Norwalk, where time goes to die,
Is an empty train station
Something the goldencool light,
If not the mind, understands.
What is actual
Is not what is real
The void fills with meaning
And is bent to my will.
My translation of Los suenos dialogados by Antonio Machado.
How in the high plains your figure
To me appears! ... My word evokes
Green meadow and barren plateau,
The brush in bloom, Cinderella Rock.
And with obedient memory, black oak
Springs to the hill, poplars grow down river,
The shepherd moves slowly up the slope;
A balcony shines in town: my own,
The teacher. See? Toward Aragon, distant,
The Moncayo range, pink and white ...
Watch the fire of that scarlet cloud,
And the star in the blue, wife.
Beyond the Duero, Santana Hill
Turns lavender in the evening silence.
Why, tell me, does my heart flee
To the high plains from this shore,
And in this land of mariners and farmers
I sigh for Castillian wastes?
Nobody chooses his love. Destiny brought me
One day to these grey clay spaces
Which drive away the cold snow falling
On the shadows of the dead oak trees.
From that one piece of Spain, high and rocky,
I bring you today, Guadalquivar flower,
A branch of rough rosemary.
My heart is where it was born
-- not to life, to love -- near the Duero...
The white wall and cypress erect!
The embers of a sunset, lady,
Broken off the brown thundercloud
Were painted on Cinderella Rock
Of Luene Hill resplendent at dawn.
A dawn that curdles ice-cold rock
Is astonishing and terrible to the traveler
But never to the lion fierce in clear day
Or the giant bear down the mountain gorge.
With the incense of love, I lit
The murky dream of hope and fear,
I go to the sea, to oblivion
--and not like how rock-soft night
Spins a shade round the planet.
Do not call me, because I cannot turn.
O solitude, my sole companion,
Oh muse of wonder, who gave my voice
The word I never asked for,
Answer my question: with whom am I speaking?
Away from the noisy masquerade
I enjoy my friendless sadness
With you, lady of the veiled face,
Always veiled to share words with me.
Today I think: this who is what I am
Is no longer my grave mystery, this face
Recreated in this intimate mirror
But the loving enigma of your voice.
Uncover your face, for I see your eye
Fixed on me like a diamond.
Leave the mind like a home that can't contain you
and the deepest meaning permeates the room
like an opening in heaven for a buddha
to hang a red watch off of your nose
that points you to your origins — to be restored
you have heavenly hands
and the void.
Take the whistling tea of the complaining heart
off the heat. Others are mirrors, you must let them go
beyond your karma, to freedom. We are already human
and becoming inconceivable, learning to be calm
before the grace where there is no gain,
beyond the subtle forms
to essences unfathomable.
We kicked them through the door with dusty words
— they forgot their body was on fire, and remembered,
through the effort of forgetting, their dew.
Down these deep ravines of jungle smoke
there's the green river where John Huston swam,
contemplating how the bananas bend with the water.
He sunbathed on these white slab rocks
in a white robe like the hierophant he was,
giving permission for the stories
to scream themselves out of the jungle.
This is where he ate, on a verandah with burnt-orange walls
eating lion souffle made by R-r-r-r-amon,
Jalisco's greatest chef, who he won in a poker bet,
or so he'd regale his guests, who'd endured horseflies and humidity,
with his avuncular tales of savagery,
of killing prostitutes with Ben Hecht back in the day,
of putting leeches on Humphrey Bogart while he slept;
all for the part, he'd imply in his aw-shucks mien,
for the artist's tricks are no good unless inscrutable.
This is where he worked, in a hard-backed mission chair
on an ancient Royal typewriter, where he turned
Heraclitus into garish pictures, and garish pictures back to art
while smoking a cigar, his one concession to shame,
channelling this jungle energy, of animal spirits
beyond all human comfort and control,
to create a kingdom he presided over
where there was nothing left but the will to live
in a world full of terror,
and whether he was courageous or weak or cruel doesn't matter,
for there was always a deeper terror, that we'd become so numb
to pain our lives would cease to matter.
This is the porch where Night of the Iguana was filmed,
where the air of Tennessee Williams still clings to the eaves,
and there's the bridge Liz crossed to get to Dick.
He walked along this beach, weighing each insanity
in the cool wind softly turning.
And this is where he slept, the bugs and sun for once shut out
by real palm blinds on windowless slats.
I lean in to hear the snoring,
and what would be but a tropical backdrop
becomes an actual place,
full of the lies he told, of Moulin Rouge and Judge Roy Bean,
Crazy Davy and Brigid O'Shaunessey.
The complete lack of sense
connects this unfathomable place
to his unaccountable art.
Buenas Noches Puerto Vallarta, born beautiful and corrupt,
as if resorts no longer need historical innocence.
