Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I fought the legends at the Mercantile Exchange;
they were shouting bananas for squash. As soon
as I entered, the room grew quiet - 'hey ain't you
the guy from the orchard, picking peppers every
week?' some sidekick yelled out and I nodded.
Just like something which had happened before.
I'd read sometime back that everything Yogi Berra had
ever said was unique and interesting, but I sensed
it couldn't be true. Where's the drama in 'ball 1 or 2?'
And anyway, it wasn't like he was a wise man or anything -
just a bum in a short striped suit denoting baseball.
When someone reaches the finish line, they usually try to stop.
It didn't seem to happen here - everyone stayed milling about.
I'd put on my jacket and already gone out (that curious
twist of time) and that had brought me to Bethlehem to
Nazareth - the Pennsylvania towns - wherein all
things were solid rot, tundreled folderol or
Christian prattle. Moravians, bums, and the
indigent, all mixed up together.
'Never a place like this should be.'
I went into the antiques store : two women selling
trinkets and an old retiree selling his collection
of old toy cars. 'This is my retirement now,
all what keeps me busy. I got two pensions
from Canada and Social Security coming
in each month. Nothing to do, this is
my retirement.' He started repeating
himself, telling me over and over
the origin of each of the toys.
Metal cars, rubber cars, plastic cars,
vinyl cars, repainted cars, original cars,
one-of-a-kind cars and mass-produced cars.
These were all only toys. Jeez, I wanted to flee.
Someone else had a huge framed portrait of Jesus.
They claimed a 'likeness' I never saw, and where
they got that idea from I never knew.
But I knew it was time to go.


I met the man from Zenith Point,
the one with two heads and two extra eyes.
He was pointing straightaway out, saying something
about reason and facts and possible endings.
There was nothing like him - it was said - in the
entire western world. A soldier of shellac, a martyr of
mosaics, a craftsman of dangerous duties and details.
At that recognition, I let it all be. I said nothing.
I nodded back and grimaced when I thought I
should. He had a wife named Lucy. She was shoeless
and often entered their shack from the complete other end.
I'd grown to like her over time - mostly because of her
smell and her potatoes. She played drums with the
Pond deLuc Banner band. Mostly at the Friday Night Socials
or at Doc's Soldiers' Hops. It was always fun to see her.
They had a tax man always chasing them. His name was
Antonio, but I simply called him Gramsci, like the Italian
patriot he never could be. He took it in good stride.
Screwdrivers, hammers and nails; buckets of cobbler's glue,
leather punches and twining mittens. I got to know all
these things just from reading the audit papers.
Over time, let's face it and let me admit to it,
I grew tired of the whole thing and just
walked away; glad as I was to be gone.


(the wide, open Sargasso/a pirate's life)

I too was waltzing Matilda, hopefully, I figured,
right off the same gangplank we'd come in on.
This masterful speaker, the Captain, was effusive
in his oaths and daring but totally ineffectual in
his results : men had already mutinied twice over;
those two, anyway, hanging by their necks from the
yard-arm. Some nasty birds of the sea had been here
already - once picking out their eyes and another time
pecking away at their faces. Someday very soon,
I figured, they pop the bloat and we'd all be sprayed
with their slop. So much to look forward to on the
wide open Sargasso.
I'd met her once before, in the seaside brothel near
Baltimore. Totally fucking lovely she was; little did
I know she was paid to conscript bastards like me to
a deadly pirate-life at sea. I'd fallen head over heels
for everything about her : her tits, her pussy, her wide
thriving hips and beautiful lips. It was over in an
instant; drugged and stupefied, I was taken away.
We all awoke at sea, days later.
'How could you have done this to me?' I asked her
lethargically (for it little-mattered now). 'I did it
for us, and I'd do it again - just as I do it for all other
men.' Whatever that meant, she tore off her dress
and sat on my face. Not a bad start to a bad life at sea.
The flowing, flowered dress, I noticed, was floating
towards the edge, wind blowing it along. Twenty minutes
later I (along with three other blokes) was done with her
as she was with us. Sated - in that proverbial way of
Paradise and the Ideal - everyone slept it off on the deck.
We awoke some time later, fearsome wind howling and a
straight falling rain : as only rain at sea can be.
She'd re-dressed herself and was sulking along, yet happily.
My life after that wasn't much.
When we did reach Portugal and Spain,
for her, I took the Lord Jesus' name and
Christianized myself (again). Every life, they say,
has a second act - and if this was to be mine, I'd be
sure to want it back by making good on every notion.
Salvation, like sex at sea, is all in the motion.
I later lived a very good life in all of Europe's ports.
As for her... she stayed by my side, as a good woman ought.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Phoenix Gargantua, a name on the wall;
something as ancient as both myth and
archaeology too. What enormous gyrations
brought forth such a shudder? The flap of
your wings would change the wind or alter
the flow of time and event. Professionals have
parties in order to discuss such things over
canapes and cocktails. We, by contrast, have
our paltry stares and peerings. I myself, so
engaged, look for trackings on huge eggs, or
spottled larvae and parasites on your hide.
Amidst this wondrous silence, nothing is to
be found. I wander, instead, these museum rooms
looking for notes and markings along the walls -
anything to tell me where I'm at in contrast to these
other massive assumptions. In my own fevered
dreamings, I cannot unbelieve the Man who walked
with the Dinosaur - it's all that foreign and distant to me.
I want, in fact, to believe such things - my own mythmaking,
unmatched for charm, in the halls of this museum cairn.


Not for the constabulary nor for those who weaken
are all these things left here. Like poor-willed
pioneers only reluctantly forging ahead into something
new, we notice how they examine what's before them:
something for mending, that iron for pressing, those
shears for the cloth to be cut with. Realizing that this
is, after all, a mental ward with a work-section
contingent, these inmates are soon kept busy.
'It keeps their minds at the ready, at least for those
who can, or for those who have minds left' - he said
that sadly and sheepishly, as if he knew already
it would be considered wrong to say.
But it was alright for me, as I understood
precisely what he meant.
It was all those blue shirts that gave it away.
Inmates, guards, patients, everyone almost
seemed alike. Bending and sorting, talking amidst
themselves or TO themselves, it seemed as if
some weirdly wired magical moment was set
to explode any second. I did all I could do to
look away, but the infracted expectation kept me
riveted to it all. I noticed the bare light bulbs at the
top of the concrete wall, with a dim light settling
out over the room. Dim-wits, dim-bulbs; I could
here those dumb jokes already about.
'Take a deep breath' I told myself, 'just
take a deep breath and go on.'

Sunday, December 28, 2008


I am sad and this is pure. So what?
We are swimming together in a deep,
dark-blue sea; something like the Aegean
but not. The lithe wind, no fiend at all,
merely whispers along our faces.
There is nothing other than this we could
be doing, or should. The provided
shape of this day is ours alone.
Sometimes we are given givens -
assumptions we all must make,
achievements to which we all aspire.
It is like this today : a great sunlight
on the water, the smooth sound of sea
all around us, the clap-clap of wavelets on
wooden boats.


I entered sleep this day divorced from all things -
reading The Broken Tower in my dreaming and
assuming nothing but a human song within my ears.
I nodded this way and that, in a dark gray fuse,
the way those entering death are said to waver.
All was wordless, yet I drowned in these words.
There was far too much to take in :
activity furious a'boil, strange cauldrons
of steam and intention, wispy images
of ladies and gents a hundred years past.
The angled light sourced from some
celestial bright I was not entered on to see.
And then all sound was an echo reciting famed words...
'the bells, the bells, broke down their tower...
and so it was I entered the broken world...'
whereupon, like some lamb afire in the
presence of its Maker's stern flame,
I awoke once more to take my turn.

