Sunday, April 15, 2018

Meanwhile, At The Port

HOW DOES ONE KEEP UP with an ever-changing work order? I got this assignment last week to cover for the day Stewart Airport in upstate New York 85 miles from the city, and drive through the sparsely-lit NY Thruway on the way back just before midnight to return the government car. Holy crap. Just to show that this job is not a joke.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

More Heads Up

ANOTHER COLLEGE INVITATION for Sara, and her spring term report card. Stuyvesant doesn't give numerical grades in the first marking period; check codes at the bottom of the card for meaning of letter grades. Lab is either pass or unsatisfactory. Good job, babe!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Writing 101

WORDTOONS are the creative invention of Wayne Logue, a professional cartoonist creating illustrations and animations for books, posters and web sites. He works with Dr. Rich Allen, an educational psychologist who travels the world promoting advanced learning concepts to teachers and trainers. I think the principle (or metaphor) behind it applies to writers as well: a backbone of an idea around which an author builds the flesh of his beast, no matter how jazzed up he makes it to be. Fun, don't you think?

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Distance Diploma

HEY KIDDOS, wanna earn that MFA in Creative Writing without leaving the comfort of your computer desk? Paying out-of-state tuition not a problem? (Online assistantships are also available, but you must know Blackboard.) Then check out University of Arkansas at Monticello's no residency program. Think of all the money saved on plane fare, housing and living expenses, and the anxiety saved from face-to-face workshops. But you won't get to see Dean Mark Spencer's haunted Allen House (not to be confused with Sallie House, which is in Kansas).

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Holy Week Circus

PEOPLE RAISE their eyebrows after reading the last paragraph of this old story, and poet Parmjit Kaur thought it was flippant, but I don't really mind. I wrote this piece in the eighties, inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Shirley Jackson. It won First Prize in the Philippines Free Press Literary Awards of 1999, and was shortlisted in the Fish Publishing Literary Awards in Durrus, Ireland the same year. It appeared in the anthology Hoard of Thunder: Philippine Short Stories in English, 1990-2008, edited by the great Gemino H. Abad and published by the University of the Philippines Press. Reposting this recently polished and illustrated version for Holy Week. Credits go to Jose Costa Leite, Alexis Snell, Victoria Weller, Emil Nolde, Kathe Kollwitz, and Mazatl for the woodcuts.

Y PARA MIS AMIGOS HISPANOS como mis jefes, el portorriqueño Carlos Vargas y el salvadoreño Saul López, para que puedan conocer un pedazo de vida en Filipinas aparte de Manny Pacquiao. No soy un hablante nativo de español, así que usé la ayuda de Google Translate para traducir gran parte de esta historia, pero no es un traductor literario, así que tuve que editar muchas frases y palabras. Pero no es suficiente. Por favor, ayúdame a editar señalando errores gramaticales y deja tus comentarios. Léela aquí.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


BECAUSE BRAINIACS also need to chill out. Stuyvesant's annual musical production SING! is on tonight, Friday and Saturday. 100% written, produced, directed and performed by students, the event is always as spectacular as a Broadway show, for $20. Sara's group will be doing a belly dance routine which she also directed, and we are going despite the winter storm. UPDATE: Due to the winter storm, tonight's performance has been postponed for tomorrow, same time, same tickets.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Ars Poetica A La Yanqui

I GET A LOT OF READING done on this week-long winter vacation. Here's a poem from the shelves where Mark Halliday tackles the subject of ars poetica in a vast country like the US, in the "wacky, talky" Goldbarthian style of my former Wichita State teacher, but effective nonetheless. Also note his attitude towards time. What makes a good poem: sensibility, idea or texture? Or all of the above? You decide.

