YOU TOOK THE OTHER STAIRS

Image result for eurydice descending to hades in renaissance painting

You went down the other stairs

Instead of the usual way, to avoid me—so you could show

How much you hate me. I saw you. I know.

A friend told me the future is unpredictable. And I said no.

I’ve seen the future. The future is the past.

Things around us change, but we don’t. The soul does not change.

I saw you take the other stairs. You are still the same.

You haven’t changed. You love to walk away

Without a word and forget everything, and today

There you were, doing it again—no, trying to do it again.

You never had faith in analyzing the past;

You think to walk away from it, wordlessly and fast.

You walked down the other stairs and I saw,

In that awfully simple moment, the essence of your soul.

You would race off like that when you loved me,

Too enraged, in your sudden mood change, to say goodbye

—And I ran after you, sometimes, in tears.

 

The blessed can forget the past, but you cannot.

The happy can glide away from the past without trying.

Goodbye, and hello, to the sun. Goodbye, and hello, to the evening sky.

Who recalls the shape of the evening clouds? Or the way

The falling music sounds in the evening? Now tomorrow comes,

And the truly glad escape, without looking back, their sad and fated past.

You recall how the music sounds in the dying evenings, it sounds

In the sadness of your soul, it sounds in the stairs of your soul

Even though you close and lock the doors.

You, who make a great show of leaving the past behind,

Cannot. It lives. And I cannot help you. It still lives in your mind.

 

The prophecy I spoke to my friend is that we

Are always the same—the future’s peaceful, sweet solemnity

Stretching out to the blessed, is the same peace that I

Find now—in reflection, study and empathy

Of the past I love. But you hate the past

And because of this you suffer now—as you walk with purpose,

Down the other stairs…there you go!

Proud, silent, angry, hateful, steadily and fast

As you did—lovely creature whom I loved!—in the past.

 

 

 

 

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THE RIVER REFLECTS NOTHING. THE POEM IS THE POET

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Many people are terrified of the question “So what do you do?”

Everyone hates superficial judgement.

Is this not the greatest social fear?

And because 99% of our conscious lives are social, isn’t this the greatest fear of all?

To be judged superficially?

Poets hate the question, “So what do you do?” most of all—if they are bad poets.

Because to be a bad poet means precisely this: there’s no hiding from superficial judgment.

Here’s the first rule of good writing: it hides.

There’s only two social choices:

1. Superficial judgment.

2. Hiding from superficial judgment.

Nature does not fear superficial judgment: her genius is fully on display. Try and superficially judge me, she says. Here I am, for all to see.

Nature doesn’t hide.

So why do we?

Because we judge each other. Which nature doesn’t do.

The “social” doesn’t involve judgment; it is judgment.

Nature does not judge, nor is it judged—since Nature is, and it is the only thing which, in fact, is.

Poetry is not judged as good or bad.

Poetry, as not-Nature, as a social function, is bad and good judgment itself, on display.

The rise of “reality TV” reveals this most acutely: the producers of these shows, which depict simple social activities, whether cooking, music, dating, or wilderness survival, use the judgment/competition model to generate interest.

All humans do is judgmental.

We have no doubt that if a good poetry “reality show” were produced, strongly competitive in nature, it could be as successful as any of the other kinds of reality shows, and would help poetry in general.

Many, of course, would object, saying poetry is pure, and reflective, and has nothing to do with competition, and any judgment attached to poetry comes along afterwards and is apart from the poetry itself. To argue that poetry itself is judgmental is insane.

But this objection is insane. It ignores all that we have previously and rigorously said: Human social activity is judgmental and poetry belongs to human social activity; a person is either superficially judged, or not, and to escape superficial judgment is good and noble and pure, of course, but the escape is immersed in judgment—even if poetry were a harbor of escape in the sea of judgment, it still exists in that sea.

The social judgment aspect exists in the context of how we started the essay: “what do you do?” We are not talking about a single instance of an amateur writing a poem for a beloved to woo the beloved (but even this involves broad judgment: oh how sweet!); we speak of the act of writing poems again and again, as a vocation: a poet as professional calling. “What do you do?

And just as people are wrong that poetry is not a judgmental activity, they are also wrong in their common belief that the poet and the poem exist in separate universes. They do not. I refer to the ubiquitous idea that a morally bad person can write good poetry. No. This is not true. They cannot.

And why is it not true?  Why is it true that poet and poem are intimately related on a moral level?

Because writing poetry, if it is good poetry, and passes the test of being a real social activity, is reflected in what the poet “does,” in the most thoroughly social sense imaginable—as if that question asked at a cocktail party could be really answered in four or five hours. Here’s what I as a poet “really do,” as a person in life, without which there were no poetry produced by me at all.

Journalism is not poetry, and this is why Plato feared the poets, because good poetry hides, and journalism should do the very opposite. If someone asks what a journalist “does,” the answer is simple: observe and report facts—journalist and journalism will both be judged by their accuracy; any attempt to distort this simple formula should immediately raise suspicions.

When poetry acts like good journalism—not hiding, but reporting facts—it’s not good poetry for the simple reason that it is not poetry.

What the good journalist “does” is to observe well—and this involves being “on the ground,” talking to the important participants, etc. A complex, winding path is followed, and the hidden often has to be unearthed. A good journalist will produce good journalism, based on the simple question: “what did you do?”

Poetry is not journalism. However, a good poet “does” the same thing—observes and lives/exists in a winding path—and this is why, just as journalist and journalism are the same, poet and poem are the same.

Left wing critics fall over each other adoring the poetry of right wing poet Ezra Pound, saying the poet and the poetry are two different things. The politics aside—far left and far right are perhaps the same, etc—we mean to demolish this false idea once and for all.

