Thursday, June 30, 2016

Some Heirloom Poems

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

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

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

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

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

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

My bible is better than your bible.

The holes
In the leaves
Are alive.

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

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

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Green Ring around the Sun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 27, 2016

Doors and Windows by Tristan Corbière

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

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

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

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


Portes et Fenêtres

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Voice Unheard

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 25, 2016


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

Friday, June 24, 2016

Stevens Texplication #29: The Man Whose Pharynx Was Bad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fahrenheit Gesundheit

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

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

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

Time will not relent.

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

Thursday, June 23, 2016


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Decline by Tristan Corbière

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Inside Job

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

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

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

Monday, June 20, 2016

Impressions of Silence

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

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

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

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

White jacaranda slowly rusts
But otherwise has nothing to say.

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Well-Placed Remark from Afar

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


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

Monday, June 13, 2016

Epitaph by Tristan Corbière

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 11, 2016

History on a Leash

Electricity and velcro
Hold the past together.

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 10, 2016

Stevens Textplication #28: Infanta Marina

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

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

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

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

And thus she roamed
In the roamings of her fan,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The City Dwellers

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

White Before Dark

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 6, 2016

Summer by Georg Trakl

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

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

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

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

Windless, starless night.


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

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

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

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

Windstille, sternlose Nacht.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Landscape with Water Fairies

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

After Reading Charles Wright on a Windy Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Day Without Fantasy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

According to Plan - As Usual

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

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Mesquite Flowers in Lieu of Tears

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

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

Monday, April 4, 2016

View from the Candy-Apple Ladybug

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

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

The yellow is now nothing at all.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Variations on a Line by Aiden

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 28, 2016

Spring Implications

The fields of yellow stars
dusted by the sun
                  in clear air
as individual or general
          as the heart that moves
                                through them
                  will allow
whether it nurtures
                                the lost
or explodes to the call
          of the all-pervasive idea
                   that says
                                 with one voice

clover and cactus
         soft before spurs
like lovers entwined
                                 red heart
         bulging like a jungle apple
in clusters of blossoms
         pinpricks of white 
                     on hierarchies of spike
as if when they match our desire
         it's the source of all our wounding
the pure
         (love and hate is the same gesture)
         we’re protected from

then the sun drips in the sky
         and mustard flowers fall into my hair
as if I’ve learned there’s truth
                                        in all our meaning

Friday, March 25, 2016

54th Chorus

Brave Jesus
Spiralled into darkness
Still we are surprised
How flesh gets all dismembered
As if it holds no answer
Or two.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Thought that Blew in like a Weed from Chicago

The great violet smoke
Understands all, sees all
And sits perfectly still,
Unlike that rock,
Which will tell you
All that you need to know.

Monday, March 14, 2016

A Sunday Moment

The nursery's full of surf punk rockers
nodding their heads to themselves
as they push wide shopping carts
past sweetbroom and snapdragon,
a kind of beauty, turning on its carousel,
not to be touched without impossible permissions
from the angels who escort them
wearing leather boots and speaking of Texas onions
as something to desire this warm afternoon.
Tattoos that show through rock'n'roll suicide t-shirts
and the shh of dragging shoes come alive
with a blast of thrash from a modified 
pickup truck outside, and eyes connect,
ashamed almost that it is cool
to share for just a moment what is freedom,
what is life, for fear of slipping
down that hillside, with eyes no longer
ones to trust, but black inside.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

You, But Not Your Sleeves

Everyone needs seduction candles
and therapy pillows, a guitar
beside the riverbed, by the light of a girl
gathering pine cones.

There's no distinction
between the wind and your breath,
the shine of the land and your eyes.
You are the earth embodied and disrobed.
Your bangles click as you touch my hair.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Costa Rica Suite

At the Airport
Delayed between Guatemalan hair
and El Salvadoran sadness,
a friendly voice warns "don't leave your language
unattended", as children at midnight
hold eyeless bears, and women bear
unbearable grievances, and men, unable to be authentic,
still talk a good casino at the Sea Legs Café,
where they play private LA beats
above the din of rolling rrr’s
of those trying to please or be pleased.
No one is doing what they want to be doing
but they all are doing something just the same:
drawing rainbows, sharing earbuds,
working out the fantasy of world integration in one's mind,
tossing tissues at outstretched hands,
explaining the travail of life in a yellow cowboy hat,
shaking a thick mane of hair, grabbing empty
packets to place in his one-piece PJ pockets.

