Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

This is my family

(Because of formatting, this poem is available for download as a two-page .pdf here.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Such a moon as this

I have seen such a moon as this:

as a bell would dispel all lingering sound,

or compel all lingering sound to surround her

virginal -- not inexperienced -- nymphs

in the echoing well of starlight: clear

as bore my cloudless dreams. Although

my eyes are clouded now, I see

her wildly pale and full before me,

still as the quivering streams my dogs

disturbed (their barking lilt of unlit

brass, my hearing fades to moonstruck

black, and dims their raucous din).

Thus I believe in rightfully seeing

a rose, and wonder at its not blushing,

or a graceful lily of seas. With handfuls

of lilies "would I behold her loftier

mood" some cold and clarifying

night, offer as sacrifice

myself and break a promise of old.

Although I loved your mother, my daughers,

I have worshipped at another's altar

and been the better for it. For when

I could not discover a human

woman's dreams, her slender arrival,

her waxing full and aglow as rounded

hip, her naked cupfuls deep

of age and grief and return: this vision

unearned by me redeemed an earlier

thief, and seemed to soothe inherited

burns in a wild ecstasy

of silver, nights too brightly lit for sleep.

(Edited 2 December 2009, begun 30 November 2009. A lovely moon in sight, a lovely poem to cite, a bit of compass feeling or Sexton (Anne; the instrument) feeling: all interrupted another poem in progress, and I while giving in -- acting on? actaeoning on? -- I wondered about authorial fidelity.)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

House of storms

(Because of formatting, this poem is available for download as a two-page .pdf here.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

An "anti-meditation" on being moved prior to language

He waits while carrying a handkerchief, folded not

smartly but well into black jeans' back pocket,

leans like scenting -- nose forward -- the air and

into the sound and its story and so many

voluble tellers' individual tells, the body


like hands in mirror image, the line just

above and between their half-closing eyes or

wide-open eyes and the visible gleam of

saltwater gathering there, their spines start to

curl as if stalks drawn together in bountiful

arch of new aniline blooms at the touch and

shudder of rains, and his fluttering heart and


(one would fit in his cupped and outstretched

palm like a fine summer plum, fuzzy-surfaced and

rum-colored, dimpled and smooth in outline, and

outwardly giving: at the heart of all living worth

living, a bruise worth eating, a plume so

barely begun),

and -- this is his favorite -- the

one just as if on the day of her birth, the back

row, all in black but some pink on her shirt, her

unadorned face and brow furrowed, her power, her

reaching with all of her serious being -- look

how she looks inward! -- to chip at the surface, and

stomp one leg at the hip and nod with the


There are shells that seem so hard, so

delicate, "brown they would be" like the ground we

breathe -- the strongest muscle in the body -- but

"more than milky", only opaque from head

on, these shells requiring a kind of inter-

vention as anti-meditation: it's within, now

get it out, consumable, earthly and food,

metaphors for feeling when the feeling is true:


open the clear but uninteresting egg, it

lets itself grow, tuft and wobble, eventually

gobble and licks itself clean out of time, like a

bear's careful tongue while nursing and shaping the

fruit-soft bodies of her young, and out comes --

out! -- the native, baby-like snouting a-

round for milky: that nutritious trickle, the

mystery of watery and rich, just the color of a

handker- and hanker- and hand-to-her-chief.

(Edited and begun 12 November 2009. I'd been aiming at putting into words a recent musical experience so astonishing it had seemed to reset me to prior-to-language. How could I get back to speaking again from -- as in all narrative -- the distance implicit between present and past: speaking from my later-now about an earlier moment that drew itself and me deeper into its therefore-meaningful then? As it happens -- really: accidentally --, I encountered another work of art that helped me: K.A. Hays' "The Way of All the Earth" published originally in Antioch Review and including the lines: " … anti-meditation. How brown it would be, / and more than milky, an opaque shell // around the shell of the body". The connection is mysterious, and I'd like to leave it that way, for so are moments.)

Friday, October 30, 2009

"As freezing persons recollect the snow"

I thought about turning around to find you

there, in the corner of my room, before the

distant glass of the mirror, here through

winter, the drifts of your fingers across the

stipple of sweater (for what can it mean to

have without holding?), and shoulders sore from un-

burying snow -- it's still snowing -- and knowing

you (that you have

already gone):

in a dream.

