Tuesday, August 31, 2010

99. Random Shapes of the Abandoned Poem

at the outset
am coming
am making what
from what to make

to the utmost
are being
are extending past
what past there is


delicacies yet
hard to the touch
tough to the tongue
and tortured into being

poets with their words
best without clothes
watching what
they steal from us

see it
say it
sign it
sing it

to make a poem
with the shapes
of the words and where
they don’t interlock

layers of sense
in strata
each level of meaning
another floor to an abandoned building

the pulse
the plus
the pus
the pull

worked out in sections
until the segments of the problem
were a code equaling a number

inmost to the poem
to walk through it as a body
to bear its fragrance
through the nostrils


finding in the crease
the meaning
and increase
toward an opening fold

obsessed with
or obscure
the object of one’s
obdurate desire

and f’ded
and splay’d

beauty to be sentenced
to the word or
its phrases
the independence of the letters of its body

the stairs
the air within it
do they go down?
do they go up?

or she
or deviate

happy in the skirt
to go around the water
and waiting to go in

in the form of punctuation
the page punctured
by puncta


a frame of words
to make the shape
of meaning against
the shape of letters

elsewhere might be
elseways to be

of words

arrangements of sounds
chairs against tables
of lives for a time being
of _____ against a page

closely enough to the word
against the _____


sediment of sense
conducive to

he draws her
he draws away
he draws away from her
he draws on her ideas

the leaves
in eaves

memory is not a text
redaction is not forgetting
italics are not insistence
capitals are not shouting

lips slip
off the word
or the word’s out
and slip the word back in

it is in
a bit of at
is it an

and continuous
in the form of a sentence
of life or death

from grace
and all the words
for Adam’s animals

in as is
a bit of it
as if an

the contents
of consonants
resemble continents
or shoals

ink as a process
of thinking
to think through
to think upon

and lorn
of love

concrete in the abstract
a visual distraction
the eye caught
in the tangles of the eye

marks on the page
like marks on the body
like the body bearing words
forth and forward


contours of the words
as bodies before you
as shapes of height
and certain roundness

a word is a figure of speech
a sentence is
a sculpture park
every letter bears the weight

be to be
as is as
to in to
he as he

exhausted the word
and wrung it out
leaving just the outline
of a point

in the form of shade
if the sun moves
it may disappear


the soothing sound
of a dove
calling out the letter o
to whatever would listen

as an ort
as a board
as the book

or on
of or
on of
of or

to descend
into light
and be

in and
into and into
and through
and out


the author
lives in
the word
or words

but words
nothing at all
nothing but words

Monday, August 30, 2010

98. Without the Provision of Advice

Not in the least
or in fractions thereof
and whatever exceeds
what needs to be
less than it appears
before you to be

in a manner of speaking
such that you might use
when speaking to
your superiors who may be
less than what you
imagine them to be

in the same way that
your sense of a person
may be more (or maybe less)
than what you perceive
following the simple facts
of looking and listening

the inner sense of a thing
(as in a geode’s unexpected
toothiness and the color
unlike its exterior which conceals)
being always different
from that that you see

or hear
as a bird whistles to the world
as you whistle a song or
and and the difference in
that or between those
and what a whistle might mean

so you might whittle
a stick into an implement and
implement it into the world
wreaking some simple havoc
against maybe a colony of ants
unfamiliar with the weapons of man

or you might intend an action
so thoroughly that the intent
seems the absolute equivalent to
the act itself and there is
no curtain between the two
you do not pause for applause

or respite but
continue as if your world of thought
is your world of flesh and the breath
you use to speak yourself out
into this tiny globe of life
your simple evidentiary act

the act of proving yourself
extant to the degree you can prove it
a body in buoyant space that
moves as if through air
through air
to catch up with the words

you have just sent out into it
finding yourself upon that hearing
to be neither the intellect
you had hoped to be nor the buffoon
you had feared you were
because each of us is a fraction

of a falsehood
a fraction of simple verity in graceful arcing
movement through
the expected motions of a life
so that you might grow into a man
and do manly things such as

living your life with respect for others
and so that you might be
the man you wanted to be
better than your father
who tried without vigor to make
himself whatever else I might

need to be but
you have your own way now
and your mother knows it
telling me so repeating herself
as she does over her weeks
of thinking about you

and what you are
and are about to become and she
is more surprised and humbled
by your inevitable coming-of-age
than she is that your sister
is marrying five weeks later

and changing her world
into something you won’t
change your world into for years now
sometime in the future when
we will no longer be
the people we are now.

97. Words for Water

Too many days driving
and a car cannot be a home
though allowing some sights
by the simple moving through
of a car:

a sunset but without a view
of sun, only how the sun at that
angle, the earth itself at that angle to
the sun, the car at that angle down
a mountain, produce a receding
set of mountains, each flat as
a card fanned out inside a hand,
and each a different shade
of blue before the sun shines
into the eyes, and even road
becomes difficult to see;

a quick trip across an overpass,
and a glimpse of a car wreck strewn
across lanes, multiple cars opened
and broken, the people invisible;

the car allowing you the opportunity
to remember something because
it allows you time and visions.

The entire world is visions,
and they come up at you unexpectedly,
until you are too afraid to move
in your car anywhere
because your car shows you everything.

Maybe three thousand miles,
just about that, we traveled this month,
all in the same car we now live in,
comfortable enough for traveling
great distances, and we don’t know
when we will stop or where
we will go next or when next we’ll find
a drink. Everything surprises.

We are called to travel for friends,
for family, for work, for poetry,
such as she is. Travel is an obligation,
as is making it to a destination,
finding a person and shaking a hand,
or giving a hug, giving greetings,
saying goodbyes. To drive is an act
of communal living, moving in a stream
of cars, and still streaming forward.
The car beside you may turn into you
in a moment, without warning,
and you will see the white glare of
its fender, which might be the sun
setting into your eyes, or it might
be headlights because it is
always night, even when
you are thirsty.

It is hard
to tell. And it is harder to tell
the more you know. Everything looks,
at least in part, like everything else.
Every one of the things of the earth,
everything you see gives away
some part of itself to the recognizable
shape of something else. Mountains
are playing cards. The sun is
a flashlight. The fingers are
crabs moving sideways.

With time you learn the shapes of things
so that you cannot tell one from another.
That is your gift, one given with time.
You see how everything is the same as
everything else and merges into one
shape, one voice. And I couldn’t hear
them if I’d wanted to right now, so sleepy I am
that I have fallen away into dream
while writing this,

and I dreamed of something
that looked like everything else,
and I called it “water”
for I had forgotten the word
for sleep.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

96. The Words of the Cave


echo of thought
in the form of voice

the cave is generation
as it is that we sit there

the dark broken by
artificial light and sunlight

the cold of the water
the cold of the air

what we watch in the cave
is the sound of words

how each returns
to where each came from

the human body that produces
and accepts the reverberations of voice


the first voice came in
slowly on a kayak and lighting itself

her husband calling
to her from the shore

the second voice spoke against the sound
of music made on metal grates

sometimes his voice risen into loudness
as high as the flat ceiling of the cave

in a whisper

the third asked three of us
to lie on the stage and breathe

to lie on the stage prone or supine
and say one word slowly

as slowly as possible until the words
were a flowing of sound without end

he asked us to say the words quickly
until they were shudderings of voices

the fourth sang a song
with a raspy violin

and his foot’s percussion
against the wooden stage


the fifth read quietly
so the cave barely heard her

enough to repeat her tell us
“how words fall apart”

the sixth read in the rhythm
of the beat “lost in the

of a shoe”

the seventh showed us the words
on a screen of dots a tiny marquee

and drummed the voice of a sound
back into us

the eighth began with a song
of sounds without voice

without the vibrating sound
of her voice and the microphone

filled it up into
the hollow of the cave

the ninth told us what
the pluckings and chords of

the music signified before
they echoed into and out of place

too many of them and too quickly
for the cave to hold them still


the tenth was silent but
let us listen to the music playing

as he played the role
of a dying moth

the eleventh was too hard for me
to hear from where I’d moved to

at the back of the cave but
I heard the regular cadence

of her voice which I heard as
a kind of breathing in and out of words

I was the twelfth in a dozen voices
some silent and I began far away

and invisible to the others to you
waiting in the cave for my voice

I threw rocks into the water
yelling out at the throwing

before I began to sing so the cave
would be too full to hold the words

walking along but within the edge
of the water I sang and climbing

up one of the thick rock pillars
that held up the earth I walked

in the water singing and swam
through the cold water singing

then diving into it
to pull myself through

the water I climbed
onto the high stage

jumped to the lower
stage and found

my words on paper lying
there and read them

out pacing the stage
caged by its limits

by the beating of and
the breathing of my chest

and I sang again and
spoke not in words

but in the sound of
words before I jumped

off the stage onto the rock floor
of that giant hollow of sound and ran

up a steep slope of mud
and turned around to see

all of you small below me
and looking up

as I yelled down to you in the same
voice with the same wordless words

and I told you all to come up out of the cave
into the warmth of lingering summer

and I ran


but you saw all of this
you heard it you were

there listening and watching
and making sure every word

could exist and every movement
could be and that the motions

of the poets were real
because you were there

to accept

96. Just the Beginning

echo of thought
In the form of voice

[written in West Park, New York, and will be heading home soon]

Friday, August 27, 2010

95. Unutterable

Place and its absence
through its abundance,
to be not from
somewhere but about,
and in places,
defined by moving,
stilled by place
and momentary.

