Thursday, March 19, 2009

Endpoint - Poems by John Updike

At times, I really enjoy reading The New Yorker. Most issues have at least on story, poem, or something that inspires me. Below is on of those sections.

John Updike, as you may know, is an American author, considered to be one of the greatest modern American writers. Aside from his novels, he had a number of short stories published in The New Yorker.

John died in January of this year from lung cancer. In the latest issue, 10 poems were published, poems written between April 14, 2008 and December 22, 2008.

When I began reading these, I just browsed them jumping from one poem to another. It was only a short time before I realized the theme of these poems and started over from the beginning. It is an beautiful way to document such sadness. How inspiring for a man so near to death working on his art, his craft. I have not read any of his books but I will now.

Spirit of '76

Cypresses have one direction, up,
but sometimes desert zephyrs tousle one
so that a branch or two will sick straight out-
a hatchling fallen from the nest,
a broken leg a limp will not forget,
a lock of cowlicked hair that spurns the comb,
Aspiring like steeples inky green,
they spear the sun-bleached view with nodding tips

How not to think of death? Its ghastly blank
lies underneath your dreams, that once gave rise
to horn-hard, conscienceless erections.
Just so, your waking brain no longer stiffens
with careless inspirations - urgent news
spilled in clenched spasms on the virgin sheets.

Here in this place of arid clarity,
two thousand miles from where my souvenirs
collect a cozy dust, the piled produce
of bald ambitions pulling ignorance,
I see clear through to the ultimate page,
the silence I dared break for my small time.
No piece was easy, but each fell finished,
in its shroud of print, into a book shaped hole.

Be with me, words, a little longer; you
have given me my quitclaim in the sun,
sealed shut my own adolescent wounds, made light
og grownup troubles, turned to my advantage
what in most lives would be pure deficit,
and formed, of those I loved, more solid ghosts.

Our annual birthday do: dinner at
the Arizona Inn for only two,
White tablecloth, much cutlery, decor
in sombre dark-beamed territorial style.
No wine, thank you. Determined to prolong
out second marriages, we gave that up,
with cigarettes. We toast each other's health
in water and a haze of candlelight.

My imitation of a proper man,
white-haired and wed to aging loveliness,
has fit me like a store-bought suit, not quite
my skin, but wearing well enough until,
at ceremony's end, my wife points out
I don't know how to use a finger bowl.

A Lighted Life
Beverly Farms, April 14, 2008

A lighted life: last novel proofs FedExed-
the final go-through, back-and-forthing till
all adjectives seemed wrong, inferior to
an almost glimpsed unreal alternative
spoken perhaps on Mars - and taxes, state
and federal, mailed. They were much more this year,
thanks to the last novel's mild success,
wry fruit of terror - fear and author's tours

Checks mailed, I stopped for gas, and plumb forgot
how to release the gas-cap door. True,
I'd been driving a rented car for weeks. But,too,
this morning I couldn't do the computer code
for the accent grave in fin-de-siecle, one
of my favorite words. What's up? What's left of me?

November 2, 2008

My window tells me the euonymus
arrives now at the last and deepest shade
of red, before its leaves let go. One of
my grandsons leaves a phone message for me;
his voice has deepened. A cold that wouldn't let go
is now a cloud upon my chest X-Ray:
pneumonia. My house is now a cage
I prowl, window to window, as I wait

for a time to take away the cloud within.
They rusty autumn gold is glorious.
Blue jays and small gray bird, white-chested,
decline to join the seasonal escape
and flit on bushes below. Is this an end?
I hang, half-healthy, here, and wait to see.

Oblong Ghosts
November 6, 2008

A wakeup call? It seems that death has found
the portals it will enter by: my lungs,
pathetic oblong ghosts, one paler than
the other on the doctor's viewing screen.
Looking up "pneumonia," I learn
it can, like an erratic dog, turn mean
and snap life short for someone under two
or "very old (over 75)."

Meanwhile, our President Obama waits
downstairs to be unwrapped and I, a child
transposed toward Christmas Day in Shillington-
air soft and bright, a touch of snow outside-
pause here, one hand upon the bannister,
and breathe the scent of fresh-cut evergreens.

Mass. General, Boston, November 23-27, 2008

Benign big blond machine beyond all price,
it swallows us up and slowly spits us out
half-deafened and out blood still dyed: all this
to mask the simple dismal fact that we
decay and find out term of life is fixed.
This giant governance, a mammoth toy,
distracts us for the daytime, but the night
brings back the quiet, and the solemn dark.

God save us from ever ending, though billions have.
The world is blanketed by foregone deaths,
small beads of ego, bright with appetite,
whose pin-sized prick of light winked out,
bequeathing Earth a jagged coral shelf
unseen beneath the black unheeding waves.

