shepard fairey

ras

ras

ras

ras

ras

ras

ras

gustav dore

our boys

death and burial

wm

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Some Days


saunter right up like they’re going to speak
before shearing away, cut against my edge

I’m a mite shorter now
‘fore I started whittlin’

still it can’t be found

what the hell
kiss me sweets

I’m a man
no more

let’s follow this one down, let’s sneak out
in a dawn of smoke and mist
hold my hand

my eyes are closing


Macrobiotic Methods


obviously are best, but a bit clean for my pride in
recoveries from serious twistings. Barely bruised, I ain’t
showing nothing, life goes on. Just the other day I was saying to

my mate, cher, my love--best o' my hopes o' being good—-lead on,
sugar. I’m right on your tail. So to speak. But,

now you mention it, we’re a pair for drowning, hey,
or dragging through centuries of rot and ruin to get
up here in each other’s arms on such a morning.


I Wasn’t Buying


the standard line about the fish being shot; it seemed even
if all hope was silly, it didn’t matter. How could anything be,
except: just as it all is? One way, Jose. That said, wrap me up,

baby, take me up in your chariot, let’s head to light.

I was out the other day, a bit keen inside, eating away at
what ain’t much left; at the wind rising I still thrill,
tip to toe; it’s about as good as can be. Well,

we’ll see.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

A Feeling Of Brief Mortality


So long, Howling Wolf; goodbye to all that
was the only word. I felt it when you popped
back to the surface like an eardrum going out
into air. The way when we gathered
at night, the stars would sneak right up
behind us. What’s passed can’t come any
closer. At least we’ve got this.


A Sea Of Terror


was pouring me over. Languorously, it filled my passages,
making spillways of memories, all the while pulling me down
onto something like you. Something like me

can’t be sure of an awful lot. Little stands long.
A few of the citizenry came out for my extolling.

No one I knew or recognized showed, but it was nice to
give them somewhere to go. I certainly had nothing
pressing now. I should do something about that drip.


Mounting Calgary


Christ, could I get some slack? On my right
my noble friend writhes for no more than
insurance—should I not last the price of
a ticket. Representing the left-hand path
and similarly strung here at Eve’s rib’s side,
and symbolically offered in payment for my
own murder, a mere hapless and utterly
claimless passerby. Black Maggie labored
into full dark of a second day to tattoo
across my smashed insteps a number
where she could be reached, were it to
come soon. And that gal’s got prospects.


Chilling


how just when you get traction, you slip
and go down hard, wincing mostly at

the stab of being old; what’d happened?
This epic tale has nothing to offer me, I

died being born and I've been trying to
come back ever since; I don’t see a choice.

Nevertheless, now and then, you get a moment.
Often enough to keep you panting for it.

Any of it;

what could be said was beautiful and had
great heart for having nerve to try.


Monday, December 3, 2007

Different Worlds


different suns. Last night Andromeda was splayed
pole to pole. I’d taken a bottle on deck, and somewhere
around Antares, I sunk deep inside and lost all sense of

having been committed. I could barely remember
what was important. What was? I’d been asking since.

Bit and pieces, mostly, here and there
you break a tooth on bone. But it's
never soft enough from here for me,

tonight or any.


This Land Is Condemned


but not doomed. That fate lies in our laps.
What fresh wind seeks to scour us of our sins,

this time for the ages, which, depending on who’s talking
may have been some considerable time. Minions,

age and death, and the whole round of holy gods
cavorting like fauns, bold before our witherings.

A few score among us were rife with it.
You could spit on the rest.


Eat This Aphorism


The peasants are hungry
for inspiration.

Last night we crossed Van Diemen’s;
tonight we take Berlin.

The world today is not new.
O, stale sky, pearl!

The Man turned out to be so much
less than his mate.

Balkan countries and Russia
have awesome new energy. Goodbye,

west imperialists, swine,
pederasts, thieves;

we all lined up for Lenten.
Jesus didn’t die

for Patti Smith’s sins,
but for mine. Which

I didn’t mind
in the least, by the way.

I’d had a gut full o’ both o’
them sissies.


Another Chapter


unfurled; He reached for her. It didn’t matter.
Nothing could die. They’d just keep going.
Forward. In a word. The problem actually
is in finding a word to suit the situation.
Some problem. O well, it has been suggested
in some quarters that even this
is not enough! Baby!


Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Vagaries


were less sure of themselves each time challenged to
produce their bona fides; a body needed more than those
fakers to face front. O well, keeping score wasn’t Kool.

They’d be excused.


I Wrote An Aubade


this morning; after noon hour, a sestina. By dinner, I was deep
into a French villanelle I’d come up against at the slam.
I felt more like corrugated cardboard than ever before,
soggy as well, I don't want to die by burning.
I don’t think I’ll get a choice.

The landfill for this kid.

He’d seen it coming since the beginning. He had to go
all the way down. He knew that. Not why, though.
It hardly mattered, certainly wouldn’t change
a single thing. And still the devil to pay.
Let him take it from the bone.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Grim


is more trustworthy than Glad, that gone-in-a-minute fuck. Give me
strength against shade, I ain’t no frolicking puppy, I’m no wet-nosed
youth, nor ordinary dipshit. They say watch out, pride coming before
a fall and all, but where’s the strategy in sucking hind tit. So, I’m going
long. I’m going where the fear is, where you cry for your mama

and nobody answers. I don't want to be a hardass but I’ve got to
cut my own furrow, one that turns up the snake before it gets up
your leg, one that speaks my crooked mind true. I’m a fallen
angel, and that’s a fact. I went where no one ever goes. Christ,
you should have seen their shit-eating faces. Even a fallen angel

kicks ass among a bunch of skull-fucking demons.


In The Air


it was as if always they’d known how it would go on;
the grand nieces and nephews were long dead. How
they’d hung on to life no one could imagine. Anyway, they did,
year after fucking year till everyone else was gone.

That’s when he looked at her; she was right beside him.
Gray, sucked in a little—not much—a bit, enough to register
the passage as a weight pulling at the face’s lift towards
something that would make it all worthwhile.

Baby, give me a leg up, show me the wool. A faint scent
of what we’re about has been barely perceived by the
mass of men, you can hear them below, gathering with
their axes and ladders. Tell me true, darlin’ is it love for me

that turns your clock, that digs into you and stays forever.


My Mother Ruined Me


for vegetables
that’s for sure

but I’m good at
brushing my teeth.

I never clean my room!

I do bathe frequently
and I value authenticity,

not its imprimatur.

I’m a drug addict
a pervert and a wino

but that’s my doing,
not my mother’s


Write Like A Bastard


love like a truck. Lick the loadstone with regularity
at first, then speed up. I got wisdom’s never been written
nor even repeated, I know how to write a score. I know
the last thing ever will be you gasping your love.

And I know how to load the implement, hand her over, there,
shorty. I went down early in a dirty fight, liked it there, thought
I’d avoid a passle of mischief staying out of the way like that. Then
she come along with her needs and issues and cunt and all.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I’ve Become Estranged


from all persons
I’m not exaggerating

it’s a secret martial arts technique

it’s the space in matter is
what it’s made of

it’s what runs the stars

it’s what gathers our thoughts like silver arrows
and nestles them gleaming among
the plush roses of the heart

as if
they could at last
be birds


Mean Grip


Bowed across a bridge about to go was a man, one man,
one woman beside him, one child lithe of limb; in back
the death procession barely moved, moted eyes cast down,
but I watched as they slid somehow brisk across the field where
were strewn the enemy dead of both sides. All were handsome,
all were young. All were dead, as I said. I didn’t say how the woman
had a faraway look about her as her skirts brushed the grit
from the already heedless faces. The kid was down the road.

The glistening silvery tang broke like icicles all over our laps,
what could you say? Hit me again with the medicine, medic,
I knew your shortfall before I asked, so don’t give me your
fucking mercy. Give me a reason not to wring your scrawny neck
with one good arm. If there is one. The smoke from their foundering fires
bit at the eyes so fair strong, you could barely make out their broken line
where they’d stood till they’d fallen, rags blown off a line, tumbled
into a tale writ mainly in horned callus and sweat.


Here Lies Harry


he could stay for a drink,
he couldn’t tarry. Then,
one more, then he’d go.
Well, another for the road
was all it took to take
Harry beyond any of our
poor helpless hearts’ ways
to help him. So he died.


Daily


they came by with gruel which I disdained having been raised on meat
starch and vegetable. I grew exceedingly thin before fall reached winter,
I fell in a faint before my girlfriend when I was released. She generously
brought me to her sumptuous home which you see before you here. I wasn’t
long for this world when she saved me, I was off the fucking track and

headed straight down, as in smelling the smudge. Heat rises sure enough and
it was up my nose into my brain before I could get the cloven hooves tied off.
Later, I was waiting for a grape being peeled for me by this same gal,
the one from the movies, the brunette with love on her breath and
my finger digging in her for pearl. She’s a honey.


Swerving


through where we’d already been enabled us to get a reading
on where we were headed, I didn’t need no psychic to tell me

we’d been here before, it wasn’t willing then either,
this smacks of suffering, that incessant gnawing

by the living of its own internal parts, the disappearing into
what had been, but now just wasn’t. There was only this

one shining thing, with my name on it, and yours.


The Secret


had been discovered deep within 1.06 x 10 to the
twenty-third billion tons of exploding hydrogen.
No one else had thought to look in the nuclear core of

the Sun. The only One.
What could be more obvious?