Friday, December 26, 2008


The wandering of the idle seems endless
like a lake filled with nothing but water, endless
unto its very bottom - which we never see.
Such evasions have no definitions and are
merely filled with matter in some other manifestation:
a fir tree, shaking in the wind and rain, or another
dose of sleet, slapping slanting on the face.
Above us, where the moon with some meaning
calls out to the tides, the uneven sky is black and
pocked with little stars. Something seems moving
in the air - a strong blackness roving hard.
I can refer to nothing - there is neither watch
nor clock to tell time by, nor sunlight to mark
the Heavens above. Would it were so, I would
definitely know the hour if not the minute - yet how
little in life truly depends on the time. Everything
just happens, and only later do we recall, sometimes vividly,
the exact hour and moment and minute and second.
By ersatz definition, this becomes our time.
We share space like a needle shares cloth:
we enter it, we pierce it, and we're out the other end.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Seasonal festivities - you know the kind -
mar the air. Soil the premises. Clutter
up, in fact, even the cemetery.
Those damned teddy bears, stars,
mangers and wreaths seem staggering,
and everywhere I look another peasant
has fallen to their knees. Suffice it to say -
an overdue life is ripe for the picking
and we are late, for the mourning has
already started (in spite of false joy).
What is it they all want?
Deliverance? Sustenance? Surety?
Salvation? They can have any of that,
really, for a pittance if they only try.
Yet, instead of the effort, they cavort
like children, infantile and stupid too,
before things which have no meaning
except a careening defeat and a genuflection
before cash and all its old fake promises.
If you look up, that star stretched across the
street in lights has another star far above it.
That other one is real, and distant,
but present nonetheless.
Find it, oh heedless one.


I have never washed the face of love
with anything like this before :
gold-splattered hyperbole or
silver-rimmed nettles excepted.
In either case, my hands would
be found holding something other
than what was meant.
You have become the juice for my source,
the sap for my tree, the elixir of a hundred
deviations from the norm. Whatever it all
is, I just let it be, and, in the knowing
you are near, find a way to compensate
for distance, for time and place.
If the distant skies are vain to show their
light by morning's fading darkness, I will
willingly cooperate in that deceit - the
half-moon still perches within the morning's
dark light, a darkness almost fading away
but present still...and then the new blue opens
into something new again.
Apparently too, it is all as simple
as breathing, or thinking a thought -
nothing doubtful, nothing measured.

Monday, December 22, 2008


Tip-tap the anti-social animal.
'They'd rather not be part of a crowd.'
Lane-trippers slip forward, gauging only
the space for themselves, as it's needed.
Wherever they veer, rubber gloves they wear.
It's like all of Chesire Town, or even Marmbaly,
had left its meadows intact and allowed things to grow;
to stay-put in place, or align to where they may.
It's a perpetual freedom of pure happiness and grace.
Lincoln Town is only a bit distant from Center City,
which in fact is near to the old historic center.
The grand old Second Bank Building,
now a colonial portrait gallery,
is filled with listless faces
on tired old canvas.
It is borne with a certain pride, I'd think,
this public display, the urge to preen
and to show. Unlike all of that,
I myself am so tired
I simply could die.
I've seen none of this since the Spring,
and then the late Summer, when
everything was beautiful and in bloom.
Sidewalk characters. Guys playing
guitars, singing folk-songs
while beautiful girls walked by.
Now it's a desolate world, and
I'm so tired I could die.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


..(a farce)..
There was nothing going backwards but words
and the cage, and I'd already tired of that,
so I attempted putting you in the picture frame
by the random window but quickly realized you'd never fit.
And we had flowers in the flower pot and some orchids
by the window west - nomenclature had failed us
as I recall on the Twelfth of Never (it was once called) -
which is different from 'it once was called' in a conditional way -
and it ended up not mattering anyway because
the pilfered lampshade had come tumbling down
and the air-fighter-pilot with the message-jacketed lightning rod
had just started talking and the curtain rang with sound.
Lights, camera, action was all the rage;
while the astronaut in the diaper was the current image
of the newest art to be seen : five men in a red sedan,
three corner dogs in false tiaras barking with a smile,
(yes the dogs not the tiaras), and someone was
heard to say 'let's run to Jersey City',
while another person grimaced at all the bother -
for it's easier to ride anywhere like that than to run -
and Journal Square holds nothing anymore anyway,
any dollar store you want, any Aztec two-step mongoloid,
any Asian rip-rap food-frenzy mama
holding out her loins for all to see -
but they went anyway in a fifty-seven
Ford Fairlane of the sort never seen,
like some dental assistant's car
all pink and white - reminding me of gums or
bleeding gums anyway and breaking the
speed limit - always an impossibility in that heap -
though never an option still sounded like a good idea
or what's the turnpike for? And I watched from some
obscure hilltop nearby as they crested the Elizabeth
crescent and bent over Bayonne's hump to land right
there on Sip Avenue and come up to the city
from the bottom (legendary great idea); but the cymbals
were clashing or the symbols were crashing (I never
knew which), while the church on the hillside, ablaze
and afire, was burning its Mexican clergy (Jesu Maria Mon
Dieu and all the rest) Father Diego Carmellano Miranda
Lopez Diaz himself - clapping hands with the Devil,
singing songs in a trance while blessing
the bosoms of mothers and aunts,
put the crucifix down into Don Carlos' pants -
but it was ALWAYS like that in this Paradise
to come, this locus of the plain, this kingdom
of fun; and no one could speak
any faster than that -
whether for loss or for gain
or the Cardinal's red hat.


(whimsy too)
I was leaning on the railing of the
'I Have Nothing' church - a poor parish
on the very edge of Stuyvesant Village.
Package goods were piled high and thrown
about haphazardly - empty bottles of Night Train
Express and Thunderbird. The finest lubrications
for the embattled soul cheap money could buy.
Someone came up to me and nudged me aside,
saying 'I'm here to collect the glass bottles'.
I called him a hero and said 'God bless your soul;
there's material matter in Heaven too, if that's your
He looked askance, but kept to his work.
I heard him mumble a prayer and an oath -
nearly at the same time from the very same mouth.
Sometimes we fiddle, each of us, while our
personal Rome burns...burns viciously and right
to the ground. We get up if we can, brush the ash off,
get back to our task, try to rebound.
Maybe that's the way of this life.
I tend to think an embattled, promiscuous
moment like this has a lesson to impart:
Don't judge a man by his cover,
don't put the horse before the cart,
don't judge a book by its clothing,
don't miss the emotion
within your heart.

Saturday, December 20, 2008



Or maybe it was the other way around.
I forget. It didn't matter anyway, since
the fellow next to me was already
shouldering a bazooka.
I've had a hundred or more times to
address the crowd. Though I never really
said a word, they all applauded loud
and acted as if they'd heard...something.
It was in the middle of a deep, dark woods -
a place such as Dante would know of -
that I heard a very loud
though there was no water
around for miles.
Like nothing at all.


When the colder outbreaks come, the
globe will be broken by them - backwards
running rivers of ice and blood, a convoluted
mix-up of what is cold and what is hot.
People will die in place and fall on the spot.
It will be like nothing seen before : ceilings,
collapsed and fallen, will break hard upon
people's heads - even office-workers will have
no dalliance with time, nor with each other.
The passage of things will simply stop : the
day the time the air the clock. Nothing like
citizenry, cooperation or even chivalry
will be left. In fact, the right hand
will steal from that left whatever
it can - but, alas, even with
stolen goods, there will
be nowhere to go,
and nowhere to
take them.


Under a rock in Central Park,
or on some clear park bench
with all the elbow room in the world.
In Philadelphia there's the
Cave of Kelpius, over along
the Wissahickon on a steep slant
running down towards the water -
two hundred years ago some
Christian-cultist ran his mob
of acolytes deep into that cave
to await the End; which never came.
Actually, in its own peculiar way,
it came for them as they're now
all gone. I wonder if they considered
their beliefs justified or just a crank
of fate. Living in a cave like that,
I imagine, has to wear one down.