The poet and poetry cannot be separated, in social, judgmental terms.

The poetry exists because of what the poet “does,” not as a poet, but as a person, traveling, observing, loving, hating.

In attempting to define what the poet does, we exclude the “bag of poet’s tools:” rhyme, meter, language, etc as a factor. We reject the notion of a poet/person over here and his or her impersonal technique over there.

This may elicit howls of protest from the formalists—but we are not denying technique (those who read Scarriet can attest to this); we are saying the fruitful use of technique has nothing to do with the availability of said technique, since all poets are more or less acquainted with technique—acquiring skill with technique cannot be separated from what the poet “does” as a human being on the winding path of life.

The record of a life which cannot be judged superficially—that is, poetry—uses poetic technique (rhyme, meter, etc) to keep ordinary judgement at bay. If the technique is not predictable and banal, it will ensure a life presented in a manner profound and original— since it runs parallel to, and supports, the prose meaning.

Nor has this anything to do with the tricky idea that “form is an extension of content,” except very indirectly—the poet (the poet’s life) is far more important to the poetry than “form” or “content,” and this is the common sense, yet radical, point we are making. The poet’s life propels its telling into modes which are emotionally rich—and all poetic technique is merely the material means to heighten emotion, so the poet regards emotion through the lens of technique without having to really focus on technique. He is reaching for the emotion he wants to reproduce, and uses rhyme, for instance, as naturally as if he were speaking a language or playing an instrument he knows how to play.

The really important thing is this: the poet must have a fortunate and unusual life, in which experience is not harsh enough to crush the organs of judgement, but on the other hand, the experience is not so vapid as to never stimulate them.

This criterion alone leaves few individuals who are suited to write excellent poetry.

The moral judgment is always short on information with which to judge, since the situation judged is often layered and complex—precisely since it is life, and not the moral judgment—yet both need one another for civil society and sanity to exist. The moral judgment and the layered private life will always be opposed and never be able to rest side by side in harmony. Moral art is where this oil and water are forced together, and this also makes the great poet rare, since the individual who is both highly judgmental and also a “sinner” in a deeply justified manner—many-layered, sensual, and private—is also rare.

We spoke of hiding: the unusual incidents of a poet’s life—complex, bizarre, lovelorn, passionate, odd, eerily fated and coincidental—must be expressed in a manner which hides the trivial particulars in a unique fog of philosophy—the fog resembling a cold, sustaining fire which comfortably incinerates all that is useless, mundane, haphazard, and boring, allowing the primitive aesthetic (as it lives in nature) to sparkle and gleam, to descend and rise into beautifying shadows, at the poet’s will.

If the poet recount starkly the most bizarre yet universal love affair the world has ever seen in a journalistic memoir, leaving in all the details—this purging will provide a resting place for journalistic sentiment and knowledge—and deprive the world of a wonder by stating it too clearly.

But if, instead, a particularly vivid incident from the poet’s life is hidden in poetry, in which the poetry expresses the hidden elements as hidden (by technique) but manifests to the reader the beauty, both moral and sensual, of the true incident, poetry will result.

At our inquisitive cocktail party, the question “so what do you do?” will not intimidate the poet—if he listens, and really responds, to the question.

We said poetry is not journalism, and yet they are both something people “do,” within, and in response to, nature.

We finish our essay with a poem by Paige Lewis, which we think successful—and note how the poem exists because of a certain winding path of experience and reflection practiced by the poet, almost as if she were a journalist and acute observation were the test of both her, as an actor, and her result (the poem), the two things existing as one—a journalist might even begin a report from the field with the key thematic line of her poem:

“We are only remembered as cruel when what we harm does not die quickly,”

but this morally ambiguous advice surely needs to “hide” in poetry to live; otherwise a journalist uttering this “truth” could find themselves labeled a murderer with a handy excuse.

Another thing to note is that without Andy being observed, we can easily imply the poem wouldn’t exist; that Andy is responsible for the poem, and that’s what a poet “does;” they let things in, just as the journalist does, who counts themselves lucky by what they happen to see: a boy who eats tadpoles!

You need to be on a winding path to see this, whether journalist or poet.  You notice things: morally and clearly if you are a good journalist, amorally and cloudily if you are a good poet.

The poem below can be summed up:

Cruelty is quick, for what is caught is eaten. Kindness is hungry—and slow.

We want our journalists to be quick.

We want our poets to be slow.

And now we’ll close with the poem:

~

The River Reflects Nothing

This morning I watched a neighborhood

boy throw his model plane into the air

with his right hand and shoot it down

with the garden hose in his left. My

hands have never been that quick. When

my mother lived by the river. I lived

by the river. I knelt over it with legs red

and pebble-dented. Reaching in, I pulled

back empty fists and it always seemed

like a trick, those tadpoles all green-glinting

and shadows, but Andy could catch them,

could make the squirming real in his

palm before he swallowed each whole.

We are only remembered as cruel when

what we harm does not die quickly. I

don’t know how long it took the tadpoles,

but I know I was trying to say I’m sorry

when I leaned down, pressed my mouth

against his stomach and said, If you’d

just let me catch you, I’d let you go.

~

(“The River Reflects Nothing” by Paige Lewis, published in Ninth Letter)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LITERATURE EXISTS

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for Robert Ritzenthaler

Literature exists, because reconciliation is sweet

In imagination’s heaven—even as the hellish school boy squirms in his seat.

Literature exists, and we know literature well:

The boring parts of heaven, the exciting parts of hell.

Literature exists, resting on shelves everywhere,

Literature dreams for you, even if you don’t care.

You know why literature is covered in school and hidden:

It’s never just life. It’s always life that is forbidden.

Literature is always about the sorrow that never gets said.

But literature becomes a critic being really boring, instead.

