Hillman City Haibun 8 (Resistance is Futile)

At Harborview Sleep Medicine Clinic

At Harborview Sleep Medicine Clinic

The photo did not crash the internet, but got my friends talking, or expressing concern from Seattle to Cuba to Moscow to Morocco and beyond I am sure. As reported in an earlier haibun, I am undergoing tests to see if I have Sleep Apnea. Responses to my posting of this photo on Facebook included references to suicide bombers and the Borg (resistance is futile) although I said I was not a Borg, but was more Picard in the vineyard after his ordeal.

And I live my life by believing my own freedom only comes from taking responsibility for everything that happens to me. It is not instant. Often there is a period of time, hours, days, decades, before I cop to my role, or agreement that I somehow forgot I made, or negative thought pattern that I maintain, but once successfully identified, I manifest the resources to be able to let it go and change the outcome. (I wrote about transcending victim consciousness in the past here and want to emphasize that this is about my own life and victim/villain dynamic.)

And once my general practitioner was convinced I had the disorder, he gave me a referral to a Sleep Disorder specialist. When you start getting into specialists, you stray far from a whole systems approach that has guided me in one way or another all my life, but the warnings have been stern about damage to my heart and liver, so I got an appointment with him about a month down the road. And while waiting for the date, I was sure to increase my visits to the local Community Acupuncture clinic to change the focus of this regular treatment to the Sleep Apnea diagnosis. I was going a little more than once a week to acupuncture in that time and felt I was getting some results. In Chinese medicine, Sleep Apnea is looked at as a blockage in the neck area. Given my life-long bruxism, I could see how that made sense. It is also related to breathing and hence, the lungs and grief. My intention was to avoid having to sleep with the C-pap mask that I’d started to hear about. But left lingering was the inability to connect this diagnosis with the thought pattern that was its foundation. Louise Hay, who I’ve relied on in the past to find valid clues, had nothing specific about this.

Talking about the situation to friends some clues began to emerge. One friend said he was convinced Sleep Apnea was the inability to allow himself to remain vulnerable for reasons I won’t share here, but that we may have in common. Another said his Sleep Apnea was seasonal and that in Seattle winter, with all the gray days, the condition was bad, but in summer it is not an issue.

So the big day came with the specialist and I was on-time and had filled out my paperwork and was ready. During the exam the Sleep Disorder specialist told me I had a soft palate, tongue scalloping and a large tongue. He called the C-pap device a “pneumatic splint” and said that this was something I would use for the rest of my life. I did not tell him I’ve never gotten complaints about my tongue, but did share that I was after the source of the disorder, not just a way to cope with it and to his credit, he was not like many allopathic doctors who are condescending about alternatives to their own specialities.

2.24.15 – Sleep disorder doc says: “Take two quaaludes and call me in the morning.”

QuaaludeI wish. I’ve never taken quaaludes and was told by someone much younger recently that they don’t make them anymore. Truth is the doc and I agreed the diagnosis I had may not be accurate so he ordered up a sleep test at the Harborview Sleep Clinic and I was able to get in THE NEXT NIGHT. The experience was a whole different story and the results will not be in for two weeks, but sleeping with the wires was not as hard as you might imagine and my sleep tech was an interesting man from Djibouti with whom I had a wide-ranging chat that covered culture, epic poetry and female genital mutilation.

Sleeping on my side helps and I may get a diagnosis of “positional sleep apnea” but am determined to get to the root of this and eradicate it. Any interesting developments or photos will be shared here and on Facebook, so if you are not my friend there, consider sending a friend request.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Albulhassan, Clark, Greco, Triese Chapbooks

I am so envious of these four chapbooks and delighted they were gifts recently given to me. All from Cascadians and all quite worth while. Wikipedia (by way of the O.E.D.) says: “Chapbook is first attested in English in 1824, and seems to derive from the word for the itinerant salesmen who would sell such books: chapman. The first element of chapman comes in turn from Old English cēap (‘barter, business, dealing’).” Wish I had a couple of chapbooks this inspired. And by inspiration, I mean the whole package, the cover, the binding, the design, the writing. Wow.

Samar All Dharms Are BleedingSamar Albulhassan has been a teacher at Seattle Arts and Lectures’ Writers in the Schools Program for the past seven years, and continues to teach writing to teens and adults at the Richard Hugo House. Her new chapbook is: “all dharmas are bleeding and flowing.” In Sanskrit one interpretation of the word “dharma” is to hold; to maintain. Law is a word also associated with this interpretation. And so to understand a law as bleeding and flowing is an especially potent notion for our time where uncertainty is seen as a weakness, when it is often the sign of an ability to understand and consider all possibilities. That this dharma would also be bleeding, suggests it is alive; has sentience.

