Rod Roland


January 13, 2015

My bear is a snowman, no hair
but jewels hot glued to her chest
twigs holding a bell, a few dried holly berries.
I take orders poorly and my power is in my will
hardly a hero in this family, useful for sunset
hikes and driving. I refuse to paper mache
and see the need for an embroidered butterfly
attached to the bottom ball. I’m not really working
these days so I have plenty of time to mess around
in poems. At lunch I ate the wrong tamales sweet
chopped walnuts and pineapple. I read your poem
“Destruction” and then watched a Lunch Poems reading
on UCTV from 2007. You read the poem and the bear comes
to the door, leaves high through the back wall.
I thought you were talking about me, but it can’t be
I was an undergraduate then. A guy I knew was in the crowd.
The camera found him. I liked Jack mostly but his head was all wrong
and uptight, like mine, but he wanted reach when all I wanted
was to be left alone until it reached me.
Still feel the same way both I’m sure, but now Jack works
in a nightclub in Las Vegas. I’m in the same kitchen
I was in back then. There has always been a copy
of Corso’s Gasoline stashed away in the set-in drawers
in the living room. It was not mine and out of desperation
I picked it up and thought I will try, but who will I tell?
I didn’t know a single poet that I trusted. I mean person but you know.
I was never one to call myself a poet or writer. Not until
I had something to back it up. Still don’t really but now
somehow everyone knows. Today a guy I saw on the street
said tell me the next time you read, I said okay
but I hardly ever read. Prone to impressions I flip the record.
A walk to a black forest. Not necessary
but appreciated. I’m forty now, the same age you were
when the poem was printed in The Wonderful Focus of You
and I’ve spent all night with four roses
got nostalgic for abstinence, the act of giving up
when you’ve had too much or not enough to spend the night alone.
California radio, the set is called depression, opiates and dating.
In the morning I take too long to get up
and miss Coco leaving for school. Well, I don’t miss her,
I can hear her every move, every scream in the hall.
She has to wear her hair up because of a lice scare.
I like that I can see her face but I don’t see much of myself there.

I’m a sensual beast unsure of the season in San Francisco,
an unending spring. Your book Not Veracruz is about a
trip not taken to Veracruz. I bought it on a trip to New York.
It was new on the shelf at St. Mark’s Bookshop. It was the only book
I bought on my trip. Not New York, Not Memphis, Not the
Temple of a Thousand Buddhas. In October 2013 I visited
Colter’s house in Ukiah. We hiked around the property in
a giant circle. The old wooden home built on top of a mountain,
deer and a teepee. We made dinner, root vegetables,
a salad and sausages. I grilled. We played music,
smoked hash and read books aloud. Tomo and Nathan
passed out with their eyes open. I walked down to a
yurt to sleep in the black night. I woke up to deer
rubbing up against the stilts holding the little
guesthouse up. I drank coffee and then used the compost
potty overlooking the valley below. The sun warmed my
thighs. I refuse to fall out of love with a place.
San Francisco has been my home for twenty years. I don’t
have to speak about it, I only need to stay where I am
most comfortable. No use in changing the Eucalyptus
into Oak, the Pigeons into Rock Doves. Flight is made
of patterns and walking is about not stepping on a line
or a crack. The way out is through the past not forgetting
to check the oil or too much ego. I digress. I am taken
by stories and tell them frequently. The time I caught
a hummingbird trapped between two panes of glass. It’s
little heart beating so fast. The time I walked in on
two guys fucking in the bathroom upstairs at the Elbo
Room. The drunk metalhead called me a faggot. My best
friend Scott used to live a block away and then he
went mad and now lives under a vintage clothing store
in the Tenderloin. I saw him on New Years Eve. Saw a show
in the basement where he lives. I didn’t look for a bed
there were so many people high and drunk and a flashing
blue light but a great band. Not sure where to go next.
Is this a poet’s novel yet? Do I just keep writing to you
Joanne? How do I expand on my life, on writing, on stories
I’ve never told, stories I always tell? Can I write a poem
in here as a kind of break from prose? A speech on poverty:
think of the empty houses no one lives in. Give your
daughter a dollar to spend at Thrifttown because she
stayed in her closet in the dark for ten seconds. She
says she’s afraid of her room and I get mad because
I pay rent for it. But what’s another few hundred
dollars each month when I’m not working anyway? She
could at least play in there in the mornings instead
of waking me to watch the sunrise. I bought her a
prism yesterday to hang in the window she calls it
a prison. I laugh but always appreciate her insight.