Possessing a mind every bit as devious in upending order
as a craps-shooting Creator, betting it all, because he can,
I simply interpolated his original extrapolation of our basic

need, minus the obfuscation.
I get that it burns.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Another Time


I knew would come. Another lift up over the twisted beeches
on the far side of the hill. The dark side where the sun only
slants in a parody of generosity even a flatlander like me could see
through. I’m ankle deep in a deer pond with a mission on my mind.

The first time I went up the hill the old ones marked me for
their own. Roses it was, now only thorns, and those gnarly
silver knots that they use like arms, if not legs. I was halted
in my progress by a gentleman cloaked in gray. I couldn’t see

no face, a stingy sun was sucking up to the town folk, it felt like
sleet slashing my face, but that was just them fucking beeches
feeling feisty. I had my bags, my seeds, I’ll grow in woods where
no sun is welcome, I’ll let the dark close in around me.


My Alarming Judgment


could be easily overlooked. It has been before, which was a good
thing when I couldn’t hit the near side of right with a pool cue.
I did try exactly that stunt one time. Fortunately I missed. And
I swear it won’t happen again.

Where was I before I was so fucking wise? Down every shit-sluicing
opportunity I’ve found a new low. So far, I can’t break from what’s been.
Why does everyone know my name? And, tell me, sister-never-to-be,
where’s your filial piety if you’re with this outfit?

I’ve seen latrines with more decorum and august majesty. Still,
I’d go for you even beneath a shitter. I ought to know, having
been there. That’s literally, ma’am, I’m not proud to admit.
It was that old dirty job that somebody had to do. Like the rest of

this that’s marked me so vilely.


Trying To Make A Spark


catch hold, somewhere, trying to grab that golden rail which might
put me on top of my game again. Busted out instead and meager leavings
are all that remains of the winged chariot I was driving last week.
That motherfucker was a ride!, I’m saying. I nearly couldn’t buck its
current like it wanted. I nearly caved.

But like a champ I stepped up. For a while I was sustained
by its arc, for a while I was somebody, now I’ve got to have it.
Give it to me, let me be the one to say it in sky—or blood, dirt,

or stone. I’m truly worthy now. I admit, before I was not what I should
have been. It’s not my fault, though, you know. People have gone
to great lengths to subvert me. You know only my assaults, my bendings
of the tired into tricks that won’t pay up front, that want
on their own to know their name is written along your arm,

or under your lip. Well, the wine-dark sea still rolls. The cerulean
comes to my call. I’ve bare begun my mark across these centuries but
were I to die this very day, I’d go well.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Chimney Fires


are always a surprise
like the clap
less so herpes
which may be
a life sentence
but hey, it beats AIDS


Powerful Poetry


yeah man
feel my muscle
see me bleed
it was hot
bad
dangerous
funny
stupid
or anything
else you can think of
I just want to
be where you breathe

I Was Once Accused


of being incapable
of beginning a sestina
without saying fuck

which is so ridiculously untrue
I can hardly mount a defense

in fact I can’t

so believe what you want
history will bear me out



Up From Mud


and out of Babylon
spitting fire
we came
with our ears open
and eyes
fresh as a babe’s
to see if it was true
God had come down
and he was in the park
illuminating people
left, right and center
which I didn’t want to miss
give me the shortcut anytime
I don’t care if it works
just give it to me
well. it didn’t work
until the next time; I tripped.
it worked then


Encounters With The Mystic


were legion
everyone had
spirit guides
up the wazoo
what made her ass special
was her
that’s all
pass the peas



The Dogs


looked to us
for guidance

finding none
nor reassurance

they all ran off
when we ate one


Dang Me


if they had,
you wouldn’t be reading this;

woman, did you weep
when you thought I was gone?

maybe I don’t look like so much
on the outside,

and it’s probably true
that I’m a cruel and lying coward;

I happen to be working on just that little thing
at exactly this moment;

what’s my deadline?



You Shouldn’t Have To


kill yourself to write a poem
fuck what could be easier
repeat after me

my mind is a musical instrument

it thinks mainly in rhyme but
strictly in rhythm

however you spell it
it drives



These Are My Death Poems


here I lie
under stone
mud and grit

I’ll probably
get used to it



Authority


is fine by me

those shits
don’t ask permission
anyway



Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Any Time At All


the smoke from their fires rose and
twisted across the sky,
in the distance, you could feel

thunder. We fed the horses and
clawed down some jerky and laid down
to rest our bodies if not our souls;

we were all dead by morning.

I mean, I guess we were; the new morning
never came, I mean, it didn’t seem to,
at least not for me, so I
naturally assumed that

we’d been murdered in our sleep
by wild Indians;

is that wrong?


KIDS OF THE BLACK HOLE -- Chapter 2


My faithful fans once again get to sink their hungering into our unknown scribe (if you misssed Ch. 1, see September posts), again from these lost pages spilling around my feet


2. Cops and Rooftops

by

Sterling Dew



My parents pretty much let me do whatever I wanted when I was fairly young. Maybe they really trusted me for some strange reason, or maybe they didn't think they could stop me. Anyway, I started going to NYC all the time for punk and hardcore shows when I was about 13 or 14.

Jeffrey had a car and a license and was always ready for a road trip. We would all pile in whatever shabby beater car he happened to be driving and take off to the city for days. Our punk scene was so small at that point that the bands we wanted to see would never make it anywhere near us. The real shit was going on in the city as far as we were concerned and we wanted to be a part of it.

Agnostic Front, Cro-mags, and the Bad Brains were blowing up like crazy at that point, and there were a whole new slew of bands that were popping up left and right. Bands like Underdog, Killing Time, Sick of it All, and Leeway. These bands didn't even have records but they had an incredible energy. We wanted to see that kind of stuff so we had to travel. Sometimes we would hit shows at the Anthrax in Connecticut on our way down, drive to NYC beat up and bruised, crash out, then wake up for the Sunday matinee at CBGB's and do it all over again. It was always an adventure.

Jeffrey was not exactly the best driver. He also was not quite right in the head. Getting in the car with him was always an experience in itself. Sometimes it could be scary. But one way or another, we always managed to arrive safely. Maybe missing a muffler or dragging a gas tank, but safe. His driving style, though, did tend to attract the cops for some reason.

They pulled us over three times on one trip, and that was just the beginning. Jeffrey insisted it was because of the sticker on his car that showed a skeletal cop beating up a punk and said "Aggression," but the truth is he was all over the road due to his over-active mouth. Nick was with us too on that one, and Pauline and her boyfriend Daniel.

The first cop who pulled us over, somewhere in New Hampshire, was a real dick about it. He fucked with Jeff about the sticker and about the way we looked.

"You guys headin' for a Halloween party?" he sneered. "Bit early for Halloween isn't it?"

We drove out of that one with a $125 ticket.

I've never been very fond of cops. When I was about 3 we lived in Florida with a bunch of hippies, in a small commune-like situation. One day the cops raided the place and seized a small amount of pot. The woman that had it was a friend of my mother’s. She had a son who was about my age. They took him away from her and didn't return him until the next day. That kind of terrified me. I don't remember it but I do remember hearing about it and being afraid that they might return for me. The thought that anyone could take me away from my mom was horrifying at the time.

It was years before I learned all the other neat things the cops could do. I never really got into too much trouble, but cops are like the chicken pox, there is only so long you can avoid them.

Somehow I managed to sleep through being pulled over the second time, and during the third I pretended I was sleeping. I was sick of questions. Jeffrey managed to talk his way out of getting a ticket by telling the cop he already had one. Eventually Jeff was able to deliver us to our destination, but not before he had told his life story to every cop in the northeast.

The five of us were staying on 6th Avenue at this guy Larry's house. Larry was an older guy who was friends with Nick’s parents. He was out of town and had agreed to let us crash at his house, clearly unaware of what we were capable of. It was fairly nice but like most NYC apartments, it was not much more than a box.

That night we ran into two guys we knew from home, Eddie and Luke. They had their van parked right in front of our building. It was strange to run into them in the city by random chance, but New York is like that. So many paths cross its beaten track, at one time or another, and for so many different reasons. The motive for these guys was coke, I believe. That was long before I had gotten into hard drugs, and I wasn't really interested.

We sat in the van and smoked out, yet again. That was cool for a bit, then the crazy kids started huffing this reddish-brown liquid out of a small vial and things got ridiculous. They were really into it for some reason, but it just gave me a headache. It was like sniffing nail polish to get high. It took me about twenty minutes to convince them that skulking in a van on the side of the road sniffing fumes out of a vial was no way to spend an evening in New York City

Dragon Ale was only one dollar for a forty-ouncer in the city back then so you could get fucked up for very cheap. I couldn’t buy beer in NYC until I was 16, so Jeffrey had the job. He collected a few dollars from each of us and went to stock up. We then crowded into the apartment and proceeded to get smashed. It was summer and it was hot. The air conditioner in Larry’s apartment was not working and cold beer seemed to be the only relief from the heat.

Before long they were after another cheap high. “Whippits”, the cheapest high known to man, headache guananteed. Whippits were little canisters of nitrous oxide that they used for batching up whipped cream and stuff like that. Back in those days they had “Optimo” shops on every block in New York City. They were little head shops that sold tobacco, pipes, bongs, and of course, Whippits. There must have been thousands of them.

Whippits were not like the medical grade nitrous that they give you at the dentist, though. We used to get huge five-foot tall tanks of that shit for parties at the commune when I was a kid. I remember sneaking hits out the tank with Nick when we were about 8 or something. We would run into the tank room, grab the hose from the adults, who were too fucked-up to stop us, huff down as much as we could and stagger out of the room giggling. Nick would look at me, still holding his hit in and say:

“I’m going out of my skull man,” in a husky airless voice, and we would both roll on the floor with laughter for a few minutes, then jump up and go do it again.

