A Dream Dislodged
Disorderly love falls on our lives Like a dream in which we die And cannot awake or dream otherwise And only this dream is before our eyes Ritual and rote and stigmatized Inescapable and inordinately stylized A sleepwalker's temptless step's imposed And we see only the dream and are blind
Prolog of a Dog
This is an epic: shrunk, crabbed, and small, Full of false-effects, self-pity, the merely personal, A Don Juan who lambastes not the passing scene But all that has-been Juan may be, or is, or has been. Where more loving looks would gloss a blemish The critic's eye inscribes a scar to cherish, For every jot that takes away from fame, frame, or form Bolts the sniping critic thus much more above the norm. I spy inside to sight with telescopic sighs The whys of my feelings' reasons: Interloper on a landscape without seasons -- Why are such thoughts always such internal messes? Insistent blots and bleeding Awful as a Rorsach reading? Or are summer ladies in their swaying dresses The carnal cause of my distresses? (Your guess is as good as I guess my guess is.) Love's each word confirms what I suspect: Disaster's the master, and we but the guests. She sheds no sigh for any man's part, Whether the nether gender or simply his heart. On Time's high hill my glass house lies sheer, White licked-together ice panes as thin as tears--- I'll throw nothing as improbable as rocks But must content my anger by flinging dirty socks. When confronted by the bare barbarity Of a too-intimate, too-personal personal history The titillating crowd contracts a gassy gasp Into the actor's ruination of a yawn. Put away the hugs, unclench the hearty clasp, Poke about for the folded rulebook on Badminton Or dewy martinis not cleared away at dawn, Any of last season's or last night's amenable diversions, No worse for the weather on the party lawn. "But I have a tale to tell you!" he told the mirror As a minor chord played in the castle dreary, And like a lawyer at a settlement Between heavenly disputants temporarily hellbent He unpacked his tale like a holy relic. He tried, when talking, talking about his happenstance To concentrate Pure Mind from nominal Space. Somehow somewhere something means something As we fill with ephemeral words our eternal dumbness. And ever the bleak bitterness of Love is present, Awkward to forget, awkwarder to remember, A golden goose whose taste has turned to pheasant: Sour to eat, but the killing's pleasant. Leaning with a highpower scope on my pickup's fender, I forget at once who was the first offender. A kiss is just a kiss, for all our wishing And love is just another way for brains to say "gone fishing." And yet what hopes are harbored in a sigh To which all the pall of History can't manage to give the lie? And somehow behind Love's final curtain The essential something-nothing of ourselves is lurking. To say that these things are only so, That, in the course of life, such heinousness is usual Is to dodge the lodging dart that conscience pricks And with our green tequilas reel About the empty garden like a crypt. It doesn't make much difference If you're in the Congo, Buenos Aries, or France Time can add no savor but regret To what the hand has done, or the heart inflicts. Yet I may say, like the newscaster at six "Once Upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away I loved." Such a rare occurrence Can't be measured by existential stirrings and segues: It's the internal turnings of that monster Fate That makes our mousing loves or hatreds great. Is my mauve eagle of presidential pinion, Or am I but a seraph's wingman? Public puffs and public scrapes Suck divinest wines back to earthy grapes.
The Sword Inside
A purposeless scrub plain laid before the sight, Inarticulate, has nothing to offer; Neutral evolution's meaning is neuter Until interpretive man stands near. Cool swaths and charts of haughty stars Whirling infinite on a pin To rampaging wolf and twittering lark Revolve innocent of sin. But one constellation-loaded look or angst-angelic glance Cast up by blameful man Can trace God's wrath in each twinkling coordinate As plainly as a plan. Until the intuitive outcast on the monotone plain Divided the iterative day Into the arrowy horror of arbitrative time, Inventing vatic history, God's mercy and His blood could not from the dust Gather us to his breast; Bhudda in his monk-smock howled the rice from his throat, A proctor without a test. Lacking sin's spectacle or anticipatory hope's Human ability to fail Life spins in a bituminous bubble of unbecome, A whereless, whenless exile. Narrow animal and expansive man both hunt world and sky; Anxious and inscrutable they rave. The one with tooth, paw and blind beak will kill, The other with inner glaive.