Literature should be this poem and don’t worry,

I will tell you I’m sorry. I’m sorry, I’m really sorry.

Literature is putting together the boy and his dad

Who never got together—isn’t that sad?

Literature is that novel which had some tragic deaths at the end

We didn’t finish. The one who gave it to me I swear was only a friend.

Literature is the foreshadowing, the metaphor, the clue

Which we don’t see. Or, maybe I did see it. Is that okay with you?

 

 

 

THE AGE OF THE SNOWFLAKE

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Happy individuals know 1. how to get mad.

And then 2. turn the anger off, calm down, and move on.

Unhappy people either 1. never get mad: never muster enough energy to overcome a difficulty, make known a really necessary complaint, assert themselves, break through to the next level

Or, 2. they are constantly mad, and are never really calm, and can never move on.

This can be confusing for the rest of us.

We might temporarily confuse the anger of the constantly angry person with the short-lived, purposeful, anger of the happy individual.

We might not understand the calm of the happy person, confusing it with the indifference and passivity of the unhappy person.

We might completely misread the sudden rare, directed anger of the happy individual, thinking it reflects unreliability, inconsistency, and lack of control. “Weren’t you happy a minute ago?”

We might even admire the constant anger of the unhappy person for its consistency.

We might confuse the blank of the unhappy person for the calm of the happy person.

“Snowflake” is a ubiquitous term today, one I do not use, because I think it is a misnomer, and it is the subject of this essay only because I wish to attempt an analysis along these lines.

A “snowflake” refers pejoratively to the hyper-sensitive person, often on a college campus, who cannot handle information, historical or political, which tramples on delicate feelings and beliefs—concerning those who are strongly and innocently disadvantaged in fundamental ways.

But to care about others, even in a hyper-sensitive manner, is a good thing. Good or bad in social relations turn on delicate feelings and this is to be human and social. Period.

I don’t care a fig about this notion of the “snowflake” who can’t handle this or that. Sensitive and considerate is always good.

I do care, however, about the happy and the unhappy person—the constantly dull, or the constantly angry person is not happy—and is rarely a good thinker. This has nothing to do with being a snowflake, and more with being ignorant, and unhappy.

The cross-dressing, Harvard literary critic, the heir to Helen Vendler, Stephen Burt, begins his recent essay, “Writing About Yeats in the Age of Trump” sounding exactly what everyone might think a “snowflake” sounds like:

“Like many of you, I have spent the days since the election in a combination of frantic distraction; intermittent, flailing activism; attempts to focus on my private and professional life; and fear. The more I read from experts in relevant fields, the more I envision the next four, or eight, or ten years not so much as a Republican administration—enacting policies that will hurt immigrants, people of color, and the poor—but rather as a kleptocratic, potentially authoritarian, generation-long takeover, one that could extend outward and downward from Capitol Hill and Pennsylvania Avenue into the federal judiciary, the civil service, and the national security state.

“I have not lost my interest, nor my belief, in the powers of poetry. But my goals for my own poetry, and for the ways I write about poetry, are not what they were before November 8. I used to believe, if not in Walt Whitman’s late-1850s optimism, then in the chastened patriotism, the qualified trust in elections and popular culture, that he found even in the Gilded Age.  I have opposed critics who use, as unconsidered, generic praise, the word ‘revolution,’ on the grounds that few good things are harder to break than to fix. I have argued—and I still believe—that our ways of reading and our ways of hearing poetry, like our ways of eating and our ways of understanding kindness and violence, have roots older than we are, older than the twentieth century, even though they have changed, and will change. And I have aligned my own poetry, most of the time, with incrementalism, with a way of reading that (like W.H. Auden’s, like Elizabeth Bishop’s) pays some homage to the deep past.

“I also wanted my poetry to champion the femme, the elaborate, the playful, the serifed, the feathered, the self-consciously involute, the magenta and the chartreuse, even the ornamental: ruffles, dessert. I wanted that poetry, and other contemporary poetry too, to take pleasure in small things, and to push back against a patriarchal, instrumental, coarse, results-first, adult-driven, queer- and transphobic capitalism. I called those goals for poetry ‘nearly Baroque,’ or rococo, and I found its closest modern precedent in Marianne Moore.

“Our president-elect appears to enjoy the rococo, too, but it is the wrong kind of rococo: not delicate craftsmanship as a blow to misogyny, but the gilding of every conceivable surface, the flaunting of a wealth he has used to hurt others, as a boastful public spectacle. Trump represents the end of liberalism, the end of self-restraint and public kindness delivered through flawed, long-lived institutions, at least on a national scale. The social contract of Paul Wellstone and Richard Rorty, of A. Phillip Randolph and Eleanor Roosevelt, and for that matter of Barack Obama, seems all torn up.”

If this isn’t “snowflake,” what is? One of the two traditional parties wins the presidential election in the traditional manner, and Burt feels “fear.”  Burt makes a great, breathless, elaborate, post-election, point about “poetry” as it applies to him—Burt. Totally in earnest, he describe his poetry’s “ruffles” as a blow against “patriarchal capitalism.”

But this only points up what we are trying to say about the “snowflake” label. It’s meaningless. This quotation from Burt is excessive rhetoric bursting forth from a highly successful critic. This is not “snowflake” trepidation. Burt is using ruthless, cunning, rhetoric in highly educated, full attack, mode. Snowflake? This totally kicks ass—in a completely “take-no-prisoners” manner.

Burt feels “fear?” Reading Burt’s reaction to the election, I’m genuinely afraid of Burt.

He’s pushing “snowflake” buttons, but he himself is clearly no “snowflake; “it doesn’t matter how much he claims to prefer “magenta” and “chartreuse.”

