A Public Attempt to Convey a Private Life
I write a poem a day (sometimes two). So far, just for the eyes of a hand-picked long-suffering group of friends and acquaintances who've expressed an interest in seeing them. Now I'm going to experiment, day by day, by posting what I write here as well. Probably all you need to know about me you'll find by googling on "Guy Kettelhack."
Otherwise, check in, as you'd like, to see whatever it is I do. Might provide the occasional entertaining distraction.
December 31, 2006
I Won't Take No for an Answer
I won't take no for an answer. But nor will I trust yes.
What will I take for an answer – an educated
guess? Not unless what feeds the blind surmise has
some relation to what human eyes have seen
peripherally – on the sly. I'll listen to the lone reply
which, passing, nods to the overt but readily cavorts
with the covert: whose sense is dense, and never
offers recompense to expectation: tinted with
a hint but otherwise is full of wanton cry. I'll heed
the banshee wail whose note is hard to tell from
wind in sail: the herald who proclaims an arbitrary list
of names as if each had precisely equal meaning:
leaning towards whatever momentary spurt of motion’s
just occurred: is spurred no less by void than it
avoids a cancer. That’s what I'll take for an answer.
December 30, 2006
When We're Done, We'll Clean It Up
Filigree and folderol of fantasy!
One wonders why one’s brain
appears synaptically inclined
to conjure up such dollops of
unnecessary goo. Put it on my
knee and wallop it is what I'd like
to do: kick its fat behind. But it would
just spray out like bits of gelatin or mercury
or tangle up like fishing line and nothing would be left
but ex post facto slime: fantasies occlude, and block: they
seek an ideology of shock: rude system to insure a thrill
no matter what must be endured: that we can make
the face of anything sublime if we would only,
for example, just imagine ourselves free
of space and time. They fester like
the promise of a meltdown:
dangerous in prospect
in effect –
at least until
we help them splay into
the wreck of actuality. Maybe radio-
activity is what it’s all about: to twist and shout
and act our toxic natures out. If so, please understand it’s
for your good as well as mine to take my hand and do exactly what
I want. You be the queen, I'll ask wassup. When we're done, we'll clean it up.
December 29, 2006
My Evolving Fate
If it’s true that we too regularly misconstrue
one circumstance, event or situation as
more crucial than another, then it follows
that we ought to pay attention more than
virtually any of us do to everything: become
a lidless eye: no matter if we’re skidding off
a surface or spelunking into an unfathomable
deep: awake, asleep: there’s nothing up
or down or in or out that doesn’t warrant
the persistent clout of one’s rapt curiosity:
and so in the availing maelstrom of my local deli,
I just tossed an onion – sweet and red – into
a basket with two packages of fancy crackers
(garlic/salt): a kind Korean cashier rang it up,
and as if onions had aligned in Vegas slot
machines, the total was precisely five and
zero, zero: handed him a bill and it’s as if
the world stood still: “Imagine that, no change!”
said I, and he looked back at me as if he
knew we both aspired to the range of
receptivity afforded by that lidless eye. Well,
maybe not: he smiled, at least: and I released
into the day and found my way upstairs to my
refrigerator from which I retrieved a block
of cheese and went about the ministrations
(with a knife) that would result in onion, cheddar,
salt-and-garlic crackers in coordinated presence
on a plate: rife with probabilities, not least
of which is that I’d eat. And so I ate. And met
one meshed iota more of my evolving fate.
December 28, 2006
My day is odd and right: it’s full of stain
and covert light – obliquely angling
into corners I could never have foreseen:
sometimes voluptuously rolling onto satin –
dazzling sheen! - at others, tumbling
on a humbler surface, forest-green and
matte as felt: I am the billiard ball; my
day’s the stick: and I get regularly belted:
hit – careen and squall – then fall into
an untoward hole or two: I sort out red
from blue and choose the yellow –
for a while (yellow’s really not my style):
seek a stringency – and sex!: yes – let’s
investigate the body – look at all that meat! –
audacious gift! – tumescent pleasure! –
onward to the treasure! – which we find
by jumping off a cliff into the brine we’ve
left in sweat from humping backs and
butts and thighs: one way to move past
a surmise into a certainty is to employ
a craft – which I now build from fore to aft –
to take off into our effluvially fluent sea!:
without an anchor, fear of drowning, or
a rudder or an oar. You implore me: why
do I grind so much life and mind to quirk?
It is my work.
December 27, 2006
The Way I Think Things Are
Drunk leans on the chain link fence,
fingers clutching wire: stares into
the empty lot – as dense, expired
as heavy winter sky and town:
all sodden grayish brown.
He leers out at two plumped-up
pigeons squatting on the ground:
“Yo! Pretty mamas! Lookin’ fine!”
Pigeons blink – don't seem to mind.
I suspect that any Christ, who’s
asked to prove he’s God, would
look around him once or twice –
then throw his hands up: “Odd
you'd ask!” – then turn and sigh
and disappear – and leave it
up to us to figure out that
neither there nor here is any
Nothing – from a pigeon,
drunk, or chain-link fence, up
to the brightest star – is not
a peerless avatar. As I squint
at the near and far, that’s
the way I think things are.
December 26, 2006
You Could Be Next
By now this neighborhood’s my home: its 1840s,
1880s, 1920s contours on McDougall, Sullivan
and Prince Streets – thick reflexive ornament
affixed according to their fashions’ mixed
assumptions and assertions: ramrod sniffy upper-
class to get-your-ass-here come-on crassness –
all have long outlived their first coercions: gently
settle in the gray December day as if they've
never cared much that they looked this way:
frowsy and complacent: older than whoever’s
walking by will ever be. I don't much care how
I look either as I take a breather from the holiday
and cross the highway of West Houston Street
en route to Greenwich Village: out to loot
and pillage for a poem: feel the urge but no
particularly vivid surge has yet occurred.
Then suddenly, I see what I have come to find:
a young man walking his white poodle passes by:
a dog who every sixth or seventh step leaps
straight up – on and off all fours – as if he were
a helicopter trying to take off – repeats the jump
again, again, and I cannot think when I've
seen a creature more transfixed by possibilities
of flight. I watch them walk and leap away
until they are completely out of sight. But
this just whets my appetite. I plan to pirate
something else from this unwitting city unaware:
Be careful lady! – I'm more daring than I look.
I'm out for something even stranger than
a leaping dog with no pretext. You could be next.
December 25, 2006
I guess one thing I get about the deal
is its voluptuousness: layers, velvet
thicknesses, and lace: it wants to weave
complexity – encumber space – and more
than not succeeds: perhaps it answers
needs we don't address in the U.S. except
for now: today we'll milk a brocade cow
and get crème fraiche, we'll kneel to ornate
painted figures in a crèche: like Henry James,
we cannot have too much. I guess one
thing I get about the deal is its propensity
to steel against the emptiness – and hoard –
and treat the solstice like the dangerous
phenomenon it is: the proof that darkness
can and will prevail, against which we
must raise a gilded cup and sing “Wassail!”
Right now, we know there is a banshee
wail deep in the heart of everything.
We guard against the dark, strike sparks,
and seek relief from night. One day we
know we'll lose: today we'll win, or might.
December 24, 2006
My Winter Blood
I've fostered an encounter
with an out-of-date mosquito:
thing has buzzed me every
night: I feel for that poor lonely
creature: wouldn't mind
surrendering my winter blood
to it: but so far he has not alit.
I wonder if one ever does –
alight, that is – I wonder what
he lives on: hope? Christmas
is the oddest time: like moping
through the marshland, leaky
hip-boots, through the reeds
among mosquitoes, bees:
paranoid that rabid otters will
attack: feeling out of whack.
Everybody seems to want
something. Low-grade chronic
expectations of disaster while
pretending to be happy: prone
to tears at manufactured memories:
constipatedly attempting to adore
venerating sappy. I'm slogging
through the marshland, naked
now, determined to take on
whatever varmint wants a piece
of me: my fists are up, I will
not duck. The afternoon grows
long – and soon the night
will come and slumber on.
I can't recall what’s wrong.
December 23, 2006
I Suppose I Know
I'm really good at saying no, but I suppose I know
I will succumb – although the caverns I hide out
in until right before the things I've mightily resisted
once again have won are inaccessible to you:
don't try to tell me what to do. But oh! – the day
I've had. It’s Christmas – so the damned entirety
of everything insists – and I crept up from my dark
cave as if someone had stuck a sharp point of
a holly leaf into a voodoo doll that looked like me:
I zombied to the store and bought a dozen things
or more and made up little Christmas bags
of silly stuff to give to people I invited in a dazed
involuntary state to venture out with me into
the Christmas night. But worse: I scrubbed
the kitchen floor – and more: the bathroom sink
and tub and tiles and all the while the little artificial
tree I told myself this year I definitely wouldn't
drag out, put back on a bookcase, had escaped:
now there it is, its tiny lights a goading bit of evidence
I have not conquered anything. I draw the line:
I will not think about the holidays that used to make
some sense: the ones for which my mother was
the recompense: no carols will be sung. But probably
that’s dumb. I suppose I know I will succumb.
December 22, 2006
Just After Solstice
She says she can't abide it:
if only he would treat her like
the brilliant woman she would
like to think she is – and is,
or would be, if he'd only stop
harassing her poor psyche
for a moment – she'd foment
a very different order – be a very
different being: seeing would
be glorious as soon as she felt
loved. Instead she’s shoved
herself into a pit about as lovely
as the word I'm thinking of
that rhymes with it: all brown:
diseased. A shutter won't release:
she’s wedged into a crease
of suppurating dread inside
her head. She thinks she might
be better dead. As she aches
into the phone into my ear,
I look out at December noon –
just after Solstice: twenty-second
of the month: a tiny bit more
day today than yesterday.
The light’s a sweet dove-gray.
I wonder it takes to learn
to love a day this way.
December 21, 2006
A Virus Pens a Poem
The time has come to write
an executed document –
corral it out of sight
until it has the shock you want:
the proper distribution
of aches – unkempt desires –
the ink a dark ablution
of body fluids: fires
of fever burn an even
slash across the page:
black hole you can believe in –
dimensions that will rage
you brutally into the new –
pro-rated over afternoons
of feeling sodden: screw
the consequences: moons
are all that matter now.
The time has come to write
and sign the thing: avow
your substance is the night.
December 20, 2006
Left it to Beaver
Every day, religiously, I come to leave it to old
“Beaver” reruns to inoculate, intoxicate like heroin:
with endless cool annulments of the worried mind:
just try to find a finer tailored calm example of this
medicine than June, the heroine, the mom! –
American aplomb without a limit or a barrier, low
voice like a deliberate repression of some bluesy
tune: blown to slightly smoky crystal kept from ever
shattering: a smattering of sleepiness without
one hint of sex. Each episode she murders Oedipus,
as son and rex: in every form of man who comes
to feed from her accomplished ruthless hand:
pious husband Ward – her boys: the ripening and
thwarted Wally and the cipher Beaver, talentless
and plain. Watching this is opening your toddler
mouth to a suburban rain whose density condenses
to a syrup: lick your fear up: drown it in this drugged
incarcerating wine! I lapped it up like policy and
prophesy when I was nine. Now it glazes me like
Mrs. Cleaver’s ham into an eerie, not unpleasant
stupefaction: baked and stunned and pink: supine.
December 19, 2006
Life Without a Mate
Cruel senile delinquent! That’s who
you will be. We'll find you naked in
the streets engaged in various untoward
activities involving marmosets, uncooked
spaghetti and a paper toweling tube.
You won't use lube. You'll be audacity.
But as you tabulate what specificity of
insight you can claim from the vicissitudes
of even your most ordinary interludes,
you feel constrained from obligation
to report: sex is not a finally availing sport,
and love’s a glimmer on the brain:
sustained precisely for as long as you
don't notice it: like air you'd choke on
if you realized you breathed. Alas – one
realizes that one breathes, and loves,
and though the air’s still there, the love,
once labeled, scares itself into a mist:
despite how ardently you may by anybody
have been kissed: gone – lost its dawn.
Look for play at this point in your dissolution
and the only kind that interests you’s
against the law. Like throwing random
punches at a stranger’s jaw. Husband?
Wife? Not your fate. Life without a mate?
One long blind date. Don't be sad. Given
most alternatives you know, it ain’t half bad.
December 18, 2006
Can't do Kant
He tells me I should pick up Kant.
I tell him, not right now, I can't.
Although I know Immanuel would boost
me - so would Plato, Seuss and Proust -
and other numberless smart cattle.
But I know I must pick each battle
and decide quite carefully myself
what next to take off from the shelf.
At some loss? Sure: but let's say I'm
too sure there's too damned little time.
December cloudbank – moving
like a giant Chekhov stage-set over
unseen space: this great eruptive
and translucent mass – all pearl and
milk glass – with the sting of something
sour, darker, wilder streaking through it
more like hiss than lightning, but with
no less zap: all falls through semi-blinded
windows in my lap. Someone knocks:
who’s that? Christmas is a-comin’:
vacuousness getting fat: wide open –
and as gray as the impressive ambiguity
of this fine New York day. I look at
any mote of it, and say: let’s stay –
and play – anyway. Go to blazes, holiday.
December 17, 2006
To the Bone
The world will not obey.
He cannot get his way.
It seems to me he doesn't
notice that ‘his way’ was never
really his, and that his only
profitable business is to find
a way that is. But who knows
if I'm right – and so what if I am.
“How to have a happy life?”
he asks. “Find the real –
ditch the sham?” As if I knew
the secret to reducing this
to tasks: could isolate the wings
and thorax of contentment like
a lepidopterist. I wish I were
an optimist – knew how to make
him laugh and sing – but I don't
know a half-a-thing. Scraped
down to the bone: "I love you,
honey – but like everybody
else, you're on your own."
December 16, 2006
Hush, little baby
don't you cry –
you know your mama's
bound to die –
(Bahamian lullaby - source for “All My Trials”)
She receded due to climate change. Each
life must ride a range of weather – undergo
its chronic revolution: strange precipitation,
involuted storms and seasons, winds and
drought – within, without: no pause. The end –
eroded: she could only drink through straws,
and with the morphine, sometimes barely
then. I think it’s fair to venture to suggest that
I was there as much as anyone who wasn't
sleeping could have been: although at night,
when I had gone to bed, I wonder what went
on inside her head – if she worried whether
there'd be light where she was going next.
No text for this, but there was Sprite, which –
long as it was icy – she quite liked. I bought
a plastic bag of straws, the kind that bend:
a hundred of them. She sipped through six.
More than three years later now, I just
discovered that I've evidently gone through
all the rest but one. Maybe it’s all nearly done.
December 15, 2006
Sort of Man I Am
Some say we are the Net of Indra –
diamonds linked in strands – all infinite
reflections of each other; or we are
a hologram – illusory projections
of the Super-real (in every atom of
the micro find the macro): or we’re both.
One of my favorite lunches when
I was a kid was Spam my mother slid
out from its can and sliced and fried
and put on toast – all salty, bland,
transmogrified: it glistened like an Indra’s
net of meat, a hologram of ham. Today
we zap spam to a cyber purgatory where,
perhaps, it waits to be imagined as
an Internet of jewels to serve to fool
the eye by mirroring a sourceless light.
I bet if you transmogri-fried me up
a portion of the Indra-netted night,
it wouldn’t taste unlike a hologram
of my mom’s Spam. (Sort of man I am.)
December 14, 2006
All the Many Middle Distances
Loosely coiled lengths – gently tangled stretches:
warm as the idea of mothers: light as breath
and bothersome as tinsel – always just a little
tang of sex: skeins of dream and memory and
expectation from which you might weave a season:
tied to too much in the past; you’d like, you think,
to cut yourself completely from their grasp
but that would sever you from any life you know.
Always the extremist, you are drawn to glows of
other Universes physicists inform you are suggested
by the particles they study: why do you hate
Christmas so? You wish the particles you saw
at least were snow: but they’re the motes that float
in all the many middle distances that you’ve
investigated, from your bed, since you were very
small. They don’t suggest another Universe at all.
December 13, 2006
My Quarks and Leptons
Deviously powerful, unfathomably small –
my quarks and leptons stage revolts –
effecting showerfuls of rude unlikely
transformations, they defy the rules that
govern large and lumpen me: I am to them
as several billion miles of sky would be
to one pore on your skinny knee. And while
they’re playing wild and free – far from
the unimaginably huge environs of my
human potpourri – in all their weightless
idiosyncrasy (where they’ve the luxury to be,
and sometimes not to be) – I suffer
from Newtonian gravity that pulls from
every nasal cavity a substance not unlike
slime mold. My leptons, quarks could give
a flying you-know-what I’ve got a cold.
December 12, 2006
My ears were full of pressure, Sunday,
off the plane at Kennedy – ‘til one by one,
in a cascade, their tiny packets popped
and riffled – just a block away from where
I live. At first the ripples seemed external:
as if keys I’d taken from my pocket had
cartoonishly and audibly awakened – were
reporting on their happiness at coming
home: I didn’t understand that quarters
of the many-chambered dome that holds
my brain had just, on my behalf, contrived
to clear my otic path of aural foam: implicitly
suggesting that they wouldn’t, for the moment,
let me down: they’d keep this sensory
appurtenance in check – since I had kept
my bargain to return to our beloved town.
December 11, 2006
Today my slice of life is buttered with a cold –
and lower back ache: not a bad cold, not a bad
ache, but enough to let me know today’s
repast won't be a piece of cake. There’s texture,
though, in tiny crags and crannies of my thick
and thin perceptions – little pockets of distress
fill up, let go, fill up, let go – seltzer bubbles
popping in my head. Abundant grays – like
unsuspected planes in 1940s film noir faces –
paint my space. It’s not a feeling you could label
good or bad – though has a certain grace. I take
some Ibuprofen, lie down: listen to the radio play
rounds of Brandenburg concerti, then bestir myself
to leave to take the subway to the upper west side
cat I tend. Entrained, everybody else’s slice
of life seems plain. A frowning Buddhist monk,
enrobed in brown – does he have hemorrhoids?
