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Archive for December, 2006


Monday, December 18th, 2006


(pic of town in Istria, Croatia)

Croatia’s Istrian towns harken to my preconceptions of Italy. Little towns with cobblestone and municipal buildings, apartments that look like pastel cakes with beige frosting. Christmas lights drip, strung across the narrow streets.

Driving from Istria to Slovenia is like going from a Mediterranean to a more alpine country but with similar language, similar style housing, the red roofs. Slovenia seems a bit downtrodden through the coastal route we took.

Then through a tunnel and into Italy, Trieste, and it’s a magic tunnel and the whole landscape has changed.  My expectation was of some diffusion process through which the population would evenly spread across borders. But we came from sparse Slovenia into teeming Trieste. Factories, apartments, all of it, lots of it, and all at once.

Trieste is a coral reef with smokestacks. Apartments stack atop apartments up the hill. Some of the architecture seems to be of empire. There are tunnels through the city, as it is built on the side of a hill. One tunnel looks like Darth Vader’s head. Traffic streams through his maw into white municipal tunnel light.

The first thing we did in Trieste was stop for hot chocolate and expresso. We found an festive coffeeshop in a main square. It was manned by several attractive accomodating tall men in their twenties. I felt shy ordering, especially as I did not brush up on any Italian prior to our visit. The chocolate was melted chocolate! It was not like our cocoa. It was a blend of melted chocolate and steamed milk, with a large sludge of chocolate pooled on the bottom. Served on a tray, with cookies and unsweetened clumps of cream.

We found a Christmas market along several main pedestrian ways, Christmas light strings blinking down in simulated motion above our heads. Unbelievable stuff, and it all seems cheap. Wool shoes for 22 Euros (Sara says they can cost 80 USD in the states.) And ornate confections unlike anything I’d ever seen. I bought marzipan in the shape of a mushroom standing on a chocolate mound. And a pig made of marzipan! I’ve not seen these elsewhere.

We found our way out of the city almost as easily as we came in. We stopped at an Esso station for gas, and they pointed the way out. Driving out, we went on a path more adjacent to water, and the road wrapped about the expanse of the cup of coast spanned by Trieste, and we saw the shimmery lights of a busy port.

Trieste is like every city you imagine and don’t imagine, a discovery, a reason for travel, something I’d never known of, something that imprints itself and opens the possibilities of the world like the first time I’d ever made a trip by myself, the first book which ever captured me, the first time I ate a pomegranite or stepped onto a different planet.



Monday, December 18th, 2006

foto by smith 

the dawn comes and sometimes you wonder why, what now. heart skips beats, gums bleed, teeth break, bones ache, skies grey, rain wets laundry on the line, no poems cry to be written, you’re in a strange land with an unknown language… and then you realize that’s it – you’re in strange lands hearing unknown tongues… you’ve discarded the external you of known place, friends, services, possessions, habits, home, maze and are off seeking the true internal you… you are doing what others don’t because it isn’t easy… tho this is a little easier since you have a partner on the same trek to truth, justice and the non-american way because america has become the corrupt competition cancer confusion consumption corporation. 

foto by smith

they have a store chain here in croatia call CONZUM… consume: that says it all, just like the coneheads’  “consume mass quantities of food units.”  of course following this advice leads to obesity, tired blood, weak hearts, cancer, financial problems, and sadness.  there are way fewer fat folk everywhere we’ve been in europe than there are in america.  way way fewer.  america’s a country where no sin is too venal to worship, no weakness too small to live your life by.

foto by smith

our host’s daughter sabina stopped by for a 5 folk dinner last night.  she’s finishing her masters in economics.  sara holbrook and michael salinger are teacher poets. kathy and i are the wandering homeless.  it was an evening of fascinating conversation on the serbian bosnian slovenian croatian war, world economics, morality, and the state of education in america being eviscerated by corporations and the religious wrong… a lot of laughter over deadly serious sadnesses. we all agreed all we can do is lighten the darkness where we are.  do no harm.  do as you would be done.  and mock the fools in power – it’s hard to follow The Man’s orders when you’re laughing at his lack of clothes.

