WHY DID SOCRATES LOVER OF TRUTH

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Why did Socrates, lover of truth,

Hate poetry? Poetry is not scientific proof,

But looks like science and its fame:

The science of details, aloof,

Proud, splendid, phantasmagoric,

Making love and pleasure seem the same.

Stern science knows more of love

Than all of poetry, and its sighs.

Puritan science knows you cannot be

Both sensual and wise.

If you laugh and kiss and coo

There will be no science for you.

Yes! You may get the scientist undressed

To laughter. Love laughs the best.

But keep your love out of the schools—

The mad love of kisses, sighs, and drools.

The world called, with the roar of trumpet and drum,

And one responded, at Delium.

Let’s go with sober Plato

And laugh secretly with him:

There is a sound that wisdom makes

When it laughs, which you might be able to hear:

It is the light of the eye when it is radiant and clear,

A look a lake has, when you see to the bottom—

A perspective, musical and dear,

When the wonder of the child creeps upon

All that you are—and all you are looking on.

Here’s what Socrates knew,

And though you love poetry, I’ll tell you.

The mediums of democracy are the first thing

The oligarch controls:

Entertainment, news production, popularity polls.

This is why for 2,000 years, the State

Made you forgetful, resentful and late.

“Is it hot in here? Or is it just me?”

No. It’s the golden oligarchy.

The common sense of common people

Will see to it things are okay.

But the oligarchy and its poetry

Is dark and leads you to a darker way.

Rosalinda! The poetry you said

Neglected your body. And completely dreamed your head.

 

THREE POEMS RANDOMLY NOTICED

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The poet Babitha Marina Justin

There are no “hit poems.”

I’m addicted to singing, humming, or whistling snatches of songs to myself—the pleasure and comfort of music is incalculable. How many people use poetry this way, or hold poems in their head, as they do song?

I sometimes feel the need to speak a favorite poem out loud just as I feel the need to hum a favorite song.

But poems do not flow inside us the way a popular song does.  We don’t whistle poems.

A “song” can have almost no real melody at all. A mere enthusiastic chanting or rapping of words is enough to seem like music. But “music” sells. “Poetry” doesn’t.  It’s kind of a strange thing.

How many people appreciate songs!  And how few, poetry! And yet, the “music” which accompanies song lyrics is such a stunningly simple, almost accidental, thing.

If only there were a way to work backwards from a melody which bewitches, to one that just walks along, so that we might include a poem, by slow degrees, into that realm where tune, almost frivolously, adds so much.

The melody which-has-no-words surpasses with its meaning the meaning of words—and is the despair of poetry, which will always lack what song has.

But just as “song” lyrics ride on their wordless music, there is wordless music that also lives, not in the air, but inside the best poems—inhabiting the poem’s thought itself, as charming in its way as any melody sounds to the ear.

A perfect, stately, example is Shelley’s brief poem, “To ____.”

The meaning of Shelley’s poem points to the absence of words which we find in melody; notice how Shelley hints at the real, the substantial, the meaningful—and the absent.

One thought is too often profaned
For me to profane it,
One feeling too falsely disdained
For thee to disdain it;
One hope is too like despair
For prudence to smother,
And pity from thee more dear
That that from another.

I can give not what men call love,
But wilt thou accept not
The worship the heart lifts above
And the Heavens reject not,—
The desire of the moth for the star,
Of the night for the morrow,
The devotion to something afar
From the sphere of our sorrow?

The mathematician who is Shelley is apparent immediately—the poem begins with a number, the most significant one—one.  One—as in “no other,” as well as “all, or all important,” and both meanings join together in the philosophy of the poem as a whole.  What is this unspoken thought: feeling, hope, pity?  It is revealed in stanza two—“love.”  Love is already expressed in stanza one—especially in the particular inclusion of “from thee more dear…” after the poet has moved from “me” to “thee” in the fourth line. But when “love” is named in the second stanza, Shelley denies it (or the name of it) and moves onward to “something afar” as Two (moth/star) steers its way back with the aid of “desire” to the One (“something afar”).

Shelley’s poem sings (rhymes) with poetic “music,” but Shelley also sings (can we say this?) with his philosophy.

Just as real music (heard melody) is beyond poetry, Shelley’s teasing, mathematical, philosophy is an unheard music which breathes beyond the poem qua poem.  Missing the commonplace directness of prose and the real music of music, poetry represents by what it lacks—and Shelley’s philosophy is in perfect keeping with this lack.  The last four lines of Shelley’s “To ___” are so majestic, we almost experience it as music itself.

When, against our will, against our understanding, against our perception, poetry moves us beyond the meaning of its words, we succumb to something which we don’t perceive as poetry, and yet is higher than poetry, in the poetry. And, as poets, or readers of poetry, this unsettles us, because it is what we were looking for all along, and yet it is so rare we don’t usually expect it, and we feel sorrowfully that this excellence will ruin most other poetry for us; and further, poetry which hints at something beyond also reminds us of the sphere of our sorrow.  Shelley does not escape the “sphere of our sorrow.”  In his poem he leaves us with it, even as he strives in his poem to leave it.

Just as religion discovered the secret of the self, (worshiping ourselves by worshiping another) and the Italian Renaissance the secret of painting (perspective), Romanticism discovered the secret of poetry (refinement of desire).

The poems that move this writer the most invoke “the desire of the moth for the star.”

Poems do not come into my head as nearly as often as songs.  But here are a few which have arrived at my doorstep recently which would be in my head—if poems, poor poems! were songs.

I want to show you this poem (or “flash fiction”) by Jacqueline Doyle—which could never possibly roll around in your head like a song. It has no recognizable tune. This piece creeps into one’s affection with philosophy, in the same way Shelley’s poem does. There is a “prose directness” to it, but it lives through its philosophy, not as a piece of prose, which it nonetheless is. Just as we experience all paintings as layered paint, we experience all poems, even verse ones, as prose pieces. Then we “step back” and see the paint (very close up we see only a confusion of paint) become an emotional picture with perspective. Just so, we “step back” from the prose to the “view” brought about by the “perspective” of the poem/flash fiction.

Checkmate

I’m sorry I made you cry when I won at chess. We didn’t know each other well, it was our first match, and we played on a small wooden travel chess set that we’d just bought in Thessaloniki. The tiny chessmen had wooden pegs that fit into holes on the checkered squares and the board folded in half and became a box to store them. I was a pretty good player back then, that is, quick and impatient and incapable of planning ahead more than one or two moves but with good instincts. I must have cornered your King, maybe swooped in with my Queen. I didn’t crow triumphantly or laugh when I checkmated you and I couldn’t understand why you cried. Or maybe you didn’t cry, just wiped away a tear. We were on a worn red plaid blanket in the shade of a gnarled pine tree, camping on an empty white sand beach in Greece. The sky was so blue, the ocean turquoise, the air warm and gentle. I was lulled by the soft, rhythmic plash of the waves, the faraway cries of seagulls. I’d never been to such a beautiful place. You were 27, I was only 19. You left your girlfriend behind in Germany to meet me for a month’s vacation in your pale green VW bus. I don’t know whether you apologized to her. And then you followed me back to the US and lived with me my junior and senior years and I apologize for suggesting that you return to Germany a couple of months early so you could get a head start on finishing your degree while I finished mine. If I hadn’t suggested that, you wouldn’t have had the affair that you hid from me until we were in the Pyrenees on a motorcycle trip from Germany to Morocco with her and some other friends. I guess you apologized to me and I know I took you back after the trip I’d left so abruptly and I apologize for my mistake because I should have known it would happen again but instead of planning ahead more than one or two moves, I settled down with you in Germany where I liked being a foreigner and then married you five years later and I apologize for going back to the US and embarking on a PhD in a university town in upstate New York where the only job you could find was checking students’ backpacks at the library for stolen books. I was crushed when we broke up over your affair with a girl at the library, and I apologize for feeling relieved as well, and maybe I should have apologized for not taking you back six months later, but really I was out of apologies at that point and certainly didn’t believe yours. I should have realized when you took getting beaten at chess so hard that none of it was going to work out, probably I should have thought more than one or two moves ahead back at the beginning when you left your girlfriend behind to vacation in Greece with an adventurous American girl who was just passing through. I’m sorry I didn’t know that but the sky was so blue, the Aegean so turquoise, the air kissed my skin and it all seemed very romantic to the romantic nineteen-year-old I was and I’m not going to apologize for her or for beating you at chess after all.