The Ardor for Order
Once I was happy just To flabbergast and gust Over incestuous Thanatos and Eros, My impulsive pair of heroes. But now my erring mind (Arranging, jury-rigging jigsaws night by night) Surveys the surrounding social scene In meditative fright. The president imposes order, The pope imposes hope; Which one has the right to expedite My sonnets with his ardor? Every rhyme with law and order Is enticingly narcotic, But to impose them on the Zeitgeist Is damnably neurotic. The windbag of a fascist Hoots and emotes in Life's emporium, His whistlework's that of the serious artist, Envowelling society's consortium. His graves are all so neatly done They lie down in counted rows; The bones obey coordinates; Above, there blooms a rose. But I conceive of a magic bag That holds us all together, A something simple like the spurious Convention of "the weather." There's no God, or need be none (Intrusive into our intimate "Scene A") Who's got to plod, or descend Deus ex machina. Draw instead in dreamy eye or fable Something constellationish Shared with elbows tucked at table, A grace passed round or handed down, The substance of a wish.
Bullets 'oft gang awry' When we squint with lying eye At the target we had thought To level with a shot; Somewhere along the barrel Our curving expectation falls And what is becomes a part Of what we hope to shoot, Or perhaps an intervening wind Has changed beginning and the end. The future always lies Somewhere in the 'is,' Or so the marksman's maxim goes Hunkered in a bush of rose. The future always lies Somewhere in the 'is' Our eyes are scouting now; Hope and here intermix somehow, Nor get pulled apart Unless our killing art Delivers to the shaping thought The dead end we had sought. The philosopher with his carcass Dispenses with his guesses - What would be now is, And this is happiness. Nor does he as he eats inquire "What if I had not fired...." Or if a speck of dust had interposed Between his sightline and his nose. All the dedication of his thought Goes to digestion of what he's brought From the wild field, as able, To his domesticated table. Not until quick hunger comes again Will his thoughts curve and turn To all the 'Ifs' of chance That can cancel out his choice And send aim or word awry In the hunted day.
My Beloved Enemy
My beloved Enemy Confronts my chaos to define My anger out of emptiness, A solid hatred from rash wish. My beloved Enemy For my arch-arranging eye Designs an aching target That I must miss or hit; Gives to my wide-range stagger A more local, focal goal, A sharpness to each dagger Unfolded from the soul. My beloved Enemy Incinerates Laws like xmas-trees And from a dwarfish, brutal bush Grows adored as Truth. Without my beloved Enemy --Alone, or made by mirrors three-- No matter how I writhe and twist My very self would not exist. My beloved Enemy Radiant with joy and energy Looks out from my own interior, Puts on my scowls and powers. My beloved Enemy Alight with hate and ecstasy --Fevered cheek to cheek we dance Heedless of our circumstance. Now my beloved Enemy Made naked by wind and time Arrives with a stricter chill: My Enemy I must kill. My beloved Enemy Must learn now how to die, And my beloved Enemy In blood before me lies.
Burning the Vail
Let Love's lukewarm body lie Drained of every lover's sigh; Put up the crepe, pull down the bunting, Pack in boxes the matrimonial trumpets. Rescind the secret thought, and cancel hope. Let marriage feasts go up in smoke; Let the lover, loved, display Independence to the end of days. Heaven's research into love's prayers Recommends ascetic despair; Despite longstanding and accustomed use, A gander's not as good as goose. When the mirror spots in morning's face No room for absolution or for grace, Every constellation seems Evidence of God's complicity. To exercise the lover's part Seems the only answer to retreating hearts: Mechanics of hydraulic hand Give no ease to loves lorn gland. Modern convenience should make us fit To enjoy the air-conditioning, and forget; Yet still in every neighbor's bush Lurks the same distempered wish. Every kiss but seems to mock Those lips no kissing will unlock; Snipers crouch on every roof To put an end to lovers' truth. Ransack every inked-out line For furtive hints of peace-of-mind, Time the healer will not dispense Relief when every breath is grief. To be a ghost and blow unmade Through drawn and yellowed windowshade.... What aught occurs, there is no stop To distraught hearts or lovers' hopes. What may mere continuance teach, Stalwart survival of the leech? Let pain cease, and let cease pride When love's soft cause has died inside. Intellectual despair Indulges 'The Unrepaired', While Hymanaeus Io wont console Particulate memory, the ripsawed soul.