Numbers in the counting of
a home,
which might be one
counted among different places,
or a continuing family,
memory stamped by place
and time of moving on.

To see the real
as stable place
and home, to touch
the same road
for a lifetime’s
walking is forgetting
the continuous self,
orchestration of
experience into
memory made
tangible, what
replaces place.

Everything unutterable
is what is requested of us.
What was it like (to live
the only life we’d lived)?
What did we miss (from
living what we’d known
and never what they had)?
We cannot speak
except to say we were
alive, we are alive.

My spiel is five states
(counting the District of Columbia
as a state), nine countries,
four continents, and forty-six
moves over the course of
a life not much longer
than that in years. We move.
We live. We are as we were
and would be. We are not
defined by place, but
places, where we stopped,
where we caught the wind.
I was born on the peninsula
between the Pacific and
(within view of) the giant
southern gaping mouth
of San Francisco Bay. I lived
blocks from the Atlantic,
with Lake Erie as my backyard,
on a beach beside the Caribbean,
across the Via Lido from
the Indian Ocean. I have seen
the earth’s one ocean from many
angles, and I am watery from my
views and being in these
instances of that one place.
Having been everywhere, I am
simply here.

You understand, and so
you understand the sun shines
everywhere upon our shoulders
and could turn our skin brown,
but it appears in different
forms in different places.
There is no place except
in relation to other places.
No single home. No one place
we could say we come from.

We move, and in this way
we survive, we persist,
we continue forthrightly
into the present. We are.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

94. Too Many Anchovies


in the form of saying
what is seen
before you
in a not-doing
of some secret speech

splashed, filaments

light as water
light is water
the extravagance of movement motionless
what bears the eye
what the eye bears away

its stunning silhouette and cantilevers

ashake in the wind
where the word went
and the weight held
in balance
and a breath held a second too long

hunted smoggy expense

cloud too low in the valley
arbitrary thoughts
like to say there are so many days till death
counting down into zero
a report, not a retort, and an echo

quarry that sprawling

what we go after
where we pick the stone
extending beyond boundaries of sense
falling asleep at the keyboard
there is no music, just clicking

cudgel the pill

hitting the crab with a hammer
or fighting the tablets
what we write on in swings
how the wind rushes through us
till we release and sail

needle tears a hole

deform to reform
openings into closures
to cry at the prick
and his small rooster
waking the alarm clock

this hiss in which

imagining a snake
and where a snake might hide
in her or a radiator
too early for warmth
too late for sleep

put it to her moth

the sound of the moth
scream like cotton against cotton
the time of the moth
the moth of time
where she kept it safe and moist and warm

pouting but poised to kiss

french fries, gravy, and cheese curds
north enough to be Canada
holding herself in that position
lips against air
hips again mare

broken open at the hoist

fracture of the chest
and the heart falls out
punctured with tiny umbrellas
and flags of all nations
barbed-wire to crown and hold in place

paradox is that creating

pain of the seltzer at the swallow
making it in the shape of sleep
pillow in the shape of a pill
swallowing as a form
swallowing as a form of forgetting

thin veneer of metal

shield for the eye, not the body
quite close to a state of paranoia
shallow in ideas
held in place by place
paralysis of paradox

heaving seas

out the back window
vomit of your eyes
the weight of vision
seeing the wait
having is having

voracious typographical vines

eating in the shape of words
the type who would like the pictures
struggling through a mass of letters
ink in the shape of thought
always hungry, always hungry

rooms, listservs

together in a space for talking
space as a component of communication
listening as a catalog for quarters
wandering the veldt
multiples and then other multiples

He grunts, pushes, clenches

the need to
craving the movement
to enter and center
tension as an object of want
holding it at the end

tremor for each memory

every earthquake passed unfelt
dinner like a school of anchovies
extending into and beyond
the depths of seeing
shaking, always shaking

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

93. I Don’t Know What It Is

Kinder and singing towards the hook,
the chill of late August is a hint,

coming around the last bend of Alaska,
accumulations of accumulations of

memories like grandchild followed
by grandchild, and the hope of

moving from place to desired place,
in the sequence of a life not

imagined but lived, the liquid of it
its necessary unpredictability,

you had an eye on it, like medium rare
lamb and baby potatoes, all the

young things we eat to keep
from growing old or away,

disappointments in a narrow band
of a broad life are enough to bear,

yet not each life is broad, and sometimes
the disappointments are the bulk

of living and letting, and letting go
is the only option, but these have

passed you as you have passed on
to that second life, full of wanting’s

reward, waiting’s replaced, and every
morning is a gift of light and warm,

to the right degree, a birthday for
a woman whose months multiplied

by her days are her months, in number,
a numerological charm guaranteeing

your life and pleasure, the speed
of getting to the speed of wanting,

and the long gaze at the landscape
of land and sky or a baby’s eyes

seeing what it doesn’t yet know it sees,
yet showing all you’ll ever want to see,

the deep blue an eye begins with,
color of the sea a ship’s prows

parts to give the vessel such sights
as every tourist takes and every

eye desires, but it is the time,
not the sight, or if the sight

then the sight and the scent,
and the sound and the taste

of the food and the touch and
the time of it that makes any

experience worth the waiting of
a life out, across, but never through

to see what you might only once
see but will hold with you as

a passport to another country
you will never visit again, even

if your own, even if your own
town, for every experience

is a flowing moment away
from you just as a tiny

grandchild suddenly
grows to a man who

recalls his grandma
smiling at him but

the rest is dim
because she is

whispering now
into his ear

and singing a
a scrap of a


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

92. Sleeping in Automobiles

Through the mountains seemed to be
New Zealand for a moment, in green and reaching,

systems of night, reticulations in extensions
and fissures of light, along outlines of mountains,

light of the radio, light of the headlight in the rearview
mirror, and what it had seen, reflections upon

our lamentations upon the muddy face of the earth,
despair and the ration, diction is action and evolving fields

illusory, the green of summered endings and night, the black
of being and, in being, been, torment, torture, torquing

the haft, though bladeless, swings through air, to flesh,
through heart, start and stop, and solid to the bone, what

heft forward to hit, to cut, to maim, to break, to punc-
ture the surest little of bit of all the rest of him, and

soar in a sweep was a hawk, not vulture, something unbald
and made for blood and bleeding out the heart, but in marrow

what stable balance, all in tow, that creamy blood can fake,
teeter on the edge of cliff face, bridge, or automobile, the balancing

moon eager for a swim through always night and th’alarm’s
a ringing can’t be cock whose crowing’s stopt, can’t be trash can,

can’t be car, alarmed and ringing for night’s last ending, can’t
be now and couldn’t be then, for the car swerves left following

road, pattern of white, in dashes, pattern of yellow, in lines,
and all boundaries interrupt what we can’t allow be interrupted,

the breath, the heart, lean eyesight in the darkness, touch of finger
to the touch of finger back, earword whispered into ear, and

awkward circulations of desire, waylaid by suspicion, susurration, sustenance,
like love and the twisting of headlight turning right with car along the road

that turns right with the weight of evening, and moonlit raindrops
on the windshield’s face, in streaks and stretching, water reduced to glare,

and the light of eyes, in blue in green in hazel and brown, that do not shine
but see, through into blackness, reflection of light, our own little noir

soiree, and the sleeping giant of a man, chest ripped, sleep impeded by
breathing’s pause and break, and breaking out in gasping, arm numb

and buzzing, what alarum could wake the night into shadows from trees,
or corpses of this zombie’d landscape, all that walking for the waste

of one brain in twistings and twistings into flesh, eggless for a morning
breakfast, but the mind erupts into the bald shape of an idea, and a flash

from the oncoming, maybe car, maybe truck, and blindness for that second
in the brightest darkness, sometimes seen as motion or inertia, either rest

or coast, slight swerve off and onto what shoulder is soft and the skin so
sweet, scents in wafting pleasures of a moment’s intake, but gravel or

loose stones collected in the face of time, and sprayed up or out, in
tinklings of stone to metal or off into darkness edging the roadway into

blank blackness, tree, guardrail, air, and descent, the various trajectories
of matter against the random order of restraint retrained into error, and

arrowpoint flight, the memoried one, once and never, agains enlisted against
hope, and whatever action against whatever stand of time against the solid

oak, alone in woodside silence, motionless excepting breeze, and sleep
upon the headrest, dreaming the possibility of dreaming it out into breath

or something more solid, like thought, and a spray of words presented,
as if now, as recompense for the locus of living, a heartbreath’s width

of blood and pumping, the heart of living, the heart of else, and in
the morning’s coming that pumping out, nacreous, liquid, warm as

blood, the white extension of the reddened self, into herself, so that
sunlight extends its warmth, in wet and saltiness, and what opens,

accepting, rests, arresting, spilling sunlight, in thick fat drops,
a little spasm to prove there was a night, undreamed, that continued

before folding back into itself and away, sucked into woods, into streambeds,
under stones, into the last intake of breath before the world awakes.