The book comes out of a workshop on erasure poems conducted by Matthea Harvey and from mixing bits of texts from three main sources: Thich Naht Hahn‘s Old Path, White Clouds, the Wim Wenders film Wings of Desire and the Helene Cixous book The Third Body. What’s left after erasing is a pastiche that reveals some very inspired phrases which work very well as poems almost all of the time.

Renewable eruption

at last an inner light


Not a single wall                  In                 meditation

five rivers.

I accept that suffering is a truth.

How could I ever stop

and a poem that ends:

Begin with
impossible love.

All Dharmas Are Bleeding and FlowingThe way the lines are pasted in and the palimpsest effect is extraordinary as well leaving a ghostly/spooky vibe that (because of the text and the inferences) does not evoke creepiness, but an inspired otherworldliness which is not an easy thing to do.

The split pin that keeps this little book together is not ideal and I can see trouble ahead should the book not be handled with care, as sometimes happens when moving.

Though the energy of the poems (for me) tends to peak about 3/4ths of the way through the book, this combination of use of language and spiritual inference is a very potent combination and portends very good things from this poet.

Kim Clark Middle ChildKim Clark is a Cedar, BC, (Nanaimo) poet whom I first met at the (sadly now defunct) Victoria School of Writing Summer School. She was part of a week-long workshop with master Cascadia poet George Bowering. Her new chapbook Middle Child of Summer was beautifully published by Leaf Press and hand-bound with thread. And the notion of August being a middle child is an inspired perception and one that I wish I had thought of!

The poems were all written for the August Poetry Postcard Fest which I had a hand in starting in 2007, so are all short (because they had to fit on a postcard) are pithy and are not afraid to see the beauty in a month that is “sandwiched [on stale rye] / between peachy ambition / and the spoilage of bouncing / apples.”

A lost poem
a found map–neither
tells us much
about now
but both bring
to mind a lover
with an onion bouquet
passed through an open window

Geography, what you do to me.

This is a great illustration of how the abstractions have to be earned because there is the payoff of the very tangible onion bouquet and there are numerous occasions like this one in the 31 poems. (One for each August day.) There is an “Outrageous cheddar halfmoon” and other very original uses of language, but also clichés like “all hell broke loose” and “no tomorrow” and “stops us in our tracks” but given that these poems were all written spontaneously onto postcards, you can either cut her some slack or appreciate that she published the poems with all of their warts. (Or are these liver spots?) www.leafpress.ca

Lessons from the I Ching_ For The Mountain, Lheklhukxayten (The Place to Peel Arbutus Trees)

Lessons from the I Ching: For The Mountain, Lheklhukxayten (The Place to Peel Arbutus Trees)

Heidi Greco’s Lessons from the I Ching: For the Mountain, Lheklhukxayten (The place to peel Arbutus trees) is a simple, but elegant hand-made chapbook bound by thread and written to benefit the Burnaby Mountain Defense Fund. Greco participated in the first two Cascadia Poetry Festivals and at the first, in Columbia City in 2012, was part of the all-women eco-poetics panel. You can get the depth of eco-poetics, at least her version of it, with just the title of the book. Called Arbutus trees in Canada, they are Madrones south of the 49th and anyone who loves these trees loves to peel them, as they have a kind of skin that peels right off and often reveals tan lines. (Would love to see books made out of paper made from this.) That she would include the indigenous name for the mountain seems an almost necessary part of any eco-poetics project in Cascadia and for any poet who desires a deeper connection with place. After all, indigenous people were the last folks to have an authentic culture in this part of the world, as what the settlers brought with them is not earth-based, a huge part of our problem on this continent. Greco uses the I-Ching to illustrate the protests against Kinder Morgan’s efforts to create a pipeline that would have run through public land on Burnaby Mountain in B.C., not far from where she lives. Notions like K’un / The Receptive are about devotion and the earth, so seems a natural for the narrative building here.

The book is a response to (& benefit for) the protests and works as a tool for sustaining the resolve of protesters, which must have worked, because the pipeline-building efforts seem to have stopped for now. There is a very strong sense of place related here by someone who has hiked these woods with children and engaged in a wide variety of activities:

This is the mountain where I knew the trails
spoke to ancient conifers, planted new trees
made outlandish love to you, my back against
the rough embrace of bark.

The trees likely prefer this to hugging, but make your own call. Alternating I-Ching lines with her narrative of support for the protestors, there is a good balance of each. Because of the intention to create something of support, quasi-political and obviously on the side of the ecosystem and protesters, the aesthetic bandwidth is more narrow than something that might have been written just to chronicle the event and this sometimes feels rah-rah, but it’s for the right team, her instincts are spot on (as evidenced by the indigenous reference) and the book is beautiful. May her team prevail.