foto by smith

thanks to the flat earthers in the u.s., the following rules govern school text books: illustrations of cows cannot show their udders, any women shown must be wearing high heels, you cannot use the word fetus (you must say unborn child), and you cannot say any rock or mountain is older than 6,000 years because the religious wrong believe the bible says it is 6,000 years since creation. many schools no longer offer science or history because they spend all their time on math and reading to produce good little robots.  the last time the government and corporations put large sums of money into actual education was the 1950s, and that resulted in hippies and folks who thought for themselves and questioned authority.  god forbid that citizens should actually think for themselves… makes it much harder to rule the sheep pen.

foto by smith

we’re halfway thru our 3 months in croatia.  right now we’re leaning toward a week or 3 in trieste italy and then thailand.  medical costs are cheap there, it’s truly exotic, and it will up the bar of our adventure.  blue 7 of the urban-jellen test first put thailand in our brains because he spent 14 months there in the early oughts, and sara&mike found it fascinating as well.  if not thailand immediately, there’s still greece or spain.  early january, we’re spending 2 days in venice italy.

collage by kathy

kathy’s got a fine new larger assemblage titled ‘off world.’  she’s more painter, while i’m more gluer. she’s completed 4 pieces of art here and has 3-5 more started, while i’m 2/3’s done with my word collage and just now laid out my sea-worn wood pieces to start my 2nd piece tomorrow.  seems i satisfy most my creative needs by blogging.  i’ll add a better foto of her piece when the sun returns in a few days.  we’re hoping for a blue skied sunny christmas.


skullduggery surgery

Saturday, December 16th, 2006

foto by smith 

were i a suspicious man, i might think the republican party slipped south dakota senator tim johnson something to make him have a heart attack or a brain aneurism to get him out of the senate so republican governor mike rounds could appoint a republican to take his place to allow cheney and rove and their little booger boy bush could wipe out the 51-49 democratic majority in the senate.  i mean, cheney and bush admit to murdering 45,000 iraqi civilians, and they’ve already sent 3,000 young americans to their deaths, so what would one more measly senator matter, especially when it would counter america’s vote – and we all know cheney and bush have a lot of practical experience in countering american votes.  i believe cheney and bush would do anything to stay in power to please their corporate masters.

foto by smith 

speaking of blood and guts, i tried some blood sausage in samobar (outside zagreb).  first few bites made me queasy just thinking about sausage cooked in blood.  but i’m a poet, and i’m a why not knot person, and i usually go the extra step.  they actually tasted quite good – would taste even better had i not known what i was putting in my mouth.  they were soft, gooey.  the blood sausage repeatedly visited my mind through the night – i kept tossing on an uncomfortable futon and thinking i don’t want this stuff in my body.  it was my 1st and last blood sausage. kathy had wild boar – that was delicious.

foto by smith 

we went through 13 tunnels between rijeka and zagreb totalling 10,300 meters – that’s 6.4 miles underground through mountains.  came out of one tunnel to find another starting 50 feet away. went in one tunnel under sunny skies, came out the other side in the valley of the clouds… didn’t see the sun for two days.

 foto by smith

easy pickings in the past, the future just a book. 

foto by smith 

while sitting in a teacher’s house in zagreb, i noticed the novel “the time traveler’s wife” by audrey niffenegger… opened it up to the thank you page and there was our chicago friend MELISSA J CRAIG listed.

poems – a sonnet = 14 lines of a-b-a-b c-d-c-d e-f-e-f g-g rhyme scheme in iambic pentameter… a tanka = 5 lines of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables … riding hundreds of miles in the back seat of a car piloted by 2 teacher poets, you pick up stuff to try.  never written a sonnet, never heard of a tonka. will try both. do a tonka toy.

