Finale from 200 Motels

I’d forgotten what a brilliant piece this was when it popped into my mind and I had to track it down on YouTube. Somber, flamboyant, richly melodic, cheeky, irreverent, beautiful, crazy set piece with Ringo Starr as a Frank Zappa doppelganger. I saw the film in its original theatrical release in Tampa, Florida back in the day.

The Featherweight Before

I don’t know if the Sun had preferences what they might be.

Would a conscious Sun enjoy its solar flares, or would they be an annoyance, like a recurring skin condition? I don’t know if ocean currents have appetites, if cell division is motivated by anything, or how the universe feels about getting older. I wonder if the process of change ever gets tired of it all. Tired of change. I wonder if questions have a generative stage and if so, what are they before they form? Indeed, what was I before I formed?

I wonder why we layer on the plies of days like we’re constructing some pyramid-like destiny out of what ever’s just lying around, our impulses slaves to some obsessive, unseen pharaoh. I don’t know what’s to be done. I wonder what I would do if I did. I wonder why rows of tombstones look like rows of houses, or a city skyline, a garland of piano keys, a quaint picket fence projecting an assumed harmony about the goings-on in that little bungalow.

What difficulty in strange occurrence is it that familiarity becomes such a balm? Why does right take up arms while wrong is so content simply being wrong? Why are the shapes of things so particular? Where does the clock maker find the time? When does hunger not overrule reason? Why do philosophers all wind up in caskets? What on earth were they thinking?

When someone asks you how you feel, does it affect how you feel? I don’t know what feelings are or why they matter. I think a bad feeling that we know well is easier to bear then a confusing new feeling that we don’t know what to do with. What if confusion is just another feeling? I don’t know. I don’t like me when I’m feeling things. I feel like I’m up to no good when I’m feeling good.

There is a kind of liberty in not feeling, but then there are memories, like a jury of peers. And there are verdicts. Rulings we feel compelled to make. We find traction in the calculations. We make hay.

Ruled by questions we render unto Caesar his answers due. Let memory serve. That rock formation looks familiar. I think we’re going in circles.


I don't know who I am

Sprung forth alive from some
featherweight before, where a slant
projection of a protozoic self

Scrawls its base intentions
on the edifice of a blamed hereafter

And vanishes into memory
like a vandal caught tagging a fence

The Dictionary of Nil

We've begun work on a new dictionary.

It is composed entirely of non-existing words
defined by other non-existing words.

It is a closed system, completely
saturated with non-meaning.

It is not a reference work, it is
a container of ontological vacuity.

It is not something that will
actually exist.

It is the idea of the rumor of a
thought, an informational contagion.

Its reference invades innocent words
like a virus invades cells.

It propagates through the air
by word of mouth.

It harnesses the power of vocabulary
to insinuate non-meaning into
the collective unconscious.

Without a basis for existence, it
establishes itself by implication.

It is a harmless harm, seemingly
naught, an echo of itself.

The biggest threat to its conceit is
that you will forget all about it.

And tell no one.

Measure for Measure

I like to go down to the hardware store with my yardstick and inspect all the yardsticks. You know, what if they’re off? Vigilance, my friends. Trust, by all means, but verify.

A heads-up Match Between a Reigning Champion and an Off-brand.

Once I found one that was 1/64th off by the 20 inch mark and I complained. The clerk deferred to the store manager like they always do and this guy accused MY yardstick of being the one that was wrong. Pretty much what I expect in a country that has clearly lost its moral compass.

I was escorted off the property as I hurled threats at them. “You’ll be hearing from the folks at New Yankee Workshop!” I couldn’t wait to file my report. What outrage! I fear for the future of my country.

Where do companies go to get the measurements to make a ruler? I mean, without stealing them from a competitor. Is there like an official yardstick kept in a vault somewhere and you go in with some newsprint and charcoal and make rubbings?

You could just buy a Stanley tape measure and copy the marks off onto a stick. Sell it as a ruler. There’s no oversight. The whole business stinks to high heaven.

So I set up a stake-out on the hardware store. (I’m not allowed in there anymore.) Watch the comings and goings for suspicious activity. Keep an eye on things. Vigilance, my friends.

Amphibian

“I’ll take Amphibian Lushes for a thousand, Alex.”

According to Three Dog Night, Jeremiah was one of these.

“What is a bullfrog?”

I’m sorry, the correct response was, “what is a wino.”

[contestant registers dismay]

Wait, the judges are saying ‘bullfrog’ is technically also correct.

[contestant pumps fist triumphantly]

Review of ‘The Tao is None of Your Business’

My friend, writer M. T. Philipps, has posted a very kind review of my book on Amazon. Philipps is author of ‘Keeping Calm‘ and the upcoming ‘Roses in Space’, to be released this autumn, 2020. Keeping Calm is a memoir covering his life’s pursuit of the spiritual, striking a good balance between anecdotes of youthful misadventures, accounts of meeting prominent teachers from various traditions, and insights and advice on meditation practice, with an emphasis on Dzogchen. Roses in Space is a collection of his poetry, with extensive commentary. His review of The Tao is None of Your Business follows:

“The poems initially struck me as Dadaist, with occasional glimpses of brightness and wit, a casual mixture of metaphor and observation that succeeded in eliciting a feeling of camaraderie of spirit in some instances. Others revealed an earthy substance that teased a sense of playfulness and joy from me. Still others hinted at philosophical reflection oddly reminiscent of Emily Dickinson if she were a contemporary urbanised wayfarer. Humour employed surprised me with a giggle or two. These poems grew on me, and I caught myself wishing for just a few more as I journeyed through them. Tossed into the mix were the odd prose poem, a contemplation on sound and another on air and one on time that wove in a story of sorts just to check if the reader were paying attention. But more about the poems, Randall takes a simple act like slamming a door, in ‘Slam’, and riffs on it until it takes on a philosophical significance almost, a revenant that continues to return to mind. This ever curious awareness drifts swiftly, latching onto the things, but only momentarily. Or check out the mini-tragi-comedies of ‘Heat’, ‘Making It’ and ‘Omerta’, pungent speeches on the environmental crisis that is modern humanity. And I am just hinting at the silvery richness of this slim volume–the next reader will have to discover the rest alone, but I must mention that there are some pithy insights into the nature of existence later in the book.”

The Revisionist

The latest revision of this unruly draft
plagiarizes pieces, whole chunks, alas
from the now abandoned previous pass

The carcass, once vibrant and meaty
now quartered with care, leaves little
for the vultures but a dour scent
and some tufts of hair

The new revision is on to something now
it can smell it, the crux of it
oh man, oh wow

But the bits and pieces arrayed
in a flashy, bold new architecture
suggest nothing much new, hint that
another slaughter and rending is due

The latest revision now bears no resemblance
to its ancestors, has seemed to lose the thread
of that something-or-other need be said

Perhaps the current jumble is a total loss
with nothing to salvage, a deposit of dross

(15 revisions)

Europa

Title track from John Gentry Tennyson’s Europa (2000), a jazzy piano romp with accompanying bass and drums. Positively packed with amazing little phrases.

Just Plain Crazy

So, karma's like a virus
infecting innocent thoughts
with promises, always
of something hopeful and new.

It's all just recycled
confusion, perceived as appealing
converting innocent thoughts
into the machinery of delusion.

Seeing things as empty
of any reality whatsoever
is lunacy, they will say
whose views are hijacked
by the ingenuity of display.

Better to be crazy like a Buddha
than just plain crazy, any day.