Don’t Call it Reginald Denny


call it freedom or Sunday morning

the perfect day


at a click past art and thoughtlessness


enemigos, canayas recline into the public hillside ready whenever

I read the poem, pee opens up and out

one drop at a time to stay inside


the blind’s slat light touching paper, a bottle

the smell of the laid upon by foundations, the steady wide sunlight cut through

at the bottom with busy diesel routes and your thin, intimate skin


the beheading and its outrages – to make a story out of technology

a perfect day iteration of the sky if we’re going to talk about it


the white sheets turning dry

this small building, the acrid

citrus tree, a way for dust


and everything to know now

of our reliances, to settle beside

what the German says – history is life


even if dust describes the space it left

rising and shuffling down our good street


empty street

on a valley without layers

we snap pics, slide back the window

for the gray wind

but it all stays in place


not heavy but simple on the ground

like the allegories are about you


whose grown bed soar touched paper body


would you wrap in how many bodies and what husks

would they chant soft






like a team of Head Start workers was real

trying to put freedom fighters into little Mississippi kids


maybe this gaze is an iteration of whiteness guaranteed by saying

the sky is empty


but for a mother used as a vector for race

in a way that rounds space into a nest


wet paper


or bodies are soaking in feelings


we could make stuff up

or just keep talking


like a friend who stayed just enough away

I feel we’re getting there


our books orchestrate a day, this block


the polyrhythms in space unnoticed until the parts

take up a purpose displayed with the glow of just being there


that was exuberance even without the h

in exhuming the moon’s ashes or slight fronds

from this species of obsidian sap letting mesquite


one toe nail grown long enough

to catch at the callous under the other foot in a perfect balance


organize themselves in an array of types

they don’t want to leave


keep talking the German meant

the mistakes


like Place said to the Russians after her talk


“I did a reading once and some woman in the reading became hysterical because, again, it was one of these long rape piece, and started sobbing, and left the room, and had to be gotten out of the toilet like an hour later. And she came up to me later and asked, ‘How do you feel about doing that to me?’ And I said, ‘I didn’t do anything to you. You know, you had an experience with language and it was a very powerful experience. And one, when was the last time you had such an experience just out of language, and, two, what do you want?’”


One wants to spin   in the computer

Chair spun sick not   enough food thrill

Sick over sharks   in the water

One’s green nylon   flower hair tie

Centers their   circling in


The grey dusk here   about this room

One has made and   the dusk’s late arrival


In the seat   beside the ones

In the planes   overhead

Learning to   gesture tons

Of public   good along

Paths that are true   one’s specialized


Builders say of   something without

Flourish or   deviation

Fixed to one’s   honor one’s

Rumor   hearsay

And wishes to   the things one a


Weedy thing   says right at

Their edges   seventeen


Is a circle a   minute folds space and


Death work like that   by quantity

Or proximity   so that Kamau

Brathwaite may say   the unity


Is sub-marine   while the weather


The calendar   and the bamboo

Stand in a   desert spring

Grey and green and   turn in time and

The heat it brings a new or first


Welcomed fear this   is a difficult


Sentence to stay   inside but it

Makes a room and   puts one in it


Where one looks up   to address the

Space the   room is


A neutral kind   of shame in a

Scene and its   awareness lays

A gentle hand   on one’s sternum


Receives or takes?


It’s just a hand.

One guesses one is asking

about the hand’s verb.


One can’t know

what the other one

does under one’s hand.


Does one want to know?

A little simple   pornography calms

One down takes up   the space well enough

So the chanted   fucking is

Perfectly formal   transubstantiation


A chunky   piece of Latinate

And so is   emotion and


The verifiable   white princess who

Says into the   record she cut


Her thighs and arms   and from behind

Her bangs looks   up a perfect


Moment in which   her words make

A room where   the windows trill


A little with   the voices in

One’s voice saying   search out some


Sensational   spectacle in

Which your fine   figure and

Pretty face   will show will


Seduce a minding   distance whereas


Animals stay   after one dies


Marking one’s absence   by their committed

Routines the dog   at the Japanese

Train station the   bees who settled


Across the flowers   and tarps of their

Keeper’s wake one   had a princess


Who looked at one   looking on one’s

Way to belief   and on one’s way

Back something parts   from one an arm


(new stanza)