2 of our friends have new books out.  cleveland’s sara holbrook & michael salinger have “outspoken! (how to improve writing and speaking skills through poetry performance)” which teaches teachers how to teach poetry in schools  (published by heinemann) – and london beat poet john clarke has “ghost on the road (new & selected poems)” published by tall-lighthouse. kathy & i are getting 3 manuscripts together to shop around in 2007 – her poetry, my poetry, my true stories.

foto by smith


mammon and the servants of 666

Saturday, December 16th, 2006

colla & foto by smith 

and now, a word from the world of mammon and the servants of 666…

Cleveland was the U.S. city with the highest poverty rate last year, at 32.4%, while San Jose had the lowest, at 9.7%. (Published on Thursday, December 7, 2006 by the Associated Press)
. . . . .
Personal wealth is distributed so unevenly across the world that the richest 2% of adults own more than 50% of the world’s assets while the poorest 50% hold only 1% of wealth. The concentration of wealth in different countries varies considerably, with the top 10% in the US holding 70% of the country’s wealth, compared with 61% in France, 56% in the UK, 44% in Germany and 39% in Japan. (Published on Wednesday, December 6, 2006 by the Financial Times)
. . . . .
The length of the Iraq war surpassed that of World War II last month. The costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the global fight against terrorism are expected to surpass the $536 billion in inflation-adjusted costs of the Vietnam War by spring. That’s more than 10 times the Bush administration’s $50 million prewar estimate.  If U.S. troops remain in Iraq through 2010, it will approach $1 trillion. (Published on Wednesday, December 6, 2006 by McClatchy Newspapers)
. . . . .
Very soon more Americans will have died in Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, than died in the World Trade Center that day. (Published on Tuesday, December 5, 2006 by the Boston Globe)
. . . . .
Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt always figure in the “great” category. Most presidents are ranked “average” or, to put it less charitably, mediocre. Johnson, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Richard M. Nixon occupy the bottom rung, and now President Bush is a leading contender to join them. Historians are loath to predict the future. It is impossible to say with certainty how Bush will be ranked in, say, 2050. But somehow, in his first six years in office he has managed to combine the lapses of leadership, misguided policies and abuse of power of his failed predecessors. I think there is no alternative but to rank him as the worst president in U.S. history. (Published on Sunday, December 3, 2006 by the Washington Post)
. . . . .
Currently, U.S. military spending tops $500 billion annually, more than the military budgets of all other governments combined. (After January 3, It Will Be the Democrats’ War – by Stephen Zunes)
. . . . .
The highest paid CEO in 2005 made as much as 7,443 average workers and 23,282 minimum wage workers. (Minimum Wage Breaks No-Raise Record – by Holly Sklar)
. . . . .
this has been smith, reporting from underside the scum.


no-number place on no-name street

Thursday, December 14th, 2006

foto by smith 

friday – it is december, yet there’s a yellow rose blooming in our yard. today is t-shirt and open light jacket weather. the sun is shining. the sky is blue.

saturday – how quickly things change… it’s cold windy stormy rainy – and we have no heat or hot water because the gas ran out yesterday; it’ll be monday before they can deliver. this isn’t really a problem because cold here isn’t really cold cold – but – our cleveland poet writer teacher friends arrive tonight… they expect paradise and will get a taste of cleveland instead. reality sure has an absurdist sense of humor. kathy ran some water thru the coffee maker to get hot water to wash us. the adventure continues.

foto by smith

kathy questions me every night about my past for my bio / memoir / autobio project… here’s an excerpt from last night: How you see things affects what you do. You could take the same event and if you look at it with fear, you’re going to react differently than if you look at it with joy. It’s the old Heisenberg Universe Reality thing again. You get what you see, you see what you expect. Your answer is what you asked for. You’re responsible for your own particular corner where you are. If it’s a shithole, you’re the feces.

