Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Fluidity of Environments

As long as the earth
     Spins without you knowing
          You are learning.

As long as you can’t see
     The air that you are breathing
           You are learning.

Every moment is a catch in the fabric
     To find one’s own
            Secret objective reality

That invokes different Gods,
     Parents, experiences, sets
            Of consensual perceptions,

And separate screams of truth
     That can’t be heard,
            Not even by dogs.

It’s not what can be written in a book.
     The laws of each moment are far too mutable
            To be condensed into truths.

It’s too important for the individual
     To be anything more
            Than individual,

To play in some akashic saga
      Where the heroes always prevail
            Against the most uncertain of odds,

Telling their stories along the way,
      Every unexpected detail,
            Against a common enemy of boredom

As if that is the lesson
      And not how it ends,
            Which is not the lesson at all.

A master of sorts, silent and invisible,
     Takes in the unruly entertainment en toto
            And disappears without a nod.

You can sense the presence
     The next time you say what it is,
           Still whatever you believe in ends

And there’s always something new on the same road,
     The blaze in every head
           Of lampstrings to be tugged.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Love, the remembered song by Fernando Pessoa

Love, the remembered song,
Return it to me now.
At night, my eyes closed, it has only grown,
Your voice makes my heart long
For all that you vow.
You sing next to me, and I am alone.

The voice is not yours, I know,
That rises and wakes in me
Murmurs of longing and resistance,
The moon doesn't make this moonglow,
It comes from my sympathy
To myth, hurt, absence and distance.

No, it's not for your song
That a background star
From the limitless night of my heart burns,
Calls in vain, calls out so strong ...
Who am I? ... Why is the world so far? ...
Love, may the old and vain singing return.

For more than yourself do you sing,
Your voice spans the abyss
To reveal the secret ineluctably,
Of which I've received nothing -
A twilight murmurous,
Water in the night, death that comes early.

So you sing without them.
At the end of the moon's illuminations
There are better dreams than these illusions.

 ---------------------------------------------------------------------
A lembrada canção

A lembrada canção,
Amor, renova agora.
Na noite, olhos fechados, tua voz
Dói-me no coração
Por tudo quanto chora.
Cantas ao pé de mim, e eu estou a sós.

Não, a voz não é tua
Que se ergue e acorda em mim
Murmúrios de saudade e de inconstância,
O luar não vem da lua
Mas do meu ser afim
Ao mito, à mágoa, à ausência e à distância.

Não, não é teu o canto
Que como um astro ao fundo
Da noite imensa do meu coração
Chama em vão, chama tanto...
Quem sou não sei... e o mundo?...
Renova, amor, a antiga e vã canção.

Cantas mais que por ti,
Tua voz é uma ponte
Por onde passa, inúmero, um segredo
Que nunca recebi —
Murmúrio do horizonte,
Água na noite, morte que vem cedo.

Assim, cantas sem que existas.
Ao fim do luar pressinto
Melhores sonhos que estes da ilusão.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Intrigues of the Deep Void

How fungible this is
The solid world
And how perverse the play
The troops brought in to quell a fire
That wasn't there yesterday

The more unalterable and impervious it seems
The better as simulation
What else to believe?
Flickering dreams
So inviting and discrete?
What is there to give our beings away?

Too easy
Not like this puzzle of density
The mathematical plot
Where we wake to such slight adjustments in the weights
We cannot perceive it is fantasy

A morality saga
Of incomprehensible provenance
Amusing for us as an audience
The more humiliating it is as props
Or maybe characters
When we feel a decision being made

And can stand against the horror of our fate
For a moment
Wide-eyed and not quite compliant
The consequence disclosed
But never the cause

That is left open
After all the steel bars
Lock in implacably precise permutations
It's a trick of the mind
That keeps us inside nevertheless
Grey cells

How could it not be what it appears?
Such shame to even contemplate!
The dump truck toy that suddenly becomes a plane
Embarrased it has wings!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Railyard Blues

All these boxcars move away
It feels so free when they pull ahead
With the promise of some enigmatic home
At the end of all the tossing and the rolling

It's like the pause that we call silence
Between the breathing in and out
Where what wasn't right has left
And what will never fit has yet to arrive

The garish parade of hope announcing it
Is so believable
You'd almost start to think
That something else besides the hope was real

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Ah, what remains to be read by Fernando Pessoa

Ah, what remains to be read
Has been read already! 
Dream, before I go to bed,
What will be your melody?