Busylittle1way Designs, Chicago

Busylittle1way Designs, Chicago

Later Heaven by Matt Trease (another postcard fest participant and Seattle resident) also uses the I-Ching, but this time more in the way of John Cage, who used the divination method to construct compositions. Feng Shui principles were used to order the material gathered through divination, a more structured approach than Albulhassan’s effort, but the result is along the lines of Steve Reich rather than John Cage. It’s repetitive and challenging and we’re privy to the process used. It can be quite interesting when the lines that emerge from such a process are:

Trease 1

Trease 2


Trease 3

That “percussion grenade” and other odd/inspired phrases return in a slightly different way each time, and so the ordering, while a lot more let’s say disruptive than a typical narrative, feels more like how life actually happens. Events in our lives often have echoes of the past, usually linked to our personal myth and returning at unexpected intervals as these phrases do with Trease in this book. It is that kind of experience that the best poetry can give us, allow us to transcend the “normal” which is a difficult task to do skillfully. Were I to critique, I would have preferred more tangible images had been chosen from the source texts, but often people employ these processes quite strictly and that may have been the case with Trease. Either way, I am on the side of the poem that tries do something different, event if the results are uneven.

Trease 4

All these chapbooks, as I mentioned, are beautiful and well-worth owning. Often chapbooks are a nice way to get some dough into a poet’s pocket and we all know someone who is chosen by those often benevolent forces can always use some dough. They always give you a taste of what the poet’s up to and, if inspired, you can dig deeper into that person’s work. That there is a bit of each poet’s soul in these books is the huge common thread. This is no small task in this era where what is considered innovative is often gimmicky.  These chapbooks reflect how each poet lives a life of poetry and I am honored to have them in my collection.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cascadian Spirituality

I should not have been so naïve to think a post that referenced religion would have gone by without someone reacting as if I’d just stabbed a pig. But add Facebook and the culture of narcissism and you get camps and an internet sh*tstorm. What I get though, is clarity in my own thinking and a deeper understanding of the cultural mores of Cascadia, especially as it regards matters of spirituality. The offending post:

Map Most Religious

Those sympathetic to the post, who either do not identify with a religion, or don’t OVER-identify with one, were quick to add their takes, rooting on Maine (#48) or expressing pride in this achievement, but when one commenter pointed out the relation between those religious states and rates of obesity and lower I.Q.’s, that they appeared to be connected, the holy water hit the fan. The thread was described as “bigoted, small minded elitism masquerading as liberal thought” and “irresponsible.” There was no attempt to address the correlation drawn by the previous poster, just the insults. And there is something about the thread being on MY wall that made me feel like a certain amount of decorum was required. I see it as if someone came into a conversation in which I was involved, not knowing who I was talking to (not being a friend or even an acquaintance with those around me) and just popping off. And then his friend arrived, with more courtesy, but still likening certain comments about religion in out thread to someone expressing homophobia. Problem is you can quit a religion, but you can’t quit being gay. Gay people do not try to “convert” Episcopalians to homosexuality (not without liquor anyway) or tell them they are dirty sinners who are doomed to hell if they are religious, so the analogy does not work. A suggestion that they take a page out of Buddhism and experience the joy of non-attachment was not well-received either.

Part of one of my posts was:

…We are not religious in this state and less so in Seattle. We take it as a matter of pride, for many reasons. Two are represented here on this thread. Religion has been justified to enslave Africans (as President Obama astutely pointed out), to lynch people and to terrorize Queer people. So you can see how some folks in my circles would be happy that we’re less religious here, would be drawn to a place where they would not have to deal with as many “religious types.” Those who talk about Jesus, but do not emulate him. But that does not mean we’re less spiritual here. The war in Iraq/Afghanistan and elsewhere, the so-called “war on terror” was launched by George W. Bush and his Christian advisors and called “a crusade.” Essentially a Holy War. With spiritual warfare, the battle is with one’s lower impulses, not with an artificially created “other” and not by bombing wedding parties, torturing and any number of atrocities this country and other so-called Christian countries have engaged in, usually against people of color. Count Israel’s war against Palestine as an example of a war fueled by religious differences as well as fanatical Muslim jihads. No one is asking you or anyone else to give up their faith. We do not want it thrown in our faces, and if used to justify hateful acts (as it has for centuries) we’ll call bullshit on “religious types” again and again. Carl Sandburg’s poem “To a Contemporary Bunkshooter” calls bullshit on the “fake Christians of his day, a century ago. _________ was pointing out the FACT that states with higher rates of religion also have higher rates of obesity and lower average I.Q.’s That she makes these links may seem unfair to you, but they are well-known facts and her supposition is that there is a link. You can disagree, but it’s her view and I see no need to delete her comment, nor am I offended by it, but I do not identify with a religion. If you can’t separate these kinds of criticisms from your own feeling of religion, she must be hitting a nerve and maybe you ought to consider a Buddhist notion and that being one of attachment and the extra suffering it causes. Just because she makes the link does not mean you have to accept it. I am drawn to a place that values spirituality over a high percentage of people who identify with a religion and a bumper sticker I saw out here many years ago said: “JESUS! (protect me from your followers.)”

