Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Stars


The moon is in front of the clouds
But Norah knows that cannot be,
She's been taken the same place as he
In the guise of mercurial immortality.

And if we believe a moon in front of the clouds
The better for her to noodle aimlessly
And make believe she's still a child
Who still can make believe,

Or that she ever was a child
Despite the eyes in the dark
That depend on her to be
In her puppet play of tunings on the strings.

Her voice can be poignant, without meaning
And she needs to have no meaning
Though it hangs from every note
Masquerading as mere grief:

The life she'll never live,
The death she'll never have,
Jealous how Jesus with the voice of God
Was taken in quite different circumstances,

To serve to her as a warning
And to make him look less fortunate
To those who were tuned to worship his star
When it wore a cloak of black.

The moon is not the moon.
A black sun cannot be.
Snake eyes gaze on the few
And let the others free

Who keep their innocence despite
Her heartbreaking pleas that these words,
These meanings, are more than they appear to be,
As the keys won't release her hands, won't let it end.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Of Begging Indulgences for the Self

I’m going out of the forgiveness business —
Everything must go:
Each elbow to the ribs,
All tourniquets to imagined stabs.

The innocent were conscientious
In taking over what I had:
The urge to change what didn’t work for me,
The white pattern's lone black frequency.

It was something that I said
And only heard in different words;
The sharpened swords are always contending,
Always only defending.

I made the choice to lift and hold the blade,
For that was the rule taught in grammar school,
Don’t raise your brow unless prepared to freeze
Like a statue, scaring ghosts and new issue.

“At ease,” the General says,
But the Corporal chafes beneath the weight
Of what is nothing
But must be seen as Atlas-ean,

The cowardly as brave,
The temporary as permanent,
The wound as something to cover the globe
In emergency red,

Which is true at least to the feeling
Of not being forgiven
By the one who drew blood at the dance,
The steps so quick and complicated

And so far away in time and space
There is only the memory now of the hole ...
There was always someone in the way of atonement,
An extension of my intention that strayed

Into a distant, beating heart unswayed
And impossible to reach, except to say, to myself,
“Let them be, they did not know what to do
About me, for I hardly crossed at their light.”

I was hurt because the laws said I should be
And cultivated my animosity so I could barter
My forgiveness to return back to the cell
Where I left the straw suit and coconut head in the bed.

They were creatures of the environment
Who nosed me out of that cramped, dark space,
What I would have seen as a gift were it not
For the other creatures I’d fantasized in their place.

And the ones who knew me well enough to steal
A ribbon of my soul, how I wanted them to stay
For a moment, share some strong, bitter tea
On their way to the getaway car.

And you, the big Kahuna, who waved a mirror
In front of my face as you pilfered the furniture,
All the blame reflects even now on myself
And the battered old scarecrow, Absentia, mere straw.

I perform ablution on it all, in one fell swoop,
One mighty flood of tears, wherever it is needed,
Some dark spot in the whole where you and I,
The thing we did together, suffered.

Or is it all one, the same, absolution?
For the courage to live and not to know,
The shame accruing like spores
To the raw and ever-exfoliated forest?

This will all get clarified
When the grades are handed out
At the life review, and everyone will laugh
How they really knew

And said “yes” to what they never wanted
And “no” to what they didn't understand
And were saddled with something real after all
To slough off, some shade of yellow or such,

Some evidence still fresh
That they were here
Despite all the evidence
To the contrary.

Friday, January 14, 2022

After a Nap

The evening smells like a lit match.
The moon glows behind smoke.

That's the way it must be these days.
Every move the mind makes is binary:

Yes or no, love or fear. The earth
Will yield to this, like any lover

To the moistening of soil. The choice
— Beyond all that is — the choice.

Two Songs

I.
After The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

I never lose, I never win.
I never learned how to give in
Though the voice it cried.
I would take a bullet just for you
As long as you never knew
What’s inside
My always playing movie.
Laugh with me
Say you need me,
Say you need me.
It’s all because of you.
I can’t think about myself.

I learned to never show my pain,
That’s the way to win,
But never learned how not to feel
Beneath the skin.
When I took that bullet just for you
Into the street you threw me,
But first you tried
To ask me why I couldn’t cry.
I couldn’t say
How I got that way.
Let me help.
Say you need me,
Say you need me.

II.
The rose battlefield
Was still stained with white and gold,
Not a soul
Goes down the rows except alone.

The words we said still cling to glasses
Put back on the shelves,
And photographs turned back to the walls
Still talk through
Who would take the fall
From the carousel.

We never knew
How to play the lover cruel
Or who was the fool
Feigning cool?

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Song of the Divided Soul

The victims always win,
Their insults are mightier than guns,
Their acid tears corrode the most contained souls.
Soon we long for them to be happy again
After everything we've given them
Had turned into our biggest burden.

The worst are human
And thus we become them,
Far better to be fleeced by their pain
Than to confer on their madness
Our sanity — that thing they will take
Forcibly, as you turn away.

I can't escape the elusive voices,
The pleas that make no sense
But must, if I am to be among them
And not a wing with only soul
Flitting an indifferent shadow,
Like the branches merely were to rise above.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

The Insomniac's Ear

There comes a time, in the dark 3's
Or wee 4's, where I can hear my own voice
Through the hi-fi, on the radio station,
As the groggy dj picks up the phone
And lets me speak my mind, on what could be,
In theory, anything, but I land tonight
On how the so-called "home of the free"
Feels somehow, at this moment, like a prison.

And quicker than a loan spot reader
The insults fly, recriminations dressed
And waiting in the wings, condescensions 
Condensed for black and bitter late-night joe.
The crystal turntable crashes most painfully
To the floor. It's as if a wound has opened up
In the manicures of time, and the world moans
In unison, in hatred just for me.

