I say I'm a designer of systems, plans
Parts that stand together, set in place to serve
Trees and planets, too, which are unplanned by us
The observant, wise man
Tries to understand
Name the parts, pistil and stamen
Winter is shuddering to an end, mud roads
Robin flocks return that will soon pair off
Will I live to smell it again, learn the lobelias
Understand and name the parts
It ought to be a great comfort to be so insignificant
Go among weeds, a wind
Thinking to myself
One's never alone
A dichotomous key is needed, a book of twigs and fruits
Accumulated over time and generations
Without it mine would be a blank mind
To be blank but knowledgeable
Without any machinery
In a perfect silence
That is the definition of death for which we have only to wait
But in my panic last night I thought death's inert
Grace requires consciousness
Hold on long to the senses
At least a century, maybe more
A boy hanging upside down from a fence at sunset, counting
Now we go to our daily practice
And chosen disciplines
Sustained by the satisfactions of being good men among our
Choosing to do this and not that
With the finite days allotted us that at first seemed like a lot
They're now few
But the chickadee's life to the chick and the cankerworm
moth's to the worm
Seem as long to them as ours to us
What question am I asking today
By now, past half a century, I should have chosen a discipline
And been satisfied
To be a war president one must have war
May you live in interesting times - wish or curse?
Squirrels, high in oaks,
Fiber, fat and protein in acorns
Strong runners, leapers, climbers
Should stay off the roads which some cannot avoid being
where they're born
Natural selection is occurring
Those that look for machinery in motion
Hesitate or don't as needed before crossing
Live in larger numbers than those whose modus operandi's
The ravens eat the fur and guts of bad guesses off the roads
I impose my own small order
Having chosen mountains over plains or shore
Go to my daily discipline
And estimate the motions of the seas and stars
Measuring my satisfactions by my children's satisfactions
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.
In a strong marriage, a long marriage
much cannot be said, should not be said.
The spots on one's skin will be wisely ignored.
Differences of opinion are tolerated, not debated.
Your memories may disappoint your partner
as not those she has selected, refracted.
Over dinner for two at the Mill on the Floss
it could be dangerous to compare wills, losses.
Or it might result in belly laughs, Shakespearean
revelations, the night he got us lost in the woods
or she peed her pants at a party. The marriage was Faustian,
in a good way, like going to a job in the Garden of Eden.
Having survived 25 years, knowing 50's impossible,
what else do we know? Raised 2 boys, painted 3 houses.
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.
There is absolutely nothing to do. Some people
fall in love. I go have a cheese sandwich
with mustard. Watch skyscraper lights from
the bed. Look at the books and decide to read
none of the dry words. The cheese sandwich is
good, and orange juice. It's cold in the kitchen
so I go back to bed even though it's Spring.
Some people go dancing in fish net stockings.
They find a good time - but exactly what this means -
it's not more important than a star. Quite
what is this waiting. Tonight I could disappear
and the world might not miss me until next year.
I remember passionate nights with some of the women
I've known. Two sides of a smooth stone.
Accepting aloneness, incomplete solitude, imperfect rest. The garden
wasted, pumpkin patch planted late, potatoes untasted left in ground.
A thousand email addresses, each unique represents a flame of
passion, compassion, desperation or depression. To understand, to
impossible. It is therefore only reasonable to observe the shadows
on the mountain, the actions of the dreamer which tell us something,
little, nothing of his dream. It's a simple secret shared,
longevity. The half breed John Russell says it right, the
date and place don't matter, dry desert or cold mountainside,
lush bottomland, soulless or hospitable, contagious hospital.
The best laugh's death's, a perfect escape, perfect error, perfect
rest. Their solicitude's unnecessary, grief is temporary, life goes on,
you go under, underemployed, the undertaker's never unemployed.
Forensics prove an ovary with two chambers, ovule adnate to the
Beautiful summer day. You know you're gonna die
that's why you know no joy.
Obsessed with self, there is no answer
unless religion, tv, stories, sports matter.
So what if nothing rhymes and I don't
bring my life into an expressible state
or fight purposelessness, anomie. No one writes.
Running the gauntlet alone. A good day to die, the Apaches say.
For men like us dying's easy, it's living that's hard.
And since dying's much like living, that's hard too.
There's some contentment in letting community decide
your place in it. We're not talking to you.
Really, it's a perfect day. Every leaf is out
that's coming out. The grass is high
and unidentified yet another year. Being knowledgeable
is the best defense against your insignificance.
Can't stop the quince from blossoming
or my sons from smoking, speeding.
The best that can be done or said's a blessing.
Less tv, less guessing
about the effects of your anger unless
you want to be an angry man forever.
Coming from the funeral with friends,
talking on the telephone. OK about being alone.
Alive, almost sure of it. Whether I'm a visitor
to my life or the actual owner.
Mature poets steal, most are masturbators.
This house could use a good cleaning
and emptying out. I should subscribe
to the local newspaper, do my job well,
do less until one thing's done well.
What would that be? Old, and yet so young.
There are a million poets, I'm poet #500K.
Plenty of mysteries, infinite philosophies,
prayers, laws and unwritten rules.
That's why we go to school, life's complicated.
All I do not know: ATP, probabilities,
the glorious revolution, meiosis and mitosis
and all I'll never see, the bottom of the ocean,
the palm at the end of the mind, a wolverine.
There are certain indicators, undeniable,
inexorable. Forget-me-not, is that all I want?
To get lucky, you gotta be careful first.
To be great, you gotta be willing to sound BAD.
Although we cannot make the sun stand still
yet will we make him run. Brave revelers.
Signed engagement letter attached.
Attachment to self and to things to do.
What is appropriate to say about the changes
in your life. That at 23 I was confused
under the sculpted pines about a girl.
Quietly my friends and I contemplate death.
A subject, until recently, unknown
to us in such a variety of forms. Nuclear flash
to exploding blood vessel in the brain, control
eludes us. Heirs to a society adept with numbers,
we run in the park and eat whole grains,
increasing survival odds.
The city and the mountain are two hard anvils
against which our hot lives are shaped. Love
is the fire, and the need for love. To be shaped
by the lover's warm hands, like clay.
Alive, almost sure of it.
In the intermediate zone between heaven and hell
opinions and complaints, after much moaning, may
come to be held in common.
The way a flock of chickadees
moves through the woods, cheerfully,
each bird taking a turn on point.
All meaning must be found, here, in the middle zone,
notwithstanding fears that rend and own us,
of dying unknown.
