Sunday, November 10, 2013

section 83 of Fire Exit

Carve silence, churl, carve
absence into aroma
you don’t miss their faces you miss their sheen

ælfscin or aura, the light around one
that makes her who or him she is,
elf-shine the preter-human shown,

faërie folk are what we must become,
elves are not some belated ancient lingerers
they are our future selves

keen wise dangerous and rife with pleasures
we catch a glimpse of them sometimes
when the moon or noon be right

and the shadow falls
they are we will be
and till then be quiet, read your tree.

Monday, September 23, 2013

20 September 2013

As soon as it comes home
it will be me
again or for the first time
who can decide
out here where the trees
publish so many
variations on the same news
the way we music.

Friday, September 20, 2013

from RK's Traubenritter Maxims

This gentle clack of billiard balls on the green felt behind me makes me think of the endless rolling and occasional collisions of asteroids, spread out along the ecliptic mostly, or rogues in free space tumbling along rebel orbits of their own. We pass unscathed through their geometries. Or do we? Do those bodies too (as the ancients surmised about the canonical planets) cast influences our way, subtle shifts of love and aversion and indifference, so that by them also our moods (those vagrant beasts who live our lives for us) are shaped?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


The opera of the faraway
like a Victorian children’s book
I hear voices inside the word
of old adventurers, their lions,
glaciers, killer whales,
the green of Shalimar
blood-spattered as with roses,
the opera of all we never knew
here in our trembling hands.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


The flirtations of Zeus
have no boundary.

Lightning runs down the solitary tree,
fire loves the wood of it
we think, but in truth
fire loves this secret water
deep inside each thing.
The water hidden
in the crystals of steel,
water in the wood, sap rising
to meet Jupiter rushing down
to the water in us.


That is Zeus.
Makes girls and boys out of everything
his power makes us who we are

as once on Helicon
he seemed to take a fancy
to a chubby little shepherd
ripe on the altar of puberty and
rushed down from heaven
to plant one scorching kiss on those rude lips
so ever after that young swain made
song whenever he tried to speak
so his plainest hello could
thrill the hearts of all the shepherdesses,

Genesis of poetry.                   


“the swan was before we were married”
says Jove to Juno in Offenbach’s Orphée aux Enfers

history changes day by day —
no one knows what comes before

because feeling is always and only right now
and history has no heart to feel.

The Swan also is tomorrow.


Was there even time to answer them
before the air came down
— who made the air? —
to lock our snug atmosphere around us
safe so we could breathe?
But we weren’t we yet,
we had to get born from crystals of air
— why a man has a chip of ice
deep in his every heart —
and learned to wrap a silk of skin
around a mass of air.
A net of blood to carry it.

It’s a guess
to call our father’s name.
Zeus gave us the weather,
ta metarsia
so let us praise Zeus.
Dia. Accusative case of God. 
It’s time for me to start
reading every book again.
For him if not for me.

Me, I look out the window
I see the air.
What can be wrong with me
that I can see the air?

The outside calls
to the inside,
air inside me too
solemn as Tennyson
blood-journeying oxygen,
caravaning its way through the frail brain.
My hungry eyes, my hungry eyes.

Hymn to Zeus.

He sees us when he looks down
when we do something
worth his notice,

some offering or some public iniquity—

the beauty of Zeus is this:
he does not know what we’re thinking.

And all the forms Zeus takes
rejuvenate the human race —

the swan of our grace, the gold
in the mercy of our eyes,
our eagle wit — he pours
the beast-god stuff in,
our genome rises to adore.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

[28 July 2013]

Build a bridge under water
the beauty of its structure
— stone, wood, I. K. Brunel’s red iron —
improves the sea.

For we were brought here to define
give name and shapes to natural things
and teach them manners.

Or we were born for this
from seafoam and crucifixion
to work out of pain
a frail beauty
that teaches somewhere else
a beauty lasts. 

[26 July 2013]

Try to tell the weather
what to do. 
Use ancient difficult words
it might remember
from when it was young
and played with Zoroaster
on Europe’s highest mountain
or do I need
a darker
animal than that?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

[24 July 2013]

Hide me from myself
where No One finds me
your drunken daughter
your god-crazed son
then I will learn
how to answer the rain
in its own language
give lessons to the rose.  
Till then I’m just in the way
of everything I really mean.

[23 July 2013]

If you open a word
who knows what you might see
Cagliostro’s fatidic circle
a language made of bees
green shelf ice off Labrador once
every word a dream
open the door it is and dream it.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Section 312 of a work in progress


A poem is guided meditation
mild propulsion of the written world
when it stops the process it launched sails on
knowing the mind
clear light between the names of things
between the things the bright between
the new the fresh the uncontrived
your mind finds by itself
sacred absence in the core of you
all the holiness and shadows pass
maidens and heroes and sunlight on the sea.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

(A recent section from a work in progress)


He will be safer as a ferly-man if men they have or are
he will be a leper-man in ordinary land
his voice the bell to warn away the fearful
because language is a holy terror believe me
hide yourself in the silence of story
there’s always something left to believe
dust for sparrows said the old aesthete
be bathed clean in what defiles us
Arbeit, heilende Welle in what defines us
how far inland we’ve been carried by the wave
left where no other wave can come
lost among friends in a house of one’s own. 

