Thursday, July 28, 2016

Odes by Hölderlin: The Homeland

Happy comes the skipper in the still stream home
    Far-flung island borne, his harvest gathered in;
          Perhaps I'd return to the homeland again;
              But what have I harvested but pain? -

You lovely shores, that brought me up,
    Can you ease her love suffering? Ah, you
Woods, that give of my youth when I come,
          Can you give her some peace once again?

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

Froh kehrt der Schiffer heim an den stillen Strom
    Von fernen Inseln, wo er geerntet hat;
          Wohl möcht' auch ich zur Heimat wieder;
               Aber was hab' ich, wie Leid, geerntet? -

Ihr holden Ufer, die ihr mich auferzogt,
     Stillt ihr der Liebe Leiden? ach! gebt ihr mir,
          Ihr Wälder meiner Kindheit, wann ich
               Komme, die Ruhe noch Einmal wieder?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Odes by Hölderlin: Applause of Men

Is it not holy my heart, beautiful life full,
      Since I love? Why did you respect me more
           When I was prouder and wilder,
                 Word-rich and hollow?

Ah! The masses like what the market sells,
      And they honor what serves coercion,
            Belief in the godlike
                  Is only for those who are it.
                                   
--------------------------------------------------------------
Menschenbeifall

Ist nicht heilig mein Herz, schöneren Lebens voll,
       Seit ich liebe? warum achtetet ihr mich mehr,
            Da ich stolzer und wilder,
                  Wortereicher und leerer war?

Ach! der Menge gefällt, was auf den Marktplatz taugt,
       Und es ehret der Knecht nur den Gewaltsamen;
             An das Göttliche glauben
                   Die allein, die es selber sind.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Odes by Hölderlin: The Loved

Separation we wanted, deemed it good and just;
       As we did, why the shock at the deed, like being murdered?
           Oh! We know little,
               Because there exists a god in us.

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Die Liebenden

Trennen wollten wir uns, wähnten es gut und klug;
        Da wirs taten, warum schröckt' uns, wie Mord, die Tat?
            Ach! wir kennen uns wenig,
                Denn es waltet ein Gott in uns.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Odes by Hölderlin: Brevity

"Why are you so curt? Do you love as before
       Now that you sing no more? When I discovered you,
      As a youth, in the days of hope,
               When you sang, it never ended!"

So my luck, so my song. – Are you pleased now to bathe
       In the sunset? Across existence! And the earth is cold,
           And the nightbird flutters
               Uncomfortably close to your eyes.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Die Kürze

»Warum bist du so kurz? liebst du, wie vormals, denn
      Nun nicht mehr den Gesang? fandst du, als Jüngling, doch,
          In den Tagen der Hoffnung,
              Wenn du sangest, das Ende nie!«

Wie mein Glück, ist mein Lied. - Willst du im Abendrot
      Froh dich baden? hinweg ists! und die Erd ist kalt,
          Und der Vogel der Nacht schwirrt
              Unbequem vor das Auge dir.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Odes by Hölderlin: Résumé

High my spirit aspired, but love pulled
   Its beautiful string; suffering bends the powerful;
       So I pass through life's bow
            And go back from where I came.

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

Hoch auf strebte mein Geist, aber die Liebe zog
   Schön ihn nieder; das Leid beugt ihn gewaltiger;
        So durchlauf ich des Lebens
            Bogen und kehre, woher ich kam.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Odes by Hölderlin: Formerly and Now

In younger days my morning was joy,
     Evenings I cried; now that I’m older,
           Doubt begins my day, but it
                  Closes happy and holy.

--------------------------------------------------------------
Ehmals und jetzt

In jüngern Tagen war ich des Morgens froh,
      Des Abends weint ich; jetzt, da ich älter bin,
             Beginn ich zweifelnd meinen Tag, doch
                    Heilig und heiter ist mir sein Ende.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Odes by Hölderlin: Atonement

Holy Beings! I have broken your golden
     Godcalm often, and the undisclosed,
           Fathomless pain of life
                 You have learned some from me.

O forget it, forgive! Like those clouds
      Across the quiet moon, I'll pass, and you
            Will sleep and gleam in your
                  Beauty again, you sweet light!

----------------------------------------------------------------------
Abbitte

Heilig Wesen! gestört hab ich die goldene
      Götterruhe dir oft, und der geheimeren,
            Tiefern Schmerzen des Lebens
                  Hast du manche gelernt von mir.

O vergiß es, vergib! gleich dem Gewölke dort
       Vor dem friedlichen Mond, geh ich dahin, und du
             Ruhst und glänzest in deiner
                  Schöne wieder, du süßes Licht!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Odes by Hölderlin: To Her Genius

Send her flowers and fruit from inexhaustible fullness,
      Send her down, friendly spirit, eternal youth!
Wrap her in your joy and do not let her see
      The lonely, distant time that she, the Athenian, lives in,
Until she’s in the land of the blessed, in the time of Phidias,
      Embraced by the princess sisters with reunion's raptures.  

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
An ihren Genius

Send ihr Blumen und Frücht' aus nieversiegender Fülle,
     Send ihr, freundlicher Geist, ewige Jugend herab!
Hüll in deine Wonnen sie ein und laß sie die Zeit nicht
     Sehn, wo einsam und fremd sie, die Athenerin, lebt,
Bis sie im Lande der Seligen einst die fröhlichen Schwestern,
     Die zu Phidias Zeit herrschten und liebten, umfängt.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Odes by Hölderlin: Diotima

You are silent and suffer, they don’t fathom you,
     You holy life! Fading in silence,
         For alas, in vain among barbarians
       You seek your family in the sun,

The sympathetic souls, who never are!
      But hasten time. See still the day
         My mortal song—yours, Diotima!—accompanies
               The gods and heroes you call on, and mirror.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Diotima

Du schweigst und duldest, und sie verstehn dich nicht,
      Du heilig Leben! welkest hinweg und schweigst,
          Denn ach, vergebens bei Barbaren
               Suchst du die Deinen im Sonnenlichte,

Die zärtlichgroßen Seelen, die nimmer sind!
      Doch eilt die Zeit. Noch siehet mein sterblich Lied
          Den Tag, der, Diotima! nächst den
               Göttern mit Helden dich nennt, und dir gleicht.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Odes by Hölderlin: To the Fates

Begrudge one summer, powerful ones!
    And an autumn to ripen my song,
          My heart would be willing, the sweet
                 Play concluded, to die then.

The soul, your divine law in life
     Never was, nor resting in Hades either;
          But I was once the holy, it lay
                 Upon my heart, the poem, succeeding,

Welcome then, O silence of the shades!
      I'm content, although my song
           Is not led down; once
             I lived like the gods, no more’s required.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
An die Parzen

Nur Einen Sommer gönnt, ihr Gewaltigen!
       Und einen Herbst zu reifem Gesange mir,
            Daß williger mein Herz, vom süßen
                  Spiele gesättiget, dann mir sterbe.