A Double in the Dark
Ideal and disposable, the idea of you Rustles beyond my moony shoulder, Amorous shadow of fictive love, A dream demanded by the dove. Shapeless bloods within me, grant Dark nurture to this faithless plant; Heart, beat on in dreamland to create, Where a pink and rumpled pillow lies, Nerves that throb in sympathy; Create, heart, until I in moonbeams see A second dreamer dreaming cordially. New eyes open, asleep yet silvery. Confessional moonlight's idyll Which previously had bridled In dry daylight's talk and squawk Now lets our human arms console Each other till the feeling's whole. Let rosy midnight flicker on Neon until the ending dawn; Together in our sparkless darkness, Exchanging jokes and mental missives, Our only soft defense against Outer Nature's rage: This is not this Is wishing, wishing, wishing Against compelling consciousness. And our breaths' most secret heats, Sirocco on rose-darkened sheets, Whisper the stories of our souls Where conceptual contrapuntal kiss And simpler carnal lips may meet. A new moon glimmers in the room. By careful compact with the night, Tangled breaths and traded hands And tangoed bodies no longer stand But lie as loving strangers might Acquainted with mysteries of delight. Side by side let us abide Before that darling blonde, the dawn Explodes and leaves in shards The love we worked on oh so hard-- Let us have a meeting without an edge, Nor wrestle with our conscience once But play pillow-talk, be each a dunce, Two drowsy loves, pale and veined, A pair of frangible spirits' vessels Laughing out the candles. A new day glitters at the ledge.
I lived unaware for a time (I have to admit it) Unconscious in a casual castle Sipping livid Glenlivit; I was deaf to the daily curses Of incontinent scullery maids, And recognized not the stable boys' Disingenuous praise. As lazy time lolled on From here and now to gone A private contentedness And not extant catastrophe was What I secretly counted on. And all that time, you Looked over the lifeboats Tested and prepped the crew, Gauging the drop-height From the second story window In case of fire or flight. I was smoking cigarettes In bed, getting girls up for a chat While tanning in a deckchair, Eyeing the hostess on the sly, And all that. But you had long before departed. The hallway echoed with your passage As dawn or noon or night invited The memory of your visage. You had left like a bell That rings only in memory, Or how a tale told in childhood Retold is a story today. The hearing ear is fooled By a wrongful kindness of the mind Whose generous assistance molds Everything it finds. You are silent, absent and afar Indifferent and unreachable As a collapsing star. Quietly busy ostensibly In an alternate universe For your light still spills Some length of years at ease In at every sill. Ships and compasses Still rely on the light, Having been forged in your presence And wandering still in the night. But one day your light, having left, Will leave us of light bereft. And yet you return, return In all the days of my thought As if there were no now and then As if mercury cornered stayed caught. And yet you return, return Like an agile ellipsoid mobile About your own center you turn Presenting new angles the while, New facets and faces revealed, But really always and beautifully centered. Maybe I too am centered, I too, But more orbitally arranged Fixed on a spar of you From your central largeness estranged As when Earth to dawn has come Halfblind in the sun.
A silent fibbing moonlight washes Distorted shadows of the dissenting sun Over each snow-molested branch and bush Arranged outside with a congregation's grace For the terminal minutes of our love-embrace Happening behind an unrolled windowsash. You had wanted to hurt me, and did. Truth was my only tribulation. Your hands hung, inert and underfed, Along the sofa's arms, overstuffed and wan, Resisting the reconciliation of my touch - And you pulled away, besides, your face, Quick and moonlike, from my near face Hurrying forward in a rudimentary rush That had so often sought the complexity of bed. Truth was my only tribulation. It was then, snowbound and alone, you had said Words that made all things one And useless, in the gelid December hush Whose winds diminished to a sparse trace In the outer emptiness I could not face, Too full of the moon's pale refracted crush. I don't know how all this roomy dark occurred. Truth is my only tribulation.
Pavilion Fountain: After the Funeral (Nov. 25, 1963)
Winter's never here at the fountain Whose waters' liveliness seems a warm And open candor. Things are but things and do as they must: As in the fountain's pallorous spangling forever Heaviness and light contest. Beyond the torus of its halo The summery waters' motions endeavor, With the tear-bright dignity of an eye in agony, To show how lightly may a substance go An afflatus of divinity. All things to their opposite use Tortured, as when this lithesome watercourse Was narrowed from easy murmur into gladdened sound, Reveal some laden tale of their earthly course Returning to their source. As when like tears to ground we streak And the opened waters that accompany burial Flow in broken speech, so the startled water, at its arc Interpenetrate of scattered light, torridly tumbles All rainbows to one stone bowl. Something had sung up From the dark watered words summoned to console Bodied brightness; as when we ourselves, by a terrible pity pul- Led vocal from the womb, tighten and squall To give creation's own Cry to the beautiful.