And now: the next shadowless morning -- the

intimate drift of the skies, the invisible

pines --, I raise my palms to the farther

ground and warm, I am every direction a-

lone and fall -- we all do, with clank and

tackle of unaccustomed clothing and shoes -- to the

frozen much farther below. It's slow-going, this

shuffling through and

settling down. The

breath like steam, like the

smoke from coal wrapped

tightly in straw, ice shipped and sipped out of

sweltering tea: I am evaporation -- the

sweet and passing season of it all --, my

turn to turn from memory, "regardless

grown", a mind like winter wheat to

sleep under covers, turn to regretting

nothing (but you, may-

flowering dawn), and

go to seed. I

thought about never

turning around and rediscovering

you (like you knew, years ago, and

wrote without tears, your belle-(of Amherst)-

tristic posture, your "then the letting

go", and pleated skirts, so certain that

someday we'd forget the hurts and

get the pleasure of re-

membering each other "as

freezing persons recollect the snow").

(Edited 30 October 2009, begun 29 October 2009. From an early image of morning, lingering on a long walk up a new snow-covered mountain; and an old memory of Orpheus, whose Eurydice, however, linked with and led here to Dickinson and -- for my money, no matter the time of day -- to one of her great modern interpreters. The title appeared for me as the last line, but for its owner the first time properly in 1955, for the first time ever in 1890, for the very first time of all -- and all but invisibly to all but her -- sometime before 1866. I also love -- but it may change the feeling, like the slave at the ear of the triumphant emperor, whispering, "Remember, you are only a man" -- that in addition to cultivating poems and flowers she owned a Newfoundland named (after him in Jane Eyre) Carlo, and after he died, never another.)

Monday, October 19, 2009

"The world was all before them"


"The world was all before them, where to

choose / their place of rest": the worst part

being their memories,

tending still to the

west, like the sun to the umbrant hills, the

worst part and best, while bodies -- theirs and

others' -- descended, pushed on the breeze, full

westerly blast bestirring bedewed grass-

land, what passed here -- twisted and strained, like

fingers stained and clutching for fruit in the

flake of dirt, for fresh and supple again, and tumbled

seeds from the timeful

grind of the earth -- for



At the door, she had smiled and happily fumbled his

name, and how he agreed ("That's me, what-

ever she said, however she said" [and a

pause: he recalls Raphael recalling the

fallen, and pausing, "How

splendid he was before dawn";


now must breathe before he goes on]), the

breath of their meeting like flush of ripening

skin, sun-colored.


How fresh the memory

seemed, that permanent walk to the east -- eyes

outwardly blind each spearpoint squint of

morning -- of her. And the feeling, the first time

stale, of heat and dust in the air, the

scree of rocks under feet and points of

caving to pressure, too soft, the skin grown

scaly and rough at the joints and lips -- for

where, without stopping, were streams of water like

natural wine, the delicate lap of

beasts (their glossy

coats), the feasts of

words like fruits all loverly coy in their

hinting at trees, at roots grown worldly and

deep and together, the

natural graft of looks?


Intertwined, those peacefully sleepless

nights, the hook of branch and trunk, the

bark like elephant hide, a grey cloud-

lined, the memory layered up steep and

graveyard strong, the skulls in the glistering



Had they been walking so long and a-

lone, if only hand in hand?


That de-

scent as smooth into evening the moon, her

cloud-covered skin, his sidelong sight of her

(that man seems to me equal to the gods, who)

loving her loving her knowing too much, now

knowing the slide downhill to the east, the el-

liptic curve of breast, of belly and

hip, all hers and to him as if for the

first time given and alive, all theirs to


lose like surface tension, both are for-

bidden to touch. They know this much. Whether

earth encircles the radiant sun or re-

verse is the least of their troubles. In the permanent

past, not first, but in the end of longer-

lasting effect, not the cause of it all but be-

cause of it all, what worst and best re-

call into being the beginning at last: he

stands in the sunlit grass and breeze (she is

at her door and knows, and he knows) how

beautiful passing can be (the radiant

smile), how far the

apple falls from the tree.

(Edited 18 October 2009, begun 17 October 2009. The beginning is from Paradise Lost, whose ending I can hardly handle but which helped me grasp what I found so moving about the ending of a television show I also recently finished: how a present moment may revel in its _ending_ by revealing an earlier moment as the _beginning_.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

"As with new wine intoxicated"

(Because of formatting, this poem is available for download as a two-page .pdf here.)

