microviolence

Water scours river rocks
and carries soils.
Oxygen dulls our metals 

A microviolence of rust.

Proud in our flesh,
we pose in spandex.
We build titanium bicycles.

We watch commercials
for sports drinks and off-road vehicles.
They flatter our strength,
and the grace of our muscles.

Roots crumble concrete
and jilt fences.
Trees cut by lightning
stand firmer than activism.

The earth’s defense
against man
is time:

working slower than we can.

how the internet is killing browsing

Before web browser entered the popular consciousness, browse had a small role in the lexicon as a shopping synonym. “I’m just browsing,” you might say to a salesperson. Now, it’s the definitive activity of the Internet generation. We spend hours online, disappearing into YouTube wormholes, Buzzfeed pop culture, clicking on chains of links and news stories. Internet-as-activity is a quest for Relevant Content which is only consummated with eye fatigue or missed deadlines.

To browse is to observe all available information in a large set, making quick, intuitive judgments and comparisons, and refining criteria until a selection is made. It’s a fluid, somewhat inefficient method of filtering, and, when applied to the act of navigating the web, is really a perfect term. As a type of looking, it is recreational rather than purposeful (one doesn’t browse for missing car keys). In the real world, libraries, record stores, shopping malls, and farmer’s markets are common places to browse, and the browser’s reward may be a ripe tomato, a book to read during a long layover, or a gift for a friend. Even if nothing is found, one feels enriched by the experience. But the major players in E-commerce offer an experience that is the opposite of browsing. Frankly, it’s not even possible. I’m a fan of Amazon, but I’m still a brick and mortar holdout for goods like books, music, or clothing. For the things I have to buy – home goods, batteries, office supplies – I often turn to Amazon. For the things I want to buy, I like to savor the experience a little. The search format of E-Commerce prohibits any such nonsense. NBD, right? Well, when we support the online marketplace, we might be missing out on more than we realize.

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transitive principle (driving all night)

a wire is a radio part is a bomb timer
hempcloth is lampshade is skirt
petroleum is energy and asphalt
beach sand forms a window
cow is leather seat

I don’t know how they make plastic straws
but I know where they all go to die:
a trash island in the Pacific
(I saw it on the Internet)

This Midwest Kwik Mart corn dog is
still a Midwest Kwik Mart corn dog.

good enough,
with burnt coffee I guess.

just good enough for now.

driving

Well Rounded

I spotted an ugly sentence this morning.

I was reading a weirdly spiteful review by Chuck Klosterman on Grantland. He’s writing on the Tune-Yards new album, of which he confesses he hasn’t listened to very much. All the same, he predicts that it’s an album that won’t age well, as if that’s a proper consideration for pop music. It seems mean-spirited, and a little dumb. I was first exposed to Klosterman in 2011 while working for the Texas Book Festival, and I haven’t really liked his writing since. His 2003 book of judgy pop sociology, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, was a coffee shop accessory in the early aughts. It sold a bunch of copies and was also occasionally read, I’m sure.

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Back to this ugly sentence. It’s highlighted above.  Continue reading

five days in Des Moines

I don’t get art, she says:
two tourists at dusk on the river.

She speaks to the concrete sculptures
glazed with sundown color.
They are joined by false light in blocks like
a television’s geometric plea for reception.

We leave something of our lives in our living rooms
when we are present in the city.

She resents the art market,
spitting the word “millions.”

We’ve never talked much before.
I know she has two children
and a prescription.

My response is an audible shrug.

Sometimes, with art,
reason muddies the impression
(the dancing body is free of reflection)
and the “getting” is the sight
of the self in a sad illusion.

Lovely but without purpose are
these votives to the natural world:
our clumsy attempts at flowers.

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seven

I see a shadow,
a day’s division
of light like bone
and dark like marrow.

shadow is a double
devoid of detail.

shadow is a line
in a triangle
of light and surface
joined in stillness.

tonight
the urban windows are
an instrument
attuned to shadow.

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north! to edge of The South

Our three-state odyssey concluded just before midnight on Sunday in the southern cosmopolitan country-fried city of Nashville, Tennessee. We stopped for gas in Jackson, and for fried catfish in Little Rock. If we imagine Arkansas as a sandwich, this shape is cut into two near perfect triangles by Highway 30: a long road with tall straight trees receding infinitely on each side. I met a man at a gas pump somewhere in all those trees; he introduced himself as an abstract painter. Canvas, he said, in a one sentence qualifier. He was leaning on his truck as I looked over at him, a dirty oil-covered sock in one hand, and in the other the ridiculous drooping saber of my Hyundai’s dipstick. He was trying to get together some funds to move to Austin. He wrote down his website on the back of a receipt. Aside from watching the line cooks hustle from my seat at the bar in a seafood joint, it was the only person I saw in the state. At any given moment, the most exciting thing happening in Arkansas is a forest fire or a rerun.

We approached Memphis after sundown, from the west via the de Soto bridge. The city is a jumble of lights and curved roads, edged by the darkness of the massive Mississippi river. It was nearly midnight when we explored the neighborhoods of Craftsman homes near Vanderbilt University, reading aloud the street names and numbers. To our curiosity, we drove past a man burning furniture in his front yard: “Emergency Moving Sale: Help If U Can.” I saw some vintage speakers at the curb but Patty pressed me to drive on.

My brother Kyle lives in a cluster of newly developed houses on a hill in midtown. I woke up early on the first morning, and the two of us glided on scooters – the preferred vehicle of political canvassing, I found out – down to Centennial Park. It’s home to a famous Parthenon replica, which was built for a city exposition nearly 100 years ago and has weathered many calls for its destruction. The ceilings are intricately painted, and the bronze entrance doors are the largest in the United States, according to a plaque. Their necessity is hinted at by the Pallas Athena inside, which has the distinction of being the “tallest indoor sculpture in the western world.”

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Spring was bursting all over the city. The pond behind the Parthenon was ringed with bradford pear trees and bright yellow forsythia… Continue reading