But after a few bossa nova songs
It's apparent it's always like this —
The screams, the ridicule, the breaking glass —
It's merely part of the show, any non-
Approved thought caressed to be strangled like 
A comic turn at a nihilist's ball,
Running round and round a center
Like a dog zeroing in on its tail.

But there is something different, to me, this night,
As the first grey light blues the windows:
There are other stations, thousands of them,
In the interstices of what used to be
Static, as my ear can finally hear
What would be there, and always was,
The tunes so strange I understand them,
Voices so plain they leave the outlines of the town.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

God Without Apologies

We must calm the angry God
By withdrawing our hands
From the flesh of fresh faces.

We have forgotten that,
As if the brutal truth
Is just some demon inside
That must be exorcised
The same as it was created,
Glaring full in on our sin,
Ye children of
What should be the God of love.

As if the God of every day
Doesn’t kill the weak for fun
Or set in motion consequence in misery
For every selfish thought and deed.

It’s we who are the sun
Shining equally upon 
All we fail to understand,
Taking all our cues from shadows
That form outlines only when
The arc of afternoon’s set in.

If the kudzu won’t stop growing
And the brown rats multiply
How is that our problem?
A helpful God explains
They must be eradicated
With ruthless dispassion ...

All the creatures are disposable
To the I,
Which may not, after all,
Include me
Except in some higher vines
Where I can see the master plan
Above the violence 
Necessary for it to be.

It doesn’t matter, you see,
The individual piece,
That is why one must be kind
To hearts expendable like ours,
For there is no other
Custodian to the free.

How viciously God’s whiskers
Raise at that, and how little
Such judgement matters.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

In the Field Where Memories are the Common

Every thought, no matter how remote
Concocts an odd response
From the spiral river flow
To change the course of what goes through
Each cell and demi-nebula.

There is nothing too small
To make the vital all
Turn into something else in every moment.

These blocks of stone, that stand
Alone in colorless vacuum
Are the only things to have earned
The imprimatur of life.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

"Curtains" After Dark

With apologies to B. Taupin

The only song I left for you to know
Was that dark aubade of the lustrous crow
Counting out his sorrow
As he flew from who caused it to come
Away, and he was never seen by anyone.

A cat hung under fern
To almost form the sound
Before it vanished in the wind
Not to return
Though music was the language we preferred.

This song was supposed to be of joy,
The way we feel the true.
In secret roosts
I brought down such heavenly tunes for you.

But it's okay
I always ran away
To places no one finds
And if they never do
How could they mind?
What did we lose?

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

After the Fever Dreams

The past has no weight anymore,
Its signature scanned by ocular blades
And it's as buoyant as
A dandelion stalk
Waving the seeds it carries
That will yield nothing of its grief.

The birds here remember something,
Their voices betray that much,
But what it is is loose and flows
To the needs of the moment,
Unlike me, where the scents the past blows in
Reform to crystals of loss within,

My regrets the better part, as it were, of my pride.
I need the hoarders squad to empty my brain
Of sacred, saved contaminants 
So that their all-important vapors
Can finally float to the sky
And these words can be a miracle.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Somewhere In the Spiral Eye

The voice of limitation
     reduces the most
          miraculous truths
To bite-sized bitter candies
     befitting the bile 
           that's been produced
In constant negation of change,
The thing creation asks
      in its reign.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Cenote Song

Swim in the cenote
In sun-gold green
Down the moving stream
As the osprey flies
From mangrove skies
Love flows free

Down in the cenote
In cool lime green
Through the mirrored stream
Of the morning sun
As the fishes come
One can see

Deep in the cenote
In aquamarine 
Down the endless stream
Floating toward the one
In currents of sun
Two will be

One in the cenote
In the heart of green
Down electric streams
Only waves within a field
Of a slow, incessant yield
Love flows free

Thursday, December 16, 2021

At Cobá

The Mayans inside the raindrops are crying
As the chattel made into heroes of the story,
With sports where the victors who evoked the jaguar spirit
Were purified and then decapitated (the highest glory),
And with numerals that expanded through posterity,
Past the corn, beans and honey from the local cenotes.

There is no time, so it fairly can be said
That the tours are but a prelude to
The ritual enslavements, the glorification of murder,
The red-painted faces in gold armor carrying torches
That the tour guides cannot comprehend or foresee.
That is why they need our prayers.

Decapitated jaguars hold their heads
While the night is a jaguar holding the earth 
For the future light of the distant ones
To electrify each stone in a transcendent glow,
The hoops they say are for games conductors
Of current that flows up the pyramid walls

Where the giant ones live on slabs in meditation 
Calling through the portal with the other chambers in the series
Aligned with the galaxies to the stars they called their home,
So lonely they made even their lowly prisoners sad,
Who served them as desolate Gods, and so remain
Desolate to this day, as their people

Market calendars and claim the invention of zero
And, in quiet tones, explain how the population dwindled
As an act of will, what separates the human from the animal,
To winnow the herd to equilibrium through sacrifice 
(The highest glory), the spider monkey cenote nearby,
As the locals know, filled with infant skulls.

Kalupte the black bird stands in stelae stone here
As on the t-shirts in the store,
The last of the Mayan kings, they say,
As a black vulture sits at the top of Nohoch Mul.
The God of the bees is turned upside down
And they wait in sadness for the Gods to return.

