Friday, July 18, 2014

A very short new writing thing, "How to be a Buddhist in 12 easy, randomized steps" is up on Bumf here.

Also on my birthday I learned that this story in the Missouri Review will be in the next volume of the Pushcart Prize Anthology.

Otherwise summer is in my bones and flesh and we are crawling around in each other, so bye for now.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


The day bloomed outward
from the bedclothes of the sun
like a detonation, like
the lifetime's work of the eye,
little red likelihood, and
then things were more visible,
how the houses came to be
built on a hill at the end
of the boulevard we were driving
down when you said "Somebody
thought about this road" as if
the grand design of mercurial
American wealth promised
into the landscape was thinking
and of course it is, the way
holding out your imbricated
fingers - "here is the church,
here is the steeple" - is
thinking, a lifetime of exchange-
values is thinking,
architecture is thinking for us,
mnemonic devices such as
Every Good Boy Deserves Favor
are thinking for us, the radio
is remembering only for us,
it has nothing else in mind,
nothing is nothing if not thinking,
we are driving east into the history
of thought along the Embarcadero
which is suddenly named Galvez,
even the road is having second
thoughts, we talk about our mutual
friend whose wife thinks
that if you stare at objects
hard enough you can see
their particles swarming lucently
like moths around a lightbulb,
how every lightbulb is a thought,
each cartoon bubble moored
invisibly to our heads is a thought
but what fills it is thinking,
"The world is too much with us"
is thinking, work is work
but surviving to write book
after book about it is thinking,
"I am nothing but must be
everything" is pure thinking:
the brain in flames like a permanent
seizure, like a tree filled
with bright birds burning
near the edge of the gated city
when the sun has not set
exactly but landed in plain sight,
it turns out to be a dull sphere
about sixty feet across cast
from iron and a few of the heavier
elements, it was originally designed
by Michelangelo to fit inside
the Sistine Chapel, circling
perpetually over the nave,
lighting everything evenly that
objects would be more visible,
such was his thinking, such was
his lifetime of work which
you would have done for free,
for the fire in the brain's fold -
you will not eclipse yourself
with the old fury when you're old,
nothing stolen, nothing
borrowed, nothing sold

                 -Joshua Clover

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Some sentences about some books that I've read this year

Understudies by Ravi Mangla - reads like a more generous and less sprawly Mary Robison, which just means it's really funny w/out being impressed by itself.  Adults who have never learned how to be adults and crave watching others in order to know how to be themselves, a learning we all do forever.

Sky Above, Great Wind: The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan by Kazuaki Tanahashi- biography of Ryokan, but am convinced that this is actually a handbook for leaving society in order to be a wandering zen monk and live in mountain hermitages.  Some interesting discussions of Ryokan's calligraphy and why it's so good and spontaneous and raw, same as his poetry.

Together We Can Bury It by Kathy Fish - feel like the word "beautiful" is pretty much the only thing to say about these stories, even the dark or fearful ones, especially those ones.  All the stories here are seen through to their beautiful existences, the beautiful fact of their often horrible occurrence.

Hill William by Scott McClanahan - a reminder that we were all ten once and being ten meant being slightly insane and free and loving and stupid and wanting everything to be just perfectly everything, except in what I imagine to be a shitty "mountain town" like the one I lived in in east Tennessee for a year and had to escape from.

Woodcutters by Thomas Bernhard - a guy sick with himself and sick with society, culture, people, so sickened to the point of almost catatonia, almost unable to interact, even with himself, as though his sick thoughts are their own prison, and they are, until these little openings happen and his understanding of his sickness reveals his love of others.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Social Media as Evidence Against Buddhism

Twitter = clear evidence that people’s deeply unconscious belief that unceasingly expressing things they think/feel somehow makes (not just the things thought or felt) but themselves more real, and the information, from other Twitter users, is that yes, this is true, the things one thinks and feels are, in actuality, the only real things, and these are the only things that make one a person, a being living on this planet, and expressing these things in 140 character segments is the closest we’ll all ever come to reality.

Facebook = the idea that the self, not only not unreal, is displayable and explainable for everyone, and that every FB user indicates a self that is static and unchanging, and that this self in FB is maybe even more real the self not in FB, the self living out in the world, which might mean that our better selves are all in FB and that FB is here to show us our true and better self. 

Pinterest = the notion that craving and wanting are somehow dangerous is disproven by the joy of collectively sharing one’s wants, and that material things, even just pictures of material things, even just looking at pictures of material things actually bring happiness to everyone by allowing everyone to understand that their wants are not strange, are acceptable, and that we should find as many things to want as possible. 

