Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Here's the Test

Grim frigid outpost
of the broken tiles
and pitted steel
and concrete of the bald
inhuman efficacy of New York:

the structure – soulless –
of a subway platform –
predicating winter as
the antidote to sentiment –
New York as unfeeling creature,

barren rocky moon:
no room for, interest in
the loneliness of your affections.
New York is defection
from all softness, warmth today –

its cold and brutal business
soon comes clear:
spawning yet another year.
You think you love her?
Meet her here.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Washing My Mother (revisited)

I wrote this four years ago to the day: 12/30/04. I place it here now
because I just came back from seeing the marvelous movie
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and it made me remember
this poem. So - here it is again.

(30 December 2004)

"Put on your robe. I'll help you to the bathtub,
mom." A calm like church as the assemblage
of her terry-clothed fragility held onto you as
both of you walked slowly down the hall.

A bath-seat waited, and you turned a gentle rush
of water on, and helped her slip out of her robe,
and surely as she'd commandeered your baby body
more than fifty years before, you helped her,

naked, lift her spindle legs above the porcelain,
and past the shower door, to settle on the stool,
willing that the water be the right degree of warm.
You swallowed your amazement at her girlish form.

You wonder at this moment - soaping, rinsing,
drying the frail dying woman who had lent you life -
overcoming everything that ought to have
forbidden it. You can't imagine how you did it.


Monday, December 29, 2008

This Was The Year

This was the year I caught Manhattan’s early spring
off-guard – bare-assed – all barren rock and infant grass –
naked as a fuzzy ugly eaglet. This was the year I gave in

to the tumbling New York City summer – let the blunt
force trauma of its humid torrid volupté have its exorbitantly
sinful way with all of me: discovered in tree-ripened peaches

reaches of a thundering penumbral sweet embrace for
which I hadn’t until this year found a conscious place. This
was the year the autumn demonstrated that it knew the lurid

colors of the darker regions of the Universe quite well:
this was the year it offered up an orange moon as horrible
and wonderful as hell. This was the year I grew to know

the winter solstice: let it bolster me with its grave
ambiguities and learn they have a rumbling lot to do
with my own destiny. This was the year I felt my body, bones

link to the reeling wheel – its spokes and bumps throughout
the months – found I was indistinguishable from its feel
and apparatus, spin and rise and fall: that I was bits

and pieces of its rolling all. This was the year I stopped
expecting “deep” and found “complete.” This was the year
my psyche might just finally have had enough to eat.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Later in the Day

To have, as your medium, speech –
when what flourishes inside
is so beyond reach – when what reels
in the slowest and softest diffuse

sort of way – counter-clockwise –
against what you’d thought was
the natural sway – to think that for this
there were words – is like thinking

you’d know how to fly if you queried
the birds. But query the birds you do,
and whatever you learn turns out
private: inchoate: essentially tailored

to you – inexplicable – secret –
and fine – though it tastes of the delicate
wine of aloneness. Strange how
the soul labors, later in the day.


After a Phone Call

Glittering and precious
self-defining narrative –
excruciating – crucial! –
how long have you held

tightly to its golden bars
and stayed inside its cage?
Unlatch its fragile door:
come out: engage.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

More Honey

If I were to try to tell you what you do for me,
I’d have to sit here like a hive of bees incurring
batches of more honey, and more honey, and more
honey – each provisionally adequate for this,
abominably wrong for that, and no poor hungry
bee would ever get the least bit fat – I’d not allow

one insect to be fed as I inspected yet another
flowing bed of golden but inappositely useful
liquid sweetness: each would be discarded with
a rabid fleetness for its imperfections – for the ways
it hadn’t spread upon the tongue to offer one
scintilla of a sense of how you tread upon the planet

and invent new ways to turn each quantum bit
of nothing into something that might just as well
be kickass cosmic big bang sex, though it may
masquerade as gentle glance or slow intake
of breath. (That’s the sort of thing I’d say: not yet
remotely on the money.) Back to make more honey.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Card from Your First Cousin

