Cedar Sigo’s most recent collection of poetry is Stranger In Town (City Lights, 2010). Slivers, a small book of out-takes, B sides, translations, collaborations and prose is forthcoming from PUSH. He lives in San Francisco.

Labor Day Remarks

I have worked in the cosmetics department of Rainbow Grocery Cooperative since 2000. The insurance is excellent covering even acupuncture and massage. My hour wage has climbed steadily since I signed on at around 12.00 an hour plus we split the profits every year around X-mas time. It is run by the workers whom I believe to total around 200. You are encouraged to run for the various committees that make our store run properly, ecology, board of directors, public relations, etc. I am fortunate to have stumbled into a job that provides a many hours as one wishes to work. In order to give my writing the attention and commitment it demands I find that I can't work more than 25 hours a week.

But then the remainder of my time is certainly not spent writing poetry. I began to wonder, just what is it I do with my time. Then I came across these lines from John Wieners essay, The Lanterns Along The Wall, “I cannot imagine a single day when I have not spent dreaming or conjuring certain habits of the poet. Fortunate the few that make things surrounding the poets come true.” You almost need to be “in retreat” in constant “vision quest” to achieve this level of transparency. Wieners seems to suggest that it's the way you live between the poems that ensures there success. When I am off of work the veil is lifted. ISIS unveiled? High Fantasy. I never press myself to report back in poetry. So many conceptual breakthroughs happen through loose conversation with close friends. It's the spectacular side entrance to writing you had for some inexplicable reason been ignoring. You stumble onto these concepts sort of jokingly and you find the poem is waiting there already written.

Bernadette Mayer wrote something along these lines in a lecture she delivered at The Naropa Institute. She is discussing the form of her book Moving, “I set myself the task of not writing as much as possible. Only writing when I absolutely felt compelled, never writing the way most of us do, well I have to write or I haven't written enough or I should write every day, not doing anything like that but only that which seems to come from something other than the self.”

Whenever there is an offer of money for my services as a writer my energy and my abilities seem to rise instantaneously. I don't mean money made from readings, but rather from the writing of new pieces. It's funny but somewhat real to think of it as building a brand, like Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, where a tailored poem like something slight ( a blouse ) goes for three thousand dollars, “and they clock me and watch me diamonds shining looking like I robbed Liberace.” That's been the fun thing about collecting all my unruly works into a book, when they are finally laid side to side I just see dollar signs, to the point that I think I could even write a novel if the money were right. There is a poem by Ted Berrigan & Alice Notley that I had so much fun searching for the other night. I found it in A Certain Slant Of Sunlight, the poem is dated Feb. 20th 1982 , “You'll do good if you play it like your not getting paid, But you'll do it better if the motherfuckers pay you.”

I don't think my line would be as heavily set into each page had I pursued a masters then a teaching position, grading papers, being patient. giving feedback. I think I could teach one course every few years or so. But I never want to get sick of writing by doing a lot of chores that come with making it ones occupation. I worry that it files great poets down into narrow ones.

It finally taken all of this testimony to finally get to the mother lode of my professional history, beauty products. Its like how a good make-up job is the one no one notices. What I am really after is balance. My skin is extremely sensitive and can turn feral, red, and angry at the least provocation . If I didn't work at Rainbow with such access to my favorite products, I would probably look about 5 years older than I do now. As with poetry its not just the products (or the content) it's the order and the timing of the ritual, To wash my body I use Natures Best Vitamin E bar soap its almost all glycerin, I use no cleanser on my face just hot water in the shower, so many cleansers blindly strip out the oils that keep my skin balanced. Every other day (the ones on which I shave) I use 100 percent pure carrot facial scrub. After stepping out of the shower and drying off I use Juice beauty hydrating mist. I spray it directly onto the face, I never drag the cotton ball, again its too dipleating. Onto my hair I spray organic bulgarian rose water for further long lasting conditioning. While the skin is still damp from the mist I mix Abra phytoserum cellular gold into Aubrey organics collagen TCM therapeutic cream moisturizer. The serum gives the moisturizer legs so I never have to think of reapplying. I apply it is slowly in a circular motion careful to leave plenty of the cream still visible on the surface of the skin. I sit around the house for ideally 15 minutes while the moisturizer vanishes into my pores on its own. I return to the mirror and rub in the final excess, mist once more and leave the house. My more occasional treatments include Desert Essence Blemish touch stick, 100 percent pure red wine resveratrol scrub and mask and a green apple stem cell serum.

Most of my co-workers have no idea that I even write poetry or if they do they they think of it as knitting. It's kind of embarrassing having this book come out. Telling someone you're a poet is like saying your religious. You never know what they are thinking privately at that moment. I defend a lot of my recommendations to customers at Rainbow saying, “Im just telling you what works for me.” This whole paper started or I should say I knew that I could write it when I read Robert Creeley's introduction to The Holy Forest: Collected Poems of Robin Blaser, “What is realized is what has always been, that our words are literally our world, that their permission, what they lead us to, is all we have.” My mind is constantly on language. The possibility of being permitted to do more in the language. I see my job as the means to continue this engagement. The job is really standing around, playing around at a giant vanity, improvising possible remedies for mostly strangers. all the products surrounding me are natural or being disguised as natural. It's really all or nothing. Lately my beauty ritual has been just hot water, my skin has been that balanced.


  1. The spectacular side entrance! The balance! The stem cell therapy. Great work Cedar....

  2. this is the best analyses of having a day job and the work of poetry i've heard in a very long time. all's we need is just a little 'balance'!