A poem: Bombs in the Basement, by Gary Lindorff

Recent poem by my father, featured on the political activist site Counterpunch.org:

Bombs in the Basement
by Gary Lindorff

Today my toast looks like Christ,

like planet earth,

like Venus

like me in a dinosaur-proof suit,

bristling with spikes

that I invented when I was afraid to fall asleep.

But I don’t have time for visions. Christ,

I don’t have time for anything!

Bombs in the basement. That’s for the NSA.

A toast to the NSA!

(Lift up your cups, your mugs, comrades!)

The NSA keeps us mad.

Mad as a Hatter.

Without madness I just start

thinking about whether I flossed last night.

I can’t tell you what I’m really thinking.

But it’s whispering.

(I tell spirit in the stone-people’s lodge, I

sweat out truths that are so far beyond

anything I can put to words.

Sometimes sweat speaks louder than words.)

I wish I trusted my instincts!

Damn this

buzzing in my head. Can’t

think clearly. Want a revolution.

You too?

(My toast wants a revolution!)

I’m a Vietnam peace-veteran. And

so much more. They took my childhood,

my youth, my old age.

(Next life I’m going to

get ‘em back.) They took my father’s soul for

Christ’s sake. . .He was a Marine. . .

But he got it back before he died.

I was there. He got it back!

Bombs, bombs, I mean Buddha

in the basement.

Good morning NSA.

It’s a metaphor, you idiots. You literalists.

It’s code for, you guys should get out more.

This whole piece of toast is looking like Snowden now

who looks like Christ, by the way,

who looks like you and me and Buddha

flossing under the Bodhi tree,

who looks like Snowden.

Dear Snowden,

It snowed yesterday.

And I still have gardens to put to bed. . .


Coos Bay bar

I recently went to the coast for a weekend of oceanside explorations. The second night I was there, I decided I wanted to go to a bar and talk with some locals. I was near Coos Bay, so I drove into town, found a good place near a church to park my car and return to it later in the night to sleep there, and then went off to the main street to find a bar. The sun was setting and the sky had a fading, dusty grey-blue hue to it. Boat flags rippled in the wind, their ropes clanking against metal poles. For a Saturday night, the town was extremely quiet. It seemed that in the past there was much more activity; I noticed at least two old theatres, their neon signs still affixed to their brick buildings, flashing. Not much seemed to be going on in those theatres. I kept walking down the street. I must have seemed out of place with my black jeans, thrift store faux-Members Only beige jacket and “Save the Rain Forest” tote bag slung over my shoulder. Some kids yelled at me as they drove by. Other than that, it was very silent. I was having a hard time finding a bar, but I finally came across one hidden on a small street. A pink neon strip lined the old, dirty awning which sheltered the entrance. I went in and sat down. Lottery machines, neon beer company signs and other low-light fixtures provided the only ambiance. Everyone was laughing and yelling. Moments after settling, I overheard a few people asking each other, “Who is that?” Eventually, someone came up to me and asked me my name. He told me his cousin was also named Evan. For some reason, he also wanted to tell his friend playing pool that I told him to tell her that I was interested in her and wanted to play pool as well, even though I certainly did not. I didn’t feel like arguing, so I told him he could say whatever he wanted to say. About 10 minutes later, the woman came over to me and asked me if what he said was true, to which I responded that it was not. She told me not to worry, and that he was “an asshole”. We shook hands. After that, I didn’t talk to many people, except for a few outside. They spoke of construction and timber jobs. They were kind of worried about the inevitable big earthquake.

For a while, I just sat and tried to decipher as many words and sentences from the mingling conversations as I possibly could. I frantically wrote exactly what I heard, gleaned from the mixture of voices.