Pasco, Barbara

I find I am descending in a propeller plane upon Pasco
in the state of Washington. I accept this;
I have reasons for participating in the experiential sequence
that has brought me here. Down below the land is printed
with huge circles, doubtless an irrigation system,
doubtless it makes sense. There are people who understand it
living with dignity in square houses
and the result possibly is one billion radishes.
Now some so-called time has passed. This nation
is a huge nation in which the infinity of for example
Washington State
is just one segment of an even less thinkable hugeness
and yet zim zim zim zim United Airlines has me
here in my Eastern metropolis
with its ten thousand makers of third-rate pizza
uncannily far from the possible radishes of Washington State.
The taxi driver experiments with narrow streets
to shorten our detour caused by sports fans and he says
the Eagles will out-tough the Steelers.
I defer to his judgment, I am conserving my powers.
After “a while” I have this unsettlingly smooth tuna salad
with a pale pickle
in a drugstore designed by Dwight D. Eisenhower,
reading a few poems by David Rivard. I have thoughts.
I have my Uncle Ralph’s jacket soft and droopy giving me
a Sense of the Past. The rain out there
on the roofs of retail outlets is saying No Guarantee
and in a way I am nowhere, in another way maybe
definitely not. In a wide wet parking lot
I turn back toward the store to explain to the cashier
that she charged me for six cans of seltzer when in fact
I only had one from a six-pack
but the idea of justice seems so fatiguing
I would rather read a surprisingly serious detective novel
so I vibrate with indecision in the parking lot
till all the car windows rattle imperceptibly. Then
an alleged interval ostensibly intervenes, at the mall
a woman at a piano has played 1800 songs from memory
according to the radio personality who stands with a mike
explaining her bid for the Guinness Book of Records.
I am walking away at an unplanned angle singing “Tiny Montgomery”
which I bet she wouldn’t have been ready to play.
I have this inner life, I think of my father
lonely in Vermont, I think of myself lonely in Syracuse
and my old poem about a detective who can’t solve his biggest case
and as a result I have feelings—but my teacher said
the future of American poetry can’t be merely
the notation of sensibility. When he said that I felt
a chilly fear at the edge of consc-consc-consc-consciousness
like an ice cube in the corner of my stomach.
That’s how I felt. So then, so then consequently
I thought “I must gather up some serious ideas” but then
Ashberry phoned and left a message after the beep.
“Don’t be a sucker, ideas are where it isn’t.”
This made my throat get sort of dry so I drank a Classic Coke
and then another Classic Coke two hours later
as time so-to-say passed. What was always there?
Texture, that’s what, how it was/is, the how of how;
when I pick up my color prints at the camera shop
the disappointment I always feel is actually a blessing
is it not? I can say “I’ll go along with this charade
until I can think my way out” even though I’ll never
think my way out. I’ve come this far;
that day in 1971 I hitchhiked all the way to Montpelier
didn’t I? And here I am.
Suddenly I have a son
who focuses with tremendous insistence upon
dogs, balloons, air conditioners, hats, clocks, and noses.
To him I convey that the world is okay:
life is good: we accept it. Your dad is a little mixed up
but your shoes got tied, right?
As Barbara Cohen in high school said about politics
it’s interesting, giving the word four earnest syllables,

Monday, February 19, 2018

In Memory

NATIONAL ARTIST Napoleon Abueva was Dean of the UP College of Fine Arts when he created this magnificent treasure that now belongs to me, for winning Best Fiction in the 1982 UP Writers' Workshop. It sits on top of my computer desk, after enduring airport throws and countless balyas inside my wife's luggage on her trip back from the Philippines, to light up those still hours of the night in Maspeth. Humbled and thankful, I salute and bid you farewell, Dean!
Napoleon Abueva, Jan 1930-Feb 2018
Scroll inscription: In my craft or sullen art, Exercised in the still night--Dylan Thomas    N.V. Abueva '82

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Here Comes Trouble

ENCOUNTERED THIS poem by Dorianne Laux among Sara's English reading this winter break.

We put the puzzle together piece
by piece, loving how one curved
notch fits so sweetly with another.
A yellow smudge becomes
the brush of a broom, and two blue arms
fill in the last of the sky.
We patch together porch swings and autumn
trees, matching gold to gold. We hold
the eyes of deer in our palms, a pair
of brown shoes. We do this as the child
circles her room, impatient
with her blossoming, tired
of the neat house, the made bed,
the good food. We let her brood
as we shuffle through the pieces,
setting each one into place with a satisfied
tap, our backs turned for a few hours
to a world that is crumbling, a sky
that is falling, the pieces
we are required to return to.