Die Seele, der im Leben ihr göttlich Recht
        Nicht ward, sie ruht auch drunten im Orkus nicht;
            Doch ist mir einst das Heilge, das am
                  Herzen mir liegt, das Gedicht, gelungen,

Willkommen dann, o Stille der Schattenwelt!
         Zufrieden bin ich, wenn auch mein Saitenspiel
             Mich nicht hinab geleitet; Einmal
                  Lebt ich, wie Götter, und mehr bedarfs nicht.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Odes by Hölderlin: Empedocles

Life you search, search, and it swells and shines,
    A divine fire from deep inside the earth
         To you, who, in shuddering desire
              Throw yourself into the Etna flames.

So melts the pearl dropped in wine by the queen
In rarefied pride, giggling will. You too
Have surrendered your riches, O poet,
    To the ferment of the chalice!

But holy you’ve become, as the earth’s force
      Took you away, intrepid dead!
           I would follow to the depths,
               If love didn’t hold me, the hero.

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Empedokles

Das Leben suchst du, suchst, und es quillt und glänzt
      Ein göttlich Feuer tief aus der Erde dir,
           Und du in schauderndem Verlangen
                Wirfst dich hinab, in des Aetna Flammen.

So schmelzt' im Weine Perlen der Übermut
      Der Königin; und mochte sie doch! hättst du
            Nur deinen Reichtum nicht, o Dichter,
                 Hin in den gärenden Kelch geopfert!

Doch heilig bist du mir, wie der Erde Macht,
      Die dich hinwegnahm, kühner Getöteter!
            Und folgen möcht' ich in die Tiefe,
                 Hielte die Liebe mich nicht, dem Helden.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Odes by Hölderlin: Bonaparte

Holy vessels are poets,
 In which the wine of life, the spirit
 Of the hero, is preserved,

But the spirit of this youth,
 The quick, must he not shatter it,
 This vessel that wants to hold him?

Poets let him be like the spirit of nature, untouched
      For in such stuff the boy is master.

He cannot live in poems and persist,
      He lives and persists in the world.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Buonaparte

Heilige Gefäße sind die Dichter,
      Worin des Lebens Wein, der Geist
            Der Helden, sich aufbewahrt,

Aber der Geist dieses Jünglings,
       Der schnelle, müßt er es nicht zersprengen,
            Wo es ihn fassen wollte, das Gefäß?

Der Dichter laß ihn unberührt wie den Geist der Natur,
       An solchem Stoffe wird zum Knaben der Meister.

Er kann im Gedichte nicht leben und bleiben,
       Er lebt und bleibt in der Welt.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Odes by Hölderlin: Diotima

Come and soothe me, bliss of heavenly muse,
  Reconcile the elements, the chaos of the times,
Arrange the raging war with tones of otherworldly peace,
      ‘Til in your mortal breast the broken is joined,
‘Til the natural man of old, placid and immense,
       Rises mighty and serene from time's fermenting.
Care for the destitute hearts, living beauty!
       Return the hospitable table, sweep the temple!
For Diotima lives, like a delicate flower in winter,
       In her own spirit realm, searching also for the sun.
But the sun of the spirit, the beautiful world, has set
       And hurricanes quarrel through the frosty night.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Diotima

Komm und besänftige mir, die du einst Elemente versöhntest,
      Wonne der himmlischen Muse, das Chaos der Zeit,
Ordne den tobenden Kampf mit Friedenstönen des Himmels,
      Bis in der sterblichen Brust sich das Entzweite vereint,
Bis der Menschen alte Natur, die ruhige, große,
      Aus der gärenden Zeit mächtig und heiter sich hebt.
Kehr in die dürftigen Herzen des Volks, lebendige Schönheit!
      Kehr an den gastlichen Tisch, kehr in die Tempel zurück!
Denn Diotima lebt, wie die zarten Blüten im Winter,
      Reich an eigenem Geist, sucht sie die Sonne doch auch.
Aber die Sonne des Geists, die schönere Welt, ist hinunter
      Und in frostiger Nacht zanken Orkane sich nur.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Odes by Hölderlin: To Diotima

Beautiful life! You live, like a delicate flower in winter,
      In the ancient world, bloom closed, alone.
To be loved, you sun in the light of her spring,
      To be warm in her, you search for the youth of the world.
Your sun, the beautiful age, is lost
       And hurricanes quarrel through the frosty night.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
An Diotima

Schönes Leben! du lebst, wie die zarten Blüten im Winter,
       In der gealterten Welt blühst du verschlossen, allein.
Liebend strebst du hinaus, dich zu sonnen am Lichte des Frühlings,
       Zu erwarmen an ihr, suchst du die Jugend der Welt.
Deine Sonne, die schönere Zeit, ist untergegangen
       Und in frostiger Nacht zanken Orkane sich nun.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Green like Esmerelda

Women put up their hair and on their stern faces
To catch their mates at the scene of a crime
They created in their own minds
With hearts bursting with love
And fears large as the distance between them.
The muscles still ripple beneath the skin-tight shirt,
The strut still counters the booty shake,
Or so the earth still confirms as true,
Like it says her blue eyes still beguile the moon
From the sky.
                         But all that is unacknowledged
In their dance, the trading off of silence
Of couples games that seem so deadly
But are only play.

If I was a poet
                           I would get some kind of award
For the most times married, still it's the lovers
I reflect on, how I stayed in their corner rooms
For the poignancy of conversations in front of
Old televisions, with their mothers' serving spoons
As the buzzards circled the rooftops.
It always ended the same, they all died poor and lonely
After leaving me, and though I liked to wallow
In the pathos, I always found some misplaced stone
Who gave forever in the touch again,
Who went through every pore
And lived in every atom
Until there was no notion of a separate me anymore,
A kind of passion that can only come
From the deepest part of the stars.
Always the same woman,
Always all women,
The deeper they revealed their soul the more true that was,
So it was easy to be true -- for me at least
If never quite for her -- I can only follow,
Say "yes" to her resolute "no",
Give her emotion some legitimacy,
As if I have no skin,
As if it wasn't a game,
As if everything I say
Isn't her.

