Cassis, France, en route to Phoenix, AZ / Jen Bervin

So I am not in anywhere USA nor am I crammed on a bus with 50 cities and 50 poets. I’ve been in France at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, sewing large-scale composite studies of Emily Dickinson’s manuscripts and swimming like there’s no tomorrow to swim in. I’ve never had such a sea view—so vast—for such a span of time. It changes you.

I’m finishing this post in Paris from Binky Walker’s beautiful riverboat-like flat that skims the skyline of the Marais. Tonight she showed me the fine silvery pencil drawings of clouds she’s been working on and boy are they stunning. Precise and glacially patient. Which is to say, my favorite kind of work.

She just gave me the sort of explanation that I tend to love. To get a hot shower in the morning, you must first turn on the sink in the bathroom, then shower. The shower will get hot, then cold, then hot again. Turn the sink faucet down to a low stream, but not completely off, and the shower is ready to go. “I don’t know how I figured that out,” she said and laughed. Like Brooklyn apartments, this one hasn’t one right angle or one level surface. Gravity and geological time have been making excellent improvements.

From here, it looks like this day will have a record 30+ hours in it. When I land in Phoenix, Arizona late tonight, my time sense and my cells will be on squarely backwards. Hopefully I’ll catch the end of the reading at The Trunk Space with Jen Hofer, Richard Siken, Sarah Vap, Joshua Beckman, Matthew Zapruder, Juliana Spahr, Stephanie Young, Joshua Clover, Matvei Yankelevich, Eleni Sikelieanos, and Elizabeth Willis. I have tremendous respect for the poets I’m about to join. They are friends and dear friends and I’ve missed them.

I like that Joshua Beckman and Matthew Zapruder knew that the tour would be exhausting, humanly flawed and humanly beautiful in myriad unruly ways and still went ahead with generosity and good will. I’ve been thinking a lot about the extraordinary efforts they have been willing to make and why those efforts are necessary. I’ve also been thinking about how I might reciprocate those efforts in my own smaller way, and have been doggedly working on a number of new projects for the readings coming up. Among them, a collaboration that dates back to August.

Juliana Spahr, Stephanie Young, Jen Hofer, Joshua Clover and I have been writing and systematically trading off texts since late August with basically a nine-day turnaround. The poems are intended for the places on the southwestern leg of the bus tour where we’ll overlap at least partially: Santa Fe, Phoenix, Roden Crater, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Santa Cruz.

Juliana and Stephanie initiated the project in response to anxiety they were having about taking part in the tour and Jen Hofer and Joshua Clover joined up with similar reservations. When I was invited to collaborate, that particular premise wasn’t clear to me, but in early October, when I asked (on our last leg of the collaboration) if it would be ok if I wrote something about what we’d been doing together for the Poetry Foundation, it quickly surfaced. It made for a rigorous, honest, sometimes awkward discussion that we came to value as an opportunity quite central to the collaboration itself. Here are some excerpts. There’s a lot of correspondence missing here, but you’ll get a sense of things. Juliana Spahr (JS), Stephanie Young (SY), Jen Hofer (JH), Joshua Clover (JC), and Jen Bervin (JB).

The collaborative poem we wrote for Santa Cruz (Oct 21) follows it.

AUG 18
JS and SY: our thinking was this: each person should work on each city.
each city has two work heavy positions: the beginning position and the ending position. the beginning person provides the frame for each city.
the goal of the 2nd and 3rd passes will be to add to the piece more than cut it. it would be better to just add some stuff quickly rather than worry about the shape of the piece. the end person just needs to have it some time before we arrive at the city.

the rules: no one “owns” any text; anything can be rewritten at any moment. no one “owns” any city project; the direction of the piece can be changed by anyone. things can be cut, although might be best to use the strike through and leave the text in file unless you are in end position. FINAL person is editor. they shape the stuff into something, anything. they can cut and add. reshape. mix works together. etc. there are no word or page minimums or maximums.

