Poetry of Ken Schubert

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Shanny does what shinny sees
Poling thinly through a rush of trees
Didn't grasp until he reached so low
What all who had a pair of ears could know
And walked not upright or unduly bowed
A man whose aura could entice no cloud
Presuming wanton orange and a job of blow
If current pictures could receding go
Who wouldn't hesitate to flap his coat
In any desert wind, nor cereal bowl,
A light attraction for a longer mile
Where even fervent hate curled lips of smile
And brewed a gaping world to morning tea
Lisping sneezily to the crouching sea
 
The sudden circulation of a mind
Under car hoods or a splash of snow
Happens now and again, stops but once
Child weeping unheard, cloth-less
Time's breath is gray, not sad
Nourishing beyond body cares
Slipshod dancer on a marble sky
Boxed in by oldest human wires
Nativity shorn by bleating stars
Drooling straggler behind the barn
Saw little saviors scurry to their holes
Torched heaven's scarecrow gaspingly
Nitrogen devolved from maelstrom of March
Window washer who gave up too soon
 
 
When in the annals of regarded time
I cover your mouth and walk away
To stop now would be sadly wrong
Break up the dance but let the music flow
As in an older image of Malveux
Speeding backward train to Lockeby Row
Nowhere to run nor hole to hide
And only when the wiser or occult
Can cross live wire and retain its hat
Would sudden logic hold a sway
And sanity carry the whereworn day
All over you go finding what I would see
Shuffling our cards above the hectic night
In a city you no longer deny than me
 
Creamy dark you brought me,
Smiling winter sadness in a jar,
Pickles upward leaning noses out
Purple passion roses high and low
Lit the greening streets and sallow owls
Nowhere nodding empty wholes
Nymphoning all the days and ways
In and out blown wisps of straw
Where even you or I can be a part
Though often not alone on stranded hope
To joint-wise wish away the hour
Reeds whisper songs awash and far
And only when they cry you hear
I know we die it cannot stop
 
Furry as a mouse you crept into my life,
High-sounding laughter and soft like sheet,
Catching me off guard in my tower of shame
Inside a silken dream of ambivalence.
And when I awoke much later you were gone,
Your green perfume lasting as a waxy floor
Descending into its static parts,
Hopefully dusty blossoming sheaths
Over the rooftops spread your skirts
Who never opened a can when you were here,
Brightly timing an exit long acknowledged
But never concluding, slowly and ever colder
Until the night would clutch me like a cloak
Of blazing daggers in a ring of gold
 
On the other side of knives and brittle sheets
The relieved and once-angry man
No less weaseled or nattily weathered
A tongue-tied antelope or upward curtsy
Foaming high-sticked and always true
Could say precisely what he meant
Unctuously hard, if still a slice of cheese
Could win his heart before it slipped away
You on the prow where neither loss of face
Nor any tribunal could hope to save
Tightened the knot of words we never uttered
A package left behind but not forgotten
The white of winter a demented dog
Toothless and sleepy inside harmless eyes
 
A face that re-dissolves in very moment
I might have known but choose to skate below
A street that all too quickly becomes a square
Not far away, but averse to where I stand
Nor could the ragged strips of cashmere shawls
Deflect the tears that only wind could cry
Gleaning from the sunshine's glowering threat
The slide of death to now's eternities
And up a hackling monkey-laden tree
Scraped early users of the human form
Wrecking the backward glass to narrow sand
An ersatz star that lost a poker hand
We wrapped a yellow bone in smearless eons
Jump-starting atoms in a vehicle of shame
 
Pixels you were, or maybe stood for,
In your threadbare feelings and cosmic thoughts,
Whole in image and tattered from the side,
Where words dug in like homesick angels.
I seemed big, much too true,
And farther away could no one come
Without entrapping your fleeing heart
Beyond the limits of credulity or grace.
The furnace in the cellar scared us both,
Roasting us out of hearth and home
To heights neither of us could bear,
Electric shards of snow glazing our sight
And tearing us from what we held most dear,
The snake of language in a bed of straw
 
The fury of language in a platinum bowl
Zipped worlds apart to distance-defying gleams
Brighter than the eye could hope to know,
Older than a child would deign to count
When chalk rubbed damningly midst a muff of lies
The bear-tussed genius in his silver crown
Could wrench no teardrops from passivity herself
Poised on pinpoints of a fuddled start
Until the sputtering measuredness of dawn
Emptied dazzling nightpans into yellowing streams
For us whose grizzled crimes no longer sound
To sweep away the chariot's glassy shards
Confetti from an oozing earthly hell
Squeezing sunstrips from the mesh of time
 
Wish upon a nightly sound
As low as shafts receding down
Till stop say crickets with baseball bats
Topless knees and upward hats
You, who knew so much and swallowed more,
I could have answered with a lesser score
Were tunnels not a fatal curse
Nor wispiness a property of earth
Triangularity could not keep
What Sayde Adams saw asleep
The legionnaires of wandering snow
Longer than blow-horns sought to go
Though higher than Melisha's curl
Could no one see, if not a girl
 
In colder reaches a star is ever born
Burrowing oval egg, unstuck blackness
Your radio buzzes through relays of gold
Wire-cut meat and blood slab holes
Shin lining obscured by lumbering gait
Until we rip it out and fly away
You in the archbishop's corner, me a clown
The warring navies still refuse to claim
Nowhere knocking flat limbed door
Anthrax flight of once appealing wares
Trousers bunched round ankles up and down
Sunday light incapable of recess
Tumbling illness that could save a king
Dithered your fever in the slackest noose
 
On the basis of nothing a star is born;
And you, my dear, naughty down your life,
While fluorescently sizzling rugs
Anesthetize all-eye faceless flies.
The long train bleeps and dives away;
No horizon is big enough - or here enough -
No manner too pleasing for my taste
(Hyper-elliptic pizza regatta).
Any marriage reminds the snow to fall,
A door to open with no place to go;
Deer stumble but renounce no frown;
The woods step back and wide apart.
And no black can once eclipse the gray
Of naked brains in a defunct carnival
 
Handily rose the steam of God
Over treetops naive and fading
Where tricycles held no sway
Against the itch of first born pride
Your face but slightly visible
Hunkered in unvacuumed retreats
Nor could the primeval clock awake a world
That had barely survived a washed out beach
Food precedes life and death anybody's smile
Hawks dive earliest and women nurse
I watched you peek beneath your ancient brow
Rejecting the future brazen and ashamed
Exempt from the rules of orange velocity
Down stairs that screamed a new behemoth
 
In a mode wholly unanticipated
Heidegger writes letters to the church
Trips on his bathrobe and bruises his bum
Loosens his tie to caffeine presciences
Limited only by an angular face
A waiting room of oxygen re-civilized
Books emitted by dewdrop colonies
Parsed him from his jugular chair
But outrageous could no one call a man
Whose oatmeal barely withstood admiralties
Who nothing spread if not blindness
Nor hope possessed if not red death
And backward yellow beat his final drum
Domestic ecstasy from a dissolute balloon
 
Copernicus was right, of course,
It just took a few centuries to show
The ice-cream stars slid into place
Over the cone of an imploding rocket
Then the mind shut old Freud out
(An interloper at a midday feast)
Fired backward arrows from a plumed bush
Daggers in the omelet and pince-nez pies
No funneled hell could shake the bowels
Of sturdy citizens and fleeing thieves
The up jollying woods larked evenly
Nintendo ants crept closer to the ground
Nashville nighttime roared in from Calvary
Saving us first, then the whole family
 
A world without you is as white as air
Slices silver thinly but not old
Memories of orange-lisped acerbity
Crumbling houses beckoning in waves
No mortician stammered trellises
Or told high heaven of his fault
Heart-heavy craters bottom all too soon
Realms of lace that spiral gently down
Monster fountains straddling the night
I danced the high wire true and fair
Simmered the sterling fatuous
Bristle baby nosing down to speak
Noxious gender in a flounder stew
Derided phantoms and allowed all knots
 
Fruit trees come late and leave on time
Worlds dance swiftly with passing light
You taste forever neutrally wet
The edge of spring bites harder than ice
High in the hills a cottage squats
White but for the outline of fire
Ribbed mantelpiece, jutted kitchen,
Colonies of aviary ghosts
Pretence is holy but not a fall
Ten-toe winds plunge soundlessly
Recalling again an ancient tale
Mobbing the vessels of providence
You walked in with bags of food
Walked out with pinpoint hair
 
Form heavy dance among rubbish and gold
Oliver Twist in the rustling swamps
Diamond sized carbuncular horns
Posterior ponies unable to fall
Agile and maligned
Totemless or else
Nearing a divide of lemon and nails
Highwise balloon and pillow soft wiles
Gravel of long ago porcelain streets
Gray glitter dust and vaporized cheese
Noteworthy samarites loyal to none
Bearing their nobular front leaning canes
So many times and so few replies
Witch hunger screams asserted the lies
 
Slash the old slanderer retouched his sled
Wide streak and gashed as ever was said
Rivers steamed often or failed to run
Myopically resting near midnight's pale sun
Phrases too broad net a dearth of new fish
Shrinking humanity's overfed dish
Stopped in a rave of weather-stained breeze
Father screamed murder and hastily sneezed
Child slid bottomly below every game
Lifted high heaven in kitchen of shame
You became human when tires went flat
Life danced its one-step, lame at long last
Burn could do anyone who harbored a hope
Penniless pilsners on desperate rope
 
Absolute bread-line woes never revealed
Wreaths lain after the cold had passed
Disk-like panoply of cactus hope
Bore up a frosty window, star-pricked bubble,
A place of mind permanently visited
Jack knife clowns or messengers of trust
From friendly galaxies closer than skin
Dusty letters un-yellowing day by day
Ghost's profile nourished by the walls
Electric eras gone and back again
Wizened bureaucrat sloshing through the snow
Red Square resurrected from Atlantis green
Juice arrogated by rusty yards
Sales licensed in the first glimpse of dusk
 
Opium is neither substance nor agent
But a property of thought
That snakes its way through defiant space
Einstein in the bathroom and walls of ice
It is the siren that leaves no scar,
Exploring itself, coiled and free,
A trap door broad and nearly blocked,
A low eternal song
To find peace in a grain of sand
Demands intelligence, honesty,
Immobility that gives up at the start,
Sad eyes and a woeful heart,
Dream of wonder pale as fluff,
Sweet mildew that seldom was enough
 
Light in a doorway awakens anyone;
I step back, shake my head,
Laugh in the tea leaves, dance with shadows,
Say only what I can't help but know:
A volume slim but tributary rich,
Tree bark trite though wholly decipherable,
The clarity of a long formulation,
Stillness of reconstituted shapes.
Tannhäuser dips a foot in upper air,
Burrows through the eternal muck,
Prisoner of weapon and playground,
Forced entry, erratic, firm.
Tumble weasel notes a scribbled rite,
Adds us to his polymorphous compass
 
Each moment is a choice, oh Salazar,
Houses hide cellars and you your thoughts,
All things condense in the best of times
Parades arrive and dispel the contagion
The squirm of morning tangles the wind
Pink skies straddle oldest wisdom
You twirl your hat over passive prairies
I pick flies off the windshield
What we never mention is the fall
Banned from our parties, our primitive art
Future awaits the original cover-up
Now but a constant struggle to forget
The ceremony of ants is our invention
Staring back like white dwarfs, inside out
 
Rain-washed Stockholm streets
Blank faces the cheerfulest curse
White turns gray but child remains
Kings weep though never banished
The first windows show no cracks
Light no size though its speed be known
Time steps in for a final briefing
Embarrasses the drawing down of shades
From a low graveyard eternity shines
Rats hiss longer than the planet's hum
You swat words with a loaded gun
Nudging me upward in a splash of grace
Black angels bruise an awkward thumb
Swish their titles in a tub of gin
 
You, I'm not going anywhere,
It's fine, the whiteness is all,
Sleek dove impaled in snow,
Engraved birches, ashen sky
Close within the arching borders
A top ever spinning, ever still,
Niceness the cream of triumph,
Cruelty the powder of defeat
Paper was out before the trees,
Oxygen before air or anybody's cells,
Eggless antelope crouched in ruins,
Brittle music soared above
Disney dishes tracked the view,
Bombed low over Santa Fe
 
A weedy song you called for,
High but sober as friendship,
Rising on waves of thought,
Happy resort to opposites.
Duck epochs in an earthly palm,
Wide flower cradles the dawn,
Shimmering moonscape, plaited air,
Notes twist downward shingle-like.
Desertion is the recurrent theme,
Holy and doomed from the start;
Dynamite was aloe green,
The austere pirate (wild-eyed)
Dove from your elegies
Into an older and seemlier book
 
In the beginning was work, no filth,
Truth the venue of virtuosity,
Icing on a scalloped noose,
Traducement of poisoned wells.
The stench of jails is high, not far;
Boots go steadily scattering dust;
Time is lateral, lessons long,
Price always new and never paid.
Frost is relative to our sense of things,
White cap on a mole's head;
Thirteen tumbling clowns
Alight on roof top, purple noon,
Calibrated intent, convex lens,
Crib baby dance lighter than soap
 
Consider gravity as a two-way thing:
For the cosmologist, pre-pubescent Being
First feeling swollen nipples,
Imagining dependent litters;
For the recurrent scientist at dawn of a new age,
A label for the mystery which, once solved,
Rips off its own veil,
Revealing a gentleman helpless and soft;
For Einstein, the holy mechanic,
A description of the way the universe
Turns another direction each time one moves,
Without denying that nothing moves but God;
For one whose work is the traversal
Of the painted borders of the world,
The Earth's assistance in its own dissolution,
A woman who calls "Come here" and turns her head
 
Nostrademe's daughter lived in a brown tunnel room,
A place of notions and spider's songs,
Bright as the flesh of early space
Before fish thought of stars blinking on and off.
Her meals were watery like the juice of life,
Hippopotamus seconds in a fall of dust;
Sunshine broke windows and liquidly held
A tension of pulleys inside and space flowing out.
Having finished my business in the main hall,
I passed her room on the way to bed;
Her space blew wide like a billowing skirt
And my room sunk like Atlantis in the light.
She pirouetted tornado-like and loud,
The sea outside broke against hesitant rocks,
Mirrors surfed her walls like melting ice
And I coughed eagles into warring flight
 
Auras are necessary because pianos are skeletons,
And piano teachers are straight and cold,
And refrigerators make ice much too abruptly,
And the inside of your lips cracks with teeth.
Music is necessary because headaches screech
And time plumbs the depths of hopelessness,
And when we finally sit across a table,
Music walks in with the smoothest silkiest tie.
Love is necessary because words are dead,
And if I like you now, not later please,
And though love turn to hate it will always shine,
And though the Stone Age return, no stone hearts.
I see you round the corners of a maze,
And bless the walls that mask a frightened gaze
 
A present to you.
Four jellybeans and a cow.
On the last day a long long straw.
Let's talk.
What do you remember about
When you decided to come?
It's very important.
Say what?
I don't rightly know why Old Molly
Tried to jump over the moon
In her piss-wet (excuse me) backyard
And pissed, I mean missed.
I mean she lisped a broken lullaby.
Can you say "Pretty please mumblycheese"?
I don't know what's come over your father lately,
But I don't like it.
Can't you sing and walk backwards
Like in your silly dream?
 
