So this is my favorite poem ever. It’s one of those poems that a lot of people that like poems really like, so if you’d like it, you’ve probably already read it. But you should read it again.

Faint Music (Robert Hass)

Maybe you need to write a poem about grace.

When everything broken is broken,
and everything dead is dead,
and the hero has looked into the mirror with complete contempt,
and the heroine has studied her face and its defects
remorselessly, and the pain they thought might,
as a token of their earnestness, release them from themselves
has lost its novelty and not released them,
and they have begun to think, kindly and distantly,
watching the others go about their days–
likes and dislikes, reasons, habits, fears–
that self-love is the one weedy stalk
of every human blossoming, and understood,
therefore, why they had been, all their lives,
in such a fury to defend it, and that no one–
except some almost inconceivable saint in his pool
of poverty and silence–can escape this violent, automatic
life’s companion ever, maybe then, ordinary light,
faint music under things, a hovering like grace appears.

As in the story a friend once told about the time
he tried to kill himself. His girl had left him.
Bees in the heart, then scorpions, maggots, and then ash.
He climbed onto the jumping girder of the bridge,
the bay side, a blue, lucid afternoon.
And in the salt air he thought about the word “seafood,”
that there was something faintly ridiculous about it.
No one said “landfood.” He thought it was degrading to the rainbow perch
he’d reeled in gleaming from the cliffs, the black rockbass,
scales like polished carbon, in beds of kelp
along the coast–and he realized that the reason for the word
was crabs, or mussels, clams. Otherwise
the restaurants could just put “fish” up on their signs,
and when he woke–he’d slept for hours, curled up
on the girder like a child–the sun was going down
and he felt a little better, and afraid. He put on the jacket
he’d used for a pillow, climbed over the railing
carefully, and drove home to an empty house.

There was a pair of her lemon yellow panties
hanging on a doorknob. He studied them. Much-washed.
A faint russet in the crotch that made him sick
with rage and grief. He knew more or less
where she was. A flat somewhere on Russian Hill.
They’d have just finished making love. She’d have tears
in her eyes and touch his jawbone gratefully. “God,”
she’d say, “you are so good for me.” Winking lights,
a foggy view downhill toward the harbor and the bay.
“You’re sad,” he’d say. “Yes.” “Thinking about Nick?”
“Yes,” she’d say and cry. “I tried so hard,” sobbing now,
“I really tried so hard.” And then he’d hold her for a while–
Guatemalan weavings from his fieldwork on the wall–
and then they’d fuck again, and she would cry some more,
and go to sleep.
And he, he would play that scene
once only, once and a half, and tell himself
that he was going to carry it for a very long time
and that there was nothing he could do
but carry it. He went out onto the porch, and listened
to the forest in the summer dark, madrone bark
cracking and curling as the cold came up.

It’s not the story though, not the friend
leaning toward you, saying “And then I realized–,”
which is the part of stories one never quite believes.
I had this idea that the world’s so full of pain
it must sometimes make a kind of singing.
And that the sequence helps, as much as order helps–
First an ego, and then pain, and then the singing.

I think the city is finally strangling me. She’d smell other cities on my clothes and feign a half smile. The pine-scented country smell would get a sigh-laugh, the ocean the same. I always knew she was beautiful and I always told her that I knew she was beautiful. Her designy little skyline and her imperfection-in-all-the-best-ways. I met some people who were raised differently and didn’t understand her, always had to leave the room after being with her for too long. They were like republicans; raised differently but still undeniably wrong.

She knows that I don’t love downtown anymore and now she’s strangling me. Human shit on the sidewalks and the ostentatious fucking bike messengers. She knows I don’t love her anymore because I can’t even look at her without contempt creaping under my eyelashes. Contempt right up under my eyelashes where I used to shove the lust. I don’t even remember if I ever loved her or if she was just some concept I lusted after, blinded and ignoring the fat, bloated reality of her disgusting existence. Fuck nature and everything but this is obsurd. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt clean here.

I ran a marathon here once and it felt good. I tell people about it a lot because it’s one of those little middle class trinkets you can wear and show off and make small talk a little more substantial with. I fucking hate being a member of the middle class. Postmodernism sucks and so do you and there’s nothing you or I can do about it. When we used to get into trouble a lot, I loved the ghetto. You always knew you were fine in the ghetto. It was like international waters or something. Now I fucking hate seeing the lower class. Grow some postmodern self-consciousness for christ’s sake. The Struggle is such a fucking joke–grow up. When I ran through the city, I saw every pore and hair folicle. It was like kissing someone and realizing that maybe you should have both gotten up to brush your teeth. But the breath smell has this sweet lining because it’s the smell of kissing and not caring about other things. I fucking hate the upper class, too–but only out of pity and jealousy.

