Friday, July 21, 2017

In Victoria

Float homes, glass madhouses,
A folk duo in red caps who hop
At the end of their songs,
Canadian geese, finally at peace,
Gliding through galvanized steel
As the wind turns the maple leaves
To Theatre Alley, Orchids for Uma,
The Lee's Benevolent Association,
The Flying Otter bar.
Seagulls take over the sky
When the moon goes under.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Some Inner Passage Views

It's how peacefully white folds into black,
The abundance of lack
As the sun scatters living light over the waves
And the many dimensions arrive
And leave just as mysteriously,
Like mountains that offer glimpses of eternity
Before assuming the shapelessness of cloud.

It's an invitation to what never seems to come,
Just ice shrouds on pine islands, crystalline tree lines,
Fishing boats with hooks in pink half-light
That passes for sunrise here.
The mist sweeps by like powder to reveal what isn't there.
The smoke of a deeper war
Explodes in the cold distance.

Because we are curious, we can see
Until how we want the story to end
Leaves fingerprints on our eyes
And we go blind to possibility,
Tapping the stick of our will on the hard mystery
Of whether the illusion can be kind enough to be real
Or we ungracious enough to mind that it's not.

Snow negotiates the crags like a jagged, eternal smile
To snag whatever life it has left
From the sudden, inextricable fall
Off the hanging vapor that hugs the hills
Carved and torqued into divine curves that like the falls
Find new life, in the inner eye, the iridescent purples
Of what needs to exist but cannot.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Two Alaska Towns

Catch as Ketchikan Can
The prison nestled in the glacial cliffs
Where the hemlocks swallow the houses
And the mountains are swallowed by cloud.
They were so kind — their rounded eyes —
And glad as we were we were going.
Now the party begins.
You can hear the screaming from the harbor.

Skagway as a Destination
The Arctic Brotherhood and Red Man's Improvement Association,
Plum storefronts and red bumblebees,
All to celebrate the tragedy
Of gold panners flowing upstream
Like silver salmon to die.
Now the lure of tourist ore
Brings these pale green streams once more to life.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

City Afternoon, With Shadows

It was weird out, even for LA, no one talked,
For example, or if they did, it was drowned out
By traffic lights, air brakes, the omnipresent spycams,
And the laughter of ghost bums like fountains
That they could still taunt us for withholding coin.

And the people were as interchangeable as birds,
Hair, wardrobe, accessories cataloged, even the blue-haired
Pewter dolls, the birthday suits red-ribboned with tribal
Angel headdress wings, the hot mess messengers with orange pants
And pink suspenders and phosphorescent yellow dreads.

The new's no longer new, because it won't make one unique
In the homogeneity of diversity. Who sits cross-legged anymore
In the fountain, by the statue? Instead boys in circles spin a soccer ball
In its currents, while girls pose for pictures with their ice-cream cones
As if the fear of others is a holy obligation.

We have become those things that advertising shows up, we don't have
The colors, the spices, the life of pecuniary discontent, we want nothing
But to be part of that. The band of homeless brothers, in olive-drab
Tents, know what we can only surmise; that other people are crazy,
That's why you trust them with your lives.

There's no trust on the other side, with no belief in oneself to rely on,
That a penny in the cold would be more than enough. Instead the usual
Endless line at the modern art museum, never thinning it's cultivation
Of ennui, and the guy she's with is just a prop,
So she can unscrew wandering eyes

Like mine, who hopes for some relief from the inundation
Of humiliating information obsolescing all I seek, who hopes
Someone walks these streets knowing its Hallucination Beach,
Who knows there's nothing but sighs for sale
At the Ghost of Old Mexico Tile and Stone,

Who looks with love in his heart at the heartless, sees the purpose
In grace of every wannabe, as if it all turns real in his light, but no,
There's no room outside the dream anymore,
No one who can rescue the no one to save,
There's only an imagined alternative, me.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Odes by Hölderlin: Résumé

You too wanted something greater, but love forces
    All of us down, bent by a more powerful grief,
       But it does not straighten back
          In vain, our bow, from where it came.

Above or below! Holding sway in holy night,
    While the nascent day mute in its nature muses,
       Does justice rule one level
          Still of the crippled underworld?

This I discovered. For never would I know of
    The heavenly things, the all-abiding support
       That mortal masters possess,
          So steered the straight path warily.

Man verifies everything, say the celestials,
    That he, nourished powerfully, would be thankful
       For the learning, and know he’s
          Free, to go where he wants, to break.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lebenslauf

Größers wolltest auch du, aber die Liebe zwingt
   All uns nieder, das Leid beuget gewaltiger,
      Doch es kehret umsonst nicht
         Unser Bogen, woher er kommt.

Aufwärts oder hinab! herrschet in heilger Nacht,
   Wo die stumme Natur werdende Tage sinnt,
      Herrscht im schiefesten Orkus
         Nicht ein Grades, ein Recht noch auch?

Dies erfuhr ich. Denn nie, sterblichen Meistern gleich,
   Habt ihr Himmlischen, ihr Alleserhaltenden,
      Daß ich wüßte, mit Vorsicht
         Mich des ebenen Pfads geführt.