The shaman takes sap from the tree of life, Yaxche,
With its nine roots (for its nine eras of construction)
And 13 branches (for the 13 gods) to pacify the wait.
The undeciphered stone sits undisturbed 
At the head of the temple. Time will someday melt into truth
In Coba's turbulent waters, where stillness presides.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Akumal

Francisco the turtle
Brought us the turtles
Or at least the heart
That shines out of their eyes

Below the snorkel line
Of inexperienced floaters
From the world over
Who tumbled through the pat-downs

And hands out to land 
On this pristine sand
Clotted with life jackets,
An ecological preserve, it's called, 

The turtles nearly captured in their shells
Nibbling the sea grass
And drinking the air
In a cage of eyes.

The camera that we lost
Not near enough a cost
For the need to seek the turtle
Outside one's being,

The need to say hello
To the alien
Instead of seeing it within,
Brush stroked face and all.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

At Sac Actun

The cavern she is ravenous; bones and offerings
Proliferate under the stalagtites, in the darkness
Where she swims, the one with ALS 
Through claustrophobic neurons and tree brain stems
The dripping calcium of a world turned upside down,
Where bats hang and tarantulas hide
And the water moves you as far as you let it go,
To the Mayan Gods still glowing in stone
Or the green ocean blessed with crocodiles
Or the secret cities where the ideal has been realized.

Such consequence would be nothing for the mermaid
Who flows with her camera like a vision,
Were it not for the brutal steps
To the world that doesn't comprehend,
Too full of themselves and compassion,
How fierce each step becomes up the wet planks,
As if no other bravery is needed.
The ones who disappeared don't let the living offer thanks,
For the old ways ended with the rituals.
This is new, the need to know, despite the curses
Abundant in these jungles, to never let the sacred
Waters of truth seep through.

Monday, December 13, 2021

In a Room at Tulum

The sound of running water
Lifts my heart to heaven,
Where my love is,
Running her hands under the water.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

The Empty Monastery

Elvis has left the building,
The Circus is on its way
To another town 

And this is just one more familiar
One-third full Cancun hotel
In the middle of December.

There's no sign of the humans
Who became divine
And made Jesus look like an amateur.

They've gone off to their 63 countries
To rescue dead seas, heal the incurables,
Touch the fabric of the real

With a technique 
That finally leaked out
From the infrastructure.

The material world has been replaced
But is still a moment or two away
From realizing it.

Can you feel the compassion for that
Crackling through the palms
From the electric ocean?

Can you hear the fibronacci music
The monks embroidered 
In every cell?

Friday, December 10, 2021

Certainties of the Elect

It is nothing that is the creation
As if just for women
Because their hearts are too large.

Men of prayer put up the veils
With upmost care and subtlety
For the light was too strong,

Generating on its own,
Too obvious to be seen
By anyone but the faithful

Who know nothing of the walls
Painstakingly put up
By the suffering and artifice of man,

Or even which ones are temples
And which are jails,
Only that the only thing that matters

Is the green water of love
That grinds down the destruction 
To sublime design

Through prayer alone,
Without an outward hand to sully the miracle
Or help the profane understand.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

In the Field, Without People

You've got it all wrong, Ezra replied,
Walls embossed with ideas,
Buildings made out of words,
Statues still enough to be kissed
Are far more lasting 
Than perpetual people,
Who cackle at the first opportunity 
And will see only obligation
At elegant tables
In the first flip of light.

I may think I want, he sd,
Readings in amphitheaters,
Acolytes kneeling,
Beings who burst spontaneously 
Into lights,
But there is more in occult clubs
Who hide your name in darkened cloaks
On balconies in empty cities
And dens for secret books
Where the key maker speaks in code ...

It's the ultimate laurel
To not be worthy of the masses,
For it’s work to make the choices
Kept in libraries
And work to turn the spotlight away
To a grave,
Someone one can love
Without knowing,
Always wondering,
Never being sure.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Birthday Manifest

Form is an endless work of art
When I have no self to speak of,

So I follow the monks
In black robes with brushes

Whose every stroke is a cathedral 
Waiting for light

And vast enough to hold all the tears,
Every one of them a tear of joy.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Wave off a Leaf

The Yucatan has a way
Of making everything dissipate —
Mind resolves to feeling,
Feeling into flame,
Flame to disappearing movement
In the endless green.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Hotel Iconography

Hallucinogenic Mexican coffee
In a clay pot
Served by Mayan queens with wide cheek bones,
The kings are made of stone
In glyphs of crystalline wisdom
Attended by giant blowing horns,
Elongated skull headresses,
Bird feathers that are not bird feathers.

A brown basilisk ascends
Before the pyramid eye,
The clouds bolt upright 
From the end of the horizon,
The white light overwhelms 
The snake flamingo tile
Whose colors can't be seen
By naked human eyes.

The merbird plays a lute,
The rana-frogs chirp,
The green broom sweeps,
The old king holds a jaguar pot 
Of golden lightning
Disguised as quetzel feathers
As if our immortality is not
Always near enough to us.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Palm Ribs in the Road

The fog rolls in
The victim card.
Evidence of wind
Harder than the Chopin
Vonny mastered
In the day
Without end.

Memories are to be
Squandered for this
Time now,
How everything that's new
Bears a resemblance 
Like a cross 
Worn to keep warm 
In the darkness.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Andrea

She's still there smiling, trying to give me 
A proper pose of farewell
But her curtsy was too sexually charged
And she was too much in love to not
Dominate the photo, indeed the whole 
Photo book, crumbled with its dead
And yellowed with adult innuendo preserved.

She was nine years old
And nobody knew what we did downstairs
As she directed her own versions
Of the shows the grown ups put on,
Especially when they got naked,
The closest thing a child can see to truth.

I was far too young myself 
To understand the lines I said
But of course I knew them all 
As well as her. And my private flag
Snapped to her attention
As for any nocturnal bride.

There was no one else, really,
She took any innocence I had
When I was ripped away to another state
So my parents could discover more intriguing partners
And I could find with the driftwood some water-logged
Not quite virginal approximation of her.

