Basketball stands for war or battle.
That's why I think about the players'
personalities, in my foxhole or squad.
Danny and Ben are fast and smart. Dan
especially can pass making him master
and commander. To defeat them as we did
is very satisfying. Ben's five year old son
is intelligent but distant. Disdains to answer
my question Why are you you?
But I'm not here
to catalogue the men's personalities.
I like them. But each of us has moved on
many times, when _______ suddenly died
the games went on with hardly a mention
and his name has since been forgotten.
But even this, absolute mortality
of not just our bodies but our names
and souls is not what I came
to talk about. Yesterday, between games,
I asked Joe how Molly his daughter likes
the high school. He mounted an impassioned
defense of reading as the indispensable skill
when I suggested math, the scientific method
and history are essential too.
Also between games
Bob diffidently asked why my kids are bald.
I was moved by the care he took to satisfy
his curiosity, concerned the subject might be
difficult. He's a political science teacher so
I took the opportunity to ask What ails
the republic? Of course I answered myself
wanting mostly to hear myself talk about Iraq
and how empire is self-correcting. For once I was amusing
I thought, treating the subject with a light touch
But none of this is what I came to say.
A new guy, very big and strong, a
bulldozer under the boards with a good
outside shot if needed got into a dispute
with the other Bob who likes to tell people
what to do sometimes, about an offensive
foul Bob called which we almost never do.
The new guy said If you can't take it don't
play under the boards which is what I say
when I'm pissed and don't give a shit.
Bob said You've been pushing and shoving me
all day. I said He doesn't want to be
pushed and shoved which got a wry
smile out of Danny as I put the ball in play.
The Jewish brothers in Defiance were definitely tough.
One wanted to kill many Germans, the other to save many Jews.
The German soldiers were expendable, unmarried, unremarkable.
Each little death was very little, a little spittle in a big wind.
Fast forward to my friend's son's bar mitzvah or daughter's
coming of age ceremony. Food is abundant, the music frenetic,
the rabbi paid. Gifts generous but not obvious.
Wealth does not obviate death and we know it.
Here too we have natural leaders. Youth basketball coaches,
school principals and, again, interpreters of prayers. When
violence comes to the neighborhood they are who we'll first look to
for governance and guns. Unless have you read The Admirable
Boredom, boredom conflated with loneliness, may be a sign
of good luck. To live a good length or light year away from man's
bad breath, allergenic perfumes, sickening flatulence and shed hair.
But you are drawn back into the debate about perfection by your own
While teaching at the old city jail I have learned this: only meditation
upon the periodic table can save your soul. From itself.
Imagining the world without the self will make you whole.
What else is there to say. Do less until one thing's done well.
After the war the brothers started a small trucking company
in the Bronx. Grateful for such peace, the accounting
was relaxing. They thought back to how they met their wives, naked
before the bombs and bullets. How they lost and found themselves in
Two fine films: The Lost City and Blood Diamond.
I joined Blood Diamond during a village massacre
and said to my wife A gun in every home.
Those devils would think twice
before razing the village and seizing the boys.
A well-regulated militia.
The local militia the most interesting moment
in a strong film with motive (economic, emotional), action (chases,
fights) and a sexy, sexless love story.
Use of violence by the local militia for a limited purpose: protect the
community, the young
from the janjaweed. The crop from the weed.
Limited scope and defensive posture
but armed and coordinated, cooperative, the men (and the women)
side by side.
Warriors at the gate, you will not run, you will not bargain.
Just violence = limited scope, defensive posture.
Great music. Cuba, Africa.
The Lost City, when the communists tell the club owner under threat
No saxophones in the band. The saxophone!
Invented by a Belgian--Look what the Belgians are doing in the
When the state's violence is turned against the citizenry
for non-violent acts.
This quiet neighborhood, July,
undergirded by violence, force. That's a given--
any farmer, custodian, EMT will tell you that.
Without just violence
Gandhi's scope, and King's, might be vanishingly limited,
negligible (but not non-existent)?
the matter is simple -- he was non-violent but dependent upon
federal force to counter the South's violence.
No doubt without the larger force, the non-violent would be
overwhelmed by southern violence.
Here, non-violence was a tactic, not an ethic.
Gandhi, however, had no violent partner to protect him from the
British. Or did he?
1. There was the potential violence of the population, which Gandhi
restrained but could release which the British feared, and
2. It was the restrained (limited scope) violence of the British that
allowed Gandhi to exist rather than be extinguished--this restraint
was a (British) cultural imperative (limited scope) as well as
emanating from Britain's view of India as a protectorate and
valued citizen of the United Kingdom (defensive posture).
What about violence or threat of violence to compel compliance with
as in mortgage foreclosure, driving without license, drug possession.
Perhaps it is necessary violence to maintain orderly commerce, the
common space, and preempt bad behaviors associated with
otherwise neutral, private acts.
The defensive posture is the common good; the limited scope is
forgoing deadly force.
But the citizen, too, must maintain a disciplined, armed non-violence,
in case the state (the janjaweed) engages in an unjust, autoimmune
Hence, a gun in every home.
You can feel it spinning
the Chinese, Japanese, American and European junk
orbiting at several thousand miles per hour could
a hole in your armor, future. Thanksgiving passes, then Christmas.
A nuclear detonation, we absorb that fact. The scientist in us
delays sadness by recording observations. What is is,
sorrow's for tomorrow.
By reducing probabilities to near zero I hope to avoid sorrow.
In yr suburb.
In history when there were many fewer people we still found reason
to cross space, explore, trade and war. Now
may not be the problem but food and water shortages
get our attention.
I have Korfxs fears.
And hear what I want to hear.
Some hear singing, some hear speeches or complaining.
Martin Luther King sang his complaints, dreamed of a brotherly nation
which came to pass, spinning fast, past Thanksgivings, past jailings
into reconnaissance, small wars, drones, renaissance, inventions.
At the border,
where the Juaristas fought Maximilian:
Benito Juarez (1806-1872) Zapotec Amerindian who served five terms as president of Mexico. He was the first Mexican leader who did not have a military background and also the first full-blooded indigenous person to lead a country in the western hemisphere in over 300 years. For resisting French occupation, overthrowing the Empire, and restoring the Republic, Juarez is regarded as Mexicoxs greatest and most beloved leader.
Each soldier chooses what war at what border, or just
spinning with the planet.
The neighborhood and surrounding nature is orderly.
But always there is implied force, violence holding it together,
kept out of the playground, government buildings, childrenxs games
but lies within
the force maintaining order, a spinning tumor, a gyroscope of
The force of the spinning, the speed of the force bring one to one's
seasons, weather, earth.
While the emperor's being beheaded
enduring seeds are discovered and invented, cross-fertilized and bred.
Corn, yams, potatoes, sunflowers, rice.
Food is life and a good study,
The fighting man protects the farmer
and the farmer feeds the fighting man.
They elect the governor
who serves the people. Peace out.
Peace and war are transitory manifestations of spinning
The sun's a nuclear detonation, essential
to spring and planting. Food is life. Seeds endure
if man goes to his daily discipline. If woman is man.
Birth and death
together are orderly, the border can be known,
voluntarily. How we live together, by prayer or force,
is our story.
from laboratory to starry corridor keeps us very
Did Juaristas consider the rights of animals not to be eaten?
Not during that spinning.
And perform the history that surrounds us.
All that can be done
is written in the spinning:
The people of the land, the Indian farmers of North America - like their counterparts in Mesoamerica, the Andean region, and the Amazon - have continuously cultivated maize, beans, squash and other crops for more than five thousand years. One of the salient features of their traditional farming systems is the high degree of biodiversity. These traditional farming systems have emerged over centuries of cultural and biological evolution, and they represent the accumulated experience of indigenous farmers interacting with the environment without access to external inputs, capital or scientific knowledge. In Latin America alone, more than 2.5 million hectares under traditional agriculture in the form of raised fields, polycultures, agroforestry systems and the like document indigenous farmers' successful adaptations to difficult environments.
When Peg laughs like Liz
deep woman-hearted laugh
eating beef jerky on Mesa Verde
the good hearts and smarts of women
come back to me, not guessing
any better than they at the time what love
meant, leaving them behind in sandstone time
going to my own cement, sandstone
or good mountain grave
having seen the sharp-shinned and sparrow
hawk flying and at rest, not at peace,
seeking prey from a ponderosa snag.
I left my woman behind to float
alone down the long canyon for feathers
and signs, she's making camp
the moon half full, the sun half high
sky full of planets birds and stars
I look up from the rocks
love that's learned to love
from earlier loves
laughs remembered, heard
in the laugh of the woman who is my wife.
blueberries gasoline and prostate gland
breast cancer Wonderbread and pacifier
controlled experiment space travel and honey
peanuts inductive reasoning and electricity
tornadoes torture chamber and biscuits
copyright car radio cantaloupe
golden eagle lunch break tomato
Romanian songbook rhubarb and barbed wire
always hungry nevermind meat loaf
goosefoot mango juice Ipad
mosquito bite city street and broccoli
Chinese cabbage female sex drive water sport
pure contralto goat yogurt new year
black death white light and green tea
By which nothing is divided.
no Adam, no apple, no marriage, no morning.
no God, no soul, no ear lobe, no Iliad, no Odyssey.
no black hole
no mission, no omission, no fission, no fusion.
no 7:30, no wind, no window, no owl, no one.
