Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fractures and Fires

The Way Gasps Fracture Myths

The way full-fathom stops
at an interchange amber
silence a freeway acclimatization,
Thus do ears flush residual
microwave background radiation
that was there for Pompeii
that was there for Clovis Man
that was there for removal of your training wheels.

Rapunzel’s one hiccup
grabs braid tangled mid-toss.
Apneatic freeze tag leaving remnants of Grimm’s,
Andersen’s, Scheherazade’s, Remus’s starchy tableaux.
Your president gurgles!
“Read me a story.”
But daddy and mommy and archbishop, Pharisee,
Leader Triumphant,
all left with nothing important to say.
Set bone! Set bone!

The moment of puffed cheeks,
of gills in the bathtub,
is the moment of no turtles all the way down.
No transubstantiation.
No Mostar-bridge troll for a Billy Goat Gruff.
No urgent-care indulgence for a faux blue-faced sin.

But remember,
before pedal hastens to metal,
the very same sup-sup now sucking your myth,
is the gasp that embalms the precise hypothesis
leaving us still-image now now and now
stifling knowledge-tree apple
returned to the vine,
with incisors’ reverse slo-mo healing made whole.
Asphyxiated shamans say it ain’t so.

But lights turn green.
Road roar resumes.
COBE background hiss offers a second lullaby verse,
while storytellers report gainful employment, for now.

Loring Wirbel
March 29, 2011

Reminders of Indian Gulch

An obvious plume over Morrison,
A Challenger contrail gone mad,
but none of the Hayman haze you’d expect
from a season of aircraft grounding.
Instead a Denver of clarity waxing unseemly,
brilliant Arapahoe sunset violating its own loitering right.

"Why are there fall smells everywhere?” Regina asks,
“I’m thinking s’mores and high jumps into leaf piles.”
“It’s the Golden fires,” I say,
unable to erase the image of a ministry building on the Nile
and a thousand other conflagrations from a year of plumes,
a year where fire and water and air
went looking for earth,
while we went looking for s’mores.

Loring Wirbel
March 23, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

ICU Waiting Room

How many flat-panel images have been banished
from that damned Samsung pixellated wall-mount
harvester of tears,
In the naugahyde clusters where
the filter-tipped death sentences
the measured pace of pall bearers
were proscribed 7,000 patients ago?

Today, all I.V. drips arrive with another dozen dying
in an emirate square.
Today, portacaths are inserted in time with
the tango tap-tap of NATO bombs playing drum circle
with Tall King and Spoon Rest radar.
Today, intubations come free with potassium iodide pills
providing false solace for the plumes swirling,
even now, on rooftop ventilators of Beth Israel.
And if you act now,
perhaps the next voice is not silenced.

How do you favor your agony, friend?
Bedside immediate relatives and significant others,
Where your hand caresses the rough-hatched textiles
to surround the apparent thigh and calf
of persistent vegetative state,
Listen for the steady beep of lifelines?

Or in waiting room purgatory,
solitaire hands unplayed,
Grisham novels tossed in splayed spines,
hyperalert for the raised eyebrow
of a physician that never arrives?

The blank screen is not allowed to nourish me.
So I imagine a gymnasium in Sendai
and call it waiting room.
I imagine the tamped earth of Saudi border
and call it waiting room.
I imagine the uncomfortable seats
of UN Security Council
and call it waiting room.
I imagine the sand traps unfolding across
an infinite Sahel line,
called metastasis in the local vernacular
of cruelty on the public square
But I call it waiting room.

Shorn of emotion, exposed as Worthington
blares through ear buds,
“This is my son in whom I was well pleased,
and you bastard.
You bastard, you just sat there.”

Sitting, of course, insures a fresh coat of cesium
from a hospital ventilator,
an extra alpha particle in the ICU.
None dare call it solidarity.

Where, when, how to sign the
do-not-resuscitate order.
You bastard, you just sat there.
The millions before me form an infinite recursion
of victims on life support,
trapped in fun-house mirrors.
Who’s ready to listen to that many beeps?

Loring Wirbel

March 18, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Known Knowns, Known Unknowns, and Those Pesky Unknown Unknowns

Ive done all the worrying I can worry about the folks in Sendai prefecture and the unstable fuel rods at Fukushima Dai-ichi, and I just can't worry no more.

