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Paul Tracy DANISON
Paris, France
Coach humanist
Interests: Human potential
Recent Activity
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When our (metaphorically) broad-shouldered poets get to grips with the visual arts, reader depth perception should likely improve “Piano tuned”. “The Chair”. A seat at Le Bal perdu, 2, rue Charles Graindorge, Bagnolet, France. I will be making regular contributions on the visual arts in France and Europe under the category “Beyond words: visual arts”. For me, “visual arts” mostly means contemporary dance, circus and the various forms of visual representation (painting), but can certainly mean any non-language based creative effort – Daniel Linehan’s “dbdbh”, a truly fine dance performance at the Centre Pompidou last year, is a paradoxical example: Linehan invented a language then danced it, or, by dancing, created a language! Whatever, it was a cool idea and well-danced. Why not write it up it? Since gadding about is my preferred method for general doing, it is by gadding that I shall make my choices of which and whose visual endeavors to think and write about under Beyond words: that’s as close to random as I can come. I’d like other poets to join me in contributing ideas and observations to “Beyond words”. They, you, decide, as I shall, what creations fit the bill. We shall say that all felt divergence between us adds to healthy creative tension: all to the good then, for this, the best of all possible endeavors. Join with me, friends, in exploring Beyond words. After all, if words have their uses, nothing is less sure than their true value. Do words make worlds or do worlds make for words? Was the Word there at the Beginning and will Strangled Whisper mark the End? Or did Bang begin it all and shall fire and ice finish it off? Poets, warriors and the people in their wisdom say both. While whole empires have been built on words, words, words, each and every one of them has one day fallen apart for critical lack of content – whether bread or just plain sense of it all. By contrast, visuality, even when it’s a mirage, never fails. And it just keeps on keeping on. One look has made me fall in love, many times; the touch of a finger, the sleight of a hand, the crunch of gravel, have set exquisite shivers of both lust and fear up my spine in anticipation; sight has taken my breath in endless wonder; silence has made me pause in intellectual, mystical and moral reflection. “Stopped in my tracks” by a word and “Stopped in my tracks” by what I see, then, are absolutely two different norms of experience. A word is always somewhere a word of command, a world already ordered, delivered and installed by expert craftsmen. See and touch and hear are to stand on the threshold of understanding. Join with me Beyond words. Poets ought to explore those arts that strive to show rather than say. This is obvious, but I’ll use words to prove it, anyway. Gadabouts go gadding so as to scope and shape Otherness. Gadding... Continue reading
Posted Jan 11, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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A New Year card from artist Isabelle Braud which strikes me as wonderful. The legend says something like “On Route 2017”. The afternoon of 3 January, the title of a mail I received was, Pour la 200ème fois aujourd’hui, bonne année ! – “For the 200th time today, Happy New Year”. Indeed, from midnight plus one millisecond (but never before) the first, and then right up to last day of the month, the French nation will be wishing each other happy new year, along with all sorts of nice, somewhat personalized, other things such as new furnishings, good sex or a modicum of success, etc. But whatever other sentiments, they will ineluctably be followed on with a “but, especially, good health”. Without good health, it is commonly believed among this culture group, despite all the evidence to the contrary, nothing is possible; the wish for good health is a sort of universal codicil on the General Will towards a more perfect year. At the risk of sounding like the deluded slavey in Down and Out in Paris & London who admires the mean behavior of some American brute – expecting the help to hop to it and with enthusiasm or get their wages docked or some such – I say there is something magnificent in all this bonne annéeing. I don’t say one doesn’t get really fed up with it after the first two or so days, because, Golly!, one does. Worse still is gauchely bonne annéeing somebody who wouldn’t or won’t or shouldn’t bonne année you. One thinks of one’s downstairs neighbor. However, in spite of such inconveniences, the rigorously unacknowledged Puritan in me insists on approving forcing everybody, without exception, to bonne année for a month together, even those one would rather not bonné année, even those who bonne année through gritted teeth, if one wishes to be seen as a worthy human being, sans histoires. I admit, I don't know what's going on in this wonderful country’s cachots (and nobody can or will tell me there are none). Do today's crop of suspects with a political grievance say bonne année? Or is bonne annéeing one of those things that makes “Abrahamic” religions so colorful, like the prohibition of accidentally brushing against a woman, not already or yet a slave, born on a Wednesday in a leap year with a large clitoris, who may or not, have her period, and/or, of drinking soda water on Thursday evenings for which the temple tax has not been previously paid by an authorized representative? Probably. As we live in a free society, cachotiers must surely be exempt from bonne annéeing. So, as I was saying, the principle of obliging ordinary people to wish each other well, even if it's only once a year and requires only mumbling the obviously false good health wish into the white noise of a malfunctioning hard disk, seems to me a socially salutary principle. There are advantages to the principle, which may, possibly even eventually involving... Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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This anecdote is perfectly true. This morning a guy with a white hussar-style mustache and heavy East European accent grabbed my arm as I was passing under a soaring concrete viaduct. Pardon, M’sieur, the hussar said, But has this viaduct always been here? I said, Mais, oui. He replied, I have passed here every day for 20 years and, do you know, Sir, I have never noticed the thing before? He strode off and I continued on. As I passed the passage des Soupirs (Sighs), also this morning and as I also do nearly every morning, I noticed that it is quite deep-set, set back away from the rue des Pyrénées. Suddenly, I realized, the passage of sighs might be more profound than I had thought. I haven’t been publishing much in this latter half of the year now dying. You could be wondering why. Of course, I certainly wouldn’t be the first to walk these fabled streets of Paris with words sticking in my head rather than flowing onto some handy foolscap. Still, I would hope you would be wondering – if only because I’m one of those hearts whose cockles warm when someone says, “O, Good to see you; I’d hoped you weren’t sick!” You may be thinking – even Karine, even she – may be thinking, “Surely, Nervous-Nelly-Tracy-wacy is all upsetty-wetty, what with the election of you-know-who.” (The other day I saw her unexpectedly, unsteady on her high-high heels, picking her way down the steps of the Opéra Garnier – that would be just after three pieces by Jiri Kylian.). Also, she might think, I’m put off the public pen by the disheartening prospect of more political boobery blowing in on me from the Gallic, or, even, Teutonic, political territories. But, as Richard Nixon and his aides famously added to every bright idea, that would be wrong. Karine would be wrong. (Her high-heels are no joke, especially if it’s slippery. She almost missed her step as I watched, too far away to catch her arm! Boy, what a disaster that might have been; she loves dancing so, a limp of any sort would devastate the woman. I’ve always loved her thin, muscly, almost stringy arms, her tough made-for-work hands – she might very well have really hurt her back as I looked on.). Certainly, none of this can explain nonpublication, can it? As long as I’m still out of Hell and can know it, neither that American man of the little winkle and disinflatable ego, nor that exceptionally coarse Madame Marine Lepen of the République française nor the oddly-but appropriately-named Frau Frauke Petry of the Bundesdeutschesrepublik have dominion over me or my imagination. The rhetorical pitchforks of these political demons break no bones, you see, and, even if, here-below, seem is so often be in waiting, their sulfurous words are no brimstone; there is a diabolic reek, however. Also, remember, I am a philosopher; Voltaire is my tinhorn god. I therefore expect very little from a species... Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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And, you thought, if anyone did, Saint Nicholas would know the unique truth of love. Alas, in Babylon, even he must sometimes lay himself down and analyze. I happened to be paying attention this time. 2016 proved beyond a reasonable doubt that each human being is really unique. Not namby-pamby unique, but really, tough-Charlie, unique. If this uniqueness were not so, how then would we explain so many inexplicable events? Also, the uniqueness of be is why the very good Fifi is so good and why I still do perversely love, have perversely loved, will perversely love, the very bad Karine instead of the so-good Fifi and vice-versa and so on. Perversities induced by uniqueness are the root of comedy and of tragedy, Aristotle might have said if he'd known quantum mechanics as well as I have come to, without which perversities there would be nothing to ponder and get fussy about over past or coming years. As well as no worthy entertainment. No, not even animal documentaries. So, here’s to l’unique universel: A tough-looking woman smokes a cigarette, gravely blowing the smoke into the morning mist, earphones artfully stuffed into her ears. She swings, very, very slow to some secret song that almost imperceptibly softens her features. She notices me with rather obvious neutrality. It’s not our first time together at the bus stop. I think she’s attractive. We get on before and behind each other, then quickly find a casual way to exchange a noncommittal first-time word or two. As we turn casually to resume looking neutrally out the window, I notice a little gold star of David around her neck. I wonder what she’s found out about me? A little girl of whom I see only the mother’s laughing face is noisily hidden in the part of the madding crowd packed in behind me. Somewhere under my knees, she’s now singing a French version of The Farmer in the Dell, a radical switch from a flow of interesting questions and pertinent observations directed at her wide-eyed mother – O, this child does adore words, words, words. Words will do anything if only we will let her keep shaping them, firing them, laying them out for all to hear… A guy dressed in cheap gym pants, tee-shirt and baseball cap. He’s decorated with gang tattoos. He sports an “Islamic” beard. I am reminded of the story of Enkidu, Gilgamesh’s savage counterpart and friend. Most, most delicately, he plucks a newly-arrived baby from the arms of its mother, ritually taking possession. Growling softly, he presses the tiny body against his chest, closes his eyes in ordinary ecstasy. The story goes that seven days with the temple prostitute did to civilize Enkidu. A little English-speaking boy perched next to my ear sings a loud counterpoint to the Frenchified Farmer in the Dell. I recognize it as an Army boot-camp marching song: Ain’t no use in lookin’ down, he cries, Ain’t no discharge on the groun’. I twist my head. “Big... Continue reading
