Monday, July 6, 2020

Some Silence Between ...

In the high pines
Above the blues guitar

The chords are rung
To call us to God

But not the one
Who played them

Such pain was justified
In such ecstasy

Of different spheres
And yet the same ...

Truth is only a language
To shape who we are

But down there only crickets
Speak freely

They don't hold back
Out of shame

That what they say will
Leave them stranded again

Pain left in the karmic distance
To be remembered in ecstasy

Saturday, July 4, 2020

At the Gates of the Madhouse for Truth

"'Suppose it was a drop of blood ...
So much guilt lies buried
Beneath the innocence
Of autumn days.'"
     - Wallace Stevens, "One of the Inhabitants of the West"

With morning's burn, the darkness comes
That was erased, the children lost
Who won't return.

It's what they were sacrificed for
That hurts: A laugh, some power chords ...
But there was always something more,

The dream we seemingly discovered,
So subtly was it placed
By the pale roadside

In this ordinary town, a dream
Where every moment was distilled
And every thought we had was tended,

As if we were important
Enough to fill the empty world —
It was this that made us complicit.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

The Schumann Uncertainty Principle

A white Siberian dog
Crouches on a lawn,
Says "I've followed you"
With her grey poetic eyes
"Your entire life."

Yet she hasn't read
An instance of my thoughts
And has no comprehension
How breathing's now an act
Of defiance.

But she knows
The solar thunders
Keep growing, requiring
Ever-higher harmonies
For tuning fork whistles through the trees.

Her color is the same
As the sugar magnolia star
Above my head who says,
"It may not seem like much, but these
Are the days when you discover who you are,"

As if I hadn't missed out
On a thing
When the collective wisdom of humanity
Turned to debris under the weight of the lies
It had to carry.

She asks, instead,
With her glittering blossom,
Whether I had ever
Even stopped before
To look.

The gutters on the streets
And the sidewalk dirt
Are purple now
With a thousand flowers
That won't let me consider

How the sunset
Exposes the facades
As fool's gold
And the tunes that console
Are radio discharge.

She wants to take me
For a ride.
The eagles have
Been waiting
Long enough.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

While I Was Gone ...

The airstream
At the end of
The friendship
Flexes its lucre
And beckons a lure
At the yard birds
Now woken
To their captivity
And desirous to fly
To Mount Rushmore
By way of the 1960s
For a song
And a pie.

It's for love, children,
The miracles promised
In the daily whispers
Of the heart's deals,
The open road a gift ribbon
That won't need to be returned.

But for every gleam
There's a shadow,
The left-behind twin
With nothing but the dream:
That wife, that family,
That yellow brick history,
Who cajoles in that
American Way
For the same
Vehicle,
Throwing in every
Kitchen sink
Tossed to the turnpike
Like blackmail
-- The bitters of guilt,
The salts of pathos --
To sour
The already closed deal,
Make it sweeter.

But there are rules
To even the most
Contentious
Commercial
Transactions:
The woman
Is all.

Monday, June 29, 2020

The Desert Outside of Town

I.
The sad trees
     Let fall their leaves.
The grey streets
     Pull down the sky.
Irregular rebar
     Rusts in the air
Above the pens of the human
     Farms.

Kids flip for tips in the tar
     Of the highway
Outside the papelaria and the slow walk
     Of peddlers
With masks and cowboy hats
     And ever-moving eyes
Like eagles a leap away from captivity.
     One strings line on bended knee.

II.
The wrens converse at "Flat Earth Burgers,"
     A rancherita
Beyond the crumbled outskirt bricks,
     In the bee desert,
The other city, grand and glorious,
     Above the tableland,
Where, in the dust beyond the masks,
     What is can finally be spoken of

By saguaros all fingers,
     Only touch,
Not able to grasp, yet their stark columns
     Claim the mist,
Holding a certain code that keeps
     Its stillness
As the lights of the city tell their secrets
     Across the hills.

The horses stare, like they're guardians
     Of the quiet,
As their bells sing the chaos of Sonora.
     They look with love
At humans in their kindness, shocked by
     The whitened bones
Picked clean by jaws and sun and laid down
     Like an offering.

The snakes of low-lying limbs
     Tumble towards the sun.
The tree with peeling skin glows
     Magnificent in its umber.
The thorns weave delicate thoughts
     Around the serpentine
Webbing of the desert that all life is
     Caught within.

A butterfly escapes to the sky, where
     Fire flowers
Rise from the sea of ashen branches
     Like deer antlers
That make shapes like human dancers
     But so slow
Even the wind
     Barely moves them.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Languor of Holiday

Duende in the waves;
     The word is "away."
The surface is a glass with nothing beneath
     To mirror,
Just the undulance of cloud
     Torpor,
A line that's impermissible
     To cross.

The resort has put out to sea.
     The skies are grey and green.
The trees sway like yesterday's
     Beach-turned bodies,
As if everything is slipping away
     And they'd gladly let it go
If they didn't know the silence
     They awoke to in the morning.

A pelican glides nearby
     An inch above the horizon.
She will be forgiven for not seeing
     Her reflection below.
It's all that is not her now, that glares
     As if there's nothing left
Of what she once had been, before
     The sea surged

And los otras disappeared ... But tortoises still
     Vie for bonito
And bats triangulate away from their swarm
     Every night.
There are facts to contest, brags to refute,
     Violence to let loose
From the endless moments waiting here
     For everyone else.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

The Hills Above Chileno

Crabs circumnavigate the globe
     On their native rock,
Where the tide foams in from other locales
     As a show of force
To move the pink-veined granite
     From its outpost,
It's stone claws gripping a surface
     Unresolved.

The royal Baja blue makes orphans
     Of these cliffs,
Where scrub and blackened cactus
     Keep to themselves
And the white-clad people wander
     Forsaken hills
Where wounds of ancient water
     Linger still.