(Edited and begun 11 October 2009, in response to an ongoing reading of Milton, whose description of Adam's and Eve's inebriated fancy on apples (Paradise Lost 9.1000-11) is a high point of the poem and -- I fancy, fairly soberly -- of English literature: a breathtaking depiction, maybe malgré lui, of the beauty in and of mortality; but drawing also on Donne, whose Holy Sonnet 1.4 has stuck with me as similarly if maybe more honestly autumnal ... alongside, if I'm being perfectly honest, "Spain (I Can Recall)" (Jarreau et al.). Virgil and Homer may go without saying.)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Two men, two women, two mo(u)rnings

1. There's a story that Descartes, who died of early mornings,

fashioned for himself a

model of a woman: his

daughter, who had died in young adulthood (trans-

lation of morning), out of

wood and pinions.

This was old-fashioned, his ontogeny reca-

pitulating hers -- think of

hair in a ring --, his

capturing her but failing to bring her to

life, lacking the

vital fright of e-

lectricity. A disordered pair, the

man and those moveable

parts, so clearly the

least of his arts, that moveable beast, so

portable, the terror of

unfinished speech, the

unfinished tower of her standing proud and

lewd, the rouged and

painted flower of her cheek.

2. Évariste Galois died of a gunshot

wound after dawn. He had

written all night, the

candle-light and flicker of thoughts -- their

trickle like candle-

wax -- in the heat of

loving and having no time, and the wick: in the

center of a page, he had

written: "une femme", a

woman who blushed like the gunpowder dawn, her

rosy fingers to

him, and then gone: "une

femme", encircled by orders and indices,

what would become set

theory. In the margins:

"I have not enough time." This is where God

doesn't -- needn't or

can't -- come in. This

young man, barely past boy, the tower un-

finished of him, the

fading flower of his cheek.

(Edited 8 October 2009, begun 23 September 2009. The story goes that Galois committed to paper everything he could of his prodigious mathematical imagination that night, knowing it might well be his last; set theory would have been invented eventually, but not in the same blaze of glory. I have Descartes' story on no good authority, but am amazed by the image of the master geographer and crypto-religious philosopher rattling around a drafty castle, his daughter's creepy effigy rattling around alongside him.)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The pigeons, no matter

The pigeons, no matter they flew any higher, caught
fire, drifting through the air askance, soot-

colored and aglow as twists of paper lit --
gently, lest they burn unevenly --, let

go, and spiral themselves into smoke, living
rings of whispering yellow, or sparks given

off of sputtering logs: the sound wind
makes in a furnace, in a city unforged, when

printers' stuttering presses and type slag
words away in a shimmering draft, sag

low to the ground like glass with age, ash
thick on its silvery breath and skin smashed

open and ragged and feathery light, wings
rustle and curl, with toneless peal sings the

paradise almost lost in the flames, rush of
flames almost invisible for the fire, blush of

darkness visible, the stubble -- like grass burnt
down -- of the city, the towering unswept

chimney of air unmortared, the perch, hot,
tottering, slaughtering perch of pigeons. (What

rhymes with pigeon?) Eighty-nine of ninety-seven
neighborhood churches burnt down. (What rhymes with seven?)

(Edited 4 October 2009, begun 27 September 2009. Milton, whom I am in time to appreciate as the language's greatest versifier, was blind long before 1666, when he returned to London in time not to appreciate but to experience -- hearing, feeling, probably smelling -- the Great Fire, which seems to flicker behind his descriptions of Hell in the first book of Paradise Lost. The detail inspiring this poem comes from Samuel Pepys, who of 2 September 1666 writes: "the poor pigeons ... were loth to leave their houses, but hovered about the windows and balconys till they were, some of them burned, their wings, and fell down.")

Friday, September 25, 2009

Untitled ('Young boy winter'?)

How much white in the air today, instead of gold! How

fair the light and fading, giving

way to welcome youthful cold, who'll

play outdoors all afternoon with falling leaves (how

red his cheeks!) and evening, pleasing

parents, whom -- beloved -- he'll leave behind.

(I looked outside and this poem came in, encouraged by yesterday's reading of a fellow poet's verses in progress, all with more _song_ than I'm used to seeing, and by the memory of a young boy pleased at moving faster than he was used to experiencing.)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

This earthly afterlife

The voice as undiluted as ever, un-

mixed with the water of time, pure wine this

earthly afterlife -- what believers

mean by the space between baptism and

death, when the body's warm of a midsummer's

dream (the teeming crowds and footlights, the

edges of seats, the applause, the repeats; the

flowers you've picked swan-colored, the note hand-

written, to dawn consecrated, you're smitten and

waited, standing, for her call at the curtain), when

all that's created is certain of being kept

dear, of becoming -- before that endless

night is slept, the voice as clear as

breathless evening --, in its coming-to-be, the

fullness of is: the loving of pouring

out, of drinking in, of thinking --

this the antidote to doubt -- how

better it is to have "slumbered here

while these visions did appear", and

nodded -- blissful mystery -- during the play.

