Poetry has been part of my life as long as I can remember. Other children listened to fairy tales - I listened to poetry. Others read the Bobbsey Twins - I read Kipling and Yeats. Others wrote gossip notes in class - I wrote poems.|
I began to take it seriously in high school and began what turned out to be the traditional seven years apprenticeship before I created my first real poem.
I was stunned. My first response was disbelief, but I was unable to deny the facts. I immediately dumped seven years of practice in the garbage and began my first volume of genuine poetry. I never looked back.
I cannot imagine a world without poetry. If I found myself in such a world, I would leave immediately.
One thing my training as a linguist taught me is that each language has concepts which it expresses better than other languages do. Languages have idioms and turns of phrase which speak volumes about the speaker's culture, life, outlook and history. Yet even if we were fluent in every tongue ever spoken, there are some things that are inexpressible within the disciplines of a language.
Language arose to deal with the everyday world and only clumsily handles the extraordinary. The spiritual world needs a different vocabulary and syntax.
That's why we have poetry. That's why it's sacred.
Even this shall pass away, for it is in time. Always in time for the first battle bullrun bottle battle butt. But if tomorrow isn't then how today? Notice we ask naught why. Why, it is easy if you know how. How! Paleface speak with forked tongue forked flocked fucked folked tongue the larder of bees and the sons of bees. Go, delicately seize the seas without touching the see-weed. Part the salt from the water and take your choice your choice your choicest morsels feed the dogs dogging our footsteps fall Lucifer-like. We go our separate ways. I bid you grace and beauty. You must pay your own fare well. The Trial Not insane, your honor, by reason of guilt. (The jury is the future, witnesses are Them. The trial an unwise laughter. Only the sentence is real.) There are no walls anywhere. I hammer toward your voice, against my slylence. That frantic fool was one of us and not quite you, I think. Nor me, though you may not believe it nevertheless (ALWAYS the less!) it is true at least. Your honor, I call for my first witless... The adjournment is postponed til yesterday. The judge is dry as wit. A gust of wind....the powder-dry face is blown away and the leering vacuum appears again. You knew it would, but you are surprised just the same; you are just the same. Any last words? In the beginning.... But you know there was no beginning. Can you face there was no beginning? Liar! If you could, you wouldn’t be here. Not Guilty! My client pleads the mercy of the court. The court has no mercy. My client pleads his mother. Off with her head! My client pleads. What use? You know that he was long condemned. He knows! He knows. For my last meal: Bagels and locks. We have no locks. Will keys do? Doors! Give me doors for my keys! Oak doors, iron doors, screen doors, scream doors, any doors for my keys! The victim is too keyed-up, and the judge chuckled at his weticism, cracking his porcelain beard. To the scaffold! On with his head! Help! There is no help. ..."A false world ends in real debris" -- Elder Olsen Weep only that it must have happened, not that it burned the day. Sooner or later, best perhaps at first, as all your close-held anger singed that heart too often and love went up in flames, leaving the best we could gather; ashes of a beauty that was. There are two kinds of tears and both have blessed this night and seeded the honest day. ..."We move this way to keep from going blind" -- Weldon Kees No need to scorn us, friend, you proud. We move this way to keep from going blind. All that we know of mind: a cloud. We move this way to keep from going blind. It ends as all things for us end: with tears. No need to scorn us, friend. You proud, a cloud with tears. No need to scorn us, friend. We move this way to keep from going blind. The psycho-pseudo-hallucinatory world lies curled at our feet in all its sweet dispicability. What pass for faces pass. That bitter note you hear is fear. The symphony is many notes. The incomplicity is breathing worlds as worlds and times go by. These cold, castrated, trembling functioneers click-click about their work until the sun invites the night to cover shame with silence and with chill. Playtime, boys and girls! Have no fear! Your faces are unknown, and who’s to care? Who dares concern, that twisted shapes and minds more twisted yet, beget, regret, forget and spend their nights in quivering denial of themselves? The would-be watchers have no time for you. They too are torn by private passions, creeping sleepy in the dust. Lust comes and goes, leaving sharp mismemories to garnish the winters of their age. Rage is never spoken of, and love is talked to death. Goodbye, goodbye! The tide is full of meaning, and Meaning is hog-tied. We sail tonight. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye! It's time to go you know. ..."we walk, if merry were, our merry way." -- Paul Goodman I don't go on willfully. I just continue. I am beginning to learn that what I knew as Hope was merely Expectation. I go like a parachutist, having jumped for the animal joy, just for the hell of it. It’s too late to stop and consider, waiting to be stopped finally, meeting the Earth. When I have finally died for real and all your bright medicine men can’t pump my silverdust of blood down those long corridors of so much of me as they can measure; when my irony at last gets the last word; when my sentiment plunges gloriously into oblivion, singing at the top of somebody’s lungs; when I’m dead, gone, out, fini, kaput and morte; then do for me this final kindliness: Bring my flesh beneath a winter moon and lay me on a silver bier with roses, the soft-pink kind and strike a fire to the whole damn mess and stand back. The moon will claim her own. At dawn, grin at the sun for me and save my ashes in an earthen urn. In Autumn, when the hillsides turn to gold, wait for a day when the wind blows toward the West, then scatter my ashes, all that remains of me, and go home laughing. Bird out of nowhere, white bird flying, let not your flight be questioned. No perch upon this dark earth but what the Earth contrives to steal your secret. Let not your flight be questioned! Turn, bird, a grace on the stillair and answer with flight, white bird. Keep today your silences. The world screams everything a man might wish to say. One need not speak of snowflakes in a blizzard nor curse at war with Armageddon here. The Elements - Earth, Fire, Water, Air - are dying now despite your litanies, and Man's unconscious, precognized defeat is agonized through trumpets made for joy. Nothing that needs saying needs be said. The meaning of a word ends with its speaker. The listener hears a meaning of his own. If you must speak, speak personally, of love. What we tell ourselves in lieu of silence is counterpoint to what we keep concealed. If minds were tape-recorded and revealed, the accusation of our gentle violence would blow our world apart. Nachtsmertz has a machine that hears what people whisper to themselves at night. Nachtsmertz listens all night long. All day long he writes biographies. The Unspoken Word It festers behind tight jaws, turns ugly and sour. Forced painfully out, falls like a stone hard dead belonging to another time. And spreads an evil smell. We bury the dead in convenient haste, my family. A legacy perhaps. We were pioneers and those who struggle have little time for Death. The act is stark, a black-and-white thing to do. The Puritan knife that was our Will carved a narrow way of life, for all that life's variety. By a dying fire, good hunters, cleaning our weapons, we turn, curious, in our hands bits of lives that met our blade but did not turn it: a summer bluejay; a favorite mare; the odd young Englishman who cut the hay one year; the son who drowned - was it accidental? - big snows, short summers and a full table. Death was a held breath. I bless the touch of love that follows Love, mellowing sorrow and polishing regret, as a jeweller turns a stone, through craft and care to something precious. Only the shadow of a shadow marked where the white bird fell. Only the echo of an echo sounded the unicorn step. When Dark had stifled the affairs of man, the mythical beast arose. Of Shadow born, to Echo wed, the breeding darkness woke to find itself supreme, alone, and built the Earth out of its loneliness. And, lest it be too generous to mankind, invented Memory. A plain of silver grass and one black horse, one horse that ran beneath the lime-green sun. And out of his mouth, a dove; and out of his head, a rainbow; and the great red heart sang, sang. And a white mare stamped the Earth, dreaming of silver plains. Gray shadows rose on the sharp air, yellow air of summer. Riding a glance beyond horizons. And the earth cried out in its emptiness and ash-white graves clutched at the passing birds. Out of the darkcore, into the wind the blackcrystal wind of night, a great white bird flew delicate as sunlight singing the beginnings of a new sun. Three