I would very much like for the city to brush her teeth at this point, but mostly I would like her to stop strangling me. I think I’m adicted to crack because I rubbed up against a wall on 14th and Mission. Plaque would be the poor people, gingivitus the rich, and the noose would be the middle class. A noose of white corded headphones and half-baked, over-rationalized ambition. How many fucking Honda Civic’s do we really need? I got the alloy wheels, the harley, yeah, the deep-Vs, the Nano–no, no, the 60 gig, I’m going away for the weekend, the wife, yeah, she’s doing better, echinacea, plasma, it’s a hybrid, biodiesel, valentine’s day is such a consumer holiday, I don’t even know why people celebrate it, god, the president is such a fucking hypocrite. Alcoholism is a problem. Smoking is cool. Vegans have an eating disorder. Phallic symbols are everywhere because long pointy shit is a pretty unavoidable design. Come up with another way to get something high in the air without taking up a lot of real estate.

She’s strangling me because I deserve it. I deserve it because I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe because I can’t get my tongue out of her mouth long enough to remember what she smelled like when she didn’t taste like Colgate. How can my life be all fucked up if there’s no one to blame? They were like republicans; raised differently but still undeniably wrong.

I Got A Promotion

Part One Implies a Part Two

Mom and I ended up snorkling a lot. I’ve never really enjoyed swimming for its own sake, so I didn’t think I’d be into it, but it’s actually pretty great. The first time I put on my mask and put my face under water, I had to spit the snorkel out of my mouth and resurface because it was so mindblowing that I started inhaling water from laughing so hard. It’s effectively indescribable. It’s probably a little like being born. You’re used to the comfortable situation in your dark little room and then BOOM, there are people spinning around you and unmuffled noises and air and scalpals and EKGs and the machine that goes “ping.”

Mom with birthday snorkel.


I see a little silhouetto of a man.

Scaramousch, scaramousch.

This was one of the bigger guys–a sparkle motion tuna. He paced around a lot and didn’t look like a very happy camper.


Humu and pencil urchin.

Crouching tiger, hidden octopus.

Raccoon fish.


Hawai’i was epic with a capital OMG. The tourists aren’t as bad as early-adopting-off-the-beaten-track-preferences may make you fear, and the hawaiian people are papaya sweet. And the papayas are papaya sweet. And the waves are papaya sweet. The people are the best. Even the (localism rich) surfers were super nice. Old men throw you chakas when they cut you off in the cross walk. Everyone throws the fucking chaka. It’s insane. I took a bunch of photos the first few days. And then I got a surfboard and learned to clear my ears better for going deepdeep with the snorkel–so the photographing lulled a little at the end.

Sunrise, day one. At this point I was feeling pretty good about the way the trip was going to turn out.

This is where we stayed most of the time, south of Hilo and Pahoa, where the frogs go coqui all night long.

Nice (iris?) flower.

Paying to have a car junked is probably expensive in a place with limited land and resources. Plus it’s way more fun to push it down a path and then beat the shit out of it with baseball bats.

Millipedes (four legs per segment) are okay to eat, centipedes (two) are not. At the bug eating contest at school, they were eating centipedes. They came up to me (I was shooting photos) and tried to get me to eat one. I gave a resounding FUCK THAT SHIT. But a friend of mine went for it. She and the centipede sunk teeth (pincers) at the same time. She won, but not by as much as our high rung on the food chain would have predicted. She spent the rest of the day in the medical tent and had a nice swollen hand for a while. The centipede’s front half continued running around until I caught it and brought it to the biology building, where my friend Ezra let me put the resiliant tank creature out of its misery (or maybe it was thriving?). We put the centipede’s body in a jar of formaldahyde and gave it to Liz as a purple heart.

We went bird watching. It felt a little like that part in Jurassic Park where they’re hunting the raptors and then the guy gets mauled from the side.

Clever girl.

This used to be a huge lake of (fire) lava. There was a Hotel right above it, where apparently you could look down and see the lake of lava. It’s lame that the lava flowed and now it’s just rock. Rocks are cool and everything but it would be fucking epic to have a lava lake view from your hotel window.

Endangered Nene beg for food from the tourists.

And fight over the women.

Lines to see the nene fight.

There’s a zoo outside of Pahoa. I love zoos. They fed this tiger whole raw chickens. It sounded like rolling ankles.

This guy watched. There were an astonishing number of whole raw (live) chickens running around in the Tiger’s pen. He’s too old and fat to eat them now. But apparently he used to catch the Peacocks and pull them into his little swimming pool when he was younger. The zookeeper’s response to cries for mercy was “no no, let da tiger eat em.”

It was a pretty awesome zoo. It’s run almost entirely by volunteers, and the animals seem pretty happy to be at a place where they can get away with almost anything (just don’t ask the peacocks).

Headbutting contest through the fence. The white one eventually just pretended to hit the fence and let the other one just wail on it by himself.

On the west side (and pretty much everywhere else), there are vast lava fields. Apparently it’s cool to write your name in coral stones. Then the earthquakes come and so much for everlasting love I guess.

Maui in the distance.



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