(he squirms so in his seat!) – two Mexicans sit
next to him with thick black glossy hair in peaks –
like Mayan icons loosed from a relief: the pews
are filled in subway church today: and everyone
appears to be preoccupied with his or her particular
and separate array, display and curds and whey.
I get off at my stop, and see the cat, who howls
with loneliness – I feed him, hug him, leave him –
then, while walking back, up West End Avenue,
I see a man whose slice of life is clearly far more
complicated than my own: like a Dürer etching,
he is thick with line and shadow, matted beard
and shiny balding pate, and pushes an amazing
shopping cart filled to the brim like Santa’s
sleigh with bulging bags of stuff, which wobbles
this way, that way: cornucopia of desolation.
He nods politely to me as he wheels and teeters
by – and each of us gets closer to a destination.
December 10, 2006
This is a Test
Four-twenty-five p.m. –
eleventh of December. Vermont’s
Green Mountains – to the left,
and just ahead. Invest in
the gradations of their muted
ash-blue silhouettes. Note
the wash of conch-shell
blush insinuating into nameless
flaming as it spreads out to
the west. Take a breath. Make
yourself believe that all this puts
the lie to death. Do your best.
December 9, 2006
In the notebook that I kept in Rome
more than a year ago; and now, as I look
out a window over Otter Creek in Middlebury
(cold Vermont - with snow); while eating lunch -
lamb kurma and paratha - at "The Taste of India" -
surreal frail outpost here!; surveying granite
arches of an 1890s bridge - gunmetal-rushing
water underneath en route to memories of mills,
my own amalgam private recollections spill
through similarly strange, unlikely channels:
to the ambient peculiarities of place - a taste
of cardamom - clear maple syrup - scented
with my first presentiments of sex - and
D.H. Lawrence, Keats and Wordsworth -
overlay of ghostly chatter, chatter, chatter -
adolescent pecking-order - theme: who am I
in this scheme? I was twenty, here, at college;
now I'm fifty-five, and in the intervening while,
I've gained no greater knowledge of
the meaning of "alive" - except to say that
I suspect it's odder than I knew. But I'll do
what I know: walk (carefully, in New York City
loafers, on the icy slick) into this crystal gray
conundrum-day to see what else awaits
me in its thick and softly obfuscating snow.
Middlebury, Vermont 12/10/06
December 8, 2006
“How could one moment be better than any other?
There's only ever one moment.” (email to a friend.)
Offered everything I wanted on a platter,
I wonder: what would matter?
Is it a wise idea
to query why one cleaves to one especial fear
in some respects
insouciantly with regard to others?
Can one determine what derives from mothers,
brothers, fathers, sisters, lovers – how it sticks – and why?
Is there an answer to an “I”?
The more I look into what I have labeled soul
the less I’m able to account for how or why it’s whole.
I can’t stop tabulating and assessing heads and hearts.
I don’t believe that we are more than the summation of our parts.
But how to square our facts with love and death and history?
Sometimes I wish that I believed all was façade.
Instead of God.
December 7, 2006
My lack of handsome chatter was the matter!
How ardently I dreamed that I might one day
effortlessly, elegantly deliquesce into an eloquence:
a suave array of words – as fleet and sweet as
birds: replete with casually cultivated pith and style –
like Mrs. Parker, Mr. Wilde. But my diphthongs
couldn't get a fix: I sounded like a riled barker
spitting bits of broken bricks – no butter in a stutter.
I played the violin to compensate – then drank
and drugged to medicate – placate the savages
among the sissies in my tongue that razzed me
mercilessly – as they'd done since I was very young.
I lionized whoever could pronounce and pounce:
I cowered, praying that one ounce of what they
had might fall my way. ‘Til one day I forgot, and
something fell like coins into a slot, and suddenly
I found that I had all the wherewithal that they had:
I could dare. Where this came from, I don't know –
and what a joy to notice that I don't much care.
December 6, 2006
How are you?
You mean: how have I come to be? –
to manifest this momentary me?
What a brilliant suggestion implied
in the question! – to proffer a ‘how’ to
an ‘are’ and a ‘you’ – conjugate a ‘to be’
into that which would seek to illuminate ‘me’
not through ‘why,’ ‘what’ or ‘where’ –
but in surely that most efficacious, pragmatic
of queries: the one with the best chance
of meeting and then superseding one’s
most existentially troublesome worries,
and truly arriving at now: a ‘how!’ Best word
in the world! My spirit ingests it and spins:
having swirled, it and I ache to offer
a whole lovely wow of an answer to you.
But we haven’t a clue.
December 5, 2006
Left-Handed and Ironic
“…– locked behind mirrors in his study, his secret heroes
ragging round the fire, Death swots ungraceful, keen on his
career; notes in his journal ‘I have never lived – left-handed
and ironic, but have loved.’ W.H. Auden, p. 49, The Orators
Consummation – devoutly to be wished – this
slippery evasion: to let the yearning be its own
reward – less grasping-after than a moving-toward –
the slick of skin wet with its own effusive sweat –
available and so remote: to have the cherry
blossom at its moment of perfection – halved as
silky-bit-of-thing and nonexistent float: to know that
it’s right there, in front of you – and doubt down
to your mitochondria that it was here at all: a recipe
for Satan’s fall: right-of-passage torture: spice has
staled, no zap: no stirring in your lap; without
direction, soul seeks only insurrection. Little’s left
in sex or touch, and Art succeeds about as much.
Certainty’s gone through the sieve. “Left-handed
and ironic”: have you loved or lived? Push comes
to shove; you couldn’t say. You wonder if there’s
half a silky-bit-of-thing and half a nonexistent
float – in whose way you might drift one day.
December 4, 2006
A Necessary Mess
An anguish and an injury
repeated like a drumbeat
in the head and in the heart:
but how do you decide what
part to put the scalpel to?
What makes you know you're
home, and what would turn
you out into the cold? Slice
this slender tendon, cut that
wriggling bit of flesh, and
you risk mangling the best.
You are a necessary mess.
December 3, 2006
A Place for Tenderness
You tear and eat
my clean white flesh.
This is no place
You do it to me
and I come back
for more. The way
I grovel at
your knees delights,
A feral feline fights
the way you do –
or would if it
were not enamored
of that gristled bit
of heart you seem
to have to chew
each morning like
a rodent: you
once drained my root
like a breast: now
I’m the weak end
of the bargain: left
I’m the flipside of
a luminescence –
resigned: I park
my flesh each day
back in the dark
of our remembered
lust, undressed. I guess
it never was
a place for tenderness.
December 2, 2006
What was it about God that got him?
Me, I'm like an insect: popping,
skittish, bug-eyed – start at every
flash and blip and bop: “no not that!
no not that! no not that!” – he, well,
maybe he required capitals - a He
to make him think that it was possible
to see without revolting. I don't know:
maybe God’s a jolt he needed like
a drug: as hot and sexual as some
big-dicked rapacious thug who keeps
surprising with his tenderness: a potent
father without fatal Oedipal percussive
bother. My brother was a priest:
he took to it like bacon takes to grease.
He’s dead now – died of AIDS:
whom did he meet when he fell
off the page? My life’s a cookbook –
I'm an insect seeking dinner: can't
wield salad spinners very well: you try
to cook an omelet with these tiny legs!
I am an insect: done with eating:
waiting to evolve. I pop and blast and
blither: envious of corks and other
floating things. What brings my
brother back to me right now? Kyrie
Eleison – Christe Eleison – Kyrie Eleison:
doggies bay beneath the moon: bring
my great divine big brother back: too
soon the mercy stops. I am an insect:
popping, skittish, bug-eyed – start
at every flash and blip and bop.
December 1. 2006
Bear the weight. Make sense of the accruing fat
immensity. Almost all the energy goes up, gets
trapped, then spent, within the cul-de-sac of cranium:
the brainy underworld. Thick as porridge, preternaturally
wrong – like these November and December days
that shouldn’t be, sixty-six degrees but doesn’t feel
like spring – unpalatably warmed potato salad –
gunk – too late for any picnic: funked – dispiriting –
a thickness – wrongly left; bereft of strident and incisive
and relieving cold. ‘Shouldn’t be’ is ‘be,’ it’s only
we who can’t align discomfort with what we’d prefer.
So I defer, again – when don’t I? – to the grind of mud’s
undoing; stewing in the wrongful ‘til it starts appearing
right – ‘til ‘lose’ takes on the vagaries of ‘find.’ It’s
what I have to do to slide behind the guiding mind.
November 30, 2006
Give it to Him Whole
Depict it! Thunder with significance – you nervous
sparrow on a picket fence – you fifty-minute silence
in a glacial psychoanalytic session: justify that
facial tic – that tiny twitter of expression: what’s that
half-lit smile, that artificial glossy guile – part stiff,
part sad: you get that from your dad? Nail that
damning rhyme that plagues you all the time: kick it
in the assonance. Don't take sass from your first
memory of crying, diapered, in the grass: pass
it on like Kleenex to that crazed black man who’s
cursing his synapses – spitting his Tourettes out in
the subway – leather cabbie cap on backwards:
looks good, doesn't he? Wasn't he the scary fucker
coming after you in last night’s dream – the one at
whom you tried to scream but couldn't? Wouldn't he
look fine reclining next to you in bed, about to nuzzle
sleepily into your armpit with his sweet warm head?
You'd watch him take a sip – lick your needless
nipple, feel the ripple through what one might just
as well call “soul.” You would give it to him whole.
November 29, 2006
Lunch Break from Court
Grim giant buildings house the New York City
courts – not much in their gray-brown downtown
interment to disport with: “God,” alleges every
chamber in stripped barren font, is “whom we
trust,” but where, I wonder, have they hidden God?
Can't find much bright divinity in all that plod.
And so, on break, we wander off to get a little fat –
to the periphery of Chinatown – hors de combat –
for dim sum lunch: a bunch of goldfish – maybe
forty – swim and spread behind my head in
an aquarium that first I do not see: until I'm told
by my companion that they've banked up to
the angle of their tank that’s nearest me – a corner
that abuts my skull – as close to where I'm sitting
as they possibly can get and still be wet – in hope,
it would appear, that I might start remitting
fish food from my ear. I turn around to see their
goggle eyes, surprised and stupid, in the frank
surmise that I am there for them. I'd like to be, but
I'm as bleak and far as Neptune – or a New York
City court: can't feed or make them free. Poor
bug-eyed carp: like us, they want far more than
hollow justice. Swallowed bubbles pop like
empty promises – not sweet arpeggiating harp.
November 28, 2006
I dreamed I slashed across this world –
a bold exasperation: made all evanescent
subtleties configure into slapstick: was
as brutal as a punch, a kick, as cunning
as a hunch, and picked my way through
rubble to persist as more than anybody
ought to be: oh, you’d have fought to see
me in my glory, wondered what on Earth
could be my story – then succumbed to age
content in having spent your wages on my
show – to watch me fly and flame beyond
all sense and shame – in hope that one day
other human beings might transcend their
tawdry state as humming beans – achieve
a half-percent of what I managed to leave
trembling on the beach: a live detritus of
rhymed tiny creatures dancing in the lapping
surf: oh, you’d have kissed each spot of turf
my golden feet left prints on – cherished
all the glints on tears shed in remembrance
of astonishingly dreamed-up me. A scheme
for which you might admonish me, now,
here, awake, half-baked. But oh! – it’s nice
to feel a psychic quake and see it through.
Go to sleep and see if you can do it, too.
November 27, 2006
I have only one object in writing books: to demonstrate that there could not be anyone to do it.
"The Tenth Man" Wei Wu Wei
Everything’s impossible –
that’s the end of that.
Every proof’s a spoof
of proof. We think we're
sure we know how two
limbs link, bear weight,
perambulate. But their
availing joints defeat
arriving at an even
explanatory point. Go
beyond your monkey brain
to ponder why a limb exists
at all – or how on Earth
or elsewhere it acquired
its kinetic call. Easy
to predict an end within
parameters you've set:
clever, tight and formal.
But ask a gluon, quark
or graviton what’s
normal. Might make
one thing clear. You are
not inarguably here.
November 26, 2006
On a guilt-ridden couch in
a Long Island living room, sins
can obliquely replenish the soul:
this is family fare so I don't
dare detail all the uplift and drain –
all the prizes and losses
I stole and I gained in pursuit
of the glory of loving the Male –
all the dark stealthy care,
and suburban despair: these
audacious, salacious and
risible facts I shall render here
flatly – cold – in the abstract:
every stab that betrayed – each
caress that arrayed yet more
flesh into taboo allure and
appeal – makes me sure that
the body is wed to itself in a pure
state of knowing and dealing
and possibly healing – beyond
what my mother, alive, ever would
have revealed. After she died,
I had sex ‘til I cried: this is family
fare – but you can guess where.
November 25, 2006
Nightly Knitting Party
Perhaps to knit a raveled sleeve of dream
I woke up speaking: might have screamed,
I guess, had I been in a nightmare, but
my sleep has cosseted me for a while
and nightmares don't appear to be my style.
I can't remember what I said; but it was odd
to hear my vocal cords make contact with
my dream self as I came to in my bed. It now
occurs to me to think, and say, that what
sinks in each night must always carry into
day – I'm just not usually aware what way.
I entertain the interesting alluring notion that
the conscious air that lies above my sleeping
ocean may be made exactly of the same
component stuff. The psyche never doesn't
have enough – the problem’s not too little or
too much. The weave in my imagination’s
where I sometimes lose my touch. I now take
this as manifesto: make the night a festival
of dream and speech – encourage each
to flirt with what’s beyond the other’s reach.
November 24, 2006
“…you the quicksand and sand and grass
as I wave toward you freely
the ego-ridden sea
there is a light there that neither
of us will obscure….”
Frank O’Hara –
from Ode to Michael Goldberg(‘s Birth and Other Births)
Ballad of Invisibility
I sing to you: suggest that we
pretend we don’t exist –
push past the ego-ridden sea –
then, fully, not resist –
give in ‘til we can tolerate
that if we’re here, we’re ready bait –
a pure utility
for others to slip on a hook –
an aid to catching fish –
not worth more than the briefest look –
a means to some new dish
which we won’t ever get to taste:
a purpose so arcane
so free of time and glow and space
it stumps the human brain –
to grasp that though we’re barely seen
or felt – less than a breeze –
so modest and demure of mien
we neither peeve nor please –
within this free soft floating state
we may gain mind to find
the lowdown on Existence’ fate –
and God’s, and ours – combined.
November 23, 2006
Truth is, you've ruined me for
other men. Zoos of masculinity,
testosteroned to fare-thee-well’s
and howdy-do’s, could not induce
me to abuse myself one whit on their
behalf: you are the only fatted calf
I want. You bear the brunt of,
then surpass, whatever fantasies
I may contrive: you are too bountifully
alive for me to turn from you –
addictive stew of stuff! – you are, alas,
enough: too much. I've lost my touch
because of you, you glue, you
tunnel view. If only I could say adieu
to you. But I am stuck in all your
fragrant muck, and must make do.
November 22, 2006
I have ten pillows on my bed: two are thin
and flat; two are wide and fat: two – small
feathered plumps I plop and lump into soft
clotted clumps beneath my head like stiff-whipped
cream: three are ‘throw,’ faux-velvet green:
one is small and oblong – satin-sheened,
and burgundy. Spread beside and under me in
various configurations, they're like parts of speech,
I've come to think, for which my dreaming
lingual spirit reaches to concoct its picaresque
inventions: green verbs, red nouns, midnight
blue conjunctions, taken from a slew of dictionary
mixtures: harvested from vaster lexicons than
mine. They seem to know I've figured out their
kind, and practices: each night, now, when I settle
into them, before I start to fracture into mist,
I proffer my night’s wish list: ask my pillows
to provide me with a certain length of reverie:
and dare suggest the sorts of stories I like best.
Custom-tailored hells and heavens now regale me
through my sleep in two- to three-hour segments
so – between my pillows’ angels, devils and
their deep blue sea – I might get up to pee.
This is as close as I can get to dreaming lucidly.
November 21, 2006
Here’s how I’d define the thing:
it doesn't have to entertain or sing,
although it mustn't bore. It mustn't
not suffice, and mustn't not deposit
you into a state of wanting more.
It mustn't not delight and mustn't not
unnerve, and if it serves up double-
negatives, it mustn't not confuse
a little. Mustn't not be visceral as
spittle; mustn't not be fully mouthed;
mustn't not allow the possibility of
getting lost and feeling found. Mustn't
not amend an error; mustn't not be this:
the only way, today, that you can find
to say exactly everything you know
about your terror and your bliss.
November 20, 2006
Volatile ejaculates – tears rising from
erections of the heart, stiff refusals to
take part. No fashionable rationale avails:
no easy mantra cuts the wail. It isn’t
even really about him – it isn’t even really
about death – although it also is, it also
is about him and his death – and Death
in whose cold rotting orifice your face has
more than once been thrust. No pretty
way to say it. No words to say. And yet.
November 19, 2006
Prospects of Enlightenment
Just now I caught some gold:
soft orange kitten’s fur: I found her
nestling in the folds of blanket
on my bed: she was as tiny as
a mole, and cried profusely to be
fed three heart-shaped chocolate-
covered jam-infused small cookies
made of gingerbread: I broke them
up and felt her needle teeth,
sandpaper tongue eat crumbs of
them off both my thumbs: her purr
grew faint as she decreased to
the minute dimensions of a fuzzy
burr: some spiky little thing off scrub-
brush in New Mexico: my mattress –
tawny mesa – burr’s a burro, whom
I beg to drag a blanket towards
my nakedness – but won’t.