“Checkmate” uses the brutal metaphoric device of comparing a game of chess to love. All the rhymes in the world could not smooth or hide the fact that this metaphor is a risky attempt, to say the least. But here she is, audaciously attempting it.

And here it should be said that poetry is not metaphoric, any more than painting is metaphoric. The whole construction must contribute to the whole of the embodied philosophy. Flesh is philosophy and philosophy is flesh, in art. It is not quite correct to say Doyle’s attempt is audacious; she succeeds because of what she calmly builds.

She doesn’t reduce love to a chess game. She reduces a chess game to love, which is why the metaphor succeeds.

Poetry aspires to love, and this is the only path—the path must lead (up or down, it doesn’t matter) to love. Reducing love to a chess game leads away from love, diminishes it, insults it, even. No poet wants to do that.

Human love can fail in a poem, as long as it is not love’s fault. The desire of the moth is heightened, because it is for a star. The failure of the desire has nothing to do with anything. In fact, desire is more chiefly desire when it fails; philosophy finds no hindrance in desire that fails.

The irony, of course, is that she wins the chess game but loses the love. It helps that she recalls the chess game much later—this adds a poignancy in the way the poem is built. Love isn’t chess (the obvious aspect of the metaphor, thankfully, is tacitly rejected). To “win” against your lover is the goal of a chess game, but not the goal of love. And this unfortunate truism (truism is the enemy of poetry) is mitigated because one, she is surprised when she wins, two, it is implied the beauty of the scene in Greece inspires her to win, and three, she reflects sadly, in the poem, on how she didn’t see what her victory, and his reaction to it, at the time, meant.

It is not metaphor, but perspective which is the soul of both painting—and poetry.

Perspective belongs to mathematics (geometrical in painting) and Jacqueline Doyle finds the necessary quantity, measurement, and perspective in her trope of “seeing one or two moves ahead”—this lovely, quantifiable idea is what the incidents of the story hang on. This is the “star” of the moth’s desire—the yearning to see “the possible moves ahead” on the limited (one) chess board shared by the (two) competing lovers in the chess game depicted in Greece, which evokes a tear in the male loser/lover. The tear symbolizes the frustration of the moth, the loser/lover who cannot reach the star. This idea is completely unspoken in the poem—yet clearly belongs to its philosophical construction.

The poem, “Checkmate” is like a novel, and is better (as an idea) than a novel, since it accomplishes the same in much less time. The poem and novel share the same object: philosophical perspective fleshed out; there is really not a single difference between the two genres, save the length of the endeavor. The only notable variation is verse, which attempts to be memorable—in a manner similar to song.

The following poem by Babitha Marina Justin, is another work which I happened to see recently, in a just-published book, I Cook My Own Feast, which was kindly mailed to me all the way from India. This poem is briefer, but still has the heft of an American story, or a Russian novel.

AN OLD WOMAN

There is an old woman
who tries to catch up to me.

She drags her foot
along with me,
and sometimes, she interferes
with my steady steps.

‘For God’s sake leave me alone,’
I yell as I used to yell at my mother.

She smiles and keeps her distance,
keeps her resistance.

It was only the other day
after a session at the gym
that I caught her shadow in
the mirror—pirouetting on my toes,
weakening my knees.

I ran out of the gym,
stumbled over steps and crouched,
alarmed that I was being stalked.

I looked up to see
my old woman
helping me up
with a beatific heroic smile.

In Babitha Justin’s poem, the “star” (old woman) finds the “moth,” (poet) but all the same, we have the same delicious torture evinced by the Romantic trope: the “desire of the moth for the star.”

The little things in this poem, as well as its presentation as a whole, mark it as a work of delicate genius. The telling and the action of the poem are one; the narrator and the old woman are one, the vast distance between the old woman and the poet disappears quickly, forcefully, as the poem unfolds, in a manner evincing the highest literary taste—with suspense, finality, and inevitability. Yet—along the way, there is still room in passing for the uncanny and the original: the way dancing is invoked (“pirouetting”) even though we are at the “gym.” The triumph of the old woman is a mixture of a thousand feelings: awe, horror, passion, sweetness, grace. The control of the elements in this poem is masterful. The inescapable nature of the poem invokes for me the artistic unity of moth-tied-to-star, which I am certain no reader could escape—or withstand.

The last poem we’ll look at is by David Berman (musician, Silver Jews) who I met in Arad, Romania in 2016, and who unfortunately took his life this summer at the age of 52. He was kind enough to give me a signed copy of his book, “actual air,” which was published at the end of the last century. The first poem in the book is such a wonderful poem, I wonder if he wondered occasionally why it did not make him famous as a poet—it’s that good.

The coherency and cohesiveness of the poem works on a number of levels. We see the poet writing the poem within the poem, and one might term this post-modern, but there is no such thing, really—all wonderful poems have an element in which the poem is writing itself as we read it. The poet hovers, as it were, self-consciously above his poem as he writes it, putting the reader all the more into the middle of the poem’s icy labyrinth. The reader is the moth, incapable of resisting the poem (the star). The reader’s present act of reading mirrors the poet’s prior act of writing—as if the poem didn’t exist at all. Desire obliterates all distance from the star—the poem is not the poet’s, but our own, for the poem seems to exist for us more perfectly than the poet could possibly exist for himself, or for anyone else.

In Berman’s poem, the narrator makes up a story on the spot about snow angels (ideal figures of the human “written” in the snow) to his little brother, whose child-like questions drive the dialogue/poem—which relies on the acoustic and sensual aspect of a snowy landscape (almost per Robert Frost)—the central line of which is “I didn’t know where I was going with this.” The poem ends with one more question by Seth, the little brother, who is “writing” the poem as he is trying to figure it out. The added scene of shoveling and “trading hellos” with the “neighbor,” the passing mention of the “farmer,” in the hurried, desperate, yet playful, telling within the telling of the poem, which hints at the biblical figure of Cain, the “farmer” who “shoots” the angels because they were on his “property,” all the elements of the poem hang together and disappear, in perfect keeping with all the poem, itself, evokes.

Snow

Walking through a field with my little brother Seth

I pointed to a place where kids had made angels in the snow.
For some reason, I told him that a troop of angels
had been shot and dissolved when they hit the ground.