Posted Dec 23, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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Rue des Pyrénées, Paris 20ème, a shoemaker's display window I shall buy a silver boat. I shall be its captain. It shall be a bark and I upon its poop. At the helm, Commander of the ocean’s broad rage. Commander of the fury of the waves. My silver bark shall skip, jump, cannon, fly. For I shall pass over eagles under Yahweh’s restless eye, For I shall steer above the dizzying globe. For I shall spin the wheel, This way, then that. Cracking, snapping, billowing sails shall carry me beyond. And breathless, above, Over the world’s worsening wickedness. For, as I buy, no snaggle-tooth shoemaker shall have dominion over me, For, as I command, no seller of hats nor haberdasher shall have dominion over me, For, as I steer, no fire-breathing philosopher nor rabbi shall have dominion over me. I, I, I am deathless; I shall have no name to be forgotten nor recalled. Continue reading
Posted Nov 18, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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I was searching through my electronic calendar to see what was coming up on my personal agenda. Without my asking, it reminded me that November 13th has been proclaimed a Day of Mourning – a year to the day since some crazy bastards hopped up on religion and righteousness massacred... Continue reading
Reblogged Nov 13, 2016 at PAUL TRACY DANISON, COACH
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When intimate strangers, those who were in but not of our lives, disappear, no understudy gets patched in to the piece. Neither players nor spectators pay much attention, but their absence – an absence of possibility – is writing a whole new piece. « Faces » from Natacha Panot’s "Fractures" series I was searching through my electronic calendar to see what was coming up on my personal agenda. Without my asking, it reminded me that November 13th has been proclaimed a Day of Mourning – a year to the day since some crazy bastards hopped up on religion and righteousness massacred more than 200, mostly young, people as they ate and drank, danced, chatted and flirted. My concerns were more immediate than thinking about the moribund past. The past? The inconsequential past is what Today’s Winners say it is. Yes? Anyhow, Karine and I like the romantic singer song-writer sweet-voiced Katie Melua. Last Spring, I saw she was coming to town in November and, acting on a newly-acquired principle of “acting now is always right action,” bought tickets. What could possibly go wrong with such long-term planning of a little handholding to songs like “Just like heaven” and “Thank you, Stars” at the gorgeous, famous Olympia concert hall in downtown Paris? But needs must sometimes; I had forgotten to mention it to Karine until a week before the day, only to discover she was out of town – tickets bought, arrangements made, paying customers waiting. Since I can barely survive being alone the time of a single night’s sleep and I’d rather lose the money than go to the trouble of re-selling a paid-for ticket, I had to hunt for somebody free to come and who likes mushy music. At four days and counting, no takers; I’d even asked a nodding acquaintance from the gym! At this point, Fifi, Karine’s frangine, as they say, naturally came to mind. ‘Though her cultural tastes run to the Velvet Underground, Goth, Heavy Metal and Frida Kahlo, she’s very easily imposed upon. I called and left a self-pitying message outlining the service she could render, not neglecting to point out how much better something always is when done with a pretty woman. Mourning? Remembrance of a massacre? Remembering, let alone talking or writing about the substantial marrow of the November 13th serial mass murders in Paris makes me feel powerlessly angry: I am quite sure that such anger somehow puts me in the power of the murderers and their handlers. That can’t be good and must be bad for the heart in all senses. I have no idea of writing about murder or remembering murderers. I will say, though, that, apart from stirring fear & hatred and anger & cloudy, blood-eyed thoughts, the enduring evil of murder, political or personal, is the un-mendable hole it tears out of the tapestry of daily life: the instrument maker known only by sight, the shy young woman once permanently, silently, perched at the far end of the... Continue reading
Posted Nov 11, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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Recursive quality of troublesome Concomitant Reality again spotted at Pyr�n�es crossing The origination battered-truck where the world snarl standing wave daily begins. Blame the worried guy if you will. Buy him a better hair pomade if it pleases. Find him... Continue reading
Reblogged Nov 11, 2016 at THINKING WALKS IN PARIS