Monday, August 23, 2010

91. Extravagant Life

Small in a way is every life, something
littler than the thought of the life itself. We go through,
we move on, we are, and eventually
expire, yet in that smallness we find

the only greatness, that steam
that moves us forward into the only life we have and
allows us to see ourselves as
something worth living for.

Every life is an eggshell, colored
blue, and so light and fragile that the smallest intake
of air could suck it in and crush it.
We live within the possibility

of breaking, dying, leaving what
there is for something that isn’t at all but calls us to it,
and the moments of life are too few
so our role is to multiply and go forth.

Welcome to your life, my only daughter,
and so beautiful that swans blush at their ugliness when
compared to you. This game you’ll now
play is hard, to live a life as two, but

it is the only life you are allowed, so
you are required, as if you had made an oath with the blood
of your father, with the menses of
your mother, to live it well and full.

I am reminded at times, and usually
by myself, that I am not the usual kind of father intent on
avoiding the word menses, because I am
of the world and blood, of the ways of

breathing and making sounds of that
breathing, I am intent on making and living with the body
and with the mind, I am waiting
impatiently for your life to begin.

Twenty-six years and most of my life
ago, you were born after a day and a half of labor and
your mother working that whole time
and nine months more to make you,

because we had a life to live and needed
you there, crying for food, peeing little puddles onto the carpet,
and we needed not to sleep and to walk
the colic out of you for months of trying.

Give what you can to sacrifice but only
to make a life that you can live more than happily, and secure.
You can give only something up to make
something more from it, and continuous,

a form of life that seems suited to kindness
and joy, because the two cannot be separated to live a life worth
the effort of breathing. There are not enough
years to set aside a few for meanness and sadness.

What can you make? What can you do? What
can you hope to carry through a life long enough to make that life?
Life isn’t sitting or hoping. It is running and
doing, and running so hard you laugh

all the way. Life isn’t about yourself. It’s about
you and the people you touch and the way you touch them and how
you make something out of your life that is more
than you yet entirely you, something only you are.

I am not really a father, in some ways, being
relegated to the job of comedian, poet, worker, maker, and always
the thinker, but I am your father and the only one
you’ll ever have. When Jimmy marries you, he

marries my daughter, on a fragrant October
day, when the leaves are slowly rotting into soil, and that sharp wet
scent tells us all we need to know about life.
You are alive, in your body and your smile,

in a seemingly permanent summer, but
you will marry in autumn, a time of reflection, a time of preparation
for the long cold winter that we cannot
escape, but if you live long enough, if you

struggle hard enough, you may make it
back to spring, and you will learn that this is your moment in time
and it extends for years. I love you,
my only and beautiful daughter.

Catching Up

My busyness at the Avant Writing Symposium kept me from finishing my poems on time, but I did start them all on their appropriate days. I, however, finished all the poems on the drive home "today," meaning 22 August 2010, and you'll find poems numbered 88 through 90 below for your reading pleasure.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

90. Gray Rayn

It is raining.
Process as
rain, and rain
as process
itself into
grey. It is a
grey world
under a grey
sky on a grey
day in August.

We think of
the road as
black, but it
is grey under
grey sky or
even not so,
and it turns
closer to black
with the rain
on it in the
form of water.

Rain is rain
until it does
not fall or
until we forget
that it has
come from the
sky on a grey
day in August
heading east
and back to
our grey home.

We live within
a process of
processes that
make the world
at our feet or
fingertips, so
that we can
ride a grey
road under
grey clouds

Every car on
this side of
the highway
is heading
east, its red
pointing at
us, headlights
coming at us
from the other

The process
of traveling
is the process
of moving as
a body in
space through
space to reach
the other side
of the simple
equation of it.

We think and
talk within
the space of
an automobile,
moving itself
forward in
space, so that
we can think
here as we can,
alone in space.

In a pattern of
cars moving, a
pattern that
changes as it
moves forward,
we are a car
in motion to a
goal obstructed
by the other
goals driving
all around us.

A car is a car
and never the
human being
piloting it even
though a car
is sometimes
the person
driving it and
always a he
in such cases
when unknown.

Maybe you
awoke today
and drove
through rain
and greyness,
or not and you
are resting at
home in the
process of your
life already
in progress.

The process of
growing is the
process of aging,
of moving
through time,
the process of
being versus
not, celebration
of the quiet
joy of each
sweet breath.

89. Unfinished Poem 2

I'm not even giving the fragment of the poem I started yesterday. Arrived at the hotel at (or after) 2 am this morning, and am thinking 3:30 is a good time not to be awake any longer.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

89. Before Writing, There Was the Desire to Write It Down

When I start writing this,
I’m in a bar in Columbus with friends, and we talk
inside a small room that protrudes over
the sidewalk. The city is large but somehow
small in this room,
this little bulbing of glass and wood into opposing space
giving us the sense we can transcend
the limitations of space and body.

It is night and everything
is covered with shadow
(a certain kind of paint)
so I’m thinking of you.

These last three days have been tiring,
tired me out, tired out most of us,
three days from early morning until late night
and all this talking and hearing and seeing
all these strange poetries of ours:
poems as sculptures decorated with words, poems
as letters in a color field, poems as fragments
of words grunted out onto pages, poems as sounds from
the chest, from the diaphragm, from the voice,
and wordless. But we are not wordless
here in this bar on High Street,
and I am lucky to be within the sound
of these voices I too little hear.

Nico’s voice was the last to arrive
and it is the deepest. The words of his poetry
are so delicate and musical, someone might imagine him
tiny, but he is a bear of a man,
two heads taller and better than I am, sturdily built,
and carrying his body knowing what he is. He threatened
to kiss the top of my bald head, in retribution
for something I’d said, soon bearing
down on me like the shadow of a storm cloud,
but gently and smelling of used cigarette smoke,
kissing me, later repeating himself twice.
To be kissed by Nico on the top of my bald
head is to know I’m a man and a poet,
not the genius he accused me earlier
of believing I was, but I am a few simpler things:
a maker, a liver of life.

We walked to the bar with Tom Beckett,
another tall man, so I’m convinced that the best poets
are giants, because that is what we call them
when we don’t call them Olson or Vassilakis or
Beckett. I’m not tall myself but don’t notice
height much. I notice voice or what the voice does
or what the hand guided by the voice makes.

I gave my performance about the word
because the word, variously imagined,
is all I know, all I write about, all I think. The world’s
much more than words, much richer, but I live
this life crippled by the sense that words cover
every object in space, every desire of the body,
every yearning and every giving in.
I thought out loud, and walking, about
what word once was,
referring out to the audience, each of whom was
part of me, ingested by me, fed into my body
through my eyes and my ears, my touch, my sense
of smell, everything but taste, and I created
something in the space of a moment, in the moment,
at that moment in time, confident the only good
essay, the only good talk, is a poem, that the best poem
disappears upon creation back into the collective
soul of humanity, that a poem has to be a song,
even if wordless, even if silent, so I sang
my song, my sign made sing, into the audience,
trying to fill them with a joyous lamentation
for the word. As I sang, people from outside our space,
which had filled with light and the filtering of light,
gathered closer, I thought to stop my singing, to hush
the voice, but they came to hear the voice, to see what it was,
how it was, why it was coming from that space
at that unexpected moment.

It was a good moment, and afterwards
Ruth Sackner and Marvin came up to me to claim
I was a genius because I do so many different things
and so well, and surprised to hear my talking
and singing, my way with the live word. But it is
a disease to believe such gracious praise, so I
couldn’t accept it, though I smiled broadly
at their kindness and I held it in my ear
until it disappeared. The world is not about
genius but about work, like your careful craft
of building a visual poem as a sculpture, which
becomes literally the building of a poem, the way
a body and a mind must always come into it,
something I understood best when you said,
“When I first started writing poetry,
I never imagined I’d be doing it
with a drill and a screwdriver.”

