A radical permaculture blog to make places better on the inside and out!

Posts tagged “gardening

Permacorps and Haiti by the numbers

My instructor Scott Pittman of the US permaculture Institute on the need for a Permcorps from permaculture.tv

Gaia punk here,

Top of the evening to everyone,
What I’ve taken to calling a “Permacorps” mission for the long term recovery of Haiti is slowly mounting.  I’ve received dozens of emails from some very qualified folks from around the globe asking how they can help plug in.  In a day or two there will be a project posting entitled “Permaculture Relief Corps” on Kickstarter.com, which is a popular crowdfunding site.  If anyone has any info related to this idea please share so that we can better coordinate our efforts.  Honestly, I’m a bit surprised by the lack of discussion some of the better known permie sites.  But, I’m not at all discouraged, because I know that what I do see on the net is just a very small sliver of what is actually going on.   What I’m trying to say is that I would like to see more of that discussion.  If anyone can contact people from the Permaculture First Responders course that would very helpful too.  There are two google docs spreadsheet I can share with folks to add regional contacts.  In a week or so it seems a skype conference call is in order to further coordinate stateside efforts. Currently, various permaculture groups working in Haiti and elsewhere are being contacted for their opinions and so far ORE in Haiti has been very supportive of this idea.
Thank you all for your awesome work,                                                                                                                      
Here are approximated numbers on the situation currently from the Huffington Post…
People in Haiti needing help: 3 million. Bodies collected for disposal so far: 9,000. Number of people being fed daily by the United Nation’s World Food Program: only 8,000.
The numbers behind the outpouring of earthquake assistance are giant. But they are dwarfed by the statistics indicating the scope of the disaster in Haiti, the number of victims and their deep poverty.
“The level of need is going to be significantly higher” than many previous disasters, said Dr. Michael VanRooyen, director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.
Here are some numbers, with the proviso that figures are estimates that are constantly changing.
Current death estimates: The Red Cross says 45,000 to 50,000 people have died. The Pan American Health Organization puts the number between 50,000 and 100,000 and Rueters news has 100,000 to 200,000 possibly dead or missing
Bodies collected for disposal so far: 9,000. An additional 7,000 corpses were reportedly placed
in a mass grave.
Percent of buildings damaged or destroyed: Up to 50 percent.
Hospitals or health facilities in Haiti damaged, forced to close: eight.
Patients treated by Doctors Without Borders initially: more than 1,500.
Search-and-rescue teams on ground or en route Friday: 38.
Homeless people in Port-au-Prince: at least 300,000.
Water needed daily: 6 to 12 million gallons (enough to fill 18 Olympic sized swimming pools a day).
Kate Conradt, chief spokeswoman for Save the Children, said that the challenge ahead cannot be overcome in a few days or weeks. “This is a long-term disaster,” she said in a telephone interview from Port-au-Prince.
Helping Haiti “is going to take far more than we ever could imagine,” VanRooyen said.
So in response, the world has opened its wallets.
United Nations Emergency appeal for aid: $550 million.
United States pledge of aid: $100 million. (some of this may be in the form of a IMF loan)
European Commission’s initial spending: 3 million Euros.
Total pledge of aid by governments around world: $400 million.
Number of governments that have sent aid so far: more than 20.
International Red Cross’ initial emergency appeal goal: $10 million.
Amount of money raised by Save The Children: $7 million.
Amount of money pledged by George Soros: $4 million.
Amount raised by Wyclef Jean’s Yele 10 million
Amount of money raised by the Salvation Army and some other charities: more than $3 million.
Number of people being fed daily by U.N.’s World Food Program: only 8,000.
Number of people a day WFP hopes to feed within 15 days: 1 million.
Number of people a day WFP hopes to feed within one month: 2 million!
Amount of food salvaged by WFP in damaged Haitian warehouse being distributed: 6,000 tons (out of a total of 15,000 tons stored before the earthquake).
Meals prepared and freeze dried by the Salvation Army in Kansas and Iowa to ship to Haiti: 1.28 million, weighing nearly 200,000 pounds.
Number of trucks carrying bottled water being trucked in from neighboring Dominican Republic: 13.
UNICEF initial shipment of rehydration liquids, water-purification tables, hygiene kits and tents: enough for only 10,000 people.
Size of Doctors Without Borders initial relief package: 25 tons.
International Red Cross pre-positioned relief supplies:only enough for 3,000 families.
Plane of Red Cross supplies sent Thursday: 40 tons.
Body bags sent by Red Cross on Thursday: 3,000.
“We are seeing overwhelming need within the city and increasingly desperate conditions,” Conradt said. “We visited two camps today with 5,000 people and only four latrines total. We were told that the number of people there doubles at night, but during the day they are looking out for food, water and family members.”
Camps like that are all over Port-au-Prince.
And this is a country that before Tuesday’s earthquake was the poorest in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest worldwide. More than half of Haiti’s 10 million people live on less than $1 a day, even before the earthquake, according to the United Nation’s World Food Program. The World Bank said the average Haitian lives on just $1,180 a year.
Nearly half of Haiti’s population is hungry and only half had access to safe drinking water before the earthquake, according to the World Food Program. Nearly 60 percent of Haiti’s children under 5 are anemic.
Americans in Haiti when earthquake struck: 45,000.
Number of Americans evacuated from Haiti: 846.
Number of Americans confirmed dead: six.
Number of Canadians dead: four.
Number of United Nations workers in Haiti when earthquake struck: 12,000.
Number of UN workers confirmed dead: 37.
Number of UN workers missing: 330.
Number of Dominicans dead: six.
Number of Brazilians dead: 15.
Number of Europeans dead: six.
Number of staffers of Christian humanitarian agency World Vision: 370.
U.S. troops there to help or possibly on their way: 10,000.
Haitian Red Cross volunteers: 1,700.
This report was compiled by Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein in Washington and Frank Jordans in Geneva. Edith Lederer at the United Nations in New York contributed.
SOURCES: The Associated Press, United Nations, U.S. State Department, European Commission, International Red Cross, Save The Children, Salvation Army, other charities.