As we sit in the outdoor cafe,
Black tiles gleaming like a crossroads
Of nostalgia and longing,
She still all of them: this one's laugh, that one's
Sudden glee, another's snide response,
But it is still as distant as it always was,
An inexplicable eruption of grace, annoyance,
Savagery, pleasure, sweetness, calm, wisdom ...
From some place I cannot go
No matter how tightly I grip her hand.
Words pass but immediately dissolve,
Energy merges but at the service of a capricious puppeteer,
Looks say what they mean but the mood keeps changing
Like the lights of the day on a quest beyond our meanings.
It seems as if our positions will be stone
Left to weather the elements alone,
But then a blue sarong comes along to remind me
Of what each put aside for the other,
The space we've held for a never quite revealed mystery;
Bought from a beach peddler it becomes the rug
That ties the room together, all dissonance and distance
Falls away, into the radiance of a body
Moving like the surf toward me.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Critical Voice

The snarling ocean
            tongue,
Will it become
            more human
When the distant
            white sun comes?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Cicada and the Poet by Tristan Corbière

The poet who chanted,
Decanted,
His almost drunk Muse viewed
As he rolled in the nude
On cardboard, paper scraps
And fineries in tatters.
He glued his faded face
To his neighbor’s window case,
To paint his sad regret
Having made—Oh: no, typeset—
His shameful monster of a book! ...
—“But: you were pretty cooked?”
—“High on You! ... Is it wrong?”
Letter-writing clown!
Who so could sing the song ...
And, so not write it down!
—“I thought of returning it” ...
“It’s not perfect, Marcelle” ...
—“Oh! It matters not a whit
“Now,” she said, “if you tell!”

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LA CIGALE ET LE POÈTE

Le poète ayant chanté,
Déchanté,
Vit sa Muse presque bue.
Rouler en bas de sa nue
De carton, sur des lambeaux
De papiers et d'oripeaux.
Il alla coller sa mine
Aux carreaux de sa voisine,
Pour lui peindre ses regrets
D'avoir fait—Oh: pas exprès!—
Son honteux monstre de livre!...
—«Mais: vous étiez donc bien ivre?
—Ivre de vous!... Est-ce mal?
—Ecrivain public banal!
Qui pouvait si bien le dire....
Et, si bien ne pas l'écrire!
—J'y pensais, en revenant....
On n'est pas parfait, Marcelle....
—Oh! c'est tout comme, dit-elle,
Si vous chantiez, maintenant!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Some Heirloom Poems

I.
“Empty platitudes, then proof points,”
she emphasized over Duck l’Orange
with Ho Chi Minh hot sauce,
her eyes like the City at the breaking of darkness,
Armani suit spread open to silk breasts, er, blouse,
a revved red Piper Cub on the roof to take her to Taos.

II.
Truth or D'airstream, New Mexico,
where the sunset tumbleweeds
rattle in army base razor wire
like a disgraced game show host
still reading his cue cards
in the twilight zone.

III.
The endless path
Barefoot to the sun
Ends at sky's enigma grey
And the sea womb.

IV.
The hand drew the gulls across the sky
In lines that were barely perceptible
Before sky and my mind, united, parted.

V.
"I was famous in a previous lifetime,"
said the Panhandler, "obviously
I fucked that one up badly;
I mean half of your celebrities
don't even exist."

VI.
The saddest people
Sleep in the dust
Of the lie-berry.

VII.
My bible is better than your bible.

VIII.
The holes
In the leaves
Are alive.

IX.
Cliff spurge and orange pencil plant
in a succulent urn;
assymetrical necklines
in the Chinese Islamic restaurant;
mesquite bean music
at Cafe de los Muertos;
magnesium bodywash with Bulgarian lavender,
veganic cacao, organic banana flour
in the carpool wind tunnel lane;
the bloom is on the mustard
at a party in the PO the crows approved;
but its the powdered donuts
at Scylla and Charybdis
that reduce me
like a street person
to squirrel
muttering indecipherable glyphs.

X.
You can't see the water
Pour over the rocks
Until you remember
The water is a door
And the rock is all you are
And everything must go
Says your soul.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Green Ring around the Sun

Dirt the color of turmeric
As rabbits
Do wind sprints
On dry highlands.

A week ago, ducks swam
These clay beds.
Yesterday, pink flowers
Were opened.

I was lost then
In a thousand reveries
Of evening light
In distant times.

Now the rabbits
Move for the brush,
As something moves
For me—

Away from the familiar
Drygrass and bare trees
Toward a rapture where
All is distilled, completed.

The fiery sphere
Redeems the stillness
In low light,
Absorbs the details—

They call it mystery,
This blessing it gives
To be present
In fading light.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Doors and Windows by Tristan Corbière

Don’t you hear? – Blood and guitar?! –
Answer! ... I’ll damn more fiercely.
None who have left me, Trickster
Don’t also wish death on me!

What I can make of despair! ...
You can’t see or hear my feet,
The night is dark, your sight’s impaired:
Signal – I will not see’t.

In Hell I have paved your street.
All the damned are in distress ...
Anonymous in the heat!
If you aren't there yet ... confess!

I’ve no more scales to be weighed,
I only damned myself, it’s true
When drumming my serenades ...
– All that’s left to damn is you!

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

Portes et Fenêtres

N'entends-tu pas?—Sang et guitare!—
Réponds!... je damnerai plus fort.
Nulle ne m'a laissé, Barbare,
Aussi longtemps me crier mort!

Ni faire autant de purgatoire!...
Tu ne vois ni n'entends mes pas,
Ton oeil est clos, la nuit est noire:
Fais signe—Je ne verrai pas.

En enfer j'ai pavé ta rue.
Tous les damnés sont en émoi....
Trop incomparable Inconnue!
Si tu n'es pas là ... préviens-moi!

A damner je n'ai plus d'alcades,
Je n'ai fait que me damner moi,
En serinant mes sérénades....
—Il ne reste à damner que Toi!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Voice Unheard

The birds swoop down their beatless notes
            so we'll listen to what they say.
The coyote bushes waving "hello"
            want us to share their joy.

The dialogue of wind and leaves,
            one first then rustling other,
                       wonders what to do about us...

As the crone who was never forgiven
            whispers curses through the aethers.
Such consequence, such conscience,
            such clinging to an empty past.

The wind and all its choral voices
            try to tell us how instantly
                       we're forgiven 

But the men below, stretching, Godless
            will never be,
They look at the dead woods as a lost cause
            not even what might have been

For the same decisions would be made again,
           the same auroral chasing,
See there is nothing in this world as sweet
           as what is stolen by the unworthy.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Things

The demonwives of Moorpark
Drinking iced lattes
In empty cafeterias
Are bitter at what might have been,
The pieces that went missing:
The tricked-out 47's
That could have saved their lives.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Stevens Texplication #29: The Man Whose Pharynx Was Bad

“The Man Whose Pharynx Was Bad” is the most notable case of textual controversy in Stevens’ oeuvre. Between its first publication in 1921 (in the 9/14/21 edition of The New Republic) and its collection in the revised version of Harmonium in 1931, the author cut the last three lines of the third stanza, presumably because the quality of the rhymes and sentiments were not on par with the rest of the poem. The result not only disrupted the poem’s perfect iambic pentameter envelope (abba) rhyme, it compromised the meaning. It wasn’t until The Palm at the End of the Mind came out in 1976 that the original lines were restored (the shorter version persists in both the Collected Poems and the “authoritative” Library of America Collected Poetry & Prose). Stevens himself was inscrutable as usual about such matters:  Was it too traditional? Did he steal an image from someone? Did “oceans of obsidian” make him want to retch? Still, it is an interesting window into the process of poetic revision. Poets are torn by having to include “bad” lines for the sake of a rhyme or narrative structure when every word should count; it is so much easier to just strike the offending lines so one doesn’t have to re-write every word of what was (presumably) divinely inspired and painstakingly wrought. No one understands poetry anyway, what’s the difference? The fact that no one cared or noticed might have given Stevens some satisfaction with the course he took.

