September here and there

Sammy swims, 8 Sept.

Sammy swims for sticks, 8 Sept.

Prairie thistle. 26 Sept.

Prairie thistle. 26 Sept.


Justice cat, rainy day.

Justice cat, rainy day. 10 Sept.

Milkweed. 26 Sept.

Milkweed. 26 Sept.

Pen reflections.

Pen reflections.

Scraps. 14 Sept.

Scraps. 14 Sept.

Above the school parking lot. 16 Sept.

Above the school parking lot. 16 Sept.

Ronald stares.

Ronald stares.


Oak leaves. 14 Sept.

Oak leaves. 14 Sept.

Rail textures. 6 Sept.

Rail textures. 6 Sept.

Grass at prairie. 28 Sept.

Grass at prairie. 28 Sept.

Barn siding. 14 Sept.

Barn siding. 14 Sept.

Milkweed, goldenrod. 28 Sept.

Milkweed, goldenrod. 28 Sept.

April and September:

View of part of the forest preserve prairie, 29 April 2016.

View of part of the forest preserve prairie, 29 April 2016.

View on 26 Sept. 2016 of the same prairie spot.

View on 26 Sept. 2016 of the same prairie spot.

Bands of corn, grass, sky. 29 Sept.

Bands of corn, grass, sky. 29 Sept.

News from the bridge today

The Rock River surface as crumpled aluminum foil. 25 Sept. 2016

The Rock River surface as crumpled aluminum foil. 25 Sept. 2016

Homecoming was a week ago. View of south end of bridge, 25 Sept.

Ribbons remain lashed to the rails, though Homecoming was a week ago. View of south end of bridge, 25 Sept.

Under the south end of bridge over Rock River at Byron, 25 Sept. 2016

The hobos’ gallery: Under the south end of bridge over Rock River at Byron, 25 Sept. 2016

The cheeriest under-bridge art ever, possibly.

The cheeriest under-bridge art ever, possibly.

Signed Gerald I'm sincere

“signed gerald I’m sincere”

Stay positive.

“Stay positive.”

Oak leaf bunch, south of bridge, 25 Sept.

Oak leaf bunch, south of bridge, 25 Sept.

My dog and "YOLO!" under bridge.

My dog and “YOLO!”
under bridge.

Oak leaf, south of bridge. 25 Sept.

Oak leaf, south of bridge. 25 Sept.


How to break through writer’s block

Thanks to former student Sam Moore’s request for advice, I too have something to post this evening: 

Two pieces of advice:

1. Sometimes it helps to stop working now and try later if you’re really not feeling it. But if the deadline is soon,

2. Just do a freewrite where you throw down onto the page or screen any and all words that come to mind, the closer to the assigned topic the better. Afterwards, go back and delete as much of the crap as possible, and turn the assignment in and hope to do better next time.

Thoreau had some advice I like in the “Conclusion” to Walden:

Having considered that in an imperfect work time is an ingredient, but into a perfect work time does not enter, he said to himself, It shall be perfect in all respects, though I should do nothing else in my life.

Or, in other words: If the quality of the work is the priority, then take all the time you need to make the work great. But if getting done on time is the priority, then do it without worrying so much about quality — it’s not the priority.


How Google Images samples this blog

When I did a Google images search on “monkeymoonmachine,” this is what I saw.


I kinda like how random this assortment of pics is. And of course, some of the later images aren’t even from my blog.

Update: Some minutes later, additional searches of the same keywords turn up different images:




How to read a post from my journals or pocket pages

Revised (because when quality matters, time doesn’t.)

If you read texts selected from my journals and pocket pages expecting there to be a “take-away,” a clear message or story, you may be disappointed. But if you read these to get a sense of the presence of my mind (my voice, my sensibility) from these texts, you may find these valuable.

Before I realized this distinction in ways of reading, I looked at my journal texts and judged them inadequate, because they weren’t already in the form of polished narratives or essays. For years, I wondered whether I should go back and craft these raw freewritings into publishable articles, rewriting them as needed until they fit the familiar forms. But this approach didn’t feel right. I usually wrote about my experiences by describing my thoughts and feelings afterwards, rather than writing these as moment-by-moment, show-don’t-tell descriptions. Doing that seemed artificial — I don’t live by narrating everything that happens; I write only after experiences have been had. I write for myself, and not for others, who weren’t there, to understand and empathize with me. I preferred writing down whatever I thought at that time, writing honestly for myself, rather than shaping my words so that I’d be perceived favorably by some unknown reader.

I finally realized that these honest-to-the-moment journal writings had value if the purpose of reading were redefined. I thought about how reading poetry can be different from reading prose. With prose, whether novels, journalism, memoir, etc., readers tend to look for meaning — plot, story, lesson, etc. But with poetry, readers can enjoy other aspects, including the sounds of words, rhythms of lines, images-as-images, etc. I sometimes read poems, such as haiku and Richard Brautigan’s short poems, just to get a sense of mood or a sense of the writer’s voice, his or her particular sensibility. So, too, I have found value with my journal texts, and you may as well.

You can dive in anywhere, even in the middle of a post of journal text, and treat each sentence or section like its own poem, reading just for the experience of reading, of communing with another mind. You don’t have to read the whole post or all the posts. There’s no index of topics, and there will be no overarching message. I don’t wanna write as if I’m some wise person who’s figured stuff out and is ready to teach others. Maybe some text-bits are wise, but some aren’t. Some bits might be funny, and others will be serious. My journals don’t have a consistent tone because, of course, lived experience doesn’t have a single tone. My writing is more a part of my living than it is something I do to make a career or advocate an ideal.