A Spring day
the flycatcher broke its neck against our bay window
I buried it, somewhat reverently, in a shallow grave.
No differently, really, than I would a man
who'd died suddenly.
Who'd left footprints in the snow
which became wild lily-of-the-valley, running pine
then snow again in time.
After long enmity
Sally hugs me, asks if I've been happy.
A moment in a year.
February, the light is long, more direct.
It's meaningless, repetitious
but held dear.
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.
Almost Spring but only February
almost February but only January
only January but almost March.
Almost everyday I play my trumpet
almost every night I ride the trains
every midnight I'm on the trains.
Almost every morning I turn on the radio
every weekday I go to work
every midnight I ride the trains home.
Everyday I spend at work
almost every weekend I play the trumpet
Saturday I ride the train downtown.
Almost every night I get some sleep
only everyday I go to work
every midnight I'm on the trains.
Almost Spring but only February
almost February but only January
only January but almost March.
Policy or personal
questions? In the poem Two White Wines
a child adopted from Cambodia
is a thing of beauty, and so she is
as she showed herself to be yesterday. Lovely. However
the poet implies market, i.e. economic, forces brought her
when, as her parents know, it was war,
the sad Vietnam War or the War with America
as I think the Vietnamese remember it.
Honor and bravery
equal courage. Reed Whittemore's poem about
a photo of Viet Cong prisoners, stoic, defiant
under an American officer's boot
expresses admiration for the enemy. Then and now
a dangerous sentiment. Your fellow citizens, denizens
of convenience stores, even your family,
may come to see you as the enemy. Once ostracized,
not belonging to the loved ones, you're not long for
this world of dew.
Tits and ass
Ken says, describes America's culture, not its poets
or jazz. What's worth fighting for?
Your land, your right to be stupid on your land.
Now there is one large land, one people
and many. The vote is a crude, monosyllabic grunt,
no way to express the subtle degrees of experience
our long lives represent. Thus,
it is good, when the family gathers, to talk,
each person speak
of what has been forgotten, forgiven and forgone.
Trading or taking
every family must be tithed or taxed.
Every man who finds his meaning in war
will be pained into wisdom and gentleness.
Who comes home
comes home to a future that bypassed the fighting, or did it?
The oil must be sold,
even Saddam or Osama cannot withhold it.
You can drink your quota of water
and still your heart can ache.
Empire or democracy
of nations? We can choose to be the reigning kings
between the last empire and the next
or we can implement a vision
of collective deliberation.
America the seeing-eye dog,
not America the junkyard dog.
Going question by question
toward predictable, transparent governance.
Example: How can a people become a nation
without resorting to violence or incurring violent reaction?
Should we invite the neighbors over for dinner?
Their politics so different from ours.
All the more reason. Combat anomie!
He's worried the town's losing population
but opposes immigration. I like immigrants
but hate passing people on my morning walk.
The whole mountainous western region of the state
is losing population at a rate of 1% per annum.
The young move out, the old stay put but
young artists priced out of big cities move in
looking for affordable studio space. How low
can the population go as long as rents stay low?
We did agree about the fire department expansion
being premature (him) or unnecessary (me).
He argued we should renovate the high school first
the roof is caving in and walls crumbling.
But you can teach under a spreading chestnut tree
or baobab and science needs the world more than a laboratory.
I teach at the old 2nd St. jail in Pittsfield
a town that doesn't know if it's coming up or going down.
A few shootings last month, no deaths.
They're holding their breath but also trying to attract life
science businesses to the industrial park. The local bank's
expanding, buying smaller banks in neighboring civilizations.
Eventually our fire department got the vote they wanted,
just called another meeting and packed the auditorium.
The final winning argument was we can do the school,
the fire house and the police station all at once.
Don't accept defeat, limitations. Defeat anomie!
Anomie means lawlessness and purposeless in Greek
so that's not exactly what we're trying to defeat.
It's the mismatch between our aspirations and resources,
no, the dissonance between our tribe and nation,
no, the individual as sexual animal and intellectual,
no, the farmer and the banker, the loved one and the litter,
no, whatever happens to you after you die and belief in reincarnation.
For me, it always boils down to mortality
every conversation, which is why no one comes to dinner.
Whether the fire department buys an exorbitant parcel
at the expense of a future school renovation
in a town slightly losing population but still viable
with a college, bank, artists and a few working farms
is everything and nothing, as Borges says.
Deutsch says death ought to be curable.
The new high school or fire station, conditions like anomie
v. democracy, new life forms, self-conscious species
from the laboratory or the biome. How de body?
Today ok. Tomorrow I don't know. Potential
energy, lover, killer, anomie. Karl Popper
had such faith in the rational whereas Niebuhr
acknowledged man's ego is uncontrollable except
by force. Conflict is inevitable. But at dinner
we agree it doesn't always have to be violent or terminal.
We can do the fire department, police station, the school and anomie.
In last night's movie, a young writer
and an older, married with children French woman
fall in love. They did not meet during a village massacre
and money is no object, Manhattan
the place I was priced out of. But after everything has happened
she cannot leave her children, not even for love, because of love,
the love that brooks no serendipity.
Here, in my family, love is taken for granted
except when it's withdrawn and then even the trees lose all meaning,
familiarity. Now it is almost dawn:
this and that must get done in committee or alone.
Don't reach, go slow as the day will allow.
But that's not what I came to say.
Perfect rest v. having a destiny.
A complete breakdown in self-discipline.
It begins by saying nothing I do matters under the eye of eternity.
Hamlet x 5 centuries.
Add to that all the science--chemistry, physics--calculus and music
I don't know. I have sat next to, at weddings,
brain surgeons and robot engineers. I hit the street
choosing a church on Fifth Ave. or Trinity Cemetery, walking the
In the subsequent late night movie, a wealthy
altruistic doctor arranges for the murder
of his neurotic concubine. His guilt provides us
with an opportunity to consider
the concepts of faith and forgiveness, that all will be well in the end
after a period of meaningless suffering.
In this way the seasons have been circulating for eons via convexity.
I don't know what I'm doing but I'm doing it anyway.
You trust in genetics, God, prosthetics or prayer, whatever
gets you to the morning. That's when the sun,
a billion trillion nuclear detonations per second
warms yr bones.
You may remember an old lover who's gone before
or continues to exist on another plane, in another ecstasy.
Having installed a new toilet seat
and made a few philanthropic donations
I can kick back tonight and watch movies, right?