The one I hear doesn't exist,
But what I don't hear in the moon's cream,
A voice that is mist,
Comes into my dream.

And this is the voice that is singing
When I can't hear ...
I am taken into everything
And forget my ear.

What the voice sings to me
Flees to the eternal.
If the soul ignores me
Then I stay in the soul.

I feel, I want, I know ...
Only the lost is here -
And where I dreamed, the echo,
Forgets about my ear.

----------------------------------------
Ah, já está tudo lido,

Ah, já está tudo lido,
Mesmo o que falta ler!
Sonho, e ao meu ouvido
Que música vem ter?

Se escuto, nenhuma.
Se não ouço ao luar
Uma voz que é bruma
Entra em meu sonhar.

E esta é a voz que canta
Se não sei ouvir...
Tudo em mim se encanta
E esquece sentir.

O que a voz canta
Para sempre agora
Na alma me fica
Se a alma me ignora.

Sinto, quero, sei-me
Só há ter perdido —
E o eco onde sonhei-me
Esquece do meu ouvido.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Song: Island Life

The way we go
The lines are all breaking
We reach the shore like broken glass
That washes up
Still free

Our island life
Runs around in circles
We read the gold in the horizon
That crosses us
Each day

Breakers come to take you
Takers come to break you down
Clashing with the walls
Like you're in it
As if that is my goal
Some magic that will never fail
On you

Riding on the waves
Raging as they fall
Wherever the wind and we sashay
All alone along the coast
We brave

Friday, November 15, 2019

Death comes prematurely by Fernando Pessoa

Death comes prematurely,
For all of life is brief,
The instant is the apery
Of a thing that’s lost to grief.

It has begun, desire,
It never ended, what’s idealized,
And you who have aspired
Do not know what you have realized.

And all of this is struck
By death for not being right
In the fortuitous notebook
God left open in the night.

 ---------------------------------------------------
A morte chega cedo

A morte chega cedo,
Pois breve é toda vida
O instante é o arremedo
De uma coisa perdida.

O amor foi começado,
O ideal não acabou,
E quem tenha alcançado
Não sabe o que alcançou.

E a tudo isto a morte
Risca por não estar certo
No caderno da sorte
Que Deus deixou aberto.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Lines based on “A morte chega cedo” by Pessoa

A home that is elusive,
Pain that should have been let go,
The urge to save the world you can’t forgive,
For it is you, as tragic show

When it could be comedy,
A king who rings with golden bells
Reporting things impossibly
Wrong, from all the possible hells

What is nothing but a joke
To expose your blushing flesh
Only to hide inside of the smoke
That churns the story out afresh.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Sonnet of the Happy Slaves

Put a clown ball on each of their noses,
Hear the universal crackle of popcorn applause,
Play the scofflaw this time instead of the necktie of the law--
Until you try on all the colorful poses

Your fate won't fit, and you'll wander from void to void
Noting the tones of the collapsing simulations.
The swallow a foot away turns into a lion,
Transforming the steeliest of Dan to the pinkest Floyd ...

So your reactions manufacture what is real,
Heaven is created out of thin airs--
How destined we are to forget that. We feel

Our overwhelming longing as the thing we desire
In an endless subdivision into pairs,
To adore the newfound glow in our jar, the gift of our fire.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Full Moon

No one has time to look at the sky
                                   so no one notices
The same higher beings there as inside
That no one notices—instead it's an empty,
Immovable vessel, built for surveillance
      and war, that pulses and roars
In the sky that everyone sees;
                    the moon is only our hearts
                    telling us what
                                 we've forgotten:
     the face of youth, the mirror of love,
     the imperfect pearls of what we believe
To be right, to be true,
                    the sweetness of dreams
      allowed to be real, in the muted tones of
                     incomprehensible poems.

We have been there, every one of us,
      although we don't remember.
What do we know of it? Of how it got its scars?
                    We only know we stand apart
      in our fingerprints of pain,
We  who do not know ourselves
                                     except as reflected,
Refusing to believe that we are there in the sky,
      as far away as how we feel.

Monday, November 11, 2019

At Night by Fernando Pessoa

Silence is your twin in infinity.
Who finds you, knows not to search.
Death made visible, you quench the thirst
Of the vague world, the narrow and afflicted sea.

If I stare at your abysmal constellations
I won't see who I am or know the scheme
Of such pain, such craving for the dream,
In my endless and uncertain meditations.