Is this enough? So full of stuff.
Prospects of enlightenment seem
shot. But dreams are all I’ve got.
November 18, 2006
Twenty-one and bored.
It must be this: life's smorgasbord
of provocations is a hierarchy: one-upmanship
of stimuli: no, need a higher high! Gold
is never good enough.
The Universe is
made of stuff.
Surging up from some appalling
well – bursting from a cell –
like some horrific liquid crystal
skull – awful dome of psychic sea,
pellucidly emergent – nightmare gray –
yet glassy-clear as day, mid-November
day – sickeningly-warm-at-core
November day: has its viral way
with everything it lurches toward,
and through: you never were
depressed before; you didn’t know
the meaning of the word; but now
in this resurgent swell, this upwelling
from somewhere next to hell,
you taste an acrid salt – the sea
assaults your temple: presses – simple,
fatal, terrible and clear: a friend, once
here, is gone: once near, is now
unfathomably far. Killed in a car.
Struck: stark: impenetrable dark.
November 17, 2006
It is a great pleasure to write the word; but I am not sure
there is not a certain impudence in pretending to add
anything to it...." Henry James, Italian Hours
A Certain Impudence
All’s fair in the pursuit of profit. Aggrandize souls,
or bank accounts: we hunger for unthinkable
amounts: we’re profligately bound to excess:
lungs would have infinities of air – some hearts
won’t thrive without tsunamis of despair –
or joy – or cold indifference. Henry James ate
smorgasbords of these – and more: he bet
his wits that flesh from word was an inevitable
alchemy. He knew soft portals through to, out of,
and back into mortal life. Venice held no menace:
all her endless meshing twisting capillaries found
reflection in his kind and cruel inscrutabilities.
Maestro: how, with your prodigious appetite
for all our indecipherable bits, could you let death
erase your breath? Why should you have ceased
to speak? If ever anyone might be expected to
report from Purgatory’s point-of-view, it would be
you. Perhaps you do. Heed these cool November
whispers – bursting, soft beyond a curtain:
simpered: dense. They have a certain impudence.
November 16, 2006
Anxiety of Influence
You flip through poems, wonder why
so many seem so wussy. Frank
O’Hara was no pussy: whipped up
scripts at lunch and left a bunch to
woo you, maybe: didn't matter if they
did. Fun was in the pump and dump.
You ache, you think, for finer cake: for
brand new batter: baked from scratch.
But you're more like a boxing match
than cook. Look: fingers jab on keys:
each a punch that either misses
or relieves some Notion of its wits.
Syllables-in-spasm: hit them hard enough,
they'll chase you off the mat, jump
pit and chasm ‘til they get you back.
Every poem is a record of precisely
what you lack. Locked – full of doubt:
knocked out. You search your mother’s
cloudy paintings for a clue: but they
withhold: more false than true. Senses
bog. Won't settle for her pretty fog.
November 15, 2006
Today you’ve tried to net
a tide of syllables and set
each one aside out flat
to dry like salted fish:
hope to keep them in
the baking sun until they
finally succumb, stop stinking,
you stop thinking, and
the Universe starts winking
at you as if you were
closer than you’ll ever be
to understanding anything.
November 14, 2006
Reflecting on My Mother
My life made her spin –
hers left me in doubt:
she saw me in,
I saw her out.
Drafty corridors, familiar streets of mind:
you think you’ve seen them all before:
you’re drawn back to the contours you
have known: a comfort in their feel; as if
you’ve grown them, own them, can with no
particular distress or effort conjure up
the ‘real’ – its smell and taste and song:
and yes, you can: and yes, the man
assembled from these quantities and
qualities does not acutely long for anything:
the many things that constitute identity
at times like these appease the merest tug:
look in the mirror at your mug; appreciate
through this amenity a firm and sweet
serenity: acceptance past the need to
analyze: perhaps a life of sighs, not quite
contented, but preventing much surmise
beyond the comfortable cage. Dry tinder
for an unsuspected rage. Today desire
will hit you like a fire, and all will burn to ash.
Don’t worry: something will be left, and last.
November 13, 2006
It’s gotten strange. I far prefer the range of what my mind
provides each night when waking consciousness subsides:
you think I rhyme too much in poetry? – ha! – see and hear
the flow-and-whee of all my stream-of-dreaming plots and
scheming; not a lot to measure sense with: more what one
might well decide in waking minutes to dispense with: sluicing
outtakes from the mad sad ghost of Dr. Seuss: a kind of noose,
one surely ought to think, for anything worthwhile: a wily pile
of patchwork swatches jerk and latch to choo-choo trains
of loose associations: solos in a phalanx through a tunnel of
connecting colons mass into a chorus singing songs of sophistry,
apocalypse, with drugged fat parting lips awaiting entry
of you-probably-would-rather-not-know-what. Just the sort
of scene, deliciously, though absently, that you imagine might
erupt into the confines of a funeral or turkey dinner or political
convention: belittling pretension in abrupt hard celebration
of precisely nothing. Then, of course, I wake, these lovely
prospects flake: I’m back in cool and rude vicissitudes I’d left
so willingly the night before. I look for all my effortlessly
thrilling heffernüsses, but: they’ve all snuck out the door.
November 12, 2006
Ode to ‘Coffee-mate’
This silken gloss of Coffee-mate:
who knew? The sort of additive
a finer temperament than mine would
probably eschew – but I derive such
pleasure from its ersatz powdered
cream: its cloudy softness sings:
suggests that coffee and the world
might be a potable and habitable dream:
as sweet and blithe as marshmallow
and sap: no more that snide and awful
trap – the harsh and shallow ledge –
of living in ‘reality’: as I sit swallowing
my Coffee-mated caffeinated treat –
Perception’s edge seems more
like privilege: a royal gift deployed
to make sure I enjoy the lift of life:
an antidote to strife. Non-dairy creamer,
you resolve resistance: slide. With you,
all aspects of Existence seem to
want to dream, dissolve and glide.
November 11, 2006
Mindful of objections from the megalopolis,
I climb and creep out from the top back
window of my basement, tiptoe through
the predawn chill and tip my Ego-cup to spill
a precious essence into cracks and crannies
of the edifices and contrivances in Superego's
twisted cobbled streets – until Id seeps into
the ground to found a tiny dynasty of phallic
roots and hungry mouths that lick and nibble
hidden sweets, gain strength and swivel south
down into heavy soil whose weight compresses
them to oil; I feel their thickened slickness
lose to gravity all former traces of a city
quickness, suavity – and heat up, slow and
far beneath the cup from which they poured,
to garner force progressing to atrocity:
ferocity: my slag has turned to magma, rising
through the gorge: about to forge a Universe,
split rock and turn it into dream, create
a palpable Eternity from pornographic steam,
I'm just about to scream when – I awake, quake
turns to sigh, and I experience again the full
humiliating dumb travail of being male – and
taste the void of all those words by Freud.
November 10, 2006
Just One Word for You
Some days you wake up
loud. As if the crowd
of creatures that you call
a self decides collectively
it must come tumbling
off the shelf – right now –
to stomp and kick and
rumble: bumbling, hooting,
shooting off their mouths –
growling, prowling like
a bunch of soused and horny
fratboys: hit the mat boys,
fight it out amongst yourselves:
and so they do, but there’s
a toll on you: your social
graces all get black and blue:
your couth has gone
the way that hardballs
went when batted by
George Herman Ruth:
whomped beyond civility into
hostility: you’re stumped.
You’d best repair to somewhere
locked and isolated ‘til you’ve
found a way to creep on top
and over this untidy hump.
Til then? There’s just
one word for you. Taboo.
November 9, 2006
Covert Sex in Sacred Places
to be middle-
class and Buddhist.
If you've got stuff you can
luxuriate in the fantasy of letting it
go. Harder to love the monkey god! –
jumping out of shadow-corners, beating
time and stroking body parts.
Spunky hunk: you know
feelings have lives
of their own,
I'm thinking of
is not like you, though
Lord knows you
November 8, 2006
What I Call Guy
One wonders if one’s wonderment is never
not drawn to familiar themes: if all we know
to write and play is music that evaluates
recurring dreams: to turn the prism endlessly
on one known shaft of light: to ferret out
new angles of one’s sight in hopes of cobbling
together some unprecedented peace –
some outcome to the fight of understanding:
underhandedly I sneak back up to fleece
my private yearnings – see what I can steal
from them – catch them unaware – but they
all always know I’m there. Lurid, purple and
inexorable swells: you are the jungle and
the garden of my heavens and my hells. You’ll
be with me when I die. You’re what I call Guy.
November 7, 2006
Election Day on West 73rd Street
Thin sour milky clouds beset and shift,
enshroud the elegantly twisted columns,
cornices and battlements and concrete
cornucopias: the block entices – tricks –
the eye up – down – around – these heavy
ornate bodies – 1880s upper west side
New York City homes – like giant domes
of horseshoe crabs upended for a Neolithic
ball – weighted down in troglodytic evening
gowns – barnacled with granite ormolus,
medieval armored suits, and fruits –
brownstone bodices and hems – dark
gem-ridden bulbous Mayan and Egyptian
skulls: empty hulls, defensive shields. Not
unlike what human worry wields when
an anxiety ignites – and terrifies: congeals.
November 6, 2006
Shocking as a poltergeist –
quicker than a punch –
slower than a sloth descending –
towards a lazy lunch –
pinker than a paradigm –
longer than a kiss –
hotter than a steaming clam –
deep as the abyss –
all that I would have you see –
melds into a dream –
consciously approach the thing –
carve a “be” from “seem” –
use a dash to draw a line –
sweeping as the wind –
ride it right out from your heart –
‘til you can rescind –
every lie you’ve ever told –
every gasp you breathe –
at your fear of being here –
at what makes you seethe –
not believing you’ve a soul –
buying a façade –
all to dash away, away from –
knowing you are God.
November 5, 2006
They swarm all over me – these rotund little wanna-be’s –
coming out in armies when I try to conjure poetry or
play the violin: they like to see me battle my resistance
to creating – rooting for me to give up: they love it when
I lose: they giggle and they schmooze while tumbling
gleefully in pudgy pac-man bodies – heartily agreeing
with me when I think I can't do squat: swatting at my angsts
and pangs to make them redder, hotter, fatter, worse –
full of goading curses, pranks – setting off their firecracker
bangs each time I think I have achieved a little peace:
“wanna-be, you wanna-be, you wanna-be, you wanna-be!” –
each squeaks at me as if each were a mouse – cuter
than a cockroach or a louse, but just as virulent and itchy.
Makes me bitchy. There’s only one way I can shut them
up – and cut them down by half. They hate it when I laugh.
November 4, 2006
Signaling he knows that he’s about to get a treat
by ceasing caterwauling and assorting his Egyptian
limbs demurely – elegant, erect – before my feet –
darting his pink tongue up, once, to nose – to let me
know again what he supposes will occur – my
feline ward allows me, for a moment, to demur
by reaching out to scratch his chin: but then expects
me to produce the goods: I do. Situation is win/win.
Our dance seems so familiar – odd, as if I’d dreamed it –
crosses species lines: bewitches faintly – like a hex –
I think of all the sex I’ve had with others of my gender,
and the bending of our roles: gay men appropriate each
other in familial ways: fathers, sons and brothers,
sisters, mothers, pets and lovers: all provide implicit
categories – covers – for the human heart’s affections:
predilections bred, down in the DNA, to order found
relationships into an intimate array: and to eroticize them
at the damnedest and most blessed junctures, puncturing
through every last taboo. My kitty doesn’t care if I am
naked or wear clothing when I come in and make love
to him by snuggling his flank and kissing fur, and
reassuring him that he’s the best cat in the world: we
blur our differences, become whatever each of us
would have the other be. I saw a man today I’ve seen
sporadically for years – with whom I’ve played varieties
of parts. How sweet to brush his lips and touch each
other’s hearts: to feel him as my son and brother, lover –
cat. Nothing has to come of that: it’s merely offering
affection – and a tenderness – acceptance – as precisely
what they are: expressions of implicit and irruptive joy.
Although I know him almost not at all, he is and
always will remain – just like the cat I tend – my boy.
November 3, 2006
Today I Envy Trees
Today I envy trees – that is, I wish
I had their simple aims – oblivious to
superficial influence: a steady confluence
of sun and rain and soil is surely all
arboreal life requires – and can quite
plausibly expect: tree soul has, surely,
very few desires: but oh! – then, next –
come hatchets, bees, and tree diseases,
aphids, fungus, caterpillars, hurricane
and drought: the things we think we
cannot do without would turn out not
to be enough: bark is not so tough. Worm-
eaten, bent and split by lightning and bad
luck – and less naïve – we'd drop our
leaves. And yet perhaps the hatchets
wouldn't cut all life, nor would all sickness
thicken us beyond repair: the grief,
despair encoded in a dying leaf would
always sweeten colors in the fall: tree
yearnings may not be so simple after all.
Pecked and bothered, stricken, then –
relieved: perhaps constriction grows –
constructs – a better, wiser and more
supple me. Or would do if I were a tree.
November 2, 2006
“Consciousness is staccato, not fluent. We perceive in tiny packets
of information. Our attention is easily perforated. But we need the
world to seem fluent and intact, otherwise it would be unbearable…”
Diane Ackerman, An Alchemy of Mind, p. 216
(Change the Metaphor)
Familiar cliff: stay and twiddle
through the moss and weeds? –
or take a deep whiff, exhale, jump?
I'm a chump: my sentient mind
defeats me when (switch tropes)
I get into the ring – against the ropes –
unable to avoid the sting and
whomp of jabs and bludgeoning
of stimuli (try new conceit) for
which I have precisely as much
thirst as deserts have for rain
when they are driest; that’s to say
(in simile, surreally) I'm like
a hungry hummingbird who’s
just found tzimmes at a seder
whose sweet syrup he can sip –
makes nice with grandma –
plans to raid her pantry for the rest:
largesse and amplitude! –
what to sample, dude? Got my
invitation to the orgy! But I'm
already logy, stupid, ass-down
on the floor. Advice, guru?
(Change the metaphor.)
November 1, 2006
Sex and Violins
Sound byte – epigram – punch-line – quip – tactics
to distract me from a necessary trip – each poem
that I've written in the past few days is full of nervous
party tricks: attempts to waylay me from listening
to one damned note that plays inside my head
relentlessly: bowed open G string – oh, the violin’s
audacity! – Pandora’s box to me: every time I touch it
something odd and terrifying wriggles up and out
of my unconscious sea: jolts of memory compete,
contrast – shame and ego – summon up my past.
No accounting for the reasons – though they're surely
legion: took it up when I was nine – still developing
a spine – stumbled on vibrato onanistically at puberty –
promulgating uses of my left hand surely not expected
by a music faculty: chiefly pretext for my terror at
the opening of doors to some unfathomable realm
to which I couldn't grasp that I had access: what
‘success’ means, I don't know – in or out of playing
fiddle. My bow would like to diddle – lengthen,
stiffen – me: my violin wants sex. Music is complex.
October 31, 2006
A Poet Considers House-Cleaning
Nothing isn't interesting. That I select from PBS
a show on Freud instead of diving into the apparent
void of rhinestone jewelry on “Home Shopping”
doesn't mean the brassy lady holding gewgaws up
for someone’s delectation isn't just as full of miracle
as an empirical investigation of the purposes of dreams.
Neither is less human than the other: each is mother
to imagination: both schemes gleam. Blink at bling
or heavy thinking – notice you're alive – and you've
partaken of the most phenomenal phenomenon that
Being can contrive. So surely it should be no problem
to derive ecstatic metaphor from having now to scrub
my kitchen floor. Or is that going rather far? One stain
looks like a jack-o-lantern, one looks like an aging
whore, and one looks like a close-up of the Evening
Star. Perhaps I’d better leave them as they are.
October 30, 2006
Had it Up to Here
I feel like wrecking things.
Ripping pictures off the wall
and kicking out the windows.
Screaming down the hall
that everyone’s an asshole
and should fuck himself
and die. I’m not sure why.
One tends to want to
decimate externals when
what’s kicking butt are
the infernally internal prisons
of the mind. To look is to
create precisely what you see.
Today I’ve had it up to here
with being what I see in me.
October 29, 2006
Taste of Fate
I barely notice that I’m past the actuarial midpoint of
my existence until – as happened yesterday – my knee
begins to ache. Surmise: the body bakes and one day
burns? (It almost always worsens in the middle of
indulging my most thoughtless quirks, reflexive turns.)
Perhaps less bakes than clabbers – thickening
en route to cheese. The milk and whey of everything
are rendered, clotted, rotted, dried in incarnation's
slow relentless squeeze. At times like these I see
my own demise as clearly as I might perceive a leaf
drift sweetly down the River Lethe. Then: today –
quick shift in course – as if discovering some new
resource – an unexpected dawn – or having had a taste
of its inevitable fate, my ache is spooked! – and gone.
October 28, 2006
When I was small I put together everything I felt and saw
and heard into a magic box – my marionettes, my father’s
singing voice, cold afternoons in fall, my brother’s love
of ocean liners, next-door-neighbor Laura’s golden pony
tail, my mother’s black seal coat, my lust for Tony Dow,
my fear of saying anything aloud, my craving to eat roasted
turkey skin, my thrill at having stolen things from stores,
my absent pleasure sitting on the front porch bench describing
arabesques with fingers in the air – a motley mess of
here and there that made my days into a daisy chain of
retroactively acquired sense. Now that I’m large, I’ve gotten
dense: the box has turned into a warehouse – packed,
perversely spilling, introjecting fillings into fillings so that
nothing is the same, and memory’s a loopy game, recycled
to a faretheewell, new random permutations of a self
from threads and props condensed to shreds and drops –
magnetized by breath and sight into the simulacrum of
a being with a brain. I find myself identifying utterly with rain.