The crystal light floats across San Jose at night,
shimmers with a code higher entities understand
and squirrels on the ground bow in honor to,
but it seems to us like pretty lights,
how they almost gasp for breath
in the swirl on the surface of the world
swallowing the houses.

The Meaning of La Pura Vida
God gave Costa Ricans the land
He was keeping for Himself
because they had such a pure heart.
A man in a wheelchair
in front of a home without windows

Tribute to the Other Brother
He holds a musket and a bouquet
by Alaheula cathedral
strung, like the blue schools,
billboards and bazaars, with razor wire.
It’s an economic miracle
of indigenous eviction
and farmers abusing oxen for tourist photos
holding machetes saying "pura vida".
Pigeons are free at least to move
in the fountains of Mango Park.

The Only Thing More Depressing than Poverty Is Trying to Sell the Virtues of Poverty
A grey afternoon in San Jose,
everyone is waiting:
for a customer, a bus, a meal.
Each shuffles in a private hell
that glows in Spanish neon
like the shoes hung on the walls
in the "Total Liquidation" Zapateria.
There's nothing between a head
and the polished floors here,
barred doors make some other world
seem hopeless, where one is free
from lords and mercenaries,
the great white culling,
the prison wire like theatre lights
for the tour bus to look down on
with equivalent despair.

At the Coffee Plantation
To be a blue butterfly
and float through paradise
drunk on hibiscus and banana,
reward for a life spent
on the streets of San Juan.

Looking for Monkeys
Behind the veil, a bouncing bough,
the monkey’s white eyes hide.
We hear him cry, through mists of sky
and think of pride, the monkey's eye
we see looking as he hides behind the veil.
Then he swings outside
to find himself a king.

At the Volcano Pool
The smell of sulfur,
the boy said, is
“Indians making omelettes
when someone dies.”
The vulcanologists say
there's nothing to fear,
the earth moves every day
and every day some people die
but be careful of the sulfur,
it can kill you.
Wherever there are volcanos,
there are silly adults the children have to save.

Beyond the Mustard Cliffs
The steam speaks secret poetry
then clears to blue cerulean
and the fairies we can't see
are mirrored in the lake
like time-lapse moons,
and in a flash the density of grey
rolls over again like a thick, thick sheet
on closing eyes.

Rain Forest Voices
Even the elephant ears
have been nibbled down to stems
yet a squirrel makes the fern tongue flap
and a voice resounds in thunder
but I only hear an insect
no larger than a whisper:
"what to write."

Above Eye Level
In plastic trees
a spider weaves gold galaxies from its black hole
for the Gods who do not know they roam the earth.

By the Candy Store
A woman licks an ice-cream cone
the same pink as her lip gloss
while strolling through a high-end mall
where marching bands plays Christmas songs
with drummer boys in white face
and gingerbread men on stilts
backed by six white sousaphones
and is horrifically depressed.

The Farm of the Happy Cows
They listen to Bach
and graze by hydrangeas
on flower cloud hillsides.

Birds in Captivity
Caged parrots with their broken wings withhold from us their song.
The grey owl wants no pictures, until we move along.
The ostrich thinks that she's in charge, scared eyes move side to side.
The emu thinks she's beautiful, knows everyone has lied.

The peacock turns her plumes like car show models spin around.
The crested guan Camaro cools his pompadour surround.
The conure nest in dead tree milk, to sing their songs of life.
Great curassow, huge grieving eyes, comb scythed as by a knife.

The spoonbill tries to hide in trees, but he, alas, is pink.
The boat-billed heron disappears, emerges in a blink.
The ibis sits on bamboo as from Egypt we remember.
The cormorant unshackled looks with black wings to the future.