(Edited and transcribed 20 September 2009, begun in smallest kernel -- the title -- 14 September 2009. I owe the rest of the poem to four interlocutors, one the quoted author, one a noted scholar, one an amazing actress, one an amazed (like Theaetetus) philologist. I think that even those still living have never met each other, but I imagine that they -- and I -- would enjoy the conversation. In its stead, the poem.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Math is not performance art

Math is not performance art. It's a private

improvisation, a moment's commitment to

memory of right privation of mind,

sensory deprivation of all but phenylethyl-

amine dream of love in solution:

["Love in solution" (only mixture):

the flavor is 'arrow of time', how

anything happens is a vector, directed forward and away, for

every action an equal contribution to degenerate case. Spi-

nors asymmetric in the stomach of first love and algebra. Drink. It is

axiomatic, at the end of a class, that hands converge: no

need to think; but the fact -- we feel -- that

everything real is also complex is … ]

the [ = THEO-]

dream of (numb-) saturation (-er), neurons'

yawning gasp of synapse as the skies start

factoring in long silences at last, long

walks down garden paths observing

talks with something to prove.

[ … "something to prove".

Bent low over desks, discretely sounding out

steps, we quietly -- rose of eraser -- sum(b)vocal cantation to

fitfully rigorous prayer. As almost one, we stare -- loose

vector of eyes -- at the eastern board, the improbable rise, each

morning, there of perfect circles suggestive of n. Look

close enough in and the folds smooth out, Loba-

chevskian spirit un-

clothed in the son to

visit Euclidean

space: it's about time.]

Re- [ = -RY (neither -REM nor -LOGY)]

cover rather than dis-, and -member,

-call the lovers' morning notes of de-

pressing distinction; the integration (self, other) has a

least upper bound: "it was the lark", whose

song resounds in periodic confessions

["Some periodic confessions":

I know enough math to make it seem like I do; once

threw a charcoal Calculus across the room; gave

up -- at that point -- any trying to prove; gave my -- much later and

also vanishing -- self to you: rational and, so, un-

real. All this to whom? If an animal names and permutes the

four-letter words like DNA snippets, bio-

logical computational proof --, re- … ]

of [ = OF (of course)]

us in always natural light, the

ideal pieces of meteor strikes "that the

sun exhales" in heliacal rise, all

sides and angles aligned, and warmed:

sensible bodies, not extraordinary forms, and

[ … -verse engineers our "ordinary forms",

prismatic and streaked, when

next we meet, would we be simple since unimaginary (not

-tive), and skip the manifold possibilities, stick to basic a-

rithmetic, reading and (A:w)ri(B:gh)ting each other with no long divisions, sub-

tractions subtracted -- we'll forget satisfying the field axioms -- multipli-

cation permitted so long as it's of metaphor, or of touch? And

count on days' tabulation to prove how

much. Such, at least, is the theory of]

love [ = LOVE (or, in the

absence of proof,

improvisation: you start by saying

"Yes", then "Let you and me." The

rest is math. QED


(Edited 3 September 2009, transcribed 30 August 2009, begun 29 August 2009. I struggled with this, and so hope to have given this poem the capacity to speak well for itself; but for bibliophiles -- you know who you are -- the -graphy includes, in order of I'm remembering them, Augustine, John Donne, Roger Penrose, and John Milton (for inspiring the centermost notion, that the most interesting thing about a miracle -- its beauty, really -- is its strictly incidental and so unmeaningful _precision_ of occasion in human time).)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A creekside flower

Porch used to be creekside, and the holm oak
shade matched wraparound vines, dark green, the
willows' weeping soft to the listening
stream, and tea with sweet cane sugar,
lemon slice, in the summer cracked ice. He was
nice to the widows who roamed down the lane, their
moaning like a melody now and again. Now it's
only more silence and invisible men, the
blessing of sneezes before they begin, in-
fectious diseases that "the devil's sent in to
tempt lassitude: that fancy science ain't
no substitute for standard-issue" (cocked,
loaded, and clean) "and the right attitude. Don't
care where a fella's from, or shaped like a
big ol' bean. One shot between the
eyes" (no matter their saucer-plate size and
number) "he'll die. No matter his blood runs
green. Now listen. Ain't no turf-war, like a
few bloody fists and drinks after all's been
done. Son," his voice like the path from
house to garden and back, the gravel and
carbonized dust, "you must", his doddering
head, "a man's enemies are best all
dead. Like weeds. They'll choke off the flowers." As
if there were flowers. He tried to spit,
coughed, got a sputum like synthetic oil,
thick like the habit itself. Crow-colored. He
swug on the bathtub ale, eyes pale and
slack, and mouthed some sunflower seeds. He had
seen him hack at what passed for their throats, a
hand in the guts for no reason soever, just
feeling the alien innards "like biscuits and
crawfish jam", and laugh like a loon. Long a
hot afternoon, the land belly up to the
sun, they came from Mars. Dog days. They
brought heat rays. "Son, see that hedge needs
trimming? Fetch my shears." His mother
speared in the garden, a moldering beam from a-
bove, from the curdling sky. She thickened like
sweet potato pie in the oven, her skin like
unclotted cream. Out of season. A creekside
flower of blood-red steam.

