Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Style is Sound

Style is sound.
When you find it,
you’ve been found.
Presence has a meter
and a melody inimitably
tied to form, your form.
The deaf can hear it best.
They notate lyrical
vibrations in a special clef
which locates and records
the differences in silences
the hearing know as “rests” –
far more exquisitely aligned
with mind than sounds
the hearing can discern

which churn up from
a far less intricately
nuanced source.
Hearing has its
pleasures too,
of course.

But sound itself
is self. Your
sound is you.
Guy plays Bach

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Motley Postulates


Gradients of radiating lines of influence. Collisions
and collusions of profusions of geometries.
A frieze of such mathematical equations as can tease
themselves into believing they can feel and float
on breezes, and be put to music, made to dance,
enjoined to conjure up conditions of romance,
thereby financing the imagination with a currency
sufficient to convince it of its chance to change
its substance of abstraction into matter, into
reproducing flesh, into something with autonomy
equivalent to what we sort out of a mesh of prostituted
possibilities – theories we pay like whores to make us
think we’re more than odd and random bubbles in
a mind – to blink and pop, perceive that what we find
is what we’ve yearned so badly to believe there is: a God.
Is nothing not a question? Is everything an answer?
Do we have feet that blister on the stony path?
Is there a path? Or are we motley postulates of math?

Sunday, May 13, 2018

That Day

Walking last night past a city bodega around about nine
I was dazed at the sight of a long, cheerful customer line
wrapped around its street corner. Couldn’t fathom or gauge
what these sweet friendly people of every persuasion and age
were all waiting to buy. What were the lures, the engagements?
"What's up?" I asked. "Oh God! The flower arrangements!"
A Mexican florist had managed to spew this miraculous rout
of inventively beautiful blooms. Why? (Oh Guy.) I figured it out -
and needlessly shouted to all in the queue: "Aha! Mothers' Day!"
They did not cry "Yay!" in reply, but sparkled on cue at the way
I at last had come to. (My mom, her two boys and her spouse
had convened for five decades endowing the Kettelhack house
with their versions of how most Americans choose to take part
in the requisite holidays. But Mother's Day: that day had heart.)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Reading Belles Lettres in Front of Infinity

Okay, let’s opine for the sake of opining
we each have an incontrovertible soul.
Why do we picture it soulless, refining
itself into purity, like a divine crystal bowl
from which no mortal lips will have sipped,
much less guzzled until they were drunk from
what life was created to slip them: get ripped
by the cracks of the whips and the funk from
the actual – not strain to contain the invisible
putative Essence of our raison-d’être, 
as if that were factual? Where has our risible
Regent vamoosed to? Reading belles lettres
in front of Infinity, hoping at last for response?
Surrounded by all of his glazed-over ghosts
(what happened to cool, where was the Fonz?)
to which He, She, They, It were the hosts?
I’d rather eat stuffing
from chairs made of rat hair
than spend an Eternity bluffing
I hadn’t a place in my mind for despair.
My brokennesses make me whole.
Can’t think of one I would want to perfect.
If mysteriously I encounter A Soul
I shall counsel it seriously to defect.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Sinister Mulligan Stew

“Man suffers only because he takes seriously
what the gods made for fun.” – Alan Watts.
“Time spent with cats is never wasted.”
– Sigmund Freud
Why do we love to administer into each others purview
what we claim to be incontrovertible evidence
we have amassed from our deepest most intimately
undergone undertakings that prove every motive,
including those mean silent buggers about whose existence
we hadn’t a clue (that is, Dr. Freud, until we met you)
inventively steaming up toxically harrowing mixes
of Sinister Mulligan Stew we’re force-fed from the outset,
against which we have no defense, so fastidiously
and insidiously is it hell-bent on vengeance, replenishing
all of the menaced and menacing slew of effects
that have passed both in public and private as “you.”
I’ll tell you why: it’s fun.
Fun is what we can’t not have.
Preferably lots.
(“Doctor Freud? Mr. Watts.”)
What’s the best way to take on a conundrum? Divinities
flare when you dare to come up with new methods
to scare that they wouldn’t dare, or when you aren’t scared
when They traumatize. But you learn their trick, how
to catalyze anyone near – ignite what incites their worst fear
(and in private excites them) – whatever thing threatens
what you call “the best of me”: that thing you learn is a joke,
not a destiny. Sob becomes laugh. No other parts in the heart
of the Spirit’s Anatomy get this job done, not by half.
Alan Watts measured and weighed up the sum of what
Makes this Methuselah run: having a shit load of fun.
How many of you knew that too?
Seven bazillion and one?
You saw it coming: None.
Come, overjoyed! - to the void!
(“Alan Watts? Sigmund Freud.”).