He asked who shot them and I said a farmer.

 

Then we were on the roof of the lake.
The ice looked like a photograph of water.

Why he asked. Why did he shoot them.

I didn’t know where I was going with this.

They were on his property, I said.

 

When it’s snowing, the outdoors seem like a room.

Today I traded hellos with my neighbor.
Our voices hung close in the new acoustics.
A room with the walls blasted to shreds and falling.

We returned to our shoveling, working side by side in silence.

 

But why were they on his property, he asked.

 

****

Scarriet editors  october 16, 2019

EVERYBODY’S NICE

Image result for funeral of love in painting

Everybody’s nice. You can ask them.

But they won’t tell you. They will laugh,

But what can they say? Yes, they’re nice.

Everybody’s nice. The silent ones,

Who don’t know what to do, are nice.

The strangers who look strangely at you.

Talk to them. They’re nice. The slightly odd ones at work

Who annoy you. Admit it; they’re as nice

As you are. You saw them being nice to others

After they annoyed the hell out of you.

In the end, nice is all that matters to you.

Nice is what we have to do. Even after

Murdering someone, the murderer will be

Nice. You might be murdering someone

In your head and they will think you’re nice.

You have to be nice. Even if someone asks you to be nice.

This poem is nice. Extremely nice.

If you don’t understand someone, you have to be nice,

And if you do understand them, naturally, you are nice.

Have I left anything out?  Apologies

Arrive after a spurt of anger. We are nice.

Sometimes it’s exciting to watch others not being nice

But those taking tickets, and those sitting next to you, are nice.

The nice rule the world. The nice can be nice, just like you.

When she first opened her mouth—and sounded nice,

I felt no sexual attraction whatsoever;

She guessed the secret. Nice gets it.

But, being nice, what could she do?

This one was nice when she broke up with me.

It was like a beautiful apology

Which I didn’t want, but I knew was coming.

How can we pretend or defend?

You don’t have to be nice. Don’t apologize,

I said. But I was nice. She was nice.

It was terribly nice. In the end.

 

 

LOVE HAS A SINFUL MOUTH

Image result for mars and venus in renaissance painting

What my lover said to me last night

No committee or impeachment inquiry

Will ever make right.

My lover made it her mission to destroy

Everything which brings you joy

But luckily, only through me.

I laughed, but only privately.

She told me things you don’t want to hear

Or maybe you do—

You hypocrite you.

 

 

WHEN WE DON’T WANT TO LOVE

Image result for leo the lion in renaissance painting

Only when her body was ready for a baby
Was she horny, and she didn’t want babies—
So this made my lover really fucked up.
She never said: when I ovulate, I’m horny—
It would have made her sound like a whore.
She didn’t like sex. So one day she just gave up.
And I, the annoying male
Finally got annoyed. Fail.
She was INFP and I was INFJ
And love never judges, but I judged her, anyway.
I judged her like mad,
Writing extroverted poems—but sensitive, and sad,
Which ignored the other side of her nature,
A sneer rising up, to defeat me and Nature.
She was a water sign, or an air sign, I forget.
As a Leo, I was proud. I think she was sorry we met.
I take everything as it comes, and rise above,
But burn myself up in fits of self-love.
My poetry machine, unable to shut down,
Makes the lion speak like a motley clown.
Had I used fewer words
We might still be hopping about together like birds.
Oh she didn’t know that I, the well-adjusted,
Was puzzled—because I needed to be loved.

WE ADORE THESE PICTURES

Image result for benjamin west paintings

We adore these pictures of the sun,

And from afar, we adore this handsome one,

But up-close, in the place where kissing’s done,

Everybody’s ugly.

From above, trees look like toys stuck in the ground.

God’s distance is a view inside a sound.

In a selected spot, I find the warmth of the sun.

Everything seen is already done.

The sun dwarfs the earth,

But when I look, what’s the small sun worth?

To everything—everything

I close my eyes.

All thought is the thought of a surprise.

 

WHAT I CAN NEVER HAVE

Image result for resurrection in renaissance painting

What I can never have

Is her—when she and I

Loved with the same sultry cry

In the garden and the leaves.

Hidden love, on the run, in the outdoors,

Is the best love, no matter what anyone believes.

If you have not kissed shy, full, breasts

In the moonlight, when any moment

A stranger might intrude,

You have not seen Jesus Christ, or ever been delighted by the nude.

If you have not written a love poem to one you should not,

The saints cannot hear you, and your sun isn’t hot.

When she and I were sober, and equipped only with language, which betrays

Love, still we loved, and if this love stays

It is because of that tree and that moon

Which, when the night arrives—

And that will be soon—

I will think of her while doing other things.

Romance, which other people hate, still sings.

What I can never have!

But I had it, and this is why,

In my breast, forever, is that same sultry cry,

In my mind, forever, that terrible love

Which puzzles with its beauty, love.

 

THE BUILDING CODE OF GOD

The towers are perfect. Hot running water

And clean towels on the 73rd floor.

And look. The next street over, there are more.

Nothing overshadows you like New York City.

Even if Beethoven were here, he would drift about silently.

Overwhelmed by the talented, the mechanical, the iconic, the pretty.

I don’t care who you are.

New York City is the gleaming star.

Don’t bring your small town, conservative attitude here.

We’re New York City. Colorful and queer.

The subway system is a long ride

Just to get over to the west side,

And if you go way uptown?

I’ll see you, then. See you around.

The massive towers and the vast

Towers, architecture of the recent and less recent past.

When Spotify employees take cabs, they go fast.

In New York City it’s impossible to get lost.

You were lost already when you lost what you never lost.

The towers. They determined the cost.

The swift, clean subway takes you to Harlem by ten.

At CUNY, a statue of Alexander Hamilton.

The lovely brownstones, the sycamore trees,

The old Gothic hills. The transfixing breeze.

New York! The borrowers and the professors

And the traders and the intellectuals

And the cheap labor from all over!

That’s what you are and wanted. Chipped and far.

Every pavement brick accounted for.

That’s why its gravity drew you here.

Greater than the past, or your dreams, or grandmother, dear.

Hard, curved  cement.

Better than what any poem meant.

A lonely pussy cat on the 60th floor

With loneliness and a modeling career in store.

Delmore Schwartz dying in a midtown hotel.

Not all of the immigrants did well.

New York didn’t care.

A deep homeless stare.

Great poetry doesn’t always sell.

And sometimes in the suburbs a will

Takes over not even New York City can kill.

The conventionally handsome are attracted by the money

And women are conventionally pretty

In New York City.

But, like anything else,

It’s always better somewhere else.

You were never really here.

It was intellectual. It was language.

You weren’t really queer.

Is this the right corner? What’s the best cologne?

Nobody knows. New York is unknown.

New Yorkers, New York-neutered, are blasé

About themselves, not overawed,

The restaurant, the movie, the play

Is boring, and bored, with its perfect jaw.

But New York City silent, in the dawn,

Is the most beautiful thing, in the dawn.

And the small green park with amateur jazz

Reminds you New York City is small

And vulnerable, as well as tall.

Here the great numbers protect you.

More makes more. There’s nothing new.

New York City is looking back at you.

Surfaces. Roman, black, dane, jew.

