‘Round Midnight

 [Poetry], The Pilot Light  Comments Off on ‘Round Midnight
Oct 182014
 
Another old poet, old friend, I conjure:
a second Daniel to write to, while I sit
at my pondering pints, pink with drinking--
my ruminative mind returns to me
a hundred hundred hours merrily heaped
with cocksure colloquy, pecking in the shade
of the lion's den, two aging pagans
hailing Pan.  How often we mocked 
the very teeth of death with foamy vows
outrageous as their sudsy birth. At midlife, 
our fortunes pile up silver dust to fill 
our untrimmed temples, a wealth of thoughts 
enriched by alpine crowns of time, as if 
wreathing clouds consented, trailing
harmless sparks, to be our thinking caps!  
Years are mounting as we mount the years:
our sacrifice is to live, and remain alienate
from pop culture, embracing what was great.

To linger on Olympus in our skivvies,
our discarded skis set beside the fire;
exchanging grapes with the gods, while midnight 
purrs plush, is triumph enough for us.
Sway-stacked and furred with congenial
dust, familiar books look out from under
ragged racks of antique antlers 
and bad gags at this seaside pub--
the creak of memory loud underfoot,
a tub of button daisies declaiming spring
beneath the wind-waved sign: Ron's West End.
At this cratered sea-cliff's visionary height,
summer nights, still softly unborn,
and windy winter's diminishing end both
blow round our glowing table talk, whispering 
wisdoms between the elbowed 
mellow beers and bossy Brunhildas
who rule the roost as if Chaucer never 
died, nor no clock ever tolled a verse
beyond Falstaff's everlasting thirst.

We'd talk until our literary prattle
mounted, instance by little instance,
to tallest universals: "Little Man's
imagination floats, lotus-like, seeming
unbound in the water blaze, and yet at its
root, mud and blossom are integral; even thus 
is our little man's imagination integral
with Nature's nurturing phenomena--"
 
Cheerly we keep the "Al-Ron-Quin's"
covenant of converse, alarming charm 
of riposte and counterpoint displayed 
around the flash and yellow leer of mugs.
Wordsworth's here emending mumbles, 
Hamlet hums and haws 'til the deed is done-- 
both dissed and up-ended by our roaring joy
in favor of old Coleridge and fierce Lear,
one divining lines of logic in the infinite,
one wrangling bare humanity on an empty heath,
barking heartfelt metaphysics with a fool. 
And so we argue high midnight through to closing,
and press each other's contention to a peak.

And so a heightened speech is piled, 
word on word, and green on green, 
in the natural admonition of an oak tower-
ing over lesser growths.  Just as in humid June
we'd climbed far Nether Stowey's stones
in scrambled haste, short-breathed, up
beneath the governing shade of woods
so old and dense all stirring sound was damped
until the hill's bare cap opened in a swirl 
of sky--blue and white and misted.
The mountain where we stood, and stand,
(the round high hill where Coleridge crowed
until a last disaster buried him beneath),
pours roundness down its sides, mossy coombs
unmoving as the sweating stones they covered:
green beyond the memory of green, everlasting 
as the grass where Coleridge strolled in glee.
How long our conversation that day unrolled,
laughing unmannerly as we hopped the brainy turf
above horizons where the sea sketched white
a limit to the vista, and to the sight--
and all the open dome of heaven was mute,
God's own silence by piety magnified.
 
What awful power moves unseen within us,
blowing potent gusts through us, until we're left
consigned unprepared to pinnacles unguessed?
As music crests and crests to its crescendo,
so poets' lives rise to one resounding note.
 
Outside Ron's, the sea scowls pewter, too,
an echo of those lonely Stowey views,
agile as a drunken dutchman's fermented brew.
Here, too, Dan, the decay of light and time
declare a limit to the sight;  here the sea
flashes crested in the softly silver eve, 
and our old talk billows hollow with the surf,
hazarding new splashes at night's darkest onset.
Above, the unmoored moon--which calls
heart and head and all to dream--repeats
impermanent feats in the expanding scale 
all dreams distort and no knowledge amends.
Our littleness is echoed like a fractal's edge
in the universal pattern--as yet unspoken!
And so the jazz of chatter happens, again
and again: sophisticated, false; brave, benighted--

The dissolute smoke that clouds the moon,
the dull confusion of stop-motion, photo-emulsion skies,
where memory and meme are meeting this eve,
is North-Star sharp by midnight, and we see
how monkeys fed on evolution's bread
row on the auroraed sea below, parting lights
with makeshift paddles, as if the whole Milky Way
could sit reflected in the pond out back!
And indeed it does sit there, when we remember
to look with Galileo's lens, or rheumy
Rousseau's ruminative glance.