What secret glimpse of the highest days
Or hours would match your sweep?
Bridal veil of the end of endings and pain.

I don't even know the comfort of fright.
Let me end, let me sleep, 
May I never be awakened by the light!

‐----------------------------------------------------------------
À Noite

O silêncio é teu gémeo no Infinito.
Quem te conhece, sabe não buscar.
Morte visível, vens dessedentar
O vago mundo, o mundo estreito e aflito.

Se os teus abismos constelados fito,
Não sei quem sou ou qual o fim a dar
A tanta dor, a tanta ânsia par
Do sonho, e a tanto incerto em que medito.

Que vislumbre escondido de melhores
Dias ou horas no teu campo cabe?
Véu nupcial do fim de fins e dores.

Nem sei a angústia que vens consolar-me.
Deixa que eu durma, deixa que eu acabe
E que a luz nunca venha despertar-me!

Sunday, November 10, 2019

The Slow Clouds by Fernando Pessoa

The slow clouds make you sleepy,
The blue sky makes it good to sleep.
I float, in intimate abandonment,
At the surface of not feeling.

And it's smooth, like water running,
To feel that I'm not someone.
I am not capable of weight or hurt.
My soul is that which does not have.

It's good, to be by the brook
Knowing that it is going ...
And only in sleep will I go first,
And only in dreams follow.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

After Pessoa

Words came to keep us apart
And to share our glimmers of the one
That doesn't need them, except to say:

I am taking you back, without your mouths,
Though I created these twins
To let you get lost in them

For the sake of the song, the sad one of longing,
Where the voicelessness of the voice
Can be sung,

For the tongue can't articulate the heart!
It screams and breathes, screams and breathes
But all it can say of the air

Is the same thing it says when
Some gratitude finally comes,
"It is nothing."

Friday, November 8, 2019

Morning White

The year whirs by
Then November comes in like a rock.
The illuminating fog spills over the fields.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Curse of the Expanding Man

You want more abundance?
How could that be?
To go further away from who you are
And deeper to the world of service?
As much as the couch calls for you,
You will still feel alone.
As fast and as far as you can drive
You will still raise your arms to the sky
And implore: "more absence!"

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Sweep of November Evenings

Night comes down in red,
Like a memory that swallows hard;

There's something they are trying to tell you
As they lean upon your heart and ear,

Something that you haven't learned for yourself
Although you sympathize from memories only.

The night is filled with lights,
Though every one of them feels so lonely,

There is something that is waiting
For what won't return, or that never came--

It's impossible to know, just that something's missing
That you need to find. The particular toy

Has passed with age, but not the longing
For things revealed on unencumbered mornings

As real and as lost as any dream,
Like a ghost in the machine of daily living

Swinging open the claws of its doors
Like an empty, well-lit bus.

I've had so many friends
Who've listened and have shared--

The details we've exchanged have changed me,
Yet I can't recall a voice or face

As much as a feeling, the same one
That looks out at this darkness,

Tries to see itself at last.

Monday, November 4, 2019

A Cross from the Riverbed

Down in the Gospel Swamp
The Lord had Blessed the lima beans
And Given to the faithful
Holy Writ to squat
In “the Egypt of America,”
The snaky banks of the Santa Ana,
Where on the bluffs and islands
Of overflowing shores
Was offered Salvation free of charge
To any soul in need
Amid the Tule weeds
And broom corn
To Sweep the trespass away.

The swamp angels put up the tent
Wherever the water would allow,
And the Pumpkin Rollers stayed
To minister as they were ministered
The bursting celery fields;
They built a community
Among the black sage and arroyo willow
On peat
Where the Lord’s Word was Law
And the barley, potato marbles, sugar beet
Grew in the drained soil like a miracle
All along the Bolsa Chica.
The Right Rev. Isaac Hickey
From the fiery bellows of Tennessee
Had evaded the letter of the Homestead Act
From Rincon on to Phoenix,
Bringing only what he possessed,
The overpowering power of faith
Through the dense night fogs
And the constant flooding …

Such Trust in the Lord
Was not to be rewarded,
For the Rancheros inevitably
Shooed the flock away
Like so many lambs
(A small price to pay
For an Eternal Home),
And the Property stayed
Under the Charter
Of the Irvine Company,
Which holds it to this day,
No matter how many
Billionaire Chinese
Plant their Flags into its Sand
And share a sunset
Seemingly holy.