Emerges from a jambalaya of past voices – crises –
still alive – if half-forgotten – burbling up like Cajun
peppers – colors – spices: can’t escape
kaleidoscopic chaos at the fringes, bubbling surfaces
of these expansive layered breathing heaving steams,

these bright unfathomed dreams, dimensionalities:
a Christmas card from your first cousin says:
“Still hanging in there” – and at first you think you taste
again the rarefied strange peppered tang of this
exotically elusive just-post-solstice air – but no, you

aren’t here or anywhere you know: this is an atmosphere
in which you’ve never been – stinging like a dozen
dissonantly overlapping saxophones in an indifferent
war of jambalaya jazz bands – moaning out their
frazzled songs about the inescapability of family sin.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Full System Response

Porous and as colorlessly unremarkable
as shale – meticulously through and into
which the oily iridescent whole regalia
flows and seeps – molecularly grows

and keeps each alteration – monitoring
more new flows and seeps – at each
of which it glows a little more, then steeps
itself inside each glow until a final florid

yes is almost reached – near transmutation
of a no – or so it seems when you don’t
go to sleep but lie there, watching nothing,
in the coalescing light and winter’s

predawn mystical fraternity, before their
tints and hues accrue, as if in their faint
glimmering reflections your not-yet-blue
irises had just begun to register eternity.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

That Portion Of It

Let’s take a little secret time
for happiness.
I’ve got abundantly more than
I’d need – Lord knows,

not less – to savor you,
and you, well, you don’t
have to think about a thing:
just lie back in your

soul’s sweet hammock: close
your eyes, and swing.
Permit the Entity to underpin
and oversee.

(That portion of it which you
may feel creamily attending
to each whirling inexplicability
of you is me.)


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My Christmas Hymn

I frantically just threw together Christmas in an hour –
driven by some unsuspected catapulting power:
I think my city finally just got me in a headlock: clocked me,
made me knuckle under to her twinkly kinky wonder –
made me stop behaving like a blocked-up prig: pricked me
painfully with sprigs of sharpened plastic drug-store holly –

something almost jolly – so that crazily I’d dazedly entwine
and swerve around her Mannahatta curves to this or that
of her effulgent cornucopia, emporia, snatching candy canes
and such until whatever I had touched became essential
props in her bright grand December dance: she
played me like a ukulele, bopped me up and down –

around – like some strung puppet in a trance, jingling bells –
subjecting me to tingling spells: coercing schemes of heaven
from her many hells, a loud exacting simulacrum
of an unimpeded joy – so similar to it that now I’m home,
and now I’ve hauled my bags upstairs – I just about could
swear that I’ve begun to care about this folderol again.

But really it is always she: this city of my heart who makes
me start and stop and turn toward creating the most
skewed untoward accommodations to her every whim.
She’s the one to whom I sing my Christmas hymn.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Chill That Warms

Calm – as if it wants to spread this gelid wind with balm –
apply it to us like a poultice – some mystic healing
seems to seek to seep caressingly from unexpected
sources in the winter solstice – buffering us from
its bold sub-zero sting: as if to help us grasp just this –

as all our sighing freezes into mist: there’s no resistance
we need bring to dying: the air and light outside –
could this be why they tug to be described? – say so:
there is in their colluding, odd and abnegating glow
a chill that warms: this beautiful concatenation of dark

forms of branch in leafless trees across the park,
silhouetted, stark against white glare as if to tell us so
much more is there than we can know – there are,
I think, in their sharp season – this nadir of the day
and zenith of the night – there are in all their grand

apparently withholding brightnesses, ambivalently
jarring shadows, hues and tints – provocative, alluring,
reassuring hints: the surest one of which suggests so
many other blest dimensionalities – beyond the ones
we fear, and think we get, of breath and death.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