birds came to announce the wind, the soft blue wind, three birds flying as one over the hard green earth. The garden was quiet, very quiet as if things were buried there. And one red rose (so dark dark dark it seemed about to bleed) fell red-bursting on the silver air and shattered the hard green earth. I have my heritage, and yet I seek for those who are exactly what they are, that my time be worth the time it takes to be. The women I have known were more than kind, and yet, I brought no gift beyond myself. It seemed so insufficient at the time. I hold your kiss tonight inside my mind and touch the gift your womanhood will bring; for you are true to youth, and I am silent to tell you how you are more than you know. At the edge of a desert a coyote sits watching the shadow black upon the sand, the shadow of a bird that cannot be. The ignorant beast unveils his fangs and trots in sly pursuit. Beneath scrub cedar he waits and sees flat darkness hover by. He leaps. The gray dust rises dry and choking. Silence seeps between triumphant gasps. The shadow is gone. The coyote is content. When symbols finally overcome their source and I feel more the host and less the guest in Mankind's pleasant house of fantasy I shall return to where my heart can rest. I shall wander on a Western shore and build a place of quiet to abide and watch the ebb and flow of endless skies and muse upon the ways of man and tide. By heather-perfumed sunlit gentle hills that step so lightly down to greet the sea beside white cliffs that guard the pebbled shore where sea-birds carve their silent melody, there will my mind be witness as it can unto a world never made by Man. I make my way through hillsides spread with gold and listen to the passage of the deer. Now my city mind is brought to rest and my wilderness heart awakens to me here. No trail threads among the silver spruce but has its double running through my soul and, unconcerned, I let each trail lead me alone, but never lonely, to its goal. The hawk and eagle, beautiful and cruel, invite the peaks to join them in the sky and rise up like a challenge to the sun while down below lie Earth and Beast and I. And though I'm stabled in a city stall, a part of me is still a coyote's call. Dawn broke cloudy and no sun arose. In this bleached night no single sound was heard. Rain hesitated, waiting for some word. Not all the darkness is outside, God knows. The Sun so lightly hid its heart out of pretended sophistry and Moon fell screaming screaming down and there was a smear of blood across her breasts. Moon-white her flesh, Moon-cold her ivory tears, but hot as Hell itself her voice, crying blood, blood, blood that must be paid with blood. In a cloudy dawn, the rain hesitated long enough for a white bird to define the edge of Now. Yellow yellow winds thread tree-to-tree weaving nets to catch a silver bird. The granite rocks have whispered a gruff warning. The silver bird hears, laughs, and flies aaaaawwwaaayyy! There are some silences that are not dark, just as there are shadows made of silver. Only a fool could fail to believe but more the fool who thinks such days will last. For love is like an ocean, wild or calm, whose beauty is its changeless rule of change. Yet every ocean has its time-teased shores and every wanderer comes home at last. Now fast at harbor, wiser, weatherbeaten, an echo rages in the sailor's bones and he remembers to his dying day bright silences and shadows made of silver. Remembering one woman dark birds flew inexplicable birds across the sun. And explanation a primitive wariness held above the tongue. Oh sweet improbable of guess, and who was I to know that words I spoke in faith would turn out true? I looked into your eyes tonight and memories returned of nights I saw your eyes and witnessed you. And Memory was in the air, for when your hand touched mine, it clung and, hesitating, dropped away as if you sensed the love we had was even now not done and in your laugh was what you dared not say. Old dreams, lost dreams, mirrors and memory, dark nights, dark eyes, kiss and leave us true. I do not seek remembrance in your mind that labyrinth of immovable images through which your restless sparroweyes will flash, seeking the remnants of a singing dawn. When I am gone and the starburned nightingale of your dark blood investigates the years let it find no trace of me in that soft night but as a tear that falls into surprise from some unguessed delight of yesterday. For such of me as persists within your flesh should be unknown, or it bring you to regret. Then hold me blindly in your Autumn hand and tell your children some