Dirt the Movie!

Vandana Shiva

I’m really excited to see this film and debute it in my community.  It has a great cast of main characters:

Jamie Lee CurtisBill Logan Andy Lipkis Vandana Shiva Wangari Maathai Wes JacksonSebastiao SalgadoLelia Deluiz Wanick Salgado Paul StametsMiguel AltieriPierre RabhiDavid OrrMajora CarterJames JilerFritjof CapraPeter Girguis |Alice WatersGary VaynerchukJanine BenyusJohn Todd

but it also stars my most favorite environmental super-celebrity DIRT!      

Can Permaculture Save Detroit?

Detroit Permaculture

Here is some completely heretical news in for the world of eco-capitalist dreamers; no silly white multi-million dollar media men will ever solve the worlds ecological or social problems.  Yeah I know what your thinking blasphemous right?  Specifically, I am referring to the uber opportunistic and freshly greenwashed faces of Al gore, Warren Buffet, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Richard Rainwater, and now John Hantz.  Hantz, a big time financial investor and longtime Detroit resident is proposing to put 30 million down of his own money to build a high tech farming operation that will be coupled with “green” estates.  In Fortune Magazine’s limited interview Hantz said that Detroit is suffering from a lack of scarcity and that the only way to save housing prices is by taking as much property off the market as possible, hence the massive farm and real estate combo.  But, couple this seemingly benign idea with a one track profit motive and instead of community revitalization one gets rampant community gentrification that pushes out the very people (the poorer residents of Detroit) that one is purporting to be “helping”.  The team Hantz has assembled thus far is glaringly white in a city that is over 80% black which is highly suspicious to say the least not to mention naming the entire operation Hantz Farm doesn’t inspire thoughts of “community”.  Rather than going to the folks who have already spent immense amounts of effort to bring local organic food to their communities and bring jobs in their neighborhoods, and then offer to assist financially in their efforts, thus far Hantz is developing a hierarchal strategy that may put those very folks out of business. Hantz’s preliminary proposals have garnered lots of unwarranted media attention even though very few details have emerged about how this farming project will be managed and who exactly will manage it.

The Hantz Farm site is just a  collection of stock photos that to me seem as hollow as their message.  Okay perhaps I’m being too cynical but right now important questions remain around what exact types of technology the farm will employ (already energy expensive technologies like hydroponics and large scale harvesters have been mentioned) , if there is even a viable market in the region, and most importantly, who will this for profit enterprize benefit the most.  “I’m concerned about the corporate takeover of the urban agriculture movement in Detroit,” says Malik Yakini, a charter school principal and founder of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, which operates D-Town Farm on Detroit’s west side. (from CNN)

Organic farming is enjoying a nice trendy resurgence as a solution to urban, rural, and ecological ills. Unfortunately, farming no mattter how popular can only do so much.  It is well known that various economic events some deliberate and some unexpected have cost the United States and urban manufacturing centers like Detroit obscene amounts of jobs.  What is not well known, is that neither local organic farming, or any green high tech green wizardry, is likely to bring these jobs back in the near future.  But, never fear, there are three simple solutions to this whole mess we’re all in along with Detroit.