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Terrible Artist

It seemed to me noble: one ought to impart
to the terrible artist he’d no taste for art.
I’d come to believe I could do him a service
as sure as I was that, of course, he’d be nervous
observing me tear down the walls of the fortress
he’d hidden behind, falsely thinking his portraits
were trenchantly sensitive, witty and fine,
and which proved him an elegant master of line
who avoided the pretty in favor of factual,
scraping off surfaces, finding the actual.
One faintly admired an offhand facility,
but how could one bear the clichés his ability
lazily dropped like a rabbit drops pellets:
relying on mindless reflexes that zealots
whose brains had abstained from all thinking
adduced to be grand. His dreck left you sinking.
I cleverly knew the best way to begin
to unravel him out of the terrible sin
of his patent refusal remotely to see
how he’d failed, was to have him draw me.
He was done in an hour. The thing horrifies.
It’s entirely made of unspeakable lies.
No trace of my face. But I doubt I’ll survive it.
Look how it dies. Not a thing can revive it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Poem Problem

The problem with a poem
which the Universe finds queer
is that it thinks it has to end.
There’s no end here.
But poems have to end, you say.
Or else they’d have you
by the throat both night and day!
But come to think of it,
you think, they do that anyway.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

For Instance

Ideas collect in families
that tend to run in packs
from anything that disagrees
with them: for instance, facts.
In that nasty swarm of bees,
they never can relax.
But facts too face uncertainties
to stop them in their tracks.
New proofs and further inquiries
can stab them in their backs.
If they turn out to be a tease,
they’ll also get the axe.
And so the fundaments of mind,
can, like a devil’s wink,
sometimes turn out to be a bind.
In half-a-second’s blink,
illumination’s undermined
the root of how we think.
Are there fresh philosophies
to guide us, say what’s best?
Don’t ask Plato’s Socrates
to put truth to the test.
Talk about a swarm of bees!
Death’s the only rest.
(the short version:
Ideas collect in families
that tend to run in packs
from anything that disagrees
with them: for instance, facts.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018


Ever notice how, just at the pivot,
trigger, tipping point, the very brink
of the stupendous climax, just a hair’s-
breadth blink away from blasting
you ecstatically to trans-mutation
to fulfill the last requirement of your
most yearned-for trans-formation –
to requite the hunger for it to arrive
which, you know upon the impress
of a strictly private lifelong revelation,
has been why you had appeared, why
you’re still alive – you know how when,
just at that blink the nano-tiny last
scintilla of the thing is ready to be
breathed upon by God to bring about
that requisitely delicate igniting sigh –
hushed, pregnant exhalation of a hello
and goodbye – which opens all
the golden gateways to the ultimate
redefinition of trans-figuration –
ever notice, that’s when people die?
Presumably you haven’t, but you will,
at least if hungers as ferocious as
the ones that made Melvina spill (not fly)
off from a window sill pick you, as they
picked her, to face the sole condition
of the only realm that trapped her eye:
the unambiguous indifference of sky.


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

I Had to Confess



It isn’t a beauty.
It’s never been cherished.
It breathes out of duty.
Somehow hasn’t perished.
No poem will come.
I’ve nothing to keep.
I’m sitting here dumb.
And jonesing for sleep.
I’ve long drained my cup.
I’m ready to go –
but I can’t give up
till it stops nodding no.
Can’t it speak? Say yes!
Whether it can or it can’t,
I had to confess,
I wanted to give it a plant.
So I did.
“I’m sorry it isn’t a crocus.”
It spoke! “But we’re rid
of the need for a focus.”
“At last, I can write!”
I sighed.
“Don’t make it trite,”
it replied.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

