Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Happiness and a Broken Arm

Everyone takes what they need
In this place without sanction,
Where discomfort's like breathing
And conflict is as common as rain.

Nothing works and nothing fits,
Still we persist in smiling,
In trying to be admired
Or, failing that, appearing admirable.

Joy comes from the sun, love's free in our veins,
So sometimes it is hard to raise our hands and say
There is no meaning here, we are alone in this crowd,
And even the smallest pleasure has an itchy catch.

We try so hard to make this thing bear a light
Of recognition of us in its eyes. It seems to flicker
Only to tumble back like gears that would move
If only we were better, righter, more sure,

So our new gears spin, more reasons applied to unreason,
To salve with savage comfort a sense, at least, that we
Created this morass of ill will and sickness
As something for us sinners to enjoy.

So we struggle til we get some mechanical task right,
Try to be patient as the place explodes with rage and stupidity,
Write out our hopes for a peace we have lost already.
What else can we do? 

The heaven of nothing needs the echo
Of an empty ball bouncing through it:
Things to do, tempers to manage, thoughts to suppress.
It's called believing in oneself.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Post-Apocalypse Storm

Orlando, Florida

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.

Plato's Retreating Shadows

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
(Laughing anyway)

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
Too clearly

Saturday, June 27, 2015

In the Ancient Kingdom of Exuma

I.
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.

II.
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
Of light.

III.
People turn to stone like coral too
Their faces remembered
And forms preserved,
But the force that was their living
Is still elusive,
Unforgiven.

IV.
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.

V.
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.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Why Plants in Nature Always Resemble Old Horror Movies

Life amid the dead
Both delicate
Purple
Unfolding to a meadow
Where every farm girl walks at dusk
White petals billowing
The air of gothic melodrama
Where crows wings turn blood red
And only seem alive in light.

Then sunset flares its spectral aura
To signify the ending of this world.
Sight cannot contain the seen
Like the crow's croak there's so much hidden
That we carefully agreed not to see:
This thing we feel,
What we call nothing.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Delmore

The ghosts were so kind
To let me create them
As if I, not they, were real.

Still they became
Dim shapes at altar lights
Not things to be seen in themselves

—Too much pain in between,
That gift of a further ghost
Who claims it is all in my head,
This madness.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sunset in Commerce

Lady Liquor stiffs and tagged Til Death Tattoos
Then back to Slauson and the pits of hell

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Howl. Again.

