WHAT SHOULD BE PRAISED?

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We don’t love what flatters us.

I could not lie to either,

Though I tried, telling her,

Who was not smart,

“I love your mind!”

And telling her, ugly as a fart,

“I love your body! Can I kiss your behind?”

So none love me now.

Lying is best. But I don’t know how.

So, what can I do now

But take revenge in poems

Which say, fuck it, here’s the truth?

I can tell it because I am its truth.

Only we are the truth, and the lies

Everything not us; even our eyes

Show copies, so nothing original

Exists; only we, ephemerally beautiful,

Coy and partial, stuck in time and place

Are real. Nothing else. Not a trace.

So this is the truth, because it’s me;

The sole attraction of my poetry.

I can only love the physical;

The physical moves me to love, not you;

And that’s why I’m helpless talking to these two:

She, who is smart, I do not love,

Though our talk is delightfully witty,

But then I am stupid with this one,

For I am smitten by the pretty.

And never have the two lived in one.

I’m blinded by the physical.

So who the hell am I, to praise the sun?

I fail to love all things. Even my poetry

Fails. It divides me.

YOU WILL ONLY BE ALIVE TOMORROW

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As you examine the ruin of your life,

Which, in your mind, you call yesterday,

A once-happy past that brings you sorrow,

In a present that disappears,

You understand—as you count your tears—

You will only be alive tomorrow.

In your yesterday, you always are,

So in its death is all your life.

In this moment, vanishing,

You glimpse tomorrow’s star:

Strange place! where you shall die,

And forget this moment—which made you cry.

TOO BEAUTIFUL FOR MARRIAGE

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There is a kind of all-knowing, beautiful person

Who is certain—their beauty proves it—that we are all alone.

To them, a conversation always has a different tone.

When they see pictures of couples, a certain smile

Plays across their lips; they think: She’s going to leave him for a while.

 

Are you beautiful? And harassed? Don’t you feel alone?

And when you talk with someone, do you hear a different tone?

The sacred is not safe when you come into view.

It’s painful to think, isn’t it? that everyone’s untrue—

And the proof is in their eyes when they’re alone with you.

 

To complete the picture, you have no children.

Religion sighs. Tension swells. God inquires of his angels,

Angels in hell, angels in heaven: Is there anything we can do?

The heavens remain serene and beautiful. There is no help from heaven.

Then one leaves the one they love alone with you

And you prove what everyone knew.

Ever since you were a little girl, you heard it in their tone.

This is what beauty proves.

Everyone’s alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I, TOO, FIND THIS WORLD MEAN AND UGLY

I, too, find this world mean and ugly.

When I am sad, it is sadly beautiful,

But this is a passing mood, and not the truth.

 

Accidental verdure trailing across the top of an industrial fence outside the train

Can bring a momentary feeling of reprieve: heroic verdure!  Then the entire stained world seems okay.

This feeling lasts as long as I am sad. Beautiful moods attach themselves to sad ones.

 

But I find no beauty at all when

I dwell on wronged and fallen humanity, and how asphalt and trash

Are the essence of every city, and cleaning and flushing is an operation

That never ceases, and human loneliness and its bewildering pain

Afflicts even the sweetly innocent who try

To be good and tender before the very door of truth.

 

Inside that door, which is iron and spotted and gray,

I sense eternity, whose darkness is our darkness,

A rich, beautiful darkness, which never quite goes away.

 

TYPES

The writer types types.
And typos!  The darling little typos!  Bambinos!

I had a crisis this morning and thought (as I typed my typos)
There are no people!  Only types.

The interesting woman has only three choices in men:

The dullard. Boring, boring, boring.  No way.
The braggart. No way.
The weirdo.  Interesting, but cannot be bragged about: eccentric, not publicly accomplished.

If the weirdo is cute enough in his weirdness and not too weird in a threatening or excessively weird manner,
She may go that way, and give this weirdo her love.

But this doesn’t seem particularly fair to women.
What kind of choice do they have?
The world is not a nice place for women.

But obviously, the lesson is:

Types are the only thing shown.

And the only type which has any validity is you.

Writers type types.
Writers attempt to make types interesting and beautiful.

Writers are trapped in types as they type
Even as they try to escape them.

This is what I am desperately trying to do
As I type these types (without typos) for you.

 

 

IF YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE SOUL IS

If you want to know what the soul is—

You tribes who love poetry—

I will tell you by the time you turn around;

I will illustrate with a simple example I found.

Listen. If you try and define the act of sex,

As it is commonly known by everyone

It is defined by only two things.

Stop me if I go astray, if I am wrong:

It is sexual exertion and orgasm.

This is sex, whether the person is beautiful or not.

They say sex is desired by nearly all

And night and day we hear its call.

But I do not desire sex

If there is not some beauty in the mix

Which we agreed has nothing to do with sex;

But I will not have sex without it.

But how can I have sex if sex is not what I am after?

How can I refuse a glass of milk

When there is only a glass and milk?

Sex without beauty does not exist for me:

It has never happened and will not happen.

Then exertion and orgasm do not exist for me

Unless something else is present which has nothing

To do with the act itself: beauty.

The soul, then, is like this beauty,

Which is everything, and yet nothing

In terms of how we behave in the physical world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT I THOUGHT WAS VARIETY

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What I thought was variety was not variety at all:

Variety of grass. Variety of film short. Variety of tall.

What I thought was variety was not variety at all:

Variety of virtual, variety of very tall envying the tall.

What I thought was variety was not variety at all:

Everything was similar. Equality led to my fall.

What can I do next? A surprise, to love you well?

Apparently not. You left me—to every variety of hell.

 

 

WHEN I WAS A LADY

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When I was a lady, and all

My suitors were ignored who loudly came to call,

I dreamed of a humble one who wrote

Music. I loved each quiet note.

There is a loudness that is not heard

As loudness—now everyone may hear the bird

Who once sang on my window-ledge

Only to me—my secret privilege.

The bird only sang to me!

My secrecy and my vanity and my poetry

Became intertwined.