Not. I'm ridding myself of another addiction
like illegal drugs via caloric restrictions
getting enough sleep for two people or more
and reading none of the dry words in books from the library.
When there's nothing to do, when I'm bored or dreary
I'll sit still and watch from the window, I'll wait
for the weather to change, which it will.
"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.
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 personal is boring
as are my ruminations on the war.
What I need to do I can't try:
wander without shelter in the backcountry.
Or go deeper into the polity,
join a committee or a party.
Minute by minute and season to season
I like my life but what does it add up to, what reason
to go on? No better than a squirrel
or a spider. Spreadsheets, fake books, girls
I want too mildly, modestly or morally to have.
Can the economy and community be called love?
You can be killed and buried in gravel
Your children can be failed at school and marched to war
You can be taxed and sent to gaol for the honor of it
And there's nothing you can do about it.
Will we find the universe not large enough to hold us?
Will planet after planet be too old for us?
If you were president, what would your program be?
What one question is the key
to another's truth. How do you spend your money?
Do you believe in a god who can see
all and understand? Or is he
unable to care, a different species.
We take the long view
that as individuals drop
from sight, new enthusiasts
will associate. Legs
give out, lungs collapse,
but we do not let the circle lapse.
For every Aristotle
there are a million toddlers
who will advance no memorable
theories. But the mist
on trees and mountains,
sunrise over desert, are for
every merchant, traveler.
My sons will take on cares,
which toys are theirs,
as their parents grow
older. Slowness brings us
to our goal: do one thing well.
By that what is meant?
Don't be a dilettante.
Not having found the greatness
of a single, clear description,
definition, the greatness comes in
doing everyday what's known.
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.
Why make a sound or noise
or do anything to the page?
Unison playing from polyphony,
music evolves toward simplicity.
Gould's assertion that complexity,
NASA, is no more certain than a drunk in his city
weaving, heaving his guts into the gutter;
by any measure, evolution's favored bacteria.
Therefore, the earliest poem taking joy
in abundant crops and the lover's body,
2K B.C., followed by Yeats' Lapis Lazuli
offers the completest hope to us, easily,
for living this life without God's help
or even probability's. We meet
in the meeting house, argue and pray. We sit
with the dead who gave their genes to whelp
ourselves. Today, and then, the one question is
What is the polity's interest in the private soul?
Being free means belonging to the loved ones.
O the individual, alone, cannot be whole.
Governance evolves to democracy,
man accepting sole responsibility
for his thoughts, his wants, his words. Pure,
vibratoless genes from a polyphony of wars.
The poem requires a mind
that finds meaning, even divination,
in language. Non-fiction,
up to academic standards, demands
evidence. Nothing less will do.
Most of us read fiction and this
needs a taste for action, motivation.
Lately, as have you, I have
thought about our war and its purpose,
motivation. But I have also closely
listened to the wood thrush, analyzed
its song like a tune by T.S. Monk
or J.S. Bach concerto. One belongs
to the loved ones who ostracize us, too.
The robin, on the other hand, is never calm.
It is the flute-like tones, yes, but mostly
the patient, meditative clarity
of the thrush that enchants. One wants
to be that bird. How will we attain
calm clarity for the species Homo sapiens?
Through the discipline of asking questions.
A terrorist bombs, a dog barks,
we do not know their motivations.
Can I be content to be silent
while the evidence is sifted by the many
to a single answer. The World Trade Center
could have been a sacrifice, queen's sacrifice,
ending history for global governance.
Too much doing is the commonest of mortals' sins.
Peace has many faces,
the wood thrush in the canopy is one.
A word of praise here, an encouraging word there.
A wraith, a ghost against a busy man,
verbose, sure of the path, always hungry.
Nothing satisfies like the thrush's song.
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.
Blackbrush -- Coleogyne ramosissima
the dominant understory shrub
in the pinyon-juniper canyons.
Mountain-mahogany -- Cercocarpus montanus and ledifolia.
Single-leaf ash -- Fraxinus anomalus
and possibly a western hophornbeam
by the small birch-like leaves
and the shredding bark
in a moist stretch of joint trail.
The joint-fir, green ephedra
looks like an ocean plant.
Could the wind or white water rivers alone
have shaped these sandstone, red rock forms?
Network of canyons, inverse of mountains.
It had to be ocean
ebbing and flowing, emotionally, like wind,
moving atmosphere, thicker
shaving, scraping, polishing, gouging, digging
then, shallower, dinosaur swamps
now, dry, rock gardens.
Explain the human history with water:
did the Anasazi visit neighbors
along the canyon rims and deep within,
combination caves and red-rock houses
small windows, doorways, just crawlways,
with corn gifts on summer evenings
when the canyon bottoms held permanent, not intermittent,
streams? After them
came the Ute and Navajo, Spanish and English.
Ravens dine on road kill.
A few long red roads connect some canyons.
The unprotected flats are overgrazed, rabbitbrush.
It is interesting
that as I learn the woody and herbaceous plants,
walk the desert foothills, I too could stay.
How to break an addiction. Decide to live.
What can I learn from my pain. Danger.
And friends are merely friendly, live on independent
of your injury. You will not be missed in church on Sunday.
Grass. Weed, broccoli, burrito, stink, pot, skunk.
I'm talking blue grama, upland bent, smooth brome,
riverside panic, wild rye, fowl meadow, spike muhly,
sweet vernal, salt marsh, bristly foxtail, little bluestem.
Reefer is unhealthy, opens lesions in the brain,
wormholes into hell, yet should be legal. I'll vote that way.
It may ease the pathos into non-existence
well as meditation, bird watching, last will and testament.
Each joint hurts, rib joints, spine joints, skull plate joints.
The head and hip and heart will hurt, all three.
Insomniac I like the way bones crack and clack like
wooden wind chimes, an untuned piano, a tree rack of wornout
Never forget, the mind is the body paying attention
to what it does. Without that connection, each finger bent
or toe smashed is just added to the collection
of anonymous body parts of holocaust victims
in their mass graves. Better when every life saved
or lost is a front page story, an illusion of shared
sacrifice or joy, but that expresses only the surface
of our emotions. I'm mostly relieved to have survived.
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
Last night dinner
with four other couples
and a drunken single girl
points out the difficulties in living together
and apart. One woman, just married,
is clearly a lesbian.
son of a wealthy doctor, disdainful of
inebriates more artificial than the moon,
full, full of joy for humanity
suffers deepening depressions
like the dark outside a lamplight.