Burt’s argument is utterly disconnected and unhinged, in a manner frighteningly black-and-white and uncompromising. “Snowflake” has nothing to do with it.

In speaking of Trump, Burt tosses reason and perspective to the wind. Last time I checked, every law and institution of the United States remains fully intact, going back to the founding of this country in the 18th century, and yet Burt speaks as if Eleanor Roosevelt, Richard Rorty, and Barack Obama just a short time ago made this country.

The lack of historical understanding is downright scary: “Whitman’s late 1850s optimism?” I’m not sure why Whitman is mentioned—the American Civil War began in 1861, so “optimism” seems a strange thing to celebrate here—as if “optimism” were the way to describe the world of November 7, 2016—as brought to us by president Obama and secretary state Clinton.

Burt is not being a “snowflake” at all.

He strikes me as someone who is in pain. And angry.

And blind.

And playing with matches.

I would describe him as angry, and unable to let that anger go.

If Burt is a “snowflake,” then I’m a “snowflake.”

I would tell him, accept this hug from another snowflake. Please, go back and read your history, and try to let go of your anger. O isn’t life complicated? You are making me afraid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SENSITIVE

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The young Proust

I was a sensitive child. Shy. Scared of everything. I was sexually assaulted in an elevator by an old guy when I was in the third grade, and I was so innocent I didn’t understand what actually had occurred and quickly forgot about it. I was routinely bullied. I loved imaginative literature, the music on my father’s phonograph: classical music, folk music of tragic stories and laments. Haiku in sixth grade set me on fire, and a year later, I fell in love with the sad story of Keats, the poet who died young.  But gradually I became more able to defend myself, to fight back, to laugh with friends, to fight my way up the pecking order, between feared bully at the top and bullied at the bottom, friends with both, as I became more well-rounded and acquainted with outdoor games—athletics became something I enjoyed.

I didn’t have asthma, or any health disadvantage. I was just sensitive. In high school, and even in my first year or two at college, I was extremely shy. Is acne a health problem?

When we think of writers, we usually think of the blind, the injured, the asthmatic, the wounded, the reclusive, the unfit to work or play—not the merely sensitive.

We don’t think of a writer as someone who’s good at football.

But what about someone who is sensitive and loves sports?

It’s not really on the modern radar.

Byron writing verses and swimming the Hellespont is a Romantic trope.

Hemingway was a physical guy, but he wrote unadorned prose fiction, not poetry.  Of course.

And if a writer is athletic, we accept they will soon destroy that with drugs and alcohol. Naturally.

As I slowly—in my case, very slowly—developed into maturity, I prided myself on being well-rounded, a good athlete, as well as a good poet. The balance, I thought, was a good thing.  My sensitivity was great, but was never (I thought) an end in itself—never an excuse to feel sorry for myself. If I sinned, it was in the opposite direction—I nursed a secret pride that I was good—a good poet, a good person, and a little bit better than others. And since I identified more with the great (the great dead writers who inspired my love of learning and art) than with the damned, I became, as I grew, into that inclination which is cursed in so many intellectual circles, but thrives in hidden ways, nonetheless: I became a conservative (horrors!). I loved Shakespeare because he was Shakespeare. Gossip about Shakespeare? I wasn’t interested. Not that biography did not interest me. I read about my favorites. But I knew when something was impossible to know.

The same wisdom which currently says gender doesn’t exist except as a social construct, also say it is written in stone whether one prefers to cuddle in bed with a slender, attractive man or a slender attractive woman. Sexuality has never been so fluid on the one hand, and rigidly hyper-sensitive, on the other, as it is today. And the paradox makes sense to me, when I think about it: the more fluid, the more rigid. Sure, why not? The paradox, after all, is the atom of the universe.

Even though I’m a dully heterosexual dude, I’m more sensitive than anyone I know. Probably because I’m a romantic.

We usually think of excessive sensitivity as the path, if not to genius, then at least to beautiful aesthetic accomplishment, or at the very least, romantic love.

I hope the reader will pardon me as I indulge in using myself as the important example—the social science of self-study is often the best—everything, without secrets, is right there.

I’m sure my sensitivity was the basis of my becoming a poet.

Today, the sensitive poet no longer exists.

Why is it different now?

Because politics has replaced sensitivity.

Oppression creates victims—and sensitivity becomes the default setting of the political victim, or the ‘identity politics’ victim.  The sensitivity is turned into means for a political end.

Proust, ambiguous and civil, gets a political agenda.

Wilde, aesthete, grinds at the Marxist wheel.

I’m not here to question the validity of the politics.  That’s not the point.  I’m looking at something which I think is more important, even if maddeningly vague.

What happens when all we mean by ‘sensitive,’ whether it be the path, the wound, or the sorrow, no longer leads the writer downward into themselves, but always upward into the dead-certain, political agenda?

For isn’t it downward, into the imaginative valley, after long study and reflection, from which the great harvest, the great work of literature, emerges?

The sensitive soul, because of today’s ubiquitous political climate, is now “rescued,” steered into self-pity, and subsequently, sooner than later, naturally surrenders to the political cure: a confident ranting pride destroying the very sensitivity which was so important in the first place.

The whole enterprise becomes self-defeating, even as vestiges of sensitivity remain; the poet—truly sensitive because unconsciously sensitive—disappears, and is replaced by the self-aggrandizing organizer, who may have some worth, but is nothing like the soul who writes in beauty, and travels far afield to find the deeper truth.

SHE PAINTS

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She paints, and when she paints

I love her more.

She paints her face so beautifully

That art critics who enter by the back door

Know all at once what painting and poetry is for.

They sadly recognize that when you say

“I love you” it could be on the very day

You leave, because you said it only to make someone glad,

And when the words fled to them, they made you sad.