October 27, 2006
To Hell and Back with Bach
Loose the yearning from the fear –
get this Bach shebang in gear –
align the fugues so that they play
like muscles in a heart: waylay
the ego and invite the whole
musician to lift barriers to soul
by executing craft –
clinging to it like a raft
in rapids so that he or she
might find a passage to the sea –
engender innocence again:
you’ll know you’ve done it when
you can’t remember who you are
precisely as you’ve gone as far
as possible into the specificity
of every meshed unstable multiplicity
you’ve ever been: bestow like Nike
with a wreath a victory to psyche
over grief and gloom and insecurity:
Bach wants a savage purity
before he’ll let you cast his spell –
derived from traveling through hell.
October 26, 2006
Freedom’s Tight Kathunk
"I don't know how to explain this, but I was th)nking, yesterday,
(from an email to a friend)
What do I feel?
Who can tell?
Is it real
or just a spell
a brain will make
in search of icing
for its cake –
tired of spicing
things it’s spiked
the senses with before.
I think I liked
life for a moment: bore-
dom then recurred –
as fear, disguised:
ennui’s a word
that kisses, lies –
pretends it wants
it really pants
for nine or ten
ahas!: proof that you
are still alive.
Meanwhile I shoo
away the jive
and fight my funk
and wait for free-
dom’s tight kathunk.
October 25, 2006
Report From the Vicinity of David’s Nipple
Michelangelo played three-part fugues of muscle,
bone and skin: I locate models of colossal frank
expenditures of flesh and spirit roiling in him – sleeping
in his boots, between his bouts of wielding chisels
to chip David’s veins in rains of marble dust: after
rupturing the mass into its salient detail: brusquely
shaping surface closer to its ideal form, rasping it to
burnished slickness – warm Ferrara public sex. I come
alive, like all the rest of David, in a hundred thousand
perfectly directed blows – soft and hard: starting from
a block two times as large as what we tremble into
at the end: clay and terra cotta models blasted, strewn
throughout the den of Michelangelo’s libido – and his
studio: poetry unveiled from rudeness: worth all crude
unsightliness, detritus and travail: energized – and
muscular – relaxed, and poised: music synthesized
from noise. I am ineffably content to ride a ripple
on the pectoral surrounding David’s leftward nipple.
October 24, 2006
Gaping: banging like
a barn door in a storm –
muscularly shut –
crepuscular – abrupt
and bright as noon –
constricted as a womb –
empty as a cave –
its particles –
I can’t make
my mind behave.
October 23, 2006
Black marks diddle across the white like killer ants:
battling prospects of my ever fiddling to their
requirements: I should put my violin away, sink into
retirement: let some other sucker play. But no:
today I have to armor up and clunk into the war again:
orchestra rehearsal for a concert in a week: my
brain is only fractally aware: as soon as I approach
the ant-hill of Mussorgsky, legions of cerebral cells
and hormones swear they won’t obey: all they want
to do is make me go to sleep so they can stray into
fantasias unconducted by the likes of mortal human
beings: oh! – the dance my head will dance to conjure
up persuasive rationales – instead of pushing me
to act by picking up my bow and undergoing all
the throes of agony I probably won’t ever feel: see,
that’s the deal: this swarmy build-up of resistance
is, I guess, a part of what must bring me to the music.
Fussy babies! – the concoctions that comprise my
grumpy self don’t understand that mama’s got her hand
on what will be their favorite candy: here – she drags it
off the shelf – for all my baby grumbling me’s who cry
as if they’re not about to get exactly what they want
and need: tasty dollops to relieve their deepest hunger.
They act as if they have to suck on cactus. This
is what I go through every time I have to practice.
October 22, 2006
Damned and Unrepentant on the Amtrak
Spotless t-shirt – lanky
surfer body: perfect blankness:
doesn’t know that when he
checks a mole disinterestedly –
gazes at his skin and rubs
a muscled upper arm – he’s
all the dangerous seduction –
charm – of riding trains:
brainless plenty, mammal
cunning, precociously abutting
godhood, all sweet shutness:
golden buck. Damned,
I glimpse a speeding maple
through a window –
raging yellow swatch –
like spotting crotch in high
school gym. Unrepentant,
I sing silent hymns to him.
October 21, 2006
A settled and determined sense America was born
right here: established through white churches, picket
fences and a panoply of other proper and meticulously
painted sorts of 1830s politesse; elaborately simple
houses dressed in memory - though not the troubled ripe
mentality - of Emerson, Thoreau bestow a scent of stringent
grandeur in the autumn air, careful and covert: abruptly
figured in the blazing glamour of the gold and red October
oak and maple staples of the landscape: sunset colored
grape against an apricot- and azure-pastured sky: odd
interesting concocted lie, and place: three-hundred-fifty
years of incrementally acquired 'face' - a living mask,
now left to stand for something that it hopes might once
have harbored grace: hungry for an image of itself it would
do anything to think it was. Concord, Massachusetts is
a lullabye America must sing to soothe itself - and does.
October 20, 2006
Mangy Dog in Boston
Soft odd motley crowd, October mist in Copley Square -
I don't know what is here or there: I'm lost in Boston -
slinking as if courting a castrophe - disaster surely
lurks around each corner: turn into a street and find
unnerving amiability: everybody wants to help. (Mangy
dog inside me wants to yelp.) I figure out the Green Line,
take the T to a museum: wander through the Fine Arts
in a fog (still that frightened dog): miasmic wariness
befuddles air: I'm not aware beyond some distant
whiff of all this painted, marbled stuff: I think I've had
enough when suddenly I'm walloped. Never seen this
Jackson Pollock: horizontal strip of canvas, swashed with
black and gold and green, drunken Japanese in rut:
a sweep of kick-ass assonance - and Boston isn't lost
on me - and though I seemed to have to meet it with
a fight - now the blanket softness of the mist seems right.
October 19, 2006
The Thing That Wanted to Hop Up
Peek-a-boo, I won’t see you – unless the time is right –
and what determines that has more to do with what
appear to me to be the random firings of a random
scattered portion of my hundred trillion synapses:
somewhere, daddy, you’re in there. You weren’t
in your own too much – when you lost touch and died
six years ago, insensate, void of memory and self:
memory is self, of course – discarded on the shelf,
for you, dad, long before you took your final breath:
I do not know what I can possibly expect from death,
and cannot know what you found when you crept
toward yours in the increasing blankness of Alzheimered
fog: but I remembered more of you today than that:
and find within my memories a simulacrum of your style:
your smile was childlike even when you had your wits:
you longed, I think (I may be wrong), for something
to hop up and kiss you – tell you that you hadn’t missed
a thing – that you were loved: it came out when you
chose to sing – when didn’t melody come out of you? –
well, once: when you attempted to ingest my news
that I was gay: that barred the way for song for just
about a week: then you began to speak and melody
came back because the thing that wanted to hop up
and kiss you, tell you that you hadn’t missed a thing,
that you were loved, turned out, in some way, to be me.
I merely speculate: the sea of synapses I swim in has
one aim: to truss up all my mishegoss so it feels
palatably free. I miss you, dad, and contemplate how
fully half the chromosomes that keep me swimming in
my idiosyncrasies were given to me – ardently –
by you. You taught me that the natural condition of
the Universe is ecstasy. Right now, you’re next to me.
October 18, 2006
The Erotics of Place
Finagling my way through foreign parts –
the auras, hearts and oddments in a space! –
it’s hard to miss the power of place: its funks
and flowering perfumes – the grace and
silliness and sex – the frilliness and whirls
of soft Pacific breezes and the hexed pursuit
of bodies that unfurls in Folsom Street in
San Francisco: dizzy as a maypole, I’m quite
literally beside myself – I watch as something
like myself traverses streets and dances
awkwardly with beasts to beats that no one
understands. I’m home for several days:
enough to take deep lungfuls of my glorious
indifferent gritty city – to prepare to make
another trek to somewhere else on Friday.
I spend my few Manhattan days replenishing
my courage – emptying my psychic luggage
so that nothing will be lost on me when I entrain
to Boston for the weekend. Forsaking and
unraveling all that is familiar here – below,
within, above: traveling is making love.
October 17, 2006
I engineer my poor near-rhymes –
too jet-lagged to pen clearer kinds
Conjure sound and manage it?
But welcome any vantage point –
(Consider the alternative –
United’s Number 8 might have
Thick consciousness arises – and
Sometimes you despise it – then
you thank it.
October 16, 2006
Through Its Purple Flowers
Perching on its precipices - climbing and descending
through its purple flowers - flagrantly denying
certainties of an inevitable doom - a spirit flits here -
settles there - makes the requisite accommodation
and repair to its mercurially shifting bloom: a soul
must have a place and this soul's obstinate: insists
on grace. You see it in the faces of its supple
incarnations: honeyed children - gentle lovers -
heroin-addicted others swooning in the Mission
District - dancing to the underlying strictness of
a clock: a minuet of tick and tock which measures out
the nearness of an end. You feel a terrible finality
behind, beneath, within the San Franciscan light
and sweetness which suspend you. Yet you're sure
that nothing in its softly sifting, falling, slightly warm
and cool and humid dissolution couldn't mend you.
October 14, 2006
In the Dye Vat
I’m fabric soaking in the vat of San Francisco:
taking in the haunted tints of Noe Valley
and the Castro: flat-top ornamented houses
in inimitable waltzes with themselves contrive
the normal from untrammeled fantasy: a formal
politesse and gentleness amid the pastel
howling echoes of intrepid long-dead drag queens –
among a smiling ghostly welter of innumerable
others: pioneers who’ve stained this roiling
rolling hilly mass of possibility – steeping in attar
of poses squeezed from the extremities of soul –
gloriously sucker-punched with vistas of the Bay.
I cannot say how this is staining me: my warp
and weave are molten with a tie-dyed iridescence:
my tangled fibers only drink; they cannot think.
October 13, 2006
San Francisco Redux
Seven years since I was last in California:
this morning I return for several days – my
history seems biblical: throughout it addicts
fuck apocalyptically: deaths of icons intervene –
my father, mother, and two-thirds of what had
once been me: stories of an inner edifice
blow up in stages, towers of Babel babble
into flame and split and spit me into shreds
beyond the reach of shame: incinerated –
blasted into ash – ridiculous that I’m still here.
San Francisco, 1999, divided me in two: I went
to edit someone’s book proposal in the day;
and spent each night insensible – lasciviously
splayed into a heap with some bewildered man
named Zeke – in sunlight I would natter on;
at night I couldn't speak. Today I bought some
underwear and socks and sat in one of
New York City’s archetypal diners and ate
bad food while I mused on all my wonders:
this dry urban bungled burger was a miracle,
a thunderous revival of my certainty: a symbol
of unlikeliest survival: nothing like a mediocre
meal to make you feel you’re real – in Paradise.
I bet San Francisco, this time, will be nice.
October 12, 2006
I don’t understand breasts.
Perhaps it’s because I’m male and gay.
But don’t they get in the way?
It must be strange to wake up every day
and think, “there they are again.”
But then I can’t think when
I haven’t wondered similarly
at pendula that hang from me.
I don’t understand breasts.
But neither do I understand the rest.
October 11, 2006
If the war’s within me –
who are the foes?
Perhaps that isn’t how it goes.
It may not be that sort of fight.
Not might versus might –
but ‘might’ seeking ‘is.’
This biz of life defeats analysis.
The abstract cracks.
Damn this itch – that’s
the hitch – attracting like a magnet
scoops up iron filings all
of my defiling claws: I scrape
the question ‘til it breaks and
shred again the fragile scab
in search of pertinent eternal laws:
I seem to need to bleed.
I want to know, that’s all.
Tell and show me, won’t you?
Don’t you think I’ve had enough
of sorting through this stuff?
Give me the mechanics.
Don’t tell me that it’s “in God’s
hands.” I want to know
what’s in His pants.
October 10, 2006
That’s When I'll Make Love to You
Who, me? No – you entertain.
I've got a lazy brain. It likes to loll about.
And scowl and pout. Sing a song that ravishes.
Like New York City lavishes me
with its mutant and incarnate dreams. Polish it
so I don't see the seams. Lyrics,
like the best inamoratas, pay their way
when they can sway to beats
and hum a catchy tune and cry on cue
and bark when they are done.
Love pedestrians: be the West Side
Highway when I push a button
on a sidewalk pole and make a hundred
autos stop to let me cross as if
I were a cow with right of way in Bombay
traffic – let your song be graphic –
toss me into the obscene.
Be a lark and gild the sun then turn it blue.
October 9, 2006
Had it been up to me
I wouldn't be
the thing you see.
feeling like an ape
playing with my shape.)
It’s all a blur
so I'll transfer
the blame to her –
not because it’s fair,
not that you would care,
just because I dare.
made me swear and blow
in laryngitic tremolo.
I've withdrawn: hence
mind’s gone tense:
Scared away my audience.
October 8, 2006
I eat them like an addict: tiny
grapes, and sticky, taste like
honey made to mix with wine,
translucent – fine – green –
red – still on a vine: like jewels
the Trojans might have hidden
from invading Greeks: like bees
or ants or flocks of birds or Greeks
or Trojans: that's what scores
of tiny grapes in clusters are: I eat
a city, maybe more: I'm like
Godzilla or the Whore of Babylon,
a jungle chimpanzee, trapped –
transferred to a zoo and caged –
placated with a string of treats:
the sort of thing a wounded
creature eats: the sort of thing a bee
would want to make or mate with:
that’s the sort of wonder of these
disappearing grapes: that they
would take my mind off him,
and give me something to abate
another hunger. Nothing stays:
this is what I learned today.
October 7, 2006
Wrestling the Angel
Sometimes I sense
I’ve felt all the intensities
I ever will: defense
against romantic densities –
old love, I guess (long gone).
Other men pursue –
through spot-lit brawn
and charm – a slew
of other men. A lover –
what would that be like?
Someone under cover? –
in the light? (Strike
three for me.) Segue
to October rain – I bop
along the street: reggae
beats regale and pop.
Angel dripping dreadlocks
offers me his paw –
Soon we’ve traded headlocks –
ending in a draw.
October 6, 2006
Drop the Art
brush the side
and softly steal
the thing with wide
sophistication... (no! Nerves
are shot: a man
is made of swerves –
you cannot scan
him like a painting –
sing him like a song –
the rawness tainting
everything – you're wrong:
you're not enough
to alter this.
You're made of stuff
that falters.) Kiss
Dare to - start.
Drop the art.
October 5, 2006
1000th Soho Poem
Yowsa! – for the thousandth in the series –
what’s been rousing me and housing me
since May Fifteenth, Two Thousand Four –
when I first shut this door behind me and
discovered I was home: began constructing,
one by one, these cubicles and corners
I’ve bedecked with psychic silly whatnots
and have lived in since: and now, within
ten-hundred chambers, disparately stained
in mist and blood and sweat: draped in burlap,
silk and chintz – with scents of sex and buttered
toast and slowly roasted memories of family
and other tragedies and joys – I employ
the luxury of taking stock: ephemeral and
shocking – rickety and full of holes – a hotel
full of mostly breathing me’s: this teasing
scansion of a mansion! Let there be more floors
and halls and closets, trapdoors, attics and
assortments of enclosures all unlocked and
each a poem – in at least some partial bloom.
I keep expanding every day: I need the room.
October 4, 2006
Like Opinions About His Penis
I don't much like books. They want too much sustained
perceptual obedience which my reptilian brain is not
disposed to yield. Mostly I would rather spend my time
in fantasies I guarantee you'd rather that I kept concealed.
But now and then I stumble onto something that I think
I ought to crack the spine and turn the pages of – take in.
Put some new idea onto the cookie sheet – shove it into my
hot cranium to bake it in. I thought I might read something
on the art of writing poesy. I picked a widely recommended
guide but – woe is me! – it didn't turn the tide. Maybe its
pronouncements were too superficial or too deep. All I know
is that before I'd finished reading half its jacket copy,
I was fast asleep. Funny how this stuff I do does not much
care about the ars poetica to which some think it ought
to be subjected. Whenever I attempt to importune my
poems to line up – behave – I am summarily rejected.
The dominions –
verbal genus –
a poem dares pursue:
about his penis
a man won't share with you.
October 3, 2006
He sits across from me as full
of all the piety of hope as he has
ever been, sure that what was once
a heart of tin in him is flesh now,
ever-fresh now, and inviolably
past the mesh of fear and doubt –
insanity – that had consumed and
stamped him out just months ago:
now, surely, once the flow of life
had been resumed, as surely now
it had been, would be, will be –
he’d be fine and done and safe.
My darling boy - my vulnerably
wide-eyed waif! You think you’re clear
as consommé: but, like the rest
of us, you’re thick as bouillabaisse.
October 2, 2006
God, and Howard Stern
I just saw Helen Mirren play the English queen.
She did a more than creditable job of manifesting
through her craft whatever of Elizabeth the Second
could be gleaned and heard and seen – she kept
the movie moving: certainly was not a bore. And yet
I wonder what it all was for. The talent, energy
and smarts entrained thereto – why so few real
breakthroughs? Too many stay too far this side of
density: you wish they'd stray and hop the fence
to see the odder, deeper fits and starts of hearts.
One tires of power-mongers, politicians, public figures
rising, sinking – learning what celebrities and other
clods are sniffing, drinking. I want to know what God
is thinking. Unless I do. Maybe purpose lies right on
the surface – maybe God, like any other shock jock,
is (among his other tricks) the gossip and the crock.
October 1, 2006
That it’s so odd to let them go
does not mean I would have them back –
it’s more that in the cosmic flow
I cannot help but feel a lack
(the Universe is wholly kept,
of course, in symbols I devise).