It’s fun being a kid because you feel safe and secure. I did anyway. Everyone is pretty much on your side, and just tries to keep you from hurting yourself. You don’t have to worry about a lot of crap. At about fourteen that innocence starts to get beaten away by all the bullshit. Of course, that doesn’t stop you from doing stupid shit.

Whippits were definitely stupid shit. After a couple 24-packs I start to feel like I’ve been holding my face over a campfire or something, just roasting in the heat. Sometimes, if I did enough I would pass out and have little dreams. At the time they seemed long and elaborate, but I was never out for more then a few moments.

When I was younger my friends and I would try to get that feeling from hyperventilating. This kid Wayne who was a bit older then us showed us the trick. One person would squat down for a few moments and breath in and out heavily. Then when the time was right they would stand up and another person would grab them from behind and squeeze their chest just below the ribcage. It made you see stars, feel faint sometimes fall over, but it was a little bit like a nitrous high.

One time a few of us were doing it in the parking lot at the commune. This one kid Ren had never tried it before. After breathing for a few moments he stood up fast and Nick grasped him around his chest. Nick squeezed and Ren’s face went into a stupid looking grin as he went out.

It wasn’t uncommon for someone to pass out while hyperventilating but usually the person holding them up has enough sense to let them down gently. Unfortunately for Ren, Nick didn’t possess that kind of sense. He let go and Ren fell like a rock to the ground. His body remained straight and erect as it tipped over and his forehead collided with the dirt. We all gasped in horror. I didn’t think he would get back up.

Nick ran to his side and checked to see if he was alive. We had heard some horror stories about a guy who died hyperventilating, so naturally we feared the worst. The blow to his forehead was no laughing matter either, but damn, it looked funny.

“Ren are you ok?” Nick was shaking him gently.

“Uhhhh, you prick” Ren groaned. ”you were supposed to catch me.”

“Sorry man.” Nick pleaded. “I didn’t realize you were out.”

“Yeah right.” Ren snapped irritably as he staggered to his feet.

As he turned around to face us, we all fell dead silent again, though only for a moment. Stuck right in the middle of Ren’s forehead was a shiny green Mountain Dew bottle cap. We all burst into laughter when we saw it.

“What?” Ren snapped. He was now quite annoyed.

“Dude, look in the mirror.” said Nick.

Ren bent over and peered into the rear view mirror of a nearby car. His cheeks turned slightly pale as he looked. He stared with a blank expression for a few seconds then a morbid look crossed his face, only to be replaced by a stupid looking grin. He began to laugh and we followed his lead. We then pried the bottle cap from his head leaving nothing but a bloody imprint on his forehead.

Naturally, we were excited when we realized that you could get a better version of that high, simply by buying these fancy little cartridges and sucking them down out of a balloon. It was all so much easier. Of course, they still made you black out and fall down half the time, but that was half the fun.

By evening we were on our sixth box of whippets. Nick, Eddie, Luke and I had gone up the roof of Larry’s building, which was fairly tall. I don’t know how many stories it was but the people below looked like ants from this height. If they had looked up they would not have been able to see us. We sat for awhile, inhaling balloons and dropping the empty cartridges to the street below.

After awhile you start to build up a tolerance to nitrous and you have to do more and more to get high. Luckily you could fit quite a few into a balloon. I put four into one fat pink balloon and prepared to inhale. Frost poured off the end of the balloon where the nozzle was frozen shut. I grasped it with my warm fingers until the ice melted, then quickly huffed it down. I was able to finish it in four breaths despite the fact that it was swelling near to the point of bursting.

I stood up just before the rush hit me, only to find that my legs were a bit confused about the location of the ground. I lost my balance and tumbled to the floor making a loud crash. They all laughed at me. We smoked out, yet again, regardless of the fact that the nitrous made us completely immune to the weed. We could still try.

Before long the weed had been consumed and we were forced to turn our attention back to the whippits. I had just done a double balloon when I saw a light flash quickly by in the corner of my eye. It was gone so fast I could not even be sure that I had really seen it. I heard a loud shuffling sound that could have been footsteps, and then . . .

"Don’t move motherfucker." The voice was not loud or overly hostile despite the owner's remark.

I felt a point of pressure on the back of skull. My heart skipped a beat as I realized it was a gun. Its cold barrel was pressed against the back of my shaven head which was swimming in a nitrous-induced daze. I had no intentions of moving. I didn't think I could. I was too busy fantasizing about how my brains would look splattered all over the roof if he pulled the trigger. Maybe a few pieces would make it over the edge and land on a pedestrian or two. I kept these thoughts to myself and before I knew it was yanked roughly to my feet.

"Put your hands against that wall" a voice said calmly.

The realization that these were cops actually brought some relief. I had half expected to see some crazed, gun-toting junkie or an over-excited tenant intent on protecting his building. Either one would be likely to shoot us. The cops probably would not. Besides, all the pot was gone, and whippets were fully legal.

I did as I was instructed and leaned over, putting my hands on the four-foot-high brick wall that separated me from one hell of a fall. Far below people scurried to and fro like ants gathering food to bring back to their hill, every one of them in such a rush. I wondered briefly what each of their lives were about and what drive possessed them to race along so madly.

Rough hands patted me down and riffled through my coat pockets, dragging me out of my thoughts and back to reality. I was relieved that I had left my bowl in the apartment. It's always a good feeling knowing you are clean when you're being searched, pulled over, or even talking to the cops. It makes you so happy that you just want to help the kind officer in any way possible.

"Here, officer, let me empty my pockets for you." or "Please, officer, don't trouble yourself, I'll put these handcuffs on myself." It feels great to be innocent.

On the other hand, if you've got some shit on you, you're fucked and you know it. And you know the cop knows it too. You feel like you have a sign attached to your forehead that says "CRIMINAL", and you wonder if any loose drugs or weapons might be hanging out of your pockets. So of course you check, and then you wonder if the cop is wondering what you’re checking. It's a vicious circle that makes you appear at best confused, at worst guilty.

We had a close one this one time when Jeffrey and I were coming back from one of our "punk rock pilgrimages" as we used to call our trips to the city. We were in Jeffrey’s Pinto and we were hauling ass. He had this ridiculous stereo in there with like ten speakers and gigantic subwoofers. It was worth about twice as much as the actual car, which, like most Pintos, was a piece of shit.

We had that thing cranked up full blast as we raced up I-89 doing 80, which was fast for a Pinto. It was so loud that we never heard the crunching sound as the gas tank dropped down from the underside of the car and began dragging along the highway. We never even noticed until we were getting pulled over and Jeffrey killed the music. It was a miracle the tank had not exploded and killed us. The cop said that there were sparks trailing all over the road behind us and that we were lucky to be alive. He seemed horrified by the fact that we had not noticed our gas tank fall off because we were too busy rocking. This seemed to sum up all of his fears about our generation.

After a brief interrogation and a lengthy lecture he offered to give us a ride to a nearby motel. My first instincts were to refuse. My brain scraped and scrambled for a way out, but found none. In my jacket pocket, my sweating hand clutched a large glass honey jar filled with bright green, crystal-covered skunk bud, at least half an ounce. The jar barely fit into my pocket. I cringed in horror, feeling sick inside, as I climbed into the back of the cruiser, weed and all.

The ride was about ten miles but it felt like ten thousand. It was my first ride in the back of a police car. In my pockets my hands were sweating. My left hand white-knuckled the jar and forced it into the bottom of my pocket. I imagined it falling to the floor and spewing its contents out all over the car. I felt like puking. That blinking neon sign on my forehead was clearly reading "CRIMINAL," but officer didn't seem to notice. True to his word, he dropped us at a motel off one of the exits and gave us the number of a local mechanic. By the time he was out of sight, we were back up on the interstate, hitchhiking home. I don’t remember seeing the Pinto again.

Here on the roof, though, it was not like that. I had nothing illegal on me and I was not breaking any laws that I could think of. It felt great. I felt confident that I could explain the whole thing given the chance. However, it looked like I might not get that chance.

One cop still had his gun on me as another locked a pair of handcuffs tightly around my wrists. The metal was cold against my skin.

"How did you get up here" he asked shining his flashlight in my eyes.

"We took the stairs," I replied. I had not meant it to sound snide but I was sure it had.

"Cut the bullshit," the officer snapped, clearly annoyed. “How did you get into this building?”

“We have keys. We’re staying at a friend’s apartment on the 3rd floor.”

I couldn’t tell if he believed me or not, but his attitude seemed to warm slightly. He began to ask me a long series of questions, ignoring the fact that Eddie was being roughed-up by the three other cops. He could not help but mouth off at them and he was suffering for it. They spun him around and pushed him down onto the wall forcing his face out over the edge and cuffed his hands behind his back. He squealed a bit as the cuffs bit into his flesh.

“How do you like that, fucker,” the oldest cop snarled, grabbing Eddie by the shoulder and spinning him around again.

“It feels fucking great, man,” Eddie blurted out sarcastically.

“Watch your fucking mouth.” The cops gray moustache was bristling slightly. He slapped Eddie across the face with the back of his hand. Not hard enough to do any real damage, just hard enough to silence him.

Apparently I had the good cop and Eddie had the bad cop. That or I just had enough common sense not to piss them off. At any rate, he was pretty decent to me after I explained the situation to him. Still he made no attempt to stop his partners from roughing up Eddie. I had almost talked us out of it when a large bag of white powder fell from Eddie’s jacket pocket onto the rooftop. The cops were thrilled.

“Damn what’s that you got there?” The youngest was quite excited. “Looks like coke to me.” We were finished now and I knew it. This was it.

“I think you better take us down and show us this apartment now,” said “goodcop,” glaring at me with disgust. His eyes called me a liar.

