Sunset's white surf
Below a slow burning sky
That cannot bear the darkness.
Dances mercury across the waves
To open up what is to what could be.
It's the kind of a day where everyone in the city looks like someone
And everything they are doing -- from eating sushi to tying balloons--
is just the amused moving of the universal mind,
And out of that forms vast conceptual structures to explain
existence through all of its facets,
A sea of patterns we can always love into coherence but as models
they collapse because they only refer back to me
Who doesn't exist.
I have no memories of reality
But of dreams the backlot set's intact,
still kodak lit:
A second-story rare Elysium Books,
Cocktails in neon at the Tic Toc Club,
Ballroom Dancing at the Empire Hotel,
Then a closet-sized candy store where happiness and meaning are unwrapped from jars --
This is where the thunder hits
And the stormcloud sunsets go to die.
Paradise Island, Bahamas
The Atlanteans return
On summer break
For the blue lights
And the white sand
And the palms still unconstrained
Like ancient breasts
The blacks of many colors
Keepers of its keys
Who stayed in the wake
Of their apocalypse
Point their rhyming fingers
At the illuminated towers
And tell of Judgment for the lack
Of any morality
The world is not just
This imagined diorama
Of the once and future empire
It is here in the living shadows
Of the palm leaves on stone
And in the cloudwoman's tears
That bring new life for the failures
Of free will made every moment
And in the notes
Of the breeze
Afraid to say
What it knows
There's no getting around this wall,
With its glittering codes
That lock out all souls from its sea-bed cities.
I strain and I cry, only to find
That I am the city, breathing.
The only way through: the blue liquid of truth
Drifting like ink to something alive.
The more airtight the explanation,
The more unassailable the fact,
The more wrong it is,
Because there's a power in it then
To be right, to sweep away
The pain and the wrong on this dark side
Of the world
With a clean beam
People turn to stone like coral too
Their faces remembered
And forms preserved,
But the force that was their living
Is still elusive,
The poison of the anemone, still,
Is seen as less than its ambrosia.
We are in pain.
We can't let go.
There must be something separate
To hold onto.
the poetfish glisten in such a way
One thinks that they are mirrors
Or something seen right through
But they are only large and thin
And swim with a certain sway.
Their inscrutable faces -- star eyes,
Rarefied frowns -- come alive in contempt,
Because they are seen
And because they are not.
All balance collapses: the green fields,
where doves shriek, and hyacinths seethe
and gaunt, tended trees ring with voices that call
Across the street, to stiff and brown grass
bushy like the sea, occasional cricket richochet,
some stray fast-food paper and gray plastic cups
Alive with the wind, and the dirt drinking up
impossible levels of decay. The earth now is human
while we've moved on, to crystal lines drawn
As far as horizons, electric blue, go
between earth and sky, reduced to pure charge
spreading one mind, like lights coming on in the night.
The wind is strong 'cause the sky can't keep up with the earth
For the furnace underground has just enough power
To dance with the sun, itself a mirror
Of crystaline darkness sparkling with love
So when you talk with a bird
Do it in your own words
So she'll know you through what you've learned
Not what you've heard
Just as you can understand this poem
Even though it won't yield to sense
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
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