Alles prüfe der Mensch, sagen die Himmlischen,
   Daß er, kräftig genährt, danken für Alles lern',
      Und verstehe die Freiheit,
         Aufzubrechen, wohin er will.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Faith’s Food

The streets can send off sparks
from their limited compartments:
too much love —
one doesn’t know what to do with
the songbirds in the sculpture
of airplane parts
or the fountains that won’t stop gushing
or the blue dame with the cigarette
standing raptly in a book,
for these things step out of the boots
of immutable appearance
as something purer,
and grow with the wind
to guide one, riding it to a larger
sun, a sky less defined,
until it’s powerful enough
one can withstand at last
the notice
of the tortures of the mind,
how its invisible bile spills
like steam out of stacks
to waiting air —
the prison is everywhere,
it is what cannot give,
it is there to take on
all the gradations of fear
like a vampiric connoisseur
because fear is, after all,
what we create out of nothing,
not like this,
what is already there,
what offers me, as I stare
at the gleam in the palm tree,
what is still unknown: being,
how the cardboard cutouts of our lives
won’t be redeemed. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Odes by Hölderlin: Love

If you forget all your friends, if you revile
   All your own, O you grateful ones, all your poets,
      God forgives it, but honors
         Only the soul of the lovers.

For, tell me, where does human life live otherwise,
   Since all that we serve now is coaxed out of worry?
      That’s why God has walked carefree
         Over our heads for a long time.

Still, however cold and songless the year may be,
   At the appointed time, from out of a white field
      Green stalks ascend out of sprouts,
         Often a lonelier bird sings,

As the woods gradually stretch, as the river stirs,
   Already the milder midday air gently blows
      At the exquisite hour,
         Sign of a more beautiful time,

Which we still believe will arise, alone, humble
   Rising nobly and devoutly above the bronze,
      Over the untamed soil of
         Love, God's daughter, from it alone.

Be blessed, O be, heavenly plant, neatly kept
   For me in song, when you are nourished by the force
      Of ethereal nectar,
         And ripened in creation’s ray.

Rise and become the forest! A more enlivened,
   Full-flowered world! May the language of the lovers
      Be the language of the land,
         Its soul the sound of the people!

-----------------------------------------------------------------
Die Liebe

Wenn ihr Freunde vergeßt, wenn ihr die Euern all,
   O ihr Dankbaren, sie, euere Dichter schmäht,
      Gott vergeb' es, doch ehret
         Nur die Seele der Liebenden.

Denn o saget, wo lebt menschliches Leben sonst,
   Da die knechtische jetzt alles, die Sorge, zwingt?
      Darum wandelt der Gott auch
         Sorglos über dem Haupt uns längst.

Doch, wie immer das Jahr kalt und gesanglos ist
   Zur beschiedenen Zeit, aber aus weißem Feld
      Grüne Halme doch sprossen,
         Oft ein einsamer Vogel singt,

Wenn sich mählich der Wald dehnet, der Strom sich regt,
   Schon die mildere Luft leise von Mittag weht
      Zur erlesenen Stunde,
         So ein Zeichen der schönern Zeit,

Die wir glauben, erwächst einziggenügsam noch,
   Einzig edel und fromm über dem ehernen,
      Wilden Boden die Liebe,
         Gottes Tochter, von ihm allein.

Sei gesegnet, o sei, himmlische Pflanze, mir
   Mit Gesange gepflegt, wenn des ätherischen
      Nektars Kräfte dich nähren,
         Und der schöpfrische Strahl dich reift.

Wachs und werde zum Wald! eine beseeltere,
   Vollentblühende Welt! Sprache der Liebenden
      Sei die Sprache des Landes,
         Ihre Seele der Laut des Volks!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Odes by Hölderlin: Home

Cross the silent river the mariner sweeps,
   Glad to be home, with his haul, from far islands;
      If I were to return to my home,
         Heartbreak would be the bulk of my cargo.

You beloved shore, who raised me once, could you
   Slake all love’s sufferings, could you promise me,
      Forests of my youth, if I return,
         Serenity again, as once before?

At the cool brook, where I gamboled in the waves,
   On the riverbank, where I saw the ships glide,
      You familiar mountains; I am there,
         Home I adored, who looked after me once

Safe in the confines of my mother’s hearth, where
   Affectionate brothers and sisters embraced;
      I’d welcome you and you’d surround me,
         And in that bond, my heart would be mended,

You ever-faithful ones! But I know, I know,
   Love’s sufferings don’t heal for me so soon, no
      Bosom can console with lullabies,
         For they are only the songs mortals sing.

For the gods who lend us the heavenly fire,
   Bestow on us holy suffering as well,
      Thus this residence. I seem a son
         Of the earth; made to love, made to suffer.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Die Heimat

Froh kehrt der Schiffer heim an den stillen Strom,
   Von Inseln fernher, wenn er geerntet hat;
      So käm' auch ich zur Heimat, hätt ich
         Güter so viele, wie Leid, geerntet.

Ihr teuern Ufer, die mich erzogen einst,
   Stillt ihr der Liebe Leiden, versprecht ihr mir,
      Ihr Wälder meiner Jugend, wenn ich
         Komme, die Ruhe noch einmal wieder?

Am kühlen Bache, wo ich der Wellen Spiel,
   Am Strome, wo ich gleiten die Schiffe sah,
      Dort bin ich bald; euch traute Berge,
         Die mich behüteten einst, der Heimat

Verehrte sichre Grenzen, der Mutter Haus
   Und liebender Geschwister Umarmungen
      Begrüß' ich bald und ihr umschließt mich,
         Daß, wie in Banden, das Herz mir heile,

Ihr treugebliebnen! aber ich weiß, ich weiß,
   Der Liebe Leid, dies heilet so bald mir nicht,
      Dies singt kein Wiegensang, den tröstend
         Sterbliche singen, mir aus dem Busen.

Denn sie, die uns das himmlische Feuer leihn,
   Die Götter schenken heiliges Leid uns auch,
      Drum bleibe dies. Ein Sohn der Erde
         Schein' ich; zu lieben gemacht, zu leiden.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Path

Birds should be heard and not seen
— Their voices become then so pure —
The sound of the trees
Breaking through
Walls that the sun just inflames:

Snail shine on the leaves,
Mesquite beans hanging down to be taken,
Cactus hide that seems to dissolve
And the ice plant that seems to glow from within.

