Saturday, November 7, 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

is contagious. Mystery codified is
doubly contagious.
It’s evolutionary, the son concludes, rather than 
mystery. Mystery is hopeless. Nonmystery 
is acceptance.
Humans accept.

We’re germinated, then quickly
swathed. To be seeded human is to be
seeded unhuman, inhuman. There are
no starting points for the individual. 

We don’t allow facts
to interfere with tradition, wrote Orwell . . . 
somewhere. And if there are no facts,
merely disorder? Tradition binds, 
questions do not.

Mankind seeks indefinite life. Why?
A crocodile doesn’t. 

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’re solitary but
of a species, but who does that occur to? 
Humanness is a punishment, 
damnation . . . Psychosis    
or evolution?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Palette Knife

A chasm                 between two eyes,
not binocular vision as one would expect
but lizard eyesight       in that each eye can
function independently.

Two visions bridging two
blotches of color,            burnt umber and
cerulean, let’s say,            to seek substance,
oncoming substance,         connection
where none might exist,

         but to seek it in art in that an ambitious failure
         is more valuable than
a small success.
Language is narrow, nonexistent on occasion . . .

what is sensed is evasive,
          is altering,
like the blotches of color that don’t quite overlap but
          approach each other,
sparkle for a split second, then muddy,
          palpable in that
you experience a beginning
          and ending concurrently.

Not knowing what I write,
          or will write,
     I see something, hear something.

     I open myself wide,     grasp the handle of
a poem, this poem    hold tightly as if
running down a mountain,
meandering through a park.
What I can use, use, what I can’t, discard.

      A color, a note,
       a truth (a fallow word)—
you can’t hold it, subjugate it, train another
in its expanse. A scent, but hardly
enough to thrive on. Colors are many, small,
       multiple. Enveloping you
so you remain unfound but not lost.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Cloisters, or, hocus-pocus

Look at the pretty kings and the precious saint
of the dark ages, my how lovely their curls
their delicate skins are so good and quaint
I adore their heavenly fashion and here are the pearls
they wore and the reliquaries they kept the left-
over lives of martyrs in, the relics of dead
men gone to Heaven like Luther who loved the bereft
but puked on the gangrened serf who was so ill-bred.
And here are the tapestries showing the murder of Christ
and the butchered unicorn myths St. George and the Dragon
Mordecai begging Charles deliver the Jews
and Arthur among bishops. And here is Jesus enticed
by the devil, refusing kingdoms and bread and pagan
rituals leaving behind his blood and his clothes.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

To Write and Kill for Spain (1936-1939)

“Under your foot I hear the smoke of the wolf,”
or such exhortation of a man from Estremadura
by Vallejo to fight on for Spain, and they did,
although I remain incredulous to some extent of 
the passion. It was a war of all rectitude,
or so I’ve read—I failed to live through it,
but I’m always astonished when I see one who did. 
Has it become more than it was? What do I know?
—the workers, the people, the masses against
the fascists, the Nazis working out war games, 
practice sessions like Vietnam, a time for testing 
new weaponry—never thought of the Spanish 
as little yellow hordes, but I guess ultimately
we’re all little yellow hordes. Such poetry 
for such destruction, I’m breathless 
when I read it, I’m breathless when I think 
of the slaughter. “Long live death!” shouted 
a Falangist general. And Unamuno was outraged.
I recall the Mickey-Mouse-hatted Guardia Civil 
eying us hostilely with their automatic weapons 
when we stopped in front of a church, 
but this was years after, the edge of a dream, 
a cloud too thick to pass through, a smog, 
it burned the hell out of my eyes. 
“Málaga defenseless, where my death
was born walking and my birth died of passion!”
I probably would have demonstrated—I’m good 
at shouting—but not volunteered. It was 
in Spain, and I’m not so easily convinced. 
I suspect good, I’m more familiar with hype.
But I am a romantic, a skinny, brutalized kid 
who has grown older without having avenged 
himself. I fight devilishly in my imagination against 
all oppression, over and over, so that the bad guys 
are not merely vanquished but vanquished repeatedly. 
Do I think I would have sacrificed my luxurious games 
for lead cartridges? A realist or a coward—what am I? 
The safest ideology is disorder, multiples of self-interest, 
so the Christian can damn me to hell but not crucify me. 
Many enlisted and fought, and I suppose there’s a time
when it’s necessary to put your belly in front of your
toys. I’m quick-tempered and furious, instigator of 
brawls I’m not ready to follow through on. Merely 
release, I suppose. And could I survive through
an evening without my cookies and milk?
Murdering for a nationality or religion—easy stuff, 
you can get swarms of morons for that—but for an idea? 
Vallejo can burst into song about the volunteers 
for the Republic, but I doubt I could write anything
persuasive about dying. “Long live death!” which is 
not to say I couldn’t be enticed into murdering.
Not being personally attacked and yet expected 
to fight for others—who might not fight for me. 
I worry about being made a fool of—a dead one. 
Or limbless, a paraplegic, watching it all come apart. 
Lay yourself down for what? But I guess it’s the 
moment that counts—must be dialectical
—there are times, and conditions. But, really, you’re
a sap to do anything—ask out a twenty-three-year-old,
write poetry, be Vallejo, fight for the Republic.