I've done all the worrying I can worry about the UN voting for a no-fly zone and air strikes to enforce it, and whether the strikes will come before Ghaddafi takes Benghazi, and I just can't worry no more.

I've done all the worrying I can worry about the despicable King of Bahrain and his proxy Saudi army, their obliteration of street protest proceeding even as the U.S. Fifth Fleet sits in its dry dock and watches, and I just can't worry no more.

So Bruce Gagnon and Dave Webb and the folks at the Global Network asked me to worry about something else, so I compiled a list of recent space launches of the National Reconnaissance Office, an article I reproduced below:

17 March 2011
NRO finds plenty of ways to burn through $15 billion annual budget
By Loring Wirbel

At a time when all other military operations are being asked to scale down by 8 to 10 percent to comply with a “reasonable” annual Pentagon budget in the realm of $500 billion (discounting ongoing Iraq and Afghanistan war costs), military space is as profligate as ever. The biggest attention has been paid to the billion-dollar launches of robotic space planes from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Air Force, even though the Air Force’s X-37B “space plane” is shrouded in secrecy. But the most active client at Vandenberg and Patrick (Canaveral) Air Force Bases over the past year has been the nation’s largest intelligence agency by budget, the National Reconnaissance Office.

A half-dozen launches under NRO auspices have taken place in the past seven months with virtually no public notification, with at least three more NRO launches scheduled in 2011. The broad nature of the intelligence programs managed by NRO is cited as the reason for the agency’s budget moving up to approximately $15 billion a year, eclipsing the budget of its closest contender, the National Security Agency, by several billion dollars, and that of the CIA by almost $10 billion. Several gargantuan satellite systems have been updated in the last year, including Advanced Orion listening satellites, Improved Crystal optical spy satellites, White Cloud/Ranger Naval reconnaissance satellites, Satellite Data System communication and relay satellites, FIA 1/Lacrosse radar satellites, and a shadowy NRO research effort called Rapid Pathfinder.

These programs have been augmented by military satellite programs with a higher public profile, such as Global Positioning System 2E-1, Advanced EHF-1, and Space-Based Surveillance System 1. While the costs of classified and open military space launches often can be obscured by budget transfers in the “black budget”, the fact that NRO’s overall budget is in the neighborhood of $15 billion, while the overall annual costs of military space are believed to be $70 billion, indicates that military space launches of satellites and space planes amount to tens of billions of dollars a year.

The highest-profile launches of late took place in April 2010, when DARPA launched a space glider, HLV-1, on the same day (April 22) that the Air Force made the first test launch of the X-37B, an orbiting robotic space plane. The DARPA glider, which returned to Earth immediately, was conceived as an element of “Prompt Global Strike,” a series of conventional weapons which Strategic Command will use to conduct rapid-response warfare globally. The X37-B, while of possible use in Prompt Global Strike, is intended as a lingering, orbiting resource. The vehicle launched in April 2010 did not return to Earth until Dec. 3 of last year. A second X-37B test vehicle was launched March 5, 2011, with no indication of when it would return to Earth.

NRO launches moved into a busy schedule as soon as Barack Obama took office, with a launch of an Advanced Orion signals-intelligence satellite, which listens in to civilian communications from space, taking place just before the inauguration on Jan. 18, 2009. The Advanced Orion, also called Mentor, has been called the “largest satellite in the world” by NRO Director Bruce Carlson, with an antenna span in excess of 100 meters. The fifth such satellite in this class was launched Nov. 21, 2010 from Cape Canaveral. The prime contractor for this multi-billion-dollar satellite has never been revealed, though Lockheed-Martin and Northrop Grumman are both believed to have major roles in subsystem development.

On Sept. 20, 2010, a synthetic-aperture radar satellite was launched by NRO on an Atlas V rocket from Vandenberg. This satellite was an element of the “Future Imagery Architecture” program and carried the name FIA Radar 1, though it is believed to be an upgrade of a radar program called Lacrosse. These are intelligence satellites that augment traditional optical imaging satellites through their ability to see through cloud cover.

On January 20, 2011, NRO launched an optical spy satellite from Vandenberg on board a Delta IV rocket, a satellite called Improved Crystal. This class of satellite is a follow-on to the “Keyhole” or KH-11 series, and resembles the Hubble Space Telescope in its overall size and shape. Improved Crystal is the Block IV series of this satellite, with extremely advanced multi-spectral imaging capabilities.