In Secret Off the Grid

I can't believe what something’s done!
Objects correlate – words are flesh – freshly
framed in disinhibitedly-hued voluminous
exuberance – all in sudden familiarity, as if
constituents of a centrality had just been sieved
like gold bits out of rapids, inviting disparately
faceted anomalies of bling to spin around
the coalescing orb, ribbon it like Saturn’s rings.
Some unspeakability now combs and patterns
this into the singing thing a lucent poem brings
you home to. I daily step away from it, entirely
to come back to exult in the results of what
I’ve had now to accept is a reality: from which
apparently ensues exactly the decor I never knew
I’d yearned for on a kitchen table, hallway wall,
bedroom bookcase, bathroom shelf. My New York

City magic place provides the only space I've ever
comprehended comprehensively: who stumbled
on this wealth, this pelf, this unsuspected 

evidence, this perfect proof and exercise of self?
Cacophony excised, disharmony relieved,
impossibility achieved, in secret off the grid.
Ego in Handelian accord with Id.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Inside the Living

We live inside the living.
Everything’s alive:
the lair no less than lion, 
the bees no more than hive:
the you and I and everyone,
and what each sees and eats
and lives in, undertake as well 
to co-create another vital given –
a sense intent on being certainty 
that we’ll survive – wherein we
even may become, somehow 
in consequence, by breathing 
in its inorganic alchemy (no less 
alive than we), articulate: capable
of saying what we see! – capacity 
for which is borne to us in gusts 
of subtle dazzle – magic flecks 
suspended in the air, like those
that dust their gold on surfaces 
of old unfathomable Rome.
Everywhere we are 
amounts to sustenance 
and company and all
we’ll ever know of home.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Portrait Painter and the Ugly April Day
He takes his bony awkwardness into the ugly April day –
too dankly warm for May – and yet the naked trees belong
in March: that’s what humid half-baked April in New York is.
Brightness pops in here and there: forsythia: frail runty
yellow feathers sprout from scanty soil – buttering a toss
of corners in the side-walked town: he wobbles down
the pavement like a scarecrow with a tooth ache: pretty close
to true. (He muses on how art steals pain and turns it into
point of view.) If he is to love this city he supposes that it can’t
be only when the two of them are pretty, which Lord knows,
and he knows, they decidedly are not. Currents lurch: bipolar –
hot/cold – devil-zephyrs from the river twiddle with the un-
blessed ordinariness of people – tourists: bodies are a weight
and bother, something may be flourishing but it is not sweet
human pulchritude. The sun’s too rude, and flesh too blank
and pale and bulbous and mistaken to be taken seriously.
Mysteriously, though, he’s got to have a taste of it: he takes
his aches into a scraggly lower east side park: the kind
a neighborhood takes over rough-shod, makes its own.
It’s a tumble of pink children’s stools and hanging thin
and dinky kid-made mobiles with green paper strips: looks like
the lame attempts at fun-filled doodads in a bad commercial for
a used car lot without the cars. Bumps and weeds and scars are
what it has to show. He sits there on a bench as caustic as a crow.
Then he feels the red eyes in some mean graffiti drilling through
him from behind and turns around to see bold slashes of white,
red and black kick ass and suddenly, at last! he’s got the portrait
he’s been hired to paint entirely completed in his head. And
he’s a pretty good idea of how to get it onto something in
a frame instead. April doesn’t care, but why should April care?
All he knows is that he’s somewhere he’s supposed to be.
Is that enough for him? That would be enough for me.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

That Hack, That Quack

“Your gender may be nonspecific,”
offered Red, “but Art requires form.
The way you’re dancing, honey,
you’re not even getting warm.”

“So lacking are you in the acumen
we know as critical, my androgyne,”
riposted Green, “one finds your dumb
reactions paralytical, and asinine.”

They sat this way all day,
each making gibes and sending feelers
out from their haphazard
sketchy sides, like dealers

in a senselessly complex card game.
Neither was allowed a breather.
The guy who drew them hadn’t
specified their gender, either:

hence their references to same.
This is what became
of every creature in the frame
of any scribble by this artiste. Shame –

alas, alack! –
on him! – that hack,
that quack,
that Kettelhack!