The ice-cream jelly jazz man
Sings forks and spoons and frying pans,
And bigger numbers than you can,
Smaller books and fishing-hooks.
The wrinkled ninny in her lair
But winks and suddenly you're there,
And disappears except for hair,
Cold muffins and burning coffins.
The owner of the hospital
Has lollipops and worms that crawl,
And scarier voice than evil's call,
Deeper thoughts than apricots.
The man astride the ocean floor
Can't sing - but rubs his eyes for more
 
Mary in the morning spread like crisp newspaper,
Orange-bright as dark her fled tormenter,
Perched on telephone lines, singing to herself,
Answering yesterday's ads, clean switchboard lady.
Call from husband, chocolate doughnut and black coffee,
Hot bath, two pills, and swan-like sheets,
Guns her engine round the spiral streets,
Everywhere pacing cigarette hallways, long as breath.
She wakes to find gripping skillets, screaming walls,
Chain-talking detective, but no question comes,
Finds nourishment in vapors below cold floors,
Wraps chicken-bone family in hot swirling air,
And thinks of milkmen-princes, hard white paper,
Lays herself in green blankets and yellow arms
 
Sing, it's ending soon;
One day you're fat as a balloon,
And then you're hard as stone.
Walk, and face the sun,
Wherever yours shines best,
For that's the only rest.
Grow old as squirrels do,
Secure and smiling, desperate too
For one more winter's nest.
Shake the cobwebs from your mind;
Greet your saviors dumb and blind;
Run like grapevines do,
Up and down the gentle walls
That hold their sides while thunder falls
 
Only breath will stay,
Breathed from one who goes
Behind a crimson shade
New habits to assay.
Only time will tell,
Chronicled in dust,
The legend of a cloud
Releasing raindrop bells.
Only love will hold,
Fused in colliding storms,
Criminals and kings
In warm plasmatic mold.
Only action sings,
Only wings have wings
 
When the whodunit pizza man
Turned down wound corners
Nearing newly built membrane walls
Hoping to find the culprit before
Captain Buzz arrived with heavy flashlight club
He surprised himself upon a paradox
Whether the firefly fetus was the killer,
The victim, the hapless posthumous witness,
Or like old Oedipus backing his car over a cliff
 
It took a messenger on a cloudy day
To soften lumps of meanly tangled clay,
It was no accident that birds refused
To recognize the decorated muse.
For rules of flight on unregressive lines
Were broken once, but not another time,
The playful egglike nymphs in growing air
Established skies to shield their flowing hair.
And pre-organic prophets of extent
Created bubbles round what would be meant,
They spoke to audiences that yet denied
A role to willful exercise outside.
And yet the birds made one concession clear:
The food they now could eat made neighbors dear
 
When they moved Fat Eddie down to the street,
A little festival happened on the block;
Children ran in and out of skirts liked scared shrimp.
No 21-gun salute when they pulled away,
Just a dirty exhaust cracking the night,
But windows shone like proud candelabra.
No international news on Elm Street that night,
No drowsy sex after the weather report;
The purple air reported deep events -
Like Madeline brushing blood from perfect teeth,
Her mother writing notes to the loyal maid,
Her silk-pajamad father puffing fat cigars,
And breezes like a raven in the night,
Closing windows, laughing with the light
 
I'd love to write your story, me gone,
You in a big stone house,
Fireplace burning like the tartest orange
That ever God in jubilation made.
You'd lie on floors carpeted like forests,
Make love with hawk-diving words,
Eat fried chicken, crazy drugs and ice,
Write letters to your father sick in paradise.
At midnight you'd grow serious as snow,
Your eyelids would harden, your breath would go,
And your uneasy guests would rise to find
Stakes of emerald driven through their hearts.
You'd neither laugh nor cry, but swing your hips
As sailors do deserting sinking ships
 
The Clear Blue Sky (a fantasy about my anima)
Robert is the only one who still comes to visit me,
although it's him I was trying to escape from. He
says we'll be married as soon as I'm well. I don't
discourage him, just look at him with that sick
expression in my eyes I've learned to feign so
effectively.
It wasn't the fear of losing him that resolved me
to so desperate an act. It was a kind of weariness,
a culmination. Though at the time I had been
feeling extraordinarily happy. Robert had just
bought me a ring. It was a delightful spring. We
got caught in the rain a couple of times during our
afternoon walks. I loved the hot showers together
when we got home.
One afternoon we sat on the front steps staring
at the clear blue sky. Suddenly I realized it was
impossible.
I think I'd like to go off alone for a couple of
weeks, I said.
Okay, he said, where?
I stood up and walked into the house. He didn't
budge. By the time he had followed me inside, my
suitcase was packed.
I spent the next day looking for gifts. A
gorgeous coat for my mother, a book for my
brother. For Robert, the most expensive
microscope I could find - he'd been talking about
buying one forever. Afterward I sat down and
ordered a gigantic sundae.
That evening in the motel room I slashed my
wrists. After calling for an ambulance. It wouldn't
be fatal. I had figured out from the books how to
do it that way.
For several weeks they pleaded with me to
commit myself so I could be transferred to a better
institution. I screamed that there was nothing
wrong with me, knowing that was the only way
I'd be able to stay here. It's amazing how soon
they began to leave me alone. Even Robert's
happy, though he won't admit it. He's got a new
girlfriend. Her name is Sheila. He says they're
"just friends." I pretend to have a jealous fit, the
orderlies usher him out and give me my pills. I
learned long ago how to hide them under my
tongue until I'm alone and can flush them down
the toilet.
Then I crawl back into bed, prop myself up on
my elbows, and smile through the window at the
clear blue sky
 
a black man with a long silver beard tries desperately
to disengage from an ice floe in the purple twilight of
a very old century, hoping to embark upon a voyage
that will lead him to the windowsill of utopia. not
very successfully he swats away the flies of doubt
which hover about the interstices of his
disintegrating beard. in the distance one perceives
ever so faintly the drone of an armada of nuclear
galactic motorcades hoping to once and for all
establish the supremacy of the white minority. our
hero coughs swooningly and closes his eyes to imagine
a better world in which no whiskers would penetrate
the purity of the ever-expanding crystalline ambience
in which he finds himself. he mightily lifts an index
finger hoping to initiate a sea-change in the
consciousness which has not yet recognized his
existence. instead of causing movement his gesture
results in a resettling of the dust and a shriek of
banality from the motionless wind of his soul. he
starts to tear his hair out strand by strand while
realizing with minor ecstasy that the pain is no worse
than the boredom with which he seems to have been
eternally afflicted. around him skirt creatures of
interminably brief existence disappearing almost
before he can scoop them into the walnut-size briefs
which hang around the clothespin existence he is so
intent upon corrupting. in a larger sense he is no
longer able to marshal the forces required to oppose
an ongoing challenge to his subservience. the world
as-such impinges upon his perceptually-based logic.
mynah birds hum the death knell of freedom in the
porches of his ear. bees can no longer be said to deny
that the hunt is off and the feast has begun. can our
hero bear the burden of masterminding the process any
longer, or will the yellow sun of decay betray his
hopes once more? stay tuned for a further episode of
as the glowworm burns, reeking as we stand of an
everyday flame, the eternally limited garbage-chore
existence from which we each try to escape. the
question has been posed, the answer's existence
already denied. can we live with such a man as our
leader? obviously so and with a modicum of comfort to
boot. but will the soap operas tolerate such tedium?
our hero laughs and bellows for the first time with
conviction ciertamente que si!
 
What a marvelous day, I thought, waking,
I've come fully into my own,
There's nothing to do, my disciples have it covered.
I thought of climbing a tree,
Basking in the sun and writing a mystery.
Then I remembered, this is the day they kill me,
A shadow of anger fell over my heart,
Then I laughed loud, full of my father's seas,
My find floated off in waves of light
 
"What do they do in heaven?" my son asked.
Being a twentieth century woman, I thought of sex.
The only problem was I imagined my husband on his bike
Racing the pigeons to some old back door.
And then there were gleaming fridges,
Nights on diamond sleds,
Someone strangled over an opera balcony,
Or maybe walking from a fire hand in hand.
I laughed like chocolate milk, rich but a little dumb:
"What we do here, except there's no bellyaches,
And the moon sits on your window at night,
So you always go to bed on time."
Now a twenty-first century woman would have said -
But he gulped down his orange juice, nodded his empty head
 
A boy swatting baseballs on a sandy hill,
Its slopes folded like his mother's belly,
All soupy oatmeal, mutant peas, pink-gray meat,
Waves of flesh ruled in sepulchral beds.
A little girl baked as a golden raisin,
Queenlike tears clear on a flowering face,
Asking petrol dolls when beanstalk wars
Would swarm prophetic cities of her soul.
The fair-faced whistle-wearing wind,
All words of mumble-jumble Chinese priests,
Leaking its rain into childhood's only hole,
Jangling dinner bells, iron napkins, bathroom tile.
Husband running like a horse through swampy fields,
Wife screaming ecstatic wisdom at patient dogs
 
On a muddy Brooklyn street, trains like sick angels,
A huge black salesman stumbled to the door
Of purple Sylvia, clerk at Woolworth's store.
She had a thousand pairs of shoes at home,
Easter bonnets strapped around her soul,
Hymns that chased the starving mice from holes.
But in her raindrop heart she saw the world
Bereft of furniture that clangs like coins,
And prayed to floods where silent horses join.
And he, conspicuously empty-armed and free,
Saw in her wine-glass body crystal streams
That sparkled like a golden cloud of dreams.
She had to put the slipper on, of course,
But then who needs a stirrup? she'd a horse
 
I've been here two years now;
When they first dumped me like a dirty sheet,
I was furious and weak,
But just recently it's all worked out,
I'm being born daily and wonderfully.
I love now the clanging of metal,
Cages, spoons, it's all the same to me,
The howl of wind and electricity, men's games,
They come from my heart, they're my children.
I want you to know from this corner
That your cell also contains it all,
From where you look span the sweet stars,
From your dreams comes time's great orgy
 
Life's not friendly here in the colonies;
This morning an armadillo or something snapped at my toes;
These eternal meetings with the galactic reps
Leave me fizzing like seltzer water at midnight.
My secretary walks in each morning like an electric carrot;
She's never on time, which is no problem,
Except her stories grow as absurd as those meetings.
Yesterday I tried to take some time off,
Drove my autoship past a few craters,
Gazed into the dripping colors of the vacuum,
And I couldn't remember a goddam thing.
Then a face floated by that I'd known long ago,
When I really managed my own domain,
And there'd been flowers at midnight,
Secret messages and blind winter fires,
Seasons flying by like dying tissues,
And we so happy in the cradle of love's half-truths
 
Out of silence, dark,
Plump as girls by streams,
Timeless and mad for time
Balanced and stark
Out of darkness, motion,
As a fly buzzes and retreats,
Recapturing with thought
The waveless ocean
Out of motion, two,
Forward and back,
A moneyed universe
Mortal and true
Out of two, a prayer,
Despairing and wild,
Profligate intent
Of creature and sayer
Out of prayer, song,
Flower and grain,
Murmurs round a well
Rising and strong
 
Once, playing cowboy on a plastic hill,
I failed to hear the ritual dinner bell,
And glutted pigeons rose behind the dusk
To tell me that I'd heard a deeper knell.
I looked into the faces of my friends,
And saw that bright-washed ears were virgin yet
Of my short intercourse with winged books
That lived like vampires on men's fond regret.
I would have shot the stupid moon that night
Had not a caterpillar on my sill,
With index finger on his vaginal lips,
Foretold a revolution of my will.
And one fine morning, I awoke to say
That, skunk-like, rotten books had crept away
 
Hooded and dark, the old men
Who shadow the world with spears
Gaze at night into viscous bowls,
Searching for an image of themselves.
And we the victims dance in the rain,
Describing circles of death and hope;
We are the winners, if you count millennia,
The happy ones if you discount war.
Broken, splintered, the wise men,
Flapping in the breeze like soldiers' coats,
Terrorize mutilated backward centuries
And sail through mirrors of false light.
Now the enemy adjusts his tie;
Now the cough of night illumines an old sky
 
The more you do, the more the world stops
And watches. Unseeing eyes and forgiveness
For what you'll never know. And yet
You need it like the newly-fallen snow.
And when you are old, and when you are old,
The grayest clouds turn clear, and fall
One notch on the endlessly round horizon,
And only you can see the difference.
Mornings are all you will remember
On the way out of town, mornings cold
And clear as running water in a brook
You hear sometimes between wake and sleep,
You hear no more, you hear once again,
A child crying at the edge of town
 
The artist sees the world and runs away.
Does she long for something better?
Hardly so.
Or purer?
If anything, the dirtiest there is.
Then what do you seek, weary bird?
A place where you can be yourself
And live,
Not longer than three hearty days
With the yeasty sorrow of too much,
And too late
 
A brand new world of breadcrumbs and rust,
Spreads its lime over the political dust
Hate is all I can feel, all I can trust,
The last uncrossed barrier, last weapon I wield.
The highways we travel are the final battlefields,
A reprieve from judgment's inevitable yield,
We run from the burning prairies that shield
Our hearts from constriction in a furnace of lies.
The cement path to hell, we watch ourselves die,
Our heads wrapped in bandages and hands in our flies,
The sex of a lost generation that cries
Rocking baby dinner exploding in foam.
You in the kitchen and I on the phone,
Ninety miles per hour and no one at home
 
At desire's end I want you,
Who has never sparked desire before,
Only ice-chills and ivory disaster,
Who made people but want to die.
You who have always remained hidden
By the whistling of a bleary wind,
Who never knew me and never knew yourself,
Slept with eyes open and wandered blind.
At life's end I want your warm hand,
Dry as sandstorms on distant moons,
I want the light-shifts in your weary eyes,
The music in your ears of shame,
The body that ever was too small to be,
The golden mouth that shaped a crowd of worlds
 
Crashing bruised Sunday child,
Backyard lawn that eats up itchy skin,
Food that squirts vitamins in the eyes,
Wizened cousins and distant resemblances.
Oh Salazar, the world is no harem,
No cult of forgiven murderers and frustrated victims.
Oh wise one, the rules we make
Cannot under any circumstances be ignored.
What, if not that, is their saving grace?
When will someone finally take himself seriously?
It's been so long since a joke was anything but bloody,
And the only pleasure lies in our attempt to explain.
When we squirm on Eros' ruthless spikes,
Truth is what feels love when love feels death
 
In my dreams we do all kinds of things;
In the light of day it's either up or down.
It's clear everything must have a name;
You can't remember a world by how it's made.
Of the seventeen ways to make love
Only three remain - on the best of days.
When I chased you up a hill,
The mud splattered backwards
And your surrender created two new games;
Now only prayer has a chance.
Despair is a wind-borne song
And prayer the dying leaf,
Varicose as a bursting womb
Whose tatters point all seventeen ways
 
In my grandmother's livingroom:
Daggers floating in the air,
A sofa coarser than dragon skin
Carpet more pubic than anybody's hair.
Lamps high above Babel's fall,
Curtains flapping in a post-industrial wind.
Invisible walls like in King Lear's fields,
Electricity stalking like a desperate murderer.
A ceiling to muffle the stars.
The clock's ticking like a call to grace,
A single leaf in the soup of death.
Upon entering the room my body changed,
Shed the guiltiness of time,
Flattened out like an old and formless earth
 
Words and feelings are everywhere,
And all too many correspondences,
But patience went out with infancy's fall.
All things return, but not on call:
Knowing is an old seesaw.
You must dare to awake me,
If only to rub my eyes and sleep once more.
The wind's anarchy whispers my love.
The wind's motive is my love.
I dream of boundaries and fortifications,
And hope they are but partly real.
I see a hairy bison roaming the earth,
Resting now and again
In the wind's temporary shelter
 