Often I've imagined never letting go,
Her waking in my arms, knowing love
Never has to disappear and find new forms,
For there is only ever one
Despite the soul eyes changing,
The end growing further out of sight.

Love's been the roughest of journeys,
The pleasures so much less than what I felt,
The pains much larger than what they were.
She went to a college nearby, became a preacher's bride,
Saves souls in her free time, and everything
Of what I remember or imagined is in her eyes.

It was never meant to be, but somewhere 
The tears went away, and somewhere they 
Never came. The impossible hung 
Like a star and never lost its allure. 
What was could never compensate for the feeling 
It created, what created by itself,
Far, too far from lovers and their scars.

Friday, November 26, 2021

"In February" by Hugh McCulloch Jr.

In gratitude for spending Thanksgiving in Massachusetts with my family at my childhood home, here is a lovely poem by my great-great uncle, Hugh McCulloch (1869-1902), one of a generation of Harvard fin de siecle poets who died young and who was notable enough to be mentioned by fellow Harvardian Wallace Stevens in "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction." Taken from his final volume, Written in Florence, this early spring lyric touches on the alienations of forbidden gay love, the weight of history on reincarnated souls, and the spiritual values of despair the Decadents cultivated.

The trees, all dripping since the tardy dawn
     With dewy raindrops fathered in the night,
Half shuddered, shedding on the mossy lawn
     Their drops of light.

The many branches seen against the sky 
     (That rain-dark grey against the unclouding blue!),
That forest multitude which stretched on high,
     Made earth seem new.

And we two wandering 'midst the craven trees,
     Together close, my arm about you thrown,
Our eyes made dreamy by the rain-wet breeze —
     We felt alone.

The world was maddened by some subtile sting;
     Some last resistance to supreme despair
Crushing to life each gently slumbering thing
     Which languished there.

Our spirits, drowsy in their fleshly tomb,
     Half rose to life, and half they seemed to know 
The wonders which from Nature's mighty womb
     Were soon to grow;

Half knew where, in the vast abyss of time,
     Their past had been, and what their name and place;
Their monstrous deeds; — where sung in buried rhyme
     Their primal grace.

The naked boughs which hung a-quivering there,
     Which shrank with fear through all their vague delight,
Were yet compelled to yield, compelled to bear, 
     By Nature's might.

Our souls, however, seemed like things apart;
     They turned again, for not yet was the dawn.
Desire, the Spring sent quivering through the heart, —
     The soul slept on.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Contradiction in Witch City

They react now to the witches cackle
And draw back from the human tallow 
In the costume shop behind the candles.
The majick spoken here is black,
The ghost of old Nat Hawthorne can't compete
With the delirium of occupation
400 years too late, a float thrown just in time
For voodoo binding, sacrificial knives, 
Rh negative brains in jars,
The commodification of mysteries
Only believed by the initiates
Who hide their eyes in robes for decades, 
Some say centuries, as they memorize
The incantations passed down by the martyrs
Just for them, who had come here from Turin 
And Abruzzi, Potsdam and Billerica
To ride the mushroom brooms across the sky
Through Noirvember purple and the grave sites
That emptied out their loads so long ago.

The ghosts float through the homes like lights
But no one gives them here the time of day,
Too much history has passed and been recorded
For a posterity very much alive in the idea
That there must be something more for them
Than a life that only transcends the rule
When the young wander past their stones 
In dreams of being ghouls.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Afterglow of Museum

Art, they say, comes from life,
Some sketched lines to remind of what is seen,
But it is quite the other way,
Life comes out of art,

Provides the 3D,
For the great imagination
To steal scenes and tableaus 
From the generous palette of the field.

They would multiply into cities
Were it not for the poor cramped hand
Of the painter, who calls the struggle 
With his will a question of his sanity,

To protect some sacrosanct separation 
Between the hand and the eye
From the ever-elusive mind, the one thing
That won't be contained in any form.

There is only what is left on the ground,
The impoverished architecture 
Of what can’t be grown
Out of the genius of all that is.

The visible trees 
With colors impossible to see
And movements too nuanced to track
Want to break free from the sky

That holds them down 
And express who they are, 
What they can be
In the longing and the glory

Of the other thing 
Inside us all
That dares to call a dream
As it's waiting to be born.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Christian Science Plaza

God appreciates the pathos,
The long steps up to the heal thyself church --
The incurable in the wheelchair below
Just wants to record the bells
For a kind of posterity
Where the city lights the reflecting pool
Empty but still full
Of a kind of life
We can't consciously quantify 
But is oh-too-easy to feel
In the soul
That is kind of called to here,
In scientific arches of faith
And spacious concrete towers
That allow anything you want
With a smile,
But there is something beyond the door,
There always is,
"Cleanliness is impossible" and "bless this mess"
Prevail on the construction tableau,
More repairs for a vessel impenetrable 
Except by faith.

There will never be another Sunday evening like this
-- Even the lights in the dome remember that.

At Copley Square

Youth blows through the perpetual
     Pedestals long-dead glory,
Glows like bulbs through ancient galleries,
Throws its shade on haunted Mansard roofs
    And Boylston's Masonic geometries.