In 773, at Al-Mansur's behest, translations were made of the Siddhantas, Indian astronomical treatises dating as far back as 425 B.C.; these versions may have been the vehicles through which the "Arabic" numerals and the zero were brought from India into China and then to the Islamic countries. In 813 the Persian mathematician Khwarizmi used the Hindu numerals in his astronomical tables; about 825 he issued a treatise known in its Latin form as Algoritmi de numero Indorum, Khwarizmi on Numerals of the Indians. After him, in 976, Muhammed ibn Ahmad in his "Keys to the Sciences," remarked that if in a calculation no number appears in the place of tens, a little circle should be used "to keep the rows." This circle the Arabs called sifr. That was the earliest mention of the name sifr that eventually became zero. Italian zefiro already meant "west wind" from Latin and Greek zephyrus. This may have influenced the spelling when transcribing Arabic sifr. The Italian mathematician Fibonacci (c. 1170-1250), who grew up in North Africa and is credited with introducing the decimal system in Europe, used the term zephyrum. This became zefiro in Italian, which was contracted to zero in Venetian. --Wikipedia
After my father's appointment by his homeland as a state official in the customs house of Bugia for the Pisan merchants who thronged to it, he took charge; and in view of its future usefulness and convenience, had me in my boyhood come to him and there wanted me to devote myself to and be instructed in the study of calculation for some days. There, following my introduction, as a consequence of marvelous instruction in the art, to the nine digits of the Hindus, the knowledge of the art very much appealed to me before all others, and for it I realized that all its aspects were studied in Egypt, Syria, Greece, Sicily, and Provence, with their varying methods; and at these places thereafter, while on business, I pursued my study in depth and learned the give-and-take of disputation. But all this even, and the algorism, as well as the art of Pythagoras, I considered as almost a mistake in respect to the method of the Hindus (Modus Indorum). Therefore, embracing more stringently that method of the Hindus, and taking stricter pains in its study, while adding certain things from my own understanding and inserting also certain things from the niceties of Euclid's geometric art, I have striven to compose this book in its entirety as understandably as I could, dividing it into fifteen chapters. Almost everything which I have introduced I have displayed with exact proof, in order that those further seeking this knowledge, with it pre-eminent method, might be instructed, and further, in order that the Latin people might not be discovered to be without it, as they have been up to now. If I have perchance omitted anything more or less proper or necessary, I beg indulgence, since there is no one who is blameless and utterly provident in all things. The nine Indian figures are: 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1. With these nine figures, and with the sign 0 . . . any number may be written. --Fibonacci, Leonardo of Pisa
You may feel about the planet what
you feel about a great baseball team or band:
that once there was a moment when, unknown
to us at the time, we convened
and lost and found ourselves in what we created.
Who should I thank for this day?
A fresh-mown lawn is a robin's repast.
A bear a black bear a rolling delicately dancing
graceful as silence sailing through the ferns and understory
unafraid and in no hurry.
My musician referral service, vacation rental business,
nonprofit management system, plant identification database,
great American songbook and anthology of poems. Coach says
in a thousand years back and forth games like lacrosse and soccer
will be played against genetically engineered primates
but baseball will be played solely by humans.
In a thousand years, amen.
Science can't save you, neither can religion,
at least Popper and Niebuhr, philosophers and poets,
are entertainers, which is why actors and athletes
are paid so much. Thanks for the summaries.
I was teaching Shakespeare's 92nd ridiculous sonnet
to my student who lays blacktop in the off season
Shakespeare bellyaching about dying without her love
a feeling foreign to a modern adolescent sensibility
although many teens are pretty far gone searching
for their mothers or fathers in their dazed lovers' eyes.
Which is why we call it "the wound that never heals."
Or the lesion that's always lengthening. And bleeding.
Muslim fundamentalists and their Christian counterparts
are a mystery to me. Pews and prayer rugs, the airless
indoor environment of religious worship, reading
scriptures, hypnotized by hymns and fainting from staring
at candles through stained glass windows, almost certain
the preacher is faking his certainty about the afterlife.
It's not my problem. A more immediate concern:
receding gums and tooth extractions, swollen joints,
poor lubrication and circulation, wave after wave
of viral infection, the occasional antibiotic-resistant
bacterial attack, usually urinary, and who knows
what internal organs are dividing and conquering
without mercy or cease, i.e. the wound that never heals.
It is wise not to overvalue your continued existence,
good not to be innumerate, unable to compare
a mere 80 years with say 6.0 x 109 or all of time
(to date) times the multiverse. Conversely,
it is interesting all of space and most of history is contained
in your little mind (realizing of course it's just a map
of the cosmos not the cosmos itself, or is it?). I'm
unable to wrestle free, tongue in that cavity
and locked in my memories, so separate and disparate
from the biomass in the crosswalks, even my spouse.
Alone, so alone, even your doctor can only devote
limited thought to your situational mortality through
the redress of poetry - also a wound that never heals.
Snow for eternity, that's what this February's been.
All to the good, for someone it's the final February
so enjoy it to the extent you can. By that I mean joy.
Joy at birth. Joy at death. All joy. All times. Anyway.
That was Shakespeare's message: even tragedies are comedies.
May, a Buddhist, chants each morning.
Her husband, Marc, who's Jewish, plays league tennis.
Their son, Aaron, will soon make Eagle scout.
How does it relate to your wound that never heals?
Luck runs out. For D.H. Lawrence in New Mexico
or Ulysses S. Grant in Ohio or Yasujiro Ozu in
Tokyo or Satyajit Ray in Bombay or Rabindranath
Tagore in Bangalore or at the Battle of the Atlantic in the Azores.
The night is a poultice, winter or summer solstice.
My anonymity will not effect the anomie ghettoside
seeing for myself how season by season
vacations and accomplishments accumulate, late in life
and early on, sunrise over mountains or moonrise over Bronx.
Masturbator, prisoner of war. Hospice of the Holy Roman Empire.
Numerous blue notes: the 3 flat, 7 flat, 5 flat,
the 6 flat and the 2 flat too. I don't get
what Wallace Stevens means by imagination.
When groundhog shows up as a totem, there is opportunity
to explore the mystery of death without dying.
This then is the purpose of purposelessness (and of eating less)!
Now what about that wound that never heals.
The Skeptical Observer column in Scientific American
was somewhat alarming when he accepted a paranormal
explanation for how his wife's grandfather's inoperable
transistor radio played music from its hiding spot
in his sock drawer on, and only on, their wedding day.
Now I'll have to believe my father (or mother!) is watching me
perform private sexual acts with (or without) partners
or that they could even know my thoughts. Or aliens
are attending our committee meetings and making
perfectly reasonable decisions given the available information
and the world is rotating just fine without humans.
These possibilities - angels, ghosts, aliens - are better
than holocaust and genocide. In this way,
and only in this way, does doom become endurable.
The wound that never heals in the end is all you'll feel.
"I begin the day buying yogurt in a small favorite grocery store."
Not pizza, nor gatorade.
although they are imported from afar and grown in monocultures.
Attract fruit flies in August.
locally grown with rainwater. I ate all the farmer's peaches alone
stacking them by the railroad tracks.
rainwater, tap water, distilled water, carbonated water, spring water --
deep gulps, infinite sips.
in moderation, or not, unsalted, raw, replacing chips. His bowl
of filberts, almonds, walnuts quiet weekday mornings.
Edible plant parts --
roots, leaves, stems, flowers, fruit. In olive oil
look online how best to prepare. Baked or fried. With a little
fish or meat.
Tea and honey,
play and prayer. Swimming and running,
Bread's possible as the Bible. Each is liable
to bloat your thoughts.
Wine and dandelions.
Dandelion wine's Ray Bradbury's story. Cans in a pantry, books on a
to the end of time.
we used to call spaghetti, never noodles. I wonder if I can remember
how to make
cherry, grape. Grab God's eye
Have I ever been profoundly lost? Yes. Railroad tracks and a river wide as the Amazon, yet lost. Living in the intense sunshine of northern New York summer, but lost in the shade of a gazebo. And here? Here I am enclosed in a tomb of porcelain machinery. With another winter passing its calling card in at the window. The warm steam no longer cutting the rough edge. Wearing wool sweater nights. The freedom of summer gone and only one fuck. What a nightmare, what a strange dream, life on planet, winter all around.
A system, they call it a system. I call it an evolved anarchy. Repetition, never. What do I know. Repetition, every two thousand years. Coming of a frost, coming of a fire. When nature proves furious beyond remembrance. Polar bear mugs wino.
Tall, attractive, talented WM, 31,
trumpet player, takes pleasure in
performing cunnilingus with clean
attractive women. Age, race, marital
status no object. All replies answered.
Here is where it started, amusing myself in an undisciplined manner in the playpen. Being rude when interrupted. Height of bad taste hitting the wall, what's he talking about. Marlowe went to bed. He had a headache. Used an empty bottle for a teddy bear/sap. In the middle of the night, three secret men approached the rock he slept under. They did not see him there, the fire had long ago gone out. But they'd seen it across the valley, and tried to estimate. They were close.
What do I care. They did this, he did that, they did this and this and that. He used his feet, took off his shoes. It mauled him to death in two minutes of the first round. Would have been better for him if it happened faster. Never got his knife out of his pocket. But he lived, with one eye after that.
What do you do with a drunken sailor early
in the morning?
You pull that sailor out of bed by his hairy
Why should anybody believe this, this tiresome outpouring of old moans and groans, grumbles about loneliness of life and dominance of telephone. This gamble on print, above the spoken, sung word. The meditative call to inhabitants of planet to kneel woefully and pray. No, to chant as if the planet were mending.
Mending rhymes with ending, why not. And television, radio appreciated. Drugs and booze, jagged bent faces, black wet rock. The mantle of moss ripped away. Period. Amen to men. Absolute magical ripcord.
Kissed his student.
Punched his friend.
Accused her lover.
What if China's navy asserts control where our navy also patrols?
Should we concede the South China Sea? Not on your life! Or maybe.
Lives may be lost but so what. There's so much biomass in the
Lord have mercy on my soul
Which means bring my confusion into an expressible state before it's
Sal went to jail. I belong to the loved ones. Never may the anarchic
man's thoughts be my thoughts. Not one.
It could be cancer or just a cyst
That killed Frost's considerable speck
Instead of considering its considerable intelligence.
Although bottomless ancient night stretches
From your short life forward, remember
It also stretches backward without measure.
There are few straight lines in nature and only one alternative to
ageing, so suck it up!
Suppose everything's fine and you've wasted your time wearing
sackcloth over your soul?
Start now knowing joy.
Prose is unpretentious, that's its attraction. Avoids bombast of line breaks but forgoes -- what -- perfect rest. Anyway today, a November day in February, no chance getting rest with the poor clay I'm made from.
With my mother this weekend, her dementia proceeding according to what plan. Saturday the kind of day I never have. Actually read three stories by Updike. One extraordinary -- Tomorrow and Tomorrow and So Forth -- which I chose from his Complete through 1975 for the reference to Macbeth and in it he so humanely, sympathetically explains through the high school English teacher's thoughts Shakespeare's mid-life bitterness or disappointment realizing few men achieve their potential in the face of history, society and their personal flaws. Making for tragedy. Hard to be humorous about that although Updike finds in Shakespeare's late plays, especially The Tempest, a resolution amounting to wisdom that there can be contentment with imperfection and partial achievement. Updike took some of the starch out of my contention that all Shakespeare's plays are comedies, impossible to take Hamlet, Lear, Macbeth and Othello seriously. Certainly not Romeo and Juliet. It is a consolation that Updike's and even Shakespeare's achievements are imperfect although it would be wringing blood from a rock for me to achieve as much. The other two stories by Updike assured me that prose story-telling is as hit or miss as poetry. Bulgarian Poetess and How to Love America and Leave It At the Same Time made me think how fortunate I had been to find Tomorrow on the first try.