careless phrase of mine but forget the origin of the words your speak, that only my love may claim immortality as innocent wisdom, a heart within your heart. Pacific ocean, calmer of my heart stretching your endless blue across the miles, how confidently you ease me with your art when in your breadth I see my lover's smiles. And how your breakers clatter on the shore and seem to slice the tropic night in half as waves in their self-echoing delight match the music in my lover's laugh. Sea of Quiet, how your boundless deeps give me but a hinting of the whole, as - half impassioned, more than half asleep - her sea-deep eyes reveal my lover's soul. I love you most, serene, pacific water because you are her mother ... or her daughter. I have too thick a skin to fear the thorns, God knows. You know I'm defenseless with a rose. Preoccupied with images of love I have been passed upon a real street by love upon a thousand woman-feet whose steps were abstract to Oblivion. You think your game of unreality is cheap at most, a way to kill some time until arrives a morefun fantasy. What do you have worth more than the time your burn? You have your dreams and life has its revenge (for the fantasy is cheap but dearly bought and the cost of maintenance is high acid-high, grass-high or just plain flip-out). I'm sort of a funny bird myself but there are some games that I will not be and I would rather fuck with a shaved ape than monkey with the monkey on your back. You don't believe me? Baby, it's your doubt! If you're so smart, then where's your magic wand? On the floor amid the Sunday papers and old magazines on the floor lies a roll of rice-paper once thought suitable for a scroll a mural perhaps of poems. Romantic. At the time it seemed a good idea, one of those beauties I never got around to doing. It lies empty blank unwrit-upon like an idea never bodied in an act. And forty feet of tissue paper that missed its chance sullenly reproaches me and claims kinship with other things I know. What is it I said baby bothering you? Is the greentooth girl come gobbling your candy motherhood? Stares the red-eyed watcher on your goldenwindowblind nudity? Or maybe the yellow balloon that broke some twenty years ago and your heart? Your first love still remembers you and I have not forgotten yet. What more could you expect? Baby what the Hell I said is it with you? You chase perfection and if today isn't then goodbye tomorrow. Even things complete call up memories of when and then you die. And if you think you have troubles now just wait until you stumble onto Beauty. Baby I could say Oh all sorts of things and things to please you and to please you I will say So. But you got to remember they're just things said. If I get real you got to expect it now (let's remember Beauty is a luxury) and then. When your blood moves slower than parting lovers and night's own beast grazes upon disaster in the loneliness of dawn you'll hear a horn sweeter than an angel's dreams of God. Then look for me from your window and me upon the meadows along of the drowsy trees waking the birds. Then look for me from your dooryard and myself down the street, turning the corner as if it were Ace of Trumps. All the sorrow of Eve is in her face as she perceives the way the world is planned and in her hand the future of the race and on her face the plea to understand. The wind swings North by West and I hear you singing in your heart. The wind blows from Southeast and I feel your fingers on my soul. And the wind dies and leaves us hanging in the air. Like the Earth that yawns and flings aside the sheets of night and, naked, meets the day, out of darkness, out of sleep I come to kneel at last, who never learned to pray. Like a bird that fills its silver throat with praise of all each new-dawned day will bring, full of hope and filled with simple awe I lift my voice, who never learned to sing. Like the tumbleweed before the wind which moves with grace for all it moves by chance, I set myself adrift and seek the breeze to leap for joy, who never learned to dance. Because I love, the world is fresh and new. I learn, I am, I say myself...for you. The sea-slick landscape, oil-bled and gray, goes slapping gently at the piers each day. The sturdy wood must think it can withstand the water's formless, weak and splashing hand. So we may laugh at all the blows of life because the world is so inept at strife. The piers forget the water's strongest trait: although the wood rots slow, the sea can wait. This innocence, this beauty yet unnamed, this untamed, fragmentary, virgin smile, this mild helplessness, concealing