This Golden Land
Was always a passing place,
A likeness on the outer ring
Of heaven.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Instead of Model Planes

50 shades of beige dismality,
Grey branches the only counterweight to the sky
For miles of wondering how and why ...

Then the buzz of flies, a lift of ducks,
A moss-ridden pool, thick and still,
Nestled in the dessicated reeds

Where mallards skate in V's,
Communing with the larvae in their beaks.
In cotton fluff I inquire of the muck

Slopped to the chartreuse oasis side
And three ducks, startled, raise their wings and fly
Just close enough to be too far away.

The pond shines white as tails swim off
Clucking their strange, ineluctable tongue.
Then: a splash of goldenrod. I look up: a broken-heart cloud.

Friday, November 1, 2019

The Art of Fiction

Sometimes
     Only lies can be the truth,
And people made of words
     More 3-dimensional.

I’m waiting for the plot just like
     I’m waiting for the train,
With no knowledge of what’s known
     To someone else,

How the fat ex-wife will only sing
     When she deems I’ve had enough.
What truths unspool in homage
     To the false.

They were all unwept pages
     To pry out private tears,
So real tears could be saved
      For holidays.

The lines that people
      Will never say,
Only real in how it feels,
      Are revealed here,

The place we met
      A different coast now,
And all the mistakes the unexpected
      Painted on the scene

Created not only the actual seeds of tragedy
      But an alternate hero’s journey
Where we are written out of each other’s plot
      To be freed,

But the worst remains, for the sake of the conveyance,
       As if it is all,
The shameful urge,
       The unexamined fall …

The tells remain like skulls
       Painted with colorful locales,
Dead but ever-present, buried
       But without a corpse to exhume.

You’re terrified
       To be captured in the prose
And so afraid
       You’re not;

How could you know, not seeing
       How you’re seen,
Lacking hope
        Of being redeemed?

Your words appear
        In courtesan’s speech,
From that time you pontificated
        On war.

You wanted to be a star, to shine the way
        You never did to me,
To find your actions are the plot,
         Your self-portrait only background,

And all the things you stole from others
        Lost by them, just the same, in the end.
“There were words,” you exclaim,
      “That held us together,

How could they go missing?"
      When what everyone does
—Love each other—
      Didn’t need to be explained.

The heart is a thing
       For mathematicians,
Truth and suffering
       Mere grist for balancing

The competing claims
       Of pro- and anti- agonists.
The heroine’s me, no matter what happens,
      The hero is you.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Commuter Light

It's just a moment between stillness
And the rivers filling to the roofs with cars.

The faces are like stones
Holding unreleasable heat.

They march to fill the undiscovered country,
The one they didn't notice yesterday.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

A Pause to Wait

The code goes through the code,
Each phone finds a singular soul
To rustle the great unremembered.

The walls powered too by the current of thought
That glows in the lamps, more than alive,
Holding what's been seen, the feel of history.

We endure these cold illuminations,
Shape them to desires,
Sense the distant harbingers of home.

And the birds converse about the same enthralling sky,
The loudspeaker announces what does not exist,
The train rides fire to a point of complete stillness.

Monday, October 28, 2019

View from the Canyon

A falling leaf has the intelligence of the universe.
The bodies that pass in the sun are ghosts.
The visible world glimmers in a mirror.
The light is raining sparks. It's quiet
As the black bird's white wings wave across the grass.

The eucalyptus is draped with the memory
Of every predecessor tree
Peeling from the veil as it dissolves.
The leaves have assumed such age in such a short season.
The seeds have turned so red with hidden beaming.

The tangled vines are the arc of thought
Turning in on itself,
Yet the sun makes a pattern
Through the canopy of branches
That the wind turns into a story.

The olive trees shiver in an uncanny portrayal of pain.
But seeing into things does not reveal their meaning
Only how far off the shadows are
As they move ever closer.
It's silence you're inside, a thought thinking.

Oh we don't know what has happened!
We only know that, when it came time
To predict the future
We were wrong,
As we always are.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Sky Overcast with Nostalgia

The eras of error enter like breath
And retreat, not wholly themselves any more
But some lost spiritual thing, that glows
In the present like a crystal display

Holding all the light of the present sun.
It is not what it was, nor what we want
It to be, but something caught in between,
Like what is understood among two people,

The past that has not yet been absorbed and
The future that has not yet been conjured,
The only sounds that the present hears now,
They echo like the barterings of crows,

What we long to hold of what has long since
Slipped away, like words of dictionaries
That have taken their meanings away with them.
It is a hope, for a feeling, of a

Thought of the sublime. Some ember stirs there
Brightening our eyes, accustomed to dark,
So we can recognize ourselves in its
Dim light, the blue that remains for the blue.