Not so much luck. I was attracted like a bee to a blossom to Shakespeare's lines in my personal anthology. No anthology and the poetry dependency it has created and I might have passed over the story. But now there is this conversation between me and all other writers. The anthology helps me know what I like but now I am tempted to try to articulate why I like what I like. Like the calendar, time and all else man lays his mind to it is a matter of bringing order from chaos by naming things according to our observations.
First, I like to understand what's going on in the poem. Not paraphrase it but describe the action. In Yeats' Lapis Lazuli, in the first paragraph, strophe or stanza, he talks about a community, a city or country, in which people, the women especially, high-toned maybe?, are upset about a political or wartime situation and are too hysterical for art or grace. Then he talks about actors playing Hamlet and Lear holding it together even though their characters die at the end of the play. No shouting, no crying. Then a paragraph or stanza about how whole civilizations are transitory too. Finally, in a reference to one of our oldest civilizations, two old Chinamen and their retainer are in the mountains. From their perspective, calm acceptance and longevity, perhaps some sadness, they look on all of history and non-history with something like gladness.
From there we can appreciate the artistry -- in Yeats' case the interesting rhymes and variable line lengths -- recognizing, however, that the artistry is not so much a demonstration of skill or a performance as the particular vehicle or discipline by which this artist discovered the content of his mind. It little matters whether verse is free, rhymed, blank, or formed as long as it is understandable and meaningful. Understandable to anyone, meaningful to someone.
The oldest formulation I have is Pound's -- the great themes of literature can be written on the back of a postage stamp. Until recently, I thought you could do it but you'd have to write very small. Now I know you can do it in your normal handwriting. I think they are Love (how we come into the world), Death (how we leave the world) and Governance (how we live in the world together). It may be possible to group Love and Death together, coming into and going out of life being similarly unknowable mysteries. The ways of talking about this one same mystery are apparently endless and endlessly fascinating. We cannot leave it alone. Almost all the greatest poems are about this mystery. Life is but a dream.
Then there is Governance -- how we live in the world together -- about which there are far fewer great poems. And usually they are about how our failure to live together leads back into the unknowable mystery through premature and sometimes mass death. Siamanto's The Dance comes to mind. I think the best poems of this type are written by so-called oppressed people.
Many poems treat both themes. But on the question of content, Pound is where I begin. My anthology -- Whole Wide World -- has a section which I'll call Double & Triple Features: Poems to Read Together, which pairs and groups poems according to my feeling that they share something -- theme, voice, structure -- in common. Subject matter is, I think, the commonest sharing. If I tried to name each pairing or grouping I might then have a hundred or more themes. Naming them adequately would be difficult to impossible. But why? And why not try? It would be a necessary start to talking about the poems: I read these poems together because....
Prose doesn't have to be beautiful, sometimes it's best when it's flat as Hemingway conclusively proved and one of its attractions is you can run on and on as long as the mind goes on following a thought without a stop sign for a whole page of books like Proust or Faulkner or Joyce.
Auden's is the second useful formulation that comes to mind (besides his chummy reverence for Shakespeare in naming him Top Bard). He classifies poems five ways:
1. A good poem that's meaningful to him;
2. A good poem that's not meaningful to him;
3. A good poem that may someday become meaningful to him;
4. A bad poem that's meaningful to him;
5. A bad poem that's not meaningful to him.
I find I do about the same. But I discard all poems, good and bad, that are not meaningful to me. I have little taste for artistry for art's sake. The poem must speak to me or awaken me. Dickinson's formulation -- takes the top of your head off -- is the same as We can't define pornography but we know it when we see it.
A short aside: it feels inappropriate to answer the question What do you do? by saying I'm a poet. It would be like saying I'm a leader or I'm a prophet. You cannot anoint yourself a poet, a leader or a prophet -- others must do it for you. I wonder if I would be more comfortable if I had a larger audience (following) like Billy Collins for example. I think not. It would be like being a rock star, not a composer.
It's much more acceptable to say I'm a writer. Then when you answer the question Oh, what do you write? with Poetry, you are not self-aggrandizing, merely irrelevant, effete. Being a poet is viewed as being a flasher or nudist, exposing parts of yourself others would rather not see, at least not up close and personal, providing more information than others need or want to have. Maybe that's a good definition of a bad poet. Self-revelation dressed in verbal prowess is acceptable but naked, abject confession is unpardonable, tedious.
Although content is requisite for a poem to be meaningful, a poem is not really a communication like fiction or essay. It is more like an object, like a painting or sculpture, and perhaps like a musical score, sheet music. Yet I would still instruct students of poetry to first read each poem by the sentence, not the line, to derive its meaning, understand its argument, visualize its action. Then one might ask how and why is it sculpted, structured, with line breaks and strophes. Ultimately, the form of the poem is nothing more or less than the method by which the poet discovered his meaning. Although it is arbitrary -- it could have been said another way -- it is the only way it could be said by this person in this time and place. I have always liked the idea of a sculptor carving away stone or wood to reveal the form inside the block.
The poem lives on as an object, recognized by many or few or none. Like art or furniture, most are briefly useful then are moved to the attic or shed where they gather dust and mouse turds then break, dry and decay and find their way to the dump, the dust heap of history, only not even human history, just your personal history.
The anthology has made me an antiquarian -- one who cares as much for objects made by others as if I had made them myself.
So how can one talk about poems? The argument that any attempt to discuss or describe a poem is better served by simply reading the poem, perhaps memorizing it, has merit. Except in one respect -- the process can take you to undiscovered and half-discovered country within yourself. Always, first, you must understand the action otherwise we are just re-reading ourselves in our own tried and untrue ways. We must not mistake an old dog dying for a puppy being born. Misunderstanding the words is like constructing a science experiment with a flawed methodology and then using the results to shape or live in the world. It can be dangerous. Therefore reading poetry is a mental discipline worthy as the scientific method itself. It takes you out of yourself.
The fun of criticism comes in examining why and how the poem made you feel or think as you did. You can read closely for the chosen words, rhythms, lines and stanzas. You may admire the skill or wit of the poet. And you can refer to your own experience to understand your reaction. You can even disagree with the poet's thought or perception, or reject the sentiment. You can say that's him, not me.
Then there are Bloom's formulations of which I am wary, he being a critic not a poet. Yet here they are. Three sources of healthy complexity or difficulty in poems: 1) Sustained allusiveness -- cultural references that require the reader to be educated beyond the poem's content, for which he cites Milton as an example and could have Dante; 2) Cognitive originality -- leaps of perception and depths of understanding that startle, enlighten and take off the top of your head, for which he cites Shakespeare and Dickinson as examples and to which I would add much of what is memorable in modern poetry; and 3) Personal mythmaking -- whereby the poet constructs over time a system of images and personal (more than cultural) references that with familiarity become understandable and meaningful, citing Yeats and Blake as examples. How to make this formulation useful.
A second formulation by Bloom discusses poetic figures or the indirect means by which poetry uncovers truth, dancing with and romancing language rather than wrestling and pinning it down like philosophy tries. There are four: 1) Irony or saying one thing and meaning another, usually the opposite; 2) Symbol (synecdoche) or making one thing stand for another; 3) Contiguity (metonymy) or using an aspect or quality of something to represent the whole; and 4) Metaphor or transferring the qualities or associations of one thing to another.
Meanwhile, here's my arse poetica:
1) Poetry is an acquired taste, like golf or wine, with no obligation to appreciate it.
2) Poetry is divination; prose explains what we think we know but poetry discovers what we didn't know we thought.
3) Poetry is one of many man-made systems, like baseball or the scientific method, for producing knowledge, meaning and pleasure. Or are they all natural as sex?
4) Of all the other arts, poetry is most like sculpture; the word "poem" comes from the Indo- European root meaning "to make, to build."
5) It is impossible to write exactly what you mean or be accurately understood; poetry uses this to its advantage.
6) Line length -- enjambment -- is the single most important feature of poetry.
7) Poems are made from ideas; poetry is philosophy but where philosophy wrestles language down, poetry romances language.
8) Meaning is the most important product of poetry but it's completely personal; poems almost always say one thing and mean another but the poet often doesn't know what he meant.
9) It is almost impossible not to rhyme or write rhythmically in English or any other language.
10) The forms poets use are how the poet gets to his truth and are basically arbitrary choices.
11) Poems may be difficult and complex and irrational but they must be comprehensible.
12) Just describing the action of the poem will take you where you need to go.
We like trees.
Trees are good.
Shade. Food. Wood.
If they leave,
we'll leave, too.
Snow. How come
some there, none here.
Sun can kill
or be fun.
God can't care
about you, one.
in thought thicket.
thorn in nose.
Elect a nobel laureate
not a noble idiot.
Eat. Eat so much
your bones grow.
Almost edible words.
Naked buds, girls,
Is it stress,
or loss, despair and survival
we must discuss.
Stress is just the symptom
of a universe intent to destroy the individual
before it births new life. It sends the dogs
after us, after the holocaust, in the tattered ruins
of our city.
There is this despair and expectation
of destruction, but somewhere there is still also
simple sky blue,
flowers among railroad ties,
true love between sexual partners.
Is it sex,
or love, companionship and reliableness
we must expect.
Sex, nothing but laying my head
at your cunt, can interest me sometimes. Your legs
lead to a pleasure that seems infinite and smells
So there is this tenderness, a connection
like a suction to the biological that is ephemeral
as snow on the ground,
one elk in aspen,
death and nothing less.
Numerous number systems beyond the real:
complex numbers, octonions, omnions which can eat whole black
It's axiomatic that your personal history, preferences, how you feel
account for nothing at all.
$30 buys a flock of chickens for a needy family (International Rescue
$29 gets a girl a school uniform (CARE), for $300 you can stock a fish
pond (Heifer International)
$69 can start a female entrepreneur in the sewing business (Mercy
$5 will buy a bed net that protects a family from mosquitoes (Against
20th century experiments demonstrated that electrical charge is
quantized; that is, it comes in
multiples of individual small units called the elementary charge, e,
approximately equal to 1.602
x 10-19 coulombs (except for particles called quarks which have
charges that are multiples of
Why has the experimentalism of the avant-garde, which has failed in
the novel, succeeded in
poetry? Because poetry is always experimental; while the novel, on
the contrary, by its nature,
cannot be . . . which is to say that experimentalism is synonymous
with poetry, and that applied
to the novel, it leads simply to the substitution of the novel with
poetry. --Alberto Moravia
Man made the town, Fibonacci inflated zero to be the wheel
around which the universe turns and language is the soul
walking and talking quietly or going angrily to war.
