Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Death in the Family

Two shades of stubble here under my chin—
gray and brown— this local morning in the deep snow.

All around me are broken wires the squirrels roasted
themselves on in the overnight storm when everything’s
down and you realize how fragile the light is,
if you realize anything at all.

It’s impossible to draw a lesson from 
every meager event—so little has happened this morning—
a sparrow passing, a car in the wrong lane—nothing 
exceptional, just the movement of everyday traffic.

Even dressing lacks ritual.
You’re carrying out something unordinary 
you know you have done before, you’re so well-behaved. 
But this is different time, inborn, perhaps, 

yet not instinctual like a sparrow pecking 
a seed . . . but something you pass on to others and they 
to you when you say good morning before coffee.


Friday, February 27, 2015

Operation

i


A short hose draining an appendage, a continuous
water flow so that the clots, an autonomous healing,
are flushed out and nothing is dammed, the body
damming itself as it is supposed to, but turned 
enemy by its own repair as if in this 
case it doesn't know better, and it doesn't. 
Restoration must be halted and held back 
until it is time, and then it is released and does
what evolution has determined. No simple matter in that
we reverse what we observe, its natural course
rendered degenerative, it goes about its own
way mindless: nature is meant to consume, 
not heal. A river redirected, a mountain
moved, we retool an organ until it is salvaged.


ii

Corpus Carborundum, the softest tissue vs. 
the hardest abrasive, a sharp tool sharpened,
a scalpel that slices open an abdomen like a papaya,
juices and all, mere flesh against 
metal, a kitchen utensil, a knife perhaps,
a bullet, a shard, all penetrating, the body
a melon, the air subtle with fluids, that men
operate in theaters, in theaters perform, save
lives under a surgical sun, where an epidural 
oblivion leaves one malleable, reparable.
Or in a war, a theater where mortars rip flesh, 
where insanity becomes strategic, maneuvers assigned.
All science, the saving, the recycling, the same
hand, the human, ordering life, ordering death.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Back Road of Not Appearing

Not quite arriving. Not a journey,
Never completely there. Some part
left behind, or along the way,
a movement in a direction, it seems much of you
has been sprinkled saltlike throughout
your clothes.

Particles, neutrons, constant orbiting of 
substances composed of substances, 
not considering each of us
is a whole but parts of parts that 
pulsate in cohesion,
tell us we are this man or that woman,
tell us no more than a dog thinks.

What are we?—at this second,
this minisecond? The world is huge,
and there are so many of us. What is the
political situation in Bulgaria?
What is it around the corner? 

Too much to know.
I draw a line between me and the multitude. 
But where is this line? I lose it.
To dwell in indefiniteness
takes indefiniteness, is unsettling.

Is it human to be so hindered? Caged? 
Is it human to be so free?
One’s microns must be kept as compact
as possible.

I isolate, shun the invincible,
look north when others say south. 
There are subjects not to be approached.
Truthful, disturbing.
Is it cowardice? Perhaps, perhaps not. 
One can indoctrinate but not convince.
One germinates as one geminates. 

Turn left at this junction,
right at that corner.
Once trial and error, but that was dangerous,
Now established, yet just
as dangerous.

What happens happens,
or does it?
Is it evolution? But I’ll be long gone.
Having evolved into particles. 
Pure thought.
No longer a neighbor.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

90 Proof

God exists, and if God exists, therefore God exists. 
Syllogistic conclusion, conclusive. 
A mother dies—a few minutes after, a chime
on the porch chimes. “It’s mother saying, ‘All
is okay. I’ve passed over.’” Her son, a nonbeliever, 
succumbs. He reiterates: “Yes, it’s mom,” he says
to his grieving siblings. And then catches
himself. 

Sand flows upward in an hour glass,
Mystery
is contagious. Mystery codified is
doubly contagious.
It’s evolutionary, the son concludes, rather than 
mystery. Mystery is hopeless. Nonmystery 
is acceptance.
Humans do not accept.

There are no atheists in foxholes, goes
the cliché. That there are foxholes at all
is indisputable, unquestionable: Foxholes exists, 
and if foxholes exist, therefore foxholes exist. 
Can a foxhole be unproved? 

We are born blank, then quickly
swathed. To be seeded human is to be
seeded unhuman, inhuman. There are
no starting points for the individual. One must
flow upward first, like the sand in the hour glass,
but we know sand does not flow upward. 