Instagram = epitomized by the selfie, is yet another proof that selves exist, are displayable, and that our best selves are often inside screens.  More importantly though, Instagram, unlike FB, eliminates needless language, the baggage of FB, and by focusing only on photos, on selfies, we understand that our bodies are our self, and that these bodies will last, thankfully, in either this world or another, forever.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Union Pacific
by Joshua Clover

That about which the Buddhists teach
That the certain life belongs to the uncertain,
That life in which nothing belongs to us for even
The length of a century, which is nothing: Om.
The life in which all streets are named for thieves,
Trees and thieves, the life in which the thief-and-tree
Is the sign of the West, the life in which there are
Seven spheres extending out to heaven from the Union
Pacific switching yard in Wyoming near midsummer,
The heaven we are not allowed to see in this life: Om.
The life which spent a third of a century maneuvering me,
Solitary, rouged in the fine dust of the Chimney Rock Ranch,
To the end of Ivinson Street in Laramie near the
Continental Divide where the railroad companies planted
Their feet in a bracework of steel and cracked open
The West the way a bear, a holy animal (first thought
Only thought) might crack open a Buddhist,
By skull and by ribcage, the white containments: Om.
From the Buddhists we learn that a holy man may own
Half a wooden bowl and replace it every seven years,
About seven bowls a century, about how long the life
Of the great railroads lasted, the Life of Seven bowls
In which you couldn’t see the forest for the thieves: Om.
Yesterday, I watched a pair of children taking off
The red Chimney Rock dust in a stone bowl
Rifted by a petty cataract of water, one basin
for the two of them, just the right amount, they were flying
From rock to rock, they were almost oblivious
To the story of the West, it was the Fourth of July,
It seemed possible they could be damaged,
The parents were watching too, through a camera,
From the corner of an eye, view within a view,
The second thought which cradles the first thought
Like a bowl inside a bowl, four times more
Than I am allowed even here, in the other life

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Don’t write because you want to be a writer or because you think it will make you better or because you think it will impress people or because you think you want to be famous or get money or be creative or say something about society or because you want to be the version of yourself that you wish was the current version of yourself.  

Don’t do it for anything in the future.  

Say you play soccer.  You don’t go play soccer because you want to be in better shape or because you want to improve your hand eye coordination or because you want to impress some people.  You play soccer because you want to play soccer.  You want to chase a ball endlessly around a field and do the amazing or the awful things you’ve learned or not learned to do with that ball, you maybe will learn a little about something but not because you want to.  You run and you chase and the field is green and the ball moves with your body under your seeming control and it connects you in lines and parabolas with everyone and everything, literally everything else, and there is no more you.  Do it because of that.  

Don’t write with any ache or need for a like or favorite and don’t trust any impulse you have of any wanting to share that might be something more than merely sharing, and when you’re at some point where you can simply share, then simply share, but don’t make something out of yourself.  

It’s okay to remind yourself when you’re losing that you should consider you should continuously keep losing.  Keep losing, harder and harder.  Take bigger and bigger falls and make a sort of corpse of yourself that you can wave goodbye to as you walk away.  Lose by writing whatever a traditional story or poem is and then lose by writing the opposite.  Never win, never try to win, never make it a competition except maybe with yourself to see if you can pull out of yourself whatever has always been there that you’ve only barely glimpsed in all your sick joyful living and see if you can make it words.  

Don’t write for anyone else, don’t write because of anything, write because it’s what you do, eventually, and when you understand it’s what you do, then there is no you and it.  Okay.   Don’t forget there is no you and it.  

Don't forget that there is no where to go, so it’s okay to remind yourself that you haven’t gone anywhere and you’re not going anywhere, that this won’t take you anywhere, that you’ll always be in the same house you were always in, that same small room, you will always be in the same yard, forest, street, the same country, even if another country, and it’ll be your own country that no one can quite know, and it’ll probably be blue and lined by blinking cities and it’ll have all the likeness of a world you think is real but isn’t (just like this one), or maybe it is, but it’s where you’ve always been, and that's the world you will make for everyone when you stop trying to make it how you think it should be.  It shouldn’t be any way, any particular way.  

Any other being’s advice about any art is always advice for them, not you, and understand, also, that you are them.  

Don’t get an MFA or do, it doesn’t matter.  

Don’t believe that getting an MFA makes you better and don’t believe that not getting one makes you better.  Don’t trust yourself until you’ve pulled yourself out of yourself, and then, remember, you don’t know.  Nobody does.  

If you find you are liking everything other people write, that means you’re an asshole and insincere; if you find you are hating everything other people write, that’s equally shitty of you for other more obvious reasons.  

Make something bloom that can’t.  Make something faraway and strange that isn’t.  

At some point worry about all the traditional shit if just to see what’s going on there, and if you need to do that, do it, and if you don’t, don’t.  Don’t discount anything.  