For Rusty Simpson

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, again,
         quivering faithless naked,
drugging themselves through the strep throat streets at early light
         dawn for a Muhlys peach cobbler fix,
wearing hipster doofus clown shoes burning at the sole
         for the starry Domino Sugar sign in the confection of night,
who excessive with poverty and speech sat in slavemaster chairs
         smoking second-hand shake in ghost apartments fed by
         stolen electricity contemplating bad poems until they vomited,
who fried their minds in the library and saw the look of sanity
         in the security guard angel who escorted them back to the street,
who passed by Poe's grave and the birthplace of the Babe on the way
         to law school every day with a retainer of cool and a backpack
         of rocks,
who were expelled from the academies for the sanity of shooting
         hoops with urban youth instead of calling out in class
         the professor's fouls,
who souffléd in high dives to give their sloe-eyed artist girlfriends
         reprieve from windowless dayjobs in Calvert office towers,
whose connections got busted by the sound of their inhalers
         in a farm house in Westminster holding a half a ton of weed,
who smoked formaldehyde with Hell-Beings in old skipper's quarters
         or drank the devil's holy waters in St. Casimir's Catholic Church
         where the High Polish accents were like Latin,
who looked for dreams and drugs and nightmares and fucks in every
         lamppost from Lovegrove to Howard Street,
incomparable alleys of cobblestone and wrought iron the mind leaping
         toward poles of barber and vine, the motionless world
         where time stopped like a Delta 88 in a soda jerk
         store fountain with a Sarsparilla Jubilee
so the vampires could taste the lips on the straw, and the spirits
         hum in amplifiers across tarbaby roofs guitars
         of graveyard Indians unstrung through strung-out fingers
         every mad and merry melody ever not allowed to be played
         so the ears of those imprisoned could still escape,
who couldn't fantasize away the cinnamon bun epoxy haze
         of afternoon except by thinking they were mad
         as the translucent light in lun-atic Moonie eyes
         or the bum who sang like the Bee Gees going
         uh-huh-huh uh-huh-huh at an octave heard by dogs,
who watched the rise and set of neon Chinese restaurant lights
         while smoking Old Golds, Chesterfields and other defunct brands
         and spent burnt-out afternoons chewed out by Abe Sherman
         for reading literature in a newsstand reserved for war,
who talked continuously about the reality of their fantasies,
         to save the world or make the film or get the girl or find
         the job was all the same as good as done,
a lost platoon of kept and lonely men too good to bathe or change
         but not too proud to brag or beg for a nocturnal dope transmission
         or an early morning light,
coughing up demon mothers and absent fathers and all the tortures
         of growing up spoiled and rotten in a late and god-forsaken
         empire of ennui,
remembering every detail of every record, film or TV show
         of the last 100 years and what it meant not just to them
         but to the world at large that never knew its tragic beauty,
who vanished in day trips of copious Gunpowder bonghits
         only to reappear at a barn town pizzeria
         slumming like a Long Island celebrity,
who wandered downtown midnights desolate except for the mkultra
         bankers preparing the final margin call on the world
         by squeezing squeegie kids which nobody saw coming,
who swam with the tortoises in the pools of old estates
         to protect the breasts of their Elysium mermaid girlfriends
         from the moon,
who fished with the locals at the chromium stacks, and shrieked
         with glee as their guinea pigs roamed through their hair,
who walked the cocaine streets where Reagan the great black father
         dealt children china white and told us there was no pokey he was
         sorry to say only gumby,
who knew the doom would be invisible to even rastafari
         revolutionaries trying to get a fix on snowy UHF antennas
         for the white preacher special sauce that gave them hope
         they'd someday lose a chess game with the world and gain
         a quarter for a cup of joe in lieu of a soul,
who heard Baltimore breathe in all its supernatural being
         and knew that they were only bearings turning
         without a care in the swirl,
who played with nymphs and sprites in the ancient castle ruins
         along the Jones Falls Expressway: Chessie, London Fog,
         Kirk & Stieff, the Drydock Company,
who gave up promising careers to wear a monocle and cape
        and applied for a job as a chimney sweep,
who saw My Fair Lady replayed with Baldymer accents on the
        hearse trucks of Arabber horses where Negros all in black
        sold flowers,
who shot croquet in row house lawns saying "more Parks sausages
        mom" hoping some tabs of acid would make them as mad
        as the average lunchpail stiff, who was never mad at all
        only angry as hell that the Colts had left town and with them
        the jobs,
who cartwheeled the hills of Patterson Park and drank shots of scotch 
        at the Full Moon Saloon where the gloved piano player 
        accepted gratefully their half-eaten hoagie,
who found their carnival fun in the Sparrows Pointe of the Mind,
        where they first fell in love with pig-iron reality,
who knocked down fears at Butts & Bettie's with the Butcher's Hill 
        knitting widow Lumbee Indian hosts,
who eyed their girlfriends in every Fells Point bar from the Wharf Rat
        to Bertha's Mussels, praying they wouldn't be picked up again
        by the next loser to claim Jimmy Buffett stole his songs,
who shared stolen tequila in styrofoam cups with British artists
        on shore leave while the real ones said "you're so beautiful"
        to all the black girls on Light Street,
who inspired imprisoned dogs to escape by writing instructions
        in doves blood ink from Grandma's Candle Shop,
who fed the dead in the form of seagulls still like Jesus on a hill
        in the sky, wrote graffiti as purdy and purple as the sunrise,
        and hitched a ride from a trucker named Grizzly
        in the middle of the Fort McHenry tunnel,
who sent out their poems, songs, paintings, photos and prayers
        in little paper boats to light up in the toxic phosphorescent night,
who embarrassed the Communist Party by playing the blues too loud
        in their HQ on Farmer's Quilting Bee Day, 