At The Winter Solstice

Sleety grey sky cleans its mess –
sun emerges – strange light –
late December glare: brightness
as a species of deep night:

as if once more to make one
recollect the sun’s a star.
Everything is done
and nothing’s far.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

For Anything

Footsteps clomp
like rhinos on the floor
above; casing on
the outside front door lock
is loose; cell phone

texting intermittent –
losing juice; AOL flicks
error messages subliminally –
operates molasses-slow;
one walks in peril through

the icy leftovers of snow –
gravity at odds with
lumbering and flailing
limbs: as if the sorrowfully
vast materiality of an existence

were atoning for its sins.
Still have to navigate
its hazards to pick laundry up,
and hot-and-sour soup,
and try to keep myself within

the tenuous and trembling
loop. I wonder what
new urban awkwardnesses
it will bring. I wouldn’t trade
my life for anything.


Friday, December 19, 2008


I thought it called for grandeur, substance, drama –
all its preternaturally swelling panorama –
blasting vastness to a tiny softness, like a feather –
surely consciously encompassing, the weather

offered an exactly correlating deity
for every human want, confusion and velleity –
angry gods, alluring goddesses all manifest
in every storm or blue sky – east or west –

and yes, especially, this blanketing of sleeting
snow today on all of New York City, greeting
eyes and hearts with hints in its congestion
of some answer without precedent: suggestion

comes poetically accessible in wetness, wind
and cold – the promised expiation of each sin
you’d thought could only meet an abject silence
and no absolution at the end: but some sad sense

dimly covering a grim and undefended terror
in your eyes makes silly symbolism cease: the error
stabs itself into the mind, is brutally laid bare:
to you the weather is no metaphor, it’s damned blank air.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

My Queen

My queen reigns in a window
full of winter sun – becoming pale.
Every New York love
must face the same
conundrum – bring it out
and prop it up and feel it grow
as warm as flesh, and very soon

it cools – unblessed:
gets the wan December look
my queen has now. I’ll keep her,
though: her fadedness has uses:
shows me how experience
evolves. She stands like
an eternity of beige

forgetfulness: she lifts her hand –
grasps nothing. Old dusty satin
and whatever sort of stuffing
my forgotten notions
of her may once long ago
have been. As clean
as unremembered sin.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Feast Like This

Sometimes the howl
inside the human heart
is all you hear – the desperation
at the start – and when
the end is near – the inexplicability
of all its riddling middle:

I was a cat today
without a fiddle – having lunch
with two bright teens
as closed as cans of tuna:
succulence all crammed away:
no words of mine could

open them, could cut availingly
through their shut metal –
reveal whatever baby fear
kept them from
some imagined injury.
It vastly threw – unsettled – me.

New York City hit me
as I attempted to negotiate
through schizophrenic homeless
creatures in the streets and on
the subway back. Tonight I’m seeing

Liza at the Palace: Judy Garland’s
daughter – sixty-two:
cracked and splayed and sweating –
and, reviews all say,
exactingly released: I need a feast
like this, don’t you?


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

If The World Were Sexual Today

If the world were sexual today –
and let’s decide it is –
then it must be much like
the raven-haired improbably sweet
lean young dancer whom I saw this
morning on the subway – keen black

irises and alabaster skin and ebon
eyebrows like two painted wings –
Egyptian iconography made blood-
warm flesh: it would have dipped as
freshly, deeply, gracefully as the plié
with which he entertained his rush-hour

audience astride a silver pole
obligingly provided by the MTA:
it would have played the role he played
as he engaged my eyes as we got off
our ride at Twenty-Third Street –
and I told him how delightfully I thought

he’d danced for us – and he asked in
the accents of some middle-eastern
country I could not decipher
what I did – and I forbade myself
to answer that my occupation
was to linger sinisterly everywhere

to find such finds as him – so I just
smiled as he stood waiting for a cue –
which I denied him: ah, my New York City! –
yes, I knew of course I had to minister
instead to you. Everybody sighed:
he pirouetted out of view.