Friday, April 13, 2018

Too Beautiful to be Borne

“Too beautiful to be borne!”
we were told, by the Old.
Did that mean too perfect to come
in an incarnate form, or too stunning
to bear peering into for long?
We could report that the object was large in
relation to us, and was able to barge in
without too much fuss and that rhymes
could be found to expound on it –
up and then down and around on it.
But what kept us gasping for air?
What was the there that nobody could bear –
the beauty, the shock and the kicker?
The miraculous fact with the force
to appall or enthrall?
That anything happened at all.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Undivided and Divine

You multiply yourself
into allure –
subtracting imperfections
so that you’re
the ideal incarnation
of the calculus! You sway
into those curving fine
equations that allay
all possibility
of my resisting you –
so that I leap to prospects
of  enlisting you
to join me in both long
and short division
exactingly enacted.
Such precision
will persuade: we’ll
have decided to align –
concupiscent! – ecstatic! –
ever undivided and divine.


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Bach swatch of the 6th violin & harpsichord sonata (a capella violin)


Every relation that matters – that is, every relation in which your heart has an investment – is peculiar: peculiar to you. Not that other people may not really like the brand of Romanian kumquat jam you love, but constitutionally they won’t/can’t bring the same constellation of responses you bring to it. Their taste buds aren’t the same; their references to Romania aren’t the same; the way grandma dropped a dollop of it on their cream-of-alfalfa wasn't the same; the whole monumentally complex inimitable thing you are instantly makes any response you have to anything as inimitable as it is. This can be exasperating when – or if – what you want to do is to share the exact same love of something with somebody else. I’ve become more circumspect about revealing what amount, I suppose, to fixations on Henry James and Judy Garland because I’ve yet to meet even anyone who admits to being similarly powerfully drawn to them (and their numbers are legion) who sees, thinks, hears, feels what I do about them. When I am (as I always am) in Garland’s or James’ company immersively as who- or whatever “Guy Kettelhack” is, especially in full-tilt reaction, I am there alone.
Hardly news, I guess, that love can’t be explained: its effects may be sensed and shared, but not the love itself. Why would we want it to be? Well, there’s a question. Perhaps because the love can seem so consuming as to frighten us? That we feel somehow we need ‘help’ with it? Or is it just the sheer dumb (not stupid but inexpressible) hunger we have as social beings to feel united under the flag or umbrella or sky of something ecstatic? (Think of 13 year-old-girls in 1964 & the Beatles.) I hasten joyfully to add how wonderful it is to listen, say, to the Brahms 2nd Piano Concerto, as I’m doing right now (Sviatoslav Richter the wonderful soloist), with other people who love that concerto or who love Brahms and feel for great long moments that we are all in exactly the same ocean: there’s a huge commonality to be enjoyed here. But my private experience ends up being the one I’m most vitally and movingly left with. Movingly perhaps not least because I must contain it: only I can know it. There’s poignancy in that.
Latest reminder of this was coming upon this ‘swatch of Bach’ as I call it which I recorded and posted last June, a bit of a Bach violin & harpsichord sonata more of my love for which I think I may have conveyed here, listening to it again, than I realized. But that’s of course for your inimitable eye and ear to decide. Part of what entrances has to do with stuff I’ve suggested about Bach in these videos before, and tried in fact to demonstrate playing him and then reading Henry James aloud: James' subordinate clauses especially in his late writing have often seemed to me like Bach’s pulses in his own “subordinate” musical phrases – turning the prism to reveal yet another angle, yet another angle of an argument, somehow with a comparable weight of cadence. 
But Bach can probe so tenderly, too, arguably more directly – as in this swatch from his 6th sonata. Reed confesses to an impatience (here I go trying to paraphrase Reed again, always a mistake) with the perpetual motion effects of his uninterrupted keyboard etudes or movements of the Cello or Violin unaccompanied sonatas, suites, partitas which in form never deviate from 16th notes, beginning to end: a rush that can feel automated, almost soulless, at least in insensitive hands. However I so love getting on the rapids of one of these 16th note rides, trying, although never anywhere near achieving the goal, to reveal their constant emotional evolution and surprise – but I also love, oh how I love, the different intimacy of what he manages here.
Perhaps you’ll hear it, too. Though who knows what (or what else) you may think of it!