It doesn’t matter how I’ve wept
or tried steadfastly to revise
the circumstances of the plot
so that they might more deeply please,
the fact remains: my family’s not
alive, but I still am: a tease –
bewilderment – a goading prod
to my blunt sense of what should be:
a seeming abnegation God
subjects me to, indifferently.
But while I look into the hole
and wonder what there is to save –
perhaps I miss just how my soul
has grown – beside the open grave.
September 30, 2006
Despair sets an agenda –
so do rage and hope:
palliations meant to ease us into
thinking we’ve alternatives
to groping blind.
Let’s change this cast of mind.
Instead of cleaving to
a sunny outcome, moping into
the morose, or getting furious,
let’s be curious.
September 29, 2006
In Another Foreground
Monkey puppet – dates from 1939 –
isn’t looking fine – ratty brown –
once had shiny button eyes – chewed
off by me at two – got lost the way
things do. Other relics last: photos
from the past: the Macy’s Toy Pavilion
at the ’39 World’s Fair: my mother
worked (and got the monkey puppet)
there: she had a flair, at twenty-one,
for looking like a doll: adorable in
pinafore. She sometimes wore a picture
hat – I have another photo of her
dressed like that – the Trylon and
the Perisphere comprise the picture’s
blurry rear – my mother innocently near –
overshadowing all background. In
another foreground, back when I was
two, and chewing buttons off the monkey
into scar, I wonder if he had a clue
that we would end up where we are?
September 28, 2006
I've always been able to count on epiphany:
give God a whiff of me and he explodes:
take a step out – I'm exposed. My soul feeds
on distraction: my life's an infraction of every
conceivable rule: I am a deceivable fool for
the jokes and enigmas and folks who inhabit
Manhattan - exfoliate every assumption
and school me in mystery: history turns its
presumption of past to, and sutures the future
to, now: holy cow, I'm aflame with re-naming
whatever this scheme is – whatever the dream is –
whatever the reason tempestuous rhyme has
me spinning through something I used to call
time – disavowing it all, and careening with
surely unwarranted joy down the hall – when
it’s suddenly cropped: all the life in it’s stopped.
What had once been Fantasia afflicts me with
dullish aphasia: can’t speed through the hatch
and be free anymore: can’t locate the latch
and the key anymore. The flow is shut off;
the show is cut off: I’ve rammed to the end of
my cranial meat; must defer to a sense beyond
sense that entreats me to trust the grand slam.
Mammalian perceptions, revealed as a sham.
I am that I am.
September 27, 2006
While my alchemic mind
may design a supernal
cuisine, or unlimited schemes
for replacement of genes
or vacating the present
in time machines, my bodily
limits are leaner. Shut me up
in a suburb and valiant attempts
to believe I am anywhere
else won't avail. Sufficiently
asphyxiated, lungs will fail.
September 26, 2006
Cool intimated breath of winter – late
summer’s exhalation – early morning –
crisp September drifts towards its familiar
ancient cliff – from which, as always,
it descends by increments: dawning into fall.
Seasons now no longer seem inexorable.
Odd, they used to: like vacation slides
they lived and lied within their frames –
as disparate as names on high school
absentee lists: ambiguity – the seasons
were not you. We stepped from sand to
pavement into snow and there was no
mistaking what would grow or what would
not. Leaves would fall or sprout; bathing
suits or parkas would be packed away,
hauled out. Four years ago when I was
spreading fertilizer on my mother’s side-lawn
grass – nine months of my safari through
the wilderness of the immaculate conception
of my childhood had passed – gestating
into seeing I'd revisited at fifty-one a boy
I hadn't been since twenty-one. And now
past unimaginable dying and rebirth, I've
lived four years beyond the tilling of that earth –
and seasons now no longer seem so very
here or gone. I cannot buy completely into
any season’s night – or any season’s dawn.
September 25, 2006
Not the Last Laugh
Sometimes what I hear you say
provides my day with all its air.
Strange that you are neither here
nor there. Or that I can recall
your wit at all – so very long
after the fall. Laughter shouldn't
be so rich or fresh this far past
death. But then I'll split in half
again with memories of when
you made me laugh so hard
I couldn't stop – and time up-
ends, suspends: kerplops into
shenanigans: a sleight-of-hand
beyond what I can understand.
How I miss you, sometimes,
honey. You sure were funny.
September 24, 2006
A rash on the reverse
of my left thigh
has bloomed into a bright
of raspberries – now ripe
to both my hungry hands:
I scratch around
them every night; my fingers
feed; the dermal
berries bleed. Poetry is like
this too: it itches
'til I scrape it to a mortal flow.
Benignity is what
non-poets think we sow.
Little do they know.
September 23, 2006
Why Nobody Asks Me Out Twice
The fundamentals baffle. All is sexually raffled – motion spins
and boils and blisters to a point beyond redemption –
passionately craves the controvertibility of energy and mass:
seeks all cheeky invitations: wants to blast. No wonder we're
turned on by ass. Whatever aim of love or sex or war you may
for varied moments claim, you seek to marry into union what
will bring its dissolution: revving up to break it down: a battle
to make ‘peace’ – decimate the whole into more docile pieces,
‘til all restlessness resolves: dissolves into a sea of entropy –
thence to another gravity which heats the slew into a roiling
ball again until new stuff explodes in its unconscionably
heated oven: and yet more bits and clumps of something
come to pass – including more sweet ass. Illusory though
promises of sexual salvation may turn out, they give our natures
something basic to reflect the Universe’s clout: to re-enact
the central drama – howl to mama we are coming home! –
our silly and presumptuous stabs at winning freedom now
have lost their hold – and we will do exactly as we're told.
The fundamentals baffle. I keep suspecting some grand laugh
will end the whole charade. Meanwhile we're stuck in the parade.
At least there’s pleasure in its sass. And all that lovely ass.
September 22, 2006
Private Lives of Pigeons
Relentless squeaks – at first I thought it was a mouse –
then after looking everywhere inside the house I heard it louder
outside on the fire escape: what looked to be a teen-aged
pigeon fully feathered but with fuzz vestigially attached –
as if he'd just come from some sylvan patch of fluffy-flowered
garden hedge instead of spiky New York City’s edge –
pleaded with his sleeker chic-er mother to be fed: mama
pigeon kept in vision of her progeny but otherwise ignored
his nervous darting head and snorky birdy gasps – and in
a heartless flash descended gracefully onto a lower level of
the steps: squeaking turned to screeching as the panicked pigeon
neophyte grasped that he'd have to follow suit and wobble out
to fly – or die. Baby pigeons aren't cute: mother pigeons aren't
sweet. But somehow they entreat each other to finagle generations
of their species to arrive and fly – and come and go and
come and go. Quite a show to see them do it out one’s window.
September 21, 2006
Can’t Have Been…
Can’t have been the way you thought it was: you left
out gravity, and sound, and all the odd innumerable
nuances - forgotten ticks and tocks – appurtenances
of a moment: angsts, distractions, perturbations that
refract a sensibility: your lens is limited to now: and
even that can’t be relied upon: what do you know
of now? Can’t have been the way you thought he was
and yet in all the vast penumbral clouds of memory
there’s one enormous phallic shaft of light, within
which shoot your microscopic certainties: like faeries
in the night, ejaculating in a vortex all the elements
of your desire: all suggestions of its conquest, too:
he vanquished you by simple virtue of his body and
his presence and his scent: and now the sound returns
(that dark involuntary growl) – and gravity as well
(the weight and swell of muscled arm upon your chest) –
and all the odd appurtenances of his moment:
tenderness, testosterone, male skin so smooth it hurt.
He came to you in silence, yet you spoke, knew what
to say – nuzzling his private curls and fuzz. Can’t
have been the way you thought it was, and yet it was.
September 20, 2006
All Systems Willing
Today I'll mince my way to something simple:
be the sunlight glinting off a child's dimple:
tiptoe through the purest tulips in the lot:
achieve the lucent balance of a disciplined gavotte:
be fine and sure and sweet: the kind of creature
whom you'd rush intuitively to encounter on the street –
for guidelines and directions and suggestions and projections
of the Universe's likelihoods: when will you get married? –
will there be another war? – how long before you're shown
the door? Today I'll sidle into the becoming of
a someone in whom you would gladly place your trust.
Sweep the pavement clean of ambiguity and dust:
combust all the unjustness of complexity: achieve
the allegorical! Today, all systems willing,
and since no one else appears to want the job,
I'll be your Oracle.
September 19, 2006
My Mother’s Black Eye
Among the scraps wedged in the cross-hatched-wire scrim
of my desk’s latched and polished maple-bordered doors –
eye-level as I type: two photos of two hugs. One’s a battered pug
who's lost a fight – embracing in his boxing gloves the thug who’d
just completed his bespattered bloody demolition; the other is
my mother holding me when I was two, in August at the beach,
comparably consensual and virtually nude: two scenes of bare-
skinned beings in each other’s arms, withholding blows. Scrapings
of my psychic life – juxtaposed: framed and pinned like butterflies,
like breath. Not long before my mother’s death she fell and hit
her head against the wooden edges of the bed-frame: I found her –
curled, lame – on the floor: resourcefully, she’d pulled a pillow down
to cosset sore and broken skin. She grinned, which scrunched
a swollen eye to seal, and reassured me: “No big deal. I’m okay.”
I helped her up and wiped the mess and cradled her as she lay
back down on the bed until the horror in me bled away. Weeks later,
she was dead. The hardest task (the funeral director said) was
making up the cheek and eye. It didn’t matter: nothing of my mother
had survived – shredded past all woe: all, by now, dead show. I am
irrationally riveted to boxing – love to watch a fighter punch, get
punched – bleed and flinch – waiting for my favorite part: the clinch.
September 18, 2006
Awkward tosses, all - though every now
and then you hoop the ball, or ball the hoop,
or otherwise - with luck and intuition - swoop
and score: basketball scoops net and
bounces in a triumph off the floor! (Try not
to be bored.) Solutions are the problem:
(one) because you need them; (two) because
they tyrannize with rules and teamwork,
forcing you to commandeer the physics
necessary to keep balance, dribble, run and
throw: you can't do anything except in tow
to gravity - and human choices not your own.
Folly to want solitude for long: you've got to
leave the house, buy milk, discard your garbage,
pay Utilities to juice your lights, Cable TV
to reduce your woes by airing their unending
repeats of old shows on PBS and Turner
Classic Movies. People press: you need them:
conversations, food and sex - and so on -
so you'll go on, feeding, being fed - toss wadded
poems from your bed - and hope that one
of them will hit a hoop and if not win the game,
then (who cares) lose it. When your chance
to play comes - suppose you can't refuse it.
September 17, 2006
By the Time You've Counted 'One'
Shattering the new is what I do: adumbrating
every moment's soft continual deliverance. This
is past: nothing lasts. Today the sky is frighteningly
blue and doesn't hold a clue. I am here regarding
you as if you never were before, because it's true,
you never were. Look heavenward: the only forms
the white clouds take comprise a herd of bridal gowns
throughout a many-aisled azure church. All will marry
instantly: grooms won't tarry - rice will fly - spiced
with pastel-hatted sighs. I sit next to someone
whom I hadn't thought I cared for: find I was mistaken.
He gets up and I get up and go our separate ways.
Forsaken, now slips back to then - without a clue
again - the sky goes blue again - and clouds lay
down their bridal gowns for different fun. By the time
you've counted 'One,' everything's already done.
September 16, 2006
Your Very Own Eternity
What rough beast? Specious creature? But what
species? Pregnant with an incarnation glossed from
random slices of your psyche mixed with Friday - is it
on its way? - kaleidoscoping slowly into something
you will once again attempt to see as soul? - you
cannot call what you do 'plan' - closer to psychotic
play. You've just read books by woman - man
(Ezra Pound and Susan Sontag!) - far more agile
minds than yours - but cannot find one principle
that lures - or tells you anything about what's next.
Hexed by Being into seeing only what allows itself
to be observed, you serve yourself your own creations:
subjectively relative! - objective correlatives! Which
or who are you today? Here's what sopping dripping
New York City has to say: make clay-mation of
the Universe’s surges and your own (albeit suspect)
urges. Eyes will pop - explode - reload with all the same
infernal raw material they started with. Focus, find
a locus: here it is! No, gone. The grayness of four-
fourteen on a rainy afternoon is not at all like dawn.
Look out the window
and you will see
your very own
September 15, 2006
Lotus Flower on #1 Train
At Fourteenth Street, a slender Asian man
got on the train and sat across from me -
investigating carefully each fold of his
small partly-open turquoise wet umbrella -
holding it as if it were a half-bloomed lotus
flower - en route to shutting up its petals
in a lake at night - but kept, by this man's
agile fingers' assiduity, awake in subway light.
The floor beneath the blossom seemed to spot
with dew as his precise soft ministrations
flicked drips off billows of the blue-green cloth.
Evidently satisfied, he furled the apparatus
closed, and let the tired lily doze, and exited
the train at Fifty-Ninth - gratified, I hoped,
for having sanctified this bit of daily life.
If We Can Call 'Him' 'He'
God is neither good nor bad
according to a thought I had:
'He's' (if we can call 'him' 'he') a Manifest Retreat
whom we entreat to make Experience complete:
God locks up 'his' avatars behind a Golden Gate so
we can find exactly where to query (such as) Plato
who expostulates quite nicely on how Godliness perfects.
Though even Socrates defects
from the Divine Ideal Extreme: wanna see a sinner? -
God will offer up the most exalted and defining winner
of the darkest galling and appalling prizes
to be got: want sex? ‘He'll’ proffer all the sizes,
tastes and twists and timbres of it you can name -
room-temperature or hot - with or without shame.
‘He’s’ not purveying Virtue’s feasts, Damnation’s roasts -
‘He' doles out our extracting Leasts - excessive Mosts.
September 14, 2006
Pick your way towards the lava pool with care:
even firewalkers do not dare to tiptoe here:
suspecting far too much to lose for very little gain:
no point in causing oneself this degree of pain
and anguish: better languish in the known -
the cooler zone - well this side of terror. Strange,
though, how you're drawn back to what everybody
tells you is the error of your felt necessity: the edge
is where the interest is. With each step searing into
you, again you near the ledge - the bubbling crater:
maybe sooner, maybe later, this is what will
swallow you, but right now in obsessive rhyme
you make your apprehensions follow you, not lead.
Proceed as if to life, not death, or anyway to some
new notion that within this raging killing ocean
something will come clear. Where else but here?
September 13, 2006
"Intellectual 'wanting' is like sexual wanting." Susan Sontag, 1964
Predilection for the 'intellectual' does not describe
some hunger for the dry, objectifiable and thick:
it's craving something sweeter - rich: deep purple
morning glories shot with crimson creeping tendrilly
up worn and creviced brick - abetted by the ashy green
of vine and leaf: in search of some quite different
much more palpable relief: a meshing forward motion
of the mind: wary of the easy find - or slick and
quantifiable hypothesis - more interested in how
the sun achieves a photosynthesis: attracted not by
arid granulated sand but drawn to something clumping
wetter in the hand: roots deep in sod producing
energies in search of some inimitable God - assuaging
thirst not to be first but to alleviate unconscious hell.
Thinking well means drinking deeply from the well.
September 12, 2006
Why have I always got it wrong? Whenever I perceive that
I belong to some immutability of thought, some absolutely
clear assumption, it turns out to be presumption. For instance:
Art and Life are Good and in the Pantheon of Saints must be
made room for Henry James and Leonard Bernstein, Judy
Garland, Wystan Auden, Frank Lloyd Wright, Miss Dickinson,
Johannes Brahms. Yet their embrace as often stultifies
as doesn't: held too long in each's arms I end up wishing
that I wasn't. Love is fickle: false is true. Art is silly and
pretentious: life's an endless and unpalatable stew. James?
A blowhard. Bernstein? Show-off. Garland? Drugged bathetic
mess. Auden? Caught up in Opinions like a monkey in a dress.
Wright's an egomaniac and Dickinson's a wacko; Brahms
could use a laxative, and I have had it up to here with all their
passionate distress. And then: a stroke from one of them
and I am back - adoring, stupid, dazed. Art and life are good
again and I accept that it's my lot to be continually flummoxed -
shot and dumped - resuscitated - hauled back up amazed.
September 11, 2006
As Much as Love Can Ever Do
Does he store his pleasure in a kitty-bank?
I think not, but today I lavish sources of it
on him anyway - imagine that I'm filling something
up. He’s full of talk and squawking of the sort
the Burmese make - but with inimitable ease -
and intonation surely his alone. I try to tell myself
it isn't loneliness and pain, but rather just a full
report of what he's done and ascertained since
yesterday when I last came to push my face into
his fifteen-year-old dark brown flank and feel
for any lumps or bumps in fur from which, through
fingers and my kissing lips, I might infer the kidney
illness that struck down his sister: happily I find
none now: though think of her while I inhale his purr -
which adds a tremolo to yet more feline speech.
I love this cat and yet, I guess, can never hope
to breach the species chasm and decode his heart.
I leave him with his milk and cart away his excrement
and wonder if this isn't what my city does for me -
and with an equally completely absent language
to explain its odd accommodating kind proclivity.
New York's fluencies and mine, perhaps, at best run
parallel - and maybe briefly overlap. Between, among
a cat, Manhattan and myself and you - I wonder
if this isn't quite as much as love can ever do.
September 10, 2006
Cosmic Bubble Gum
I have whole new reasons for enjoying sleep.
I've lately cultivated the capacity to notice
what the time is when I creep back
intermittently from the eternity of dreams:
to relish the phenomenon of "is" via the entering
and exiting of "seems": enjoy the shock of
my extraordinary arbitrary clock. Submerging
every night into my psychic sea, emerging
into dawning sky, I find that minutes, seconds,
hours sometimes fly and sometimes absolutely
halt: all part of an unfathomably unforeseen
gestalt. I think I even once awakened quite
before I went to bed (although that might have
been another dream instead). It isn't only time
we can't depend on - it is place. Whatever
hologram we're in contrives to make us think
that we inhabit "space" - but I'm not sure we do.
I think I lie in wait continually for more evidence
that something else is true: that we are in some
unimaginable substance and are creatures of
a wholly different shape and aim than we had ever
had a clue hitherto. I'm curious and try to be alert:
but I won't trouble over too much cosmologic
thirst to know. If we are the bubble I suspect
we might be, someday we'll just burst, and go.
September 9, 2006
You want to think Intensity's
its own reward. You want
to think: you got the stuff:
untethered to received
agenda - free of sentimental
romance - sexually fueled
to duel. Oh sure - you feel
the fool, and wonder about
aim and blame and shame
but flames don't care much,
really: there's the steely hot
indifference of incarnate
fantasy to ride the back of,
and you do. And then you
pick amid the rubble of desire,
experience the ebbing heat
of the extinguished fire and
wonder what availing words
its aftermath might bring.
But you can't say a thing.
September 8, 2006
Do's and Don't's
Don't bite too much of it at once:
don't think that you're a dunce
because you don't particularly care
if Katy Couric has or doesn't have
a flair for Evening News. Don't
mind too much that you have never
knowingly identified a pair of Prada
shoes. Don't be discouraged that
it's more than likely true that
the Unconscious won't admit
a negative so every time you hear
a "don't" you register the word as "do."
September 7, 2006
All truths wait in all things
They neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it,
They do not need the obstetric forceps of the surgeon.
Who are you anyway? Sometimes I want to take
a magnifying glass and scrutinize your pores
and follicles for clues. Everything I meet in you is
news. Dreams don't tell me anything. Last night
you were a diffidently smiling guide in St. Tropez -
the Cote D'Azur - herding tourists (I was one)
with languidly indifferent ease this way and that
and leaving us to stand in blue-green water at
the shore, in shoes. You made a bet who'd get
the wettest, then vamoosed. I woke to wonder
at my sanity, and yours, both of which have run
through countless conduits and doors and seeped
into the smallest cracks and crannies in our floors
and dripped from ceilings: small cognitions slip
like peelings of potatoes through my fingers: shreds
of soaked discarded shoe, dripping with a Riviera blue.
Suddenly you're "back" - but what is back? - and
where've you been? At first I thought you had committed
some intolerable sin that quashed your mind: but
now in several billion pieces you have realigned
as if it wasn't much to lose your touch. I am a lousy
obstetrician. I stand here questioning my percepts,
fumbling my forceps. Next time you render bouncing
birth to some new infant self, please let me know
just how and when or if I ought to intervene.
It's hard to catch a baby on a trampoline.
September 6, 2006
Like Balm From Gilead
Can you find prosodic peace in sonnets?
Do they offer ways to ease harsh candor
into gentleness - affixed like bonnets
to a posse of mad heads? Soft-fanned, or
lavished in fresh lavender, then sweetened
by a cool iamb, brute Amazons turn
into ladies, sometimes: chastened, neatened
and sedated to compliance - don't burn,
as they are wont to, in deranging flames
deep in their free-verse chests. I'll seek adroit
correlatives to stop the ambush - names
and metaphors and labels to exploit -
mildly. Soothe (scrap angry jeremiad!)
with sonnet calm - like balm from Gilead.
September 5, 2006
Something for the Boys
One parcels out one's pleasures differently at fifty-five,
I would surmise, than one had done at forty: more to do
with consciousness than with desire, I think: I still drink
milk right from the carton but it's no-fat now, not two
percent: I find that I do not resent the vast majority
of men more beautiful than I: I rather like the state
and stage of my recumbent thighs and - all the rest
of me: the test for me has not so much to do with any
prowess or accomplishment as rutting male or strutting
writer anymore: rife with my bewilderments, I think
I'm more like four than I had been when I was four:
I'm right back at Square One. Will I know I've had a life
when I am done? I am a toddler-monkey: blinking, rubbing
unbelieving eyes: bereft of guise and ogling the Universe
as if it were the grand bandanas and banana hats that
Ms. Miranda wore in 1944 in "Something for the Boys."
I've something for the boys, all right: I am the vast selection
of a human catalogue of metaphysical erotic toys collected
over thirty years: you can come to me for stories that
won't help you out of one damned thing but probably
won't bore. I parcel out my dirty pleasures cleanly, now:
everything's a metaphor: each act a symbol meant to
sharpen chaos into some efficient meaning. Watch my keen
knife leaning into this new square of cheddar cheese
and how it slices, neatly, five precisely equal slender slabs
which I, against my doctor's orders, line up, salt and eat
with the meticulous concision of a cat: at fifty-five, I rarely
dare to eat a peach (most are unripe), but do contrive
to parcel out the pleasure of consuming salt and fat. I do
not eat too much: I've learned as well to parcel out my joys.
I've still some time before the winter comes: I cultivate
autumnal poise. One must have something for the boys.
September 4, 2006
Seeing What They've Got
Self-absorption has its uses: though it gooses
you into an urgent and addictive self-regarding stance -
which means you’ll more than likely stumble when
you dance - at least you notice what your feet are doing.
Of course, to itemize the hairs and bumps and lint
around and in-between your toes goes only so far
in allowing you to understand the mechanism of
the whole peculiar apparatus that permits you to stand
upright, hop or waltz or ski. Dead study of details is falsity.
Staring in a mirror has its limits, too: as much as you
may grin or grimace at the spectacle of you, you won’t
derive a latitude sufficient to engender anything
beyond reflexive self-attack or nervous gratitude.
But let's aim all this self-help jargon at a look at how we
bargain with the blessing and the curse of apprehending
verse. Dissect it like a body on a shelf - project
your feelings into it as if it were a simulacrum of yourself -
you surely won't have met the thing at all. Here's
the kicker and the trick: to throw your soul in the abyss
of knowing that you'll never know precisely how a human
being or a poem ticks - or even manages a flicker.
To tolerate the ways they sing and plot without
assuming we are they - or we are not. Then, perhaps,
we almost have a chance of seeing what they've got.
September 3, 2006
No Flies On Me
Got up again, and rediscovered my appurtenances:
love those dangling doody-kins that make my body
and my house a home! - my frames and naughty games
and fixtures, pictures - sleights-of-hand and haughty
flights of mandarin complexity: sneaking past perplexity,
I sit fat in the nexus to await the next reprieve: each
moment stolen - seized when Someone isn't looking -
from a cupboard, drawer, crotch, refrigerator: Presto
Prestidigator! Punk who pocketed my wallet off my
butt in Rome last year can't get near my expertise.
I'll tease your senses to abandonment! I'll flee - how
free I'll be! Put one over on Mortality! No flies on me.
September 2, 2006
Remarkably little will
I've decided that stasis
will be the sole basis
for wending my lone
and particular way.
Oh, it's not that I'll cease
or actively block
hole or pore.
I will simply subsist on
existence as is,
and I will not
petition for more.
September 1, 2006
I wonder at whose loss
I'll corner it and bust it up -
devise ways to enslave
the creature 'til I've trussed it up -
coerced it to behave.
I'll whomp it senseless, kick it down
and do what must be done
to end its counsel to the Crown -
and let my cause be won.
It's adequately blasted me:
it's time to say who's boss.
My sorrow's had the last of me -
I wonder at whose loss.
August 31, 2006
This poem will not ache
This poem will not ache for that sweet man
of twenty-something who just ambled by -
too cockily to be described - too beautiful
to be endured: it is not lying fallow for some
blindly self-assured and callow youth: this
poem will not wallow in the tears and space
created by old yearnings for one singularly
memorable face - now gone five years: it will
derive its meat from air, and subsequently
will entreat, with an insouciantly covered
care, whoever passes on the street - to dare.
This poem listens - glistens - baits - waits.
August 30, 2006
Today, again, it rains - each drop's a rhyme -
beating time - precipitating from
my brain onto a page in ways
that others gauge as formally "internal" –
Seems to me infernal to suggest an outer
or an inner anything: a sort of mass
hypnotic cultural lobotomy results
in our imagining "dichotomy."
But argument's banal.
I'd rather walk out with a pail to capture pings
and plops from all the assonantly falling
drops and come back in and give them spin -
to banish any doubt that I could ever keep
a rainy rhyme from spilling out.
August 29, 2006
The Worst of One's Bewilderment
Standing lamp, small faded shade - with painted
roosters - red and green - cavorting ‘round
the cone of it: as if to mark the zone of it
as theirs - that is, to offset the considerable airs
of my stuffed monkey jester, slinky bounder clad
and hatted in sleek velvet - midnight blue and dark
cerise - whose malleable limbs cling to the frieze
of metal loops - from one of which additionally swings
a stylishly be-glittered cardboard turquoise
peacock - loops and boughs that fix the lampshade
and its bulb onto a slender trunk of pole that shoots
down to the floor: a scaffolding that dates back
to whenever my step-grandmother obtained it - 1944,
I'll guess - although my monkey and my peacock
timelessly and tirelessly refresh it every day - in their way.
I cannot understand - much less affect - one speck
of motive in the dimmest being in the sentient Universe
but I create assemblages like these to make
me think I've got some sway. Roosters, monkeys,
peacocks keep the worst of one's bewilderment at bay.
August 28, 2006
The Thing To Pray To
Air shelters: spreads a silken mist - too mild
to matter, save to cosset skin - a gossamer
gray drizzle shimmers and inhabits, freshens
and encompasses the whole without - within -
today: as watercolor backdrop to a long red
barge that slowly makes its way upriver. Off
the pier, a Chinese immigrant casts bait to fish
for the unseen: no poison suds on this beguiling
opalescent Hudson anymore: it’s cleansed
of much that had been toxic not too long before.
I look back at Manhattan kneeling softly in
the fog and wonder about prayer. I think I used
to think it meant one had to supplicate some
Being not quite 'there' - or near. Today I know
the thing to pray to’s everywhere, and here.
August 27, 2006
Watering the Garden
She's been away for days and days and while
she's gone I fight the rays of brutal August sun
by daily hosing down six dozen plants and
bushes, flowerpots and trees and vines - behind
a stiff command of iron fence in front of one of
Greenwich Village's brick row houses: a scream
of thirsty roots and leaves, insatiably complaining
like a bunch of alkies in a bar whom I have evidently
gone too far in keeping from the quantity of drink
they need. I stand there dousing them and think
that as I scour the dirt with flood - attempt to satiate
each weed and bud - that I'm unequal to the task.
If only I could fix a flask to each's photosynthesizing
grasp! What do they want from me? I cannot pipe
Infinity - I am no endlessly replenishing divinity -
I have my limits, spinach! They do not sympathize.
But now - oh joy! - some god supplies! I rise
to hear the rain on window pane: oh, plants! -
if I were with you now, I'd raise a glass and slap
you on your happy wet collective waterholic ass.
August 26, 2006
The brush on naked skin
of someone's lips and fingertips -
preternaturally tune and wield:
as if the lips and fingertips knew
more about the skin they brushed
than who the skin concealed.
Someone else just riffled through
you like a breeze - tickled,
teased you into weakness in
the knees. At times like these
you wonder if the wonders never
cease. Of course they don't -
and this one won't, although already
it kaleidoscopes to memories.Touch, withdrawn: here, gone.
August 25, 2006
To Bear the Cross
Fond notion that I might appropriate
some portion of the whole and call it
mine: that I could ever cordon off
a piece of It - gate it into exclusivity:
confine "alone" and "own" - or entertain
the fiction that "vacation's" ever possible:
as if there ever were a moment you
could vacate. No escape: you have
to carry weight. I want to turn my back
on my friend's odd and broken state
of mind, in which I cannot find one
correlate to mine: his notes don't fit
my song. If I can't grasp his Universe,
I'm right and he is wrong - or so, on
grounds of vanity, I judge his sanity.
They say when Lincoln was depressed
about a battle being lost, he traveled to
the front to hear his soldiers talk and
mourn the cost. I suspect you have
to let it all come in to bear the cross.
August 24, 2006
The Greater Word
Lend an ear, bird:
hear me sing
the greater word -
stronger than your
Absolute and Must.
Think about surrendering
your claw and wing
August 23, 2006
The cornucopia of August spills: to birth
and death: as imminent as bated breath
and pregnancy: an educated guess, a bet,
a fullness and an almost emptiness: a nest
from which the bird will always fall after
it cracks the egg and learns to fly. I caught
the old man's eye just now: he's ninety-three -
slowly navigating five long flights of steps
each day, each way, as he goes buying milk,
discarding garbage, taking part. His cornucopia
is one big quaking cart and breaking heart:
a bursting point: the sum and the subtraction
of a life: no wait: despite the pain: no strife.
Incarnation is the husband, Eternity's the wife.
August 22, 2006
David Niven and My Father
People sometimes ask me who my father was
and I am stumped to offer explanation: it's as if
I wasn't granted half the ration of imagination
I would need to fill the blank he left when he
absconded with his life six years ago. Since
then varieties of tears have flowed at his and others'
provocation: everybody dies and if, by chance,
you find you're still alive you've got to deal with it,
and generally find you do. But now I'm faced with
looking at the calendar: it's August 21st, my father's
birthday - he'd be ninety-three today: and how
felicitously Turner Classic Movies has prepared to
cater to him! Monday's cinematic menu is devoted
to showcasing David Niven. Mr. Niven and my father,
Carl, had something of the same proclivities - both
could wear an ascot without seeming fey: both
had something of the same delicious sense of
the absurd: both made way through this confounding
Universe by dint of charm. But, much as I would
like to frame them arm in arm, my father, Carl, is
not so easily analogized as that. I round the shadow
by remembering how he would coo and croon to
bird and dog and cat: as if some animal beneath
the gentleman longed desperately to spring and be
and banish all the heavy apparatus of conditioning
and doubt. Perhaps that was the blessing in his
Alzheimers: in his last years, the animal came out.
August 21, 2006
Cooper Union Doesn't Care
Buildings breathe. Their stone and brick
and concrete sleeves suggest through
imperceptible soft trembling - glowing
in the moonlight, mirroring the sun -
that every one of them - each speck of
matter in them - seethes and buzzes
secretly: harboring their subatomic hives.
The deadest doornail is alive. I walk
through Soho and East Village streets -
attend to 1850's storefronts: they transcend
the cheap distractions of the living:
human noise and sham surround like flies
around a ham: the meat and bone
of which cure privately as if for some
unprecedented future Deity's repast.
Human beings may have been the agency
through whom these creatures came to pass:
but they persist quite out of harmony with
what had been the time and mind of their
nativity and past. Lincoln spoke at Cooper
Union: yes - but Lincoln's gone and
Cooper Union is still there and Cooper
Union - gleaming and respiring in the city's
ever-cooling, -warming air - doesn't care.
August 20, 2006
“Truly, life is just one damn thing after another. The writer’s business
is to find the shape in unruly life and to serve her story. Not, you may note,
to serve her family, or to serve the truth, but to serve the story.” Dorothy Gallagher
How You'll Be Paid
Excuse me, dear, but you belong to me.
It isn't anything particularly to fear - that
is, I don't especially expect to nail you to
a cross and have my way with you in some of the more
lurid senses in which "have my way with you" is meant:
let's just say that you make up my currency and I'll employ
you to provide me with precisely what I want until the last
of you is spent. Here's the good news: you won't know it 'til you read it.
Here's the bad: you haven't any choice in how you'll have been had. In
my hands you are the clay of some new Mayan flat-top pyramid on top
of which my sacrifices must be made. You will be the stuff and glory of
my lusts and fantasies: my golden calf, the raw meat of a calumny, the worst and best -
by half. You will be a figure of the sun seen through my shade. That's how you'll be paid.
August 19, 2006
I dream of skeins of sound drawn thinly from
a bow across a violin's Baroque high-acrobatic
gut string wire: Platonic right arm pull and lift
and wing and delicacy chastening desire: nothing
from the left hand but a cool and dry exactitude.
I wake and try to play it: wet the thing with sweet
vibrato: fix it with my messy personality: all volupté
and lassitude - goosed here and there by fat
Romantic vigor: but no tighter rigor. Bach inhabits
silver: I live in the mud. Spirit battles flesh in him
and wins: in me the skin supplants the thought
and thuds and swims in sweat: I'm spent and wet
when I am done. Bach has just begun to have
his fun in his Chaconne: goes - solo - deep and
high into the ether - finds the heart and brings it
back and makes me start the whole shenanigan
again - spluttering and stuttering while bowing.
Bach sits watching like a Buddha, glowing.
August 18, 2006
Tonight I am not home
Tonight I am not home
to you. I'm barely home
to me. I just got back
from Washington D.C.
and fell into the whomping
density of New York City -
oh! - I thought, one morning,
afternoon or night I'll die,
and it may make you cry,
but I won't mind as long
as I abide voluptuously snug
between Manhattan's sultry
thighs when I say bye.
I told you I'd be home today:
tomorrow I will say I lied.
August 17, 2006
On Seeing "The Marriage of Figaro" at Wolf Trap
Anarchic gall! To think we had
the right to build and play
on top of all this wilderness
and swamp - cut it down
and dry it up and romp all over it -
subject it to our whims and
passions, yearnings, art - erect
a giant wooden outdoor stage
and light it, wire it for sound,
endow it with a hundred sixty singers
and musicians, props and God-
knows-what to promulgate three hours
of Mozart! Just who on Earth do
we suspect we are? Living
miracles? Pieces of a fallen star?
August 16, 2006
broad Imperial design. I'll find a way to make it mine.
