Monday, April 30, 2007

Sunday, April 29, 2007

What held everything together

Broken Promises

Whenever he lied, his hump itched. It itched enough lately that he’d taken to rubbing it on the brickwork outside the bar, scratching himself like a bear. His old flute used to do the trick when his hump itched, but he’d lost it when he moved to town.

So it’s come to this, he thought, there’s no one left who appreciates a really fine lie. As far as he could tell, there was nothing to do about it except drink more beer and blow across the bottle-tops.

“Hon, you good?” The bartender had that look he’d seen a lot of lately, painted up like a butterfly, still hard-edged and bony. He wondered what kind of tune he could play on her.

“Yeah, I’m good…good for another one—,” the leering wink, “—and maybe another six after that.” The twenty shimmered like a water snake as he slid it towards her. It wouldn’t be until the next day, when she’d rummage through her purse and find bits of transparent green snake-skin, that she’d wonder why she couldn’t recall her shift the afternoon before.

A long time ago, little Hopi girls used to run away from him. He smiled at that, and at the stories people would tell about his penis, how it would grow larger than a gourd, jump off and run around making babies even when he was doing something else entirely. But the world changed faster than he could keep up with, and once the frogs packed up he decided it would be easier to try and live in the city.

It wasn’t. For the first time in his entire existence, he was bored.

These people were like sheep, you could tell them anything and they never got the joke inside it, never gave any laughter back. And so he began to lie more. Not little lies, either—he told whoppers, lies so bald-faced they looked like woodpecker eggs, lies that in another time would have set whole villages to laughing so hard there wouldn’t be a dry spot left on the ground.

It occurred to him no one did that any more—and people who didn’t laugh at lies, that was as bad as the frogs leaving. Only by accident did he find a clue about what had happened.

One day, when the boredom felt like sand under his skin, he rolled up a dust-devil and whirled into a parking lot. As the dirt blew off, anyone paying attention might have seen a tiny, wrinkly, rank old man, hair long and greasy, with a crooked humped back. Anyone paying even more attention might have noticed a woozy quality to the light around him, might have seen how his eyes looked like campfire coals. But when the white-haired woman at the store entrance chirped, “Welcome to—” the greeting just died in her throat, amazed as she was by Elvis Presley winking as he walked by.

He’d hoped she bust out laughing, but she did not. Neither did a cute red-haired girl restocking house-wares. The ashtrays next to her had a design that looked the way people used to paint him. As she looked up, Eminem in a rainbow Afro wig gave her a wolfish smile. She returned his grin with a flat cold stare and turned her back.

His hump had itched like crazy then, but there seemed to be no lie he could tell—or even embody—that would set these people to laughing. In a fit of irritation he scrunched himself down into a fuzzy-humped fly and buzzed the aisles, diving at ball-caps and permed hair.

And then he saw the wall of televisions.

That was it, right there.

Every yarn ever told. Every lie ever spun. Every fable, every dream, every nightmare, every half- and hemi-demi-semi-truth, all laid out, sung and talked and flashed about, a tessellation of thousands of lies every minute, a flood-tide of lies, and, except for one very young boy, none of the people he saw were laughing at this incredible, unbelievable, enormous, steaming pile of untruth. Something was very wrong.

When the world was first made, every god and every creature made promises to each other, and their promises were what held everything together. The promises people made to Kokopelli—to dance and have sex and laugh at lies—were the price people paid for his promise of fertile gardens, and fat children, and everything else new and growing. It was a good trade. For one thing, people who laughed at lies were free.

These new people were made by the same world, but every one of them he’d met, except that boy, had broken their promise. Maybe it was the constant stream of lies they swam through, or maybe broken promises lead to a river of lies—but it wasn’t right. Those televisions had to be part of it, but thinking so hard made his head hurt. He let it rest for now.

He found it difficult to throw a big lie around when no one would laugh, so he played half-heartedly with little lies. The smell of fresh donuts when there were none to be had. The found quarter that always disappeared. Sun-showers. Keys lost and found. The stream of small lies left his hump itching all the time, left him wondering what would happen to the world if this wasn’t the only broken promise.

He shook his head, peeling the label from the bottle, took another swallow, and blew gently across the glass lip. Something ancient in the sound, and the bartender raised an eyebrow at him—for the briefest moment, she thought she heard something like frogs peeping, and the bar smelled like rain.

The moment passed; she’d already forgotten it. Kokopelli set his empty down and reached for a fresh, cold beer.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Hopeful Beirut and Thinking Bloggers

My heretofore unknown blog-friend, Joumana Mattar Moukarzel at Hopeful Beirut, nominated me for a Thinking Blogger Award.

I was moved for many reasons:

* It seems miraculous that pixels from Central Texas and Lebanon play and shine back and forth like fireflies at dusk.

* Her nomination is more proof that art dissolves barriers to friendship, empathy, understanding.

* She’s been living in a war-zone, and I have no words to adequately express my hope for her safety. My spiritual practice is a private matter, but considering my heritage, it’s especially beautiful and meaningful to me that art made a connection between us.

Thank you, my friend.
Let us continue down these ephemeral paths together for a long time.


Per the meme rules, here are my five tags for bloggers who make me think. (Darn you, Jarvenpa, for tagging Marly first!)

These aren’t the only ones who make me think, of course, but they’re the ones who fit my mood today.

Chris Miller at Mount Shang. Charmingly irascible, dimensionally erudite, Chris always provides new things to see and a rich vein of commentation. Besides, he once wrote a post where I discovered how exhausting it was to be me.

Gawain at Heaven Tree. Balinese dance, Annibale Carracci, Pulcinella jokes, various philosophies of aesthetics—his virtual salon, and smart friends’ comments, enrich me beyond measure.

