Sunday, December 30, 2018

Last Poem He Wrote

Sometimes when we look into
each other’s eyes, don’t we see
the darkness not the light? –
darkness that embraces form
and swallows it, creates
the metamorphic night? –
darkness, where all interest lies?
I  wonder if my mother or my
father or my brother when,
as I approached with each
of them their ends, identified
that darkness in my eyes.
Or had when I was born.
Had they always known
we’d never be alone, forlorn?
Maybe they’d long realized
its size, and why we each
created night when we,
half-cunning, breathed our sighs:
little nights we’d ride that joined
us as our glances met.
Maybe we knew everything already,
dark matter massed invisibly inside,
the kind infinity and love beget.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

This Thing You’ve Got

(for Catherine, on her birthday)
The woman’s singing to the girl, the girl
sings back – informing and reforming
to rewarm each other’s hearts
and histories, their mysteries, to broach
a new approach, address a lack that now
has found a round replenishment in song!
I have known the girl and woman –
how they’ve thought they felt and how
they’ve felt they thought – but suddenly
as they’ve begun to sing it’s like I hadn’t
known them long. I thought I knew
their essence: I was wrong.
It’s your birthday, Catherine –
and the birth year of a new career: what
you’ve yearned for since the girl in you
unfurled into her hunger for an unimpeded
life. To offer us a view of the immensity
of love which pours into your singing:
a place for us to be a part of you.
Your “i” has found its dot.
It’s real, this thing you’ve got.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Judy Garland Poem, Take 7,351

“I think she looks pretty.” Sure, why not. She’s anything
you’d like. To me, she looks like what I look like when
when I’m so myself, so tired of my own insupportably
boring neurotic egotism that I can’t not spin out 
alchemically to transmute all that matted dross into
an unexampled purity – purity’s the right word, even if
it’s purity (which by the way it always is in everyone)
made of mucking up your stories and your lusts, maybe
most especially your lusts, not the overt sexual lusts 
but the ones you have for scratching your dry scrotal sac
raw because you love the exquisite itch and translucent
crispy ball-skin flecks which flutter down, or your inability
to pass without subjecting to exacting scrutiny a single
fallen thing glossed by the rain at night – like jagged bits
of broken concrete, rotting leaves, torn Doritos bags
promiscuously gleaming in the wet dark streetlight glow –
without having to take pictures of it; it’s the purity
of a keen hunger to gratify particular senses in particular
ways which never won’t make an odd angle of it or
require ambiguity to persist in its mess; it’s the purity
of being packed with amalgam ambiguity – so apparently
heterogeneous and clumsily casual – but so intensely
absorbed by its own sensations and obsessions it distills
into an essence which if you squoze just a few drops of it
out of your soul into Dixie cups, passed it round to random
passersby, would almost certainly kill them on contact, like
certain kinds of love do. Which becomes the sort of purity
you’d want to watch do anything at all, like stand around
looking out a window humming to itself. Judy Garland
pretty? Or too beyond beyondness for description to begin
to tell you anything you could pass on that would do
justice to it, with the single exception of Joe Mankiewicz
who, in words that managed that feat, said “she knew what
music was for”? Try not to pass out while you try to imagine
what that could mean. That’s what I’d say she looks like.


Friday, December 21, 2018

The Ever-Living, Ever-Loving Donna


Silly Incarnations always wondering about the words for things!
Let’s just say her Psyche, Soul and Funny Bone (that frabjous femur
is of course what God is) sit around and chat while cosmic blasts,
amid insinuating internecine senseless soft manipulations that
accomplish nothing any sentience understands, applauded by
excited atoms detonating like fresh movie-palace popcorn and
the rest of what both crashes and/or doesn’t crash but falls with all
the sifting strangeness of all Accidental Art: recollecting steam
she saw stream lucid and concise from her grandfather’s lips,
as if he both were taking sips and slaking thirsts of others looking on:
sending humid messages abroad with care to keep their weightless
delicacies perfectly intact: somehow with her certainty that they were
destined always to exalt the highest purposes an Incarnation had
the nerve and fervor to enact, which meant some grand hilarious
shenanigan, too brusquely silly to permit you to retain your pee.
Humor when it makes you urinate with helpless incapacity is too
exquisite to be borne. Which means supposedly you have to die before
you get to sample it. Until then, silly incarnations trample over their
confused sensations, looking for some Mystical Experience to help
them bend their over-prudent laws – transcend. But not her “soul”
and “psyche” or her funny bone. They’d long ago jumped every fence
attempting to confine. Strange to be an incarnation and know nothing
is malign. It erases any need to die. “So be is what I’ll do,” explains
the ever-living, ever-loving Donna. “Why? Because I wanna.”