But they're not alone, beside
     The desert of the sea,
Where sky-blue transparencies wriggle
     And smile at them,
And even the moon inhabits the sand,
     And the company of stars
Lord over them like an alien God
     Unknown commands

To be broken at the first snap of wind
     Down echoing ravines,
And even that is too much the sound
     Of muffled screaming,
Of a million sun-scored opinions,
     Each one the same,
The mass, the voice, the uncontained;
     What makes me alone.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Dos Peces

I.
Freedom's pink
     Gets into the waves,
The distant cliffs,
     The hotels.
At sunset the natives
     Throw their nets.
There are fish when it's dark enough
     For no one to see.

II.
The fish play with the children
     Like before
When they were their grandparents
     Yet it seems new
The way they move their phosphorescence closer
     And swerve away
As fingers reach, but the name the nino gives him,
     Desvanese, is new.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

When Neptune's Silent

The earth turns and turns
     On the water today,
Mountains roll, streams fill,
     Hills pass
In patchwork and in shadows.
     Centuries lapse
This crystal morning spent
     When Neptune's silent.

The thoughts curl and curl
     On the granite mounds
That surround the cove in stillness,
     Distilling for eons
While the green heart of sea refines
     The blue true
Expression, always off, continuously blent
     When Neptune's silent.

Reflections of the rock
     Mirror the surface
In fragments and flickerings.
     The work of kindness
Still inhibits the pureness of mind
     Concluding.
It could be still, complete in a moment
     When Neptune's silent.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Some Mexican Sequiturs

I.
The sparrows along the playa hop
     For pignolias.
The guitar player sings for a little
     Root of all evil.
The raqueros conjure a miraculous spectacle
     Out of the sand.
What if there was only ever desert
     To dream beyond?

II.
The birds too wish to be understood
     When we eat their fruit
And walk by their mesquite and huizache,
     But we can't
Even understand each other.
     Even the bear king
Shifts in a wicker chair in the sand
     Bartering to command.

III.
There is always the distance,
     To the cities,
To the lands that remember
     What is not here
In the cacophony of seemingly
     Everything.
The breeze is just too strong today.
     The people have blown away.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Arrival in the Palace of the Black Swans

I.
The sway of palm shadow
     In the window
Where the moon might have been.
     The water glistens
On the passion flower vine
     As the sunset,
Chaste and indifferent,
     Rolls in.

II.
We wear masks to put ourselves to the side
     When we rob you.
There was never anything personal
     No matter how
Deep the shame was driven into you.
     They'll walk away
With only a few coins and stones,
     Nothing of your soul.

III.
The plane is longing
     Despite it all,
The dreams the sleepers won't recall,
     The thick cloud wool,
The assurances of the passengers
     That everything must be
As it seems. The blue light glows
     In another reality.

IV.
The passengers awake from their dreams,
     Silence becomes talk
As if nothing exists but the words of it,
     The enchanting sounds
Are a fountain beyond the engine's rear.
     I tilt my ear
To know the meaning, but it is pure
     Sound.

V.
Fuente sueno carries what it feels
     Across to my soul.
Memories of others become my own
     In the flow.
We are left with a shared emotion,
     Nothing else.
The raptures that we've kept inside
     Are safe.

VI.
On the chaparral, each limb
     Hungers to be seen
Upright in the sand.
     They vie in the wind
On desolate crags
     For the life of sun
To know them by, what we recognize
     Within.

VII.
The birds of the particular place
     Shriek before nightfall.
The palms nod their fans without betraying
     Their shelter.
The shadows indent what's been
     Accomplished today,
A lot of silence, an invisible finger
     Closing the lids of eyes.

VIII.
The fountain speaks through the brassy
     Mouths of the frogs
As the pink bougainvillea
     Surrender to sun.
The islands seem to know what goes on here
     In their stone,
Though they are not islands at all
     But illusion.

IX.
The rose glows as if it must retain
     The day
As the shadows fall across the real
     Now so enraptured with light
It moves beyond the known
     Towards a holier
Place of illumination, where darkness falling
     Takes on meaning.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

The Letter Long After the Fact

The guy who arrived with a suitcase
     And stayed
Found, in time, some things of his own
     In the messes he walked into.
He could discretely sympathize
     Against the mother
In sly, side-wise smirks, and console
     The absence of fathers.

The toys it fell to him to put away,
     No one would tell him where they go.
No one understood what he cooked
     Or his foreign folds of clothes.
He had to learn how acts of terror
     Called for sympathy
And shrieks of glee demanded ice cream,
     Participation trophies.

Love was a hand-me-down. He was forever found
     Wanting to a ghost.
When his sockets came out of joint building a dresser,
     Was it out of love?
And when he had to break it down and start over
     When it turned out the wrong color
Was any love for him in the debris
     A possibility?

The most important words
     Were the ones he never said,
The ones he would always regret
     Not saying,
That would have ripped like tissue
     The family to shreds
But in hindsight were the only truths
     Worth telling.

Promotion

One red leaf in the thick grass—
     The apples from the tree
Are polished for a final time
     As the daylight dies away.
Pictures are coddled against the shock
     Of every student's bodies,
For the immortality of the moment,
     The fact of change.

Breakup songs accompany
     The interminable procession,
The delivery of diplomas like pizzas
     Across a threshold,
Candles at the family tables
     Like an awards show
As the lights of distant cars
     Brush across the stars.

A celebration of life so far,
     They call it through the tears,
A reward for hard, forgotten work
     That soon will seem like play.
The honored squirm in grown-up clothes,
     Giggle uncontrollably
Through another boring ceremony
     Before they are set free.

One's death is always more interesting
     To celebrate,
The close scrapes and mortal mistakes
     Made along the way
As each gesture of defiance, every one,
     Turned out wrong.
That's why they call it learning
     Not survival.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

My Street in an Unfamiliar Light

I swear there was a person here
     A minute ago.
He was the campfire comic
     Before the action scene,
The spokesman for copper, the astro-botanist,
     Entrepreneur of the toxin-free ...
He switched guises like lights in a prism,
     Refracting all.