His home is long demolished, the only access is by boat
to even an imagined river, no iguanas are left
who remember him, only a few confused cineastes
and some drunken locals who know he put them on the map
so they put up a statue, not along the pier
like the naked cowboy on the seahorse
or the mermaids chasing deer, but it is somewhere
down some shady avenue by the old river.
Restingwind in teacher's robes
So Heaven doesn't have to
At the lost ones' holy shapes
As they learn what needs release
Through the Western gates
Like a roses' scent
The wisdom eye
In a dualistic spiral
Asking "how can we ever lose the past?"
As it detaches
To a mist that seems as emptiness
The whipping tail of rain
Almost like words
The six dusts glisten
In the changing light
As if they never move
As if they do exist
Lifted from the fallen
Who left as sifted imprints
The mistakes at the beginning
Reformings of the formless
Like invisible knots untied
To feel the pain of no pain
So we know how suffering's bliss
One must not leave the island
to hear the waves of grief
waiting on the outside
to be healed
— so the rainbow rooster cries
like a pure slack-key guitar
to the lava people: lush black rocks
made love to by forever's new white
ocean, that honors every singular
with a flower
in the moment of merger,
the breakers touching home
then, just as insistent, receding,
desiring no desire
— so the awkward palms might say,
swaying in no direction but their own.
The grasses stretch their arms.
Long roots hang down like earth's raw nerves
from the giant empty heads above
in the koa, in the stone,
in emerald gold, blue cloud.
They seem to want a voice
from something that is lost,
not the red dirt river of life that takes
from place to place;
this endless wave of beauty wants to hear ... us,
just as endless
but blessed with the curse:
a sense for
The sound of rain on the page
as the children are washed away.
The white hibiscus like a sniffing bee.
By blue Vancouver's living clouds
A junky sleeps in brown wool shrouds
The city of hydraulic lifts
Holds up a falling sky
The poles connecting life now mark the grey
For love has found its way
And everyone's an Inuit
On this Autumn Equinox
With gem eyes looking
That is to say
Dry rain of sticks
on brown summer grass
puts the mind in its place
with the stones and acorns
more still than the grass
and nervous branches
without the dry leaf's tongue
like every other thing
for an unnatural connection
that will work so seamlessly
who knows it isn't real?
I tried to be mortal, really I did
But "the end" was never a reliable answer to any of my questions.
Love was just too endless, grief too immense.
When we held on to life we were clinging to much more:
A one-minute egg, the smell of fresh timothy,
Old magazines left on streets for the junk dealer,
Compassion for one's lover -- besides, death was always
What happened to others, like a Little League trophy
That changed not a thing but remained in the basement
For owner after owner, 'til when the house was torn down finally
It seemed something timeless, a variant of mercy,
With a persistent and meaningless glow all around it.
The door hit me on the way out
Like cactus at sunset as the sandbox turned to dust
And the puppeteer laughed,
At the thought of another fool
Like yours truly, as disposable as razors
But never nearly as sharp,
To grimace under her fingers
And call it a dance.
While the players writhe in pathos
At my poor, unfathomable fate,
The take back of the golden handshake,
My emotion is not hate, but crazy love,
That she thought enough of me to cut me off
Like an alkey at three lime-green gin philosophies
Before the madness set like concrete,
And she was sweet to kill the light
So I didn't have to see leftover faces nursing miseries
Their soft, unfeeling hands
Rehearsing their own ghost limb shake.
And I wish that she and I could meet
In a nicer place, where time has healed
Enough that together we could laugh
At the gift we concocted in limitless love
Instead of this head let loose from the bag at parting,
This waiting for the black hole our legs will soon fall into
As if we are illusion, not the trap doors each steps through.
No one is as pure as California light
And the cool become old in this wind
That carries the egret like a gaunt moth
On the venting of dry phantom tides.
The red cactus came here a long way to die
Where the half-alive stalks cry in unison
To leave this last russet of earth alone.
But what else can we touch when heaven's this close?
We're squeamish as the estuarine mud,
Silently making each day from clay
Til the pictures are framed and stories playacted
Like a fish that leaps without need of a bug.
The devil is only as evil as we are,
As wounded, as cursed -- his coyote chuckle
Echoes through the night a kind of kindness --
After the blows have landed, on what remains of our flesh,
All pretense of dreaming torn clean, all reasons
Not to love.
The clamoring herd moves like clouds past the stage
And an eerie quiet of light resumes
The candle now
still bearing light after war.
The peacefulness of flowering weeds
Draped along the waterline
The green that reaches through all grime
I see they're all not there now
To be seen
They're paintings of the train
That stays on rails
Its cargo is too fragile
To look within -
And Willow Auto Sales
Will do for now