Friday, December 19, 2008


I have tried everything:
playing the piano at 2am in a
creepy half-light thrown by wavering
candles in a dance of death,
sleeping upside down in a
seedy carpetbag suspended from
a wall, running at breakneck speed
along the very edge of some great canyon
or gorge. I really must say it's been fun enough,
but nothing has brought me a true satisfaction -
which, were it to exist, I realize now,
would have to include you.
By necessity there simply are
such things which must be given their
true and proper definitions for them
to (at the least) make any real sense:
a garland of angels;
a salt shaker with nothing
in it except salt.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I am crossing a bridge over the Mississippi -
'a soup of mud' as Dickens called it. That was then,
of course. Below my feet, somewhere the depths of
careening water dance and sluice around other things.
It is as it always should be : water, seeking its
own level, floats and fills, dices and darts, as if
it had a life of its own...which it does, quite actually.
We are helpless without it, and when it subsumes us
we are helpless too. Note the houses floating along
in the flood - tippling and toppling over and about,
they flip like simple toys - glassless windows, shaded
eaves and watery porches without their rockers.
Foundations, being useless adjuncts to nothing,
cannot anchor the real against the watery.
How odd all this is.
How distant from our 'usual'
definitions about how things are.
Bushes and reeds, big trees and weeds,
everything supple and green, lining the banks
and over-hanging the edges - each of them
will tell you (in their weird and effervescent language)
what a powerful force they live amidst; and how
that water feeds them, roils them, and - startlingly -
begs them for forgiveness before it tears them from
their ground and their place and their stand,
on their own 'more solid'
sea of land.


Whatever they shoe-horn in will fit,
whether wasted tower or storefront bit;
it wouldn't matter to anyone else - 'as long' -
the landlord will say - 'as I can generate some
income.' Well that's all fine for him.
It's the others, looming and lost, who bear the
brunt - tacky subdivided real-estate made
blind and slobbering with garish lights, bad
colors and poorly thought-out use and place.
There once was a city upon a hill - all light
and wisdom too - wherein the people, so
possessed of a general goodness, wanted
for nothing and did less than that. Idleness
was grace. Self-possession was the golden
mean. Nothing ugly or crass existed, nor was
let to be. Everything, so it seemed, was perfect.
And then someone let in the scourge.
Someone let in the urge : for pecuniary
propagation and momentary motivation.
In time all good things come to end,
it seems, as Bad - as it always does -
drives out Good.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


For once, for once:
there ought to be a morning before,
not merely a morning after. There
should be time for regrets but no
regrets for time. There needs to be
something put before the horse
other than the cart to which we're
accustomed. And, after being led,
the horse should find something other
than water to drink.
['I've said all this before', the sodden
minister said 'but even when speaking
from the pulpit, no one listens to what
I say. Give me a minute, just give me
a minute...']
I heard a girl talking today - one to another,
her and a friend. I overheard her say, on the
train platform, while an interstate liner
whizzed by, 'I like this time of year, of course,
but isn't it amazing how the holidays all
morph together?' I'm not sure even of what
she meant, or of the time she referred to,
but she was pretty representative, I thought,

of just what people are today,
of just what people are.



'Matchmaker matchmaker make me a match'
or whatever that line was I couldn't recall - it
managed nonetheless to tell me something
I should already have known : We mimic only
that which we desire.
Standing by the falls in Paterson, I understood
so quickly the meaning of 'worthlessness'.
Whichever wilderness this once was, it's been destroyed.
Jefferson, Hamilton, all those early idiots, with their
quaint visions of 'Cities of Industry' and 'Enlightened Men';
they were so full of shit it hurts to even think about it.
The waters have turned to crud, tar and macadam
scour the demolished landscape, little scrappy
Hispanic people hang on every corner.
It seems that the only things people want
- from dollar store to dollar whore -
are cheap and cheesy bargains where
something nice once was before...
like eating cornbread at the Bendix Diner,
or walking the Meadowlands as a scavenger
on the prowl; there's nothing left for 'quality'
and each cur now has its growl.
Some people grovel where they may, while others
travel to grovel where they want. It's the same,
really - sickly people in an oasis of
illusion; like foamy, yellowed water
barreling over Paterson Falls.

Monday, December 15, 2008


The great Gothic Cathedral
is dark at night - a sprawling
darkness worthy of black-coated
windows and stern stands in a
great void. Simply put, there is
no light. Not a glass reflects,
not a glimmer projects.
It is pretty much just as I like it.
The darkness reminds me of something,
but I'm unsure of what. Someplace
I have been? Someplace I've missed?
A sparkle or a candle-point could
disturb this darkness, yes, - but
my memory of this 'something' - no.
If all of Heaven's sky is like a candelabra :
light, fire, fury and fuse : then all of what I see
here in this darkness is, too, like some sort
of vivid awakening, a startling sight seen in
the absence of light. Paradoxical conundrum, yes,
but too the sort of quiet duality that measures
a life for the better. Off-season, a blossom in bloom.


Why am I partial to circular things while
linear logic drives me mad? Salvation
of the circumstance can only be found
in the roundabout fashions of random
thought and unsought conclusions.
As the mad be-bopper would once have
spoken : 'I'm hep to that; hope you're not jokin''.
And then - in a spree of mystifying and unsaddled
words - that man in the jazz loft would begin
playing his overloaded (circular) riffs while the
others joined in : Mr. Drummer high-hats to death
while the piano man accentuates each chord by an echo.
It's like that everywhere I go. The ribbon of
science unwrapped and pulled, torn in slices
from all stern and rational things. I want to bow
down at that building where they all once lived.
In my memory - the Mingus the Monk the Coltrane
and even, in his own enormous way, Kid Ory,
somewhere still playing today. Birdman took flight.
He's gone away.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


You were discarded at the very first stop:
go-around again, get off the truck, leave no
trace behind. Just as bad philosophy bears all the
scars of fear and loathing, dread and harm, so too
are you kept like a memory of something now
needfully wrong - splendidly evil - frightfully bent.
We'll spend the next ten years just talking your name.
And then? Well, then the swallows come back to
Capistrano, then Captain Kidd returns his ships, and
Elmer Fudd learns how to calculate the astrophysical
odds of entering another cosmic dimension by walking
the escalator while Miles Davis plays in his mind.
....and if that ain't your 'Heaven', well then what is?


All that Christian caterwauling about
stars and times and lights and angels
really makes me laugh. Angels on the
head of a pin could do no better.
Had I believed we could rise from the
dead - in a most theatrical way - I'd
have surely seen that play by now. Some
Hebrew playwrite would have hit that
one already - live on Broadway, songs
and chains and chimes and names.
But, alas, slower than a Conestoga wagon
in a drama about going west, nothing's ever
changed about this story. 'Born in a manger,
died and was buried, rose - like Lazarus? -
in three days from the dead'. As I recall
that's all they've ever read.
Lines of them on a Christmas night;
trying to enter a church in the light
thrown by a silvery moon with a
sleigh full on ice - of toys and promises
and smiles and nice. If that's all it takes
to get me to Heaven - I'll meet you
tomorrow at the 7-11. We'll throw
down a brew and say a few prayers.
What happens after that...well really, who cares?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

123. COWL

The cowl is the hood I
hide beneath. You'd never
find me there. I am the scowl
therein, without an 's' of course, and
as well-hidden and precise as anything
else can be - I suppose.
From beneath the endless imbroglio I stand up -
it covers me, in tatters, and coats my very being.
There's nothing very enticing about that. For years
dogs have been mangy and cats have distempered -
small veterinarial quirks eventually taken care of.
For me it's somewhat different. I regard mankind as
a curse delivered : malfeasance enamored of itself.
I shake hands with everyone I must. I nod back to
those I care for. I have a few. Minions and friends
are acquaintances with whom I spend time but
NOTHING, I've found, can GIVE me time back.
There's the deadly rub:
To say nothing and go on?
Or to make mention of the constant
loss, the constant leakage, the airstream
just slipping away? In either case, I am
what I am and doomed to be just that.
In spite of it all, I offer my hands
and my heart to anyone out there
who cares.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


