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

Sand flows upward in an hour glass,
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


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


           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.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Revolutionary Times

These are revolutionary times. When a sparrow
builds a nest and hatches its eggs under
my air conditioner. At dawn, I’m awoken by wings
fluttering, twig movement, chirping, small
noises, not motorcycles, shuffling, as if digging
the air for space, and then after annoying weeks,
during which I consider daily lifting 
the air conditioner and shooing the sparrow or
sparrows away, flinging the eggs into space,
I’m that bothered by their constant dithering, adjustments,
and then one morning I hear peeping, hatching,
not hatching, I imagine the eggs cracking 
and baby sparrows chomping their beaks for food,
and a sparrow, or sparrows, coming and going, I’ve given
birth, it appears, forgone my sleep for another
sparrow or two or three, and who needs them?
Do I? 

These are revolutionary times, when new
species come into existence, old 
species die out, sparrows, agitated
buttons of feathers, drone-wired with nickeled-
sized Gattlings, pigeons with radioactive 
droppings, my new fledglings (I’m part and parcel—
they’ve kept me awake) are just birds, just
little birds that chirp annoyingly at dawn,
I want to crush them, but I wouldn’t, nor do I love
them, I don’t, but they seem so essential—
if I ceased to hear them, see them I would know
all is lost, as perhaps it will be, although 
the “all” has no definition, and would I notice
it was gone? Would anyone notice I was gone?

These are revolutionary times in that oppression
is begetting oppression, and few accept that the lord
gods have deserted eons ago, and nothing
is left of them but vases and rags—splendid
edifices marking tombs they were never interred in 
but are the centers of wars, and my fledglings testing their wings,
beating under my air conditioner, what
could be more unnatural? They should have hatched in a tree,
in a forest, are their forests? Have they been bombed,
decimated, chained-sawed out of existence?
We grow where we can. There is nothing unnatural about
a city, no less for sparrows than humans.
Nothing metaphysical, just living, plain
living, that you and I conduct each day.

These are revolutionary times, as are all times,
that all times have been, that tomorrow will be.
I face what I have left, my fledglings and me, I bore
them under my air conditioner, and they will fly 
soon and I’ll be conscious of the silence. I  hear
them right now, as I’m typing this message. And I know
you, too, have heard something akin, progressive,
oppressor, and I have little confidence 
they will survive, yet I convince myself they will,
for how would I live? The sun will burn out, and I see
no arbitrary value in value. Just man-made 
ignorance, as if some men, so fearful 
of death, were so in love with death they’ll eagerly 
squander their own life and the lives of others.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Belly flop down the white tundra of Brooklyn,
the caked snow that scared me more than the ocean.
Leave me be for a moment, let me remember.
I seem to picture a rock-solid hill
on which, with frozen fingers, I sledded down
helter-skelter till my numbness made 
me retreat before others. And so now: 
still not knowing the stout way of withdrawing, 
not wishing to be chided by friends, 
deemed a weakling, 'tis mom wants me for dinner,
and lift up my sled and leave. Today, with no
mom to excuse me, I think hard on my body—
peacefully toward death rather than face

the same frightening hill over and over. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014



Cool cut when I was a kid, flat top
and long hair around the sides, duck tailing
in the rear, unusually usual so that I looked different
like everyone else, unique as a quarter, but I suspected
even then I was chiseled from a rock quarry
others blew up, not gathered their stone.
Have grown over the years not impertinent but distant,
a leg away form my neighbors, four directional
so never at a time I can say wholesomely I fit,
or even demented, rebellious, can organize around
my center with a design as conclusive as a chalk mark
and elicit converts to my aid. Impossible me,
arguing continuously with the mirror image I face
each evening, with neither side ever relenting.

Self-censorship, like self-enlightenment, like self-
taught. The self is a marvelous thing, so selfless
it sequesters itself in a tureen filled with molasses,
a gunk, sweetened and thick that holds it together,
never revealing itself to others. Just once
I'd like to flash the universe, not with indignities
but with intimate liquids, admit I leak from predictable
orifices, give my statistics—not just
psychical entities, height, weight, age,
but maladies, so open I can saunter in revelation,
a heliotrope turned to the sun, with nothing sécreted
yet fully invulnerable to darkness, lies, misgivings,
a fishbowl existence so no curve in my anatomy
is an imponderable and I needn't apologize for anything.