ONE: Permaculture

Detroit honestly doesn’t need anymore scarcity (though real estate barons may see it differently) it desperately needs abundance, and permaculture is a complete system that designs for abundance.  If the polluted landscape of Detroit is going to be regenerated then organic farming is just not enough.

TWO: Cooperatives

The entire history of Detroit is one of total abandonment by the world of capital and a complete lack of responsibility or loyalty to the local community.  Cooperatives by their very nature encourage horizontal investment, diversity, democracy, and local responsibility.

THREE: Community Land Trusts

Community Land Trusts are set up in such a way as to encourage low income buyers into positions of ownership and avoid volatility in housing prices.  There are few communities in the the US that have suffered worse volatility in housing prices than Detroit.  What Hantz is proposing is just green veiled gentrification while the real solution for the people of Detroit lies in Community Land Trusts.  Burlington VT has many successful examples of how and why CLT’s can close the gaps of classism.

Note, I did not mention 30 million dollars from some rich white guy!  Now if that 30 million was invested in those 3 things I would surely change my tune, but if it’s invested in anything else, I really wouldn’t get my hopes up.  Currently, Detroit will likely be the venue for the 2010 US social forum and I plan on being there purposing real solutions based on living permaculture and cooperative principals not on selfish, dead, capitalist oriented ones.                                      

Organizations doing the real work in Detroit:

Evolve Detroit    http://detroitevolution.com/

Detroit Agriculture Network  http://www.detroitagriculture.org/

Detroit Summer http://www.detroitsummer.org/

Midwest Permaculture  http://www.midwestpermaculture.com/

Permie Punk Profile: Ethan Roland

Get Your Forest Garden On…

Hey Gaia Punk here,

So I was just recently accepted for a 3 month Advance Permaculture Design internship with Ethan Roland of Appleseed Permaculture in the Hudson Valley area of New York.  I am very excited for this opportunity to deepen my skills and I’m dedicated to the helping make permaculture design accessible to even more people than ever before.  Ethan is such an awesome force in the world of permaculture and vital mentor to so many wonderful folks that I decided I would take a moment to highlight some of his work.

Ethan is a full time Permaculture designer and teacher and expert in the areas of large scale perennial polyculture systems and ecological community design.  See slideshow:

Ethan studied at Haverford College and later obtained a M.S. in Collaborative eco-social design from Gaia University a innovative and global growing university through which he now occasionally teaches courses.  Ethan is the principal of Appleseed Permaculuture which collaborates with permaculture and ecological designers from all over the world.  Ethan currently sits on the board of Permaculture Across Boarders which assists permaculture projects in the developing or 2/3 rds world.  His work has brought him all over world (Thailand, Azerbaijan, Kazakastan, the Virgin Islands,) with direct learning experience and mentoring from folks like Geoff Lawton and Dave Jacke.  Ethan is directly involved with the Carbon Farming and Financial Permaculture movements.  He supports and promotes sustainable community based cooperative enterprises like the innovative cocao CSA Booyacacao.  Ethan contributes contents and expertise for Earth Activist Mentor a amazing site and service for up and coming designer like myself, folks looking for detailed in depth resources, or distance mentoring for permaculture diplomas.  Well, I hope to do a video interview shortly with Ethan and Nicolas Roberts from Permaculture.tv but until then enjoy this inspiring lecture Ethan presented to a group of UMASS architecture students and Greg Landua presentation of Booyacocao “Theobroma” production.

The G20 Protesters and the new face of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh, PA–

It seems as though Pittsburgh is either the De facto capital of the rust belt or a city in the midst of a revolutionary transformation.  In recent years Pittsburgh has become a epicenter for green building, bike paths, solar composites, and one of the professed launching pads of the new “green economy”.  This is fascinating because Pittsburgh could also be considered one of the many coal capitals of the world, and anyone who has studied the issue knows that there is absolutely no way to make coal “clean” as long as your using mining techniques such as “mountaintop removal”.  There is nothing like synthetic stench of two faced liberalism to hide the odious fact that the root of some very serious issues like housing, poverty, gentrification, and classism are not being addressed.  The city of Pittsburgh’s role during the current wholly undemocratic G20 summit is to act as a PR spin machine to distract the public from the main show of global power grabs behind the scenes and behind closed doors.

