Come gather ’round people of Amerdica

Friday night, at Ken Sander’s Rare Books in Salt Lake City, there was an event celebrating Bob Dylan’s inauguration as winner of the Nobel Prize for literature.


Alex Caldiero opened the performance with his own poem written as a DADA protest on the day after the recent election and containing this memorable admonition and recalibration: “we need to readjust our view of our homeland and see it as it is, just a bit out of kilter, skewed, that we may know the content of our character more dispassionately, to wit, Amerdica (only real patriots can appreciate the love embedded in this venerable name)”.


He then turned to Bob Dylan, reading lyrics in a way that, unstrung from the music, emphasized thoughts like these vaguely threatening lines from the “Ballad of the Thin Man”: “Because something is happening here but you don’t know what it is / Do you, Mr. Jones?”


He undid the audience with the power of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”:

And what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
And what’ll you do now my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are a many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
And the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell and speak it and think it and breathe it
And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it
And I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singing
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.


And in the end he howled and we howled and proclaimed in our bookish but not monkish unity that all along the watchtower the visions of Johanna sung by Mr. Tamborine Man like a rolling stone while blowing in the wind on desolation row mean that the election is history and that as the future unrolls the times, by god, they are gonna be changing.

… photos by Frank McEntire

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Citizen’s Anxiety at the Inauguration


“When the kicker starts his run, the goalkeeper unconsciously shows with his body which way he’ll throw himself even before the ball is kicked, and the kicker can simply kick in the other direction,” Bloch said. “The goalie might just as well try to pry open a door with a piece of straw.”

The kicker suddenly started his run. The goalkeeper, who was wearing a bright yellow jersey, stood absolutely still, and the penalty kicker shot the ball into his hands.


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Daily Dose of Immortality

I trace the ghostly scoliotic curve. The line deviates suggestively from the strictly vertical. I study the dim arcs of ribs that frame her spine, the cunningly articulated vertebrae. I picture Claudia in the next room, naked under the examination gown. The images arouse me, confuse me. I’m feeling something like what I’ve learned to distinguish as the fire of the Holy Ghost. I worship these pale images.

[from Immortal for Quite Some Time]



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Daily Dose of Immortality

It’s snowing steadily outside my office window, partially obscuring the bare-limbed locust tree. A single crow flaps heavily through the fat flakes. Yesterday Joseph, Thomas, and I skied up to a quiet meadow above Hobblecreek Canyon. On the way down Joseph barreled over a ridge with seventeen-year-old abandon and plummeted down a steep slope until he threw himself backward to disappear in a flurry of powder right next to where my sweeping turn had run me into some scrub oak. Thomas crashed just below us, and we lay there, the three of us, gasping for air at first, smiling and gasping, and finally whooping deliriously. We got up and sliced down through stands of aspens, powder snow hissing around our knees. Wool-scented warmth in the car on the way home.

[from Immortal for Quite Some Time]

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Daily Dose of Immortality

A letter today from Hans Schulz, a Marxist colleague at Vanderbilt, in response to a letter I sent him when I learned he is dying of cancer:

. . . It’s been more than six weeks since I got your letter. I am only now coming out of the kind of hermetic self-referentiality which the news of my palpable finality engendered. . . . Your letter has a tone that expresses a lot about a flux of beliefs and the sense of loss that comes with it. Difficult for me to empathize because that is a whole field of beliefs I never entered and have always looked at as an indoor Hollywood landscape. But my own situation seems to subject a lot of things to revision too.

[from Immortal for Quite Some Time]


Alexander von Humboldt invents nature

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Daily Dose of Immortality

In the afternoon sunshine, John’s death certificate glows bright green on my desk.

Never married.

Sex: Male.

Not a veteran.

Autopsy: yes.

The sun transforms the books on the north wall into an ordered riot of colors.

In a radio interview, a Utah AIDS patient opines that “we all feel immortal for quite some time.”

[from Immortal for Quite Some Time]


work by Nina Pops and Zarko Radakovic — manuscript from Knifer and pencil

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Daily Dose of Immortality

“Why can’t I be good?” Lou Reed sings this question in Wim Wenders’s film Far Away, So Close! “Why can’t I act like a man? Why can’t I be good?” Was John good? Am I good? What does good mean? The American Heritage Dictionary says that the root ghedh- means “To unite, join, fit. 1. GOOD, from Germanic *godaz, ‘fitting, suitable.’” You are good then, in the root sense, if you unite, join, or fit, if you are fitting and suitable. But who decides what and who is suitable? And what if that leaves you out?

[from Immortal for Quite Some Time; watercolor by John Abbott]

watercolor of barbed wire

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Daily Dose of Immortality

A dozen stands of steaming pipe . . . two dozen . . . three . . . methodically we raise the pipe out of the hole. The sun drops behind thick clouds to the west. We work on in bright pools of artificial light. Four bodies move rhythmically, steadily, in concert. A full moon rises from behind Picacho Peak. We grow warm, then weary. Clouds obscure the moon. The derrick thrusts upward amid desert rock and vegetation; engines roar and fall silent in predictable intervals; the rig floor sways and creaks. A breeze intensifies to gusts. Fat drops of rain splatter the rig floor; rainsqualls shudder the derrick. The gathering ranks of pipe drone like the organ pipes they resemble. Taut cables whistle high notes.

[from Immortal for Quite Some Time]


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Daily Dose of Immortality

Nothing returns from what has been destroyed, nothing is reborn, neither dead men, nor burned libraries, nor submerged lighthouses, nor extinct species, despite the museums commemorations statues books speeches good will, of things that have gone only a vague memory remains.

–Mathias Énard

[from Immortal for Quite Some Time]


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Daily Dose of Immortality

I went into the LDS Third Ward in Farmington, New Mexico. I could not tuck my long hair up under a cap as poet and environmental activist Gary Snyder did when he “went into the Maverick Bar / In Farmington, New Mexico.” I had no earring to leave in the car. I didn’t drink double shots of bourbon backed with beer (although my traveling bag held a flask of lowland single malt in case of emergency). Unlike Snyder, I had an escort, an old friend who explained where I was from. Instead of “We don’t smoke Marijuana in Muskokie,”the organist played “For the Beauty of the Earth.” There was no dancing.

[from Immortal for Quite Some Time]


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