Turning the final corner,
He forgot all the others
And saw the world shine
For the first time,
If not the last.
"Though," says Murphy,
Adjusting his glasses
And searching with his forefinger
Through an old and tattered album,
"In the summer of 1938
The same spiderwebs
Glistened on the leaves."
A poet is the oldest professional.
She quarreled with God - and won.
In consolation God got to create imperfection.
Now who supports whom is a tangled question.
But the poet has painted her every cell
And dressed her aura in blue chamois.
She walks the streets in search of tired angels.
For one stale beer they can be inspired
To forget their milk-cloudy homes.
They long for the banality of flesh,
And she for the blurring of its transparency
In the actuality of tree and stone.
The poet creates like God,
Erect and motionless on her saucer-like stool
 
I am against all that moves,
Be it out of principle or dullness,
But what I want is neither myself nor you,
But the will to want and to not have.
Why are we afraid to sit,
Preferring sleep and work
To the eternity of thought and failure,
The disappointment of just being?
In the beginning was boredom,
Followed by pure excitement,
But you and I were gone both times,
Sitting, sitting, being and regretting.
Though it's now too late to witness origins,
We have not yet finished sitting, nor begun
There's so much that you can't do
Watching the world hurtle on its way
That it's a shame we create our own prisons,
Make rules to catch flies and trap ourselves instead.
Nearly all my life spent in bright rooms,
Hard desk chairs and all-powerful clocks,
I remember only endings, the bell to leave,
I mourn what could have been in a softer time.
And I think only the whispering corridors were real,
Only the dust motes seeking any sun,
Only the smile disappearing as it grows,
A bubble that explodes in the birth of air
 
"A side effect of the air war was the psychological
effect on ordinary Iraqi citizens of having their
lights go out. The impact on civilians was
terrifying and certainly saddening. To say it's the
fault of the United States for fighting and winning
a war, that's ludicrous. War's the problem. It's not
how we fought it or didn't fight it. I think war's the
disaster."
- Lt. Gen. Charles A. Horner, commander of
the U.S. air war, 1991
It's certainly saddening, terrifying,
To see the impact of war upon a man
Who must have known once, at least as a child,
That bombs don't bomb, nor do airplanes fly,
Who must have once watched a bird glide
And seen volition, grace, responsibility;
For whom words were an affirmation
Of a duty freely and proudly performed,
Instead of shame masquerading as honor.
On the other hand, it would surely be ludicrous
To blame a man for pushing all the buttons he can
Like a kid loose in a big museum
(Especially when his job depends on it
And he's got a warm house and a soft bed
And storybooks to read all night long)
Each crime was like a flower,
Unexpected, free, beyond your strength
But opening, neither slow nor fast,
The petals of a mutual heart.
To close, at every divide, division,
To risk separation in learning trust,
You studied love in parallel rooms
While your pursuers ran in packs,
Learning nothing and forgetting nothing.
You were not strong like iron, nor even like muscle,
But strong like a river at its source
Bounding into the future's blackness,
Knowing annihilation as its fate,
But seeing also the annihilation whence it comes.
You learned because you set no limits,
Loved each other and your lives,
Followed the premise of joy to its conclusion,
Sustained by hope of a better world
 
Once gray covered the world like a satin sheet,
Green was a dream in a lizard's mind,
Oranges rolled backward on newspaper tracks,
Trees stood like pencils in a sea of black.
Oceans beat white knuckles on wallpaper rocks,
The lovers next door blew like feathers away,
Nymphs stayed at home on spaghetti phones
And satyrs stole train tracks for crutches and gold.
Color burst out like the Chicago fire,
A rusty teeter-totter creaked in the snow,
Mud spread oily over dewdrop suns,
Squirrels packed lunches and hurricanes grinned
 
"We poets in our youth begin in gladness,
But thereof comes in the end despondency and sadness."
- William Wordsworth
Sometimes when we're strong the lion hears us,
And it's all suddenly different;
You'll never see it in his eyes or twisted mouth,
It's something in the space between his breaths,
As a vulnerability to the suggestion of power
Content to masquerade as a foolish thing,
Prospero washing windows on a rainy day,
Birds burying stillborn youth as tanks approach
England was a lion, and so was Rome,
And every king in the flush of his new robe,
So mornings tumble monarchs out of bed,
And for one moment there's no mirror,
No facade of libraries with impossible shelves,
But nothing, romance of water and air,
Dewdrops on glass and brandy everywhere.
Then for a day that never moves beyond a field
Of poppies waving in a sizzling wind,
The monarchs mold new lions out of neutral clay,
And call them gifts of jungles far away
So madness is an option now,
Colonies have fallen and we're all wounded lions,
And if we prowl around dark corners,
We'll find ourselves at home, ailing and whole,
Or we can be as sane as iron rain,
Creating love out of recurrent storms,
Glad for the loyalty of insects, worms and things,
For the madness of man in his viscous womb,
And mad for truth safe in foreign tombs
Your soul, in which I see my own uncertainties,
Ascends through layers of flesh,
Ligaments of fortune and dissolving fat,
I can't say what I know, but wish-like thoughts
Fly from me to the cradles of your single body.
And for you also I'm a made-up thing,
Full of high dreams and a face like youth
Promising roses in the stench of doom,
Stumbling on the spikes of nature's conspirators
And waving bloody silk in mad despair.
Together, there's a chance in the anarchy of rain
To move the earth along its course,
To blot the lipstick of murder's arcane tale
With leaves of one spring's dying bloom,
The circus song that fades on rising waves
 
It's going to be different this time.
Somehow she'll know how beautiful she is,
And how much I know it too.
The flower that was once her womb
Will bloom in her speech, her wondrous mind,
And for me her injuries will be sweet,
The signs of a living soul,
Her covert role will be a child's game.
This time we'll meet in a neutral space
Away from the long mind of time,
The music will be of Christmas and of spring,
Between us nothing but the careless centuries
 
They say in the papers there's a war outside
Led by giants and larcenous men,
But here with you by a flame-filled hearth
I hear nothing, watch fables in the fire.
By your side I see the cloak of centuries
Parted to show man's glory and his shame,
I see little creatures, frantic beings,
Eyes longing for love, fighting with sleep.
In your skin I feel modernity,
Lives snapping like twigs, rushing trains
Burying years within a moment's roar,
Whispering love as an echo, an afterthought.
And in our room, encapsulated chaos,
Promises like young saplings,
I feel our ghosts smiling from the lights,
Rocking on the ceiling, holding wide the walls
 
You're as big as I get,
With your grizzled pumpkin head,
Black but in wide temple light,
Describing the universe in a lead of words.
I hear you in the canyons of my brain,
Oxen plodding over stony soil,
I see you through the fires of tired soldiers
In a heavy wind-beaten tent of canvas.
You've got pillars down which angels twist,
Impaled by laughter and sad as cows,
But when will I come to you as a neutral ground,
A space for landing in a wacky town?
When will the first murder be restored
Like gorilla movies on a circuit board?
 
What can you do with a kid who cries?
Bash him in his small pink eyes,
Feed him candy like the wages
Of lion tamers in rusty cages?
What can I do if there's nothing for me
On crayon lawns with chocolate trees,
If sizzling steaks betray a zoo
Where wives run naked and birds pursue?
What can you do when neighbors creep
To weave a dress for snow-white sleep,
When tables scream and toys roll,
And mirrors laugh though backed by coal.
You hug that child, and he hugs you,
And breath that's fled brings morning dew
 
The sun was a poisoned dagger that day;
The clouds sheathed it, they had to;
Rain carried me in its golden bowl
As a leaf fallen from a too-old tree
We need each element sometime,
Immersions becoming something else;
Earth falls to earth and water runs,
Air and fire play changing of the guard
So in the only bubble permitted me,
I was struck by lightning, astonished as an infant,
Atomic Abel and super-future king,
Praising all who moved or had been moved
And you, crouching behind dead trees,
Cardboard machete and rolling eyes,
Especially I thanked for times you couldn't stop,
Using earthquakes like recipes, shaking thought
The victim always wins, always,
Since God slapped darkness and light appeared;
Torture's now a purple light, and fear
Poses shamelessly, sends postcards everywhere
Avoid teachers, leaves are licensed to fall,
Rivers to run and earth to bear,
And we are licensed to make of our despair
Songs of love and roadmaps for ourselves
So, love, be crazy, fill the tub,
Drown memories or pick them like lilies,
Call me gently, out of time, or not at all,
Eat dark plums all life long and laugh
 
Sometimes the moon's so full
I don't know what to say;
Words fall down like April mist
And take the pounding light away.
Sometimes the sun's so deathly bright
I'd rather hide beneath a house
With headless worms and spacey friends,
Nobody squeaking like a mouse.
Sometimes I kick the tangled sheets
And pull my wet pajamas off;
I'd rather freeze in icy air
Than hear the voices whine and cough.
But in the morning all is new
Like birthday parties at the zoo
 
No need to cry, the trees still sway,
The evening's lovelier than the day,
The congresses of birds degree
The spell is broken, we are free.
It's no different now you know
That friends and fathers have to go;
You'll peel gold apples and you'll smile
When you walk that lonely mile.
We'll stroll through arbors, or we'll sit
Oppressed by nature's changeless writ,
But minds that lose relieve thought's dearth
As rain renews a withered earth
 
You couldn't sing, and yet the songbirds bowed
Before rough cakes you baked on business days;
You couldn't laugh, and still you thrilled the stars
Whose ivory touch relieved time's weary craze.
Your ruthless light led sparks from lesioned smiles
Through dark enraptured chambers of your brain,
Until the screams of falling lamps reneged
On promises deceitful men had feigned.
The iron in your bones reached empty towns
Whose gates stood open from your childhood wars,
But deepening ruddy mists revealed a crown
That spiraled clumsy jewels around your course.
You sat in studied reverie one day
While sterile waters washed your skin away
 
I'm the fat man in the circus of my life,
There's never any room where I go;
I've noticed though that no one runs away,
And in fact everyone regards me as rather small.
I asked the trapeze artist for his opinion;
He said he'd think it over, but you know their kind,
Bigness to them is a tumbling glance
At an everyday object mirroring a far-off thing.
Now the lion tamer was more direct:
"It's a like dis," he said, "we all got our troubles,
'Cept you ain't really got none, right?
'Cause you lives like a forest animal, ya see?"
I did see, and asked the clown for contravention,
Which he gladly provided;
I tell you those guys should have been kings,
The way they'll sell their souls for crazy flattery.
The lady who rides the elephant, now she was a case;
"The bigger the better," she said,
"You can't get nowhere with skinny legs and a suitcase,
Take it from me, I rode them trains."
One last attempt, I asked the midget,
Who clapped his hands, ran to pee behind the tent,
And brought me a book with skyscrapers and lakes,
Apparently illustrating some cabalistic science.
On the way to my room I met the manager,
Who stomped out his smelly cigar and said,
"Fat men aren't drawing the crowds these days,
What would you say to a lifetime pension?"
 
You didn't know much,
But you knew this isn't it,
This lie-strewn canvas we call life,
And you lived in the windblown suburbs,
Used your thoughts to muffle the lies.
For you death was the other side of the street,
And I'm sure you blushed when you got there,
You recognized the candy store from your dreams,
Probably bought a cigar for your man
And laughed the whole afternoon like an orphaned kid.
When you think of us now,
We seem like pale flowers
Living in slanted hazy rooms,
Talking through the cough of random gramophones
 
He's a boy, and he's caught
In webs that mantra-worms invent,
Carrying his satchel and flute in starry storms,
Robbed of virginity by Christmas pageants
That tell him, "You've picked the flower, now reckon the cost
In falling leaves that turn the other way;
On Judgment Day you'll watch the melting air,
Find gluey trysts despite your awkward gun."
And then he's finished as a king or thief,
His dreams descending into an apter realm
Of princes bound by helmets tourniquet-wide
In dark forest oblivion to save the dawn
In his pink-brained custodial role
He spreads economic cheer over bed and board,
The man with the answers and the toy pistol
Who moves interstellar conferences and children's lives
Finally in an essential ice age of hope,
Earth mother powerless and light like glass,
He turns to a religion of anonymity,
Warbling his mind's pollen to dying monarchs
In the old forests, Merlin among the weeds
 
In the cold Russian winter of my heart
Lives the joy of redness and pain,
The surprise of back doors swinging free,
Arrival of foreign travelers, intimacies.
In my bowels is an insatiable god,
Hater of substance, lover of spreading space,
Cousin to the mad galaxies of my cells,
Commentator on my foolish plans.
In my head there dwells a cat-like brain,
Certain of droll conclusions, a faithless book,
Content to be the steward of the heart,
So long a rebel that it needs no sword.
I lead, as far as thoughts reveal,
An exemplary life, filled with kingly hopes,
Yet there courses in my stolid veins
The blood of innocence, food of peace.
And in my larger body that no eye can see
Run nerves that sleep like gracious bats,
In a heart that hides within my enemy's house
Resides a jewel fleshier than my sex
 
You drive me out of hollows, out of brooks
Where jealous deer protect their tenuous broods,
And leave me wandering with a string of books
In marble labyrinths, securing woods.
I visit stores that aimless devils built
Vacationing from the world's oppressive hours,
When God's bright workmen dance beyond their guilt
And trees retracted retrospective flowers.
I dream a misalliance with the birds,
Hungry craftsmen with no sacred day,
But, victim of a gathering cloud of words,
I spill their dewy porridge when I pray.
As running children bow, I hold my rage,
Strong Casanova in a parrot's cage
 
I came to heaven with a jaundiced eye,
Expecting car salesmen and choking priests,
Clouds mansioned and gilt-edged like Spanish coins,
Olympic angels, low-cholesterol feasts.
I left my scrapbooks in the cold Midwest
Under my father's headstone in a battlefield,
Knowing God's sunny fingers would stop before
The Mississippi's gray and leaden shield.
I saw with blinding sight one April morn,
My husband's typing like swords of awakening ghosts,
I'd bought my sunshine with a vault of lies,
Traded my power and my ancestral hosts.
I stood, a frightened gull over the sea,
Waiting for the past to find a role for me
 
Your eyes like empty saucers' pleas
For cups of packed arrays of light
Revolved toward lemon fields of day
Where wispy winds hid burrowed night.
The lines that taught your body's sight
Stretched bones across a sea of hope,
And downward diving breaths of thought
Made waves of anxious bankers grope.
The wounded foxlings in your caves,
Where hunters' spears had feared to probe,
Had read the darkening alphabets
And wrapped their youth in time's new robe.
The violets dancing round your shell
Spelled paths to wisdom's selfless well
 
Tea and oranges, denial of real sex,
Babies born after the fact, lost in losing games,
Dreaded nights of misplaced love,
Mornings that come too soon like passing trains.
Death the same, missing forgotten births,
Funeral lines for unknown relatives,
Friends with other plans quaffing bitter wine,
Desserts that singe the meat from bloated tongues.
Ages gone by that live in dying brains,
Patient hungry birds flapping ignorant wings,
Bearded wise men, dry as autumn leaves,
Whispering of real plots on unreal kings.
Hope like tentative grass in sinking soil,
Pictures that make men, unsatiated solitude
 