While the media is very focused on equating anarchists with terrorists, they’re also wholly ignoring the police harassment and abuse that has already taken place even before the summit.  The Seeds of Peace collective has been repeatedly attacked by the police solely because of the fact by that by bringing a bus to act as kitchen and medical support for the g20 resistance they’ve been made an obvious target.  Yesterday, the Landslide Community Farm and the Cyberpunk Apocalypse Writers Guild house were raided for no plausible reasons by swarms of cops trespassing without warrants or accurate justification.  The Landslide Community Farm and the Cyberpunk Apocalypse house are centers of different type transformation happening in Pittsburgh, that of radical culture.

These centers are the works of truly earnest folks, that divide up what free time they can muster into making art, hosting cultural gatherings, giving out free food, planting permaculture food forests, building bike co-ops, fighting all forms of oppression, and re-envisioning all that has been abandoned in the shadows of steel that is the forlorn rusty spine of Pittsburgh.  Some of them are even proud to be called anarchists.  These groups and many, many, others like them are true community builders something the G20 aristocrats will most likely never understand.  Perhaps the new face of Pittsburgh is not the gilded “green” skyline for the rich but the rainbow of diversity in an urban farm for everyone.

For more info about the Landslide Community Farm visit:  www.punkrockpermaculture.com

For real time updates on the G20 resistance visit: pittsburgh G-finity

Permaculture and Protest

Hey folks Gaia punk here back on the attack,

Today I wanted to focus a bit on the news.  It has come to my attention that a real hero of mine Van Jones has been forced to resign from his position in the Obama administration as a special advisor to the Department of Environmental Quality because of right wing attacks of by the ignorant likes of Glenn Beck

another rascist white wacko pundit

another patriarchal rascist white wacko pundit on the airwaves

and his Army 0f misguided Screwballs.  I am both pissed off and in some weird way excited about this news.  I’m pissed off because it show the ineptness of Obama by not defending a pragmatic and dare I say radical leader like Van Jones from obvious bullshit red baiting, but I’m also happy because knowing Jones adversity will only make him stronger.  Van Jones is one a few folks in the mainstream environmental movement making the links between classism, racism, and environmental degradation and offering genuine solutions to all three.  There is a war on common sense going on, a war against new ideas, and folks involved in permaculture need to step up their efforts of building community resilience and promoting real ecological alternatives.  I promise as the faithful editor of prp e-zine to fight and fight hard!  Are you with me?

In other news permaculture is hitting many college campuses including Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, Warren Wilson College in Ashville, NC, and the USC in South Carolina.  All three campuses have installed some form of permaculture garden or edible landscaping and are in some way increasing permaculture education with in the mainstream academic sphere, and that’s good news.  Below are some nice photos…

my kind of dorm

my kind of dorm at Warren Wislson

USC permaculture landscaping   photo: Jonathan Sharpe

USC permaculture landscaping photo: Jonathan Sharpe

Evergreens everchanging Permaculture garden

Evergreen's ever-changing Permaculture garden

Garden Bed Varieties!


Mandala garden pic from Kootenay Permaculture Institute

Mandala garden pic from Kootenay Permaculture Institute



One of my favorite little Permie maxims is, ” Unity Through Integration and Integration Through Diversity”.  There  are many different possible configurations of garden beds each with different advantages so here is a brief bit about some different types and terminology.


    Raised Bed (Boxed):  

  • A garden bed that has been raise off the ground and in which the soil is held in a framed box of some sort.  These can also be made as table beds for easy access for folks with physical challenges.  Raised box beds work well for climates with lots of moisture and appeal to those of us with tidy sensibilities
  • Raised Bed (unboxed)

  • A garden bed that has different layers raised up without a frame.  The advantage of not having a frame is that you actually get more space for plants because the bed is a parabolic curve.
  • Sunken Bed:   

    A sunken bed is a bed that has been dug down in order to gather more moisture and works very well in dry-land settings.