This intrusion of the poet making the poem is actually relevant here, as “The Man Whose Pharynx Was Bad” is widely (though superficially) seen as one of Stevens’ first poems self-consciously about poetry. Specifically it's seen to belong to that illustrious tradition where poets express despair over not being poetically inspired. Here’s the poem:

The time of year has grown indifferent.
Mildew of summer and the deepening snow
Are both alike in the routine I know.
I am too dumbly in my being pent.

The wind attendant on the solstices
Blows on the shutters of the metropoles,
Stirring no poet in his sleep, and tolls
The grand ideas of the villages.

The malady of the quotidian ...
Perhaps, if summer ever came to rest
And lengthened, deepened, comforted, caressed
Through days like oceans in obsidian

Horizons full of night's midsummer blaze;
Perhaps, if winter once could penetrate
Through all its purples to the final slate,
Persisting bleakly in an icy haze;

One might in turn become less diffident—
Out of such mildew plucking neater mould
And spouting new orations of the cold.
One might. One might. But time will not relent.

It’s fair to say Stevens is not the most straightforward of poets when it comes to diction, but this one is almost painfully awkward in its word choice. It starts with the title. The man whose pharynx was bad? One of Stevens’ patented odd and striking titles, yes, but could there be a more inelegant way to express that someone has a cold? (The pharynx is essentially the empty passageways of the sinuses, nose and throat, so if the pharynx is bad, it must be congested, so voilà, a head cold).

The first line stops us in our tracks: “The time of year has grown indifferent.” How could that possibly be? By what technique of personification and abstraction gone mad could such a line be produced? The speaker “clarifies” in the next lines by conflating the dead of winter with the height of summer: “Mildew of summer and the deepening snow / Are both alike in the routine I know.” Mildew is not the most poetic of descriptors for summertime, in fact it could equally be applied (being mostly white) to snow and winter. Maybe that’s the point; the extremes of the seasons start to seem the same in their unpleasantness. Then we have “both alike”; why does lawyer Stevens need to use both words? And what is this “in the routine I know” business? How could weather be “in” a routine? And why “routine I know” instead of “my routine”? Then comes another shot to the jaw:  “I am too dumbly in my being pent.” This sounds like a machine translation from Farsi into English. “Dumbly”? Really? “My being pent”? Crystal clear I’m sure you’ll agree. I think the sense is he’s confined inside, and it makes him so out-of-sorts he’s unable to speak or think.* A cold will do that to you, and it will also feel at times like mildew and snow in your body, just as it involves a dismal routine of sickness management we all know all too well.

“The wind attendant on the solstices / Blows on the shutters of the metropoles,” the poem continues. In a flash, Shake-spearian eloquence blows in with a modern air. How much less poetic to say: “The wind that comes with the change of seasons hits the window coverings of the houses in the parent states of the colonies”.  How much less poetic to say: "I sneezed." The emphasis falls on the words “solstices” (usually not plural) and “metropoles” (suggesting cities in general as well as the vertical encumbrances that fill them). Note too the sun never rises/sets on the North/South poles on solstices. "Shutters" suggests the window is shut; it is too windy, cold or bright. Thus, “Stirring no poet in his sleep,” i.e. he is already awake and uninspired by not having a view, or alternatively he is so dead-to-the-world with his cold nothing can rouse him. We also get the sense of “nothing to see here” for poets; ennui as far as the eye can see. Finally, the wind “tolls (sounds/announces) / The grand ideas of the villages.” A deft comic touch; how grand could ideas be in a provincial town? The narrow-minded residents would only think they were grand; hence even more ennui for our stricken poet.

“The malady of the quotidian ...,” the speaker announces, finally defining the condition that causes this supposed failure of the imagination. “The sickness of daily living” might be a gloss on this, but it’s unclear, since routine has only been alluded to not expressed. In fact, it seems more like the break from routine (like that of looking or walking outside) that causes this state. One could equally read “of” in the line to mean the sickness caused by daily life (i.e. the common cold, curse of rarefied poets everywhere). In fact “the common cold” could easily be “the malady of the quotidian”, a fiendishly funny way of poeticizing decidedly unpoetic things.

Then come the lines that Stevens later deleted: “Perhaps, if summer ever came to rest / And lengthened, deepened, comforted, caressed / Through days like oceans in obsidian.” One can readily see how the first of these lines “pays off” the last line in the poem, and how this imaginative re-enactment of summer’s glories is similarly extended to winter in the succeeding stanzas. And how both are again wittily conflated in the last stanza, as if it doesn’t matter whether the eternal sameness the speaker desires is summer or winter as they are one and the same, textbook examples, so to speak, of a general truth: weather. I detect a subtle difference in quality in the lines kept and the lines deleted. For example, “days like oceans in obsidian” provides a strange and appropriate mixing of day and night (when oceans would be shiny and black), but it doesn’t have the power and aptness of “horizons full of night's midsummer blaze”, which also blends opposites but is a far more vivid image of long, late summer sunsets.

In any event, to conquer the poets’ imaginative block Stevens responds in typical fashion with an imaginative solution: stop the flow of seasons and see what happens. Metaphorically (non-poetically), one would very much want to stop the seasonal nasal drip flow, but literally (poetically) the idea is as ridiculous as it is poignant. Maybe if we could stand still to really look at what is going around us, to examine all the nuances of the same phenomena we see every day, there might be meaning revealed that is currently unavailable to us: “Perhaps, if winter once could penetrate / Through all its purples to the final slate, / Persisting bleakly in an icy haze;”

What is the end of this magnificent poetic description of seasonal effects? “One might in turn become less diffident—“. Once again we are placed in the Stevensian nether-world where the vividly poetic imagination expressed by the prior stanzas meets up with a very prosaic reality. Paraphrasing, if the world’s weather patterns permanently changed to allow for real understanding of what the earth is saying to us, consequently I might be less shy and lacking in self-confidence. Except it’s no longer the “I” of the opening stanza, it’s “one”, a pronoun Stevens rarely used (only two other poems in the Collected Poems use “one” as a pronoun). My sense of this bizarre twist is that the speaker is so shy and self-conscious he escapes into an impersonal pronoun. At any rate, you probably wouldn’t want to read any poet who needs such acts of God to break through his shyness, at least a little bit (“less diffident”).

