To put it as pithily as possibly—and as accurately—the unconscious is a machine for operating an animal.

Cormac McCarthy – The Kekulé Problem

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Taken from Writer’s Almanac:

It’s the birthday of the man who inspired the word “beatnik” in the 1950s: poet Bob Kaufman, born Robert Garnell Kaufman, in New Orleans, Louisiana (1925). Kaufman’s mother was a Roman Catholic woman from Martinique who loved to play the piano and buy books at auctions. His father was a German Jew; “my Negro suit has Jew stripes,” Kaufman often said of his lineage. Details of his life are hazy because he didn’t keep a diary or leave behind any letters, and while he completed three volumes of poetry, he preferred to recite his poems in coffee houses rather than write them down.

As a teenager, he joined the Merchant Marine. In his 20 years as a sailor, he circled the globe nine times and survived four shipwrecks. On his first ship, the Henry Gibbons, he became friends with the first mate, who lent him books and encouraged him to read.

It was at sea when he first read about the Beat poets, many of whom also had maritime ambitions. Gary Snyder wanted to experience the culture in port cities around the world, and he worked as a seaman during the summer of 1948 and again in the mid-1950s. When Jack Kerouac, as a freshman at Columbia, failed chemistry and lost his scholarship, he joined the Merchant Marine to make money to re-enroll. Allen Ginsberg was suspended from Columbia for fighting with his dormitory housekeeper, and he followed Kerouac into the Merchant Marine. (Ginsberg tried marijuana for the first time on his maiden voyage.) When he was 22, Lawrence Ferlinghetti fell in love with the sea when he lived on the Maine coast for a summer and worked scraping moss off rocks. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he enrolled in Midshipmen’s School and was deployed at different lighthouses and naval watch posts throughout World War II.

When Kaufman was back on land, he studied briefly at the New School in New York City, where he met William S. Burroughs and Ginsberg. The three eventually moved to San Francisco and joined Gregory Corso, Kerouac, and Ferlinghetti to form the heart of the Beat movement.

Improvisational jazz influenced Kaufman’s street performances and earned him the nickname “The Original Bebop Man,” but it also earned him the attention of local police. In 1959, he was tossed into jail 39 times for disorderly conduct. San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen said he had Kaufman’s spontaneous oral poetry in mind when he created the word “beatnik.”

Later, Kaufman cofounded Beatitude magazine, which helped launch the careers of many other poets, but he continued to live a mostly itinerant life, filled with drugs, a stint at Bellevue Hospital, where he underwent electroshock treatments, and continued police harassment. By the mid ’60s, he had published two volumes of poetry – Solitudes Crowded with Loneliness (1965) and Golden Sardine (1967) – and in the early ’80s, his friends gathered old recordings and notes and had them published as The Ancient Rain: Poems 1958 – 1978 (1981).

When President Kennedy was shot in 1963, Kaufman took a vow of silence and didn’t speak again until he walked into a coffee shop in 1975 and recited his poem, “All Those Ships that Never Sailed.” He said:

All those ships that never sailed
The ones with their seacocks open
That were scuttled in their stalls …
Today I bring them back
Huge and transitory
And let them sail

His wife encouraged Kaufman to write down his many poems, but he wished to stay hidden from history.

He said, “I want to be anonymous. My ambition is to be completely forgotten.”

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Got Lucky Again – Lost Tower Pubs


Lost Tower Publications

Along The Shore

Dear Bruce,

We are re-sending this email in case the other was diverted to your spam folder.

I am delighted to inform you that your poem, ‘Yemanja’ has been chosen for publication in the Along The Shore anthology.


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The thief left it behind

The thief left it behind

Saw this on a Shambhala post today.

The thief left it behind:
the moon
at my window.

Ryokan – Zen Master.   

Excerpted from:


Sky Above, Great Wind: The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan

by Kazuaki Tanahashi,

page 65

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Excerpt from: “Lost In Seattle”



*       *       *

Wednesday morning ‘End The War’ protesters hold up traffic on my way to work, but I was here on time. It’s just a little after ten now and the day is crawling, slowed by eagerness for the Thanksgiving holiday.

I see the Jackal coming toward us. Now what? Has the pisser struck again?

“Tomorrow is a holiday,” he tells us. “We are going to be behind when you come back on Friday.”

“Friday? I thought we had Friday off,” I protest.

“We cannot afford that luxury at Arcot.” Phon continues. “We are still behind our quota. Arcot needs 130 power packs from you today.” He looks at Hēin.

“We can do it,” Hēin answers.

If the Jackal asked for 7,000, he’d agree and do his best to fill the order. Ko gun lin, are the first Vietnamese words that Hēin taught me—Make an effort.