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Recursive quality of troublesome Concomitant Reality again spotted at Pyrénées crossing The origination battered-truck where the world snarl standing wave daily begins. Blame the worried guy if you will. Buy him a better hair pomade if it pleases. Find him a bigger and less-nervous female companion on a upscale dating site. Stop your ears against the baby’s squall, turn your head away, your eyes ceiling-ward. But though it’s just a bratty kick under the table, it’s all gonna happen. Poetically speaking. Standing Waves. Since they make a kaleidoscope of our otherwise only apparent dull perception of the world around, we all know all about those. Even in Paris, Left Bank, late afternoon. Karine cares nothing for Standing Waves. She makes it known with a pout backed-up with a viper-fast foot. But, although also kicked under the table with a patent-leather shoe, which is in no way a fit for Cinderella, Fifi, who is, after all, Karine’s blood-sister and raised in the same cultural pigsty, Fifi, she cares for Standing Waves. She raises her long-stemmed beer glass to within a millimeter of my nose and cries, “Trace! Here is to la physique quantique!” “Damn our eyes,” I reply, and rashly kiss the tip of her pugnacious little nose with a drop of the chilly dew on the elongated barrel of my own long-stemmed beer glass. We drink the dregs. Mmmm. Karine frowns largely and thins her lips, raises her eyes ceiling-wards, hands motionless but tense on the table’s probability horizon. This sisterly contrast, I think, certainly says something to me about Standing Waves, perhaps, even, as Fifi suggests in her toast, about quantum physics. For instance, just as, quantically-speaking, I am myself as dead as I’ll ever be, my dear Fifi and Karine my love are sisters as sisterly as they’ll ever be, no matter how the probability horizon resolves; ditto my love, hers, mine & hers, love as lost now as loving will ever be. Who can know what can be said at any given time about anything? Just so with the evils of the world. I have very little experience of ‘em; I know 'em only at a distance. I can't say much about the origins of the evils of the world because I can’t even pretend to know much. This is proved by my inability to know whether Karine or Fifi are sisters or only as sisterly-as they ever will be. Or even if Fifi’s toast was mockery or her sister through my agency or even if it was sisterly or ill-meant. So, unfortunately, just as my father once cheerily prophesied before a particularly good spanking, it will ever be out of my power to profit from anybody’s credulity, let alone the consequent disarray, disillusion and despair – which is where the cream is: no documentary videos, no hefty explicatory books, no early-morning TV pleas for financial help, no populist presidential bids. I’m not saying here that I don’t think Standing Waves are involved in the world’s evils... Continue reading
Posted Nov 4, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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Coincidence debunked or coincidence surprised? The other day I was on my way to my workplace near rue Menilmontant; the metro was just clattering out of the elevated la Chapelle station toward, all too appropriately, Stalingrad. Lost, as usual, in the riot of thoughts and feelings that engulfs me when I am not actually faced with a firing squad or business meeting, my basic wish was to go elsewhere, almost anywhere, but work. And, just as I was reproaching myself yet again for yet one more of my usual non heroic attitudes, I looked up to see Fifi, Karine’s sister, flashing before my eyes. Like destiny. I love Fifi; we are great friends; she has the knack of being bad gaily; we share that. Face almost flat on the glass, I was sure it was her. Sure she was making a silly face in the window of the train that was just that moment passing in the opposite direction from mine, toward Barbès-Rochechouart, at the dirty big toe of Montmartre. Who else could it be? In the whole of realm of France, what other forty-something woman would be mugging at a métro window like that first thing in the morning? But, prudence! Just the day before this totally unexpected, potentially happy, potential answer to my fonder wishes and, apparently, fantastically coincidental, encounter with Fifi, I had attentively listened to a National Public Radio program that explained coincidence in mathematical and psychological terms. These terms were supposed to extract the mysteriousness from coincidence and, so doing, make another, existential delusion dry up and blow off into the ash heap of debunked superstition. It may just be that I am so often and so utterly mystified by what goes on that I can no longer even understand things that are crystal clear to everybody else, but I was mystified by both the mathematics and the psychology. Concretely, the mathematics demonstrated beyond a doubt that a woman who has so far won four different lotteries four different times has reduced the odds of her winning each time she has won, from some ridiculously high number to one with only 15 or so zeros. Coincidence? What nonsense! In addition, it was explained, there were plenty of factors, such as the woman’s liking for gambling and her increased ability to do so, that should put a stop to all the breathless talk of coincidence. At only 10 or so zeros, we listeners were sternly informed, the woman’s chances of winning are now much higher than at first! Obviously, if she wins again, there won’t be the slightest coincidence in it; we’ve been warned. My face might have showed surprise like this when Fifi whizzed past in the other métro. Psychological terms provided the pièce de conviction, as you say in French, to the mathematical proofs. Surprise, it turns out, is one of the six human emotions (anger, fear, disgust, happiness and sadness are the five others – they group together just like 0s&1s do to... Continue reading