The lines of steel run over the landscape
like wires and string - the rail cars simply
slide as they go rolling by. Windows within
people - lit at night - and people within the
windows : everyone taking a pose, striking a
stance. Newspapers. Magazines. Phones. Books.
The million things of a million things.
There is an outside world to this - one not taken by
distraction : endless armies of history and story, thoughts
provoked by thoughts. To those who know, it is a refuge
and a harbor too. A place for consolation. Within the
aimless hum of railroad and steel, every so often there
is a stop at a station unplanned, not known - a secret-status,
a stop along an undisclosed route. No schedule holds
this information. It begins in the heart, with its terminus,
a long and dusty stop, in the mind.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


'Like being blown apart by wild animals'
(like 'makes no sense' and 'has no reason' -
what's he trying to say?). The meadowlark
with the ink-well tooling is soaring too
high for the sky : it's only trouble brewing.
How conscious are we of being aware?
Or isn't that 'how conscious are we of being
conscious'? Silly indecipherable things.
The man sits in a red velvet chair - a flip-seat
the kind the old movie houses had - maybe they still
do - I wouldn't know. He sits straight up tall as
the mast and stares straight ahead. It's actually
only a museum - where they show rocks and toads and
fossils and things. A few people come clogging in
with their kids and their baggage and their selves.
There's no thrill like a psychiatric thrill.
Punch in - tell your stuff - punch out and go.
Punch - that reminds me of Judy - is a concept
I never got right : is it the action or the result?
So, as you can see, I'm only in it for the moment.
Making a few mordant confessions about things
I once noticed. Going to Lourdes to get water.
Eating stale bread on the wharf.
Running into, of all people, an
old Ed Sullivan on his way
to the TV gas chambers.
'On Air' I think
were his very
last words.

Friday, December 5, 2008


Once the hammerlock drives to the skull,
fish begin fighting, lights go on and off,
everything is nutso in the brain. It wouldn't
matter if one was in a coma; it all would still be felt.
Some old wrestler was trying to tell these kids the
exploits of his youth. He'd lived in a trailer near the
street by my house; more or less out in the woods
where past the development ended. He lived like a
hermit; he and his son. The kid was about 11 same time
I was. We stayed close to each other, even while the father
went through his drunken rages - beating the walls,
yelling weird curses, screwing his neighbors, the Agolio
girls, or women, or whatever they were. It was love at first
sight, 'cept they all were blind. I said that once to the son.
We were sitting on a log by the pond in the woods. About maybe
thirty feet away, we could see all that was happening
inside through the window set right to our angle.
It was an education, to be sure. 'I think that's how kids
are made too', the son said in all earnestness to me.
I nodded yeah, and pretended I knew what he meant.
'It was love at first sight, 'cept they all were blind.'
He laughed pretty good at that.


'Henry can light the candles or he can go
straight to Hell - logic and all'. It was said with
a lilt, all that was, with a tongue that surpassed
everything else in its boldness and charm. I was
standing outside Patsy's wearing a hat that wouldn't fit.
Three men walked by brusquely, with something only they
knew hidden beneath their winter coats. This was a ghetto
of sorts; such sightings are commonplace.
I decided maybe I'd like a clue.
Patsy's made nothing but pizza and slabs,
so that wouldn't do. The old, old lady on the
brownstone steps looked as ragged as the broken
bricks she sat upon. I hesitated to motion to her.
A lone traffic cop approached. Wearing the usual
brown, he too looked as useless as sin. I was
lost, in a torrid place I didn't know.
Maybe something like Florida never freezes,
maybe Montana never warms up. I don't know.
Elevations, I've been told, are really all that matter -
it doesn't matter the location, just more the elevated height.
The higher, the colder? I think I'd heard that.
Out on the street, they were still wringing the grime
form the stolen chalice of gold. It was a curious mix,
I thought - the ridiculous to the sublime, the heights
to the depths. But anyway, how can one gauge these
things and what is the measure of Man?
(As the plaster is poured, so too it sets.)

Thursday, December 4, 2008


...( for everything else, the torch)...

Like the wind that was howling
and the noise which was fierce,
I am writhing with the sunlight as
it ripens the horizon - long image,
great distance.
These are not meaningless moments,
though I hedge for any great importance.
I am stuck on earth and sullied by its
disrepute - yet now it is my place and I must
stay and my works must stay and all that I will
do is for it alone. Its people, marred now by both
indifference and indiscretion, matter little.
The great thought must live.
The raging indifference must disppear.
Its adherents must die; be they slain or merely
withered by another force. We can calculate
the God-like odds which perservere.
We can preserve the good and the modest.
For everything else - the torch.


A slight semblance of modernity
broke the fever - in waves of light
and sound : attached really to nothing,
the old bridge stayed put within its
earthen moorings. Cathedral-like arches
moaned in the wind - all that harp sound
weaving off the wire-rope. Near distances
vaulted with beauty; the most plain, the most
ordinary sights. Everything inclined towards a
purloined vista, something pilfered from another
age. This was the bridge which carried millions.
This is the bridge which spans two worlds.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I've been reading too many books.
Split as they are between the 'good' and
the 'bad', everything comes with its own
point-of-view - like solid rock and a feathered
pillow in some grotesque collision of
a chance encounter. The courtly doctor, standing
nearby, announces himself as some William Carlos
Williams of a dirge-like countenance. He slowly pours
(only I notice) sand into the wounds instead of
salt. Either way, it's a brutal pain and hell to heal.
That old saw about the things changing places,
going around/coming around - all that rubbish -
sounds unheralded now as no one bothers to listen.
'Abolish the sin-tax', the other guy said; unless
I'd heard him wrong - he was, after all, an English
teacher, so he could have said 'syntax' instead. A
problem such as that comes from hearing and not
seeing the words. Right?
Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, I'd heard,
often switched places and ran off.
Don't know how true that was,
but it's a heck of a story to tell.

Monday, December 1, 2008

115. OLD DAYS (Microcosm)

'If you wanted to be honest, you could -
just that, nothing more. The trombone
player knew that, as well as the little man
in Congo Square tooting a horn or playing
a fiddle - or jivin' on a jazz guitar. Nothing
ever came between intent and operation.
It all just 'were'.
The old guys name was Sedlack.
Or that's anyway what he called himself:
I knew no more. Hob-nail boots, a red kerchief
around his neck, a gold wristwatch and some
fancy tie-tack. He laughed even as he spoke.
Never had a bad day, nor, if he did, time to
re-tell it. Everything shiny was his.
I once came down with a bad fever while riding
a bus back from Binghamton to New York City.
Nearly died as it were just sitting 5 hours in that seat.
Some old fellow gave me water and a soda to drink.
As I dazed in and out of consciousness, I can
remember him telling me of his whole, entire life:
born in Alabama, a sharecropper's kid, grandma was
a cotton slave, grandpa whipped and chained,
coming north to Johnstown, and later to Endicott,
working shoe factories until he was forty.
Five kids, two wives, a bunch of money lost,
and then this - riding like a pauper on a one-way bus.
Riding like a pauper, on a one-way bus.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


(Asbury Park in Winter)
No more looking for gold or searching in
penny arcades - that's all over and the monkey-men
and the organ-grinders have all been fired. That
leaves nothing behind. Wherever there was an emblem
before is just now a blank spot on the wall.
No soporifics here. I merely do what I want.
My dalliance with the likes of you and Matilda too
is over : both of you were lovely but now I wish you well -
at the wishing well. And, at this wishing well, I just
want to tell you both that I did love you, each, once.
No more magic in the cornflakes.
No more lame jokes in line at the
outdoor gym - waiting pompously for
the big guys to pass. As if you had something
to prove to them (they could break you in two
like a stick). The sickly ocean is still roaring
behind our backs. The black dudes, with their knives,
are still trying to stare us down on the ramp to the
Howard Johnson's. The old Boardwalk now looks
like shit - prime real estate it ain't. Let's just say adieu.
That'll have to do.