As I did in my journal, I’ll bunch it together here into one paragraph, as I didn’t differentiate who was speaking, and I can’t remember anyway. It can just be another level of misinterpretation… Anyway, this is what I thought I heard:

“That’s the first one to go. It’s the kids that are wrong—It’s the one of those types of plastics. I don’t know, it’s my problem.  Super glue… super glue. Give it to them straight.  Rolling Rock?   I saw Sharpies.  I’ll watch your chair. Sharpies!  I’m really sorry, my Sharpie. The Sharpies got it… Want Mickie? For a while listen here! Hahaha. It’s almost a shame, you know. I mean, yeah, shower boom. I’ll take the shower, buddy. Hey, I did never said I never shower. Just kiddin’. Sheesh. Well, I got there and I couldn’t see a thing… Pool table. Want some tape?  I want some tape. Can I take my drink to the side of my legs? We’re lookin’ at the cottonball. Young people sleepin’ in lines, so much resistance. Jake!  Can I tell you something?  Yes, babe. I haven’t seen him in years. I’m trying to be with him, and here she is. Ha row. Ha row. Ha row?  Yeah, I, uh, had an epiphany there. I had an epiphany. You do that sometimes?  I like it sometimes. Thank you. No problem. That was my best, modified, cracked-out encounter I ever had. I remember I did, I said, “Hey, look, here’s the bistro.” She said, “Okay, I’ll get it.” It doesn’t go backwards worth shit, but it sure goes forwards. Old fuck will doin’ it. How ya doin’?  Good. Who wants some fuckin’ pizza?  Mandy. Pizza!  Pizza!  I’ll make some pizza. They’ve been talkin’ about pizza for maybe an hour. I’ll call Nadine!  Life phone.”


Pillars painted white with cloth squares hanging on them. Cast shadows at their corners sit in semi-darkness, so settled and integrated. Emptiness in the room. Deep brown and muted black. Things act from human interactions, but there’s no one around. Like lamps with their lights and maybe a boiling tea kettle. Certainly a window open. A breeze outside. Dark air. White trim. The book spines blend together in the darkness of the room. What are we doing tonight ?  People frozen in their interactions.

Reaction to Mark Owens, Theriault, Smith & Green at The Waypost in Portland

Last night I attended a concert at The Waypost by Mark Owens and Theriault, Smith & Green. During the performance, in which the trio played laptop, minimally processed violin and modular synthesizer, Owens wrote frantically on a constantly unraveling spool of brown paper. The paper was fed to him from the spool by an assistant. After being written upon, it was then cut in half, lengthwise, by another assistant, creating two thinner pieces of very long, unending paper. The words thus became indecipherable. I am unclear what the connection was between this dramatic performance and the musical performance, but it didn’t bother me much at all. I became enamoured with trying to make out what was being frantically scribbled onto the paper, watching the paper being satisfyingly cut in half by very sharp scissors (a fantastic sound, I might add), listening to the transparent, airy yet rigid sonic textures being created by the instruments involved, and how the early evening bar sounds of dishes and talking and birdsongs through the open door all mingled together to create a gorgeous cacophony.

About halfway through, I decided to write down in my journal exactly what I thought I saw on the paper, before it fell into a beautiful tumble of hair-thin coils. I couldn’t read everything being written, so I wrote what I thought I saw. Inevitably, this became an interesting combination of what I thought was there, my own mind’s unconscious contribution, and my attempts at keeping up with the wealth of aural and visual information. Therefore, some of the words I wrote down may or may not have been on the paper, and conventional structure is certainly not present.

Later on, I decided to type on the computer what I wrote in my journal. I tried to space the words exactly as I did in my journal. After that, I created two documents on the screen: one with the typed journal entry, and the other blank. On this blank document, I tried, as best I could, to create a more or less prose version of the typed version of the words I thought I saw, heeding to my immediate reactions, but also trying to create some sense out of the nonsensical original. I then went back over this final version and made some minor adjustments for the sake of poetry and flow. Below I have the original journal entry of the words and sentences I thought I saw while Mark Owens wrote them, along with the verbatim typed version of that handwritten version. After those two images is the more or less prose version written while simultaneously reading the first unstructured version.