R2D2 bleep, then a high-pitched radio shriek,
The green toucan learned who he is after breaking off his beak.
The mangrove swallow, white-necked stilt, tanagers say nothing,
The purple gallinule just let its colors do the talking.

Snowy egret question mark neck leans down from wet roots
Of walking palm to beak an eel, a honeycreeper flutes,
And hummingbirds share love with blooms, they float instead of fly
Until another pulls them off to greater love up in the sky.

On the River
A piano bird spreads its macabre wings
as it grapples with the implications
of a bare tree in the green river
then, without apparent consultation, dives
to dance like a snake charmed neck above water
to melodies of snook and tarpon.

At the Oxen Torture Center
Before the coffee was planted,
before the impossible train to the sea was built
there were oxen drooling, pulling brown men's burdens
up and down the mountains, hoping to survive
through constant work.
Now an empty ox-cart
painted with red parrots
is the symbol of the working man
whose back remains unbroken
though his whip is old and frayed.

Along the Universal Country Road
Men sit on benches outside of Soda Willie
where bags of onions and bananas hang down
as if to impress Soda Lily.

Costa Rica’s Mystery
Perfect stone spheres
too buried to be found
and heavy to be moved
until the Gods had been replaced
by man’s machines
-- you know the story –
some signal to above,
receiver from below,
there are these patterns
but they don't know,
the science and the history
still erased.

Resort Living
One gets bored with bathrooms fit for Louis Quatorze
by cabana bars where mint and rum, Brazilian
new age jazz and rave are mixed
for the precise predilections of mojito-sipping swingers
from the far side of suburbia, who hold the world's
sum knowledge in their phone’s chip,
as they stroll a Spanish mission for the God of hedonism,
where umber floors are sparkle cleaned by someone who’s invisible…
until one’s dealt the playing cards beneath the palm-leaf fan.
The numbers never cease to amaze.

In Guanacasta
"Welcome," said the boarded up shed
cotton-candy pink, Esmerelda Poett's
Lost Iguana Hotel, Macrobiotica, Microcervezia,
Eco-boutique, Ferreteria, Discomovil and internet café.
She offers us 12 New Year's Eve grapes and Coyol wine,
so we'll be drunk again the next day with the sun,
and a taboret beneath the ear tree, symbol of equilibrium.
Just be careful of the duck police, the vicious
beaches, the cold killer eyes of ennui
on the crocodile uncomfortable in its own leather.
We're the largest exporter of coffins,
she, finally, excitedly said.

Rain Forest Notes
Everything moves but the waterfall,
the green that can't stop growing,
yearning to the condition of sky.

Red crabs on the forest floor,
torch ginger and bitterwood blooms
like specks of blood in the beard of life.

A sloth on a branch top stares at the blue,
the canopy swings its hairy air roots,
the distant marimba of monkey music.

Above it all, in endless sky, 
vultures circle like the forest flow,
black in the mid-day sun.

The history of this place,
of warring white men's
and alcoholic despots
who kept the people fed,
seems to have changed
everything on the maps,
in the books,
in the mind,
but not, oh no,
never could,
on the ground.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Disinherited

I am the Dark - the Widower - the Unconsoled,
The Prince of Aquitaine in a Tower broken:
My only star is dead - and my lute of gold
Wears Melancholy’s low, black sun.

On the night of the Tomb, with your solacing art,
Give me Italy’s sea and the Posillipo,
The flower that so pleased my desolate heart,
And the trellis where vine marries rose.

Am I Love or Phoebus? ... Lusignan or Biron?
My forehead’s still red from the Queen’s kiss;
I dreamed that a siren swam from the abyss …

And victorious twice crossed the Acheron:
On Orpheus's lyre in turns I vary
The sighs of the Saint with the cries of the Fairy.

Translated from the French of Gerard de Nerval:

El Desdichado

Je suis le Ténébreux, – le Veuf, – l’Inconsolé,
Le Prince d’Aquitaine à la Tour abolie :
Ma seule Etoile est morte, – et mon luth constellé
Porte le Soleil noir de la Mélancolie.

Dans la nuit du Tombeau, Toi qui m’as consolé,
Rends-moi le Pausilippe et la mer d’Italie,
La fleur qui plaisait tant à mon coeur désolé,
Et la treille où le Pampre à la Rose s’allie.