Names fall like leaves from a tree -
people saying this or that.
'There's not a moment to lose, he was
so sad when last I saw him.'
Someone put the whisper in the suitcase,
the two mints in the backpack, and they
were off : 'we're packing shoes for Valparaiso,
new lineaments for Kenya, and even bottled water
for when we hit the Rhine.' Everything at that
point was so very simple. This girl, Anya, I'd
known since seventh grade. Her parents had
been refugees from Iceland or Belgrade,
somewhere having trouble holding
people in. Her traveling companion now,
some weary guy named Dieter, had entered
like a boxer from a storm : all brawn and sweat,
ready to fight again, intent on making his
presence felt. I really never knew what she
could see in him. He pulled out a picture
of a house and said 'this is where we're going
when we're done.' They'd be traveling for eight
months. 'Good for them' I thought to myself,
'nothing can keep them here.' We shook
hands, they smiled, and we were off;
two different directions, but
off nonetheless.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


It was only a moment but it seemed like a year:
my hands in your pouch, your boots clicking the bricks.
The tiny raindrops were circling through the air,
dripping from the brim of your hat as we ran.
It was like love in a shower, yet it was, really,
only rain : rain in the moonlight, rain in the fog,
rain in the sun of early early morning.
I remember streetlamps and the trolley;
the train which seemed never to stop.
You said you needed to stop, coffee, a
restroom, a break. I said I could
'run like this forever'.
Something changed.
Life took on new meaning.
Running through France in the rain.

Friday, November 28, 2008


(I put to you my human son the
fact that you have nothing to fear.
These tracks are endless and they
do go on...and on, one after another -
until all points meet, and you are gone.
Yet, fear not. The ends sometimes
do justify the means, and other times
the means are themselves the ends.)

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Just what was it that came forth from something else?
A wayward form of 'otherness', a tinkling of
the bones just before they were roused to
life? I've noticed that none of this is
written down, anywhere - and anywhere
it is is pure conjecture.
'We are air' the rudimentary doctor was
saying. 'We are water and grit, we are
rivals of God and angels to boot'; some other
guy was mouthing his own lyrics in like fashion.
I skipped out before I could skip a beat.
If I was anything, I was getting bored.
Just outside, overhead, there was a tramway which
took people to the airport or cadavers to the morgue;
I actually do forget which. Now listen, none of it
really mattered. I simply felt all this was portrayed
for our own amusement. What difference would it
make if I was flame and you were fire; or I was
glass and you were sand? Not a minute's worth, right?
This can all go on forever. We each differ.
We are what we say we are. You drive
cars, maybe, while I take trains.
My skeleton house, I've noticed, actually
does have two doors. One, for entry,
another, for exit. Quite different,
and both clearly marked.


The one with the fascinating fingers kept me
comfortable in an old tophat and a reclining
chair while 'Cabaret' played on the large-sized screen.
I felt like a royal flush on an archbishop's broad
and gilded throne. That didn't last for long.
In another instant I was capsized and adrift
on a nasty and broiling sea - wine-dark, just
like Homer said, I think it was, sparking great
debates amidst scholars for years to come - and
I knew for sure there'd be no rest for a while
and that nothing like this had happened before.
I took out a pen with which to write things down,
and realized I had nothing on which to write.
The paper was all wet and soggy, and tore away
at the tip of the pen - no matter how light the touch.
I had capsized one too many times;
riding the sea foam to nowhere, I was
no longer sure of the memory OR the map
I'd been keeping in my head. Had I done this
all before, or was it just a creepy feeling of a
scary deja vu? I had no friends to talk with and
nothing left to do. I tried to scamper down the ropes,
but realized, as well, that they'd been removed
a long time ago. Marionette? Puppet?
Just what was I, and
who was pulling the strings?


Purposefully watering his lawn -
charging a battery at the side of his house,
re-painting a stairway at the base of the alley,
re-snapping a trap set out for the mouse.
It's like that in Wonderland - this little man,
clad in blue, jodphurs it seems, and a riding hat
too, walking home from Eddie Doyle's at three after two.
It was like a dream; one of those situations where
you've entered something - a room or a place - from
which you can't get out and it's constantly growing
smaller around you. Some force-field holds you in,
and each time you near the exit to force yourself out
the G-forces distort your face, toss you about.
One minute you're miserable over it,
the next you're glad as well.
Can't get in, can't get out.
A simple situation,
much like Hell.


It was some kind of April, some kind of May,
and the flowers were growing on the lawn
and the trees had already brought forth
the leaves of Summer as the boys in the
charthouse band had taken the stage in
the little Victorian Park bullshit band shell the
town had erected for parties and parades,
and two guys I watched came out with a barrel
and fireworks and the brass band playing
Sousa marches was tuning up from what
sounded like Hell itself while the crippled mayor
and his pablum steeds spouted bromides and platitudes
blarney and greed - a good speech it is said
has them all mixed in one - but no one was listening
as some human cannonball was brought out in E-flat
and stuffed into the tube and they lit the fuse as a
loud crash ensued - the guy went flying while all in
flames and landed thirty yards away dead like a
brick and fired up too and they tried to revive him
but all the rescue guys were either drunk or in the
band - the ribbons came down and the last
I'd heard it was some Memorial Day for the
record-books : three dead fourteen burned
and one retarded kid suddenly brought back
to full and clear and precisely-perfect mental
health - which I guess wasn't saying
much for anyone else.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


(to a culture gone bad in the teeth)
I could justify your jocularity with the rhythm of
some home-free time : like a wayward John Lennon,
or any one of those tortured rock and roll characters
who seem never to shut up. They really are all the same.
Bragging of their butchered balls, their merciful hearts,
and their laggard lunge to fame and fortune. Such shit,
all the time and everywhere. I can't wait for the repudiation
(which always comes). Like your David Bowie in a young man's
drag - searching the country for a bandmate to blow, trading in
old coins found under the floor, wading chest-deep through
girls and fans and screamers and gents. Dude, take that!
They genuflect along the river at night; gobs of babes in
chunky dresses dancing witch-dances to the Goddess of Night.
The Man In the Moon comes down for a fight, or to take
part, or just to stand by and then wane. Cheap astronomy
and all the rest put a good man's fortitude to the final test.
Before it all happens again give me a knife to jab at
your throat. I'm so sick of your vomit.


(Sojourner Truth)
The sidewalks were overflowing with people -
the kind of people poverty sends your way.
Tenement buskers, rakish little Irish kids
with swagger, runaway slaves and freed ones too,
who essentially lived where they wanted,
anywhere they chose, and did what they wanted too.
And then there was me. My name was changed -
to Sojourner Truth - by me.
It used to be Isabella Baumfree.
I chose to be.
I chose it all.
'The Spirit calls me, and I must go.'


I haven't yet met the Matador, nor the bull.
Both of them were pointed out to me, quickly,
behind the gated pen - one quite far off from
the other. They really should have 'nothing to do
with each other', I was told, 'until their very first
meeting in the ring'. Ole to that, I suppose.
I know it's been much like that with my own
life too. Waiting in the anterooms of work and
effort, just until something vibrant draws me out.
Where I then am the bloodied? Or the bloodier?
I don't really often know. And even if it makes a
difference, it would seem the same ratty crowd
starts its inane chanting. Either way, I'm lost.
I was watching a botanist go on about roses and orchids.
Every other word out of his mouth was 'splendor' or
'beauty', 'display' or 'charm'. He touched each blossom,
as a visual example, in his very precise way. I wished
I could have been him, just for a moment or two.
Charm, grace, or beauty. It all would work for me.