What kind of poetry would such a poet produce? “Out of such mildew plucking neater mould.” Playing on the triple meaning of mold (container/style/mildew) is a clever-enough trick, but “neater mould” seems to comically suggest the mildew (itself a clever play on the poetic trope of “dew”) that is the material of the song/musical side of the poem will only yield a tidier fungus. This displeasing sense is continued for the rhetorical side of the poem in the next line: “And spouting new orations of the cold.” Spouting is an exceedingly negative connotation for orations, implying half-baked, self-aggrandizing, tasteless, noisy, vulgar, offensive and childish, among other qualities. “Orations of the cold” similarly doesn’t call to mind the speeches of Demosthenes or William Jennings Bryan. One could once again read this as “orations of the (common) cold” and the spoutings would make all-too-much sense. As would mildew, perceptually if not scientifically. And maybe there’s something like a sneeze in the repetition in the next line: “One might. One might.”

“But time will not relent”, the poem enigmatically concludes. It is both a rebuttal of his imaginative construct of the seasons not changing (as if we need to be told that) and a statement on the shelf-life of poesy. Time will not look kindly on a poet who creates under these kinds of conditions.

To sum up, Stevens uses his fine poetic gifts here in the service of humorous self-deprecation. Most critics take this as a much more serious poem involving anxiety about inspiration (Bloom), boredom with daily life (Buttel), oppression under the weight of poetic tradition (Cook), “the state of the self estranged from the hopes of selfhood” (Quinney), and other weighty prosodical topics. I think it finds its familiar in Ogden Nash’s Bed Riddance collection, which proved the common cold could make uncommonly good (and funny) poetry. Here’s a brief snippet:

Fahrenheit Gesundheit

Nothing is glummer
Than a cold in the summer.
A summer cold
Is to have and to hold.

A cough in the fall
Is nothing at all,
A winter snuffle
Is lost in the shuffle,
And April sneezes
Put leaves on the treeses,
But a summer cold
Is to have and to hold.

… there is no plumber
For a cold in the summer.
Nostrilly, tonsilly,
It prowls irresponsilly;
In your personal firmament
Its abode is permanent…

Time will not relent.


* Or maybe that’s the nature of traditional poetic forms, one (Stevens?) might argue. The seemingly intentional clumsiness here calls to mind the stretched syntax of earlier poets as they struggled to make the words fit the meter and rhyme scheme. While it’s true Stevens didn’t develop fully as a poet until he was able to disregard traditional rhyming structures, something only possible as the concept of Modernism in the arts emerged in the 1910’s with its attendant dislocations of image, form and subject, he certainly makes elegant use of traditional poetic measures overall in the poem. But there is something pent-up about having to express oneself in such a strict poetic form that it is equivalent to having to be inside looking at the weather instead of experiencing it. Similarly, the eerie "time will not relent" finale reflects a point of view that traditional poetic forms are awkward and archaic in modern practice ("the [photographic] shutters of the metropoles").

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Skyview

Invisibility is the only alternative
          to the fraudulent
Sublimation into holy water
What is not there
          is all there
                       is

The private paper prizes
          and plastic public plaques
The voices that surmise
          and reduce
                        and refract
Confusions and conventions
          illusions and inventions
Fear and bad intentions
          the need to keep things
                        down

The real doesn't have the same
          necessity to exist
It sees how forms are friends
          and people redeemable
All actions are reversed
          all thoughts return to love
There's nothing one can do
          to save or change
                         or model
                         goodness

It persists in unseen
          alcoves
Where belief enjoys
          the joy of
What is finally perceived

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Decline by Tristan Corbière

How fine he was, in youthful display!
Clear as a stream! ... And kind in his dream
As he carried his gay head supreme!
Farting for love! ... He sadly passed this way.

Nothing he was ... Today, no re-birth
But Fortune smiles on him in return;
His smile doesn’t have the same upturn;
He knows how much it costs and what it’s worth.

His heart went to pot, his greeting to seed.
He’s quoted quite often … God it’s mad, how he’d
Keep his hands in pockets with no change, or

Wear in his glory a coat truly hideous.
You’ll see him finished, common, famous ....
You’ll recognize him, then, that stranger.

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

Déclin

Comme il était bien, Lui, ce Jeune plein de sève!
Apre à la vie O Gué!... et si doux en son rêve.
Comme il portait sa tête ou la couchait gaîment!
Hume-vent à l'amour!... qu'il passait tristement.

Oh comme il était Rien!...—Aujourd'hui, sans rancune
Il a vu lui sourire, au retour, la Fortune;
Lui ne sourira plus que d'autrefois; il sait
Combien tout cela coûte et comment ça se fait.

Son Coeur a pris du ventre et dit bonjour en prose.
Il est coté fort cher ... ce Dieu c'est quelque chose;
Il ne va plus les mains dans les poches tout nu....

Dans sa gloire qu'il porte en paletot funèbre,
Vous le reconnaîtrez fini, banal, célèbre....
Vous le reconnaîtrez, alors, cet inconnu.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Inside Job

Everyone is so on their own
When serving the invisible
They don't even know they're doing it

But there they are:
Sweating some task for the hidden master
Too old and wise to make use of the light
Except to enjoy the temporary glow

Of love focused in a moment
On nothing in particular,
The most direct service of all.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Impressions of Silence

Things are different at the would-be rivers
Of the wash, where the stones hold memories
Of water that came when it willed.

The grass bows in stillness,
Moths follow,
Birds are not heard but seen.

What green there is clings to the hillside
This summer’s eve,
Most everything dead:
The golden shrubs
And orange stalks,
Holly stiff with berries.

Life is in the shade,
In snake craters,
Oak torsos,
Cobwebs on prickly pear curled like fists,
Where I too have disappeared
Nestled in agave dagger,
Ruthless branches,
Cactus congestion
Lizards run through like blood.

White jacaranda slowly rusts
But otherwise has nothing to say.

Suddenly wind buzzes the valley,
Cicadas waver, the scrub jay creaks,
Creatures whisper, crack in the breeze;
A motorboat whir of birds in thickets,
Purring of crickets
In antelope grass and desert sage.

Then in a rush of silence
The real work commences:
A reminder
On the ridgeline
How the limestone ranges ascend into deeper dimensions;
Even the grass conversations are mute
But occasionally one will tap on my elbow
As the cloud patterns cross the valley’s patches
Releasing the long grass to white.

A buzzard hovers at the halfway point
Between the heavens and earth—
Alone with no need to speak.

I make one sound and the doves skitter off,
Lizards sizzle,
A coachwhip slithers,
Grasshopper diagonals fly pleadings
But the grasses again hold their tongues.

Are we here to project our greatness outward,
Or teach as we stumble to learn,
Or voice our compassion for the glamping others,
Or are we here to observe?
On this stone plateau
The campground sounds like the river
That once was here.

