Why Poetry? (A Collection of Arrows To Shoot Into The Sky)
→ To sing out the voiceless; also dignifying, recognizing, accepting and then celebrating the empty spaces.
→ To establish a use for paper beyond sketches, cranes and airplanes
→ To burn wax from one’s wings (and then fall hard, spinning in a giddy and delirious vertigo, towards the other dream: death).
→ Seeing that there is no clear reason to write poems whatever, and
→ Since no one will be impressed, it satisfies to write something that moves beyond the smallness of the self (sending a carrier pigeon into blue with a message to be read only in its flight).
→ Because the universe is vast and we need to scratch figures into clay pots.
→ Not to be cowed by the complexities of the world but instead weave them together into an ethereal, celestial blanket
→ To engage billions of pounds of stone in a staring contest and win
→ To rarify experiential essentials and to slow time enough to see who we have been and watch wind move across a field of sunflowers.
→ Because not all things funnel readily into the sharp contrast of science and reason. (Some discussions must be stretched until they almost fall apart, like saltwater taffy.)
→ As the tyranny of numbers in a line must be shaken like a bed sheet (or enlivened by a few embers set free from a fire).
→ Because poetry can levitate the lid off the skull, to pour sunlight inside before it closes, again, and
→ Because advertising exists, we have to invest heavily in nature’s economy, and
→ Afford nature’s release from all the enslavements of mechanical monotony.
→ To be taken somewhere you could never have imagined going (and did not know existed).
→ As risk is essential to all growth.
→ (As it wilts the flower of curiosity to stand frozen on the surface ice).
→ As trivia slowly imprisons the heart in a cardboard box.
→ To stitch together the looser terms of reality (mapping the flight paths of birds. for instance, against the periodicity of hearts breaking).
→ Because words can paint, too, and deliver a freshet of water to the thirsty.
→ Because music, a cousin, trades in words like the elements barter electrons (or as round rocks, carrying a formal history, accidentally justify the course of rivers).
→ Because poetry goes well with soup and wine.
→ Because bad poems are useful (to clear a room for more productive things, such as drinking and conversation).
→ Because someone has to reacquaint the stars and the sea and
→ It is difficult to comprehend a fig or the contour of a woman’s legs, and without tools we would consign to ashes whole universes of seeing and being.
→ (As rain percusses when it falls)
→ And it is not enough to exist without drilling into crust, mantle and core of the soul;
→ Meanwhile everything burns, and melts: (fire consuming the pages as fast as we read them).
Clouds Give Onto Stars
I have a problem with my eyes.
They don’t rest properly,
to take in the surface of things,
(a kind of ordered disorder.)
Miniscule, invisible spider webs of thought
Connect, say, a glass to its fragile moment,
Before the glass moves silently into
vehicle of time travel.
It seems I am not alone with this brand of trouble,
So maybe you are similarly afflicted?
Maybe you can help me understand a few things?
A simple loaf of bread
Recalls a swim;
And a peach calls to mind
a woman a time, a kiss;
the shining surface tension of a lake— absolute in its light and shadow;
ready to become all lakes.
Can it be surprising that the eyes of the elders appear so pure?
They peer outward from their stance
atop an Everest of experiences—topographical layers of mind.
Even wordlessness cannot silence
the inscription of time,
at a flower and then find other flowers;
gaze upon a child and see all children;
notice how a tree’s branches rhyme with the lung’s hidden passages.
And so the empty day fills,
pours itself into the sky,
free, easy, continuous.
Half-dome’s granite rock looks so stable in its Yosemite,
an icon of permanence,
even as all its grandeur, impermanent,
buzzing according to exacting atomic logic.
That solid rock can seem ungenerous that way,
holding electrons tight,
until closer inspection reveals the whole mass to be
laced up in strings.
I see it, complete,
just as suddenly, I don’t.
The world snaps back into place,
map-austere, entire, replete.
We are all burning houses—houses burning down.
It is normal enough, and,
I find no reason for alarm.
Eyes burn, sometimes reflecting the burning sun, at dawn or dusk.
Hands burn, busy shaping a world that
shapes the hands.
Feet burn, plying the landscape, climbing, descending,
stamping an occasional satisfying print
in mud or sand—the joy of embracing
a close cousin.
Chest burns with purpose,
expanding outward to all points.
Yoni and Lingam burn,
force body to ascend to spirit,
yearning, open, gravitating.
Also the force of will
pain into joy;
violence into peace;
mal-order into art;
shame into celebration;
mockery into mirth;
diffidence into camaraderie;
despair into what is possible.
