Sunday, May 31, 2020

Cythera Revisited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 29, 2020

Deadball Canto

"He had the best curveball since Ezra Pound …”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

At Hephaestus’ Temple

After Linda Gregg

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

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Order Coming Out Through the Whole

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

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

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

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Three Short Poems about Poems

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

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

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

Friday, May 22, 2020

Xenia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 21, 2020

For Creeley on his Birthday

An infinite you
Stitches each conceivable

Permutation of this moment
But the bull

Is only a shadow now
The red just a memory

And the quiet that fell
Over the house

Almost like
A forgetting

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Polita v. Poetria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 18, 2020

Cards for Molly

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

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

Of the human heart overcoming
                    what the numbers say

At their most impossibly logical and eerily
     prescient.

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

     to thresholds,
           those holes where living goes
                               to be alone

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where you could see past the obstruction
          of your being

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

   Desire exists on its own somehow

trying to calm us down.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Shoreline

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

Wave after wave carries forward
The curls of distant wars.

Our footprints run together
And then dissolve—

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

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

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

We only are alive
As we sense the shoreline breathing.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Lies for which I'm Forgiven

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 15, 2020

Incident by the 39 Hotel

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Venus in Virtua

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

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Groans from the Cusp

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

Monday, May 11, 2020

Red Tide Harvest

After Listening to Nietzsche (Jack that is) 

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

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

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

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Uprising

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

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

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

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Report from Under the Pier

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

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Low Tide in Late Afternoon

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

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Looking Up on Second Floors

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

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

Monday, May 4, 2020

Street Names

The people that seemed real,
Of 3-dimensional houses,
Are only fantasy now
Of names and what they mean:
Chelsea, Doncaster, St. Augustine ...
Something clings to these
Proxies flung down
From gone Commanders
But they can be peeled away
To my raw desire
To see
Myself
In what I've noticed:
A preponderance of pain,
The most important words not said,
No unconditional access to God
Or skateboard mastery ...
In this case, it's the tribe of Eddie Money
Riding by on bicycles
Who makes me give my soul
To three-chord desperations

As if the palm fronds
Waving everything in
Have never noticed.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

At Belmont Shore

Whole families tumble down
          the hillsides in the darkness
To the black sand, to walk out
          through the placid brine
Where Archangel Michael electric blue
          phytoplankton bioluminescences
To arms that are like wizards
          when they flail.
                                   
                                        The present
Has finally arrived. It was never here before
          and may never appear again.
So they are drawn to the candlelight
          that lies upon the waters
To escape from the known.

Most of them stand on the shore.
          The thought of the unfamiliar
          is close enough.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Dispatch from Huntington Beach

Blue waves under the moon
Smooth away the pull
Of civil disobedience
In front of Surf City's finest
Roan stallions protecting beaches
From May Day Constitutionalists
And their sea of Don't Tread on Me
Red, white and blue.

It's always illegal here
At night
To do what we do,
Absorb the moon.
The battles are for others,
Who do not wish to be
Invisible.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Mercy for the Denominator

The veil could never contain.
Eventually the onion
Would be peeled back all the way.
We'd no longer even see
What had kept away the free
—The newly recognized.
It was necessary, pain,
And those who took dominion
Were ruthless but kind, for they
Did what was necessary,
Sought to serve us with their reign
A choice for our decision
Where everything was disguised
—How else could we know the way?

Thursday, April 30, 2020

A Lift of the Sheet

The coin will pop
in and out of
reality
so many times
the mind will
eventually let
whatever it
held onto go.
Then the flowers
say hello.
The crow makes a noise
not the ear.
The stars apologize
for guiding us here
with only the haze
of a blueprint
visible.
But that is more
much more
than we had.
How effortlessly
the world finally appears!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Reticence of the Gnostokoi

The only thing creation lacks is me.
Oh, I see myself in others, in the break
Before we blur together as one.

These mysteries have been explained
By those who themselves were told:
We are all exactly the same!

Why then do all these ghost faces hover,
Along the road that doesn't lead to me,
As the embodiments of the real, to tell

Such pretty lies? Like time can replace vague eternity,
Or the statue not the sculptor turns to stone ...
Any such tales turn true when there is no one

To hang on the story. A someone
Would question how those with different views
Could still think the same way they do.

The branches outside say more, yet they agree.
They wear my thought like a clean glove,
Nothing unexpected, yet always a surprise.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Furrows in a Road Full of Flowers

Unrelenting pain is so nice accompanied by chords,
The wastes are so beautiful, the dreams
So impossible glitter endlessly across the sea,
As the longing we have for what will never be
Shines just beyond, like a tangible sun,
Resolved in the non-physical by being remembered
In knowing, at last, what it was for, that oakey flavor
That remained a virtue, and was almost the way it felt.

The spring salts spread their bouquet, in an approximation
Of pleasure today, but it was so cold a month ago
My bones could not stay still, and tomorrow I know
It will be uncomfortable anywhere but the water.
It takes such fluctuations to bind us to the material,
To make me as an animal chasing the physical moths
But getting lost still in the fulgurations beyond the bushes
That ease the pains before they bring on fresh new waves,
Something about being lost and alone and not included
In the passing chaos that, as much as it is felt, only exists
To be understood, in that moment.

I may look now like the void in the mirror
But somewhere there's a glass with my face,
And the eyes say: "Why do you live here, where
Rosemary blossoms like a vapor all the way to the lather
Of the shore? You should be waking up now in a lean-to,
Reaching for the day's first match." By the river that shares
So many words, where the ones the sun won't let you see
Are the poetry. It's the urge to find something that is real
Before it burns away in hungry eyes that want so little
So much, knowing it will never come--and so the arms
On the page move in heaven, form holy tones, the sound
Of the lost being left alone. It becomes a towering shadow
And grows into what they call a form, the known sublime,
The immortal, that which has been left behind
For no one to understand.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

A Note on Advances Behind the Blind

The cat isn't cluttered by the new birdsong,
Doesn't dig for the sake of the hole,

Is content where we gnaw with longing,
Though it twitches at gold we can't know.

All our thinking has built a haze
Between what is and what might be;

We call it false, the imagination,
What is yawningly received

As the extension of its being:
The wasp, the crow, the gnome.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Corona and Her Impossible Demands

She is difficult to read. The words are vague.
Yet he cannot sense a space between them.

What she asks for, she doesn't want. She wants
What she cannot ask for. That's all he knows,

Or all he thinks, as he loses himself
In the greenness of her eyes ...

She doesn't think she needs anything at all.
What he gives to her comes straight from the sun,

Her natural portion, not to be queried
Any more than the air they both breathe.

Thus, what she is comes out of what he gives,
What he thinks she's trying to say.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

The Glare Ahead

We shouldn't give our energy to the products of enslavement ...
A noble thought, but how to navigate
When all we were given was weapons
To make our way in the world?
The slingshot that brings the water,
The shroud that keeps flies away ...
We can't even see that words are bullets
Forever asking us to step out of the way ...

What is to be done
When it turns out R&B preceded slavery,
As the reason for it to exist?
The music stolen with each sunrise
Became something roaring and new each night,
And the end game became to be cool,
To not react to the shackles,
For the system had become familiar enough,
Your tattoo was how you endured it.

What will the new earth make of these tools
That appeal to no apparent God,
But to how you did because you could
(The power in chattel),
The rest of your tribe across the seas,
Their thoughts, on the waves, an imposition,
Another reason to get away
As you wait for a word from the mansion
That your survival is admired,
After all the ways they played that you were dead.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

No Grapes for the Iguana

I've been done in by a 14-year old.
He calls himself a wizard
But gives no word on how
His wizardry works ...

Probably out of pity,
For I know he's turned
The pyramid around
And started stamping
"I do not consent"
On the top instead of
The bottom,
Where loosened shrapnel
Would rain down
Like threads.

"Let there be carnage
When the space sharks arrive,"
He says, which, unfortunately,
Is far more interesting
Than what he means,
That he is no less a God
Than the Eye;
Why shouldn't he
Decide?

Monday, April 20, 2020

Grandfather

Sig went to work at 8 years old
When his father died. He ended up drilling
Artesian wells, and selling, when I met him, Ramblers,
Which made him to me a God.
He was someone no one ever said anything of,
Even when he died he left no mark
But a low-grade pity: "nice guy ... ineffectual ... always drunk,"
But a wicked sense of humor shot through
His ghoulish spectacles to today, with a look
That was neither amusement nor anger
But something higher, about the logic
That seems so cruel the way it rules us
With too little room to squirm: Jaw dropped in awe
Like a giddy mathematician at how flawless
Is the law, how instantly it goes from unknowable to obvious.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

The Signal-to-Silence Ratios of Interiors

There's a pervasive travelogue quality to even the best poems.
It's like the quiet inside can only be explained by the screaming
That comes in sporadic drive-by rounds, like copters circling,
And silence again, like end rhymes, the only sense to be made or
     known.

A dog snaps, as if finally broken by the suburban routine.
We've been told to stay at home, as if the air
Was tuberculer. We can hear its wind, but not the stories
That keep the neighborhood alive, breathing with laughter.

The cat meows at another cat in the mirror.
A piano is played after an interminable delay.
The surveillance blades above seem to harmonize, in a way
The muffled voices never do, as they wait—seemingly forever—for
     resolution.

It's Sunday afternoon. I want to research the Gnostics but
I've been turned by unidentifiable forces to longing and diversion
And chasing the cat through limpid rooms—
Protected from the lies, I suppose, by never finding the truth.

So, when the quiet resumes, it seems like an answer
To the questions forced by the noise, that in their asking
Left no connection to what I'd heard unexplored.
What came forth from the darkness was the darkness,

A kind of light, not unlike the glints of sun on the rosemary
And our extraordinary capacity to make of it anything we want,
Salve for wounded souls or redolence of old homes.
Some guitar, for example, that I can't control, comes in now

And each room of the house is a different place to go
With distinct characters, timelines and narrative twists,
What I can't even really hear, above the momentary motor
That could be a chainsaw, lawnmower, model plane—it doesn't matter.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Counter Protests Outside the Pizzeria

Knowledge falls so quickly into expertise,
To give weight to pronouncements otherwise
Vagabond philosophies, instead of
The shared need to be deceived.

What we learned was useless after all.
With a turn of a switch, new values emerged
That we instantly accepted, that freedom
Is slavery, health is disease, logic ...

Any mind that is used now must be stopped
By any means necessary--that is what
Our cultivation of what is true and just
And immortal was for:

To feel your bones physically crushed,
Not some vague sense all hope was lost.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

My Father's Obituary


Skip Sigler, 85, proprietor of Marblehead’s iconic Seagull Inn B&B for 27 years, passed away peacefully on April 10 from complications of social distancing. He was surrounded by his loving family responsibly standing six feet away.

Skip was born March 3, 1935 to Ernest and Sara (Patterson) Sigler of Upper Red Hook in New York’s Hudson River Valley, where at age nine he was an honor guard at Roosevelt’s funeral. He graduated from The Ohio State University in 1957, later spreading the Buckeye gospel around the world as an unpaid zealot. In 1958, while putting his life at risk for his country on Pentagon snowplow duty for the Army Corps of Engineers, he met his wife Ruth on a blind date. Fortunately for posterity, he agreed to meet her despite being told her best attribute was that she made her own clothes.

He developed an almost-mythic reputation as party host in Detroit, Cincinnati, Toledo and Indianapolis as he climbed the corporate ladder to become a sales manager at Owens Corning Fiberglas. He remarked that the hours were long as a drunk and you often had to play hurt. The opportunity to be transferred to Boston in 1969 allowed him to achieve a childhood dream of settling his family in Marblehead. In fact, he left his corporate nest to stay in his home by the sea, embarking on a series of enterprises that unfortunately were decades ahead of their time, including alternative energy, house flipping, house husbanding and dating clubs. It wasn’t until 1994, when he reconstructed his home on the Neck as an inn to annoy his neighbors, that he finally found his true calling. Being able to tell the same jokes to different, paying guests each night was Skip’s idea of heaven on earth.

As host of his Seagull Inn, the New England Travel Guide honored him as the Boston area’s best, “a natural-born host with a remarkable gift of gab.” His door and bar were always open to the free spirits, unfettered dignitaries and world-class drinkers who gathered round his kitchen island to be fed, entertained and made to feel special in a safe and nurturing environment of complete debauchery.

He was a President of the Marblehead Chamber of Commerce, a charter Tennessee Squire, a short-lived member of the Corinthian Yacht Club, and a decades-long contributor to the Piss and Moan Club. In addition, Skip was a gourmet chef, an accomplished painter and furniture maker, hypnotist, record producer, and author of the popular cookbook series The Best of Skip, The Rest of Skip, The Last of Skip Parts 1 and 2 and the uncompleted What’s Left of Skip (to be published posthumously).

Preceded in death by his brother, the renowned wood artisan Doug Sigler, Skip is survived by his wife of 61 years, Ruth (God bless her), three sons Bill, Randy and Eric (God bless them), and six (confirmed) grandchildren who will forever miss their one-of-a-kind “Skippy.” He also leaves behind 6,000+ inn guests and uncountable jokes, stories, unverifiable facts from Skip’s Almanac, and aphorisms such as “the only thing that kills you is guilt,” and “everything I know today I’ve learned from listening to myself talk about things I know nothing about.”

He was happiest when enjoying a finger-stirred Manhattan while conducting business from his kitchen swing, which he still guards from beyond the veil.

Needless to say, any celebration of Skip’s life will have to be postponed until stadiums can be re-opened. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to the American Association for Mediocre Red Wine (AAMRW).

Saturday, April 11, 2020

After the Momentary Cloud

So it is finished,
And so it begins ...
The house is alive,
Ghost-hosted,
The central swing moves again
On its own
—Another story!
The birds laugh louder than before
And maybe their joke
Is not quite so private,
And maybe we know each other
Near enough
To what we think
When we form a new punchline
And throw
Towards the pucker
We're still convinced,
Despite how wrong
Each day
Predictably as sunrise
Proves us,
Is our own.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Islands in the Sunrise Off Boston

You were once a soldier
And knew much more than you do now
But you know, at least, that you died,
And soon you will remember much more,
And all that I remember will become light
To hurl as if I'm Zeus
Across the theatre sky,
For there will be something in me
That wants to gather every spark
And let it go
As if to vanquish every foe
Who made your pain what you became.
Ah but they were gone
Before I came.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Kitchen After Dark

Clams linguine won't talk back to me tonight
No matter how many sticks of butter
I dynamite the pass with, to make it
Suitable for Skip, who turns up his snout
To all but the finest Sambuca and
The cheapest wine. It's an enigma,

Like why the Cleveland Indians always traded
Their teams away.  There's an element of perversity
That shakes the cold china gravy boats
In the dining room that never recovered
From the storm of '37, despite
The dove-tailed cedar shelves and paintings in barn frames.

One's eye always goes to the booze.
The preacher of the house is always in
To bellow writhing sea tales while Ed Ames sings
Schmaltz without apology, the salty sea
Frosting the glass of the windowpane.
So much needed to be said in this room

That needed, even more, to be forgotten.
A few old jokes have been framed, some vintage
Corkscrews lay like models on a car
But otherwise there is silence,
More meaningful than noise. The sardine tins
Once stolen are still gifts when no one's there.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Ghost on the Pink Moon

San Francisco when it lifts
To a higher dimension
Accepts the sun to its canvas.

We walk sideways from the cafe,
Safely above the ocean, on a curve
Merged with the city's consciousness,

Which remembers the knowledge
Ensconced in the wind,
The pulsating codes on the bay.

Under the shroud of the cathedral
There are a few who move freely,
Trying to light the void with their eyes.

Row houses in crystal wait
For a new earth, or a sunny day,
Whichever comes first.

Empires have fallen off this table,
Cleared their plates so many times,
But still the city rises in a million points of light

On a see-saw, balancing the fish scales
Where there is no center,
No there there, either,

Except as the individuals
Whose faces you know
Peel away from the collective spell,

Harmonizing as weather vanes,
Standing in a permanent rain
And ever-present, intermittent heaven.

The fishing nets rise to the sky.
This was before they locked their cages,
Some gale-force gray golden age

When the bay windows gaped at the suffering
In this port of excess, nexus of pain
Like anyplace whales might visit,

Too far away, those who walk by,
Too far away not to heal,
Heal like the rain.

Monday, April 6, 2020

A Footnote After the Shift

It rains so I don't have to,
For there is only joy
Except in belief's ABCs
Whose residues we still recite.

I wouldn't have seen, e.g., until today
I was the highest-paid poet in the country.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Host in Isolation

Memories merge so viably with the present
It's like I am standing as a child
Trying not to learn
From the diffident figure
Who loved me more than words could say.

He struggles for breath now
In a hospital room cleared of family,
Wondering how the thing he has not forgotten
Is not there to comfort him
In his perpetual anxiety, when he has no
Earthly business still being here,
Except for the sun he sees in the window,
The faces behind the masks and on the TVs,
And his far more tangible memories
That keep spinning their webs like spiders
Something permanent and unique
That has ensnared all who think of him fondly:
The crazy aunts and uncles no one had met,
The hard times in the orchard business
No one can imagine,
The parties, the women,
The dialogue all jokes
And coded with the crystalline light
Of his unconditional generosity
Through the densest scenes imaginable,
What we as directors can only point at
With our lenses and light with lamps.

The times made of him their creature
As he became, to us, the times,
Of sideburns and butterfly collars,
Manhattans and Cheech & Chong pot,
All of it traumatic, not to be taken seriously,
For there's always a further story,
Of noble disgrace and corrupt glory
To fill the gray chicken-stock afternoons
That would otherwise be boring.
Instead there's a vigil for 5 o'clock somewhere,
When the kind drunk appears
To comfort the wellness, make peace with the sick,
Find the place where we're high enough, full enough,
We can let our minds accept what is real
Without a turning back, where all people
Are in drunkenness and squalor,
And there is never another who matters
To tell us, "You are wrong ..."
To proceed with such freedom, such hard-earned revolt,
To say the truth that hurts the most
In the most forgiving of tongues.