Posted Oct 29, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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Secretary Mimi, caught by a security camera, hurrying away after her ‘secret speech’ to the Intergalactic Interspecies Assembly in the Paris Catacombs last Friday. In the background, long-time “good friend” and companion, Assembly President Calypso. There is a cat… a calico Tom... with whom I have become fast friends. He bears the good old-fashioned name of Foulques, is yellow, young, dashing, of soft claw and satiric eye. Foulques and I first met when he wished to pay me an uninvited visit. A firm refusal accompanied by a virtuoso-level spine stroke cum ear scratch surprised him as much as his exceptional good grace in clearing off surprised me. When later I told Foulques of my wonder at his gentle manner, he related that he too could not help wondering about that kick that never came, about a firm refusal borne in a sweet caress, about the personal story behind it all. Somehow, though I never cease to speak of my Foulkes, Karine has never met this remarkable feline. Yet, Foulques & I, as do Karine & I, share much besides un penchant fort for scratching and rubbing; perhaps the stars are crossed in this. Foulques and I have become the tenderest of confidants. The strong jawed calico freely recounts the stultifying dynastic complexities of being scion of Feline Mercury, the Cat House responsible for delivering interspecies communications. The natural great-grandson of Behemoth, Foulques listens with perfect sympathy as I, Peter Pan’s bastard, confide my own existential frettings and fumings. And, if truth be told, Foulques, whose interests range from fossil fish anatomy to flapping butterfly wings, is no more made for delivering messages between species than I am for shacking up with Wendy. I raised my eyebrows high, then, at the slender Feline Mercury heir’s serieux as he thrust a press release detailing Friday’s dire doings inside the Intergalactic Interspecies Assembly at the Catacombs. “Read, mon ami! Please.” “Aux ordres, mon capitaine!” I murmur, sketching a vague salute. I often call Foulques “Captain”. It’s his poise, air of command, I suppose. Under a headline, “Assembly resolves human descent imbroglio”, I read, After many months of wrangling, presentations from an interspecies team of geneticists sitting on the Intergalactic Distinguished Scientists Advisory Panel today showed Assembly members that humans, previously thought to be descended from simians, are, in fact, descended from felines, specifically, cattus cattus. The finding was much anticipated. Cats are a more developed order of primitive bear, the experts confirmed, which explains certain prehensile characteristics in humans as well as that species’ pseudo-bipedalism, that is, crawling often but not consistently. Images comparing human ear hair patterns (above) with those of felines (above right) recently released by the Intergalactic Institute for Genetical and Memological Studies definitively point to a feline ancestry for human beings, turning up the heat on the Gradualist replacement strategies adopted by the Extraterrestrial Organization for Higher-Order Being and championed by Secretary Mimi. This photograph shows the remarkable similarity in hair patterns in feline and human ears. The presentations... Continue reading
Posted Oct 21, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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Series 1, Part 2: On whether she comes running at the snap of my fingers, the bonheur of Fifi here-below, the righteous rage of the Ohio-soul, a woman’s wrath, the true niceties of human nature, the real story of the French revolution and America’s real choice. “These conges payés …” Karine begins, “We French would not have paid vacations or any other pretty good things at all, at all, if they had not been stealing poor children to use their blood in a black magic formula for staying young.” On cue, Gabriella Cilmi, not quite Amy Winehouse, floats from the sound system - Nothin’ sweet/ About me, yeah/Nothin’ sweet/About me, yeah/ If there's lessons/To be learned/I'd rather get/My jamming words/In first, so/Tell you something/That I've found/That the world's/A better place/When it's/Upside down… “One hot summer day,” Karine continues, “The mamans couldn’t support it, finally! Pouf! The Bastille falls and all France is in flame! Hourra! Hourra! And the French girls are not silly! So, when the mamans without culottes hear that that duc d’Orléans crétin try to kidnap the King and Queen and steal the Revolution, they are not so much rolled in the flour that they don’t get the buttery king Baker and his little queeny Boulangère to Paris before the big tough guys of le duc know what is what. Hahaha. Hourra! Hourra!” She points casually to herself as she picks up the milk coffee, brings it silently to her lips, sips. “Alors, the women got the revolution going and they kept it in the people’s hands, mon Tracy. So, when they realized this revolution stuff was the real thing, sure, they stopped stealing the babies. But more important, mon amour, since then, they are a just little afraid of being too mean even though they are still and always will be des vicieux. “This is just because they are humans. They cannot help it, not more than goats can help it. I do not criticize it but only have the sense to live with.” The knowledge that there is always a chance that French mamans start a revolution is, according to Karine, where nice things such as paid vacation for the masses began. “All the rest is just doctoral feces,” she laughs. “I have figured this out myself.” - Hmmmm, I say noncommittally. She archly raises her left eyebrow. “Alors? Don’t believe me?” In France, gratitude and recognition, if you are still alive to appreciate them, are shown by a gourmet dinner and, if you are dead, by naming a street for you. “Regard-moi ça,” she exclaims. “The proof is all around us.” She sweeps her arm largely, taking in the pleasant-seeming people eating, drinking and chatting at the tables around us. If they hadn’t noticed her before, they now do. - Nothin’ sweet/ About me, yeah/Nothin’ sweet/About me, yeah… They think she’s talking about them. Without showing it too much, they strain to hear. “Les gens, all of them, they are very proud that the women... Continue reading