To be the many he must be the one who
     Must be the many.
"But how could I be the one
     Without being all?"
He called, as he sensed
     His identity slip
Under the deserted thoroughfare
     Full of balloons

That might have once been people,
     If he could remember.
Another person was only
     A color
Pulled away from the prism.
     How could he feel separation
When the colors merged each time
     They agreed?

Suddenly, the dimensions become
     Undone.
His voice is as if on the top
     Of a mountain.
The friends who'd seemed to abandon him
     Listen
In the distant hollows
     Of his old mind.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Great Ones of a Generation

The decadent style
     Of consensual reality,
Now only voices crying
     They're alive!
The scythes would never dream
     Of dying
As the all-too-human grasses fall
     As if a leap.

The great ones pray on Big Joe Turner,
     The nearest thing to God,
A fool who lost it all
     In pool halls
To learn something of oblivion.
     They call it wisdom, now,
And students learn his name
     To think of them.

And everyone soon learns the names
     And how to say them,
And how to appropriate the appropriate
     Platitudes of the tribe
And who can best help one survive
     For a compromise
And how to lavish praise
     As you draw your knife.

Their verse concerns the smell of sawdust.
     The sound of the word guitar,
Things that hardly matter when they
     Aim for every throat
That stands in their way, these custodians
     Of beauty.
To think I gave up on poetry
     For them.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The Library Years

I left the world of the mind
     For that of the flesh,
Where they counter what I do
     Not what I say.
The wind blows easy from the sea
     Today.
The house is quiet. The animals
     Are asleep.

The money will be counted whether or not
     I speak.
The people listening in hear people
     Not ideas,
They reach for the tangible
     In my words
Between responsibilities
     For the unexamined world.

Down the road not taken, ancient myth
     Is scissored up like dolls
And hung out on strings like flags
     Or thumbs.
The pressure becomes too great to be responsible for
     The lies history told
By stoically telling more, in the full and innocent
     Facility of mind.

Once I turned ideas like Zeus hurled bolts,
     Weighing, pruning, combining,
Finding the harmonies to make the upward lines
     Sing
And align with a higher frequency. In my dreams,
     The record was corrected
As though I was there, my desire alone
     Brought the light forward.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Thoughts in a Rocker

How did I get to be so old
     And barely born
To see things form without an
     Understanding?
New faces and strange words,
     Paradigms collapsing,
Secrets held in a smile,
     Love in eyes.

These songs are all foreign to me,
     In new keys that seem
Like ones I used to know
     In another lifetime,
Where a smaller mind gave itself
     To another childhood
Spent in the rapture of musical figures,
     Harmonious beasts.

I have lived through every plot,
     Heard each chord resolve,
Yet surprised when the movies
     Appear before my eyes
Disguised as real life, with neighbors
     In roles
And children playing games once reserved
     For heroes.

The things I know have settled naturally
     Into the dust.
The hands reach out to say I'm here
     To learn something,
You cannot spend this life swaying
     In the breeze.
The ground must fall away
     So you can fly.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

The Voices that Carry

We're always glad to see each other
     And eager to get caught up,
The foolish and their fools, in the latest
     Dust from the road
Blown in by disputatious wind,
     Wherein what one brings
Is passed around like runes atop a board
     For the sparkling dice of eyes

Inquiring how it possibly is as strange
     As one makes it sound;
Isn't that just the same, really,
     As what was already said
And universally understood?
     There is, despite it all,
Desire in the question, in the gestures,
     But it is never

What is needed by the stranger
     Seen from behind glass,
Believing in some common
     Opening
Where each shares what they know,
     Hoping to be wrong,
For only then will their understanding
     Grow.

Another glass is filled, it is a game
     Despite the stakes.
They'll let you be right, as long as you don't win
     The argument.
The violence does not seem real
     To those who always smile,
It only hangs in the air, as easy to clear
     As opening a door.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Chiron in the Morning

There never was closure
     When that door closed,
Only the silence of my mind
     Taking bets with itself,
Do I win? Do I lose?
     Only the country song
Knew for sure. Nothing had changed
     And nothing could.

Yet I stand before you now
     A transformed man,
With thoughts I'd never imagined
     In the old elan
Where I hobnobbed with hobgoblins
     And painted the house
That shade of red erasure where the pain
     Became finality.

Now I walk heart in hand
     On the dunes shaped like hips,
Too taken to withstand
     The allure that commands
The giddy peace of companionship
     Forever innocent
Of condition or occasion for an end
     In hearts each day re-turned.

Yet this blessed separation persists
     In the different-tinted sky
And cities illumined like crystals
     In our eyes,
The unspoken in the silence
     Adds that smoky note,
What some would call the centaur's wound,
     Love's constance, never lost.

Friday, June 12, 2020

The Suddenly Dropping Fruit of Opportunity

Consciousness is bliss
     But in this thinking world
Ignorance can do the trick.
     It takes us away
From the what that may be
     To the what we see.
Like the weather is how you remember it
     Until it is not.

The wind blows too much like the raucous laughter
     Of the neighbor's parties,
The neighbor who comes to your door
     With a giant zucchini
As purple blooms mysteriously
     Above the trellis
And windows turn to sunset
     In the light.

The gold is always delivered in such flow,
     Beyond any hope.
To work, it must be free of
     Prison eyes,
It can't be the gift
     We pined for.
It has to move fast to evade our
     Disappointment.

So when suddenly the word comes
     Of the executions:
Presidents, movie stars, icons ...
     It's a pleasant surprise,
After waiting so long for the awakening
     We'd given up hope
Longing for that chimera,
     Justice.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

The Fiery Sunset Over Error

What a gift it is to be wrong,
     To gather what you need
When you need it, to plant seeds
     Knowing they will bear fruit.
The rules of survival are too tight,
     Requiring you to always be right,
To know every trick for trapping your meal
     And stealing your seat at the table.