Word after word, it goes as something with an error. Some whole or some mind fell through its feelings, withering to the length of a mole or a platter’s plaster: through a mouth, taxing a shrink over a penis. America’s pen does little to know his words are better. Dissect each word, heard from then, what was an owl. Written “I” (the letter “I” is some form of “da”), I keep writing; yuk hand ever things. This thing. It just keeps going. Something about the sex or violence in front of their lives—their worlds going over and over, asserting again and again the sporting nature of straightening the kitchen, the animal, inside the animal, or ship. All of a sudden, haha! We are to ask what is beholden. The buildings? Are they molden? Molded? Mold? Mottled? Waves upon waves upon waves, weaves the paper over the sage. Lost in the ether, the paper. The stars, just the stars are something I see eight shy.
A gale matter is tenuous.

A Poem : I don’t think I can stand, by Gary Lindorff

I don’t think I can stand
By Gary Lindorff

I don’t think I can stand another disappointment.
I’m weak,
Weakened by disappointment.
So I’m watching from the outside
To see if you can weed out the free-loaders,
The addicts, the bandstanders, the ones who abandon old dogs in the alley
Before I show up with my clean white beard
To tell you a few true imperfect stories,
To make my pitch for endurance,
To believe in you
To cast my eyes up to the tower tops
And down down to the basements of Mother Earth
Where the ants are gathering for the coming storm.
You know the apples in the great barrels are all rotten
But we’re fasting anyway.
The jailor is perplexed.
His job is to feed us
And he hasn’t noticed that the walls are dissolving.
Soon he will be free as well.
So please, please
Don’t disappoint us.
When you tell what happened, to your grandchildren
You will say, those white beards came
And the ants, from deep down in the Earth fed us
When we were sleeping,
Dropping little grains of sweetness between our lips.
Dreams came,
Towers fell,
Little children sang
and sang
and sang. . .

Originally posted on Dave Lindorff’s political activist website, This Can’t Be Happening.
Gary Lindorff, the author of this poem, can be reached at maleotter [at] gmail.com
Artwork by me, which was posted on this site in another post, so will not be duplicated here.

A Poem : Conscience, by Gary Lindorff

DSC_0315_this cant be happeningConscience
By Gary Lindorff

I am coming –
Made of stardust
And the dust that escapes from vacuum-cleaner bags.
I am blowing.
I am rushed and roaring
Like a waterfall
Coming straight at you,
Pushing ghosts out of my way. . .
I am spitting out the taste of middle-age,
Hacking out the nutrasweet of misspent youth.
A little manic,
A little frantic,
A little righteous. . .
I have been lied to,
Cheated and abused
But none of that has molded me.
I am coming for myself,
For you,
For my mother and father.
I am like a thing of light
Stepping out of a chainmail
Of dead cells
And scales the color of fog.
I am like a mega-fauna
Crashing out of the wilderness.
Blazing my own way,
Snapping branches as I come.
I am American
And I should be dead,
Extinct and broken. . .
Oh yes, forgotten too.
I have been drafted and flogged
Pissed on and denied,
Forced to commit atrocities. . .
My feet are bare and bleeding.
I walk gingerly
For the sacred ground is bruised
And bleeding too!
Trembling I am coming.
Awed by my own existence,
I tell you, I have been summoned!
I have no choice
But still I am glad.
I am coming fast!
I am coming strong and loud.
Just know this –
I am not turning around.
I am not going away.
Coming is my vision.
Announce me.
Give me work.
Make me welcome.

Originally posted on Dave Lindorff’s political activist website, This Can’t Be Happening.
Gary Lindorff, the author of this poem, can be reached at maleotter [at] gmail.com
Artwork by me.

Hungry Child

Hungry Child
by Langston Hughes

Hungry Child, I didn’t make this world for you
You didn’t buy any stocks in my railroads
You didn’t invest in my corporations
Where are your shares in Standard Oil ?
I made the world for the rich and the will-be-rich,
And for the always-have-been rich.
I didn’t make this world for you,
Not for you, hungry child, not for you.