Pain is the symphony of days
Born in time's orphanage of a sagging womb,
Dust layering the air like an efficient nurse,
Pounding circling galaxies into words and things,
And I cry pink and fat powerless water,
Drowning in piston waves early and late
From far shores of hope masquerading as dawn
At a party wild and shrill as glacial cracks
Love is of night in day,
When the seven-world traffic curls in sleep,
Sound holds waves in a prison swell,
The music of no time bad as xylophone keys,
And I grow from a sitting or standing pose
Away from effort's claws and drams of sleep
To my giant self, strong in chest and loins,
Big as the wind is big, older than mind
Ecstasy is of earth and stars,
Men on uncharted journeys, futile chases,
Blinking of words raw and ripe
Across a useless sky of lost dreams,
All seen through the mutual lattice of our eyes,
Forged in the heat of experience and lies,
Stories of what can't be until we know
The naked laugh inside an infant's cry
 
The rose of summer's flakes are like the frost;
In clearest chambers light has no reprieve,
And troops of ladies' cares are not the ones
That strike the chords which stir the forest leaves.
The time that lives in vials of cargo days
Retains its shape through wars with thoughts of men,
But loses strength in torrents from above,
As if to practice ecstasy again.
But neither rose nor frost nor time nor joy rehearsed
Recalls the hopeless secret of His flesh,
When raindrops rode the cheeks of men to gloom
And water dreams no longer could refresh.
Then simple smiles corrected gales of space,
Recurving roads no power could efface
 
His horse goes forth, but back he sits
On edges of receding day;
The flower's spring is not so strong
As wounded elves that in him play.
Forgotten colors shield their feet
From doubtful darkness' appeal;
The fluttering victim of their charge
Forgives the long redemptive heel.
Inspired by air's encircled sparks,
With careless helmet's prompt accord,
His still-white brown embalms his breath
In sliding chambers' lasting word.
The shake of crumbling angled space
Draws spheres around his sparkling case
 
I'm waiting in the wild Arctic
For time to move obstructing sleds,
Societies of thoughts to meet,
Cocktail parties, predatory straws,
Musical chairs the hostess always loses
(Smiling Bette Davis on long stairs)
And climbs to sleep in money's drifts
Through the unending nights, starving as seals
Dying for this season only
Summer's whirlwind brings a guilty sun,
Sweating heaviness over pert rodents
Never stopping, only actively forgetting
Like brokers selling on recurring Friday.
There in molten June's the chance
To change accustomed clothes for brown skin
That would smooth angel-weary flaking bones
And carry a motive body home, and home again
The single parent-child
Born at my side, in time slightly skewed
Ahead, above, or behind, is unrepentantly
Ignorant of my happy-ever-after fear:
Legions plodding back in muddy boots
From an unkept icy rendezvous
 
At storm's end the leaves shiver dry,
A child's cry echoes through the city,
Traffic sounds start anew,
Birds awaken to their primal song.
And the sun's a little older,
The world's wheels grown rustier,
My thoughts of you farther and more dear,
The troika of my soul straining harder at its reins
 
To awake is to almost apprehend
And then again to miss one-by-one
Messages from chairs-becoming and flowers-going
And people-preening learning and eating.
To walk is to almost dare
And then to fail two-by-one
To step through walls-receding and toys-breaking,
Grasshoppers-jumping flying and fleeting.
To speak is to almost cry
And then again to retreat all-by-one
Into shells-cracking and bodies-dying,
Sheep-grazing roaming and bleating.
To sleep is to almost hope
And then again to trust one-by-all
Fictions of lions-flying and oceans-feeding
And people-preening learning and eating
 
When dark roads that lead to pitted mines
Turn back to city lights,
And, turning once again like skitting gulls,
Stop before an apple tree in bloom:
Men's voices grow slightly softer,
Imperfectly as before a conductor's first stroke,
Chaotic sounds still lingering in the air,
Hope a little ridiculous, a little smug.
And nobody knows whether the girls carrying pails,
The boys leading horses round and round the stage,
The squirrels burying nuts, one eye on changing skies,
Are the music, the background, or the play.
But the tree drops its heavy fruit and folds
Tired branches inside winter sleeves,
Promising mindless marriages,
Strangers meeting in two-way doors
 
The moon waits at dusk for a burdened sun to sink,
Image of an abandoned wedding ring;
Her bus stop is a brown communion pew
Before the priest invades the web-like peace.
She scrubs by day, burns pink meat at night
In futile imitation of her Lord,
Who fishes in the bone heaps made by men
For pearls that even He cannot recall.
When she's struck motionless by night's black club,
Her heaven throbs like headaches on a hill;
She thinks of global children costumed like the stars,
Who wreak clear vengeance on the spiny flowers.
And like the moon, all powerless and free,
She roams the alien lands in blinding snow
 
You didn't see the stars, I cried out loud,
And broken shadows carried time away,
The island that we'd made was dust before the dawn,
The world's screen was torn by birds of prey.
The light of life lay muffled in layers of respect,
The mind's slow progress toward its fine demise,
And songs of woeful pageantry exhaled before their time
Held weary mortal fools in heaven's vise.
Be gentle, love, for dreams are made by dreams,
And hope seeks hibernation from the war,
But flowing circuit-silence awakens slumbering grace,
And laughter lights the disaffected star.
So bid farewell to heralds of time's loss,
The ship that sails at dawn needs you to cross
 
Thoughts fly in like birds, no introduction,
Convex cones covering nothing, like onions
Shaped like skulls, lacking word's drama,
Ignorant of backhanded cracks and blows.
Definitely you, sky blue and dumb,
Humble director with shady past
Connection with imminent song
Of experience lingering on lips
Rosy bleeding race car films and death
 
A chance to breathe in wind or snow
Is all that nature's contract cedes
To pilgrim jailers, cotton chained,
Aristocrats in love's old weeds.
Lear's storm instructs us that the mind
Of nature is unfeeling as
The orderlies in mental wards
Who lower steel to dying grass.
But fools escaped from afternoons
Arrested by our sweetened floods
Compose bright plays on nature's stage
Defiant of illiterate gods.
"You're proud as wild peyote, free
To line time's tissues with a cloth
Combustible as common hay,
Bright as a clown's recurring moth."
Down from wavering towers, we
Draw carts, trade fruit, search for the space
Insolvent in time's ancient bank,
Convertible by body's grace.
If we could print upon the air
The image of our spidery force,
Power would be that quality
That runs with nature on its course.
We'd make from friendship and from tears
An ode to the fratricidal squeal,
The joke that brought the playhouse down,
Destroyer on a spoke crazed wheel
 
A rat's face in a bordered mirror
Raised city walls above vacuum streams
Cooled before the time could scream,
Before late news could crawl away.
I saw you in your horseless promises,
When woolen emotions asked for nothing
But to be left in afternoon's blue oven,
To dry through crystalline abortions.
Anger killed is like a fledgling bird
Whose archives are its firm remorse,
It raises banners over flattened towers
To catch the flights of pale angels
 
If you wonder about the day you were born,
Look over your shoulder sometime
When your anger or your love are valueless
Like blazing diamonds in the desert.
Notice that you're surrounded by friends,
Coffee cups faithful and treacherous pens,
That forests and rooms are yours, and a thirsty world,
The seas your breath, feelings like storms.
Stars are your dreams, friends from a troubled past,
And you're the ruffled lion in a jungle of time
Scratching earth's cover for your willful self,
Speaking a screen of translucent lies.
Then make those lies your own like hungry waifs,
Be the haven for your outcast selves,
And like the air whose strength is born in flight,
Bear time's bastards in your arms of love
 
They say the child is ignorant of death,
But he's a darker monster to avoid,
The fear that night will last past help of hands,
He knows its kingdom's real, no thought of men.
For when we see the circle of our lives,
We rage against its hapless messengers,
And anger is our story, like a tank
That shoots at field mice in a lowering storm.
It takes a knowledge born of two-faced smiles,
Which make of the world's events a simmering brew
To draw quick humors from volcanic hours
And whistle paths to death's vine-covered door.
The child knows the place, but not the way,
The hosts of men blockade the body's streams
 
The rose of spring is both promise and despair,
Thorny flower juggling dying life,
Whispering of escape to hungry beasts,
Bleeding in a stem to hold its plea.
A tyrant plucks the petals, leaving stems
To spiral through the fading of the day,
Expecting a wandering poet or lost lover,
With adopted strength, to stay the spreading weeks.
The garden's image on time's screen:
Glassy torture to ambitious brains,
Servants led to a sandy table
Replete with rainbow manna from the sun.
Time drops, eclipsed, returns with nothing new,
A swing to lift wise men, a weak man's fear
 
Mornings I awake in close-cropped jungles,
Beasts behind my mind's translucent trees,
Plumbing drips backward like drying leaves,
I can't go out to wash, my skin's inside.
Electric chatter breaks the fragile shells
Of birds with but one day to live a lie,
So now I'm caught in the destructive myths
That draw train schedules on my window panes.
It's funny, though, the ghosts that rise to serve
Bright oranges plucked from the vacant air
Deny that things like waves and pictured dreams
Have truths to tell or gold to bribe a king.
The say that jungle's law is yet as just
As hired foremen spraying angel dust
 
Once I walked among trees and clover,
You'll recognize the day if you look hard enough
Through those wrinkled purses in your mind,
It's sort of scary the way time doesn't care.
I found something there, an old coin or dead bird;
You know, gems are only the absence of sameness,
A kid loves slinky and horrendous things
Because of soft carpets and smooth chairs.
Clover, on the other hand, is rather ornery upon inspection,
If you've noticed, each one will break as soon as move;
The wind does no consulting as it passes through,
Somehow creating beauty for me, and despair.
So I'm stubborn too as time walks by,
Waiting for a signal and a cornice of dew,
But I can only wave the way my space directs,
Orders from a field of numbers dressed in the green of words
 
If you love me, let me be
A secret well, an ancient tree,
Ask me when my spring will come,
Love me for my awkward thumb.
If you like me, laugh with joy
When I drown my only boy,
Ask me questions 'til I cry,
If you like me, let me die.
If you hate me, never mind
My stupid contract with the blind,
Turn me kindly out of doors,
Hate me but revere our wars.
But if my body chills your soul,
Write scripture, travel, dig a hole
 
In the temperate climates,
Evening comes as a black swan
Drawing up the day like a whirlpool,
And I'm more alive than life itself,
Able to ignore its garishness.
I see my natural family of existences,
Knowing I can live barely one,
Childhood repeating in a thousand ways
The little candy opera scenes
 
I was an eel in a parchment sea,
Clear but weak, confused but still,
Entwined in stringy legacies
Produced, I thought, by spear-like men.
But when the shadows stepped aside
And roses breathed a newer space,
The weary lines collapsed their knots
Into the softer, rounder ways.
Who were these bumpy sliding shapes
That drew me out with selfless arms,
That drew coy maps of sugared air?
They'd been my toys, they were my gods
 
In nineteen-ninety airplanes hit the ground;
It shocked the red-faced foxes in their holes,
And all the smoke-drenched authors of affairs
Threw worthless pasta papers to the coals.
Provincial station masters whirled to life
In Prussian myths no newsman could invent,
It was as if a storm from distant realms
Bequeathed its starry power to one event.
For Armageddon happens in the past,
Movie moguls use time's halting pace,
In tidal waves no privilege can affect
The watery romance of one man's jeweled case.
They built a statue to the dubious band
Whose bat-like whir escaped the shriveling land
 
Lowered upon a masseuse's feathery table,
Pneumatic floater on a depthless brook,
Object of mindless birds and maddened flies,
Truant student of life's wearying book,
I thought that God once took some tired clay
And exhaled sweetness from a distant night,
Then laughing like drunken dwarfs on rescued ships,
He wrapped a troubled soul in ribboned light.
I felt my warring body fall like stone
To emerald waters where action was a staff
To signal wild currents that a heart
Requires silence for its nerves to laugh.
Then time relaxed like bending trees
Assailed by gruff and restless clouds,
And lay its bullet head upon
Air's fashionless and ragged shrouds.
We found, both time and I, a room
Where love leaped backward like a clown
Over clans of gambling men
Whose losses brought casinos down.
I stood once more in uniform,
Shook hands and laughed with busy time,
Tested the waters with my foot
And played again in God's sweet slime
 
The community of nature has a glow,
As arcs of searchlights intersecting fear,
Mind's quick restraint before an injured life,
The pacts of leafy brush and violent men.
When Ann limped home, took off her silver mask,
Saw fetal red beneath a graying blush,
She mourned the gaps in daytime's cruel career,
Drew rings of heat through selfless cigarettes.
And later, floating in her emerald sheets,
She saw a queen astride a wooden throne,
Who bowed a fanlike head to cede her strength
That Ann might mold a life from shattered time
 
"Managerial malaise," they called it.
I knew the wind was bitter, and real.
I smiled for a few days, then dropped the act.
My office started to smell like Roman mud,
Starving kids behind the Coliseum,
All the injustices of a millenium
Crowded my skull, consumed my time.
I took refuge in the icy city,
In all the loosened people, kids and whores
Who jumped through the flames in my brain.
I found one place I could sit in,
One crooked cafe in one translucent corner,
Where appeared for me every creature there is,
I learned their rules, taught them ecstasy
 
You're not what you used to be,
You've grown self-contained like an egg roll,
Supporting my weirdness like a nurse or something,
I know where you stand and I'm glad to be here
Singing off-key and loving every moment.
When I met you, your hair flowed as you moved,
Your face was open and creamy in the sun,
Now your sex produces oratorical gems,
When you walk into the room, I salute and proceed.
Where I stop is at the boundary
We never agreed upon, it's there like bathroom soap;
I'd like to give you a journey into yourself,
A trans-Siberian ride, cold, cold and sparse.
But you've got plans until the mountains fall,
A place reserved in heaven and I'm not there,
If you're born again you'll skip the holiness,
Drink the thick milk of doubt and play with goats
 
When the harlequin morning twisted from the clouds,
Beating his tearful pillow to oblivion,
Leaving the world frightening and blue,
He laughed like a conductor wild at hilltop,
And fought to hold that blue clarity,
Until milky noon choked him in his laughter;
The brown cavalries of time, lace-hating beasts,
Left him weak as the cosmos in a garbage heap.
Knowing now the trivia of birth and death,
Love riding rails and jumping too soon or late,
Weather patterns like letters in a book,
He became transparent as sea mist and as sad
 
All morning in Roman air the dog men sat,
Windows surrounding them like thoughts,
Coffee their prose communion and their sport,
Writing the words that squawking parrots read.
Streets the testaments of their flowering feet,
Soft as trails through April woods,
Absorbed awful church bells and dead men's signs,
Producing old bracelets like Russian pawnbrokers.
Afternoon a restless prowling storm
Spun proud buildings like salt shakers;
The dog men didn't dare to count the ways
That heaven's traders lost their wares that day.
For in their dark convergence with the air,
They'd lost the scent, concluded selfish pacts
 
I look at you through our crystal bowls,
The eternally unripe bananas,
You're so long I could see you around every corner.
It's always too cold in here,
Though the central heating rips through our peace
And curls the National Geographic covers.
The last time we returned,
I remember the promises, the freshness,
You were white as the day we met,
I did my lion walk below the stars.
Later the pipes cracked, we almost died,
The silken river between us evaporated,
Though we looked the same, somehow still in love,
Food and sex became cardboard games
 
When Hamlet laid his life down for a friend,
He missed the trumpets of an epoch's end;
He saw no glassy shade of halting hope
From living buildings in earth's shrinking scope.
His story rattled in a cracking jar
Where conscious commerce with an infant star
Was still the dream of bright-eyed soldiers who
Rolled simple cannons under deepening blue.
As yet portrayals of imagined fawns,
Earth's oblong presence mocking cosmic yawns,
Magicians' throaty thought in flapping boxes
Had escaped the actors of his paradoxes.
His terror couldn't heed the call
Of crystal sparrows above the fall
 