Talk to me of the rock arena, but that’s no interest of mine.

BEFORE LOVE SPOKE, THERE WAS NO LOVE

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Before love spoke, there was no love.

In the old days desire had no voice, only a sharp spear

For hunting—breeding sensation and fear.

 

In our day, desire is made of speech.

But since this change,

The poet grieves and thinks,

How strange! that love is yet beyond his reach.

 

There’s nothing in words love cannot express:

Words create desire and tell us how to dress;

Love is now a document, a deed.

Love is simply everything we read.

All we say is love, every word a bird-call

In the ever-writing mating tree.

Love has no will or force; only nights

That drunkenly happen. The spear writes.

 

Love has no art; all love is speech; all speech is poetry;

The poet is not heard over chattering society,

When love is mistaken for criminality,

Great lawyers are writing the poetry.

 

Thousands of beauties I saw!  And they all looked the same.

Does beauty have a thought?

Does desire have a name?

No. The lover has fought

For kindness, not fame.

 

 

UNTIL I’M CAPTURED AGAIN

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Until I’m captured again

I will love the chain, and pretend

You are on the other end.

 

You captured me—almost—completely.

But since no one is ever free—

Again and again you torture me,

For that is what you and your beauty

Did, if not intentionally—

Well, that’s how my slavery

Seemed, as if you knew all you are to be

The one thing capable of enslaving me,

And your beauty still does, because dreaming of it

Is now my routine and habit,

Your mind the one mind I cannot escape,

Since the philosophy of love became the world I made.

 

They say one’s own mind should not invade

One’s own mind, but that’s what we do,

As we try to decipher the false from the true

Hopelessly. In the meantime, my hope?

To feel your love tugging on my rope.

 

 

 

ART APPRECIATION

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Incapable of love,

All you do is seduce.

You are not the real fruit—

But the perfume, the juice.

Incapable of thought,

You fashion the noose.

You revel in surfaces.

Your philosophy: the excuse.

Incapable of love,

Here’s what they deduce:

Okay, she’s beautiful,

But she’s crazy, so what’s the use?

Incapable of love,

You flatter at first.

You pretend kindness.

Then you bring the worst:

You hide your empty nature

In mysterious unavailability,

And wear your victim like a glove.

That’s why I love you! You are a god,

And gods cannot love.

 

 

WHEN YOU SEE THE WEATHER COMING OVER THE TREES

When you see the weather coming over the trees

You wonder what the world is hiding:

In the next town, perhaps, she is on her knees,

The rain clearing, the brightening sky

Changing the whole look of her room.

She is begging God to tell her why

She is unlucky in love, even though she is beautiful,

But what’s amazing, is my poem will.

 

At this very instant I am getting answers for her,

The clouds unfurling more clouds from its cloud army

In one power packed display over more clouds in the distance,

Separating one neighborhood from another,

A cunning trick by the weather,

In what you find charming as branches hover over

The summer it always seemed to rain.

I’LL WOO HER BACK WITH POETRY

I’ll woo her back with poetry

Because that’s how I won her first.

Maybe she doesn’t love me—

Maybe my poems will fail—

But miss a chance to love? To love her! That’s worse.

 

I already love her, the Muse knows that’s true,

So my poems should be easy to write

For love makes everything easy,

Almost too easy, I found,

Because ease produces spite.

 

It’s so easy to smile, and kiss a smile, too,

Oh I used to laugh and weep

With joy just to be near her,

Acting strange, I was so in love,

But love that easy is not easy to keep.

 

True feelings annoy those whose feelings are not true,

Who need to think before they speak;

I know because I was like that once, too,

Calculating the impact I made,

And terrified of seeming silly, or weak.

 

All that changes when you really fall in love;

But love’s a funny thing.

Before you are certain they really love you

Or how it will play out in life

You feel like a singer who cannot sing.

 

Nothing at all is easy,

Except those feelings which make you mad,

And happy and ready to love,

To give yourself to that great worship

Of love, which is religious, it is so sad!

 

So alarms are raised in the lovers,

Because they are flirting with madness

And regular life doesn’t like that.

Ordinary life is jealous of love;

It laughs at religious sadness.

 

We all have that moment when we are young,

When, truly ready to love and adore,

A priestly voice takes us aside and whispers,

“Don’t you get it? It’s all a show.”

When we hear this we don’t quite love anymore.

 

Oh we may fall in love, later,

But we love doubtfully; normal life

Makes us feel self-conscious and afraid,

For we have joined ordinary life:

Someone else’s job, weighty children, unhappy wife.

 

The need to love, really love, though, never goes away,

Never goes away, or fades,

Even as we stumble through life, fake-smiling,

Failing at everything—because we don’t love,

Even if we manage to win a prize, or get good grades,

 

Because we know there is easy love,

Like playing sad music on guitar,

Even though we don’t play guitar;

We know love is spectacular and easy

And we want this ease to define what we are;

 

No more obstacles or hesitations,

No more calculations, no more freaking out.

We take up God’s guitar

Made by God and play what God already knows,

And love lives, and there isn’t any doubt.

 

This is what I do with poetry,

Which makes me a spectacular lover, and true

And mad and happy—and her?

I love her. She lives in my heart

In perfect ease! Muse, there is no need to woo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHEN SHE SAID NEVER

Love is that tragedy
Which is always affecting me
In funny ways.
A composer died of a broken heart,
But listen how beautifully his music plays
And still it lives, and will live forever.
The composer said yes
When she said never.

Love is that poetry
Which is always affecting me
In funny ways.
A poet died of a broken heart,
Yet listen how his poetry says
A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
The poet said yes
When she said never.

Love is the whole of me
Which is always affecting me
In funny ways.
I am excited when I walk in the fields;
Every flower I see reminds me of her
And they will remind me of her forever.
I, too, am blessed. I said yes
When she said never.

 

FOR LIZ

I cannot love.

I can drive a car.

I can be kind.

I can work.

I cannot love.

I can play the piano.

I can write poetry.

I can feel excitement.

I cannot love.

I can cook and tend a garden.