I just discovered this written work, by Langston Hughes, via a recording of Frederic Rzewski’s musical arrangement sung by Marianne Pousseur. It’s part of an exceptional album of mostly modern art songs, recorded in unconventional locations and sung by Pousseur. This particular piece was sung in a primary school, and right at the end of the last line, one can hear the school bell ring. The sounds of birds and wind through trees emerge thereafter, and the track slides into Pousseur singing the gorgeous John Cage piece “Experience N°2”, adapted from an e.e. cummings poem  (“… at moments when the glassy darkness holds the genuine appreciation of your smile ; (it was through tears always) and silence moulds such strangeness as was mine a little while …”).

After doing some very brief research on the Hughes piece, I discovered that it is supposed to be “God” speaking to the hungry child. I think it’s safe to say this could also be society, or modern humanity, speaking to him or her, of all the facets and fabricated infrastructures with which the “humanness” of our human race is incongruent.

Let it all come down. Let it all go down, and out.
Let it all come back anew.

A Poem – From the Night, 1

Compositionally interesting :
Thin black grey sheets on red and with a shade of white stripes
Spectrum lost with no less than an exclamation

Too lost
To take
The last part is a remorse
Curved lines on contour forthwilling adherence ; warning for nothing

The fog accumulates in corners
The walls are brushed steel and painted resin
Take it out method nothing ?  Only one window
And it seems just like a lake
Just like a lake. Why ?
The endlessness is no more

It’s a long lake
You can’t see the other side,
No, nothing
Is there
In sight

A Poem : 2012 / Shit !

2012 / Shit !
By Gary Lindorff

I approached him at the party

Because I didn’t know anyone,

Because he looked harmless,

Because he stood alone,

And I introduced myself.

I said,

You must know a lot of these people,

And he looked straight ahead and said,

All my friends live underground.

And then I realized that he was almost dead,

And I had the idiotic notion that I could help him.

But then he looked right at me

And it hit me that I too was almost dead,

That nobody knew anybody here,

And that he was the only one who could stand the truth.

So I left,

Passing through rooms full of people,

Through the mudroom,

The ice-room,

The wind-room,

Out onto the sidewalk.

And I just started walking,

Following the angling streets

Breathing in the sour breath

Of an exhausted planet,

Trying to remember how to live.


Posted at thiscantbehappening.net
Image, as always, by Evan Lindorff-Ellery.

“The Gorilla” and “The Gorilla and the Butterfly”

The Gorilla
By Frank Asch

There’s a gorilla sitting in my car.  He’s playing with the radio. First he listens to classical music.  He closes his eyes and seems to drift off into a dream.  Then his eyes flash wide open and he turns on the news.  He hears about violence in Africa and tears stream down his face.  Where the tears fall tiny green plants start to grow on the seat and on the floor.  In just a few minutes the car is choked with vines and flowers and big leafy green plants.  The gorilla just grins and turns back to the classical music.

Response :

The Gorilla and the Butterfly
By Gary Lindorff

I saw that gorilla.  He was playing a saxophone at the pub and taking requests, but all he could play was “Oh, Mary, don’t you weep”.  Everyone kept shouting out their favorite songs anyway, until a butterfly flew out of the mirror behind the bar shouting “QUIET!”, to everyone’s alarm.  The gorilla and the butterfly then vanished into the mirror, the butterfly shouting “QUIET! QUIET! QUIET!”, which became “TEIUQ! TEIUQ! TEIUQ!” as they passed inside.  A drunk shouted, “They’re gone!”  And that was true.  As they merged with their reflections, the two sets of gorilla and butterfly canceled each other out !  Then it was as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.  The mounted moose head resumed spitting at the customers and the bartender continued pouring whiskey on the heads of every sunflower that was even slightly drooping, shouting angrily, “NO DRUNKEN FLOWERS ALLOWED! NO DRUNKEN FLOWERS!”