Two of NRO’s biggest mysteries were launched in February and March. On February 6, the agency launched a research satellite called Rapid Pathfinder Program from Vandenberg, on a smaller Minotaur IV rocket. This satellite is believed to test new listening, imaging, and communication techniques which may be used on full-sized satellites in the future. On March 11, the NRO launched its Satellite Data System 3 satellite, code-named Gryphon, on a Delta IV at Cape Canaveral. Although SDS satellites are described as primarily communication satellites, they are often treated with greater secrecy than working spy satellites. Most military communication satellites are run by Defense Information Systems Agency, but SDS satellites are run by the NRO. Some analysts believe this is because their primary mission is to relay information from Improved Crystal, Advanced Orion, and other spy satellites to ground stations in Australia, England, and Colorado.

Other communication and analysis satellites are managed in a more public fashion. Space-Based Surveillance System is a new network to watch other satellites in space, and the first SBSS 1 satellite, managed by Boeing, was launched Sept. 25, 2010 on a Minotaur IV rocket. AEHF-1 is an Air Force Space Command satellite network, contracted by Lockheed-Martin and Northrop Grumman, which replaces the Milstar program with a more advanced, high-bandwidth network run from geostationary orbit. AEHF-1 is a substitute for a very ambitious and costly satellite system called Transformational Satellite or T-SAT, which was dreamed up by Donald Rumsfeld and former NRO Director Peter Teets, but canceled by a cost-conscious Congress.

There are more launch mysteries awaiting analysts in 2011. The NRO L-34 launch on April 12 has not been identified, nor have two launches slated for fourth quarter – the L-39 in October, and the L-15 in December. The latter launch uses a heavy-left Delta-IV, however, so it is likely to be a huge geosynchronous spy satellite. The April launch will probably go into a “Molniya” style highly-inclined orbit, which may mean SDS 3, or a “Trumpet” listening spy satellite. The October launch may well be another radar launch, like the one last September. What is certain is that military space launches are taking place in one of the most rapid paces in U.S. history. Despite the cancellation of some gold-plated programs like T-SAT, the Obama administration is overseeing a massive expansion of space intelligence.


So aren't you proud of me? I gave you whole new categories of things to worry about! What's that? You're not satisfied? Well, just hold still, Ars Technica gave us a fine story this afternoon about contractors with the National Security Agency, including the little-known HBGary, who are involved in developing dirty tricks to take down WikiLeaks. There, that ought to put you in a perpetual state of panic. You're welcome.

"I got troubles, I got worries...."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ten Centimeters

Even a broken Gladwell can tell the correct tipping point at least twice an epoch. The 10-centimeter tip occurred in the days prior to the vernal equinox in the 2011th orbit following birth of the translator. A certain amount of irony might be noted that the tip occurred 48 hours before one more artificial slice of experience, change the clocks, refresh the batteries, leap forward leap forward. Ten centimeters might be enough to shift the first day of spring, leap forward leap forward.

The measuring mavens will show the data indicating the degree of subduction of Pacific Plate under North American Plate, but some of us know better. We could watch the sand tsunami in city after city as the days grew longer, taking its debris in Tunis, Cairo, Manama, then experiencing backsurge in Sa'naa and Ras Lanuf. We could feel the ground turn gelatinous under the dome in Madison. ("It feels like we're on an island." "We are on an island, knucklehead.") What is spoken for Sendai becomes Earth Island, the ball that tipped before the spoilsport could take it away and run home. Admit it - after the tragic failures west of Benghazi, after the midnight arrests in Wisconsin, you were thinking, "Wait for it.... wait for it.... wait for it...."

But if tipping points tip, is it cause for new hope or a ten-centimeter false spring? Confession: when a president hires bankers and corrects the State Department spokesman that Pfc. Bradley Manning is being treated just fine thank you very much, I've had my fill of hopey-changey. I anticipate no particular apocalypse, I do not await December 2012, but nor do I expect universal peace and understanding when the axis shifts. Hillary might call it reset, I call it stutter, but is it a stutter with anything to say? Most of the emergent language is unpleasant, a cooling-pump explosion at Fukushima Daiishi, drifting ships in Ishinomaki, one f-stop too close to the action in Crescent City.