Monday, December 15, 2008

What Inspirations Bring

I dislike being too inspired –
passions hit, too much desired –
suddenly I’m shivering
in some absurd new quivering

uncertainty: born of the kick
itself, convincing me the trick
of my existence now
depends on figuring out how

I can invade an art
to make it viscerally part
of my frail flesh.
The wound’s too fresh

to tolerate: I need the balm
of letting it subside to calm
annihilation. Playing Bach
and having it unlock

me is a dicey enterprise.
It’s hard to feel right-sized
after its dark intoxications:
they mix with other sweet relations

I might have (let’s say) with you.
And that can’t help but skew
the whole damned thing.
But that’s what inspirations bring.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

One Option

Painting is a bitch,
and music is too hard.
Acting is a mystery,
and poems? Find a bard.

Leave love to its misery –
ridiculous, unblessed:
let the thing die as it is –
unfathomed, unexpressed.


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Fetal Christmas

By my earliest December – more than four months
in the womb, evolving toward and through
the solstice – one-hundred-thirty-something days
before my birth would burst in May – my ears had
fully hatched – sounds began to play. What marvels

they would bring! For through those apertures
and past the densities of waxy fetal buffering
and amniotic fluid, through the muscular enclosing
universe of uterus, I surely heard my father in
his ringing tenor sing: “Glory to the newborn king.”


The Last Xmas Punch Party

How many Xmas bells
have rung how many
gruesome rounds

already? – when will they
have their final brutal
party in your soul?

When will the knockout
come? – that blood-red-

punch that blows
your last few lights out,
leaves you heavy, dense,

unmoving and unconscious
as a fruitcake on the floor? –
when will all that quake

down through your chimney
hole and leave you
thankful there’s no more?


Friday, December 12, 2008

Like Sweet Alyssum Flowering in Winter

On Listening to Bach’s F Minor Sonata for Violin and Keyboard

Please let me slip into this glisten – fully listen to, remember,
your fleet light endearments – feel your muscular
suspensions, tensions so regalingly resolve – dissolve
my odd misapprehensions in your cool exonerating balm,
your calm prospectus of the heart: let me take part

by giving you whatever muscle, tendon, bone, integument
I’ve got that you might care to use to build an instrument: oh,
play me like a violin – curl your florid vine around my spine
and bud arpeggios like winter-blooming Sweet Alyssum –
show me all the sure reticulated starbursts of your

splendid spiraling anachronistic flowers: help me make
a full transition from this hour to eternity: whisperingly
bright, awake – let me gently quake to the enduring rhythmic
shock of you, through all the rest of any point-of-view that
my poor wandering bewildered consciousness might take.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wall Street, on the Soul

Fear and greed invade each seed
and spot of us – they’re ragingly
contagious: saving your own precious
life – a horror at your death – are
what they’re fundamentally about:
morally, perhaps, they’re imprecise
but physically they leave no doubt:
you crave to breathe and you would

seethe and plot and rout and spout
against whatever other creature
needed breath if it remotely meant
that you would have to go. Try to mop
the woe from dying brows and you’ll
soon know that no one really
likes it anyhow. Is there a way
to celebrate and follow source

without resorting to a course
of killing hope and making corpses
of collaterally living things? If
you were a certain kind of Buddhist
through and through would you
contrive to find a way to let the slew
of flora in your small and large
intestines brew and never die? Ah,

but when they flourished, and made
flora nations, went to war: the lot
of you would self-consume and fry.
There is no way to keep on keeping on,
my dear, that won’t rely on kicking
something into the abyss. It’s you or me
or it or them, my friend – whatever’s
left can throw a goodbye kiss.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Half-Past Three Again