But is there more? Of what is that old glow
Composed? And why was it chosen to lead us
Forward? The doors are opening to
Paneled woodies, Lucky Strikes signs, Nehi

Handbills, Mao jackets, quadraphonic LPs,
And the soundtracks and moviescapes that went with,
Mementos that are left of what has lived,
As if the fantasy that outlived them

Still has more victims to claim, the hyper-hip
Still longing for what has never to come,
Like a koan that never will be understood
No matter how long someone stands before it

Because it refuses to accept its form.
It whistles in the air as something else
Yet to be discovered, but safely gone,
Commensurate with the eyes that want it.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Some People Talking on the Beach

From the immensity of ocean
All of our words roll in
Like shells to impress us
And amuse our friends

Tufts of kelp apostrophize
As tiny stones glimmer with secret meaning
And the gulls hang down
On golden currents

No one writes about the sea anymore
The fingers are formed into hearts to catch the sun
In a photo caught like the wind
In two-dimensional display

As the glaze that suffices for time passes away
And the words the waves say
Each whisper a sacred truth
Return as a constant hum

The collective white noise
The drops of water in the ocean
—It extends always beyond
Like the sun as it falls

Unapprehended another day
And the soldiers of foam still landing
But not for the conquests we imagine
In our endless quests for onenness

Friday, October 25, 2019

The Soccer Games

My ambition is to disappear.
There's too much sun, too much grace.

If it wasn't for these dreams
In the middle of the day
Of who I want to fill this empty space
I wouldn't know anything at all.

The ball would move like an ant along the grass,
I'd never see those I'm supposed to notice,
Who wander my cranium like welcome ghosts
Offering their signature riffs.

It only matters if they're heroes
And their dreary residues are of the golden,
To be followed from afar,
The only way to be them,

Those who've taken a turn in the world,
Became a part of it that's worthy ...
Not these spreadsheets filled for no one,
These words that no one hears.

It's only me, there is no other side,
So small against everyone I've become.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Call of Home

The sunset obliterates the day
—Whatever it was, whatever was said—
It is all now exposed as naked hope ...

For the children to find the light,
Ideas to reach a home,
The bright jagged laughter that's shared
To be held in reserve
For the long stretch of loneliness ahead

Lifetimes bear such darkness
With a soft compassionate lamp
Patient as life fades away
To a deepening black

The light unobscured
How it waits for them
Without so much as a sound

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Opening Sparks

The headlights multiply
As the blue hills rise
In the pale gold sky

Too long, too long
The never visible day

We've waited long enough
To see the sheen on quonset huts
The eerie glare of what is real along the streets

But the shadows too will grow too large
And speak of too many things

The dead lights comfort will not suffice
For the faces worn away by waiting
For the train that never came

The last illumination will go out
So it may begin again

The first scows of morning
Will plow through the night
To the same remembered daybreak

Where the hint became an urge
And they moved upon a miracle of silence

Monday, October 21, 2019

A Triangle in Three Parts

1.
We are born in agreement
     but somehow diverge.
The truth furrows naturally
     from its opposing side
That, being ever equal, grows
     us further apart
Until the two are joined as one
     by a third line,
Where all the energy of perpetual
     disagreement can go,
A base that is no more
     than a connector
Of the places where we have fallen the farthest
      from the tip of primordial unity,
Joined in the hope of joining.
      As spirals expand, triangles lock.

2.
I want truth and I want love
     but I can never choose,
For they seem to me the same thing,
     no matter how many times
The wind has laughed, the sun has explained,
     the earth has swallowed its dead.
There is something on the other side
     that always moves away.
And always this thing
     that says we are the same
Without explaining what it is
     we are
Or how we'll ever find a common ground
     except in the unknown,
What can only be a theory —
     the way we reach some form of agreement.

3.
The heart comes, a circle, and
     fails to understand,
The whole elaborate play a toy
     for a child to command,
The urge to awaken all the others
     to show off what you've made
Says you are more important than sleep,
     you long forgotten one,
Waiting in the stony silence
     for a familiar voice.
You started dying away like a leaf at birth
     to meet that distant call
That holds you still, though you move
     ever further beyond ...
Love must be impossibly distant;
     it's far too close.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Walk from the Beach

The howl from the Humane Society:
You must give some form of offering—
What the heart can only know,
Stretched as far as it will go anyway.

