Monday, January 19, 2015

The Cretan Wreath


Three licks of bronze, clustered
fingers at the crown.
Then four, then five, oh more,
woven, prickling,
leaves from autumns’ floor,
but gold.
               Take them down,
leaves, stems, drop-like berries,
pebbles, circle-bent,
no wider than a hand, and place it
on the blackness of your hair.
There,
it glitters, like soul
fire. A queen, at last,
has her crown.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

The Garden of Infinity

The multiverse is an infinite garden
with an infinite number of universes
within it. Each universe is a flower.

Each universe is an infinite garden
with an infinite number of galaxies
within it. Each galaxy is a flower.

Each galaxy is an infinite garden
with an infinite number of stars
within it. Each star is a flower.

Each star is an infinite garden
with an infinite number of worlds
within it. Each world is a flower.

Each world is an infinite garden
with an infinite number of atoms
within it. Each atom is a flower.

Each atom is an infinite garden
with an infinite number of quarks
within it. Each quark is a flower.

Each quark is an infinite garden
with an infinite number of strings
within it. Each string is a flower.

Each mind is an infinite garden
with an infinite number of thoughts
within it. Each thought is a flower.

Each thought is an infinite garden
with an infinite multiverse within it.
Each multiverse is a flower.

As above, so below; as below, so above.
infinite, infinite, infinite,
forever, and forever, and forever.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Great Tubba Ponders What It Is Like to Have Lived for Many Years in the Same City

He looked at me
with a leery eye,
Great Tubba, he
of the wandering eye.

“What used to be a blank slate
is now covered with scars.

Everything once said freedom to me;
it said, sweetly, the future.
Everything now says fate to me
and reminds me of my war
and my defeat.”

Monday, January 05, 2015

What Is Literature?


“What,” said he, as he sagged heavily
back in his chair by the saloon window, “was
literature, is more to the point. Aren’t you
glad I’m here to tell you? Alas for us both—
for I must speak and you, belonging
to the eternal internet generation,
only care to bask in your
hyperlinked ‘comments’ and exchange of
simpering selfies on Instagram. We were
made for each other, as the saying goes.
Maybe it was all rigged,
yet in all its fantasy, it never lied.”

He sighed, raised his glass,
silently toasted the silent room,
took a sip of Wild Turkey, and shrugged.

“In the worlds of matter, energy, chaos,
the permanent slaughterhouse of the marketplace,
the ineluctable, inescapable
Darwinian struggle for what no living
thing in the end can actually achieve—
survival, that mirage in a world of perpetual transformation—
literature was defiance
of that lame squat, mortality,
soul’s defense in the soulless world—
a puff of smoke blown in the face of reality.
Yes, of course, the game was rigged,
but in all its fantasy, it never lied.”

He sighed, raised his glass,
took a sip of Wild Turkey, and shrugged.

“Writer, reader met on a page
in a corner, away from other eyes,
and built between them fantasies
of a world made for humankind
because made by the human,
enough like the inhuman world
to make them believe it, make them believe
that they might live in it.
There’s no escape if the jig is up,
but in all its fantasy, it never lied.”

He sighed, raised his glass,
took a sip of Wild Turkey, and shrugged.

“It seized and carried them off
into the verbal sky
in ventures of forever,
snagged on love and desire,
crushed between wisdom and power;
terrified them with the grandeur
of man when he wrecks his span,
tickled them till they were mad,
laughed till they choked and wept again,
threw them down till they slept, in twain
shot their hearts across the courts of the moon,
then threw them past the blackness of the stars.
It gave them paradise and hell,
empires of greed built on love’s cold ash
in Paris, London and New York,
the deserts of Bardo and San Francisco,
the place where angels and devils meet,
Las Vegas and Shanghai’s shadowless streets.
Whatever could be said it said
in words’ infernal heaven,
the cloud-capped victories of language
even if only in a bucket of dust
in a cellar of rusty swords,

a child’s game between naps and meals and potty training,

an old man dreaming of what could never have been,

an escape for an hour from reality’s prison,

a glimpse from our cell
across the loam
of a world that might have been but was not our home.