I can avoid sleep.

I can sleep.

I cannot love.

I can be enthusiastic.

I can converse with strangers.

I can be calm.

I cannot love.

I can stand up for myself.

I can let others have their way.

I can think of several things at once.

I cannot love.

Don’t tell me I don’t know what love is.

You know what I know—don’t you, Liz?

AT LOVE’S

https://i1.wp.com/www.wga.hu/art/s/steen/page1/doctorsv.jpg

When do you love the doctor?

When I am sick.

And when do you hate the doctor?

When I am well.

When do you love the lover?

When I am sick.

And when do you hate the lover?

Stay. And I’ll tell.

I NEED TO WRITE THIS POEM FAST

I need to write this poem fast.

This inspiration will not last.

Yes, look how love between two people disappears

In a cloud of tears.

My inspiration’s source will always exist, though.

Remember when you were young and bored in school and everything seemed slow?

The attempt to write fast

Does not help inspiration last—

And even the inspiration’s source

Immense as it is, will not stay its course.

It falls, knocking me down like a giant tear,

Aching inspiration heralding her cry in a future day: “I’m here!”

I had to write this poem fast.

Her kiss missed my lips.

If life is good, be happy!

And if not, be happy!

Because none of this shit, baby, is going to last.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE EARTH TAUGHT HER CHILDREN TO BEFOUL HER

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The earth taught her children to befoul her.

You are my Central Park.

You are the landscape for loving a shadow’s deepening.

You are the landscape for which I apply.

You are the landscape not of talk or thought

But the glittering that goes on in the sparrow’s eye.

In the middle of the gleaming, teeming city I return to nature.

In your body I slowly know nature as I never did.

Where is the snake—feeding on the minnow in the stream—I hid?

Your trees, your fertility, your face of faceless architecture

Emitting sighs, would make Frederick Olmsted drop

And Wordsworth his cunning Prelude stop.

Of course I had long plans, and still do,

But when I became your friend

I realized that you were long in the planning, too.

You did not simply go along or get along

And that is how I found you in my song.

I had to amend my every idea of nature.

The Central Park of my youth where I found polliwogs was you.

You, the vista and the view.

You, the tangled branches shading the stream;

The snake-filled stream which haunted me in many a silent but riotous dream,

You, my prophecy—had you been seen,

Walking the margins of the dream-park with your plans,

Would I have fallen deeper? It is a joy to analyze—

Even though I cannot, when I peer into your eyes.

I paced the porch and considered the morality

Of the bridge between home and nature.

The talk of the “Father of Landscape Architecture”

Posited against you smiling in the swamp—

This is where I thrilled to journey, not knowing then

That loving the earth was incest,

And reading downward a sin.

I can only vow to love you under sky and sky

More, even more, when I love you again,

And this time at no time be afraid to die.

 

 

 

 

TO YOU, THE ONLY ONE WHO KNOWS THIS

To you, the only one who knows this,
I dedicate this,
Simply. Without a sound. Without a kiss.

I learned from you what is best for me.
You improved me. That was part of our destiny.
There was… love, but it is not polite to talk of that.
And I won’t. Losing weight from worry isn’t good. Everyone should get fat.

My adoration for you is unceasing.
Strange, strange, strange! how we died, and now are dead to each other—
But we still live, in the songs of afternoons, as before, feeling love
For a million things.

We died to each other
And perhaps that’s why
My love can live and die for you every day;

Because love died, and dies again and again,
I love you now more than I loved you then,
More than when I touched you, and held you close

And the uncomprehending would glimpse us: crying
By the sea, or kissing as we walked: two ghosts.

Do not doubt that for us love still lives.
Where there has been love, even the broken gives.

I LOVED HATE

She was like my mother, self-loathing and sad,
Comparing herself to others, and always feeling  bad,
Taking out her aggression on yard waste, alone.
I saw my lover as my mother, unconsciously. Groan.

She was sweet and friendly at first—
I fell in love; it was too late.
For the soul that loves this is the worst:
To fall in love with hate.

Everyone’s heart is a house.
She took me to her house
But left me at the gate.

She was sweet and friendly at first.
I fell in love with hate.
By the time I got to know her
Oh God! It was too late.

I was madly in love,
Madly in love with hate.

She had secrets, secrets galore.
Hateful secrets. Which made me love her more.

Hate can be loved, and once love begins,
It will love hate forever.
Love simply loves. And the world thinks it sins.

For one who loves love, this was an unkind fate.
To love only love—then fall in love with hate.

It is sad to be hateful; I don’t sympathize with hate.
I don’t wish to describe her this way. Ah, but now it is too late.

Love is normally patient, but not when love loves hate.
She had nothing else to do. And so she made me wait.

She was like my mother, worrisome and sad,
Comparing herself to others, and always feeling  bad,
Taking out her aggression on yard waste, alone.
And then she wrote me angry messages on the phone.

She took me to the house and left me at the gate.
She was sweet and friendly at first.
Then we kissed. I discovered my fate:
To love her. To love her. To love hate.

I SUFFER BECAUSE I LOVE

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I suffer because I love.

I hear sighs in the corridors of the day.

I long for suffering love, because this is what will stay.

If I must suffer, love, let me suffer because of you.

Suffering without love is unimaginable.

And not something I’m prepared to do.

They say sufferers are losers, and those who do not, win.

They are right! I would love to inhabit a sly, seductive grin,

But I think all eventually suffer, and I am glad

It is you who makes me sad.

Suffering is proof of love.

Too much laughter and joy

Will annoy.

There are holes everywhere, leading into the earth.

We are going to fall into one,

So what is joy worth?

As I am going down,

I want to think on you—your kiss, your sorrow, your frown.

 

UNFORTUNATELY THERE IS ONE

Unfortunately there is one

Who cannot love; who is a photograph, but not the sun.

A photograph is produced with a sudden, narrow light

On a flat surface: sometimes we mistake it for real sight

And evidence of the thing, as if the thing were a thing’s flight.

She does not want to be seen; she looked unhappy

When, by accident, a poet ran into her today.

