Against our will, we choose.

We have no will, not because we don’t choose, or cannot choose, but because we do.

Are you a Democrat, or a Republican?

“I’m neither.”

Of course. Wink wink. 

It is frighteningly apparent to every soul how crudely dual life is. Yes—I mean “no!”—it really is a binary existence; everything in life is a series of 0/1, eternally.

This is why every American is either a Democrat or a Republican.

And why “being a Democrat” or “being a Republican” is finally meaningless.

We might as well say “One” or “Two,” and, as throngs crowd around One, or Two, endowing One or Two with this or that virtue, the crowds are hardly aware that they are only participating in duality, in One and Two. The “Democrat” and “Republican” duality is a laughable and impossible affair.

But “heating up” is what “discussions” and “contest” and “rivalry” will naturally do, as existence would rather be “heated up”—the world would rather be warm than cold. The force which gave birth to you (the arms of a parent or a lover which clamber towards you) is from an ancient energy—a rivalry and a desire long forgotten, but still burning in history and mankind: swirling, bright, brutal, senselessly binary.

“Meaningful” itself is an opposite, and so on.

Everything exists because of its opposite (the binary) and not because of itself.

The binary is why we never feel comfortable or satisfied—why desire and doubt go on forever.

The initial choice exists because of the binary nature of reality.

“Democrat” or “Republican” = only a further elaboration of hidden, forever branching out, 0 or 1 choices.

The most famous modern American poem: Frost “The Road Not Taken,” concerns an either/or choice at a fork in the road.

The world’s most famous poem: “The Raven,” wonders is that someone at the door—or not?

Betrayals—in love—the switching of sides, the switch from “I love you” to “I hate you” in lovers and friends and close family members—betrayals are particularly noteworthy—and similarly, the sudden revelation of love where previously there was none—these switching actions fill us with awe, not just because of their immediate social effects, but because duality itself stuns our very souls, and the secret is briefly revealed and powerfully felt: the terrible truth that our reality is in fact nothing more than zeros and ones.

We are only half-aware why, in certain moods, we don’t want to talk. We know that talking, in the long run, will be better for all parties, but we can’t bring ourselves to join any sort of dialogue.

In our deepest, contemplative selves—when we get in touch with ourselves, feeling content in our soul’s lonely existence—the dialogue, the binary nature of conversation, just because it is a binary existence, is what we strongly abhor.

God is the singularity of existence; a devotion to God—the one—is how we attempt to defy the weary back and forth of binary life, even as unhappy, binary life encompasses God itself: Do you believe in God? Or not? Yes or no? Give us an answer, please. In our souls, the annoying binary of dialogue is precisely what God transcends.

The greatest philosophy, the great pagan one which spread outwards from ancient Athens—anticipating Christ, clearing the ground for monotheist religious ecstasy and reason—promoted the dialogue as its method, even as binary, counter-philosophical souls looked on it suspiciously as “not actually binary” since its dialectic sprung from an apparently monotheistic self-assurance—anathema to the great thinkers of Doubt, awash in the worldly pain of the binary.

The dialogue which has a design on us is not really binary; its “dialogue” is a trick, and many revolt against the genius of Shakespeare’s plays (dialogues) and hate monotheism, the divine, the sublime, and all that transcends the binary—with the crass, wild, laughing energy of chattering monkeys in the trees.

The organizing police action of politics makes use of the monkey life, the binary life, the chattering, empty dialogue life, which implants “us against them” in the appalling socialized brains of the unthinking. The “organized,” the binary political animal, wakes up hating others (and sinks, swooning, even in love, hating others,) and hating others is the mantra they live and encourage; hate, which is easily spread, like a flame—vindicates itself, and triumphs, and spreads, and, alas!, grows, simply by being hateful for no reason. The political, binary philosophy wins, apparently so easily, and conquers its opposition apparently so easily, since opposition itself is its god.

The binary (I belong to 1 and you belong to 0) is an error which only love and genius escapes.




Image result for chappaquiddick

You can tell if it’s bad—you can feel it in your blood.

Witnesses to these events will write books,

Calling it fact, calling it fiction. Sometimes I believe them.