"Counting is in its very essence magical, if any human practice is at all.
For numbers are things no one has ever seen or heard or touched."
As are words.
Joan Didion thought the scariest stanza in all of poetry
begins Row, row, row your boat gently
down the stream. The elements, the material penumbra,
irresolvable for the mortal, readily dissolve in words and numbers.
Madison's defense of the establishment clause to the Virginia
Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them, and not only during the period of miraculous aid but long after it had been left to its own evidence and the ordinary care of Providence.
May I say
electromagnetic waves. Radiant energy.
Light travels in waves
Waves of what?
Electromagnetic waves consist of electric and magnetic fields
oscillating at right angles to each other
and to the direction of motion of the wave.
All waves can be described
in terms of amplitude, wavelength, frequency and speed.
Waves of what?
Think of a hand waving. The wave itself
is virtual, ideal. The hand and eyes are waves. The wave's
a quantum guess.
Religion and electromagnetic waves - visible, audible, ideal
causing real reactions in earth-time (real as it gets). Madison's
care of Providence
impossible to handle.
Needed is a medium: antenna, cathode ray, page,
with the capacity to say Providence electromagnetic visible light
Alone in your life and body. Say
the heavy word
charged word (ion god)
the particle physicist and political philosopher have it over the poet
who is sharing ignorance
pretty much all he doesn't know.
Or who stays within a dimension she knows she knows, extrapolating
her hand in a child's hand or husband's hold or nest in a tree hole
separation of powers
daily low intensity warfare
light, radio and gamma waves
Waves of what?
Matter can be treated by both wave and particle theories (the duality of matter) since its convertible counterpart - light - has long been treated successfully by both theories.
light matter light
Solutions to the equations are called wave functions, or orbitals.
Religion or the duty which we owe our Creator and the manner of discharging it can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence. It is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of Citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much to soon forget it.
Last night's movie She's No Angel on the Christian channel
begged many essential questions (and had bad music)
the loving liberal successful couple should
keep a shotgun in the home (later used per Shakespeare)
the community's (authority's) reaction to the violence
and precipitating dissembling might have been (per The Crucible)
the golden spiritual couple would subsequently dissemble lobby or
themselves and the loved one legally and lengthily (per Dostoyevsky)
unclean tragic outcomes end in Death's cleanliness
ravens eat the fur and guts of bad guesses off the roads (per A
Designer of Systems)
but not I think missing
the deeper lesson
that she is neither her past
nor her wings
but a pure goodness
a light wave
and a particle.
Yr cancer is inevitable as love.
You didn't last forever. The pain
wasn't the main problem, unconsciousness
was. Dad cannot see or hear,
the walls of the house contain just dust,
that's it, and if he shows up as a ghost
I'm lost, all my theories false.
Dr. Cherry certified my cancer as a cyst.
A drupe, a stone, a past mistake.
I left the examining room elated,
and have gone on to conflate my happiness,
relief, with that of the whole village.
The message is: to the east and west, the self
which is carried around as a pound of garbage.
"I like to be kissed before I'm fucked."
And what is poetry anyway. Its role,
local and global. Well, I for one have no
friends or family sufficiently interested
to come to a reading. Don't take offense,
we prefer novels, and especially movies,
coffee, sugar, oil, parrots, ponies, you
name it. Seven goes to six. Prices
bust and burst, but life (and school) goes
on, or whatnot. Atomic bubble gum. Protein computer.
Grass roof. Sun spot. Perfect error.
In the mirror where everybody hides the body.
Finally, I have been going for walks, girls
with protection dogs, black flies in my eyes.
Peace of noon, bird siesta. August returns,
the snow flies. Did you survive summer,
beat the reaper? I hope so, and yr fern allies.
Perfect rest is priceless, paradise.
Negligible morsel of biomass
my fat belly, formerly abs
insignificant yet it occupies me
hourly while bored or hungry.
Fat is what? a picture
of despair, giving up caring
or man out of balance, other
side of the world's starving
mass, case of the soul's malnutrition
industrial agriculture, television
supermarkets, vacations, hydrocarbons
and the grid. Electricity, urban
traffic jams, photons at final
rest. Sugars synthesized, abundant
plastics to carry them home in.
Into your house and into your mirror.
Memorizing the periodic table
and learning the calculus makes one
no thinner. Walking the mountain
in heat and cold and rain, alone
or in fire crews should do it. And a
healthy fear of death. A laugh
a day at sex and pain and fate
which renews the biomass I hate.
The four fundamental forces:
Zeus, Aphrodite, Ares (or Mars), and Adam and Eve.
<<0>> >> 0 <<
Electric field induced by Electric field induced by
a positive electric charge a negative electric charge
"Deutsch thinks that such 'jumps to universality' must occur not only in the capacity to calculate things, but also in the capacity to understand things, and in the closely related capacity to make things happen. And he thinks that it was precisely such a threshold that was crossed with the invention of the scientific method. There were plenty of things we humans could do, of course, prior to the invention of that method: agriculture, or the domestication of animals, or the design of sundials, or the construction of pyramids. But all of a sudden, with the introduction of that particular method of concocting and evaluating new hypotheses, there was a sense in which we could do anything. The capacities of a community that has mastered that method to survive, to learn, and to remake the world according to its inclinations are (in the long run) literally, mathematically, infinite. And Deutsch is convinced that the tendency of the world to give rise to such communities, more than, say, the force of gravitation, or the second law of thermodynamics, or even the phenomenon of death, is what ultimately gives the world its shape, and what constitutes the genuine essence of nature. 'In all cases,' he writes, 'the class of transformations that could happen spontaneously--in the absence of knowledge--is negligibly small compared with the class that could be effected artificially by intelligent beings who wanted those transformations to happen. So the explanations of almost all physically possible phenomena are about how knowledge would be applied to bring those phenomena about.' And there is a beautiful and almost mystical irony in all this: that it was precisely by means of the Scientific Revolution, it was precisely by means of accepting that we are not the center of the universe, that we became the center of the universe."
Danger comes from the root bad brakes and bald tires. Chain saws
and wildfires. Poisonous
ideologies, housecleaning chemicals and toiletries. Powerful
industrialists, alcoholic fathers.
Invasive species, illegal immigrants. Concentration camps, attention
Performance phobia, identity enhancements. Pleasure, applause.
Quiet moments, walking and
talking war buddies. Electoral politics, marriage and divorce. Pest
exterminator, Yeats seminar.
Love affair, pencil sharpener. Whatever, matter. Ionic and covalent
bonds, republican hairstyle.
Events in their mere chronology.
"What is a typical place in the universe like? Let me assume that you are reading this on Earth. In your mind's eye travel straight upwards a few hundred kilometers. Now you are in the slightly more typical environment of space. But you are still being heated and illuminated by the sun, and half your field of view is still taken up by the solids, liquids and scum of the Earth. A typical location has none of those features. So, travel a few trillion kilometers further in the same direction. You are now so far away that the sun looks like other stars. You are at a much colder, darker and emptier place, with no scum in sight. But it is not yet typical: you are still inside the Milky Way galaxy, and most places in the universe are not in any galaxy. Continue until you are clear outside the galaxy--say, a hundred thousand light years from Earth. At this distance you could not glimpse the Earth even if you used the most powerful telescope that humans have yet built. But the Milky Way still fills much of your sky. To get to a typical place in the universe, you have to imagine yourself at least a thousand times as far out as that, deep in intergalactic space. What is it like there? Imagine the whole of space notionally divided into cubes the size of our solar system. If you were observing from a typical one of them, the sky would be pitch black. The nearest star would be so far away that if it were to explode as a supernova, and you were staring directly at it when its light reached you, you would not even see a glimmer. That is how big and dark the universe is. And it is cold: it is at that background temperature of 217 Kelvin, which is cold enough to freeze every known substance except helium. And it is empty: the density of atoms out there is below one per cubic meter. That is a million times sparser than atoms in the space between the stars, and those atoms are themselves sparser than in the best vacuum that human technology has yet achieved. Almost all the atoms in intergalactic space are hydrogen or helium, so there is no chemistry. No life could have evolved there, nor any intelligence. Nothing changes there. Nothing happens. The same is true of the next cube and the next, and if you were to examine a million consecutive cubes in any direction the story would be the same."
The 5 colors of sadness:
disappointed, didn't get what was wanted
confused, don't know what to do next, where to go
lonely, no one to love or be loved by
sorry, unable to help or change what happened
depressed, can't get out of bed, want to kill self
"Unless a society is expecting its own future choices to be better than its present ones, it will strive to make its present policies and institutions as immutable as possible. Therefore Popper's criterion can be met only by societies that expect their knowledge to grow -- and to grow unpredictably. And, further, they are expecting that if it did grow, that would help. This expectation is what I call optimism, and I can state it, in its most general form, thus: The Principle of Optimism -- All evils are caused by insufficient knowledge. Optimism is, in the first instance, a way of explaining failure, not prophesying success. It says that there is no fundamental barrier, no law of nature or supernatural decree, preventing progress. Whenever we try to improve things and fail, it is not because the spiteful (or unfathomably benevolent) gods are thwarting us or punishing us for trying, or because we have reached a limit on the capacity of reason to make improvements, or because it is best that we fail, but always because we did not know enough, in time. But optimism is also a stance towards the future, because nearly all failures, and nearly all successes, are yet to come.
As I think of things to do I do them.
Thing by thing I get things done.
That's how my father and his father did things.
I guess my mother and her mother did things that way too.
Sometimes I'm driving and I think how my father and his father drove
There was weather and they had problems. There is weather and I
Time exists only in the human mind. But if the mind exists, time exists.
Joy everywhere. Joy at birth. Joy at death. All joy, all times.
Marines call to say hello,
impress. I'm over 35 but my boys
19. They could go: Hide!
One moment spent tying a shoe,
another dying, gunshot wound or poisoned food.
Events in their mere chronology
make no sense.
And the details of yr dad's life don't either.
quiet cigarette smoker. But next day,
the butts cleaned into the can. Who does that?
Lady in a skirt or overalls rolled up - cigarette smoke.
Now it's yr dad.
Yr dad who
watches for war.
Even if Uncle Sam disbands, dissolves
we the people will still be here and stay involved
with North America. The purple mountains majesty
and shining seas
little people, big people, brown, red, and white. Addicted
to action movies.
Perhaps there is no choice. One must sit, sitting still
as a buddha, sitting bull.
