I AM PART OF THIS WORLD, AREN’T I?

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I am part of this world, aren’t I?

The overheard conversations, the wine,

The announcements on the screen,

Someone likes you. What does it mean?

Everything is connected to something

Unlike itself. Nothing is virtuous or clean.

Greatness mingles with the low and mean.

Romance is a presentation; love, an act,

Which is yet, love. You can’t get over this fact.

You finally fall in love with one who makes

You resent everything else. That’s all it takes.

She becomes the world inside the world

Which doesn’t tire.

You look for her in the wide sea. In a fire.

You would give anything to return

To yourself, before she made you burn.

 

 

 

PLEASE READ THIS

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Oh please read this. I know

You’re curious. And, I also know,

To you, I am underground,

And this poem is pathetic, a sound

To comfort myself—where you are not found.

Just to know that you see

This, gladdens my poetry,

Which is better, in every way, than me,

Who, in real life, failed you.

I hate real life.

In life, I cannot talk to you.

How real is that?

Except through this. So this is what I do.

Life knows how failure attends

Every love. Unless, somehow, it make amends

Far, far, from desire, which ruins.

Do you see all those ruins?

Swift desire’s been there

Making, with its bounty, everything bare.

I seared you, I scorned you,

I burned you; nothing I saw with my desire

Had anything to do with you.

I burned. But everybody loves a fire.

Except paper, sleepy home, safe work.

Burning, burning love. The biggest, biggest jerk.

Here. I write this quiet poem, hoping,

You’ll see it, among the ruins, coping.

The fire’s out. But read this, anyhow.

Look. And give me quiet comfort now.

 

I COMPETE AGAINST STUPIDITY

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I compete against stupidity. That’s it.

Claiming I was too competitive, you had a fit.

And now we’re both embarrassed. Our friendship’s over. You lack the wit

To see what I’m competing against.

Congratulations. You did it.

You made me win again.

I wasn’t competing against a friend.

You were competing against me, in the end,

You thought I was stupid to compete

Against you. You made competition sweet

By removing all the stupid. The bliss

Of our friendship was like a lover’s kiss.

It is possible to remove all the stupid from

Everyone, even as we see everyone else as dumb.

That’s what love is. But thinking “everyone else” included you,

You ruined it. That’s what people who can’t love do.

 

 

MY MOUTH, WITHOUT BREATH

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My mouth, without breath,

Yesterday, spoke of certain death,

And now I lie here, as if to prove

Both I and this poem cannot love.

But listen, I am still breathing.

Every line of a poem must be

A little poem, miraculously.

There is nothing known

Quite like the boredom of a poem.

This one bores me to death!

So for excitement now,

I’m closing my eyes and holding my breath.

This is what poets do. They exaggerate

Stillness, memory, despair, hate.

Even so, this sweet deceiving

Is alive for you, and softly breathing.

ALL WE SEE

This parade of life, all we see,

All that is, is death. And life? Life is what will be.

What you cannot see, lives—

And death? Beware of what it gives;

Seeing its gift, you are blind—

Invisible creativity is much more kind.

This dog, slobbering on your cheek

Is love wearing you thin—death making you weak.

I hate to tell you that visible love is out

To kill you—your sun is disappearing without a doubt.

You don’t know if the sun will rise tomorrow.

This is why wisdom is always mixed with sorrow,

This is why what you left behind

In the womb is the only thing that’s kind.

THE LEAST APART

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We swarm over each other like bees

Without dignity; “thank you” and “please”

Make the office run;

Like a kindergarten teacher, the boss is having too much fun.

Why don’t they leave me alone?

I can save things from themselves on my own.

I amuse myself easier when I’m alone.

The cooperation necessary isn’t here.

“Thank you” sounds more hollow every year,

And “thank you” is all we have

As we sink into HR’s grave.

Let’s start over. Picture Good lying in bed,

Half-asleep, too beautiful to work.

She can work, but they will, instead.

I joked with the one thin girl in the office.

I was kind, but now they think I’m a jerk.

I didn’t really want to work.

A worker bee? That’s not me.

The rules said there should be rulers

And the rulers perfect the hum.

The sounds I once adored were

Blended in with honey which stuck

To me and I couldn’t get unstuck.

“Get dressed. Don’t be a jerk.

Poetry? Right. Thank you. Go to work.”

 

 

 

ASYMMETRY

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I stood deciding for a long time

Which life? One of appetite, or rhyme?

The time I dreamed on that took so long

I forgot what I wanted in the song.

The time I wasn’t happy

Was much longer than when I was.

I noticed the vast difference between when hate doesn’t hate

And when it does.