My visitors, my kin. I fall into
the conversational mode, matching it
to each old child, as if we share a joke
(of course we do the dizzy depths of years.)
and each grandchild, politely quizzing them
on their events and prospects, all the while
suppressing, like and acid reflux, the lack
of prospect black and bilious for me.

Must I do this, uphold the social lie
that binds us all together in blind faith
that nothing ends, not youth nor age nor strength,
as in a motion picture which, once seen,
can be rebought on DVD? My tongue
says yes; within, I lamely drown.

I think of those I loved and saw to die;
my Grandpop in his nightshirt on the floor,
my first wife's mother, unable to take a bite
of Easter dinner, smiling with regret,
my mother in her blue knit cap, alone
on eighty acres, stuck with forty cats,
too weak to walk out to collect the mail,
waving brave goodbye from her wind-chimed porch.

And friends, both male and female, on the phone,
their voices dry and firm, their ends in sight.
My old piano teacher joking, of her latest
diagnosis, "Curtains." I brushed them off,
these valorous, in my unseemly haste
of greedy living, and now must learn from them.

Endpoint, I thought, would end a chapter in
a book beyond imagination, that got reset
in crisp exotic type future I
- a miracle! - could read. My hope was vague
but kept me going, amiable and swift.
A clergyman - those comical purveyors
of what makes sense to just the terrified-
has phoned me, and I loved him, bless his hide.

My wife of thirty years is on the phone.
I get a busy signal, and I know
she's in her grief and needs to organize
consulting friends. But me, I need her voice;
her body is the only locus where
my desolation bumps against its end.

The City Outside
December 11, 2008

Stirs early: ambulance pull in far
below, unloading steadily their own
emergencies, and stray pedestrians
cross nameless streets. Traffic picks up at dawn,
and lights in the skyscrapers dim.
The map of Beacon Hill becomes 3-D,
a crust of brick and granite, the State House dome
a golden bubble single as the sun.

I lived in Boston once, a year or two,
in furtive semi-bachelorhood. I parked
a Karmann Ghia in Back Bay's shady spots
but I was lighter then, and lived as if
within forever. Now I've turned so heavy
I sink through twenty floors to hit the street.

I had a fear of falling; airplanes
spilling their spinning contents like black beans;
the Guggenheim proving too low and sucking
me down with impalpable winds of dread;
engorging atria in swank hotels,
the piano player miles below his music,
his instrument no bigger than a footprint.

I'm safe! Away with travel and abrupt
perspectives! Terra firma is my ground,
my refuge, and my certain destination.
My terrors - the flight through dazzling air, with
the binding smash, the final black - will be
achieved from thirty inches, on a bed.

Strontium 90 - is that a so-called
heavy element? I've been injected,
and yet the same light imbecilic stuff -
the babble on TV, newspaper fluff,
the drone of magazines, banality's
kind banter - plows ahead, admixed
with world collapse, atrocities, default,
and fraud. Get off, get off the rotten world!

The sky is turning that pellucid blue
seen in enamel behind a girlish Virgin -
the doeskin lids downcast, the smile demure.
Indigo cloud-shreds dot band of tan;
the Hancock Tower bares a slice of night.
So whence the world's beauty? Was I deceived?

Peggy Lutz, Fred Muth
December 13, 2008

They've been in my fiction; both now dead,
Peggy just recently, long stricken (like
my Grandma) with Parkinson's disease.
But what a peppy knockout Peggy was!-
cheerleader, hockey star, May Queen, RN.
Pigtailed in kindergarten, she caught my mother's
eye, but she was too much girl for me.
Fred - so bright, so quietly wry - his

mother's eye fell on me, a "nicer" boy
than her son's pet pals. Fred's slight wild streak
was tamed by diabetes. At the end,
it took his toes and feet. Last time we met,
his walk rolled wildly, fetching my coat. With health
he might have soared. As was, he taught me smarts.

Dear friends of childhood, classmates, thank you,
scant hundred of you, for providing a
sufficiency of human types: beauty,
bully, hangers-on, natural,
twin, and fatso - all a writer needs,
all there in Shillington, its trolley cars
and little factories, cornfields, and trees,
leaf fires, snowflakes, pumpkins, valentines.

To think of you brings tears less caustic
than those the thought of death brings. Perhaps
we meet our heaven at the start and not
the end of life. Even then were tears
and fear and struggle, but the town itself
draped in plain glory the passing days.

The town forgave me for existing, it
included me in Christmas carols, songfests
(though I sand poorly) at the Shillington,
the local movie house. My father stood,
in back, too restless to sit, but everybody
knew his name, and mine. In turn I knew
my Granddad in the overalled town crew.
I've written these before, these modest facts,

but their meaning has no bottom in my mind.
The fragments in their jiggled scope collide
to form more sacred windows. I had to move
to beautiful New England - its triple
deckers, whited churches, unplowed streets -
to learn how drear and deadly life can be.