JB: my first dispatch is slated for phoenix . . . my hope was to focus on the phoenix poem as a point of entry to discuss how the greater collaboration evolved and what was interesting about it. the phoenix poem was such a strange surprise—the form seemed very much a unique instance of our being many. what do you think?

JS: i’m also interested in talking at some point about how the project is Failing!

SY: I’m dying to see how the phoenix poem turned out. When I passed it onto you, Jen, in the two columns, I was curious if it would keep mutating into five columns of distinct streaming narratives (of the narrowest column width ever) or if they’d come together at some point. Who has phoenix again? where is it? what happened to it? I’m dying to see how all of these turned out, really.

JC: funny, of all them, phoenix is the only city i actively dislike.

JS: i thought phoenix was one that had love in it. although so much of that piece has been about the human rather than the phoenix. i am most in love with the phoenix piece of all that i’ve seen. the draft i saw of las vegas cd use some love though.

JB: in the phoenix poem, more so than the others, i was acutely aware of responding to joshua and stephanie, whose open channels of text i immediately loved writing with and next to—was aware of what they set off in me, of how impossible they made it to avoid the loaded part of that city (my father died there). so there were all these environments and catalysts already going. i was also aware that hypnosis would appeal to juliana who was next and wanted to let some of what i love about her poems enter what i wrote there. so i felt surrounded—the human presence, the textual presence—around and coming in, you know? and then also the ghostly presence as well . . . a friend of mine (david goldstein) said that all poems have a beloved (taken in the widest sense) . . . i think i prefer celan’s—i see no difference between a handshake and a poem—only honest hands write honest poems—or his more disembodied bottle/sea/shoreline of the heart—but i’m interested how we express what makes a poem truly alive.

JH:i sent out a call for “thoughts & impressions” about l.a. to my entire local e-mail list (around 350-400 folks, some i know well & some i have run into once at a reading or wherever)—i got about 40 responses & incorporated language from every single one into the first installment of the l.a. text.

p.p.s. i think it was i who ruined vegas. (oh my god, what a grandiose statement!) but i’m sorry—there was only love in my part of it when i was writing about birds, & that was just listing (could it be that i am truly a lazy person?!). i thought i could begin to love carpet, but maybe i was wrong.

JS: . . . maybe it had to do with missed utopian opportunity. and then what one ends up being associated with as a result . . . some of the e-mails are headed “if poetry was a dry toilet . . .” which was b/c stephanie and i started talking about sorts of art that aren’t about “pushing” content onto the needy (which was how we have seen bus) but instead are about going and doing something. so we were talking about an artist who was getting grants to install dry toilets in slums of brazil and calling it art. and then jen [hofer] was talking about the ice cream truck that gave out free ice creams and then offered eaters free pamphlets with political information in them if they wanted them. and we talked a lot about site-specific art but i don’t think we used that term. and also collaboration and what that can make. and could it be possible to “collaborate” with people from various locations that are not just poets. which i think is that question of what is the use of poetry? like why bring in poets on a bus? what can do once they get there? so then the attempt to do writing about the cities came to us. and i think it came to us b/c it felt like the mobility of the bus might overlook the sites.

JB: do you think the poetry bus is being presented as utopian?

JS: no. i adore things that are utopian.

JC: for me the bus and even the places are a sort of context. the utopian moment, with all the dissatisfactions and ambivalences i would expect from utopia, is this one right here: we’re writing and exchanging and sharing and trying to be honest. this is it. and i hope and expect there’ll be more of it on the bus, but not because we did or didn’t think effectively about the bus’s implications and possibilities (i actually think the conflicts en route have been healthy. signs of reality’s unmanageability, which delights me.) so, i’m a cynical person.