August 15, 2006
One Two Punch
The thing to do
is find the itch
by scratching it
in every last
until you get so
far down into it
that it will go away -
that is, reveal itself
as never having
been. The thing
to do is locate sin,
discover it is
nothing. The thing
to do is ransack
and discard their
stuffing. The thing
to do is see the empty
space and find
its grace. Sing to -
woo the Universe.
That's the thing
to do - first.
(Just wait until
by your soul
to do the second.)
August 14, 2006
Which seed is he? One erupts into an ecstasy:
spewing color, fluff and thrill: another finds toxicity
necessity - whatever creature swallows it, it kills.
He seeks unending evidence of the miraculous: he will
do anything to find and follow it. In search, he took me
into church on New-York-City-August's bright Fifth
Avenue: all oak and walnut - soft acoustics, brown and
Presbyterian: quiet, cool and kind. He sat down in a pew:
descended into his frenetic and - a shrink would surely
diagnose - bipolar mind. He sobbed. I tried to comfort
him: he lobbed me off his racket like an uninvited tennis
ball. "Only connect:" Forster was naive. Sometimes all
it's possible to do is grieve. But what should I believe?
To him, right now, the Universe is one baptismal font
and feast - and he is both the baby and the priest. To what
more availing well do I go? What the hell do I know?
August 13, 2006
Dreamed I couldn't get out, couldn't speak.
Stutter so bad that all words were a squeak
and a rasp. Handling anything - out of my grasp.
My mother dreamed something like this as she crept toward her last.
She was sitting alone on a bench at a bus-stop and couldn't get up.
No longer half-full or half-empty: no cup.
No bus would arrive.
Imprimatur of how at the end she felt oddly alive.
August 12, 2006
The Next Part
There was a time when I could rhyme myself
with sweat, audacity and flesh and make the very
notion of what sex was fresh - for lucky me and you.
Like sea bass soaring towards a bouillabaisse:
I had the stuff to make a memorably funky stew.
But now - some central part of me forgets.
The body parts get wet and rev up to an old familiar
heat when suddenly my heart develops uninvited
beats that grind me down and leave me - slowly
breathing - on my back. It's not a heart attack, it's
more the murmur of some wind-borne notion that
reminds me I don't really want this thick hormonal
ocean anymore: I've seen too many sea creatures,
sung too many hymns to Him and now don't want
to swim. I'd rather seek the sand and dry, and look up
at the sky and figure out the next part: how to fly.
August 11, 2006
The Opposite of No
It's an eternal tidal wave -
it never stops - despite our
of a rhythm
in which intermittent
calm oases let us cease -
adopt for moments just
a little peace: we
can't for long
pretend - we have to face
we never left the headlong
rush again: just
when it all began
or may at some point end
is not the point of surf:
if a tsunami had
a brain it could
sustain one thought alone -
the opposite of no:
which isn't "yes" but GO.
August 10, 2006
The Ordinariness of Flight
Colors - dusky red and turquoise - wrestled through a mortar
and a pestle into powder from chopped stone - turned
with water, gently poured from porcelain plates, to paste -
thumbed and rubbed and honed and then diluted and diluted
once again until the hues resemble jade and pinkish blood -
provide the hunched Tibetan painter means to make the mural
up above him flood and glisten - fit the eye and wall it clings
to like a lissome silken glove: seems to have discovered
an ineffable and alien love for which he, solely, has the heart.
His part is secret: we can only watch. Meanwhile on upper
floors of the museum soars an army of mad hatters known as
"Siddhas" - "spiritually accomplished ones" - who blow the lids
off sanity - caught in their impossibilities: riding long-tongued
zombies, chasing courtesans and flying like sweet beasts
with saffron wings. Their bright unworried eyes make their
contorted soaring seem the most expected, unremarkable
of things. Embroidered silk and holy madness drive away -
for just this taste and touch of an eternity - my soul-deep
sadness. I know someone who strains against the limits of
his brain - it might be mania, or schizophrenia, or grace. Now,
at these Tibetan heights, I wonder if I'm not observing in
my friend's departure from himself - and in the painter's
concentrated trance - and in the wild dancing Siddhas making
mayhem through the night - the enigmatic ordinariness of flight.
August 9, 2006
I feel - but cannot seem to say - the larger thing.
Wings flutter - keep me hovering - aloft enough
to gather what impressions of the whole I can.
I only know to bring them with me note by note -
learned by ear, cupped in hand. I am Vivaldi's
choir of orphan girls - each learning her small part
and waiting for the Maestro to impart some unity
and sense. One measure in the fugue can only
distantly imply what may be huge in the design -
lucid in the dense. But it's the only way I know,
so far, remotely to align: minutely tend this garden
of the mind - line by line by bit by bit - in hope
that I might find a drop of psychic comprehension
in some jot of it. So far no leaf of song seems
to belong to any other: there's no comparative.
Perhaps that is the larger thing: my narrative.
August 8, 2006
Who wouldn't want to steal a trick or two - from Dr. Phil
or Looney Tunes or Proust - to goose oneself onto another
higher sweeter lighter roost - direct one's feelings like a film? -
perhaps by fingering a cherished love-note, funny photograph -
or bathing in the volupté and convolutions of a favorite
Jamesian paragraph - or wallowing in Casablanca's Bergman
haunting Bogart. But hearts cannot, on cue, be made to care.
They caution when we want to dare. We want to melt:
they freeze. We have about as much control of them as
someone with the flu can stop a sneeze. Yesterday I met
a kitten by the name of Spider. On Tenth Street - east of
Second Avenue - his fragile wriggling warmth was offered up by
some beguiling smiling plump young matron - who kept him
in the pocket of her apron - hoping that he might be taken
home by me or you. I've never seen a happier thing. All he knew
to do was purr and writhe and cling. He should have made
my being sing. But like his namesake, other feelings crept
with tiny spindly legs up, into, through - then stung and
icily exploded: TILT! - the pinball game inside my heart
imploded: I'd felt too much that day already. I left the little
spider in his web, and walked away: determined to hold steady.
August 7, 2006
Like Lizzie Murdered Bordens
Yesterday I grabbed Tchaikovsky by the balls and
made him howl - but he allowed my plowing to continue -
as long, that is, as I subjected myself to his tsarist rule -
however clunkily - addressed him as the maestro
with a passionate vibrato on my trapped, convicted violin.
He knew as long as I was playing him - thrash, cajole
or hammer though I might - I couldn't win the fight.
Before then Beethoven commanded me and beat me
to a pulp. I gulp each time I face his prospects of deliverance.
No halfway measure here: all awe and fear. I must
enslave myself to every double sharp and flat and brilliantly
perverse sforzando or be banned forever from his land.
Tyrannically and inextricably connected like a child to
demanding and abusive parents - though which is who
and who is which is not always apparent - Tchaikovsky,
Beethoven, my bow and violin are prisoners and wardens.
I'd like to kill the lot of them, like Lizzie murdered Bordens.
August 6, 2006
Dumb, and Growing Dumber
How we seek sense in density and absence! -
Rorschach blots and random dots and other
marks of chaos are the grist for our deductive
mills: amazing how the Universe's random spills
are turned by nervous minds into symmetrical -
allegedly prophetic or explanatory - "finds": we
squeeze from mess the barely educated guess
that something can be charted from beginning to
an end. And, spinning, spend our energies
contriving constant reassurance that we know
a little of what's going on. My eyes see pixels,
and create a city street, today a drier bluer version
than the hot-funk-town that saturated meat all week
till now. I say the weather's "fine" - demonstrably.
I pick the things I want to see, ignore what surely
is the wide majority of all the rest. Supposedly
this is the best use of my faculties but secretly -
as I attempt to make some sense of summer -
I surmise the truth, the more I prize my own
conclusions, is: I'm dumb, and growing dumber.
August 5, 2006
Teaspoon Of It
One tastes a teaspoon of it at one's peril:
odd thick August air, so full of languid ease,
despair: I peer out of my aerie at the makings
of a storm - as if some addled mystic angel
cook were not quite sure if he were whisking
egg whites or performing arcane rites of
alchemy with dust and the effluvia of dozing
bodies - stolen from their exhalations in
the lightest stage of sleep: sky steeps bits
of fleece and mushroom soup and drifts of
half-digested dreams, as if it were a giant
sieve through which the creams and steams
of human indecision were now trickling, dripping,
pouring through: a soft mush of anxiety - made
gentle by the clouds' propriety in staying up,
so far, instead of falling down. Though soon
the change will come: and everything the world
holds back will deluge sense again, diffusely
and completely - to the concupiscent heat
and funereal beat of August thunder's drum.
August 4, 2006
Life, for the Moment, Defined
I wonder if all life is not unlike the year of 1910,
four years before a war, when Howard's End
propended to pronouncements about subtle
wars of class, and Paris boasted (on December
Third) a neon sign - first in the world - appended to
the glass of its new Motor Show - attended by
sweet rotor-motion of a slew of fashionably turned-
out girls whose hips sent tiny seismic shocks
up through their coiffured curls and down into
their furling street-length skirts. I wonder if all life
is not unlike the three-piece suits and ironed shirts
of men just at the end of the Edwardians: metaphoric
military phallic swordsmen striding to and fro
like so much lost spermatozoa: searching for
a secret egg up someone's hidden faintly rosy
alabaster leg. I wonder if all life is not unlike the bloom
of the erotic in a room of Henry James's own:
unspeakably unknowably alone: heart-ache over
tea-cake. I wonder if you can't make life into whatever
you've a liking to make life into. Today the early
teens of Europe tease, appease. I get no quarrel
from my referent: life never argues: it agrees.
August 3, 2006
The Shadow and the Glory
Can't break or make the stuff we're made of.
Matter slips to energy: force turns into things:
your psyche flickers - yodels - patters - sings.
(Existential angst is hubris.) All is changeless
in eternity. Fraternity of being ranges large
and deep and strange - in drifts of quantum
snow. You're in a monumental show. Evoked:
a gut-deep rude guffaw: the law. Your shtick -
an evidently necessary part of it - can't be
revoked - and will be mindlessly re-stoked -
and re-invoked. Energy's the set-up - matter is
the punch: the shadow and the glory of the joke.
August 2, 2006
You Wouldn't Have to Give it Back
If I could lend you one small
bit of an infinity I would.
(You wouldn't have to give
it back.) It might cast just
the needed spell of letting
you believe that all is now
and always will be well.
There is something bright -
ungovernable - volatile in
you called life. Now you
slice and fight it with
a mental knife: to split it
into good guys, bad guys,
brutal lessons to be learned.
If you could borrow from me
one small bit of an infinity
(you wouldn't have to give it
back) you mightn't think that
safety in the soul could
only mortally be earned.
August 1, 2006
I have obligations. Yesterday I scrubbed my kitchen floor
and vacuumed my rug, rewrote - rewrote - rewrote
a ghastly poem till it didn't make me cringe - fed a good
friend's lonely cat. Today I fed the lonely cat again,
returned a dozen phone calls - lawyer, friends,
acquaintances in varying bewilderments - one in dire
distress - and met the minimum requirements of feeding,
cleaning, dressing, catering to my incarnate flesh: quite
carefully I scissored fingernails off my right hand with
my ineptly insufficient left. My world went on okay, I guess.
Two memories won't go away. The echo of the mournful
call the cat made when I ventured in each day. And how
the ancient lady in the wheelchair on the sidewalk whom
I passed on West End Avenue looked into me as if to say,
"Don't ever go away." I had obligations so I couldn't stay.
July 31, 2006
Napoleon and me
Determined to pursue the Russian army
all the way to Moscow, Napoleon fought the flu.
In the biting wind and rain he faced his future
with a fever. Levering his Enemy into the best
position to be killed, he steeled himself to disbelieve
his own mortality - enrobing in puissance-de-Dieu -
he exercised ague- and world-defying godly
autocratic will. I am equivalently ill. I'm drawn to
grand denial and hyperbole no less than he.
My capacity for a selective take on what the tapestry
reveals is thoroughly unbounded. I have a taste
for the unfounded. I think the paradox of being
human must contain these two perplexities:
the felt necessity of bald self-revelation and
the urgency of clinging to the lie. Amounts to this:
Plan never to know anything. Expect to die.
July 30, 2006
The messages come thick and fast - like
Joan of Arc with her Saints Margaret and
Catherine and Michael, his spirit-guides
provide him clear instruction: their disciple,
he turns left or right - away from dark (he says)
towards light. Perhaps it is projection but it gives
him some assurance of protection - for a moment
he is safe. I can't assess this as pathology:
it seems to me an absolutely viable response
to feeling spiritually chafed - ripped raw. Dumped
into the depths of the abyss you will do anything
to promulgate at least the fleeting sense of
some experience of bliss: that is the law.
I sit here knowing nothing but that it is human
to resist the sucking maw that wants to swallow
him. I only wonder that I haven't followed him.
July 29, 2006
Eyes in the subway seem to look at something, though
they don't appear to look at much. They are purveyors
of transition: proclaiming to each mind and body that we
aren't really here. I catch their transitoriness - and disappear.
I wield a key, unlock an upper west side uptown door and
see the cat who's in my charge to pet and tend this week -
and he implores the air with yowling need - pleads me to
completely feed his emptiness. I catch the virus: his abyss.
Someone I love finds life as he'd once lived it is intolerable:
he vaults above the boundaries of an unimaginable hell to
weave a desperate spell of artificial heaven: all that tied
him he has severed, tossed. I catch what he has and I'm lost.
My artist friend and I have lunch and her eyes take in
everything, exemplify the certainty of all that is, invite
me to regale her with what I see too. She markets radiance
and other soul-supplies. I catch what she has and I rise.
July 28, 2006
Bubble Baths and Crystal Meth
Bubble baths and crystal meth and other forms of
what amount to cognitive attempts to touch the soul
are not enough for me, although conceptually and
sometimes actually they used to seem to be. But now
I get my POW directly from the source: the alpha
and omega jackpot of the course. I look - and there's
the miracle. Sometimes it's spherical: I'm in a spinning
circle fully three-dimensional: a zone in which sharp
angles are unknown. Sometimes it seems more like
consensual ménage-à-mille - a glorious unending multi-
bodied orgy full of pleasurably strange sensations and
activity: at times the shock presents as an imploding clock -
a Dali-esque reminder that if we invented Time (and
hoo! we did) we could invent alternatives far more sublime -
and truer to the prurient experience of ogling Eternity:
close enough for us to sense its meat. Sometimes
the miracle is sweet as blood would be to vampire bats:
compulsively pursued, fantastically delicious but not
made of anything you knew, could know. Sometimes
the blast and thunder blow capriciously - bursting like
a random fireworks display: pretty little neurons falling
like confetti in a shaken snow globe: indiscriminately
fleecy, happy, white. Bubble baths and crystal meth
and other forms of what amount to cognitive attempts to
touch the soul can't touch what really makes you whole:
it's right there in the obvious - the stuff on which a gnat
subsists: the endlessly surprising clues that we exist.
July 27, 2006
Thick Green Glass
He makes his place in density as if he were a minnow
separated from his school - reflexively and self-protectively
on guard against the ocean's cruel indifference - imagining
the world as predator, he scoots and shoots and bubbles out
self-soothing soft non sequiturs - amid the green-gold aqueous
thick grassy blades: "I am a fish of God and God's a fish
of me - I pray no shark or crab will make a dish of me" -
darting through the slippery and waving reeds as if somewhere
within his loneliness he might discover seeds of - purpose - to
allow him to resurface into habitable life. Right now it seems
the only way that he can possibly imagine getting loose
of terror is to gravitate to these seaweed extremes: to isolate
within his own unfathomably dark and terrible Sargasso Sea
to wait for some unfathomable savior. Imagine some sadistic
glazier has imprisoned you in thick green glass in which you're
doomed to dream of endless flight from an inevitable imminent
catastrophe. He hasn't realized yet he doesn't have to do this
to himself. And yet, right now, for him, there's nothing else.
July 26, 2006
"You could define art as a passionate desire for accuracy." T. E. Hulme
What I Spill
All I've got are words. Auden
sometimes called them turds - best
forgotten when begotten - enjoyed
for just the moment of evacuation.
I think that's how I take them.
Although I felt a moment's shiver
as I shoved my hand repeatedly into
the cardboard file I'd bought
to handle and deliver the considerable
pile of alphabetic bouillabaisse
that I'd assessed might get me into
Westbeth - subsidized apartments
for Manhattan artists - stuffing twenty
years of overcoming fears of
letting out whatever burned in me to
sing - and as I dabbed a touch
of white-out on the thing (to cover
several nervous typos on my contact
info) - picked it up to feel its funereal
heft - I wondered for a second
what, in giving up this stuff, I might
have left. Could I still write? Should
I make extra photocopies of each
tight and bursting paragraph and
verse that I had crammed into this
fragile cardboard purse to keep as
evidence I could? Nah - no good.
I'll just do what I have done: try to get
my language to behave while knowing
that it never will. It doesn't matter
awfully what - at Westbeth, here
or anywhere - I dump or keep or spill.
July 25, 2006
As Near As Here Could Be
Since infancy I have suspected something strange:
an urgent, obvious, involving presence always just
a nano-millimeter out of range: as if the most
familiar face I've known - whose cheeks and lips
I could imagine brushing with my own - were
pressing palpably against a taut translucent sheet
to meet and greet - as harbinger of, gateway to -
a fullness and dimensionality as freshly obvious
as flesh - and yet quite different from the rest of what
I had accepted as 'the real.' Just this side of visibly,
I nearly felt it physically right as my brother died, late
March of 1989: my hand felt drawn into some softly
sucking space, as if to bid me follow some quite patent
line that he, by dying, traced and drew: as if I could
reach through to - grasp - wherever he had gone: and
that it was an ordinary place: as near as here could be.
And yet "as if" did not quite ripen into "is." Experience
of it remains unanswered quiz. I wonder if the thing
will ever dawn beyond my senses' seeming prohibition -
authenticate my intuition. I don't know. Meanwhile,
within - without - I undergo its pressure and its glow.
