals
Are conceived and destroyed in a formal
Roses die upon a bed of roses
With mirrors weeping at them.
Quiet as is proper for such places;
The street, subdued, half-snow, half-rain,
Endless, but ending in the darkened doors.
Inside, they who will be there always,
Quiet as is proper for such people—
Enough for now to be here, and
To know my door is one of these.
I measure myself
Against a tall tree.
I find that I am much taller,
For I reach right up to the sun,
With my eye;
And I reach to the shore of the sea
With my ear.
Nevertheless, I dislike
The way the ants crawl
In and out of my shadow.
Sometimes the mountain
is hidden from me in veils
of cloud, sometimes
I am hidden from the mountain
in veils of inattention, apathy, fatigue,
when I forget or refuse to go
down to the shore or a few yards
up the road, on a clear day,
that witnessing presence.
Red river, red river,
Slow flow heat is silence
No will is still as a river
Still. Will heat move
Only through the mocking-bird
Heard once? Still hills
Wait. Gates wait. Purple trees,
White trees, wait, wait,
Delay, decay. Living, living,
Never moving. Ever moving
Iron thoughts came with me
And go with me:
Red river, river, river.