And now we have the internet
instead.
The jig is rigged. Oh, if only
in all its fantasy, it never lied!”

He sighed, raised his glass,
silently toasted the silent room,
took a sip of Wild Turkey, and shrugged.



A Tiger in Winter

It moves, black and gold,
parting a curtain of snow. Its
great head turns toward you.

Termite

A small white insect, ant-like,
slowly eats its way through the foundation
of the house,

eats its way through the phylum,
through wood pulp, knots, bark;
through oak, pine, sumac, pressed wood;

eating, eating,
working, sure of its goal.
The work is slow, sometimes it despairs
of reaching its goal.
It rests and listens
to the noise of the wind as it batters the house      
and streaks through the myriad little capillary tunnels
it has eaten determinedly through the walls.
This whistling, whooshing, rushing sound
gives the insect courage
before reminding it how much work
remains to be done.
And it goes back, determined
to bring down the home of the strange creatures
that are intent on destroying the habitable earth.

It will probably fail,

but it is leaving eggs—
today they are called “memes”—
and they will hatch into more little termites,
that will leave eggs that will hatch into more little termites,
on and on, and on,                                        
and together they will continue to eat
until they bring down the house
before the strange creatures who live there
destroy the habitable earth.

This is the sound of the little insect as it eats.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Rain

Two ferries pass each other like cautious cats.

Fog over the island
and a cloud over the mountains
glittering like falling snow.

A night of wind,

and the thirsty land opened its mouth,
and the farmers broke open their cisterns,
and the rivers bled like flowers.

It had not come to reward anyone.
It swept over the Pacific,
vast as a sun storm,
bearing water hard as an assault.

It cared nothing, or everything, for us.
It gave what it had to give and passed on.

We didn’t care. We licked the rain from our lips,
and smiled giddy with pearls of rain in our hair.

What is it to us? Nothing. Everything.

Let it smite the dry hard land.
Let the rain come and drench the land
like a dry sponge, over the cracked, caked unending
fields of dust.  Let the hard earth ring
like a bell tolling in the dark. Let our parched faces
open, and sing.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Deal

The modern world, this devil’s bargain …
                                    —E.M. Cioran

The devil came to a man one day
and told him: “I will grant to you
undreamed of wealth, knowledge, power;
every hope mankind has known
will real become, or seem to be
on the verge of reality
tomorrow or, at the very most,
the next day, marvelously.
You will dominate the earth,
take your first steps toward the stars,
walk on the mountains of the moon,
touch the sands on the plains of Mars,
weigh the ice on Saturn’s moons,
on your fingers wear her rings,
weigh the universe itself
in the scales of your great mind,
measure its length, its breadth, its age,
its time to come, death and old age,
you will be so sage.

You’ll count the smallest elements
that make it up – the quarks, the strings,
the genes, the chromosomes of all things –
and play with them
to make new worlds, new life, new minds –
you’ll learn
the origin of space and time,
the source of life, the cause of thought,
everything that can be known
you, and you alone, will know.

With your opposable thumb and brain
that Nature in her infinite
munificence gave unto you,
with your gift at math and word,
with your cunning skill of hand,
you will rule the mighty earth –
throw your chains across its seas,
dominate all air and space,
spin the world into a thread
to bind in one great continents,
throw your voice and images
in a mesh of thoughts and cries
until you fill the seas and skies
with nothing but humanity.

You will need no god but you.
You will be the bright, new god.
You will control reality.
And this will be because of me:
the prince of matter, energy,
reason, cunning, power, will –
le prince de ce monde, in a word;
the world of reason that’s perfectly absurd.

Of course, I ask a little price,
almost nothing compared to what
you’ll get in return. You might even say
that what I ask for hardly exists.
I’m almost embarrassed to name it – it
sounds so old fashioned, pre-internet,
so last century, lame, unhip,
for sexless weaklings, ungrown-up,
boring, slow, Neanderthal
as a Republican and as dull
as a Midwestern prayer breakfast:
let’s face it: only losers have a soul.
‘He’ll be talking about God next!’
sneers, in disgust,
those noble virtues of our time,
Selfishness, Arrogance, Gluttony, Greed and Lust.