We’re here at half-past-three p.m. again – amid new
oblongs, shards of mesmerizing pearled December light –
carved by random closed-and-opened shutters in
the windows: drizzle spits against the panes.
The mystery remains: won’t bend or crack a lip or eyelid
for an interview. I will not say I see more than I do
and what I see is never more than one flicked stricken

moment of a thing – yet something sings: apparently
there’s change, and harmony: I’m now, presumably,
metabolizing tiny mountain ranges of two score
or so sweet red bell pepper slivers – yellow, too – all raw –
with dill dip and some hefty dabs of a voluptuously
mellow hummus which I dropped into the maw of my arcane
biology – and to refute the teleology of time: the strange

illusion that there is a goal, a line, an end implied between
what seems to have occurred back then and now.
I think from here on in I’ll fast – won’t eat another second,
minute, hour: there is no past, and I won’t let one
blasted bit of that hallucination hit: except, of course, in
my devouring dreams. There are, I cannot help but wonder
at them, dreams: let them, and poetry, consume my fat

and lean exaggerations. And still, and still the mystery.
That New York City is the only place for me has
much to do with what it does so metabolically to history:
spreads it like a dip on crudités and rolls it flat.
I digest its digest every day, evaporating and condensing
like the raindrops spatter, splat against the air
conditioner right now: a dash, a flash, a pitter-pat.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

If Someone Had

Your eyes carve space
to make a place for blooming
purple volume – the shadows
of Manhattan buildings
are as dark and violet to you
as lust: appearances
come first – they have a sexy
knack for slaking thirst:

what you’d like to think is
always what you’d rather drink.
You are, in fact, the literary
and pontificating drunk
too smart to crawl out from
your rich embroidered funk –
you know about the swooning
blue romance of heroin –

and gasp the quickened breaths
of endlessly explicative
didactic crystal meth: you are
the death of you but also
mark the glimmer of a yearning
for a life: you will not
cease until you’ve made a halo
of your strife, and painted

your ungainly saintliness all
over every wall. You are
the record of your rise and fall.
No one asked you if you
wanted to be born. You wonder
if that’s good or bad.
You wonder what you might
have said if someone had.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Tomorrow, in the Loo

More than a bit suspiciously we ventured on
a little shopping spree today to purchase produce –
not the sort of food we’re used to eating:
fresh, forbidding yellow and red peppers, celery
and broccoli – and Brussels’ sprouts – well, yes,
the last we’d managed to poeticize not long ago,

but with a touch too much bravado to be trusted:
rusty is the best that we could call our vegetable
cooking skills – too many ills and spills are
likely when we get our hands and colanders
and pans and spatulas and scoops and knives
and forks and spoons into the mystic runes

of “growing things”: and yet the idea of the fitness
of amassing plants supplants the worst of our
besetting woes – some budding atavistic
yearning for a taste of Spring – perhaps a hunger
for its contrast that the thought of Winter
and its snowing brings: at any rate we’ve got

a pile of cellulose, B-vitamins, and heaven knows
whatever else is slotted through this diet to
engorge our unsuspecting gorges and we’ll let
you know the outcome when we do. Though we
can probably predict already that we’ll spend
a longer time than usual, tomorrow, in the loo.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Things To Pay Attention To



Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Crucial Trait

Flat feet,
an utter lack
of aptitude
for anything mechanical –
my chromosomal legacy
includes a cartload

of propensities
and liabilities
to rue, and ponder,
But I will claim
as mine
genetic proof

my antecedents
were divine:
my brother
and my father
and my mother were
all hopelessly susceptible
to helpless laughter.


Friday, December 5, 2008

To an NYU Undergrad in Washington Square

Oh, slim
and young
and pimpled
blond –
thank heaven
you can’t see
today. So many
links of sin
and hymn,
and dimpled
ass and
simple truth
will bond
to chain
your youth,
and make it fray:
but you don’t
have to know
one bit
of that inevitable
flow. Live life
as if it were a lick
of cream:
and dream
and scheme –
and when you die,


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Again - the Trick, the Quick