July 24, 2006
As near as I can be
I don't know what portion of the mind defines insanity:
I know the floodgates open in Tourette's to tics
and indiscriminate profanity: bipolarity has harrowing
and drastic swings: hallucinating people, things -
seeing paradise in hell, and hell in the Edenic - may -
they say - point to the schizophrenic: mad or compos
mentis - perturbations of the brain and heart and soul:
what divides the whole? - who's master, who's apprentice? -
who's captain, crewman, in the floating state of being
human? I have a friend whose dark propensities, ideas
and fears appear to have redoubled in intensity: all
I know is that he's badly troubled. I don't know what is
sane for him: I cannot play the game for him. There's
surely something deep inside that he might reach for.
All I can do is hope he'll find it - from as near as I can be:
spectating - praying - in the front row of the bleachers.
July 23, 2006
Can't Seem Not To
I used to do it for a living. Experience once
readily devolved into great stretches of the stuff:
it never seemed to be a pose, that prose.
Lines of freshly laundered adverbs, adjectives,
conjunctions, pronouns, prepositions would
surround my Stonehenge monoliths of verbs and
nouns like togas ready for the gods. But now
the very notion of a sentence plods: nothing goes
into the earnest dry casuistry of paragraphs and
lives! What gives? The alphabet has turned to
pale fine clay - will only let itself be fired through
a kiln into a hard thin porcelain, to ping its tiptoe
way fastidiously through a tiny feast of punctuation -
comma, dash and colon - like some breathing
Meissen golem. Can't seem not to write a poem.
Wish You Were Here
I don't want to travel. Why unravel
the quotidian - the precious contents
of the everyday - to get away to some
remote venue they say is guaranteed
to entertain, renew - some island,
lake or cape? Why such hunger for
escape - horror of the near? Everything
is always new right here. Vacation:
to vacate - what want does that placate?
There is no noose from which you must
vamoose. Unless of course it's dying.
And who knows: something may be
flying after that. I'll wait for death to make
the batter splat - and flip the pancake.
'Til then, right here's the trip I'll take.
July 22, 2006
My Gentle, Smoky Father
Heavy summer morning rain -
stains the lamplight,
tramps on day, creates a little
night in my apartment:
mostly comfortingly spooky -
beguiling in a ghostly way -
as if my kind, intrusive,
humming father had
returned from death to light
his pipe and sway my
sensibilities again - with over-
burdened stories and advice:
his scent of pipe smoke
would be nice. Today I strain
against a strangely sourceless
pain, anxiety. If I let it be,
I wonder if it might, by increments,
entice - like some initially
unpalatable spice you
slowly grow to like: as dark
and interesting and dense
as summer rain - distracting
as the fuss and bother of
my gentle, smoky father.
For Jan Pengelly - London, April 2005
We walked along the Thames together -
English silver April weather -
London woman - New York man -
whose poems had begun to span
the ocean towards each other:
words uncovered sister, brother -
shared sensibility and heart.
I can't quite name the finest part
of that gray-blue and changing day:
perhaps it was the startling way
we laughed - and paused - while listening -
with ancient London nuance glistening
beyond the gray Embankment in the river.
Impossible to tell the gift from giver.
July 21, 2006
I morph. I used to be Display -
but now I am a Crucible -
a vessel in which Being melts
until it's irreducible. Everything
before was bling: baubles and
medallions - and a regal ring -
designed to show you I was king
of what I thought I was the king of:
I could play and fight and write
and sing: I wore diplomas for my
shirts and diapers: my eyelashes
were window-wipers, sweeping
clean the surface of each pupil
to regard my shiny world in duple.
But now I've lost each scruple:
gold gets cold: transmuted by
despair and certain changes in
the air, I'm scattered - shattered
to fine mist. My stuff is far less
pricey on the market. Can't find
a place to park it. Once my butt
was singularly here. Now my ass
is grass: it's everywhere. I no longer
rake it in, I take it in. "What do you
do?" I'm asked. "Amass, amass."
Vive le Fromage
The brie is dead!
They chilled it ‘til it died.
I guess it’s no surprise.
America despises cheese
that seethes and breeds.
France likes it alive.
July 20, 2006
A Chic and Stylish Poem
Sew a chic and stylish poem.
Endow it now
with haute couture to show 'em
your grace and pow.
Strive to keep its contours clear
yet from the heart
(you fear some knot unravels here -
but where - what part?) -
employ your sure and practiced craft
with sharp precision -
pursue the perfect final draft -
stitch with decision.
But damn - still no phylogeny
of limpid lines
to tender a homogeny
of lucent signs!
So cut your losses, fancy words,
and end this ruse.
A lot of fussy feathered birds! -
you're gonna lose.
You’ve no gift for the rigorously
chic. Make peace
with knitting more ambiguously
thick dark fleece.
July 19, 2006
No Telling When
Found out about an old and twisted maple tree - which
when I was a monkey-boy I climbed and swung on
frequently: it's gone. Long Island beetles over decades
battled it - and ate it secretly to death: seems to slam
another no into the notion I might ever dive headlong into
the ocean of my childhood again - but memory is not
declarative or narrative or linear: it sweeps the landscape
like the whinny of a horse - storm of hoof and flank - rudely
rank and indiscriminately fresh - warming, cooling, soothing
and upending spirit - flesh - exactly as it will: my present
is its spill. The horse morphs into an enormity: a beast
I sense but cannot see: dark matter-mammal-mama of
my private idiosyncrasies as big as an eternity - sits fat
beside my bed, inside my sieving head, bestride my
wordy-weaving loom, resides right in my living room:
voluptuously steeping like Manhattan in July: answering
my why - she is my ne plus ultra, incarnation of the fatal
instant, ever-coming-birth - dark dearth of everything I think
I know and see: beginning and the end of me. That old and
twisted maple tree is gone. Unless, of course, I get back on
that horse. No telling when - but she can get me there again.
July 18, 2006
Like lines - Bahama sand -
forearm hair -
fastidious distinctions -
English mist -
fragile web -
spider's lair -
and texture -
How am I?
July 17, 2006
Schooled to be Promiscuous
As I half-wake into the confines of my bed, forsaking
sleep to meet the mandate of the dawn - ritually
microwaving coffee I made yesterday - obediently
padding to the toilet to release the pee backed up
in me since sometime just before the hour of three -
within a gathering complexity of other organized
attempts to stay and stem what I am evidently sure
would otherwise be psychic mayhem - some spirit
like Rapunzel sits inside a little room atop the buttressed
thick-brick locked-up tower of my head, and waits.
She knows for all the gates and barriers I put around her
she will get her kiss. Some rogue she's never met will
find an opening that I have missed through which
she can let drop the golden braid of her deliverance.
Schooled to be promiscuous, she's gotten used to this.
July 16, 2006
The Thing Itself
Describe - and merely circumscribe.
Buzz 'round the hive and never know
exactly what and how the Queen
connives? Nah. Get inside. Inspect.
Be the regnant insect. Be rude. Don't
pursue. Be what's pursued - the thing
itself: the belch - don't be shocked at
its effrontery and lack of politesse: be
what heats the blood beneath the dress -
the beating part of heart - not the critic,
but the art. Don't stop outside the door.
There's too much more. Be the door.
July 15, 2006
Snow White Skin and Death-Dark Hair
Shock of silk - moth-soft and marble-smooth: you brush
the skin - which sheathes a pulling grace of muscle - long
and warm - beneath - within: the man, a pearl-flame
spirit lost - invisible - beside the sun - too bright to see -
too wantonly eruptive not to feel: too odd to think he could
be real. Your eyes will not adjust. You summon up your
secret guide to take you back to some place you can trust:
to find the cave again - too close a shave! - when you
discover something's hot and stuck inside your palm: a tiny
bomb - a violence! - too live and wild - a butterfly with toxic
wings - a buzz-like insect whine now sings and stings
its needles through your ears and mind: it doesn't matter
that you're back - behind - inside your hollow now - with all its
darknesses and densities and vines. You bungle in this jungle.
Some phosphorescent heat flits through you as if you were
made of nothing: lights the air in an impertinent exasperating
flare: a fairy-elf like Ariel - while you, like Caliban, galumph -
spelunk - towards some imagined, hoped-for blackness
where you might not have to touch - be moved - be loved -
be brave. Your cave seems like a grave. You met someone.
You're scared. Snow White skin and death-dark hair.
July 14, 2006
Thick suspicious air, clotted like conspiracy:
hard to trust humidity, this damp and brutal day:
too much like the way your head gets when
you're fighting a rigidity - a craving-something-now:
perplexing hex!: the sweat, the heat, the flesh:
sometimes you think the only thing it's possible
to want is sex - until the recollections coalesce
and worsen: and you remember sex entails
another person. Snake around in search of old
facility: things you used to like to do: books or food:
a movie, maybe: you could take yourself alone.
The phone sits silent in your air-conditioned home:
too cool to be believable. Surely something is
retrievable: a clarity, an answer to disparity. Thick
suspicious air. Ambient July despair? You don't
particularly care. No need for fight or flight. Write.
July 13, 2006
Coddle, Suck and Woo
"...time as a quantifiable, linear entity is a mirage. All time and no time
are the same. A couple making love for an hour is a cloud of luminosity."
Holland Cotter, review of Atta Kim's photography,
New York Times, July 12, 2006
Sex? Fun. Let it be -
Wake it! Shake and bake it:
take and give - and take it.
Fall upon your knees.
Give the meat a squeeze.
Flop down on your back.
Fill your happy lack.
Stay here all the day.
Have the thing be play.
Bite the hot infernal.
Swallow warm eternal.
Inner, outer space
occasion this embrace.
Coddle, suck and woo
the God in "fuck" - and you.
July 12, 2006
Knock on Wood
Today he met the morning with a full
fat simple infant smile: unreasonably
mild, as if all things were done already
and no other thing remained: as if there
weren't anyone to wait for anymore -
as if the notion that one could be bored
were arrantly unthinkable; life - adored,
unsinkable! - was all the fashion and
the rage today: nothing mattered now
but now. Cowed by so much happiness!
He'd better knock on wood. Tomorrow
might not be so good. Time returned, his
smile fled, he bled with loneliness, too
many things to do: a mess! - nothing
mattered but the future and the past.
Tedium is all that lasts! The die was cast:
the forecast, doom. And then he looked
around the room, inspected it from ceiling to
the floor: nothing but his mood had changed:
no more. He heard a tapping at the door.
Someone else had knocked on wood.
He opened it - and there he stood! Him-
self! A doppelgänger fresh from his
Creator's shelf! "Are you me, or am I you?"
they asked, together, understanding little
about two, which seemed like one.
They were stunned: and weren't sure
that this was fun. Then I woke up and they
were gone and groggily I wondered why
they'd come. Another dream I hadn't
understood. But I was sure: this one,
one day, I could. Knock on wood.
July 11, 2006
Sleeping giants, wallowing like walruses: trapped
inside your thick-as-layered-concrete head -
sometimes muscles stretch and spread - opening
a soporific lid a slit before remanding it to grids
of heavy dreaming: snores and creaks and groans
imploring every soma of your memory to slip into
a coma, slowly rolling over on their lumpy bones,
enveloped in their steaming muddy bed: dense as
lead: close to dead: until some tiny chill - a thrill -
how many silent brimming crevices are poised to
spill? (A walrus now comes to - attacks - gives your
rocky hide a crack - then lumbers blunderingly back.)
You'd forgotten until yesterday that you were
twenty-two. You met somebody who reminded you.
July 10, 2006
Déjeuner sur l'herbe
Sympathy is boring. Empathy's a little better,
but not much. Here's the touch I want. Drop
your front. Pay attention and take note. Be
someone for whom nothing's rote. Lavish
days with languor: listen to the clangor: mark
its chaos and its tunes: jot and doodle, don't
conclude. Then let’s lunch. Talk about our
every bafflement and hunch. Make a private
clearing in the wood. Let the food be really good.
July 9, 2006
Today your mouth feels
like a Mack truck
drove over it. Pain is gold:
emboldens you to
certainty: teaches you
the starts and ends
of things. Curtains flip,
knuckles grip, dental
surgeon rips into
the window. Cut flesh on
his spindle, pass out into
dreams. Incursions of
sharp instruments: blood
streams - awakens,
heats. ("To make us
feel existence": Keats.)
Promising to render you,
your mouth and future whole -
quatrains, rhymes and dental
surgeon claim your sutured soul.
July 8, 2006
Reflecting on one's style is like
an eye attempting to regard itself:
the mirror merely pinpoints where
the pupil is, reveals the scrunch
and the expansion of one's lines.
I figure I've got thirty years of life
left, if I'm lucky: looking at my eye,
my style, my body or my verse
cannot refute the curse of their
momentum: all I can do is chart
them like a map, and even that,
I don't do very well. Past the fact
that I know how to spell - and
seem to need to plant my phrases
in configurations - I don't know
what to say. I never liked this stuff
before: poetry was one big snore.
Blake spewed gold by twenty: I've
never known that plenty. But now
I think the deal is this. I have
a style entirely produced by my
carnivorous desire to break the back
of death - barbecue and eat its flesh
until it fosters breath. I'll bust my
ass to string my assonances
on a line, like laundry flapping in
indifferent wind. I'll kick and punch
as decorously as this enterprise
permits, until, perhaps through some
internal rhyme, Eternity submits.
July 7, 2006
Short lucid life, strangely cursed
Short lucid life, strangely cursed - full of grace
but - lacking, oddly: lived by reflex - impulse -
splotchy memory - knit-raveling: mesh of fuzz
and simmering awarenesses: countering doubt
with body-wants: to eat, perchance to sleep -
or fuck - or otherwise go after dancing devils
in the dark - the deep: whom does one owe,
and what? Fuzz - simmering awarenesses;
some shimmering and daring souls appear to
know what to pursue. You wonder if they do.
July 6, 2006
Lump in the Throat
You want it over quick,
but that would be like thinking
you could pull the plug and
let it sluice right through - thin
instead of thick: the stuff will stick.
You say what you can say,
accentuating all the positives,
and exercise your firm prerogative
to leave the rest until another day,
or never. Then one day it belches
in the middle of a tea party,
and threatens to engorge your
throat forever. When I discovered
I had not acknowledged hell,
I didn't feel so well.
July 5, 2006
On This Day When I’m Supposed To
Thickly spread like too much marmalade on bread
a stultifying heat devours skin and dulls
Manhattan's ambient intensity: a tolerable din,
a comforting discomfort - something intimately
known and therefore loved - by reflex: like a mother's
tuneless hum: there's every reason to become
inert and prize inertia: coercion is unspeakable:
now is not the time to move. Mud-slow, I muse. Do
I love my country on this day when I'm supposed to?
July 4, 2006
Ain't No Easy Fight
At the surface right above the focus of the blast -
the epicenter of the heart - the angel and the beast
do not, precisely, co-exist: they mix and match
and coalesce and fix their gazes here and there
and everywhere: become each other and/or hybridize:
categorize them if you dare - they'll shatter into anywhere.
We want, we think, to abdicate the throne of blood
and grief: and give it to that hungry thief who thrills at
killing and at lusting over what he's killed: oh, let that
part of Soul be spilled! - like water on the wicked witch,
let evil melt and twitch to its last gasp: and let what
lasts switch to the open heart - be felt! Until we see
the skulking thief is us, and all his power-broking violent
sadistic fuss is at the core, no less or more than
breezy light. This ain't no easy fight. The beast is not
some atavistic relic: he's daily fed and wed to the angelic.
July 3, 2006
Post-Mortem Weather Report
What would you give for just one taste of
what comes after? Probably you're giving
it already. (Hold steady. It will come. But
not, on evidence, until you're viscerally
rendered dumb into some final incapacity.)
She committed her audacity three years
ago, five days from now. You saw her
struck down into knowing - or unknowing:
which? She's too bewitched to say. And
here you are in hot July praying for some
rain to wash the heat she cannot feel
away. Or praying, possibly, for it to stay.
July 2, 2006
Are We There Yet?
This excess! - this capacity to see and feel
and do and be! - too much to handle:
candle gutters and gives out: wax splats -
cools and hardens: that's that.
Fools and charlatans, geniuses and freaks,
sexy muthas and dull mousy geeks:
whoever sits complaining - whoever strives
and seeks - ends up on the heap.
Far? - (whee!) - swear - bet:
Are - we - there - yet?
July 1, 2006
As from a butcher to a deli tray I am displayed:
yesterday I was a plate of sliced salami
circularly shuffled to attract the lunch crowd
(I allowed a punk kid - hot and sweet - to steal
a greasy treat from me - thrill to feel him
peel it off!): day before I was a trussed-up turkey -
sexy, plump and tied and golden, gaping wide:
emboldening the passing salivating tongue
and hungry belly - knees I regularly turned to jelly -
to convene inside and plead to taste the least
of me - a shred of hide!: but no - by then, I'd
turned into a pheasant under glass (no way
nobody gonna touch my ass); I've been a string
of cocktail franks, content to pop my skin in
cocktail-drinking mouths - and sometimes, when
I'm feeling pallid, drooping south to sad, I'll turn
myself to chicken salad. But every day I spread
my meat: fresh flesh to tempt - perchance to eat.
June 30, 2006
As Close As I Know How To Get
The war is with yourself:
assembled like a darkly
wished-for dream: terror given
form and battled as if it were
living - warm - and near -
instead of what it is: the steam
and storm of fear. Forbidden
hate and lust and jealousy:
what's wrong with him
and her and them: anxiety
seems tractable imagined
as external scheme.
You are what you seem to be:
the glints and gleams of
an uncharted sea. Here's
as close as I know how to get
to free: Embrace your own
infinity - and taste autonomy.