The store displays on Newbury change,
     The names unrecognizable 
But youth, strong and frail, is eternal.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Slow Convalescence

Without the energy of being wronged
The heaviness of forgiveness 
Wouldn't weigh down this plane to Boston:
The guilt of the ticket taker,
The shame of the steward,
The anger of the discomforted passenger.
The discerning traveler will grimace and bear
The rage of children,
The opinions of teens,
The talk of the lonely 
As if they are strong enough
To look down with kindness
On what they have forgiven in themselves.
It's the nature of co-existence,
The bravely unmasked 
Who could not compromise with truth
And the bravely masked
Who will not surrender their humanity;
Both refuse, in short, to be victims,
Something inherent in the human,
To strike a divine pose
In the face of unrelenting noise.
And if we falter sometimes,
When we hear the sirens
Cry out all the pity
We never hear about ourselves 
As the face of the rocks against spray,
We can always lift away
From what we've brought inside us,
The distant other
We only know as ourselves --
Until the tap on the shoulder comes,
"You should be just like me,
You're required to sit in your seat 
This way, don't you see?"
But it's only a voice
Despite the fluttering 
Of the heart,
A distant warmth
That stirs a heat inside you 
To resist, correct, scold --
But it is better,
One always knew,
To love,
To do this for them
Because nothing is lost
From the self
In service --
Of honoring
The raw, the unschooled, the limited,
For we once knew not 
What we knew
And told the world off
On a whim,
Sending it spiraling downward
To a break of tears.
One has learned
Not to hurt
As one as learned how not
To feel wounded,
A slow convalescence 
Forever picking at the scab
But growing something 
Beyond a thicker skin,
A kind of compassion,
An inner resilience,
The idea that one's soul
Does not need keeping,
For it watches like a clock
In the place without time
Marking each moment of movement 
So that each one connects 
In a jeweled thread,
A beginning, then an end,
With a spring in between,
Each tick another choice
On how to be,
What is the scale
Of the journey.
The innocent are wise
As the action rises
On the play,
The costumes we don't recognize 
Become the characters 
We wear our hearts inside:
The garish red, the torn velour,
The front of lace 
Woven to deceive
The distant eyes;
How could we not react
To a bauble the size of an egg?
Backstage it must be a relief
To peel the greasepaint away
But deadly serious on the stage
In the silence of lamplit dust --
What words will slake the endless flame?
I have only these I was given to say. 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Asheville Notes

Rusted roofs below the rocks
Along the springs of Trillium,
The blood of the lamb like silver pee
Flows from the free will hills in Tennessee
And winds below the hard-carved road
In its fury to go below, past the roots and lodes,
And if our souls lie beyond these rills
Above some crag of glistening hill
Not so our blood, for sinners as for lambs,
We plant our bones like hoes in ground
We’ve hallowed with our hands
But we are told to turn our gaze away,
From the gravestone’s proofs of heaven,
From the faces that grow laurel from the clay,
From the jade-edged shadows to the azure blur Elysium
And call that God
To whom all blessings flow,
Except, of course, all those we know,
A God found, one may suppose, in silence, just beyond
The whispering of the glades,
The murmur of the water
Dropping down from stones,
But, no, what small space there is is filled with praise,
Prayers to what can’t be seen, or known,
To see it and to know it
Instead of fear and death and hopelessness
More easily defined than heaven,
To tell them to flee, to take us back outside of knowledge
Before the first pickaxe fell.

Even the birds speak down
This God of the silence,
Here, even the stone moves
In waves of tourmaline and granite.
The mists lift and it’s only trees, fruit for stone fireplaces,
Still as if for a thousand years 
Covering the furthest hills.

Like the breeze blowing up the mountain
The crackle of hickory’s sweet smells bring alive
A humbler, realer life than hell prescribes.
It sizzles like birdsong, and warms like low sun
And carries its light through darkness like mica
Carries spirit shine up the mountain –
How could this great gift
Be so small
Against the invisible liquor
Of withheld love and withheld fire?
How could all this be blessed at all,
But for an aberration,
A innocent laugh against the grain of the sky?

They can drink to you now
At the wood where old Asheville figures
Hung their coats on the hooks by the stools.
No restriction on cheers
From where they sit,
Their smiles tilted outward, from the stars.
Sitting in late afternoon sorrows,
Every word they heard
Sounded the dark note of the void,
And now the doom they forestalled
Is upon them, and they laugh
At how what they escaped
Was never there,
And the unholy concocted consolation
Was the only holy thing
In the whole town.

No matter where you go, 
Mountain or vale,
There’s always the sound of a train
Carrying coal, never seen.
Even its exhalations lay still in the smokies’ haze.
Is there no corner where the green doesn’t go,
Or where the human eyes prying forward
Dare not dwell?

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

The End of History

He could not fold the children's laundry tonight.
He needed to see what earthquakes were fake
And correlate those operations with 
Missing children, perhaps they were rescued,
Or maybe the hybrid ones who can't survive
In the sun, maybe there's medical ships
He can contribute time and money to.

Mopping the dust from under the sneezing 
Child's bed, at any rate, would have to wait.
This wormhole is too urgent. Silly man,
His wife laughed, he's fighting a war that is
Already over. The Goddess has won.
The children are free. Now he can clean the john.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Downtown

Early one fine morning, the sun never did rise
On sweet Melissa walking, guns behind the blinds.
The rain fell on the street. They say it civilized.
But standing on the pavement, I could not believe my eyes.
It was over in a moment, the terrors of the night.

Some other place somewhere, a shotgun Chevrolet,
Heavy-hooded huntsmen, it’s claimed they got away.
Who’s to say what happened when the killing had begun,
But while the whole town’s watching not a soul could be tried.
The killers hide nearby, not out of sight.

They closed this part of town down many years ago.
The buses run on time. Time moves so slow.
Lost places shaken and stoned, the storefronts live on
While the visionaries and the bankers know exactly what to do:
Put the garbage out the window, keep the many from the few.

All he came with was the story of his name,
Some passed-down fairy tale that filled theirs hearts 
       with so much shame.
They tried to tell him he could not escape their eyes,
But he just smiled and told them “I’m just lucky to be alive.
Your whole world’s a foreign language but I rob you blind.”