Perhaps. But that is what I ask
in return for a world controlled by you,
a world that shows your … interesting face
where’er you look:
a world of pure reflection,
a world pure mirror, a palace that is
half lunatic asylum, half private prison.
Yet all of the things you long for most –
life, youth, love sans end,
a meaning in the swirl of chaos
of energy and matter – you’ll
discover are the only things
you’re not allowed to have: alone,
mortal, with all your cash and guns,
the ingenious devices that every week
tickle you with novelty,
flattering your infinite vanity –
iPod, iPhone, iPad, iLife –
games of virtual reality
and chemicals beyond ecstasy,
that cut across your existence like a knife –
are nothing but a substitute 
for what you cannot have:
something real.

                          There will be
no meaning, importance, central
role in the universe
for you,
you’ll just be
what you’ve always been:
an ant, anxious, angry,
with an odd
wish there might be
a hell, heaven, eternity,
and a dusty, musty old ghost in the machine called God.

I will make more billionaires
than the world has ever seen before:
a billion bubbles of hot air
that burst till there is nothing there.
And you will see the world you made
is worthless, empty, gaudy, dead:
a corpse dressed in Polo,
Chanel, Versace, svelte brocade
in Italy designed, in Vietnam made,
shipped to San Francisco’s malls,
to mobs of cool Young Adults sold,
looking forward to a long cruel death, sick, old.

But I have more: the final end
of my great gift is what your power
will do to the world you’ve taken over,
wrecking, pillaging, plundering it
under oceans of waste and air
most foul, deserts of famine, unbounded
drought, dead waters rising in
oceanic vomitaria,
with a holocaust of species
that do not serve or entertain you,
then even those you will wipe out,
the net that held you up you’ll cut
beneath you, till you’ve made the globe
a fetid stinking tropic, pole to pole.
The earth you will have eaten like an apple.

That is what I offer you:
oblivion and a ransacked world
drifting in space forever
after a few centuries of wealth and power
unimaginably sublime,
based on understanding of the truth,
the terrible truth of reality.

That’s my bargain.”

The devil fell silent, his hands on the table
next to a paper ready to be signed.
And the man smiled and shook his head
and leaned toward the woman next to him.

“There’s no devil and God is dead,”
he whispered to her.
“We are the cleverest things alive
We’ll outwit him whatever he says
And anyway, it’s only a piece of paper.
What do you say?” The woman, concerned,
frowned and asked, “You’re sure about this?
It sounds terribly dangerous.”
“I’m positive. Whenever did the devil
speak the truth? We already know
most, if not all, of his secrets.
He’s trying to scare us. He wants to keep us
weak, ignorant, under his thumb.
He’s full of hot air, most of it
noxious enough. Whatever happens,
we’ll be all right.” “Hm. Well! But, before we
sign our lives away, I have
one little question to ask Mr. Devil.”

She turned to Him. “Mr. Devil,
what will happen if we don’t sign?”

The devil shrugged. “Nothing at all.
You’ll live as you have for millennia:
most of you will be illiterate
peasants, a few will serve your lords,
that tiny number
who walk the earth in exalted splendor –
in badly heated palaces, damp
castles warding barbarians off
in pathless forests among impassable mountains
and living in fear of every person
near them, with nightmares of dagger and poison.
Most of your children will die before six,
your food will be wretched, cost most of your income,
you’ll die of illness before you’re forty,
and smell most seasons – especially in summer.
You’ll be ruled by idiot kings, gangster nobles
and lecherous priests. Crime will kill
those among you who survive the diseases.
Your mind will be
a mire of superstitions, crass
stupidity and prejudice, madness, and fear.
You’ll be living in the Middle Ages pretty much forever.”