And it just so happens that a post about my late friend Beaver Chief hits the top ten on this blog again. In segment two of the interview featured here he states that it is well-known throughout the continent and the world that Seattle and Cascadia as the last bastion of “spiritual medicine.” http://paulenelson.com/2014/03/19/seattle-cascadia-last-stronghold-for-spiritual-medicine/ It is late in the segment that he says this, but the whole interview was quite interesting to me and is likely a huge source for how I look at spiritual matters. These notions have a way of getting into my poems like 72. Moss Spruce Cedar Cathedral.

And so it goes. I’ll be sure to try to make peace with those I seem to have offended, take to heart their criticisms and, in the future, remember about the topics that are sure to touch a nerve. Now on to Sandburg. Forgive the poor linebreaks.

54. To a Contemporary Bunkshooter
YOU come along … tearing your shirt … yelling about Jesus.
    Where do you get that stuff?
    What do you know about Jesus?
Jesus had a way of talking soft and outside of a few bankers and higher-ups among the con men of Jerusalem everybody liked to have this Jesus around because he never made any fake passes and everything he said went and he helped the sick and gave the people hope.
You come along squirting words at us, shaking your fist and calling us all dam fools so fierce the froth slobbers over your lips… always blabbing we’re all going to hell straight off and you know all about it.         5
I’ve read Jesus’ words. I know what he said. You don’t throw any scare into me. I’ve got your number. I know how much you know about Jesus.
He never came near clean people or dirty people but they felt cleaner because he came along. It was your crowd of bankers and business men and lawyers hired the sluggers and murderers who put Jesus out of the running.
I say the same bunch backing you nailed the nails into the hands of this Jesus of Nazareth. He had lined up against him the same crooks and strong-arm men now lined up with you paying your way.
This Jesus was good to look at, smelled good, listened good. He threw out something fresh and beautiful from the skin of his body and the touch of his hands wherever he passed along.
You slimy bunkshooter, you put a smut on every human blossom in reach of your rotten breath belching about hell-fire and hiccupping about this Man who lived a clean life in Galilee.         10
When are you going to quit making the carpenters build emergency hospitals for women and girls driven crazy with wrecked nerves from your gibberish about Jesus—I put it to you again: Where do you get that stuff; what do you know about Jesus?
Go ahead and bust all the chairs you want to. Smash a whole wagon load of furniture at every performance. Turn sixty somersaults and stand on your nutty head. If it wasn’t for the way you scare the women and kids I’d feel sorry for you and pass the hat.
I like to watch a good four-flusher work, but not when he starts people puking and calling for the doctors.
I like a man that’s got nerve and can pull off a great original performance, but you—you’re only a bug-house peddler of second-hand gospel—you’re only shoving out a phoney imitation of the goods this Jesus wanted free as air and sunlight.
You tell people living in shanties Jesus is going to fix it up all right with them by giving them mansions in the skies after they’re dead and the worms have eaten ’em.         15
You tell $6 a week department store girls all they need is Jesus; you take a steel trust wop, dead without having lived, gray and shrunken at forty years of age, and you tell him to look at Jesus on the cross and he’ll be all right.
You tell poor people they don’t need any more money on pay day and even if it’s fierce to be out of a job, Jesus’ll fix that up all right, all right—all they gotta do is take Jesus the way you say.
I’m telling you Jesus wouldn’t stand for the stuff you’re handing out. Jesus played it different. The bankers and lawyers of Jerusalem got their sluggers and murderers to go after Jesus just because Jesus wouldn’t play their game. He didn’t sit in with the big thieves.
I don’t want a lot of gab from a bunkshooter in my religion.
I won’t take my religion from any man who never works except with his mouth and never cherishes any memory except the face of the woman on the American silver dollar.         20
I ask you to come through and show me where you’re pouring out the blood of your life.
I’ve been to this suburb of Jerusalem they call Golgotha, where they nailed Him, and I know if the story is straight it was real blood ran from His hands and the nail-holes, and it was real blood spurted in red drops where the spear of the Roman soldier rammed in between the ribs of this Jesus of Nazareth.

Map of Obesity Rates by State

States with Low I.Q.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments