A poem is a machine for making

sense, the way a dog
is a machine for barking.
And just so, there are side effects:
the mess that takes you by surprise
(the wondering when did that happen?)
the licking your face
when you’re trying to sleep
and unless you take precautions
always more poems.

The rest of the family - 146828640_463b12e9af_z

Continue reading

I have a dream, during which I find and lose the key to America

8249062166_a6567b2266

I thought sure
I heard Walt Whitman singing up America
And all around him I saw America taking shape like columns rising up out of blowing fog
And like a barbarian who finds himself in the ruins of the Acropolis at dawn, having bolted from place to place all night lost in the blowing fog,
And seeing the ghostly columns rising up all about in the false dawn, but the real dawn always came thereafter,
And hearing all about the sourceless prayerful muttering felt his heart rush up in wild surmise
Only to find the Parthenon was a bank building in Youngstown, Ohio,
Only to find that the prayers issued from a series of speakers playing back a commissioned installation piece, recorded chants of a tribe whose language was lost
Only to find that only the fog was real and that he was not even a real barbarian,
Only a stranger,
I awoke then in California
Where my awareness spread out around me like water from a cracked pitcher.

No fog, no America of Walt Whitman,
No dream columns of a dream America,
The glory that was Youngstown, Ohio gone and then forgotten like a dream that is forgotten like fog when it is gone and forgotten,
Allen whom I never met dead, his America where I lived briefly gone,
Walt Whitman silent here, voiceless in California, the redwoods rising up like columns taking shape out of blowing fog,
The only America here my America
Still not finished rising up out of the sea.

 

Continue reading

Supposing Wishes Fishes, Night a Well

9708316168_03021c6a06_k
I spoke a wish into the dark,
as if I dropped a fish into a well,
then paused for a returning sound to tell

if water caught it, not dry stone,
not dead coins only. Not a sound came back:
That wish went its own way, and left no track.

The night is long. Where may a wish not go,
when every word’s alive, and each is true?
In such a span of time, what can’t it do?

Under the hood:

Continue reading

Drinking the driven storm, the sturdy apple

4315683721_2988bd1279_o
Drinking the driven storm, the sturdy apple
Dances, between sky and earth, her spring-young leaves.
Knowing no purpose, knowing only season,
Her spring-young leaves, storm-driven, dapple
Earth and sky; all that my eye perceives
Dances. My eye drinks in the apple’s spring-
Young leaves, her dance that has no reason:
Only the storm, driving each dappled thing.

5861579737_250e330996_b

This poetic form is called san san, which means “three three” in Chinese (and is a term of art in the game Go). It rhymes as you see (a-b-c-a-b-d-c-d), and also repeats, three times, each of three terms or images; here, the driven storm; the spring-young leaves; the dance.

Here are a few more of these.

 

Continue reading

o no na po wri mo

4285992318_39c699be64_bthe month of april
which is poetry month
is insupportable and ill timed
it’s still nearly winter when
words didn’t help us get by

it’s still nearly winter now
there was a season that made sense
that stoppered life that held us to
one single obligation just to last
to ride it out and not to

burrow so deep that there was
no coming back
to the surface again
that was wisdom that was
really a better idea than this

I never trusted spring
this coinflip season
spring with its rotten
ice and its seepage
spring with its alarming growths

winter was better better
to hide out better to live small
to listen to the wind
and the rain passing better
to be a clever animal

better to wait out the cold
better to forgo what sunlight was given
easier to survive then
than to live
now:

Continue reading

The Panther

4434065127_1cb2f10b2b_o

From so much eyeing of these bars
The panther’s gone cage-blind
So that it sees a thousand bars,
And not the world behind.

Lithely padding, circling
In movement without cease
It coils its body like a spring
That cannot find release.

And sometimes on its eye within,
The silent pictures start–
That rush through sinew, nerve and skin,
But vanish at the heart.

 __________________________________

Rilke drew me in again; I’m not quite sure why. His lyricism? His romanticism? This particular poem’s fusion of imagism and philosophizing that, though it stops well short of banality, is certainly situated somewhere along the obviousness spectrum? Likely enough it was over-exposure to the slavish word-bound accuracy of over-respectful translators who run roughshod over sense and sensibility to turn–for example–this:

Sein Blick ist von Vorübergehen der Stäbe
so müd geworden, daß er nichts mehr hält. (Ranier Maria Rilke)

into this: Continue reading

Against Alphabet Picture Books, the Gods Themselves Contend in Vain

abc2 Capture

Alphabet books – cease doing!
Everybody’s fails, goes headlong into
jangling, klanging lines.
Meaning no offense, please quit.
Readers’ll say thanks, ultimately.

Very warmly,

XXX,

Yours —

Zeus

Continue reading

Don’t pretend you don’t know me

4599810415_35a79a11c2_b

This morning when you passed
Me and I followed
You on the sidewalk
Your shadow after you’d passed
Was right there in my way,
So I stepped on your shadow’s
Head. All the way down the sidewalk
I secretly followed,
Skipping discreetly, your shadow’s
Trail, stepping and stepping the whole way.

Continue reading