Friday, July 5, 2013


                                                            for Betty

On a scale of 1 to 10
the rain falls wet
Lenin's mummy outlasts glasnost.
The kingdom of cicadas rises and falls,

on a scale of 1 to 10
our caves are brighter now and less dank
diner coffee keeps getting better
waitresses get older and blonder
and I don't know for sure where all this goes
Nero Wolfe would call it amphigory, 
nonsense verse, nonsense with numbers,

on a scale of 1 to 10
I've hardly begun
the muddy Orinoco impregnates the sea,
the Homestead Act is far away
but the prairies are still there
people I knew got acres in Alaska
even in the 1950s -- ah, 
there's a number at last, or four of them,
all of them but one on a scale of 1 to 10
and that one was none
so on a scale of 1 to 10
the world has not even yet begun
and all the pizza parlors and battleships
are just illusions and I'm beginning
(speaking of beginnings)
to wonder about me, 

on a scale of 1 to 10 am I here yet, 
is there anyone behind this noise you hear,
people buzzing about the cicadas, poor things,
they don't even exist on a scale of 1 to 10,
only André Breton has got their number, 
Arcane 17 from long ago Gaspé, and Canada,
what is Canada on a scale of 1 to 10,
and shall I count the ways,
let alone Massachusetts?

On a scale of 1 to 10
pain for instance is usually at zero or eleven
but pleasure measures 
itself meekly, how rarely joys
or even blisses
get past 8 or 9, 
and from what we read in the Bible
heaven doesn't even get to 7,
all those feathers, all that 
stone-age music on tin harps.

But where was I on a scale of 1 to 10,
was I a pirate was I a priest,
all nouns are 10 all verbs are maybe
depending on who's looking, 
on who's talking, 
and who is listening?

On a scale of 1 to 10
is it you or is it him,
the man in the moon, the woman in the wind
or is it window, on a scale
of 1 to 10 is it even now yet, 
this bright day I'm trying to believe
all the numbers scattered round my feet,
birds chasing beetles, shadows chasing sun,
on a scale of 1 to 10
am I even me?  

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Or gum from the peach tree
in the Hungarian back yard —
how many years.

I had an alchemical
laboratory in the cellar
and didn’t know it. 
I thought it was all logwood,
spirit lamp, daydreams, silverfish,
window screen, dust, dark weeds outside,
the peach tree wrapped in burlap, sulfur,
test tube, book. 
But it was alchemy. 
My parents told me so
by leaving me and it alone.

                                                            3 June 2013

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sunday on Cuttyhunk, cold bright wind from the sea, big waves rolling in.  We're happy to be here.
When the violin climbs the stairs
and the cello dithers down below
we know an assignation’s forward,
a pretty girl up there

with her arms full of violets.  

Thursday, May 9, 2013


                                                            for David Adam Nagy

Flügel, grand piano
piano with a wing
             shadow of the raised top
on the conservatory wall—
gnomon of the sundial
cast by the low-slung light
dramatic lighting
                              and the bassoon.

Bach first.  Prelude
to everything
is our B.C., the primal one,
the tone
             cast on all time to come
the shadow
of the bassoon rises and falls.

This instrument
always sounds wrong,
comes from outside music
from a land of being,
of suffering and running away
and coming home,
by its nature, the way nature
is wrong too,
                    as if a beast had to die
in pain to breathe such sounds,

but that’s only natural,
nature’s like that,
truest as it goes.
Goes away.
dimming into the dark.
Cherry blossoms
falling in the prime.

Or on our little island
there is a single solitary tree
in the graveyard,
                              a paulownia
or princess tree,
its flowers come before the leaves
and when those fragrant purple blossoms fall
they leave seed capsules behind,
pointed ovals,
                    hollow, cracking open, hard,
hollow as wood, hollow as the sound of the bassoon.

He transposes what Beethoven
heard (or wanted to hear)
on the cello for the bassoon.
A rounded box with strings
becomes a man with breath
pouting into a hollow tube
though quivering reeds.

American day aj, day of the reed,
tube, rushes, human spine
up which all the messages pass
or sing, trying to reach the mother brain
so far below the music.

Seize the moment
the music doesn’t last,
the pretty girl is pretty
for a minute
then the tide comes in
goes out again and the house
is empty, sea-birds
noisy on the cliffs,
if you’re lucky there’s
still a wind for you to hear.

The look on our faces
is to be heard.
Listeners are performers too.
Eyes open in the light
receiving light, the ears
too are ridden by some
sorrow that comes before
anything we ever knew
to make us sad,
                                        a requiem
built into the nature of the world,

a mortal sorrow
before anyone ever died,
like that village
the Buddha sent the mother to
to find her dead child.

All the bodies with their breaths and fingers
all together now understanding out loud,
make us be the animal we pretend to be,
human love human fear human history
and we are really nothing at all but
bright joyous spirit playing brief on a field of ash

                                                                      13 April 2013

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Charlotte in the great Sycamore at Vassar

for in a dream said the rebbe We
always have a minyan
all the girls of us are men
and all the two of us are ten

                                                       (from Minyan)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Poetry is easy. 
It is an imitation
of what does not exist

circuit diagram of a new self
you suddenly briefly have to be

and suddenly you are legs and light and
nothing but dance
and nothing dances but you.

                                                  20 April 2013