The Well and the Echo

 [Poetry], The Pilot Light  Comments Off on The Well and the Echo
Oct 182014
 
The rain's continuous throbbing pours
roaring as a cataract.  Inchling Spring
is edging towards its green strength again
and my thoughts turn to roots--To you,
brother, I turn my slow thoughts, plough-
like--to the soil where my brothers and I
were sown to growth beneath a beating sun.

Long before angry time had made us men
and carved hard marks in cheek and character,
we'd discovered an old abandoned well
that held hidden light below a wounded
wooden lid wreathed in leaves gone black 
with mold and oldness.  How strange
the intense interest each ragged crack contained,
lightning-shaped shadows just open enough
to let dropped rocks knock echoes
up to our ears!   How strong the burning noon 
allowed slim glimmers of the sharded sky 
to reflect into our nook-invading eyes.  
Wild as fox kits, we'd swat afternoons away
with races through the castle-high trees 
of Dad's estate, crying 'cuckoo, cuckoo'
back at birds we'd startled from their naps--
coming round again at eve's cooing onset
to the well that had not left our thoughts
alone for an instant.  Down the deep well 
we boldly brayed our loud-sounding secrets, 
our canvas dungarees kneed a filthy khaki
with the daylong play of dirt.  What each said
was wrung lowing into a deeper register 
than either knew or recognized--it was as if
our future voices resounded brownly back
in the brawny familiarity of manhood 
from the receiving deep of that black well.
How cool we thought it all was back then,
our piping voices booming back like bulls.
Sworn secrets and youngsters' oaths
we hallooed a hundred times into the dark
before the dinner bell of an inverted bowl
and wooden spoon orange with squash stuff
rang us back to Mom's steaming table.
What oaths, and what secrets we dropped 
into the welling earth, let our lives 
and thrivings show, fruit of buried truths.

Outside, the storm is still coming on, a bleak
conveyer belt of darkness on the news
stretching back half a dozen states.
My regrets, too, go far into our past,
shadowing the many memories of life
that trained our vines to twine as close as twins--
two brothers blessed, and best of brothers too
for a time when time was young.
What has made us break with what we were,
untwine what sun and childhood had braided?
Is not this night, spent undreaming and alone,
contiguous with the ten thousand darks
that have marched in line before tonight?
The sound outside is like a wall, a thick 
wet against the walls of my condo-abode.
Yet there is a silence in the flailing rain,
as if too much sound must cancel sound,
and repetition wash drummed distinctions
to silence in the night.  So, too--too full
of memories I write, and all that's past
transforms from stories lived and told, to one
reminding tone of feeling sounding over all.

I listen down the well of years, and hear
how time has brought us onward and light-
ward, through a void we did not understand--
bands of doppler effect expanding blandly
into the numb enamelling of now.
Outside, a ripple of hitting wind unveils
how the universal rain, invisible, still
keeps ringing down in loud-dim chains,
links of the unknown mating then and now.

These days we nod or share a cordial laugh
at politics, renew some well-chewed gristle
of family gossip--secrets no one but us
still keeps or cares to hear about.  Despite
the change of costume that flesh and accident
have rendered to body and embodiment,
I see us crowded round that boyhood well even now.
I see us crowded round that boyhood well even now.
You at a steep fantastic angle as you lean
aged but dapper on the silver orthopedic cane 
a reckless SUV leapt a Jersey barrier like a salmon
to deliver to the shady eddy of a hospital bed,
your body pooled crooked as a questionmark.
Me, thick-waisted with grim reading
at my remote IT management screen, thickening
eyeglasses aiding my old-man myopia;  me,
thick-tongued despite my serial confessions
of pen and of poetry nimbly repeating:
"me!"   Soundless I hold you, folded
round by arms as I take my Easter leave
of thee and Holly-- a half-dozen empty, 
river-green Heinekens gracing the lace placemats.
We two old brothers wait a beat, 
twined deep in the years steeped 
between us, our now silent vows 
echoing well in hidden hearts.