John Moore Williams and Mara
Hernandez join us, my having asked them to.
They are a young couple, two visual poets,
two artists, two people joined together
across the border between two countries,
and I try to erase that border, to turn them
into one, to make them fuse as the poet and
the poem are fused, inseparable, indistinguishable.
Still we know where one begins
and the other ends.

mIEKAL is happy here and I don’t know
if he’s had anything to drink. I’m two
margaritas into cooling down from the art show
and music festival held in the tight hot room
on the fifth floor of a building a few blocks away,
and I’m clear-headed, clear enough to know
how happy I am to be here, with these
people. mIEKAL tells me I’m the Pope
of Vispo, and I smile at the thought of being
infallible regarding issues relating to visual poetry
(knowing that all poetry is concerned with
fallibility). I give mIEKAL as great a hug
as I can, though not as hard as the one I’d given
skinny Olchar earlier (which was long and
hard, a good strong goodbye), and I tell those
in the bar that I’m relatively thin. They scoff
at the word relatively.

I tease mIEKAL, who’s a restrained Midwesterner
at heart, by showing him the visual poems I show
no-one, those I keep almost only to myself, of glyphs
written into the steam of hotel mirrors after my morning
shower, and parts of my naked body captured
in the lowest fraction of the mirror that the steam
never covers. He can’t understand this use
of the body as art, the body as the poem, the poet
as the poem in its execution and its simple
manifestation, the poem in the act of the moment
captured as a photograph of same.

Nancy and CamillE are talking, remembering
our visit to Dreamtime Village two years ago,
the interview CamillE just taped with me, asking me
about poetry, my children, my sincere belief
that my feet are the best features of my body.
For a strange moment, Mara is with them as well,
and the women are separated completely
from the men, as if we are not the same people,
of the same blood and breath. The moment passes.

Crag always interests me because he is funny
but always serious, especially in the field of
teaching, and the conversation swirls around
thinking of reading and writing and what
the world should teach children to learn,
and I wonder if visual poetry itself
would seem like a detriment to any
curriculum, the reduction of word to
amulet, charm, the voiceless tattoo
on an otherwise bare arm. Crag asks me
about the point I made in my talk,
that a thing is always a symbol of itself
as well as itself, just as a human also is,
and we think about it a little. Some thoughts,
I think, are merely intellectual exercises,
not provable, merely
ways of looking at the world and making
it into sense.

I have spent far too little time
with so many people here, but I’ve spent
almost enough time with my friend Tom Beckett,
who gave us a presentation, a poem, that was
nothing more than questions, answers to which
we in the audience sometimes threw back to him.
That night, Nancy and he tried to convince me
not to write one of my letters (like this one
to you) each night, to take a break from writing
365 letters in 365 days. I told them it was impossible,
that my constraints required me to begin a letter
every day and finish it and mail it as soon
as I could. Their intervention took so long, though,
that I fell behind in my writing of
these letters. Tom asked me, When does discipline
becomes obsession?
and I told him that that was
a question that made sense only from outside
of the person intent on the task. He laughed,
calling me rhetorically skilled.

What I enjoyed most of what he told me that night
was that I was a beloved figure, which made me
smile, even if I didn’t know to whom
I was beloved or why.

These last few days have been among the best
in my life, with people from three continents, at least
five countries, and three languages coming together
to talk about different ways of writing and making
the art of words real in a life. I realized this week
that I was with my people, people I will never see
often but people I will always want to be with.
And I learned that we will never
always have the people we need with us
to be with us. This means I must
live my life as if I mean it.

I apologize that there are too many words
about myself here and none
about many of the people who made this event
a great coming-together of a people. I do
not mean to do this, but this joy that has pushed me
into the arms and under the lips of my people
has also eased me back into myself, into
reconsidering the value of what I do, which
I always question, which I always must
and will. And that thought forces me
back into my discipline, my obsession
with thinking and doing and
making, and I am struck with
the outrageous and ostensibly conceited thought
(but one that is merely about the desire to create)

If I can’t be everything,
I want to be nothing.

Friday, August 20, 2010

88. An Unfinished Poem

The least most
and what we thought
of it


NB: Nancy Huth and Tom Beckett held an intervention at dinner tonight to try to convince me not to write a poem a day, or at least to start earlier. Ironically or not, they succeeded in taking up so much of my time that there is no way I can finish it before going to sleep. (It is now almost 2 am on 21 August 2010.)

88. Defragmentations of Each Morning’s Breaking

The least most
and what we thought
of it, what we would make of it
if we were called to, something
small in its largeness for us
or of us. We sweep

across a plane of sleep, awake
for meaning and muttering for the hens to crow.
Nothing wakes and nothing could wake me
from this slumber, the dreamy woods,
staghorn blaze at the foot of each wound,
earth healing itself with blood
and bloom, and the difference
is in the attenuation of the light
at each particular point of the day, sun
the only god and brutal. We keep

to ourselves despite the outward appearances of
camaraderie and the hugging into each other,
scentless, without sweat or perfume or
the sweet sharp odor that slips
from her cunt like the atomization of desire, so that we realize
the beautiful is various and spread
in a layer of dots over a broad field of experience,
vision coming in dots to rods, taste in dots
to buds, scent in dots within the body, an intimate
pulling in of sensation. We peep

out from within our bodies, hermetic
prisons of the self, and see the world in fragments
(leaves in millions on a tree, letters of
a billion pages of the hundred million books, phonemes
in quick succession of a trillion breathings
out) and we make those fragments whole (a tree
in green, the throbbing pulse of an aria,
how a book’s reduced to feeling, reduced
to nothing more than insistent movement,
sensation in the gut of fear, of happiness, of jagged
dread). With every ocean of our being,
left in surging back and forth,
we steep

in thinking and in thought, in bald
emotion, the raw meat that we are, and think
what kind of floating we will do
through it, or swimming stroke by stroke,
one of breath past eyelash, one of finger
across cheek, one of lips upon
lips, or merely eyes
into eyes past color,
into our central darkness,
that dark room of the eye,
the only spot from which we see. We creep

on hands or knees or dragging ankles through
the night, we creep with quiet
walkings half on legs, we move
like evening shadow longer darker
filling into every corner where the shadow never leaves.
We find our movements slow, persistent. We need
to think this traveling out. We want the effort
of discovery. We must insist we’re not
found out. For we are human movements
of corporeal thinking, carnal oughtings of the night,
We think in moving slowly, bodies back
and forth within the dark. We seep

into, we seep through,
we extend and fill, we become a part of, we
coalesce into, we see what we see
as what we are what we are, we fill
the world as experience fills us, we are sons
of urge that made us, two backs in motion
facing themselves, the urge to fuse, to copulate,
to extend into or accept into one, to hold
till coming, to let semen, seeming, seem and
seme fill, to grow in silence in the body,
separate from that other body, separate from
all other bodies, and we are born from fluid,
in fluid, and flowing from the body,
human river, wailing, wailing, at the brightness—
fraudulent sunlight still can hurt. We sleep

through waking, never making,
twisted, carried through a thinking, visions coming
as we’re coming, looking for the coupled eyesight
that reveals the world in whole, that
can melt the many fragments into something
full and whole, this singular event, this
single event, a life, glued together
into one. We weep

for weeping, for silence,
for the sound of silence weeping, and for eyes,
we weep for knowing and, done knowing, we weep
for knowing what’s not known, in tiny
fragments all about us, dust so fine
we breathe it in.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

87. obthoughts

Poised in mid-thought and moving through,
a slip of lavender in the crook of an arm,
we examine the ways of becoming what we always were.

Terror at the lightest touch and a blanket for sleeping,
the smallest scent cannot keep you here,
tremblings at the moving and the thought of it.

Warmth in syringes and the fluid flows through,
there is no blood in veins, no air in the needle,
those two veins by the wrist are tendons.

What passes for night is morning, night after night,
the sound of typing resembles self-flagellation,
recondite is what the song said it always was.

Divulge what you cannot divorce your mind from,
aerate the memory so that it might float away,
deliver every message on a silver anvil.

Orthodoxy requires more knowledge than I can manage,
interpreted for the purposes of obfuscation,
every translation is a transliption.

The lips of the matter exist in pairs, variously placed,
and there are songs that arrive from both,
inescapably moves the notion that nothing can end that doesn’t begin.

Unable to accept the means of living in denial,
relieved of every burden and still no relief,
the name of the animal was unknown but known to be beautiful.

Arrayed in rows like roses, and the order belied their essential nature,
where at the top of a small hill a forked tree might stand,
as we stand, forked, and sturdy, even when walking unsteadily forth.

Deliberate in the ways of forgetting,
a canker memory that wouldn’t heal from the mind,
sudden sharp flickerings of the past before evaporation.

A sheet of paper, a sheet of bed, a sheet of water to cool,
the small headache that grows between not sleeping and writing,
loss of it all, and the loss of it all, and the final loss.

Lightbulb for warmth, fire for illumination, and bits of bread,
a mouth could take into itself a small bite of it,
what swallow is hard or hardly is maybe a breath.

To consume in pattern and believe the pattern good,
artificial coffee and enough white pasta to fill,
an offer of beans and shrimp and cilantro for good health.

