Tuesday, March 27, 2012

An Amber in the Autumn

Preserved in a lozenge of shadow,
the pressed fly
still flickering in the imaginary,
the graphic novel, of a belabored history
of too many disasters, the rounded edges of something proposed
though not forgotten: the gum of an ancient tree,
the sap of a dead swamp, the press
of onyx against carbon, fossil in a rock garden:
not everything then is forgotten
or entirely lost – strange! or has been yet – and therefore
will be? may be? might be? who knows? (Hume, save me!)

Who knows what will keep pulsing
beyond the predictions of the physicists, the fundamentalists?
in the fumes or ghosts of the never-to-be-delivered end?

(A furrow of music like a culvert between ditches,
crushed life like oil,
an ember away from nothingness or immortality,

o you, unresolved cadence everlasting.)

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Weakest God

Now that you’ve told me what you believe in, friends (yes, yes! we’re all friends here) –
from Jesus to Deuteronomy, the Upanishads, the Tao,
from voodoo to Zen Buddhism to the Parsi fire,
Bahai and Jain and shaman and witch,
to those who believe only in what they can see
or count,
in mathematics and science, their bank statements, their willpower,
their own theater of illusions, the Void or the void,
indeed to those who believe in nothing, since there’s nothing to believe,
but the sharpness of their minds and the sufficiency of their experiences –
it is now my turn to confess my “faith”
and give you a chance to pity my naivete and illusions.
What follows is what I can almost believe in, friends.

A being, weak as a baby,
ignorant, helpless, hardly conscious enough
to be either cruel or kind –
bumbling, if oddly well-intentioned at heart –
such delicate work to create a water skate,
such compassion for the penguin, such curious taste! –
on occasion breaking out in mass murdering tantrums,
destroying whole worlds without quite realizing it:
gazing rapt at a butterfly while it lets cities burn;
yet, vaguely aware of what it is trying to become –
half-sleeping, half-awake, half-foolish, half-wise,
intoxicated by wild, aspiring dreams
that crumble in the sunlight of unrelenting dawns –
groping toward becoming – well, what it is,
in a sense: a sentient and conscious being,
incorporating not only the universe,
the one we are so small a part of,
but every possible world and combination of being,
a metaphysical beyond what we can say, even conceive,
in the final outward radiant expansion in space (if space it is)
and measurelessness of time (if indeed it is time):

the being that many of us have prayed to, put faith in,
or given our final hopes to, the meaning
our lives might have in an eternal promise
yielding an infinite fulfillment forever –

not our source and origin, but our goal, our purpose,
as we sweat – we strivers of mud and stardust –
struggle and dream, fumble and finger our way toward
weakly, half-foolishly, half-wisely, ignorant,
though oddly well-intentioned (when not too threatened),
and guilty of breaking out on occasion in mass murdering tantrums,
to bring to birth one day, our child: God.

This seems to me a deity worthy of faith and love,
as we cradle into being
out of the sweat of our dreams,
a baby –

I can almost believe in this, friends:
child of the human, animal, verdant, mineral, radiant worlds.
A Hand

A hand is offered you. A clock begins
its unspectacular routine,
like a donkey circling a water pump. The hand
writes, and then erases what it means.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


To slip into another voice, over your face a mask,
over your arms the greaves of someone’s gestures
not your own, their gloves covering your hands . . .
a lovely escape from the curious prison
you carry inside your mind – call it “being,”
“life,’’ “the human condition,” whatever is
the wrong word for our wretchedness
(there is no right word, writer).

Friday, March 23, 2012

Boca Baciata

. . . it hangs forever in the obscurity
of something you almost remember:
the rich, silken hair, the glittering eyes,
the tenderness of a skin
as smooth as violets, as soft as
cotton blowing in summer, or (you once said, laughing)
as a kitten’s belly (at which she growled
like a playful lion – later the playfulness vanished),
the sweetness of those hours, the forgotten years,
and all the world of warmth you once held in your arms:

and the talk! the wonderful talk about everything
beneath and above and never seen by the sun,
the rich, deep, bracing stream of the words you shared -
the words! – from that noble mind, that honest heart,
fearless (you learned, not really) soul,
that almost savage spirit:
it was beautiful, it was beautiful, it was beautiful,
it was so unbearably beautiful it almost destroyed you:

for you are one of the unlucky ones,
made out of pain and awkwardness, untough,
who cannot bear the white-hot coals of love
without breaking and melting into a lump
of sexual pain;
faint-hearted, easily discouraged; not one of the fearless;
perpetually disappointed,
so paying the price in a world made only
for the brave;
and so have lived, must live in the half-dark, the safe,
and sleep alone in a room made cold to the touch
and hoard your love for the silent worship of Love.

