Beautiful summer day. You know you're gonna die
that's why you know no joy.
Obsessed with self, there is no answer
unless religion, tv, stories, sports matter.
So what if nothing rhymes and I don't
bring my life into an expressible state
or fight purposelessness, anomie. No one writes.
Running the gauntlet alone. A good day to die, the Apaches say.
For men like us dying's easy, it's living that's hard.
And since dying's much like living, that's hard too.
There's some contentment in letting community decide
your place in it. We're not talking to you.
Really, it's a perfect day. Every leaf is out
that's coming out. The grass is high
and unidentified yet another year. Being knowledgeable
is the best defense against your insignificance.
Can't stop the quince from blossoming
or my sons from smoking, speeding.
The best that can be done or said's a blessing.
Less tv, less guessing
about the effects of your anger unless
you want to be an angry man forever.
Coming from the funeral with friends,
talking on the telephone. OK about being alone.
Alive, almost sure of it. Whether I'm a visitor
to my life or the actual owner.
Mature poets steal, most are masturbators.
This house could use a good cleaning
and emptying out. I should subscribe
to the local newspaper, do my job well,
do less until one thing's done well.
What would that be? Old, and yet so young.
There are a million poets, I'm poet #500K.
Plenty of mysteries, infinite philosophies,
prayers, laws and unwritten rules.
That's why we go to school, life's complicated.
All I do not know: ATP, probabilities,
the glorious revolution, meiosis and mitosis
and all I'll never see, the bottom of the ocean,
the palm at the end of the mind, a wolverine.
There are certain indicators, undeniable,
inexorable. Forget-me-not, is that all I want?
To get lucky, you gotta be careful first.
To be great, you gotta be willing to sound BAD.
Although we cannot make the sun stand still
yet will we make him run. Brave revelers.
Signed engagement letter attached.
Attachment to self and to things to do.
Spring is in its prime again
each leaf beautiful
much is edible
birds and peepers are musical at dawn.
The days walk slowly
toward Utah and Italy.
My left nut hurts.
Joy overwrites death.
Well, well. You're well
alone in your brain
only a negligible fraction
escaping as words and actions.
Every leaf that's coming out
is out. Including the self
to the west and south
a golem, mandragon, an elf.
Aaron was stacking
the last of last year's
firewood. He found
a spotted salamander--
under the final log
with a worm and centipede for a meal.
I exclaimed Rare species!
but it's common, fossorial
lives in moist woods
under cemetery stones and memorials.
and adult beetles.
One more season and one more after that.
Your last words will be reticent or reckless
as your earliest efforts
at divination and the scientific method.
Like a delusion.
A late night movie.
Expect to forget
and be forgotten. Information.
How soon after cryogenesis
can one cry or ejaculate?
In a strong marriage, a long marriage
much cannot be said, should not be said.
The spots on one's skin will be wisely ignored.
Differences of opinion are tolerated, not debated.
Your memories may disappoint your partner
as not those she has selected, refracted.
Over dinner for two at the Mill on the Floss
it could be dangerous to compare wills, losses.
Or it might result in belly laughs, Shakespearean
revelations, the night he got us lost in the woods
or she peed her pants at a party. The marriage was Faustian,
in a good way, like going to a job in the Garden of Eden.
Having survived 25 years, knowing 50's impossible,
what else do we know? Raised 2 boys, painted 3 houses.
--for Peg on our 25th
Which is it: you can't get started unless
you're riding some current bigger than your reporting voice
or the best time to write is when you don't have much to say
and without plenty to say about everything you'll get better right away.
Form is very often a betrayal of reality.
Although we are initially drawn to poems by their passion and urgency
we are convinced by the formal means invented
for their impelling motives. Every accidental crack or dent.
Not just mildly disquieted but actively repelled.
Running for the River Styx, the doors of Hell pell mell,
there must be a crack, deep and unmendable, in the poet
that the poet must forever try to mend. Or not.
While mortal poets imitate, immortal poets steal.
That's plagiarism. Fortunately the public feels
less strongly about poetry than television,
communism and aging gracefully through meditation.