All he needed was a moment’s glance to see

A face lined with anger and misery.

All love begins with accident; the accident of place,

The accident of a kind voice murmuring through a kind face.

The accidents of love are kind even to the one

Who cannot love; who is a photograph, but not the sun.

Poets are those who fanatically want things to be just right.

Poets choose a photograph over living, a picture over sight;

They prefer an image to living, if the image, not living, looks exactly right.

We were that rare combination, since beautiful poets are rare;

Most of us, when we see beautiful life, only stop and stare,

But there are those, and it is sweet, trembling and rare,

Who are the beautiful life, who can create it with their voice,

With the deliberate way they look and move; beauty is a choice

They succeed in making with their very being—

They are the beauty you and I are only seeing.

And now in the picture of this poem I give you a picture of one

Who hides, because she is a photograph; she is not the sun;

Who hides, because she could not finally love, and the shame

Of this is too much, and she is reduced to taking snapshots of blame;

She is miserable—in her life the accident of love has returned to accident,

In which most of us wait and suffer and hope.

We were those two poets: beautiful, loving in cinemascope,

An affair like a long porn film, lived; not watched; it was paradise;

This is what joy truly is: a beautiful porn film; porn that is beautiful and nice,

Made by, and for poetry; in the country, and in beautiful escapes;

But she is not the sun; she cannot love. So roll those tapes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WAS THERE EVER A YOU?

I made that poetry proudly,

A little bit of emotion, an idea or two.

In love, I write for the one I love.

But was there ever a you?

 

I, in love, loved loudly,

Too much emotion, which emotion knew.

In poetry, I write to one I love.

But was there ever a you?

 

How can I tell you, my only love!

Of these feelings that writing knew?

It is you I write to, my darling.

But was there ever a you?

 

Why do I ponder this?

To question this is absurd.

Of course you exist! You do!

I only question the word.

SHE COULDN’T FEEL

“Blue moon, I saw you standing alone.” —old song

They grew apart
For they were as together as they could be.
She couldn’t feel.
He couldn’t see.

They grew apart
As only lovers can,
As only a woman and a man
Who love deeply, can.

They grew apart,
Making themselves beautiful—beauty, their revenge.
Beautiful face, hard heart,
Hard heart until the end.

When they loved, they were brave.
Now they do not love.  And they save what they can save.

 

 

 

I WANTED TO PAINT A POEM FROM WHAT SEEMED TO ME ETERNAL IN MY MIND

 

A man cannot say, ‘I will compose poetry.’ The greatest poet cannot say it, for the mind in creation is like a fading coal… —Shelley, Defense of Poetry

Oh poetry revels in picturesqueness;
Bushes, flowers and vines
Coiling around broken friezes,
Odors bursting from slaved-over lines
As you walk in the garden—
Holding your palms out to the rain
Sailing, dropping mistily down,
While workers die in the mines—
Through nodding narrow greenery.
Tourists in Italy stood a long time.
If you can, picture Hawthorne or the Brownings,
The life of literary sculpture
Passing away into a more beautiful music
Which in turn passes away.

EGOTISTICAL SUBLIME

I thought: What is this world?

What is all this? And then I saw four letters

Staring at me from the label on a stranger’s coat,

Their back to me on the train.

T-O-M-S. And it grabbed me by the throat.

“Tom’s” suddenly flashed upon my brain.

The answer was simple, delicate and fine.

The world—everything thought, seen and felt—is mine.

Here is the secret to the whole world.

You couldn’t figure it out, my sweetest girl.

You couldn’t figure it out, psychiatrists and sages,

Priests and gurus, poets through the ages.

The transit authority stamps its “T”

On the sides of trains—and that’s me.

If the truth were announced, everyone would look.

I don’t want that. The secret is not found in a book,

Or in anyone’s mind; it’s not a crude matter of fame,

Because the truth of the world and the world are not the same.

It is the truth of all time, and it begins with a “t.”

I didn’t see it because I was too close to it—the truth is none other than me.

She—who I loved—was never able to see.

She told me that on two separate occasions the answer almost came,

While she was in a meditative revery,

But it was lost! She recounted this bitterly

While I, her lover, listened helplessly,

But now I laugh, for the truth is known—

She almost found the truth because she was profoundly alone

And nearest to the secret—the secret that she was the secret.

But poor blind thing! A searching—but not a great—soul—she lost it.

Though—profoundly timid—she never wrote poetry,

I knew she was a poet—it seemed obvious to me.

“Tom,” she would cry, in our ecstatic embraces,

“Tom! Tom! Tom!” Cried among kisses drenching our faces,

Love speaking my name, beautiful and sublime,

Reminding me! Reminding me! That life is—mine!

 

 

 

POEMS WRITE ME

Poems write me

Even as I die in this boring life

With business matters dangling over the days and the wife.

A sentence keeps me in line.

The soil is usually a line or a phrase,

Which may end up being the pretty flower,

The title, or the poem’s (yawn) most important line.

Helpless, I let creation have its say.

If a line is what struck me first, it will probably stay.

Of course, I may end up throwing what fell from the sky away.

Oh, and the root of every inspiration is you.

In this poem, for instance, you wait in the stem.

There you are. Strike that line. No, that will do.

Poems write what they please. I don’t write them.

PAINTING WITH MY LEFT HAND

The universe spins in a certain direction;
That’s how we know we’re—here.
This line moves at a certain speed:
Music finds its beat.  Conversations are clear.

But it’s not the business of poetry to tell you this:
Science is factual; what’s scientific about a kiss?

I did not wish to intrude on science’s domain.
But delightful kissing will make the kissing poet vain,
So love disguises itself as wisdom, making itself even more plain.

I write right-handed,
But throw with my left hand.
I am going to throw my signature at you.
I want to do something dumb;
Paint with my left hand, to make the drunken Muse come.

THIRTEEN (FOR MY DAUGHTER)

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Life is made for a thirteen-year old girl.