bussed into pula and got a couple of electric space heaters for $18 each. didn’t know where to find them, so i told kathy to activate the heisenberg uncertainty universe – we’d expect to find them, so we’d find them. they were at the 2nd place we tried. it’s harder buying stuff when you don’t speak the language, can’t read the signs, and don’t know what stores sell what. we bought cold cuts and cheeses and breads for our cleveland guests tonight – stuff to eat without heating… we have the toaster for toast, the coffeemaker hot water for tea and washing. and since we’re all married, we can each keep our spouses warm during the night.

walking to the food store, i was expounding on my joy-in-joy-out view of life when a car came along and soaked me… i raised my umbrella in mock rage saying ‘you dirty rat…‘ and while we were standing there by the puddle laughing, a second car came by and soaked me again. laugh at gods, gods laugh back. at least they have a sense of humor. nam myoho renge kyo.

speaking of humor, my heart beat’s been getting steadier since i started joking about it. beats for longer periods with fewer skips. looks like the cure is making jokes and quitting coffee… i’m in my 5th day of no coffee. now that my heart’s improving, a tooth just broke. can’t go to the dentist until monday. so far, no pain. my physical body life is becoming a bad joke, with me as the punch line. i’m already missing 6-7 teeth… if i were a gift horse, no one would accept me.

told kathy she and i were playing grownup… this is a good thing – gives me practice in case i ever do grow up.

kathy, michael, sarah
heard a beep – thot it might be the gas delivery man. so ran on the rocks up to the road in my socks. no gas man. came back, heat went on. tank still says empty, but is working for a wee bit. it’s as if reality feels sorry for making me run over wet rocks in socks, so gave us a heat respite. when sara and michael call, we’ll explain our uncertain present so they’ll be able to stay overnight in trieste if they choose. no showers here until the gasman cometh.

oops, no need – they missed their flight connection to frankfurt due to winds and impatient airline (continental) in newark.

sunday – back to sun and blue skies and bicycle rides. sara & michael flew into zagreb instead and are driving to pula… kathy gave them directions to our fishing village – we’ll go up and wait for them on the road, flag them down as they pass because there’s no street names, and our place has no number as well. hard to give directions to no-number place on no-name street.

sunday nite. thanks to the continental airlines, sara holbrook & michael salinger have no luggage, no materials for their workshop in zagreb – but they did find us in the night… we got to the road literally 60 seconds before they came around the corner in their car… fairy tale finding. sara brought us each scarves she knitted from yarn from out of business cleveland supplier – each has a special thread from china. mike’s way tired cuz he trained from thursday night chicago poetry reading to meet sara friday at the cleveland airport to fly to paris france to fly to frankfurt germany to stay overnight due to missed connections then fly to zagreb croatia to rent a car to drive 4 hours here to our small fishing village on a hill by the adriatic sea.

monday night – did 3 manly man things for the first time… took the insides out of two whole fish, started a charcoal grill fire, and spent an hour trying to get the furnace to light. the first two went well – the furnace still won’t light. like meatloaf said – two out of three ain’t bad. mike’s grilling the fish now.

tuesday morn. gonna go see mummies today – dead saints who didn’t decay, maybe eat lunch in italy. tomorrow go with sara&mike to zagreb for their writers workshop… then drive down to split to see a bit more of croatia.

kathy, sarah, mike, smith -foto by coffee shop waiter
tuesday nite. we don’t see dead people – church was closed, and when we rang the priest’s door at #4, an old old lady peeped out from 2nd floor window… when we asked to see their dead, she wagged her finger a la monty python at us and saying no, no, no, you can’t see our dead. they close down in september to give their dead a rest.

today was our 2nd 3 country day – in september we flew from amsterdam netherlands to london england to lodz poland… today mike drove us from croatia thru slovenia to trieste italy and back to croatia. wandered fairy tale outdoor stalls buying xmas goods and woolen shoes. as their afghan friend once said in bahrain, “it’s a magical day!”

foto by smith


no know so no can do

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

have blog to upload, but new operating system in this zagreb cyber cafe won’t let me access my memory chip… or perhaps would if i spoke croatian.

sara holbrook, mike salinger, kathy ireland smith and i will be back in pula friday, so i’ll blog saturday. went from croatia thru slovenia to trieste italy and back to croatia yesterday.  today zagreb for their high school poetry workshop tomorrow. then down to southern croatia to see more stuff, then home to blog.

my heart seems to be beating again, more times than not.  caio.