Sestina: A Whittler’s Self-Portrait
Tired of the afternoon, too tired to rest, a crooked dropping spider made herself my guest, dispossessed of the wood over which she'd labored wispily uniting the crooked scrap lengths of pine by busy inner habit for a length of time. Unwitting where she was, she knew no reason to rest here out of season. No reason.... Though with no reason myself among the rest, I dare endure my time as long as any guest; ignorant of Sisyphus, she had no sense of labor, tying and untying her crooked knots of pine. Reason's only reason in the absurdity of time. With sly and candid step, each time each time, a spider will weight a grassblade for her reasons until the toppling tip on earth must have its rest where busy man himself is a busy guest by dint of crooked reason and crooked labor. Too tired to rest, wherever here is, I pine for bed. Each crooked plank was chopped from pine; I lie and contemplate the length of time Granddad who'd taught me hewed his reasons, laboring and loving busily that I might rest somewhere on Earth an honored guest. And here again the dropping spider took up her labors, surprising me upon the crooked wood I labor. I watched her threaded progress along the pine desktop chopped from scraps of time when Granddad himself had thought his reasons for cutting and hewing had been laid to rest. Busily I contemplate my busy guest. Absurd, I think, how the length of time we're guests Shrinks, and crook my wood portrait while she labors, going awkwardly on against the lengths of pine as if it were no labor to labor all her time. If reasons she kept, she kept them her own reasons as we carved the scraps of day to silent rest. Tired in my crooked dreams of tired day's length of tired time, I hear my angry Mentors demand and reason; I labor, labor, labor on my portrait without rest.
Beyond the serious torches of several cypress trees, The dusty chirrup chirrup of militant cicadas, The noble solitude of a solid lonely oak Clattering his leaves at the sun over a bleached field That balanced his high growth by spreading out, Desert-like and hot at noon, and all afternoon Until the evening made them equal sharers Of one shade, a blackness welled up from the root. Beyond all this, beyond the blushing bluish grasses And inner darkness of some evergreens out right, I thought to see what seemed from the county road A sweet hilarious patch of beech, tittering Among more sober rowans, and walked on Farther than I had thought at first to do. A forest darkness hustled, a coat atop my coat. And so I came upon a late-flowering bush Hidden deeper in among more doubtful darks, Taller and elder, more august and up high. It was way out of season, much too too late, Yet full of hopeful blossom regardless Of the season's clock; it kept its time its own-- Before the long sharpness of the frost that tapered In shadows till midday, it held its whites aloft. The flowering bush was a thing itself, alone, Clotted with milky flowers as large as fists As if to claim a space among the harder barks, As a child will feel more brave at midnight, Startled from a nightmare, to smile in the dark, Or as a father walks twice round and round A house, for proof he really has a home. The flowers asked for bees that would not come To so shaded an interior, whose buzzed instincts Could not guess to lead them there, too far From the sugary buttercups and tigerlilies of the field; The bees were busy with their honeys and their hives, Too industrious to bother with this thing alone. I wondered what had made the seed drop here All those years ago when this bush first pipped. Had some panicked thrush raced bewildered through the thick, Or been carried dead by some hawk, and dropped? How had the seed, which loved the sun, found Filtered light to endure, in the coolness all about? Had some tree burned out and a dormant seed Been sprung, hot from its casing, into germination? I'd known an odd old fellow who had not Half begun to sing until he was half past eighty, And his voice as awful as an old phonograph; But still he sung, and mostly pleased himself of late, And showed the lyric shavings of sharpened wit To any too-curious; those words were his fists. Above us all in the little clearing, the dull touch Of a near cloud's inner-lighted immanence Broadened into mystery over man and bush. Something happened then, I did not know How much until years afterward had stretched My roots into some new dark flowing underneath. But then, I did not know what I would become, And, never having intended to be there once at all, And having forgotten all about the patch of beech That had first sent me off into the dark, I shook my head at the flowering bush and took off.