It was a good restaurant
expensive but comfortable
in the alternate life-style way
the cook was a hairy
and we clowned though beneath each
was turmoil and decay.
beside each other like bones
in a boneyard
and find joy (I do anyway)
in the bone dance
to bone music.
How I love bone music!
the freedom within communality
comrades in our individual weaknesses
but powerful with the totemic voice.
I cannot make order of it
I care not to
Without a thought for slash fuel
or deer, the mist
deepens and deteriorates upon
the mountain. The mountain
of its greenness. The ice
is centuries old.
A red-tailed hawk
floats above the unit
observes what small mammals, birds
are in the clear-cut
or fades away almost
silent as the mist. I dream
of it, though I am awake
among my co-workers, the bullet
system zinging cut logs down
to the road, firewood.
me you mountains
for coming to the edge
without mystical knowledge
or belief, only love and wrinkled
eyes for the women and men who
light the fires and wield the chain saws,
drive the cat, swing the ax, I
completely laugh among them like a god
yes, although my face is a mask of hate
and pain, what god does not come to this field
of flowers out of fear and confusion and chains
product of the hot anvil and hot engine
of human history
this duality, these arm-breaking dualities
this volcanic eruption erupting from some
confluence of beheaded forces, one
powerful with eternity, one
blinding with intensity, meet
and in the middle is me.
You mountains, you dinners
tear me apart with the pleasures of living
like a husband and wife fighting
like two dogs fighting but not biting
hard, like my old poems (a pleasurable
conceit), life (something serious?)
bests my best synthesis of it, and
I begin to pray, hard to believe
I begin to pray in my poems, I
smile but I begin to pray, for
this prayer gives no hope, no belief,
no past. I begin to pray
and say nothing but the same words
repeatedly I begin to pray, amazed
for the red brick houses, for the dinner couples
for a happy combination of sun and mist
I begin to pray for nothing I begin to pray
for long life in the lean years I begin
to pray for none of these things
instead I pray without words,
I begin to pray without words.
If, as they say, the cells
of the body are replaced every seven
years, then I'm a new being
since my sons were newborn.
I have died and been reborn
neither better nor worse yet remembering
feeding them while dancing to Moment's
Notice, as they attended with new minds.
Having died, as such, I find I do not mind
quiet living with the purpose of a cell
unbound by minutes or moments
as men know them. There are seven
deadly sins, seven ways of remembering,
seven stages in which to have been or continue being.
None of them recur after one's reborn
and none are known to us from before we're born.
Of the two young people to whom I was born,
one has lately died. I do not so much mind.
Although I do not, he believed he'd be reborn
and who can say what happened to his soul or cells?
Perhaps in Christ we continue being,
or with some other deity, as the churches claim monotonously,
demonically and deviously. It seems about as relevant that
rhymes with heaven and rhyming's a mnemonic device (for
what? To go to the daily discipline to which you were born?
I fought seven forest fires, took seven
lovers, my sons are seven, and my mind
is the sole owner and subsidiary of these memories and
Unless I am to be reborn
they disappear with me. Masefield's poem continues to be
the most honest and chilling assessment of our souls' and cells'
disbursement. I can imagine stem cell
research may lead to a cure for dementia, loss of memory
about who you are and where you've been.
If one's not been born
this doesn't matter. But if you're being reborn,
in the sense of "he not busy being born is busy being reborn"
then it is best and most correct to consider your last moment
of a continuum with moments endless and entirely in your
The mind is made of cells and moments, seven billion of them.
Remember to be born and reborn, early and often.
The debate between free will and fate has taken a hard right
turn to neuroscience, Brodmann area 4 the primary motor
cortex of the brain located in the posterior frontal lobe
(the one cut out of the one who once flew over the cuckoo's nest).
This area of the cortex has the pattern of an homunculus!
a little man, a troll, the all-wise, mandragon, the golem of Jewish
This little man has a penis that, when fully engorged, is
equal in size to his entire body. However, diseases
such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, Lou Gehrig's and
are gunning for him. His basal ganglia are garbled
and he ends up giving poor advice and making bad decisions.
Who can say what happens to his soul or cells or if all will be given
I was listening to the famous astronomer on public radio
who expressed the certainty there is no death, your soul
is immortal, it exists outside of time (but not space?). That's because
time exists only in the human mind (as does the entire universe
including the professional baseball season which is canceled when
By Spring, my problems will be solved or ignored, either way is
"Imagine if we taught baseball the way we teach science. Until they
were twelve children would
read about baseball technique and occasionally hear inspirational
stories of the great baseball
players. They would answer quizzes about baseball rules. They
would practice fundamental
baseball skills, throwing the ball to second base twenty times in a
row. Undergraduates might
be allowed under strict supervision to reproduce historic baseball
plays. But only in graduate school
would they, at last, actually get to play a game." --Alison Gopnik
Groundhog holds the knowledge of death without dying
for man needs help from every creature born.
Will the holocaust wipe the smile off the face of our romantic comedy
or will laughter outlast the outburst?
About the dark times will there be singing?
Yes, there will be singing and some of the songs will be sidesplitting.
Solving the murder reveals the city. Nature of kinships and economic
who loves whom and why, when things happened and how they lost
and found themselves
in what happened. Because a meter-making argument cannot appear
from nothingness, purposelessness, just cold.
He does not go where he was supposed to go. He is in the desert,
Sonoran desert, counting cactus buds and ocotillo blooms.
This is the afterlife for which he has always longed.
Even in the last days you need clean clothes;
therefore you may be found in the laundry
mornings, small task against the larger one
of not breathing. With simple joy
men may forget to fear their deaths.
Six inches of snow reminds us of its dominance
in a pleasant way. Coming and going of sleep,
circling of the moon around the earth, earth
around the sun. The great man dies
and this makes death more noble for us all.
It is with joy that I accept the pains
that herald my end. I do my job well.
I go to the well and break the ice for water.
The bucket comes up full of dying wonder.
To presume to write to someone about courage
and not complaining, don't importune or make dying people cry.
I've always said Leave me alone with autumn.
Don't stand around my bed, I won't be in it.
Over 7 years after he died, I finally looked
through my father's papers. Couple of unclaimed insurance policies,
savings bonds, our genealogy and on graph paper in an engineer's
block lettering quotations from The Seat of the Soul.
Reincarnation and karma are the chicken soup of the soul,
the after life is the reward for our colossal imperfections.
Along with banking instructions, he'd underlined
this: Your soul is immortal. It exists
outside of time. It has no beginning and no end.