(Edited 27 August 2009, begun 25 August 2009. It seems that, while I slept, I was visited by a range of squatters and their strange preoccupations, viz.: John Milton (master of English prosody), Flannery O'Connor (mistress of southern mystery), and Mr. H.G. Wells (right ideas; wrong country).)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Exposure to infinite space

One's images of love point true, like a
compass, cosmology only out of date. Be-
lieving, therefore, that he'd appreciate a
more precise sign of infinity

-- the con-
formal projection of a
plane tesselated hy-
perbolically --,

what follows is plot, in con-
formal projection, of

{you, me}.

"poor heretics in love there be": just a
few who choose Copernican shapes, and
shed eccentric tears for the flattening
passing of heavenly spheres, for passionate
knees periodic to mystery, hearts meta-
physically made -- in apostasy -- quasars, no mockery of
doting outmoded and fools care-free out-
side lovers' walls for rain or days, notes
faded and hands like the folded page, doors
polished and bright, un-
locked and improbably responsive at night.

Thus the lover's turn to soul's paraphrase

pensive prayer)

turned blithely in towards
what lives there and attracts memory. So

I see us one thing: we're kissing with
grandmother moon out there, past a set of
small cork-stopped and staggered glass bottles

(one of
air, peaty earth, one of spiraling shells, one
bounding uncountable sand, and rocks
tumbled smooth con-
tinuous function of river)

and tree-branch
framed, white, blue of
ultraviolet night, our flight's centripetal
twang of the background webbing, the spider's at-
tention that stalks with ciliac step this
life's finite and multiplicative rings, i-
maginary mood swings of
polar numbers ir-
rational, perfectly and painfully real.

just such a particular personal cataclysm, years a-
go at the schism, stand for the general case, a
place I still know. The ground shook, or said "you
kiss by the book"

(this is only memory at-
tempting permutation and
meaning out of
only combination always leaning
down the emotional path of best fit: there's
no getting around it,
deeper is always farther down),

pictures capture only what we see, what
only we see, what we only see, you
see yourself: the microcosm and I her
dark matter, she filamented clusters of
memory attempting meaningful permutation out of
combination, pictures capturing only in-
corporating memory, nebulous and numinous, the
present particles of light drifting by, the
flush of singular events through matter, dark-
ly, pre- and processing forward
faster than the space between can expand

(this the
mystery of limits: nothing inside can
reach without past bounding infinity

nalium: look for loopholes in quantum gravity]


all is derivative, but only partially.

fore, the emotional path of best fit, all
energy dispersing eventually to heat, to
uniform waste and sour gold taste of
plate to aliens image inscribed, and only
in the meantime can
any of it seem
mine, hers, or ours, and I am

(function of nebulous foreground smile with
white dots red, hold sidelong the head

female's zygomatic muscles so typically
so much stronger than a man's, not to mention the
learned and restful inflection of her hands, but
my crow's feet as burned by late-De-
cember sun into sand]

) ...

Let I am
something other than her
memory of me. Re-
membering that evening, this
household of days, in-
habitants all gathered
round to view what is
all around: not a
figure in sight

light must pass by

just the
fluttering places recalled in quantities
just this human side of precision.

place of gods, to a space-based catapult of
carbon rods, spring-loaded, precisely ma-
chined, though not themselves machines, and
in their forceful adoption of the ancient
custom of blistering atmospheres open they
fuck themselves into diamond

(in the after-
glow becoming

So de-
scend all forms, those lifeless and life-ele-
menting ideas, crystals wispy with
urgent heat, the glass undone, crass
big bang spoor, melt to ground floor of
all the most populous cities when they meet.