Posted Oct 7, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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Series 1, Part 1: On whether she comes running at the snap of my fingers, the bonheur of Fifi here-below, the righteous rage of the Ohio-soul, a woman’s wrath, the true niceties of human nature, the real story of the French revolution and America’s real choice. Aerial photo of here-below, where all the people I’ve ever met live. If you can prove you’ve ever met somebody from somewhere else, I’m your host for a drink on the Champs Elysées. As I turn out from the rue Richard Lenoir, I notice the carrousel in the little triangular square just over Lédru Rollin, where the avenue runs into rue de la Roquette. My Tobias loves to merry-go-round. I hum: the seasons they go round and round and the painted ponies go up and down; we’re captive on a carrousel of time… We must have tried every one on the Right Bank. Plus the really good one at the Luxembourg garden. I give the carrousel another glance as I turn into the café and invest a table. We get around, Toby and I. As far as I know, I have not snapped my fingers, not once, since I’ve known Karine, except for when we’re dancing, of course. Otherwise, I can’t keep time. I’m sure she’d despise a man who’s got no rhythm. Here she is, already. She’s at the door, pulling the door, coming in the door from the watery morning sunlight, stepping into the dust-speckled shimmer and shadow of the narrow room. Although my heart is singing, I stay seated, at the farthest end, my hands folded on a newspaper. Almost as soon as she’s framed on the threshold, she catches my eye. She’s breathing hard, as if she’s been running. She mimes a shiver, smiles largely, advances through the morning’s patrons – like Karine and I, the patrons are mostly parents fresh from delivering up their kids to school – makes her way through the thickly spread tables and chairs. Close now. Chiaroscuro. “O! You just look so good,” I say, get up. Close enough now, Karine leans in and kisses me lightly, square on the lips – “You, too” she murmurs. I take her hands in mine; I love that feeling; I want to kiss them, both of them; they nest in mine; I look at her face. Others are looking at her, at me, watching as we unfold us. Karine has never said how she got the scar on her forehead, though surely she believes it mars her beauty…. I have never asked; there must be pains we keep for ourselves, I suppose. As much as I do, I think, Karine does love la Rentrée. I think I can tell she does by the clothes she wears: a long, light, lined loose-weave hemp-cloth coat over her shoulder to catch the unruly breeze. Sorceress? Jane Eyre? Which? I’ll soon see. Worsted wool over twill cotton-linen-flax, silk, greys toward blues; those expensive-type Italian jeans that aren’t Levi’s, made to fit a... Continue reading
Posted Sep 30, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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We are not alone, we will never be alone, with our memories of our sweet sons and daughters at the Rentrée. Calculating when France’s New Year – called la Rentrée, “re-entry” – begins and ends is pretty simple. Unlike Chinese New Year, which requires some functional knowledge of “lunisolar” calendars and historic Han migration patterns, you just have to know when most families are back in town after using up most of their accumulated government-mandated, yearly paid-vacation time. That’s around about when the school year starts, the first week of September. In France, as elsewhere, harvest traditions, cooling temperatures and shortening days, along with the new school year, combine to make the end of summer a special moment. But, in most places, and this despite a clear plea from John Keats, the accent is on bittersweet Goodbye. La Rentrée, though, is a beginning, a renewal, a hopeful Hiiiiii again. The On se retrouve à la rentrée! of the month of June is a Happy Holidays! equivalent, meaning “We’ll pick up again in a New Year!”. Rituals of reuniting – retrouvailles – go on throughout the month of September. Families – sure, many, of course, are sick of the enforced togetherness of summer holidays but just as many have been scattered to the winds by the obligations of blended families, summer studies and camp and travel. Families, as well as friends and colleagues enjoy the retrouvailles, but also discreetly celebrate putting on the familiar harnesses that retrain and regulate even our most tender relations. It is good, after all, to get back into the swing of ordinary life. Endlessly invoking the start of school – I am plenty sick of this by the first week of October, let me tell you – is a way of both underlining new beginnings in a broader sense and emphasizing the importance of individual participation in the workplace and in society as a whole. At la Rentrée, in politics, as elsewhere in society, spectacular absurdities and failures can be overlooked and, if convenient, even forgotten, and new ones publically planned and executed. On streets and in offices and shops, people are brisk and mostly relaxed, despite endless warnings and reminders about all manner of dangerously loose -ists and -isms. In private life, rare is the face taut with suppressed distaste or anger; the hell that is the Other has not yet had the time to make the ordinary person hysterical. I am not alone, I think, I shall never be alone, I think, in having golden memories of la Rentrée: of my sweet son, of the touch of his hand, of the sound of his voice, of his little kisses, of our morning strolls to school in the crisp autumn air. Our step is firm. We together share a leisurely stride, Tobias, you and me, an easy-yet-determined progress fit for a new beginning. Hearing still sharp from a long, peaceful night, ears attentively cocked for something possible, something new, we sometimes hear the sharp clink... Continue reading