Every time you ask for guidance you receive it.
If we are not at home in the world, contributing purpose,
we lose our desire to stay here -- and we die.
The physical world is an unaccountable given in which we
find ourselves and which we strive to dominate to survive
or it is a learning environment created jointly by the souls that share it
and everything that occurs within it serves our learning.
Sin is activity directed toward self rather than toward service
to others. Sickness is sin. Almost any condition can be corrected.
You are part of God, therefore, think in a godly manner.
If you cannot accept this, forget it all. Do not even begin.
The first act of free will: How do I wish to learn?
If we participate in the cause, it is impossible not to participate in the
We shall come to honor all of life sooner or later.
Until you become aware of the effects of your anger, you will
continue to be an angry person.
Walking is the most commonly suggested exercise. Also, breathing.
"Thy will be done." Concentrate on that!
These expressions of certainty, conjectures and guesses
were inscribed by him in block letters on graph paper.
Herpetologist meets actress (Cameron Diaz).
If he's funny he's me.
South America or Africa (on location).
In a diamond mind.
The protagonists (lovers), the diamonds, the miners and the minders.
By minders I (he) mean (means) watchers, organizers, supervisors.
As all art must: choose a focus.
The personal is political said Cameron on the night bus to Quebec.
I had never met a girl so willing to make love in public.
Open to it.
To what extent is violence necessary? And
is that the essential question or
should violence be accepted as man's state, fate
a more essential question existing beyond or below
peace or war. Perhaps
the religious and (for the irreligious) sacred injunction
against egregious violence exists
to still ourselves
to open ourselves
to the deeper question. That Cameron Diaz is funny and beautiful
is hopeful. And the telescope and microscope have extended
the eye's appreciation. Under the microscope
Cameron becomes a collection of foreign, alien, uncompassionate,
organisms. Frightening, inexorable, fascinating
to the scientist in you!
To the telescope
vanishingly small, infinitesimal as the farthest sun
smaller by magnitudes of magnitudes of ten
and incinerated in a nanosecond. Gone
from the movie (photographs the contents of which move
for the naked eye).
I cannot help what I do or hope.
Anyway, it's a love story
or science project, socio-political documentary. An essay.
An essay about how it is actually impossible to say what you mean
but it is possible with a lifetime of meditation and study to shut up
and know what you meant.
Now I'm deaf.
I can see Cameron Diaz but not hear her.
The guy, the herpetologist, at first colorless turns out to be
colorful as a bird or snake!
He knows a lot about snakes, and birds! Not only how they mate
but what they eat
where they rest
what they do with their pain. Do they get depressed?
Can they have guests?
How do they judiciously employ violence to organize and defend
The international collective remains insufficiently organized
resulting in violence and threats of violence that interrupt
commerce, procreation (love) and the pursuit of happiness (Cameron
at least for certain populations, sometimes.
Otherwise, most men, most times, live in peace excepting
flood or fire God or man may
choose to impose.
I lay in my bed and listen naked.
Have a good day (Diaz).
The goddess does not exist, except as bone.
Around this time (July)
the queen yellow jacket (redcoat) searches
blind and deaf
for a ledge or cavity to build a city of her descendants
safe, that they can defend.
and sleeping peacefully, overwinter. We, however,
remain active, Cameron Diaz makes winter movies or
love stories in South America, and I
delight to imagine her herpetologist. Or one who
discovers the sun
around which a habitable, understandable, compatible
orb orbs. Or
maybe the movie's about the revolution, soldiers dying defending
this dictator or that dreamer
and the movie completely failing, not even trying, to explain how
the sons and daughters of the dying soldiers (miners) feel
fishing alone, hunting for wisdom, thereafter.
Sure, these men chose violence, not Cameron Diaz, and were not
farmers, botanists or herpetologists
their tools could have been and should have been the telescope or
but are there enough microscopes and telescopes to go around
and did we not (taxpayers, movie makers) encourage them to
defend Cameron Diaz?
Man's world is insufficiently organized to preclude violence
in allocating resources (Cameron Diaz).
When we invade Iraq
to defend our allies and interests
with rockets and rocket throwers, Rockettes and Cameron Diaz
each man (each Diaz) must make his
own individual choice
whether this war
is worth fighting for or the next or the worst.
Go to jail, go directly to waterboard, at the hands of
your local police, chamber of commerce.
Learn how to walk the desert and the universe.
The names of rocks and planets,
that being the only answer to the hyperorganization that is a cancer on
our insufficient organization.
I was reading Foreign Affairs
The Case Against the West by Kishore Mabubami (Cameron Diaz).
How can I relinquish my privileged position
sit still, lie naked
until what constitutes consent of the governed and non-violent change,
to her herpetologist
In the debate between accessible and difficult poems
Poets' poems and poems for people
Only the single poem and private reader matter
Both kinds and anything between can matter or not
Solid or made of air, a vase or heavy clay ashtray
One word repeated or many like a lei
An acquired taste, like wine, and like wine
Not sustenance, yet men die with their miseries
Uncut without it, news and mere matter
I advise everyone to keep a personal anthology of poems
Or not. Perhaps it should be novels. Stones, insect wings,
Feathers, Birds you've seen, People loved.
What do you think
of the man peeing, the ever-shitting mouse?
Finding meaning in killing
and cleaning house.
Sal quit school,
your lover stops writing.
a lazy-eyed tiger.
Or everything's cool
even the fighting.
The weather is perfect
for swimming or dying.
the best blood pressure medicine?
about my mortality
but also glad
to be leaving the party.
The noise was incessant,
The demands of my neighbors,
Belonging is longing
for complete solitude.
the loneliness of being spouse.
Rain of April, rain of August
writing of it dry as dust.
What's my reason, rhyme?
Pass the time, pass the season.
If you're alone as you get, why are you crying?
Hold steady until a tsunami.
Then swim if you can. Don't gulp.
Hit in the head by speeding debris. Couldn't be helped.
Spring and spring.
Clouds of maple.
Skies of pine.
Red in green.
Spring and spring.
Skunk cabbage spathe.
Black birch sap.
Spring and spring.
Wasps won't sting.
My father died.
Town meeting Monday.
Spring and spring.
Sing fuck you!
There's no down side.
Spring and spring.
Spring and spring.
Boots. Old bed young.
Spring and spring.
Rang and wrong.
Thank and thought.
Seed and sawn.
Wait and walk.
Spring and spring.