Luke was being searched now and the cops’ treasure pile was growing rapidly. Weed (someone had been holding out), two more pipes, more coke, a knife, some strange vial of nasty-looking liquid. The pigs were stoked.

“Damn you guys are the real jackpot,” one smirked as he began loading all the evidence into a bag.

I looked out over the edge of the roof in despair. Twenty stories below there was freedom. I considered jumping. Traffic was moving smoothly on the Avenue of the Americas, no obstacles to hinder its flow. I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be whisked away by its steady flow. To anywhere but here.

One car, it seemed, was not content to flow with the current. Its horn blared out as it sped down a side street that connected with Sixth Avenue, oblivious, it seemed, to the people in its path. It quickly reached Sixth Avenue but failed to turn right or left. Instead it forged on straight ahead, plowing through the front window of a movie theater. Terrified screams mixed with sounds of breaking glass and twisting metal as people and smoke poured out of the shattered wall. Even after the death of the vehicle its horn continued to moan in protest. Numerous sirens joined its chorus as it barked out its final note.

“Guess what, boys” said goodcop. “This is your lucky day.”

They quickly un-cuffed us and hurried out into the stairwell. I could hear them thundering down the stairs for a moment even over the wail of the sirens. We all stared at each other in amazement.

“What the fuck just happened?” said Luke.

“I have no idea,” I laughed. “But the cop was right. It is our lucky day. They forgot the weed.”

We all laughed in total disbelief of everything that had just happened.

“So who was holding out?”


As Close As I Can Come To It


that’s where I’ll be, where the breath is drawn in through the heart, and seated
deep in a disappearing dot that never goes away. Where our names are all vowels
ending in glottal stop, surprise, or dismay; where not even the red fern can root,
there will be I, along by my cuse, a more low-down wench I’d never find
and I knew it.

Still, I’d been asked to provide suitable sport for one going grayer now
than the lowering sky over Akron, and there, my friend, is the pits. There,
not far out of town, ancient smelters go green and phosphor white in the
dusk of another man’s day. Not mine. Here, with you knelt between my knees,
smiling shyly, I begin to know

the true meaning of avocation versus work, it’s a calling, no argument. And no interruptions. Later, your cheeks looked rouged, eyes bright as two crystals
bigger than the whole damn world. Would we ever come up
for air? Or, break stride to say piss to whatever, whatever?
I don’t know about you, honey, but I’m hungry.

Woman say never meet a feller so down at the ground. Well,
I’m doing my best, chicken, I am.


--R Skogsberg

GALLERY MEMBERS SHOW

BigTown Gallery, Rochester, VT
Oct 6 – Nov 10

Need a reason to drive three hours into the heart of snow country before any snow even flies? Here’s five: VARUJAN BOGHOSIAN (constructions and collage), LAWRENCE FANE (sculpture), PENELOPE JENCKS (sculpture), NANCY TAPLIN (painting), and HUGH TOWNLEY (sculpture and relief). And one more: you won’t see this assemblage of artists exhibiting together anywhere but at BigTown Gallery’s Gallery Members Show (Oct 6 through Nov 10)—featuring artists selected from BigTown’s first three seasons, each showing new work and older pieces not seen in their respective solo shows.

In only three years, gallery owner and director Anni Mackay seems to have already fulfilled her mandate, that of bringing the best of contemporary fine art to central Vermont. This show not only reminds one of the quality of the work and the maturity of the artists that BigTown has been showing, it provides a wonderful opportunity for the public to see pieces by major artists interacting and resonating with each other.

Jencks, Townley, Boghosian, and Fane, all can be said to have “arrived” at the top stratum of living/working artists, that is, artists whose work is getting peak exposure even as it evinces a visible maturity of process. If, by that standard, Nancy Taplin (at 57, the youngest in this show) has previously been characterized as “emerging,” it is evident in the way her paintings strongly anchor what might otherwise seem a sculpture-heavy show, that she is arriving. Her Bulging at the Base (50 x 64 inches, oil on linen), seems pitched directly between Hugh Townley’s painted wood relief, Mendoda Summer (35 x 23 1/2 inches, painted wood relief), and Wendigo, his large free-standing mahogany piece (39 x 81 inches), almost seeming to form a bridge from one to the other.

Lawrence Fane’s Receivers I and Receivers II chart, as his pieces always do, ever new extensions of the delicacy expressible in wood. Yet they share with Townley’s work that hard-hewn physicality taken to the very edge of refinement. Seen in this context, these pieces seem, as well, to be fully worked-out three-dimensional details of the spirited expression of form so clearly marked as a concern in Taplin’s paintings.

Meanwhile, my favorite piece in the show is Varujan Boghosian’s Untitled (14 3/4 x 17 3/8 inches, construction), wherein a vaguely masculinely-featured antique doll’s head projects from the frame, crowning an otherwise formal portrait. The head looks out with a riveting penetration that seems to follow wherever one moves—a vision altogether too knowing, too all-seeing, despite the seemingly blooded bandage entirely covering its eyes.

And in the finely expressed detail, even the colors, Boghasian’s collage work leads straight to Penelope Jencks’s studies in bronze from her Beach I and Beach II series.

Jencks’s pieces discard the sacredness that seemed to surround Giacometti’s similarly elongated works yet find their own hallowed ground in the intensely personal all-too-human portraits she achieves. Though clearly, achingly resigned to the physical, these pieces seem to succinctly capture the inner lives of their everymen, each displaying in form their own hard truth, as no other will ever know them.

This show will well reward any effort to attend it. Here, one experiences, to delightful degree, the profound chemistry, the multi-lingualed dialog, generated among mature works by differing artists when they get together.

Be advised, too, travelers, of BigTown’s upcoming Holiday Show (Nov 17 through Jan 15), featuring Joan Morris, fabric designer for The Lion King, showing Shibori fabrics overlayed with gold leaf; Liz Quackenbush, noted ceramicist; and Pat Dipaula Klein with abstract silk embroideries on linen.


--—R Skogsberg, 2007

Previously shown at BigTown Gallery, Rochester, VT

Monday, October 8, 2007

SOLDIERS: Photography—David Torcoletti


The Gallery at Mt. Ida College – Newton MA
Show: 10/23 – 12/9
Reception: Wed.,10/31, 5:00 – 7:00
Gallery talk with David Torcoletti and Denise Healy at 6:00


The extraordinary provenance of the photographs of Viet Nam War-era American servicemen in David Torcoletti’s show at The Gallery at Mt. Ida College, in Newton, confers an unassailable authenticity on their composite of image and effect. But though their visceral interface with the viewer emerges dynamically from an interaction and catalysis among the elements—context, effects, events—which, taken together, constitute their unique coalescence of complexity—each photograph has a stand-alone integrity from which no contextual element nor effect may be split off.

My first look had me reeling. The confluence of time and fate, the sweep of event smeared, as if randomly, across these young faces is quite too sad for words, if still no less than astonishing.

Make no mistake. These are not combat shots. These photographs have their origin in the hundreds of 2 x 3 inch b&w snapshots and 3 x 5 inch color Polaroids sent by American soldiers in Viet Nam to a South Vietnamese radio and television personality known professionally as “Mai Lan.”

Broadcasting to them for hours each night, visiting bedside in hospitals by day, she encouraged her listeners to send her photographs of themselves—and they did, by the hundreds, often signed, or with small notes of appreciation addressed to her; to one so endeared to them; one who, herself, would soon be forced to flee the geopolitical vise that was the unification of North and South Viet Nam.

Mai Lan escaped with only what she could carry, including a mere few of those hundreds of photos, and it was that passage from her war-torn country itself that marked them—and that brought forth this needful record.

Hastily stored, damaged by the elements in travel, in the effect of deterioration here’s a soldier whose face has been swept away—the crisp tunic, sparking insignia, and erect posture remain, as if he might return—here’s a group shot, eight or nine men, mostly smiling, young, insouciant, untroubled, one could believe. But fate has cut away its requisite percentage from their brotherhood, its vicious warping reclaiming any hope of recognizing who this one was here, or that one—someone once stood here.

The photographer makes no special claim of artistry for these photographs, attributing the power and complexity of the images to the effects of chemical disintegration and the passage of time. To that modest assertion, I would add the indelible imprint of the present moment accumulating context as it becomes history; that, and the keen eye and strong heart of David Torcoletti.

Mr. Torcoletti has said that in reproducing and enlarging these photographs (avg. 20” x 30”) he avoided creating any special effects—and that only to emphasize certain aspects of the image would he raise the contrast to spotlight a certain area of the degradation, or increase the color saturation to highlight an evocative stain or streak.

I’m thankful that Mai Lan, the donor of these images, and Mr. Torcoletti, by mere happenstance it seems, became acquainted, and that the artist had the remarkable eye to take in, as if in wide view, in those 2 x 3s, the symmetries translating these lives into the events they passed through; here is that record, one that in my view needs to be seen.

(http://www.davidtorc.com)


--R Skogsberg, 2007

Sunday, September 23, 2007

ALICE QUINN AGAIN


Dang, I never thought you'd go so willingly, I thought you had to have a tougher hide than that. Just a word from me, and you're gone. Within two weeks of my nasty letter about that shit you published of Joni Mitchell, you really did step down (see ALICE QUINN and JONI MITCHELL right here in this blog). Well, it's for the best. You had a decent run. And I noticed a good pick once in a while, and it was always fun to lambast your hallowed name, along with that hopeless wanker Ashbery. Too much unearned praise and offered way too soon.

Muldoon's an excellent choice for your successor. Hey, I practically know the guy. I wrote him twice before, he wrote me back once. Just this morning when I dropped a little congratulations in his lap for taking over as new poetry editor of The New Yorker, in your stead, he wrote me back again. He's sure going to know my name, Alice; when you see it up there in lights, remember, I'm the one that brought you down.

