Pat Nolan


          The Indian has a message for my youngest son. There would be a potluck after the work party to restore the old hotel. “That goes for you, too, General,” he said to me, “ you could bring a crumb cake.” At the old hotel, my son was perplexed by something that he had no word for. When I looked at it, I saw that it was just a wad of old bubblegum on the lip of an old cabinet. On closer examination, I saw that it was a wad of bubblegum shaped like a frog. I pried the bubblegum frog off the wood surface. My son insisted that it really was a frog, and he was right. The red frog began to stir. Later as we made our way down the length of the trunk of a huge fir that topped the log deck at the lumber mill, my son pointed out that the frog was following us. “Be thankful that it doesn’t have those little vampire teeth,” I said. At the end of the log deck, the red frog hesitated and I picked it up to bring it with us. It transformed into a pink baby on whose head was a beaded skullcap. I marveled at the way the swirl of beads caught the scintillating light and filled me with an incredible sense of well-being.

It snowed Saturday (at sea level)
every one was in shock all day
nothing got done

Sunday was a long cold day
books and reading in order

windshield webbed in frost
something new added to the familiar
Monday morning ritual

what happened Tuesday
a little of everything

and finally today
bone gray bare limbs vibrate
with the beginning shower

tomorrow's appointment of
purely routine details

Stuck with a choice made years ago
clear eyed at last to self deception
and the transparent cage it creates

"I learned a lot" can be said
or stifle a yawn
               distant thunder
and the heat of humidity on nerves

same old tricks baffle no one
the self-consciousness of noise
after a slight pause
where improvisation begins and ends
that very spot

an incredible push and pull
creates flickering
so much so
               beyond the horizon

that is your hope at meaning

now returned from an interlude
a breath of familiarity
           on that note


Shifting patterns light then shade
faces appear in the tile floor
benign representations by Michelangelo
or Rembrandt the way ochre chalk
can flesh a visage from texture
even so stepping out of the shower
I hardly ever look at myself any more
mirror might as well be a blind wall
beads wiped away vigorous toweling
in all the nooks and crannies but never
once stopping to examine creeping
mottle mole blemish bruise bump in
an endless litany of self attention

a band of pale white from the skylight
clothes one arm
                     or pivot
           crosses the gray forest on my chest
door jamb too blessed
to open
                     after tucking in my shirt
at the start of another morning

I slow burn an alluring combustion

what do we want for our children
but maximum experience and minimum pain
unlike ourselves
           who had the adjectives reversed

                     a mud flow that sweeps me off my feet
what was I doing there in the first place
conga drums persisted into the night
and square waves of a violin's plucked strings

I like the way everything fits together
and gathers around the first moments of morning
all the insinuations of the night before
and then some
light embraces the tips of long green blades
and they blush
the air rises as a physical presence
and disappears
a magic show
           no one seems to notice any more
shadows retract to a pin point
                               along side the real thing
my legs are at the end of my arms
the way I'm stretched out
insect life swarms with Lilliputian intensity
heads for cover as every exposed patch of dirt
enough light to make any sensory apparatus ache

even the pebbled pavement exhibits a disarrayed parquet
                    the ebb and flow of air in motion
scatters needles and pollen
a daily grind of wheels washes a wake of fine
carbon dust to a struggling asphalt shore

I didn't even hear it coming
                     mottled fender breezes by

bridge against sky line
sky line against sudden blue
variegated tones of green
           jump out
spiked wall of awesome wonder
shimmering swaying playing with the light
sand against water against sand
a view with sound
peaked building broad leafed tree
row of sentinel poplars bow to a gust
fence post light pole stop sign
look up river soft foliage blur
look down river same thing
a world swallowed by a cornucopia
of self reflecting fractal luxuriance
perpetual indulgence of the senses
and in the blink of an eye
it's all the same senseless confusion

so I ache at the end of a walk
eventually numbed by the whole experience
I reel in my thoughts from those times
when I shoulda woulda coulda but didn't
too early too late too hot too cold too old
I have a dictionary of excuses too wet
even I am impressed
that much motion all at once
                     makes you appreciate sitting down
and what did I get out of it
fifteen minutes of staring at the back of my hand

I can't be wasting my time now
and I say that with a straight face

take these splotches on the ceramic stove top
once scrubbed clean it will sparkle white
but as is
                               I could sell it
                                        to the museum of modest art

three white plastic buckets
one on its side
                     across the other two
           wild onion flowers

all of a sudden I had this urge
to whirl a dervish
           (I was thinking of you)
           across the living room rug
"is the music too loud I'll turn it down"
snap the elastic of my joints
twist and shout
           "I think I pulled a muscle!"