I can imagine myself and all others - drivers, voters, runners -
little fetal muscles
at first. Metastasizing. What's it called when the cell
at the tip of the organ
or organism, divides, and the organ grows? It's called
girl on a bicycle.
I find I make no sense. Her cunt, a practicality to her, is
delicious to me
a miraculous sea lettuce or snapdragon. You've heard it before.
A moral dilemma
wrapped in robes and silks and odors. Yet, come close,
and business beckons
work gets done, life goes on, hair grows in, we go on
the Marine Corps calls, desperate for new fetuses to teach
purposeful workmanlike killing
I'll do my own killing, thanks, when violence comes to the
if I've got your back
your back's gotten and if I'm on point, the point's taken.
One world under God invisible with liberty and justice for all who
Art in heaven
what the hell's his name.
The small war of an especially inept empire. The world's too big
to swallow as the Krauts and Nips found out. Empire
is self-correcting. Them dark-skinned mustachioed shitheads
who can't fix their own electricity seem to be kicking our asses
pert good. As did the gooks before them. All to the good. A
good lesson to know and then we all become friends following
the brawl. We apparently cannot skip the fight. It must
be fought, and fuck the girls.
Dinner with old friends:
salmon with red cabbage, asparagus, Caesar's salad, penne
with broccoli, two white wines.
Jane Jacobs could analyze how it all got to our table
or even how their daughter came to us from Cambodia.
The economy or market bringing a thing of beauty, the farms,
such comfort. The ancients knew this too
yet we are anxious about famine, genocide and nuclear war.
How can we organize (govern) ourselves to end self-imposed
That Quebec and Puerto Rico may secede peacefully at any
time a majority chooses is a source of pride. Why not
Kurds, Chechyns, Tibetans and Armenians?
Difficult to write a poem about it. At table, candlelight, we
or whine about the other side winning and making a mess
of our lives. The election could be stolen, tampering with
what policy question does that possibility raise? War in Iraq,
school testing, prison population. Religion, the abyss
little promontory life.
It'll all work out in the end. Go to your daily practice, be a
Another failed effort to write what I mean. Such confusion, yet
two white wines.
Having not done the things I wanted to do
and the things I've done not being what I wanted to do
I sit here looking at lichen on the north side of trees.
cheerful and truthful expression
grouped in platoons, sharing the point.
The tribes travel together
first finches, then chickadees
following the squirrels every morning.
What luxury, abundance! Handful after handful
of grass seed thrown, into wind.
The corn ripe and the rye with it.
The other main families: pines, roses, peas,
lilies, daisies, heath, birch and oak.
Maple, honeysuckle, pink, mustard, cypress, mint, olive,
buckwheat, primrose, willow, buttercup, saxifrage,
Truth may be ascertained by considering
the truth we feel, the truth we're told,
the truth we reason, and the truth we've seen.
It is so good to be a chickadee.
To tell the truth cheerfully and joyfully.
In a way that makes others want to live.
RNA or DNA polymerase, an enzyme, protein, attracted to
promoter molecules in the polypeptide chain causing a zipper
motion and transcription of the code, a duplication of codons,
introns and exons, and so it goes, sharing and unsharing electrons.
These attractions and repulsions, coming near and going far
in nanounits or light years, fail to explain things permanently
but make possible the technology to live long and well, with
It is a form of governance, the governance of elements, elements are
apparently our gods. Learn all you can about their laws, their names,
their needs, read their poems. Only the mentally unusually sound
given this knowledge, agree to the process of mitosis and fertilization.
organisms go round then senseless via involuntary respiration.
Therefore, Pilot Oh Pilot Me.
Just watching raindrops slapping leaves
is better than anything requiring electricity
including fame and posterity. Monday
morning I walk over to the art museum
stand before Homer. I'm imagining
life in ancient Greece, the land largely
deforested to build a navy, white as bone,
a tourist attraction. The sea too being
denuded of its fish, super-efficient fishery
fleets, and every human wanting a healthy
dose of omega 3. O my God, omega!
the 24th and last letter of his alphabet,
which means great and has a value of 800,
often used to denote the last, the end, the
ultimate limit of a set, as in I am the alpha
and the omega (which was omitted
from the oldest manuscripts). In physics,
ohm is a unit of electrical resistance,
in chemistry, oxygen-18, a stable isotope,
in statistical mechanics, it represents multiplicity
(the number of microstates) in a system.
In astronomy, the density of the universe
(density parameter) and the longitude
of the ascending node of an orbit.
Also the solid angle or rate of precession
in a gyroscope. In particle physics,
omega baryons. In complex analysis,
the Omega constant, a solution to Lambert's
W function. In calculus, a variable
for a 2-dimensional region, usually
corresponding to the domain of a double
integral. In topos theory, the codomain
of the subobject classifier of an elementary
space. In combinatory logic,
the looping combinator. In group theory,
the omega and agemo subgroups of a p-group.
In Big O notation, the asymptotic
behavior of functions. Chaitin's uncomputable constant.
Omega watches, badge of the Supreme Court,
last mission of the Space Shuttle program,
God of War, Heroes of Olympus,
Pokemon's Omega Ruby, Sonic the Hedgehog's E-123.
Symbol of resistance to the Vietnam War draft.
Year of date of death. Lowest-ranked wolf.
The end of everything.
In molecular biology, a two-point crossover.
The lower case omega denotes the carbon atom
furthest from the carboxyl group of a fatty acid.
One of the RNA polymerase subunits.
The dihedral angle associated with the peptide group.
A measure of evolution at the protein level.
In physics, angular velocity or angular frequency.
In computational fluid dynamics, the specific
turbulence dissipation rate. In meteorology,
the change of pressure in time of a parcel
of air. Natural frequency
in circuit analysis and signal processing.
A ranking of a star's brightness in a constellation.
A designation of the argument of periapsis
of an orbit. The omega meson.
In Big O notation
the asymptotically dominant nature of functions.
NULL, a missing or inappropriate value.
The first transfinite ordinal number.
The first uncountable ordinal number.
The complex cube roots of 1.
The Wright Omega function. A general differential form.
The number of distinct prime divisors of n.
An arithmetic function. The self-application combinator.
The elasticity of financial options.
The tracking error of an investment manager.
In linguistics, the phonological word.
The archetype of a manuscript tradition.
In eschatology, the symbol for the end of everything.
The beginning of my first week without tv.
No more movies. If I have nothing to do
or I'm too bored to do anything, I'll just sit still
see what happens. Be like weather.
Be under the weather, with the weather,
in weather. Watch weather from the window.
Wait for change, in me and the weather.
How will I change? This is life and not life.
In 15 years or so I'll be gone from the earth,
bones whitening on some mountain (if I'm lucky)
or rotting in the lowlands river or estuary I lived near (more likely)
flesh to sweat flesh with the population, dead.
This death consciousness of which should give this life's activities
perspective, except for the red sunset which remains untouched
by atomic IQ;
and dead, laying open to the blue sky and dry leaves one autumn like
last autumn, or the autumn I realized my insignificance.
I begin the day buying yogurt in a small
favorite grocery store. The clerk
a man of few pretenses was making jokes
about his wife, how they fight in bed.
Discovering the better stores in the community.
In a given day, isolated from friends,
I speak to few people. An old woman
asks me for directions to the post office
or I speak to a stranger over the phone about night work.
At home my every thought comes to the counterpoint of
a girl I love surprises me by knocking on the window.
I ply my arts all day alone.
After this silence like being hidden away in the woods
in a cabin, bored
but owing no member of society an explanation,
invitation to a party. A flow of wine and devilish drugs
and quickly I am making a fool of myself.
My new friends like me
but when they think about me at all,
through the midnight air, alone again,
the ghostly houses of my new neighbors
by new moonlight.
"Anyone who wants to fight me all the time"
committee meetings, board meetings.
Facing death was how they knew they were alive
or was it more about allocating resources
like yr Dad said.
It's hard to step outside what yr DNA tells you to do.
Family farm, fight club. It's all one yet distinctions are
what separates the librarian, reflective man, from the road and bridge
That's a class statement. Us guys love
our children and will, circumstances dictating, fight for you.
"Anyone who wants to fight me all the time"
is more important to me than my wife. But there is no one left to fight
and no one knows me and I know no one well. That's good,
"there is more space between people than I'd ever dared to hope."
Meditator or gunfighter. Either could come to know himself,
flat abs, clear sight
with patience and discipline.
Once yr knee or neck is smashed there's no getting up to fight.
"Anyone who wants to fight me all the time"
will grow old alone once I'm in the ground. He will live
with the question what was our purpose? He was managed by
the molecules we're made of, proteins, enzymes, amino acids, DNA.
I'd rather be a rock.
But the rock is subject to
its elements. Thus, the periodic table and particle physics,
meiosis and mitosis and yes, democracy and self-governance,
all the colors of anthropology and ecology, windmills and sundials,
fission and fusion for evil and light
and the devil who exists to carry the load when we misbehave and
"Anyone who wants to fight me all the time"
is how I know who I am.
Because the truth is always changing, depending on the meeting.
Service to others is a safe bet. That service
may take many forms: fighting, meeting, teaching, making.
The fighting may be part of holding community together. Limited
scope, defensive posture.
"How broadly we define community says everything." So,
we come to Mexico, a violent border and an unhappy history.
Or Gaza and Israel. Or Russia and just about everybody.
"How can a people become a nation without resorting to violence or
incurring violent reaction?"
Does it matter? Accept violence like any EMT and devote yourself
Why do I write about violence, I've almost never
had to fight.
"Anyone who wants to fight me all the time"
is nothing compared to the ocean which can take your children any
The Nazis or janjaweed.
In peace we have our meetings.
"When violence comes to the neighborhood the hierarchy of
communicants will hold or fold
it is then the peace work proves relevant."
Hold your clod of land.
Give way to the waves.
All I do not know.
I admire the writer who penetrates the unknown by describing that
is not himself.
anyone who wants to fight him all the time
helps him live outside himself.
Sun and traffic - day economy.
Six a.m. drive to plywood mill. Too tired
to be angry. Each day a step
toward death. What is being accomplished? The
within each day. Book consciously read.
And frustrations. Package dropped, honey jar broke.
One of 175 soil types. With the fifty
comprising the canopy under which Eric and Lisa clean
their baby's face.
Sun in winter, old apples.
Inside the school
a brilliant but rebellious history teacher
is suspended by the school board.
wearing armbands and painted teardrops
protest. Another 400
Within each structure
human dramas and routines.
Nancy will not love
any man who cannot do as many push-ups as she.
porcupine scat in snow.