Monday, June 15, 2015


It can’t be there’s anything new 
here—the green field is a meadow, but only 
if you squint, and if the gravestones
are missing, it is because they’ve been
replaced by plaques. You can stroll down 
the gravel, you can picture a lake, you can squat 
under the oak and hum . . .  
the birds are senseless, and even 
the berries are minding their tongue.
The grounds lacks definition because 
you are used to congestion, and if there is room 
to breathe, it is because you have stayed put. 
The grass is unnatural, and if you stumble 
over a name or your foot is suddenly countersunk
on a bronze, you are startled but not mystified.
The canopies that are rolled over 
the entombments are like yurts on a Mongolian 
grassland, as is the one you are under—a green 
canvas on a movable scaffold that could be either 
a proscenium or a cage, depending on your 
ability to adjust. The light drizzle is without content, 
as are the ritual prayers, which are neither song 
nor desire—not even language—but 
artifacts no one has seen fit to discard.
Depersonalized, with a pickup cleric 
who has taken cursory notes, 
the obsequies are to the point 
and predictable. They lack physical 
substance because they rely upon usage. 
Neither poetic nor soaring, 
neither substantive nor specific, 
they conclude what has already been concluded.
The vague inclinations you might normally 
follow to their summations seem here 
not thought nor feeling but distant 
disturbances, like meteors 
or the stars out of whack. You finger 
them, but they are without dimension. 
They stay and they go—make no demands.
The four edges of the grounds have shrunk—
they lean indulgently toward you, as if to test 
your expansiveness. It is dangerous here 
because there is no glory or defiance, only 
an innocence that is partially mitigating 
and partially incomprehensible. It is not 
an end, it is not a beginning, and it is 
nowhere in the middle—an abstraction, perhaps, 
but there are real people involved.
The highway, which was a path before, 
is now an intruder, and what was formidable 
upon entering is now lacking in endurance.
You have learned nothing, you have 
experienced nothing, but you were not 
meant to. Its purpose fulfilled, you are 
released. You have held back your emotions 
because they seemed temperate or out of place, 
but now, on the bus, you notice in the pale 
anatomy of the half-strange relation talking 
beside you traces of another, and for 
an instant you are overwhelmed. But 
the moment passes, and the discontinuity
of apparently connected events is like a drawn
out drama in which the episodes are years apart 
and it is for you to fill up the gaps.

Saturday, May 16, 2015


Below the clouds, 
where thick rain and individuals meet . . .
what combination of dos and don’ts in my final years,
when there is little time to calculate and 
less to conceive—to outlive one’s life—
a life once unconsidered, without end, a beginning,
not even a process, but as obvious as an apple.

One reaches a stasis, then repeats—like wringing suds
out of an old washcloth. 
By the time you have perfected a style, wrote Orwell,
you have always outgrown it.

Living requires
a style, no, not a fashion, which is negation,
ineptitude, despair, misdirection, but an assignment,
inner, outward.

The blue sky seems clear now, but
if one focuses, at tall buildings,
for instance, one notices hovering at their pinnacle a thin 
and perpetual haze, a mist, pollution?  . . . Rain is soothing, 
is apparent, offers no expectation. I’ve passed through 
it (an indefinite “it”) before, and a second time . . . . now.

“It” is neither hateful nor despairing, just insensate.
Not a burning out but a burning in. A kind of 
wound one has closeted
for decades but has gradually lost control of.

The thin line between loneness and loneliness,
soaked by the same,

interpretations, desires, assumptions, lies— 
as if they could be used over and over. Clouds or not.
To accept that, all this time, realizing you 
have been one of those lies.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Now and Then You Are the One

No comprehension how the lone survivor 
can be ignorance, how the ten-second commercial
can sell coconuts, how a fish-bone rapscallion
can curdle the milk and make the honey lament—
it would seem the sought-after rune, the one
cognitive gem that links letter to letter,
would be doggèd and lovely, have the precision of a grape, 
the mainspring of an opal, the breechblock of a spoon.

The chasm is filled with a large whiskey eruption,
a Jack Daniel's device that dribbles swill on the booths,
the lone scarab, the resurrection of water,
fossilized in amber—a shibboleth of concordance
that marks twain on the floors of the once living,
the boy-blood on the news that is eulogized and lost.