It’s a game you don’t have to play,
     With so many others to choose from:
Denial, rejection, retribution,
     To name a few;
Each offers a rich regimen
     Of individualized lesson
That will lead to graduation
     At your own special pace.

You may be shunned by the world
     That you learn you don’t need,
Or told to try again to follow direction
     That turns out to be
For someone else entirely. There’s a feeling
     Unique to failure,
In the fragrance of the flowers you grew
     As they die.

Catalina has reverted to grey, disappearing
     To another dimension;
What you thought was clear yesterday
     Now is a theory.
Are you courageous enough to let it die?
     To advocate boldly
For more things that can’t be justified
     But you’ve made a part of yourself anyway?

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The Dialog This Time

There is nothing of the truth, per se,
     In what they are saying.
They’ve been stuffed full of rags
     And lit on fire.
They dance in the suffering
     Of their immolation
As if those not in flames
     Are the cause of their pain.

We try to speak to them,
     To ask their permission
To put out the fire.
     They won’t hear a word.
If we’re not like them
     On fire
We are not
     Any good.

For to understand burning
     Makes us human,
Which would be fine, even noble,
     If they knew they were on fire.
Instead, they pretend that we are
     The ones who are burning.
They have to stay away
     Lest they ignite.

So many generations
     Of incinerated lives,
This is not the time, they say,
     For tolerance.
The books of dissent
     Ignite at their touch,
Because, to them, what is human
     Must be saved.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Where the Current Leads

Catalina is so clear today
     It's like a continent, brand new,
Unfolding unmasked stone for us
     To ask of the unknown
In the deafening incomprehensible
     That has a purpose
But no answers, despite
     The brilliance on its waves.

And the cold truth won't
     Tell
Despite the force of its expression,
     Its white resolve,
Which we can ride out to the end
     Of glistening sand
And enter in
     What only numbs.

The children with their boards,
     Still they walk the curls
As if with what the distance brings
     Will come meaning.
They wander out blind
     And come back draped
With tidal light
     If not enlightened.

Then Poseidon sends his squalls,
     A squadron of gulls
To flow above our heads,
     As if to recall
When the ocean was alive
     And our mind moved
Inside it, free of the absence
     That makes the heart now long.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Vashta Cracks a Smile

Once one sees a purpose, she said,
     There is no longer darkness.
Understanding
     Is the best defense
Against the bad guy
     She cannot learn without.
When the enlightened monster roars
     She sees the light.

And what she'd never seen before
     Makes everything else different.
Or maybe there is only
     A different set of eyes
That sees with her what is
     No longer familiar,
The strange as simulacrum
     Between them, to share.

The lantern becomes a face
     From a further dimension,
The palms a giant spider
     That lives inside her mind,
Recording all she is
     With knowing precision,
Just like she stares now at a flower,
      Seeing a mirror.

This place is full of gaps
     Like that,
The pretend that never ends,
     The real that won't reveal.
Yet it feels like an evolution
     Evens as it reverts again,
As if something witnessed is understood,
     Teaching the universe something new.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

What Happened Between the Songs

The bus comes every single day
     And every day
The people at the stop
     Decline a ride.
They'd rather wait for a father
     Or mother
Who said they'd pick them up
     But might be late.

When the call comes
     They will talk around
Every potentially problematic
     Discussion topic.
It's exhausting to stretch out
     The weather forecast
For an entire week
     When it doesn't change.

And on Sunday there you are
     Looking at your food
As the voices drop like bombs
     Around your head
And you blindly reach for the nose
     Of a wet and friendly dog
And if there's something good you've heard
     You could never say it.

There are obstacles to your escape
     As the evening fades away
And the miles home become complicated
     By the meal that you just ate
And you think of all you didn't do
     And will not complete this week
As they wrest some final words from you
     Like poetry's the one thing not allowed.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Tide Pool Glare

The ocean grinds its art
     In mastery of loneliness.
It calls us all to look
     And turn away.
The rocks arrange
     Like blossoms of applause
For the wash of crystalline
     Distance.

So many voices silenced
     To the one
That uses every word
     To be silent.
Only that can counteract
     The long stare
For meaning, away from the crowd
     And their noise.

Waves of people tumble through
     The cities.
This churn seems to sympathize.
     Tides go in.
Tides goes out. The bristling force
     Of the collective
Subsides to holes that still wait
     To be filled

Where irregular battalions
     Shine their scars,
Waiting to die for beauty
     Or for truth
Or whatever makes a life alone
      Worth living.
The voice that dissolves it
      Leaves it naked and longing.

Friday, June 5, 2020

What Comes After the Reply

New leaves may have opened
     But it's the same vine
Growing without fear
     Of reprimand,
For it's nourished by water,
     Sun and wind
As if they can't be wrong
     In pushing who they are.

The flowers crowded out
     Don't seem to mind,
They don't send out the call
     For a victim's stand,
They always choose the light
     And breeze and rain,
And if that's not enough,
     They won't say anything.

I guess that's why the Mother
     Loves us best.
We question and resist, flail and cry
     As if we are bereft.
We wish to hurt whomever
     Gets in our way,
Although we hardly care enough
     To give such souls a thought.

And in the patterns we see symbols
     Of the errors we have made,
Look to world's unseen otherwise
     To atone,
Take dictation from an otherwise
     Silent sky,
Receive as more than life
     Her ever-present love.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Casualties of Conversation

The terrifying burden to be right
     Burns the soul
Like a candle with more light
     Than its wick will allow.
The truth degrades like wax
     In the gaze
Of the mesmerized
     And cold.

They want their truth not to be
     Their own,
For it to be a burden
     On someone else,
For, if all are one,
     All must understand,
And no one should carry injustice
     Alone.

Ah, but the common
     Goes low every time,
Below the line
     Truth will travel;
Something else is required
     For consensus,
Something else dons the iron
     Of the real.

