“The prettiest are always further!”
she said at last, with a sigh at the
obstinacy of the rushes in growing
so far off, as, with flushed cheeks and
dripping hair and hands, she scrambled
back into her place, and began to
arrange her new-found treasures.
~~Through the Looking-Glass
“As to poetry, you know,” said Humpty
Dumpty, stretching out one of his
great hands, “I can repeat poetry as
well as other folk, if it comes to that–”
“Oh, it needn’t come to that!” Alice
hastily said, hoping to keep him from
“The piece I’m going to repeat,” he
went on without noticing her remark,
“was written entirely for your amusement.”
Alice felt that in that case she really
ought to listen to it; so she sat down, and
said “Thank you” rather sadly.
~~Through the Looking-Glass
Each human soul Without goal Is unwhole. Every condition Of historical mission Without an individual's kiss Is a mission amiss. Without the startburst Of a singular eye All sights degrade from best To little better to worst; The telescope suffers a sty That once held all universe's pride, And dull death slides From the wound in God's side. Without the insistence Of Love's wondrous indifference Each breath, all flesh Beats bereft --Life's limitless gift --Adrift--
Really the only medley that I like Is the medley the mind makes when all songs Have ceased. Surfeit of silence, Or so it seems, become a storm of drums, A vast catastrophe of cymbals crashing, So and so, upon memory minus remorse. The discarded songs, played through, had come To their melodious ends and settled hues; Absent amorous fingers fiddling on their strings, Untouched, they did not know what else to do After the final ting. Are they waiting, The songs, to be taken up, be played, be plucked With protesting recitations of gorgeous notes Back into existence? If so, if surely so, then song Did never have an end, nor is ended now As I hear in inner ear a medley most morose And happiest too to tell me what it is In a silence that sings through me like a song.
Is an imaged Word, an imagined Thing False that falsifies Reality-- Made itself of maybes in our uncertain clime? A clock of hairs grows boisterous Upon a curly mantle indifferent to ticks; Does this winsomeness rescind in a swish Starker clacks that tap the Reality of Time, Or 'tis it time t'was taught our make-believe Before it ever sauntered off the shelf To drive us will-hee nill-hee over hills Past our final ploys to final plots Springing green in Floridian retirement parks? How does the poem of apricot, bon mot, Go on being apricot in a grove of orange? Is this ripe, particular fiction Compounded, pat-pat, out of the real? Oranges or apricots, we ourselves go on Being our granular, indecisive selves, Daily twinges of one eternal twang, Niggling addenda adducing vast impossibilities, Long after the mirror's form informs each eye We are not what we were. What can one say With capable pronunciation? Let huzzahs help Tortured clocks to tick, apricots to drip Each imagined day into the reality of night.
The Gown of Sleep
To sleep is to meditate without a face, Or is it? Is it Anarch Unconscious, Or just a gown for the mind, for the self, A way to somnambulate the ichorous void In tiaras and swirls? A glittered hem Provides a border where the mind's the mind No more, and the essential dark consoles No more our crinolines and ribbons. The day's crested curl has rolled itself away.-- A place arrives where consciousness ends. … And yet we look, we leer at it continually, Continually concerned that thisness Should end as that darkness should extend Out beyond the mind, beyond the gown of sleep Swishing its glittered hem like a cape, voidward Toward nothing, toward what, toward that, toward that That continually and perpetually Declares us by ending us, as the hem declares the gown; The petty grave's past tense makes present being great. No mausoleum trumps the pomp Of simple death. And so we take the complement with milk And go to sleep and lose our daily face, Touching the antagonist in dreams. We stand gowned, merely gowned, on the void's edge --Continually, continually Making our way toward the definite dark That dreams of us, perhaps, when it wakes, Taking its coffee and morning paper, Sampling the headlines with its grapefruit, Comfortable with one more dawn's gowny ends Obliterating inexistence.
The self-deceiving Eskimo Does not know what he does not know Nor knows he what he should Benignant of evil as of good. The Eskimo is bespattered by a vetting sleet That seeks to part his bones and meat That does not know that it does not know It dissects a self-deceiving Eskimo. Tethered together in all kinds of weather, Unaware of fate, the cold that kills,-- Eskimos ourselves benighted by a snow Of balmy blands whose meat and bones Undoes the ever-curious Eskimo.
The Me-ness of Me
Unremarked in fallowest fields one thing With picky panache Silhouettes the solitary bug Pivoting its spectral hues in yellower grass; One thing darts an engulfing eye Upon the minor life mimicking the swells Motioning the ups-a-daisies and downs With ups and downs of its own, internal candor --Insect in a day most nearly over. One thing, one eye Glances.