A small Christian church, anxious to save,

Around the corner. On the 90th floor, you shave.

The tall goddesses come here to live.

The funny, strange faces. New York City pulls to give.

New York City is made to be

An indifferent building to the poetry.

There is too much here to ever use

Seriously by the muse.

I am hectored by New York City. I lie down

And pee in my white toga. In my green gown.

Once I spilled my guts downtown.

And you know what? Nothing can compare

To her—who has never even been there.

 

 

DESPERATE

 

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When they like you, you are pleased,
But when they like you desperately,
This is love, and you don’t like it. The problem is easy to see:
You want love, but love only happens desperately.
Desperate was the world, when it began—
It began with Desperation, not with Man.
Desperate to begin,
Love does not care about sin.
Look—the lawful universe,
Prior to starting, obeys no law. Law makes desperation worse.
So don’t be surprised by desperate surprise.
Love will always surprise you. Her beautiful eyes,
Which you never really saw,
Are beautiful. And will break every law.

 

THE CHILD POE

Image result for baby raven

The child says there should be more—

More candy, more kittens, more stories

At bedtime, more bedtimes, more.

More brothers and sisters. The child says

We have to go back to the store.

The store has everything—well, not quite.

The child says this isn’t right.

The child asks for another store in the middle of the night.

The child wants more breaths. More.

The children arrived before. Is this why

My child says, “more?”

We have to go back to the store.

We don’t have money. We need more.

We need more—to buy things at the store.

We hate these things. We don’t want any more.

Yes we do. We want more money for more.

We need to keep swimming to the store.

The child was right to want more.

To want more love. To implore.

To work more, so we have more.

Write more poems. Poems don’t belong in the store.

Yes they do. Even poems.

And we will buy more.

If we lose one, there will be more;

Another mother, another father.

Another child, waking from a dream in the store.

This is the answer to grief: More.

Please, one more poem.

More love. More sunset and song.

How did you convince yourself the child

Who chooses more is wrong?

You ask the child: you are choosing what?

The very act of choosing is what we dare to choose.

The will. The will. The will.

But the will to be nothing matters, too.

Are you choosing the child?

Or is the child choosing you?

What does it matter?

Did you choose yourself? Was it your choice?

Look at the way you wrap your legs around yourself

When you read your public protest poems.

Your arms folded around yourself. Your voice.

You say to the child who wants more,

I’m in control here. This is not your choice.

We can’t have more. Not more—which depends on narrow belief.

Listen to my voice.

My voice. My older voice, filled with grief.

 

PHILOSOPHY AND LOVE ARE DEAD

Image result for socrates in renaissance painting

Socrates tried to tell you love, which creates and desires,

Is better than reasonable friendship, putting out all the fires.

The quarrel is between poetry and philosophy;

What you got wrong is poetry is the friend—

And philosophy, love. And since you are wrong, both for you must end.

When I wrote my poems to you, love came through my words;

Sparrows sang of love—you had never noticed these birds.

You never noticed the humility of the bees hovering,

Those dark hairs, the soft covering.

Poetry made every creature seem

Friendlier; love was a pleasant dream.

But cold philosophy lives in poetry,

My poetry was never

Merely a friendly gesture—

I was creating myself and you

As one mind, hating all things

Except death, and because of death, the true.

You felt my poems were the gift of a friend.

Philosophy begins when my poems end.

Leave the poems. Look at the bees.

It’s time you let philosophy please.

I quit, having been paid by you

With love. But the poet wanted to be true.

 

 

EVENING

Image result for blue evening in the capitol

It is evening. We think evening

Will cover up our wrong.

Detective tales sing this song.

After the poem is over

We walk the ruins of the day,

Our reputation ruined,

Thinking of something to say.

The first detective story

Was not at all gory.

It was just a matter of a letter

Which compromised the state.

Something the ambassador said

Which was wrong, or merely, late.

The poem I gave to you:

Do you remember that evening?

When everything, including the evening, seemed true?

 

WHEN, AFTER ALL, YOU REALIZE YOU LOVED

Image result for resurrection in renaissance painting

When, after all, you realize you loved—

As best as you could love,

Saw—as best as you could see,

Were—as nice as you could be,

Under the circumstances, the best,

Even sadly, even at rest,

The beautiful day dying,

The unfinished philosophy crying,

But Aristotle was right all along,

And the myths, and the song

And the fixed stars, not exactly right,

But not wrong, the calculations

You made, interminably—

The sad truths remaining out of sight—

Eyes easily closed, next to the lisping sea,

Considering the warlike nations,

And yours, the small island, with species

Preyed upon by domestic cats—

Who purred, but killed, just like that.

Your island alive to the healthy look of the sun,

When nature’s young beauty, almost done,

Gave to adolescence, fit to adore,

A delicate beauty, and even more,

The strict honor among men,

Good, again and again,

Allowing women and girls to go freely about,

Making them beautiful under the sun beyond a doubt,

Being free. They were free.

So, statistically,

There was far less homosexuality.

Love made a delicate sound

On your small island, and one bird

Flew up, far, and around

When you said the right word.

 

REVENGE OF THE TEASE

Image result for violent female goddess in indian art

Everything he touched turned rhapsodic,

The teeth, the tongue, the inside of his mouth,

The breath, his lips, were liquid and melodic.

But he wrote a song that was wrong.

Now his lyre’s unstrung. It hangs there,

A skeleton instrument, dry and bare.

“The Revenge of the Tits” was the name of his song

And he sang it with his usual, glorious touch.

The men liked it. The women, not so much.

His theme was an idle dream

That occupies many a head,

Absent-mindedly, and maybe sadly, lying there in bed—

Deeply, many times, thought—but never said.

Why shouldn’t this appeal to the poet?

To speak what is often thought, but never spoken?

He spoke. And this is why his lyre is crushed and broken,

And why they found him, the sheriff’s men,

Cut in the gorge. He will never sing again.

He sang truly.

But his fans became unruly.

I saw them in that dim Thule,

Shady like the route my lover took,

When she and I put down the book.

His theme was—all women are in prison:

Imprisoned by their delicacy and tits,

Either passive, or aggressive and shunned,

And he sang it. And he was torn to bits.

To avoid his death

There was nothing the singer could do.

They ended his rhapsodic breath,

So I breathe softly and delicately around you.

I am the singer in the gorge, with my tiny piece of cloud above,

And I always, always, always, always sing of love.

 

THE VICTIM

Image result for ancient mariner

You are not wrong to be the victim.

A choice is not a choice,

If, let’s say, you choose badly

In country, roommate, husband, or wife.

How could you know what everything entailed?

We all are victims of life.

And if your lover, who now pretends to be the victim of you,

Even as they loved you over and over again,

Is now ashamed,

Well, that will happen. Everything will happen.

If we link hands with women and men,

Or smile at every child, we are traveling to eternity;

Eternity sounds like Emily,

A name who sounded like her poetry.

That’s why, as a victim, I cannot agree.

Nietzsche’s “eternal return” is proven wrong,

Since how will eternity eternally return

In one gesture, blood stream, or song?

No, even the lucky are victims of life,

Even if we find the secret—

A good job, a happy husband, a sexy wife.

If you get that, let me know;

We can make time stop for you, or go slow.

No. You, the victim, me, the victim, yes!

Let’s plant what we knew in what we know.