How you earn money is who you are. You are
what you do to get food to eat
and shelter from the winter, summer heat.
Each morning I seek God
by holding still
waiting for the smoke to be black or white
coins heads or tails
wind dark or bright.
Flock of evening grosbeaks
nipping maple buds:
the sign I need.
Less need =
2/23/89. So much equipment just to sleep.
More than a bare floor.
wash at stream, find a log in woods.
Implements of human existence
unlike the deer or bear who
nip buds, forage berries.
I cannot eat the gum out of balsam fir
or bark from a popple.
I am not Wendell Berry
with a wife, a farm, philosophy.
I like the accuracy
of counting pear thrips in maple buds.
8/bud = complete defoliation.
This insect has four wings fringed with hairs
and is minute, 2.5 millimeters.
Two species within the genus:
one with tubular abdominal segment,
the other with conical abdominal segment.
Sugar maple their preferred food.
All I need
Names and habitats.
Elements, products, decay fungi, egg masses.
Marriage, copulation, regeneration, education.
Machinery, accounting, hand tools, laboratory.
I need your names
Sexual histories, books read, imaginings, unrequited loves,
significant landscapes, broken bones, periods of boredom,
without mediation, intermediate moments
time in the middle.
Time in the middle
time in the middle.
I'm bummed I never saw a dinosaur, an ice age, a cave man,
even missed the last world war.
Thanks to paleontology, geology, archaeology, history
mind equipped to take
time out of the middle.
It's in our DNA!
Why should she love me, her tenant?
Because I pay the rent on time.
Excellent. The white sun rose
and lit the frost.
Early February, late March, or in between.
discussing family. Sap starts to flow.
Where the borer spirals in, it comes out wet.
Birch or maple.
I watched from the window. Beautiful
but no desire to go out and touch
swelling buds of elderberry.
Is this shrub crazy? It knows what it knows
with elderberry knowledge.
Come Spring, so much to identify and name.
Insects, diseases and new flowers.
Lepidoptera, root rot, the pinks.
I think I might get married too
and watch the moons pass through the mists.
Some snow remains
but truck deliveries must be made.
pushing back the dark.
getting softer, slippery
at the cambium. Sap
and spring are here and there
although only winter birds are in the air.
to turn inside out
I too will not break or run
hold hope bound by ropes of discipline, experience
time the magic moments to come
take the last sleet and pain
slap in the face
glad for predictable seasons.
We anticipate however
drought, maple defoliation, increased gypsy moth infestations
which some attribute to our existence.
That may be true.
Or it may be that the universe
has reversed its decision on us
and there's nothing we can do.
But we will do
what we can
and some things we shouldn't
because that is human.
into the space inside me
unconnected to the light switch, plumbing
fairly independent of materials beyond
food and sound.
Where I pray
like an oak
that the light will enter me
and I will live the meanings in the wind.
and friends. And
by which we know our way.
We should have gone outside instead of watching one
of the sillier, senseless, meaningless movies it is possible
to rent or buy. Winter or not the fields and woods
are at least real, commensal and understandable if
you know the genus and species. Know the genome
and biome. Learn the physics and music.
But this much reality requires an escape, hence
bad movie. A bad book is better than a bad movie.
A good movie trumps a bad book, but a good book is best
and a great poem trumps all. Will my son Zach be one
who applies the scientific method? Can Aaron explain
God's intentions to the people? Their mother and I will wait.
Your past, your romantic past, is a shadow. Like all towns, Port Washington was a combination of rain and clouds, sun and mist, with a chamber of commerce, barrooms and boards of directors, the known and unknown. No one of course is completely unknown. I was known for my tragic love life. She had found another man, a backwoods man, living on the land but not above a night on the town, who according to her would wipe snot on his pants, a statement of poverty or thrift or anger against the niceties of society. All of us heated our hovels with wood but only the rich burned hardwoods, me and probably this guy were softwood gatherers.
There were few aspects to my life. First, I can remember a nook in the kitchen of the house I shared with a beautiful faceless woman who wore a ring in her nose where I wrote and watched flocks of unidentified birds comb a tree for seeds. This particular day the sky was blue with clean pillowy cumulus clouds floating toward Puget Sound. I believe all the poems written in that nook have been forgotten by their author.
Nights, for entertainment, I would wander the aisles of the supermarket, admiring everything and buying nothing. I had no money. The fluorescent lighting, clean straight neat shelving and floors, warmth and the fact I could identify nobody attracted me. I lived on cream cheese and honey sandwiches eating them leaning against the kitchen sink. Thinking go back to New York City which is what I ultimately did. Drove cross country nonstop three days and three nights seeing and feeling nothing.
This was during the Reagan recession inherited from Carter. I'm unclear how presidents affect your life but good or bad, democrat or whig, alive or dead you've got to get a job, which I did. I supervised the living arrangements of developmentally disabled adults in what I thought were humorous contexts that gave no offense. They were beautiful and incorrigible having regular sex without protection. Normally harmless they'd sometimes have altercations with their neighbors. I balanced the checkbooks, paid the bills. Supposedly teaching living skills, I had few of my own as evidenced by my sleeping on the floor, I had no bed. One mature woman colleague judged me a short-timer living a useless fantasy about big cities. Still lost in my own history, still didn't know the calculus.
I had a dog, Shade, black lab, leftover from my near-marriage until she realized I had no economic prospects, no interest in further sex or her logger boyfriend, and a complete inability to translate or imagine nesting and gestation. Like Aaron, my homework comes to me in daily disconnected increments. Shade lived in my gray van, a Dodge slant six, which I could never afford to fix. Once the driveshaft disconnected from the rear axle and I tied it on with rope. Drove 60 miles on a knot. Shade was hyper and sad, both. He smelled bad but was a good dog with a lonely heart. When my wife who wasn't a wife finally found a boyfriend who wouldn't wipe snot on his pant leg they took Shade to British Columbia where I believe he runs free on a vast estate by the sea. I once beat Shade like a slave because he attacked a small dog out of frustration and loneliness and until I had kids and started saying and doing things just as bad to humans it was the lowest meanest moment of my life. The farmer who saw it will never forget or forgive it.
Having confessed all this there's just one last fact to tell. The mountains were cold, the waters clear, deep snow and shadows.
For the accountant, the librarian, on this cold day
there is no revelation. He will go his own way
to the roar of the tinnitus in his ears.
About our war what is there to say. Yesterday
a flock of bluebirds was the only color in the woods.
Have they arrived too early for their good?
Of Judith and Inanna I have Korf's fears.
Inanna is generous, Judith is dangerous.
On each the wise elders depend for sustenance,
protection. Agriculture is sexual
and wars end when men remember cunnilingus.
To savor the young woman's thighs and the old one's food,
to water her womb and cut her wood.
Is this not what's real, the actual, the animal?
The women I have known were bluebirds and crows, such
nuthatches, cardinals, robins, an occasional thrush.
They did not consider their bodies holy,
they found my seduction easy. What good luck
on the bed, in the light of the land, in our youth.
Our enemy eventually becomes our brother,
his misery lifted by coming to her city.
I'm enclosing the warranty
for your shaver In case
anything should happen
I've circled the address
where to bring it
Dad still isn't feeling
well and is going
this week to the doctor I can't
what can be wrong -
but I'm really getting concerned
by the way
did you mail
to the bank
we are going to a wake
for Phyllis Spina.
on Saturday -
Your brothers are fine
they're off -
All else is
Fowl meadow grass - Glyceria striata - the striations
on the lemma. Drooping rachis
a weeping willow of a grass.
Recurring periwinkles, myrtle, Vinca.
Helicopter petals. Evergreen leaves.
Escaped from gardens, alien or native?
A little further by the spruce stand
a new mustard, cuckoo flower - Cardamine -
with pinnately compound leaves. What a find!
A good day turns bad.
After you've died, one of them dogs digs up your grave.
You may sit in the rain and think.
The dark circle inside the flower
a g-string or garter.
O to fail well. To lay low. To live long.
To run slow. Feel the hill. Pressing down.
Do less. Until one thing's done well.
Dick Burton examining Liz Taylor's rectal sphincter for blood.
Sexual love. Pornographic, anthropological, primate love.
Newton wrote the Principia
So only serious mathematicians would comprehend.
"I've been faking my way through life," he lied.
They say the white pine whispers
What the wind can't say.
In the blowdown there's a slow ballet.
I am a citizen of the empire.
Moonlight & heartbeat.
Zach's feet stink.
Flying low, scaring crows.
Watres pipyng hoot.
First, entertain. Then expectorate (spit).
Avoid the I,
Avoid yourself, and enter the void?
I think not.
Summer morning, rabbit in my garden.
Let it be or send a warning.
Let the rabbit eat my peas.
At dinner, Zach asks
about our nation's history, wars.
I say We're taking on everyone, one at a time.
First Britain, then Britain again: "He was the surly English pluck, and
there is no tougher or truer, and never was, and never will be."
Next Mexico: "Death is indifferent to what hide he tans; life crushes
men like flies."
The War Between the States: "Well done, Mr. Cromartie. Time now
Most of Latin America: "Not only humans longed for liberation. All
ecology groaned for it too. The revolution is also one of lakes,
rivers, trees, animals."
Then Southeast Asia: "The slight bump the mortars make as they kiss
the tube goodbye. Then the furious rain, a fist driving home the
message: Boy, you don't belong here."
Now the Middle East: "A land to be admired like all lands. Harsh
mountains and deserts, indigenous plants and people, adapted
ungulates, carnivorous mammals."
Can't forget the Krauts & Nips: "Then I heard the bomber call me in:
Little Friend, Little Friend, I got two engines on fire. Can you see
me, Little Friend?"
Nor the Commies: "You mixed up farewell to an epoch with the
beginning of a new one. I put this book here for you, who once
lived, so that you should visit us no more."
The original indigenous people say: "In time we'll become prosperous,
or else we'll become martyrs. The force that placed us here cannot
I woke up Saturday joyful at my body's triumph
over virus, breathing again without pain and enjoying
winter and the cold that keeps us sane and sober.
But by Sunday my mortality had returned.
If I pass away now, how to assess my days.
Is balancing income and expenditure reports enough?
Our marriage and our piece of land. Dependent
on economy. For food delivery and machine repair.
In my youth, I imagined crossing mountains
to the sea, living off the land. Enduring weather patiently.
It's impossible except three days or three weeks,
with a load of supermarket food on your back.
So I accept home gratefully. And a niche in society.
We could explore these hollows and hills on foot
but my wife is weak and I am lazy. We use the library
to travel inner space. We found this place.