Suis-je Amour ou Phébus ?… Lusignan ou Biron ?
Mon front est rouge encor du baiser de la Reine ;
J’ai rêvé dans la Grotte où nage la sirène…

Et j’ai deux fois vainqueur traversé l’Achéron :
Modulant tour à tour sur la lyre d’Orphée
Les soupirs de la Sainte et les cris de la Fée.

Friday, February 19, 2016


The Thirteenth returns . . . It is the first anew;
And still the only, — or has time not passed?
As you are queen — first or final? — are you
King too? The one lover or only the last? . . .

Love him who loved you from cradle to hearse;
The love from the sole one tenderly flows;
She is death — or the dead ... O delight! O curse!
The hollyhock she holds is a rose.

Neapolitan saint with hands full of light,
Rose violet heart, Saint Gudula's lantern;
Did you find your cross in the desert skies?

White roses, fall! To our Gods they slight:
Fall, phantoms white, from heaven that burns:
— The saint of the void's more holy to my eyes!

From the French of Gerard de Nerval:


La Treizième revient... C'est encor la première;
Et c'est toujours la Seule, - ou c'est le seul moment:
Car es-tu Reine, ô Toi! la première ou dernière?
Es-tu Roi, toi le seul ou le dernier amant? ...

Aimez qui vous aima du berceau dans la bière;
Celle que j'aimai seul m'aime encor tendrement:
C'est la Mort - ou la Morte... Ô délice! ô tourment!
La rose qu'elle tient, c'est la Rose trémière.

Sainte napolitaine aux mains pleines de feux,
Rose au coeur violet, fleur de sainte Gudule,
As-tu trouvé ta Croix dans le désert des cieux?

Roses blanches, tombez! vous insultez nos Dieux,
Tombez, fantômes blancs, de votre ciel qui brûle:
- La sainte de l'abîme est plus sainte à mes yeux!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Golden Verses

                                  "Well then! Everything is sentient!" - Pythagoras

Man! Free thinker - you think alone, you think,
In this world where life bursts from everything:
The same force you wish your freedom to be,
But of all your advice the universe is free.

In each creature there's a reaching spirit ...
Each flower has a soul blooming in it;
The metal that sleeps beams love's mystery:
"Everything is sentient!" - And your being is mighty!

Fear, there on the blind wall, a spying stare
That attaches a verb like a prayer ...
Don't let your service be the unholy kind!

In the dark of being a hidden God lives;
An eye awakes in covers of eyelids
As pure spirit grows under the stone's rind!

Translated from the French of Gérard de Nerval (1808-1855):

Vers dorés

                                  "Eh quoi! tout est sensible!" - Pythagore.

Homme! libre penseur - te crois-tu seul pensant
Dans ce monde où la vie éclate en toute chose:
Des forces que tu tiens ta liberté dispose,
Mais de tous tes conseils l'univers est absent.

Respecte dans la bête un esprit agissant: ...
Chaque fleur est une âme à la Nature éclose;
Un mystère d'amour dans le métal repose:
"Tout est sensible! " - Et tout sur ton être est puissant!

Crains dans le mur aveugle un regard qui t'épie
A la matière même un verbe est attaché ...
Ne la fais pas servir à quelque usage impie!

Souvent dans l'être obscur habite un Dieu caché;
Et comme un oeil naissant couvert par ses paupières,
Un pur esprit s'accroît sous l'écorce des pierres!

Friday, February 12, 2016

LA Portrait

A sailor from 1948
Walks wide-eyed through Union Station
Having lost all hope
Of catching the long-delayed train to Reno.
Nobody smokes
But children wear tattoos
And empty their lives into silent walkie-talkies.
Still, not much has changed;
The women still have breasts.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Facts for Believers

The sparrows nightly fly
Cross the baby shower sky
While frogs sing cricket key
And the river turns calligraphy

The sun is squeezed like a dropper of ink
In river light that could save us from the demons
But it's only not yet emptied sky
For we refuse to see

In lifeboats we worship the liquor
Of patterns and God as machine

Monday, January 25, 2016

January Rattle

What the bean locust tree says
is everything we can't hear otherwise
from the aching outside to be heard
by the aching inside to hear,
what we call "imaginary."