This is the year, the decade of the aftershock, payment due, March 19 Super Moons, holding the slightest hope that the ride through one tipping point is enough. Human nature being what it is, the most likely scenario will be laughter, forgetting, ignorance, until the cascade initiates a second cascade, the real subduction. Then Malcolm gets to be right twice, oopsy followed by daisy. It is sunny and warm outside today, I won't fear the isotopes of Fukushima that may be in the air, but just go out and relish the extra spring ten centimeters may bring. But one short sharp shock can make you look like hell in the morning, and the most likely scenario is that this is the first of many.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Poems: Ekphrastic with Walker Evans and Mogwai, Brad Manning anger, and mistaken ecstasy

If it weren't for Ruth Mowry, I wouldn't get the guilt level up to appropriate levels for updating this gol-durned blog, poor little neglected creature. It's been a busy time for poetry, since Colorado Springs is making the theme of its runup to National Poetry Month "Ekphrastic Poetry" - Poetry based on or inspired by works of visual art. There will be a big whoop-de-do at Marika's April 16, with artists and writers listed to the left, but to kick it all off, the Poetry West organization had Brian Barker of CU Denver and Copper Press conduct a workshop on ekphrastic poetry on March 5. Since Barker brought along a huge portfolio of Walker Evans' photography, and I still haven't gotten over the obsession in my teenage years with James Agee's and Walker Evans' Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, I of course had to pick my favorite Evans photo, with the result below:

Rivertown Apostasies (for Walker Evans' 'Main Street Faces')

Disdain of the downward glance
Hat brims 45 degrees from condemned.
Morgantown, Beantown,
collaboration or a temporary alliance?

Black-market vegetables,
the Capone we never saw,
Fallen in a Thunderbird stupor
or the getaway Schwinn of ruptured kickstand,
offering the rolled shirtsleeve as tourniquet,
but with every bank in failure who smirks at the fallen?

Loring Wirbel
March 5, 2011

I also realized after the fact that a poem from late February, based on a piece of music and the cover photo of Mogwai's Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will, fit the ekphrastic definition nicely:

On Crying at Mogwai's 'Music for a Forgotten Future'

Some days, you just have to let out a primal scream – IdaRose Sylvester

I’ve sampled enough trails to brokenness
Minus a healing option
That missing doll parts
are the expected palate cleanser

Jigsaw pieces kicked under a walnut armoire
The wound of incomplete grown common.

The path to Chorro Falls admits no jaded warrior.
I see the cityscape in a waxing moon,
its back bay undisturbed
Still water to crusted sand
to cancerous mercury vapor Star of Bethlehem.
A pattern love enabled,
save the missing jigsaw.
This step in love, that step in love.
But mad belief does not replace a slate shelf
tumbling to the canyon floor.
Instead, this tightrope replaces one absent jigsaw.
Will the next?
My niece, priestess of high adventure,
is glad she did not fall to her death today.
I am glad that only the jaded turn around,
but so very tired of Godel’s incompleteness.

Why not a winter’s end
praising the melting ice carnivals,
Madison to Sana’a?
In Finland the finest hotels are carved anew
each year from blue ice
a crystal bed of consummate cum
a palate cleanser
But frosted concierge does little good
in the horse latitude of Carthage.
An ice sheet, a slate sheet
tumbles from a Siberian Camino del Rey
to the canyon floor.
So much for your revolution.
So much for the world made new.
So much for that jigsaw puzzle.

“Peaceful, peaceful!”
Manama moans.
I long to lift the Cabernet
to savor victory upon victory
to find my missing socks
but we always travel the path more broken
and that has made all the difference.

Loring Wirbel

Feb. 18, 2011

(If you click on the highlighted song title above, you'll find the music that inspired the poem. The truly obsessive can walk to Chorro Falls in the video below.)

Now, here are two other recent poems to conclude this mess. My friend Robert said that topical poems have a short shelf life, but when I heard about Bradley Manning being subject to new death-penalty charges and being stripped naked nightly in solitary confinement, well of course I had to offer this poem:

The Legitimacy of a Naked Manning

Synonym search in the Merriam put out to pasture,
a stolen NATO playbook,
assumes a dictionary legible to all.

No-fly in Tobruk
responsibility to protect,
assumes I voted a captive parent
in the last My Weekly Reader poll.