Song: Gone

When the wind came in
     you stayed
Told of all there was
     to change
And smiled
Called it a small thing
     to place your face
          into the frame
     and make it sing

So the world we knew
     was lost
To a road we'd never
     crossed
The beach
Where every battle
     came to an end
           you waved your hand

It's the same song
     from the babies' room
That our mothers sang
     for ancient moons
It's the same rose
     grows beside the lawn
Oh but how then
     why now are you gone?

And because we can't
     forget
Our home is a room
     for rent
The chance
We saw didn't take
     the karma too distant
           to break
     though eyes said yes

For something to
     remember
In desolate
     Septembers ...

Friday, October 18, 2019

A Movement Somewhere Off

A primitive assonance
     turns into a song
Like eucalyptus leaves
     start to wave with longing.

Most of us,
     never having learned the techniques
Of turning words
     out of dumb earth
And deeds
     from spellbound people,
Just go about feeling the loss,
     the continuous absence,
Of what, somehow, should be,

Until some rabbit comes along
     from underneath the hedges
To symbolize what's larger
     than we dimly realize;
We credit our eyes,
     for what we carry
To someone, from somewhere.

After a time it will make sense,
The world will seem three-dimensional,
That is, we will submit
     to the polity of its logic,
As if it exists,
     as if existence is
Sufficient
     to count as true.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

At the Grocery Store

Love -- it has no end
Except for the hand
That reaches for one
And then another
Until there's a bag
Of gold persimmons
Ready to ripen.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Sons of Hypnos

It's empty everywhere but in the dream.

The voices always speak of something else.
They are not what they seem,
That tell such unintended parables.

It's silent everywhere but in the dream.

The hills are clothed in smoke like ancient spells
But still they hold a gleam
And still all life streams through their blinding shell.

It's hidden everywhere but in the dream.

Who said it, she or me, we could not tell
In laughter's knowing scheme,
Nor in the slow subsiding of the swells.

It's lonely everywhere but in the dream.

And eyes that cried my guidance to compel
Would never be redeemed.
The only tears they shared came with farewell.

It's still there, everywhere but in the dream.

Yet heaven crowds beside me. All is well.
A world that is unseen
Illuminates the walls of the hotel.

I cannot say I've never heard the bell
Reverberate a theme
That wasn't there -- something universal ...

No echo anywhere but in the dream.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Ohi'a's Quest

Paradise is only the setting
     For chasing the elusive
          Menehune to the sea

The beauty is that of humanity
     Breeding its fiery heart
          With Pele the veiled one

Who will only disclose
     A tease of spray
          A shadow of stone

We will never get more
     And it is always enough
          To keep searching

For what God
     Could ever be real
          When revealed?

Friday, October 11, 2019

Slack Key Coda

Thoughts take shape
          And flow away
     Yet an echo
          Strings on
As an elusive undertow
           Of the magic
      That comes and goes
           To those
      Too hungry for it

To be anything other than
            A gust of wind;
      You're blown to a location
            Where the stones
      Have turned to gems
And the trees
            Speak secret tongues
       And birds live
            Inside your mind
       Before they sing.

Then the inevitable
       Cracks on the ground,
             The leaves brown
       As if they turned that way,
And you have been blown
             To a wasteland
       That resembles your own:
Nothing given
       But earned,
              Nothing earned
       Everything given.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Calling Birds of Puako Bay

A grey beach on a grey day
With only a thin white line
Separating sea from sand,
The last of the boundaries
Between the flesh and spirit,
A simple drawing of breath
At the end of endlessness.

There's a cloud left of Maui,
Its phantasm figures more
Visible than the actual
Dolphin expressway we crossed
Or the lava goats out of
Nowhere who appeared like thoughts
From the copious head of Zeus.

But the stones move too slowly
Next to us, who, in a flash
Deliver justice in the
Guise of love (and vice versa)
Long before the first droplets
Hit the black hills of ocean.

Whatever the water feels
Still courses through our spirit
Like the sweetest of trade winds
On desolate strips of coast.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

At Sunset

There's healing as the water turns to ink
And slow twilight overcomes the contours
Of the mind.
                          The emotion that remains
Has served the brain slyly, holding a place,
In its wideness, for spirit.
                                                It takes you,
As you sit with it, up etherous levels.
Like the clouds, taking on ascending colors,
Take their turns at expressing how
God fills up every single moment
No matter how profane that it may seem.