Correct. Who in the world dares confess

They knew? They did? They made their breath?

Who? Who steers their own ship, flying and sinking towards terrible death?

 

 

 

 

 

 

PERSONAL HABIT

Image result for jim morrison drinking

After drinking for four hours at Paddy’s bar

I was in love, and felt like a star.

Unable to sing, I was still full of song.

I was right and told people. Was that wrong?

I was unsuccessful, of course;

At dawn, I fell off Harry, the English horse.

I was ready to start world war two.

I wish I were American and puritan—like you.

But this frowning Iranian? This polite man from China?

They will certainly do.

WHAT HAVE YOU GOT FOR ME?

Image result for fanciful women portraits in paintings

I can give you a look

At what others don’t normally see.

I can give you words

Immediately poetry.

That’s all romance is,

And you might be startled at how easy it is.

And this might give you pause.

Love is the only thing that’s simple

And has no laws.

The unspoken? In love, no. All is spoken

And seen, at last. Love is that complete.

You are not expected to be neat,

But I can see you wanting to be.

Wanting to be. Wanting to be.

 

A RICH LIFE

Image result for biden brags about ukraine

Lots of road rage on Twitter these days.

The Internet is a great mixing bowl of chemical reactions—deep identities interacting. In some ways, the battles are bracing and healthy. Bad emotions are burning off.

The poor need community. But the poor often look up to the rich and try to be like them. The rich are often hostile, cruel, defensive, and isolated in their judgments.

With all this mixing, cruelty has found its community—community has found its cruelty.

A lot of this is due to Trump, but let’s put aside politics for a moment.

The current controversy in the public sphere involves an international fight between two rich men: Trump and Biden.

Like the Internet, which mixes people from all walks of life, and exposes a great deal which has never been exposed before, Trump is a rich boy from the rich club fighting other members of the rich club—and this is exposing a lot of things which are usually kept quiet.  That’s why there’s all this fuss today.

The rich—like the gods on Mount Olympus—fight with each other—sometimes.

Sometimes the gods fight so much they forget they are gods—who mostly rule in silence and secrecy over nobodies like us.

Trump is fighting with other rich people, and a lot of it, this nobody imagines, is purely personal—and he’s using working class, middle America as his ally—and highly indignant, elite, chattering class, liberals as his rocket fuel.

The phenomenon of Trump is exactly like the internet, and mirrors it—a mixing of different classes and beliefs and situations which creates a great deal of electrical energy. Trump is unsettling other rich people like Biden—and Biden’s friends. The Trump era is exposing how the gods on Olympus behave.  It’s not so much what Trump is, but what he is stirring up.

Let’s not get caught up in the rage and the fear too much. Hang together, people. This is a great moment in American history. Learn, laugh. Enjoy it. We are.

—The Scarriet Editors

 

WHAT IF AT THE END

Image result for shakespeare's as you like it in painting

What if at the end,

You realize you were wrong?

Will this change the beginning,

And the middle, and the late middle,

And the end, of this, our lonely song?

What if, at the end,

You understand how lonely

You were, and how you always had the key

To escape your prison.

And the one you wanted—was me?

Will it make a difference, then,

When you cry out,

And see my face, and there is no doubt there was no doubt?

I wonder this, not because wondering is what I need to do.

I know. I never wondered when I thought of you.

 

 

THERE THEY ARE

Image result for renaissance portraits

There they are. Those poems which prove

Nothing but that he failed at love.

They were all written to the same woman

Who wouldn’t listen.

Sometimes they rebuked,

And sometimes they pleaded.

The more these poems are contextualized,

The less they are needed.

The more we read these poems

The more we demand to see

Not his pitiful anguish,

But her beauty.

The art is her, lingering behind

This clever speech. This obliterated mind.

 

PHOBIA

Related image

You know someone by their fear.

Some are afraid and some are not afraid, to be queer.

This fearless man is homeless, the germs

Cover him with invisible flies and worms.

This woman showers three times a day.

She washes germs and love away.

This woman believes she will be attacked

By the one she loves.

She assembles hawks to defend the doves.

This man has such a fear of losing money,

He doesn’t believe there is money.

White, he believes his great-grandmother is black,

And one midnight she will take him back

And trade him for a farm animal

He saw once on the Disney channel.

My phobia is I love you until I die.

No one makes a sound. And no one knows why.

 

ALL OF MY BELOVEDS

Image result for the lonely giant in renaissance painting

All of my beloveds are putting on the pounds

But I’m as thin as a rail.

I need to gain weight—

I’ll succeed in how they fail.

We want opposites. Then how can I love them?

If they are happy, I cry.

If they live, I die.

They will crush me with less and less love.

Unless I take from them, but I cannot.

I am the stick and they are the stone.

I will disappear because I love.

They will love, vast and alone.

 

OR THE DAY

Image result for delmore schwartz

This had to blast a hole in the night,

And interrupt my sleep—

So I might stay awake—

To write a poem to make her weep.

But weep she never will.

The world’s crammed. She’s had her fill.

They squelched you. Why?

Every store and library has Lloyd, but not you.

It almost makes me want to cry.

Delmore, they are taking your words away,

And using them in electronic crosswords.

You would be dismayed—or maybe, resigned.

You were intimate with nitpicking society, and every kind

Of Harvard scholar and pill.

You burned with introspection and good will.

You separated yourself out,

To find knowledge in yourself in doubt.

Yours was a Freudian Era—

Marked by Marxist separation, ego, error.

I heard you couldn’t sleep—

But you weren’t one to weep.

You were noble, and nobly great.

But a stammerer, and after introductions,

Anxiously scintillating. But, by then, too late.

Your family never settled down,

So you couldn’t just get around.

We need to introduce everyone to your Socrates, again,

The women are getting bored with all the boring men.

They are shaping us into shapes, again.

You, at least had Freud, Dante, and Marx.

Now we are pacified into one,

A boiling, confused, placid sun.

A little like your face you hated.

The great mind! But sad and fated.

You should see us now! Looking into our phones!

Gazing at these devices—as if they were eternity!

Delmore, I think they are.

Devices loading pictures still—by the time we join your star.

WHAT TROUBLES US

Image result for lonely thoreau in painting

What troubles us is this:

That when we find something delicious,

We’ll never stop eating it.

We’ll be lost in nature’s beauty

And never see our friends.

We will fall in love with films—

One more film is waiting when this one ends.

We will be out on the unstable trail,

Too far away from him and her.

We will weigh three hundred pounds.

Eating delicious things will make this occur.

Someone writes a story and breaks our heart

And then the vaster heart-aches start.

We will read a philosophical tract

And disappear.

We will die by a scary thought—

We couldn’t stop reading the articles

Which said this happened last year.

We found something delicious

Known only to ourselves.

We eat. But no one sees what we do.

But I avoid these dangers—how?

I’m watched. I’m always watched by you.

 

 

PRIVACY

Image result for delmore schwartz

Privacy is where we kill ourselves, and perhaps, others.

Privacy is where we hide. Privacy is where

The hypocrites dwell.

Privacy is where I think.

I’m thinking of rhyming privacy with hell.

You knew that, didn’t you?

Privately you think you know

A great deal about me,

Even in the snow,

When the outdoors becomes a room

From a sky overcast and sloppy

And snowy trees participate in a gloom

Which is not gloomy at all.