Certain days planned to be eventful
I look forward to for weeks, setting
and characters, and the work days march forward
toward the horrible or pleasurable
and the day comes, it comes without hesitating or hurrying
although I hurry and hesitate
and when it is here, going by
during my hesitation or hurry did I
think what I wanted to ask?
The Aberdeen bus arrives, deposits and boards
the same people daily. One is the dark-haired
chambermaid at the tourist lodge, awkward
in her print dress and wearing a scowl. Her
breasts look soft although her legs are
The sun dominates the weather
this summer and with blackened face I buy a
popsicle each day and come closest to distant
childhood. This is what the chambermaid notices
and scowls about - the popsicle and sneakers of
a grown man. On a summer night what passions
would I find in her?
We take our place in the pattern
of daily activity, pick-up trucks with crews
arriving and leaving, uniformed rangers narrow
in their imaginations. Two ravens fly together
over the unit, the ravens are behaving like hawks
lately, beautifully. Both my memory and sense
of mystery are bowing to knowledge of death.
society. It takes me along. Our role is not
to understand it all. The wheel on this piece
of machinery, turning of the night around the stars.
Spires of green fir against the sky's blue blue.
If man, the monkey, explodes his earth, will my
bones then float among the stars?
and the blue green earth are what the chambermaid
and I may share. She and I or another man,
me and the naked women of the past. What weather
there has been this summer, best since '79. Felling
trees in the forest, I look uphill. Two ravens float
like hawks, wind, no sound.
I am feeling the shock of fast change. How to cope with it is of course the question. Listen to Beethoven through the neighbor's window? Look up from the page? Appreciate doves even though they are so numerous? I seem to have limitless choices although this cannot be true. Could I have become a computer specialist? Sure! How to remain still in the ever-maddening mandala. To remain still on the outer edge of the wheel is to ride laughingly and pluck at the gold key. I force myself down into the craw of the black vortex New York until I feel the strong oscillations gather rhythm and expel me or accept me.
What do I find within the black electric walls of this unique vortex? I find there is more space between people than I'd ever dared to hope. That my efforts are unnecessary and hopeless. I cancel my subscriptions and stop eating. I embrace wild roots and run through streets with arm around my girl.
What is important.
I part my lips in the middle
eat corn chips, dipsy doodles
make love, eat grapes.
In their mere chronology
events have no relation. How was making love
different from eating grapes. Differentiation
is essential to bring order from chaos. The chaos
is the accelerated change created by our own species
whose consummations have a quantum effect
on the environment.
But the chaos
existed long before, and long after us
in both more serene and violent forms.
Again a duality, but here's why.
each duality may then be said to be in a dual
relationship with another duality, forming
These cubes are difficult to join
with other cubes, unless first they are
We were traveling among
these cubes, maneuvering
through a static array of equidistant points
but finding it impossible to avoid striking them.
So why the difficulty adapting. Because no species
before us had to adapt to its own effects upon
environment? No, every species must
but our adaptations (of the world) are so successful
(such fabrications!) One green, one brown
Two dead leaves
Then a breeze!
Loveliness and loneliness
they sleep apart/together
sometimes not always
using sheets of white nothing madly
connecting, splicing, parturition
continuing to birth life and ideals
like ants or any other species.
Tree, each poem, begins
and ends and giving up
to life's forms
surrendering to greater force, power, strength
whatever it is called, the clog of heels
upstairs to the door, turning of
the key, the taking out of the
garbage down below, car
starting, placed in
anyway, for myself, personally, speaking only
for myself, because although the Parks
Department rakes the leaves as it
did last autumn, to keep them
from clogging the sewer system,
I am in a heightened
state of vibration
like a long steel pipe banged hard against an
iron beam. The hard hat feels it in
his hand (on the gears) but
great buildings are built that
nature destroys in time
with a little wind
air, you glide down through the limpid air
toward the ninety-seven story abandoned structure
remnant of an earlier civilization
abandoned but not yet entirely
swept away in slow waves
These days I forgive myself everything. After all
I'm alone and unhappy so I give myself a little treat
whenever possible. On summer nights I remember
the good women who loved me but live with their husbands
This is not an easy life but I'm not afraid. Despair
leads me to talk too much about myself rather than
be transcendent. I trade push for shove with the world
and sitting above the river feel I could move the globe.
If I could stay out here on the roof all day,
get stoned and read the I Ching, write a few lines
and forget my troubles, I could be happy
today. Then I would go to work tomorrow.
But I rise at dawn and drink some orange juice.
It is good with ice. Buy a newspaper going to the train.
In this lousy life we work five days a week.
An Indian could gather a week's food in three days
and go swimming in the hot afternoon. The pleasure
civilization offers is a drive past fast food joints
on Merrick Avenue to a sea food restaurant in Freeport.
Almost everyone I know is dissatisfied with life
as we have been pressed into it. The system gives us
cancer and heart attacks and repressed sexuality when
I was born to be sensuous and enjoy another's body.
Instead I slug the world and the world slugs back.
I have five minutes to finish this poem. I remember
the smooth women I have known, remaining in bed
all morning. Our big ambitions are our curse.
We uphold our end of the society.
While it's true that I'm not happy, I'm very amused
at the craziness I have let myself in for.
Hopefully it's only one year of sleeping in my clothes
without a woman and drinking plenty of wine after work.
I listen to someone start a car downstairs, but that
is not my world, nor do I know any of these eight million
I live beside in the crotch of many waters. Above
Broadway Saturday, the geese fly south for winter.
This morning, in twenty minutes, I will go downstairs wearing
a shirt and tie and jacket and carrying a briefcase.
I will tear myself from the pleasures of tea and breakfast
to arrive at the office where each day my happiness is
I accepted humanity as a natural part of nature. When
I did that I had to pay the rent and get a job, too.
A famous samurai crosses a plain in winter
looking for work. He comes to a farm community
but the farmers have no use for his skills. So
he removes his swordbelt and sets to work digging.
It is temporary employment while the seasons change.
The sky is gray and all of the women are occupied
warming their homes. None look up from their work
except to glance at the strong samurai digging.
Why is he digging in the frozen ground? The poet
knows little about farming and less about fighting.
He has put the samurai to work at a pointless task.
It is too early in the year to begin digging.
Nobody pities the pointless samurai or gives him food.
He ties on his sword and starts chopping wood.
These bird songs, this January morning, I look
for a way out of life. The Texas woman tells Marc
stories about the football players she's fucked.
Although I complain like a blue jay about it, life
has accepted me. Walking uptown with Stephanie it's clear
how much the Empire State Building I've become.