Needle Biopsy
December 22, 2008

All praise be Valium in Jesus' name:
a CAT-scan needle biopsy sent me
up a happy cul-de-sac, a detour not
detached from consciousness but sweetly part-
I heard machines and experts murmuring about me-
a dulcet tube in which I lay secure and warm
and thought creative thoughts, intensely so,
as in my fading prime. Plans flowered, dreams.

All would be well, I felt, all manner of thing.
The needle, carefully worked, was in me, beyond pain,
aimed at an adrenal gland. I had not hoped
to find, in this bright place, so solvent a peace.
Days later, the results came casually through:
the gland, biopsied, showed metastasis.


With what stioc delicacy does
Virginia creeper let go:
the feeblest tug brings down
a sheaf of leaves kite-high,
as if to say, To live is good
but not to live-to be pulled down
with scarce a ripping sound,
still flourishing, still
stretching toward the sun-
is good also, all photosynthesis
, quite quits. Next spring
the hairy rootlets left unpulled
snake out a leafy afterlife
up the same smooth-barked oak.

Fine Point
December 22, 2008

Why go to Sunday school, though surlily,
and not believe a bit of what was taught?
The desert shepherds in their scratchy robes
undoubtedly existed, and Israel's defeats-
the Temple in its sacredness destroyed
by Babylon and Rome. Yet Jews kept faith
and passed the prayers, the crabbed rites,
from table to table as Christians mocked.

We mocked, but took. The timbrel creed of praise
gives spirit to the daily; blood tinges lips.
The tongue reposes in papyrus pleas,
saying, Surely - magnificent, that "surely"-
goodness and mercy shall follow me all
the sayd of my life
, my life, forever.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A lot of stuff going on..

Well it has been too long since I made an entry. My two interests are going head to head these next two weeks. I will post the schedules for both of the events I'm talking about, you will find me at one or the other at various times over the next two weeks.

Eastern Michigan University Ethos Week

I've been planning this for about 6 months. I will be on WJR next Monday morning at about 9:20. Student tickets are $5 for the luncheon next Friday, everything else is free. If you want tickets call me and I'll hook you up.

Ethos Week 2009 schedule:

Monday, March 9
5:30 - 9 a.m. : Paul W. Smith of WJR-AM radio will broadcast his morning show from the College of Business.
9 - 9:30 a.m. : Unveiling and initial signing of the 2009 Ethos Banner on the second floor of the College of Business. Everyone is invited to continue to sign the banner throughout the week. Each year's banner is then hung on the fourth floor of the College of Business.

Tuesday, March 10
11:30 a.m. to 12:30 : Dr. Wayne Brockbank, The RBL Group, "Ethics and Human Resources," College of Business, Room 114.
5:30 to 6:30 p.m. : Richard Sheridan, President and CEO, Menlo Innovations, "Ethics in Marketing." College of Business, Room 114

Wednesday, March 11
11:30 a.m. to 12:30 : Joseph Reid, Capital Bancorp Limited, "Ethics and Banking and Finance." College of Business, Room 114
5:30 to 6:30 p.m. : Joe Bione, Managing Partner, Whitehall Group, L.L.C. "Ethics in Supply Chain Management." College of Business, Room 114.

Thursday, March 12
11:30 a.m. to 12:30 : Richard Baird, PricewaterhouseCoopers, "Ethics in Accounting." College of Business Room 114.
5:30 - 6:30 p.m. : Mark Wellman, President, Camtronics, "Ethics in Entrepreneurship." College of Business, Room 114.

Friday, March 13
Noon - 12:30 p.m. : Private sponsor reception with Frank C. Bucaro
12:30 - 1 p.m. : Open reception and book signing, EMU Student Center Ballroom
1 - 1:40 p.m. Ethos Week Luncheon, EMU Student Center Ballroom
1:40 - 2:25 p.m. : Keynote speaker, Frank C. Bucaro
2:25 p.m. : Ethos Honor Society induction
2:30 p.m. : Concluding remarks

All events except the Friday luncheon are free and open to the public. Ticket information for the luncheon will be available on this web site in January.

Metro Times Blowout

Well I tried to post the entire schedule for the Blowout but couldn't get to the website. If you are even remotely interested in Detroit music check out this site for full details of what is going on. Four days of great music.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Jim Shaw Fundraiser

I do not know Jim Shaw but it is always worth spreading the word about getting help to someone who needs it. At the very least you have an opportunity to see some great bands and maybe buy some cool art from local artists.

As many of you have likely heard, Jim Shaw was recently diagnosed with cancer. What at first seemed like a semi-manageable diagnosis has, unfortunately, become considerably more dire. He had part of his colon removed last month and, unbelievably, last week, he was told that the cancer has spread to his liver and lymph nodes. It's not good. That being said, both he and his wife Sandy Kramer Shaw are staying positive and they are going to FIGHT. We should too.