It unites us. We throw a snow ball.

It strikes you on the shoulder

Like a bird call.

The snowy landscape is a privacy for all.

Even Delmore will take hot chocolate with a smile

And be normal for a while.

Usually you need to be alone and read a lot of books

Because life has too much life.

Too many looks.

Remember when privacy was chased away

On that bright snowy day?

And you couldn’t help but love me?

When it was all snowy?

That’s how I know you know me.

I liked that part of the poem.

How I rhyme. The poem in my soul

You glimpse in my eyes from time to time.

I don’t see this at home in the mirror,

Staring at myself when I’m alone.

In my deepest privacy, I don’t know myself.

Strangely enough, privately is where I think I know you.

I take a long walk into yesterday’s mind,

And what it knows, privately, and a little unkind.

 

 

 

YOU WON’T LET ME BE GREAT

Image result for battles in renaissance painting

You won’t let me be great,

Because your father wasn’t great.

I can’t see you, if my poetry is good—

You think I’m courting other women

When my poetry is good, even though it’s not me—

I love you. It’s the good poetry.

But yes it is me, if it’s the poetry.

If I’m loved, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry if I’m president and I have a beautiful wife.

I guess I ruined your life.

Your job makes you anxious. Democracy

Is neglectful leadership. And my poetry

Gains me lovers, not voters. Democracy

Doesn’t know anything, unlike poetry.

But there’s hope for you. Beauty

Is hope combined with the sad.

I hope this poem isn’t making you mad.

There’s hope for you. And do you know why?

I know it’s awkward in life, but in my poem

I’m going to tell you and look you directly in the eye,

Almost like facing down a dog, or a cat.

(A dog might respond, but a cat wouldn’t like that)

And here’s why there’s hope for you:

Life is nothing but a long road of revenge.

Revenge is what motivates us all.

You were cursing a lot on twitter yesterday.

You feel it. And when I fall,

You’ll be strong. That’s all I really have to say.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHEN I SLEPT

Image result for falling into sleep in surrealist painting

When I slept, I slipped into the world

Where friends were friends again.

I was whipped, and wept. The world

Punished me accordingly. Again,

I leaped into dreams. Or the dreams

Leaped. I kept to myself, and slept,

Dead to everything. I did things, nonetheless,

Which surprised everything, had it known.

Dreams grew. Did I hear myself groan?

I’m clumsy; I slipped. I did sleep well, I guess.

 

 

 

AMERICA!

Image result for american heroism 19th century painting

It is sophisticated to condemn your country,

And every country runs with a thousand wrongs,

Even as you root for the cricket team and sing your country’s songs.

But you are guilty of sophistication, of wanting sophistication so bad,

That hating your country becomes how you think,

And for excitement, you make your mother sad.

This is especially true in the U.S., where the unkind

Matters of identity have topped the college mind.

It takes a pretty penny to go to college,

Just to feed resentment of old manners and knowledge.

It takes a pretty penny to reject your parent’s all—

So a man turning into a woman can use the woman’s stall.

The brutal facts of history, unfolding with political zeal,

Galvanized by the unfeeling spy, will ruin how you feel.

The propaganda of history, which murders with its stealth,

Troubles the local habits by which you know yourself.

What condemns your country, when it comes from someone you trust,

Invades your developing mind, which pleads for it like lust.

But history, which is so beyond you, and so vast—

It belongs to all the world, and belongs to all the past—

Makes your lustful certainty of your country’s wrong

The misremembered words of an unmelodic song.

Iran is British Petroleum and British Petroleum is Iran,

And the Muslim will call you Satan if the British secretly can.

America! If you don’t understand the seeds of this fight,

You’ll be crushed. Learn. Hold on tight.

 

 

THE PAINTER

Image result for commuters beneath the parking garage

What is art? A picture comes to life.

A poet makes a picture. But pictures must be brought to life.

To create a picture, the painter’s life

Is full of agony and despair. But more, still, is needed:

The painter has to give the picture life.

The only hope is this: we look at life—

And see how small and mean it is.

The only hope my poetry has:

Even love fails at love and ends up all alone.

Today: people going to work, their mouths and eyes dead.

I’d rather look at stone.

 

 

I WILL UNDERSTAND TOMORROW

Religion says the one comforting thing:

We don’t understand and it’s okay.

It’s always okay to sing.

We don’t understand—and it’s not okay:

This is the secular speculation

In which we lose our way.

We understand there is no God,

And once we establish this,

We think we’ll begin to understand more and more—

But instead our thoughts get more and more odd.

And when we don’t understand, hell! this is not okay.

You need to understand, and this need

Takes you down a darker way.

“I thought I understood he hated me,

And I knew she loved me, and I knew

The easy, the simple, the secular and the true.

I don’t believe in God, and this complexity

Is coming nearer and nearer to a mystery

Yesterday I rejected, when I saw it burning in you.”

The smart atheist becomes depressed.

He is God. And gets no rest.

The worst idea is “everyone knows,”

The social idea of the political middle,

Expressed in the Wall Street Journal

By Peggy Noonan, a Bush supporter; old, now;

Still feted in Washington D.C.

By the rich, with fine ideas of poetry.

She doesn’t belong here.  But here she is, anyhow.

“Everybody knows” is the truth for these

Sunday morning politicians, the hidden disease

Which corrupts everything. Peggy Noonan? I would rather die

Next to an atheist, whose knowledge was in short supply.

 

 

 

THE DOGS OWN ME

The dogs own me.

I’m owned by their poop and their pee.

I’m owned by their scratching—

As I used to be owned by your irritability.

I used to see you in the shadows

And kiss you when we were there.

Now I’m owned by the dog park

And the shedding hair.

I wished I owned the dogs,

But the dogs own me.

I could bring you dogs, old ones.

They would wait. I could read you poetry.

I could bring you the past,

Which is finished, misty, revered.

But that is holy. Glorious. Dead.

That’s what our love feared.

I wished I owned the story,

But the story owns me.

I once owned the slaves and the waves.

But I drowned in the American sea.

See if you can own something.

Put your troubles on the moon.

Buy an admirable dog.

That dog will own you soon.

 

THE REALLY GOOD POET

Image result for dorothy parker

The really good poet is disliked by the other poets.

Hate. Hate. Hate.

When John Keats dies, they’ll love him.

Wait. Wait. Wait.

When the sun eclipses the stars,

It is only because you are here.

Tell the professor! Get his opinion!

It will be different next year.

John Crowe Ransom, the sun,

Prefers his manuscript, the moon,

Up there on the glittering stage.

Kangaroos will be reading us soon.

Engage. Engage. Engage.

Wallace Stevens is feeling faint

From too much beer.

George Santayana!

The Modernist calendar is here.

Mrs. Dante is sending invitations

By pony express.

The whereabouts of Mrs. T.S. Eliot

Is anyone’s guess.

A fiendishly sexy Edna Millay,

A terribly sad Dorothy Parker.

No. Get out your marker.

The lighting makes her look that way.

 

 

THE MUSE KNOWS WHAT SHE’S DOING

Image result for the muse in renaissance painting

The muse knows what she’s doing.

She doesn’t care about your tears.

She knew you would make poetry she likes,

As you pined for her all these years.

What? Did you think poetry was a skill?

Think of a fever dream. The poet has to be ill.