Monday, November 24, 2008


'I was there yesterday when they were
handing out pennies and sending out
leeches to cure the infirm. Yes, yes, I
really was. The black squirrel I saw was
hanging upside down on the big tree-trunk,
watching the scene from ten feet up. People
passed, thinking of course nothing of it :
one can't react to what one doesn't see.'
The man speaking had his head in a
device which was supposed to amplify his
expounded thoughts. All it did for me, it seemed,
was to garble his already intensely stupid words.
A motorcar passed on the left - the guy inside was
wearing a guardsman's hat and a short haircut,
the kind you see in military magazines. Nothing
made much sense. Girls passed, tall and big.
Nothing I'd work on, but girls nonetheless.
If I had a dime for every thought that led
me astray, I mused to myself, I'd be,
most certainly, broke before I started.


It wasn't as if anything new had transpired.
We'd already built the big cities and bombed them down
to smithereens - smoldering hulks of 'things that once were'.
The gendarmes and the frilly guys with lace and flowers
kept coming around seeking alms. Some weird
power-salute took place among men who were boys.
The female side of things - like a painting turned
the wrong way hanging on the wall - just kept
trying to come through.
From the Warsaw Ghetto through Stalag 17,
everywhere, they all were singing the same theme :
'tomorrow belongs to us'. Yes, well maybe.
Berlin was a time like Weimar was
an era. All those crazy doctor-types,
prancing around barefoot, in
army hats and tutus.


The voice was distant yet defined.
'I am Adam in Eden, supremely bored,' it said.
The distended words held themselves forward as a
plea to an executioner all set with the cleaver's edge.
'Help me please. Remove me from this torrid place.'
No bondage could be worse. He had spoken;
no situation more removed from joy and happiness.
The love of Paradise was the love of ease, which could
not be continued endlessly, forever. 'I remain Adam in
Eden, superbly bored, who takes his leave now to set forth
into the world I do not know, alone. Eve has kept the
serpent for replacement.' So said, he moved forth.
Like wind upon the water, form upon the void, the entire
sensate world was stretched before him. 'You must take
from this all that you can use,' a new voice said, 'for I
have given it here to you, alone. You, named Adam, have
been banished by request from what you deemed too much
a Paradise. Your hand now shall know the work of toil and all
of its constructions.' Such was the frame when vision entered.
Adam could see; unknown to him, the newer Paradise
had opened. He recreated Eve, in his image.
It was he now who moved upon the stillness.
His outstretched arm built form and time and space.
He had arrived.
'Eve, we will work. We will build on land these things
we need, for shelter, warmth, water and food. I shall
amend the world to my own sight, changing and replacing
the old with meanings fresh and new. We shall build
a land from which to wonder; we shall build a land
on which to wander.' She nodded an assent as they
then moved along the way.
Reminders riddled their sleeps.
Lines of reasoned draft and formulas unknown
bedeviled their new-formed brains. Angles and
declensions haunted them. They spoke a newer tongue,
and time passed. They found a need for grouping thoughts
and acts. Field and hollow, plain and valley filled
with them and theirs. Every act they did led them to
somewhere else - after the first broad move, with
their clues amassed and their worlds transformed,
they sought to harness place and power.
Concepts grew from this.
'Man gave names to all the animals.'
That merely scratches the surface,
that merely suggests the whole...

Sunday, November 23, 2008


They told me to come see -
some guy with no legs was
running in place. Now that was
a sight for sore eyes. I looked over
my shoulder, and what did I see?
The newsman from the Daily Horn,
with his photographer, pushing to the
front of the line. 'We want to take a picture',
he said. 'What did you have in mind?',
I said back. 'Why nothing of the kind!'
he sternly spoke, 'we really just wish to
ed-u-cate the folk!' That's just the way
he said it too.
There's no sorrow like yesterday's sorrow,
even if it's tomorrow. I coughed up two dollars
and got a picture of the scene; nothing worth
nothing really, but I just had to have it.


I am taking a holiday until tomorrow, because I don't
know what else to do. Having run out of words (me!) and
intentions, I seek to step back, inhabit the distance, and
take the moment I've waited for. My lethal fragment
of effort and attempt is over. I will sit at the counter
forever, just to watch what I am watching.
The scribe is a nasty nurse.
He takes his paper and pen with him,
through all the ages. We have seen him
in every guise : Pound and Rilke, Dante and
Chaucer, Sartre and Gide. Whatever your combination,
it has already happened. You should arise early to
know so much. Mankind's workings are never lost.
There is, in the shadows, a dark kind of optimism
to all that we do. Post-pessimism, pre-Paradise;
perhaps it's all the same in the end.
To laugh, one must be willing to cry.
To die, one must first have lived.
'Bread baked on its own bottom is best' -
the old monk in the garrett told me that.


('the modern world is broken')
It is all the rage of serpents and snakes:
taking things out one by one, dismantling
them and parting them out for a penny or less.
Bankers going bankrupt, I'd bet, have more fun.
This is not to diminish the intention, for it may
have started out good. Now however, they bury
their lies with their product. 'By their fruits you
shall know them.' The last time I saw that written,
it was in ink, old and blurry, on a prisoner's back.
I haven't really got the time to instruct you all on
the ways of the world. Suffice it to say, maybe, the
last shall be first and all that 'turnabout is fair play'
rabble-rousing crap. Some guy was just telling me
yesterday that 'if Jesus was alive today, he'd be way
into computer repair.' What a stupid thing to say.
I would have thought, instead, he'd be a custom
bookbinder, or an artisan vintner of very fine wines.
Yet, who am I to know, or anyone else.
What difference does conjecture make?
At 10 in the morning, I've noticed, on the
outside wall, they line some prisoners up
and have them 'gently' shot. It's the new way
of doing things - no shots to the head or heart,
just more minor shots to the legs and arms.
'Everyone eventually dies' the warden said,
'this just makes it easier for those who remain.'


Someone named Maddie is ruining my life -
saying things about me, taking out my garbage,
replacing objects I may have lost, moving things
around to where I can no longer find them,
replacing treasured objects with junk, eating from
my plates, and uncovering things I've hidden.
I do not know who this individual is, God or Goddess,
chump or slob, nasty fool or someone thinking
they're helping, but I want it stopped. This thing
called Maddie is but an interference, where I
need it not. Leaving traces after itself, I see it
smokes, loses hair, had muddy feet, and is
partial to juices and sweets. Maddie separates
things from where they were last seen.
A bother and a nuisance I would call it.
Whatever it is, ruling and relegating,
marking my calendar, waiting for Easter,
trimming buds off flowers, I just wish it
cease this activity. I am, after all, old
enough to look after myself.
Someone named Maddie is ruling my life.

Friday, November 21, 2008


[Oh Gosh] HE is whistling Dixie.
Just yesterday I saw him drooling at
the soda-counter, flashing diamond-studded
earrings at the fast and willing crowd.
He turned and said to me : 'the waitress is serving
time' : and then he asked if I got his joke.
At that precise moment, his stomach rumbled,
his intestines swelled. He seemed very proud
of himself. 'I really have come far,' he smirked,
'a wife, two kids, and a brand new car.
The only thing I need to remember is to
brush these new teeth and use the bathroom
daily. All the rest comes easy.'
I wondered how much of that was true,
or if he was just making up rhymes
to charm his new found human crew.


The Chinese hills are rounded, with rocks obscuring cliffs,
where it would seem no one would dare go - except perhaps
the thin eccentric, painting with brush the delicate scene.
He sits, removed and solitary. To meditate upon the sky,
or stare down varied vistas, would seem to be his wisdom.
An occasional pithy comment utters forth.
'We are like the ever-present bumble-bee.
Our flight is in the air, while, on our
grounded feet, sweet nectar sticks us here.'