    Hugelkultur bed: 

  • This innovative bed is made by piling wood, newspapers, rubbish and compost up, and then covering that pile with dirt, mulch, and vegetation. These beds are usually raised but could be sunken too.  The wood and rubbish act to attract water as well as aid mycelia (fungal) growth which is beneficial for your plants.
  • Mandala Bed : 

  • Mandalas are beautiful circular and sometimes spiral patterns that may also incorporate forms from sacred geometry.  The advantage of a mandala bed is it’s unique beauty and also that they’re non-linear which can mean significant space savings.   Some mandala designs have seed start beds in the center and more established plants on the outside which is a super convenient way of organizing your plants.


Please enjoy and share these two manuals on how to make a raised bed as well as a hugelkulture bed…





























Vertical Farming:making history or making hype?



What would the permaculture approach to vertical farming look like?

Most permaculturalist agree that we must grow more food with in our cities, but does that mean inside the buildings of the city itself?  Vertical farming has been making some big headlines lately and so I’ve decided to approach some of the latest ideas and innovations and examine them through the lens of permaculture principals.  This idea has been around for a while (think terraces in Asia) and has some very strong merits.  Bill Mollison remarked that “95 of the cost of food in a city like New York comes from it’s transportation, storage, and packaging.”  Growing in a high density fashion has the potential to save ample  land and resources if done correctly.  But, as a permaculturalist I have some serious reservations about vertical farms.  Most of the skyscraper type designs would grow food hydroponically This requires considerable energy and maintenance the trade off being a year long growing season; that is if your not dealing with constant “technical difficulties”.   Dickson Despommier the leading proponent of the vertical farming idea had this say, “You can control nothing outdoors, and you can control everything indoors.  That means no floods, wildfires, hailstorms, tornadoes, or droughts. Plant diseases and pests are more easily controlled, too, meaning less need for herbicides and pesticides.”

“And indoor agriculture is more efficient. One indoor acre of strawberries can produce as much as 30 outdoor acres can. In general, indoor acreage is four to six times more productive, in part because of the year-round growing season.  Outdoors, you might get one crop [per year]; indoors, you might get four or five crops per year,”

Now, I might disagree about his use of the word “efficient” because it may not account for the imbued impute energy of a large hydroponic system not to mention large steel and concrete building.  His emphasis on control is also a little unsettling too, simply because it was a disproportionate emphasis on control, instead of more flexible whole systems design based on relationships, that got us into the current food crisis mess in the first place.  Now I wouldn’t throw out the idea of vertical farming entirely I just think there may be a better use of our energy and resources.  Skyscrapers alone use ample amounts of energy in their construction let alone ones potentially holding complex hydroponics systems.  Some of these designs incorporate aspects of passive and active solar, wind, housing, rainwater harvesting, methane digestion for energy, composting, aquaculture, and other generally cool features you would expect from the sustainably minded.  But, here is what my friend Richard Register author of Ecocities: rebuilding cities in balance with nature had to say about it, “the notion of filling a building [with plants] and artificially supplying the light for the plants … from any kind of energy system is one of the weirdest ideas I’ve ever heard of.  It’s not serious agriculture. It’s just not…. It’s an intellectual plaything.”

“A better answer is to develop, over time, more compact, energy-efficient cities along the European model, he says. That would free up land near urban areas for conventional agriculture with “100-percent-free solar energy” falling on it. Urban community gardens and high-intensity conventional commercial gardens could also supply part of the need.”

I echo Richards sentiments; it seems to me that before we consider growning food in farmscrapers in the future we should reclaim what is already available to us now.  New York City alone has 1700 unused and vacant lots! If space is the issue well I’d rather get rid of some streets.  Mo Town in Detroit is starting to turn into one large urban farm and should’t we encourage ideas from the bottom up, as in from the community, versus developers first.  This doesn’t mean I think vertical farming is a absolute dead end.  Like I said I still think that it is an idea with good merits but it needs to be more scalable and less impute intensive.  If vertical farming becomes a euphemism for taking the industrialized petrol based monoculture outside and then reconfiguring that inside (which is what some designs looked like) then I say no way!  Recently, one design called Sky Vegetables caught my eye.  This design was developed by 22 year old Keith Agoada, a University of Wisconsin business student, and took home a 10000$ first place prize in a competition for creative start ups.  Sky Vegetables is basically a big box remix with vegetables being grown on the grocery store roof (in greenhouses), complete with rainwater harvesting, solar panels, compost, oh and large unsightly asphalt parking lot too of course.  I believe if you were to add affordable housing and office space to a idea like this, scale it down a bit, build most of the building with Glubam or with recycled wood, and of course take out the parking lot, well then I might sign on to vertical farming.  Until then, when I hear the word vertical farming  used I’m going to think of a forest garden.

