O sing to me, of Survivorman

28 03 2009


There is a show, and I know some of you like it quite a bit, where a guy gets dropped into uncomfortable circumstances–he has to demonstrate survival skills. I saw a some of it once in a hotel room.

it is called Survivorman
I strongly dislike that show.

defend it only in exceptional circumstances

Part of my distaste is likely due to the survival man’s bludgening of a rattlesnake for food–and the concomitant discussion (was it him or voice over…I cannot remember, I am sure you know better than I) regarding the danger of the snake.

who by something


Excuse me? Lord above, the danger of the snake? Yes, of course, their bite is pretty bad but actually most people can survive–and certainly a guy with a camera crew will survive. The snake on the other hand didn’t have a chance. The man wanted to eat the snake because it would titillate the audience. That is all there is to it. And though you might care it seems to be that the snake did die for this titillation.

but then, we’ve always loved our blood sports and now that bear baiting and cock fighting are illegal bludgening a rattlesnake to death is entertaining.

primarily symbolic
something other than itself

Do I talk in extremes–yes I talk in extremes. And my behavior is not consistent. I had fish yesterday and I didn’t even have the decency to catch it myself.

We’ll sleep until the world of man

forgive me
I am sinned in thought and deed

is paralyzed

I have encountered a variety of rattlesnakes. Usually they are sleeping. I knew a person who studies the snakes behavior–Timber rattlesnakes, not the diamondbacks I see in the desert. Rattlesnakes like to eat quail. Here is a story.

One there was a man studying quail. He set a trap. A quail entered the trap and ate the corn. A snake, passing by, smelled the quail and moved to the trap. This snake pushed its head into the trap and moved midway in. The snake struck the quail and gulped it down. The quail started to move down the snake’s digestive tract. The snake wanted to back out of the trap but could not–the lump that was quail blocked its exit. When the man returned he saw the snake. He cut the snake out and it want on his way.

His traps in the future had smaller openings in the wire.

set me free, my guard, and
let me walk now, towards that pine-tree

This is a true story and it is not about me. I have never seen a rattlesnake on my study site–I have seen other snakes and a tarantula that seemed to want to follow me for whatever reason. I have seen rattlesnakes other places but they have generally been asleep–so I suppose perhaps I should not cast aspersions on survivorman.

I apologize.

forgive me, forgive me
forgive these trespasses

And I have somewhat digressed (as usual) into blabbing about rattlesnakes. My problem with the show is not an animal rights problem. I want to be clear. It is a problem about gratuitous entertainment. How can we believe this man is at any risk when he is followed by a camera. And, on top of that, this “risk” is by CHOICE. That isn’t to me a true risk or a true survival.

It just isn’t.

Fiction is more true
and deeper closer to me and you

And I thought of the albatross
And I wished he would come back, my snake.

For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.

I’ll make them into a symbol after all.

quotes are by Slavoj Zizek, Leonard Cohen, Sabine Wilke, Shearwater, Marina Tsevetaeva, D. H. Lawrence


An Interlude–a writing in a particular ecotone

27 03 2009

Here is something written years ago, and originally published in a little journal called First Class. When I read it now I see the metaphysical holes in it. But, what the heck:


And an highway shall be there, and a way (Isaiah 35:8)


His name was Ahriman
he came in the guise of a man,
he held out his fingers and they lit fire


interstate 40 between Memphis and Nashville
a curve in the road
and at mile 157 a grey car on the side
and then a thin white cross

we passed the car at 70
miles an hour and came
to this place

but even as we passed,
the car and the cross rose up in my mind
—shimmering—and stayed there

the Devil came from a hole in our history—
cousin to Baal nephew of Huwawa–

3 days after we passed the spot 66 cars crashed in ice and snow


off interstate 81 there is a place
you can stay—“sleep on a
battlefield” Days Inn, New Market

$42.95 a night for 2


the Devil is timeless,
has been with us since the
dawn of our history
the Devil walked
with us when we first broke clay
in Africa

does He weep?