There is no filter for the eyes such as these,
(and the problem I have may not be a problem, exactly),
but a channel
to accept flowing rivers,
through them, through me. (I am riparian).
And I am not ever lonely or lost in such emptiness, my friends,
but full to overflowing; (and richer for the passing selves);
myriad and drunken in the thick
of all I occasionally know.
The house has no roof,
having consumed in flames, rooms now open to sky,
clouds giving onto stars.
Like a Grape Holds its River of Wine
This morning I found a bracelet made of Catholic saints,
their faces lined up and strung together
like rice grains,
like old pearls,
like ornamented teeth.
I can’t shake the sight of those lonely little faces.
And now I encircle your wrist with a
concocted religion belonging
only to you and to me.
I would surround you in such belief
(knowing it is not possible);
this alabaster perch of taut purity
where light pierces a cloud;
or where a stream forms, underground.
I would bend the forests to you, and all the rocks—
the heat of the burning earth and its tortured unfolding
compounding such phenomena into an unexpected non-chalance
that appears to you in various guises, (for example)
in a bracelet that would itemize and
democratize the faces of saints into a flat cheapness
only to be awakened by
the lightning shock and expansive powers of pre-existing belief
(Homer hurling color into his blindness).
Having collected such a rare trove of offerings,
I can enact the rite of staring into
your eyes, falling then (as is required, naturally)
into those black holes of maddening depth,
prey to the sweet electric vertigo;
the place where gravity pours
into a redundant sea of soulfulness. (milk into milk)
A complete convert, this appears to be the only way, and I believe.
(But my devotion will not cow me into spineless quivering.
Though fierce and needle-tusked in unpredictable dangers,
I am not afraid of your beauty,
So much as uncertain I can understand the risks.)
You are cloud-loosed—mineral hard and ice-cream soft;
not a butterfly to pin to a page in a book
(and ensnare with curlicued Latin) but
the grape which holds a river of wine;
or the tree-branch hosting its garden-party of blossoms,
dancing for the wind.
You are the generous circumstance
where the ice-cube surrenders its little tsunami
to the table’s darkened wood.
Your eyes remove thought from my mind
(the dangers, the risks)
and I am lost (again)—
simple and pure as a saint trapped on a bracelet.
It is then that I become holy
through a sanctified surrender to the music
we both hear--
In the kitchen, in the yard,
(where internal forests and oceans conspire)
Having become, (without declaration, without warning)
both the instruments and the players.
How to Plant a Winter Garden
Cut and then rip out all tomato and pepper plants,
disenfranchising overgrown masses of tangled stalks
hiding damned, unripe tomatoes.
Summer is over
and there is no getting it back,
except through the taste of the tomatoes that remain.
There is no hand of mercy,
(save separating a few late-bloomers
for the kitchen).
Chuck the unready, green, oblong wistfulness, end over Roma end,
into the dark maw of the compost bin—a bell not ringing.
Return to earth also:
memories of gardens past, former lovers,
fleeting thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi and / or
that come and go,
rhythmic as the rain.
Rake soil thoroughly, preparing
the would-be fertile crescent of your garden
also to grow reminiscences of your grandparents,
Seek out, study and then discard rocks
(no time for elongated, frozen histories).
Nod (with exaggerated politeness) toward the service of eyeless worms.
Treat beetles also with the half-embarrassed deference
usually reserved for hotel maids.
Pour or mix in, to desired richness, measures of the following:
injurious memories, out-moded photographs,
regrets, muted angers, random annoyances,
the paralysis of wasted opportunities,
thirst, hunger, residual grief, ruins of the heart, lamentations,
whale song, drunkenness, diffuse tensions, hauntedness,
petty entanglements, implacable hungers, awkward false-starts,
self-pity, blindnesses (various),
half-hearted engagements, drool, functional and broken watches,
heaving sighs, regretful abandonments, trivial conversation
moth wings and
Stir until jaw-muscles loosen and eyes begin to see the water table below.
Use index-finger and thumb,
to form small personal indentations in the soil,
the inversion of the self.
Establish linear rows
that would satisfy both Aristotle and your former math teacher.
Into these holes, insert the diminutive seeds
of carrot, spinach, lettuce, radish and pea.
Note how the pea seeds look just like
peas on the plate, only drier and less vibrantly green.
With the seeds, plant also:
a litany of large and small hopes,
thoughts of distant stars,
the sound of ocean waves,
what sorrow interleaves with joy,
an abandonment of laughter,
straightness of spine,
uncrowning of top of head,
breadth of the horizon
and a pregnancy of waiting.
Cover the seeds with minimal ceremony
and note where you have put them.
Then forget about the garden, if you can,
invest yourself in the delicate anticipation of