We think nothing, but only say what we think we ought to say

Until the red shadows come and we vanish in the blue day.

But now she presents herself at the front of the hall,

And even you look at her, and even you will fall

On your knees and worship her. And that is all.

WHAT I DO TO HER BY DOING NOTHING

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What I do to her by doing nothing

Is more than anyone has ever done.

I was a rare flower she held.

Now I am the sun.

I am silent and far away,

No longer kissing her ear

And telling her how lovely she is.

Now she sees me every day

But I no longer move near

And say exactly what I’m thinking.

I am a blank face of simple fire,

No longer allowed to feel, or think, or have desire,

But like my cunning poetry which everybody reads,

I love her with an appetite that forgets it has needs.

She is courted by a distant sky and distant fields

Which love her only by being there. And she yields.

 

TOP TEN THINGS ON YOUR MIND THIS SEASON

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10. Cold. Where’s global warming? Fuck.

9. Dark. According to science, which only I believe in, this promises to get better.

8. Trump. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

7. Romance? Not really in the fucking mood for it. White male invention, anyway.

6. Wining and Dining? No. Can’t afford health insurance, college loan debt. Whining cheaper.

5. Yoga, meditation? No. In those quiet moments  I’ll just think about my goddamn ex. Or Trump.

4. Protest? No. Too dark, too cold, and I’m too depressed. And it will make me think of Trump.

3. Sex? No. In the mood I’m in, it will neither feel good nor end well.

2. TV, film or Internet? Maybe. It might possibly remind me of my ex. Or Trump. Must be selective.

1. Christmas. Oh fucking fuck.

 

 

 

SHE IS MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN THAT

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You thought you had it when that song was learned,

The summer, tan, when you first lost your baby fat

And your limbs were lithe and your teeth were pretty but she is more beautiful than that.

You thought you had it when you married young

And jumped on jobs and connections like a cat

And put your claws in the suburb of pleasure but she is more beautiful than that.

You thought you had it when you went to college and got degrees and turned

Around one day and saw the shoes on the welcome mat

And he spoke confidently and loved you bravely but she is more beautiful than that.

You had an unhappy marriage even as the marriage song was sung.

The reasons you weren’t loved? Too much honor. Love sometimes looks like a rat.

Love is empathy—which is often an enemy of love. But she is more beautiful than that.

She is shy, and paints, and writes poems, and no tongue

But yours crosses into the tranquil valley with her this late.

She is more beautiful if the poem says what the poet sees.

Her smile? Her face? Her elegance? They collect their fees.

But her modesty doesn’t see what you see. She expects her fate.

 

 

THE REST I NEED

Image result for a fever in painting

You! I want! and want, in hot desire. In lust. And foul greed.

You make me mad with desire. The rest I need.

The rest are food and shelter. Cool water and advice.

The rest are sanity. The rest are extremely nice.

You make my forehead burn. They apply the ice.

The rest notice if there’s a spot on my tie.

You are a tall, crumbling cliff, a step away from the sky.

The rest make me bashful. You make me cry.

The rest make me work, and dull work is what I need

To forget instantaneous pleasure, you, the deed.

Dull work is a guard against the poem,

Against lust. Yes, against you, woman.

My thoughts are in the mines, worked, kept, never to be freed.

I always think of you. You are my goal. My death. You are the rest I need.

 

I SHOULD HAVE LET THE RAIN FALL

Image result for fire against the rain in painting

I know fire’s pain.

But I lit a fire against the rain.

Lonely, I desired fire

To light the darkness of my desire.

Her eyes were a flame.

Her skin, dark—but bright, all the same.

I should have let the unpleasantness remain

Where it was. Fire’s pain,

Lights up the rain,

The steady rain that causes sleep.

But fire, like love, is a pain that’s deep.

I knew fire was pain,

But I lit a fire against the rain.

I lost her. I lost all.

I should have let the rain fall.

 

 

 

 

 

LOVERS HYPNOTIZE THEMSELVES

It wasn’t you, it was the breathing of slumber while awake.

It was the quiet poetry of the breathing lake.

It was “I love you,” shyly spoken

Which made the previous world’s broken love a thing finally broken.

Time hurried to take the place of time.

You took me in my weakness with a mere rhyme.

It was a warmth we consciously enjoyed—

A kindness inside the words employed.

It was a deep breathing that gave us pleasure,

Thought to be love, due to the slower measure

Of breath, and each rising and falling breath

Became slow, and almost resembled death.

We gave birth to love; our love, a new born baby

We as parents, looked upon, knowing that maybe

Love would be love. To be love, love must grow.

Love’s growth requires kind words to make breathing slow.

Writing, the mystery of love!

My eyes shared in the beauty that you are.

My eyes and yours arrived from the same star,

The same stream. Our hearts keep

The same insouciant beat.

They miss together one, and then,

Beat fast, faster again,

And again, fall twinkling down in tune,

With the falling leaves falling about the moon.

Leaves of soft sorrow, leaves of grief,

Leaves in which we hide

Inside the same sorrow, side by side.

Now deep, and slow the breath.

I never knew that love was death!

My fingers shyly entwined in yours,

Holding moments, begging to rhyme,

Begging to run in leaves of time,

And there I lived, beyond,

Reality of time and space,

Here, my warm embrace,

Here my greatest solace,

Death of pride and yesterday

You, oh, you, today.

Love requires a wedding of red paint,

A lengthy ritual, a ceremony to make sadness faint,

As a beautiful lampshade covers a white light,

The passion, warm, but too much for our sight.

And so we made these words our own,

And put love on a commoner’s throne,

We, who needed love far more—

For we had never loved before.

 

 

 

 

THE RELIGION OF FRIDAY

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If we are alive at five

We practice the religion of Friday.

We go to work and do it with religious observation.