Sunday, December 16, 2018

To Get Our Business to Renew
To wander off from my menagerie as I have done
now for too many days, did not cause a catastrophe,
nor really any outcome in my creatures I could see
that gave them too much trouble. Their inimitable fun
had halted – and there was because of that a drying out,
slight giving up or in, an atmosphere at last that took
my breath and made it gasp, had me hunting for a hook
in their rare sea to catch some rapt insistence flying out
into a wider, deeper realm than it had been allowed
to flow to for a while. That insistence was a squirming
snaky jaundiced monkey-being, smiling and affirming
to me that the hook I wanted to tug us away, endowed
with a sufficient boost to get our business to renew,
was what it wanted too; indeed it knew the hook was me –
and so I find myself again the slave of my menagerie,
laboring to tug them out and through to baffle you.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Homework Assignment

Been a while since I have had a thing to do with you,
you keyboard with your aptitude for prodding me to skew
my facts of life – you implements of color and outlining
and chiaroscuro and perspective, all the mining
tools you’ve said that I must use – the digging down to ore
I’m told at your insistence is my only route to finding more
than I’ll have found before in drawing - tools I’ll need
to enter into and enlarge my vision, and to weed
out all the vapid and extraneous misfires that so far
have made up the great bulk of what I’m told by others mar
my name as artist (whatever “artist” could in my case mean)
and thus invite me to self-pitying attack: where I demean
myself for all the shortcomings that constitute the lack
in me of being able to face truth: this Kettelhack’s a hack.
Not to mention the most mortal sin I have committed:
a narcissism so immense no other view can be admitted.
Oddly though, how from my self-disgust, my feeble facture,
intellectual inadequacies and the rest of what effect a fracture
of my me-me-me, I experience this self-consuming pleasure.
Its lovely endless repercussions are a great dark pleasure.
But even that, of course, is just another deadly dull cliché.
Cliché, apparently, has long been my established way.
Have I done sufficient justice to the braying and self-flaying
that this course requires? ‘Life: Lessons in Role-Playing.’

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Like Waiting in a Bathroom for the F Train

If the universe were fully tiled like a bathroom
would it not beget a frantic Zeitgeist in a math boom
where meticulous intelligences working in new styles
of assessment count up ever vaster quantities of tiles,
making counting lose its use? In a sea of computation
that approached the infinite, no schema of relation
was imaginable, no organizing system was available
for counting or to count on. It would be unassailable
that nobody could ever accurately calculate the sum
of shiny squares that would already have begun to bum
us out; their careful quadrilinearity would be a joke
which rudely rubbed a smugness in, thereby to choke
us out of any foolish notion ‘finite’ had a meaning.
This would leave us woozy, unsupported, leaning 
on exactly nothing that would bear our weight.
For what would we have been too early or too late?
Perhaps some future evolutionary mutant miracle
will formulate a being who will grasp the spherical 
more than we can. We hang from brutal jagged edges -
perilously mortally suspended from repellent ledges
slicing into skin, inevitably therefore to insure we fall
without once ever understanding what created All.
Unable finally to grasp the fullest calculus of ‘Round’
or to apply it to eternal tiles destined never to be found
to which we therefore cannot lend the barest sense
so that we’d die in a condition as impenetrably dense
as we began, what woman or what man can render
Existential Clarity to Endlessness? Maybe a transgender
Prophet will arrive to wed the circle to the square -
create for us an “Actual” that won’t have bred despair.
This re-tiled 23rd Street subway station makes one think.
Like waiting in a bathroom for the F Train. Hearts will sink.

Monday, December 10, 2018

A Society of Influence - My Avatars

A Society of Influence - My Avatars*
Emily and Jackson
together form a faction
of a fertile unrelenting influence
in my peculiar heart. The confluence
you see of her unshaken gaze
beside his art of shoots and rays
and delicately wavering
amazements savoring
their own unlooked-for grace,
at last endows her with a place
replacing church where finally
with her rare air she can doctrinally
know liberty that loves revision.
Dickinson is dense in her concision;
Pollock practices a loose excess:
which in equal manner know success.
They wrestle and caress calamity
to make of it an odd-god amity
you’d never think a mind could be.
They are forever linked, to me,
And linked to me. Although
it’s fine if they don’t care or know.
Their play will always turn a page; no entr’acte.
The warning sign outside the stage: Do Not Distract.

