Motel room, U.S. map made of license plates
everything I need for a week is here, king-
size bed, microwave, fridge, tv, hot plate
the carpet's pretty clean, the bathroom baptized
and there are two mirrors in which to imagine
myself, to analyze and idolize.
WiFi, no Elizabethan inn,
in a century when we fear nuclear war
and we're warned against the shock of fast changes,
the door sports three locks though nothing dangerous
could happen in a town like this, named for spring
water found by thirsty desert travelers.
My home for a week living alone, contained
safe from the elements, roar of airplanes.
Late in life I struggle against my insignificance
When I should enjoy the freedom from performance before an audience.
Applause is happiness but if they withhold applause, embarrassment.
When Da Liu put me to work crunching hexagrams and spreadsheet
Instead of ghost writing his books about T'ai Chi for longevity
I was humiliated but freed. No need to interpret
The Chinese master's wisdom or endure his disapproval.
All this happened in an apartment on 110th St. when I lived on 111th.
I wonder if Da Liu lived to 100 like he predicted. Pop Pop
Didn't make it. So be it. Ken got me that job, old friend Ken
Who goes back all the way past high school to Thompson Junior High.
Tomorrow we're eating pizza together in Troy.
We'll remember Da Liu and also the painter and sculptor who had a
In our apartment on 111th and a dog so intelligent it could walk off the
On the crowded streets of New York without an altercation, and Zach
Of course, journalist, communist and jazz afficionado
Who listened to Jo Jones and Paul Quinichette, Count Basie's men,
Often as possible at the West End.
Back then I was playing the streets for quarters, not much more
Than that sculptor's dog, the sculptor's name I wanna say
Was Mike Johnson and he was a man of few words and many women.
We had a major cockroach problem in that apartment on 111th St.
And I also remember the ceiling leaked in Ken's room and he
Did battle against the landlord, helped form a tenant's association.
We were young and blind as newborn mice, puppies or roaches
We went to our daily disciplines like children of paradise or Da Liu who
was already old.
When we meet for pizza and talk it will be hard to hear now that I'm deaf
In one ear. Ken, whose name means knowledge, has trouble seeing
To want to be famous is a silly goal for a man almost old as Da Liu.
Not the right motivation. Much better to look slowly, labor
For the success and happiness of others.
I'm still avoiding the deeper question. Which is what? Cultivate
An acceptance of nature (including the biomass in the crosswalks)
And know the names of all the grasses. Much to learn about molecules,
Still trying to make sense on the trumpet. What's Ken doing lately?
He's retired from teaching. Is he spending his time reading?
So today I ordered Da Liu's books, maybe the ones I worked on,
Because they offer assistance to others for further living.
Service to others, that's the key, or conversely,
I pleasure in and treasure my insignificance, the autumn I
Realized my insignificance, it ought to be a great comfort
To be so insignificant, being knowledgeable is the best defense against
Your insignificance, it does not put me in mind of the species'
Exiled or sidelined to an insignificant role, a valued
Member of our community or so insignificant no one notices
Or cares, insignificant and mighty happenings
Seem the same from my vantage aging gratefully, inexorably,
A way to learn your insignificance, freedom to have never been.
What luxury to get mad
about last night's basketball loss
and watch the full moon descending
at the speed the earth turns.
Things could get worse
personally and in the community.
Bombings, killings, anomie
boiling frogs and witches cursing.
The changing climate,
typhoons in the Philippines,
volcanoes and tsunamis, WWII
which I missed, Thanksgiving same as Easter.
What abundance to fast or feast,
yr choice, stay inside by the stove
or go outside, climb the mountainside.
Live in a city or small town.
So I raged at the coaches
for their lazy zone defense
like an alien in the bleachers
unable to affect the outcome.
When my sons came home
I yelled at them too. What opulence
to be angry about nothing of consequence
neither stopped by the cops nor slipped on the ice.
Plenty of sleep, no more tv, the wars in the Middle East
are resource wars, disguised as religious debates.
So Dad would say.
A beautiful winter day, hunting
season. A Gun In Every Home, in light of U.S. mass shootings
seems an irresponsible poem. 10K clicks
most popular poem on line, NRA enthusiasts and conservative
talk show hosts quoting it. Not really, no worries, poetry
makes nothing happen. Which is something, magic.
* * *
I wonder if I'll have to someday defend that poem,
as in a Russian or Chinese show trial, Salem witch trial,
McCarthy anti-American committee or a college
political correctness safety hearing. Oh well.
What does it mean? Doc Wiseman says that's not how we decide
things in this country, lynching and chasing people with dogs.
You'd think twice about bombing Iran if Iran had the bomb.
Assume a defensive posture.
I've been reading Walzer's
Just and Unjust Wars, much like explaining how to tie your shoes,
or teaching an artificial intelligence to walk, talk
and think about God.