All that is strange and entertains us in this world

Is made for her, from the carefully painted toes

To the old, comedy television shows

Produced by fashionable drunks and their wives

Who make adult situations out of the situations in their lives

Which recall an earlier day and an earlier age

When the playful was more important than the sage,

And history, the wreck we carry on our backs

Needs to be forgotten, so every adult can just relax.

No longer attached to mom and dad,

Too much time ahead, too proud to be boring or sad:

Everyone wants, in their hearts, to be thirteen,

No compromise, nothing in-between,

Too young to be nostalgic, too young to be wise,

And old enough that one burning smirk sits like all the world in her eyes.

 

 

 

FOR _________

Let practical life and its lackeys,
Immersed in details and laughter,
Stand, impenetrable, to my mad poetry and my mad desires.
I can laugh as well as they,
And am warmed by the same fires.
I would not have that practical edifice fall
Or the practical things fail.
I, too, have needs, and must put things in my little pail.
Contemporary art is kindergarten
And yet its billions
Are the envy of bad poets, who number in the millions.
Philosophy wrecks itself on science
Which is a slave
To everything the brutally unscientific crave.
Love is the only glory.
The one I love says: “Where shall we meet?”
This is poetry—this is all—and I fall at her feet.

TAKE MY WORDS, PAINTER

Take my words, painter;
Give them the dark and the light
Which attends creation.
My reader is blind!  Give her sight.

My words are blind. Let her see
Her meaning to me
Travel in her own eyes.
Make her see, for the first time, my poetry

In all its subtle hues and dyes.
Let her see my pleas to her
In our hearts, where worlds occur.

All she hears are futile cries:
“My love, my love, my love!”

Let her watch the lowlands where my sorrow flies,
And walk through the fields of meditation beside the dove.

Speak, painter.
Poetry can say nothing.

TAKE MY WORDS, COMPOSER

Take my words, composer,

And make them your own.

Add music. For I have lost my love

And all I can do is groan.

 

Take this heart, composer,

No longer glad or light,

And fix up my utterances

For a somber and solemn night.

 

Take my loss, composer.

Your music might something keep.

Play my words with music

Until I fall asleep.

IT WOULDN’T BE BAD IF YOU LOVED ME

It doesn’t take much to make me glad:

A dip in a mountain lake, a long walk under stars by the sea.

And it wouldn’t be bad if you loved me.

 

It doesn’t take much to make me glad:

A bowl of strawberries for dessert; on the piano, a melody.

And it wouldn’t be bad if you loved me.

 

It doesn’t take much to make me glad:

Thinking about you. Thinking about you every day.

And it wouldn’t be bad if you loved me.

 

Did I tell you I like Brussels sprouts? And guacamole?

I know. You have your own special recipe.

And it wouldn’t be bad if we had some tea.

 

I like going places alone. I’m a bit of a loner, but not too bad.

Do you like being alone? Does that make you glad?

How are you under stress? How do you handle the mundane?

I like desire, and I don’t mind the clingy—that’s how much I like desire.

 

But you have your doubts that you can always be on fire.

And I notice you are not good-natured. That’s going to get worse.

Okay, maybe it wouldn’t be bad if I thought this out more.

 

This started out as a clever, sentimental song.

How did it go wrong?

Who am I kidding? I made it wrong.

Or maybe this is how it is supposed to go.

I wrote the wise parts fast, the foolish part slow.

 

 

 

A WOMAN IS A MAGAZINE: FASHION POEM NUMBER FOUR

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A woman is a magazine.

A magazine is why most women are horrors.

We all know the beautiful girl is mean

And the one who dresses best is the young teen

In thrown-together combinations wild,

But selling your soul to Conde Nast

Kills your soul pretty fast.

I didn’t know anything in the world

Until I realized she was a Town and Country girl.

A simple blouse and skirt, the center of her casual pride,

Prada bag, leather sandals, pretty watch, wealthy and dignified

The essence of her, the real her inside.

She sized me up as a careless, earnest, poet without style

Who—protected by her Town & Country brand—she could dally with for awhile.

Town & Country is a dual symbol—not two-faced, exactly,

But she liked its implication of social flexibility.

Something in my temples and neck she found vaguely aristocratic.

When I wore blue shirts bringing out my blue eyes,

She knew Town & Country had made her, a poor wall flower, pretty damn okay

By making her pleasant, without having too much to say.

With her love of nature, and her Yves Saint Laurent perfume,

I forgot my learning when she came into the room.

It quickly became a contest, which she knew she could win:

Tortured wordiness versus sweet, casual, Town & Country grin.

I read everything. Even Rolling Stone. My sense of taste was vile.

Town & Country was all she needed to enjoy me for awhile.

 

 

 

 

 

MY POEMS AND MY LIPS

My poems and my lips taste the same
As my flesh, as my name.

A shape—before touching—which you see
Is how my lips first spoke for me.

My lips still have nothing to say
To your beauty on this beautiful day.

Your beautiful name in the night
Swings back and forth in my brain like a light

In the breeze of an approaching storm:
Cold at first, and then very warm.

My poems speak for my lips:
On the ocean of my sighs, the ships.
Do you see my poems, lighted things,
In the mist, longing for shore where the longing shore bird sings?

I told my lips the other day,
My poems, in scintillating array,
Will be a navy for my lips, which cannot say
What it feels like in our hearts when ships take our hearts away.

My poems and my lips are almost the same—
Each made of dust, one crying your name
In a glorious attempt at fame:
Yours—if lips are not shaped the same.

 

 

YOU, ALREADY IN LOVE

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You, already in love, I did not see you there,

When I first fell in love with your shadow,

Who, although a shadow, presented a show

Daring to love me, and loving that I might dare

To love you; two minds embracing all love might know,

As two finally move into shadows with a sigh,

Knowing all they are is about to die.

There were warning signs, that I

Was only loving a shadow—“love is a madness,”

You said, and “everything must finally end,”

And you not wanting children;

I should have known; though I did guess

Something wasn’t right from the start.

I loved a shadow, a shadow! with all my heart!

And you, already in love, simply could not be

The shadow your shadow was when you first kissed me.