Apple Hours

 [Poetry], The Pilot Light  Comments Off on Apple Hours
Oct 182014
 
Now, when cherry and apple boughs begin
to swing weighted double and triple with blossom
like hard-arced deep-sea lines pulling 
marlin and swordfish and blind leviathan
up hungry from oblivion by mouth and hook,
O mothering, all-consuming sea, I enter the wide 
grove to pace awhile and speak my piece.
Now, when orchard air betrays no too-rich scent
of ripening death, too-ripe life--no loaded orbs
hang glistening all the harvest-moon midnight
as when I sang easy between the bee-busy trees,
too alive to sleep those onward autumns through--
now I remember and honor the hours the days
my Mom's proud ghost walked and prayed.
Now, Mom, when of we two only one
may play a speaking part, I seek you out
in Spring among these oft-deserted aisles
of souls whose sails flag plainly on the wept sea
of massy grasses not yet scotched and cut,
unevenly alive, each green blade its own green height
at Holmdel Cemetery.

                    Now I in the prompt of warmth
walk an evening vigil I cannot choose but chase
so many mourning hours beyond departure.--
Still you stand at the kitchen counter, peeling
glad apples, small russets, pears, lambent carrots,
all picked by your brazen squad of boys in the sun,
washing each, rolling each in careful hands
until their inner shine shows showered in the 
sink-rinse, all laid white on the cutting board
or minced into copper-bottomed vats for quibbling soups.
How many and intricate the apple-hours we tolled!
Your hair its own silver feast of blossom-curls
damp in the happy chatter of meal prep
where boiling things poured pellucid, spouting
through colanders I held unably at any angle,
standing at your elbow, low, listening
to water fillip and drip, tipping the big yellow
bowl, your sharp wit apt as the paring knife 
dancing against your thumb.

                        I never knew you,
the dark-haired darling who danced
in your father's Welsh eyes.  I knew you alarmed
and laboring lion-hearted in a hospital bed,
small hands at the chained triangle
to leverage and lift yourself to some easier breath
that didn't come.  But I knew you best, and know
you still, in a wordless kaleidoscope of worlds
where each small turn changes all, the pattern
resplendently renewed by light, the pattern
of broken chips and needy details, rainbows sawed
to pebbles--as when light through leaves
entertains and blinds, so I see you, Mom:
a hand, a heart, an eye alight.

                            And so I walk,
myself shelving shore without ship or mystery,
swept haphazard among coral shoals of memory,
tunelessly whistling in the ruminative night,
tapping a foreign California apple in my pocket
as I count out time to no song I know,
hum no uplifting lyric to the unnameable tune,
alone at your elbow, just we two, 
and the April moon standing mute.


Rouge Moon

 [Poetry], The Pilot Light  Comments Off on Rouge Moon
Oct 182014
 
Winter's roughened touch has left us, though still
in dreams we find its echo, harsh remembrancers
that we are, recalling all by pain and indignity.
Having set alarms to catch the current moon at full,
she arises from her slumbers, aroused and drowsy,
trailing gossamer glories of her nightgown
into the dim unlit living room.  She stands silent 
beside me, we stand blandly, woozily wooed to do,
to be, in all the accident of time together--
ourselves and in love--searching for the red moon
with our pajama bottoms off, the whole quiet room
luminous as a dish of water, surrounding curtains caught
in a fabulous haze as almost-fog envelopes us,
has us feel as if we exist within a cloud,
our breaths heavily lunged as if still asleep,
eyes squinted and salty as cracked pistachios 
and every window glowing cold.  Like a captain,
her hand shading out brimming halogen lights of the lot,
Jenny breathes against the glass, slow one, slow two,
and searches the skies for any trace of rouge.
We are looking for that rare, red moon
evinced from a thousand sunsets at once
when earth trails her infected fires like a kiss
across the silver deserts of Diana's moon,
too perfect-pure to blush back at us.

I had hoped, as we turned and plied about the room
that I, that we, would stumble across the moon
as I had once before stumbled into such looking luck
when walking alone the still edge of a wood
I came across a sleeping dappled fawn quiet as leaves,
curled simple in an unattended nest.