Grows toward the   office park

While one is walking   into the desert

Together in   a crisis of


Belief that starts   the hovering

Something to do   one’s big royal

Eyes open as   a laugh is the


New car’s gorgeous   turning speed

Rendered in sound   if the body


One is told is   a year in falling

Water one knows   that now or time


Knows it for one   lots of water

Turning all   around one

And the sun   insistent


Calling ones home   to the record

Almost all   of voices

Saying one was   assaulted


Or one did not   is available

Is placed as   poetry


The infra   thinnest so


One gets over   one’s feelings

Finally arrives   at the words one


Poses better   than one speaks


Making a room in   a very small room

One thinks of where   unweighted by


Flesh one may be   an ornament

To one’s sex   and after


The telling the   ears admit things


Again the   sounds of breath


With the ghost always   of the ghost body

From which they came   think of a place


Without reading   the words when at

Nine the sex was   coming out of

The body to   say that one was


Leaking some   release of

Responsibility   into the water


Falling down the   year who is talking


To whom in order   to talk in a room

It is very   small no feeling


Need be there   with one putting

The words in   someone to look

At as one   is looking

To be where one   makes the room


a few layers in from the street breaking

a code   simplifies the things used up   the stories


or the ghost a meter makes   its rolling hills and speedful spread

like our forces populating a management sketch


but maybe there’s a way to speak

into one so one has to speak into another


having been after them in this room we can pour what you said


what did you say


on TV after the riot?

ambitious, don’t worry


take no notice of the living we can walk ourselves

learning from the dead these are for those


partners ring the firmament bells

we’ll look there for a commonness


did they shoot your mother and feel these thoughts’

horizon turning in L.A.’s turning dress


or did they listen there for the grammar of your babble

making proximate

places to extend


what did you say   over this street


pile hunting vectors of long-nosed bats

and the evening on top


holding on is the most embarrassing thing


turn about your surface quick

as rain they’d say of the trend toward metal tables

a utility   a mortuary


smell one wants to have just left


and if the aloe full of water turns away

in the grammar if not the words of your turning


and the gullies run with metal dust scraped off our break pads

the tropic wind hustle hustles some weather over the dry mountains


don’t they look tired

improvising jumpy, complex revelations of rock faces


under all that sun caring after

faithful iterations, seamless folk

beheadings, retired lab apes, so long armed


sequestered on an island with our HIV turning inside them

a distance from the mainland shore not so great


healthful, at ease one guides a long canoe Tuesdays and Fridays

to their inscrutable style


what does one take

and where were you born before that?


beast cast past a likeness

something to move toward


“…a mode of intramural depressive positionality” Muñoz set as landmark, “that gives us the ability to know and experience the other who shares a particular affective or emotional valance with us”


move this hollowface rest

a last bearing under a vintage gorilla coat

distinguished leathern and long silver hairs at your wrist


turn away from the naked shoulder cast

golden in honey poured or coffee grounds wrung

gelatin in your eyes

brotherly network cast out


the white boy comes to me to be increased

and is feeling laying there an escape


look at us


presiding yet

birds take yards   call out a business


Inca doves in league

with the alley’s outside

trench and parcel mothers

I am lost the white boy


comes to be increased

and is feeling

laying there an escape

gelatin eye


and light’s hollows

impeded in

barred effusiveness

upon bar

mothering him

a pith inside

good identities to use


happy and comfortable, taken to with the balance point of intention

and reception lucid dreamers might have


the sun in the dream was setting as in Los Angeles

with a long, thin band of orange between purple plains

as if only a thought ago

we’d been carefree under the vastest of honesties


a mother, tall and full of nose, a handsome woman

cooks the white rice seething in herself the push


of being driven through her shift

along the bank of the lake


on a computer two white men

suck each other off for a camera

and another white man fishing

a ways off looks, edges closer


let’s not wallow in the particulars of their work

sad or happy and dignified for everyone

those aren’t


feelings but political categories

diffuse and determining


“… people who live in those circumstances,” Padgett said of Brainard, “do see the world
as somewhat of a threat because you’re on the edge of economic oblivion at all times
and so yeah, you create structures around you that make you feel happy and comfortable.
Joe was extraordinarily good at that.”


any child

be our flag

above boy and girl cadets

of Davis Monthan Air Force Base learn to fly

heaviest cargo planes, the slightest jets


things used

can quicken the heart

all those public gallons per second

a tip of the throttle

a heaven of steel pennants


above the released


whose accent flares the mouth saying

certain succulents are sculptural on a neo-liberal terrace


grow enough immigrants behind you and you don’t get too precious


things are very small really

they just turn over and get lost


across several versions of the portrait

ragged edged, the moth, the useful mercury

sonorous, almost a return

before first light assembles the blue


then what can we say? bred outside a radical tradition

having lost a dialect that ranged only as far as the mountains


we know how to get thin and turn with tact, saying

I’m not really interested in my affect


however mannered

uh-huh, the poem says back


into the sky behaving itself full

of paddle leaf flutter

thing flattering

light will come

unannounced trees

clean people


flattered at our fortitude

in art conveying us out ahead but


thrasher and goldfinch, the lesser   will pull their calls

out of the noon, leave it


wordhusk and deader   happy on the heels of its ensigns




Da-da-da da-da da is chant and song performed by children and Head Start workers in the Child Development Group of Mississippi. A recording made of the song in 1967 is available through Smithsonian Folkways.