Next spring, a garden. Dig depleted soil behind
garage and fertilize it from our compost pile.
Learn the names and ways of cultivars, their relations
to wild plants and the edge. Finally know the fern and sedge.
Lazy one, life is short. You have never fought, to yourself
you remain unknown. You go the way of an unknown
soldier. Unable to assess the purpose of the battle.
Nameless, hungry, same as the neighbor's cow.
Be happy, slap happy. Within your generation, surrounded
by history. Seeking mastery through practice.
Rewarded with the sunrise, sunset. Yet to have delivered
on the promise expected by the parents of the baby.
Cold, a killing cold
is the best defense against aliens. And viruses, bacteria
are our friends.
Perfect rest, perfect motion.
Another autumn, another election.
So aimless and sublime.
Back and forth, forth and back.
Rock and roll, spoon and bowl.
What a symmetry, calculus, trigonometry.
Measurements reduce violence.
Makes sense. Temperature measures change. Time's irreversible.
Change is all that's visible.
Learn the changes, then forget them.
Lost my timepiece, lost my metronome
now my music is ethereal.
Ethereal or dissonant,
the clash that brings you home from winter and starvation's wisdom.
"Unit, corps, God, country!"
I am outside the circle of sex. Just as well. Population control,
the biome's survival instinct. Or I'm old. Look
in mirror, skin over bones. Young girls
on bicycles, running, have that granddaughterly smile for me,
all is safe, well. Much is well.
The neighborhood safe,
the nation a non-violent helpmate among nations. Until
food shortages, weather crises, nuclear mischief apply.
Police patrols. I was proud of Massachusetts
voting to decriminalize reefer. Let's go all the way:
free all non-violent offenders from their cells! Force police
out of cruisers to walk the streets and say hello.
What else can we try:
Open the border with Mexico. Let labor
flow like capital.
What has this to do with the self,
the temperamental, fragile self. The one that leaves no footprint
in eternity. No smell.
To read or watch movies, that is the question.
When tired at workday's end, depressed about death's
certainty and my recent surgery
unable to contribute purpose
i.e., figure out whether to bomb Iran
or worship Krshna
and other gods such as Homer gives us in the Iliad
I lack vision therefore I choose television.
Chemistry text, bifurcated plant key
esp. grasses, intro to calculus, physics
unopened time slides by inexorably.
That's the dilemma with no resolution,
drooping rachis, striations on the lemma.
Dying chooses you. You don't choose dying.
So go slow as the day will allow.
The cancer patient's real work is facing
harsh realities and making adjustments:
getting the most out of life, considering
what his children will need after he's gone,
preparing his wife, parents, colleagues and friends,
and completing important professional tasks.
Get the most out of life. That's all God asks.
In Life of Pi the tiger is tiresome, short-sighted
eating everything in sight today, no plan for tomorrow.
The boy, however, is beautiful, reading
the lifeboat manual, building a resting place on the ocean
from oars and life vests, writing about his emotions,
loneliness and observations. The tiger's obsession
with killing keeps our boy alive with fear,
an aphrodisiac, a distraction from any hint
of hopelessness. And then there is the ultimate unknown,
the boy's conversations with Krshna which explain
the innumerable stars and their gentle glow.
Neftlix, Hulu, autumn elaeagnus
thorns, small hairy buds, twigs hyper-lenticelled
fruits supposedly edible, leaves elongated, oblong
xerophytic but found in wetland
introduced species, some say invasive
Xbox is invasive
Hulu is the best source of foreign films
and foreign films represent reality better than American
although reality is not always what we're after
silliness, silly sadness, and relentless laughter
letting my web site go to seed
writing badly is the best revenge
eventually yr doctors find something in you they can't cure
causes some fear, gives some certainty
you're required to tell yr sons and brothers about it so they can make
informed medical decisions going forward
let's posit the dead, like the dream-lover or -killer
is you in disguise, a facsimile or factotum
stand-in, an actor or actress remembering lines
which are your memories, or if you're not in movies
divinations of things to come, earthquakes and volcanoes
life goes on without a hiccup
you saddle up with the three gentlemen to the River Friday
where a new life begins without sleep as a soul, at least that's the story
in these scientific times we apply Joachim's Razor, i.e. most likely
the afterlife will be most like the life before life
when it gets too late to exercise
ignore time, learn slowly to go slowly
through life, rise
early, there is no time only change
an empty belly's holy
and a pussy willow's so alive its buds want to burst
in mid-February when the sun stays up in the sky more than January
this is what I write about, not Tolstoi, nor war
not one conversation or love scene between a man and woman
or illustration of what man has done to man
cars pass I never wave
so many guys are belly fat, women butt fat and they want to sit right
behind you in the bleachers eating fried foods and wearing
I like the motionless perfection of autumn elaeagnus
wind in white pines
crows do not annoy but dogs do
a porcupine or coyote is a lucky sight
barred owl or pileated woodpecker
and a black bear is quiet reality itself
I said to the doctors 54 or 84 you always seem to want more when they
said I'm too young to die
I said dying chooses you you don't choose dying, so it's not my fault
yesterday's walk, today's work
there's no percentage in searching for significance, wanting meaning
and no percentage in respecting death unless it's imminent
I admire the writer who writes 10,000 words per day no matter what
who's got plot
a plague or fire, a spider or a tiger in a boat
stolen Louisiana votes or endangered alligators
in my case common pipewort or pickerelweed floating in a northern
egrets, loons and hawks
on yr winter walk cedar waxwings foraging for soft rose hips
and talking like people talk
about this and that, work and child rearing, religion or politics
keeping it light and friendly
eating chili and chocolate chip cookies
passing time watching a football game, the superbowl or a movie
usually a romantic comedy
At peace perhaps too much
a fine Spring rain
we seek news from the desert or capitol
of those who have dedicated their lives to losing their lives
adventurers, ancient honor, land runners
this campaign a must to advance one's career
a war president needs war
bush, insects, predators
the bushman with a staff
no knife or gun
names of plants, languages of mammals,
purposes of insects, placement of rocks
I've read about those remarkable souls who maintain
among murderers and the unentertained multitude
who may have even spoken persuasively
at the right moment for speaking
and thus attracted a now unwanted immortality
there are only two ways you can tell
a bird of prey from a vision - humor and ritual
the Fedex gal
would be unlike taking off Emily Dickinson's clothes
over the counter perfume and spray paint hair
postman's shorts, black socks
a woman's legs are much like a man's
yet she too is beautiful, too beautiful, weekends
boating with her man
Suburbs, lawns, blankets
in a long, long nursery of babies
and, I say this respectfully, blind
certain and uninterested
in motives more subtle than their immediate comfort
Who am I to complain?
Plants, poems: riches
our financial advisor doesn't count. Good and simple
a man as he is. Comes tousled
from early morning golf and puffy
from a late night fight or lovefest with his wife.
letting out its rope down an oak.
Late afternoon meeting
like the dry samara, achene or capsule surrounding a seed
how often have I tried to escape
my manhood, community, chamber of commerce
you cannot drive
the roads are theirs and the signs, perhaps
you can walk if you can name the plants and snakes and are
willing to die
O happy family
there's some contentment in letting community and family
your place in it. Gatekeepers -
unconscious god, invisible hand, natural selection -
kind when refraining from violence
when not responding with force to the universe's effort
to extinguish them.
Appointment to have organ removed by robot-assisted surgeon.
Air-conditioned, no mosquitoes in the OR. When you arrive
You'll remove all your clothes. Naked before the ladies, nurses
Who have seen it all before. Mainly remember you're not unique.
Think about the government while they're mixing up the medicine.
There's always governance even if there's little or no government.
Back to counting backwards. Inside out, if I die, will I know it?
At 70, Jack's running the gauntlet with some skill!
Benny Golson wonders aloud what might have been
Had Clifford Brown not been killed in that auto accident.
Jack's girlfriend once said he was the reincarnation of Clifford
But he doesn't believe in ghosts, karma or an afterlife.
Benny's old girlfriend Betty inspired the tune Along Came Betty
And that's the most afterlife Benny or Betty's gonna get.
I thought the discussion of Citizens United in Foreign Affairs
Was liberating. I had had my usual liberal Subaru reaction
To MSNBC reports whereas this article showed the Court's decision
Will diversify political action and break the duopoly of the stalemated
Major parties. Good for you, good for me, good for the family tree.
Those two gay geezers Yeats talks about, I think I like the serving man
Who stands and waits. As a boy, did he hunt? Alone or with his father?
The Trojan bench being not as deep as the Greek
Once Sarpedon and Hector go down even the lucky shot
To Achilles' feet is not enough to save the town.
Aeneas is no match for wily Odysseus
Although unbeknownst to all he has the last laugh when Rome
Conquers Athens, the Myrmidons, what's left of Ilion
And the whole known world from India to Britain.
It's not bad to acknowledge death's primacy
Although after a while you stop remembering
To fear. That's when everything becomes clear
Purpose v. purposelessness matters less,
Anomie v. rule of law, that's a preference
Love v. loneliness, worth about 25 cents
Or a million bucks in the light of the holocaust.
Nothing but light, love and the majesty of death in the room.
Machines stand ready like marines, their beauty is in the motion
That overcomes inertia. The food supply is deeply compromised
So eat whatever you want. Mourning the dead is part of the business
Of healing and staying alive. When you get to the afterlife, walk with
Ocotillo and cactus may be in flower. The robot does the work,
Its own small order, like a girl on a bicycle with disorder in her hair.
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.
It takes some courage to eat a legume's fruit
knowing what is known of each poisonous part
of the locust (although the flowers may be frittered).
What's pushing up through the leaf litter
before the canopy is out, past the stone fence?
Wild lily-of-the-valley is my guess.
Of 140,000 soldiers, less than 1% have considered
the fruit of the desert surprisingly good and varied.
They have stayed and married women who are crows.
My own land is a land of wetlands but we too
have crows. We have waited and waited for this election
and now we're divided into just two factions.
If everyone votes and every vote's counted there will be
nothing for either faction to crow about. All will be
well with the republic and in the world what will be will be.
What responsibility does a citizen bear
for participating in a war, blowing the roofs
off houses, exposing the beds and clean-swept floors?
Warriors at the gate, you will not run,
you will not bargain. Dig in deep, feet
overhanging the abyss, protect your children.
I poured water into the dry vase of garden cultivars -
snapdragon, phlox, bigonia, bluebell, mint -
and have they not rewarded me with their collective scent?
Sunrise, late winter
playful otter, too.