My walking-stick stopped like a secondhand tricked
at the loss of time, my eyes gone wide in delight
to see this dim thing that seemed but shadows
of the sun, sun-flecked, white-floating spots
of indifferent light, the dappled overcast of a low-
hanging dogwood tree confusing all, confusing me,
until the creature curling there seemed no more
than an intensification of the grass, brown-white
below, before me, its fallen breath a breathing
of all the earth herself, those long careful legs
snipped together like sleeping shears, the paired ears
leanly alert: focused, still and present, upon myself
even as my whole attention fell to it--our mutual life
of a moment's dewy duration--and then led on
by a sort of baby-snort, a twitch around the muzzle,
I came all at once to see--those eyes!
I cannot tell their oil-depth, their ink-heart--
how all the dappled mini-cosmos round our wooded cove
was distilled to highlights in those grand eyes,
yet not diminished, not in the least diminished,
as I stared.  And I came, in time, as my wildered
consciousness grew more natively attuned,
to know that I who watched was watched,
that all I had thought was hid in me was plain
as paper: all deeds known, all recorded there--
all no more than a single spark of light
in the dark surface of that fawn's calm eye.

In all our moon-excitement, did I say how we
found the ground that April at three a.m.?  
The ground of crocus bud and of daffodil
newly come to their spring bloom, first bloom
sweet as Easter candy newly caught unwrapped?
A whiteness as of a wedding-walk was gifted everywhere.
A still, sudden frost, an April frost, was over all.
As if, because we'd missed the rouge moon,
this other, lesser blessing was bestowed--yet more
than bestowed if I think on it aright--strewn
like bales of dogwood petals littered everywhere.

We never found the moon that night, nor any
tippler's tainting tint of pink in all
that cloud-strewn, cloud-molested sky
that stayed a starless haze, although we stared,
finding our orientation by iPhone app and guess,
standing together on the little balcony there,
listening to trees meekly creak in their sleep
as all light drifted down to our upward eyes.
Softly, her sudden hand was at my back--
her breath a wordless whisper in my ear.
I knew, despite the sky's cloudy recalcitrance,
all I'd found.


Reading Emily Dickinson at Dawn

 [Poetry], The Pilot Light  Comments Off on Reading Emily Dickinson at Dawn
Oct 182014
 
A bee drones in the cowslip 
Not more happily than I,
Who into your honey mouth has slipped
And let the hours by.

Long I thought that blue most true
Of saddened evening skies,
Till you winked ope' horizons new
In azures of your eyes.

Now I wing to courts of love
And press my buzzing case
Bow by bow before the purple judge
Who whirls me by the waist.


It Should Have Happened Like This

 [Poetry], The Pilot Light  Comments Off on It Should Have Happened Like This
Oct 182014
 
I'm tired of living backward, carping 
"It should have happened like this."
Nobody's left who gives a crap.
Not her, not me.  I don't give a piss.
I can't think about her face.  And I shan't
Think how things should have happened, but didn't.

Her face wasn't exactly pretty, exactly pale.
More sallow, celery yellow, stale--
Like hungry roots had sucked her blood 
Back into impatient earth. 

I loved her once, as I thought I should.
I loved her in my body, in my breath.
Now, I'm tired in my bones, my marrow
Stuffed with regret and meat and sorrow.


Promise

 [Poetry], The Pilot Light  Comments Off on Promise
Oct 182014
 
It isn't difficult, dying perennially disappointed. 
There's a comforting ooze that cozies okay, 
Down here at the bottom.  Promise. 

Why fidget in time's indifference anyway? 
Lie calm in your slippers like the rosy anointed, 
Note the replete applique of your surplice.

Perhaps a fashionable coffin will ease your unease.
Get your tomb topped by a flattering bust--
No more nude, embarrassed mirrors.    

After all, dying leaves no one else to please.
You needn't, you must not, fear her; 
Death's just being ground resolutely to dust.

Repeat after me: whatever was said, was said.
Lovers only say lovely things in the night
Freed from harsh, photographic light.

Repeat after me: whatever you did, you did.
You'll get on alright, my dear, my dunce, 
When you learn to love your ignorance.

It isn't difficult, dying perennially disappointed.
And, let's be honest, it's not as if you shot
For the stars--and almost, but never quite, made it.

Please, drink your tea while it's still hot.
Around the next corner is a bus with your name on it.
When we bury you, we won't inter your sonnet.

Promise. 


Red Wings

 [Poetry], The Pilot Light  Comments Off on Red Wings
Oct 182014
 
The devil is red, his wings red flames.
Guilt harrows the heart, pulls shut its little gate.
Eden had a gadfly Adam couldn't name.
The devil is red, his wings red flames.
Blue is the sea, to drown your sin and shame.
So love your brother;  Able be kind to Cain.
The devil is red, his hellish wings aflame.
Hurt harrows the heart, shuts its slutty grate.