strength, this lengthy, comic, circumvented truth, this ruthless, serious, child's cast of face, these pacing eyes that measure expectations; the explanations hiding in those lips, these hips suggesting nights as yet unseen, the being, aloof, concentered on a role, this soul that binds me with its innocence. The chief objection to a tear is that it makes one's sight unclear. It is not wise to toy with Irony. It is a habit alien to the soul but native to the mind. Whereby we find a man can die laughing. Three pregnant ladies waddle down the street and when they meet reflections in the window, peer inside to hide self-consciousness I guess, or they are just concerned with Insides maybe. Baby doesn't know how proudly Mama hides his size. He lies within while mamas grin and talk of things like Him and Her. And so it were: three pregnant ladies waddling into Spring. The day was summer and Central Park turned over on its griddle. Everything was settled until the pigeons went home angry. In June the snowplows ran amok from boredom. Dawn came on strong and streetlights tiptoed off. All the snakes surrendered when the subways married. One day at noon the buildings walked away. By nightfall the stones had learned to dance. Who are you When you're not Who You think You are? Bits of time are finite, countable. Some people spend their time counting. If you would leap, take care you do not stumble over the World 's steppingstones. For one to deal in broken imagery, the objects of another hand and will, the fabricated births of restlessness, Oh that is art more brewed with deep regrets than half-a-hundred lovers' memories. Art is both the molding and the breaking, the turning of corners when the dawn is breaking, the re-unfragmentation of the soul, the skill to catch the heart just when it's breaking. Tatters and the naked man beneath and the grime of the forsaken past and the keepsake purity of what was future, more anger than a failure can maintain, a rigid pride where wisdom would be silent. This man has seen harsh seasons yet none so bitter as his shade. You who find a challenge in each sound, notice the scars and the shuddering reflex, consider how he came by his compassion and wonder that his touch burns like a brand-iron. There was a time he moved as an animal and his will sufficient for his reach. There was a once he did not feel his skin crawl at the sight of a suspended moment or gasp to hear his world crumble beneath thundering centuries and hush. The knowledge of his world as it fell, it cracked across his mind and who he was. This man remembers an instant out of time when he shared God. The unreal pain finds ways to sting the thing which is not there. The non-existent footstep rings on the non-existent stair. Nature defeats this minor technicality by birthing minds which also lack reality. Where the moon stands look for the angry wind fresh from victory over the fragile sun. Where the moon stands look for the blackthorn trees surrounding the helpless hill. If traces of the pale-ash moon survive the wind's attack, if silver moonstabs penetrate the blackthorn wall, look for a hand's-breadth of rarity (Oh once-in-a-lifetime-vision, life, new life!) and on your palm read mirrored the world's destiny and your own. When I realized my father didn't have a moustache, I felt sad. And when I realized I didn't have a father, I felt like killing the bastard, all because of a moustache. Somehow, it seems to take a whole lot more to satisfy me than it did before. Commitments and a strict morality have hurricaned the mind's most sweeping arc and left the twisted arts that might have been, screaming for light in furious, windy dark. A child's voice that asks the name of sin; and older voice that seeks a child's eye; hintings of a pure fatality; these are things for which a man might cry. Visions habitate the close-held dark, promising one last fatality, thrown into a heaven-searing arc, free of innocence and free of sin, blessing those still free enough to cry. What stopped the passage of what might have been? Seeing once more as by a child's eye, commitments and a strict morality. The grass is earlyspringlike coverednotquitecovered with light snow patches connected yet interrupt ed and continuously dis con tin u ous. Doublesight lightnings with visions paradoxing grass-and-snow with the phenomenal uniqueness of grass blade and snow flake. Things are, in many ways. I will remember water and silver and wind in a pale sky. I witnessed what I saw; the hand that shapes experience from event, smiles, tears and silences that spoke, blood that sang and things unwordable, the tune that