The streets are loneliest at the edges of the day.
Sad rabbits in their safety nets carry home their prey.
They pass the bread around, so proud of what they grew.
I wish that I could say, sweet darling, why it’s not the same for you.
You’re given poisons to forget all the wonders you could do.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Triptych

Rosie’s Eyes
Rosie’s eyes have focused again
seems the same as way back when
back when we believed the lies
we wanted to pretend

The night when it ended
that’s the way I remember her
told me then I was to blame
I watched the full moon die

I had a choice 
to rise above 
it was the same either way

Rosie’s eyes are August again
same old breeze south of the bend
same old waiting moonless skies
dancing in heaven my friend

and if her eyes forecast my end
that’s the way it will always be
some things I can never mend
not far enough away

You tried to love me
tried to get inside my heart
you had to know just how I’d be


Nathanael
Here’s the suitcase of my bones
There are rides to everything
I shook the painting off the wall 
I saw the fix works down the hall
Old hookers on their knees 
Begging baby please be in my movie
I see those hills and I believe
There’ll be no more retreat
In my room
I come in shoes without string
I come believing I’ll breathe again
We all wait sadly for the call
We see the mold grow in the hall
I feel the stone inside of me
As a poem left of my heart
With words that say what no one knows
My eyes are closed
And it’s all in my head
Somewhere the sea
Has a table set for me
I welcome you again
My friend
It’s going away


People of the Sun
The streets are too soft
Forgiveness comes too easily
Redemption comes back up the drain
Stands in the basin pretending that it's playing
Pretending that it's playing

There are no words just ghosts
Moving 'cross that old dance floor
To show how long they've held on 
To the dream that followed in the dark
They broke their silence on
They broke their silence on

It's only the lost
Who know the place I'm hiding in
They look through curtains from below
Stare at me through the grate
Like I'm their hero
Like I'm their hero

Go back to a world
Where no one has forgiven them
And where they are invisible
We cannot hear the screaming
Of the living in their dreams
Move like shadows past
Those who think their pain isn't real
Who think their pain isn't real

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Reconsideration of Jenny

The emotion has been stilled
In strange crystal
Accessible to other traumas
If not the original
Frisson of shock,

How all that we knew
Went into that,
As if to build a structure
Of becoming 
To take in

What would only moan in pain
As it does today
In an auburn whisper,
Still rarefied, still raw,
But almost knowing.

A pattern has been captured,
Some vague resemblance 
To something else
That lives on in the tendons
Of our reach, 

Lodged in so many 
Layers of pathos
The heart no longer knows
How to feel about it,
As it stretches for the exercise

Like a surfer
Riding away the years 
In pursuit of the perfect
Rise into the wave,
Increasingly alone

With what never yields
And never comprehends,
A testament to time spent,
As foam obliterates its line
Again and again,

As if the seeking is
The only thing that lasts,
The unknown is all
We can see,
The table washed clean.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Strum of an Old Song

Self-doubt resolves
To doubt of God 
In the golden turning 
— These decades, for example,
Wasted trying
To wrestle truth
From a stubborn crevasse
— How the window opened to dust
And the greyness of the living
Permeated the ancient 
Ruins of city.

What couldn’t be contained
Finally is 
In the wreck that was salvaged
To be thrown away
Someday,
Wistful gifts
Of consoling
We thought would echo
Through the years
With our ambitions —
Instead are nested 
In reliquarial chlorophyll 
Like border guards
In glass cases
On the waiting roads.

How cleverly they never resolve
And never seem to get their point
Of holding space in an impossible
Tightness of spirit,
What living did to us
And what the voices tried to
Save us from,
As angels often do,
Sending aperçus for us to waste,
Thinking that better than
Their being consumed,
And better than being caught
In it, the dark moment,
For we thought we could become
Some star, however dim,
However theoretical
To shine from a distance —

So that it might be said, in the end,
We never lived — except in this,
The refraction, as if it could subsist
Outside of us, like it was something
We could escape from
Ourselves in.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Atlantean Prayer

On the 11:11 Portal

We are now
Where we were
Before it fell

But now we rise
Through the griefs
Not half-remembered

For we must know
Within our faith
Somehow

We've suffered well
And we are worthy,
We have been chosen

For we know
We have chosen
Ourselves.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

In Gratitude for Darkness

We live in prophecy,
A world is dying
Miraculously,
Every crack is a celebration.

O caterpillar 
Of hearts desire
Trust the chaos,
Trust the breaking,

For the birthing comes 
Through pain
At the widest opening
Nurturing dream

Through the dark
That gives it form
As an owl brings change,
A Beltane butterfly.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Robinson Jeffers

The crow uses its whole body to speak
— Noble in its misery, November 
Taxonomies, the pathos tragedies 
That come from looking below, the crow caw
Not quite forgiveness, more a poem of the fall
For a God who feigns indifference, compassion 
Being so much better served in its absence.
For someone has to watch the creatures gut
Each other, as long as they don't interfere
With the innocence that seems too much part
Of the plan, as sufficient for the pain 
In trajectories that are escaping
To the rising action of wings released 
Beyond our sense of meaning — no more needs
To be said, yet the silence is keening,
As if there's too much pity in the balance
Between enduring and killing, loving
And being loved that is still a children's game
Up on the ridge-top, shadows in the clouds
Laughing and tagging, then blood-curdling screams.
How hard in the echo not to correct
What will not be learned except in silence
Long and hard. And we gaze, mute humans,
As the short day's last sun purples that mountain.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Villanelle of the Revolution

The world's become heaven today.
The one bread that's left us is fear.
The truth's come from such a long way.

They won't let us take holiday
And Christmas can't quite make it here.
The world's become heaven today.

The hospitalized pass away.
The doctors were disgraced this year.
The truth's come from such a long way.