The various tones of silence screaming in our ears,
no possibility of sleep so replaced by sleeplessness,
docile despite the constant drone of death.

Face fat with cheeks and cheeks fat with smiles,
the baldness of the sun and what the bald sun shines upon,
even a broken nose can taste the bouquet of cognac.

The ease with which one can give up what they don’t want,
difficulty catching every raindrop you need to fill a hand,
abandoned at an early age by hope.

Whittling out of wood some imagined shape of wood,
whatever is exquisite in whatever doesn’t exist,
and what would the color of her eyes be when closed?

Opening a jar of marbles or jellybeans,
whether a tooth would chew it or not,
daunting mysteries covering the face of darkness.

Constantly absent,
rigidly disorganized,
happily lost.

Finding a dead thing you thought had run away,
providing it a burial in a suitable tin can,
piling the rocks so the dogs won’t dig it up.

A sock on a foot for warm, a sock on a nether or naught,
a sheet and a blanket, and dreaming of fire,
a light in the refrigerator like a beacon pointing home.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

86. Starting at Mile Marker 410.3 on the New York State Thruway at 11:28 am on 18 August 2010

at 7:20 this morning
behind but fine
and temperatures are moderating
not as hot. About 250 miles
in the first four hours and we’re now slowing down for Exit 49
as the road narrows to a single lane.
We are almost to Buffalo
a while still to go before we exit the state.

I am not driving but riding
and writing
laptop in its place and my fingers dance
in the way that I don’t think where they go.
I just see what each landing produces letter
by letter as this is a letter
not a poem not
in the sense that its words are careful
though care slips in from habit and rut
but just a set of words in a sequence of thinking
moving as the road moves
along and west
towards the eventual and unavoidable sunset.

Gravity trains us to see the sun above us
but I like to imagine in that realm without up
or down that I am looking down at the sun
far below
its fires rising from those welllike depths
to warm us just as I enjoyed the sight of a welder
working an overpass this morning
the little balls of flame dropping to the ground
defying the usual order of fire to rise
and in rising
to descend into a smaller heap of darkness.

Nancy is driving and bored with it
because it is tedium and tedium is a cause for
reflection and reflection is a cause for dismay. Every
undone task rising
warm insistent
from the gut where worries rest and reach
for us. My mind works as it drives too
today a simple poem


that is the whole thing

considers the outlines
of what I’m working on
whatever project of poetry or person
how some change even slight might make it be
something I want it to be and fighting
fears regrets losses missteps the terror
the deepest fear
that nothing is everything

which holds two opposing
meanings close together.

We have passed the Bob Evans restaurant visible from the Thruway
so now
we are in the Midwest which
doesn’t wait for Ohio. It waits
for the people to change.

The sky is a cloud in shades of bluish white

and the warmth slips into the car
slips in.

Dried bug guts decorate the windshield but also
the side windows in dramatic
strokes and splatters. Futurist artworks
they connote speed and the measurement of speed
the distortion of speed when the eye can’t catch
each segment of a movement
blurring into swash.

We have entered the Seneca Nation.
A giant painted statue of a Plains Indian
full in headdress
welcomes us to buy something.
We cannot distinguish the peoples of the earth
from those few our minds can recognize so everything
is the same blurred
into someone else face of a lover
beside us face of a lover long left.
Reaching into a memory to rest there
I find a sequence of gaps and fluttering images
out of order all these essential events of a life
wiped out by memory that doesn’t do
what it doesn’t want to do through the long haul
of it all.

As you might guess, I write you from
and in a car as a way of remembering how you wrote
in a car back and forth between Normal and
where normal used to be huge pads of paper
beside you and writing as you drove as I can’t manage
or even want to do. You understand the road as
a placeless place that conduit
we move through to get someplace else the anonymity
of these narrowed landscapes the one here
hemmed in by trees
maples locusts pines a single weepless willow grey-green
the color of green the cloudsky is of blue yet it is still
a warm day that sifts through to us within
our own little world rolling forward
rolling away.

I have driven this way many times
forth and then back and sometimes occupied myself
with thoughts of counting. I have driven most of this country
on roads that turn every place into everyplace else
and sometimes I count the signs on the road. On one trip
to Florida I noticed
that North Carolina has
on each side of the road only a single post that must always
be in the ground every mile one sign every mile
to mark the mile so drivers can place themselves
if they notice it in time
in relative space and know the miles they’ve gone and maybe
how close they are to their exit. On the New York State
Thruway there are sixty posts
required on each side of the road
one mile marker on the right side
nine tenth-of-a-mile markers
thirty intervening markers
and on the left there are
twenty twentieth-of-a-mile markers
each in yellow. Those on the right are white
except for the green and larger mile markers
with white lettering. I once saw
just west of Big Nose and Little Nose
which together mark the only natural gap in the Appalachian Trail
through which the Mohawk runs beside which
ancient hunting trails ran and the Erie Canal flowed
and the Thruway runs two lanes east
and two lanes west
a car drift off the road the driver fallen asleep
before the corrugated rumble strip had been carved into
each side of the road and what woke him
and I could see it was an older man
was the car slamming through those fortieth-
of-a-mile markers
their rat-a-tat raising his head
before he stopped in time and safe
unharmed but frightened.

South of Buffalo by quite a bit now
and we could catch a glimpse of Lake Ontario
a ways off and through the trees.

Hit Pennsylvania
another welcome
and the rest area has no restaurant.
late enough for lunch and moving
closer to too late. Sometimes we merge
lunch with dinner and eat at 3 or 4
and call it linner
an ancient word in my family one from
the late 1960s when we lived in Ontario
on the other side of one of these giant lakes
separating Canada from the US
and our backyard ended there on the shores
of Lake Erie over which once a hurricane grew in strength
and hit our house hard knocking down giant trees
next door before it eyed and then
hit us again. Within that eye I
retrieved the lid of a garbage can
nine years old and loving
the sense of carnage completely surrounding me
but nowhere near.

I just said
We should stop within half an hour
and our GPS asked me to
Speak a command
which means it heard me say
Voice command
but how did it hear that from
what I had said?

We stopped for lunch a poor meal
Ohioan in substance if not stature though eaten
while we were still in Pennsylvania.
As we left I saw a bird in a b
a bird nesting in a b the smaller b
with this tiny roundish hole where the
bird stuffed its findings of grass into a nest
that spilled out of the b but
still held together
not in the bigger B the two-storey capital B
just two letters away with plenty of room
though maybe too much for comfort
for such a small bird too small for me
to make out what it was from such
a distance.

I returned to driving which reminded me
that anyone else on the road is a potential obstacle.
Some cars move too slowly before me and retard my
speed and some pull up behind wondering why I am
not moving fast enough above the speed limit
to meet their needs. In different contexts at different
times, we are all both of these types.

When we crossed into Ohio
the state welcomed us in blue
into Ashtabula County. It is a name to repeat.
Ashtabula. Bugs Bunny would roll it
in his mouth like a carrot.

Every highway seems to cross into Ohio
the roads always under construction and we were
diverted into two streams
of traffic making space between them to repair
the roadway. As we left the true roadbed behind,
our fuel light came on and we waited out
the trip for gas stopping eventually at a BP
and giving them a little money they can use
to clean up their oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

We are driving around Cleveland now
heading for Columbus about two hours
from here and I sang a song for part of this
diversion making up words in no language
recording the song and the traffic and how
the two merged pausing
to allow the voice of the GPS to guide us
and to enter the song because
we create in the moment and the moment
might be perfect or it might be pointless but that is the moment
we have. I can’t tell if the song is anything
to keep or something to discard
as if that were something I could determine.

The sky has opened up
which means
the clouds have parted
to show pools
of luminescent blue above us
and sunlight limns the fatter clouds.

Fell asleep. Had to. Or took a nap.
An intentional descent into sleep.
Have had about a night’s sleep in the last
two nights which people tell me is insufficient
and even for me it was a little too little
so I took a nap just thirty minutes or so
or less and must’ve dreamed but it seemed
dreamless to me as a life is and the sleep
was hard straining my neck which was already
suffering a little since I pulled my back out a bit
this morning while preparing to leave. Now
I’m awake
sun in full force
and I’m too warm too.

Far enough south now that
the cloudy webs of webworms cover the far tips
of the branches of deciduous trees
stands of trees haunted with these insects
whose nests are sores about the green branches.

A turkey vulture soars high above
turning in a languid circle
and we cannot see its bald pink head
bald so it can enter a rotting carcass
and exit with the least effort and trouble.
There are more things we can’t see
from the road than we can.

I’m told
by a watermelon-nosed cow
on the back gate of a truck.
This surrealistic life.

The road is straight and flat
Ohio is straight and flat
we used to dread the trip through Ohio
its landscape suited for agriculture
but not created for the pleasure
of the eye. At least
the latrines are gone from the rest areas.
And everything is green even more lush
than in New York State
in the summertime.