I've got fairies in my veins,
Flying over waterfalls to the stars.
High above my heart's still pools
Floats a hawk across the full moon.
In your eyes I see the deserts
Traversed once by the sun's progenitors,
In our handclasp I feel our history,
Short, violent, full of false starts.
In our embrace I know seven miracles,
Sun, moon and five merciful seas
 
According to your authorized picture,
You were never happy.
Oh, there were those high romances
At the earth's far corners
Lasting for never-ending nights
That play yet in your head like jack rabbits.
There were long drunken missions,
When you saved your deepest honor
And that of your made-up kingdoms.
But never for a moment did you allow
The expression of a joy not yet captured,
The absurd white-faced lies of men;
You were all pink in your newborn cynicism,
You followed honesty's passion,
You were the loyal knowing
That lives beyond the death of thought and action
 
Dog loves man and man loves dog,
But who loves the flag of love
Raised after every battle has been lost or won?
Who regards the sun as needy too,
The wind as striving breath,
And breath as vanguard of the plea
That wolves and angels similarly speak?
Who applies the awkward hand of time
To restitution of unhappy crimes,
Victims pleading with encroaching night
That torture's slaves may laugh themselves to sleep?
It's not a poet or a sticky thing
That fences unprotected with the past,
Or any man with pockets full of power,
But we, naked stars littering the sky
 
The massive shoulders of his deathless part
Were carriers of an age's awkward heart;
He'd learned to be a ship before a man,
A melting glass before a sleeping Pan.
He strode to conquer women and brown land
In swirling days denounced by rushing sand,
And self-denying creatures of his flock
Hid liquid faces from his careless mock.
But angels with no patience for death's cure
Forsook their weak chastisements for a lure
That only witches from his private plot
Could set before the last deflowering knot.
For at the end his power was a girl
Who held a love that warning winds unfurled
 
Alicia Montooley from door posts of sleaze
Flustered her Norways on mastodon knees
Always thereafter with throttling flank
Properly pooping in sirloins of shank
Mantric perdition and fleetingly trite
Abler addicters of globular flight
Told shemonger upstands in raggedy mists
Old tales of horror and top-heavy trysts
To people who never could forfeit their lust
Over a rainbow or under a crust
Sweetwater raisin or alibi strike
Nellie Antinome, shoulder and spike,
Persuaded poor Herbert of hinterlands's ghost
That Mustafa McDougal puzzled him most
 
According to the Stockholm paper,
President Clinton's first year in office has been "godkänt",
Which I thought meant he was "approved,"
But discovered it was that he had "passed," got a "C".
A "C"? That means that all your answers are right
Because they only repeat the questions,
Like the March Hare who asked: "Where do I start?"
The King replied : "At the beginning and go to the end. Then stop."
C is the shape of a new moon,
A lot of edges and hollow inside
C is for compromise, that's when you win by giving up,
They carry you out on a stretcher and a wreath on your head.
The article said Clinton beat Congress 87% of the time,
Which is the highest batting average ever
(Except he fell down on the way to first base,
But they deleted that on the instant replays)
 
After four hundred thirteen psychological novels
And seven hundred thirty-five drunken orgies,
Has it really come to this?
A man who speaks five languages
(Presumably with a tongue in each orifice),
And has burped eleven times at McDonald's
For every vote his henchmen delivered.
But when they dragged his opponent (the President)
From the bottom of the Volga to inform him
That he was now both Almighty and Dead,
His eyes swam with twice-polluted vodka
That tolerates no grease of modern flesh
 
I never really knew you, now it's too late,
Your doom has been proclaimed
By the black-briefcased angel
With white uniform and heavy book.
But once we talked, the first time,
When you were in love and your voice chimed
With borrowed rhythms and deeper hopes;
Could you see then how it all would end?
Now those who know you stand around
And whisper what nobody can deny,
That you also belong to the other world
That cannot, must not be theirs,
And I listen for the return of love,
Your revolt against the oblivion of words
 
You're not going to believe this,
But it's 100 percent totally true.
In America, I mean with a capital U,S, and A,
They're developing the really perfect food.
It has absolutely no, I said NO, fat or calories.
(I mean the fat is there but your body shits it out
Before your cells get a chance to find out about it).
Isn't that just dandy, I mean what could be better?
Have you noticed how fat the corpses are there?
It's enough to make you want to shit.
But not any more, now you can go to your grave
Waxy as a cute little (sexless) doll,
No shit! So good night sweet prince,
And flights of angels sing in your bowels
(Since no worms will, knowing better
Than to place their bets upon a dying horse)
 
The city breathes too. If perniciously.
It rocks me in its splintered cradle.
I have always chosen the remotest corner
Where the anguished sirens sound like country breezes.
I elected rotting wood life over sparkling cement death.
In the city history rises skyward
And my neighbor repeats Genghis Khan's conquests
Each time he snatches his mail from my larcenous desires.
In the city I grieve the crushing of time
As I step on the immigrant light from living stars,
The criss-cross anonymity of scattered bodies,
On the way to fetch my daily milk and bread.
I seek the city, where laughter struggles to survive,
To rescue the cosmic roar from piping factories
 
Won't you dance for me.
I'm so weary and old.
I've waited so long for birth,
The only thing that can't be known.
Won't you disappear yourself,
Stop all congruences,
Conjure just one cause-less thing,
A question that has no answer.
Won't you make your boredom shine,
Stumble an impossible step
Against the conspiracy of light and dark,
Turn me into a shadow without edges
To affirm your dimming eyes
In my squirming wakefulness
 
You can give me but a dream,
A softness in this endless solidity,
This room with too many walls
And too many objects.
I would roam like a tiger
In my own space, or rather no-space,
A space no longer owned,
Creating itself in my mind's eye.
I would see nothing but color,
The first green and pink,
Something having no end
Because fearing no end.
Your dream would be air
When air was taste and not life
 
Now I'm going to explain once and for all
Why it is that we always wave our handkerchiefs
And assume that the landscape is receding before our eyes,
When everybody who's anybody knows quite well
That if the train rumbled but a little more
We'd fly out the nearest window, lunch and all,
Along with the nearest passenger whose collar we could grab.
Now that's settled I want to make it clear
That the future is a pack of lies,
And you well-meaning people had better watch out,
Because the dwarfs are digging their way up under the tracks,
So it's best you sit down right where you are,
If you want my advice that is
 
You asked me to explain.
I couldn't. But I wanted to,
To swing on the most fragile branches
As far out as stillness allows.
Explanation is for others,
Not us, the forgotten lovers of freedom.
Together we see nothing but darkness,
But like the two beams in Schlechtenheimer's paradox,
We seek a world where light and dark
Wrestle in the silver shards of breaking day
 
If you can't get old and that,
At least you can grow a little fat,
And fat, that ain't half so cold
As mirrors and baths and creeping mould.
If you have no history,
Learn a little mystery,
And mysteries are good as gold
When your brain has grown old.
It you have no time to say good-bye,
Sit still and stare at the sky,
Since the sky is all there is
Once you get beyond the mist.
If you can neither live nor die,
Then hum a tune while I cry
 
What can be more venerable than the snow
That ever fell from timelessness
To cover the spiky green of dying seasons?
What more true than the silence before love
When agony is able yet to slake a thirst
Too young to beg and too old to cry?
Each time the forgiveness of total knowing
Slings flat spirit flakes against my rotting door,
Winter has shaped yet another world.
When the footstep crunches but no echo hears,
Voice answers voice but never more returns,
The curtain falls like an old whore on her unmade bed
And dreams the transparent green of seamlessness,
Only to rise again on a life that isn't mine
 
I am but a time-glass,
My funnel body narrowing at the hips,
And when the sand has run from my loins,
A new life begins, my own life.
It takes a century to choose to live,
Another to learn to die,
And somewhere between sleep and waking
A time to play with chosen enemies.
My black cry in a blacker night
Enjoins the stars to battle,
The oldest and most faraway stars
Waiting for my still older voice.
And though the sand run backward,
Our strife lights up an impossible sky
 
When the heat of day cools to swarmy air,
Only murder holds sway;
The world is a jungle and was always so;
The barbarians are still slaying your kids,
But your insurance covers the losses.
The lions have become cars and sleep at night,
Jaws half-closed and smiling through the grill.
The birds of prey are your thoughts, my dear,
The nightingale your wayward daughter.
Your son's away hacking at the jungle's slumber,
Your husband caught in a spiderweb of lust.
And I, your muse and torturer,
Alone as an owl in his temporary nest,
Previewing your dreams for subversive elements
 
At twenty I could marry or die.
I followed my father's advice and did both.
Three kids and seventeen hundred tampons later,
I wondered why.
Himself he split without saying goodbye.
The flies this spring are extra thick
Around my sagging hammock,
But offer a kind of consolation,
Like kids whose talk has become irrelevant.
He once said when I was eleven or so
That Robinson Crusoe was the only book he liked,
So I know he'd want me with him on that island,
His girl Friday, I'd write letters to its owners,
"If you sell, please tell him it was all a dream."
 
The oldest statues are older than the weeds,
Remembering earlier lives, earlier and longer,
When green was clear as water,
Silver the color of hair and stone.
The oldest dreams are last night's,
Older and earlier than memory,
The fondest friends are being made,
The newest faces and the oldest thoughts.
The time of longing is always past,
The present but a waiting to long,
And all your hopes and all my betrayals
Cling to us nearer than our names.
The oldest soldier on the highest heath
Has waited millennia to die but once
 
A tree would be wise
If it could laugh,
But old men who sob
Are worse than fallen gods.
One day as autumn departed,
I found the remains of a plastic city
Among the skeleton-leaves
In a park with green-chip benches.
And if I cried it was for the loss of color,
For the smeared lipstick of a bygone time,
A protest against the arrogance of winter
That conquers with neither plan nor sanctity.
And if I smiled, it was for a distant star
That fed tired nature with its whitened blood
 
When you realize no one's watching,
Then you're free,
When you stop looking,
You can be.
When you cherish a fallen star,
Life begins,
When you forget,
It ends.
When you and your body are one,
Your mind can fantasize,
When you and your mind are joined,
Your body dies.
When life and art are one form,
Joy is stillborn
 
In the lap of the witch lies my love.
The setting sun is my call to life.
Can you who seek warmth in day's treachery
Find ecstasy in the daggers of night?
The houses bend enticingly toward me,
Barely concealing their shameful hearths
In the scabrous decay of brick,
They sputter their laughing epitaphs.
You who burn death into wallowing skin,
Who have no haste but forwardness,
Can you fathom the spiral of a flying clock,
A body that flashes on and off,
A mind sick with drunken and lovely sloth,
A soul rich as the stars' infinite oil?
 
I'll always encounter you not looking,
Preoccupied with the survival of a day,
Surrounded by fragile fortune, endless need,
Laughing from a place I will never know.
But I'll find happiness yet in your warmth,
In the cave that brightens in quicksilver light,
In the half-words, the invisible gesture, the tear
That decorates your heart-neutral face.
And though I die a thousand deaths, I smile,
Thinking your wanton thoughts, losing your game,
Amusing myself with the least of your pretensions,
Rejoicing in the smallest of your small successes.
For myself, next time is achingly early,
And I'll wait, Lord how I'll wait and wait
 
I always miss the turn of your head,
Seeing you straight-on and false,
False as the milk of a failed day,
Purplishly seeking a second-tier truth.
Impossibly unresolved to foolishness,
I spin within myself only,
An invisibly still gyroscope,
The face that launched a thousand ships,
And yours too, though you deny it to death,
But I who never learned to live can neither die,
Neither stop laughter with the rag of time
Nor cry in the milky substance of your thighs.
Nor does the day's end portend failure,
Foreseeing only hope in the porridge of dawn
 
Because I see you striding, but still,
I wonder if I belong at all,
Or am but a two-bit wanderer,
Fit but for the most momentary of delights.
Because you husband the planet's resources
And leave me with a whistle and a song,
I think of my seed as a withered fruit,
My work as a shriveled biblical word.
But I sense also the existence of a dream
Behind the shelves of a commercial world,
Embedded in your eminent and speechful lips:
I know how simple toys play in your sex.
And I sing though words hide in shame,
Though the music of love remains aloof
 
Mysteriously above a world suddenly good,
Or should I say dead?
Delineated like an original golf course,
The players invisible, quiescent, upright,
I want never to descend,
Never to face the wasting changes,
The decisions that lead ever downward,
The loss of closing doors and cloying meals.
I want instead the frozen upper air,
Sign of a past escaped to safer heights,
A future warm with the gas of space,
A present drunk on the gin of God.
And I find an older inebriation, green and dumb,
The animal likeness in a giant's thumb
 
Click click and it's gone,
That's love and life in the modern world,
So don't sweat it, buddy, you'll get better,
Anyway who the hell do you think you are,
There's people starving everywhere,
And maybe you're next, so buck up.
An old man told me once how to handle it:
"A shot of whiskey and some old-fashioned fun
And you'll be fine in the morning,
And if you ain't, don't go calling on me,
'Cause I'll be sleeping it off and dreaming of ducks."
 
Creating a universe is not hard,
It's cleaning up afterwards that's a drag,
So much uselessness at the end,
A raveled future, too little past.
It's a mistake we make over and over
To regret what never or did happen,
Impelling a population of made-up things
Into a vast and hungrily bilious balloon.
Believing as we do that we created something,
It would be better to reduce it to coin size
And leave room for the magic insanity of thought,
Swing doors and skip across threshold dreams,
Knowing much earlier than have you or I
The skyless hopes of yesterday's yet-to-be
 
Daylight is ambiguous, so am I;
If you are dubious, not so the world;
The game of life is all or nothing,
And less than old is closest to now.
Entwined we see nothing, apart less;
Sometimes, in our circling, laughter saves us,
Breaking down color in the white of time,
Singing the moment's black in atomic notes.
If we are certain, not so much else;
When everyone arrives, time's dam breaks;
But one prisoner holds the world hostage,
One dead soldier consigns our books to dust;
And a single spider with a human face
Defies the lines that ancient tyrants trace
 
Do I know you? - the question,
The parameters of which bore us both,
Belonging to a memory of which we're slightly ashamed,
I for not noticing, you for having stopped.
As always we can start again
In the whirling whiteness of pain,
You on your toes and I on my knees,
A wooden door between
 
Don't call unless you have good news,
Not unless the night is gray
And you need me for something I have,
Not to replace a lover far away.
Don't call unless you come careening
From hopelessness to hope and back again
And what you see in me I can deliver,
Not to return once more to where you've been.
Don't call unless the wind is silent
Where children have left their play and gone inside
And when you see me all you know is wonder,
And don't deny the folly of my pride.
When first I lost you all the rest was whim;
Could I repent but once, you'd stay with him
 
The evening's purple and I'm far from home;
The whiteness of the moon betrays my loneliness
With no prospect of anything but peace,
And that partial and ambiguous.
Though I know I'm not paying for any crime,
I can't help but feel the guilt of not having noticed
When you slipped away between the seconds,
Between the spaces of my thoughts.
The evening's purple and the wind is still;
I'm satisfied, not angry at you or anyone;
Still I remember a worm in the lifeless breeze
Sighing for you, for a touch of your face
 
Halfway to midnight I stopped and tied my shoes.
On one side of a large tree stump I sat and cried
Precipitously but nonetheless almost too late.
The afternoon was closing before the sun could burst,
And I saw you in the distance, or was it the past?
It was too late to tell, and too hard in any case.
Halfway home I lost my way
And would have been drinking all night in a tavern
Had I not remembered that lonely girlish figure
By a pond, breaking and throwing twigs
Until nothing remained but the ripples of the wind
 
Nothing to do with you, but I'm sad today,
So I think of you, the way you laughed,
So hard and just a little bit cruel,
So loud that sometimes I stopped my ears.
Not much to do with the weather, but I'm cold,
And I remember the folds of your flesh,
So inviting, anxiously passive, a little too much
And a little insufficient for us both.
Older and wiser, I'm still a fool,
Still I want to sit at your feet and learn,
But it's a barren windy room this morning,
An old cat sleeping on the windowsill.
I look for you and see only dust,
I listen and hear the flapping of old wings
 
How can I see as far as you
When I am nothing but a storm
And winter grows in my bones?
How can I move beyond motion
When in moving my muscles long to die
And in stillness I fade to dust?
How can I think to hold you
When you in your difference disappear,
In your sameness scream bloody hatred?
How can I leave you
When our speech is like breathing,
Our breath gasping and old like fire?
How can I say this to you
Who await no prince but gold?
 