Lady’s fotoblog

Friday, December 8th, 2006





meat beat & manifestos

Friday, December 8th, 2006

foto by smith 

‘i took my bra off the other day, and this fell out.’  kathy shows me a small metal washer i’d given her for collage, which she rediscovers in her pocket while we wait for the bus.  sez, ‘hmmmm, looks like a nipple ring.’  i offer right then and there to see if it would fit her, but she says she’ll check it herself.  so at the bus stop across from the big food store in pula she puts her hand inside her blouse and bra and tries it on… says “the nipple’s too big, or too soft,’ and loses the washer in her bra.  this is the kind of wife every one should have.

my heart still skips beats whenever it feels like it – right now it beats 15 stop 10 stop 11 stop 5 stop 10 stop 5 stop… while an hour ago it was beating in the 30s before stopping and before that i didn’t catch it stopping at all.

foto by smith

now next morning it’s steady.  getting up knowing there’ll be no coffee (day 3 without) and having to check your heartbeat to see if you’re still alive takes some of the joy from the day.  but i’m not actually worried anymore because it’s been 5 days and i’m still alive and the emergency room said not to worry unless it becomes a constant 5 beats and a stop.  besides, this could have been going on for months – i never bothered to listen before.  still, it leaves these sneaky little echoes in your mind, especially when i sit and read and it goes back to 5-5-5.

needless to say, kathy has been somewhat frazzled by all this – tho devastated would be closer to the truth.  it is amazing how much she loves me.  and vice versa.  told her i’m saving up all these missing heart beats to use later at the other end when i run out.

find sex jumpstarts the heart to a skipless beat… and we took a 2 hour walk down to the sea which kept it steady.  realize now our long walk to the emergency room got my heart beating again so i got a good ekg… if this continues, we’ll go back and get off right at the hospital now we know where it is.  maybe just like a shark i have to keep moving to live.

and in synchronistic mutual metaphoric solidarity, the furnace here keeps going out… a little red light comes on and i have to press a red button to prime the gas to restart.  both my heart and the heat are working intermittently.  wonder where my little red light is.

sara holbrook and michael salinger – 2 poet writer teacher friends from cleveland – arrive this weekend for a visit.  they’re over here to give a workshop in zagreb. be nice for kathy to have someone to talk to for a couple days.  me, i’m the weak soylent type.

once they leave, i’m going to have this checked out again.  i find it disquieting to walk around with an uncertain heart.  (that sounds rather poetic).

dreamt last night the gods were breaking each tomorrow off from its template stick and soaking it in ambrosia before activating it so we’d enjoy it more.

looks like russia’s killing their former kgb agent in moscow who killed their ex-spy in london so the london police can’t question him.  his london hotel room was contaminated with polonium 210 and 7 hotel workers were contaminated.  he’s in a coma now, and the only way for him to become deathly sick this long after litvinenko’s death would to be poisoned afterwards by his masters.  or else, the reports of him being in a coma are lies, which would accomplish the same thing. say hello to the new boss… same as the old boss.

foto by smith


can’t ya hear my heart beat

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

collage by kathy 

my screen-saver heart got worse yesterday.  once again my lady love is lying against my chest when she says, “you’re heart’s stopping again.”  i listen, count… it beats 5 times, stops 1 beat,,, beats 5, stops 1.  so i drink a lot of water, which seemed to solve my problem the day before, but for the next 5 hours it sometimes beats 3 and stops, sometimes 16 or 66 and stops. never hits 100 unbroken beats. once i thot it stopped for more than 1 beat, but that could have been faulty fingers.  believe me, this kind of stuff messes with your mind, raises adrenaline worry levels which cloud logic.  i know one of the symptoms of too much coffee is an arrhythmic heart, and since i figured it was the coffee, i decided to wait until this morning.  i’ve been drinking two pots of coffee lately, and i’ve been making it stronger, and i’d stopped drinking water.  plus i eat a lot of chocolate and cookies.  i’m pretty stupid for a smart dude.