It's just protection.
There is always penetrating darkness with the light.

Kilauea

All the human languages sound down the trail
As the forest light as air shivers in sun
But there's silence at the bottom,
Even shoes on the crisp, porous shards
Are swallowed in the dome.

Red broomsedge on the sulfur fields,
New ruby ferns in cracks
That extend like blacktop miles after a quake.
No horses, no welcome,
None of that arrogant green
On the old lava fields, just
The steaming womb of the earth
Bringing the work in.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Big Ohana

The sky is purple
     In Hilo after dark
Above the Innovation Center
     By the tattoo parlor,
A 1950's bank building
     Like this was Wilkes-Barre
By the paint-dissolving sea.
     The Makery is empty,
Its showroom plaster mounds,
     A box of nails and a toilet,
Graffiti on the glass:
     "No love for snakes,"
A "Thank You for Shopping Here" sign,
     Still friendly even in death.
The rooms of the seedy motel
     Are now shops like "Asian Wax."
And there's art on every wall,
     Galactic, phosphorescent art,
Barely disguised fantasy beings
     Staring back through our eyes,
And colorful flyers
     On every boarded door:
Gentle birth doana, Maori healing,
     Daoist qigong, pau hana,
Sarod and vision board workshops,
     Permaculture classes,
"With Cosmic Space for Eternity,"
     Bhakti fest, sacred sound,
Candlelight restorative yoga,
     Lomilomi massage,
Death as illusion lectures,
     The ethereal database
("Future timelines, past lives"),
     Nothing open but neon signs.

I had spent the evening
     Under a banyon tree
Willing non-attachment
     From government housing pathos,
Watching birds form flight arcs of caution
     Like galaxy arms
And those of the crazy old Japanese soldier
     This morning in Honoka'a
Who said "hello neighbor" to me
     Before a profanity laced
Vow to continue his march with suitcase
     And not give in to Mount Fuji.
And I lay here now in an attic room
     Serenaded by tree frogs,
Wanting to fill the glass Buddha head
     With jelly beans.

Laupahoehoe Point

The waves continue on
     With such expressions of love
Hoping in their glory
     For poetry
To catch their spray
     On the black faced figures
Stoic as all form.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Below the Morning Mist

The sea turns black
     In discourse
With the lava rocks

An overwhelming sigh
A thunderous crack
     In reply

Centuries of talk
Have ground the lava down
     To powder

Still it persists
Expressing what it is
     In the teeth of
White resistance

Friday, October 4, 2019

The Fires of Dialogue

Poetry is the absence
     In everything I see
And recognized
     Only by absence

A communion that reveals
     There is no other presence
The external world
     Has become too pale
The tell of the dead

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Samadhi in the Suburbs

Back when I was everyone and nothing
I could see through a "me" more easily,
There was always someone scrawling
In the distance that I could perceive,
However imagined, however vague --
The incomprehensible light was
Identified in the shapes that hold it,
What cannot see itself. What better self
To be than this, radiant with sun,
Acting from the urge for the all,
Implacable toward the incandescent invisible.

The apportioning seems so random,
The houses sprawled out endless cul de sacs
And black castles hidden in the hills,
Lifetimes of fuss and care and longing
That make sense to any selves that are present,
Perfect in their realms, how small they become
When mixed together, as places to be
Made space for, the holiest of candles
In a common room of artificial prayer,
Scarcely known except as common themes
Insert themselves between like spider threads:
The weekend that's passed, the weather that's changed,
The ever-present shadow in the distance.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Gallant Chateau

For Wallace Stevens' 140th birthday today, here's one of my favorite of his short poems, a surprisingly personal ode to separate bedrooms.

Is it bad to have come here
And to have found the bed empty?

One might have found tragic hair,
Bitter eyes, hands hostile and cold.

There might have been a light on a book
Lighting a pitiless verse or two.

There might have been the immense solitude
Of the wind upon the curtains.

Pitiless verse? A few words tuned
And tuned and tuned and tuned.

It is good. The bed is empty,
The curtains are stiff and prim and still.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Joys of Transmogrification

The dust rises into vapor.
     It's October.
The clouds recall a thousand picnics
Where all the ways you played on me
     Still ring like a melody
Sweet in the distance
     The enormities of being wronged --

Olives bronzed for harvest,
As large as mountains now
     Whitened in the sun.