Take care and fair share!

~Permie boi

P.S. Check out my next post on this subject when I examine arcologies and the way in which they aproach vertical farming.  Oh, and sorry about the typos I have to stop typing so late.

Suburban Permaculture?

It’s time to get retro….

retrofit that is

Hey everyone I really wanted to share this great video about my good friend Jan Spencer’s suburban permaculture retrofit house in Eugene, OR.  Jan is a extremely knowledgeable permaculturalist, a awesome mural painter, and all around upbeat and very friendly guy.  We first met two years ago during his west coast permaculture bike tour and we had a great time together coming back with some friends from the Ecocity World Summit in San Francisco.  He showed us around his place which was such a cool retrofit I thought I would share it with you here.

Perhaps the most radical thing you can do is…

Grow your own food!

This is an inspiring little video from the folks at the Lama Foundation in New Mexico.

capitalism is a giant Ponzi Scheme!


clearly it’s true.

            —Don’t let the cute smile fool ya

                 BE WARNED!— because

Carlo Ponzi --"a truely American Story"


is a giant Ponzi Scheme!

I know that if you’re like me then the very, very, last thing you want to read about in these times is anything with the taglines: fiance, corruption, negligence, scheming, losses, or economic gloom and collapse.  No these things are not very fun or funny (okay sometimes they’re funny.)  But, thinking about alternatives  is essential.  Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of research on permaculture economics, finance, and theory.  I’ve found lots of good work out there in the noosphere.  Today though I was laughing a bit at the antics of Carlo Ponzi of the imfamous Ponzi Scheme fame the predecessor of the Madoff Scheme that the already broken banking and fiance industry is currently freaking out about.   It is a wonderful aspect of  life that criminals can teach you almost as much wisdom as saints, and if you know how to learn your lessons from their mistakes they might even teach you more.  

It seems some people have a hard time learning lessoons.  So what if the whole of global economy we’re to come unraveled in on ultra Ponzi Scheme?  Unfortunately, as many of you know, it very well could; that is if people we’re to simply stop buying government backed bonds in the current precarity.  Well, “precarious times call for precarious minds”, or as I like to call them the “carefully minded”.

.A do-it-Ourselves Guide  I just started tearing intoToolbox for Sustainable City Living  by Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew  cofounders of the Rhizome Collective in Austin TX   who are definitely of the carefully minded sort.  Along with great knowledge and methods the awesome illustrations in this book are done by my good friend Juan Martinez, also from Austin TX, a member mutant bike collective, and the amazingly prolific Beehive Design Collective based in Maine.  

Lets just say I love this BOOK!!!  This is one of my most favorite Permaculture books to date!! Go get it  because it’s only ten bucks online!  We need more books like this and more folks doing applied urban permaculture work in the cities! 

Permie Punx Unite!

Short story


So here is the intro of a poetic short story I’m writing that will incorporate little snippets of both both punk and permie culture.  I hope you enjoy it.  I’ve been listening to a lot of Gogol bordello and will be going to see them in SEA this monday, extra exciting.  Also doing more street art which I love.

stay stout!

From Sunder to Solder

Cold, metallic, morning (absent of sunflowers).

En-route to Seattle, I-5, 10:00am.

One hundred and eight cars are spinning

like high velocity marbles

                    indifferent to the turning leaves.

A young woman sits with a soft,

but puzzled,


resting her chin on her palm.

Twenty two years old,

a life unscathed but much suffering. 

She’s on her way to meet her brother she rarely sees,

hopeful he’s in a good mood.

Sesame stares out of the car window intently. 

Her eyes, which are big and brown, swallow up entire landscapes without difficulty:



a small farm with it old barn beaten

                                            and out of breath,


 the complex mass of a  radio tower 

                                   looking noisy in its silence,

        a gluttonous shopping center surrounded by pariahs of parked cars


        a barren field over which a hawk serenely scouts.

Disparate realities pass along with the seconds pulled effortlessly to the points of her pupils.

Sesame enjoys looking out windows. 

She pretends that she can see things that other people can not see,

blinds spots of beauty,

though truly to her it’s nothing special.

                                                                  Today she saw leaves….