I enjoy both the uniformity of the fields
the crops growing in their stiff and regular pattern
and the gaps the holes the imperfections
the openings where the plants didn’t grow
dark vistas into limited failure fragments of
evidence that life doesn’t go in order even
when regimented into it shards of disorder
glittering against the oppressive green.

The pattern is necessary you see
for the deviation from order
to have any purpose for the eye
or the pale and turgid mind behind it.

No ideas but in ideas
No things but in things
No words but in words


and another poem is born within a larger one.

Less than five miles from Columbus
and three lanes in either direction
ours being about southwest I assume
and traffic is becoming heavy because
it is 5:15 pm (honestly) on a work day
and I’m still awake and people must be
moving home from work and cars are always
traveling through Ohio to someplace else
or even to other parts of Ohio. The deep shade
of a tractor-trailer cools me for a few seconds.
It is a partial relief. The sun far below us
still cannot be stopped.

I am relieved to learn that

Supports Our Troops
Whenever We Go…

No Comfort
To The Enemy
No Way!

Trucks say the darndest things
though I do like this slightly strange use of the word

Just hit the Columbus corporate limits
and a sign on an overpass proclaims something is
since both Nancy and I are Geminis
we are relieved to know
there is a place for us.

From the time we left Mansfield Ohio
until now I’ve been uploading a video
and it is now available for viewing. In it
the rubbery drinking nib of Nancy’s water bottle
speaks to her in my voice explaining
that he will explain to her some of the mysteries
of life but never quite covering the mysteries
because so much of everything is preamble.

We take Exit 112
towards Hudson Street
then turning right onto East Hudson
left onto Summit and I see a tall
sheaf of what looks like pampas grass
growing beside a stolid red brick building.
Graffiti adorns buildings and boxes
on light poles all of it simple tags
and almost devoid of style
messy scribbles of sprayed paint
maybe the most plaintive
calls sent out only to prove an existence.
Another right and then we’ll turn
onto the street for our hotel.

We are at the corner where
the university begins and we now see
we’re in a college town
or section of town. The world
is big and urban and beautiful
full of unreasonable possibility.

Ending at the Roger D. Blackwell Inn
on the campus of Ohio State University
in Columbus Ohio at 5:37 pm
on the same day we began.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

85. Words or

a word that
comes to
you and a word
that comes
in the form
of a part of
a word apart
from a word
and parting from
another word
or a word
frozen in place
in the form
of a word
or broken
into pieces
so that
it is many words
but each
of them incomplete

you suggest
what I might do
to read the words
even hold them
in a hand show
them in a hand
as held in a hand
in a way
that the hand
is the base of
the words the
structure you
build the words
upon the way
you make
the words mean
in a certain
context the
simple context
of skin how
skin is the
place where
our bodies touch
the world how
our bodies
bring into us
about our
the heat the
cold the wet
the sharp the
damp the muddy
or dry the
sun even
the sun as
it shines onto
us and
allows us
to see the
few words
broken and
held in the
hand that holds
the words
you made
for us
to read

this is
the way you
make the world
real the
way you hold
it and take
it reduce it
to some
few particles
of meaning
so small that
we cannot miss
them even
if we cannot
read them so
that each word
can be a sentence
each word can
speak to us
as if it were
the most
means of
speaking out
every word
we ever
needed to
know in that
order needed
to make
the needing

Monday, August 16, 2010

84. Fragments before Sleeping

I try to find the sense in the word of it, but it is the word I start with.
So. I had to close eighteen windows just to keep the night out,
and still it streams in like oil. A warm night, but the fan’s too cold.

Articles of impairment constrain me almost as much as my inability
not to not to try not to pun. I would like to sing a song seven inches in length,
but I don’t have the minutes for it. At some point in this night,

sleep takes control of my body yet I still write. You drink an eau de vie
for the scent of it, for the same reason you drink a woman. Both
are the water of life. Can you perceive the effect a word has on a line

of poetry as opposed to a line of prose? What weight is heavier than sleep?
What is not perpetual and permanent is persistent. That is a trait of
everything that doesn’t disappear. The screen throbs with my pulse.

There were stories told, but no-one told them. He was an old man
by that time. To share a moment of expectation instead of revelation.
The barking of dogs over the mewling of cats, and a little rain.

The dream began, at least in the recollection of it, with pterodactyls
that would eat our brains from our skulls unless we protected ourselves,
by holding the tops of our heads against a hard surface: a wall, a headboard.

Like a window framed with a picture frame, I looked out at a world
expecting too much from within me. A handful of moths flutters away.
Residue remains, and there is something you cannot shake.

I considered a protracted vacation from travel, but I cannot stay
in one place. They have bourbon for that. Take the pencil, take the pen,
take the words she left, every one, scattered here and scattered then.

The innumerable divisions of darkness marching down upon us each night.
Clicking through life. From between the bricks in the patio came
the flying ants ready to make new homes on the other side of the yard.

Everything segmented is comprehensible. We cannot hold onto
the whole. Extreme but not the least bit oily, so I lived.
If every heart is secret, then every donut has been revealed.

I am ranging towards sleep, trying to stay awake long enough to write
a letter even if staying awake might keep me from sleeping. Watching
two squirrels chasing each other from tree to tree: The banality of

bravery. I would wipe the counter clean of any come I’d left, even
if I’d left it there on purpose. I am entranced by the sound of radios
turned off and waiting for a signal. A pear is a kind of poem,

one that doesn’t rhyme. The sweetness of it holds the tongue in place.
Later in the dream, we escaped the pterodactyls by cutting about three
quarters of the three-story house away from the rest and piloting

that part of the house to an island the pterodactyls could easily fly to.
The most seductive and provocative of letters is the majuscule Q,
each opens to reveal, lips parting and folding away. What I would dream

if I were in bed dreaming of thinking of sleep, and thinking of dropping
or falling to sleep but never landing. Is there a curfew for dreaming?
The terrible little tendencies of a life left lived. The intimacy of separations,

and how to move within them, might keep us awake past time for sleeping.
The wind is a fan spinning in place. And along this way, we have lost
a few friends, but that is only because we are not old enough to’ve lost them all.

One article of clothing at a time, starting with a. Shedding as a tree,
as a flower, as a brook. You could see it in the distance if you took the time
to look. Everything is not obvious upon first glance, intentionally so.

To what extent could you expect yourself to forget everything you had ever
specifically wanted to remember? Even if you were offered reasons not to?
Bread and butter but not jam. Bread and butter but not jelly donuts.

It is night, by which I mean it is morning, and I should be waking soon.
Sleeping through life is like swimming underwater. Hold your breath,
and you might make it. She will be asleep tonight when I get to bed.

There is something extravagant in wanting never to sleep, never to enjoy
the serenity of release. But I have things to do, and more than miles to go.
I try to find the sense in the world of it, but it is the world I end with.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

83. Aqualane

An early 1960s aqua
Ford Fairlane passed
me today as I was
driving, and suddenly
all I could think of was

its cousin, that light-
blue Plymouth Valiant
my family took across
the Atlantic with us to
Portugal, so that we

could remember its
graceful fins, how they
threatened to take out
our eyes, to leave us
blind in a foreign

country and only a few
blocks up from that
same Atlantic we were
borne across on the SS
Constitution, a dreary

trip, the sky filled with
grey, and my family
forced into safety drills
in case the ship capsized
and we with it, and we

were already a big family,
four children, with two to
come, and two parents,
living more as a troupe
than a family, so much so

that we lived for months
in the Hotel Tuela, eating
seafood and dessert every
day until we finally moved
to that house just up from

the grey Atlantic bordered
with dark and giant rocks
at this particular part of
the coast, and these rocks
covered with scores of tiny

skittering crabs I had to
work hard to catch, though
starfish were easier, and
I kept a small box of ocean
in my house and carefully

watched its inhabitants
die, much as I did with
the insects I caught and
kept in jars, even though
I’d never meant them any

harm, harm them I did,
and that might have been
a lesson for me, except
that I went to a German
school, and I had lessons

enough trying to learn
two languages at once,
but there was some fun
in the process, and today
I was on our third floor

and saw one of the results
of my time at the Deutsche
Schule zu Porto, a beautiful
handpuppet clown my parents
made for me, my father

carving the wooden hands
and shoes, my mother
creating the tailored
articles of clothing, and I
forming the misshapen

head out of pink tissue
paper and glue, and giving
also my blond hair to stick
out from under his pointed
cap, so that he will always

be me, even after I am no
longer that boy myself, and
when I saw that hair I had
to touch it, so that I was
touching the past, that boy

still alive somewhere, and
I have always liked children
and have usually been able
to manage them, because I
was the eldest of six, making

me a third parent, a manager
of children, which I seemed
prepared for, so that when my
children came, unexpected
always, into the world, I was

ready for them, and thought
of them not simply as the
children they were, these
bundles of living breath, but
also as signs of my own

necessary productivity, because
I’ve always needed to make
something, as a means of
proving my worth, and would
seem empty without it, which

is really a poor point of view
for a father to have, but I am
also more than a father, for I am
a grandson of my grandfather’s
Louisiana, a child of my mother’s