I saw a thing written on a bathroom stall.  It was scrawled and had an insane-looking smiley face next to it, it said, ‘I am literally the devil,’ and it was funny, but dumb, and then, below that, there was something that said, in smaller, neater, less attention-wanting writing (but still there, understand), ‘what’re you doing?’

Thursday, February 27, 2014


I was walking to teach a class on a Wednesday, I think, and it was raining, and whenever it’s raining, I have the half-sarcastic thought that I’m “in nature.”  Like, somehow, the fact that it is raining, reminds me that I’m outside, and that while I’m sort of moving from building to building, man-made edifice to man-made edifice, that somehow, this is all capital-n Nature, that all – even those massive garbage islands in the ocean – are somehow contained within a pure and undefiled state of existence, that we might call capital-N Nature, not just trees and animals and etc.  And it was raining pretty hard, too, which I like, especially while being under an umbrella, because an umbrella is a kind physical embodiment of what I feel is my almost-constant self-conscious cloaking mechanism that I use against the larger world: averted eyes, a mainly blank facial expression, an often confused, far off look, as though I were contemplating the fleetingness of life by watching distant clouds slowly morph and distinegrate, but what I’m really doing is trying to avoid human interaction because, you know, I don’t know what to say to you.  But I sometimes do stare at clouds as though they’re little individual selves curiously becoming nothing right before me, and you’d be surprised at how just thinking that thought alone would make people averse to your presence: it’s impossible to explain, but completely empirically true.  Anyway, on the way to my next class, rain raining pretty hard, three people (a guy and two girls, I think), were under one enormous umbrella, each with a cell phone of some kind held out at arm’s length, photographing themselves in the rain.  I felt momentarily endeared to them, these people capturing this moment.  They were smiling and laughing and kind of pushing each out from under the umbrella, into the rain.  One of the girls took a picture of herself catching rain on her tongue.  It was nice enough, a moment of people being people, though they did check their pictures immediately after taking them, which seemed suspect somehow, but I was willing to just observe, detached and calm.  After this though, I started observing beyond my little bubble-of-self contained by my umbrella, and I saw other people doing similar things.  There were people walking to class, holding a phone out, taking a picture as the rain came down.  There were people under trees, pretending to get some cover.  There was one kid, I’m not kidding here, who, after running from his car, umbrella-less, and was completely soaked, quickly snapped what appeared to be an annoyed-looking selfie, then went into the building where his class was being held, kind of stamping along, mad at all of life. There were other people like mock running.  I saw a group waiting at the entrance of one building and then, one by one, sprint to a tree another tree another building and finally the entrance of their destination, and at the same time they were running, they were taking pictures: as though they were participating in an athletic event of some kind.  There were, of course, some other people, just hurriedly walking, but I could almost intuitively sense them thumbing their phones in their pockets, waiting for a moment to prove: rain, and they were in it, had experienced it.  What an experience, rain.  What an experience, me, doing something, anything. 

So anyway, I kept walking.  On the campus where I work, there’s a big flight of concrete stairs, outdoors, leading from a lower part of campus to a higher part of campus, and some people were jumping down the stairs to a large puddle.  I was about to go up the stairs, but I waited and observed.  Some students were like taking a picture of themselves as they leapt off a high step to a landing where two sets of stairs met at a right angle, and a largish puddle had formed.  They were basically jumping into this puddle and trying to catch the effect of the water splashing them as they took a picture.  It seemed pretty complicated, slightly creative, and generally confusing, especially with the addition of the picture-taking, but it was, again, another individual experiencing another experience that needed not be experienced but only recorded so that they could know they had experienced it.  So, on one such jump, some student jumping from a high up step onto the landing with the puddle, this student tripped as he landed in the puddle.  He took this huge leap, from very high up, his body way off the ground, and as he landed, he tripped badly, dropped his phone which went skittering off the steps and into some bushes, and then what I saw happening before it even occurred was that this kid was now falling out of control down the next flight of steps, and the kid’s body pounded into a group of seven to nine high school students (who take Freshmen classes on our campus and are easily delineated by their diminutive stature and higher voices and who were all walking up this flight of steps) and in order to steady himself, the jumping-now-falling kid was waving his arms around wildly and he seriously tagged this one girl real good right in the chin (I actually saw her head lurch backward and heard that distinctive smacking thwap of a punch) and this sent her tumbling backward down the steps into her now retreating group of friends, all of this occurring slow-motion-y, her body backward down the steps on her butts, now covered in water.  My mouth, I kid you not, was open.  Not all of high school kids fell, most of them just kind of retreated back down the steps, and helped the girl who got accidentally pegged in the face with a fist not fall so hard.  After this occurred and both groups stopped what they were doing, and after this leaping student briefly checked on the group of high school kids, he went hunting in the bushes for his lost phone.  I could hear him saying things like, No way.  No no.  Not today.  One of his more concerned friends was asking the girl, who basically got punched, if she was alright, and it turned out she hadn’t been hit in the chin like I thought, but had been hit in the eye.  Her friends, after pulling her to her feet, gathered around, assessing the wound, and they variously said things like, Oh yeah, that’s bad, and, It’s black already, etc.  Through tears, while the other student searched for his phone, she said she was fine, and as the high school kids walked away, I observed them each taking a photo of her face, and then she pulled her phone out and took several selfies to see the damage that’d been done.  I walked up the steps with an atypical sense of care, and really tried to listen to the rain. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