We are more religious than we know.

In the elevator and in the cubicle we practice our religion

With our house plants and our hellos.

We have made it to Wednesday and know

Thursday could go fast or could go slow,

But it will bring hope, and if the meetings go well

We might go to lunch and have something languorous to tell

Our coworkers, who live here and there.

The commute and the weekend are holy

And the vacation is holier still,

But the religion of Friday knows this Friday

A god will sit on our window sill.

THE RUSSIANS DID IT

Image result for russia warns britain during American Civil War

Why is 2016 starting to feel like 1860, the beginning of our Civil War?

The U.S. neo-liberal Establishment is beginning to behave like the U.S. Confederacy, threatening to walk away from the United States.  The DNC/Washington Post camp counts on the disenfranchised for votes, and protests of  racism against the pro-business Republican Party, which has just put a businessman in office, as the stock market soars, in the face of a humiliated corporate media globalist elite—which hates Russia.

Russia, the country who stood by us in 1860, warning the “Opium Wars” British Empire (who tacitly supported the Confederacy) not to take military action in favor of the South, which would permanently divide and destroy the United States.

Russia, the country who joined us in fighting the Nazi menace.

Russia, who is fighting ISIS.

Now the once honorable Left is turning Joe McCarthy, untrustworthy CIA agent, and Confederate all at once, in a hate-frenzy against Russia, because their appointed candidate, destroyer of the Middle East and NATO warlord, was rejected by working class Americans suffering under a debt-ridden economy.

Republicans were the good guys in 1860. We have a feeling a great deal of soul searching is going on now (and has been) in the Bernie Sanders, working class, Left.

At least we hope so. We hope the Left is looking at the Washington Post—with its smearing of all conservatives, including the working class, as “white nationalists”—and saying, “Hey, Washington Post. You are going to lose us!”

Now is the time to come together.  We certainly know there are elements of war-mongering and Russian-hating in the Republican party, too. Party differences have never seemed less important. Civility has always been important, but it’s really important now. Read history.  Read everything you can. Don’t make assumptions. Try and believe the best about everyone.  Political differences are not everything.  They really are not.

Don’t leave this country.  Stay, and make it better!

And let’s not start burning Russian books—or anything else.

As we put the Clintons and the Bushes, behind us, we ask for peace!

LES RECITATIONS DES FEMMES

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The rape victims will be on display at three.

The ones who are truly loved will be hiding in misery.

The pedants will be putting on their makeup.

The poets will be throwing up.

The dress makers will be asking the tease,

If crimson is okay and exactly at the knees.

The director will say, hush, you don’t want to be exact:

A lie can be fact on fact on fact.

Welcome the skinny girl who lives in Brooklyn

Who broke into poetry on tact:

Sin and feminism—

Sword and rapier of indignation

Laid across a graduate student’s lap.

Whiskey. Art. After that, a nap.

There is a young man I know

Who is a gentleman, that’s all I know.

The Modern poets will be there before three.

At quarter after two they will congratulate the editor, nicely.

The abusers will be standing around

Asking each other if baby is a word or a sound.

 

 

WHAT IS FAKE NEWS?

Image result for trump on the phone

The mainstream corporate media is losing its Big Brother authority.

The internet is making news more democratic.

The mainstream corporate media will, of course, try to fight back, and their chief strategy, at the moment, is calling non-corporate news “fake news.”  And, further, saying that conservatives are more likely to report “fake news.” And further, implying that most “conservatives” are “white nationalists.”

But the genie is out of the bottle.

The latest federal election, and democratic conversation/sharing on the internet (because news is more than facts—it is also which facts one chooses to share) has exposed corporate media as the most dangerous purveyors of fake news.

There’s democracy.

There’s crazy.

And then there’s the truly crazy: the mainstream corporate media.

Here’s a radical idea. We don’t need anything resembling a mainstream media.

There’s only two things that matter: 1. The people and 2. the government. These two are sacred. Human happiness on one hand; keepers of the contract, on the other.

The media is merely an extension of how these two sacred entities talk to each other. And, if “the media” can’t agree, if “the media” is full of “fake news” agencies, and is a chorus of warring opinions, this is good for democracy.

A ‘one voice’ media is the greatest enemy of democracy.

So if president-elect Trump talks to Taiwan, he does so as our elected official.  The media should not 1. Talk in any official capacity to Taiwan. 2. Be privy to exactly what is spoken between our elected official and Taiwan. 3. Tell the elected official whether or not he can talk to Taiwan. 4. Tell the elected official what to say to Taiwan.  The “media” is nothing but a meddling interloper if it assumes it can do any of these things. The corporate media in the United States, until very recently, has been such a powerful influence in every person’s life, that this may come as a surprise to some. But soon it will not be a surprise, since the corporate media is being replaced by the democratic internet, and the truth is now apparent: all along, the media was simply a physical entity to help government and people communicate with each other—it was not meant to replace the government’s role, nor the people’s role to interpret all actions of government for themselves.

There is nothing sacred about CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post or CBS. Or even PBS. These organizations belong to a physical entity—which serves not government, not the people, but the widest possible interpretation of the government’s actions and the people’s responses to those actions. The media’s job is not to be the final word, or fact, on anything. This is absolutely not what the media is for, and, in fact, anyone who believes this is the media’s role, believes in tyranny, not democracy.

We can argue about “fake news” forever as we wander into that accusatory hall of mirrors, in which various media outlets claim a sacred legitimacy—but this would be to miss a much larger, and much more important point.  Warring opinions mean less war. Freedom of speech means disagreement, never agreement; for if agreement were ever reached, freedom of speech would then be irrelevant.

The greatest enemy of civilization is slander.  We should not fear “fake news,” per se; what we truly need to guard against, beyond simple errors of fact (a mundane topic), is slander.

