A Journal of the Irrepressible

Archive for the ‘poetry’ Category


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poem by Nisi Shawl


it’s the ceaselessness of snow

that amazes me;

so many so soft impacts,

such desultory swirls and aimless drifts.

the darkness of the sky;

the lightness of the ground;

small differences, piling up.

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Written by Brian

December 20th, 2008 at 6:29 pm

Posted in poetry

A Progression of Images from the I Ching

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(Adapted from consultations with the oracle over the first five months of 2008)

A turning point in winter brings nourishment. Obstacles are no problem for water.

Perseverance brings great good fortune.

The Marrying Maiden appears at the new year’s first thought of sex. How long has it been? Six years. The Marrying Maiden is either a matriarchal cosmic joy or an unbearable patriarchal yoke.

The ingenuity of innocence; the energy to bite through entrenched situations. He become single.

“Kings of old… fostered and nourished all beings.” Innocence makes a new life possible.

Wind above water. Dispersion is reuniting. Things are developing. He moves from a dark room into the light.

A slowly developing engagement leads to marriage. A gentle wind moves through the woods on Keeping Still Mountain.

A gentle penetrating wind comes from increase and follows in sequence from the homeless wanderer. The Gentle is a homecoming. The Gentle crouches and remains hidden.

Old wounds heal because peace is a shared desire.

Forgetting, he asks the same question two weeks later. Youthful Folly! “I told you the first time,” the Changes insists: long engagement; marriage. He asks for help in persevering.

“Ten pairs of tortoises cannot oppose it.”

“See the great man” means ask for help.

An animal’s pelt changes in the course of the seasons: Revolution. The great man changes like the tiger.

In the sequence, Revolution changes to Fellowship. In the interest of community, great things may be accomplished.

Trust fate: a natural and mutual attraction is at work. Faith is the perseverance of a mare.

The wind over the water. The visible effects of the invisible manifest themselves.

A crane calls from a shadowed place and her young reply.

How could he ever set trust aside?

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Written by Brian

October 18th, 2008 at 8:47 am

Posted in changes, poetry

Traverse City, Michigan and Environs

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My room at the Holiday Inn in Traverse City“Bend of bay and swerve of shore” begins Joyce’s Finnegans Wake and that pretty well describes the Lake Michigan shore around Traverse City. I’m here for the ACE 2008 Conference, a gathering of agricultural and natural resource science communication professionals. I’m staying at the Holiday Inn.

If you don’t know “Michigan Girls” by Califone, I hope you’ll check the song and the band out.

Broke heels and bare legs
Pink waterline gave up on your twisted code
God’s eyes are crossed maybe just like yours. (“Michigan Girls” by Califone) Read the rest of this entry »

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Written by Brian

June 12th, 2008 at 7:17 pm

Something about the I Ching


Fortune Telling 000

The arrangement and interpretations of the I Ching’s hexagrams can be attributed to the astute analysis of human nature in many contexts by many contributors over many years. It’s much more difficult to account for the uncanny accuracy, reasonableness, and wisdom of the I Ching’s answers to one’s questions. That, at least, has been my experience.

The I Ching is the ancient Chinese book that accreted around a series of 64 hexagrams. A hexagram, in turn, is an arrangement of six lines. Each line is either solid or broken. Here are the first two hexagrams, the Creative and the Receptive:

Hexagram 1, the Creative          Hexagram 2, the Receptive

Hexagrams are formed by chance action (e.g., the rolling of three coins, and taking combinations of heads and tails for either a solid or broken line) from the bottom up. The lines are taken to represent a temporal sequence, the unfolding of change over time.

Lines themselves can change, and a changing line is indicated by chance action, as in the roll of three heads (a changing broken or yin line) or three tails (a changing solid or yang line). In the above example, if one tossed a set of three coins six times—once for each line in the Creative—and each roll came up three tails, each line would change into its opposite. The result would be two hexagrams: hexagram one, the Creative, would change to hexagram two, the Receptive.

The odds against a six-in-a-row coin toss are astronomical. But, then, what are the odds in favor of receiving a response that strikes one as both wise and a propos to the question?

Questions. Where do they come from? You, me, worrying the hems of our lives; John Cage, wondering what it really means to compose; and anybody, really, who engages in the act of breasting change with a story of self in mind. To put the previous question another way, What are the odds of a story emerging from apparently unconnected facts, experiences or observations?

As with most fortune telling systems, the odds favor making sense—if you can accept enigmatic replies as sense. For me, the difference between the I Ching and, say, the tarot (which has much sexier images), is perceptual: the I Ching responds in poetry, the tarot in cliché. One enlightens me, the other makes me vomit. It’s not the tarot’s fault; it’s cultural chance. The Romany, vectors of prognostication by chance action of card dealing, eschewed written language until relatively recent times (and then a palette of languages pattern Romany texts, rather than a national language); the Chinese, just as ancient, famously co-pioneered written language. The Romany poetry of the tarot is, at best, confined to a small group of disrespected people while the written texts of the Chinese have become venerated for their wisdom and verisimilitude. Read the rest of this entry »

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Written by Brian

May 31st, 2008 at 9:28 am

Personal Ad by Kurt Olsen

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My friend Kurt is a graceful, articulate and often funny performance poet.

Get more video from Kurt O. here.