I’m still back as far as I can tell. Jackson came over last night.
We wrote a poem together, drank beer and whiskey, smoked a joint
of OG kush. At times I didn’t know where to be in my apartment,
I shuffled back and forth between the living room and the
kitchen, smoking cigarettes in the back. We played
records until it was just Dillard & Clark, a steady stream
of night enders. I nervously cleaned spilled jewels off
the floor and Jackson put them into the poem we were
writing. I am out of practice. I froze in front of our
collaboration, couldn’t find the right words because
I forget there are no right words. One line we came
up with late in the night was “pumped up about getting
fucked up.” It’s about how excited people can get about
drinking and drugs. The party. I don’t think, I just do.
At some point this has to click into something more than
journal writing. The hero has to arrive and take a voyage,
it is not me. I am the antihero and the narrative hates me.
After counseling I have a photo shoot where an advertising
company will look me over and take a few shots and tell
me whether or not I am what they are looking for. I hope
I’m not but I could use the money. I woke up to the sound of my
daughter humming in the dark. I am tired from last night’s
hang out with Jackson. Only five hours of sleep and not
perfect sleep either. I threaten her and tell her she
needs more sleep but it is really me that needs it she
seems fine and happy to be awake. She finally crawls back
into bed and tries to be quiet until I get up when the
sun rises. I make her a bagel with cream cheese and a
coffee for myself. Is it still morning? This life is long
and I am undeserving in many ways. I forget to enjoy it
mostly. And here I am describing it to you. You want the
best I have to offer. I am happy to wake up with the sun
and my daughter is with me. I don’t really work and
when I do it’s as a model on some photo shoot for a ridiculous days
wage. I could use a dentist and some new jeans but that will have to wait.
I have no plan as to how to proceed at least financially. My father
asks me about retirement and gives me advice to work
where I will have a pension. I hear him but
that hardly feels like the direction I am headed for.
I am designed for this life of luxury that is not
luxurious yet fits perfectly into my will and I don’t
have to change my pants everyday or smile when I don’t want to.

Everyone around me is working a job. Clocking in and
serving this man or that. My affliction is my relationship
to work. A man has no business in calling my life his
pride in achievement. I mean there is no pride in another
man’s work. No pride in my work. Here it is: I know
no money or fame. No value here. Just in what other’s want
in reading. The value of a moment on the couch with a poem.
The work is in the reader. I already stayed up too late
writing this poem. I drank whiskey and stumbled through
a French text to make a loose translation. This is about
my reading of Stein. I’m trying to find clarity in prose
instead of poetry. She is so loose it becomes tight.
She is an authority and lets the painters know it. I
want to say half of what she says about life and experience.
Well what do you know she would ask. I know how to have
a good time, waste time, wait time, fuck time. I can be
angry and confused. Less emotional she says. I am
concerned with water management or unmanagement I’m
worried. Too political unless you have a solution. I don’t
and what is it you are not fearful of or worried about
she asks. Writing is not a problem. I never think of it
as something I have to fix. As I say that I am trying to
write a long prose piece but it is fun. Okay what else?
It began as a loose letter because I like there to be
someone far off in my mind I address even if they are
so small I can barely see them. Only their
nodding head. I dance around think I’ve found them in
a tone they would like to hear. I try to explain how
I got here. A story about my childhood or a night of writing
with Jackson. Cedar might tell me to read more theory
but I love the practice. I’m too busy spitting out lines
with no one to turn to. No one to blame or tell me what
to do. I point to books I’ve read. Jackson tells me to
write a book review that he can get it published at
City Lights. I would write about you Joanne, or you
Gertrude Stein. Any woman willing to take my address.
I will do you no harm. I have only admiration and a
desire to hear back from you. Most writers are familiar
with the desire to please one other. Mostly I’ve been
trying to please Cedar and Jackson but now my head
shifts in other directions. Not intentionally yet
necessarily. I’ve added two new people to my audience
and unfortunately Gertrude I will never hear from you
directly but fortunately you have laid an outline for
me to communicate with you. Just keep moving ahead you
say that you are in the distance on the outside margin
looking in to my work. You make me feel as though I
should be discussing the artists in my life more.
But that’s only because you discuss them in your work.
I know you don’t want to read Rod’s Stein imitations.
I would do a horrible job. I will just continue with my
Rod imitations. And Joanne, I welcome you to my audience.
It is small but you already know everyone. You can stretch
out and relax there isn’t much here yet. I haven’t done
any Joanne imitations either but I sure thought about it.
And when you think about a form or an idea by another
writer it seeps into your conscious and makes its own
appearance. I wouldn’t go shopping for your form in my
work but the quality of a moment’s tone is there thanks
to you.

For Joanne Kyger

Rod Roland

Rod Roland is a poet and artist living in San Francisco. His books include The Playgroup (Gas Meter, 2012), Thrasher2 (Gas Meter, 2012), Best Loved (Old Gold, 2013) and Lunch Poems (2016).