Vanessa Place gave the talk “Conceptualism is Feminism; Feminism is Conceptualism” at Smolny College in St. Petersburg, Russia. A video of the talk and the subsequent q&a was posted to YouTube on Jan. 15, 2013.

Édouard Glissant cites Kamau Brathwaite’s phrase “The unity is sub-marine” as an epigraph to Poetics of Relation. Trans. Betsy Wing (University of Michigan Press, 1997).

Shakespearean actor James Murdoch said, “Search out some sensational spectacle in which your fine figure and pretty face will show” to Adah Isaacs Menken, a stage actress and poet whose career spanned from roughly 1855 through her untimely death in 1868. She routinely told conflicting stories of her parentage and proclaimed inconsistent attitudes toward the issue of slavery. Most sources suggest she was born in Louisiana of mixed European and African ancestry. Of her acting, one English critic commented that she “poses better than she speaks.” Both of these quotations appear in Daphne A. Brook’s Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850-1910 (Duke, 2006).

On Nov. 20, 1995 Princess Diana gave an interview on the British television program Panorama in which she shared that she cut her body as a way to deal with the stress of living in Britain’s Royal Family.

The quotation from José Esteban Muñoz can be found in the essay, “Feeling Brown, Feeling Down: Latina Affect, the Performativity of Race, and the Depressive Position,” originally published in Signs, Vol. 31, No. 3, New Feminist Theories of Visual Culture (Spring 2006) but widely available on the internet.

Ron Padgett appeared on the podcast Bookworm to talk about his biography of Joe Brainard, Joe: A Memoir of Joe Brainard (Coffee House, 2007) on Nov. 22, 2007.

Graphic Scores



The Rova Sax Quartet:
Bruce Ackley – soprano sax
Steve Adams – alto sax
Larry Ochs – tenor sax
Jon Raskin – baritone sax

Recorded by Eli Crews at New Improved Recording, Oakland, CA on Sept. 5-6, 2008.

Mixed by Eli Crews, Steve Adams and Jon Raskin at New Improved Recording, Oakland, CA on Oct. 29 and Nov. 17, 2008.

Graphic Score 29


Steve Adams – alto sax and electronics

Recorded by Myles Boisen at Guerrila Euphonics, Oakland, CA on August 18, 2008

Mixed by Myles Boisen and Steve Adams at the Headless Buddha Lab, Oakland CA, on August 30, 2008

© Metalanguage Music 2005, all rights reserved





Angel [excerpt]

[fromFrom A Broken Bottle Traces of Perfume Still Emanate, Volume Five


___________________ 6.X1.83

Dear Angel of Dust,

Once again it will have come to nothing.  Again we will have sat exchanging thoughts on what was to be.  Again we will have heard music, albeit not music so much as music’s trace, music’s rumor, pianistic breakdown as an archetypal he and she gazed out drapeless windows.  What stayed with us will have been a wincing, distraught right hand backed by a grumbling left on an abject keyboard, a right undone or done in as much as backed by a disconsolate left.  We will have stood and stretched as gray, wintry, late afternoon light filled each window, a wounded look on what lay outside and on our faces as we looked out upon it.  An archetypal he and she alone but for the music, aloof to each other even but each the music’s intended, we will have so seen ourselves but no sooner done so than drawn back.  Something found in a wrinkle, something found in a fold, it will have been this that set our course and put us on it, collapse and come to nothing though it would.

So I thought, at least, earlier today at Djamilaa’s.  What will evanescent splendor have come to I wondered as she stood at a window and at one point leaned against the window frame, her left arm raised, her left hand touching the curtain rod.  She stood that way only a moment but the way she stood highlighted her long beauty, lank beauty, her long arms and legs a miracle of limbs.  For an instant something jumped out at me and at the same time jumped inside me, a mood or a mix of elation compounded with dread.  I saw what so much rays out from and relies upon, however much it shook me with apprehension: lank intangible grace, nonchalant allure, love’s modest body.  It was the news of the moment but yesterday’s news as well, something aspect and prepossession seemed intent on saying.  What that something was, as Penguin would say, more than met the eye, but it did nonetheless meet the eye.  My heart leapt and my stomach dropped.