California, an immigrant into
this world from a place of the
imagination against the greatest
odds of possibility, and making
makes me, and gives me some

purchase against the great
blackness I came from, making
is a way to live in the sunlight,
where things are warm, where
we learn to live our lives well,

no matter what we make of
them, where we learn to be
and spend time with humans,
where we have the chance,
sometimes, to have an aqua

Ford Fairlane, from the early
1960s, when I was the youngest
of children, pass us in that same
sunlight, and remind us that
there is this past we carry always

with us, like the tiny plastic
cage I kept my pet cricket within,
mimicking Portuguese culture
and forcing little leaves of lettuce
through the bars so that he might

eat and stay happy, and sing to us
every night, which is what he did,
even if maybe he was looking for
some other life and he sang only
because that’s the life he had to sing.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

82. The Milk of Lions

No food in the morning
and an aniseed arak as
first sustenance of the day.
A bit of lamb, loin
of lamb, following, tender
in its lack of distance from
the blood of the lamb,
soft pink flesh, and teeth
cut it through. Arak as
liquorice, water and power,
what sway it holds against
the mind, if in its grip
one might feel it, slipping,
but not, the mind feels
its way through and
through it once again, for
the sun shines hot against
the skin, and that slight
discomfort confirms life.
I believe I am alive, and
there sits with me a small
headache to keep me whole,
focus on the world to see it,
even when it sits inside me,
the greatest beast the beast
of realization, knowing and
thus making it real, what
a dream would keep from
one if given enough of one’s
life. The motion of driving
is a movement forward one
cannot feel and swaying
from side to side and the
catch on the curves of
one’s body in the palm of
the car, one little reminder
of the gravity of it, and
moving as if moving
proved the breath of life.
Holding, just before the
tunnel, my breath, the
snaking under the great
Chesapeake, cars in two
lines, and my head
begins, voiceless, to hum.
Airless and the arak,
the head with a warm
humming to it, but
disquiet, too, as if breath
must be held, as if the
tunnel’s filled with water
and the need to swim
through it. The humming
in the head and the
humming in the tires of
the cars in two lanes,
and (you would understand
this) the staring forward
as if into something and
through most things, the
concentration on a future
place unseen but wanted,
to will the body forward
as the car moves forward
by small pressures against
a pedal, and cars humming
through the tube that
directs this flow of cars
out, into sunshine and
air, the gasp at the release,
and breathing again, as if
breath were proof of life,
loss of death, continuation
of blood and flow, all those
substances that must move
continually through the
body, to ensure its survival,
to ensure it, as one, as you,
as person after person, as if.
Driving north and singing,
to the window, or through,
a song that comes in waves
and waving, a song that
comes with wordless words
and sounds of the body,
as if the body were a way
of feeling or being, as if
there were something outside
the window to hear it, as if
there were inside every
stone the frozen pancreas
of someone who had died
and we were—and we find
ourselves as if we were—
surrounded by the multiple
deaths and dyings of a life
and wondering if they were ours.

Friday, August 13, 2010

81. Une bleue d’or

It is in the blue of it that it is not there,
the sense of the color as blue, as a color encompassing
the sea and the air, a color of such depth
in the shade of it that it is completely unnatural
in its naturalness, and that is what we yearn for,
the color, as blue, but bluer, and darker, a blue
we might dream of, but which we would
never expect to see.

I’ve had a fifth of a fifth of bourbon tonight,
or thereabouts, but brown doesn’t inhabit me
as blue does. The shock of the cold of blue pulls me down,
pulls me under, back under the water, as
when I fell through the ice into Lake Erie
to be inhabited by cold, the world as it is,
relentless, emotionless, tearing
into my soft pink flesh.

IKB is the color, deep in the sense of dark,
dredging the dark edges of blue for whatever
is still blue, and tells us something about
itself, ourselves. We yearn for this blue,
its color, the steady gaze of it back at us, the way
it represents for us the color of shadow
without actually being that shade.

The beauty of the monochrome. Choose a color.
Stick with it. Find what that color can do
in various contexts. But find the right color.
It can be IKB, which has no value
except as it represents the world, or the full
emptiness around us: the heaviness of the ocean
surrounding all of our footsteps, the apparent weightlessness
of the sky waiting to turn to a darker shade of blue.

Or there is the separation of the eye
into gold: first as flecks then
color as sheen as texture as certain metal
and the worth of it. Dans le plénitude du vide,
je sens une mine d’or fin. Everywhere, everywhere,
there is nothing or the sense of nothingness,
and that thought fills us with the richest pleasures,
of sight, of touch, of thinking the buttery
taste of gold.

The content of sight is a distribution
of taste over the tongue. Blue is a feminine
color against the lips, warm because we
cannot feel the depth of it, or it descends into
an eye, into the veins, the hint of blue
just under the skin, an ocean of blue
pumped through a body (dark deep cold
blue) to keep a body warm and moving
in space, as an object of space and perception,
an object of desiring, the wanting of
that certain color of a certain
thing at that certain point of a day’s
light, and how it feels in the heart,
or ruptures.

All the red blood
that runs out the body like water, that
splashes to the ground, that soaked into my shirt
when my head was hit open with a club, that
covers my brother with the sheen of fresh blood
when a knife opened his head from a spot
on Barbados with a broad arcing view
of the Caribbean with its bands of
ultramarine never quite reaching Yves
Klein’s blue, a red blood that rolls
in a sheet over the glass table top,
that pulls and repels us with its deep color, that seeps
into the concrete sidewalk, that dries
to the color of scab, dark and red and
almost brown.

I’ve had a fifth of a fifth of bourbon,
and my mind is clear, and I can taste
the sweet smooth fabric of the liquor
across my tongue, and the night is so late it’s
morning, and I am possessed by
the color of the night, the russet trees of night
under the yellow streetlights, the color
of eyes, the color of breath when
breath leaves the body invisibly, the color
of each thought of a finger placed on a page,
letter by letter, the color of lips that speak,
the color of lips in silence, the dark black color
of the void and the searing white
of that same void.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

80. Night of Lavender

After a while, I noticed
the lavender, its scent, not the fact
of lavender as a plant yet, just
the smell of lavender in the air,
a sweet scent, but deep, rich with the weediness
of the true herbs, pulled from the meadows, from
dry rocky soil, and expelling their fragrance
before their taste attached itself to food,
taste and scent being the same thing differently
experienced. Lavender is the scent sometimes
of hand lotion so that I might smell it
in the air, as if a natural scent of the earth.
My parents loved lavender as a color,
claiming it their chosen color, but
they said nothing to me of its scent.

I was walking these streets in Washington,
DC, northwest, where I used to live, and the night
was dark and shadowy. A residential area, so
it reminded me of my old neighborhood on Fessenden Street,
and I was walking, in the evening, because I prefer
to walk in the evening, in the dark, when I can see
too little and others can see even less of me.
I like to walk in the heat so that I sweat and
my shirt sticks to me. I like to walk after a rain
when the earth seems to be sweating with me.

Walking these streets, I remembered my home in DC,
and I remembered another walk I’d made here
on the other side of Rock Creek Park. I was ten and some injustice
had struck me, coming somehow from my family. My solution
was to leave home, to begin a walk towards Maryland,
first to Chevy Chase, which was not too many blocks away, but
with Bethesda as my goal, though Bethesda was no more
than a name to me, a word to head towards, not even
a concept. At this time, the seventeen-year locusts
were living their brief lives, and the world was loud and
covered with locusts. They were on the trees, on the sidewalks,
in the bushes, and I could not avoid killing any
no matter how carefully I walked. I carried one with me,
as a pet, for many blocks and maybe back home, but
the poor insect was slowly dying, its life simply
ending. I walked through a world crazy with the sounds
of locusts, I walked past the store where I bought nickel sundaes,
the street where I peeked up at a full eclipse of the sun, past
the bank where I would turn in my rolled pennies
for folding money, and I walked past down streets
my grandfather has walked, confused, when his dementia
had totally overtaken him. The police looked for me
but could not find me, and I eventually made it home.

That was forty years ago, maybe to the day, but I think
it was probably earlier in the year. The night was like tonight,
though no-one asked me if my parents knew where I was.
And no-one stopped me tonight, as no-one had stopped
my ten-year-old self so many years ago. The streetlights
and shadow, the houses, even the smell of the wet ground
reminded me of that walk I had made as a child and
reminded me how little I have traveled, how I am
always still trying to find my way somewhere, maybe home,
maybe somewhere else I want to be.