*A friend of mine wrote to me that he was impressed by my having invoked forms like triolet and pantoum in a recent poem (I didn't tell him I'd written the poem 14 years ago and I couldn't tell you what a pantoum was today if my life depended on it). But anyway, in responding to that, I accidentally found myself creating a sort of aesthetic map - embodying principles (apparently) which direct my noodling mind toward whatever it is I do do do. Anyway, what follows is what I said to him. Sort of. (When he reads this he’ll discover quickly that while it more or less begins with what I said to him, it’s been edited and added to - up its considerable wazoo. Writers lie, as surely by now you know.)
‘Oh aren’t you kind. I went thru a period years ago when I actually applied myself to learning ‘form’ in poetry by attempting to write in it: pantoums and triolets & oh, what was that annoying other one that Auden would do more than occasionally - oh god, yes, the sestina (I did three or four of those). They were basically little arbitrary puzzles whose successful object was to make me unhappy - and now I can’t remember them at all except for the Petrarchan & Shakespearean sonnet forms which I still can like doing now & again (which means I can follow the rules without their seeming disconnected to life) - that is, when I want to, which I usually don’t. When I decided I wanted to write poems and looked around for poets I liked I could only find two I wanted to have stick around: W H Auden & Emily Dickinson. They’re still pretty much the only poets I think of. (Not that I dislike all the others, I just don't think of them.) I’m not sure why, beyond feeling I sort of know why Auden and Dickinson do what they do and I can relate to it. Like Judy Garland’s vibrato and Henry James’ syntax, diction & tone. Good heavens I’ve just come up with my aesthetic map, haven’t I.’
But where’s the rest? There surely must be more. What visual artists do I cotton to? What music? (Beyond Garland’s vibrato.) What about the violin?

The first thing that comes to mind is a single painting - the big Pollock one that takes up a whole wall at MoMA. I don’t know what it’s called but it rivets me. 
Somewhat simultaneously, Bach and Brahms emerge, and when I think of what I want from them, and that I give myself when I play them on the violin, it's a moment usually in a minor key where they tackle anguish in aching intervals to produce a sharp but passing pain, a pang made tolerable because of its academic dress: it follows gratifying rules even then. The Bach B minor partitas I incessantly play collectively scratch that itch: you get both the thing that moves you almost intolerably (which is the heart of its beauty) and the implicit reassurance that it can be expressed without the world falling apart. 
But for the moment anyway, at least to myself, I can convey what feels like the beating heart of what prods me in two joined visuals. Emily Dickinson's portrait, Pollock's big painting. Yeah, seen together especially, they ignite me. For the moment, they are my avatars. Maybe I’ll write them a poem.
Ha, I just did. (I told you writers lie.) And you’ve already read it.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

When Eve Began Mooning the Moon

She isn’t near, she’s here
(albeit barely in our view).
She’s where she’s always been. 
‘It was you who let me in,’
she’s often chided us. 
When did we do that?
‘Back then. You know!’
Though we did not.
What had ‘back’
to do with ‘then’?
Which, like Germans,
we pronounce as zen.
Zen seems more dimensional.
(‘Seems’ seems always sentenced
in a sentence to sustain it as its
one trustworthy word.)
Having to pretend again we knew,
our nods were grave the way
they would be, we imagined,
in the actors in a Murder She Wrote
mystery whose job it had been
to imagine plausibly and audibly
what they remembered, though
they lied. And to make it seem
remembering was easy and as actual
as fact. In fact, to us time is a hiccup
we have done our shaky best to take
on faith you undergo because you say so.
To us if such a hiccup
ever had occurred
it would dismember
and disperse itself:
ingest its hypothetical existence
in a blip. Never make a slip.
Clean itself up instantly
and utterly: be excellently gone
as only things that never were
can ever be. (Did you come up
with that canard ‘dismemberment’?
How do you dismember nothing?)
We may broach, then try
to breach, a brink to think
we might just once have felt Time
beating like a heart;
but we’re never sure. If it exists,
it is unnaturally pure.
Purity to that degree
(if such a thing there be)
we must suppose no one can
prove, expose, propose,
depose, affect, effect or, like
the Emperor’s new clothes
(especially his secret
cache of treasured 
négligées – yes, those!),
remotely see.
Time occupies no place, no face
(except that of a silly clock), does not erode
a rock (water may erode a rock, and one can say
of rocks that they erode, or are eroded,
and patience will erode when it’s subjected
to more abstract language than it can appropriate;
too much of which we’re glad it knows that it
just ate): time leaves no trace that it was anywhere.
Perhaps a stitch in time saves nine,
but if, in fine, what you design, moreover plan
to wear, is made of time, why not reveal it on
the rarest evening in the rarest month of June? –
which is, we hear, when Eve got naked –
finally, thank God!, again – and mooned
the moon! And belled a cat, as far as that obtains.
Eve is bold.
What if it rains?
She’ll catch a cold
she’ll die of.
Are we back to when
and then again?
Is all we’ve learned that
we’ve not learned a thing?
Two words now
plead with me
to rhyme with thing.
Bring, and sing.
Bring the thing
and sing it.
Do what we know to do,
and then append
a two-word admonition
(après tout) to our single-page-
with the