We wanted this chaos, for he protected us
By calling out the lie on what the world imposed,
And there were always others, in his army, 
Slinging his courage if not exactly the truth.
There is truth enough in what will never be said,
What never needed to get through.
It was always implied
In the common, inebriant mind,
For that's what we were allowed then,
Such joy on the other side of sadness.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

444 at the Universal Party House

"Reality is what surprises," he said,
By way of explaining the miracle
That filled up the hole he had dug
Out of, he reported, empty desire.

"The familiar vanishes, just like the
External world to an eye that will not blink."
All I had was a feather to defend myself
Against the unkept promises of peace.

It was more than enough
To focus
In deadly silence
The laugh that used to be a cry.

The rituals of remembrance
Serve an important purpose,
As a way to forget
What no longer serves.

The lesson books have ended
With a novel denouement.
It is time to bare experience.
The feather is gone.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Someone Else's Appointment

Wellness is a fountain
In an office park
By the freeway,
The ripples
From its pipes
The only schematic
Of the whole
That's available
Or needed
In this moment.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

East Bloc Flashback

The dark night of the collective soul
Is one last jar of spaghetti sauce
On the white and empty shelves
And two people too afraid to reach for it.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Return of What Could Not Be Thrown Away

Fear constricts, because we need to get smaller
To fit into these shoes, that walk across this stage,

To make it easy to forget everything
But the overwhelming feeling something's wrong.

What would we do if our visions were true?
Would we fly off like birds for different worms?

The minutes are so tense, the aperture so thin,
A squirrel skull pulled from an attic box

Becomes something wholly new, that has come
For our confusion, to explain the world.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Van Gogh

There is comfort
In letting
The dragon dig to China,
In listening for
The disembodied voice
Of the armadillo lady,
Phyllis.

It's so much more sensible
Than what is happening now
On the ground,
The emotionally-precise,
Hideously-false
Stories
That kick up so many allergens
On this clear, blue day.

The goat is pacing.
The lies are piling up
And falling harmlessly
To the cliffside.

Her expression
Has never changed.
It's more peaceful
In this state they call death,
The people of the dream
Bereft of thorazine.

The poppy bloom
Might as well be the sun,
As the passion flower vine
Might as well be the wind.

There's a picture book of Vincent
From an old estate sale,
Filled with ghosts and dust
But now
Every picture's been torn out,
Carefully, so as not to rip
That delicate face.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Incident in Corona del Mar-tial Law

The isolation mansions quiver in fear
Salt air
The sea offers no answers
From every window

They are coming still
To the far side of these hills
Enmeshed with cactus
To suggest fear

Such a thing can't possibly exist
Here in this rarefied air
With cottontails safe in the green
And wildflowers free in their thinking

There are only bees and streams
Grackles and crickets
And the low drone of hikers
Pontificating on what they've earned

No threat to the distant Spanish castles
That glisten in the sun
It would seem
But there it is

The threat the illusion poses
Can't be ghosted
By the brushes
Of the palms

For there is madness
Wherever boards can't be bolted
Being too close to someone else
Might expose you to their truth

Back down the hill
The bees are terrifying
Even to those who wear
The latest stylish masks

Friday, March 27, 2020

Haiku

Many are awakening
From the dream of time
The Eisenhower dime

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Distant like the Wind

A pelican rolls in against the gale
As terns race against the tide
And we who turn our backs to the sun
Vie, for what we never seem to know,
A place of rest, to feel we are safe,
That is, admired by all
We have so carefully hidden away from.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Note to Saboteur

There is a me
Beyond the you,
As impossible as it is
To conceive.
The important work
I have to do
Is not for you,
Per se, or for anyone.
It just needs
To be done,
By me, exclusively.

I wish I could give you
A happier reply.
"It's nothing personal"
Sounds too much like
"We salute you,
Those about to die."

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

What the Wren Said

The hills are green between the blue peaks and
Yellow valley, the lavender's full of bees,
Hummingbirds scream for creosote nectar.

It's a good year for the ocotillo,
Improving the brood with magnificent buds
Waved like coquelocot handkerchiefs at the sky

That moves its white forms across the canyon
As the wind tries to turn over every stone
But can't dislodge one living crusty jewel.

I will find the desert willow in the dry stream bed,
Or go higher, to the crackle of the final palms
With their hanging black berries.