Dangerous toys in wrong hands,
boys in bound hands,
assume I trust my toy chest
to the warrant officer hiking nuclear football.

Goddess Diana of the thousand-day epoch of Harvey Milk,
leading our blessed prayer of Espionage Act
assumes I have witnessed her halo afire in a leaked life hereafter
Assange assignation assertion assume assume.

I assume nothing.

Myriad miles of copper-zinc pipes springing WikiLeaks
at each T-joint
carry less legitimacy than Bradley’s hands
testing the slipknot,
The five centuries of Westphalian honor,
nightmare, triumphalism,
more transitory than the piss spattered on Manning’s toes.

Loring Wirbel
March 6, 2011

And finally, to rejoice in all the myriad things done wrong in a banner year-of-doing-wrong:

Ecstatic Mistakes

What if neither tactics nor strategies are intended to work? –
Kent Ingram

Wisdom attained from the error of infinite looping is merely Lesson One.
Yes, the dessicated nerve endings of the phantom limb
howl like gangrenous bone shard.
And yes, many students flunk early.
Just ask the wrong-angled pile of rag and bone
who leapt from the steak-house roof
in a dizzy stupor of self-imposed identity theft.
He is not having fun.
He will have to take an incomplete.

But that was first semester’s lesson plan.
We skip the obvious sociopath for now.
Watch the peristaltic bile in the healthy specimen
collect for each lover’s lie, each agile cheat,
an acid meant as solvent for chronic pain.
Now here comes the hard part,
take it to the bridge.

Installed the flange upside down.
I love my wrong.
Let my child hear the audible bile.
I love my wrong.
Conduit cut to the wrong diameter.
I love my wrong.
Defrauding the lover that mattered most.
I love my wrong.

Newbie first-formers chant “The things which hurt, instruct.”
You laugh past hurt.
Let the cartoon clown hammering his thumb
be your silly satori.
Every fuckup sparkles in prevenient grace.

Loring Wirbel
Feb. 21, 2011

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Remarkable Carolyn Srygley-Moore, In Print At Last

(Full disclosure: The blogger holds no fiduciary interest in Tjgrszmk, nor does he serve as public relations agent for Ms. Srygley-Moore. He admits to being obsessed with Ms. S-M's poetry, and with considering Tjgrszmk Publisher Marilyn Basel a transcended being of immense superpowers. [Well, OK, Marilyn's going to publish a chapbook of mine later, maybe I'm a wee bit prejudiced. But still.])

Seems like it's been not quite a year since I discovered Carolyn Srygley-Moore's remarkable poetry on Facebook, and wondered why the hell she wasn't world famous already. This woman does not merely give us singular and astonishing poetry on a regular basis, but writes three or four remarkable poems every single day. Scary, almost. It may seem presumptuous or self-absorbed for her to name-check Plath or Rilke, but in Carolyn's case, her work is just that good. She's had some poems in online journals, has a short YouTube clip of a reading, but had not yet published a chapbook.

Enter Marilyn Basel of Tjgrszmk Publishing. Marilyn made it a personal goal to see multiple chapbooks of Carolyn reach the light of day. The first of a series, Memory Rituals: An Army of Suns, hit the streets at the end of February. Not only did Marilyn judiciously choose from Carolyn's prolific suite of poems, her ordering is careful and well thought out. I'm not going to sample at length from the poems because I want you to buy the book, but let's look at the opening poem, Contingencies, and its passage:

now. & now, I am to crouch, animal
scraping my poetry from the walls image by image.
flower, broomstick, snail shell, slug.

In the middle of the chapbook, I return again and again to the poem of couplets called Knuckles, White, and to the simple stunning poem on the following page, Fear Dissipant, that ends:

The sun is bright on the backs of my hands, like anchor.
I have never thought of the sunlight as an anchor, rather

Strings pulling the balloon past the tree line.
Rather that.

Some of Carolyn's poetry is frightening, tough-going in memories of madness and violence, but she is very redemptive and joyful by nature (she even subtitles one poem Is It A Healthy Plath You Want). Well, yes, since you asked, and Carolyn is a healthy angel.

Marilyn did a loving job of hand-assembling and stitching the book. She wisely chose to end the collection with Once Upon a Time I Was a Sleepwalker. I'm not going to excerpt that poem because you need to buy the book.