In a recent Washington Post piece, “How The War Against Fake News Backfired,” which attempts to be the ‘voice of reason’ on “fake news,” the term “white nationalist” is affixed to “conservative” in a (fake casual) manner that implies these terms mean the same thing.  This Washington Post rhetoric is dangerously fake and injurious—as bad as anything a “fake news” outlet might serve up.

The media belongs to the realm of opinion, not governance.  The media impacts government in the same way the opinion of a jury impacts the law—the opinion of the media is not, in itself, important; only the freedom of opinion presented in the media is important.

The only way to keep this great wrong—slander—in check, is to seek facts, and how they are being interpreted, in many quarters—to listen, not sometimes, but always, to every side.

Long live democracy.

Long live fake news.

DRIPPING TREES

Image result for dripping trees in painting

Let it be different.  A wandering walk,
Where the fog is still, holding the hill,
Where there is no wind, and a simple talk
Slips off our tongues in our wandering walk,
A few minutes after a rain has made
A slow and quiet dripping in the shade.

Love is worry—so all we love is marred.
Yes, I’m jealous. The heart that hates, frees.
The world’s effort is to secure and guard.
Millions of files: inspection barred.
Thousands of locks, thousands of jangling keys.
The key to life is many keys.

Quiet talk. A quiet kiss.
I want you. Not that—unlocked for this.
No wind. Your breath on my face.
The dripping trees.

A STRAND OF HAIR

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When I decided what I needed, I went inside

The heart, where feelings hide,

Where decisions are made

When the mind’s away,

And floated on myself, that immense tide

Of surrender, where the world can’t interfere

Since only what interests me is here.

When I decided what I wanted, I knew

It was me that needed pleasing, not you,

And this is how I fell out of love.

Because love is wanting to satisfy another’s need.

It was easy silencing love,

My hunger and my endorphins agreed.

It was simple to go inside

Where brutal, selfish feelings hide

And to treat myself well,

And everyone else’s needs went to hell.

So I went into that place

Where I could not see anyone else’s face

Unless I wanted to,

And maybe in some fantasy I could kiss you.

So I discovered that it was the world that was me,

I knew the world, writing me, writing the self, writing myself, in poetry.

I was doing well, inside a place

Where my heart smiled blankly on my face.

But then I was conquered by a single strand of hair—

Worth more than all I found in there.

 

 

BEAUTY WITHOUT BEAUTY

You, who don’t read, must think it strange

That I use my eyes

Not to navigate moving seas—

Not to chart moving orbs in the skies—

Not to pick out the one

I love under the sun—

But to squint instead at marks,

Which deface trees and parks.

What eyes could possibly love to look

At looking in a book?

Why seek freedom in prisons?

Beauty in blind words? Smiles in dark, visionless visions?

I’ll tell you why. Please read well:

Loving one by sight, I found myself in hell.

All that could go wrong in love, had.

Her beauty hurt me. It was bad.

I was drowning in vulgarity and sin.

I couldn’t think. Ugly images poured in.

Then a beautiful poet wrote to me.

I was protected from her beauty,

And found more beauty apart from piercing eyes;

Into our hearts poured the beauty of the skies,

And writing to her I found a calm, admiring bliss;

We felt love, and something close to the happiness of a kiss.

Beauty without beauty—the secret to intelligence and grace.

Beauty sending beauty. Love sent ahead by her beautiful face.

 

 

 

 

 

WHEN I SAW THAT PICTURE

Image result for portrait of the queen

When I saw that picture
I knew I had to love
More than that picture—
More than that look—
Of her in the picture,
She, like a chapter in a book,
Which introduces all,
Not her on the cover,
But in letters rather small,
The poem in the chapter which starts
The theme in our hearts
Who happen to read
Not of sullen want or need,
But in worship and awe
Which we desire to pay,
(Praying that she will never go away)
That none can prefigure, or draw,
Or print, or manufacture, or tell
But loves to go in secret to the mountain,
And whisper to the winds—not yell;
Whisper, to the one who attends the fountain,
How the one in that picture is the one we adore.
Her. What every book and picture is for.

WHEN YOU TRAVELED

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When you traveled, as people often must,
Far away, leaving the excitable for a quieter dust,
I hope you know that I loved you.

When you traveled, as people often will,
To the other world, where night is still,
I hope you know that I loved you.

When you traveled, so trouble feels like a dream,
And I saw that picture, of you smiling by the stream,
I hope you know that I loved you.

When you traveled, and every death needs a lane,
And you were curled up sadly, on the plane,
I hope you know that I loved you.

When you traveled, and from the dawn
Of the different world, you saw it coming on,
I hope you know that I loved you.

 

 

 

THE LOVE INDUSTRY

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Like Edgar Poe’s unparticled particle, the vibrating ether which is the material/spiritual whole of existence, pervading all and containing all, matter compressed and spread thin to a radical degree simultaneously, so it is material for a moment and then not—and this is how moments exist, measured and recorded by the finest measuring devices, but not really existing at all as moments—like our universe and like our existence, which is, and which is not, the love industry is everywhere and nowhere. It has no product and is all products; it is invisible, yet everywhere seen; it has no clients, yet everyone is one; it has no advertising, and yet everything advertises it; it is completely off the radar, and yet is the radar; it is every thought, but has no thought at all.

I love someone and yet hate her; I hate her precisely because I love her to such a degree that expression and consummation of the love felt for her I instinctively know to be impossible; I think about her love in the same exact ratio as I tell no one about her, and this love is real—it belongs to circumstances and things which happened, and these occurances completely dictate what and how the love can be told and explained, and so it cannot ever be adequately told and explained, because those circumstances are gone and in the past, and are too strange and particular to explain. And these events, these circumstances, and the feelings and thoughts which accompany them, are so complex and strange, but at the same time, so plain and banal and routine, they continue to haunt and remind me of her for these reasons: the banality of the love makes it strange, the strangeness of the love makes it banal, and for this reason it resides, and cannot be banished from the mind, and only this love occupies this high place in the mind, only this love dominates, and is, but cannot be expressed or understood at all.