SY: One of the conceptual things that interested me most, initially, was how fast the bus was moving through each place. And how do we think about a place from far away (mediation, internet esp.) compared to up close. but at high speeds/remove, what is the diff. really? (I’m like dr. seuss: near! far!) Also the relationship between the local audience and writers and bus writers felt sticky from the get go . . . I’ve done writing that I wdn’t have otherwise, thought about place in ways I wouldn’t have. I don’t typically work in these frames (content/geography focused? research based? investigative poetry?) and now it’s kind of all I want to do. Juliana and I have had conversations about the very different ways we go about doing this kind of work. The particular frame of outside source as we’ve worked w. it here is cutting through some gunk in my own work. It’s also been, well, I’m going to say it, moving to watch text digesting through five bodies. (even more so now, reading what Jen B. wrote about the Phoenix text—when I got that from jclo I was all, how in the world do I add to this? it seemed impossible. And then I stayed up all night figuring out how. The deadlines have also been magnificent.) This is part of my insane curiosity, to see where each piece landed. Although I also wish I could see where the writing went at each step. What the process enacted.

JB: The question about bus poets, mostly not local, in relation to local audiences seems pretty key. I mean there’s the dry toilet scenario where you’re doing something concrete and useful in the community, but the presupposition there is that you’re coming in to help the local community and that the local community needs help. I guess what I wonder is, is a poem reaching out to a listener not enough? What must accompany the poem for it to really interact with a community? Does poetry interact on a community scale?

Instead of having regrets about the collaborations not being collaborative with local people in the place in advance of the reading, the readings could initiate something that moves forward in time. My friend Helen sent a poem to every person who visited her art show and indicated that he or she would like to receive a poem. Very simple things, a couple words based on the first letters of their names, i.e. Julia Fish / Jubilant Fife. Many she knew well. She mailed them to their namesakes, but also made a book, Names and Poems, that forms a sort of responsive, friendly, scattershot portrait of a broader community. I don’t want to redo the project, but an on-site collaboration need not be initiated via the Internet.

JS: what if poetry bus project was to chart all the different languages poets use in the u.s. and so it made it a point to bring together poets from all different languages (in the largest sense of that term, so aesthetic languages, not just cultural languages like spanish, english, etc.). and then it presented itself as antidote to ted kooser’s et al plain American speech movement.

or what if the poets on the poetry bus listened instead of pushed content? what if they showed up and just listened to local poets read?

SY: Bringing me full circle to what Juliana said about the discomfort of having written a project that’s embedded in this structure and is itself unrecuperable. Is that a word. But then still being so interested in what’s been produced. Which is kind of the perfect situation now that I think about it, cos it’s the Situation of every single thing I write, alone or with others. No getting “outside of” anything.

JC: for myself, i have to admit that i often find forms of hypothetically remedying the asymmetry between poet and audience to be a little disingenuous; if that is the problem, we oughtn’t to have gone into “poetry” in the first place. this is in fact all striking toward the idea that there’s some kind of politically righteous way that poetry should be made, that determines its validity as poetry—as i’m sure all of you know, i don’t believe that even a teeny tiny bit, and think it’s a politically devastating idea. there are all kinds of ways it can be made.

JH: what is not a politically devastating way to conceive of a politicized poetry? or to conceive of any action in the world? i mean these questions quite seriously—

1) all the useful ways to think of a politicized poetry are for me those that don’t privilege it, that don’t make it a duty, a necessity, a better way, something that has to be figured out in advance of the poem. politics—a term always up for expansion and collapse—is a mode, not a virtue. art can be dutiful, but nothing convinces me it gains from it. and, finally, nothing convinces me that it can be much more than symptomatic regarding the material conditions we call politics.

2) Juliana’s mom isn’t wrong to feel excluded from (some) poetry. for me the resolution of that problem isn’t along the path of finding a poetry that feels popular/populist; though that seems like a sort of democratic impulse, it turns out to be Vox Gioia. it’s the logic of capital to objectify social divisions, and then find ways to serve those divisions rather than challenging them.

2a) the division between “poet” and “audience” as it currently exists is in no way an artifact of poetry, or of a particular kind of poetry. it’s an artifact of alienation and the division of labor.