mingles with a woman's voice when Love is noun and verb and adjective, when you and I seem somehow quaintly past in the unexpected present tense of We. There is no end to this, for having been, it will be, as long as memory. After the storm and sadness of goodbye, you I remember: water and silver and wind. They say they care, and cynic those like me who doubt that they are very much concerned. And then they die and do not care again. I have seen a thing to haunt my sleep: Eyes that mourn, in a face too proud to weep. Though there is no peace outside of death and though death is a myth so there is no peace, I would not mind so much if today didn't cost me all my yesterdays. Still Life with Lemon with sour grapes and rue, with sorrow and tomorrow and you, with choices unchosen, buds never to flower, an unpassed past, the future always in the future, and no Today. No Now. Living still life. Why? I urge my roses on, coaxing reluctant blooms from bad-tempered stalks. They naturally resent it and impale me every chance they get, but I'm afraid if I left them alone they'd never bloom again. What a shock to find one wild in the woods, covered with a carpet of flowers. In their own good time... I wake up in the middle of the night speaking bad French or mediocre German. I don't speak French at all except when I'm asleep and little German at any time except when I'm angry. When I'm very angry I speak Russian. When I'm absolutely enraged I shit in English. So there I was being philosophical in French and my philosophy (my French being what it is) sucked. Or rather, it remained unexpressed, like anger and love and other things I could mention. Sometimes I think I do that deliberately - philosophize in French. It reminds me how much is inexpressible in any tongue. What if we all decided to ? shit ? in the middle of Fifth Avenue & 57th Street. At High Noon. On a Monday. Imagine thousands of bare asses commenting on the State/state of the world (and commenting on 5th Avenue and 57th St.) and making their comments on 5th Avenue and 57th Street. Time is the burglar to whom we all open our doors. Casually we watch him rummaging through our lives, examining with his commercial eye our lives bits and pieces that are our lives. What a puzzlement when he chooses inconsequential knicknacks we haven't looked at in years. What fear when he scrutinizes a cherished heirloom of our past, polished religiously, kept in a place of honor. What disappointment when he tosses it aside. "Take it!", we want to scream, "It's important!". Expressionless, he looks at us and shrugs. Sorting through the collection of our lives having decided on a rummage sale of the soul we gaze curious and disremembering on joys and pleasures pricing them by whim til all are sold. We will not sell our pain at any price. Some people throw us Life Preservers, some people just throw stones. We seize what's nearest and wonder as we s i n k . CHUMLEY'S It is pleasant to see the poet/letter-writer/whateversheis smile as she looks up from the paper, smile as she glances at the others or at some private thought or because she feels like it. She has a nice smile. I'm jealous because I didn't invoke it. Maybe I did. Maybe she smiled at the sight of me. And maybe she just smiled. It suffices. Today is not a total waste. Thank you. There are beauties I have seen over the years and over the years the beauties cling in memory like cockleburs, persistent, tiny and a little bit irritating. God, I love beautiful women! I could spend my life in adoration. But more I love more usual women in those moments when their beauty leaks out. Brooklyn Heights In Spring Amazed at the variety of people every size/shape/headstate. What most attracts, surprises and disgusts me is that each thinks he has the Secret, knows best how to live Life. The women are pursuing themselves as time permits, as times permit, for their lives are complicated by the men. The women put up with them. It uses most of their energy, putting up with the men. What there was to take, I gladly took. What there was to give, I gave with joy. Oh long-lost love, you stand there in the rain. I have not yet forgot the heartache and the song. Today I cannot say which of the two is dearest. I only know that both have have left their wounds. But one without the other were Today without Tomorrow so I accept them both, the sorrow and the joy. Wenn man ein Wunder sehen wuerde, muss man ein Wunder sein. Aber die Seele is nicht zu gut; der Kopf is viel zu klein. Gehst du so froelich durch die Welt, wirst du zum Ende kommen. An jeder Stadt ist Tod gestellt. So is dein Leben genommen.