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Written by Brian

April 25th, 2008 at 8:16 pm

Posted in film, poetry

Autumn Whistler

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poem by Robin Pugh Yi

The Whistler is nearly extinct.
I can’t remember the last time I heard one.
A jaunty gray-haired man with a felt hat
whistling a polka or
“The Girl from Ipanema”
on his constitutional.
Someone’s hip mom trilling
“Dock of the Bay”
while she flips pancakes for
Saturday morning.
A philosophical hippy
like my father
attempting Smetana’s “Moldau.”

Whistled tunes used to blow in
through an open kitchen window,
drift down the office hall,
entertain us at the bus stop.

I don’t know how long
they had been gone
before I noticed.
Until an early autumn morning when
the cedar and maple-tinged air longs
for a whistle.

The houses and pedestrians
demand hesitation.
Whistling a happy tune
is no longer
whimsy, but
a solemn ritual,
revival of a lost art–
self-conscious, attention-drawing,
like wearing a kilt or bonnet or
felt hat.

Still, the air wants
“Me and Julio”
And I’m walking by a schoolyard
where none of the students
will recognize
the whistle solo
from bygone AM radio.
When I do put my lips together
and blow,
the birds,
breathing melodious homage
to their dinosaur ancestors,
seem to appreciate
the company.

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Written by Brian

April 6th, 2008 at 5:55 pm

Posted in poetry

For Randy and other strangers with good candy


poem by Robin Pugh Yi

From bitter cold predawn shadows you called out, “Hey, come here!”

The woman pretended not to hear as she hurried away. You persisted, “I want to show you something,” your deep voice echoing every storybook villain.

She barely restrained herself from running away, searched the street for an escape route, for anyone else awake who might save her.

“It’s a telescope,” you insisted, not considering the possible innuendo. “You can see the rings of Saturn.” She slowed to an almost normal pace as she approached the street corner, wondering if this stranger might really be offering nothing more than free candy.

“They’re so beautiful. I just want to show someone.” You almost couldn’t see her turn slightly toward you. You shoved your hands into your pockets, kicked some fallen leaves, resigned to whatever decision she would make. Hesitantly, she turned to walk back. Her face lit with wonder at the stunning shiny rings. She bowed a little to thank you.

I saw her leave as I approached, and shook my head at how oblivious you were to her fears. Then, teeth chattering in the eerie wind, you showed me those rings. And luminous sister Venus. Blurry hints of the Martian canals swam like a river of old stories. Candy from the dark, stranger man.

As a young girl’s mother, I’m not supposed to confess all the rides I’ve taken with strangers, the candy I’ve eaten, how often I’ve looked at what someone just wanted to show me in the shadows. I can’t deny meeting the ravenous wolf there. Can’t tell you to stop protecting yourself and your children. Please forgive my rashness in answering the ugly clichéd assumptions in the phrase, “You know how men are.” Yes, I do. I’ve accepted countless invitations called from the dark. The ravening wolf is rare. The call of the wild promises joy. The shadows teem with souls who ache to share the night sky.

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Written by Brian

March 16th, 2008 at 4:54 pm

Disciples of Paradox


David Memmott’s long poem “Disciples of Paradox” is on Strange Horizons. “Paradox” is dedicated to Stephen J. Hawking,

suspended and wired for half-life
in a wheelchair spaceship
you must have considered
that those who stand on your shoulders
may one day bury your equations
in a painted wooden boat
moored in the sand
where all horizons are defeated
by mirage.

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Written by Brian

February 27th, 2008 at 9:41 pm

A Drunkard-ly Indian

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poem by Kurt Olson

a drunkard-ly Indian
[native American]
{american Indian}
stumbled down the opposite lane
snow bound; plowed

Call it social injustice
Call it personal choices
but I think he was coping
with the humanity
or lack there of
in this town

prescribed to him
by a people of
pale skin and pale character

he looked right through my
middle-class-white “soul”
and I saw why
my ancestors embarrassed me

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Written by Brian

February 17th, 2008 at 8:37 am

Collected (Overheard) Quotes


We like to eavesdrop, OK? Plus, sometimes you just can’t help overhearing.

Walking back from Mariner’s Market in Cannon Beach, Oregon; twilight; a group of Youths (oh, yes, cap-Y boys) sitting outside of the pizza place downstairs from our room. And one says,

Where are we going to find midgets at this hour? The whole day is ruined!”

Overheard while standing in line at Penguin Ed’s BBQ in Fayetteville, Arkansas:

Little boy: Mama, what’s a chicken dinner?

Mama (exasperated drawl): It’s chicken meat on a plate!”

Overheard on a Pullman Transit bus:

If wheel chairs could float I’d break both my legs.”

Bits and pieces of a rant (or maybe just an anecdote, but judging from the listeners’ expressions, I’d say more of a rant) heard at the Whoop ‘em Up Hollow Cafe in Waitsburg, Wash.

I’ll run you off this goddamn job with a goddamn ax….
Swift Tracy chased me off with an ax.
Swift is a lot more important than me. Do you understand?
And I understood my Dad.”

At L’Ecole Winery, near Walla Walla, Wash., a group of young men dressed like designers, cut in front of two lovely women (who were not dressed like designers, or even in designer clothing) to get a few drops of wine sooner rather than later:

We’ll just crowd in front of these people. They look like the salt of the earth.”

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Written by Brian

December 3rd, 2007 at 11:01 pm