3) for me the work, the struggle, is to change social relations so that (among other things) poems are no longer objects of alienation and mystification and so on. poems can’t free anyone from social crisis. they can’t challenge divisions; they can just agree to them or pretend to ignore them. but social change can free poems so they can be any way they want, and not feel like part of a system of exclusions and divisions. i would like to say that this means, Start With Education, so that all kinds of poetry feel accessible to all kinds of people. but alas i think “education” as we understand it can’t be changed without broader systemic change. it’s more like, Start With Time. in short, the paradigm of (in the baldest terms) putting poetry in the service of revolution is exactly backwards; for me the idea is to put revolution in the service of poetry. and, in the meantime, to not misunderstand what poetry is for, if it’s for anything. it might be for briefly inhabiting forms of consciousness one might otherwise not have access to. that’s the closest i can come up with.

3a) this is why the work of the negative isn’t in contradiction with being-in-the-moment, for me. the work of the negative is to undo social forms; it’s to NOT have a positive plan. the positive plan is what tells you how to do it in advance, so the moment is dead on arrival.

how’s THAT for utopian, busloveds? i mean old-fashioned, totality-loving utopia! onward!

JH: i do not think we can measure or even accurately know the effects a poem has on listeners/readers. i’m often surprised by the lines (or melodies or images from films or visual arts or whatever) that revisit me in the most peculiarly necessary ways at the seemingly oddest times—or perhaps not odd at all. most often the people who originally created these lines have no idea the effect they are having on me. i have to trust that there exists at least the possibility that some of my lines will function in this way for some people, whether i know it or not. what else can our work be about other than participation in conversation(s)? . . . it seems to me that not just the content but the quality of the conversation we are having – in the work we’re making and in these letters & undoubtedly to be continued in person—is what moves the meaning of poetry (for now, anyway) to a different place (a propos, steph, i believe wholeheartedly that our experiences, including our writing, should be literally moving in the sense that we are elsewhere—and in some way other than ourselves—after having experienced them).

i don’t know if this quality of conversation is utopian or is simply human—complicated, sometimes messy, fraught with anxiety or frustration or both, and immensely, undeniably relational. i often think, when i collaborate or when i translate, that to know and love someone through her or his work is perhaps the only way i truly know how to love.

The poem that follows was collaboratively written for the Santa Cruz reading on October 21, 2006.

(for Santa Cruz on October 21, 2006)

We are starting here, at the former site of the Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation at the eastern base of the Santa Teresa Hills where International Business Machines Cottle Road Campus borders the Coyote Creek Canyon. You might know

know the rocky grasslands, the blue oak and the California laurel growing at the side of Bernal Road, or perhaps CA-85 N, where it cuts

cuts across the former site of stands of native plantain once beloved

beloved by the Bay Checkerspot Butterfly. You might recognize the bay that gives way to the rocky grasslands, the oak woodlands, the sycamore valleys, the streaming canyons and piney ridges, or the habitat of bob-cats, red-tailed hawks, and red-legged frogs. You live here or

or you do not live here. You might know the New Almaden Mine with its quicksilver, liquid mercury and cinnabar slag

slag gleaming in the Alamitos Creek, local cattle ranches that give way

way to what was once mile after mile

mile of straight orchards that went from El Camino in Sunnyvale to Saratoga. Cherry and apricot, peach, and plum. One side of town more laden

laden now with mile after mile of strip mall. Starbucks, Tan Tan Noodles, El Pollo Loco, Super Fluff Cleaners and Laundry. You might know the second industrial revolution

revolution in the Santa Clara Valley with its vigorous slag of volatile organic compounds, its clean rooms

rooms full of freon and arsine gases. You might know the Tamien-speaking Ohlone Indians, the Clareños, the Chocheños, the Yokut peoples, the Coast Miwok and Patwin-speaking tribal groups, the immigrant speakers

speakers of Spanish and English, Chinese and Hindi. You might know

know the valley

valley in between the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains and Mount Diablo that gives way to

Applied Materials
CTS Printex, Inc.
Fairchild Semiconductor Corp (Mt View)
Fairchild Semiconductor Corp (S San Jose)
Intel Corp. (Mountain View Plant and Santa Clara III)
Intel Magnetics
Intersil Inc./Siemens Components
Jasco Chemical Corp.
Lorentz Barrel & Drum Co.
Moffett Naval Air Station
Raytheon Corp., South Bay Asbestos Area
Westinghouse Electric Corp.