We lie now in fragments, these thoughts
     We call ourselves,
As removed from each other
     As from where we came.
We want only to be kind
     To those we recognize,
Who smile despite the confusion,
     Take the last of our light.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Light on the Player

The creature that judges
     Sifts through the cards
As if there is weight
     In each meaning,

On a quest to discard
     The darker leanings
Trapped inside white
     And black.

The shadow's a gift
     As it is overcome.
The light is a whole,
     Inaccessible.

Each symbol and shade
     Carries a fate
Strict as the law
     Of a butterfly.

So the work of discernment
     Turns down the blinds
To a desirable setting,
     The bright "Who am I?"

In finer gradations,
     Until recognized
Like the future in a dark
     Probable sea.

The hand that will win,
     The game that can be won,
From conclusions that need
     To be drawn—

So to speak of the veil
     When one speaks of the wall.
There's no boundary at all
     But a card.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The Turn of Consciousness

The parameters of heaven
     Fall in outline now,
The endless stream within
     Will tune its flow
As the wind is remade
     By shaking blades
Along its way, deferring
     As is possible

To their preference.
     The wind has
Nothing else
     But this response,
Although it is
     A distinct existence,
Real, albeit invisible,
     Naked, without a shape.

The seeds blow to birth,
     Tree limbs towards earth,
As accidents of force
     In the twisting of the stream
Where all things form and bend
     For radiant light,
Which twists itself, to the rigid
     Molds of beauty

Where what is seen
     Matches what is known,
Only to dissolve again,
     For the ends are just the means.
The arc of the stream is everything,
     The gift of no past
In how nothing's left behind
      The current's ghost.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Words for the Common I

The morning light won't be denied.
     There is no argument to it
Although we try
     To beat the unresponsive surface
'Til it's tender,
     Like we feel.

The call goes out
     To shadow the light
With that thin dark line
     Of mind;
We hurt, and therefore
     We opine.

And what shines through must dissipate,
     Made numb with distance and day.
The flowers become mute,
     No different
From the dissolute voices
    Toeing stones in the dark.

Even our breath must be formed as an opinion
     — Too shallow, too rough —
That asks "Am I enough?" in every sensory interaction
     — Too bitter, too soft —
And joy feels like the cessation of worry
     'Cause it has no discernible qualities.

The outside world can stay that way,
     Hidden in the glare,
For the rest of the day.
     We dig
A bottomless hole
     Through the thickest air.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Cythera Revisited

The masque of indifference
         passed
     and gulls
         of indistinct provenance
                                     appeared
To welcome me from chains.

O world as wet bird
        there are so many worms
                  I have missed
Watching the crows and captious
                                            sparrows
      smooth out the turf
                  with black eyes,
Scarce aware of my size,
     hiding in the thickest
                  blind,
Content with merely listening
                  to what could not go forth
                                             without me
    as free as it appeared
And gaining sustenance
                 from the spring I'd
                                             never see.

It was a stolen image in my mind
                            all that time,
    stopped like the clock in a classic car
                right two times a day.
The people cawed
                how I talked to birds
                           as if that was
                                             the error,
Never hearing what I heard,
    the sirens of the world beyond
                the protection of Circe
Weaving a rip curl
                that kept me adrift
                                               off my island.

There are magical spells
                for a Caliban
                           once he's left behind
                                              what is dear,
As an equal of the wind
               and of the albatross,
    who pass through as if
                          he's invisible,
For no longer something to hate,
    to self-immolate
               in conspicuous display
   on the black sand that touches the sea
               and empties away.

Death is the comfort
                          in the oak overhead,
    the eyes on the branch
                          too foreboding
                                                 as they go on
                                                      forever
   in the lips that hold them
                                                 floating ...

All I have known
                         became nothing
   as I watched them go ... 

The place beyond the sea,
                         I don't have to
                                                 know it now.
What is separate
                        doesn't need to be
                              matched
                                                 in my soul.
The sand through my fingers
                        is to sift and fall,
    the hawk to guard my call.
There is a breathing
                       unknown before,
   more than silence.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Deadball Canto

"He had the best curveball since Ezra Pound …”

Numbers bah! Not a one can speak of what it was
For everyone saw through different eyes
That multiplied, as the war between the leagues
Allowed the common man to take sides.
Ah but they don’t sing of the game anymore,
They don’t remember the language
                                              of the suicide squeeze,
Or how my slider knock-kneed knickerbocker batteries.
Did you know I mowed down 17 in a row at Baker bandbox, er, Bowl?
Or how I spread peanuts on the infield grass
To slow down McGraw and his nail-toed logicians
   with pigeons?
My two-catcher strategy kicked him off his trolley
              in a flask of his own crow medicine
As the Polo Grounds went rolling down in groans,
Crying for the sobriety of Marquis of Queensbury rules
That otherwise were for losers, on any other Sunday,
When “every low and contemptible method that his erratic brain
Can conceive to win a play by a dirty trick” can be employed.