--R Skogsberg

Have I Told You


of the flame that scorched our leavings, we weren’t twenty
seconds gone. And in that small interval, it loomed before us like
a monument to love gone down and under; to where no man can say
whether when we began, we knew, or didn’t, what we’d come up with.

Reach around my neck, darlin’, I can kick enough for two. Lay your
soft neck over my shoulder and remember how it was, the way we
etched it into our skin, so we’d find it again when we’d lost it.
That ink is fading, instinct’s taking over. The new rule is

nothing, that’s all.

See my fingers twitching toward you? That's the best of my repose.
Which sounds good, but I need to move off these crooked stumps and
into your healing hands. May they guide us to safe harbor, or
at least to sand. I can crawl out. I done it before. So did you.


--R Skogsberg

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Willingness To Be Shaken


is required of adventurers, lest their minds be lost in that dark
dot at the edge of the soundless scream, or taken by the heavy clatter
of the falling blade. Each of us is into it up to our elbows and knees.
Shame hot on our faces, we grasp the somehow still warm tatters of a self
no one could want, least of all anyone of this crew, which I can tell
has standards. I’m walking away from that cheap suit like class always does,

with ceremony.


--R Skogsberg

Thursday, September 20, 2007

DMT Testimonial

I'm 59 years old (you do the math), and have taken psychedelics 300 plus (maybe 400 plus) times, mostly what they call, paradoxically (another piece), “heroic” doses, the last a dozen or so years ago. Then a couple of summers ago I encountered DMT.

I had wrestled with and come to terms with (I thought) the oft-mentioned “alien” thing over a series of psilocybin sessions in '94. And, besides, I thought I had experienced (if not entirely inculcated) a fair sampling of whatever there was of this Cosmos in these many arduous, exultant sessions, conducted over many years.

However, the enormity and characteristically "other" intensity of the DMT experience was entirely new to me. I must emphasize the "other" quality. LSD, psilocybin, mescaline--even PCP--these all seem as one with our familiar nature-based reality, reflecting the glory of human consciousness as conveniently identical to its (as it turns out, alas!) local God.

And therein was the surprising quality of DMT. Its reach and power were so vast as to make human understanding laughably impossible; which came as a relief, actually, after so many years of trying. Also, it rendered ordinary hope foolish. Which was also releasing, not the negative it sounds.

Anyway, it was a fair trade for a look behind the curtain at something that may be beyond the human mind's ability to grasp or even come to spiritual terms with (now that seems alien!). It certainly seemed so to me.

This whole alien thing is somewhat of a vexing counterpoint to perceived human consciousness. Which seems inexorably married to, and catalyzed by, that very alien element, and which marriage of the two produces this world before us as we know it. In other words, we are all half-alien. Relax.

At least that's the mushrooms’ story. . .

DMT's seems to be "I'm big, and I'm bad, and I'll eat you up. However, you may be grateful for both the humbling and the releasing."

The initiatory aspect is likewise pronounced proportionately to the face-eating intensity, and but for the clearly alien character, that’s probably its chief contextual element.

Re your words: "but illustrated the culminating point of shamanic initiation (being torn apart by the spirits). The more alien the spirits were, the more arduous the experience got, the stronger effect the initiation had."

Quite so. In the most powerful psychedelic sessions (these actually do require “heroic“ dosages—and, it should be stated—an entirely different experience is just waiting there to be had), three elements typically present themselves at some point (or at several points).

1) How long can this go on?
2) How can I ever find my way back to sanity?
3) And: Oh my God, this is the most incredible, stupendous, fantastic, etc.

Although DMT is typically described as having perhaps only 2-5 minutes of pure intensity, and a gradual 10-30 minute return to “norbal,” my first 1 and 1/2 lungfuls had me deep in the throes of all three of the above, I guess mostly in that order, and for far longer than advertised.

When things started to lighten, I had a momentary thought (why?) that perhaps I'd not gotten enough, and motioned to the pipe-bearer for more. Halfway through that toke I was rocketed inwardly far beyond what only moments before had seemed the very apotheosis of human experience. I'd had only a split second to recall (too late!) that I had been waiting for it (at some time) to be over. Then it was head over heels into the maw of the machine.

This lasted a full twenty minutes easy. An hour later I was just barely functional. There was a residual effect for several weeks as well. Nothing too pronounced but enough to put one slightly askance to one's usual world view.

But even without any particular purposeful ritual but the showing of appropriate respect, the initiatory element was the very cloth and context of the entire experience: the commencing, the catapulting, and the re-configuring taken forward.

Likewise, with no conscious effort to make it so (thank god that was not asked!), the pipe administrator was both the most integral, and most compassionate, of priests. No blood spilled over this stone, no stone knife acted as if it knew the way to home.

And the gathered few—most of whom, though not partaking, were personally acquainted with the experience—became merely by their presence, their overheard voices, their support, their welcome sudden laughs, the most eternal of one's own spiritual brethren, fellow acolytes of this least-transcribed of religions, whose only credo is: Everyone should do this

. . . at least once.

And this does not pass.


--R Skogsberg

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

a message from GEORGE CARLIN

(the comedian, perhaps I should say commentator.
His wife recently died)
----------------------------------

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but
shorter tempers, wider freeways , but narrower viewpoints. We spend
more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less.

We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences,
but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge,
but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly,
laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late,
get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much ,
and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.
We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We've learned how to make a living, but not a life.
We've added years to life not life to years. We've been
all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street
to meet a new neighbor.

We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done
larger things, but not better things.

We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul.
We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice.

We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but
accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait.
We build more computers to hold more information, to
produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and
small character, steep profits and shallow relationships.

These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses,
but broken homes.
These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality,
one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from
cheer, to quiet, to kill.

It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and
nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this
letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share
this insight, or to just hit delete...

Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because
they are not going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe,
because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is
the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.

Remember, to say, "I love you" to your partner and your loved ones, but
most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday
that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share
the precious thoughts in your mind.

AND ALWAYS REMEMBER:

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by
the moments that take our breath away.

If you don't send this to at least 8 people....Who cares?

--George Carlin

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

One Seeks A Sign


Lacking such specs and technical diagrams the best I can make out
is you begin here. I’m spread way across your future but here
we’ve not even met; we should probably make our way to a help center
as quickly as possible if you see one that isn’t abandoned. I don’t think
anyone is coming to straighten this out. We’ll just have to make the most
of the last few minutes. Stay alert and remember your training.

Look, already the stain begins to move. See its tendrils reaching to you
for a cure; we’re about to either disappear in a confluence of matter and
anti-matter or we’re off the charts and into completely new territory.
Either way I would pretend to be oblivious to their desperation. Otherwise,
they’ll get all worked up and getting them back into the jar in time will be
practically impossible. Better they sleep and dream and never wake

until next cycle. Look, just take the jar. I’m off until the end-days.


--R Skogsberg

KIDS OF THE BLACK HOLE


Fans, I've got a real treat for you tonight. Every once in a while you run across a writer who's expression is transparent and egoless as water. I've found only four or five in a life long already, and the only one I can think of right now is William Maxwell, longtime fiction editor of the New Yorker. Anyway, the prose of these few is honest and flat as a damn day can stretch.

We become by our own natures, and theirs, their acolytes, urging them to speak for us in a way that we can't, at least out loud. Well, friends, I've found another. All I know about this piece is that it's one chapter of seven I have curled here at my feet, and it takes place sometime in the 80's on the streets of Burlington, VT, which, if you don't know it, is a sweet place. Six or seven colleges abounding, downtown a 6-block, no-cars strip with street performers packed end-to-end, live music from the clubs blasting from every window, and with plenty of ramshackle barely outlying ghettos to house its itinerant children. It can be a real groove in the summer.

And who is our unassuming scribe?

I have a name (a pseudonym?) on these crumpled, coffee(beer?)-stained pages. All I know from asking around is: he's supposed to be somewhere in his thirties by now, perennial vocalist in a thousand hardcore bands, an old-school romantic for all his fast-fleeted youth, I hear, who died again and again, like no quits, over every righteous woman he ever encountered. I've consumed this eventually truncated diary end-to-end, and every chapter gets better, that is, less nasty. Ain't that where we want our lives to head?

Enough from me, chickens, dig this:



Chapter I

KIDS OF THE BLACK HOLE

by Sterling Dew



There are reasons why I don't trip. Of course, sometimes it takes a trip to make me remember those reasons. I used to try to convince myself that mushrooms might be a better time then LSD, smoother, less edge. Then, an hour and a half later I’d be twisted out of my mind. For me they are pretty much the same harrowing deal. I also used to think that maybe if I ate a whole shitload of acid at once, it would be a better trip. HA!

It almost did work once, though, when I ate nine hits of blotter. I had a great time then. Five hearts and four worlds. The worlds each had a small picture of the Earth on them, and the hearts, a little red heart, of course. I remember lying in the field in Rochester, on my back in the grass. It was mid-summer and very windy. The tall grass swayed and fluttered around my head as I stared up at the clouds, which seemed to be rushing by at ridiculous speeds and moving in multiple directions. I remember lying in the blazing sun for hours entranced by this endless chase, just content to watch them whipping about.

Nick was tripping with me that day. He'd also had a nine-tab breakfast but hadn't stomached it as well. The clouds didn't move for him, just the ground. There was a door in my mom’s living room that we never used. No stairs led to it, only a drop-off of four feet to the ground below. Nick lay on the floor and puked out the door as we listened to D.I..