I felt almost disoriented to find myself
in one of my homes, in a place so familiar to me,
so similar to an old neighborhood. As I walked,
I took pictures of the shadows, so that I might remember
them, so that I might remember how I once was,
where I once was, where I once was going,
aimless, but determined, into the night, as if
a walk could lead a human body anywhere

In the end, I walked over many blocks only
to walk back to the hotel. The air was still
filled with lavender, though only in spots, the air
was still moist, and water lay in puddles
on the ground and on the cupped leaves of
overhanging trees. My head brushed those leaves
a couple of times, and I was baptized by the night.
It was cool water, refreshing against my warm wet

I sit in this hotel room, writing you
this poem, which is more prosaic than poetic,
which is simply a letter to you after so many
years without a letter, and I think that you would
be amused or dismayed by this room, which is
designated a handicapped room, but which a wheelchair could
barely fit in, and it is worse in the bathroom. From what
we can see, there are two changes to this room
that give it its status: 1. The list of hotel rules is posted
quite low on the back of the door to the room, and
2. the shower head is too low to do us much good
and too high to be much good for someone
sitting in the bathroom.

It seems the world is not constructed
precisely for us, and that we are required to remake it.
For this reason, I am always looking for
the scent of lavender.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

79. Versions of a Conference

In the middle of a moment is where I begin.

Pieces accumulate but they do not cohere.

Seeing the words before me.

Relationships between things differ entirely
from relationships among things.

The temperature of the air around me
is the temperature of the water in the air.

An escalator buries itself deep enough into
the earth so that it might reach the subway.

We keep what we keep in the hopes that
whatever we keep will be kept longer.

The structure of memory resembles a net.

These are not random thoughts in random
sequence. These form an organized argument.

The view from our window is a wall.

It seems that what seems to be before us
is what we seem to believe is there.

People known but rarely seen, yet
they are great friends of ours who
have come a great distance to run
into us on the way someplace else.

If you found yourself in an empty room
and no-one else came there, would you
still create the metadata to remember it?

We seem to exist only during the summertime.

Night recollects evening almost perfectly.

By the time you receive this, you will have
forgotten that you didn’t know you’d receive it
or why.

This sentence refers only to yourself.

Laughter used as remembrance.

A poem should be a beautiful machine of words,
not a machine of beautiful words.

You might recall two weeks of summers
reduced to two weeks of night.

The tension between preserving and remembering.

It was a trick in the form of
a letter in the form of a poem
that refused to make sense.

In the form of which gracefulness you would allow consideration.

Everything writes itself, and we are forced
to live within the limitations it presents as ours alone.

Enough of us that we could not find anyone.

They call it an archives because “museum” was already taken.

In those hushed tones reserved for churches and the dead.

How we become obsolete through the natural process of living.

If we truly were archivists,
we would know this by now.

Accepting records with the understanding that
they won’t change over time but our understanding
of them will change with every passing generation.

Serious about our charge, teeth gritted.

Controlling the temperature to control the future.

A phrase that carried more weight than seriousness.

If this were electronic it would be forgotten by now,
or lost.

We do this to remember.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

78. Abandoned Lyric

Splectrum and morlin

the cursion, the coeursion,
in a vrontic shay, encombizant
to lacrial seizh,
and the bonyin chorses

It is within the manjid that
salder vauls, uncorted to
extesion or frowels of bope,
that phloster mimtakes
and dorsin bleems.
Pederal, pederal, that calpted
knodge, vedile to the pid.
Acaptridded vanner and dole,
the marber for tliz.

To cambor and tunk er
amid the vril, to mazelate
ugrid among the fwinge.
Balter to the mid-vorn, convidge
to the anjer. You wulded it
in forn, tandle to varry,
mayvine to zeen. I can’t
durate with durded eame,
I can’t cowler the vald
or plean. Conderate,
conderate, mulded kev.

Zhine my fudder, ghorsion
my tlit, desharbined kilfer
my sederate stip. The dendrind
on the bayhead, ettles for flane,
and every knorted sintle burdles
and burtles away again, forglayed.
You are tilder to the murvin
and ghendof tive. What in durst
and whoil, what in evermeal forn
would a howde bewray? What
enbunted chorl, what
agdid tweeve.

Awabe the gnorl and mimsy
to the plursion, we cruve
the ziger to the battlemounts
torred. In a way, the velver
explayed for tonder and pilded
for zray, vorders the taven
and alues the dade.

In every frinded beight,
with orctled bild and flerr,
your cation strites, your blorel
solts, in kharkian cavel
as molted pharish,
as chorid sidge.

The gnosted philials idder
to the helft, basker and vane,
whender in a cloppet, but
knoctions fape and dwilder.
What you can’t calper, the tresture
can’t forlide, and balanders
aurrer in winper and boyne.
It meels all like a tlaver
to the first plindling or vacules
of straver for campick’s vaund, yet
zholes of feignder aunder jone.

So the cawnder, so the twale,
megrin philsters elerwain,
ecausterated vraysions alpter
in the quayve. All these emortions
of vode can’t corve, and all these
calliphraigns of tinze won’t durl
the vret of burge, the arcting porse,
the uddled aptle andered forth.

We are reptered with yerving
and taundered to kewpings,
whatever mawrkin might outgribe
we eerer intendled without a nure.
Avres like aldin and howdles like meeb,
we empry, ensilvish, auntery way.
The mawblins are calvered for
everyone’s oughf, each crespered to vradle,
and melbring, melbring away.

Monday, August 9, 2010

77. To a Reader

particle portion leviathan sylph
measure manacle aurora sigil
ocean wayside monastic symbol
bleating weaving wonder sign

Constant pressure of the sound of the space of speech
against what particle of ear can catch what
message moves through you. It becomes you,
sound into would, the portion of the body
that becomes the perception of a ripened peach on the tongue
as leviathan, that fills the mind as mind is filled
more than body, shape of human capsule, motion
of pieces in a single corporeal sack of space, can be.

And so you be, as it, as if, the poem itself,
ingesting so as to radiate its essence, vessel and carrier
of light. Sediment of language settling on your tongue
as if you were the speaker, the spoken essence,
of it, being as the poem would be if the poem would be
human, all muscle and tendon, yet, being so, thus
capable of lightness, movement in the form of dance,
thinking in the form of distances from the perceived fact
of the poem that lies near at hand (your fingers, knuckles
thereon, each sublunary fingernail rising as if setting) and
remote (in isolation from the logos of thought, removed
yet within the reach of control), every word a rolling
knuckle too far to see or bite.

reliquary resin piston surge
bluster blather interminable source
kraken caryatid pilaster syringe
lessen loosen dilapidated song

Those who write, of us, these bundles, or make
with the sound of a voice, a pen, with paint to paper with
the word, or image given as word and symbol, such
that speech ensues inside the eye, those many,
of us, slumbering with contentment or given a shuddering
anger at this art so artless, this artifice of words,
artificial messages of fealty to the fat tongue swelling
in the mouth too small to take a word in, we claim,
a billet of bibles worth of words, to taste the color
of sound, to hear that punch the gut will take upon
release of pigeon-sent symbols into a cloud-pocked sky,
and so we read the words that others’ve left aside for us
in side plates of words, puddles of sweet oil
to mop up with more solid sustenance.

But you, not alone but nearly so, involved in thinking
and culturing the read word as a trait of life, who, now you,
not life, but intertwined as one and not-one, who, as mentor,
takes the lives of others, to guide them, or help the guiding
of themselves, through that life, the interweaving of lives,
how we live interstitially among each other, and find
a way, or make their finding be, you are not a maker
of these little mechanisms of language, contraptions of
word and sound, of seeing before one and knowing the sense of,
yet you read them through, moving through them such that
motion is both journey within and extension beyond
that factory of, those factories of, words, as if I would
ever be the proprietor of the Huth Factories at Clichy, and how
my own words, once used, and used again, are changed,
repetitions of the breath of the earth into verdigris, what
diminishes the saying and makes it strange and alluring.

deltoid deft ingress solution
veronica violet lovage sage
custom caution virility starving
massive melted ration suffer

In what sense honor can to a drinker be made, of the wine
a mouth might take with pleasure, is in what sense
you, who partake of word as if a wordless one, are granted such,
in this form of adornment or insignia, that mark that the palm
doesn’t bear, stigma before stigmata, or the forehead won’t accept
as bindi, yes, invisible, but envisioned, rising as steam from
a parted mouth at winter and the whiteness all around you, yet
the mark that’s made resembles the mark of the word, empaged,
contained, constrained by space and culture, the language
of the eye, what sees as a third through the forehead
into whatever making of words one might valuably make.

Or, simply, yours as attention, the details
of a line, in lineated thinking, the fragmentations of streams,
those that, in trying hard to not, still align into an orrery
for speakings, a thinking-forth, and that attention, intended,
dependent on that mind of yours, in sharp outline,
to make the poem real, though all it be
is bits of glass shining in the alleyway until clouds blot sun.

question querulous resemblance shade
river rowing conjunction saw
perfidy perdition lotion sentence
larynx pharynx votive scar