He weeps
and His tears are fire
they are ice


there was no one in the
car at mile 157, not a breath—I remember:
the ice on the highway and the lights

the truckers came out at night
when the sun dipped below the
line of trees they stretched in bed
and woke themselves, they ate
breakfast in the café, chatting
on brown phones connected next to their
tables. as the moon rose they
boarded their vehicles and pulled
onto the frosty highway

angel wings and other things

those truckers drank their coffee or
popped their pills
tossing cups out the windows–
the highway glittered with styrofoam

and as they passed us our car almost stopped

the wind that passes pushes
you down into the abyss


as we drove by the car
and then the cross I could see
a Figure in the back of my head

what does He wear
in the dark

why grey of course

what does He wear in the light



where I am now:

outside the snow is silently
falling, flakes search
for the ground like butterflies

the Devil appeared to me one day
and I didn’t see Him
I was surrounded by angels in trucks and all I could do
was honk


after we passed He
stepped back towards the car, out of the
shadows He appeared beside the car—the highway
was silent, He was
carrying a can of gasoline

nothing sinister here, I assure you
nothing sinister

except when He poured the gasoline across the car and lit
it from below

we didn’t see the flash
being too far away towards
the dawn of the country

but some of the truckers saw it
that flashing light

and called it up and called it the lie

the cross did not burn, it was just far enough away
from the car
just far enough away

and so was the Man


those truckers pulled into that truck stop,
The Flying J,
grabbed themselves coffee
and sat looking out at the night

they called it pyro
technics they called it
someone slipping off the road

they stopped because they knew
it could be their own pyro show
and then the smell of flesh
would be raging in around them

in lie there is sin
in self there is Him

from my vantage point, now, the street
is quiet, the night
is covering us
with white crystal

for an instant those truckers knew
He’d drift in and out of their space
of themselves
and then further inside

the safest place is in the light

for that instant, they knew He was their
brother, they knew about
their wings

it is 12 midnight


what He rips away leaves its mark
a faint imprint

(Ahriman, are you here?)

I singed my eyelashes
and they curled back in

the Devil emerges in the spaces
left by broken souls

in the back of my head
I saw Him
He walked away from the car, in His
overcoat and jeans

holding His gloves and matchbook He
turned to stare at the fire
and saw the light dancing between the trees

“no body has died here”

remember: this Man is what I saw
as I looked back upon the reflection
of that car
and that cross

and though I was quite taken
with the notion of this fire
and went back over it in my
head the strangest thing was
that when I went there in my mind
the Arsonist

did not exist


they say the thaw is coming
and when it comes
we will be ready with skin and bare feet—
with fire and water

oh He’s an old one—
Australopithecine hominids walked in His tracks

hiss Satanus


we stayed on the battlefield one night
I was worried that it would be a room
full of ghosts
but we were warm in the bed with the night
and her haunts around us


I can feel pressure on my
head—the further east you go
the closer you get to the

the closer to the heart

I told myself that the story began
with another man

And the Devil wept at his usurption by his younger brother–Adam


I said to myself
this man was a human man

an old man

a man who, on the edge of death
drove out to the turn in the highway
and planted his own cross

call your other Brother on the phone
and beg Him your forgiveness
and hand Him the key to the lock on your house

to explain to myself why
the car and the cross sat there
refusing to go away

I told myself a story
about the old man who sold his soul to the Devil
to his Brother
and then wanted redemption

this old man traded his soul for his life
and when he knew he stood up against the end
he looked up and saw the sky go up
in flames,
the 4 horsemen and all

and then that the old man drove out on a sunny morning
planted that cross
his cross
said to himself: perhaps this is

the Devil takes your body and burns up your soul


Ahriman he

like a fire

the Devil is your brother
look for Him in yourself

if you move at the right speed
you’ll cross the country
and see the perfect array
of light and shadow

you’ll see the shapes form, just so

you’ll see His outline


there is something to be
said about those truckers

because, as you know,
they are angelic to a fault
but what is the angel

Get behind me Satan.

what is the angel
what is the battalion

in the ice of the night who reflects back at you
but yourself, your own wings lit by the fire of their headlights.

if we had allowed ourselves
to stop to just
stop as those trucks pulled by,
if I had said, wait, pull over, signal to them
please bring them to me,

because that is all they ask for
this little salting of desire

if I had said, yes, I will listen to you
angels I know you
I will follow you back

perhaps the burning might never have happened?
perhaps the Devil would not have his due?
perhap Ahriman would walk alone
in the dark down the road His cap gently cocked his hands
and the old man’s soul gone
gone gone

because the angels are only intermediaries in their own way,
connected to their deity by strands they cannot see,
and forget because to remember
means to disappear

a spark in the space

they are nothing without their Brother

the battle for heaven wages itself outside of our being


old man, digging in the earth


old man driving forward and
back in his old gray car


old man’s skin like
a lightning rod
dead and the cross there awaiting him

when the heart breaks open, let it flow
let it flower

is it a god or a Devil
that holds your heart to the fire?