It's always slow or fast, not natural
(An artist can't afford to be),
Where if you don't hustle you have to laugh,
If you don't laugh you have to leave.
It's timeless only so long as you stay,
And then you curse the state, and all the others
Who hadn't the foresight or the guts to know
Your worth, your worth, your goddam worth.
Once I felt old, then turned around to see
The legions of honorees, of birds and snakes
And all the forest kings and queens,
And all the cement dolls, calcified hope,
Your creation, darling, yours and mine
 
Green everywhere and not a moment of rest,
Nature is closed and so am I;
Neither stranger nor friend knows my address,
Neither lover nor enemy the password to my heart.
It's always later than you think,
Always closer to the shutting-down of hope,
Always possible the despair of cellars and grime
Before the white worm flashes its slimy grin.
Where I'm open is in a second of you,
In the brilliance of a moment's love,
The impossibly brief renaissance of life
After the dry bitter tears
 
The last time I saw Johnnie
She didn't see me;
She was bathing, naturally,
Straight and strict as a teacher.
She was scrubbing, scrubbing,
And weeping, weeping;
She was blue, oh so blue,
Not in her element, in mine neither.
And I shut the door behind me,
Poured myself a drink
And went home, to another place,
And knew I was lost forever
 
a lifetime is hardly enough for two,
though more than for one,
a day the possibility of our meeting.
a moment is too long for love,
too unshapely for any event,
intrinsically inimical to any other.
an hour, that sweet human thing,
is all we have, my love,
all we can ever dream of having.
and a minute, the stuff of hell,
the machine of slaughter and ideas,
is neither man's nor god's.
nor can the devil kill us
who write him such languorous poems
 
Most likely nothing happens afterwards,
But always the dripping of leaves at storm's end
Promises an untold cacophony of hopes,
The first satisfying and alluring meal.
I lose myself on the path of escape,
The maze of instructions, wordless looks,
The threatening music of criminals and kings,
Your praise, scorn, indifferent poses.
And arrive as I inevitably do,
Neither enervated nor beyond the pale,
I nonetheless choose the safety of a soft world
Over the danger of an old dagger truth.
Wishing to live more than to be,
I bet on a ghost-horse, death's treasury
 
Never forget the taste of freedom,
Though it bring down an empire
And malign the thought of love
'Til it swing like a thief at Jesus' side.
For though love die it will live again,
But freedom is a broken sparrow,
Less to be desired than to have,
A luxury only poor men can afford.
Never deny the tears of captivity,
For in them lies the idea of freedom,
Fully formed as an afterthought of God,
The dessert in love's swirling dusty meal.
And always in love bend down to impale
The leaf of freedom on time's withered cane
 
Never in green time would I say this,
But only in the dust of today,
The sunlight that quells hope's springs,
That laughs up its sleeve at night's cool mirrors.
Only above the hellhole of the action of noon
Would I ask for your burning hand,
Expecting no for an answer,
Would I write love's parchment music.
Never in the lime of night's veranda
Would I spoil one second of your liquid dreams
With the empire of my resolution,
Would power's worm climb up through the cracks.
Only now when the past applies to be,
When the universe eats and I am but free
 
Not in God's time, but in invention
We find the excitement of a second chance,
Sipping lemonade in a world of eels,
Listening through the rain for any voice.
An age is marked by the illusion of newness,
A style, a suspension of the ugly facts,
A book the icon of dead thoughts briefly living,
Illumined by a tentative and coiled lamp.
Death is always and only the same,
Accompanied by the same wet music, cackling birds,
The same absolute stopping of slippery thoughts,
The host of tax-angels, horn-rimmed illness.
In our time we pull back from the literacy of air,
Read the blotted colors we ourselves devised
 
It's not the distance that counts,
Nor the faraway look in your eyes,
But only the future of a voided heart
Done with a damp and ragged past.
Not knowing, not knowing now
Or ever. But wondering the value
Of the newest most desperate ignorance,
Desperate because other than mine.
I, you say "Rise" and mean to do less,
Fortunately. For when the dinner's done,
It's not yours or mine to tell,
Only review the embers of approaching dawn
 
I'm finally writing a love-song,
A simple note of gratitude
To you only, for being you.
It took me so long to say
I love you, and I don't know why,
And I don't want to know anything
Except I love you and always will,
Now and forever
 
Now I can sleep, but not well,
Knowing you're happy at last,
But not knowing you anymore,
Save in what happened, in what's past.
Now I can live life again,
Knowing that the future has come,
But not remembering except in pain
The quiet beating of a single drum.
Now I go on but not as fast,
Seeing a hope become a question mark,
Hearing a footstep but not a knock,
The heavy oaken door masking the dark.
But when I think of lifetimes still to be,
The rose of dawn portends you still with me
 
Okay I give up, I should have long ago,
But you kept showing up, albeit on the edges,
So naturally I thought it was happening:
Little did I know how much it maybe was.
But I do give up, honestly, truly;
It's just that I have one more question,
Not too embarrassing, just a little:
Please tell me when it was you decided
That I wasn't for you, please tell me when
(Not that I'd believe you, but I need
A story for my scrapbook, page 119,
And I want to know how it happened -
Excuse me, how you think it might...)
 
On the last night we sat in a swing
And looked at a sputtering present,
Backward but for the rush of events,
Branches breaking like soldiers' necks.
We each blamed ourselves, less guilty
Than afraid of the wind's harsh snap,
Awaiting a long night and a coiled day,
Praying for rain and cursing a steely sun.
The words were right, words and music of sex;
The wrong lay further in, the soul's window,
The reticence of a broken promise,
The fury of treachery yet to be committed,
Hope betrayed not by lack of vision,
But by steps too timid on a slippery path
 
When you told me, "This is the end";
I wouldn't listen, much less believe.
But you could have said, "Now it begins,
The real thing, the only thing I ever wanted."
And I would have known what to say,
And would have remained silent, pleased;
I would have smiled through tears of forgiveness.
And later, alone, I would have wept,
But sunshine glistening tears, not brown like sewers,
Not from the time of wrinkled horses and sleazy knights,
Rather from the no-time of two broken hearts
 
Quicksilver blankness at the bone
Propels me to golden feet,
And permits my love of you
A voice and a living vision.
The crawl of reluctant motion
Across a desert of ancient mist
Is my prayer, my desperate bible,
And you the ever-receding mirage.
And I the hundred-years' storm
Cleansing an embittered silence
 
Pain is for losers, and I'm not one
To dwell on my misery, so I guess
I've won - don't ask me why some
People get all the breaks.
You called when I wasn't home,
Didn't you? Intentionally so? Maybe.
Maybe I forgot I could call at all.
Maybe nobody reminded me.
Pain is for losers and I'm not one
 
The resilience of our mutual glance
Scares me every time,
Lost as I am in the hellish city streets,
Recurrently.
The tension of normal life hides,
Saves nothing from the subterranean beast,
The hunger for old feelings in a new bottle,
For father-failing birth from new ashes
 
The city rocks gently, uncertainly,
The music of nowhere going down forever
Balances my mind, suspends it for a moment,
And I see nothing, never a thing.
I should have been blind, should have known better
Than to look for anything older than myself;
I should have contented myself with you,
Simply you in your burlap and sackcloth
Crying across the bow of a sinking ship
 
I sing of limits, but not joyously
Because straining against the end is not endless,
Nor is losing any better than gain.
I sing of what is because only I can,
And only I can't imagine not-you
As hard as seeing you fully here or there.
I sing of what failed because it also was,
But tomorrow's truth is always a lie,
A world's victory my personal loss.
I sing of words, always comforting
Because humbler than dust
And proud simply to be.
I sing of you and me
Older than any song and even less free
 
Still because beyond thought,
Unwilling to abandon life,
The characters in "Marienbad"
Look through our eyes at an old world.
The stars fold themselves in drawers;
The rivers conform to the metropolis,
And the too-many bodies of men
Slump over bed-and-breakfast streets.
In a world used to constant motion
The stillness blooms fresh and yellow,
Lending perfume to men's sloshing dreams,
Finding out the temples of their groins:
Not the quiet of a war-gashed populace,
But the pride of awaiting proper guns
 
A long time afterwards I sat and wondered
What would have happened had I tried,
And I knew it would have made a difference,
And I knew I never could have done it.
On a bright afternoon at my life's beginning
I wanted to tear down the pictures on the wall
And didn't, and should have, and didn't.
I see the future, shudder and smile,
Expecting little hope and less sanity,
But sensing also the death of the past
As a promise, a release from the yarn of my mind
 
Talulah in the afternoon, thin and prim,
Ice-cream-washed air smeared facelessly,
Pink flesh perfectly set, not bound,
Longer streets than breath, wider than the soul.
We look inwardly outward, never knowing,
Never believing to know, flat as food,
So Talulah doesn't eat, picks at space,
Doesn't dress, wears skin out.
And I, the not-her god of longer time,
Notwithstanding pay homage to her,
Who lives by air and not by thought,
Whose straw presence composes a chord of life.
Whereas for me days are resources consumed,
She never dies, so chemically here
 
Time is a nocturnal street-cleaning machine,
Sweeping randomly back and forth,
Missing most everything and hitting some spots twice.
Time and my thoughts lie in an incestuous bed,
Too long familiar and too briefly in love,
Life the precious tears in between.
Time and hope are old and bitter enemies,
Identical and merciless and bitter and old,
Their conflict the death of the magic of fire.
Time and you and I are the god that kills,
That loves birth less than an orgasmic age,
That finds nothing in the endurance of stone.
Time, being neither long nor short, swoons in my arms;
The joy of its rescue flashes my eyes alive
 
To be honest is to be free,
The hardest lesson to learn
Among the murdering thoughts
That fly like vixens in the careless air.
To discipline hope as a boy,
Promising but with the flimsiest of rights,
Requires the strength of emperors,
The sweetness of morning's final dew.
To lie is backward as a curled leaf
Living past the expiration of air and sun,
To walk the corridors of a sealed castle,
Kafka in rags grinding rusty wheels.
While the song of words lives in our brains,
History curses melody but nonetheless dies
 
The trees sway forever but not me;
I'm finished after a dance or two,
Always hoping for more, however.
And if sometime I dance the third,
I'll write you a letter to let you know,
So that maybe you too one day will
 
When I awoke and saw you,
There was nothing personally ours,
But a billowing errant breeze,
Contemptuous of thought and of us.
When I spoke there was everything to say,
And nothing - a poem that had stayed -
A moment stretching between riots of time,
Speaking yesterday as if not a dream.
When it burst, or ingathered again,
No regret but also no new time,
The chill of distance like a fond goodbye,
A kiss that promised nothing, arrowless.
Then someone knew, but not we;
Then someone cried, but lacked tears to tell
 
Where you are now I can't imagine;
Finally you've escaped my stethoscope
And beat along newer paths, wider arteries,
Met new resistance, cried perhaps more easily.
Never would I want to know, nor follow,
But expect letters from the alphabet of air
In order to compose my own fictive vision,
To hear you at an era's last symposium.
So that where I am may decline once more
Before the magnificent chance of a fatal night,
I can sacrifice even you, your lost flesh,
Foreseeing the sweetness of the final coming,
The birth of kindness in the death of shame,
Love bent over by the whip of smiling luck
 
You in your very incompetence sing my song,
Though I view myself imploringly,
And never in the wrangle of days say
A word against your muddled peace.
Loyal too, but never relenting,
I watch the darkening carnival of my life,
You, absent in an observer's status,
I, present, lacking only the courage of movement.
"Die," say the motionless trees of summer,
"Live," winter's icy lattices;
Trapped in the eloquence of timeless days,
I delay the onset of any season,
And, freed by the onrush of dull events,
Submit to the rosiness of your fading lips
 
You're as far back as I reach,
And I'm as far as you go;
We're dry to each other,
Wet to the world.
It's not love that's missing,
Only the ability to lie,
To weave a nest of illusion,
To separate if only for a moment.
We blame each other, rightfully;
We cry apart, needfully,
But our deathbeds are mutual
As our births were separate.
If we gave up trying long ago,
Neither did love feel to fly
 
We're absolutely poised for a new discovery.
Our collective wisdom is zero, maybe less,
And likely to stay that way, if not worsen,
Though it doesn't seem to matter much either way.
Whoever thought up this particular world
Of blocks, so many blocks, such solidness,
Must have felt mortified the first night
When leather angels farted in the street.
Because we are poised for a new discovery,
Each one of us so far along,
So ignorant to know, so ripe to learn,
So green to shed the skin of facts
 
Across the far reaches of the universe,
It's not meeting, but longing, I desire,
To know you, but not know how I do,
To have you, but never to remember when.
Not to know, to wonder,
As the whole universe wonders,
As all ignorant worlds laugh and die,
This is my dream, my fantasy.
But what I see is scraps, a screen-full of scraps,
A paper life, dot and click-filled life,
The snow of knowing filling every hole,
And you, full, pink, pregnant, old,
Old as horny earth
 
Again the thin firm voice
Of an old angel born in time,
Shattering the crystals of habitual death.
Some things you can't ignore,
And it's not illness I mean,
But the imagined becoming possible,
Flapping in the wind like a ragged corpse,
The promise not of happiness, but of joy,
Responsible, attained, lost in time,
The song of an old crook, now a man
 
It's greased all the way down,
And you're at the window weeping,
Drying your eyes or waving me gone,
I never can tell, never can even ask.
Here in the graveyards of the towns,
The towns themselves, I work
And watch always watch, over my shoulder
For your midnight step, your betrayal
Not of me but of your oppressors.
It grows quiet after a storm,
The moment of sweet death before rebirth,
And I think I hear, no I'm sure I do,
Your slippered beat, clumsy dance,
The whirling confusion of your mind,
And I say to myself, as always,
"Only bad weather will save us."
 