Thursday, November 20, 2008


We are huddled in a doorway near a shop called
'Abe's Electric'. There isn't much here other than
debris. The old reviewing stand in Union Square Park
is deserted now, the papers and brown bags blowing around
seem the only crowd. The bend in the road right here seems
awesome to me. No one is speaking. All is quiet and dull.
Once there were labor crowds here cheering - in the old
'organizing' days of the movement. Rallies galore.
Once the cluttered noise of speeches and support ran
through the crowds like the electric lines overhead, pushing
forth the yellow arc lights by which we tried to read. The
voices were strange and singular, with bullhorns or cupped hands
amplified - and then only much later the powered megaphones
from atop ancient cars. It was a funny world back then.
So many so sure of their cause.
So often so ready to stand for so much.
Has the world changed greatly, or us?
It seems now that nothing but a vegetable mart grows here.
People mill about, huddled and rash, for squash or wine or
custom-made jams. The small farms from upstate have their very
own pies, fruits and meat. Has our ideology gone crazy?
Shunted aside from their DDT and pesticide scares, the tenuous
connection these people make between Freedom and its 'choice'
of foods is strange to me. What have we become? And how have
we reached the milestone of choosing to act, over food
and its styles or grapes and their taste? Dorothy Day no
longer walks among this crowd - to my knowledge she has
long been gone. Perhaps some other land has called her there,
wherein she bravely calls out for the hungry and their needs....
'I will feed you, give you warmth, and offer you a better
shelter than you will find huddled here, in Union Square.'


I do not want to get off this thing:
just want to go 'round and 'round in
spherical music into and out of some
beginning to an ending unknown.
Some say their lives are simple.
So be it. Mine's not.
I perplex the waters and the land.
All around me, atoms are bursting with
desire, inquiry, reason or understanding.
My search for knowledge never ends.
Nothing brings nothing to nothing.
Such is the sum of this smashing.
You do, perhaps, hear the sounds?
Atoms crash and screech like any other
object you may know - gnashing of teeth
as a metaphor, or the baying of wolves.
We humanize so many other things -
Why not wonder and doubt?
Why not boredom and awe?
Nothing brings nothing to nothing...


They went for the jugular
like crazed dogs off a leash.
It was said they had nothing to lose.
The grand medical men, the learned
scholars, the doctors of law, all took
an interest in this. 'War is a lethal time'
they said, 'it brings out behaviors in men
not seen before.' Animals gnawing on bone
would be more like it, thought I to myself.
As usual, I was standing on the sidelines watching.
Maybe just waiting for something to happen.
Two guys staggered by - one with his hand blown
off at the wrist, the other holding his guts.
'Just a mortar wound, nothing more. We'll be
back at it all soon.' I waved them goodbye
and said 'so long' to their spirits and souls too.
There was no answer.
They had been gone long ago.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Sunrise over the river;
little fingers of light
passing a torch to another day.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Abracadabra and all the rest.
I haven't been doing much lately;
seem to have lost my touch. The gloved hand,
in leather, smacks my face but once or twice -
and then I'm startled back to form. Urging forward
furiously again - streaming notes from a car-keys-fob
as a wailing siren declaims intent. Everything
is hazy - the crowd, the mob, the dungaree factions
of farmers and knaves, all those fools who listen.
Just like that, some sun bursts over the horizon.
Crisp cold morning where the cuckoo once sang.
Ice is on bare branches and someone's sliding car
drives all shiny by. The lazy garbage truck by the
circle tries one more time to make that turn.
It's all over before it's started.
Another wild day sneers.
(Now where am I gonn'a go after this?).

Sunday, November 16, 2008


And then the cantilevered conversation that went nowhere
had brought me home to risk : again without a show,
a hammer OR a claw. I glanced upwards once, at
the mirrors lining the top moldings, and saw the
multi-colored stars of someone's idea of decoration.
Little kids were looking up with their mothers.
A sculpted fat-lady in bronze stood naked
on a pedestal of sandstone. A few
people were taking pictures.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Having made catch, the fisherman went home.
He'd lived by the lake for years : twelve as a young married,
and then - after his wife died young - another twelve as
a crotchety recluse involved with his work. There weren't many
who spoke with him, nor of him. Like a once-a-year
flower, blooming suddenly at night, he was watched
if not revered only for what he might do. Ever-sentinel,
people kept watching. They saw him chop wood in the
relentless cold; they'd watch him wilt at lakeside
in the brutal Summer heat. One day - apparently when
no one watched - he went to the tool shed, where he
kept some possessions, sat down in a chair,
and blew his brains out. Later, when they
found him, no one knew what to say.
There was a note found too, pinned
to his chest, stating:
'Whatever it is this may signify to
you all, to me it's merely one further
sign of my sad resignation
for the sorry state of
my overdue life.'

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


It was for the depth that the deep
was brought to bear : 'what did he
say, and how'd he say it?'
The sort of question only a detective asks.
They had manners like pygmies would,
if they had any - living amidst grime, in
a three story walk-up with no hot water.
Fruit flies on the table top and (for all I knew)
tse-tse flies in the sink. There were building
blocks strewn on the floor where one of the kids
had left them. Someone's old bathroom towel,
still ringing wet, was draped over the back of the
wooden chair, already changing the wood to white.
I wondered if they knew it went away after a while.



Most of what they've hung out to dry
has dried very long ago. As shadows are an
absence of light, so too are these fragments of time:
left and bereft, dogged and stiff, clean yet bedraggled
in their own washed-out way. The sunlight above
us will linger no longer. Whatever it's done has
already been done. The neighborhood's awash
in wash this early evening day. A decent-enough
heat, with warming sunlight, made it pleasant
while it stayed. But now this workaday day's
work is done. Bring the wash in! There's
no longer any sun!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


On this first measured evening of
an oncoming Winter, with the full moon
hung low in the sky, the leaves have all fallen
and the trees are all barren and there is
nothing to see but broad sky - a barren greyness,
but one worth every penny.
Seasons, like words, are measured out one by one.
We take what we see - what we are given - and we add,
ourselves, the coloration and tenor we wish.
Bare, barren, denuded trees still whisk in the
winds as they pass through the branches.
That skeletal bareness belies the barren - no matter
that everything is still filled with life :
dormant, slow to move, lazy even, but life nonetheless.
What charmers these little things are...
over there, the squirrel with one eye.
At the farther corner, that old green statue
in the square, John Witherspoon himself, in fact;
brazen and strong, high atop his concrete pedestal.
It apparently little matters to him now the where
and when of this time and this place.
At some point everything comes together as one.
Beyond time, and beyond memory too.
(Life nonetheless, it's been said).

Monday, November 10, 2008


The places I've loved no longer exist.
All that I dreamed of is gone.
The most decided of moments has affected
all things - our pictures have changed with
that moment. The ruined cities of America:
Calumet City, when it was a mob town with
very public vice or that small place in Cleveland,
with its whisky and ice.
Certain places were always a clue - when we
understood the name of our quarry : the
grand ballrooms full of nakedness and a band.
Chicago, Baltimore and New York. Packed up
places with plenty of power.
The places I've loved no longer exist,
and all that I dreamed of is gone.
Those cantilevered bridges, arching faint pose,
lightly, over those darkened rivers. That winsome
sound - of the train leaving town. The smell of
the coal-house and the tractors - somehow re-seeding
the surface of the land. Everything, all at once,
a'jumble and crazy and perverse and wild.
Now, all this is over.
The world has gone mild.
...the places I've loved are all gone :
and all that I dreamed of no longer exists...
*for Jack Gilbert, at 80

Saturday, November 8, 2008

83. WOOD

I wish that I could build with wood
what my heart and mind can see.
Thrust from the spirit and the ground,
a wonderful kingdom it would be;
at one and the same of Earth and of Heaven.
I wish that I could construct with my feelings
the durable fit of the world's own glove.
Tight with fingers and snug,
made comfortable by charm and illusion,
I would wear it as a golden cloth or a
richness of fabric never before seen or imagined.
Then, perhaps, we would all be our own perfection.
Sunlight. Brilliance. Unwavering affection.
A fluorescent love brought to the very battlements
of fear - then the world would be transformed.
Light, and light alone, would be life's meaning.