Hope springs eternal . . . hmm . . . . We do not 
allow facts
to interfere with tradition, wrote Orwell . . . 
somewhere. And if there are no facts,
merely observations? Tradition binds, 
questions do not.

Mankind seeks indefinite life. Why?
A crocodile doesn’t. How many angels can
dance on the head of a pin?
But are there angels? 
There are pins, so there must be angels.

I, too, am susceptible. I, too, am afraid.
People obliterated in wars, floods, 
they must go somewhere. Life cannot
be so dismissive.

I watch a gaggle of 
Muslin girls—shopping for clothes.
They’re amazingly innocent. But
they stick together. They’re
duplicates, triplicates, and so on: protected. 
Like the Hasidim
in their black suits in 90-degree weather,
the Catholic clergy in their gold wrappings.
Buddha in his belly. All’s right with the world. 

Evolution, the son says. What has
evolved? Fear? Can it be that simple? 
And if it is that simple? 
I wonder.

I can get by, but I knock on wood . . . 
on occasion.
What else can I do?
Imitation. No, not despair.
Imitation. We are solitary but
of a species. And we know it. But that, 
too, is mythologized: It’s a punishment 
to be human, damnation . . . psychosis    
or evolution?





Sunday, January 18, 2015

Mondrian

Flat, frontal, the tree reduced to patterns
so that it blends in with its background 
and can barely be distinguished. Start out
with a motif and repeat and repeat it
until it is no longer itself but a sequence of
disturbances. Yet there is order in commonality,
in that even the most spectacular of compositions
can serve as a coaster—I have one under my glass 
of Fundador now. Which is to say that art 
is doubly useful.

“Let’s sit down, I hear melody,” says Piet to his dancing
partner. Improvisation, syncopation, rhythm, you 
begin with a yellow, a square, a demarcation, and
then let go, a membrane of color until you have
identified not so much yourself but those longing
around you and lead them not to where you are going
although you are not going anywhere, 
having already arrived—and it has taken you years—
not of traveling, but of standing still. 

Piet germinates
in his own habitat, a studio that is actually a
sentient Mondrian, with sliding panels of 
primary colors he can coordinate according
to his mood, abstracting himself as in he were 
an element in his own painting so at every moment he
is Mondrian in a Mondrian, a continual self-affirmation 
that all of us who can still crave crave for but relinquish 
so readily, hardly aware that one can always say yes.


Friday, January 2, 2015

Submarine

           In truth the prison, into which we doom
           Ourselves, no prison is . . .
                                       —William Wordsworth
                                          "Nuns fret not . . . ." 


The steel tube men
breathe shallowly in like an iron lung.
Killer of thought,
the long hours compacted into cubicles like
shelved books, its occupants
neither heave nor sigh in the silence
where the slightest sound
prickles their skin.

They suffocate
on mountains where the particles
of air are too far apart,
and only in compartments compressed
by the pressure of eons do they locate
and instant of themselves.

"It's better to heed than design"
they must have muttered to themselves
sometime on the spaciousness of the roads
that led in so many directions.
They forked over the hours like 
stripped down to the bare essentials,
were rewired and reconstituted like
waterless powder.

The lack of necessity is compelling.
Full throttle ahead, the submerging
and rising of the conning tower
is constancy they can chalk up on a wall.

Leave the boilers for the contractors
who shine up the old ones and sell
them for new. No thought here for profit,
merely the poetry of pure service,
the abstraction of the cloister, the 
counting up till the ten-hour pass,
the apprehension of the 
weight of too much liberty.



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

In the Image of Clay

Hind legs like a pair of raw pork chops,
you’ve seen the poor dog carting its rear,
its cellophane eyes uncontiguous to the stars,
the asteroid of its grammar, the comet,
a celestial fuzzball with its tail mooning the sun—
no sensible reason here, which is reason enough, 
its deficit of retention like a sitcom fan 
but as radiant as the bulb-bright of a child.
Dollop out gumdrops at the party
of live dancers in Manhattan. They, abundant
in themselves, mirror no notion of a Ceres
but the snort of the two-step from ancient insanity
that clogs even the toilets and fails the cart
dog who drags itself painless to its faltering corner.