For this
reason and others the believers have prayed to un-
do my decision, for strength, for infinite length, for rotation through
unknown angle, translation of the function through

(for space is time, not a circle, a
line: a circle of infinite radius that
yet feels the funnel -- when it opens or closes its
i -- at its heart, like the tractric)

murmuring vacuum of dark matter spool, the
heat death cool to aspire: the lattice whose
latest dislike is atoms and molecules,
worlds and the god-sized
whorls of seeming stardust at what must
be -- and damn the proof -- anti-infini-
tesimal scales, everything integrated, ga-
lactic pails kicked over and spendthrift slow to upend, their
contents fused to background radiation like
funneled cement, and to harden

dur désir de durer)

is the
negative one-half dream, awaiting

curve of her, to this very day)

conjugate pair. And here I must ex-

press my regrets, apologize to my relict, our
plot of point values polyvalent despite the
crisp black and white

(this the image of our personal
Mandelbrot set: no matter where we begin, we're
certain to get to
infinite points, all of them

{her, me},

ring of purely hypothetical identity).

An e-
quation's iterations like this are complex only
in their being well simple: reality really, the
provable things of unknowable mass and the
matter is beauty when seen from a certain

(a photograph when
lit from behind and below by the crabulous
stars, hot mess, the kiss of evaporated
metals when photons graph all the scars, white
balance and red shift, f-stop, fuck this,
stop all the physical laws.

sense of Love's usury as delight, I
do not wish

(I re-
coil the film, re-
call an image of a
woman's face, pristine and bruised)

anymore to conclude, much less demonstrate, the
human scale of exposure to infinite space.)

(Edited 24 August 2009, transcribed in part 20 August 2009, begun 19 August 2009. I'd been reading John Donne while revisiting the mathematical bases of modern physics, especially cosmology, and wondered what the former might have done with access to the latter and their conventional modes of expression. Something more consistently metrical certainly, and perhaps more polished; but ongoing understanding of the world is rich with poetic possibility even for rougher moderns.)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Twelve zero zero

Power outage keeps re-

setting my clock in the

night. First light passes

traintrack by, just a

latterly glare and I'm

left at the station, in-

stead (in my head) catch

giant dog shadow cast

dark on my window, de-

spair of blankets letting

in cold air, they should

know by now: how

waves brush their lips -- like a

blessing, that white-capped and

salt-chapped kiss -- and,

chaste, the land gives a-

way scented ribbons of

sand, sun-screen mono-

grammed, while -- deep in the

slippery rift --, sub-

merged mountain ranges and

waters just shy of

ice -- volcanic! -- em-

brace, espied by

covetous worms, sul-

phuric and blind, eyes

smoothly shut to the

groove, lover's flush, hori-

zontal river rush of

sleep along narrowing

channels in the mind. They grow

harder over time. When you're

older, you'll see, blinking-

ly, you'll glare useless-

ly at the ceiling as

if you might stare sta-

lagtites there down to

end your misery: so

loud the motors all a-

round, drown rumble to

sleep, rumple up separate

sheets and separate bed-

spreads, with separate and

singular and surely un-

treatable depressions for our

heads. At eighty

years there's hardly the

chance for forty

winks. The clock blinks

twelve zero zero. Too

hot or cold or

both and hope my

bladder will hold. This --

tenuous, surly, dis-

jointed and weak -- is what

passes for an old man's sleep.

(Edited 16 August 2009, begun 11 August 2009. Drawn from life -- not only mine --, and intended as an image of those irritating moments that seem so strongly and irrationally to destabilize: the body may feel them animal keenly but believes, in its cyclical senses of time, in their eventual passing; the mind has ideas and -- thanks to linear time -- fears of its own. How much worse could it -- or will it -- be?)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Her face baptismal

1. Her face baptismal from the hospital pillow, ruby
shadow of her jaw; and his back, bedside, of
worsted wool, ironclad, as he stood, and with
old man's lips -- like petals pressed colorless
dry, from the pages of a book -- bent to smooth away
sweat and veiled soot, just a little: she cried, caught her
breath (on the surface of the waters), wouldn't show it or
sound, but sought to conceal what she'd found: like a

smoldering coal on the tongue, a letter like
sky's to the earth, of winter-kindled regret, like the

earth's of hard-husbanded forgiveness.

Thus the image, and more, for the

2. substance of it: mossy and round like a stone in the
hands while standing in tide away water -- as the
shore stretches further, this is what pulls small and
precious in our vision: how the light ages, greys, as its
bodies decay, and the evening rends its
breast in funereal precession, sackcloth and
starlight tears; how every morning is stricken, the
moon a decision she'll come to soon; how a

swallow of ice, child-sized, is swaddled in
straw, crated rickety down from the mountains, un-

like to silvered pieces of the sea.