As I was beginning this poem,
A thunderstorm began outside my window,
Which destroyed any possibility
Of an objective rendering of reality,
Since the irregular drumbeats of thunder,
The urinating insistence of the rain,
The rocking chandeliers of lightning bolts
Reminded me not so much of death
Or other inventions of the human mind,
(On which my poems tend to be based),
But rather of the insect-like protons
That, according to physicists,
Drop out of creation at a heart-renderingly slow rate,
And mess up my chance to live forever,
Guaranteeing that I'll write this poem again,
And again, and not only that,
But I'll write it from the same molding bed
 
Crisp is good, he said,
Clear shattering ice-filled breaths,
Day-sheets billowing close,
Pirate eyes hiding in public winds.
And your arrival, precipitous and slow,
Like April snow in a train of light,
I saw too late after a day of toil,
Weighed down by a pail of lies;
Holding my honest heart in next year's grace,
Embalming fluid of an old coroner,
I glimpsed his coat-tail forever fading,
Forever stirring your soul's draught
 
The day the twig snapped,
I saw an old emotion disappear,
And what had been dead was buried,
What to be born still buried too.
The day the dust became thicker,
I gave up on sight,
And sought an ancient path, any path,
Finding tin cans at the trail's end.
And when night came, clear and dense,
My color became myself,
And I the color of an endless sky,
Too deprived of light to mean a thing.
A twig snaps, the dust thickens, the night falls.
Who lies awake forever?
 
Don't break it, shake it,
Honey, don't mind the kids,
Roll on, Seymour, and knock 'em dead,
Hit 'em up for their last nickel,
It's all of us in this together.
Murphy the cop came by today,
He ain't got nothin' on us,
Like I said it's all the same to me,
Let 'em share the loot, baby james.
Larry the landlord's got a cold,
Oven's out, Mildred, go back to sleep,
Life here lately's a load of laughs,
Rats in the hallway and dogs in the gutter.
So one more roll, two more shots,
And I'm home, deary, dead home,
Another Sunday and a can of worms,
Another Monday and a rusty dump truck.
Shake it, don't break it, I say,
I'm gone, up to my ass in it,
Mable the neighbor's hanging from a rope,
Jack the janitor's roamin' the streets,
But we're all happy here because
Max the mayor's downtown, deep downtown
 
Dumb as snow, eyes hard and clear,
She curls in my arms, an electric doll,
Her softness bristles my restless hand,
She's so close, I'm so far and fearful.
For her nature's a momentary play,
For me it's a threat, the rumbling of death,
Behind the trees I imagine monsters and ghosts,
She sees a new world, eternally in motion.
She looks at me, through and beyond me,
Focusing on my disintegrating body,
And I try so hard to fix her in time,
In the chain of being that my mind creates.
And suddenly as sand my thoughts shift,
And just as suddenly she's gone,
Inspecting in the grass the wind's passage,
As I observe another minute's loss
 
The dying swish of a car turning the corner
Is the theme of our common symphony,
As we recognize the passing of a century
And acknowledge for the first time its existence.
We think it's life that's passing,
But we're wrong, almost tragically wrong,
It's only the years that pass, life only grows,
More insistent, present, with less in the way,
The chatter goes in less deep,
Missing the farther reaches of the mind.
The importance of it all is never acknowledged,
We learn from the first day to deny our eyes,
A world absolutely whole, absolutely real,
Impinging on our senses like an inside job,
And we pledge the later hours, the rainy day
To the enterprise of which we're part.
It's a terrible, a comical mistake
To imagine ourselves abandoned and alone,
Missionless, distracted, and afraid,
And even to create a universe where nothing happens,
When where we really are is so different from that,
So like a warm kitchen, bright and warm,
Old, heavenly, and busy, very busy
 
Exactly when the church bells rang,
They pledged eternal love,
But not the way the world demands,
And for that were forever shunned.
They'd heard not metal's tongue
But angel's laughter at the devil's fall,
And welcomed thundering voices from within
That served to drown the prattle all around.
They died, or so it seemed, and re-emerged
On the same spot, grown wise and less dour,
Closer to insects, protected by the birds,
Enemies of the mule-trains led by men
 
I'm happy it's over," she thought,
"It" being more or less everything,
The life of packages, babies and packages,
Cool imprisoning sheets, failed laughter.
"And where does this road lead?"
Or rather, what is the rule by which it curves?
This was the meditation of the moment,
This once-in-a-lifetime time, this day,
Fringed by the monsters of her other life
 
I could have said God bless you
To the legions of doubters and world-weary men
Who knew what they did and cried at heart,
Not for my pain, maybe for their own.
Already their wives were flat wide lily pods,
Their dried tears dusting a shared amnesia,
And I unable to judge, but wanting
To please them, to flesh their graying lives.
I could have said, lay down the ecstasy
Of your graveyard power, your hopelessness,
Rise to yourself, fear love's unknown size,
The desert space between your fingertips.
I could have said what you don't know won't hurt,
What you will learn will only make you sad,
But what you learned long ago in starry winds,
Grasp onto like the tattered coat of life.
I could have done this much and more,
But I was angry, out of sense and mind,
A stranger to the drop from heaven's draught,
And had I spoken, would have feared the glare of night
 
If angels were crying tonight,
It wouldn't be any softer a time,
The murder in my mind so buried
As beneath the shrub of history and death.
If the winds bore news of paradise,
It wouldn't be any sweeter a time,
The bitterness of my soul so dispersed
As beyond the steel gaze of the stars.
If I grew tall tonight,
It wouldn't be a smaller Earth,
The clumsiness of an idiot world
Broken in the porcelain of light.
I'll never see your face, but Lord knows how
Your tales deceive the lazy skein of time
 
If for just one goddam phone call
You'd stop being the Queen of thugs,
If the absolute hairdryer in your room broke
And your lace clock went backwards and stopped,
If the rocky soil of your mind sprung flowers of glass,
And the mutt at your feet howled like a lion,
If the air turned pink and sweet as cotton candy
And speed up were the same as down,
If there were always as near as here
And you were always in-between,
If small were really everything and not in pain,
And you nursed electrons instead of men,
If you never called for me to cushion the fall,
But celebrated the fall of death on fields of life,
If nothing you or I did remade the past
But altogether erased putrid memory.
And every act were mutual and free
And frozen space drew us two as one,
Then I'd be who I am and who
And what and who..
 
The day the twig snapped,
I saw an old emotion disappear,
And what had been dead was buried,
What to be born still buried too.
They day the dust became thicker,
I gave up on sight,
And sought an ancient path, any path,
Finding tin cans at the trail's end.
And when night came, clear and dense,
My color became myself,
And I the color of an endless sky,
Too deprived of light to mean a thing.
A twig snaps, the dust thickens, night falls.
Who lies awake forever?
 
In the season of wholeness I was bare,
When the rain ran like spinach, I slept,
And the faintness of bird-calls was my theme;
When the Earth's aura laughed, I wept.
Twentieth-century man they called me, but something else too,
A species in and of itself, born close to its death,
Trapped in the falling decades, the rotting years,
Enemies not of time, but of the hope of its slowness.
But it was really the end, so no wonder
I spent my hours watching Sunday blizzards,
Read of adventurers in new lands, now gone,
Fought the radio-wave heaven they gave me.
And now, stopped by men but not by time,
I watch the heavens close, though older than I
 
Lately I've thought that the trees want to leave too.
I don't know if they've been more restless,
But I see something new
In the stretching out of desperate branches.
I know that it's only a fancy of mine,
And I continue to work - like a tree to, I guess,
More firmly and staunchly rooted in my place.
It's not that I question my roots,
It's what I accomplish that bothers me at night,
Growing outward to the nothingness of the future,
Feeling less and less the wet hope of the soil
 
I live for certain priceless moments,
Such as, sitting across a table from someone,
I realize that I'm sitting across a table from someone,
Or, even more difficult, making love,
I remember that it's love I'm making.
It could happen just about anytime,
Which is most likely why it rarely does,
And were it not for coffee cups and cigarettes,
Etc., probably almost never would.
And though I know that searching is half the problem,
I don't stop on that account,
Because I've found once, maybe twice,
That the feast of love is laid out eternally,
That the banquet hall is a place I cannot leave,
Even as night's shadows flit across my mind
 
I long to be absolutely sane,
Quiet in the invisible currents,
The rods that go from heaven to Earth,
The weather of time stretching and dying.
And though I know sanity is impossible,
Devoured by cruelty and shame,
By schedules, deadlines, selfish dreams,
Though I know a mindless pit awaits me,
Suddenly I'm surprised by a sane thought,
A sane being inhabiting my space,
And sanity is not only possible, but all there is,
And I am an old warrior roasting in the sun
 
Love is not a feeling, it is action,
The action of growing vines
United by the purpose of growth,
By nearness and by the lack of nearness.
Love is discovery after the fact,
The fact of what you did
While you were thinking only of yourself;
Love is the death of shame.
And most of all love is tears,
Because we are dry, the earth is dry,
Our lives are dry beyond redemption,
And love redeems not our lives but only itself
 
My favorite topic of conversation:
"What makes humans superior to animals?"
(Since I know ahead of time
I can defeat any argument that is advanced.)
Suffice it to say I myself believe
That we are the pillar of creation and all that crap,
Since Lord knows we have no other reason to exist,
Being useless at any nourishing task.
I'd say we have a long way to go,
And we're not necessarily going the right direction
(Not to mention fast enough),
But at least we have a long way to go,
And that's somehow a comfort to a frail ego.
There's another favorite topic of mine:
It goes, the world's made up of two kinds of people,
Fill in the blanks, the correct answer being, naturally,
Myself and everyone else,
But instead invariably takes some more elegant form,
So I'll venture in the context of this poem,
The world is made up of two kinds of people,
Those who promote the progress of humanity toward its ultimate goal,
And those who minimize the collateral damage,
I.e. suffering, along the way
 
Near the end it's too hard to take;
Only afterwards can you relax.
You find out there was so much more
Than you thought, and so much less.
So it happens once, twice, possibly,
Not as part of your story, but outside it,
On the days when everything's normal
Down on your grandmother's bright patio.
Your brain is like a spider web
Catching first the light, then life itself,
And only when the world looks away
Does the spider smile and the dying globe take wing
 
No murder happens only once.
Each moment afterwards re-creates the crime
As we long for the glorious eternity
Before the fatal step was taken.
And anything that resisted the deed
At the instant of its willful thrust
Threatens the drunk serenity of shame
And we call it the cause of our misdeed.
Thus the ancient criminal plies his trade,
And thus the knife of winter bleeds,
Turning snow's innocence to blinding hate,
Calling forth anew the wisdom of the Earth
 
Older and older we grow, together
But closer to separation,
And more often now I look and you're gone,
More often it's a lonely sidewalk I think of.
Pitiless the sun, pitiless the earth,
I seek no longer warmth but breath,
I awake unrefreshed but glad,
Each moment a grace, an erotic chance.
I don't forget you either, no,
You're there, bent like me, old like me,
Your wrinkled melon-face alert, waiting,
Your movements precise, cat-like, ancient.
Only together can we feel the pain,
Only apart see the riddle's smile,
And only in the stretching-out of hands
Touch the answer escaping through the trees
 
Once again we meet
In the most incongruous of circumstances
Across a thumbnail divide,
And you as red as pre-world dawn.
I'm struggling, always struggling,
To exist where there is no existence,
To be someone where you're the only one,
And climbing out of the cellar of my nothingness,
I thought it was heaven, I had reached the old alleyway.
And we meet, any tenderness returns;
I could have been dead so long ago,
But it's a gray miraculous sun here
That burns despite itself, despite the ash of time.
No, we weren't made for each other,
Nor are we of each other;
From separate kinless universes we come,
Beaming our love through the velvet summer night,
Eating ice-cream cones, staring, staring
 
The one who sits across the ages,
Impassionate, cool, fire all around,
Pen or sword in hand, legs crossed or spread,
The long extended one, the lover.
Deafened by the din of armies,
She didn't know until the cities sprung
And died once more, she didn't know
How empty sound could be,
How village laughter fades in city dust,
Nor know the resonance of infants' cries
That never die, but lose , lose terribly,
And butchers that are kind, but idolized,
Their violence the icons of an age.
And still she sits, a worshipper still,
And sees so clearly that she's always prayed,
Though to what or whom she never cared,
It was to whatever the age couldn't see
 
For years I had only one hope,
Which I followed like a string
Through all the city streets and pink sunsets,
Through days struggling to emerge
Before the assault of weakness and despair.
I found what I was looking for
One autumn afternoon on a rocky beach,
Having just spent my last quarter
To hear the first, the last, betrayal of a friend.
What I saw was the hard transparency of being,
How in the hardness of the earth and air
I was hard also, hard and true,
An artefact of eternity, dead and alive,
Dead and alive and learning to be free of both
 
You come to me but partially,
Like a night-shade flower
In the wide mushroom swamp
That nourishes and destroys my life.
You disappear when I need you most,
To return in my most leaden hours,
Like a sun burning crackling leaves,
Blinding a one-eyed shrunken doll.
And though I've both loved and hated you,
I am most often further off
Than thoughts and words can reach,
Encased more by doubt than by wonder.
Yet what I see I hold most dear,
Glimpsing my future through what I lack.
On this occasion of living again
(After a long night of sickness and sorrow),
I sit at my third-story window,
Legs dangling, mind and body engaged,
And I wonder once more who I am,
Or whether I should even ask such a question.
For all I can see is sunlight,
Brick and sunlight, concrete and sunlight,
A world of glass descending to dusk,
But I remember vague images from the night,
Images of despair, but something more,
Wild horses, crazy wind, blasts of cold
That shatter the old corruption of the sun
 
Probably all day long on any street
They dance, the small ones, incessantly,
Chattering like modern birds,
Wise but free where it counts.
They wouldn't refuse a tête-á-tête
Down by the drugstore sewer pipe,
Where it runs chocolate as life itself.
And in the rooftop breeze
Someone listens with flapping heart
For the first signs of original song,
The whistle before time rises and leaves
 
The problem with saying goodbye
Is that you never know you're doing it.
There's always some weather condition,
Aching rain or bitter snow or sandy sun,
Between you and her and her thoughts and yours.
And there's always another crisis,
One of those that makes you want to die,
Happening at the very same time,
And when that's over she's far gone,
And you're strapped to a tattered chair
 
Rule number one, you can't keep it.
On the steps of the temple you fall.
Julius Caesar pleased no one but his wife.
In the vast Shakespearian multitude
No faces emerge, only insect voices.
And you and I, atop the stone ruins
See each other with gem-like clarity,
See the primal bush, original grass,
And hear the down-flow of stale air,
The regular breathing of an old man,
The tomb-man fashioned by a long life
 
Ever since this whole thing started
We've stood atop the bones of others,
Flesh of their murdered flesh,
Sinew of their snapped ligaments.
And it was okay, it was life,
It was the way life became itself,
The way we laughed at long day's end,
The food for our unsatiated spirits.
But never until now, no, not until now
Did living faces cry out to us;
We've crossed the River Styx before our time,
And death is now our daily life.
And we think, oh the sin of it,
Those crying faces are of others,
Other forms of being that are not us,
No, never, not us, not of us.
It's not so much that we die,
But that we miss our deaths,
Which come as we are preening
For one more night's masquerade.
And the faces that cry out
Are the life of mine I forgot to feed,
The dinner I missed while sitting at my mirror,
And they cry not vengeance, but simple need.
But I don't cry, I can't,
For I don't accept my death;
I've signed the treaty but forgot the terms;
It's not mine, it's not with the company I work for.
I know we love each other,
We've said it so much now,
But if only I could love the night wind
That whistles from above my neighbor's house
 