who tried to move some of the art from the catacombs underground
        to the half-empty galleries uptown but ended up giving it away
        to homeless families they met in lieu of food,
who climbed atop the arches over the Maryland Avenue Bridge
        this actually happened and walked away still unknown
        and forgotten into the winter ghosts of Bolton Hill not even
        one night free from spanging,
who populated civilization's sunsets complete with ashen
        gargoyle pigeons, perfect London storefronts with only
        antique lead inside, fountains where they talked up their lust
        for heroin guitar and called it love, gay laundromats
        where lovers worked things out pale porcelain mornings,
who talked about the Rolling Stones in tones once used for Olympians
        while eating egg fu yung in an all-night, all-black front
        for organized crime in Pen Lucy,
who talked of Shelley to dope dealers, Blake to homeless vets,
        and Kierkegaard to crack whores one last dick away from death,
who had to twist the facts to match the truth, and punch up their
        anecdotes of shame with doom,
who knew the answer to any confusion is sharing fluids,
who cut through the niggerthick night like a knife on a ripened slab
       of concrete cheese at a rat-trap rent party casing every form-
       stoned block of the city oblivious to the looks or bricks or shots
       or scams that bloomed past every light,
who counted the red black blue white pink orange grey row homes
       in Mondawmen, not a one of them left with windows or doors
       just tags from ancient lifetimes in a roaring sunset hearth,
who squatted in Lauraville and robbed abandoned armories and
       declared total war on all art that didn't come from the streets,
who visited the lopsided people of Druid Heights and Locust Point,
       touring from Cross Keys to Sandtown with a singular sincerity
       of purpose, to catalog the great and neglected countries of the
       globe, like Pigtown, Gay Street, Otterbein, Loch Raven, Broening
       Manor, Barre Circle, Montebello, Ridgeley's Delight,
who broke bread with the in-bred illbillies of Dickeyville and shared
       Thunderbird in the Cherry Hill projects for kicks,
who believed like Gatsby in the Domino Sugar light, the orgiastic void
       that minute by minute year by year distends and releases borne
       like a skipjack ceaselessly back to the red, red clay,
who said "tomorrow we will wear new disguises, chase new skirted
       chimeras from West Virginia down the bad wolf streets
       of Highlandtown, dream of being still, in hell, on a white-
       washed stoop before a screen of the most primitive America
       imaginable, something commensurate with our desire to
       escape the impossible, the impregnable holder of our seed,"
who knew every sailor who ever breezed through the rotting
       Ferry Bar ports, from the mermaid-striken, siren-deafened
       slave merchant to the boilerman ink-scarred with celluloid
       ghosts on tankers dealing in death by chemicals,
       pharmaceuticals and chrome,
who worked at a factory that made white,
who kept frogs legs as the only thing in their refrigerators for
       months at a time,
who wove baskets at Sheppard Pratt, where the hushing of their
       voices made them insane, where the mad diagnosed the mad
       while the real mad ran always free, where the lithium dispensed
       wouldn't turn her into a man or make his father come back home,
       where they escaped from after finally learning that life itself
       was a dream but they couldn't wake up anyway,
who were lobotomized by cocktail talk, electroshocked by party
       girls, made comatose waiting for a bus on Greenmount Avenue,
       concussed by relentless Baltimore logic from Mosher to
       Overlea, and it was all a small price to pay to not have to see
       newspapers, magazines, movies or TV,
who despite that wrote unpublishable 200-page letters to the editor
       that were more real than a decade's worth of investigative
       thought piece editorials in the New York Times,
who gave thanks as they were handed keys to executive rubber
       rooms by fairies and told the secrets of post-Einsteinian
       physics by trolls,
who lived in an alternative reality where they jammed at CBGBs,
       The Blue Note, Leeds, all the finest Vicksburg chicken shacks,
       Vienna parlors (on the weekends), only to face the horrors
       of having to leave the apartment and go to 7-11
       for cigarettes and be exposed to Kenny G,
who drove until the tires blew in El Diablo Texas
       when a lonely waif and her siren call beckoned the exiles
       of the artificial soul to soap operas on other shores,
who, in pursuit of that girl, moved to Bejing to sell pharmaceuticals,
       Venice to learn how a gentleman panhandles, the Deep South
       to find a guru, Colorado to get some sunshine honestly,
only to return to the weirdness like a prodigal son, as earlier they'd
       come from Boston or Buffalo, DC or the Eastern Shore,
       for the peace made here with hopelessness, for the purity
       of the squalor, for how divinely indifferent a city of victims
       could be, and how comforting it was to embrace the void
       with spirits who kept the lights on in what would have
       otherwise been cold and unfurnished rooms,
and, now, Rusty, with the last girl escaped from her cage, the last dime
       bag handed to the wind in exchange for a glitter-tailed ball,
       the last three-days-to-quit notice nailed like all your theses
       on your brownstone door, the last makeshift attempt to keep
       some old machine in your apartment running like another
       coat-hanger dropped to the floor, the last faked painting finally
       turned to the wall, and even Bob Marley says he's too old
       to play golf witch you no more —
ah, Rusty, as long as you were real, I could believe the ghosts were
       angels, munificent with you as their pimp, and the past as our
       hope, but the dirt turns to crime as night burns off to grey, and
       the real spits you out when you no more believe in it, when
       unworthiness stops your dream dead in mid-gleam,
but that's just the cold fusion of life formed in reaction, with the
       black seed of not-me worn like a diamond to be adored,
and eventually every two-bit Whitman thinks his sampler is immortal,
       that the future always knows just how the dissonance will
       resolve, but kind hindsight wonders instead why so much energy
       was expended, why such need for learning, why could an entire
       generation not be children, just now taught how to plant a fig tree
       or play an accordion.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Robert's Trip to Hell