There was one song in particular that was really messing him up. It was slow and droning, and somehow soothing to me. He blamed it for making him sick. It was called Purgatory2. Later when Nick was feeling more like himself he collected the tabs he had puked up and sold them to Lenny who tripped his ass off too.

So, that was a pretty cool trip, but usually, it’s not like that. As soon as that shit’s down my throat, I know I've fucked up.

For awhile it's OK. I laugh until my face hurts and say a lot of stuff no one but me understands. Or at least if they do, I can't tell. After awhile though, I've had enough, and I just want it to end. I'll start to feel really cold and somehow discontent, or I'll look down at myself and realize that I'm all dirty. Usually, it's only my imagination. It's not so much that I've ever had a bad trip as it is that I've never had a really good one. One trip comes to mind that was particularly fucked-up. . .


I was staying with my friends Jeffrey and Trev at the time. They lived in what was pretty much just a punk rock crash pad. Every night it was beer, chaos, laughter, and tears. Every night was carnage. The floor had soaked up so much booze that the house itself was probably fucked-up. Every morning there were kids sleeping all over the floors. Sometimes none of us even knew who they were.

That being the way it was, none of us were really surprised when Jeffrey picked up a sheet of blotter off the floor.

"Hey! Look, acid," he said, sounding somewhat uninterested. We all smiled knowingly. Although none of us were really big on tripping at that time, we all knew the value of one hundred hits of LSD.

That afternoon Trev took the sheet downtown and sold it off piece by piece. Jeffrey was kind of reluctant to let Trev take it. He'd been the one to find it, after all. It's not that he really cared one way or the other. He would have actually preferred for Trev to go sell it, buy beer, and pot, and bring it back to the house. But Jeffrey was the kind of guy who was always a bit on the paranoid side, always afraid that someone might be trying to take advantage of him. And so, when Trev asked for it, Jeff was immediately on the defensive. Trev was forced to present it in a way that allowed Jeff to feel like he was doing a huge favor for the entire crew, one that would be long remembered.

Trev returned nearly four hours later with the following items: two cases of Budweiser, one eighth of an once of high grade marijuana, four rolls of toilet paper, two packs of Best Buy cigarettes, nine American dollars, and an ugly skinhead called Grudge.

Grudge had come up from D.C. trying to avoid some kind of trouble he was in. He was a real friendly guy, despite his menacing appearance. Trev had picked him up somewhere along the way and it appeared they were already fast friends. Grudge introduced himself to the room, then immediately pulled down his bottom lip so it hung like a bulldog’s. On the inside of his lip the word ‘Grudge’ was tattooed in dark black ink.

"Don't fuck with da Grudge," he growled, and we all burst out laughing.

After a case of beer and a couple joints I was fucked-up enough so that it wasn't hard for Trev to convince me to eat some of the remaining blotter. Jeffrey was all for it, too. As for "the Grudge," I suspected he would consume anything we put in front of him.

As always, as soon as it was in my mouth I knew it was a bad idea. Fuck, fifteen hours of tripping coming up, and already Jeffrey was starting to make my skin crawl.

He was the type who loved the sound of his own voice. It was near impossible to get him to shut up normally, when you got him on drugs it was twice as rough. He had a million and one stories and most of them we had all heard before. Of course that never bothered him. He would just continue droning on. Usually I didn't have the energy to respond.

After awhile Jeff was getting restless. So were the rest of us, but that was OK with us. For Jeffrey to be restless was a very dangerous thing. He was telling a story about when he shot a bottle rocket at his brother and singed off a clump of his hair and damaged his hearing. We had all heard it before. All of a sudden he got a mischievous look on his face and dashed into his room. He returned with a box with a couple of M-80 firecrackers in it.

No one wanted to play with Jeffrey anymore after hearing his plan to blow up the neighbor’s car by putting an M-80 in the gas tank. I didn't doubt that he would try it. He was a true fucking nut. I'd seen him do a lot of crazy shit, also a lot of stupid shit. One time I saw him jump off a second-story porch chasing after some girl who had dumped him. And he had only dated her for like two weeks. He broke his ankle that time. I didn’t think he would live past the age of twenty-five. Still, we all knew better then to try to talk him out of anything.

I was kind of relieved when Grudge went with him. I hoped Grudge would watch out for him. Of course, I don't think that's what "the Grudge" had in mind. I think he just didn't want anyone causing trouble without him. After they were gone we made bets speculating if either of them would come back and if so in what condition.

It's weird the way sound is affected sometimes when you are tripping, particularly music. Next door some rednecks were drinking and listening to Motley Crue, or some such shit. Their voices faded in and out with the music. First the voices were louder, then the music, then the voices again. Not like someone was turning it up and down but more of a battle between two different types of sound. It was a constant vibrating of the sound waves. It was almost like you could see the sound waves coming in the open window. After awhile it began to get really strange so we threw on our own music to drown it out.

This time the sound was right in our faces, but still it wavered in and out. And still, it threatened to drop into the background. At any second I expected the music to just die and the record to keep on talking. Not singing or screaming, just talking, droning on.

At this point, I could definitely see the sound waves. I knew then why they were called sound waves. They seemed to roll out in a half-circle shapes from the stereo. They were clear and yellow and just barely visible. Maybe they were not even visible but almost visible. At any rate, I was aware that they moved like waves. We sat and watched and listened for a while but that got weird, too, so we decided to try the TV.

The neighbors had also shut off their music, and apparently had left. As we started for the living room I wondered what had happened to Jeffrey and Grudge. At that very second from outside came a huge bang. It sounded like a gunshot. My breath stopped. Trev and I both stared at each other. His chubby face had turned slightly pale.
"SHIT" he said, in alarm.

I knew what he was thinking. I was thinking it, too. Jeffrey had finally met his demise. It was only a matter of time, after all. I was kind of surprised he had lasted this long. It would be a shame if he had taken poor Grudge with him. I had a bad feeling that it was the end of him. The end of his stories, the end of his lunacy, his binge drinking, of his pissing in the trash can when he was too wasted to make it to the toilet.

I didn't have time to mourn him before he burst in the door already telling the story of what had just happened. Grudge followed grinning.

"Yeah man...bang! You should have seen that,” he exclaimed excitedly. “I couldn’t get the gas cap open so we threw it in the tail pipe. I dropped it on the first try so I picked it up and threw it in and the thing went off practically in my hand..."

He rambled on about for this for a few minutes until he had exhausted himself. He rested for a couple of breaths and followed up with a dull matter-of-fact statement.

"Oh yeah, we saw Gandhi, he says there’s a party on Maple Street."

"Whose party," Trev sneered, looking doubtful.

"Who cares," said Jeffrey, smiling.


It was near 10:30 by the time Jeffrey and Grudge had convinced me and Trev to brave the outside world. We pounded the last few beers down and set out into the night.

We didn't make it far. Blue lights flashed in the street, flickering off the ramshackle buildings of the Old North End. "They're at the neighbor’s house," Trev reported grimly.

“Friends of yours?" I asked Jeffrey.

"Relatives," he replied.

We decided it wasn't the right time to meet Jeffrey’s "relatives" so we hid on the porch for a few minutes. The neighbor was bitching to the fuzz about someone trying to blow up her car. We listened intently wondering what kind of sicko would do that kind of thing. When the complaint was concluded we made our way silently out into the night.

As we walked across town I was acutely aware of the city’s presence. Voices, sirens, laughter, music, loud cars, it all seemed amplified. The city seemed to be one living, breathing, squirming, writhing, babbling entity. Noises crawled from every house, murmuring an endless cacophony in which one voice or group of voices constantly vies to drown out another. Every once in awhile I'd shy or cringe, thinking they were talking to me.

As we made our way across town it seemed like a lot was going on. College kids were yelling and hooting as they made their way into and out of the bars. Carloads of young girls patrolled the streets. People passed by hurriedly, glaring at us with impossible-to-explain expressions. And of course the cops were everywhere.

The flashing blue lights were always there in the corner of my eye. The trouble seemed to follow us. I didn't always see a cop car, but I could always see the blue lights flashing away. It was kind of unnerving. By the time we reached Maple Street, I was ready to go back and hide in the apartment. So, I was pleased to find that the party was nothing more then a dark, apparently empty, house.

We knocked on the door a couple of times anyway, since we had come clear across town. No one answered, so we turned and started home. I was happy because I hadn't wanted to go to the party anyway. But I had needed to get out of the apartment. Now I knew what was out here. And I knew I didn't want to be a part of it. I had made the attempt. Now I could hibernate without feeling quite so lame.

The walk through town was insanely worse on the way back. The city’s vibe had turned from somewhat menacing to outright hostile. The voices which before had sounded excited now sounded angry and threatenng. I was surprised to find myself intimidated by a woman who was screaming at her kids as we passed. I expected her to turn on me.

Trev led us on what he called a shortcut. It was really longer but it enabled us to avoid the main bar strip, which was fine with me. It did, however, lead us through the back parking lot of "The Chicken Bone." It's a pretty OK place nowadays, but back then it was redneck heaven. I probably had more teeth in my mouth then all the people in that place combined. More sense too.

As we passed we could hear noises of violence coming from inside the door. Apparently there was some sort of scuffle going on inside. As we approached, a man bolted out of the door, heading straight for us. At first I thought he was going to try to attack me personally but he pushed past me and went for a red pickup truck that was parked in the lot.

A second man, with a pool cue in his hands, pursued him. He pushed past us angrily, and smashed the cue over the first guy’s back. It splintered in half as the guy fell to his knees. The attacker continued to beat him with the broken shaft as the victim huddled into a ball and threw his arms over his head and ace for protection. The beating went on till the guy was bloody and broken. He murmured sobbing pleas as his attacker stepped on his head.