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Inkblot Sky

LA noir at its most serene,
Mr. Groom saying "the emperor has no chain,"
And her reminding him "It's a fwee countwee"
As if he ever could forget.
So the day pulled away the vested handkerchief of grey
To find that smudge of lipstick evening pink.

At Sunset Beach

Thought is no different than other viruses;
It propagates itself to survive.
The oil's mixed with plastic jetsam from the eddies.
The gulls fly bamboo sticks over the tide;
Why we can only surmise.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Sunrise Blues

Pink snow mountains,
Palm trees still asleep,
Sun on a white stone wall...

The world is too beautiful to see.

The Well-Read Boy on the Train

Poets and intellectuals
work the data mines
for hopelessness seems
close to the solution
in a world that's hope-bereft

Students still read Paradise Lost -
it gets simpler
with each passing year -
we, sinners all
still shake our fear crosses

Still people build their houses
outside of corruption
albeit they're aglow
with all the reports of it
from some central dispensation

And even the clouds
cannot obey,
and the bodies sometimes
take the poison
sometimes don't

It's enough to call it
chaos, but that's a word
that they use
for something else, a thing
that gives them power

But are we not controlled,
who shift so numbly to
the side of all we see?
Is the thought of freedom
the illusion we are free?

Do we listen to a Satan
omnipresent and eternal,
or is the voice just too
damn inaudible?
Yes the symbols are embedded

in every program that we see
but we thumb our noses
at all that, riffling the dial,
blinking as our heroes
genuflect before it,

That's their deal, see,
not mine, you know,
I still can dig an orgy
but not if there's too much

The yearning's secret
in every heart
for something
beyond that power,
something one can actually hear

in the wind and the birds
and the streams, life is real
and death is a rumor,
and anyone with half a mind
can read that gossip rag

with names like Milton,
Blake and Shelley,
who still work
in Satan's mills,
as if they haven't changed.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Purpose of Piezoelectric Barium Strontium Titanate Crystals

And all of this
To watch us glow,
To track our
Though we're deathly afraid
That they keep us
By dimming the sun,
Ending the world,
None of which counts
In the instant of life;
All their smart dust
Just a button we push.

Monday, January 4, 2016


A cold sea
Goes as far as
The white sand
Still numb
At day's end
To touch.
At a distance are some houses.
Their windows are on fire.


They looked through Ronsard's forms
As we, far from any Geneva of the mind,
Look in the folds of cloud
For what is false,
What is real.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Last Gift

Christmas crows in orange trees;
they know that ribbon's coming.

But now they shriek as we make frowns
behind the scheduled miracle.

That little patch of morning light
too pure for us to contemplate.

We must ignore all slights and wounds
to fight what is.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

In the Red Light of December

The poet speaks
The world recedes
There is no sound
Left of his breathing

He draws the void
We might believe
If there could be
An end to reading

The words erase
Each tiny thing
But there is never
Really nothing

As the theory
Would have it be
Meaning glows like glass
Cannot empty

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Light Inside the World

The sun behind Catalina
Makes all Surf City pink
Except for the eastern mountains
Violet already.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Gift of Seeing Purple

City of joy
in a broken world,
like a smile on a busted toy.
God shines whole through every
weathered Camel pack
strewn in depot pebbles.
Still we make of Art our God
to salve a wound
too deep for even knowing,
take such comfort from the false
because it can only condemn
with opinion.

The earth has been more patient
than the sunset ever shows,
it waits with solace for our
quivering minds
when we recognize there is no
roof above us, there are no
stones inside, the concepts that we
trade like food are vapor
in the void.

The voices in the wind,
the faces in the shade,
speak always of the one
— the alone is the only thing —
it is all.

Saturday, October 31, 2015


For once costumes fit
Little Tokyo Halloween
Bats watch from windows

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Thought Freed from Context

You don't understand unless you misunderstand.
What else can we learn from except our mistakes?
What else is there to life?