It's wondrous easy some days to guess What at last we are and what's happiness. Yet these inscrutable questions duly observe Both the face of the question and the hidden obverse. What do we know but that knit intuition Pearls the stitches of mere superstition When sacred instinct's emergent pattern comes Divulging phantoms of what we might become? There's no simple time in which to simply be; Time's a dark palimpsest of what we can see: Squaring the past with our parochial acre of here, Or inferring a fictional future from fanciful history. Flip, stitch, or analysis: we guess as we must, Surprise ourselves, and end as dust.
A psyche's inscape's treacherous, As alive with dangers as with bliss; The purple outcrop of a mental rock Cripples the supple Muse and mocks. Caught between imagination and the dream The mind's barriers dissolve at the seams; The motivating carnivals of lurid emotions Cycles us like actors thru smoky memories and scenes. Here we're running, running on the borderline Half-unaware of the tailored baggage we've brought, Half-amnesiac about the burdens dropped, Drunk on our own lucubrant blood like wine. Blindfolded eyes foretell dark prophecies When we cannot see that we cannot see.
Beyond the paper moon and past the plastic stars Lurks a lump or troubled wisp of what we really are. Behind the pantaloon, the canvas and the grease, beside the green stage door Lingers a loveable stranger whose tenor urges us to "more." Although the lights are out, are out and the set's gone burning down Still we ache to traipse the stage and immortalize the clown. The grave is but a keyhole and we ourselves the key That into clay or on to flame abide Eternity.
At the Gate
Beyond the bland suspension of a moment (still and queer and empty) We sip our tea and take our toast drained of life and envy. A drunken angel at a harpsichord suspends upon a cigarette Some tattooed prayer of the Lord, some blank mystery as yet. An opal in a teardrop confers what grief would keep; Purpure absolution drops in gutters at your feet. Starlight in a candle reddens the intruding hand, Restless on the icy mantle where Life makes no demands.
Come with me, Love
Come with me, love, beside the oaken bole We'll watch the finch dance in the waterhole. Old blind men get their comeuppance Whenever a loving two become What's commonly called a one; Only unlovers sit on the fence. Come with me, love, behind the hill Where the geese hold court on the croquet field. Look at the terrible virginity of the snow! Whatever is the matter? We'll get the geese to scatter; Only the unmoved won't go where's to go. Come with me, love, uncomb your cares, Mother and father are no longer here. Take this white ribbon, take it and tie The wildness of your black hair, The wrongness of your despair: Only take my white crossed hands till I die. Come with me, love, into the sun, We'll dare what they daren't when we are one. Let the old man's finch and the old man's goose Run to ruin and devolve to havoc; We'll burn the prison and break the locks And like the moon in water let happiness loose.
Stars and sand assault the sight chafeing what should charm-- cloudy, angry-- a spirit's irritants-- until the kiln of God's great unmated hand closes close and fuses them opinionless as glass.
Writing at the Park
Square sunlight on a square green field Shows in a polluted puddle a perfect sky reflected: The ordered boskage of the public park blesses All those whose disordered hearts it caresses. Love, with her careless powers Marks or marrs our unable hours Until desertion's our proof of having been touched; Although the matter is little, the feeling is much. Crossing that out, I then passed A dead house with nothing to recommend it, Solitary and unstately on the grizzled grass And thought again about my sonnet: Love's a whitened house with thin ivy trim, Red roofing tiles almost caved in; Its got attic eyeots to let out the stale air Ninety long years had inheld with stale cares. Soon I topped a big crooked hill that tapered, And unsteadily almost drunk with the magnificent view Settled down sweating to my dark square of paper, Carefully writing while the sky was askew: Love, which soaks up all connotations, A paranoid obsessive of boozy inflection Will cringe at each hiss, puff at ovations, And in light looks divine heavy temptations. A garter snake having easefully transgressed My naked left ankle, I stood as I Xed out the rest. One quarter's still blank; I'll try one more time. Perhaps my tongue-tied Amour is a mime? Love, the anaconda banded to the brow Compresses all meditations into raw howls, Cancels all occupations, the well and the dour, And contracts imaginative maybe into definite now. All of the objects (the snakes, the sonnets) Distributed like rhymes in this Lover's Park Endure the warm unlacing of the afternoon yet And stay in stricter order until after dark When darkness grants us all all the dark wishes No acquaintance of daylight would ever wish us.