Now I'm being silly. My silly indefatigable lusting,
silly sadness, silly arguing and silly trusting.
All I do not know about our nation's history, wars
and what showering the people you love with love does.
Ransacking apothegms, algorithms
and selling the loot as memes
and feelings. Bearing fardels
with the warrior's skull.
--with lines by Heaney, Collins, Milosz, Yeats, Eliot, James Taylor, Helen Vendler, Kay Ryan & Avedis Donabedian
-- Heaney,Seamus, RTE Radio 1, September 1997
--Collins, Billy, The Exeter News, 6 May 2005
--Milosz, Czeslaw, Partisan Review, Summer 1996
--Yeats, William Butler, "Lapis Lazuli," The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats, The Macmillan Co., 1940.
--Eliot, T.S., The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism, 1950
--Taylor, James, "Shower the People"
--Vendler, Helen, The Breaking of Style, Harvard University Press, 1995
--Ryan, Kay, The Yale Review, April 2004
--Donabedian, Avedis, interviewed by Fitzhugh Mullan, A Founder of Quality Assessment Encounters A Troubled System Firsthand, Health Affairs, January 2001, vol. 20, no. 1, 137-141.
Working over Birk's Works and other tunes my saxophonist admires--
Cheesecake, Blackbird--for the theoretical, applied mathematics inside
or alternately an abstract audial harmonization of the Big Bang and
Would you rather have the fever break or something great happen
The young senator or never pissing glass again.
Look one way, from another come the heart's missed beats.
Can I call you back? We're trying to get my truck out of the mud.
Who does he think he is, Nelson Mandela?
"Lieutenant, this corpse will not stop burning!"
Writing cannot save you but can it ease the way?
What does Tagore say?
More movies about dying men.
Will my letter to the editor be in the funny pages?
Will I even be able to read it?
Did I send it to the wrong address? I've seen my death face and it's not
Maybe I can watch your varsity games from a viewfinder in the afterlife.
If I don't finish The Iliad, maybe there's a library there.
Maybe. Maybe is a long, long time.
Read an epic to the bitter end.
Visit with friends? They'll not come in, so no need to hide out.
I never had anything wise or gentle to say to my parents.
About bladder function. They got the same treatment
as every other soldier. Which systems shut down first
and how. The mail keeps coming even after you've stopped barking.
Notwithstanding an impending tsunami
we must figure out why there's water in the basement.
Always nice to have a mystery to read on the plane.
Each poet, every essayist, has what's called a voice,
a personality or, more accurately, a deep crack
repellent and unmendable, that the writer must forever try to mend.
Homer tries several ways to explain the slaughter:
by describing how a spear pierces a warrior's jawbone or armor,
how Achilles' and Agamemnon's hissy fits contribute to the pain of being
and how the gods, esp. Zeus, are passionate, confused, obtuse.
A callow youth even as a man. He was afraid and therefore could not
comfort or help.
Perhaps he has a question he'd like to ask but isn't sure what it is or how
to ask it.
The hero loses urinary control.
The virtuoso loses interest in her bow.
The expert forgets to do the research.
How do cancer cells and bacteria cooperate to kill
the host (you). The way yr mum & pop
fuck you up. It's unavoidable and it's not your fault.
--with lines by Galway Kinnell, Billy Strayhorn, Philip Larkin
Start the day. In what way
was the cold spring, last wet summer a
global warning, indicator. Says
one commentator on the op-ed page, the
dislocations, wars, famines will tax humanity's
technology, philosophy, even religion's ability
to see past daily survival to
the music in the rock. I've doubted the taboos
one frog among many in the slow-heating beauty
of the world we knew. Aaron's coconut.
Peepers doing well in the heavy rains, wet
with joy. Hawks and crows thrive below the jet
stream, noise, perhaps our fears
are overdrawn, we'll get along, it'll all hold together 10,000 years more,
the Holocaust will never be repeated, lush mountain and sere
desert equally appreciated, baseball
lazily paced summer evenings, the harvest in the fall
a sure thing, and the dying back a blessing come to all.