* * *
The citizenry doesn't need weaponry sufficient to win a war,
just enough to give pause during its normal pursuit of pleasure
(hunting deer on a beautiful, clear winter morning).
Hunting and gathering and agriculture, local and small
or these almonds I'm eating from California's Imperial
Valley and all the water it took to grow 'em.
such as the Anasazi and other aborigines used are uploaded
for sustainable survival.
Much good goes with the bad,
school shootings with school science shows, art shows and
How to stop the unhappiness of ISIS
those lonesome souls from interfering with the evolution
of the species? With love. What did Christ mean
(and what did Wallace Stevens mean by imagination)?
* * *
Accept (but contain).
Trust (but verify). Ha ha! Reagan was a pretty funny guy.
It must bother a president, a regular fellow who'll pack his suitcase and
to Iowa when his term is up, to know he's ordered the death
of a janitor on the night shift at a nuclear reprocessing plant
in a proportional response to a mullah's anger. Jurors
in the trial of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
have sentenced him to death. For his role in killing four people
and wounding hundreds more. There was no visible reaction
from Tsarnaev, 21, in the quiet courtroom.
Justice. In his own words "an eye for an eye."
Survivor Jared Clowery said he was happy not to have had to make the
choice between life and death himself but he stands behind the jury's
"There's nothing happy about having to take someone's life."
Good people without guilt or gloating. Yet
my thought was now we must forego the possibility of knowing
this young man's mind. There's still time to ask him questions
as in Dead Man Walking. To understand is to love
requiring the patience of the scientific method.
* * *
Yesterday's single greatest joy
was solving the equation
T = 2pi(r3/GMe)½
for Haley's comet orbiting
And sitting in the sun
on a winter day.
Moby Dick, geometry, physics.
Study every subject everyday.
Homework is an indicator of future success.
Success is not necessarily happiness but it helps.
Freedom is to formulate your own definition of success.
Happiness is an imaginary tree, its own reward, and a fact.
Facts and fiction may be memorialized in memos or found in dreams.
The story starts thus: Each summer the honeysuckles and the
huckleberries . . .
The web is that extra brain we've all been dreaming of having.
Like jumping 4 meters or flying without a plane.
To fly like that must one first have homework?
Some say yes, some say don't. It depends on how you vote.
Happiness is what happens when everything that happens
Fits the time perfectly and it's all out of your hands.
Not exactly. You don't let go of the steering wheel while driving fast in
the passing lane.
You look left and right and check your blind spots.
Homework is an introduction to everything you're not
And all you do not know. It's supposed to help you learn to know where
you want to go before going where you have to go.
Otherwise you end up on Ulzana's raid
Bleeding, without a bandaid.
All the achievement in the world won't relieve your loneliness
Or satisfy your sexual longing. What girls are like behind their eyes.
Survival, procreation. That's all there is to love.
But the loved one is the one who can be trusted with your life.
Whether Christ or your wife. The Muslim moms.
On my walk in the woods I come to a sitting spot
Above a small gorge cut by a stream through hemlocks.
Here someone has left a statuette of the Buddha and the flags you see
Flapping in the wind at sky funerals.
This is a pretty good place to sit quietly and think about homework.
How to break an addiction. Decide to live.
What can I learn from my pain. Danger.
And friends are merely friendly, live on independent
of your injury. You will not be missed in church on Sunday.
Grass. Weed, broccoli, burrito, stink, pot, skunk.
I'm talking blue grama, upland bent, smooth brome,
riverside panic, wild rye, fowl meadow, spike muhly,
sweet vernal, salt marsh, bristly foxtail, little bluestem.
Reefer is unhealthy, opens lesions in the brain,
wormholes into hell, yet should be legal. I'll vote that way.
It may ease the pathos into non-existence
well as meditation, bird watching, last will and testament.
Each joint hurts, rib joints, spine joints, skull plate joints.
The head and hip and heart will hurt, all three.
Insomniac I like the way bones crack and clack like
wooden wind chimes, an untuned piano, a tree rack of wornout
Never forget, the mind is the body paying attention
to what it does. Without that connection, each finger bent
or toe smashed is just added to the collection
of anonymous body parts of holocaust victims
in their mass graves. Better when every life saved
or lost is a front page story, an illusion of shared
sacrifice or joy, but that expresses only the surface
of our emotions. I'm mostly relieved to have survived.
In the singularity
perfectly good poems
are being written by laughing
and crying machines
washing machines and dryers
about their daily tasks
which will be indistinguishable
from those of future
farmers and philosophers.
In the singularity
evolution can be said
to be the master sorter of data
as in the factories
of the suns
where protons are smashed together
and unusual weather patterns
make consciousness a candidate
interesting for its complete dependence
on the substrate of the brain and body.
In the singularity
everything anyone once did
always remains current
as if invented yesterday
for an immediate purpose
such as curing cancer
although that may be unnecessary
to achieving immortality
i.e. the happiness one feels
the day before thanksgiving.