No one ever came forth admitting to the crime.
Bertolt Brecht said this in rhyme (couplets):
['Poets, painters, and musicians
seeking grub and good positions
Noble souls who now assure us
they were no friends of the Fuhrer's']
How purely cute and quaint I say -
it even works out for today.
2. Speaking for myself, I have this to say
(once more harking to today).
'Do not be fooled oh limerick lady
by the force of the newly captured coming in.
They are all the same, whether colored white or tan.
Standing on the White House steps,
they smile until demands are met :
you are nothing and have come with nothing
and will keep nothing less. All auguries point to
discontent; pray to God you pay the rent.'
3. There once was a little bluebird, who
landed on the roof. Never one to smile back,
the owner took another tack.
After two seasons at risk, the
bluebird was sanctioned no longer.
What else do you need? More proof?


Some new guy was holding a stick -
Bongo Billy or something he said -
crawling with tendentious efforts towards
a likeness of God. Departured enfrazzlement
with all Nature on board.
'It's not in the cards for us to think'.
A Reverend Ike lookalike just down from
Harlem's own shed was speaking from a
platform set up to rouse the dead.
'We are the lost tribes of Israel, the children of
Moses himself. Why should we not stand up
in our own defense?' The crowd cheered wildly.
Lustfully. With complete abandon. I wasn't sure
what had occurred, but they were all screaming
in tandem. 'Had I a dime for every man's false dollar,
I'd be one tenth the richer' - the ten o'clock scholar.

Friday, November 7, 2008


New Paintings on a very old wall;
not bad, not bad at all.
I've somehow a notion to call the police.
Nothing forward's been done; it was all kept discreet.
Some say the world will end in fire.
I say it won't. It'll just wallow in mire.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


I wanted to make something with my hands...
no sex joke intended, but there you were.
It was like a drive in the country, in an old MG,
top down, exhaust howling. The three barns we passed
each had huge painted signs on their sides :
'Collier's Home-Made Elixir', 'Red Man Chew',
and - lastly - 'Harmon's Antiques Emporium'.
Sure was country-time to me.
Then, just like that, I awoke and realized
where I was - Jamaican Rum, malted-milk,
and a screeching bevy of kids on TV.
And then I REALLY awoke, and realized...
that too was a dream (in a dream).

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Oh raft of shiners, renegade factors,
how sincerely do you pout. While you sang
'The Swan' at Tuckman's Oasis, half the world
was burning away. So little did you notice, or care,
that one aperitif after another was downed for lack
of love to share. Heavens, how little so much matters!
'We must keep up our manners!'
That was a rallying cry as so many ships
went down. So the orchestras continued to play
as waiters brought trays and hors d'oeuvres, all
fresh for the choosing. 'There is really nothing
happening here to worry about.' So you idled in
the hallways, commenting on the carpets and the taste.
Everything was proper, as if placed discreetly,
perfectly, on some biology-lab table set to metastasize
the good and equalize the bad. Life as one sweet reason.
Life as one sweet season.
Let us dine again at The Metropole.


A jury's idea of waiting for something to convince
never made any sense to me. It's either
clear from the start or it's not.
All the rest is idle gossip.
Consider the lilies of the field -
they neither toil nor sleep.
They take out no one's trash and neither
do they rob nor pillage.
A washbasin filled with water would know that.
Early each morning, the guy at the piano
delivers my newspaper. He sneaks up on the
walkway, throws it down, and runs back to his
eighty-eight keys.
Why?, you would wonder, no?
I always wanted to read Elizabeth Bishop aloud.
The way James Merrill once did : with dramatic
flair - in 'Arrival at Santos' there's a part
where the deck-boy catches the old woman's skirt
with the boat hook, by accident.
'Please boy, do be more careful with that
boat hook! Watch out! Oh! It has caught
Miss Breen's skirt!'
It's really nothing but a bunch of stupid words.
('Life and the memory of it cramped, dim,
on a piece of Bristol board.')

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


(Abstract #2)
Maybe the cleaver was left in the shed.
It dangled there, from a leather strap, as if it
were meant to be there forever. So why wreck the
equation (1clvr + strp over nail X plc = view)?
Had you not asked, I wouldn't have known.
That Chevrolet you'd mentioned was still down at the pier -
parked at an angle, as if left in a hurry. She was running
when I last saw her - the girl, who'd left it there. Prada?
Manolo Blanik? I won't know the difference. She looked OK.
Now I hear - as the detective tells the story - she was on the lam
from fleecing her attorneys of thousands of billable hours.
THAT'S a no-no for sure. They are, after all, supposed to be
on your side, so why would you cross them?
Later on, after the story had run its course, I saw her
photo in the paper. She still looked good, though not great.
Prison khakis seem to never look nice : grey, blue, pink, whatever.
Something had been done, also, with her hair.
She no longer looked ready for adventure -
in fact she now looked rather tired and bedraggled.
I was sure they'd sedated her, even if just for the picture.
'What else was new?' I figured.
I could do the math in my head.

Monday, November 3, 2008


Lest we sulk.
It breaks away.
The femur connected to something
joins that something to something else.
They work together.
We mobilize. We generate.
We move to the point through the friction
of the joint. As cows in a meadow, we swarm.
The guy in the old churchyard was lost
in an image of oldest Newark;
itself already gone 10 times over.
I could see it in his eyes as he talked to me.
There really wasn't anything left at all -
a mountain-pile of smashed red bricks
surrounded by temporary fencing.


(Halloween/Election Day)

The endless pageant rolls on - we seem tired,
forlorn, bereft of interest - yet the children still
parade. About their smothered faces,
clown make-up, starbursts painted,
temporary tattoos. Their high-pitched
voices, sing-song, labor to tell a tale.
How the dragon slew the night.
It must be teachers, grabbing hands and
shouting girlish instructions : 'Don't push!
Remain in place! Be quiet!'
How come some things never change?
The glimmer of interest and energy
will soon be drained from these kids.
'Do this; don't do that!'
How soon those
flowers wilt.
Majestic skies are liberal things;
the broadness of appeal, the openness of
any invitation. 'Come celebrate with us!
This is life we must endure! Be happy!
We are sure of everything!' Only time
can close the great wide-open.
How sadly the children
turn in upon

Sunday, November 2, 2008


I erased every mark of her from all my books -
not a smudge not a smidgen to be. There would be
instead clear blue skies, wide-open spaces,
and an end to all that cramped and crabbed
bad living done before. I swore this to myself
(you must believe) over and over again.
It wasn't just that living like that had no end,
but more that the lack of presence, after a while,
just wore me down. Beleaguered, tired, fitful and dark;
I'd grown into some monster I never wished to be.
If there was ever a sanctimonious moment, this would be it:
admitting to oneself the error of one's ways.
So no one wishes, any longer, to speak with me.
So no one communicates a word. I hear the
stupid 3rd Street choir singing from the roof
of a parking garage somewhere in downtown
Morristown, and I have to wonder why. Their
insidious, bastardized music - a really bad
form of religious rap - seeps through my brain like
zombie blood at an outdoor picnic. I'm vain enough,
I guess, to admit I'd wish to see them all dead -
if I had the chance to choose it.
No matter the age, everyone remains stupid as they grow.