old man

come here to me in the darkness
I cross this land I see You in my third
eye I see the burning of the car
I see the flash of the firelight on the
white cross and I know that the smell is
flesh, for all of our fleshes that so burn
and burn
again, in all of the kennels of our life

old man I cannot cry for you
for something more the shape of
evil had drawn itself across you

and when I saw your car and your cross

I opened my mouth and smelled and
tasted you and knew


The truckers are spirits
are ghosts of the new world
are angels are the Word
when they look too closely at who they are
they disappear like mist

I am afraid of His approach

the body in the trunk, singed and burned
and was nothing—not corporeal
it was spirit

the old man sings and burns inside himself

the truckers die young and
get their wings

jackknife—a bird in flight


the old man sings
and burns,
hums and sizzles

and even with the cross
with his remorse
after he died his soul crept back into the trunk of the car
after the service after the burial

because they still thought he was good
because the closer they looked the further in He moved
into that old man, further into the corners
Ahriman crawled, waiting

old man your soul like an eel squirmed through the earth to your trunk
rising up in a dust cloud and soaking in through the gap

your soul sat there and waited for the Devil to cart
it off, your body buried your body gone
but that other piece curled in the trunk

because grace is not born out of
because grace is presence, not absence
because hell is the only place you’ll ever really belong

miles away, decades
away we smell the burning

because the Devil is timeless

because the Devil is relative to our belief in Him

the less we believe
the larger he becomes


now I will tell you a story

about how I called Ahriman

about how I was obsessed by the car and the cross
and I asked for Ahriman’s help,
I asked the Devil to explain it to me

I asked Him why, when I thought of Him
my mind grew blank, my mind became cold

why, when I felt Him draw near,
the truckers gathered in waves
hovered in my periphery

Ahriman, please

but when you turn to the Devil
for an answer
you have already sold your soul


And so, perhaps I did
as did the old man, and when the car
burned up when his soul, like a flash of light
like a match head, burning out in seconds

burning out in the eyes of the truckers
because they knew… even as I did not
at that time know, and only after I wondered
after I sought knowledge in my own way
as I succumbed to my obsession
did I recognize Him standing right before me—and I saw myself
incarnate in the old man. visible in his walk, visible in his absence

I was aged and burnt, and as my soul dissipated to hell

I asked my self what

The State of the Birds

20 03 2009

It does matter.


In preparation

19 03 2009

I have cat scratches across my chin and lips. I was on the phone trying to decide which radio-transmitters to try on the quail and the cat, wanting love, attention, or to mess with my computer, jumped up onto the table. I grabbed him without thinking, and moved to drop him to the floor–he is heavy and my one handed grip was not particularly effective. He raked the bottom half of my face with his back claws.

As Ms. Day says, que sera sera.

But not really–because the laceration felt appropriate to me. Not that I was happy as I tried to finish the conversation while wiping the blood off my face but, because, I am not at all comfortable putting these necklaces on the quail and forcing them to run around with antenna sticking up.

I’m sure you think I am worried about piddling things. That I am much to inclined to overthink. And I am. But at the same time, it is about paying attention to these little things. Or really not so little, because what about that individual bird with the transmitter. Really. It is not so little, it is that bird’s life.

Only, only.

I will be back in the field in a couple of weeks…just for a short time, but I cannot wait. I want to try the transmitters because I want a better sense of where the birds are going. But, of course, it will be late March early April which means they are nesting.

I can barely believe it–we’ve finally hit 50 degree F temperatures and the quail are likely incubating. Though I should say, it is clear that the birds around here are also nesting or preparing to nest. I saw a flicker with its head sticking out of a big new box recently…which is fitting given the number of flickers I have heard drumming.

At any rate–the quail will be following a very different pattern right now than they were during the fall and winter. They will appear to be paired off and these pairs will come out to feed in dribs and drabs, after laying the egg or during a break in incubation. These pairs are not necessarily the parents of the chicks in the eggs–certainly the males cannot count on fathering all of the chicks. At least that is what I found…

I think things are more complicated…or perhaps a better word is different…

Anyway. I might find a nest if I track the quail. And that would be really lovely. (except, of course for the quail who, I am sure, would prefer not to.).

Do you think the scratches on my face are just retribution?

Should I apologize to you?

My older cockatiel, Wonker, died last week. She was 13+ years old. She was very sweet and Mr. P. misses her. My daughter filled an abalone shell with soil and stood a crow feather up inside it. This is a memorial.

I do not want to say anything else.

This is a memorial.

Now I have to walk around with cat scratches on my already weathered face. My hands are rough from working in the yard and my glasses are loose. I feel like a stranger at times.

someone told me once I was transparent.

Me and my cat scratches.
Me and


6 03 2009
A rather unfortunate photo of Kato.

A rather unfortunate photo of Kato.

to me you are weightless.