Nevertheless, we make our own decisions. To fight war
or not. They are all my friends, I work for their success,
but choose my poison independently. For me, laziness
and anonymity when I could have been a star.
Newspapers indicate there is much to discuss besides myself
but the Muse seems to disagree. My few friends and the age
will look quaint as a daguerreotype in the light
of the holocaust. I kiss the girl of my dreams.
Again it is almost Spring. It gives me only pain
to think back on past Springs when I seem to have been
someone else. The people who lived then live today
in the same bodies but changed in every other way.
Of course I must continue, with or without good humor.
What was amusing in my youth, that God's finger
could move me to another square, now makes me fear
old friends who are dead to me and yet still here.
The veil of life is thin if one doesn't believe in mystery.
Frequently it blows and reveals the thickening body,
alone, without a soul. One hopes for a consort who
through her own pain has become gentle and simple too.
If only I could share this life with a good wife.
But she would only be unhappy and bring me grief.
In Cities in Flight
transformations are chronicled over generations.
It can make us cry
out for the genius occurring
now and in our past. How
the unseen, unknown participant
was made known to himself
through devotion to those outside himself. He
guides his city
So, the father and the teacher
guide the family and the student
through the close spaces of knowledge
and obligation. And perform
the history that surrounds them.
Good actors and directors,
philosophers and physicists,
soldiers and foresters.
steam rose from the asphalt
because the sun
has arrived in place, powerful, equinoxal
as the human song
that receives it.
Two big deer
Off the open road.
Above the Oswegatchie.
forester since '57
marks a stand of maple and black cherry
for selective cutting. His actions today
will be noted
by another forester, also acting alone,
in the 21st century.
New York City
in a froth of creativity
Pacino and Sheen in Julius Caesar,
Sonny Rollins at Town Hall,
films opening, one
that portrays the flamboyant style
of a barrio public school teacher.
You cannot act alone.
You must belong
in your heart
to the flight humanity makes in Spring, north
toward wild flowers
in geese chevrons.
Pocket knives, tape measures.
An extensive collection of coins.
Nails, screws, numerous sizes, and sets
of nail clippers, files, polishes and brushes.
Shoes, always shoes. And dresses.
Shirts and ties. Loud and quiet.
The sick and the dead are forever quiet,
never quite quiet. Our solicitude's unnecessary.
Playing cards, backgammon games,
chess. Every move's a variation on the next.
And so it is with words, numbers,
shapes and sizes. Feet and hands,
knees and eyes. Why and where and how won't matter
once we've divided the bags of clothes
among the poor and destitute. It's not too hard
to laugh too hard. The son and daughter deliver them
and then go home. Clocks and watches, letters, wallets.
Photographs in which the name and face don't match.
How many poetry books = 1 Nissan Pathfinder exhaust
How many bluebirds? Money is how we thank people for
what makes them special
How we express our love and gratitude.
Weight and moods, up and down, with weather and outcome
I am so sick of humanity, people. Wouldn't I prefer
Then I get home, that is the comfortable tree hole I've been
Aaron pitches and plays piano. Zach likes lacrosse and math.
The mound was soft, sand, with a hole big enough for an urn
or to hide a plover
But Aaron pitched carefully anyway, slow strikes and the
opposing team scored.
What would God's work be? Meaningless question. Today's
Write fund raising letters, conserve small farms. Local food,
local jobs. Don't transport food coast to coast. Save fuel,
In my opinion the dislocations resulting from climate change
and global warming will be within man's adaptive capacity.
On the other hand.
Also, green industry will open a vast employment market, a
job for every grackle, crow.
The good life, unsustainable, we're poisoning our children
although my children are not so poisoned. They're bald.
Unusually bald. Good looking bald. Future of man bald.
Bald eagle. Nesting, mating near Karen Sheldon's, a
conservationist, philanthropist, on the river, whose
husband recently died. During romantic dinner on a
second honeymoon in Paris, so I've heard.
That's Jake's spirit come home as an eagle, Karen said. Isn't
that great, I said, and the she-eagle he's nesting with!
--I'm gonna kill that bitch.
Compare Captain Carpenter and In a Prominent Bar in
Secaucus One Day. In each case the hero's (heroine's)
Under life's duress. Anything located in Secaucus, NJ could
not be considered prominent, could it?
In the end, clack clack takes all. Hard to end a poem better
than that. Clack clack the crow's beak, upper and lower
mandibles meeting. From hunger, or it just does. Crows
clack clack to communicate.
Whitman's greatest poem is Out of the Cradle . . . also
involving communicating birds, in what is initially an
embarrassingly emotional display. All that italicized
moaning and yearning. Get away.
Then, clack clack, he turns on you. Death lisping, straight into
your eyes. Suddenly you realize you should have taken
him seriously, been paying attention.
In the meantime, traffic, corn, new exhaust system, ask for
money, save farms, poor people, sun on garden, whole
wide world, wars, stars.
I gave up long ago on a quiet world. Now going deaf. Then it
will be quiet, too quiet.
No more birding by ear. "No more fucking." I mean really . . .
I was moved as anyone by Hall's honest poem about Jane
dying and I guess fucking can be music to someone's
melody, stand for living, but not me.
No more birding would have had more meaning. I'd rather
bird than fuck. No more fucking, no more worry, no more
Which is why I'm gonna kill that bitch is so funny, such a
At first I worried Karen really believed the eagle is her
husband. Maybe she does,
But that punch line makes her the kind of woman I want to
The only problem with 'Moonstruck'
is Cosmo's moon could never be so large in winter,
stand for luck.
Mid-winter sledding brought joy
snow, speed, although the kids were beautiful
none were boys.
Walking the boundaries, and the old field
boundaries. Aged maples, barbed wire
past the cambium.
Northern hardwood all the way, except
less than an acre scotch pine plantation
and a few primeval spruce.
Pendant spruce cones in tree tops
colonizing the old field too. Conifers
a primitive civilization.
Lyonia has red, scaleless buds.
Shrub or small tree, maximum height 12 feet.
It's a heath, Ericaceae.
Small, white, bell-like flowers become
seamed capsules, similar to but smaller than
The buds had me thinking red chokeberry,
Rosaceae, but of course the fruit
was completely wrong for a rose.
A timber stand improvement now
in the scotch pine would encourage tall
even straight trees, a cathedral.
The maples on the upper rocky slopes
where the skidders couldn't or wouldn't go
are impressive as eagles', hawks' nests.