Cold, metallic, morning.

Cars are spinning like high velocity.

Crowds come and go without direction.

Well groomed men, women, and children

(some with faces as blank as spoons or spatulas)

pass by with their respective shopping bags near Pike’s Place.

In the chilly air the occasional cry of a seagull

and the steady beat of a bucket drum float about,


On the streets sky blue puddles fill to the brim with clouds.

Marcus leans on a frigid granite bank

smoking a rolled cigarette,

his shoes are worn and patched with bits of duct tape,

his eyes are narrowed in scrutiny,

beneath his black hooded sweetshirt marked by little decorative patches

all on can see

was a small,



Marcus is angry,

Marcus is hungry,

Marcus is broke, and angry, and hungry again….

and this made him even angrier.

It was not so much the experience of being broke and hungry

that made him so upset,

but a hidden shame of being broke and hungry that roiled his blood,

and which he hid inside himself

like a disease.

A part of himself knew that there was no reason to be ashamed.

“So what if I’m broke and hungry, I have a job now don’t I, isn’t that enough?” he consoled himself

“This city was made more for tourist than for residents, it’s disgusting!  What do I have to prove to it.”

“What’s so terribly wrong with a broke and hungry man?”

Even so, his frown

                       became smaller,    

                                          and tighter,

                                                       and angrier,

                                                               like a child’s fist.

Cold, metallic, morning.

The crowds came and went without direction

indifferent to the turning leaves,

and on the street sky blue puddles fill to the brim with clouds.


Springtime robins burst

through shafts of light seemingly solid

under a sky as open and infinite as the

pure mind.

Laughter tickles on the tongue and

dribbles effortless through eyes.

The day was ripe and juicy as a pear

and smelled of sweet work.

The wind is playing with the leaves gently like they are her children.

A man leans on hoe surveying his garden handy-work.

His hands are blistered,

and his red face,

but his mouth holds a hearty smile.

He seems quintessentially happy.

The plot was small, 

the cynical would say pitiful,

 Levi thought it beautiful,

 and had neatly sewn his heart into this space and the stability of the work. 

There was just enough sunlight,

                just enough shade,

                            just enough rain,

                                      and just enough room,

                                                but “just enough” is the make up of miracles. 

Squeezed unmercifully between two callous buildings,

(concerned only with their commerce)

 which had long ago abandoned them; in all its history this little patch of dirt had never know a love like his.  This ground he had touched gently like the way one holds someone’s baby.

He had carefully massaged all the construction ruble from its bounds.

Painstakingly, he had combed out the glass shards and rock with surgical assurance.

Delicately he picked up needles,

                                                    dog shit,    

                                                               and nails,

plucked up rusted metal,

                            plastic bags,


                                              aluminum cans,

coaxed out oil spills,


                             cinder blocks.

Next, Levi carried sheets of rich loamy soil and blankets of moist mulch. 

Plastic barrels and tires held planted potatoes and turnips.

Salvaged decorative gates kept out unwanted animals.

From a toilet overflowed a fern,

from a sink sprang strawberries.

Old Pop bottles became converted bird feeders complete with humming birds darting to and fro in complex territorial warfare.  With bits of brick ruble Levi had formed meandering paths,  each one spiraling around the natural contours of the grounds so that in the areas that naturally formed puddles there were small, intricate, reflecting pools.  PVC piping stood upright filled with soil and cut with little openings made small havens for a variety of herbs such as rosemary, chives, and calendula.  Verdant baskets filled with tubers and bulbs hung from the bottoms of fire escapes and drainpipes and flowering vines crept up old electrical wiring.  From a city whose most common scent is car exhaust here wafted the sweet exotic smell of jasmine.  In this miniature paradise made of the cast off and neglected

nothing was forgotten,

nothing worthless.

Levi ran a dirty hand through his dirty blond hair and took a minute to breath and check his watch.  Sweat peaked in droplets on the edges of his high cheekbones.

2 pm

Time to cry.

He  got down on his knees and hugged his stomach.

“I don’t have to do this, it’s not helping anything or anyone, someday soon I’ll stop for good”.

 “Oh heart! How can I make you healthy again, don’t you see the sun shining, can’t you hear the robins, the universe is whispering your name, the light from supernovas past leaps across unthinkable space to kiss you brow, but here you are too busy with your sorrows to notice.”        