Some things are simple, like crowds,
Swarms, beings in celebration,
Not of life or death or being,
But of something else, of the wind;
I'd like to say, of the wind,
That neither makes nor keeps promises,
That insinuates itself where bad is good,
Where action is its own excuse,
Where women defy their sex, their men,
Day holds night at bay with reeds.
Some things are more difficult, like you,
And me, and all the unrealized things,
The armchair that could be a humpbacked giant,
The cat who's an angel or a frump
Depending on the direction of the roll.
Or should I say depending on us,
The infinite losses that bid for one spark,
The chance in a billion to witness, to stay?
A tame world, beholden to violence,
Not the kind that explodes suns,
But a more insistent type,
Blind to itself, aware only of other.
A world of no gentleness, all regret,
All talk, always talk,
The gem-gem of telephone wires,
A world like a dilapidated baseball.
Here we are without options,
But one always lurking behind a door,
The Cheshire smile transforming into seriousness,
The look of young-old Moses in the weeds
 
They dragged me out of the bowels of the Industrial Revolution,
Spanked me to life in the Gay 90's,
Forged my manhood with the Rough Riders,
Taught me to outfox everyone with a world war.
I prospered during the Great Neurosis,
Pulled gold teeth from the jaws of battle,
Stayed high in the Sinai for 40 years
Till the Stuffed Bear fell and I with it.
It's a long dry century I see before me,
Tubular, clean, high-disease and pain,
Days of aspirin, marmalade, and shame,
With a strong hurt earth rumbling revenge
 
Though you seduced me, you held firm,
And I too, an old oak in the wind,
I lift my hands in a gesture of defense,
I'm playing with my languor,
King of the clean knifeblade days.
When we meet now, it's in a billow of smiles,
A screen of light and dust like our lives,
I see you, not as you are, but as you will be
In the century of green and ice,
When our love will drip like instants
From the windmills of time
 
Time whitens the grayest of days.
What we thought had moved
Instead transfigures our furtive sight,
And we see crystallized a sea-world.
I dreamt on the hard bench of noon,
Seeing prehistoric beings in the creased air,
And reached out beyond you and me
To our original father in heart's pain;
I found what I'd wanted, rain and snow,
A broken fountain, relics of the future
 
You were always brown,
Never white like the satin of the reality
That we thought we knew,
But brown from that first moment when you said,
"I hope that I'm one of us too."
And I didn't think much of it at the time,
But later I saw that it was a shared illusion,
A precious shared illusion, that we needed to live.
And it was the rain, always the rain outside
That we hid from -
In a room smaller than ourselves, smaller than our bodies,
The chamber of the agony and the glory of living
 
I watched a ball roll down the street,
Brash in its lack of intent,
Altering course only as an afterthought,
Licking its wounds through motion,
Asserting non-existence like a banner,
And nuzzling the air like a Sunday whore.
And I thought of my entire life, aimless for its multiplicity of goals,
United by one non-existent mind,
Defined only by its streets, its rooms, its dust.
And I knew that we, the ball and I,
Were absolutely, not analogously, the same,
Blown by the same winds, pulled by the same gravity,
Torn in two by the same growth and decay,
Destined for the same greatness
In the ruins of a final century
 
We always do it to our own.
No stranger could understand the game.
In the deep gravity of treachery
Our murderous deeds don their purple cloaks.
Never, not once, do foreign dragons die
But some of us freeze on lonely piers,
Not in atonement, but to complete the kill,
Not to hide the victim, but to show her face.
And not once, returning to steamy dinners,
Crossing the threshold from shame to serenity,
Do we remove our boots but we admit our guilt,
Do we love a child but we turn away
 
When I came back, I stepped over weeds,
The banners of enduring dust,
The smooth division of light
Into what I knew, know, feel through pores.
Or is it somewhere outside, above, through,
Somewhere where meet thoughts and touch,
Excrement of my being, sex of my soul?
I wanted to tell you, but I stopped,
Slipped new skin over a worn-out frame,
Letting go that which had sold its hue.
If forever were real, or not at all,
I could find you, cross arms, hold your sex,
Be as you, outside the light's deceit,
Take the dark's velvet and the light's needle,
Weave what I am into the vacuum's rush
 
When I try to look into your eyes,
I see the curled dying leaves of fall,
And know only the roundness of despair,
The loss of hope's fragility and pain.
But I love you too, for the thoughts I incur
Of gossamer worlds where butterflies drop
Into the soup of kings and harassed maids,
Where soup and maid and king are flowers by dawn
 
You smile as if you remember
A long-gone love, long but not far,
And what then am I,
The future or the past?
Or the present, the most frightening?
Now requires so much to be,
And, consuming all, never is,
Leaving me forgotten and afraid.
And you, could it be you know
Something about me, about anything?
Could that smile be a moon's truth,
Reflected, cool, unassuming light?
I think, believe, you know;
I don't want the data, please;
Leave me in my rosy ignorance;
I'll bend with the breezes of your mind,
The story of your heart
 
Ballad of a Posthumous Sailor
"Others have finished with their challenges; they
want to die and are looking for an excuse - a
face-saving device. However, those who choose
such deaths want to die in terms of drama, in the
middle of their activities, and are in a strange way
filled with the exultant inner knowledge of life's
strength even at the point of death."
- Jane Roberts, The Individual and
the Nature of Mass Events
 
"A culture cannot be consciously created. It is an
available source of ideas that are embedded in a
complete and homogeneous society. The poet
finds himself balanced upon the moment when
such a world is about to fall, when it threatens to
run into looser and less self-sufficient impulses."
- Allen Tate, "Four American Poets"
 
Part I: The Significator
I awoke running, on a cusp, in nineteen forty-nine
Between Eva Braun's suicide and "I Love Lucy"
(A polite way of saying Lucy loved herself),
And have awoken since in many analogous scenes,
E.g. being chased on a sunny acid trip
By the previous night's assailant,
Sunday, Chicago, nineteen seventy-one,
Suddenly no-time and scary, no mitigating clouds,
Hordes of people in the park and me on the cusp
I have awoken hearing my next lover scream
Her way out of a spoiled bed,
And knew it would end the same way with me,
That I'd be running still,
Body and soul a little faded
With a brightened mind
I have awoken with absolutely nothing to do
On mornings stalled regardless of the season,
Days stretching past arrogantly erect gas stations -
Institutionalized apathy not being there
Twenty-four hours a day including Christmas and Thanksgiving -
Weekends laden with ice chests,
Always planning Monday morning
And trapped on the cusp
I have found myself in movie theaters,
Part of one telescopic mind,
Gazing down infinite newsreel tunnels,
Webs of pseudo-sensations, obscure warnings,
Death around the corner, paralyzed
In the heavy brightness, converging Enlightenment
Worn like uniforms on holidays,
Brittle parades along an hysterical street
I have gone to a Mecca-promising school
Sunk in a spiteful social desert
Which highlighted its essential nature,
Training grounds for its own destruction,
Practical results infinitely shuffled,
The old notes of a teacher
Mute as a muzzled dog,
Unlike Greek academies, which did nothing
And bequeathed us everything,
So I tripped home on a turnpike truck
And told bewildered parents
I was in school because I was there,
And we were caught in a slush-filled split level,
But Cordelia had wide marble spaces,
Fleshy bad examples
And a proudly ignorant father
And I have found myself in a shallow among jagged rocks,
Odysseus without a crew,
No myths from philosophers of contiguous ages
To unfurl my tired sails,
Lacking a method to distinguish nature's hardness
From the selfishness of blighted men
(Penelope in a parallel situation somewhere,
Busy with alternative models,
Her nurturing loom buried in a cheap hotel,
And so my flailings unsafe and untempered),
Fearing black paralysis more than death,
Natural in an age of seat belts and bomb shelters,
Finding nourishment only in the absolute moment,
Which sages called the blessing of darkness
And I called helplessness,
While taking the blessing
Because death's sudden pavement was harder than I,
And more careless
And I have distrusted the following
(Telephones bleeding silence absolutely in jail,
The whole world at some witch burning or another,
Boxing matches or Sunday dinners,
Streets lonely on held-over Christmas):
Best friend, as an angular dog,
Gruff and precise adversary,
Appearing out of cold Chicago nowhere
At the worst possible moments,
Screaming headache sunshine blizzards,
The other side of an hour's hope,
Disclaimer of soap opera's peaceful lure,
Threat to the difference a day could make
Untainted by murdering holidays;
Lovers with vaginas dishpan red,
Thinking themselves too swollen, wet or dry,
Squinting in the flash of male air,
Too angry to kill,
Tearing hair, small impotent wounds,
Pain the size of coins on sinking ships;
Myself big and helpless as an old bear
Beating the table for porridge and wine,
Locked in white kitchen cells,
Afraid of talking bedsprings
And laughing girls
And have similarly loved everyone
Revolving through earth's ethers:
A bunch of sleazy angels
Singing "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" on a London tram
Among dank sex and doughnuts,
All like me, short-circuited brains;
Plasmatic dog packs running Chicago streets,
Tamed by a wild potpourri love drug,
Sorrowfully hating Death masquerading Tomorrow
Like the desperate pharmacist in "Romeo and Juliet";
Melodramatic political meetings,
Feeling my face, sensational steel,
Ready to blow ourselves through traitorous walls,
Worshipping moonfaced heroines, cast-iron hips
(Who later settled down
To raise stock brokers and ballerinas,
This lifetime or next);
Myself, enlisting as New Age Bouncer,
Standing at the thresholds of a spiritual maze,
Waving in scared novitiates,
Winking at strong deserters,
Buying their dreams for a song,
Offering them a full meal and a storm of love
And I have carried, during long intermissions,
Cheap brandy down city streets,
Trying to free the caged air,
Furtive yet smelling victory
I have died recurrently
In hospitals, banks, and jails,
Guards or tellers lonely and opiated,
The customer a criminal and dangerous hope
Of escape from boredom, Mac the Knife,
Money controlling all and out of control,
Bad trip quicksand that Falstaff never knew
When Hal paid his debts and he went to sleep
(Our institutions never have beds,
But there's always a way out or in,
Swinging door Magic Markets
Or the local pound)
Part II: The Schizoid Hierophant
Shakespeare wrote at history's end,
Blending Rome and England because it no longer mattered,
Able to portray himself as a visible word
Because his material was limited,
Fitting over life like a comfortable suit,
Couldn't afford waste and everything was there,
Could be a prophet for the coming prophetic age,
No royalty that would matter,
Time raped again and again,
Prophets ruling by demanding
Of each man in his own voice
America arrived, obedient as bad fucks
In health clubs, lighted pools,
Big boozy managers ready to stay another hour,
Collectivity a fashion like mad TV cartoons,
Society an inner game in a personal age,
Everyone exclusively hungry or sad,
Ready for violence in Dutch or Swedish taverns
Left over after the marble sea flood of Enlightenment,
Absolutely alone in an expanding universe,
Whereas Hamlet had a troupe of actors
To portray his dilemma,
And a woman who would do anything for him,
Even obey her father
Shakespeare's characters approved of riot,
Even Iago who stepped in when the time was right,
But we're all catalysts,
Acting from flowering foreheads,
Mushroom clouds we can't commit to,
Simulation making wine and meat indigestible,
So we feel and die in stomachs and cells,
Ulcers and cancer, our hearts, strong and enslaved,
Ignored by Freud with his Godfather penis,
And Jung with his third (or fourth) eye,
Whereas Falstaff really did die of a broken heart
For Shakespeare eloquence was useful,
A symbol of England's honor,
"Happy men" in the uniforms of kings,
But we don't care what we say,
Language the shorthand of deceit,
Honor the victory in an hour
Of one man over another
In America honor's a material thing
Like property, for the personal man,
E.g. when it became "necessary to dissolve those bonds"
That had held descendants of aristocrats
To drunken tax collectors and generals,
Even Tom Jefferson had to rush home early
To get fucked or smoke opium,
To stuff his personal body,
Having affirmed the collective nonentity
Thus the cult of Presidents, bigger than Kings,
Busy newspaper lives, bailing out friends,
But John Kennedy had nothing to do,
Too proud and tired for much action,
Had hemorrhoids and was essentially impotent
Except for one glorious moment at the Bay of Pigs,
Dreaming in his deserted harem of poses
Before Life Magazine's cameras, holding hands with Carolyn
And thinking about his next fuck,
Finally assassinating himself,
Causing Bobby to die of a broken ego,
Arab Döppelganger,
And Teddy to smash his jangling brains
Against the President's moon
Of his Seven Ages,
Shakespeare's characters lived essentially in the second,
The wide spaces of schoolboy with satchel,
Unwilling to enter the next age
Because symbols lined his path like birds and trees,
But for us only drugs and computers are real,
Making age irrelevant,
Because we feel old and young in degrees,
Like the weather,
Knowing convergence of night and day,
Remembering childhood exactly as a dream
Experience is now vast, like libraries,
And we run from discovery to smothering houses,
To cocktails, or milk and cookies,
Go to bed early at anyone's orders,
Unable after a while to digest anything external,
But Shakespeare had to grab it all,
Because there was so much less,
Each thing bigger,
And huts and castles equally incomplete
For us the biggest thing, the Church,
Takes care of the most insignificant,
Bazaars and bingo,
Spreading out over a paved world,
Absorbing a culture's shallowness,
Protecting the penis' standard hardness
Buried inside the social milieu,
Fuzzy like John Kennedy on a cheap cassette
Idealistic before scheduled trysts,
Or an Indian guru watching long romantic movies,
Thus everyone alone at the end,
Heroes reformed, or not, in anti-utopian novels,
Fat and bankrupt old athletes,
And only movies truly religious,
Involving our whole bodies,
Bigger than our lives
When for us the Savior does arrive,
Mantled in power and definite Grace,
His legitimacy unquestionable
And irrelevant to individual paradoxes,
Lost relationships and restless mates,
Like our mutinous stomachs and cells,
He's complete and can only save himself,
His perfect visage remaining unblemished,
For the earth is shuttering anyway,
Shaking off its shriveled skin,
And no man can ever blow it up,
So it's not packages of light but responsibility
Which will reinstate history
Part III: The Quantum Messiah
Like a mountain lion comes the knowledge
That walking is freeing and free,
Thought's content is useless, but its form
Squeezes out disorder at a moment's end,
A pendulum at zero acceleration and infinite mass.
And in clean transparency creates
Absolute similitude in the human horde,
One's best self four billion times,
And the dark hapless empire moves
Like a tired behemoth
The awful custom that plagues us,
Talmudic diarrhea in a Turkish jail,
Dissipates of its own accord,
Unlike the frustrated mates in Comedy of Errors
Who think their way out of the usual dinner,
Instead the landing of golden plates
That cancels the meal in an orgy of returning time
Part IV: The Home Run King
On the last night I dreamed of a rope swing
My parents once hung in our kitchen,
Beyond belief in middle-class America
And incapable of real heights
(We were sailors, not pilots),
And a chimp I bought at twenty-two
Which escaped the same day through an attic window,
And wondered as I drifted out of sleep
Whether I was the wasted poet
In a bad version of Pygmalion,
Wanting to give all and plagued by cramps
And I awoke not running,
Driftwood in the wild Aegean,
Rocks, more jagged than ever, covered by gulls
Getting their lives and deaths all at once,
And saw the earth as neither flat nor round,
Nor any shape within the corners of my mind,
But as the corners themselves,
Their leading-dying edges bending in ancestral laughter,
And I ran like hell again,
Neither from nor toward any thing,
But in a heartbeat frenzy
That shattered old corpuscular clocks,
Laughed baby cells to wide-eyed sleep,
And collapsed the curtain on plotting pirates,
History's spring now loose and powerful,
Leaving me with an unsheathed sword,
Eyes on the stars,
Pleiades body containing all seven ages,
Un-together and un-alone

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