It’s that time of the day when
Brown grasses are the emperors of the world,
When the boughs display angelic realms,
When the lowest are the most filled with light

And the dirt holds a promise
In the silence of the dust
Floating to meet
Our pith and vapor,
We stars.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Outside the Passport Office

You'd never know from looking at the line
What's in those many faces,
Words, of course, in many languages,
But the import is the same whether one
       understands them or not:

They are lost, as they fidget and tighten
       their clothes for effect.
They sit immobile, stranded inside their minds,
As if there's nothing they can do,
As if the wait is worse than dying.

And nothing comes out to speak
Of what this is, or who they are,
And what they wait for doesn't save them.

The palo verde trees nearby, however,
Ruffle their yellow leaves,
The branches sway like a plea to the Lord —
A consecrating voice reverberates
That no one seems to notice.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Odes by Hölderlin: The Neckar

In your valleys my heart awakened to life,
   Your waves they surrounded me swirling in play,
      All the lovely hills awoke to you
         Pilgrim, there’s not one that’s foreign to me.

On their peaks, where the airs of heaven released
   The pain of enslavement I felt; and the waves
      Poured happiness as if from a cup,
         Silver glittering blue along the vale.

The springs of the mountain hurried down to you,
   Along with my heart as you took us with you,
      To the silent lord the Rhine, to his
         Towns downstream and his frolicsome islands.

I still consider the world beautiful, and
   The eye flees, yearning for the lures of the earth,
      For golden Paktolos, for Smyrna’s
         Shore, for Ilion's forest. I want to

Land along the mute path at Sunium too,
   And ask for your pillars, O Olympian!
      There’s only the winds and the ages
         In the rubble of the Athenians

And your gods bury you too in these temples,
   For you have stood lonely for so long, O pride
      Of the world, that is no more. Her fair
         Ionian islands, where the sea air

Cools the hot shores and whispers through the forests
   Of laurel, where the sun brings warmth to the vines,
      Oh, where in golden autumn the sighs
         Of the poor metamorphose into song,

When the pomegranate ripens, in green night
   The bitter orange glints, the resin drips from
      The mastic tree, and timpani and
         Cymbal sound out the labyrinthine dance.

That islands you might one day bring me to my
   Guardian god; but I must give faith to sense
      For even my Neckar there was not
         With its lovely pastures and grassy shores.

----------------------------------------------------------------------
Der Neckar

In deinen Tälern wachte mein Herz mir auf
   Zum Leben, deine Wellen umspielten mich,
      Und all der holden Hügel, die dich
         Wanderer! kennen, ist keiner fremd mir.

Auf ihren Gipfeln löste des Himmels Luft
   Mir oft der Knechtschaft Schmerzen; und aus dem Tal,
      Wie Leben aus dem Freudebecher,
         Glänzte die bläuliche Silberwelle.

Der Berge Quellen eilten hinab zu dir,
   Mit ihnen auch mein Herz und du nahmst uns mit,
      Zum stillerhabnen Rhein, zu seinen
         Städten hinunter und lustgen Inseln.

Noch dünkt die Welt mir schön, und das Aug entflieht
   Verlangend nach den Reizen der Erde mir,
      Zum goldenen Paktol, zu Smyrnas
         Ufer, zu Ilions Wald. Auch möcht ich

Bei Sunium oft landen, den stummen Pfad
   Nach deinen Säulen fragen, Olympion!
      Noch eh der Sturmwind und das Alter
         Hin in den Schutt der Athenertempel

Und ihrer Gottesbilder auch dich begräbt,
   Denn lang schon einsam stehst du, o Stolz der Welt,
      Die nicht mehr ist. Und o ihr schönen
         Inseln Ioniens! wo die Meerluft

Die heißen Ufer kühlt und den Lorbeerwald
   Durchsäuselt, wenn die Sonne den Weinstock wärmt,
      Ach! wo ein goldner Herbst dem armen
         Volk in Gesänge die Seufzer wandelt,

Wenn sein Granatbaum reift, wenn aus grüner Nacht
   Die Pomeranze blinkt, und der Mastixbaum
      Von Harze träuft und Pauk und Cymbel
         Zum labyrinthischen Tanze klingen.

Zu euch, ihr Inseln! bringt mich vielleicht, zu euch
   Mein Schutzgott einst; doch weicht mir aus treuem Sinn
      Auch da mein Neckar nicht mit seinen
         Lieblichen Wiesen und Uferweiden.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Odes by Hölderlin: The Gods

Secret ethereal: You stay beautiful!
    The soul to me is in pain, and ennobled
       By its bravery before your rays,
          Helios! Chest often puffed in disgust,

You good gods! He who does not know you is poor.
    The strife never rests in him with the rough breast,
       And night is his world, where no joy thrives
          And there’s never any singing to him.

Only you, with your eternal youth, nourish,
    In the hearts that love you, the children’s spirit,
       And never let in the distress and
          Madness the genius spends his days nursing.

------------------------------------------------------------------
Die Götter

Du stiller Aether! immer bewahrst du schön
   Die Seele mir im Schmerz, und es adelt sich
      Zur Tapferkeit vor deinen Strahlen,
         Helios! oft die empörte Brust mir.

Ihr guten Götter! arm ist, wer euch nicht kennt,
   Im rohen Busen ruhet der Zwist ihm nie,
      Und Nacht ist ihm die Welt und keine
         Freude gedeihet und kein Gesang ihm.