It’s as if each aspect of the angle of the prism through which
I implore this New York City light – each afternoon – each day
beginning in December after three and thriving only barely
up to five – beyond which it has so immersed itself in diving into
darkness that the only possible response is blunt despair – it is
as if my only reason for existence is to bear some witness to it:
ah, but there’s the trick – the galvanizing quick – of it: today
we are again in Norway, Ibsen slowly loping down the sidewalk
humming Grieg, transmuting all to grief: some precious

legacy’s been stolen from him, and Manhattan is the thief –
secretively passing it to Ingmar Bergman – ever-present
with his private, dour and prescient eye – to indoor subway glare:
ah, there again – the trick, the quick: a bundled lady in her eighties
sits across from some young mother with whose baby
she locks eyes: a clinical investigation on the baby’s part can
be surmised: bright dispassion in the pupils, inspecting this odd
lumpy unfamiliar wrapped appurtenance of wrinkled creature,
as if it were a package on a seat. One seeks the lady’s gaze

behind her darkened spectacles (macular degeneration,
one suspects): intent and squinting, almost sweet, her face
absorbs the baby and entreats: she cannot seem to get
enough of it to eat. Ibsen, Grieg and Bergman, and a baby
and old lady in a subway car: all conspire to jar: to let you know
a little more about the glow beyond my windows now: dark
growling branches skeletally quake against the scowling tainted
pearl-white-yellow sky, whose barriers won’t break or sigh
or bend at my importunate brash pen. Tomorrow I will try again.


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Brussels' Sprouts Stuck on a Stalk

Brussels’ sprouts stuck on a stalk –
regarding which a preying eagle, owl or hawk
would not presumably take interest,
unless it hid a rabbit, mole or mouse:

regarding which I wasn’t sure what interest I should take:
this strange and lumpish fetish was a gift
from one dear friend, he said, “to warm the house” –
and so indeed it seemed it might,

as some incantatory atavistic wand to counter fright –
to sing and dance with in some native fashion,
naked through the night – but its tight green unfathomed fists
kept calling to me to succumb to quite another bliss:

and shortly I decided I might pluck them out
like vegetable eye-balls,
crisp them in a sauté pan with olive oil and garlic –
and then carried out the plan –

and, man oh man:
they warmed the house, all right, and me –
and I would climb the highest Brussels-sprouts-ing tree
to eat more of their endlessly delicious mystery.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Crablike On His Ass

Today my legs feel tugged and sore and heavy,
slow and interesting: they pull as if they tow
a weight behind, as if they hauled some strange
invisible but necessary heavy wagon, commandeered
to stow, convey a load of what my soul would need

to use to furnish it from hereon in. I am the product
of a cold December city wind – suffusing me,
suggesting just what psychic land I’ll have to plow –
a tolerably pleasurable tiredness, fatigue – in league
with an intriguing army of illuminations which

insist on altering my weave and countenance
and station, so to teach them how to promulgate
the space-time spirit of me for whatever must come
next. Down into the bowels of Manhattan: through
a midday crowd I lug my mass across the subway

platform, glad that once I’m on the train I might
sit down to contemplate this odd sensation with its
powerful implicit callings to a task. A homeless
schizophrenic man moves crablike on his ass in front
of me: blocks, then scuttles farther – lets me pass.


Monday, December 1, 2008

Global Cooling

The day – again – surrenders incrementally –
fractally gives up its shimmering and silver soul
with such a vigilant determination that you can’t
imagine it could ever come back whole. Faith
may be defined, perhaps, by that: reliance on

the expectation that the sun will once more
rise up, free and fat – and you’ll awake to see it.
No drama from its point-of-view at all, despite
that its obliqueness has begun to sing the lethal
end of Fall and spiral faster, faster into vaster

Moscow depths of Winter. Light will splinter
like Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique through ice then:
shadow sorrowfully and more swiftly into night.
But now’s the sleeker sweeter time for Debussy –
Ravel – French music spinning spells: pale

charming dips into the stylish cool before
the deadly freeze: a tantalizing proto-Winter
breeze accompanying elegantly fading
brightness in a deft Parisian dance: New York
will soon depart for Russia: now it visits France.