 

 

 

 

HUMBLE SITA SPEAKS

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“The Ramayana…is a divine romance…of undying love between Sita and Rama, two aspects of one divinity whose separation from each other…is illusion…acted out for the benefit of their devotees.”  —Self help psychology book

Why should I care about what you made up in your mind?

I’m not your epic poem. Fuck off. I’m not your Sita

And you’re certainly not Rama, you pathetic oaf.

You think if you steep your shit in ancient religion

It will impress me? Words, words, words. Psychology

And poetry and desire and big fat fucking deal. Listen:

Dinner and movie and you pay. Then we’ll see.

You must be confident. And funny.

Hey, put your poetry aside and look at me.

Sita gives all the guys hard-ons so don’t fucking think I’m going to be

Impressed by yours. You don’t know anything. I’ll show you femininity.

I’m better than you. I use you. Finding me might not be a good find.

Poet-Asshole! Why should I care what you make up in your mind?

 

 

 

 

 

EVERYTHING

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I don’t praise Everything, but stand in awe of it.

I had an insight today and realize how much we are enslaved by the everything of Everything.

Capitalism, Everything’s cousin, is disliked, and looking for a pair of socks this morning, I finally understood why.

My drawer is filled with unmatched socks, and as I studied my various dark socks in the light to find an exact match, I asked myself,

“Wouldn’t it be easier if there were One Dark Sock Factory that served all feet, making one dark sock that fits all?”

You see, I couldn’t care less about these subtle varieties of dark sock—and here Everything confronted me—countless varieties of socks exist because someone wishes to make money with their brand of specialized sock.

So I cursed capitalism.  If sock manufacturing were a socialist enterprise, all my dark socks, made from one simple model at a fair price, would match.  The variety of socks in the world—the Everything factor—was wasting my morning, as I attempted to find a match.

Things, the minions of Everything, take revenge against us if we do not pay attention to them.

My shoes, conveniently placed under my bed so I could put them on upon waking, somehow managed to get themselves far under the bed, so I had to bend over and reach for them, feeling about under the bed, in a flurry of curses.

I have been trained, however, to make what annoys me bear fruit.

I notice that nothing falls into place for us—Everything makes things difficult, annoying, and displaced—Everything is unruly and runs away from us: shoes, socks, the sheets and blankets on the bed—which always arrange themselves in such a way that ‘making the bed’ is an odious task.

There is no time for anything.

There is no time to make more time.

Everything is a cage.

We are trapped, and trying to escape traps us further.

But putting our finger on something, articulating the problem, makes us happy for a moment, at least.

More generally, I thought of the universal effort to simplify our lives by simply ignoring a whole host of things—we tell ourselves we will not care about this thing or that thing, in order to make our existence simpler and happier—we will defeat this conspiracy of Everything by excluding a certain number of things from our lives.

But does this bring happiness?

No.

It is in the nature of things, no matter how divided, focused on, or excluded, to never satisfy.

If we exclude this or that in our life and focus on one thing, we think, if we focus on this, then we will be happy—but no, even the one thing we want, as we humbly give up our need for other things, eludes us, or proves disappointing—for no thing wishes to be ignored, and to focus on one thing means ignoring other things.

Things ignored take revenge on us—socks will not match, shoes will run away under the bed—not even one thing we attempt to make ours will be ours—everything conspires to make us unhappy, if we fail to give Everything its due.

We cannot exclude. And the following will illustrate this:

If we put our stock in poetry, and ignore the non-poetic, our most precious poem will be mocked and ridiculed in the public square, and we will be humiliated forever.

However, those who focus on the non-poetic and ignore poetry in their lives—the mockers in the public square—will discover, meanwhile, that a poet has stolen their wife.

You better know Everything. Or you—no matter who you are, or how “expert” you are—will get burned.

No one wins in the attempt to exclude; Everything will have its revenge.

If we attempt to make life simpler, if we decide, in an egalitarian serve-humanity spirit, to make life better by having one dark sock factory, this will backfire, like everything else.  The noble revolution will crumble and fall in despair, and finally, in humiliation.  Up rises Everything, and there shall be countless varieties of dark socks and your morning will be wasted looking for one dark sock to match another—because someone wants to get rich on socks.

I decided not to be bitter towards Everything and to surrender to its power.  After all, I thought, what about those poor souls forced to work in that dark sock factory?  How much fun would it be to be make one dark sock all day?

And, further, what of my own responsibility to organize my socks?  Is it not my sole responsibility to make sure my socks match?  How I launder my socks, how I purchase my socks, how I organize my socks—is this not the important thing?

Respect Everything.

Everything forces us to be organized, and is actually a moral agent, since being busy keeps us out of trouble.

So this, then, is why Everything exists, and why it exists the way it does—for moral, religious purposes.

Is not the Bible lengthy, and full of so many things that it requires long study? Of course it is. The Bible, like all religious texts, and like all documents involved in the legal tangle of capitalism, pay due homage to Everything, which is our true God.

Who has the time to pay attention to Everything? We don’t. Which is why the world is full of dull, unhappy people—even as Everything spreads its riches before us.

Here are the choices:

Bare feet: happy but ignorant.

Mismatched socks: socially condemned.

Matched socks: organized and dull.

And we see this roughly pertains to the three ages of Humanity:

bare feet, the Child;

mismatched, the Adolescent;

matched, the Adult.

The challenge is finally to take account of Everything’s moral nature, respect this aspect of it, and not let it make you dull and miserable, for it will make you dull and miserable if you fail to respect it.

The everything of Everything makes us busy, and this is how it makes us moral. Capitalism, which is the source of so much consternation on the Left, offends as a seemingly cruel and amoral system—but as we have shown, it is really the opposite—think of all the work that goes into producing a certain kind of dark men’s sock—merely because it serves the refining nature of Everything’s expansive complexity: in a word, the Civilized.

Why do we have children?

For one reason, really.

We don’t have enough Time here—so we hand off the task of living to our child: here, you do it. I don’t have time.

And then we find a child takes up all of our time.