The Difference Is Less
"The neon fire Prometheus stole Shown here before us as natural In a painted campfire fuelled by laurels Says stealing is Art's only real school; Mimesis flames from Nature's manual An ignis fatuus that kills and fools." Museum explanations and the afternoon Presume the usual, the accustomed track, Drag us down to pre-history and myth And then obligingly back. "Before us both chameleon and sloth In the surrealist jungles of deceit Follow genome's and artist's plotted path, Blend inhabitant and habitat; So what could ever differ then, in pith, Between boar's snort and man's snit?" Among the crowded halls and windows Our tourguide of the Louvre Explicates Christs, perennial widows, the dice, Hung between anonymous thieves. "Since birth we're honed To art and to theft; To deceive to survive alone Is Nature's tricky gift; To get what's been gathered By others is thrift."
Art and Theft
If a thief gave you his friendship, would you take of it and feel it? Would you sit inside his patterned house among strangers' memorabilia And watch his tongue when he remarks on the lamp from Aunt Cecilia? The truth has always suffered, and the thief has always lied. By law or thief or money the truth is never paid. Raphael's Madonna, blithe upon the wall officiates at snooker; Surely those eyes, so sad, so full, so wise they'd spot emergent Christ Among all the convergent lice, surely they forgive the hand that took her. The priceless art and conversation conspire to do you good; You thrill that every turn of social talk might have a twisted end. He recalls your foibles lightly; lightly, he's your friend. So take the offset printed coaster that is offered obliquely; Let the politely proffered crumbcake sit center on the doilies-- And in his tepid eyes behind his tea see if you are his. The truth has always suffered, and the thief has always lied. By law or thief or money the truth is never paid. By valentine's the command comes down to pen two loving stanzas; You lean and stare and calmly crib them on a millionaire's cadenza: "Love is that which gives and gives and finds in taking, splendour."
Villanelle: Beware Chimeras
Pastiche of paradises once pursued, chimeras Simmer and shimmy, love's dancer desires. In an era of boredom they glare from the shelves. Our wanting all wanting by wanting consumes. Desire's substance is fire, and desire continues, A pastiche of paradises once pursued, chimeras. Miss Mississippi poses and pouts blue allure as We lust, Romeo baboons who drool for new Julias. In an era of boredom shes glare from the shelves. Kisses in a cave-dark hole we willfully dive in, Drowning and hoping for anxious love's prizes: Pastiche of paradises once pursued, chimeras. Don't walk to their whistle or wink at their mirrors: What's seen there's not seen, merely seen as. In an era of boredom they glare from the shelves. Fadeless as marshlights, they hate the actual stars. It's fine that they shine, but not where they lead us, These pastiches of paradises once pursued, these chimeras. In an era of boredom they glare from the shelves.
The Silent Woman
The silent woman in the church On nerves and vitriol does her work. Doilies of the crucifixion From warm young hands spread benediction. Beyond the garden, where interred Repose parental elders of the herd, A picket fence keeps neat within A few old sinners gone to Hell again. The silent woman in the church Tho' fourteen summers have blown away Hiked up her heavy velvet skirts Fourteen summers ago today. And love was in her dawning eyes And a wild slow dance in her step.... She turned a measure from where the graveyard lay Like a promise not yet kept.
One Million This Minute
You've aged me one million this minute, my dear. For you were my time before time had begun, Your approval my watchword, my moon and my sun. My cartelidged bones, once supple, now snap when I shiver; The boys on the block wear thick Santa beards, The pup that I kissed whelps broken-hipped in my hands; I see them grow agued, and myself grow unbrave, Full of hard wisdom and friends in the grave. The hourglass pours eons in my ancient eyes, I, who first saw you and leapt like a panther! Like fated black clockhands, together we dashed (At midnight my rest is murdered quietly). I, who was once as timeless as laughter And lived in quartz crystal; that crystal is smashed.
Perhaps my middle-aged spread, love, Is made of despair instead of Potato chips and beer. The refrigerator's cool porcelain leer Sighs and hums in weighty solace Nightlong, and leaves a light on in the palace Stocked with richest foods, assembled desires Anxious yet to stoke caloric fires That youth kept warm By muscle burn.
The Thing Itself
In any universal force or unifying vision An emptiness of intent inhabits, a blank of indecision. To try and grasp the whole of Man must blur individuation And see all wide variation One, innocent of division. Who can blame them for their blankness, or feel themselves assured That they have flossed Reality from the asterisked Obscure? Wherever truth lies it lies becalmed, Unmoved in its sutures by winter storms or squalls. We come into our knowing neither too early nor too late But just in a moment's glowing and take what we may take. If you don't, as I don't, know just what a thing is Sit silent, or politely ask the thing itself its business.