The Armageddon countdown has begun in Salton Sea City.
With great cobalt beauty from a distance
The roads ring bravely with promise:
Yacht Club Drive, Riviera Road, Sea Elf Way
But post-apocalyptic road rage warrior hulks lie smoking
Across the saltflat ruins to the beach
Where thermometer-necked chicken locals
Have turned their collective backs on the shore
Like the millions of desiccated fish lying there
With frying pan hands. One looked like Sonny Bono
As it lifted its head up slightly, looked at me menacingly
And croaked 'I got you babe' in a raspy whisper as I passed by.

Exploded meth lab houses - dozens of them - down every road,
Every single one twisted and mangled with fury,
Seethe malevolence towards one's person, life, limb, psyche
In layers upon layers of lurid satanic graffiti
Like 'property is robbery' and 'poetry is dead',
Leavened only by a bombed-out, stand-alone chimney
Painted into a red demon with horns.
A man makes his living here encasing scorpions in amber
As if the alluvium that washes this land clean
Has room at the end for the free.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Desolation at the Santa Ana Station

The helper bees and their quiet talk
Of balustrades and train delays
Just makes the distance more acute.
The wring of rubbing hands.

No solace for the man who lost his time
And pride, for though he's always wrong
He still can see a woman deeply
So still she feels compassion for him.

Even a gentle breeze would jar the quantum field
Like a library where the homelessness can sleep.

And then it's Spanish warm
And intergalactic with mystery
As if there's still some place
The past will be allowed to exist.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Masque of the Sandtown Death

No silver platitudinal bromo-seltzer bromide bullets,
sanctiphonious acrimoneys or summary elocutions,
each word a regular Rorschach blur
of hip-hop call-to-action subliminals
tested for your protection at an all-nite diner focus group
where they brought in the King's airtight coffee alibi
just before a breakthrough
can destroy, Prospero, what's already lost
or make the ghost limbs of Sandtown grow back.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Arc of the Sky

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.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Fool for Forms Tries Again

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

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Look of the Invisible

All we get of the real
Is this cornyellow field
Wild mustard become its own world
A world rich enough to help us forget
All the other worlds here in this spot
More beautiful than we can perceive
What the yellow we see grieves

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A Walk in the Park After a Movie

At the point in the reeds where the crows stop complaining
And the branches are free of imposed design
So can move in the air where no one is looking
And be more than art, more than light, more than mind

Only there can the past be at peace, be at rest
No longer thinking that it's still in the present
For the way things appear has no hold on the future
The sun rubs the detail and no one's afraid

Friday, April 3, 2015

Los Angeles Image

A graffiti-scarred tree
          knuckles in the dirt
Knows every peaceless word
          repeated by the fountain
Yet offers itself like a 12-year-old boy
          holds a butterfly for a girl

Saying "I am not alive
          the concrete and the shadow
Those are what is real
          with real flames trapped inside
You know that this is true
          by how strong and strange they are"

I wish it was as easy
          to break through the illusion
As David was discovered
          by Michaelangelo in a stone

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Beyond the Electrical Lines

The weeds are talking, symphonic in the breeze
Each blossom says “love me” to the sky and to the bees
And wave hello to we who don’t know
How our smiles come in sunglow to please.

These orange hairs may in themselves well be something
But the way they shake, along the spearmint tree
Says “What powers you, dear sun, powers me.”

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Hot Day

Wind blew the limp, illiterate hair
But we are as cool as Abraham
Lincoln drinking
Mountain Dew.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Afternoon Smoke

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.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Places

Selected phrases from the letters of a famous poet discerning eyes will recognize.

In the deep contoured armchair
In the strawberry fields
In the moist grey twilight
In the tractor shed
In the shrill drain pipe
In the chromium pool
In the corrupted way kids have of pronouncing things
In the fairy-tale world of Mary Poppins and these United States
In the lantern-lit world of nodding Mandarins hung over the curtain
          rod to dry
In the shadow of the lives of others
In the rainy space of an hour
In the ladies room of the Eastern Yacht Club
In the classified section of the Christian Science Monitor
In the gorgeous errors of flesh
In the stage props of alleyways
In the arms of a blind optimism with breasts full of champagne
          nipples and breasts made of caviar
In the terror of her slow sorrow
In the blanched light of wrongness
In the world of orange lepers and shin beef
In the iced drinkable air
In the tongues of those we patronize
In the stillness of waiting for guests
In the Sargasso of my imagination
In the steel-toothed jaws of my schedule
In the world to be afraid of
In the snow-smashed funicular railway
In the condemned house next door
In the jargon of decorum
In the shower forcing herself to enjoy the hot water on her body
          because she hated his guts
In the grave he barely paid for
In the turquoise-painted deck chairs along the Promenade des
          Anglais
In the temporary sun of his ruthless force
In the measure of our self-surrender
In the wet, black Sunday streets of Camden Town
In the city sunk in predawn slumber
In the cold mean spring

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Ballad of Bill and Cheryl

My life poeticized via a spoof on a spoof, in this case last week's SNL country song video The Wishing Boot.