You might recognize the Spectra-Physics plume that moves off site to the north to merge with the contaminated plume of the Teledyne Semiconductor site then down

down across the valley floor to the east to meet up with the Advanced Micro Devices, Inc plume which itself meets up with the Advanced Micro Devices (Building 915) plume

then the TRW Microwave Inc. (Building 825) plume and the Signetics, Inc. (Building 1) plume or south a few blocks to where the Monolithic Memories plume meets the Advanced Micro Devices, Inc plume

plume which then meets the National Semiconductor Corp. plume.

* * * * *

Santa Cruz I do not come to you today as a scold I come to you as somebody who has been riding a bus for one or two hundred hours
and smells bad and is tired.

The bus is filled with poets and chemicals and it has left poets and chemicals in Los Angeles and Las Vegas and Phoenix and at Roden Crater
to name just a few and I

do not come to you this evening as a scold but as a person who loves Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz I have seen you heading up to Lick Observatory
and eating at Bell’s Pizza.

Santa Cruz playing riding your bike down Pacheco Lane and Santa Cruz playing in the Lower Quarry limestone with the shade of Henry Cowell
when College 5 was named

College 5. Santa Cruz I come to you as someone who has never written a poem about Santa Cruz before. Santa Cruz walking to the gas station
after coasting your throwback Mustang

in neutral down Empire Grade and High Street and Bay Drive before resting
at the corner of Bay Street and Mission and I do not come to you
as a scold because I have a feeling

almost but not exactly like the title of that book about Barbara McClintock called A Feeling for the Organism. Santa Cruz that is the thing I am starting
to have a feeling for the chemicals.

When I speak of you I speak of walking down Mission with a red plastic gas can.
The boy at the gas station who was trying to read had a feeling
for the chemicals and the Mustang

and we have a feeling for riding the bus, the public bus or the poetry bus, the public private poetry bus with its chemicals and its scattering of poets
who have a feeling for the bus and its chemicals

from which I can deduce that poetry has a feeling for the chemicals. The computer on which I wrote this stanza doesn’t have a feeling for the chemicals that would be like candles having

a feeling for the wax but I think you take my point Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz
I have been told that memories are themselves chemical traces
in the flashpan and that

Santa Cruz there is nothing but the chemicals between us as with Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale. Santa Cruz this is not going to stop.
Santa Cruz the chemicals

between us and the feeling
for the chemicals. Santa Cruz I come to you
trying to articulate these feelings.

* * * * *

Santa Cruz we are starting here at our computer, an Imac G5, an older model and so it does not use the faster Intel chips but instead a Power PC chip or microprocessor.

The computer chip is a metalized piece of sand, of silica. You may know the manufacturing of computer chips is a multiple-step sequence of photographic and chemical processing steps. Over one thousand different chemicals and metals are used,
metals such as aluminum and copper, used to conduct the electricity. Many of the chemicals are known carcinogens. Many of the chemicals are made by Union Carbide.

Santa Cruz we are starting here in 1929, when Union Carbide was building a dam from Gauley’s Junction to Hawk’s Nest, West Virginia, for a hydroelectric plant, and while excavating the tunnel, the workers hit a silica deposit. Union Carbide made the workers mine it dry, instead of wet, knowing that many miners would die.

Santa Cruz we are starting here in 1970, where Alida Hernandez and Jim Moore worked in the clean rooms of IBM at 650 Harry Road in San Jose.

Santa Cruz we are starting here in 1970 where Alida Hernandez and Jim Moore worked 8 hour shifts, minus 45 minutes worth of breaks.

We are starting here where Alida Hernandez and Jim Moore were exposed on average to air containing 35 parts per million of acetone, 93 parts per million of xylene and 0.013 parts per million toluene.