Nur ihr, mit eurer ewigen Jugend, nährt
   In Herzen, die euch lieben, den Kindersinn,
      Und laßt in Sorgen und in Irren
         Nimmer den Genius sich vertrauern.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Fathersday Poem

Fathers suffer for the impossible,
What can't be heard or said,
What can't be learned or taught,
What won't be held or held back ...

Just a straight line to be walked
With all that stuff on the side of the road
Given only a nod,

The truth reduced to direction
After all the advice has been allowed
To be a lie

For the sake of harmony,
In the cause of learning,
From the hope that all suffering in silence
Will never be revealed,
As the pain must end with someone

Although that end,
Like the stain left on the shore after
The pebbles have skittered away,
Like the notes that echo after
The music has stopped playing,
Like the summer light after
The giant sun has set,
Stays.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Odes by Hölderlin: Heidelberg

I’ve loved you for a long time, and would desire now
   To call you mother, and give you an artless song,
      Most beautiful town in the
         Fatherland, that far I can see,

As the bird of the forest flies over the peaks
   And swings across the glittering river past you.
     The bridge is strong and simple.
         The people and carriages whirr.

As if sent by the gods, while I paused on the bridge,
   The enchantment enthralled, because I passed over;
      All the way to the mountains
         The distance seemed to tantalize,

And the young man, the river, flowed to the lowlands,
   Sadly, like the heart, if too beautiful itself,
      Will lovingly disappear,
         Throw itself to the floods of time.

Wellsprings you had for him, had the evanescent
   Entrusted, the cool shadows and the creamy shores,
      All to him, and her figure
         Came trembling out of the ripples.

But heavy in the valley hung the gigantic
   Castle, well-versed in destiny, on the low ground
      And ground down by the weather;
         But the ever-present sun cast

Her rejuvenating light over this ancient
    Monument, and the ivy greened more vividly;
       And friendly forests whispered
         Past the ghost of its condition.

The shrubs stayed low, blooming peaceful in the valley
   Where, reclining over the hill, or along the
      Shore, your roads go lighthearted 
          Below the redolent gardens.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Heidelberg

Lange lieb' ich dich schon, möchte dich, mir zur Lust,
   Mutter nennen, und dir schenken ein kunstlos Lied,
      Du, der Vaterlandsstädte
         Ländlichschönste, so viel ich sah.

Wie der Vogel des Walds über die Gipfel fliegt,
   Schwingt sich über den Strom, wo er vorbei dir glänzt,
      Leicht und kräftig die Brücke,
         Die von Wagen und Menschen tönt.

Wie von Göttern gesandt, fesselt' ein Zauber einst
   Auf die Brücke mich an, da ich vorüber ging,
      Und herein in die Berge
         Mir die reizende Ferne schien,

Und der Jüngling, der Strom, fort in die Ebne zog,
   Traurigfroh, wie das Herz, wenn es, sich selbst zu schön,
      Liebend unterzugehen,
         In die Fluten der Zeit sich wirft.

Quellen hattest du ihm, hattest dem Flüchtigen
   Kühle Schatten geschenkt, und die Gestade sahn
      All' ihm nach, und es bebte
         Aus den Wellen ihr lieblich Bild.

Aber schwer in das Tal hing die gigantische,
   Schicksalskundige Burg nieder bis auf den Grund,
      Von den Wettern zerrissen;
         Doch die ewige Sonne goß

Ihr verjüngendes Licht über das alternde
   Riesenbild, und umher grünte lebendiger
      Efeu; freundliche Wälder
         Rauschten über die Burg herab.

Sträuche blühten herab, bis wo im heitern Tal,
   An den Hügel gelehnt, oder dem Ufer hold,
      Deine fröhlichen Gassen
        Unter duftenden Gärten ruhn.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

That Rare In-the-World Feeling

All this time I wanted to connect, but
       There was no connection, except
              What was already inside: silent.

I worked so hard to bolt myself on,
       But the threads kept on popping
               And I never seemed to notice.

Perhaps there should be a reckoning, for good intentions,
       For wanting what others appeared to have,
               For the gesture of trying to care,

But there was too much real in all that illusion,
       Falsity holds so little pull,
               Not like the eyes finding all I am

And making me feel, for the moment, loved,
       Even as the hollows of my own eyes, shining out,
               Have taken what love I'd had from my sight

As if it was something stolen, what I
       Failed to give, and could never know,
               The thing I desire the most.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Odes by Hölderlin: Rousseau

How finite it is, the day in which we live.
   You came and were astonished, and it’s evening
      Already, so sleep, where the distant
         Infinite drifts across the peoples' years.

And many men can oversee their own time,
   A god shows him to the open, but you stand
      Longingly on the shore, annoying,
         A shadow, never able to love them,

And that, that which you called for, what you promised,
   Where are the new ones, now you’re in a friend’s hand,
      Where are they, that you once heard approach
         And made, in a clear and lonely voice, be?

It is toneless, poor man, in that hall of yours,
   And you wander incoherently, like the
      Unentombed, and seek peace and no one
         Knows how to point out the way to the wise.

Be still, now, be satisfied! The tree grows out
   Of the local soil, but the branches will drop
      The loving ones, all the youthful ones,
         And he will hang in a vast grief his head.

The abundance of life, the infinite that
   Dawns around him, and he never takes hold of
      Warms in him, works in him, lives in him
         Until the fruit of him now is swollen.

You have lived! And also you, and also you.
   The distant sun delights your head, and as it
      Radiates from the more beautiful
         Age, the messengers will locate your heart.

Have you perceived them, understood the language
   Of the strangers, assayed her soul? To the one
       Who yearns, a sign is enough, and signs   
         Are from ancient times the language of gods.