Posted Sep 24, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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Storee OptiK® is one’s analytical model of choice for examining bootless foreign adventure, gender and wealth differentials, social priorities, the threat of foreign-inspired terrorism, or just plain observing a refined selection of one’s preferred worthies and celebrities. As France’s summer vacations juddered to an end, Jean-Claude Mailly, Secrétaire général of Force ouvrière, or FO, announced continued action against the reforms of the country’s labor code. With an independently-estimated 300,000 members in a workforce of 22 million or so, FO is the country’s third-biggest labor union. A coalition of unions, including FO, began street protests and random micro-strikes, especially in transportation, in the early spring. These had petered out by the start of the summer but spokespersons were vowing to continue actions in the fall. The summer holidays are the traditional moment for dropping controversies deemed politically necessary but otherwise senseless. That is, most, if not all, official “social conflicts”. Possibly speaking for the anti-reform coalition, Jean-Claude did not specify how or whose political fortunes might be held hostage and/nor what occasional harassments might be visited on commuters, nor when or where any of these might happen if they should happen. Was Jean-Claude talking about real street protests and strikes or was he all metaphor and allegory, thinking only of meanie-beanie catcalls in the direction of recalcitrant parliamentarians and talking sour grapes to the scribblers and talking heads? However it may be, the pronouncement was enough to make one remember the distinctly un-delicious frisson of hearing, on a dark and deserted suburban train platform, that “in the context of ongoing industrial action by a certain category of staff” the last train had been abruptly cancelled, leaving one stranded in the context of one’s perhaps foolish, possibly disastrous, break up with Karine. In two contexts, then, Jean-Claude was also reminding his hearers that one later would somehow learn, perhaps in the newspaper, but also surely gabbled from a television or radio, that if proof of it were to exist, the cause of the lonely midnight frisson might very well be laid at the door of non-specified union sympathizers somewhere, somewhere presumably vital, who likely probably localized on the clogged Northern freight periphery and were likely blocking transnational thru-traffic most probably in the environs of the Southeast corridor spur. But other scenarios were highly possible. Opposition to labor law reform, one would further learn, might, perhaps, have had something to do with all this. Gawd. But why, Jean-Claude? Why? Why must one finish up the long vacation with such memories? What can the motives be? Indeed, why and wherefore, from February to June, all these trillions of pounds psi of revolutionary rhetoric, protest marches and harassing micro-strikes, all against a law that had already passed parliament in the context of years of debate and discussion? In the context of loneliness as well as confronted with Jean-Claude, one has been able to see that the whys and wherefores of much of French politics, as for those of any country, may only be grokked, never... Continue reading
Posted Sep 17, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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“There're a couple of guys,” I continue, “that say we could tax Facebook & Google and all the others – spammers, too. We could go after them for tax evasion, like Al Capone. Tax ‘em just like we tax the use of other public resources, like land or oil. These fellas say we could use the money to fund a universal minimum income.” Continue reading
Posted Sep 9, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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I wake in flooding sunlight, I said, a thousand impatient, tiny tongues Licking at shadows, lapping under wood. Along the lane. My lips are cracked and sore, my throat dry. I am tired. Almost dead. Can barely see the toiling sun. Hardly feel Her warming splash soak me, drench me, leaven my sight. Loosen my sense, lighten my bones. She raises me up Her servant – foot-foot, leg-leg, arms, hand-hand, push – I said. To follow (even stumbling.). Her brilliant strand, I tell you this my dear son sick in mind: Her dappling waves. Her slicking asphalt. And Her fine rainbow mirrors. That so much resemble the light that spills from you So. I believe in that first step She is smiling in me. So. I knuckle my eyes. Brush my knees, smooth my hair. And follow, I said. Continue reading
Posted Sep 3, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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I wake in flooding sunlight, I said, a thousand impatient, tiny tongues Licking at shadows, lapping under wood. Along the lane. My lips are cracked and sore, my throat dry. I am tired. Almost dead. Can barely see the toiling sun. Hardly feel Her warming splash soak me, drench me, leaven my sight. Loosen my sense, lighten my bones. She raises me up Her servant – foot-foot, leg-leg, arms, hand-hand, push – I said. To follow (even stumbling.). Her brilliant strand, I tell you this my dear son sick in mind: Her dappling waves. Her slicking asphalt. And Her fine rainbow mirrors. That so much resemble the light that spills from you So. I believe in that first step She is smiling in me. So. I knuckle my eyes. Brush my knees, smooth my hair. And follow, I said. Continue reading