The love industry has no sales or tokens; every message that might be sent is not.

If I were to send a card to her on her birthday, nothing could be written on the card without it seeming hostile and inappropriate, even though the card were sent with the simplest motive of admiration and tenderness and love. The gesture would immediately be devoured by questions and guesses of ‘what does this really mean?’

If only the air were clean again.

If only the past could be scrubbed and we could start anew.

If only the love industry were not everywhere.

Then there would be somewhere she and I could go.

 

 

WHAT I FOUND IN THE VOID

Image result for a lady and her purse in painting

What I found in the void
Was not mystical, but plain,
As when you look up at the sky
And wonder if it will rain.
Or you may wonder when you will die,
But nothing up there will tell you,
No matter how cloudy the sky.

Symbols may populate your brain,
But what I found in the void
Was simple, and far more plain:
A cloudy shape just a cloudy shape—
Not a myth depicting war, or whatever the main
Reason is for love, metamorphosis, rape,
Sorrow, paranoia, pictures, pain.

What I found in the void
Was my poetry and beauty,
But not of the spectacular kind,
Not something yammering in my mind,
Just something mildly pretty
Is all I found in the void—
And then I came back to you:
Your purse, your appointments, annoyed.

A RELIGIOUS TRACT

Image result for children in renaissance painting

“Melody is the essence of music” –Mozart

There is the thing. All that is, all that was, all that will be. It is what we are in, what we learn and observe, what affects us, what was here before us. It was here before us, and is responsible for us, and we can detect vaguely, or somewhat exactly, by selecting incidents from the past, how we came to be—how it were impossible that we could not have come to be. And this is what is. This is the thing. It is me, and all that I am is because the thing did exist and does exist. There is the thing.

The thing is the good. If I am honest with myself I acknowledge this is the good, because my being, my body, my senses, my ability to feel and think, to love good and want the good—all this is not through my ability to manipulate, or alter—but is what was given to me, actual and intact—this is the thing.

Then there is what limits the thing. It is what humans do in their present life as they seek to alter and manipulate and change and contemplate the thing. And because of the absolute value in its given totality, the thing is not altered, changed, manipulated or contemplated except as it is limited by what is not the thing.

To know which is which. Which is the thing and which is a limitation of the thing. This is the true religion and the true philosophy and the true knowledge and the true art and the true love—the understanding of what is the thing and what is that which limits the thing.

To pretend, or to calculate, or to think, or to act, or to believe, at any moment, that the thing is a part, or a part of a part, and not an absolute whole, is to live not in the thing, but in a limitation of the thing. And because the thing is the whole thing, limiting the thing is always available to us, and a common thing to do. But it is not the thing, and limiting the thing is never the thing.

To choose is not to limit the thing, because choice is the thing. You exist because a choice was made by the thing to include you. Therefore choices qua choices do not limit the thing. A choice may be made to limit the thing, but a choice in itself never limits the thing, because the thing contains in itself certain choices. The thing exists uniquely, and is not amorphous; it is the thing, but the thing is not an abstract oneness—otherwise you would not exist as a unique product and you would not be part of the the thing.

But to purposely limit the thing is a common pursuit, a very common pursuit, (it defines most people) and its attempt to defy the thing is an act against the thing.

Much of what passes as human activity is the pursuit of limitation.

The thing cannot be limited, but since the thing is unique and includes you—and you are unique—the thing is not immune to a radical attempt to limit it, and this attempt is how many radical humans define themselves.

Why did the ancients separate poetry from truth, calling them radically different? Because they knew the thing was the truth, and there is no way to assault its unity as the radically creating thing of all that is given, and further gives, and needs no alteration—and is the thing, for that reason. The thing comprises all that was and is. It is that which science seeks to understand: the stars and their position in space, the planets and moons, and how the orbs and stars move, the origin, and material substance, of the universe of stars, the non-continuous (counting) mathematics and the continuous (geometry) mathematics, the biology of breeding, survival, and the pleasure, including human laws and government, of the whole. This is the thing, the “best of all possible worlds,” the science of the this, but not that.

The beautiful music is the thing. The “wrong note” is the thing temporarily paused, the limitation of the song because the song is paused (but continues to exist and will always exist).

Limitation is error and chance, and poetry (speech which can never be “wrong”) belongs to error and chance—in as much as it is poetry, for the thing cannot be poetry; poetry is the alteration of the thing, not the thing, even if it worship the thing and seeks to improve it, for obviously the subject of a poem is not the poem. The poem—poetry—is, by definition, not the thing. Poetry belongs to the category of what limits the thing.

And yet great poetry, in its choices, may come close to the spirit of the thing.

The thing can only be changed by limitation, and limitation is done by what is not the thing. The thing is, by definition, not limitation, but the thing.

Poetry limits the thing, and all radical human activity, like poetry, is limitation.

Abortion is limitation. Consciousness of race is limitation. Crime is limitation. Poetry, the vast majority of poetry, is limitation. Harsh laughter is limitation. At times, limitation is mistaken for the understanding of the thing itself—and when this happens, humankind is particularly prone to confusion and suffering.

What is the thing? It is that which was, and is, and will be, and cannot be limited, and which builds for its children towering cities beside beaches and forests, with sighing flowers, stretching, forwards, backwards, sideways, upwards and below, into the trembling, blue vastness of twinkling eternity.

 

 

 

 

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