Monthly Archives: December 2011


The following is from an exercise from Carla Harryman’s class “The Long Poem & Serial Works” based off Joe Brainard’s I Remember. The title of this, “I,” is a working title.


I don’t enjoy talking about myself. I read books. I write poems. I drink beer. And smoke a lot of cigarettes. I prefer to listen to others talk about themselves and then ask questions.

I find Ezra Pound’s essays on poetry and craft more interesting than his poetry.

“I work hard not to let myself go.”[1]

I hated school, especially language arts, as a child.

I hated when the teacher would call on me to read. I didn’t like the attention on me (and I still don’t). Once, I told the teacher I didn’t know how to read and she spanked me in front of the class.

I was obsessed with Charles Bukowski late in high school and during the first few years of college. I wrote all my papers and poems drunk on beer and then switched to wine (I discovered I didn’t have to piss every ten minutes).

I was on the Dean’s List in community college and received the Student Academic Achievement Award in English for being the most published writer in the school’s history.

I was in eighth grade when the planes hit. I told the language arts teacher I was sick (faking) so she sent me to the office (before the planes hit).

I remember a lot of crying (not me). I remember Heather crying because one of her relatives worked in the Pentagon. I remember my mother picked me up from the office. I don’t remember the weather that day. Or what excuse I gave her.  I remember how long it took to find anything on television besides Full House reruns.

I wrote that in a poem for Christine Hume’s “Sound Poetry” class. I titled it “I mis(remember).” I remember, after writing this stanza:

[I mis(remember)] (how long it took to find anything on TV)—

what angles planes entered

exited, sounds produced as bodies Pollocked pavement—[…]

feeling exhilarated and somewhat unpatriotic and calm.

I am not a farmer.

I am the third John Farmer of the family. I was named after my father’s brother, John, and not his father, John.

I was almost a Brian. I wonder what my life would be like if I were a Brian.

I know I am because I am and I sing because I sing and that is the only way I know it happens.

I write in a place where I can gather shadows—a place where I can sing. I am never weary of the night returning in me. (I think never may be too strong a word.)

I don’t want to “give order to the world” in my writing. The world, as I see it, will never be in order and attempting to do such a thing is too much pressure on a poet. I mean it’s too much pressure on me. I will not stop anyone who wishes to do so, or has the time to do so. But I have neither the time nor patience nor savings to do so. I mean I don’t have the attention span required for such a job.


“I wasn’t lonely until post-modernity taught me the impossibility of being true.”

I am the product of stubborn, Irish, men. It’s somewhat depressing and, somehow, funny when reading sections of my grandfather’s will where he (deliberately) left my uncle and father out of it.

I remember my grandfather and father not speaking for five years when I was younger. My father can’t remember the reason. My grandfather lived five blocks away from us.

I am what I am because I inherited what I inherited.

“I left all those tender moments happily, happily in what solitude I have inherited with a few manly flaws.”

I like reconstructing poems from other writer’s poems using only their language. It’s a way for me to get out of “writer’s block” and to allow my mind to go where I wouldn’t allow it to go. I reconstructed this from one of Neruda’s 100 Love Sonnets. I call it “I crave the fleeting sunbeam”:

I crave the fleeting sunbeam

flaring in your mouth,

I want to eat the color of your laugh,

your voice, and your hot heart—like a puma,


I prowl around the streets,

the liquid dawn does not nourish me,

bread disrupts me, all day

I pace through the shades of your lashes,


sniffing the twilight in your hair

[…] (and so on).

I remember the first time my father cried.

I remember the second time (he read a poem I published after grandfather’s death).

I remember how long it took me to write the first poem I published (about ten minutes). I remember thinking how easy writing poetry was (and now I know it was just “dumb luck”).

I remember the first time I made love to someone who wasn’t myself.

I remember, a week after his death, my grandmother had a stroke and my girlfriend left me.

I remember cups of coffee and snow and blankets and Camel cigarettes. I remember debilitating depression and sleeping for days.

I hate snow. I didn’t hate it when I was younger.

I remember the first time I saw a dead body. It was my grandmother. Lying face down on the floor next to her bed. I remember blood on the carpet. And being afraid to touch her.

I remember, as each year passed, expecting my grandmother to die.

I remember when she was diagnosed with lung cancer. I remember chemotherapy. Clumps of hair falling out of her head. Oxygen tanks. White hospital rooms and stiff chairs.

I hated, as a child, the grocery store “Farmer Jack.” And when teachers call attendance last names first: “Farmer, John” (and I still hate it).

I remember trying to appreciate Andy Warhol’s work. (In high school, I believed the work was wonderful. It was “cool” to mention his name casually—as if saying it showed an understanding of it). I still don’t see what the big fuss is about.

I was never “cool” in high school.

I like growing a beard for something to hide behind.

I advised myself in poems (in “How to Be Happy: A Memo”): “[…] Give away as much of yourself / as your beard will allow—about forty percent.”

“I was distant because I mistrust my face.”

I believed (as a child) that if someone appeared in my dreams he or she was dreaming of me too.

I remember graffiti and broken windows. The gravel playground and fights and football and basketball.

I remember Rocky.

I remember my father teaching me how to defend myself and saying, “If someone pushes you, don’t push back, just knock him on his ass.”