Alina Chau at Ice-Cream Monster Toon Café. Alina’s joy in life, her playful spirit, and her evil pursuit of Minty the Ice-Cream Cone—as well as her exquisite draftsmanship—help me remember to come out and play.

Dave Bonta at Via Negativa. I suspect Dave may hate a meme almost as much as I do, but he won’t slip past this one. Dave, in all his prolific, porcupine quillishness, inspires me to work hard and create mo’ bettah every day.

Marja-Leena Rathje at her eponymous blog.
Her artwork opens up quiet, ancient places inside me, reminds me in good ways where the magic comes from, and makes my eyes feel as sensitive as fingertips to texture.


Stay tuned for a short story tomorrow...

Georgia O'Keeffe Meets The Beverly Hillbillies

Thursday, April 26, 2007

While wandering near Mescal Creek

I still have a nice scraped bruise on one shin from clambering up some rocks near this spot. But it was worth it, don't you think?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dead or alive

Lovely, almost fluorescent green ferns (along with a guest mystery plant and some grasses) growing among dead sticks.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Awaiting bees

I saw this interesting-looking milkweed as I waited for my far-ranging friends to return. (I took a shorter hike, so I had time to see and catch things like this.)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Drought in the meadery

Silent Thriae

They’re called back to sweeter, darker places,
away from our quilts of tailor-made maize, triticale,
sorghum and soy. Hives empty as ruins, leaving just
enough honey so, drunk on that gold, we’ll forget
how to hum in the fields of the tripled bee-goddess.

The children of the Thriae are leaving us; no
good-bye note written by fallen corpses, they
have gone, in secret, to caverns full of wax.
The oracle is silent. Hordes, mining a fools' gold,
riddled how nature speaks herself: but she refused
to speak about the bees, and her queens, dimmed
as if lit by an eclipse, host no more dances.


Written after reading, and wondering about, about Colony Collapse Disorder. Revised a little a few times since last night.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Yes, do click and make it bigger...

Negative space

Hiking tomorrow with friends, if the weather holds. A much needed respite, and one that should clear paths metaphorical and otherwise.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Gray and flambéed

Apologies to all my blog-friends for being such an infrequent commenter and visitor these past few weeks. It's now two weeks before two very important conferences (among other pressures) and my work-life has been on overload.

As a result, I've focused my increasingly limited time and energy to create/post. I won't be gray and flambéed forever, so look for more and better interaction from me mid-May.

I miss visiting you all, but I'll come by soon as I can, I promise.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Festival of the Trees #11:
Trees in the Concrete

“The Wood-Sprite” in the suburbs

Lunchtime. I plant myself on a cast stone bench in an
office park to read under piebald light. Live oaks low
and sigh, limbs bowed, their swayback ladders akimbo
to my wind-blown thoughts as the leaves of Nabokov’s
“Wood-Sprite” whip back and forth, urging me down
a forgotten, broken path; and so I read aloud to the sickly
photinia, the chlorotic nandina. We lean close together,
whisper to each other we’re also exiles, not native:
it’s the pain of that alkaline fact turns us pale.

Unhomed in familiar places: Caterpillars scrape
those green migrants a thin table, each cut a place-set
for chinaberry, ailanthus, Russian olive. Still, it’s
lovely, their émigré murmur—these innocent thieves
and their ancient dryads so different from those who,
fleeing an old world, shed beliefs until bare, until
even their shadows forgot how to cast themselves.

I remember. And we sit together, my sprites and I, talk
about the spice-box woods I wandered when I was a child,
the second-hand second growth forest singing a Babel of
songs in between the tract housing, the freeways. Their
gift—seeds—laughing, “Oh yes, they’re not from here.”


Xris at Flatbush Gardener is hosting the next Festival of the Trees. The poem above found me in a quiet corner near a strip mall, where I could hear the dryads despite noise from the road.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Too much monkey business

Work projects piling high, sleep getting thin, time for art jammed and shimmed.

Chuck Berry said it best about how things feel right now:

"...Too much monkey business, too much monkey business.
Don't want your botheration, get away, leave me! ..."

I don't want you to leave me, but I need to take a few days off to freshen my mind and get some rest.

I'll post something new this weekend, and I sure do appreciate you coming back around to see.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Colors in gray

I've often read that the time to do photography, the best times, are the so-called magic hours right after dawn and right before sunset.

There is a charm to the golden, buttery light found at those times. But I like the light at other times as well -- harsh mid-day light, leaving origami shadows folding over the edges of things; the wet gray diffusions of low-hanging clouds and rain.

Paradoxically, the hard bright light made this Hemi "J" a bit more mysterious to me by pooling shadows around its engine. The light also raked some ghostly hues out of the primer, revealing some of the colors in gray.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

After the shadows pass

Thanks to Marly for sharing the word and concept of Tenebrae.

These were pelted by freezing rain in my backyard yesterday -- consider them a bouquet for all my friends celebrating Easter, and/or Spring, and/or their own personal resurrections, this morning.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Found and lost and found

I found this at almost the same time last year as I found what you see here below.

Last year, I was wandering around with a camera (no surprise, that.)

The Angels of Oddness led me around a bend, into a nice neat suburban neighborhood, down a winding street and POW!

Parked in someone's drive, a pentimentomobile complete with UFO warnings and more affixed to the rear windows to block those wanting to peek in. Popped out of my car, stole a few very quick not great pics, and dashed away.

In my haste last year, I hadn't noticed the very primary primer colors.

This year, The Angels of Oddness simply walked me down some asphalt at a custom car show, where I found it again.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


The rough and the smooth of it.

What song do you think is playing on each radio?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

And after, surfeit

More auto-love coming, but I wanted to share something quieter.

There. Can you hear that cardinal chirping?

Monday, April 02, 2007