“Leave it alone,” Djamilaa said, demure as to what was at issue but sensing my mood.

“I wish I could,” I said.

The right hand on the keyboard prompted me perhaps, apprehension of any kind its mandate, apprehension of any kind’s fraught base.  Thought’s ricochet played a role as well.  Momentary angst was its immediate heir, an ungainliness of thought in whose wincing retreat one felt elation well up and right away subside.  Fear of being caught out, knowing no way not to be caught out, factored in as well.

“Things are that way sometimes,” Djamilaa said, laconic, blasé, unperturbed.

“I know,” I said.  “Things are always that way.”

It had to do with angles.  The piano’s legs buckled for an instant and rebounded, then they buckled and rebounded again.  The right side of the keyboard crumpled.  The hand that played it crumpled as well.  Had they been glass they’d have shattered, besetting one’s ears, by turns bodily and cerebral, with sharp, intersecting planes rolling Duchamps’ descending nude and Picasso’s weeper into one.  But they were not glass, however much the keyboard’s keening ping made it seem so.

Dressed in a light cotton shift whose hem touched her ankles, Djamilaa stood caught between bouts and volleys of agitation and arrest, her lank beauty all the more lank finding itself so caught but unavailable all the same, it struck me, not to be lastingly caught.  A lack of lasting hold or lasting capture pertained to the music plaguing our heads, mine maybe more than hers but hers as well, a music it seemed we each heard with a distinct incorporeal ear or perhaps together with a shared incorporeal ear.

Djamilaa again offered generic solace, oblique as to what was at issue still, so compellingly we both felt it.  “Not always,” she said.  “But their effect when they are is to make it seem that way.”

“Yes, I guess so,” I said.

The music itself seemed an oblique telepathic dispatch, however much it appeared woven into textile and skin tone, the music of Djamilaa’s bare arms and bare neck emerging from her cotton shift.  It obtained in her skin’s lack of lasting hold and in the wrinkles and folds of her shift.  Had she said, “Fret not thyself,” I’d have said, “Amen,” but we were beyond that now, the music insinuating itself, issueless issue, the nothing it let it be known it will have come to, the nothing that had never been.  It wanted to keep convergence at bay.

It plied an odd, contrarian wish but it was moving and emotive all the same, anti-intimate while inviting intimacy, anti-contact while acknowledging touch.  It plied an aloof tactility, love’s lank tangency, verging on emotional breakdown but brusque, pullaway catch or caress.

It was an actual music we heard and let have its way with us, Paul Bley’s “Touching” on the Mr. Joy album.  No way could we say title told all.


As ever,



___________________ 14.X1.83


Dear Angel of Dust,

Yes, that one has “Nothing Ever Was, Anyway” on it, as do several others.  It does appear, as you say, we let “Nothing Ever Was, Anyway” infiltrate “Touching,” title not telling all notwithstanding, title not telling all all the more.  But there’s an asceticism to Bley’s playing that comes across no matter what the title.  Djamilaa’s been thinking about that, wondering about that, drawn to it a lot of late.  It’s not that less is more, she likes to say, nor that nothing is all, nor that nothing, as Ra says, is.  All those ways of putting it only let sensation in thru the backdoor, she likes to say.  No, it’s not about that.  It’s not as recuperative as that, not as categorical.  It’s an angled attrition, banked extenuation, she likes to say.

It’s as if, when she speaks this way, she’d come to me in a dream and vice versa, each of us the other’s wished-for rescue, each the other’s wariness as well.  It’s not unlike what sometimes happens when we play.  One becomes the extenuation of oneself and the emanation of something else, someone else, ghost and guest arrivant rolled into one.  What is it or who is it steps in at such moments?  It could be anything, anyone, one senses, but the hollow one’s evacuation puts in one’s place appears to afford strangeness a friendly disguise.  One’s fellow band members pass thru that hollow, step into it, relieving the brunt of an attenuation one might otherwise be unable to bear.  It’s something like what Roy Haynes must have meant by saying that playing with Trane was “like a beautiful nightmare.”

Come to as in a dream, yes, a dream dreamt on a rickety bed, springs creaking, home like as not an illusion of home.  To speak was to bank one’s breath within angular precincts, wall intersecting wall’s proprioceptive recess one’s being there had become.  Stereotactic as well, one touched upon aspect, facet, crater, protuberance, grade finessing grade, tangency’s wont.

As ever,