The honest man in the mirror, mundane topic, Sees himself. But not, not as he is, dwarfish Moralist in a vermillioned land, A hunchback crouching in a box. Oh no, Not that, not as--but as--he sees he as he Was meant to be. Interlocutor at large in a world Mad for prestidigitations, The gift of if and fragrant hullabaloo --The verisimilitude of seems, not is. He meets himself bending in a pool, His prodigious doublet washed off to skin, Misty skin, and rain in the rushes again Beating the mirror into silvers. He sees this, and sees still, with any eye Scrounged from any possible socket, The panoply, the possible panoply Of the yet to be.
The Queens of This and the Kings of That
The mind is portable, and its jar is gemmed With prinks of light that color what it is, How it sees itself and makes the world. The mind's not mind that consecrates its acts By pure formula without reference to fact, A mute maestro fiddling fortissimos of the sea. The mind's not mind that curmudgeonly contracts From dauntless dwellings on the abstract To rote particulars of minor fact. The mind is portable, but not without itself Or its jar does it go the world about, Packing up perspective freaks of circumstance Into abstract projections that rainbow a world, Articulate abstracts of that and that That adumbrate austerely the moiling void. The stars are projective gems of crowns That hemmed us in, and that we have thrown away Playing marbles with the void. Still, we see them, dimly, In the besetting dark, past projects of the self With the sun gone down and the night fresh as a wish; Still we wear them in our dreams as crowns, dimly, Effortless masters of fact in our jarring jars.
Syncopated zeroes, Intending nothing, Knowing nothing that knots The nothing that they are, Sing zero, sing zero Around their open aches Oohing outwards Into a world too present present To apprehend their absence, Their hollow hallow core And respite for thought, Their assertion of a suction And place for the present-absent Among rogue marmalades And ladies' parasols Stacked backward in the attic. Because the mind moves ever-on, Sentimental futurologist Weeping over imagined ends And incipient catastrophes Only tracing thought portends, A first wheel restless for neighbors, These zeroes too can give A now of nothing, a blank For maps mind's one cartographer Can skate in lines of pure invention; Those zeroes, those zeroes too Can give a uteral nurturance By their nothingness, mere nothingness In so much here.
The moon became a motion I'd once forgot, A blur in a cheap reflection of a stranger's face, Potentially important, no more than that, A place I'd visited, once, in a dream that seemed No dream, but had lost the ingenious souvenirs That kept imagination avid in the garden, Beneath the qua distractions of the leaves, The solemnities of roses, the junk geraniums, Patching life together from the shards Of whatever fell from whatever was the sun. Hares in clover ignored the birds that were Zen angels of their shared paradise Above the dirty water smoky in its dish; So, too, I had ignored--something, something Important but indistinct, a vital cog in what Goes whirling round--no, that's not it, not quite. I felt there was an awful suavity to things, A hidden grace to every flagrant gaffe, A swoon in the hips of each marching martinet, A subtle doubleness to every dromedary. My only clue was something I'd forgot to do, An inference of fantastic in the backyard's bland, A something more than the shrubbery at hand, The dirty water, the hares and reiterative birds. Something, something…. And it was evening; Everything of daylight had receded in a wave Of going hot, or coolness coming on--each piece Became unpuzzled, a part of evening's grey In a velour of shadows my imagination maimed. And then there was the omnipresence of the moon.
Why John Ashbury Sucks
I had loved him once, and followed, Entranced, the tracing motions hollow His convex verse commands. I was the eye, he the hand. And long we wandered, light and dark, Tracing shadows' ink, light's absent paper mark. I thought perhaps to see myself reflected, Referenced, imagined or enhanced, Some wrinkle in the mirror, some pout, some expression, Visual evidence of individual digression, Or even a ripple of author self-romanced-- A dreamer's words the dream utters by chance. Where love's hand had led, I had not doubted. (Outward I looked, but no one looked out.) Instead, only one cold eye I espied, Chill olive in the burning body damned. Only that, without a passion or a clue, Note sequenced to note with no melody for cue. No central concern, nor thought of any sort, No socket to accept the wandering ship to port. Not, even, the bark of a doggerel, Nor evening's cage for an argument's grr.
Eye Moderne a la Mode
The vision of a voyeur tracing mirrors With a lipstick and a laugh, is modern art. It's a simple, simpler, simplest Economy of less, and less, and less --Less time to trail the detail into point, Less ear for the confusing clear of fugues, Less wish to utter troubles to the abiding dove. We are the mercury mirror of, of We know not what--but it is not “love.” Our Grandfathers drove Dodges and so do we. The comic modern is our métier, A race to wrench awry Reality's real And here and bare, and substitute A vivider, savvier, lesser seems For our living Is. Snapshots of the soul (Stand-in cut-outs at their propped-up best) Can't take mediated place, thrum and throne, Of sarcophagi, stained glass, and saints. --No, that's wrong. They can, and do. And the mirror herself becomes a little thinner, Less and less the magic thing she was, A poverty of posture in the cornered air, Less vaunting and less vair, more haunted Than inhabited: each bold look boiled to a stare. But there, there--the palimpsest remains, Tracings of the tracer tracing trivially, Temporal blots and bleedings Moaning on into long Eternity, The wreckage of our lives not half done, Not half said, raw evidence for eyes That once upon a time we were not dead, That “a kiss was still a kiss,” a hiss a hiss, Whatever it was our lying lipstick said.