this morning i’ve counted 100 steady beats twice and 50 steady twice with no skips at all.  i’ve stopped coffee and i’ve stopped sweets.  have a coffee withdrawal headache.  will keep monitoring myself throughout the day to see if time and tiredness make a difference.  will also find a doctor for a checkup.  and in case of emergency, our hosts 5 minutes up the hill are willing to drive us to the emergency room.  figure it’ll take 3 days to get over coffee psychologically and physically. 

i’ve quit all my old vices, was down to coffee and grass when kathy came along.  i’m now in my 6th week without grass – the longest period since 1970 – and i’m in my 1st day without coffee.  i will find grass again tho – my abstinence is due to circumstance, not choice.  i need some sin in my life, otherwise i’ll start sporting a halo and white wings, and who’d ever believe that.

just counted my pulse again – another strong steady 50.  this checking my pulse to see if i’m still alive has its humorous aspects.

o dear, just lost some of the humor factor here – walked up the hill for water and now i’m in screen-saving heart mode again… 20-30 beats and a stop.  so we’re busing into pula, and walking to the emergency room.  need data.  my head can’t afford sitting around without knowing.  if this is causing me this much mental turmoil, god knows what it’s doing to kathy.

go figure – my pulse stops every 10-20 beats on the way to town, then we get off and walk to emergency room – and my heart decides to beat right.  they gave me an ekg and said i was fine, not to worry, continue life as before, not to worry about the skipping beats unless it gets down to a constant 5-skip.  they found the programmed timing envelopes for my heart beats to be a bit wider than normal.  don’t know what that means.  hard to talk when they had so-so english and we had less than so-so croatian.  the emergency room, the ekg, and the doctors’ consultation cost us $33 u.s., or 200 kuna.

what with the throat cancer, the nose polyps, and the arrhythmic heart, i’m putting kathy’s worry circuits thru hell.  that’s what happens when you buy used husbands, especially the older crankier models.  i’m going to be even crankier now having given up coffee and chocolate.  but at least my heart’s back to the meat beat manifesto.

i know what’s wrong with my heart… it’s been cold and selfish for so long, that now it loves and cares for kathy, it’s confused – it keeps forgetting its beat count.

starting day 2 of no coffee…. takes the joy out of the morning.  reality’s forcing me to become my better self.



Monday, December 4th, 2006



We thought they forgot us
but there they are,
climbed in under our bushes
shadows nosing about the
driveway in our friend’s headlights
even now, way past dark,
they who do not limit themselves to day,
they who are under the starrrrrsss…
blown in with the bora
so free, so unexpected

Thumper and Bambi
big and small,
himself dark and large and handsome
he charismatically jumps!
atop stone walls
pausing to display
his black fringed mane,
the lion king!
as Bambi finds her way
under the gate

She’s a little beige clown.
She nuzzles her mouth into the fold
of my hands, the stains around
her eyes like a black star,
the dot of light in her black orbs
also a little star,
a white star in a black burst
burns in the holy hollows of her lungs
the heart which patters
to keep up with her companion

They wag past the straddle of
grape vine work lines
the last pomegranates of November
They’re dark darts on cobbled town floor,
whole province dominion
to panting friends of man

I want to run with them,
fly my body, kite away
under the constellation,
a looming shadow,
a friendly canine nebula
under the Istrian stars,
before, now and forever

I who have lost
the long time dying,
the constellation of
Grandpa, and who now
have the dogs, gods,
who have unpursed
my tears


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