Experience, like dust in the air,
     Turns physical
In this mind's eye light.
The mask of the thoroughfare 
     Seems almost a face,
As the dead fill every glow
     Streamed in low sun,
Holding old expressions.

The herons I saw as a child
     Off the Biscayne coast
Walk here in this moment
Gorging on sun before they fly.

These windows have so many ghosts
     Behind the curtains,
Knitting the invisible together.

Monday, September 30, 2019

At the End of September

The past lets go like leaves,
     Golden and slow, 
Holding on to warmth
     That no longer serves
In fear of the bare,
     Of no shadows,
The sleeves of cold,
     Though impatient for the past
To be replaced,
    Like each brave blade of grass
Pushing at emptiness.

     A world of ghosts
Still hang over the oaks
     Whatever shade
Can protect us from light
     -- It’s all we know,
The patterns of what has happened,
     As certain as stone,
The colors of old
     Call to lure us
Into the whirlpool,
     The leaves swirling in perfect sun,
So loath to lose their life;
     The red that remains
Is a wisdom, a prayer,
     Too eloquent
To be captured for the new …

The separation of the identical from itself,
A gift of forms for the mind
To scrawl the word “loss”.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Open Mic Night

Who needs the music of the street in here,
Where hearts leap for real
In chambers of song?

The depths are close to the surface now,
Hitting that rare honest note
Behind the guise of art,

Without which there would be
No feeling at all, just a watching,
Beyond these walls, all the others,

With little left to use one's hands
To clap together in time
For the fire that keeps on giving,

That burns at some remove,
To be captured in a colored jar,
Like buzzing lightning bugs

That speak beyond themselves
Some gift of the endlessness
Of love. The listener rises

From a solipsistic stupor
To greet the troubadours with hugs
And effusing words where none are possible.

In a world of orbits, the open-tuned
Drive toward the core,
Sticky and messy, but absorbed

In something too large to keep
As a sidelong bag of gold
To dole out in intricate seductions.

They have only shapes -- sacred shadows --
The chords with different notes,
The words that beckon the voice.

Love seems harsh in the wind like this,
Enlivening what it touches
As gently, sadly, inevitably

It turns away, like the end
Of a song, enough --
It had run a perfect course

And shone in someone's eyes,
Where what is of the one can rest,
Momentarily, as if it needed that.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

The Lure of Fame

I could be one of the world's leading authorities
On 20th century Buddhist poetries,
Published in journals and books,
Consulted for readings and conferences,
Living in a dim 2-room in Hong Kong
With little money but a dutiful wife,
And able to offer visitors a mean dim sum
With a gloss on every line in my library.
It would be an unarguable existence,
With the chance to be remembered by many,
But not, actually, a Buddhist.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Autumn Coda

The shrieking resumes
      After desolation
            Its life
However unpromising
      It seems
            To us
The sparrows and crows
      Will continue to contend
            In song

It is not enough
      We want to call it death
            And turn away
Too terrified we've missed out
       On the richness
            Of emptiness
The bird cries inconvenient
       For our theories
             Of undisclosed sleep

It's as if when we're afraid
        Of longing
             There are no words
And thus there's nothing
       A nothing not of sun
             And leaves translucent
But of what we can't
       Remember
              In the distances of dream

What really happened
       When the snows had
              Bound our minds
Before the red hegemon of our shame
       Required another
              Memory to burn through
For when the spring
       Will fold completely
               In the past

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Keats and the Professor of Poetry

He is jealous, still, of the poet's world,
How greedily life reveals more life
And dreams resolve to loftier dreaming,
The ideal still at large from the common will
That takes the Gods from their temples
And calls their pillars decrepit.
                                                               He scoffs
At the daemon of words
That bursts from this truth
That it could be this misleading
And yet so beautiful
To rise from its grave like flowers never do
And fill the air with bewitching confusion.

When you say you are extinguished by others
You mean you are exactly like us,
And when you still the dim figures of translucent realms
Your sadness is not that it passes,
But that it's not seen
Except in a half-life of ghost.
                                                       But you
Were there before posterity,
When it mattered what others thought,
Before the cold alabaster brought a glow
No one could touch ...

The sigil of a lunatic
In love with what is not,
Who suffered at the distance
Between your eyes and what you saw,
Your grasp and the words you wrote,
What spilled out from the failure of prayers ...
How dare you label his dark universe
As a surfeit of stars?