Convalescent thoughts At daybreak's dawnwalk, Go round the satellite mind, Centerpoint incarnate, As moons go round their Jupiter, Pearl-luminescent nexus Tilting stilts. The air in the park is clear and crisp. Moonshine or dayshine, A motioning round Round and round goes As goes its rounds. So just what is it, really, about Reality, This clear clave And garrulous guiro gone round, that, Questioning it, creates it? …Oracular words dissolve the uttering tongue… This is but an example, Periplum polaroid, An instance of a notion perplexly drawn In irreverent wind, A mobile mote let down From Plato's pinkening statuary, Drifting whichwise Through infinity. The air in the park Goes round and round.
Landscape Drawn with Ys
It seemed there was a reason In the clay because of things we did. The ground was moldy with reasons As with wordy worms. The sky burned blue because. Irrelevancy and vanity Vanished vanquished in a hush. The magician of days, Svelte in becoming blacks, Educed only His own gloved, whited hand From his mysterious sleeve, Nothing more. Chiaroscuro clouds Meandered meaningly Their grey, unsignifying shapes.
Home Is where I started and Here Is where I ended up and You Are the one I talk to and Now Is the time we share and Tomorrow is what we face Together. The road Is where we've been before and The road Is what still lies before us-- The road That doesn't care who we are And doesn't Care where we have been before In any Universe of whens before This now of time before us Here Where we ended up tonight Together, Home.
Life's wisdom Is pure isdom, Flinchless in the force Of Life's riotous watercourse. Under whatever weather We shelter together, Shelter from the welter Is winsome As was becomes become And here and there pretends To be both once and when again. Now and forever. Amen.
Equally the Sun
9/11/2001 Equally the sun Rose reckless and brave that day As each day since has done. Alone in our shoes, our lives We rose ignorant that day Who went too wise and teared to bed; We stepped forth from our thousand dreams To the thousand chores at dawn Noon could not recall. Equally the sun Attends us or our graves; And equally the sun Lets us love or rave. Our humanity is common. It's a truth that's often said, Common as dung and dirt And prayers left unsaid. Ironically we live, And ironically will expire. Equally the sun Will blight or bless desire. Our arms caught round The pounding hours We moved where we meant to be. Equally the sun Showed all that is has been And all shall be again. Off the towering shoulders And out of the towering night Comes a terrifying image We had not made alone, An image made of death To shred us to the bone. Our shoes would not come off again In the world we'd understood, The one the moonshone bedstand showed Composed of dreams of the Good. Equally the sun Had whispered “Be unafraid,” On all the days that made us. And equally the sun, In dream or day begun (As in day or dream we steer), Shines silently and sure On all our mortal measure, And on all our mortal fear.
Fabulations Made Plain
Ideas are for fakers, pikers, palookas. I gave up their glimmer when they returned An angel's whistle for my blooded tongue, A something too pure and fey, too twinkling serene For all the agony my gutturals must mean. For example. Night came, ushering his monkeys In a ratty cloche of almost blacks. This seemed something near to touch, A fabled catastrophe brought almost to hand, Eloquently close as a cripple's cane. But stars, like damned ideas, Shone clinquant in unrepentant heaven, Far above the dingy circus scene. Shone apart, and yet were a part, as an eye, or even… You, who are here with me, know what I mean.
All Poetry Is Middle Class
It’s as if our house had shrunk around us in thickening drifts.
Curious walls lean in like a solicitation, or, less importune
today, a confidence no words betray. The place fills with things
as with light, a thumb pushing the pale dough full.
Somehow, having this place so long among pines has become us.
We’re the salvage that the house has gathered. At first, only
for an accent beside the piled shelves, a flare of flowers, just
there- and then more centrally, more needed- the only object that
catches the light right.
Roots pulled from our knees, our heels, go down into these things.
What surrounds us becomes us.
Carefully the cat, a patchy calico, goes along the windowsill.
Inside, but looking out.
Black Hat, White Hat
A snapping turtle slow and fierce as a drugged bear, revolves
her claws in a rusted oil drum. We caught her back from the garden
one dawn, putting her eggs in with the carrot seeds. We followed
the dragged steps to the high grass that waved around her alert
as flag majors. She was slow out of water, molasses churning in
her dark joints; her pace amiable as a memorized prayer.