Mid-summer, Spiraea, field of pink flowers
fully encircled by mountain ranges.
Bees working them.
Nancy, the broker, coming at five.
These 160 acres, a dream, are unnecessary.
Offer 500 dollars per acre.
Not an investment, a sanctuary.
Backed against the Taconic ridge,
real moon rising.
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?
Crows, bluejays and pigeons
talk this morning. Closest we come
to wilderness here. Autos screech
and sirens scream. Only 7 a.m.
My fat belly and possible cancer
worry me. With a few months
to live, I'd search the wilderness
for some wisdom I missed. Or
plain beauty of natural randomness.
Knowing that, why do I remain
in health? I must devote my
present to my future existence.
The bluejays complain long after
everyone else is silent.
Love and friendship need the body
and society. You belong, you want
to belong, three days in wilderness
and you gladly return to
lovers' arms and plumbing.
But one day you die. And this
is the ideal independence you sought.
This death is the pristine aloneness,
the untouched wilderness and
freedom from necessity! And
it is certain. You do not save
for it. You do not worry that
you may miss your opportunity.
Dad's bark is worse than his verse.
When he hits it doesn't really hurt.
The dirt outside the house is soil.
The mouse inside the house is life.
Can't escape the printer or the car, IV
bag, heart monitor, a billion trillion stars.
Snow descends, each flake unique.
My sons' friends, each infinitely
a Greek or Trojan hero. Our morals:
hit not the girls, nor rape. Love more
than you are loved, by a little. Give
but stop before it hurts. Stand together
or fall apart. Which candidate you vote
for less important than to vote. Don't
depend or dote on leaders, housekeeper
and president are gods equally
remote. The human body is a thing of
bone, a strange upright animal, and the
telephone a mystery to other animals.
Everyone and everything is spinning
electrons and the space between.
A great crunch, inverse of big bang,
yr big sister told.
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
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.
Working over Birk's Works and other tunes my saxophonist admires--
Cheesecake, Blackbird--for the theoretical, applied mathematics inside
or alternately an abstract audial harmonization of the Big Bang and
Would you rather have the fever break or something great happen
The young senator or never pissing glass again.
Look one way, from another come the heart's missed beats.
Can I call you back? We're trying to get my truck out of the mud.
Who does he think he is, Nelson Mandela?
"Lieutenant, this corpse will not stop burning!"
Writing cannot save you but can it ease the way?
What does Tagore say?
More movies about dying men.
Will my letter to the editor be in the funny pages?
Will I even be able to read it?
Did I send it to the wrong address? I've seen my death face and it's not
Maybe I can watch your varsity games from a viewfinder in the
If I don't finish The Iliad, maybe there's a library there.
Maybe. Maybe is a long, long time.
Read an epic to the bitter end.
Visit with friends? They'll not come in, so no need to hide out.
I never had anything wise or gentle to say to my parents.
About bladder function. They got the same treatment
as every other soldier. Which systems shut down first
and how. The mail keeps coming even after you've stopped barking.
Notwithstanding an impending tsunami
we must figure out why there's water in the basement.
Always nice to have a mystery to read on the plane.
Each poet, every essayist, has what's called a voice,
a personality or, more accurately, a deep crack
repellent and unmendable, that the writer must forever try to mend.
Homer tries several ways to explain the slaughter:
by describing how a spear pierces a warrior's jawbone or armor,
how Achilles' and Agamemnon's hissy fits contribute to the pain of being
and how the gods, esp. Zeus, are passionate, confused, obtuse.
A callow youth even as a man. He was afraid and therefore could not
comfort or help.
Perhaps he has a question he'd like to ask but isn't sure what it is or how
to ask it.
The hero loses urinary control.
The virtuoso loses interest in her bow.
The expert forgets to do the research.
How do cancer cells and bacteria cooperate to kill
the host (you). The way yr mum & pop
fuck you up. It's unavoidable and it's not your fault.
Two people cannot see the same way but they can teach
One another their ways. One gives up body and soul
To follow the flow of the historical woman until
He can close his eyes and glide through mountains effortlessly.
He gives up earth and he gives up air, he gives up being touched
But he forgets to give up desiring to be touched. Then
One day the sun is hot or the moon is full, he desires
Uncontrollably to be touched and he flies smack
Into the mountain and never comes out the other side.
You live to prepare yourself to die. You leave behind
A wreck of strewn projects or a few icy pearls.
Incredibly you leave your voice behind saying
Over and over again the same words. You leave
Memories of yourself behind as pictures in the heads
Of people who wish you weren't dead or hadn't been alive.
They wash the pictorial body, shave it, comb your hair
The way they liked it best, cut a little here, add a little there,
Then easily, easily and kindly forget you.
Two hundred years later the wall crumbled and burned.
The ashes were spread logically across the plain,
A mathematical formula could describe the distribution.
The ashes were like seeds and from them
A thousand higher walls were made. It was lovely
To see those walls breathing imperceptibly
Shifting their glances so slowly as to go unnoticed
Behaving as if they were dead.
If I breathe, they breathe. If they are ash, so am I.
Having tried to separate myself and failed
I donate my body to science. The wall needs me
To breathe and hear. It gets my ears and lungs.
Trees need me to cast their night spells.
Are they asleep or are they dancing
A primitive fertility dance in the forest?
I choose trees because they can watch everything
From the distance of longevity.
To them I donate my soul.
Everything should be made of earth.
Earthen walls, earthen homes, earthen bodies, earthen sex.
Nothing should be made of air. Earth should inhale
And exhale air. Air should whip and caress earth.
Air should dry it out and crumble it. Earth.
Water should wet it and dissolve it. Earth.
What is the function of fire? Fire makes earth permanent
And then fire makes earth into air. Water
Makes earth into mud. Mud makes earth into homes.
Homes make earth into walls. Walls make the earth breathe.
Breathing makes the earth crumble. Crumbling
Makes the earth seed.
No words, oily body sweats, city summer.
Desperate to get out and never return although
stalled on Triborough Bridge I admired the skyline.
My city, my death, I did it my way.
Counting your blessings a healthy activity,
the park out my back window, a job that pays.
But I am losing strength to fight
for the world in my imagination. Acceptance of reality
makes me a fossil of society.
Basho in old age found strength to walk
deep into the mountains. He visited famous sites
up north. Po Chu-i traveled mountains in his dreams.
You can leave at any time. You can return
without being seen. A way to learn
your insignificance, freedom to have never been.