Or, we don’t have children because we do believe we have time. We look young all the way to the end of our child-bearing years. Then age creeps in all of a sudden, and we have no children. Too late, we realize there is no time, and Everything discovers even more ways to torture us as we look into the empty mirror.

All the exhausted, unhappy faces that you meet—exist because of how many different kinds of socks there are. We are unhappy, moral, busy—our vacations brief and unsatisfying, our jobs tedious and unsatisfying.

Our attempts to “rise above” the mundane into the realm of love and beauty prove short-lived and untenable, as the spirit of Everything asserts itself, taking revenge on us for our vanity and our self-indulgence, for as soon as we embrace love and beauty, pride makes us irritable and thin-skinned—we continue to knock against Everything; fragile Beauty proves too difficult to maintain. 

We find ourselves in our bedrooms. Tears rolling down our cheeks. An annoying song on the radio. A stupid piece of instant “wisdom” on social media.  Crying over lost love.

And our holy consolation?

Oh God!

Sorting our socks.

Everything crushes us under its Wheel.

Everything, the One True God.

The only thing the fortunate are thankful for, thanks to our God, Everything:

I didn’t have too much time to be unhappy.

 

 

 

OVER

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Is it over then? Has the last note been played?

Must I go home? Without getting laid?

How bitter this ending! Just a minute ago

You excited me with talk of doing something slow

And now you frown. Every inch of your demeanor says, stop.

You are the greatest musician in the world. Did you know?

You can pick up a concert hall and let it drop.

I will now be hungering for the rest of a tune

That ended back there with strings and bassoon.

The solo piano played like the moon.

I will expect its entrance tomorrow at noon.

The concerto resolved, and yet did not.

Forever now! I will dream of that tune.

When provoking desire is an art, a spell,

That a magician, a musician, a woman—does well,

Music and love mutually swell, they mutually dwell

With passion! I cannot speak!

Broken, I composed this poem last week.

If only I’d spoken—instantaneously—the whole

Joke the moment you were cruel! I would have defeated your soul.

 

 

IT TAKES A WHOLE LOT OF SORROW TO BE SAD

It takes a whole lot of sorrow to be sad;
The world needs to pile wrong on wrong
To spoil even one song,
But with a smile you’ve made me glad.

 

It takes a whole lot of sorrow to be sad;
The breezy finds it easy to ignore so much.
The sad lacks the light touch.
But with a touch you’ve made me glad.

 

It takes a whole lot of sorrow to be sad;
Sorrow’s armies are marching up and down.
Sorrow is going to take over the town!
But with a glance you’ve made me glad.

 

It takes a whole lot of sorrow to be sad.
It took some time, but you knew, you knew, you knew
You were the only one I wanted. Come here, you.
In one instant we’ll be glad.

 

 

 

 

RUMI’S LOVE IS HOW I LOVE YOU NOW

Lovers don’t meet anywhere. They live inside each other. —Rumi

Once there was a longing for you so strong
I could not be away from you for long.

I cursed the time away from you;
I was nourished in your intoxicating presence;

Having hungered my whole life for a love like this,
I fed on you like the hungriest animal

And grew mad for more and more of you
And to reach you, wrote you many a poem and song.

 

You were Isolde to my Tristan: passion
Fighting pride, that, even as sweet hunger all our passion won,

Sought honor even in the feeding, our rage
A kind of lust, wings of love stretching in a cage

As secrecy and homelessness cursed our kisses
Even as our love rejoiced in love which the simple eye of the public misses.

Wanton yet proud, your beauty burned like fate in my eye,
My destiny to consume myself as you desired me, in poetry,

Until things like time and place and “when and where will I see you”
Began to weary us, for the love given was never the kind that will do;

Our love had to fight for every inch of ground
Which by reproving public vigilance is drowned.

Exiled every moment, always thinking how and when and where to go,
We’d look at each other helplessly: yes, my love, I know.

Where can we love? Where can love that wants to love go?
There was not a crack in the world we could fit through,

Obligations to worlds and shadows and worlds is all we knew
And our love lay helplessly stretched upon

One shadowy bed; life—which conspires against love—won.
We should have been together constantly,

Harmony chasing routine inside ecstasy,
So love, building with love, not absence,

In constant delight, might have a chance.
The wrong endured became the thing sought,

More absence to aid desire, or so we thought:
I will make her miss me, I shall stay away.

Love! What is it? What shall it do or say?
Until the horror of staying away too long

Became its own prophecy.
Love dying, we did something wrong.

 

Now a sword lies between Tristan and Isolde.
Eternal love has surrendered to the dying world.

You look away, you cannot look at me,
It is not because you do not want to look at me.

It is only the passion and the pride
Of Tristan and Isolde. Tristan and Isolde have died.

Love is reborn in the love which Rumi
Knew as the highest of all.

There is no end. There is no wall.

THE BATH OF LOVE

If the angels are angels
Who swim in the elements above,
We are almost as lucky here,
Who swim in the bath of love.

The bath of love is where we love;
Where the moving waters move,
Our love loves when it gently moves,
As the moving waters of the bath can prove.
When loving loves,
The waters move
To the moving we make as we love.
Your mind and mine are the waters of the bath;
The movement is much, much more than math
But real, like the tiger, like the dove—
In the warm and swaying bath of love.

This is where we go to die,
In the bath of the seeing eye,
A liquid that looks
More tenderly than the brooks
And hidden streams
That lie quietly in our dreams.

When we are away
Every thought that falls will stay.

The bath of love is where we live.
The gentle pushing of the waters
Is how we gently love and give
Where all is loving already
In the one bath, that sways and is steady.
For the one bath is love already,
And contains our infinite minds
Which in the uniting body finds
The back and forth of loves
In crystal waters that gently move.

When the goddess gently knelt
To go into her bath,
All who saw, and all who felt,
Said they knew the ice would melt.

In love the dove flies within
Where the still bath has always been;
In gentle bathing there is no wrath
Or straying. All thoughts live in the one bath,
Where flies the tiger and the dove
In the swaying bath—the bath of love.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IT ISNT THE POETRY I LOVE?

