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!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Each Other’s Fate

One becomes the stone
another uses to create.
Marble enters, breathing.
Sculptor holds the gate.
Made, maker, mate
essentially equate.
Galatea is Pygmalion.
They are each other’s fate.


Saturday, April 7, 2018

Angel, Un-Reconstituted

“Un-reconstituted angel, please,” you tried some
time ago to order from the disputatious vast Akashic
Record Store, when of a sudden you discovered
in your cupboard that somehow you hadn’t any more.
Not to have a bit of angel at the ready to supply its
expertise at cleaning and its excellent cuisine could
make existence quite the wretched bore: indeed,
a heavily egregious chore. “We’re not allowed to sell
that now,” they bellowed at you in their shifting
harmonies of major, minor thirds: it took a chorus
of a dozen souls to scream as loudly as they could 
to have what they were hollering be even slightly heard.
“Powdered Angels lately have been turning into gritty
tasteless paste – all their powers gone to waste: holy
water now no longer lent the desiccated stuff sufficient
wherewithal to turn into the fluffy, moist and tender
nutrient it once had been that favored life: it’s now
a sandy glop – full of stop, devoid of go. Which was not,
to put it mildly, what The Great Redeemer had in mind.
So Angel, Un-Reconstituted is no longer something you
will find. But an angel's dried reductions could be set up
to be “fried.” You learned this meant electrified, 
a process by which frozen angel filaments would realign
in parallel arrays of colors, weaving back to usefulness,
and finally reliably result in the arrival of that cherished
helpmeet: a fleet new angel by your side. “Be careful,
though,” the souls arose again to yell, “don’t overcook
them; even slightly singed, they have been known
spontaneously to reveal insidiously hidden portals. Some
lead to hell.” You rather thought that might be swell!
So you opted for la poudre d’ange prêt-à-sauté, took it
to your kitchen range, electrified its filaments a touch too
much – which splintered bits of it to crispy black. From
the hiss of its disreputable crackle now has surged this
Impresario of Impermissibility! An indolent deliverance,
a cunning halt, a cul-de-sac. You’ll never give him back.


Thursday, April 5, 2018

On Learning She was Dead

She felt all floaty. Was she dead? She
thought she might be since the thought was
unencumbered by the smallest sense of dread.
Dead indeed she was! She was the silence
in her head now, not the buzz. She knew
the freedom of alignment. She’d succeeded 
at one task, the first of three, of what somehow
she knew to be her posthumous assignment:
to know that what she’d done was die.
Second task was to remember how and why.
She recollected easily who’d caused her swift
vertiginous decline – who’d pressed her 
in a pretense of seduction to take innumerable
sips of Spanish rosé wine immediately after
which came her collapse: a trembling seizure,
then immovably supine. She knew now calmly,
clearly, with a sort of offhand leisure she’d been
murdered: massive dose of strychnine. That she
knew who killed her seemed so unimportant now,
brainless filler in a tedious tv show where

you don’t much care to know the busybody
business of the plot whose gray particulars in
any case you just forgot. What reason was there
to remember, with everything dismembered?
What from nothing was there to beget?
On cue, two aides-de-camp companionably
joined her to enjoin her to abandon her
abandonment – apply herself to learn and carry
out her third, last task (“you’ll bask in it, we bet!”).
She did, and that was it. Dissolve in it, forget.


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Willy and Nilly, A Dialectic

Willy (in quotes). Nilly (in italics).
“Whether when or after
or before the doubt comes,
we must factor in the likelihood
of random outcomes.
What good would that do?
Why do we need to know a thing?
Why do we care about what isn’t here
or what it might or mightn’t bring?
 “This is the place to put an upbeat –
to wave a brave baton – to order
choruses to crowd into the street!
Get unified resources out to sing!”
Why is there is a worse or a better
time for that? Why don’t we all
go to bed and get fat? What is there
to dig for? Where is the mine?
“We dig to fathom depth. Interiorly
find our way to all of wisdom’s wells
indwelling in our secret selves, inquire
how we might retrieve our awe.”
What is awe? How could we have
lost it if we had it? What more
is there to say or find?
Why seek to seek or speak at all?
“Hell is dialectical. Wrangling
over unimportant aspects
of a badly written story.
Heaven is a spectacle of glory.”
Which ought we to prefer?
Which one’s for you
or me or him
or her?
[Willy and Nilly won’t tell, don’t care.
They’ll dare you willy-nilly and distract you
willy-nilly, and then fell you like a tree, running
willy-nilly through the casual jazz of casuistry.]


Our Law

That everything we think
and see and do is fiction
has, we're sure, to be the source
of every blessing and affliction.
Through ear and nose and eye
the brain transforms
the storm of stimuli
we can’t not be engulfed by
into sensibility, as stripped
of friction and bewilderment
as desperate measures in the mind
can make it. Our law depends
upon forsaking what we really saw.
Whatever the infinity from which
we sieve the sensible may be,
we couldn’t take it raw.
But “making sense” must
also let us feel existence –
not only shield ourselves from it.
Our law insists, as well, on awe.


Monday, April 2, 2018

As Accident, We Think

Energy attracts, attacks, enacts,
adjoins, purloins, conjoins,
repels, impels, compels,
subsumes, assumes, consumes,
expends, distends, extends,
engenders, fashions everything
we are: unloaded from catastrophes
of gas and dust exploded off a star:
and then, we think, as accident,
when all the quarks and leptons
had aligned into whatever prototype
of working mind began ascending
into sentience from the molten mud –
when a quadrillionth cosmic jolt
required Push to come to Shove –
it entrusted us with love.