Poetry costs nothing. It’s like drinking for free.

Baudelaire writes a good poem eventually.

He found a formula: laughter and self-pity.

Nothing comes from nothing. That’s it, essentially.

So the muse had to put things away

And make you find them.

You didn’t know what you were looking for,

But the muse made you explore.

You had read the virtuous authors.

But you went further. You saw further.

You wanted it all to be perfect.

The muse hid things from you—

Until you couldn’t take it anymore,

Until words were able to repair

The heartbreak there.

THE CREEPY ONE REALLY LOVES YOU

Image result for shakespeare's as you like it in painting

The creepy one really loves you—

The beautiful one does not.

Forget the famous one who gets laid a lot.

You love fame, but fame does not love you.

Take a closer look at your shoe.

This creep hasn’t been laid in years, he stares

At you. The lowly creep cares.

And not in a creepy way.

Creepy is the birth of love. Creepiness will circle you and stay.

Look at yourself in the mirror. We all have a creepy curve.

You, too, are jealous and confused!

A creep will love you much more than you deserve.

A FOOL’S SONNET

They are happy who are simple servants

To bland fortuity. Since the lucky

Make us slaves, and since the fortuitous

Does not demand much—being fortuitous—

The best is bland. Don’t envy the dull

Pharmaceutical salesman who likes sports,

Has two children who play sports,

And a wife who doesn’t have to work.

The tragi-comedies of the fabulists

Don’t reflect happiness. Dullness

Is required for happiness.

Difficult literature is a fool’s grave.

I’ll shut this poetry down for a hug and a kiss.

The superficial is good. I won’t miss this.

 

 

 

 

WHAT I LOOK LIKE

Image result for circe in renaissance painting

What I look like

Is not what I look like

And I have done research on this.

I took my syntax to 17th century England,

I took my philosophy to ancient Greece

And I did not look like that.

I give you respect by not looking at you at all

Because eye contact hurts my brain.

I can’t listen to you when I’m looking at you.

Finally, all these snapshots tell you

Why modelling is a highly paid profession.

Now that’s better. I can look at that forever.

I can almost fall in love.

 

PLEASURE KNOWS WHEN IT’S OVER

Pleasure knows when it’s over,

Lying helpless on the bed.

But hate never ends,

So love tries that, instead.

On the brick walk, I reflected:

The simple, growing things endure.

But green pleasure has an end.

Pleasure will have an end, for sure.

In the end, rich and poor

Are the two things which mark us.

How much gold is in your pocket?

Can you take your lover to Italy?

If you can, take her for pleasure,

Not love. Love is fragile enough.

Then, after two weeks of bliss—

Sunsets in Venice, kiss after kiss—

When abruptly she says she doesn’t love you: you can laugh.

Pleasure can do nothing when it’s gone.

But watch out for love, which hates,

And takes revenge, to keep things going on.

 

NOW THAT THIS IS FADING

Image result for autumn by the sea in painting

Now that this is fading,

And the fake outrage at last is seen

For what it is: a childish tantrum,

We can be better this autumn.

You can come into my dreams,

As you did last night: we were laughing

Together— we had observed how grammar

Lingers in round expressions of the sea,

When, drifting in late summer folly,

We noted colors of life by the bay,

Thinking about inhabiting indoor life again.

You applied infinite good will

Abstractly to everything, making my

Attempts at limits appear to imply

I wanted to specifically limit you,

And this wasn’t it at all.

We try to be good. But we make ourselves small.

 

YOU WAIT IN LINE FOR LOVE

Image result for ladies in waiting in renaissance painting waltham

You wait in line for love.

The house is too small.

You could have waited outside, content,

Under the big tree, alone.

But you got in line with the others

So you could say hello to the host—

Love, waiting just inside the entrance.

You were eventually trapped in a small room

Sitting or standing with others, with nothing to say.

You began to enter my room, but turned away.

I took my turn, greeted by the president,

Greeting her. Some time had been spent

Thinking how I should greet her—by title,

Or simply by first name? We are more casual

These days, or so they say.

We owe our lives to law. To formal matters.

War. Peace. Land management.

Innovation. A sudden largesse.

A bored marriage. Not attractive. Bored.

No one dares. No one wants to play.

Nothing is casual, is it? Even when I,

Speaking as casually as I could,

Said to Love: “Isn’t this a beautiful day?”

 

 

 

 

 

BEFORE THE HANDSOME SUNSET

Image result for female jazz singers

Better to be handsome, by far,

Than to be a poet—with a rhyme for every star.

Better to be handsome, by God,

Than hide behind scratched words—because you’re odd.

I want vision to be

Her, smiling, directly at me.

The poet’s wordy vision

Teaches pain and division,

Because words tell

The lies of heaven, the truths of hell.

Words are always a difficult sell—

Because they are words.

They do better when they are spoken by trumpets,

Or live in the popular songs of songbirds.

Someone in a suit sold us this plan—

Not by his words—it was the man.

And this beautiful lady, who you despise,

Now stands before me, alive in my eyes.

It is the look—yes, the look—which words cannot describe,

But go ahead, intone the bribe,

Speak your philosophy, say

With conviction, your words, before these clouds, flushed with pink and crimson, slowly drift away.

 

 

 

THE JUDGMENT

Seinfeld, a funny, urban jew,

Won’t clean cat litter or cat dishes

No matter how beautiful the cat is.

That’s enough of our close-up view.

The one thing very difficult to judge

Is how judgmental we are.

We are not flesh. We are fields

Of judgment—to which only judgment yields.

The judgment becomes very pronounced

The weaker it is. We are all interviewers

Overwhelmed by our intended story.

The author we interview is already

Published, has a dozen researched books,

Has quite enough glory.

He doesn’t need you.

You need to judge, but he loves, and judges, too.

Hollywood will make sure the author,

A handsome, mansplaining wit—

Whose books recall old idolatry,

Sacred, ancient conquests and rage,

Seduction without judgment

Seducing the reader on every page—

Hollywood (you guessed it) makes him fall

Hopelessly in love with the interviewer,

Shy, 31, single, and pretty—

But her judgment rejects them all,

Every judge, golden, handsome, tall.

He, who has written about them,

A backwards fraud, his best-seller formula

The matrix which escapes judgment,

Allows him to have as many women

As he wants, if he wants. The ancient texts

Are still revered—after all, men still rape and kill.

The pretty interviewer laps up the swill:

All judgments, all refusals to judge,

Are worked up into great adventures,

And this is what audiences love best:

The sweaty earrings, the swift removal of the golden vest,

Wearing down the beautiful woman’s resistance,

As her “emotional guard” comes down.

But don’t worry, the lusty conclusion

Will give in to a final, moral one,

A climax more worthy and superficial:

A look on her face no one dares dispute.

The red menace slain, the future interviews

Ready to go, with a melancholy ballad

Perfect for an uplifting vocal and flute.

But why not add the mad, strumming guitar,

And find out who we really are?

You cannot judge him, but you do,

Especially becauses he loves you.

 

 

 

THE PART OF ME THAT FAILS

The part of me that fails

Is the part that writes a poem,

Carbon the mind exhales

From fire—when my fire is alone.

I seek no help; I am lover and judge—

As lover and judge are thought to be.

I tried the door—it wouldn’t budge.

The hours had elapsed. There was no key.