Language is unreal. What’s in the letter

That I carefully seal?

What is it I’m giving to you?

Poetry is something you know that I do.

Love is a pleasure that can always get better

But there must be sentiments that are willing, and true.

How do you know it isn’t the poetry I love?

 

Your face is yours, the one that does the talking all day,

And what will you say to me as you open the letter

And read the inside of what I say?

Nothing belongs to us. Your face is the pretty kind.

I practice to make my poetry better

By sending, each day, a word of myself, which I do,

Like your face that does the talking for you.

How do you know it isn’t the poetry I love?

 

The more I love, the more unreal

You seem; your body hasn’t a thing to say

To what I say; it isn’t the poetry kissing you;

What is opening your letter is strange,

And doesn’t feel like me.

We can hold in our hands the scientist’s chalk.

We want to blast off, yet we are merely gravity.

Our bodies sitting around. The small talk.

How do you know it isn’t the poetry I love?

 

 

 

IF YOU COULD SEE ME NOW

If you could see me now, relaxed and fit,

You would know I no longer lament on the benches

Where the sad watch the world pass, where we used to sit.

 

If you could see me now, saying clever things,

Laughing with beautiful people laughing,

You’d know I no longer care what a day with you in it brings.

 

If you could see me now, writing these lines,

My long hands, biting my lip, never looking up,

You would know I no longer care who dances with you, or dines.

 

If you could see me now, safe at last from throngs

Who loved to torture us with curiosity and gossip,

You would know I no longer care to ask why you love certain songs.

 

If you could see me now, without a care in the world,

Flying above dream houses in dreams,

You would know I no longer care for your opinions on this boy or girl.

 

If you could see me now, happy as a lark,

You would know I no longer miss the kisses

I gave you when we took our walks and kissed in the park.

 

If you might see me now, stretched out in the crimson dark, flowers at my feet and head,

Do not move closer or watch me—what other dreams have I forgot?

To see if I am dead.

 

 

 

 

 

THESE KISSES ARE MINE

I want to give you kisses,
More than a few.
I want to kiss your face awhile
As I throw my arms around you.
Perhaps I’m excited by your beauty and the wine.
But just remember: these kisses are mine.

I want to give you kisses,
A hundred or more.
I want to kiss your neck awhile,
The area around your neck explore.
I give and I give because you are fine.
But just remember: these kisses are mine.

I want to give you kisses,
The more the merrier.
I’ll kiss your breasts, your belly,
Even your interior.
My love is yours; my life is yours; yours, this wine.
But just remember: these kisses are mine.

When you go away from me—
Or if you should leave me for good
And take my whole life—
I hope it’s understood
Whatever you are doing: loving, sleeping, drinking wine,
Those millions of kisses I gave you are mine.

SHE DOESNT TRUST MEN ANYMORE

She doesn’t trust men anymore.

One she loved, a long time ago now,

Left her, pregnant, crying on the floor.

You may read about that, in her murky workshop poetry with elaborate metaphor,

But she doesn’t like to talk about that anymore.

She tried a final time with one who couldn’t make decisions

And hated herself for finding him a bore,

Her caustic moments towards him imitating the very guy’s demeanor who left her crying on the floor.

So now, thoroughly self-loathing, you can probably guess what she’s like.

Happy. Pretty. Published. Lots of friends. Don’t feel bad, really, that she told you to take a hike.

INSTANT LOVE

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Is there an instant love?

All love happens instantly.

Love is faster than we can see.

Avoiding love is how love becomes a possibility.

If love hasn’t happened, we only need to wait

For the one thing love needs: out-of-focus hate.

Passion is a mixture in the right degree

Of sad discord and happy harmony.

She studies the book and learns

Of what does not love. In love, she burns.

When she, on fire, sought relief,

I stole her fire. Love is the thief

That deals in fire and never cools

Itself and burns itself and burns the schools.

You never understood her love and why her love was rash

Until you found the world and all its wisdom is ash.

 

WE NEVER SAID THAT

We never said you could be
Something else. If you agree
To be different we will pretend
It somehow makes a difference in the end.

We never said it would be
Other than official. So let’s agree
To pretend the official signifies
Something more than perfumed lies.

We never said it would be
Just. Only justice as you think it should be.
There will be symbolism and you can think
You are right. With your friends. With the ink.

We never said it would finally be
Anything more than beauty.
In the end, to find beauty we need money.
Did you hear me? We need money.

 

JUST SOME CLOUDS

Some people think they can see what they read.
You cannot see what you read. There is only sound.
Your memory contains images which a fiction writer found.
Fiction is what you want, but poetry is what you need.

Fiction grows, and it grows like a weed.
We do not need more fiction. There is only sound.
Your memory contains stories which a fiction writer found.
Fiction is what you want, but poetry is what you need.

Fiction is a confession the curious feel they have to read.
But really, is it necessary? There is only sound.
Your memory has embarrassments a fiction writer found.
Fiction is what you want, but poetry is what you need.

Invention is all; not family, not morality, not creed.
Invent. Don’t imitate life! There is only sound.
Your memory is nothing the fiction writer found.
Fiction is what you want, but poetry is what you need.

THIS IS HOW I FELL FOR HER

It began at the top of my head,
Where the dignified thoughts are.

Pity them! They fell far.

Philosophy turned into crying;
Infant fears my new philosophy,
Getting what it wants by lying.

After this occurred, what is left to say?
Reason descended and passion rose.

I read that eyes were paths to love:
When she was near, I looked in those.

Deprived of breath, I became drunk,
For what is the point of intoxication?
To die while you are living,
For love makes everything want to die.

The trick was: it seemed to be her.
But it all happened in my eye,
It all happened in my breath,

It was me inside me falling

And mine was a beautiful death.

The falling was happening in myself;
A frightening fall inside my head,
And after breath, blood succumbed;

My happy death knew at last it was dead.
My death found joy in a living
No longer known as life.
My life I tossed to her. Finally my feet fell;

I fell beside her.
I have not been myself since she became my wife.

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