But her head’s still fast, her beak as purposeful as a hook. Dogs
whine at the edge of the oil drum, echoey cries when their heads
go down and in to smell her. Somewhere a Middle Eastern man is
held by soldiers grown in America, their bright and bushy tails
wagging like guns. A cigarette goes down into the dry can with
a thin papery trail of smoke. The questions the men ask are clear
and loud, but what do they mean?
When the time came to release her back into the belly of her world,
she left our pale bread and carrots julienne like an offering
of inedible leaves strewn at the bottom of the barrel. I put on
my sneakers and walked between the sole-slicing stumps up to my
waist in the water and put her out beyond myself, heavy as a sewer
lid, my back straining.
What is Said
Sometimes the words come from deep in and are seeds. They catch
and grow into things, into tall people. They become themselves.
Sometimes what is said has this genesis. It exists both before
and after it has been said, and it goes on growing lonely and
lovely for a long time. What is said can be a teenaged daughter
awkward in the presence of her own beauty. Mirrors, other flat,
shiny words, increase her self-consciousness, yet leave herself
The tongue moves so assuredly in its cave-mouth, a snail completely
at home in its white winding shell. The tongue slowly shapes its
house the way a host makes things ready for strangers at Christmas.
The carolers on the snowy porch hope for mugs of hot cider; the
spice of the cinnamon surprises them. When they tell themselves
the story of singing, later, their boots steaming and their dewy
coats heavy on wooden pegs, using the words of the host inside
themselves carefully enough, they go on being surprised.
Noticing the Noticer
Not understanding, and wanting to. The edge of an eye, the unseeing
white, curves ambivalently around the pupil, its darkness, its
direction. But helping anyway, rounding things out, making a backside
to the flat stare, tying the brain, like a stone in its apse,
to wild vision, to the everything-of-what’s-up-front, the insistence
of things before us.
All day long I have moved words toward their funeral, toward fire,
illumination. I am helping to build something. I don’t know what
it is. Like when my father put my hand under his hand to hold
the wood while he nailed it in place, something large is helping
me to help it. A tobaccoy, fiery breath is in my ear.
The place I am making behind my own pupil is full of beetles’
wings and angels.
A Moral Star
Once we stole the stars from themselves and named them, mischievously,
they became ours. Night after night, the house asleep and unwatchful,
they try to escape back into the sky. Every day they return to
our chests, our thin ribs, burning guiltily.
Something stolen is never forgotten. Those who lose it may forget
it, let it go into the place they have prepared for lost things,
old ownerships. But those who stole may never let go. The history
of the thing comes with the thing, even if it is only the history
of its theft.
The jaguar treads with his pelt of sunspots all night, mourning
and remembering his meals. His eyes, dimly lidded, hold in the
golden day. Each breath taken steals from the breaths around it.
Exhaled back into the world, it is never the same. Water that
passes through us, and becomes ours, becomes us. When we feel
it again, it smells stolen, yellow with use, with history.
When the thief forgets what he has stolen, he becomes sick. Society
is sometimes like that, sick with millions of small thieves and
thefts, forgetting what’s stuffed in their pockets. Then what’s
stolen stays with us and inside us, but is neither ours nor themselves.
These things rise up strangely, alien and without grief. Our breath
denies us, denied by us; our lungs swag with wet cement. Zoos
howl with animals caged but without their own minds, crazy and
ungrieving. The dry straw is torn, the water in its steel bowl
is overturned, the food, pawed and neglected, becomes poisoned.
The animals will lie down in the moon and rot. Their starved breaths
will float into roses. We, who have stolen and lied to ourselves,
An Early Moon
The pond is marshy. Bullfrogs visit it daily. The mown grass on the lawn humps up In small tornadoes of torn green. An early moon is near. Almost, It is inside us. The katydids, Remembering their mournful names, Carry something to us From farther away.
The Why of a Fencepost
Why are two men arguing at a fencepost? Perhaps it is three men.
The two themselves, and the shadow third they are together, the
argument. Let’s pretend it is evening. Three shadows then and
a stubble of cornstalks. A grey stone the heft of a skull knocks
the post as they talk. If they disagree, why do they need to be
near each other? Why does the mountain start from a flat place?
I think most people mean what they are.
The feeling they seem to be talking about would be immanence,
or impermanence. I guess they would call it expanded consciousness
and permanence. A part of it here, a part elsewhere. But both
really here, or really there, a metaphor. Tat tvam tasi. Thou
art that. I don’t know. I like the stone being itself, unowned
and unknowable. I like being myself, a little too personal, a
little forgotten about, even by myself.
Somehow too, like they say, like they show, using my feelings
in their argument, which is part me as well then, I guess, the
stone is inside me, rattling my ribs, pushing my blood limbs,
weighing on inner things. And I am curled inside the stone, a
small man asleep in the granite like this feather, just here now,
on top of it windily.