There is no reality without one axiomatic principle,

And now as I write my poetry,

Hidden from you by the thinking in my poetry,

I make you ask: why is there obscurity?

Why is there almost no excellent taste,

And so much wild, stupid, complaining waste?

Why do we die, covered by a majority,

Crushed by injustice, inevitably absurd,

The hero, a minority, almost never heard,

And beautiful poetry never gets to say a single word.

The answer is asymmetry,

The reason we write poetry

When all about us, by careless mockery,

Love, feeling love, is ashamed,

And you and I are never named,

Never portrayed, or seen,

And you and I, even you and I, lie apart

For years, stretching thin the disproportionate heart.

We don’t exist together in this world except by a principle,

We must fulfill, even against our will,

And this principle is asymmetry,

The way for anything to work; the world must be

This way, in art and life; it’s why you no longer love me.

It’s why this enormous cloud, stretching across the sky, dark and vast,

Makes me cry, and not the past.

 

 

 

 

 

THE BEAUTIFUL HUMAN RACE

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The beautiful human race

Has something odd about its beauty:

The beauty of the face

Is always the same as the beauty of the body.

This is not possible.

Does this prove beauty is a miracle?

How does the beauty of the face and arm

Combine? Or love? Or do us harm?

Her body and her face exactly match in how much beauty they own,

As if the face with eyes and the blind body were both by the same God known.

Would you expect a beautiful neck on you,

If rounder, to be more respected?

Do you believe all differences are true?

The body has eyes the face does not,

Seeing into what is there, and what is not.

These beautiful fingers

Know what it is like

To move like a face

When someone has a face they like.

The body will always be beautiful

If the face is beautiful. The ratio is precise. How?

When we sleep, what do the nearly sleeping know?

When I desire to kiss her face,

I desire to kiss her body, too.

Beauty and desire were lost in a maze,

But led out by what a greater beauty knew.

She has a face I want to love with kisses, for hours,

But the body will run away.

The busy earth, too dark to see its flowers,

Turns brightly away as flowers face death.

Not once in the lingering spring

Did I feel on my face her beautiful breath.

Yesterday’s winds die

In a sweet continuum.

Her beautiful body and her beautiful face on her beautiful body cry.

The earth does not know its flowers.

But she does. Her body will stay.

Her face was respected

Before seeing the body,

Looking to lie there in that flowery place,

Next to my body and next to my face,

Everything in its place,

As the mind might do,

(You can lie there, too)

Even as she is sad and moody,

Obsessed with how limited time lives in infinite space.

Why is this always true?

As if the body and the face already knew?

How can great stretches of the known

And the unknown lie together?

How can the religious universe not know the spiritual weather?

How can the warm heart not know the face

Is cold, because it is thinking of space,

Which dies, though it goes on forever?

How do I reconcile my philosophy

With her face that doubts the weather?

 

 

I LOVE WHEN I PRETEND TO LOVE

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I love when I pretend to love.

I love you because you love

With wit, and not with love.

Love rises

In a poem of surprises.

The thought that stays ahead of love

Defeats love, and enlarges love.

I love you because you say you love.

What’s lost with love is won with wit—

It loves, when it’s defeating it.

Deciding to love you, I couldn’t see

You loved me loving you. You didn’t love me.

I love you because you say you hate;

I need to love you, so I’ll wait.

Love is happy, by wit, to be misled.

Wit is happy, in love, to stay ahead

Of love. I love when I pretend to love.

Love didn’t love. It rose from the dead.

 

 

HE’S FUNNY RIGHT AWAY

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He’s funny right away.

I think a while, and don’t know what to say.

He wrote the offending line

When he was sober. I drank wine

And bitterly assaulted him privately.

His smile vanished. And suddenly

I saw what his love for me was.

He doesn’t when I’m gone. When I’m there he does.

 

 

 

 

TOO MODERN TO FINISH THE MELODY

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Too modern to finish the melody,

And repeat it a million times in my ears,

For months I heard your melody,

But melodies will melt in the passing of the years.

So when I heard yours on the soundtrack last night,

Growing faintly louder from the lower depths

In the scene where she leaves him forever,

The effect had no effect on me.

That was our melody

For a while, but you took it away.

A beautiful one, but now it’s for others to play.

Let them have it. Let them steal it,

And hide it, in movies and songs.

Let them have those memories, regrets and wrongs

Which torture, as floating melodies do,

As I, incompetent, was sweetly tortured by you.

Let them repeat your melody, in pieces, making each note bend

Into longing discord, as a film comes to its heavy end

And he looks at her for the last time,

Just as this attempts to end in one last rhyme

With the feelings for you I once had

Before I found new sorrow

In a Mozart melody, far more sad.

 

 

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

 

Related image

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

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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

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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

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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

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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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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