               And the sweep of my curve covered most of history.
I tested the Flying Dutchman’s kindness amid adversity
                            amid making the impossible look easy
And I handled dear Tyrus through gentle and deadly understanding
on his hero’s quest to avenge his father’s murder
                                                                        at his mother’s hands,
Showed how beauty could be sprung from the well of pain
                                                                                        or as he said
They all were against me, tried every dirty trick to cut me down.
But I beat the bastards and left them in the ditch."
And my bluffing flutterball broke the royal suits
                                  of Connie Mack
Aka Slats McGillicuddy, who broke you down cleaner than a cop
                                                               from behind the plate
                                            with a voice gentler than a priest.
I whiffed Nap Lah-zhwa with the ball he’d knocked the seams offa,
Fanned Heinie Groh and his bottle bat,
threw slick from the mitt to make quick work of Elmer Flick,
Beat Johnny the Crab E-vers at his own game
of well-tempered double plays erasing many names:
Hooks Cotter, Sweetbread Bailey, Phenomenal Smith …
They all became part of my repertoire,
            soft knuckler to set up wild fastball,
                                slider to leaven the curve,
                                               and after a steady diet of breaking throws
           they’d be dead red for a freeze pop in the zone.
But I always had trouble with Dinty Barbare
             and Jimmy "the Human Mosquito" Slagle
       born without a strike zone.
I was an enemy of many cities but, like Glass Arm Eddie Brown before,
a baroque-bat squib broke the heart
of my home
borough of brotherly love.
‘Twas a hale drunk from Wilkes-Barre
                                    Piano Mover Smith who sent me
humblety tumblety 
After throwing him only stinging nettles
he pushed around the plate like runny eggs.
It echoes like the ghosts at Bennett Park
                                                 or in the meadows of Swampoodle,
And there’s no recompense in the hearts of the many
            for all the spars I cast,
                                                         foul flies to shag,
Or for suffering through a slurry of wretched utility cups of coffee
Who stayed alive waiting for the magical palm ball
                                               they’d never seen, only been told of,
And how oft I had to reach
for chin music on a 3 and 2 pitch.

But we climb and decline
                 as a team
             on diamond jewels
And railway atriums, murky with periploi,
And in the morning smoke below the glistening hills of Pittsburgh 
looking down
and dusky autumns in Brooklyn when the crows flew in
Under Eppa’s drunken flag that had been mercilessly beaten
             by a mother back in Factoryville none of us cared to know.
                        Cactus Gaavy brought the gravy,
                                                Possum the taters,
But it was up to Harvard Eddie to prove the theory
                that leather was mightier than wood.
Every man was his own man, slightly more than human
                                                as he streamed out on the field
As a uniform in the thinking player piano machine of team,
But these volleys buzzing round the horn did not happen
                                                           by themselves,
For men on the great chain of being
Cannot give nor receive
                                                           without instruction,
They must be given keys ...
To stare with uncommon eyes at the common enemy:
                                   The indifference of the crowd
packaged like cold cream,
How to make them proud, of themselves,
As they sit in fetid bleachers wanting for one thing to cheer—
So we went all-in on victory, out of all the beauties 
Our fiendish craft lays out for us to dabble
Like Anchises to make Aphrodite fall in love with a mortal:
                         The art of hit and run in the mud,
The loom the catcher weaves of deception,
The clean line of fine-aimed rope and well-timed dart,
The science of where to stand
                                           and when to run,
The mumblety-peg at the keystone sack
          to delay that step away,
The third bagger sensing when to stay at home
                               and when to trespass in,
The would-be steal that could be foretold
by peering deeply in the rosin bag,
The centerfield catch that makes the mind of heaven happy.
                               
All for a moment of timelessness
and Stuffy McInnis.

But the crazed eyes along the circuit stared back,
j’accuse to nolo contende
for playing a children’s game
however lethal it became.
There was chicken wire to protect us at the Palace of the Fans.
For the line was much too thin
between doomed and demigods,
so much recognized in between.
One more hit in ten at bats and you could stay here in the show.
One less and the crowds in Altoona pity you,
the illusion of fear, the beast
that had been closing in on you
no longer there.
And deaf-mutes lain in wait to ambush you with clubs
in the sticks.
So many a good man was lost to the oceans of the minors.

So we bounced our heads like marionettes on clipper strings,
                      alive in the world of the dead,
No money to be had
                                         instead, a queue of shots and bottles,
Overwrought posadas, tavern-clearing brawls
In each establishment where the uniform drinks for free.
           There is no need to ask why. Ay! I couldn’t tell you,
It’s in the urge to win and the ways it’s dangled and withdrawn,
For we are innocent men, content to mangle each other
And wash the sawdust down with blood to show we’re stronger
Than the ones who question our toughness, knowing nothing.
            Better to let our silence tell the lie of the pious hero
                                            than be undone by our mouths already raw
From venom thrown on the ones who’d understand,
Brother players! Those we cared enough for to get under their skin,
Mid hostile forces:
                                   The baseball Gods
& skinflints who kerosen’d the teams they owned
                        with their papers and distilleries,
Who looked at their charges a necessary expense
                                                        to appease Mercury,
The illusion of lucre felt more keenly
                        than that of a forkball table-dropped.
We were suckers at best, at worst accessories to murder,
But the game redeems as it corrupts, absolutely.
                       And we noticed, when the kranks brought pencils
The scorecards were filled, and the sport-page scored us black
For the spectacles, and a history began to be compiled
       For what had been lost in dirt and blood,
And as it turned out no one who could hit
could be a sinner,
For eyes and hands revealed character
Otherwise unobserved in parish neighborhoods.

But the cork ball began the long debasement:
The Federal League greed with no Titanic to stop it,
The 8 men out in France, where Harvard Eddie perished,
 better able in the end to sniff out hot corner smoke
                              than Lost Battalions in Argonne.
The shell shock epoque that kneaded the little doughboy lost
Also mustarded Muggsy and brought Grover Pete to his seizured knees
                         mumbling to the flea circus how he K’d Lazzeri—
Both buried with full military honors
         and a hall of fame slab
That was never enough, for they had led their legions to battle
And rushed with just their sore arms into the swarm of darkness,
The buzzing still stinging their ears long after, back at their lot of sand 
to work out the karma
At each stop at the slaughteryards of America. 

Then Ray Chapman, temporarily like Achilles,
                        brought the tragic end of history,
The dictate that the pitcher’s art, dependent on one baseball
Exposed to the elements of nature and fate in one game, be curtailed,
With the umpire – that anti-art bureaucrat – deciding the life of
                                                           each ball, and, so,
I could no longer fill the jars with the holy honey
of dive-bombing curves, fluttering flatirons, seamless hides
                                               harmlessly falling.
Once Prohibition and Mountain Landis stoppered up the Dionysus,
It was brute against boar, the cathedrals were filled up with skins  
            for a population only trusted to be benumbed
And a long, slow decline. And the wireless war machines
brought night baseball
And the Payseurs replaced the very grass.