Was an unchill winter in Cali-forn-i-ay
Both children had fathers who should be put away
They drove the kid's mother off the wits-end cliff
One sparked up with laughter and one lit up a spliff
And just as the logic of slitting their throats
Hit me I saw from the fog like a boat

It was the wishing boot
It was a wishing boot
Like a Mexican faux-leather suit
A wishing boot
It was a wishing boot
I buckled it down to not do'it

I had ditched my belongings and hitched to the west
On a fat old dream they said would beat in my chest
But the duke kept on coming with no washing it down
A month of no rain and they put me down
To beg on the street like every Hollywood clown
When one day it shone from the lost and the found

It was a wishing boot
A wishing boot
My dream as a new recruit
A wishing boot
It was a wishing boot
Got me a job and a suit

The wishing boot will tell us what's real from not
As long as we don't hold to what we have got
A corn-cob pipe full of rainbow party favors
As long as you're not hooked on one of the 33 and a half flavors

Trust the wishing boot
The wishing boot
It gave me the girl and the loot
The wishing boot
Great magic boot
Sunset gold hillsides of fruit...

I used to feed the animals hungry at dawn
But one by one they got out flew away and gone
Until just one chicken, who was called by Chickadee
Was left in the barn for me to feed
A bigger place for us I could not steal or beg
Until that chicken started laying them golden eggs

Was a wishing bird
A wishing bird
The whole darn time the bird had been the word
A wishing bird
Was there to serve
And finally our dream house occurred 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Dreams in Dialogue

My translation of Los suenos dialogados by Antonio Machado.

I.
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.

II.
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!

III.
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.

IV.
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.

I'm dreaming paths

My translation of "Yo voy soñando caminos" by Antonio Machado

I'm dreaming paths
in the afternoon.
The hills
gold, green pines,
dust-pulsing oak...
Where does this road go?
I'm singing, traveler
along the way ...
— the afternoon's collapsing.
"At the heart there is
a cactus spike of passion;
One day I managed to pull it out:
Now I don't feel the heart."

And all the land a moment
stays, mute and gloomy,
meditating. Wind sounds
in poplars by the river.

The afternoon is mostly dark;
and the serpentine path
weakly whitens,
blurs and disappears.

My singing returns to lament:
"Sharp golden spike,
who you might feel
in a heart breached."

Monday, December 22, 2014

Lisa in Arcadia

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.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Prompt for Poetry

As the wet desert drips with December pinks,
The metaphors that lurk in its fields
Wait also inside the words that describe,
As inaccessible part of the real.

It seems like a dare, to know I am more
Than a chaser of painterly fancies
Fantasized from explainable facades
Conveniently alien and dumb.

How frightened I am they're on the inside,
That I'm older, far wiser than the role
I play, a purveyor of broken clouds,
That I move as the blues into darkness,

That these wet tumbleweeds and silt curves of earth
Want privileged views of their deeper currents.
So much is asked in this glow of pathos.
It's on the leaves, in the breeze, in the light

Like something vast, forever escaping,
As if I must make a home for it, I,
Who can't take myself in, except in sleep
And rare nights of pity, when I'm hungry.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Another Hospital Visit

How happy can I be
if those sad eyes
yield such sympathy?

Her world seems so like mine
I can barely tell she's thrown
her life away,

And I can feel we're victims both
of a cold, unlistening void
that offers no compassion for mistakes,

just the same nightmare over and over,
the one about the bear under the bed
that never did go away.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Mexican Romance

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.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Cruise Crackers


I.
Desert lips
reach into Long Beach
and the Queen Mary marooned
while seagulls gloat

II.
Pre-Raphaelites before swine,
the Mad Hatter, Gatsby and Atlas
who holds rococo grapes to column tops
as the floating buffet escapes from time
on the strictest of clocks

III.
A happy song about revenge killing
in the late afternoon sun over tea
on the high seas

IV.
A blue rubber flower bathing cap
makes the infant wearing it smile
like there's joy in growing out of the earth as separate

V.
The women stare over the rails
like Roman mermaids with implied swords,
stretching bikini'd torsos
while a ginger girl holds a black and white ice cream cone
for all girls

VI.
The houses fall up the hills in Mexico,
where they distill themselves into colors to sell
but you cannot see the moustache in the mirrors by the beaches
or hear the shiny trumpets in the Latin of the parrots

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Impressions of Decadent Sea

I.
Morning comes like tiger stripes
     to flap upon the swells like gulls
          in agate clouds below the deck
               atop a seething sea,
Where phantom fins in weedy skeins
     rope through the tinsel sheen
          as if on mystery feeding.