Is this frustrating? It should be.

If I cannot write this poem, I cannot live.

I did find some words. Otherwise, failure.

These words under the door are for her,

That she might forgive—

The best of me waits for an answer.

THERE IS ONLY ONE DRUG

There is only one drug. Evil.

There is the evil of describing itself,

Which first affrights innocent ears.

Evil has time to show good the goods. Years.

The whispers of what evil is

Is the evil, the curiosity of the eyes

Led to where evil is, and there it is,

And the mere assuming it is evil

Is the drug. Anticipation is evil; fear

Of change—oh God old age is here.

The fear of another turns into plain fear.

Suspicion of evil. Always here.

The mere whispering is evil.

Whispering when someone else is near

Is evil. I was afraid, and now I am evil,

And now I am more afraid, and consequently, more evil.

The drug I use to escape evil is evil.

Sarcastic laughter is evil.

Cowardice is evil. Cowardice is

A drug which needs a drug which is evil.

Evil is a drug which justifies evil.

I heard her talk behind someone’s back,

Both were women, both were black.

At that moment I knew she was a whore,

Even though she doesn’t have sex anymore.

Sex, stimulation, sedation, cruelty, it is all one drug.

She will suffer, I thought. Since I heard her say what she said.

She will never get my love.

And I found her very attractive.

But since I fell in love with you,

And you were never warm, love replaced by the true,

Now, heartbroken, if I sense cruelty of any kind,

I now sense immediately evil smoking evil in its evil mind.

There is one drug, a drug simple and primeval;

One drug, all the same. One thing. Evil.

 

 

 

 

OBLIVION

Image result for sleep in renaissance painting

When you wake up, and find

You slept through the night, needy sleeper,

Glad to find oblivion took your mind, it seems—

It didn’t. Oblivion has dreams.

Now they come back to you. Your life

Continued to be life, even as you died

To it. You still cried out. A new wife

Blamed you in a letter. She described

In the letter you falling in love with only

The appearance of her in the dream.

You loved her body only. It gets worse.

Life started going backwards in the way

You tried to describe this. Life in reverse

Was the plan of your poem. The day

Gave you words; you planned

In backwards fashion, words, so images

Might, by treating language as image,

Going forward, give you one slender chance to understand.

So now what do you do? Will you ponder

A new way to love her without disappointing her?

When you stand up and put on your clothes

Will you remember how this poem goes?

Will she be receptive when you say

Oblivion is my dream today?

 

 

THE BEST PLACE TO WRITE POETRY

Image result for cafe life in painting

The best place to write poetry

Isn’t in your head; the poetry

Is written by your head in a place,

Full of distraction, full of the bored face,

Those faces that have nothing to do with you.

The dull life you cannot love. But do.

Poetry longs to be somewhere else.

Poetry is for them. Not you, or myself.

Quiet inspiration, the kind

Wordsworth thought necessary, the mind

Recalling, passively, wars in the past,

Bleeding sunsets, love that didn’t last,

Is here in these whispering voices,

As I, in my seat, in café or train,

Feel both at once—other people feel

And speak the hints any good poem needs.

Life is hungry. Right here. The Muse feeds.

 

I’M SO GLAD THAT WHINE

Image result for plato symposium

“Poetry is escape from emotion” –TS Eliot

I’m so glad that whine

Is a truck in the distance

And not a mosquito in my ear.

That truck is my hero.

“You climb that hill. You whine all you want.

Love is the only thing I want near.”

But what is Love, sighed Plato, long ago,

And if you read the Symposium you see,

After they all speak, and finally Socrates,

Oh, man, it’s a hungry mosquito.

The others around the symposium table

Compare love to beauty, a mutual itch,

A destiny of sighs, beauty, beauty, beauty;

No, Socrates says love’s a son of a bitch,

Lonely, ugly, resourceful, full of desire:

“I must climb this hill, I want you,

Let me crawl into your bed.”

It loves you until it’s fed,

And you’re dead for so long you fulfill

Your destiny: A poem. A truck wailing up a hill.

I’m so glad my poem was about something out there.

The worst poems are intimate. The worst poems care.

 

 

THE CRIMINAL AND THE ARTIST

Image result for rosemary's baby

The criminal and artist both break laws,

Distorting effects by hiding the cause;

In Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby,

The mind of the audience is free

To meditate on things—but why

Is carefully hidden from the eye.

The origin is covered up

In the dark drink of the offered cup.

Rosemary is out like a light when

The conception occurs, and for the birth,

She is unconscious again.

The things we think we know,

Do we know, do we know?

We, the audience understand

That art and news come to us second hand.

We see the terrible result, and infer

The obvious cause.  We blame the tiger

And not the meek artist who smiles.

The world is full of wiles.

The propagandist not only breaks laws—

If the result is true, he invents the cause.

 

WHEN YOU SEE ME YOU SEE YOURSELF

“And you’re making me feel like I’ve never been born” -John Lennon

When you see me, you see yourself:

Love elongated, and nearly destroyed by years,

By absence, misunderstood and unacknowledged

Longing, disappointment, hatred, and grief,

Your most loved face floating down into the yellow leaf,

With a slow, long echoing, wind bent sigh,

More crinkly, but the same look in the eye,

That look by which the poet accuses

The lover of so many things involving himself,

Infinite vulnerability weaving infinitely fine ruses;

When I see you seeing me—

I know what you are thinking: Look, he

Survives. Is still himself. Thinks about things.

Still gets up in the morning.  Just like me.

 

WE IN THE VERSE WORLD

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We in the verse world sometimes

Feel inhibited by our rhymes

And wish that solid prose

Was our chosen pose.

Like verse monster John Keats,

I avoid booze and sweets,

But rhyme’s an addiction, the same

As any hard drug. Can we claim

Addiction to verse

Is harmful? No, even prose is worse.

Verse is mathematical and musical

And these two fulfill

The human spirit divine.

Rhyme isn’t bad. Here’s what I hate.

Especially when I’m late:

Pontificating. Drinking wine.

Blathering on

About nothing until dawn.

The sharp wit

Of a good couplet slays the twit—

But the Keatsian ode

Is the heavenly road.

I rhyme all the time,

And I’m fine.

I’m not a bitter, prosaic bore,

Or a diary whore.

I’ll set things straight

And bring happiness to the state.

I will admit, my mathematical rhymes

Do make me lonely at times.

Rhyming in your face

(Like rap!) is the worst disgrace.

A good rhyme is best

Read silently. All noisy seems the rest.

And the bad, no matter what, will tend

To ruin the good. Just because it’s good.

So quietly now. Quietly. Poem, end.

 

THE VACATIONING WOMEN

The vacationing women remind me of the working ones,

Only the vacationing ones have more important things to say,

Clothes freshly laundered, huddled together, communicating,

About summer and winter here at the very beginning of the work day.

Am I working? Should I be doing a chore?

Why don’t people watch documentaries on poets anymore?

These young women always on their feet know work is art, and they

Hope to take a vacation soon

When mother visits at the end of the month, mirthful still, under the waning moon.

Those out of work envy the employed,

Only they forget how all at once, even the annoyed

Are like those on vacation, who hope

You will keep your eyes to yourself. Who hope and hope and hope.

The youngest waitress did her best. And now she’s in tears.

Suddenly the men enter, comparing beers.

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