“It sounds awful.” “But that’s how people
have lived since the dawn of time. It does have
one clear advantage, though.” “And that is?”
“Surviving indefinitely, more or less.
It’s what one calls a ‘sustainable
way of life.’ It still kills off
too many other living things
just to keep itself fed and amused.
But it could actually last. And there’s
one more thing, I almost forgot,
the most important of all of this:
human life – your brief, dim flight
a few feet over the soil of earth
between the sun and the moon’s light,
for all its misery, stupidity, shame,
brutality with and without a name,
will be the most important thing
in the entire universe:

God or gods and angels and even
devils like me will center our minds
on how you live and act and die
and everything we think or do
will try to lead you to heaven or hell:
however you’re dunked or drowned or twirled,
your fate will be the meaning of the world.”
  
The woman thought for a moment, and looked
at the man, who looked back, thoroughly appalled.
“Don’t listen to him,” he whispered hastily
to his skeptical mate. “We can have
everything – immortality, bliss,
meaning, importance, significance –
we’ll even have angels and God, because
we’ll be god, if we play our cards right –
we just have to be smart about this.”
Then remembering the devil’s promises,
she held her breath, then said, “All right,
go ahead. Do it. I love you.” “It’s
a deal,” the man said aloud and signed.
His lady added her name too, nicely aligned.

The man grinned, the lady laughed, the devil smiled.
The ink they signed with filled the air
with darkness. “They call me the prince of lies,”
the devil said. “It’s not so. I am
the prince of truth. Unhappily for you,
the truth will not set you free –
it will only reveal more perfectly
the length and strength of the chains that bind you
and the hopelessness of any escape.”

The man looked grimly up at him.
“We’ll see about that. You’ve got your bargain.
But don’t underestimate us, or me.
Full of surprise is humanity.
Here’s my bet: we’ll make the world
a garden stronger than paradise,
a kingdom of love and hope, a home
where happiness and peace will reign
between man and man, and man and beast,
and man and woman, his love, his friend.
We won’t conquer the earth, we will
marry it, wed it, husband it
with care and tenderness. Love will win
because it must or we all die:
we will conquer the heart of man
and share the earth with all that lives,
life will be a glorious dance,
infinite music will fill all space.
Love shall prevail …”

                                      The devil laughed.
“Hopeless idealist! Blind romantic!
You haven’t read much history
or looked at Facebook recently.
Good luck with that!” “Good luck indeed,”
the man said coolly. “We all need that.”
“You certainly will.” “Yes, we will.”

They stared at each other over the table.
The ink had not yet dried on the paper.
Suddenly a thought crossed the woman’s mind:
“What if I grab it and tear it up
right now?” Her heart beat hard and fast ...
But the moment passed.

“And so it begins?” the devil asked.
“And so it begins,” the man returned.
“We’ll see which one’s the cleverest,”
the devil smiled as he pocketed the paper.
“It would be a shame to be outwitted
by something that does not even exist!”
And he vanished away in a cloud of smoke and laughter.

The man and the woman turned to each other.
“What have we done?” the woman said.
“Whatever we’ve done,” the man replied,
“we’ll beat him, because we must.” The woman
shook her head doubtfully. Then they kissed.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Clouds and Roses

I do not mourn the passing of a cloud;
I enjoy watching it disintegrate into azure.
A blossom falls. I shrug, then I move on
after brief study of the wounded rose.
I weigh the light descending from a supernova,
blasted across ten million miles of space;
I light my page with its vanishing pinpoint of rays.
A friend dies. I sing a soft drunken song for him,
then let him sleep forever in my memory’s secret hotel.

Don’t call me heartless. A thousand galaxies
have died between my lover’s gasp and sigh.

Roses, clouds, galaxies, lovers, friends – when they’re gone,
there is always more where they came from.
Sad but true—not sad, and yet still true.
It is the iron law:
there is no beginning and no ending for all.

The quantum vacuum is pregnant
eternally, like the high school you-know-what.
She’s pretty and sweet, and definitely loony,
and far too generous with her tender, over-eager thighs.
I always liked her. Everybody does.
Everyone lets her get away with murder,
She is rose, cloud, supernova, galaxy, lover.

My own passage is nothing but an already forgotten breath.
When I was born, I had already died.
So, cheer up, friends. They say life is an illusion,
but the greatest illusion of all is death.