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Well-Placed Remark from Afar

If I am not the entire world
I am nothing.
If one person speaks beyond my reach
Everything can be questioned,

I must have missed that one day in class
Or I didn’t pay attention at all;
One look at the gallery wall
And my masterpiece falls to the floor.

The hole in me widens to absorb the unknown,
The mist I hadn’t considered before
Obscures the horizon, becomes the whole.
Everything outside of my skin disappears.

I've made the world make sense until it doesn’t,
When the temporary details can no longer keep
The fabric one coherent weave, and all is lost,
My eyes are as dead as the stars.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Invasion

The lake vanished.
The earth did not apologize,
But the horses follow us along the foothills;
The 20-carrot jewels left to our broken spirits
Are more priceless than the golden grass to them.
The cows don’t buy it; they stare as we walk by,
And dozens run when we get within 20 yards.
They know who we are: the only white people in the bar
And can’t pull fast enough away.
The grass they eat attacks our feet
As we follow an elk over waving hills
Of yellow, green and red, feathered with lupine,
Familiar datura and strange iron thistle blooming.
The rockface monoliths pocked with lichen
Seem to speak like shamans, or maybe they’re resting;
A day traipsing will not give up the secrets of Tehachapi Pass.
Squirrel, sheep, donkey, deer stare warily, no succor
For trespassers—our flag, our house, our land
Is no good here. Even the condor, wearing shaman’s fur,
Lifts off to spiral in the thermals.
Later, when the moon shines like pearls along the Grapevine,
The elk go swimming in the pond, trumpeting freedom songs.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Epitaph by Tristan Corbière

Besides the lovers beginning or ended who want to begin at the end there are so many things that end up beginning that the beginning begins to end up being the end the end being where the lovers and others will end up beginning again at the beginning that will end up being what began which will in the end begin again at the beginning with neither an end nor a beginning and in the end will be equal to the turning of the earth where we will have ended up unable to distinguish where the end begins or the beginning ends which is all the ends and all the beginnings equal to all the beginnings and all the ends which is the final beginning of the infinite commencing past the indefinite—equals an epitaph equals a preface and vice-versa
(WISDOM OF THE NATIONS)

He killed himself with zeal, or died of laziness.
If he lives, it’s by an oversight; what’s left is less.
—His sole regret was not to be his mistress.—

He was not born by any stretch,
Was always pushed to the wind-edge,
A clown chowder,
An adulterous mixture

Of I don’t know what. —But not knowing plenty;
Of gold, —without a penny;
Of nerve, —without any;
Of drive, —as if maimed;
Of soul, —and no violin;
Of love, —a half-breed stallion.
—Too many names to have a name.—

Chased the ideal —without an idea;
Spun fine rhymes, —and never rhymed;
Never having been, —he’d return;
Finding himself lost at every turn.

Poet, despite his verse;
Artless artist, —brush reversed,
Philosopher —thought-averse.

Seriously funny —not funny at all.
Actor, he did not know his role;
Painter: he played the bagpipe;
And musician: of the pallet knife.

A talking head! —Without a head;
Too crazy to know he sounded stupid;
Taking the lines at face value,
His false poems were his only truth.

Rare bird —a goldbrick;
A girly girl —a real prick;
Capable of anything —good for nothing;
Astonishingly evil —appallingly good.
Profligate as a baby
With his legacy —but not a legatee.
Brave, and often, afraid of his pan-hand
He put his foot in it, to stand.

Fanatical colorist, —pale as a ghost;
Misunderstood… —by himself the most;
He cried, he sang just false;
—Was a fault without faults.

Was neither someone nor something,
His true self was a posing.
Not a poseur, —he posed as one posing;
Too naïve, being too cynical;
He believed in nothing, believing all.
—His taste was for the distasteful.

Much too ripe, —because overdone,
Besides himself he called to mind none,
So much amused by his own boredom
He woke up with it before the sun.
He was a loafer at large, —rudderless
Shipwreck of no fixed address ....

The power to suffer too much self squashed,
His spirit was parched and sloshed,
Not conceiving an end to his life
He died expecting to live
And lived, expecting to die.

Here lies, —a heartless heart, a caricature,
Too successful —at being a failure.

-----------------------------------------------------------
Epitaphe

Sauf les amoureux commençants ou finis qui veulent commencer par la fin il y a tant de choses qui finissent par le commencement que que le commencement commence à finir par être la fin la fin en sera que les amoureux et autres finiront par commencer à recommencer par ce commencement qui aura fini par n'être que la fin retournée ce qui commencera par être égal à l'éternité qui n'a ni fin ni commencement et finira par être aussi finalement égal à la rotation de la terre où l'on aura finit par ne distinguer plus où commence la fin d'où finit le commencement ce qui est le commencement ce qui est toute fin de tout commencement égale à tout commencement de toute fin ce qui est le commencement final de l'infini défini par l'indéfini - Égale une épitaphe égale une préface et réciproquement.
(SAGESSE DES NATIONS)


Il se tua d'ardeur, ou mourut de paresse. 
S'il vit, c'est par oubli; voici ce qu'il laisse: 
- Son seul regret fut de n'être pas sa maîtresse. - 

Il ne naquit par aucun bout, 
Fut toujours poussé vent de bout, 
Et ce fut un arlequin-ragoût, 
Mélange adultère de tout. 

Du je-ne-sais-quoi. - Mais ne sachant où; 
De l'or, - mais avec pas le sou; 
Des nerfs, - sans nerf. Vigueur sans force; 
De l'élan, - avec une entorse; 
De l'âme, - et pas de violon; 
De l'amour, - mais pire étalon. 
- Trop de noms pour avoir un nom. - 

Coureur d'idéal, - sans idée; 
Rime riche, - et jamais rimée; 
Sans avoir été, - revenu; 
Se retrouvant partout perdu. 

Poète, en dépit de ses vers; 
Artiste sans art, - à l'envers, 
Philosophe, - à tort et à travers. 

Un drôle sérieux, - pas drôle. 
Acteur, il ne sut pas son rôle; 
Peintre, il jouait de la musette; 
Et musicien: de la palette. 

Une tête! - mais pas de tête; 
Trop fou pour savoir être bête; 
Prenant un trait pour le mot très 
- ses vers faux furent ses seuls vrais. 

Oiseau rare - et de pacotille ; 
Très mâle... et quelquefois très fille; 
Capable de tout, - bon à rien ; 
Gâchant bien le mal, mal le bien. 
Prodigue comme était l'enfant 
Du testament, - sans testament. 
Brave,et souvent, par peur du plat,
Mettant ses deux pieds dans le plat.

Coloriste enragé, - mais blême ; 
Incompris... - surtout de lui-même ; 
Il pleura, chanta juste faux; 
- Et fut un défaut sans défauts. 

Ne fut quelqu'un, ni quelque chose 
Son naturel était la pose. 
Pas poseur, - posant pour l'unique ; 
Trop naïf, étant trop cynique ; 
Ne croyant à rien, croyant tout. 
- Son goût était dans le dégoût. 