And in no time
                                I was
A rag-armed also-ran for the Browns
Brought in to handle aging superstars
In the dark parts of late and difficult innings
pregnant with thirsts for revenge,
And to perch like Balzac on top of the bullpen,
My cape strategically placed to block out the sun
For my imagined long-limbed order of blind bats.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

At Hephaestus’ Temple

After Linda Gregg

The outside gold is just the female form
Dancing to invisible music. No woman
Can live in this dark, ceilings blackened,
Walls that peel with brooding. So little light
Ever shines through, but it’s still too much
Easy sustenance, instant forgiveness, for him,
Too much of the outside world to overcome,
For it turns these gods he casts into mortals.
Thus, his heart could never leave
Through that window, where dianthus quivers
And swallowtails dive. There’s the work of existing
Independent from what lives to merge and die
In patterns that are ever-inexplicable.
You say gold and silver have no value,
Being stolen from the earth. That may be
Here in the dark, but out there they stand
Apart from everything, give the meaning
That is lacking, even as they’re moldering
With the same dark heart that created them.
Faces almost human, as if pulled
Outside of time, petrify like the charred trees
Along the river of oblivion.

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Order Coming Out Through the Whole

There’s art to everything we do, but is there enough
Freedom to let us pursue it? The physician
Takes off his shirt, waves his recorder
And descends to a limbo before exhorting
The crowd: “We want our freedom now.”

The drum circle has absorbed it all, relentless
At the business of metamorphosis. Even a whistle
Can’t keep the flow from veering around
Its steady downward course of river, where the ocean
Rolls into the drums.
                                        Some would call it chaos,
The way the dancers erupt
When timbales and tabla explode,
And the silver bass drum from the high school band
Has gone off the grid, to the conscience in the wind,
Where weed spreads
                                         In the brush fire of riotous hair,
And a tenor waves free jazz
Over the proceedings, straight to the belly dancing hole,
Which finds its own place too in a conversation
Tuned to music, that won’t hold back the truth.
                                       
They are this close to walking away from the duties
They are told to do, from professing any faith in a rule
                                        That denies the divine
Order that emerges of the bougarabou.

“Toto, we’re not in Saigon anymore,” they would say
If there was any freedom to do so. “There’s no
Fluegelhorns, the great fondue scare is over.
The nuns skate the war of the cherries on ice
And Calista’s glass jaw has made an impossible comeback,
Stuffed inside Hack’s giant duffel.”

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Three Short Poems about Poems

1.
It's all I can do
To not
Wake them
And shake
Them up
... These poems
Must do

2.
This moment is too full
Of ideas
Freedom
The smallest thing brings
The white
Not heroin
Or poems
Per se
But a way to fill the air
With light
Tho I'm blind

3.
The exact same thing
With polar opposite words—
The plural void

Friday, May 22, 2020

Xenia

I.
His mind glistened
As he walked out from the library
To pure light.

He'd been reading on the mysterious
Processes of art, the theories
Shelved in hermetic embarrassment
For eternity.

Their authors hated all that crap,
The trappings of tone,
Technique, form, meaning,
And more how it failed to light
With any justice
On receivers.

The art itself, forever free of this,
Lay here too, untouched
As if to say "Be wary,
Having captured me
You must carry
All I know"

Onto shelves not yet visible
To share space with gracious company
Of loquacious quotetasters
For a party between the leaves
Full of envy and idolatry,
Insatiable desires to speak
As if they'd be interred otherwise
In another person's words.

It's not like Friday afternoons out here,
Where stemware and ashtrays
Are not preserved,
But there, like here, the voices speak
To be heard
Though always, always turned
Away.

II.
Electricity balances instantly,
It reaches
Infinity,
But in density, skyscraper girders
Tangle endlessly in the sky.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

For Creeley on his Birthday

An infinite you
Stitches each conceivable

Permutation of this moment
But the bull

Is only a shadow now
The red just a memory

And the quiet that fell
Over the house

Almost like
A forgetting

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Polita v. Poetria

          "I rarely buy a newspaper, or vote.
           To do so, I have learned, is to invite
           The tread of a stone guest within my house." -- James Merrill

Defeat needs no narrative, for its shrieks
Seem self-assured, like a victory smirk;

The vanquishing king just lets them speak,
Not out of mercy but an inner strategy

That is only as brilliant as it leads
To surrender, and how they never know

The end before it arrives. The politesse
Of luring the hordes to your side …

Are not the stratagems of poesis,
Which all take place in the strata of loss

Where the mind that can make anything wrong
Can no longer swipe at light like a moth

And dare to be right, its sincerity enough
To make the journey virtuous.

It’s up to the heart now to withstand the plot
And to feel its way through the characters

It cannot help but to have turned into,
Knowing, somehow, it has wronged, but turning it

To the good, as the pain recollects
In empty chambers, sounding out the end –

The tragedies after they’ve made the rounds
At the parties and tugged whatever strings

Pity conjures become invisible
But still have a form – call it transcendental.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Cards for Molly

As irrefutable as things sound
     in Latin, it only makes sense

If you can dance to it. It's an old
     condition, the rhythm

Of the human heart overcoming
                    what the numbers say

At their most impossibly logical and eerily
     prescient.

     We are too soft
for negation, as powerful
                     as it makes us feel,
     as long as we have this
                                               flesh
            there's compassion
                      for the heaviness
                 
                                of afternoons,
their impervious reliquaries of gold,
            where smoke is bogarted

     to thresholds,
           those holes where living goes
                               to be alone

And not just one more inarticulate host
          pointing to noise in the emptiness,
                       a supposed, more remote country

Where whatever was said fell out
                                like a story,
     such was the distance that it seemed
           so close, an extension
                      of what we weren't saying,

'Til slowly your own clothes
                      came off in the play
     of your inflamed absence
            with their absent lust.