We had all seen enough.

More than anything now we just wanted to get home. It felt like the whole town had turned crazy, and it was out to get us. The animals were in a feeding frenzy. Drinking, fighting, fucking. It was like a pack of wolves. Anyone who showed weakness became prey. I was feeling like a very weak wolf. More of a puppy dog really.

I hoped not to draw any attention since it seemed that any and all attentions were negative. But it was hard not to attract attention with people like Jeffrey. His hair was bright blue and spiked up in about twelve points. They sprang like 7-inch nails out of his head. He wore a thick chain for a belt, clasped with a padlock, and he was heavily tattooed. And this was 1987, not 1999.

The Grudge didn't exactly blend in either, with his steel-capped Doc Martens, bright red braces and cleanly-shaven head. To the average citizen we looked like a fucking walking circus, something to laugh at, or something to fear, a freak show, at best--at worst,a menace. I smiled to myself finding some satisfaction in that thought.

It didn't take long before someone sensed our fragile state of mind and decided to test our will. It wasn't much, just a subtle little derivative statement uttered by a passerby. Unfortunately, Jeffrey decided to turn around. Before I realized what was going on, he had followed these guys over to their car and was arguing with them angrily.

In a way, Jeffrey craved violence even when he was the one receiving it. Or, maybe, especially when he was the one receiving it. He had been in more fights than most of the people I knew all together, and he had come out on the losing end every time. I mean, sure, he had stories of fights where he had kicked their fucking asses, but there weren't ever any witnesses, so they would forever be just stories. People who didn't know him were sometimes intimidated by his vicious bark and crass attitude, but the truth was, he was kind of a pussy. Unfortunately, neither of these two guys seemed moved by Jeffrey's bluster.

They were both fairly big guys, one was shorter than Jeffrey but was a lot more muscled. The other had Jeff dwarfed. Probably frat boys headed home after a long night of drinking and fucking with people. At any rate they were not amused now that Jeffrey had drawn their attention.

The larger one hit Jeffrey hard in the head from behind. He must have used some sort of blunt weapon because Jeff went right down, face first. He must have been unconscious before he even hit the ground because his hands made no attempt to stop his face and forehead from colliding with the gravel. He didn't move either as they stepped once each on the back of his head, then jumped into their car.

As they drove away Grudge shouted all kinds of insulting remarks. Trev and I gathered up Jeffrey, who was a bloody mess. We dragged him to his feet and carried him to the sidewalk. Grudge was now walking towards the frat boy’s car which had stopped at a red light at the end of the block. Grudge began to hesitate as it became clear the car had to stop. It was like he wanted to stand up for his friends but he didn't really want to fight these guys. The larger jock got out of the car and charged at Grudge. Grudge backed up kind of timidly.

Now, truth was, normally the Grudge was a badass, you could tell, but he was heavily dosed, and tripping has a way of making you unsure of yourself, or at least less violent. Grudge fell back against the brick wall of a building as the guy collided with him. They wrestled a bit but neither one could get the upper hand. Grudge wasn't able to do much except to protect his face from the guy’s blows. The other jock honked his horn as the light turned green, and the one assaulting Grudge ran to and jumped into the car.

As they drove off Grudge began to yell insults again and flipped them off.

It took all three of us to scrape Jeffrey off the pavement. He was in bad shape. He was bleeding from his eyes, nose, and mouth, and he had cuts on his lips and forehead. It was hard to look at him. His nose and mouth were not too bad, but Christ, he had blood coming out of his eyes.

As we walked home he stared at the ground and mumbled some indecipherable shit. Trev and I were pretty much carrying him. His legs moved but they would not have kept him standing without us. People cast us horrified glances as we passed. We were looking a bit out of hand.

After about fifteen minutes of walking in silence Jeffrey grunted and managed to croak out a word through his blood-caked lips.

"Wait" he said in a broken voice.

"What" I asked.

He looked at me with a horrified stare. His eyes seemed to see through me, as they saw through the blood that clouded their blackened orbs.

"Where am I?" he gasped, then stared again at his feet not caring to hear the answer.

When we got home we cleaned up Jeffrey’s face with a warm washcloth and lay him in his bed. Trev fed him some Percocet in hopes of knocking him out. We didn't know what else to do. There was no way we were going to bring him to the hospital, although we probably should have.

After we were sure he was going to live, at least for a few hours, we took a walk down to Battery Park. It was less then a block away and the outside world seemed somehow less hostile now. It was a warm summer night and the wind was blowing. At the park was a large stone pavilion. We climbed onto the roof of it and sat for awhile staring at the stars and at the lake.

The steady flash of the lighthouse off the shore was a welcome change from the wildly flashing police lights of downtown. The lake was shimmering beautifully in the night, as were the stars. We smoked the last of the weed, Trev, Grudge, and I, and talked until we came down. We talked about our fucked-up night and about one thousand other fucked-up nights and finally laughed the whole thing off.


About a week later Grudge and I were walking down Main Street when we spotted the guy he had scuffled with, the guy who had fucked up Jeffrey. He was walking with his girlfriend, eating a slice of pizza.

The Grudge slipped on a pair of brass knuckles he'd been carrying around with him, walked up to the guy, and smashed him once in the side of his mouth, knocking a bunch of his teeth out before the guy even knew what was happening. As he lay on the ground spitting out teeth and blood, Grudge turned to the guy’s screaming girlfriend and pulled down his lip, exposing his tattoo.

"Don't fuck with the Grudge." he said, smiling a big friendly smile, and we quickly walked away.


--Sterling Dew

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Beneath Tall Pines


by a wide ambling brook strewn with armful-size
stone dry as cactus and as dusty upside, but halfway
down, in deep shade, the watery underworld mirrored

multitudes of inverted blue mornings to us, trees spiking down,
as if to say, here you’ve been; what is it saying now but
into that disappearing will our individual selves chase the very

idea of it, which was revolutionary, forget a work of genius,
albeit unfulfilled? Until his death, then; and then did he reign?
Christ, they put his likeness on the penny of the realm.

Every time you made change you could see him there
like a heart out of its hole—in the night only may the
beast be slain, he could have told them any time

if they’d asked.


--R Skogsberg

Friday, September 14, 2007

JUST SITTING -- TO AN INMATE

Don’t know if you are a meditator, but you should be, and since I have the true-zen-skinny on this, here’s the method. Don’t be kept in darkness by disciplines that hide the products of the mind and specifically the ego behind golden mantras and visualizations. Do this:

1) Sit comfortably. I don’t imagine kneeling works for you as it does for me after 18 years of it in Aikido. I’ve never been comfortable sitting cross-legged, although that’s good too, if you can manage it. But most important is to provide a way for the spine to straighten as it relaxes with practice. This means finding a middle ground between a) the hara (in Japanese, the center of one’s being, both physical, and psychic—two inches below the navel, within the abdomen) and pelvis being thrust all the way forward (as if the entire spine is perpendicular to the thighs) and b) the hara and pelvis not engaged and slumped all the way back curving the bottom of the spine. In other words, more towards ‘a)’, avoiding ‘b)’ but not extremely towards ‘a).’ Keep in mind with all this: take the middle path through everything. Balance between all extremes.

So, I recommend you sit on the edge of your bunk, feet on the floor, and accept as a first principle that posture is important, and is one of the things you will be keeping an eye on, though you won’t be trying to fix it. With the posture it’s more of an allowing. A good guide is to imagine a string running from the top of the head, pulling it up. DO NOT however stretch the neck in any muscular fashion to accommodate that image. Just check in with it now and then.

2) Keep in mind, as an overarching principle: You are ‘just sitting.’ That’s the real truth of it, nothing more. It’s handy to know that this is the apotheosis of Zen meditation, especially when you close your eyes and it looks like War of the Worlds in there, or when you struggle to concentrate, or of any kind of phantasmagoria takes you over, remember, all those are simply products of the mind, whereas you are JUST SITTING.

3) Here is the nut of the practice, the guide, as it were, that you can always count on to not only keep you on point but to every day advance your practice. WATCH YOUR BREATH. Especially, at first, just watch. Ascertain to begin with whether you breathe properly. This is simply a right or wrong evaluation, easily made. Refinements are possible later on, but most basic and critical is: ask yourself, as you breathe, as you watch closely how it happens: when you breathe in does your diaphragm move out or in? A large percentage of people in the West breathe backwardly. In other words their diaphragms move in when they breathe in, initially expanding the chest. This is wrong, wrong, wrong, and independent of any meditation practice should be corrected and mastered immediately.

Fortunately, if one does it wrong by habit, it is still easy to change and have it stay the new way. Which is, when you breathe in, the diaphragm moves out, expanding. Only when the diaphragm is fully (balance again, no extremes) expanded does the chest cavity expand, only then if that much breath is needed. (Incidentally, you will eventually notice that of course the diaphragm is not filling with air. We have no lungs down there. What happens is that the source of the breath impulse (you’ll have to determine that for yourself) causes the diaphragm to expand, which draws air into the lungs.)

The breath is not shy in giving up its secrets, you’ll find much to reward every day as you pry gently into its source, its causes, etc. etc., which are all revealed by an unstinting watching. Returning to watching the breath also serves like the ‘just sitting’ reminder, as something true and simple to return to when the insights and revelations turn to fantasy, as they always do.

4) The last piece of this is of course tied to the others. Proper diaphragm breathing makes its home in the hara. The Supreme practice, in other words, putting all of the above together, is to have one’s attention at all times in the hara. This requires returning to its practice every few seconds, since that’s how rapidly we are pulled away by ego and fantasy. Gradually, one acquires the ability to make it last longer, although one is invariably and unknowingly led away. Then to return to all of the above.

