Friday, August 31, 2007

Summer Journal

I remember the grim Navajo staring
     coldly at me, the red mesas
jutting up from the desert and distant
     like the planets. To reach
out and touch one, a meteor
     in the midsun on a Tuesday
when everything was too common
     but the intruder. The stark
waterless breeze dusted the windshield.
     I could hear whimpering
in the rocks where the ancient ones withered.

               The buds belch out
     a kind of stickiness
that leaves an aftertaste in their droppings.
     The sensuousness of the heat
is deceptive—a groin feeling that repeats
     and repeats and seems to weaken
in the moonlight because it has too
     much to recall. I could smell
the black waters under the clay.
     The red mornings, the red
mountains, the green rainstorms
     in the east where the lakes bloat
are flesh scented from so many

I keep a blue bottle with
     a paper flower, a yellow
swirl on a pipe cleaner bursting
     from the inanimate
decay of leftovers. I think of an oak
     impregnated with minerals
until it is perfect stone. All
     things solid and spiritual
that die out and go on—
     the Hohokam, the people who
have gone, from the pit houses of
     the Gila basin to
the mountains to the heavens to
     the boulevards where their spirits
are encrusted with rubber and seem
     to have lost their inheritance.
The worn-down teeth of the Pueblo
     who could not separate
the sand from the grain, the ancient ones,
     the Anasazi, who held
the black waters in their palms
     and shivered from the deepness
of such despair.

                            The beach house
     romances, the dusk, the evenings
on the porch, the stick figures
     in the petroglyphs
lost in the slashes, our feet whispering
     because it was best not to speak . . .
I remember the slow-moving waters
     of the swamp—the windswept
surface of the saw grass studded
     with hummocks of palms and willows—
the dark cypress death tree . . .
     as if symbols were necessary.
The wet planks of the pier vibrated
     as I sniffed the rot. I could smell
the white man in me, the oak, the yucca,
     the incomprehensible waters
flowing over my wrists.

(This poem appeared in College English.)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Lake Song: Older Man, Teenage Girl (for Gigi)

So you see me on the lakefront
where the trees are summering
and through the alders you
call me out of myself and we wander
like deer under the branches.
We settle where the sky softens.
You are stronger,
your silences the words we muster.
I was not dreaming of you
because I avoid dreaming in the summer
when the sun is too blatant
and my eyes vacant like the air.
I'm weaker than when I stumbled upon you,
and when you summon me for the twist
in my eyelid or my lip hidden in the shade,
I want to tell you I'm more sullen
than the water and denser than
the mud where the crayfish hide.
As blunt as granite,
you lack song but have in your hands
that something I'm unable to fathom.
I, too, was younger than the marshes,
but not now, and you are creating
in me something that is not there,
that was worn out in the autumn.
Docile and more intense than
the clouds, you are part
clearing and breeze, and I lean on you
when you are not vigilant and you on me
when you stride forward into
what is becoming yourself.

(This poem appeared in Permafrost.)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Airraid Drill

The steel feathers and the war-torn pantry
and the bent leaves that broke in the brittle night
as we huddled like caterpillars under the bulb
among the canned peas and the red boxes
of Duz that shone like icons on the swaybacked
shelves, and over the hedges the imaginary
buzz of the engines that soaked up the silence
and droned in the backs of our legs . . . . I can hear the whistle
or the light and the door closing firmly behind
me and what was nothing to me was the sea bursting
and the sidewalks cracking, and the game started,
or ended, when the three of us hugged dearly and the darkness
tittered and my father leaned through the light and listened
for the earth wheezing and the buds throbbing on the trees.

(This poem appeared in College English.)

Sunday, August 5, 2007


He induces, seduces, polemicizes
with indelible postulates, but
only after one's attention has been diverted.

I do none of that.

Conviction, agitation, I respond directly,
obliquely, hear everyone, follow no one.

Say I'm searching for a writer
who has a summation, a continuance.
Realize on the bus one morning
I am that writer.

Sad that people cling to broken machines.
One doesn't want to discard them,
but they are not worth fixing.

A new widget is cheaper. Better.
Although plastic.

So, too, with religion.
Parts break, are irreplaceable,
no longer produced.

What's the point?
What's not the point?
Talk is talk,
although sometimes less.

You have to
establish yourself,
be something or be gone.

Such distortion, such omission,
never describe, never analyze,

Mao wrote,
"If you want to know the taste of a pear,
you must change the pear
by eating it yourself."

Pound wrote,
"Pay no attention to the criticism of men
who have never themselves written
a notable work."

All is laughable, all complex—
to do something in someone's name
he neither desires nor understands.

But to do it in your own
seems self-indulgent, greedy.
Meaningless, irrational.

Where there is repression, there is resistance
—one hopes.

Life is too busy—
working, eating, shopping,

Pound wrote,
"The age demanded an image . . .
Not, not certainly, the obscure reveries
of the inward gaze . . . ."

No, definitely not, not an inward gaze . . .
an outward gaze.
An act.

Exupéry wrote,
"A being is not subject to the empire of language,
but only to the empire of acts."

A tyrant, a psychopath, a CEO,
continually coming, continually going.

But so many suffer.

So many limbs.

Caudwell wrote,
"The price of liberty is not eternal vigilance,
but eternal work."

(This poem appeared in Stand.)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Happy Birthday, Elaine Schwager

August 3: Happy Birthday, Elaine.
I miss you terribly.

(Elaine died in a fire in her Manhattan home and I didn't find out about her death until a few weeks after. I couldn't understand why she wasn't answering to my e-mails, and her voice was still speaking the greeting on her telephone. I was devastated when I learned—by accident—of her death.)

I still miss Elaine—painfully. She will never leave my mind. I just looked on her memorial Website called Elaine's Chair. What do you do when someone so special is taken away from you? From others, too, of course. But my pain is my pain. It's not lessened by others'. My favorite poem of hers, "Moving," ends:

"...I am going to another country
in the same room—the same room
in another city—clean white,
separate from what changes
and what's certain.
It is easier to go on foot
than to imagine being there.
When I get there,
my bags will be waiting. I have packed
in case I arrive."

from "Moving,"
I Want Your Chair,
Rattapallax Press.

Available on Amazon.

I dedicated to Elaine a self-design, self-manufactured 50-page poetry chapbook I made on a computer. Hardest work I've ever done. It's called Chrome Yellow.