And yet it hangs there forever,
like the only photograph of a long, tormented life:
the memory (sad happiness, hope’s fading inversion)
of the beautiful lips
(for once briefly silent, neither speaking nor waiting
for their music to rebegin)

that you, once, and only once,


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hydriotaphia for a Cheerful Nihilist

Avoid him! He’s too happy
in the truth of what
he won’t quite say, it's too terrible
to say outright, in so many words, painful and exact.

But then, whose life
has not seemed, sometimes,
like a kind of practical joke
concocted by a random combination of atoms
crystallized from the swirling of a mutant universe
without hope for eternity, God, or point;
has seemed like a deadend in a metaphysical concentration camp
camouflaged to look like a gated community,
tree-lined, landscaped, guarded by expert security
who moonlight as double agents, terrorists, demons;
a place where the only reasonable expectation
is one’s own, and eventually universal, annihilation:
“creative destruction” (thank you so much for that phrase, Joseph!
What would we do without it?
It suggests so much I cannot go into here . . .),
though, unfortunately, without the creative part?

Oh, better a lie,
a kind, sweet-tongued deception –
better yet, whimper
or shout with rage –
but don’t disgust me
with your politeness:
gag on it, choke on it,
howl and lament to the rocks,
darkness and the stars.

Your smile,
your skillfully poetic melancholy
(the master of the non-sequitur
that is nevertheless always so poetically apt),
your cheerful, gentle despair
is lipstick on a skull.
Are you laughing at us? Don’t laugh at us.
Do you think that quiet pretense of gaiety
and calm, brave nonchalance
will save you? will save us?
At most it shifts the rock
to a less aching bone.
Deny everything.
Say nothing.
Betray no one.
Lie to us.

Lie to us,
if you love us.
Bernini's Medusa

Notice how the hair erupts
in a muscle of snakes
combing her hair like fingers
writhing in marble (Carrara, for preference),
a cruel crown anointing the guilty head
of the woman who committed fornication in Minerva’s temple.

We take the point of view of the offended goddess
(we blasphemers and idolators of time).
the artist’s skill
in making Medusa seem fleshlike in the stone.

In her face we can see the memory of the sweetness
her lover gave her at the foot of wisdom’s altar.
If only passion, if only love, were enough . . .
Her eyes lunge at the horror now blinding her.

Please press the pause button.
After you have looked to your full content,
you may move on to number 8 in the exhibition.

(Don’t listen too long for her screams, or you’ll turn to stone.)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Thief of Souls
(An amateur photographer’s confession)

I aim my box of shadows
at a scramble of the sun,
check the light and focus
for a flower, cloud, a winsome
cocky little girl, a
tangle of a lamp post,
high wire, scrum
of tree branches in the twilight
against the near-black indigo,
hung between a nail of star
and a fingernail of moon,
inscribed across the night
like the crazy hope a teen has
that his life will have a meaning -
glory even - hailed
in the loose designs of love
for his wild heroic heart.

I try to catch the darkness
light throws against the casual wall,
to seize a furtive moment
from the relentless gale of time,
to limn one delicate note
in the unrelenting roar.

These little almost squares
of shadows charm my eye,
at least sometimes, with a sweetness.
A careful, cunning hunter,
a cat burglar in his dark stocking,
I caress my stolen darlings
collected in my box
like birds in a net:

I open it like Pandora,
still amazed at what I find there
(the magic box sees more
than I see – faster, deeper:
it captures something more,
or something less, but always other –
and often I have known the magic box to laugh at me).

Stolen have I so many,
filled up my secret albums
with a mass of frozen souls,
pieces of a shattered whole
never pieced back together,
seized from a sea I’m half-drowning
in, a wilderness, an ocean
foaming, fanned with flickering visions

(steal them now, or lose forever!)

lost, otherwise, forever.