My journals will never have an ending — they’ll just stop when I die — but because they’re not intended to become anything else, they’re also already whole, complete, fulfilled. As a writer, I am fulfilled just by filling the journal pages. And a reader can take an analogous perspective.

By the way, these journals will not be posted here in a systematic way — just the thought of that exhausts me — and that’s OK because systematic is not necessary. These journal texts are as accurate as I can make them (because I can’t always even read my handwriting!), but they are not the entirety of the journals — I’ve tried to include only the parts I think are the most interesting.

After September 11th, the U.S. loses its mind

The following is my response to a request made by a history teacher at my school to recall what I remember of the September 11 terror attacks.

What I remember is the sense that there were multiple incidents — the two planes into the WTC, the hit at the Pentagon, and one plane still missing (until it was later found crashed into rural Pennsylvania). I was watching the TV with my students in my physics room at the old high school, and this was during my first year of teaching, and I wasn’t sure I should be abandoning my lesson plans, but I couldn’t imagine teaching that day. I recall being shocked at first, and then later feeling exhausted from thinking about it all day.

In the days, weeks, and years that followed, I remember being dismayed at how the U.S. responded. As I wrote in an email to a friend in the fall of 2001, “After Oklahoma City [bombing in ‘95] and the first WTC [bombing in ‘93], the response was a CRIMINAL investigation, not a military action, and I’m not sure why the criminal approach was never considered (or so quickly dropped) in this case.” The political leaders of both parties seemed to forget rational debate and deliberation, and what the government did after — passing the PATRIOT Act, torturing suspects, holding people without trial at Guantanamo Bay (still going on), invading Afghanistan (still going on 15 years later), and invading Iraq (even though Saddam Hussein had no connection to the hijackers) — gave the terrorists exactly the over-reaction their attack seemed design to provoke. The scariest part to me, after that first day, was how the public in general seemed to be of one blindly vengeful mind, and I remember feeling quite alone in my dissent.

‘Live like you’re already dead’: Exquisite Corpse poems, August 2016

Here are this fall’s Creative Writing classes’ poems written in the Exquisite Corpse method. See here for previous semesters’ poems.

Why even go to the extreme of doing absolutely nothing.

Pretty girls are not nice guys.

Nice guys don’t get wemen [sic].

The small dog slept quietly but the small words speak truth.

My only weapon of mass destruction hurt like a dislocated kneecap.

Cows eat grass like nothing is fun to do.

Everything I ate today was walking down the street I live on.

Aren’t you going to help, cried the helpless boy.

Do you like to read the title and wonder all the time?

Skunks — I don’t even know what they are saying.

You’re never going to be who you want to ask her to dance.

Invisible people would like to be or not be.

Go at the green, light the cigarette, and pass out next to fire.

Say absolutely nothing until a giant panda just took my hand in marriage.

Towards the end he liked that girl but he never knew why.

To me love is like the ice cream is melted the chocolate into bars.

We clapped to the music inside a penguin.

Backwards people are like books.

Milk tastes bad when warm like a fresh fart.  

Expensive dogs were cuddling aggressively.

This is my life story of how grandpa got rid of all my best friend.

My best friend came over to pick the nose of the future and past.

She gave birth quickly. She ran home.

Surprise, it’s me, the money-hungry son of a huge turkey leg.

A lot of things are yet to come and eat our babies.

Go iron pancakes.

High School Musical was disappointing me by killing Harambe.

You never really need to go through puberty.

Insane boys are not something Santa didn’t get me.

Butts are all different sizes. So are things that we all think about.

A lot of things are confusing like a donkey at the fair across town.

She told him to leave, but she is naturally pretty.

She should go die in a big hole with love and affection.

I help to build the dog that hid the dog.

Live like you’re already dead.

Peas are little green balls of fury in China.

Ear holes are where sound goes.

She dumped a big fat black book in the library’s cracked shelf of total complete shame.

The funeral pyres are very green today.

Very cute guys lie like a dog on my mother’s grave.

Sweet corn tastes like sour candy.

Your dad spent time with my life choices.

Poison her drink so she will die today and live in heaven while in the kitchen, mom makes nasty friggin’ meatloaf.

Pancakes are very soft like a baby’s foot.

My dear horse was riding a monkey swung from a tree.

The girl is lonely far away among Walmart’s towels twisted like tongues kissing in a tree slowly falling to her death.

Applies cry at apple cider festivals.

Dumb like a broken skunk.

Peacefully they agreed on stuff, like Hercules and Andromeda.

Never eat the red jellybeans shoved up hard in her no-no parts.

Do you ever want to watch your slow cat eat a dead body?

Rats like to bathe in sugar and blood.

I know how to fly a cat.

My stomach is in your abdomen.

Very very good pie is good three years old.

My knee has a baby.

Dude, Imma take advantage of having a knife.

The sun is big and round with plum sides.

Junior is your year of solace and solstice.

Fleek is my eyebrows’ jelly time.

Blue donut powder is like Heroine.

She loves to go to be or not.

Night is jealous of her best friends.

Baby aliens are insanely great to take pills with.

Baby aliens are insanely great to take pills with the bottles of the time we went to the store to the end of time.

No patatoes [sic] taste god.

You are a wonderful person that is sitting.

Mayo goes on ham sandwiches made of mayo and then a cat got told I was adopted.

Dirt doesn’t love you.

Round table knights were delusional.

Delusionally, this mouse got stuck.

Bro, I love me some people.

The pleasure of the pig ran into the dog.

The dog ate the cheese cake and lots of the boot and two children playing alone.

Bees’ knees get ACL surgeries.