On Saturday, Feb. 7 Jim's brothers will host a fundraiser at the Magic Stick (4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700) There will great bands and an art auction. Please come and support one of the kindest, most generous souls Detroit has ever known.

Event details include:

8:00 p.m. - Film Shown: Rare unseen 16 mm short film of THE MC5 and THE STOOGES.

BANDS start after the film:
GREG CARTWRIGHT (of The Reigning Sound)

Also be sure to look at the facebook and myspace pages for the event.

Myspace Jim Shaw Fundraiser
Facebook Jim Shaw Fundraiser

Polish Posters

Ran past these the other day and thought it was interesting to see the way movies are marketed in Poland. These posters seem to have much more artistic thought than those found in the US.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Once every few posts I want to share some songs that I have discovered. I seem to fall somewhere between being on the cutting edge of music happenings and, well, not. My friends seem to either know way more about music than I do, or a lot less. This inevitably means that my posts will either not be new to you or you find them a bit strange. Hopefully once in a while I can show you something new that you enjoy. I also must point out the the songs may not be new, but I am trying to draw attention to music that never got its due or is just too classic to not point out.

I've decided not to give my opinion of the songs and let you draw your own conclusions.

Animal Collective - My Girls

Buck 65 - Surrender to Strangeness

The Upholsterers - I Ain't Superstitious

The Shocking Blue - Send Me A Postcard

The Go - Meribel

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Mess

Since I am hoping to make blogging a regular occurrence, I thought I would create a proper one instead of using the one myspace gives you. I have no plan for what this thing is going to contain, I am just going to post shit I think is cool, disturbing, exciting, sad, or whatever other emotion can be felt by reading, watching internet videos, or listening to music.

Well since 2008 is obviously over, I figure my first post will focus on the thing I spend most of my free time on, music. Below is a list of the albums that I enjoyed the most last year. Not only new in 2008 but older stuff that just I discovered. So in no particular order.....well maybe in alphabetical..

Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam

I actually picked this one up over a year ago. I thought it was alright but I didn't quite understand what everyone liked about it so much. Whenever people describe this band they call it "freak-folk" or something containing the words freak and folk. I would listen to the track 'Peacebone' but couldn't get through much more than that. Slowly last year it grew on me though. There are some great songs on that album and if you can give it a chance you might like it. Highlights for me are 'Peacebone', 'Fireworks', and 'Chores'. They have a new record out too, Merriweather Post Pavilion but I haven't heard it enough to give a real opinion.

Beck - Modern Guilt

I've liked every record that Beck as put out, but this is another one that I wasn't a big fan of at first. A friend and I would talk about this record almost everytime I saw him. He loved it from the beginning but I wasn't sure about it. There was, and still is to a lesser extent, something about Danger Mouse's production that doesn't sit well with me. It seems empty in some way. I changed my mind eventually. It's hard not to like Modern Guilt and Gamma Ray.

The Dutchess and The Duke - Mary

Being the only song I have so far from this band, it is the only one I could talk about. They are a pretty great band and this song sounds like it could have been swiped off of a number of great 60's/70's records, put in a vault, and saved until now. I will be picking up more from these guys as soon as I'm less poor.

Jay Reatard - Blood Visions

Another one that is not new, but is aggressive as all hell, and I don't think there is a single song that is over 3:30. Although the tracks are loud, fast, and short, there are some great pop elements hidden in there too. I like this album in pieces though. Its a bit tiring to listen to it straight through but when the songs come up on shuffle they are great.

Kanye West - 808's and Heartbreak

Before getting this album I heard a lot of interneters giving him shit. I personally think this is one of his best. It's minimal in terms of production, which I love. To me, when an artist can produce something great out of very limited instrumentation, their true talent is shown. Also, amazingly, the use of Auto-Tune doesn't drive me crazy. I know Kanye can't sing, and he never claimed to be a singer - which is amazing since he claims to be everything else. But the way it is used on this album seems less in your face than -insert horrible popular rapper-. Plus, he is creative with it, adding distortion on top of his voice, etc.

Pas/Cal - I Was Raised on Matthew, Mark, Luke, And Laura

Without a doubt the best pop album of the year. I have always liked this band, but they didn't release a lot of music. Now that this record is out, they can wait a while for another. I will be enjoying this for a long time to come. 'Summer is Almost Here' is just a masterpiece of popsmanship.

What It Is! Funky Soul and Rare Grooves (Compilation)

Picked this up at the Canton Public Library. An amazing collection of Soul/Funk/Early R&B. I sometimes forget I have this, then listening to my iPod a song will come up. Almost every occassion that I have said to myself, "Damn, that's a good ass song. What album is that?" 80% of the time, it is this. Nothin' like a little Nuki Suki to cheer you up.