some types of tweets

in celebration of new thing about Twitter and the Universe now up at New World Writing, here are some types of tweets: 

observationally neutral tweet depicting "absurd/hilarious" situation

self-promo tweet

self-promo tweet via seeming to promo some other thing causing self-promo-ing to seem worse

self-deprecating tweet about current "situation/emotional state," meant to be funny, but often sad

how drunk someone was tweet

drug "experience" tweet

serious "political" tweet linking to article about race/gender/class

the sharing recipe tweet

creative/imagistic tweet about utopian/dystopian future caused by "technology"

tweet wishing tweeter could say something "insane" in a "normal" situation

the quoting a famous person tweet

regretting food choice tweet

the tweet created out of boredom that seems determined to be as strange as possible

philosophical tweet about "existence" meant to be some end understanding of some aspect of life

"unexpected/cute/hilarious" thing tweeter's toddler recently said/did tweet

the cryptically angry tweet in which tweeter vaguely accuses a group of people and labels them "unkind/ungenerous/etc"

the haiku tweet

the live-tweet as unintentional code for needing social interaction tweet

the "i-predicted-right" tweet concerning sports

the making fun of athlete tweet by pointing out some repetitive behavior: "does Kobe always have to/does Nadal really need to"

the string of tweets that appear really quickly and are well composed that show the tweeter was really revising all these tweets for a while

Friday, November 15, 2013

Life in this moment is fresh, raw and new. But when we think about this essential fact as an idea in our heads, we get stuck, wondering about what we can understand and what we can force into our categories. When we think about “the freshness of life”, it isn’t fresh anymore, it isn’t alive. Freshness of life means opening the hand of thought. Only when we do so can life be fresh. Zazen is this “opening this hand of thought”. It is the posture of letting go…

Some people begin with the practice of shikantaza and then give it up quickly because it does not give them that feeling of fullness or because it bores them….

People who try to get one big satori do not accept that they must live their life with all of its freshness and vigor. Even in strictly biological terms, we can only live by taking this breath in this moment. Living means breathing this breath right now. When it is a matter of living this fresh life, it is of course not enough to simply think about your life in your head. Instead we have got to accept it as the vigorous life that it is. Only like this will we discover an attitude and posture which is fresh and vigorous.

-from To All Who Are Still Dissatisfied with Your Zazen

also: a great read about sexual predation in a Zen sangha, here.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

is blogspot vintage internet yet?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

here's another teaser of a new story, about a group of climbers and base jumpers, out in the new "Transcendence" issue of The Missouri Review:

...He had wanted to be in magazines and have his name printed and for people to recognize him, glossed out and his name there in black, and himself hopping into a canyon or hanging from a headwall, certainly, yes, he had maybe even dreamed of these things, desiring it maybe too much, wanting it all too much. Now, now though, now he hated it, hated looking at himself.  He did not see what putting up the photos and videos did for anyone, especially himself. Everyone else had done everything anyway; every spot they had been to had been recorded before; every recording was really a re-recording. Nothing original. So when a new set of photos went up, a new vid, a new route they’d tried (which had been tried before, utterly and completely), other groups they knew posted response videos: nice whipper, but check this peel; reaching like a grandma for a dropped penny, pretty, but watch this one; awesome moonrise, what kind of exposure you use? I used a Nikon D5100 16.2MP Digital with a 55-200mm zoom on these shots in Moab. Always a competition. What the fuck happened to Chuck Pratt? I don’t want to write about climbing; I don’t want to talk about it; I don’t want to photograph it; I don’t want to think about it; all I want to do is do it. All these sandbaggers didn’t know shit about what climbing really was, everything made to show off, as a performance, to be better than everybody else. What it had become was what Kieran had wanted to get away from: selfish, vain, showing-off-playacting. This, in all, everything considered, this is what he believed to be the end for him. As soon as the photos began showing up in magazines and Blake began that website and became more concerned with showing others what they had done rather than actually doing the thing: the end...

              Order a copy and check out more here