And wonderful, as if from the beginning,
   The human spirit becoming and working,
      Having already learned the way of life,

He knows at the first sign, already finished,
   And flies, the keen spirit, like a thundering
      Eagle, prophesying his gods
         Coming forth up ahead,

------------------------------------------------------------------
Rousseau

Wie eng begrenzt ist unsere Tageszeit.
   Du warst und sahst und stauntest, schon Abend ists,
      Nun schlafe, wo unendlich ferne
         Ziehen vorüber der Völker Jahre.

Und mancher siehet über die eigne Zeit,
   Ihm zeigt ein Gott ins Freie, doch sehnend stehst
      Am Ufer du, ein Ärgernis den
         Deinen, ein Schatten, und liebst sie nimmer,

Und jene, die du nennst, die Verheißenen,
   Wo sind die Neuen, daß du an Freundeshand
      Erwarmst, wo nahn sie, daß du einmal,
         Einsame Rede, vernehmlich seiest?

Klanglos ists, armer Mann, in der Halle dir,
   Und gleich den Unbegrabenen, irrest du
      Unstät und suchest Ruh und niemand
         Weiß den beschiedenen Weg zu weisen.

Sei denn zufrieden! der Baum entwächst
   Dem heimatlichen Boden, aber es sinken ihm
      Die liebenden, die jugendlichen
         Arme, und trauernd neigt er sein Haupt.

Des Lebens Überfluß, das Unendliche,
   Das um ihn und dämmert, er faßt es nie.
      Doch lebts in ihm und gegenwärtig,
         Wärmend und wirkend, die Frucht entquillt ihm.

Du hast gelebt! auch dir, auch dir
   Erfreuet die ferne Sonne dein Haupt,
      Und Strahlen aus der schönern Zeit. Es
         Haben die Boten dein Herz gefunden.

Vernommen hast du sie, verstanden die Sprache der Fremdlinge,
   Gedeutet ihre Seele! Dem Sehnenden war
      Der Wink genug, und Winke sind
         Von alters her die Sprache der Götter.

Und wunderbar, als hätte von Anbeginn
   Des Menschen Geist das Werden und Wirken all,
      Des Lebens Weise schon erfahren,

Kennt er im ersten Zeichen Vollendetes schon,
   Und fliegt, der kühne Geist, wie Adler den
      Gewittern, weissagend seinen
         Kommenden Göttern voraus,

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Quandary

Here's a shiny black notebook
       for all your dreamtime thoughts
Of how you must subdue the world
       to be an equal,
Using the flames of the stars
       to cast your light.

In this corner, you, in the other, everything else,
       how you manage to parry and feint
Even if the images you box are shadows
       and the cheers are for someone else.
Still, you carve yourself in the book of heroes,
       though the face and name are not yours,

It is only the others, needing their mirrors
       of a fool trying to do in the sun,
The way we are the same without even knowing,
       cursed with having to be the only one.
The voice that comes to you now from a distance,
       instead of leading you home, sounds like

All the voices that throb in your head
      vying to be the one voice
That speaks for all humanity, safely asleep
      and alone. There is no other sound
Than one's breathing, though the wind
      and a beautiful sight always take it away.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Memories of an Empty Bed

There is no Help Wanted sign in this window
But I jaunt through the door, saying "where do I begin?"

I push the truth to prove me wrong on lucky citizens
Backed with yada yada data and names as talismans,

But no souls are harmed, in the being endured
And enduring, when hope leaves lips, and worse, returns,

And my life is lived, as if on stage,
Looks of pathos as replacement for applause.

To get closer to the vapor of another's eyes
Is the evasion, as shadows move away from trees.

How could I care? If it wasn't for loneliness
What would I do with my life?


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Odes by Hölderlin: To The Germans

Don’t ridicule the child, if the still childish
    On a wooden horse fancies he’s resplendent,
       O you good ones! We too are
           Scant in action if not in thought.

But does it come, like a ray out of clouds,
    From thoughts, perhaps, the act, cerebral and ripe?
        Pursue the fruit, in thickets
           Dark sheet, is the writing silent?

And the silence in the people, is it the
    Fete before the feast? The fear, proclaiming God?
        O take me then, you dear ones,
          That I atone for blasphemy.

For too long, too long I’ve erred, like laity
     In the shaping spirit of the workshop here,
        I only see what blossoms,
           What he thinks, I do not perceive.

And to speculate is sweet, but also a
     Sorrow, I’ve lived long enough inside mortals
        Without understanding love,
           Disbelieving, but always moved,

The constant work to be ever more loving,
     To bring souls closer, smiling at the mortal,
        When I am afraid, of life
           Ripeness emerging from hollows.

Creation’s spark, O when, our people’s genius,
     When you come forth whole, soul of the Fatherland,
        That I will bend down more low,
           That the quietest string itself

Falls silent when I’m before you, that I am
     Ashamed, a flower of the night, before you
        Heavenly day, when you end
           With joy, where formerly I mourned,

Whenever our cities fill, bright and open
     And awake, with the immaculate fire
        And mountains, country mountains,
           To the German are the muses,

As once magnificent Pindos, Helicon
     And Parnassus shone, throughout the native land
        Golden heaven, the Open,
           Explicit metaphysical joy.

Well-being is confined by the limits of
     Our lifetimes, we can see and count our own years,
        But the years of the peoples,
           How can a mortal eye see them?

If the soul is also over your own time
     Where you linger, in longing, swaying with grief,
        Then you’ll be on the cold shores
           With what’s yours and never know them,

And the future too, where there are promised ones,
     Where do you see them, when you have a friend's hand?
         You hold something warm again
             And can’t discern a distinct soul?      

Soundless, it is in the hall, from long ago,
     Wretched prophet, with you, longing for your eye
        That is closed as you slumber
           Unlamented, without a name.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

An die Deutschen

Spottet nimmer des Kinds, wenn noch das alberne
   Auf dem Rosse von Holz herrlich und viel sich dünkt,
      O ihr Guten! auch wir sind
         Tatenarm und gedankenvoll!

Aber kommt, wie der Strahl aus dem Gewölke kommt,
   Aus Gedanken vielleicht, geistig und reif die Tat?
      Folgt die Frucht, wie des Haines
         Dunklem Blatte, der stillen Schrift?

Und das Schweigen im Volk, ist es die Feier schon
   Vor dem Feste? die Furcht, welche den Gott ansagt?
      O dann nimmt mich, ihr Lieben!
         Daß ich büße die Lästerung.

Schon zu lange, zu lang irr ich, dem Laien gleich,
   In des bildenden Geists werdender Werkstatt hier,
      Nur was blühet, erkenn ich,
         Was er sinnet, erkenn ich nicht.

Und zu ahnen ist süß, aber ein Leiden auch,
   Und schon Jahre genug leb ich in sterblicher
      Unverständiger Liebe
         Zweifelnd, immer bewegt vor ihm,

Der das stetige Werk immer aus liebender
   Seele näher mir bringt, lächelnd dem Sterblichen,
      Wo ich zage, des Lebens
         Reine Tiefe zu Reife bringt.

Schöpferischer, o wann, Genius unsers Volks,
   Wann erscheinest du ganz, Seele des Vaterlands,
      Daß ich tiefer mich beuge,
         Daß die leiseste Saite selbst

Mir verstumme vor dir, daß ich beschämt,
   Eine Blume der Nacht, himmlischer Tag, vor dir
      Enden möge mit Freuden,
         Wenn sie alle, mit denen ich

Vormals trauerte, wenn unsere Städte nun
   Hell und offen und wach, reineren Feuers voll
      Und die Berge des deutschen
         Landes Berge der Musen sind,

Wie die herrlichen einst, Pindos und Helikon,
   Und Parnassos, und rings unter des Vaterlands
      Goldnem Himmel die freie,
         Klare, geistige Freude glänzt.

Wohl ist enge begrenzt unsere Lebenszeit,
   Unserer Jahre Zahl sehen und zählen wir,
      Doch die Jahre der Völker,
         Sah ein sterbliches Auge sie?

Wenn die Seele dir auch über die eigne Zeit
   Sich, die sehnende, schwingt, trauernd verweilest du
      Dann am kalten Gestade
         Bei den Deinen und kennst sie nie,

Und die Künftigen auch, sie, die Verheißenen,
   Wo, wo siehest du sie, daß du an Freundeshand
      Einmal wieder erwarmest,
         Einer Seele vernehmlich seist?

Klanglos, ists in der Halle längst,
   Armer Seher! bei dir, sehnend verlischt dein Aug
      Und du schlummerst hinunter
         Ohne Namen und unbeweint.



TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: Damn that's a fine poem.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Odes by Hölderlin: Song of the Germans

O holy heart of peoples, O Fatherland!
   Suffering place, like the silent mother earth,
      And unrecognized place, when it’s yours,
         For its depths are known best to foreigners!

They reap the conception, the spirit of you,
   They like to pick the grape, but they sneer at you,
      Vine without shape, at how you stagger
         Wildly about the dregs along the ground.

You land of high and most austere genius!
   You land of love! Though I am already yours,
      Often I cry, angrily, how you
         Stupidly deny your own soul always.

Though you didn’t hide all your beauties from me,
   For often I stood overlooking the green,
      The wide garden exalted in yours
         And saw you revealed on a bright mountain.

I went to your currents and imagined you,
   While the tones as timid as the nightingale
      On silent pastures sang, and the wave
         Was still, and the dawning shore was quiet.

On the banks I saw the cities blossoming,
   The lofty ones, where the diligent workshop
      Was silent, where your sun of science
         Illumines the artist’s grim indulgence.

Do you know Minerva's children? She chose the
   First olive tree for her own; do you know the
      Athenian? She’s still alive, still
        Rules the soul, the musing, silent in men,

When Plato's pious garden is no longer,
   The old river has turned green and the poor man
      Plows the ashes of heroes, and the
         Night bird shyly mourns atop her pillar.

O holy woods! O Attica! If she struck
   You too with her terrible radiance, and
      In a flash of haste enlivened you
         Would the flames give birth to the near aether?

And yet genius wanders, as does the spring, from
   Country to country. And we? Of our young men
     Is there one who does not keep secret
         His punishment, a riddle in his breast?

Thank the German women! They have us enshrined
   To the genial spirit of the idols,
     And they repair each day the evil
         Snarls to bring peace, tame and straight, again.

Where now are the poets, to whom God gave song,
   Like those of old, full of joy and piety,
      The visionary, where are ours? The
         Cold and the bold, the incorruptible!

Now! Be welcomed as a noble, Fatherland,
   With a new-found name, ripest fruit of the times!
      You are the last and the first of all
         Muses, Urania, I welcome you!

Still ashamed and still silent, you contemplate
   A new and joyous work, your testimony
      To the singular, like you, that is
         Born of love and goodness, just as you, are —

Where is your Delos, where your Olympia,
   So we may find ourselves at the highest feast? 
      But how the son guesses, what was yours,
         Immortal, prepared for a long, long time?

------------------------------------------------------------------
Gesang des Deutschen

O heilig Herz der Völker, o Vaterland!
   Allduldend, gleich der schweigenden Mutter Erd,
      Und allverkannt, wenn schon aus deiner
         Tiefe die Fremden ihr Bestes haben!

Sie ernten den Gedanken, den Geist von dir,
   Sie pflücken gern die Traube, doch höhnen sie
      Dich, ungestalte Rebe! daß du
         Schwankend den Boden und wild umirrest.