The sea protects its fishes,
     makes every gleam of sun seem jumping life
          to shimmer in mid-air like rising stars
               as if this heaven isn't really there.
Then the ocean lightens
     from cloud openings of blue, to express,
          without meaning to, something of the secret

Of these restless peaks, that drive
     like ordered armies, how they
          send out tribal lines as one
               long irritation of current
Across the deep blue monochrome
     forever torn by white and wrinkled black
          like slackened fabric pulled forever tight.


II.
The waves smooth out by afternoon
     from sunlight's white steam iron,
          wool brushed to burnished pearl
               that swirls with impossibility,
That the water never stops its churn
     in honor of our mind
          listing in the golden light, side to side.

But the blue sky lets the blue sea
     darken back to mystery:
          it's but the play on water brows of light
               that makes us speculate there's something there;
It could be veins of coal,
     obsidian sun sharpened
          for all we know, as we move along alone.

From our pirate masque we call the clouds
     macabre across the Baja,
          and in between the thing we call the void,
               a kind of mirror on the unseen.
All the ocean has of us
     is that light shining back
          as a momentary hope.


III.
The blue grows bolder as it slips
     across the dying sun, become a dome,
          a dish, a hovering saucer
               before her last light twinkles above water
And sky spreads hues of purple-rose
     and peach-skin lavender
          while the sea below stays blue and undisturbed

Save its endless agitation
     as it drifts to neither yield nor connect
          just persist, overcoming
               what no longer has a bearing
Or a path. We cross what has no voice
     or face, just sound and sight bereft
          just like our longing.

Man-made lamp on inky whirl,
     fish scales rise against the spiral,
          all we want imposed on ocean
               as imposture;
All the implications are a circle
     banging round our brains
          as all we have.


IV.
The morning shows compassion
     as the sea serves pewter kindness
          like runny eggs and grapefruit
               with a joyous cherry top.
The blue is calm, like sails pulled on
     by a flock of invisible wings
          to what we'd consider a port-of-call,

A form for plastic ocean
     in the yoke strap of the human
          seeking purpose, finding meaning
               in emotion instant come
Like beads of sun off of the swells
     that, though impossible to know, we intone
          a kind of prayer to, of actual accord,

Of hidden lace to make a gift
     we can't unwrap, imprisoned
          by the self that scintillates
               in an undulating garbage bag...
But kindness comes, somehow, again,
     when a dolphin breaks the plane
          to children squealing.


V.
No succor, just transcendence;
     brain strands pulse in milky plumes,
          continually collide
               without consequence,
Just shears of sea expressing,
     as the weight bears languidly away,
          rainbow spray from white-capped frosting.

A rolling boil of blue, adjusting,
     sends would-be shapes back to the void,
          all the unborn shores and fields and mountains
               for us, it seems, to know
In the moment they are gone:
     the blue translucent dunes,
          the bolts of sapphire sun.

Smoke appears along the sea
     like a Portuguese Man-of-war
          and the waves dissolve in nebulous mist
               that hits the deck like tea-kettle steam
Releasing every vision back to white,
     which clears to fresh nothingness, born-again sea
          as if to ask how long now can we stay free?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On Thrift Shop Row

The woe-betided dead,
the stupid dead,
hanging for dear life,
all one long mistake,
they almost speak
in weaknesses of hinges.

They didn't care what God once thought of them
but dressed, for all intents, to impress, one must guess, Satan.
They tortured every lie out,
corrected every truth (save their complaint)
to blacken their tracks,
hide themselves in these shadows.

And when the push back beckoned
those who died to be right,
who traipsed that line between pride and authenticity,
saw only how they'd stilled a beating heart,
their own, of the one, with ice

still whole, not subdivided like the flames
that turned to gentle ashes
to nurture all that's called the name of life
beneath the shadows growing large
in bare and brittle afternoons
where teacups still are filled.

What kind of life is this that gives no thought for any others
when others always were all that you are,
no matter all the sips you stole to call them yours.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Professor Robert

Restingwind in teacher's robes
So Heaven doesn't have to
Even whistle
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
To fill
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

Restoration crosses
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

Thursday, October 23, 2014

No Lions in Sweden

My identity, though shrink-wrapped in the garage
still has claims on me. But there's no room any more
for even coffee and blue agave, when love, swept in like a storm
moves the broom.
                               Re-moon-eration of a moth-eaten flame.

The butterflies, at least, seem happy to be born,
— no longer in pain at what is lost — no fear there's
no path, just flight. Incandescent they lift
limitations with ease and grace, evade time and space,
seeking something not seen.
                                                  The brown leaves turning purple now.