I've learned to humor those urges
but there's more where they came from
an endless reservoir of uncut opinion
conjecture and sheer fabrication
so I really don't need a tattoo
of your name on my butt
no means no until the next time
I beg your indulgence

safe in kind of arbitrary surroundings
a vortex of lush vegetation
spray of grass in one corner
tips as sleek as minnows in shallow water
some poppies have dropped petals
others just beginning to unfurl
blue haze of forget-me-nots
masking purple stems of rhubarb
a symphony of varied shifting spectrums
as evening insinuates a darker shade

afoot across the span of time allotted light
that flat featureless amorphous patch
accompanied me in various lengths and widths
never once giving a true picture of my shape
                                         for which I am grateful
I had gone through at least as many
emotional chemical configurations
           the protozoa of my soul never stops
dreams across the flux
a spontaneous reaction to its self

then everything outdoors becomes silhouette
lamp light against the wide dusty window
plays back a soft contour
eye pit dark wrinkles and wild white hairs
not even noticeable
orange hue of artificial light
as day gets milky before
                                         it fades to black
I can groan stretch yawn scratch
the bulk of tomorrow at my fingertips
the plenty of dreams infinite seductive
as viewed through a kaleidoscope
shards of colored glass and mirrors
shifting patterns light then shade
I'd say a lot like every day life

                     “Procrastination is 90% of reality”
Into a leaf swirling wind
tiny bird bounding over gusts
joyful outstretch of wing

the quickest way to becoming
a messiah is to
                    deny you’re one

search for guitar pick somewhere
on cluttered desk
                    bright idea
                               bubble’s slow leak

out at the fuzzy edge
beyond the reach of care

pure inspiration comes at a cost
as if a ghost in a room
                    bathed in conversation

unraveling of the thought process
little chemical sparks fade too quickly
tenuous connections fail to fall into
a pattern that can be easily acquired
normal process of the living mind to
be able to address the multifaceted
levels of conscious existence so that
what was never grasped unique to itself
a wave crossing vast blue liquid space
as with thought none are the same
and all the same wash at my feet

cleverness not always appreciated
common wit ensnared the assembled
I am not someone else
I have time off (whatever that means)

no longer a productive member of society
I have become like dark matter
necessary to the existence of the universe
but just not fashionable


          You may not like me. I'm an intellectual. That doesn't mean I'm not real people. You might be put off by someone you can be sure is thinking, being intellectual, just about every waking second, someone who would notice how you hold your hands or lean on a table or subtly pick your nose and flick it away and not say anything about it but just think about it and why or what motivated you to act that way; that kind of person might just be scary. And if you shove them on the shoulder with the tips of your fingers and get in their face, they talk faster and use big words that are supposed to beat you across the brow but can be confusing if you make the mistake of listening to them and some can even make you madder and some make you stop and realize what a jerk you're being, and depending on how you feel about being a jerk, you either back off and apologize or you just rear back and waste the fucker. Intellectuals take some getting used to.

Pat Nolan's poetry and prose have been published in numerous magazines such as Rolling Stone, The Paris Review, The World, Big Bridge, Poetry Flash, and Exquisite Corpse as well as literary magazines in Europe and Asia. His work has also appeared in various anthologies including UP LATE, Thus Spake The Corpse, Out Of This World, and More Poetry Comics.

He is the author of 14 books of poetry. Tangram Press of Berkeley published a limited, letterpress edition of a selection of his tanka entitled Cloud Scatter in 1992. Tangram Press also printed selections from a larger manuscript of Chinese works as a chapbook entitled 4 Poems from Exile In Paradise, and as a handful of poem cards, in limited, letterpress editions as well. Fell Swoop Press of New Orleans issued Volume II of The Nolan Anthology of Poetry: The Modern Era in the spring of 2003. Thin Wings (2003) and Untouched By Rain (2005) from Empty Head Press are tanka sequences issued in limited edition of under 50, each individually hand-made using reproductions of classic Japanese woodblock prints, colorful silkscreen paper imported from Kyoto, and hand sewn, traditional four-hole binding.

He has lived along the lower Russian River in the redwood wilds of Northern California since 1973.

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