The Events Themselves
Happily at home amidst a blizzardy haphazard of papers dawn steeps the window with visionary promise for the entire apartment complex. I am barren as you are barren, in a world replete with objects indifferent to our crux; I am broken and unwise as you yourself are broken, and both unclear and nobody objects. Its always a trifle embarrassing to be caught in the act, to be alive isn't it? Coping with jaundice and child-proof tops, waking out of the same problematical nightmare at five as if sleep were the body's occasion for jeering at the brain, which imposes its ordinary articulate order fetishistically every day on the bombardment of senses selling us fictions while telling it all, reporting odors and heartthrobs with equal indifference. God bless the gods, apathetic executives of the irrational who are powerless without our laughable bodies to cast even a third-rate thrill- er, and make of our unable lives their inarticulate movies. Discursive stanzas look like they're hurrying to the nowhere-somewhere of a formal fountain's repetitive static whiteness. What is left to say, is there anything? Let love be the last letter of the penultimate law righting us rigidly as a strapping father full of laughter when like every incertain curious infant thither we totter and yaw. And yet, with all of that said (so much) and (conceivably) registered in heart and in head by habit each day is only a day at play.... A lesson in how dowdy light becomes slowly a whole room and the grateful green leather chair emerged awaits patiently by the window its daily burden like a remembered word its definition. Its in this way that we have died already died and come to this life, two civil persons talking together sanely, quietly, long-windedly as an aqueduct hums. The world is full of sane sunlight and responsible landscapes not too impossible for believable humans to accomplish their unremarkable heights or average depths and whose prayers resemble steps. But first a brief sleep, first order of business, then work (not too late) may commence: every man must darkly his own unconscious Olympus propitiate as when a mountain, unexpectedly on the horizon alone rediscovers, without notice or noise its monumental poise.
The Hydra of Days
The idle angling of a watersnake-- loquacious and lungless through yellowing waters faded, sulfuric of a hurried traveler's Chesapeake -- through tums of evolutionary time still saunters. Politicians, as limericks tell, are of a swift and similar species; unchanging agile evil vile a Nepalese prince with an Eton smile considers the cost of suicide the price of becoming a democracy. Pelestinian flags on fallen Faisel Husseini drape the dark Dome of the Rock while he's more leisurly laid beneath it. Mourners wail until their faces congeal to unfeatured unsculpted stone, blunted as snakes' in a pit. Chinese warships in a watery ring lazily braid to enclose the pale clarity and newsworthy brattle of independently little Taiwan. Would cobras or roses be roses or cobras if they could be persuaded to choose? Another day, another hour goes cold-soldered to the chain. State Street bagpipes and banners play old Joe Moakley to rest; dead as he'd lived, paraded, by cries and high casuistry followed, down to the crypt and the Beantown dirt he lies interred with the rest, another day snaked to the flow. "All change as they die," is the evolutionist's cry, "and all ways wander unlost toward the one wild Great Way. Each creature encircled beneath the infinite 'Ifs' of the sky is trapped in the hydra of days."
Memo for the Millennium
Muscular terror swipes at our skins with its professional ironblack hooks, Peers in at every evening window, flashes out of every book. Defined by what we fear, we each begin dawn within a mirror's hollow look. Terror's all eagerness and action-- a nightmare thing with wings; An Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal, one horror that glares and preens, Agitates all hearts like flippers, and thumps at the back of every scene. Before this lonesome sojourn launched in Body's leaky boat, Did we hesitate on the angled grass, touch toes beneath the moat? Did we dream of all the dreams of wanting That lifelong flock about us, circling and taunting? But here we are, and that's the main thing, hugging ourselves in shopping malls, Screeching at the top of the swing. Our lonely unaloneness should appall But is itself a kind of lovely; Or so I think the angels think, hovering abovely.
Origins & Ends
'Tis said our end is half-divine And our days leave but a broken track That moves, when it moves, Neither here nor there, But shuttles forth and back. I heard our origins are in the sky And we crawl in fallen estate, That when we stand And cry 'gainst God's plan We moan more than half-way mad. 'Tis rumored in our veins That sex is a wish ape-uncles had In a forgotten forest glade Evolutionary urge made glad And figleaf now forbade. I know my heart's an Argonaut And sails on waves of pain Toward adventure and to a land Evolution and God forgot But like a sleeping seed long has lain In Imagination's open hand.
