The Life and Opinions of Nels A. Nelson

Listen in while I talk to myself

“My graves went undecorated and my churches abandoned.”

“Believe me I am not being modest when I
admit my life doesn’t bear repeating. I
agreed to be the poet of one life,
one death alone. I have seen myself
in the black car. I have seen the retreat
of the black car.”

From “Our Dust,” by C.D. Wright. Rest in Peace.



later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered

Warsan Shire, from “what they did yesterday afternoon,” from Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth. These lines capture some of the exasperation, pain, and tragedy that comes with being alive in the world lately, I think.

It is 2:00 outside of Chicago a Friday…

It is three days after Bastille Day and a Friday and I was just recently in Manhattan and on Long Island and Fire Island and Frank O’Hara is a favorite so there are too many convergences to not:

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday/
three days after Bastille day, yes…

So I’m sitting at my desk…

…reading from W.S. Merwin’s The Moon Before Morning which isn’t what I ought to be doing, but is there really such a thing as ought? Anyway, I am not doing what I ought to be doing (the notion of the validity of ought from here formally challenged), and the poem I’m reading is titled  “Theft of Morning” (scroll down at this link for the entire poem) and there’s this, which fits:

as I sit for a while after breakfast
reading a few pages
with the shadowing sense
that I am stealing the moment
from something else
that I ought to be doing
so the pleasure of stealing is part of it


If in the future: RIP, Miller Williams

My wife and I quoted the final stanza of this poem on our wedding paraphernalia. Rest in peace, Mr. Williams.

If in the future
a time traveller
comes back to this moment
he’s here now.

At 15,000 feet you see a car
run off a country road and turn over.
It’s already a county away.
Take the coffee.

There will come a year
when one by one your friends
thumbing past your last address
will think to mark through it.

If I could be
in two places at once
I would be with you twice
all the time.

— Miller Williams
“Sitting Alone at Sunrise: Problems in the Space-Time Continuum”

Sticky words

A few lines from a few poems/poets that have stuck:

I have with me
all that I do not know
I have lost none of it
— W.S. Merwin, “The Nomad Flute”

…we listened for picks ticking in the dark
— also Merwin, “The Empty Lot”

The terms given you were: Breathe. That starts it.
Then, do as you’re told, to please them
and don’t, to discover your mind.
Then you are imperfect
child, a wanton.
Whence came this agon? Snot and tears,
hot face, a wretched powerless,
except to cause annoy. So cause annoy.
— Catherine Wagner, “Nevermind”

Writing a poem is like reaching two prosthetic limbs
out as far as you
can on either side to grab something in front of you.
You can’t grab
it but maybe you’ll take flight.– Catherine Wagner, “Unclang”

Irrelevant? Esoteric? Bah!

When an issue is of signal importance and one needs to point toward a truth beyond factual truth, deeper than factual truth while encompassing it, where can one turn? How can one discuss not just current-events news, but eternal news?

Poetry marks the day.

Relevant in the 18th century, relevant in the 21st.

won’t you celebrate with me

I was listening to an episode of the Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Off the Shelf podcast on my drive to work this morning, and under discussion was Lucille Clifton’s poem, “won’t you celebrate with me,” which can be found here:

won’t you celebrate with me

And it’s a really good poem about shaping and crafting oneself generally, but of course especially how Lucille Clifton, an African-American woman, shaped herself, if I assume she’s the persona in the poem, and the last clause is just a killer, “come celebrate/with me that everyday/something has tried to kill me/and has failed.” Pow. It comes off more powerfully as written, I think…

…come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

And to get the full power, hearing Ms. Clifton read it, well then it really packs a punch. There’s a recording of it found at the link above. won’t you come celebrate with me…

Margaret Atwood’s Look of Love

First, there’s this, which I just came across recently…

…especially this:

I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary.

And then there’s this, which I came across quite a long time ago…

You Fit Into Me

You fit into me
like a hook into an eye

a fish hook
an open eye

That’s the entire poem. It starts out as something so easy, doesn’t it? Look at us! We go together! And then it gets twisty, a little macabre, but it still strikes true about love, no? The pair, the speaker and the character whom the speaker is addressing, still belong to each other but now in an altogether unsweetened way.

Some favorite bits from Anthony Madrid’s I Am Your Slave Now Do What I Say, so far

“THE unit of wine is the cup. Of LOVE, the unit is the kiss. That’s

In Hell, the units are the gallon and the fuck. In Paradise, the drop
   and the glance.”


“In this universe practically naked of reasons to get to know one
We need every excuse we can get…”


“And now, my work is finished, I am reaching for a match:
A match, which is a little rocket with no place to go…”


“A book is a dead thing. Take it to bed, you’re asleep in a minute.
Whereas, if a friend is lying next to you, talking—you stay up all
   the night.

That’s the way to write, MADRID! Be like a pillow-talking-friend—
A good friend, full of question and answer, head propped up on
   one hand.”