Santa Cruz we are starting here where during peaks or while working in the “disk lube” or the “single disk test” or the Red Room or the SLT coating room occasionally cleaning board coating apoxy jets, Alida Hernandez and Jim Moore were exposed.

Exposed to anywhere from 250 to 1000 plus parts per million of acetone.

Exposed to 0.13 parts per million formaldehyde.

Exposed to anywhere from 43 to 118 parts per million of Freon and 25 parts parts per million of isopropyl alcohol.

Exposed to 52 parts per million of trichloroethylene when outside the trichloroethyle booth and exposed five minutes a day to trichloroethylene levels of 994 parts per million, when placing PCBs on a rack that dunked PCBs into the trichloroethylene tank.

Exposed to 63 parts per million trichloroethylene a day, minus break time.

Exposed to 28 parts per million of methylene chloride and 1 parts per million of xylene on a daily basis.

Santa Cruz we are starting here in the late 1990’s, when most of this work was automated and workers are no longer directly exposed but the chemicals are still in use.

Santa Cruz we know these things that we did

Did over the last sixty years in an area that is about one thousand and three hundred miles.

Santa Cruz we contaminated the groundwater with localized spills and let underground storage tanks leak.

We contaminated the area by letting pipes leak that lead to underground tanks associated with an acid neutralization system leak.

We used a variety of toxic chemicals, primarily chlorinated organic solvents, and then contaminated a common groundwater basin.

We used a wet process in the “wet-floor” building, where process water containing heavy metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) was discharged to the floor drains and ultimately into a neutralization sump. We dumped this into the City’s sewer system.

We contaminated the soils under the “wet-floor” with copper and lead.

We used a variety of toxic chemicals, primarily chlorinated organic solvents, which have contaminated a common groundwater basin.

Santa Cruz our monitoring wells on the site are contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), believed to have resulted from surface spills and a leak from an underground storage tank.

We used a variety of toxic chemicals, primarily chlorinated organic solvents, which have contaminated a common groundwater basin.

We contaminated the area with localized spills and from leaking underground storage tanks and piping.

We used Tank #3 to store pentachlorophenol (PCP), which was an ingredient of a wood preservative formerly produced by Jasco. The product was discontinued in 1985, and we used the tank to store paint thinner.

We contaminated the soil from a swale area located behind the building and in the shallow groundwater with elevated levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Our past waste disposal practices, and possibly leakage from an underground storage tank and surface water, may have contributed to soil and groundwater contamination.

We received drums that contained aqueous wastes, organic solvents, acids, oxidizers, and waste oils.

We reconditioned the drums through a variety of methods including caustic and acid washing, incineration, blasting with steel shot, and steam cleaning.

We dumped the residues and cleaning materials were dumped into sumps and basins on-site which then drained to a storm sewer.

We resealed and repainted the reconditioned drums with substances such as phenolic epoxy resins, rust inhibitors and lead-based paints.

We contaminated the soil and the groundwater with both petroleum products and volatile organic compounds such as trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchlorothylene (PCE), many from petroleum underground storage tanks.

Santa Cruz we also had three landfills at the site.

We contaminated the westlands on site with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and pesticides.

We contaminated the soil because we let the pipes in the solvent waste drains leak.

We used a variety of toxic chemicals, primarily chlorinated organic solvents to comtaminate a common groundwater basin.

We had leaking storage tanks and lines and poor facility management practices.

We received asbestos wastes from an asbestos-cement pipe manufacturing plant, located 4 miles south of the site, that operated from 1953 until 1982.

We used waste asbestos pipe to drain excess water from their properties before curbs and gutters were installed.

We filled used asbestos-containing soils to raise the elevation of our property and to improve flood protection.

We used variety of cleaners, degreasers, and lubricants in the manufacturing process.

We used volatile organic compounds (VOCs), paints, oils, acids, and bases in the manufacturing process and then stored them in areas that had no dikes or leachate collection systems.