No one cares what the news has to say;
The lies they no longer cohere.
The world's become heaven today.

We choose between freedom or pay.
Our children are made volunteers.
The truth's come from such a long way.

The one thought allowed is obey,
For reasons that never are clear.
The world's become heaven today.
The truth's come from such a long way.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

An Incidental Regression

The radio towers brought the pandemic
To Lihue, and the Japanese cane laborers
Died in waves through the early 1920s,
A devastation mostly unremarked
By history — per se — but now it makes sense:
The masks, the distancing, the closings of
Theatres, churches and schools; the strands connect
In the next lives of those who've forgotten 
— How some know, without proving how, and some don't 
Because they didn't learn the first time —
How they hold hands now, teachers and learners,
Never puncturing the silence, what's holy
And lies between them, what's become the only thing.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Psych Ward on Blackbird

They are divided by gate,
Masked on one side,
Sedated on the other,
And between them
A mirror's polarities,
The inability to communicate
Seen as argument.

Above the floor-plan maze
It all looks the same,
Raw information
Waiting for each one to weigh,
But here, there is the gate,
The bars, the locked door,
The frightened eyes when we say "hello,"

Oh, but you, you
Complete my script
For our movie "Hilarity Ensues,"
You remember the dayglo anecdote 
And its rude Montpelier purple,
You always sequiturize 
My non-sequiturs.

At least you show with your eyes
What others say, 
That they understand.
Without those coherent waves
It's only words,
A salad like the news,
The unbridgeable gap.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Evening Vignette

Salt life
Mist over the stacks
Flannel
As we turn inward
On the quiet streets
Save the occasional 
Scrape of in-line skates.
The patio people
Have moved inside.

I feel the pull 
From that old friend
Lassitude
Like a light bulb 
Freeing my brain.
The community 
Is finally
Available for me
To imagine.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Elon Musk Tweets a Poem

The twitter “verse” has been in an uproar for two days over South African billionaire Elon Musk’s posting of a famous ancient Chinese poem, without explanation, in traditional kanji. As with all famous ancient Chinese poems, many theories have been proposed. Is Musk sending a message of peace and brotherhood to the Chinese Communist Party? Is he thanking them for saving his life? Celebrating the anniversary of the apparent takeover of the United States by China? Admitting that his companies also benefit from Ughyur prisoner and child slave labor? Distinguishing himself from other plutocratic DARPA puppets like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates as someone considered to be an enemy but actually a brother? Slyly noting that the same AI programs now being used to manage the human race can be / are being used against the technocrats in charge? Or is he reminding the most populous country on earth that the human race must work together in the face of the overwhelming power and influence of off-world civilizations? 

As with all things Musk, the answer is inscrutable. He is like the fool (or joker) in the tarot deck, revealing truths while professing no fixed identity. 

The poem, attributed to the poet Cao Zhi, is taught to Chinese schoolchildren as “the quatrain of seven steps”, and it dates from a time when brothers vied, sometimes to the death, for kingdoms and privileges in China’s dynastic system. According to legend, one brother was about to kill another brother to take control of some minor belt of countryside but, seeing his eyes, offered him a chance to save his life by composing a beautiful poem. The life-saving poem reads as Musk tweeted it:

煮豆燃豆萁
豆在釜中泣
本是同根生
相煎何太急

My translation is as follows:

Bean straw heats the beans
Weeping in the pot
Out of the same root
Why are you afraid?

In other words, the burning straw that kills the soybeans formerly helped them grow, because it was part of the same plant. Thus, what the oppressor does to the victim it does to itself – in fact, it may be the true victim because it destroys what it created. The last line seals the anxiety created when one recognizes oneself in what one seeks to destroy. It also – as a work of poetic beauty – recognizes that there is nothing unnatural even in the killing of one’s brother, no need for emotion or attachment, it is only self-judgment that makes one’s actions painful.

From this basic framework, all the potential Musk interpretations listed above “fit.” Any authority seeking to deny the people their natural human rights will inevitably be toppled, because it is their humanity that ultimately gives them their power. And that is the delicate and subtle game of chicken transpiring now on the international / galactic stage, as the fundamental corruption at the root of how humanity is organized is slowly and painfully revealed to everyone. None of the current structures of society can survive in the new world, but people must first retract their consent. The extent to which the mass of humanity never noticed their enslavement before can be found in the gruesome long march currently ongoing where humanity is being silently herded into figurative and literal death camps until they finally scream “enough”. 

But, as the poem suggests, such collective dynamics need not cause weeping. One does not recognize one’s brother until a sword has been unsheathed against him. Such knowledge is more valuable than life itself, or at least more lasting than the courtly feuds of 2nd century AD. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Night the Generous One

Night the generous one comes
To soften what could not stay true

Like strings that must be retuned
In the heat of a day's toil

It doesn't matter what the night
Believes or tries to say

The music doesn't end
And voices bend beyond the horizon

What we have done with limitation 
As possibility unfolds

Night the generous one comes
To make us all its equal

Free to pontificate and feel
Without restraint 

There is an opening to all that is
What is yet to be created

The only thing to stop us is the light
The glorious morning light

Monday, November 1, 2021

The Trail of Fairy Tears

Every memory is offered
On All Hallows Eve
In a platter of grief
By the spirits at the glass 

Laughing with us, watching our eyes,
Inviting our minds to partake
Of generosities only known to
The temporarily dead.

We call them what has passed,
Still they float, are held in crystal,
Safe beyond our reach
Even as the veil boasts transparence.

Our task of forgetting
Is so large
That the black must seem
To take over.

There is so much here to do
That begs transcendence
And the dress-up ghosts go gleeful
To the darkness.

The spirits are content 
That we know that they are here
And we are as children weighed
With someone else's dreams.