Maybe someday I'll stop fearing these things,
and reserve my terror for myself alone,
who makes a giant dissolve in his boots.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Poet in Kau'ai

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
breakers, that honors every singular
                    with a flower
in the moment of merger
                    before receding
                    without 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 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,
                     forever outside
                     paradise,
not the red dirt river of life that takes
                     nothingness
                     from place to place;
this endless wave of beauty wants to hear ... us,
                     just as endless
                     but blessed with the curse:
                                            a sense for
                                            finality.

The sound of rain on the page
as the children are washed away.
The white hibiscus like a sniffing bee.

At Anahola

Hawai'ian kids sway
       in the waves
                            laughing in Hawai'ian
while their mothers
       like mothers in every land
                            say
                stay away from strangers,
       white strangers,
us.

The littlest one
       laughing with me on her yellow noodle
                 says
                             "you're a noodle."

Late Afternoon Beach

A paddleboarder is the only thing on the horizon.
A boy, too sober, carries his wood surfboard to the waves.
A naked French baby runs away from his parents to the surf.

But all of that is lost, in the light
of the clouds so close you can dream of touching them
and the mist upon the green
like no one can fit in.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Plane to Vancouver

A succession of thin red curtains
         and we pass
from American
                          Spanish to English to French
as if we have too few faces to assume.
I leaf through bi-lingual restaurant reviews
         five pages of hipster bistros
                           in Dublin alone!
Serving:
         long-necked barnacles
                           chayote horchatas
                                              macha shakes
         "like a glass of water for your skin."
Is this what it takes
         to help us forget
                           there is no time?
That all of history lingers
         like this sunset
                           and nothing is at stake
                                               beyond this moment
         crackling high above the clouds
                            like a suspended chord
                                               as rich as chocolate lava
                            you don't care how the choir
                                               will resolve
         for the end in sight is not
                            where you are heading.
The orange cannot tell you of the night
                            you have to break it open
but you want some hands to tear you first
         and pull out your insides
                                                 so much
         you trade hands with the future
                             as if you'll be redeemed
                             in every crafted taste
         as if it lives above you
                                              unassailable
                             not apples merely beautiful
like a fashion model fools
         the woman by the perfume counter
                             and by fooling
                                                     steals her beauty
         as she sits there smiling
                                                while gloss is applied
                            the model came to sell.
Where is the meaning
         in the dreams of Patagonia
                              served on a platter of snails
                              by prostitutes of commerce
                                                  in eccentric orbits
                              tossed by brutal gales,
meanings made by you
         from someone else's menu?
From such incomparable distance
         comes your consciousness
                              to feel what's not expressed
         but shared in interstitial
                              flatterings from nothing's tail.
The landscape of the Yukon
        almost simplifies to meaning
                              but the hills of mottled green
                              recall too much a something
                                                   never known,
        too bright against the eye,
                        
the mind is darkened,
                               sees only God.

Vancouver in Signage































Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Totem

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
Inside

That is to say
Beyond

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Another Sunset on the Bluffs

We mine smoke crystals
        on Dinosaur Hill
As the deformed sun
        slips pepto-dismal
Like an ill-omened eel
        into purple

What doesn't glow in dirt?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Entertainment

You can go to the hottest block
on the hippest street
to the coolest flat
and the dankest beat
where the microwave dishes
of the world's eyes stare
at the glitterati
as they share
cogniscent
and intelligensiate
all they know and adore
and be colossally
bored

Or you can go to any desert
some meagre collection
of half-alive plants
watch the catclaw
and brittlebush tangle
the mojave asters
poke through flannel bush
as dune primrose joins
with desert marigold
wire lettuce
with wooly daisy
smell the white sage
fill the sand plateaus
with a blaze of scent
sense the structure of love
as every limb connects with others
of harmonious colors
in immaculate design

It is too much for the senses
this feast that never ends
as insatiable to give
as our souls
to receive

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Resting Under Sycamore

Dry rain of sticks
      on brown summer grass
             cool wind
puts the mind in its place
      with the stones and acorns
             a keepsake
more still than the grass
       and nervous branches
              without the dry leaf's tongue

It waits
       like every other thing
              for an unnatural connection
that will work so seamlessly
       who knows it isn't real?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Drought

The ants are working but the people of the park
       are sleeping. It's mid-day.
Michael lost the keys again. So his last mechanic job
       ended, on his anniversary.
Lynn's bike chain broke, and her dead-end job
       was far too far away. And Clete had to take care first
of the cigarette and affection needs of his woman,
       so he won't be welcomed back at that fast-food gig.

And these are the lucky ones, who have some work
       to look back on, not just bouncing balls
       or toxic jive, or rich-man's hip-hop hanging fire.