Every Wednesday for thirty three consecutive Wednesdays at around 2pm Levi would cry,

not a howling or wailing cry,

 but a cry born out of lonesomeness. 

 Levi’s Lonesomeness was as complex and rich as the loam he was building in the garden. 

 A lonesomeness that was fermented and rank with desperate odors.

It began with the taste of his own lack of companionship, a taste haunted with bitter histories of break-ups, walk-outs, give-ins, and not too long ago a death.  Next, it moved into his throat and pulled at his breath like a gasp.  Here the flavors held the residue off all those sentences we keep sealed up; messages in bottles destined not to ever reach any shore.

Each message was distinct:


 for the old woman on the bus alone,

a smile

for the child that only wants us to know it’s there,

an ear

for  the old man to pour his wisdom on,

a hug

 for all that feel unacceptable,

a kiss

 for all those who feel unlovable,

pain never expressed,

forgiveness that never came.

These messages or there absence created a vacuum and this vacuum ended in his stomach

In his stomach it stayed solid as a rock. 

This rock was painfully graphed onto his skeleton and he could feel it below his sternum.

It was from this place that he cried.

And when it was done, it was done, and a small smile of relief would cautiously emerge on his face.

Levi picks up his shovel.

He resumes working.

The wind plays with the leaves,


like they are her children.

But, inside the rock stayed.


The bar room where Jasmine had worked for three years was a single neon sign, 

glowing inside your gut, 

(abscent of sunflowers)

shining some gaudy florescent pink or orange

on all those unsightly things you never wanted to know about yourself.

And the patrons all came like moths from the darkness

with cigarettes in their mouths,    

                           and round poignant bits of

                                                   loneliness for eyes.

Some were friends,

some were strangers,

some were strangers taken as friends,

and some were friends taken for strangers.

All were lost or losing.

Three years is a long time to live in a city that feeds fanatically on greed.

Now, was Jasmine’s chance to run away from this million megawatt monster.

Las Vegas gleefully murdered

the word


then gilded it in gold,

and hung on the mantel.

It had never learned the word innocence and love was a four letter world only heretically spoken.

It cut the sin out of sincerity

and later charged you extra for it.

Neon nightmares crash through fixed pupils

(scenes that could move one to tears

if only there was enough room left in your eyes to cry).

The circus master doesn’t tame the lions here anymore

he just lets them run lose.

Jasmine observed the restless hoards saunter up and down the strip.

Their tired joints obligingly helped them scamper across the pavement

 in order to feed on some carnal desire

or the 12.95$ prime rib buffet.

Open all night every night,

never any need to turn out the lights.

If no one here could save themselves from mindless self indulgence

you can’t expect anyone to bother to save electricity.

Look out for the glitz!

Watch out for the blitz!

If it knocks you down and out you’ll see stars (but don’t worry their not real).

Men grinning like wild stray dogs.

Women wearing layer upon layer of macabre make up,

-plastic faces in the night-

giving them the most chic expression of indifference money could buy.

“What are they hiding underneath such ghostly masks?” Jasmine asked, 

“I guess they must think it’s not sexy”.

Ahead parents lead their young children through a gauntlet of hustlers

flipping pornographic cards at passer-bys for erotic escorts and dancers.  

The cards litter the streets so that even the cement is trying to sell something to you.

All evening long 

workers from the Casinos will be sweeping up these very same cards,


in a bizarre and wasteful parasitic relationship.

A few homeless folk are out spangin’ the streets,

                     their quiet eyes are full 

with wino witchcraft,             (yearning for change that can’t be found in pockets)

the pit boss kicks out a noisey drunk,

                     his jowels quiver

                    and his teeth

grit angry indignation.


The new dancer spreads her limbs,

                     her suductive movements 

                     beckon of

false allure,                            (never does she look up when grabbing a bill)

the tourists pick over cheap trinkets

                     the lines on their face 

                     marked blandly with

neutral indifference,

the confident gambler quickly shuffles her chips

                her slender digits are

flirting nervoulsly,                (disaster is more than just a bad hand)

the cabbie picks up some loud party goers,

                      his laughter is seemingly all

in good humor.


Who are the actors if everyone is acting?

Is it theater if everyone is trapped by their own theatrics?


The restless throngs sauntered up and down the strip. 

Tired limbs obligingly help them scamper across the cement.

All are lost or losing.


Jasmine’s bus pulled away bound for Portland with a meloncoly schreech of relief.

It was the first night she had seen the stars in months.


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