Thus the thing, and more, for

3. here is her face, pearlescent: in its sway (the
hem of his garment) near to honestly gone, but
in the meantime let the guests in -- gods in
bare feet, visiting, palms bearing gifts --, while
fingers slide restless to cool on the bedside
rails, how white her nails and throat flickers, the al-
lure of extruded and sleepless machines, parched
lips and ice chips and IV drips, trans-

muting the body's leaden ore (al-
chemistry, each and every mystery) to gold. But she is

not so old as to be like buried treasure.

Thus the measure, and more. For

4. speaking, for seeking so clearly to accompany
wild-eyed moments out of doors, out of reach (wanting
anything to last while refusing to endure is
surely a reach exceeding grasp): for this, time
isn't the enemy anymore than water taking
flight from cupped color of palms -- rose, white --, its
flocking liquescent, feather-light: the florid will. (How
deeply we may seem to float while falling still.) None of

this is beyond any known capacity of the
mind, or the body's animal grief:

of metaphor or simile.

Thus the misery.

(Edited 13-14 August 2009, begun 11 August 2009. To call its source 'reading' would broaden definition: this poem came in part from the final scene of a television show, a moment made literally and figuratively to move only in my experience of it, the flipbook illusion of frames refreshed faster than the brain can distinguish, and the emotions demanded in a world both with and without us.)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

She cuts his hair

Otherwise, we're the same, only

shorter and colored. (White-

water towards delta, to the

ocean whose name we know

best in the earliest

light and latest evening, in the

quiet and cold, the first

snowflake expression of what

used to be blooming, drift and

dash of days numbered in ad-

vance, autumn trees like

coral in the saltwater

air worn innumerably

smooth). In a room, a woman

cuts a man's shower-wet

hair for the first time in

years: they have gently recon-

nected, never doubting that she'll

help or that he needs it -- he

needs it --, but repay it? He is

only a body, that

barely (is the bare neck

nakedness or nudity?). When she

kisses his crown, he is

taken by surprise -- just

taken --, hardly minds, he is

hardly a mind, he is

built to come running. (As we

do, to the ocean whose

name we express in no

breath, in the stark and cold

fiery glow, the crystal

chalice of light and gravi-

ty, where pendulum

swing pulls divinely on

root and trembles branches -- ever

innocent tree, drink of

scissor-crisp waters or her

thin milk, inner-thigh and

pale vein blue --, whistles

rock down through atmo-

sphere.) We are here, with some

distance to go to the

ocean; we flow con-

centric spheres around the

ripple of wells: gravi-

ty, morality. Tell the

truth: that surely there can

be no hell, for it

isn't and we are, simply,

earth at the roots; it's

not innocence, but the

water we can't (she

cuts his hair) stand to lose.

(Edited 9 August 2009, begun 7 August 2009: a relatively brief interval, with the lines out of a real space between, as I break from thinking philosophically -- for a book -- about silence in Roman poetry and its roles in and around utterance. Some of the imagery is older, helping me to wonder what poetry, etymologically 'doing', _does_ in letting things be said not only audibly but _renewably_ audibly, with even past things ever _now_.)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Bone-white teeth (an instruction manual)

What's with all the bone-white teeth? Bedridden to the

ground they ought to be, shaggy-

minded and trained to fluoresce in sunlight, all

skins and textiles with invisible crystals of

artificial blue, improvidential, unforseen, tied

mainly to the weather as are old floorboards,

door-jambs, and cross-beams (the great

mead-hall bracing we wish for at night

-- natural brown, or washed white -- while

lying half-lidded, staring half-heartedly at

lesser stippled ceilings -- no demon's arm in sight -- feeling

all of this is rented rooms, passing through, the cobbles

worn and corners bulge hard-boiled egg smooth under-

neath): this pitty moment, like the stone of a peach. So we

mettle some and stock for the virtuous winter,

high season for vice as visitor: his noisy winks, our

bleached thoughts blackened at the corners (old mirrors), his

sandals leaving spots, we're thoroughly homunculated, tracks

oily as prints and intentions undistinguished (note the

risible tongue, its thick and leather clack and babble, the

head's heavy sunflower loll). Parbroiled minds,

babies, and every white body catches cold. (Here

comes the transcriptase instruction manual.) (1) Strip to

bone all the outward social surface of the self, (2) strip

maximum procedure and minimum effect, (3) cup

hands together, palms up, (4) spit. (5) Watch regret like

sand would be water over coalescent time (for when

mineral is animal, all animal is vegetable

matter, all matter condensation on the sunny outer

surface of time.) It's not only a genetic dis-

order, the wriggling fish of the wish to do

better out of water: it can't be, in light of entropy's

campfire glow and compulsory chill. So, try

taking a bite with bone-white: and still, the final

letter of lizard's contribution to brain (evo-

lution, this part of the story, antennae tuned

rabbit-ears ahead to capacity birth): what is

all of this worth? And what's with all the bone-white teeth?