The children are making a house for our dead cat, Kato.

Kato is, apparently, everywhere.

I shall be joyful

Kato died three years ago this month. Or, to clarify, we put him to sleep–for he had lymphoma that had rapidly metastized and was experiencing kidney and liver failure.

shall reign, or grieve

Despite the fact that our lives are still cat-filled (or vermin-filled if you are of that bent), I feel very sad when I think of Kato and his illness.


As an aside-(I am always stepping aside, eliding, if you will)–here is a recent piece discussing the ethics of saving endangered species by destroying invasive species. I have mentioned before,, my feeling is that we owe protection to endangered and threatened ecosystems and species but we also owe those species introduced by our own actions humane treatment (rather than eradication by any means necessary. This is not just an animal rights argument–the removal of an invasive species from a habitat often does not turn out the way we assume it will–the world is complex. It just is and any time we think we have a simple answer, we don’t.


Your turn will come.

Oddly enough, Kato was living with us during the Kato-invested investigation of the murder of Nicole Simpson. We did not name him after Kato Kaelin…and would not have. He was a wonderful cat and as close to approximating the embodiment of dispassionate compassion as any creature I have known.

Your turn will come.

The kids barely knew him, being four and two when he died, but they miss him.

Your turn will come.

I miss other creatures, and humans too..but that is something else.

and the sound of bells

I find the burgeoning spirituality (hate hate hate that word) of my children intriguing. Like something about the dawn of spirituality, if I can be so obtuse and ignorant. They desire ritual and sacredness–they move through the spaces of sacredness and holiness with ease. My son especially, for whatever reason, seems to have an inherent interest in the spiritual.

take this

I am trying to learn how to work with them in this space. I always feel a trespasser in the realms of the spiritual for I inherited, at least on one side of my family, a strong distaste for organized religion. What this meant is that, although individuals on this side are strongly spiritual beings, this practice was a very private affair–something about one’s own development. There is also, it seems to me, a strong, nearly Calvinist anti-iconographic impulse, at least for some. Although, you know, as I write this I realize how greatly I have simplified the situation.

no hands built

On the other side is a connection to something of the spiritual in Christianity–the kind that is lived through such things as the poetry of T. S. Eliot. But this side is also strongly practical and less sensitive to….I don’t know what the hell I mean here….

the small pigeons that rise

Anyway…growing up in a family suspicious of organized religion, in a community where the assumption was that one was either Presbyterian or Born–Again, I seem to have both developed a dislike and skepticism for organized religion of ANY form and a feeling of displacement from spiritual practices in general. Meaning, I do not ever feel that I am allowed to own, to take, to use, the spiritual approaches of any group because they are not the ones I was born into..that I will always do them wrong. I hate the mishmash approach–the new age shopping mart…but I am deeply moved by old Cathedrals, by the ecstatic paintings of certain artists, by the spiritual writing and notebooks of people such as Simone Weil by the statues of Siva. By the ancient nature of some things.

Take from me the incomparable circle

I believe spirituality is something about the way our own consciousness….does…something….not…sure…what.

I shall lead you as a guest

I recently read a book about the politics of Jung, Eliade and Campbell (by Robert Ellwood). Ellwood’s point that all three ultimately settled on a form of gnosticism that was deeply personal–about developing the individual and not the society–seemed to touch on it for me. He also (as does Wendy Doniger) make a case for the value of the approach to mythology these three took (esp. Eliade) despite concern about it overlooking cultural differences. An addressing of the accusation of essentialism in light of the modern concern about what Said called Orientalism. Which, is my concern about picking and choosing out of my cultural mileau.

from another country

Anyway, anyway….this interiority of spirituality, the neurobiology of it–the perceptual and cognitive meshing, the affect on what we feel is our conscious body. That is what it is to me.

to the Chapel of the Inadvertent Joy

but whatever.

I still miss Kato, and DG, and my grandma, and that person who once was but is no more.

but what I mean to say is


that chapel of stars, that refuge from evil,
where the floor is–polished by kises.

I told my son about sanctuary–about the idea of the church as sanctuary. Why did I tell him that? What were we talking about? Do you know?

you will rise up filled

About cats by the way

with wonderful powers

I am writing a ghost story about a little black cat.

There is a mummified cat that walled up alive, for the good luck or protection of the property, at Valle aux Loups, the Chateaubriand residence. The Valley of the Wolves.

How many little black cats and do you think they are good or bad luck? Or just each its own little black cat like the Kato my babies loved so very much and who was like a little sainted version of a cat…at least to us and to the other cats in his life.

I send to you my portion
of earthly dust.


quotes are from Marina Tsvetaeva