Off the Coast: The Castaway
Our interim swimmer The flotsam of a dreamer Will drift and shrug on whatever log Drifts and shrugs along. Among warm fantasies of existence He'll pip himself a prince Or surmise a wisp a whip Coiling angrily at his hip, His own dark, androgynous Urges to nip and sharply shape And torture into consciousness Speech where a beast would gape. Forgetting in the momentarily kind Regard or design of a cumulus cloud And friendly D vitamin sunshine How a taut tiger might lie supine Between the shadow and the visible He considered that nature and nurture Had made him of all things the richer. The circumlocution of the clouds Said nothing to him; of this he was proud. He thought: to be awake but unaware, To not be subject to thought's despair Or consciousness' superstitious care That inscribes the history of the tribe Into every member's singular side -- a Rotary Club tattoo, the gestural Cool of a Crip or Blood's hand signal That had DNA for its original-- Is to give up or resign Your part in the human sublime, To abandon the spiral nadir Of accomplishment's stair To the deterioration of clumsy Time Dirtying suavity's shine. A barracuda acting as it was told Skirled to the surface, garish and bold. He thought thinking was almost all. He thought that since the fall From preconscious One Into the active energy of Become That History and all of her messes Devolved to individual "bless yous," And the scale that shows this depth Can be reeled off in a breath By any mammal whose consciousness Swims livelier than a fish. From a wet and worsted pocket, With an uncareful, watery shift, He brought a palmed mouth organ out. And he thought as he floated there Between ecstasy and despair Between the sweet green-glowing swells Of his mild Cape Hatteras hell That the shirring, Shelleyan lute Could be plucked only to confute The rare, the rightful argument That evolution in the docks presents: That obscurity obstinate and disguise Are designed by chance to make us wise And lift us by gimmicks to Eternity On whose verities we may spy. By the regularity of genital function By the pageant of reproduction We place opportune or Platonic kisses On wicked lips or wicked wishes And spurt our progeny toward Heaven's swoon, And like the tiger we sleep at noon.
Heavy, unforgivable dreams, despair, Hard breathing, the omnipresent air, Whistle beneath my brain a tribal tune Uncaught by inner ear since Stonehenge rune. Waking in a shuddered fever Unconscious of pattern or the weather, Ripped apart by an ambulance scream, Torn to storm-cloud crepe in dreams, The question presents itself undressed: What's happening? Where's Death? What's my cause, my case, my crux? Horror stirred to eloquence Returns the steady stare, Blatant or beady, that I did not dare. By failure of vision we unite Where all the candles refuse to light At the black bottom of a bowl or ditch Where every nerveless hand fumbles for the switch.
A Lighter Ballast
To balance a friendship's difficult. To give's difficult, to take's difficult, Difficult to offer the enduring cure To caustic inward hurt and to outward time Where nothing's ever certain and less is sure. One must always be willing to offer a sacrifice-- A clattering frag of the poor apportioned self let go, Give the altar fire a fist of flour and rice Thrown into the forward void of hope. An ego Can be a convenient casualty at three. A memory of wiped eyes deployed at four Can settle noon's uneasy moment, and by jettisoning restore A lighter ballast to trim ship and sail on. A calm cool hand on a vomiting neck is displaced By the necessary zero, placeholding what's gone. Jaded jokes traded over a toke and a drink, The topical hour tossed off in a walk That helps a mellow pair of humans to think-- All can be branded and bundled and bade fair farewell: Your cost of continuing's their going to Hell. Lose it and be happy at the loss, Pay it and be damned the cost. Friendships no less than civil societies Send out their draft notices to the soon-to-be-lost; Death's the price to maintain us at our ease. An accurate accounting is friendship's worst curse For, accurately speaking, however equit- Able in feeling, all friendships divide at The punctual inequality of a hearse. So joy as you may and addition be damned. Don't look to friends for your conclusions While you nod and hum at their confusions (As maybe they will nod and hum at yours) And in this charmed essential interchange Do not dream to esteem yourself the worse Because of angry antsy things either said or did (What dark horrors brightly shown, what honors hid). After the humiliation in the kitchen A friend will still do as friendship always bids: Exert persistent force for modest growth inexorably as lichen.
This quick collection saved my life.
May 20th -- June 10th 2001