Du Land des hohen ernsteren Genius!
   Du Land der Liebe! bin ich der deine schon,
      Oft zürnt ich weinend, daß du immer
         Blöde die eigene Seele leugnest.

Doch magst du manches Schöne nicht bergen mir,
   Oft stand ich überschauend das holde Grün,
      Den weiten Garten hoch in deinen
         Lüften auf hellem Gebirg und sah dich.

An deinen Strömen ging ich und dachte dich,
   Indes die Töne schüchtern die Nachtigall
      Auf schwanker Weide sang, und still auf
         Dämmerndem Grunde die Welle weilte.

Und an den Ufern sah ich die Städte blühn,
   Die Edlen, wo der Fleiß in der Werkstatt schweigt,
      Die Wissenschaft, wo deine Sonne
         Milde dem Künstler zum Ernste leuchtet.

Kennst du Minervas Kinder? sie wählten sich
   Den Ölbaum früh zum Lieblinge; kennst du sie?
      Noch lebt, noch waltet der Athener
         Seele, die sinnende, still bei Menschen,

Wenn Platons frommer Garten auch schon nicht mehr
   Am alten Strome grünt und der dürftge Mann
      Die Heldenasche pflügt, und scheu der
         Vogel der Nacht auf der Säule trauert.

O heilger Wald! o Attika! traf Er doch
   Mit seinem furchtbarn Strahle dich auch, so bald,
      Und eilten sie, die dich belebt, die
         Flammen entbunden zum Aether über?

Doch, wie der Frühling, wandelt der Genius
   Von Land zu Land. Und wir? ist denn Einer auch
      Von unsern Jünglingen, der nicht ein
         Ahnden, ein Rätsel der Brust, verschwiege?

Den deutschen Frauen danket! sie haben uns
   Der Götterbilder freundlichen Geist bewahrt,
      Und täglich sühnt der holde klare
         Friede das böse Gewirre wieder.

Wo sind jetzt Dichter, denen der Gott es gab,
   Wie unsern Alten, freudig und fromm zu sein,
      Wo Weise, wie die unsre sind? die
         Kalten und Kühnen, die Unbestechbarn!

Nun! sei gegrüßt in deinem Adel, mein Vaterland,
   Mit neuem Namen, reifeste Frucht der Zeit!
      Du letzte und du erste aller
         Musen, Urania, sei gegrüßt mir!

Noch säumst und schweigst du, sinnest ein freudig Werk,
   Das von dir zeuge, sinnest ein neu Gebild,
      Das einzig, wie du selber, das aus
         Liebe geboren und gut, wie du, sei -

Wo ist dein Delos, wo dein Olympia,
   Daß wir uns alle finden am höchsten Fest? -
      Doch wie errät der Sohn, was du den
          Deinen, Unsterbliche, längst bereitest.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sunday at Mother's

A blue '59 Citroen,
As rustic as a tractor on an endless hay field,
Glows redolent in the grocery parking lot
With Parisian dreams of existential teens
And the hairpin escapes of the rich and dangerous —
A classic car, one may say, in a world where
Distinction narrows like the late afternoon,
Something, perhaps, to aspire to ...

Until the owner, baggy pants, supplements clutched
In hand, opens its creaking door —
Dutch Masters cigars fill the ashtray,
5150 bags fill the floor;
It's a wonder it even drives, as much as
He's alive, with that look
Of complete despair.

And so the eye betrays again,
Sides with what is lost and unrecoverable —
There's no safety in this world,
Only pathos in what's become of all we knew,
The prerequisite for faith:
No possible solution.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Hands on Old Instruments

Sitar gourd and accordion lungs
Sing, if you let them,
A song of love
From the notes that are freed
To the woodsmoke of a home,
Remembering themselves
Under fingers
And beckoning others
To create in dream
What was real once
From other lovers
Studious before the silence,
For the ghosts,
If that is what they are,
Tell what is true
In the false hardness of objects,
The distance of eyes,
They say your desire
Is not imagined,
Only incomplete,
Lacking only the crypt to hold
All the love you give.
They wait, elusive, for you to
Find this silence
Past the clamor of voices
Scorned,
What left in the air
Bent tones, crying sounds.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Party Lines

At the Noir Bar
They barter condolences
Like arsonists spread straw,
To shatter like crystal
To the surface of the floor.

The message is unscrambled
From the invisible waves
Each to his own illusion,
Safe.

Is there waste? Chaos? Or just
Solitude extending itself
To no place?

Truth shares Thunderbird with bums,
Acts like nothing matters,
No need to justify what needs no proof,
A curio to reach for
In the golden light
Of the store,

Where every kind of crazy
Is worshipped and abhorred
But eventually we agree
For the good of the party
To be redeemed
By what we don't understand,
What others say we are,
What they see.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Loneliness in Music City

Unholy rolling of predator drones:
Every citizen dressed and marching
To the center from every direction
In a hockey uniform

Past the true and deserted churches
And the walking neon guitars
Where the John the Baptist wanna-be’s
Can’t lift their heads to see the dream

Of cowboy boot blonde, when realized,
As the opposite of their inauthentic asses,
Just a machine extracting sentiment
With a right to wave its non-existent flag

As much as any tourist, scaling the high
And mighty without the slightest touch of fear.
Those who lurk here, however, oversee
The debauchery, weighing heavy as the river air.

Better that than the weight of holding all
That refuses to be preserved,
Sentiments of the lost, wounded and dead
Lovers who never saw themselves in the needle’s eye,

Only the accents of an other;
How strangers can be kind to those with trunks
And how the home that asks for nothing
Asks too much.