“Good.” The Jackal leaves us and our little group falls silent. Hēin has run out of questions for the moment, so I put my earphones on and tune in the “Robert Roberts Show.” Another listener has called in.

“What have we here?” asks Roberts.

“A Tibetan Monk,” the show’s phone operator tells him. “It’s from Lompoc, California.”

Silence. . . .

“Are you there?” asks Roberts.

“I am here, at Lompoc, but not born in Lompoc. I am from Shigatze, Tibet.”

“I see,” says Roberts, “but you speak good English, Mr . . .”

“Tahsi Gyaltsan Lama. Thank you.”

“Like the Dalai Lama?” “Hello Dolly” plays as background music.

“Yes, we are both Lamas,” comes the answer, “but he is the greatest teacher, most revered. I am, perhaps, the least significant.”

“I see. So what is it that brought you here?” Bob asks.

“We Lamas like to travel and a few of us are teaching in America.”

“Aha. Well tell me, Tashi, what’s impressed you most about the States? What is it that stands out about our culture?”

“I have noticed there is always talk of fighting: in Iraq, Afghanistan, of course, but also there is war on poverty, fight cancer, war on crime, drug wars—now the war on terror. It seems combat is the first response to solving problems. This is natural, of course, to fight an enemy, but in America—”

“Easy to tell this call’s from California,” Bob advises listeners. “Time to take a station break, but thanks for sharing with us, Tashi.” Robert’s voice drifts off into a long commercial and I take the earphones off to start another batch of castings that’s come down the line.

My fingers ache from threading bolts into their holes.

“How do you say ‘good-bye’ in Vietnam?” I ask.

            “Tom bē-ah.” Hēin says it slowly, then again, “tom bēah. Is for every day. Vinh biêt is for a long time, if you are go away forever. I hope you are not plan to leave us.”

Hēin’s smiling, unaware that he has read my mind. “Are you unhappy with your work?”

“Just tired. I thought that we’d be getting Friday off. I need the rest.”

He nods with understanding. “I get up four-thirty every morning, take my wife to work, then sleep in car until the lunchroom opens.”

There’s no sign of anger in his voice . . . complete acceptance of his fate

*       *       *


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Published in mgv_88 Swan Song today.


mgv2_88 | swan song| 04_17

Departure Implicit

by Bruce Dodson



Loretta lives across the street

has cancer

both of us are long of tooth

it happens

but at least I don’t have cancer . . . yet

all of us carry the malicious cells within

waiting for weakness

less immune than yesterday

but she’s a tough old bird

from North Dakota

and offended doctors by refusing treatment costing thousands

hair loss


Takes pills for pain

brain tumor headaches

while she waits.

“I’m ready to go,” she says.

Worked thirty years

same job

same place

small office manager/receptionist

eleven months ago she finally gave it up.

Sometimes I think

retirement has killed more of us than cancer.


Page 26

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Herb Caen


From Writer’s Almanac and Wiki:

It’s the birthday of San Francisco columnist Herb Caen. Born in Sacramento, California (1916). He wrote his column six days a week from 1938 to 1991, and he had an established routine: he wrote in the morning, hung out in a bar or café in the afternoon, and attended A-list events in the evening. He wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle for his entire career – with the exception of four years during World War II and an eight-year stint with the San Francisco Examiner in the 1950s. In his inaugural column for the Examiner, he wrote of what he called “the Queen City”: “For years, it has been fun to Chronicle her . it will be even more fun, I know, to Examiner again, and again.”

During the week, he shared concise news items, usually separated by ellipses, which he called “three-dot journalism. “On Sundays, he dedicated his column inches to meditations on the city. From 1971: “The hookers are brazen, the abalone is frozen, and every night is Mugger’s Day. Yet, in spite of it all, San Francisco remains one of the great tourist cities. Most triumphantly, there is life in the streets – raw, raucous, roistering and real.”

Caen published two compilations of his columns in book form: Baghdad by the Bay (1949) and Don’t Call it Frisco (1953).

*     *     *

Part of a column from 1970:

Well, nobody said life would be easy, but for members of my generation, it’s becoming ridiculous. One is reminded of the joke about the psychiatrist’s secretary who says, “In my office, I can’t win. If I come to work early, I’m anxious, if I’m on time, I’m compulsive, and if I’m late, I’m hostile.”

Our group, the over 50s, is in the same boat, and it has sprung a leak. Most of us were born poor and are in danger of dying affluent, drowning in a sea of plastic, non-disposable luxuries none of us really wants or enjoys. Our pockets filled with inflated dollars to spend on junk, we look back on the Depression as a Golden Age: then, a dollar was round, shiny and heavy, and there was that vibrant, confident voice in the White House to give us hope.


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