Trop cru, - parce qu'il fut trop cuit, 
Ressemblant à rien moins qu'à lui, 
Il s'amusa de son ennui, 
Jusqu'à s'en réveiller la nuit. 
Flâneur au large, - à la dérive, 
Épave qui jamais n'arrive... 

Trop soi pour se pouvoir souffrir, 
L'esprit à sec et la tête ivre, 
Fini, mais ne sachant finir, 
Il mourut en s'attendant vivre 
Et vécut, s'attendant mourir. 

Ci-gît, - cœur, sans cœur, mal planté, 
Trop réussi, - comme raté.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

History on a Leash

Electricity and velcro
Hold the past together.

It clings to me like a second suit:
The fallen cities, scorched-earth wars,
Yellowing snapshots of pain and pity.

Over time I've walked them all,
The impersonal losses have become
My private battle

'Til all I can remember now
Are the places I've been,
The people I've known,
The terrors an inch from my eyes.

Look! It's a miracle:
The city is destroyed!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Stevens Textplication #28: Infanta Marina

“Infanta Marina” from 1921 is a veritable sonic landscape mimicking the sounds of the sea: stately undulant rhythms, rich sibilants, drones that call to the ear the rising (“rumpling of the plumes”) and falling (“creature of the evening”) of the surf. Better yet, this is one of the rare poems that Stevens was recorded reading. It might be good to listen to the way he recites the poem as you read it:

Her terrace was the sand
And the palms and the twilight.

She made of the motions of her wrist
The grandiose gestures
Of her thought.

The rumpling of the plumes
Of this creature of the evening
Came to be sleights of sails
Over the sea.

And thus she roamed
In the roamings of her fan,

Partaking of the sea,
And of the evening,
As they flowed around
And uttered their subsiding sound.

The title suggests the basic sense of this poem. “Infanta” means the daughter of Spanish royalty. This is interesting in that Florida, where this poem undoubtedly takes place, was once under the Spanish crown, its daughter so to speak. The word also brings out the Latin root of “infant”, īnfāns, which literally means “not able to speak.” In other words, this princess takes dominion by letting her fan-waving wrists do the talking. “Marina” has a double connotation of “belonging to the sea” (from Latin marīnus) to the more common “place for boats to dock”. The poem deliciously conveys both senses, in that the figure (character would be too strong a word) projects herself out to sea as a sail with the aforementioned wrists but in the end is moored to her “terrace” (from the French “terra”, or earth), only “partaking” of nature, not joining it.

Each stanza creates a distinct impression in the sound and word choice, so that emotions outside of the “action” bubble up to the surface.

The first stanza, “Her terrace was the sand / And the palms and the twilight”, places her in direct relation (or is it opposition?) to the sea. The sense is of a beautiful image, and someone standing inside of it, not quite knowing what to say because it is so beautiful.

“She made of the motions of her wrist / The grandiose gestures / Of her thought.” Her fan (moved by her wrist) becomes an extension of her thought; she makes meaning with it, perhaps to express, share or enact this beauty. Interestingly, thought (for an infant at least) is not represented by words, but gestures, much like nature herself speaks. Characteristic of Stevens, who liked to strip away sturdy English prepositions in favor of more open-ended French ones, he puts an awful lot of “of’s” (rhymes with love) in this poem (10 to be exact, out of 72 total precisely-chosen words). The amazing thing is how the meaning of each one is unambiguous throughout the poem (“of” has about 10 different meanings, ranging from “caused by” to “possessed/controlled by”). Now there's a writer in charge of his message.

“The rumpling of the plumes / Of this creature of the evening / Came to be sleights of sails / Over the sea.” We move immediately away from the perspective of the Infanta to some third party, who views her as a “creature” with “rumpled” feathers. A creature of the evening yet, with its insinuation of lady of the evening, or prostitute. One whose actions are illusory, hallucinatory. In a note to an Italian translator (L 869), Stevens wrote “by the words ‘sleight of sails” I mean the passing of a sail at a distance on the sea, in sight or out of sight, which is a very common thing on exceedingly bright days. The appearing and disappearing are like sleights of hand or, say, sleights of sails.”

Whatever gestures she’s conjuring with her wrists, they seem lost on the observer.

“And thus she roamed / In the roamings of her fan,” as if the lack of our understanding takes her further away from us. She seems to fall away as she roams, like a broken troubadour, her fan an instrument of alienation, not delight. Whatever is happening with her and her fan is beyond us.

“Partaking of the sea, / And of the evening, / As they flowed around / And uttered their subsiding sound.” As the poem concludes, she samples the ocean, the night energy, but she doesn’t become nature, as her conjuring sails promised, nature merely flows “around” her and gives its characteristic “subsiding sound” of withdrawing waves. While she may have started with a desire to express this inexpressible beauty, neither humanity nor nature “hear” her gestures.

This poem can be seen as a pre-curser, or ur-text, for the later “The Idea of Order at Key West.” In that poem the woman on the beach opens her mouth to sing “beyond the genius of the sea”, which is “ever-hooded, tragic-gestured”, with “fluttered empty sleeves” and “heaving speech of air.” Unlike the Infanta here, who creates a response only to be surrounded by the sea, the woman in “Key West” masters the sea with her voice, giving it “keener sounds.” It is a peculiarity of Stevens’ muse that that poem is even sadder than this one. Nature is somehow diminished when humans control it, whereas here humans are seen as noble in their futility to commune with nature (or at least express its beauty).

I guess we will have to be content with the sound, a pure poetry of a kind that calls with its crackle and hush the mournful ocean to our hungry souls.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Narcissist Sticks in the City

The cameras are turned inward
As if there's something there
Or maybe hope that something may appear
Fuels this urge to narrow apertures

And the perfect strictures of a staged world:
A face that must be loved
Although it knows it's hideous
For there's no beauty anywhere to feel.

Their lives have fallen through
The sidewalk traffic cracks,
But still they're brave enough to turn like stars,
As if there's no one else who dares to dream.

They've changed their eyes, their hair, their gait
But still they haven't changed—not assimilated
As promised, they stay as ripe, red wounds
On the canvas as the layers rise like clouds.

Oh to be loved, although they are!
Their eyes burn heavenward, with the
Longing of the saints—what is here
To love, is it as empty as—there?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

White Before Dark

Rabbit in fear
But with God in her eyes,
The unyielding blinds
Tower above,

Her only safety,
Stepping away from the game,
Only when invisible, unknown
Is she whole.

Finally alive in the dark,
Still they appear
When the sun takes all the color
Out of the air

To leap at impressions
They, embodying, create
So that at last they may become
Pure illusion.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Summer by Georg Trakl

At evening grieving stops
From cuckoos in the wood.
The corn leans deeper in,
The poppies red.

A thunderhead looms black
Over the hillside.
The old song of crickets
Dies in the field.