Cast out like purest angels from the best establishments,
       they leave their cardboard homes and plastic chairs
to squat with all the spent life on the forest floor
       safely under a red-corned pepper tree,
       away from the shame of women and children.
Still they leave in the sun their bent Modelo cans
       like all the best tales of decay.

Tree roots like exposed nerves hang down their dead riverbed,
butterflies on droughtgrass, spiderwebs on dry-leafed trees
       like their cobwebbed film-noir nightmare
       in a kaleidoscopic breeze,
mesquite bean shells emptied of what food was once
       inside them,
ice plants grey and lifeless, holes poked full of leaves.

Here I run from past and future, breathe in dirt like any bum,
pulled in to the same gusts of nothingness,
       the whisper they call silence,
but I find a shaded log — and fight so hard to believe in it;
       its perfection's too elusive,
       that I should be free, receiving
not some semi-sheltered creature watching leaves fall
       from the eaves
       like a shuffling of cards.

The butterfly glides away. The trees go silent.
A hawk swoops close by, glares at me, at least enough
      to say: "You think you've got a problem, friend?
      I'm a hawk!"

Monday, September 8, 2014

Desert Evening with Scorpions

A wasp hangs over the bougainvillea
        like an unrelenting consciousness
               with nothing to hold on to

O why could I never say the things to you
        that should never have been said?

The coastal sagebrush growing in the sand trough
       throws a million tiny buds against the sky
               how many inchworms disguised as branches?

O why was it your dark happiness I chased
       and never your fair sadness?

Fuzz forms on the strand like a gift to the wind
       while a man runs his cars along the dunes by hand
                dirt blazing as the wheels move

O why is there no memory of you
      only a me I still can't understand?

The birds are all moving toward the sunset
      where the orange ball takes the sky along with it
                and the pond current stills to receive its color

O why is moving on so slow I must pause
      to give tribute to the moment for your rage?

Birds walk in peach water
       the rust buds glow with a knowledge not my own
                but bequeathed in fragile gold

O why was your gift so cruel
       that I never will forget it?

A sidewinder call the Gods to his magic winding tail
      and slips too slow and perfect to the brush
                just as the moon takes control of the night

O why, when the love you gave, my own, was real, there's none left,
       from what you stole, for you — are you and I both ... invisible?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Self-Portrait with Trees

I am no different
      than that tree

— but I can see

the waves of feeling
flow in timeless beat,
the sound of clapping
leaf turn
      gold relief
while roothands hold to loverearth
as if there are no
                           others
                                   
But these I also see
                           Catalina Cherry
                           Lemonade Berry
                           Dana Point Buckwheat
       so I am
       incomplete again
       salad tossed by wind
not in one
       alone
       like them,
keening.

The crows descend
       like an equation
and I fly without thinking
       to solve them
       dissolving once again.

The world
                          so alien
runs from the strangeness
                          I am.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Miss Mary

There's something comforting about a mosquito bite
to be shared by a creature so light
she seems to float instead of fly through the air

and so wise
race-car precise she knows where to find
the inner red, the warm rich substance
that is nectar for the young

and when she bites ah
there's a pain I can finally get to
not hidden in the mind's denials
but itchable

like Copernicus was addicted
to a circle
and had to scratch

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Wind Outside

The mind quivers
more than any leaf
for there's no circumference
to claim

the belt can be rolled
into a spiral
the bedspread pulled back
to a point

but even the salt lamp's damp pink depths
are too much
like the wind
to bear

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Domestic Sonnet

The chickens are angry, the rabbits are sad,
The cat says "God help me", the dog says "I'm mad".
No woman alive will really back away
From even the steepest, iciest crevasse
Though that is one of the things you can not say
If you want to stay sane, or value your ass.

The rabbits are happy, the chickens are sweet,
The dog rests in fleece, cat perched in high seat.
No man ever works when there's play to be done
Though that too seems another conspiracy
When the world and its Lord regard having fun
The same as or better than drudgery.

So we disagree. The frog needs more crickets.
Love is only love 'cos we can't resolve it.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Sunset Near San Diego

The smell of charred, rancid flesh,
The sound of laughter, blood red glasses rung,

And voices of unthinking cruelty (humor),
One gotcha and we're through.
If you're wounded you will have to play the fool.

The Jacuzzi steam is like a war zone
As the infinity pool dribbles like a machine gun
To water the Mandarin lime trees down
The hillside pomegranate red.

They're stealing the view from the sacred mountain
On the terraced marble of their great mausoleums
That would give the town's homeless a place to live.

All it would take is some real gratitude.

But despite the laughter and the perfect weather
Only sorrow echoes on the cold stone.

At a Winery Wedding

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.

Friday Afternoon in the Green Room

The door hit me on the way out
Like cactus at sunset as the sandbox turned to dust
And the puppeteer laughed,
Prickly-pear, once-mighty,
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.