(Edited 6 August 2009, begun 21 July 2009. While on a Mediterranean cruise I saw bleached teeth, read science shorts as well as science fiction stories, and slept in perpetually relaxing and inspiring sinusoidal motion; there was convergence of a sort.)

Monday, August 3, 2009

"More than four minutes in a greenhouse"

Delighted at the ferns that curl away from lightest touch, as we

rush through before it's too late, the day becoming

evening, we discover -- by the pond, close together in a

wooden pagoda -- that all of this presumes a

sort of foreplay: we can't say it aloud, but we

seek to share more than experience with each other:

strawberries for the ride, squash soup at her home, pizza

sitting on the cold stone rim of a fountain -- she

asked me the five-word question; I said "I'm

not sure if I do" --, cool glasses of water we

hold instead of hands at a table barely

big enough for two (it does more than do, keeps us

close in the reaching and listening to more than

music -- explosive watercolor guitar and drum's

principled attack to the gut and deep breathing -- our di-

vided at tension from trying (not) to touch): all of

this presumes more than four minutes in a greenhouse: a

hothouse day grown to date in her town, in the

shared and shaded soil we shouldn't have found, the giddy

flower of latest-night tumbling around the halo-

descent stairwell of the parking garage. We

got lost driving home, finally crossed the right

border with each other, nearly hit deer jumping

headlit across the parkway: "Are you okay?", my

hand behind her head, my

fingers in her hair with lightest touch.

(Finished 2 August 2009, edited 11 and 10 July 2009, begun -- as a single line, a sort of seed -- 7 November 2006, in an email only recently rediscovered during a hurried pre-sabbatical archiving. Just as that email was mine but new to me, so the places and expressions in the poem are familiar but charged with energy of changed memory and dream: as the ferns curl, the feeling curves away from fable towards the reality of only moments.)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"As surely as the world did, / mountain after mountain"

It's goats, you see, or may be.

Is there something that

floats atop rocks, straddles

down on the breeze? There's no

need to pretend I can't see:

them, you, this

hillbilly robe I've

grown accustomed to, like a

tree's leeward mold, the

fray and all day of these slippers, my hair, I'll

point this bony finger at you: undo the

green medicine walls, mosquito squeak of wheelchair and

despair in ammoniac halls. A mountain

range of memory I can no longer climb. It's my

ankles, you see, the life-

span of a shower, sit and drift like snowfall. I

take a deep breath of almost not quite air,

so high the sky black as can be, up there; so tall.

(Edited 21 June 2009, begun 31 May 2009. After D. Nurske, "A Marriage in the Dolomites". A friend prefers character development; she can do it, plus plot. My own writing has started with phrases -- sometimes others', as here, sometimes mine -- and pursues implicit rhythms and that feeling that an image may tell a story better than the story tells itself.)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"Unreal until the only woman wakes"

She wakes and takes
no look around: only knows, and

yells at the fellow by the side of the road,
tongue lolled and slapdash, the days'

heat risen porous and spongiform, devil's food
cake for a sky cackle-mooded and bright as

unfunny tin, this mood that she's in -- like the
hammered white tile of the hotel's ceilings --, this

feeling drips out, just a drop in the hurricane
bucket of "How does it go?" With a quake, that

most mountainous thing, and I've
gone and calculated its end in bare feet.

Oh, I've pebbled them smooth. Now I
live thatch-roofed at the foot of the pile, sooty

blond and chimney streamers black smoke for a while.

(Can't I undo a Solomon yell, be unwise,

slice the blade -- wide open -- and smile all
fourteen hundred missing teeth? Like the

blocks of old ramparts, these
muscles used to make the heart ache.) All of this is

unreal until the only woman wakes: the feelings
she and I used up in

shell games and rubber sticky cement. What I meant was
"Yes, I guess I should have known better how

goes any gangle of slender webbed feet, the
scale beds and horny protrusions." I know that

all of this is an illusion, uni-
corns and mermaids can't meet, can't settle

down, she already knows, and so she
wakes and takes no look around.

(Edited 12 July 2009, transcribed 5 July 2009, begun 1 June 2009. After Donald Revell, "Unreal precision of the houses". Trying to balance wanting to say something -- to speak at all about a particular thing -- and wanting to say it well: is there a sort of 'poetry of sufficiency', where language draws just enough attention to itself?)