They kept buzzing through the night
— Like steel guitars, those drones,
Chasing something real or foreign,
Not overheated or jejeune,

Mere souls, on ice, to be sold
To the most rebellious yell,
The strictest catechism
That leaves all flocks behind.

I have walked the sordid sidewalks,
Heard the grate of each sweet whine,
Seen the faces make their way
Across the stricken avenues

And felt the inexorable flow
Go always against the crystal
Of the unimaginable
Sacredness of every individual,

And I have voiced alone
What the wind won’t allow to be kept,
Some cries of annihilation
Of the self in all that confronts it,

What cannot show its face
Or speak of what it is without a “you.”
But the wind makes a ghost of every town
Gusting life from the death of soft, warm lights —

A daring to dream of something different,
Something larger, something nearer,
Somehow realer, than the spectres
Down all the streets you know,

Who left us here long ago,
Before we knew their names.
They didn’t have the strength
To say goodbye.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May Days

1.
On Hopeless Street the purple trees
wave like radar turning

The masters of what should be
will never interfere, in this sun,
with what is — the metal sheen
too clean — the purple trees
too distant  — and the people blind
to the gridlines that hold in orbits
dreams

Indulgences are bartered by old men
in wide straw hats:
dental work, insurance, bonds for bail ...

2.
Shoes clap,
what needs to be understood
is in their sound.
It echoes away.
Too much compassion.

3.
Another world is churning away
I can feel almost its heat
As I imagine I know the words you speak
And you hear the heart I beat.

4.
On Pelican Rock a stillness we can barely dream of
Even the rocks swirl in violent movement
The golds hold such terrible truths
Kelp hung like curtains in dissolving falls

What's released with the wave eludes our capture
Only the crisp frisson crash of white
crowns crushed — eclat  —
Into lines of force that bloom,
like our heartbreaks in endless recursion
Like the danger is play for our unpeeling.

The cliffside castles  — once dream homes  —
now are part of a baroque outcropping
that fills you as far as you can look
with the splendor of the remote,
giving as much as you can yield
to what protects you,
the undisclosed.

On the rock's edge
purple flowers
facing the resolute ocean
without dimension or name,
but speaking to us — all ears —
as to rocks.

5.
The offerings of love — flags
in trees — fall away — late
springtime sadness — as if
the love itself could somehow
die.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Man in the Cafeteria

The fichus tree grew large,
Larger than it was,
Encouraged by the roots we cut
And the branches we severed.

It became a giant in our eyes.
We made more of its shade
Than of the sky,
And more of its size
Than of the nests it provided,

So much more that, when it had
Crowded out our houses
And taken all our light
We were so displeased it hadn't grown more,
That it hadn't yet conquered the planet.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Sunset at Johnny Rockets

As multiple heavens send their rays
Down through thick-necked cloud
A bearded soul with seashell robes
Wails at how unjust they dance
Upon this glistening floor
Bereft except for separate things
Moving in mute force
How they refuse to lose their harmony
To all our whistling prods
As if we are that lonely girl
Demanding more than one
Fragmentary color
Of helium on a string at supper.

Sprayday Epiphany

The sky is obscured as man is obscured
              by veils of exhalation ash
That makes the morning details smear
              like watercolor grays
But the sky projects a holy tint
              so man can know the truth
And the few who see the poisoned skies
              can maybe see god too.
And the rest who don't believe in eyes 
              or the power of mind or god
Are rewarded with another morning 
              inexplicably without rain.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Cancerian

A giant coin
The moon
Bathes the faces
In pathos

But we'll survive
The light vacuumed away
To what nature
Does not abhor

But constantly raises
A dimmer switch
Like a child afraid it will miss in the dark
The things that cannot exist

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Rooster 4

You reap what you shuffle
And play the hand you're felt,
But the skies still stare at you
With all you cannot do
Yet so too does the lady next to you
Who only appears to dismiss all you say
Before she goes back to the sunset on her book.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Rooster 3

Papa Wembe
brought light to the space without others,
who'd already taken the zero percentage of you.
It's a small step from killing a mosquito
to eating a cheeseburger;
the planet that provides becomes your own,
to collect darkness like rainwater
as the sunlight slides away.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Rooster 2

The seashells came out from the rain
Not from the flute player
Still they are one and the same
Like toads and mountainsides.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Rooster 1

Spawning ocelots
For example
Is as clear as diamonds to some
And to others as deeply cut
As the flies in an old Mazeroski
Horsehide glove.

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Finest Leaf Clothespins Can Hold

Isaac Asimov
On a perfect earth
Would live out his ambition
To listen to the trains
In his newsstand by the subway track
Instead of seeing all his dreams go unfulfilled
Like some incoherent poet
Who, having captured the world in a net,
Knows it can't be saved
Or thrown back.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Rumors of Second-Hand Smoke

It's not soul-suckery but a yearning
For beauty
That takes down all that's good
From the trees

Some say the almost true
Is the low-hanging fruit
But I know we only feel the love
With the world on fire

The homeless trumpeter
We never see
Plays "Millard Fillmore Days"
Like reveille

And I become the cormorant
Wary of the shot
The crimp across the pond
Between the man and song

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Solstice at Chavez and Chinatown

There are clearings in the grey --
Brilliant mountain gold --
Moments when I'm clear
Of definition,
When it seems that there is nothing
With more power than that flower
That's surrendered to the fence,
When it seems that I can let
The all of myself you hold
Freely pass
Like rocks under water
And see it's you, not me
I've kept inside.

But it darkens again, the grey,
And the audience turns
Back round at me
Waiting for something authentic,
Though they don't understand the words
And the dance moves are never allowed;
Being real is somehow ... entertaining.

It is black now on the stage
But the lights in the sky glisten
As I sense the power I have always had
To be wrong,
To make the world correct me.