We contaminated the groundwater with volatile organic compounds.

We discharged our acid rinse water generated by the assembly processes into the City of Sunnyvale sewer system.

We contaminated the ground with a leaking polychlorinated biphenyls storage tank and with localized spills.

* * * * *

Santa Cruz I am starting here, we come to you, at my computer chair and felt a piece of paper by my side. I looked out the window. I was afraid that people would walk in and see me. If I cried in the book, I was usually crying as I sat at my computer. If I was angry in the book, I was angry as I wrote, and I pounded the keys of my computer.

Santa Cruz we find anything. We answer email, work on a letter, or check the stock market.

Santa Cruz, I sat at my computer for the millionth time and thought about snow, and other places. My thoughts turned. I heard a truck motor in the computer.

Santa Cruz you might know we are acids.

We are starting here, we are acid neutralization system links. We are aluminum.

Santa Cruz we sat at my computer for over 3.5 days trying to finish a paper and a project for my classes, surfing. I sat at my computer and he sat at his. If you want to get specific

We are asbestos pipes, and asbestos waste. We are automated labor. We are cancers, and we are carcinogens.

We are starting here. Typing away to people on message boards about how anxious I was. Feeling that my increase in knowledge and information was somehow changing things.

But basically, as we sit at my computer, we are chemicals, and chemical compounds, chlorinated organic solvents, city sewer systems, computer chips, contaminated common groundwater basins, contaminated groundwater and contaminated soils.

Browsing the net in search of some entertainment, we are copper. We are dam-building. Searching for a web design company that offered summer internships, we are facility management practices. We are heavy metals, hydroelectricity, incineration, industrial waste.

The spirit of a young boy appeared to me. Landfills. We gained about a dozen pounds over the next year and a half as we sat at my computer each day, munching on unhealthy snacks. Santa Cruz we are starting. Santa Cruz without a word to anyone we locked myself in our room. Santa Cruz we are. We are lead and lead-based paints. We are leaks from underground storage tanks, localized spills, we are mine shafts and we are mining, we are mining accidents, we are monitoring wells, we are neutralization sumps, organic solvents, and oxidizers.

At home, caring for my daughter, we are paint thinners. Talking about movies and families and life and cats, we are pentachlorophenol (PCP), we are perchlorothylene (PCE), we are pesticides, we are petroleum products, petroleum underground storage tanks, phenolic epoxy resins, we are photographic and chemical processing. We are polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and we are priority pollutant metals.

Santa Cruz we are erasing, then typing, then erasing again. Santa Cruz we are radiofrequency radiation. We are reconditioned drums.

We are staring intently at the screen, residues, rust inhibitors, watching countless takes on the Terrell Ownes story, sand, on Microsoft word, silica deposits, typing numbers into my rubric, we are silicon deposits and silicon wafers, and what I read, solvent waste drains, and what I saw, spills, we are steam cleaning, the events were so far from each other, storm sewers, whenever I tried to type, sumps, surface spills, my fingers would move too fast for my mind, I made a lot of mistakes, and swale areas and tanks, I thought about the muffled darkness, toxic chemicals, after everyone else had gone to bed, we are trichloroethylene (TCE), reading the information on paper and re-typing every bit of it into my new program, tunnel excavation, talking to friends, we are underground storage tanks, we had to go a step higher, we are union carbide, drinking alone, volatile organic compounds, still in my dressing-gown, waste disposal, HUMANS and rotted lilies and waste oil, we are waste solvents, I saw a soldier’s response, wastewater treatment plants, I went away for business, I sat at my computer and typed, we are zones.

* * * * *

We are starting here. We are starting here where we get off, Santa Cruz, the bus we mean, and ride back with Bill back to Oakland which is where we live, Santa Cruz, and Berkeley, where we sat in front of our computer and wrote this poem, or we sat in our home in Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, in front of our computer in France, Santa Cruz, in Davis, Santa Cruz, we thought of you.

* * * * *

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Originally Published: October 16th, 2006