The white heron
a great blue,
in the abandoned beaver pond.
its long-awned achenes
in globose heads
spidery, fiery, extravagant fruit!
To identify or classify
the complexity or beauty
of their songs.
what is over that
ridge or hill
a sink-hole, a sand dune, a steep bluff.
What must I do. Organize
the heretofore unorganized. The rabble
of unemployed child abusers.
Molesters of their intimates.
Are there dysfunctional bird families?
Simply put, they do not survive.
We have hope
that everyone alive is essential,
consequential. We classify
The commonplace and everyday
What happens everyday?
Morning is quiet, everyone at work.
Home writing, watching birds.
Afternoon, kids come back from school.
Evening, watch tv.
Scotch and Star Trek.
Captain Picard's problems eclipse
ours who stayed behind.
Pray to Allah
and maybe he will spare you
when he sets the world
Where or with who
will I be on that day?
And how many people and adventures
will I find in the wind storm and rubble?
I may live, but will it matter
whether or not I help anyone else to live?
This is no Last Judgement.
Those who have learned or who still know how to live
Nobody will go to hell, they will just die.
There is no limbo either.
Anyone who didn't find a way to be immortal is just dead.
So, what am I trying to do.
Organize the unemployed, the welfare mothers
into a flying chevron of purposeful explorers?
The doctor's conscious, organized,
naive attempt to do good,
his legacy, versus the randomness
of the road and the war zone.
There his legacy is his rectitude and natural
rough compassion for the damaged people
he encounters. The difference
between planning a legacy
as if you knew enough to control events
and letting the legacy arise
from events themselves, controlling,
insofar as you are able, only
your own actions and reactions.
The doctor's leadership role such as it was
grew out of not his material possessions
like the car
but his mission, his personal quest
to find the young doctors he had naively trained
and sent into the war zone
where all died.
July-a cold city
not as great or as gritty
as I thought, summer theater left
the shoe shine bereft of customers
eyes cold as a bureaucrat's
except for our soles
and their leather. Sweat-soaked
girls, the beautiful ones left town.
Emotionless as a bus.
Sparrows, no chickadees.
All that's important happens indoors.
Exercise to philosophies.
You get what you see.
The panhandlers ask
just once, won't risk
No sale today
in the finite city
where, for the shoe shine,
pedestrians are infinite, times two shoes.
Faith = wait + trust.
But don't anticipate.
Popper prohibits prediction.
Niebuhr expects destruction.
I believe in God
doesn't mean there's a sketch
of a man in my head. It must mean
all will be well in the end.
Satisfied with snow
or summer. And now
with dying old or younger.
Gold or paper clips. Gulps or sips.
In the final resting place
in the city of the dead
are there all night card games
and sometimes open swims?
Each inch, square, or cube of Earth
brim with grasses and sedges, dragonflies and spiders, sparrows and
The tiger lily and the water lily and the lily of the valley, the calla lily.
When a girl on a bicycle smiles, that is a smile.
Anyway, there is love and death and governance. With the birth of my sons, love was fulfilled. There is no romance left in love for me, women are another form of men. Perhaps their toes are painted rather than blood-encrusted, but blood runs from their bones, their eyes are friendly as camera lenses, muscles hungry. Death continues to be my every third thought, fittingly. Occasionally I feel strong, but when I don't it's death waiting. I think I know it's a waste of time to imagine being dead, as if being dead were a form of living. It's not, but last night I was reading about the efforts of astrobiologists to identify LUCA meaning Last Universal Common Ancestor and FLO, first living organism, and that gave me a calmer feeling.
Bringing me to governance, the subject of this book, how we manage together between birth and death. What can I say that hasn't already been said by Aristotle and Plato, the Republicans and Democrats, Hamilton and Jefferson. To start, your daily discipline is a personal governance. There are many ways to know a person: by their god, by their fears and appetites, by how they spend their money or organize their time. Who is in authority, who is in command here? On the other hand, leadership passes around and across the table as needed and the one in authority is not necessarily our leader.
I live in the Berkshires, a mountainous community about 140,000 strong. My irascible, aggressive temperament toward my fellow citizens has exiled or sidelined me to a peripheral almost insignificant role although when I arrived I was considered a problem solver, even a savior of the poor and the wealthy classes who feared for the future. Why mention this. He who knows patience knows peace. I have surely lost face often in my life. As a kid, lost most fights, as a man, chosen last to lead the squad or platoon. Only when every known leader had died did those in authority decide to use me. Someone must begin to write the federalist papers for the world. And, of course, it's being done and heard. Books in print, blogs, debates. My vision is a world where you can fly from Madagascar to Mississippi and be greeted by a sign that says Welcome to our land. Go about your business, setting off no bombs, and fly home. Perhaps take a lover for one afternoon.
The machine and the season are so far incompatible. The machine claims electrical problem. The house leaks from rain. The men who left the machine have started their own business. A new endeavor by which they will keep warm and purposeful. The junior partner, heavier, says the Grand Canyon's not so grand. Jaded individual or one to set himself against the depths, abyss? Man's systems. Man made the machine (and the town) from rocks mined next door. Some few men understand these invisible electrons moving the machine to perform. I still cannot imagine, i.e. my mind cannot move fast enough to know how so many particles can be sorted and split so quick to make words on a screen. My simplicity is terminal.
Today it is fall, early October. First day for long-sleeved shirts. The boys at school. I admonish Zach not to whine and complain about the work. Lately reading or practicing piano, prone to fits of frustration. To the point of claiming belly pain. Last night I dreamed I had pushed him to suicide. It is so important for a man to do no harm. This is what makes us crazy against Wolfowitz, willingness to kill to do good. Someone very sure of himself and shining, much wiser and more compassionate than me, has calculated for the world that more lives now for fewer later shall be sacrificed. The people he serves are cantankerous, disorderly, selfish and complaining. The same diverse, spoiled, unpatriotic revolutionaries as at the nation's beginning. Their refusal to be more than the sum of themselves is their saving grace.
Politics can be an escape from the personal, the debates are of little interest to a man in hospice. Will the machines do their work? How will we make decisions together? Roger Johnson's gravel pit must be killing his neighbors with the noise of boulders being pulverized to rock but Roger is certain his business is necessary for the public good. He knows he has a right to use his property as he sees fit. There is a noise ordinance, a state employee will travel out to measure the decibel level in your front yard as compared to the ambient noise level. There is a measurable amplitude beyond which the legislature has determined no citizen may be exposed or corporation go. It can be measured.
Measure for measure, all's well that ends well during a midsummer night's dream for the merry wives of Windsor. A million or more poets but only one Top Bard. How did he know so much about kings and fools and murderers? An Elizabethan and no Freedom of Information Act. Today it is fall. The legislature and president are at work and so are our machines. One by one and then in armies the leaves come down. It is not that someone must decide, we must decide how we will make decisions and where authority resides. What am I learning, sitting, watching the season turning? Content this morning to admire my sons' photos, reread my own poems searching for the prize answer, and answer the phone. I seem to be alienating potential business partners with a take it or leave it comme-ci comme-ca attitude. All you can do, the best that can be done is to go to your daily discipline. Driving home or waking up at night I think I'm dying. Do the much-admired writers of our time die more content than that?
War all the time. I've been fond of saying what distinguishes America is its daily low intensity warfare. Endless but not fatal conflict. Chambers of commerce, municipal government, big corporations wrestle nearly naked and will lie as needed for what? I tire like an 80 year old man of the storm and worry. I remember my early years when I had no known skill to offer and elections occurred without my vote being solicited. I noticed no harm or good I did was noticed. Autumn was all mine, mine alone, I was alone in the world with autumn. My mind could not stand it. I cried out for comfort, someone to obey. I needed to grow up and know money.
Anyway, what's this about, I'm not going anywhere, I chose to stay and hold my clod of soil in the landscape of community oh blah dah. I want like Shakespeare and other writers to discern the motivations of women, men, see through their lies to a humorous truth careless about success and able to explain why what happens today or on September 11th obtains. I was impressed by the critic who found that Shakespeare in Hamlet had tried to write about the thoughts of a man suspended between having decided to act and the act itself. Why bother he soliloquated why commit or submit to the great moment when mere men of bones and dust, disgusted with themselves and others are the actors of the moment, beheaders, rhymers, debtors. And, of course, the answer comes to one in the night like Chuang-tzu, or Lao, why not? The great moment is no greater than the small and the small no smaller than the great. You perform the history that surrounds you and go to your daily practice.
I'm something of a systems guy. I want the truth and death and worth to be independent of individual motives, paranoias, prejudice, peccadilloes, virginities, crucifixes, paradoxes, protons, protozoa or curses. I want pure human machinery, stainless steel, clear thinking, even handed, not a doubt that every doubt is wanted, needed, good to the last drop toward the ultimate ignition into outer space, colonization of diverse planets and immortality of the genome. Here's what's odd. While enduring ever more frequent panic attacks (and nudging toward survival and self-sufficiency my offspring) pounding and pinching my skin to stay sensate, maintain consciousness, I parabolate (always orbiting myself, eye on the tip of my penis) to another extreme, i.e. my belief mankind can escape the earth unlike Hamlet's dad's ghost.
A system is a set of inputs - values, policies, objectives, procedures, data - organized and repeated to generate significant quantities of desired outcomes without redesigning the system for each individual outcome. I design systems that allow people to do their best work regularly and predictably - instead of intermittently and by chance - and to produce outcomes in quantities large enough to make a difference in their communities. So I told Josh Rubenstein from Amnesty International at Ron Heifetz's daughter's coming of age party about my plan to reorganize the U.N. so only the democracies can vote and no nation has a veto. He said the world's not ready, with absolute certainty, knowledge and authority. I looked out the hotel window, this was shortly after 9/11, at dozens of American flags and a lone security guard. I'm always right I said to myself.
northern autumn afternoon
Pitcherelli, ex-marine, body-builder,
Lussier, long-haired father of three dark-skinned children
and myself, sharp-edged loner, ex-lover of a fair share of
are belly-laughing in the dying sun. Clouds.
The crew, among trees.
over recent visits to marvelous cities where
we could not keep ourselves from touching the terminal buds
of numerous exotic trees
and attracting ridicule of stylish girls and tame boyfriends.
Pitcherelli before the Albany bus station
shaking hands with a red pine planted thirty years ago.
Lussier, one hand in a child's hand and the other
feeling scabrous bark of urban woody plants.
Myself among partially shaved heads and leathery aromatic
getting close to the hairy bud of an unidentified poplar or
laughed, but we laughed best
back on our mountain
under the blackening weather.