I love coming across old quotes from old writers in old notebooks: I love tomorrow, it stays away so well.—William Stafford.

I remember birthday and Christmas gifts from grandfather wrapped in newspaper. Always books.

I faked sick for five straight days in elementary school. Mother took me to work (at a party store) somewhere off Southfield Freeway. I found the pistol behind the counter. She never left me behind the counter again.

I have trouble spitting out what I want to say. Or feeling. It’s due to a lifetime of high anxiety and ADHD and being taught as a young boy: Don’t speak unless spoken to.

I have learned to live with the distractions. And to welcome them.

“I am all I am comfortable with.”

I want to find the feeling before the utterance.

I am not concerned so much with what it means. I am concerned with how it feels.

 I deny the accident. There is no accident. Everything is placed in particular places to serve certain purposes.

I have learned to look at life as one long joke and the joys of laughing at myself.

I write because I enjoy it. Every part of it. The shitty first drafts and shitty final drafts.

I never had the attention span (or patience) to write a poem that eclipsed two pages. Even one is a stretch.

I remember (wired) talking on rooftops with Neal about life and poetry, and trying to find its meaning as the moon fell in front of us and the sun rose behind us.

I hallucinated Buddha was in my bedroom telling me about life and what it’s all about and me telling him to be quiet. My parents would be waking soon.

“I am no ego.”

I remember (hallucinating) seeing my skin decay and change shape in a mirror.

“I went down to the garden of memory with clear eyes and a cold beer and saw a sudden glimpse of myself as being no one.”

[1] [1]   All things in quotation marks after this, unless specified, are fragments from poems (recent and old, experiments and found poems) that connect to what the “I” is talking about.


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San Francisco is more my oyster than ever before
with all the Tom Waits impersonators gone.
I am running around, naked, tripping

on ecstasy and everything is beautiful!
I can do all the hipster stuff I always wanted to do
but never did because the place was too full of hipsters.

I found there are few joys in life greater
than sipping on a $12 cocktail at Bourbon and Branch
and threatening to beat a hungover d-bag senseless blasting Dave Matthews Band.

With all the Tom Waits impersonators gone, I made a beeline for the bar
to hit on a cute, hip-looking photographer. We had a slumber party.

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Sonnet XVII Revisited

I’ve been sitting in this room for far too long
and nothing has been accomplished.
I’d rather be looking at the clouds.
I know how I feel,
tell me who I am and what
to do about it.
What face do I have
while leaving?

I wrote that about what is this
empty room
I will have to go away and never come back anymore
Here I can’t stand to be a thing (I know)

The wind whistles (what evening means) too delicately
to signal anything bossy

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Sonnet II Revisited

I dreamt you were laughing
the other day           I saw a million statues of you naked,
mouth gaping    You were a site of wonder
and impossibility.

I am so ordinary.
I may be crazy and quiet in bed.
I mean reverse that sentence
to find the meaning I’ve been trying to find

a new mouth. I always wanted to learn French
when everything is bright in Paris                                               Teach me
vanished songs from the islands of desire

Speak to me
(exact, uncalibrated)
in iambic pentameter


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Sonnet III Revisited

I cannot give
up the fluid moon of
your voice

the margins              You are
as strange to me as
a name              There is nothing
to write about

on a beautiful day
Can I catch the perfume
of your laughter in a flower?

A phone rings.
I know how I sound,
teach me how to sing.

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Sonnet XXXI

I’m getting tired and blind           .
I have no sense of touch at times
I have fits of laughing and crying and I can’t

tell what’s serious and what isn’t much
more immediate, much more local           .           This morning
passed as usual                   .

It was such a great gift to wake
and drink too much
coffee and smoke too many cigarettes
and love you so much

 I’ll be singing
till the earth and sun
recognize your kiss
and the meadows in your eyes

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Sonnet XXX

I spend my life sitting
I’m concerned with the heart thing
I hope we can find out more
in terms of what would manifest in art and culture

I am lazy in this respect
I always write the same poem
Oh forgive me I’ve worked on coming back from this
I am lonesome

at the present writing one still finds
delighted fingers /  I’m in love /  Today
I’m longing to see

a single syllable leap off your tongue.
Teach me vanished songs from the islands of desire.
Give me wine and honey from your hips

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Three Sonnets

I have no courage
to speak so I’ll write it         Every day
is a beautiful day
I’ve been paying attention to the sky
again things come to pass,
arising and disappearing                     Already snow is falling and music begins

This morning I woke to a world covered in white
I thought of you dancing
the other night in the snow by the lake
and the christmas lights
colored our faces in red and white
wine made us see ourselves in new ways (oh! to wake so shackled
with love!) What do I do?
I listen to the wind.


I forget myself perpetually each time
I touch you.                Oh forgive me,
I am so ordinary and sentimental.
I like to collect memories
of people & things I’ve been
trying to find a mouth          I don’t believe in
god                                I tend to think of catching trains
more than Christianity
I rarely hold opinions for more than a few hours
I never deliberately say anything
without a lot of sincerity                            I mean feeling
everything is already here at the present
one still finds delighted fingers and
life is Lavender Mist

I throw myself,
my poems,
at you.
I see the beginning
of the world
through your lips
& I’m
about to be born
again (so close we are
to ruin every / day!) everything
is in the poems!
What more can I tell you?
You are bright, tremendous,


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