Posted Aug 26, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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The buck stops either at Drain's End or Over the Rainbow Mystery is the meat and drink of humankind; also, I have seen, a boundless resource of today’s Middle Kingdom. What studiously-indumbrated glyph born in the pure heart of a Zen tagger, what teasing, lion-pawed Sphinx, could mystify more than an elegant ‘end of drainage’ figuring at the end of the bar, put there, perhaps, by the poker-faced Solar-Powered Good Luck Cat smug now in his glass tabernacle above the dusty champagne flutes? The cat figures. The? ‘End’? End figured? End figuring, figurative, prefiguring, prefigurative, prefigured? All Ends? All? ‘Drainage’? Drainage physical? Drainage abstract, locational, virtual? Drainages? Drain the dregs, dredge the drains. Drain the ditches and end the end of the evening at the bottom of the bewitching hour, drained comrades! What should we know? How should we know it? Tell me. What time is it? Should it be? Continue reading
Posted Aug 12, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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Vélibs of Death will create new opportunities for souvenir makers. In Marianne’s kitchen, Karine and I, Marianne and Dominique were discussing under what circumstances we would choose to leave the whips, scorns and fardels here-below for the Big D, that undiscovered bourn. Marianne said, “I’ll be ready when I realize I can’t ride a bike any more.” Marianne has many faults, but lack of sense is not one of them. Her bicycle death-moment benchmark – mixing in equal measure the loss both of physical pleasure and of real autonomy – is yet another proof of her innate and solid wisdom. You will feel this yourself, perhaps, when you understand that my own death-moment benchmark was “when I could could no longer bless l’être cher with an orgasm.” “In such case,” I had declaimed, “The être must stab me dead without further ado. Quick killing, they say, is the best kind.” Karine’s long, considering stare, which scares me, then finds my satiric eye. Quelled, I conclude abruptly, a weak nod to an unreadable Dominique “Maybe there’s a market for the daggers. Surely there is, an untapped market…” No matter how ticklish the situation, Marianne always knows when it’s best to quit. As if waiting half her life for the moment, she makes her own commonsensical bike benchmark. The bike benchmark is the better bet. It would be the better investment, when set against daggers for stabbing for non-orgasm. For one thing, death by bike is easier to explain to a wider public – I can see myself huffing and puffing up rue de Ménilmontant. Suddenly, rationally, sanely, I realize that it is just no good, I won’t make it. I realize I don’t even want to. It’s the river for me. I turn the bike around and let it roll effortlessly downhill, feel a breeze picking up around my ears as my speed gets up. Down, down the celebrated hill, racing dangerously down through the jumbled intersection of the north boulevard, rolling toward République, then suddenly jerking right and up to rue des Couronnes, sailing like a dervish past the Sufi bookshop then down into avenue Parmentier, flailing, a grosse patate, waving an unsteady and final salute to my Zumba girlfriends as I flit past the dance studio… Onto the rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, I smile a rakish smile at my adopted son – a bartender at a café squeezed between the up and down of that street – I zigzag through the clogged streets of the Marais, zipping between the 96 bus and the eternal delivery van on the rue des Filles de Calvaire. The city can pay for Vélibs of Death without a significant contribution by upping replacement costs for used Vélibs, maxxing out user credit cards and pursuit of survivors. Finally, I flash across the rue de Rivoli, clattering heavily onto rue François Miron and then slide down into that little street with the Catholic auberge and the monastery shop, the one behind the back porch of the big... Continue reading
Posted Aug 5, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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They had hopes that economic security and a relentlessly hostile environment would demonstrate beyond rational doubt that humans are une pourriture (trash), thus curbing his tendency to soft-headedness. However, even after nearly 40 years of daily ducking in the sewer of human vice and folly, Candide’s flame burns on brightly within... Continue reading
Posted Jul 29, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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Karine flops down across from me, eyes reddened, little tears running down her cheeks. “Human beings are just not capable of being a dominant species.” She explains that she was lewdly goosed three times between Bastille and Michel Bizot. Five stations. “Cats will be ideal as dominant species. They all have claws. They are never afraid to use them.” Continue reading
Posted Jul 22, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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– “You don’t have to go, you know.” “O, but I want to,” I say, “I want the Great Wheel to turn.” – “It won’t turn the way you want it to. I want it to.” Does it ever turn the way somebody wants it to? Does it ever, Bébé? What do you want, Karine? Can you even know, mon amie?” Continue reading
Posted Jul 15, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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The Nuit debout-ers see themselves as proud individual citizens of a Republic, not members of some identity-obsessed, complaining interest group in a corporate welfare state...and they faced down the post-terrorist security hysteria, too... Continue reading
Posted Jul 1, 2016 at The Best American Poetry