Example: I’m watching my breath arise from its impulse in the perineum (it may be a while before you SEE that it does come from there, it may initially seem pulled from somewhere higher up), I’m simultaneously centering my attention in my hara. As fantasy tries again and again to arise I wrestle my attention back into my hara. Then I notice all that effort and give it up, remembering, after all, the reality (stripped of the products of the mind) is that I am ‘just sitting.’ Which begins it all again, fresh.

5) Keep in mind that the ultimate result of all spiritual practice is RELAXATION. That I am speaking literally may or may not shock but I guarantee its truth. So as you watch, watch also for tightenings that may be loosed downward—the direction of all relaxing. In Aikido this has been phrased sometimes as ‘sinking weight downward.’ One’s limbs are as if hollow tubes, in which the weight lays in the bottom, like sand in a drainpipe or culvert. Here, the necessary balancing counterpoint is keeping the pelvis mostly erect, and allowing the head to be supported by that imaginary string.

The above should give a worthy start. What I’ve mentioned are what seem to me essential simplicities that drive any spiritual practice of sitting meditation, gleaned from 35 years or so of various practices. I know they can only help. Such is the power of their simplicity that whatever the level of immersion of the practice, they inform. I cannot recommend highly enough this sitting meditation (as opposed to moving, not that there’s anything wrong with that).

And far from being boring, as one might suppose, it’s actually so wild that it’s all one can do to watch, without investment, the phantasmagoria which is our internal life. And of course, all is revealed eventually, the ego naked in its machinations, the Self, the Witness, lovers though they were, etc. It actually couldn’t be more exciting, being that it’s concerned with the truth.


--R Skogsberg

Power


Come now, into my vast store of worth, never spent nor even
seen around here. They take you for show, for spectacle, from
my strong arms going weak in a red dusk that flaunts my signature
move in its slow darkening, its inevitable

end. Here, darlin’ do you remember how we ended on a note so shrill
and cutting, for years after our tongues had sores? Those were the years
of undoing. These are the pay-out. The last time we walk these
sharp stones of what we’ve done to come clear to this breath.

Take my hand,

walk with me now where the stories mount to myth, where our stone
faces in the mountain find their tongues and shatter to gravel trying to
speak it true. Let us end in dust, who cares most and only for
another breath? We’re beyond that plain of tears.


--R Skogsberg

Thursday, September 13, 2007

California Should Not Drop Into The Ocean


The Clash fucking kick. I haven't even
mentioned these boys yet.

When I do--get back!


USAF AIKIDO

Big Aikido seminar this past weekend (July 7). Biggest I’ve ever seen inside a dojo. I’ve seen 400+ like at McGill Univ. in Montreal, where generally the Eastern Region of the United States Aikido Federation (USAF) has its testing, along with Winter Camp in Ft. Lauderdale in Dec., and Summer Camp at shifting colleges in New England in late July, but I’ve never seen this many people train hard inside an actual dojo. Ours, that is.

In Burlington: Aikido of Champlain Valley (ACV), founded 10 years ago in Winooski, and moved into a renovated (by us) warehouse in Burlington’s southside in Jan. ’02.

This was simultaneously our 10th Anniversary Seminar (one of them--it has been an aupicious year) and the official Opening of the dojo in the Japanese traditional sense. An entity must by its own efforts reach critical strength before being worthy of great and meaningful ceremony to the Japanese.

There were over 150, I counted that many roughly, on their knees, in lines, and I didn’t count the kids’ class, the upper ranks of which were practicing, too. There were Senseis from all over, the reason being that Chiba Sensei, himself (T. K. Chiba), was enacting the opening dedication on Friday night and would be teaching two classes each day, Saturday and Sunday.

Chiba Sensei is a big deal. Although a dozen or so of founder O' Sensei’s students survive (O' Sensei, ‘Great Teacher’ in Japanese, Morihei Uesshiba (last name last) died in 1968), and are all actively teaching, most have their own organizations, as well as slightly or widely differing interpretations, according to their own understandings of his teachings, of a generalized martial skill set derived from the Japanese killing sword, one that goes back at least fifteen hundred years. ACV's lineage derives directly from Chiba Sensei, Kanai Sensei, Yamada Sensei, Paul Sylvain Sensei, Donovan Waite Sensei, and Terry Dobson Sensei to my teacher Benjamin Pincus Sensei (shidoin, godan).

O' Sensei’s innovation--that essential twist of intention and application, that revealed the true nature of Budo (warrior's code), as protection for all living things--spawned a new martial art, Aikido (Ai=harmony, ki=universal energy, do=way to the divine). These insights into the true nature of the cosmos, and our essential being-nature, came to him with his first satori experience. Given his lifetime of rigorous and unrelenting study of most all of Japan’s martial arts, and his likewise unrelenting spiritual immersion, and pitched toward awakening--not surprisingly his awakening found its expression and resolution formed in his martial art.

This enlightenment experience, one of a series of three--no one experience is be-all and end-all, even 'enlightenment'--followed an unusual individual combat that was forced on him one day by a visiting admiral, a formidable swordsman. And, as was the way, he was anxious to test himself on Japan’s greatest living martial artist. Though the admiral was the military’s finest swordsman, one could easily guess by the rudeness of the challenge (he was a guest), that his spiritual stripes were un-gained.

Morihei discovered that without even raising his sword he was able to easily evade and unbalance his attacker, who suffered naught but the embarrassment of his stumblings. Finally, in exhaustion, the admiral prostrated himself, as was also the way, in abjection, and withdrew.

When Morihei walked afterwards through his garden it seemed to him that he was surrounded by a glowing white light, and in exultation, he felt the entire Universe move as One within him, and he knew to the core of his being that its true nature was Love and Protection, and he realized, in a piercing insight, that one who entered this space could not be defeated--for not fighting--but by joining wholeheartedly with the forces evident within the moment, he found clearly perceptible any perturbation in that universal flow of energy, and could move in harmony with it, disarming any evil intention before it had even realized its own inception.

He spent the rest of his life trying to teach his students that this should be the result of their martial efforts, and with his new understanding he turned ages-old socket tearing, bone-breaking, killing techniques into joint-locks, throws and pins, which, although far from gentle perhaps to a Westerner, nevertheless from the Japanese point of view, did no harm, that is, did not kill.

Aikido organizations these days stem from the various understandings of students from various stages of O' Sensei’s life (the experience described above happened in his early fifties, he lived into his eighties). Naturally, as time went on, and the meaning of his succession of satoris deepened, he became more oracular. However, he maintained the strong foundation of an unbroken line of teachings of martial killing technique, still existent, yet withheld by choice.

Would it serve to study only the founder’s talk of Universal Energy, and give short shrift to the very essence of the indomitable Budo at its martial core? Some have thought so. . .

By the way, in case this popular notion needs to be dispelled: A first-level black belt, in no way, in no martial art, connotes expertise, much less mastery. What it does indicate is a serious student, at the stage where learning can really begin. And this occurs after varying lengths of time, according to the sophistication of the art. The fact that seven years daily practice is about right for a shodan in Aikido does not say that a black belt in Karate earned in two or three years is premature. In fact, it doesn’t take very long to learn how to hurt people, very seriously.

Learning to go with, control, and neutralize an attack, however, as in Aikido, requires not only more sophisticated techniques but a longer time to somatically program the body (and the mind, but that mostly comes later) into responding thus.

Meeting force with force is instinctive, and most martial arts take that response for their foundation. After learning to choose fight over flight they simply add on informed ways to attack the body’s vulnerabilities, then practice refining and enhancing the destructive capability of those techniques.

However, it must be said that aiki, that is, the harmonizing, or going with your opponent’s energy to turn it against and resolve his aggression, is a sophistication realized long ago, and has been a major element in expressing the highest levels of many martial arts. Weapons training, particularly the sword, and all schools of ‘soft’ styles, whether kung fu or tai chi, employ aiki, it wasn’t new with Aikido. What was new with Aikido was carrying that principle to its ultimate expression.

Whereas even tai chi uses ‘going with’ to set one’s opponent up for the kill, O’ Sensei, in his enlightenment, realized that the greater the martial skill, the more effective it would be at not just at killing, which was the traditional result, but at restoring peace, that is neutralizing threat, without serious harm.

His gift to the world, Aikido, was to see this completing link, which, having rendered threat helpless, restores it cleansed of its intent to harm—-rather than destroying it once it’s helpless, which is a little like shooting fish in the barrel, or kicking babies. What kind of reputable action can be imagined in destroying something once it’s no longer a threat?

This is where his incredible expertise and questing spirit took him. He saw clearly that true Budo, was un-threatened, even as it rendered threat harmless. And yet, there, just at that point, was where the killing blow was being delivered. This was the state-of-the-art spiritually in martial arts, this was the ethical crossroads to which its spirit-full and diligent training brought one. Seen in this light, the traditional killing response was essentially murder. And all the more disreputable given the power/skill differential, more so even than the initial attack.



--R Skogsberg

I Lost A Dog


he weren’t much. Still, we’d been through a lot.
I didn’t care. I was contemplating the death of kings.

You don’t want to be interrupted at a time like that, but
hell, I’m as accessible as the next man.

A Pattern


of creating relationships with authority figures in order to then
fail to honor their requirements is clearly one of my issues, plainly
a thing which I’ve been working on religiously through a number of

avenues. On the train, I felt sick. It’s not so bad now. Let’s get a cab.
Some handsome cart from among these will secretly pedal us in.
Once absorbed we won’t be detectable on the blood screen, nor in

the urine or the hair. We are the future. One should
stop at nothing in grasping it. The gloves are off.
My family against yours.


--R Skogsberg