And the memories 
Are satisfied
That we can live in them
As we decide.

The future seems 
So far away
At times like these,
As if it's passed us by.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

The New Illusion

The old books give way to the new illusion
Not by ending the stories (they never end)
Or running out of similes (they never do)
Or growing tired of style or rhyme or some-such
Contrivance to keep one within the leaves --
No they are destroyed entire, their reason
For being exposed, built on lies that can't 
Disguise their corruption any longer.

Oh how they served us back in the day, 
Such wisdom given to hold in our hearts,
Of progress made against superstition,
How iconoclasts inherit the earth
And spread dogma like light to the dark burghs
Where being different is still a crime.
It thrilled us to see the black curtains torn,
To experience wars won vicariously;
It brought new flowerings with their whiz-bang
Trust in the consensus lie, the factual
Fantasy, how that made the story simple
But sophisticated, in the sense that
Being skeptical of hope is sophisticated.

This sufficed as the means of our coping
When there was Jesus, and all the Jesus
Wanna-be's and never-was's, the Stalins,
J P Morgans, the Louis Quatorzes,
When the powerful could be blamed
When no longer powerful, and the meek
Extolled when they are no more -- how carefully
The real power was excised from the story,
How skillfully the victims erased --
It was all to forget oneself -- 

                                                    But now there's 
Nothing else, no mar on the tabula rasa
To signal a martyrs blood, for the show
Only starts when the audience sits down,
The figures move when the spotlights turn on,
Lines memorized, positions marked with tape,
And one must rely on the empathy of actors
To catapult the moral of the plot,
Which offers no lifeline

                                            Now that we know
Its purpose was to coerce innocent blood
-- The entertainment just had to be good
Enough -- but now that we've put the stake through 
The vampire's heart the stage is empty and grey,
The backlit lamp has died away, the stories
Are within -- formerly taken, now returned
With the rest of the universe you carry
In every cell.

                         As the light now expands
There's no more paper world to set aflame.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Prayer for Draco

The iguana looks outside 
At trees that he should climb
Beyond his upstairs cage
Where the daily feed of grapes
And mustard greens
Suffices for the wild.

He paces the hacienda,
Looking for the stray branch
Or wire to climb away
From the humans,
Who are equally bound by law 
To keep him safe

With all his fits and spasms,
His leaping into hair,
His not surviving long
If we don't stoop to clean his poop
And spray his cage and never
Look him square in the face.

The living room window 
Is almost a hole,
He understands that
Better than the need to make him
A pet, because he's cute
And different,

As he crawls around
On his last 3 legs,
All his contortionist tricks
Going to waste,
And so much rage that's lost
On everyone but the cat,

But not those eyes,
So suffering, so human,
Impossible to imagine we can't 
Console them
Or make the grief
Subside.

It is his private struggle,
Born of choices 
None of us can know,
That intangible thing 
Called karma
That rises corporeal 

In every thick-gloved exchange,
In every duck for cover
When I enter the cage;
Is it his or mine,
Impossible to say,
Perhaps it is the same.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Night Ride: St. Petersburg

From the German of Rainer Maria Rilke

When we were back with the glossy trotters
(The black Orloff studs’ distinguishing sheen) -,
Behind the exalted candelabras
When city windows displayed an early green 
Adrift from the hour, saying nothing --, 
Drove, no: vanished or, rather, winged our way
Round the overbearing palace hairpins 
Wafting all the way to the Neva quays,

Carried away by the vigilant night
That had left both heaven and earth behind
By the time we came upon the rank blight
Of a garden unguarded, ill-defined
In the Letney-Sad, where the stone figures
Ascended from their impotent contours
And passed amidst us as we rode, transfigured -:

Then we heard the city 
Lift her being as well. She admitted 
She had never existed, and her plea
Was only for rest; like a madman stewed
And long confused comes suddenly unglued,
No longer able to be distracted
And betrayed from having to think again, 
As he feels himself facing a granite wall, 
Falling through his vacant, swaying brain 
Until you can no longer see him at all.

Rainer Maria Rilke, between August 9th and 17th, 1907, Paris

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

Nächtliche Fahrt
Sankt Petersburg

Damals als wir mit den glatten Trabern
(schwarzen, aus dem Orloff'schen Gestüt) -,
wahrend hinter hohen Kandelabern
Stadtnachtfronten lagen, angefrüht,
stumm und keiner Stunde mehr gemäß -,
fuhren, nein: vergingen oder flogen
und um lastende Paläste bogen
in das Wehn der Newa-Quais,

hingerissen durch das wache Nachten,
das nicht Himmel und nicht Erde hat, -
als das Drängende von unbewachten
Garten gärend aus dem Ljetnij-Ssad
aufstieg, während seine Steinfiguren
schwindend mit ohnmächtigen Konturen
hinter uns vergingen, wie wir fuhren -:

damals hörte diese Stadt
auf zu sein. Auf einmal gab sie zu,
dass sie niemals war, um nichts als Ruh
flehend; wie ein Irrer, dem das Wirrn
plötzlich sich entwirrt, das ihn verriet,
und der einen jahrelangen kranken
gar nicht zu verwandelnden Gedanken,
den er nie mehr denken muss: Granit -
aus dem leeren schwankenden Gehirn
fallen fühlt, bis man ihn nicht mehr sieht.

Rainer Maria Rilke, zwischen dem 9. und 17.8.1907, Paris

Crack in the Morning

Choose your silence carefully 
— It will be remembered

In the leaves of the trees
As the birds and dogs bay.

The crows look for what you have to say 
But fly off as you open your mouth.

Only scarecrows are allowed to be fools.
The rest must be wrong on their own.

The light leaves nothing out
— It is only ear.