There were eyes but that's not what we shared
     in the darkness of the finally vulnerable.

It was that we were vestibules at last,
     a room through a door
                           that was a wall
                                 the moment before

And you wondered how you ever thought
                           it was otherwise,
                                                             when you
     stood as the rose in the night, waiting
          for an eye to carry you

Where you could see past the obstruction
          of your being

And into the pupil that learns yet again
         that to observe is to be observed.

   Desire exists on its own somehow

trying to calm us down.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Shoreline

The water always comes in white
When the sun is dying,

Wave after wave carries forward
The curls of distant wars.

Our footprints run together
And then dissolve—

Such kindness there is in violence,
Such promise in diminution.

Soon there will be nothing left to see,
The rustling swells will be a theory.

The birds cross over an inch above our heads
And head into a definite purple.

We only are alive
As we sense the shoreline breathing.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Lies for which I'm Forgiven

My father always wanted me to like his songs.
They were shared like goblets of wine:
What's your pleasure, your poison, your shame?

But context is the first thing to go, and eventually
These offspring must stand on their own,
Naked, without meaning ...

There's that familiar start, bass 8ths and a snare,
But sampled as if to make everything the same,
This song for the children, that they want me to like.

It was once what I existed to share,
Now I cordon myself off in layers of padding,
To sing to myself one more time.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Incident by the 39 Hotel

It's so hard to manage it all,
To instruct those who won't be taught,
To remember why my underwear is in the trunk,
How to follow the lanes with my cart.

It's no wonder I stand in awe
At the lady in the Walmart parking lot
Who carefully pulls a bicycle off the roof of a car,
Smooths out and folds the blanket underneath.

She has roller blades around her neck,
A large bag of clothes by her feet,
Hair cropped and bleached like a real estate agent,
Talking to no one the shoppers can see

As she puts the bicycle back on the roof
And straps it in with the same leather belt.
I crack open my window to let in some air and
Instantly she's speaking as if we haven't talked in years!

Like me, she's been taken apart by this life we're supposed to lead.
But unlike me, she refuses in any way to indicate
Whether the car her life seems to revolve around
Is really hers.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Venus in Virtua

Doubling down on a past
That passes for a presence
'Til nothing is experienced fresh—
The jacaranda tree
Is part of the movie
Or might as well be.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Groans from the Cusp

If we believe we are
free
why do we need to perceive
otherwise?
What if our
oppressors were
released
in secret?
They couldn't retrieve
every
mousetrap
and where there is
cheese
there must be
somebody
awake enough
to resist

Monday, May 11, 2020

Red Tide Harvest

After Listening to Nietzsche (Jack that is) 

In Naples they have the good grace to hide
Themselves past the age of 30,
When respectability starts to waft
Its inevitable cigar,
To leave the beaches clear for the beautiful
People, pretty as a corpse,
Who know not why they can do no wrong.

They say it's like that here, of course,
But nothing harshes the California cool
Quite like the aging surfer, who
Drinks IPAs to "Let It Bleed" all day,
His locks of hair too gray to carry off
The super-human excitement
Conveyed by the word "rad," which everything is,
As if nothing can ever be new.

His wet suit hangs on the door to dry.
He cackles like underwater sonar,
Old warrior without a parade,
Just a sky-blue Volkswagen van that is
His crispy way of saying
"These colonnades and amphitheaters
I built for you, enduring the surf's
Impossible fury. I made it look
Like the bass line that pulled along the party."

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Uprising

The spring when everything ended was when I
Could begin, the cool wind has returned, the rain, and
I no longer know these people I valued
More than my friends, and the facts I pursued
Pale before my own experience,
For some things one can only know
By looking, like Albuquerque built on a sacred ridge,
Where one could hear the pull of the underground.

The human bombs on every block have been dismantled.
The spider-web system has turned to powder on the lawns.
The dogs have stopped smelling the sulphur.
The world is waking up
To the fact, for example, that Michael Jackson
Died in 1984, and the lights are run
By the dark ones in the theatres of war

Where everything that goes on is a dream
Except for the truth that is buried, not permitted for belief,
For then it couldn't hurt you. So you're not shown
The half-human children, as they're released, beg to die,
Or how the few are dispatched with the same concealment
By which they lived. The morning you wake to is your own,
Still holding the nothing you can't let go.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Report from Under the Pier

Expressions of political
And sexual power
Mix here like sand and oil.
The megaphones are mobilized
In kindly plea to "open
California now"
Below the ever-tolerant sun
And always irascible ocean,
A father / mother
Good cop / bad cop
God
Who lets you believe
What you want,
Whatever it is,
No matter the corrections
It blows like soft-serve
Wrappers at your feet.
Mask-wearers v. flag-bearers;
It's a party,
With iced red drinks,
Wheeling bikinis,
The stink of weed
And fry bread,
Commodities of the oppressed,
Who always seem to
Come out for these things
Without any real belief
In the megaphone citing
Code and verse
On the constitutionality
Of bullshit.
"There's a crime being committed
Against you, citizens!"
The bicycles built for two
Roll right by, as usual
There's only a few
Who care to write on posterboard
The particulars of their enslavement.
Most are content to loll
Across the continuous sensation
That doesn't need to have
A meaning after all.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Low Tide in Late Afternoon

The families on the beach have been replaced by ideas
—It's the subtlest shift, this energy
Behind the cartwheels and the tern trajectories,
It all has meaning, whether the themes
Complete themselves or not, for the dynamism
Is the chase of scratch to itch, of entropy
Rolling along the dunes, catching the driftwood,
Taking each wave's crash course
On what it means to ponder one's place and fate,
To create a world transparent and full, only to
Watch it disappear as illusion,
And then to smile with the sun
And love, love on the foam.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Looking Up on Second Floors

Other people: there's nothing you can do,
They will do what they want
No matter what you say
Or how you yourself do it.

And yet, they are quiet now,
An eerie blue oozing
From every bedroom.