A Poem : From Vermont / Listening to Michael Nyman – Bell Set #1, by Gary Lindorff

From Vermont / Listening to Michael Nyman – Bell Set #1
By Gary Lindorff

What will we do when the gates go up?

Here is the dream:  Consumers with money. A virtual middle class.
Cash and stuff. Jobs and cash. Benefits!  Security.

Is there any way out?

Is it too late?
The lights go out. Nobody can find the switch.
Something as simple as a light switch and everything shifts.

Dreams are amazing.
Everyone has the same dream. Think of that.

By linear time we have already reached the end.

What kind of history are we weaving?

If you ask the weather man,
After you have plied him with a few more drinks,
He will say,
We are making it easy for him . . .

Something about creation and prediction converging
In an open-ended season of 500-year storms.

The rivers, amnesiac,
Recovering from Irene,
Have conveniently forgotten
How they consumed their beds,
Swept gentle farms away,
Pushed huge trees to the brink
Of hydroelectric dams.

In the waterfalls I sometimes hear
The caterwauling and moaning and pining of the wild beasts.

When the gates went up
In malls across Turtle Island,
Consumers flooded through,
Tore into sales racks and displays . . .
But they weren’t buying.
They were just mad.

Were you mad, Grandpa?
(Muted gong, tinkling chimes . . . )
Ting, knnng, knnng, Ting . . . Mbronnggg!

Posted at thiscantbehappening.net

To all those in New Orleans

Unexpected poetry extracted from a letter :

All the best to you all in New Orleans,
the city with small lights like stars.
Shining points,
but colored ones
hanging in trees,
behind leaves,
in the warm
slowly moving air
that softly sits
on secret surfaces,
somewhere in a corner,
or out in the open,
listening to the music

(And please, if you are not in New Orleans, as most people are not, this may be applicable to a variety of other metaphorical situations. Enjoy.)

What I thought I heard

I recently attended a jazz performance by James Falzone’s Early Music Quartet, at The Whistler, in Chicago. Expectedly, they played and interacted wonderfully, despite the bar patrons’ omnipresent din. Hearing them along with such noise was a strong contrast to hearing them and similar music in more familiar contexts such as The Hideout or Elastic Arts. During intermission, I found myself focusing more than usually on the surrounding conversations. I’ve always found it interesting how conversations occurring in large crowds have a way of peaking and falling, standing out and becoming interwoven. I’ve never specifically tried to focus on particulars, but that night I did. I decided to write down exactly what I heard :  sentence fragments, unreal words, and misinterpretations. I found myself with an odd mixture of what I thought I heard, what was said, and how my own spontaneous inclinations recontextualised these observations into something new—perhaps more about me than about them. Perhaps, but probably not.

—Middle of California there were the jaywash.
—I actually walked a jaywalk the other day.
—They got dungeons for jobs.
—I’m going to run Sierra Tuesday night.
—I got him.
—What’s an eye doctor ?
—Yeah, it just got announced tonight. I’ve released the sign on.
—Well, it’s the beexperienced in it. It’s my bat. Take the jamas there.
—That sucks.
—How about the brain ? I miss the brain on Sunday.
—They got a real piano now.
—I recall horse Chicago.
—There’s a piano store that’s tied to a real coffee shop.
—My godfather went to the dooley.
—Well, Chicago’s like that too.
—Nooo… 25 cents.
—Well, half recall.


—The family guy—the guy who’s a family guy.
—Whittle bothings.
—I will.
—In Michigan.
—Iowa ? Minnesota ?
—It’s kind of Midwest, kind of upstate. Kinda funny.
—He’s gotta love you.
—When you shield off—it’s probably good for him.
—What is living, for me ?
—But if, uhhh… Um.
—Yes, I’d like to.
—I mean, I liked her voice.
—In Minnesota ?
—What’s up ?
—It’s, uh, this comedic thing.
—It’s where Larabee camped ; I liked his friends.
—Andy law.
—Widely resident.
—Oh, he’s kinda…
—Yeah, I run in circles.