No more do they stir,
The leaves of the chestnut.
The spiral-wound stair
Rustles your dress.

Candlelight still
Inside the dark room;
A silver hand
Puts it out:

Windless, starless night.

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

Am Abend schweigt die Klage
Des Kuckucks im Wald.
Tiefer neigt sich das Korn,
Der rote Mohn.

Schwarzes Gewitter droht
Über dem Hügel.
Das alte Lied der Grille
Erstirbt im Feld.

Nimmer regt sich das Laub
Der Kastanie.
Auf der Wendeltreppe
Rauscht dein Kleid.

Stille leuchtet die Kerze
Im dunklen Zimmer;
Eine silberne Hand
Löschte sie aus;

Windstille, sternlose Nacht.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Landscape with Water Fairies

I can’t be what I am
               For I can see
                              There’s something else
To envy:
                 The scent of the sunny side
                                                    Egg flower
—The two dogs who carry one stick
                               In their mouths—
The gnats who dance in rapturous patterns—
The egret in thickened muck who sleeps
                               The sun’s rays down,
                  Pond skin jostling like a skirt—
Even the brown summer stalks that
        Accept the drape of white
                                                   Sunned glaze
              Are secure in their nobility,
                       Their purpose is their essence,
                                      Organic
                                                    As breathing—

While I, I go crazy
                                Being only an eye,
The richness of it all
                 Goes into my system.
We want to become everything
                                    Because we are nothing.

A quiver comes over us
                                         Not like the breeze that
Thinks the bees
                    To the roses.
Dust rises from shoes,
                    Ignites the late air,
Stilling the moment, only for us
             And only for us come violet spheres
                         Bubbling from the sun
                                 —Letting us in on the secret—
They dance like the gnats
             And join into shapes
Of violet, blue, maroon and green energy
In pendulous sway of glistening light
             And fly out over the water.
                                                                We all see it.

But then the periwinkle mist rolls in from the sea
             To cover the spreading sun
--Too much incandescence, it’s too acute,
Too naked this revelation
            We’re not supposed to view…

Fading to purple like the carrot
            With the red, red leaf.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

After Reading Charles Wright on a Windy Day

The trees are always shaking
Yet we pretend that we don't feel;
It's the way we take it to something it's not
That makes us stand uneasy

(Not like those pines who wear their weathering
Like their golden eyes, as a necessary price
For what they carry: their life, open to be toured,
Wisdom blown like sleeves beyond our words).

While we continue confused, so hidden
We don't think of ourselves as real.
We claw at that first dart of identity
To pin hopes of honesty on

But the shroud, like persistent cloud cover,
Never lifts, the wind buffets and fills
Our clothes, our purpose is tossed like a stone
We may, so we hope, claim again

With generous mathematics and the tenacity
Of the condemned. All the while the world outside
Won't waver from its tasks; it knows to fill
The cistern up, without being asked,

And does not question humble things,
Like why the sky won't yield,
It merely lives in what's-not-passed,
Those self-sustaining springs.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Day Without Fantasy

I awake to a morning without dream.
The sun made me blind.
                                     The mind failed to catch.
I only hear dry gears turned in some grey
      Distant sphere,
Predictable, repeatable, mere process:
       A washing without object,
      Exercise without effects.

The bird sounds have no place to go.
The forest is left to bullying crows
And rapacious squirrels
Corrupting the air itself, all skill,
      Cleverness and intent.

And I no longer a boy
        To look on with wonder
Or a God to ascribe sacred patterns
              To motions,
I see a garden to barricade
And a window to close,
Mechanical catches to suppress
      The nothingness
That permeates the empty room
              Of the dreamless
                              Present.

The bird that is not there,
A grouse or such,
Is no longer in the air,
It does not sing with the bagpipes,
It does not devour the lettuce flower.
A tarpaulin has been laid down like a law,
              The pleats made strict.
I am only myself again, hopeless
To enlightenment, paralyzed to grace.

Is there nothing else?
                                Surely in this peopled world
There is something of value?
What stands on its own, apart from my own
        Possessive thievery,
Is like a far island veiled in grey,
Horizons obscure, ridges indefinite
And a chorus of critical winds
               That chide, deride and deny
The authenticity of its mist.

The tracks are closed east of Ontario.
        Piles of scrap litter the depot.
The women are needy and fat,
                                                           The men intolerant and distant.
The children’s pleadings carry as they
               Act out the madness in the suburb sulfurs
While the loner always leads with his fists
And shape-shifting vagrants have vape trysts
By the lazy housewife beans;
Another happy protest where exalted victims
        Dance on strings like would-be escapees
               From the consensus illuminati reality,
But the party ends when the bongo player stops,
        And it’s like the ideal
               Was never real.

By evening the hoodies return
        From the park
Carrying tunes in their walking gloves
        That mark at the time but won't soothe
The fever in their minds.

Life could be better.
                                        I could be better.
The wires should not be so thick with charge,
But then the dream that erases them
Would not play on
Like Victrola wax, endless music that
               Never existed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

According to Plan - As Usual

While we were too busy asking "who am I?" instead of looking at the sky, they filled the casinos with Sacagawea gold, and, instead of closing down the long-running Hamleton rap-assassination play, voided the Waxsaw rake from the current sea, for he hated native races as much as he hated foreigner's money, made Tubman Mississippi the new capital for the poor, 2 large become the Tub nickel, to be passed around like pennies used to be, see: that's me!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Mesquite Flowers in Lieu of Tears

The cactus turns blue
as the sounds end
and the jackrabbits come
from the tumbleweed.

Life is a gift:
we all have to hide
from the terror in our own minds,
what we call an eye.

Monday, April 4, 2016

View from the Candy-Apple Ladybug

Wild sunflowers in the sand,
a thousand yellow points to be adored,
a vibrancy too large for just one heart,
it burns one's eyes, how everything is yellow

except on the edges of the hillside,
where purple's like a hue that's not
supposed to be; it takes over,
for being stranger and rarer and braver.

The yellow is now nothing at all.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Variations on a Line by Aiden

An island of truth
                on the dry river bed:
a mattress
                that swims with the sand
and keeps it secrets hid so well
                it seems ever at one
with the mallards and killdeer,
                lawn chairs and golf balls,
the stick nest springing in the tire.

The sun shines on all of them equally,
there's no way this
               tennis shoe
                                    can't fit
in the desiccated strand
               of cat tail and thistle,
where muskrats still hide in coyote tobacco,
               ping pong balls
in the transient cliff side,
                                     
                                         but an eye
can see them all, a mind can choose to judge
               or not
the unresolved past
               of coffee cup plastic,
take-out black
               and Natural American Spirit packs
(litterers' favorite).

The birds behind blinds
               of milkweed and castor bean
chilling at home
               don't pay it no mind

until we come to claim it
               like a stone on a sluice
and they run, to the endless air,
               their voices, for once, breaking.