CBS is your parent. They don’t

Tell you everything, because today things need to be done.

The scandal sheet destroys your faith in mom and dad.

Or Christianity; innocent belief was all the joy you had.

Chappaquiddick was bad, or was it bad?

It all depends.

One glance at that right wing rag and your innocence ends.

Gangs come into government believing what you cannot believe.

It’s not belief. It’s muscle. To make you fear and grieve.

Here’s temptation. Money to do bad things may be really good.

The poet finds himself in the middle of a dark wood.

A scandal sheet is set to rhyme so the horror might be understood

By women in scarves. Those who are good.

Darling, be innocent and smile.

It will be okay, for a little while.






Image result for passengers on a train in painting

I can sum up what you’re feeling

Though you’re ignoring me,

You don’t know me, and you’re reading a book.

All I have to do is look.

The painter who can depict an actual person is rare.

Poetry has an even tougher task,

But I don’t care.

A woman is pretty, about thirty two,

She has brown, parted hair.

She could be any young woman,

But look what my poetry can do:

The worry in her forehead—

A few wavy lines—

Shows an unconscious awareness of former times,

Happier times, when she was a child.

But what has changed her?

The author she is reading is explaining, as all authors finally do:

You are no longer young, my dear,

And there’s nothing you can do.




Image result for three graces in renaissance painting

I don’t think they know

How beautiful they are.

They are beautiful, but how beautiful can

One faint light be to one faint star?

What medium can allow me to see

How beautiful—Oh God—

These creatures are to me?

I would tell them, but modesty,

By elaborate custom, will not speak.

This is why there is art and love:

To say with the Roman how lovely flows the Greek.

To say with marble how a form,

Despite enduring modesty,

Can make the coldest thinking warm.

Do these look in the mirror

And find their own form beautiful and strange?

Can they know what I know,

Before I come in range?

I think they know. They already know.

Therefore, before I sigh, and go,

There is no art I can leave to express

Both what is, and what doesn’t dare express

This love. My eyes and sighs are helpless.




Image result for purse in renaissance painting

Prose says it’s okay.

Prose says, “Tomorrow is another day.”

And prose, in its way, is always right.

Poetry has no advice for you in the night.

Poetry is the heart, broken forever,

And light and happiness will never

Enter poetry’s chambers.

The new erases. Poetry remembers.

All scholars are uncomfortable

With poetry which sounds like song.

Poetry breaks what is already broken.

Embarrassed love tried to hate. But that was wrong.

The scholars are now forgotten. Their verse

Was prose.  Put secretly into the purse,

A folded note for the ages,

Will now be read aloud for the animals in their cages.



Since she made an end to us,

Her elegant head looks like a large fungus.

She is too old, now, to breed.

She’s the food, and will feed

On herself, with increasing regret,

Hating herself, my revenge yet.

Hatred has made her a hateful monster;

And to think love almost saved her.

She followed me by lake and wood

And we saw beauty, and it was good.

But love adds love to what is already there:

Love found nothing in her, and she didn’t care.

We love for the first time and don’t know how.

She chose safety. So it doesn’t matter now.





Image result for clouds in renaissance painting

Stand in the way of elysium,

With cloudy garb haunting

Your classical body and face,

On the steps of the outdoor symposium.

Clarity is the rhetoric of your race,

Clarity from bitter centuries, oppressed,

Your rhetoric beating like a drum,

Around your outdoor speech, nature

Is complacently dying—

The autumn mist is beautiful—

Historically oppressed, your race,

And you, every oppressor, defying,

You accuse, and therefore no poetry—

No poetry, your rhetoric’s disgrace.

How can you express desire

Without a poet’s cloudy fire?

Your beauty fears beauty will come.

You stand in the way of elysium.




I dreamed you asked me to play

Something I couldn’t.

I remember knowing I dreamed—

And anything can happen in a dream—but I wouldn’t.

A piece of music which I loved, was impossible,

Which I once played.

I played that piece in a dream long ago;

What kind of dream, I don’t know.

I searched for a second, then a third chord,

So you wouldn’t be bored.

I suffered through a passionate harmonic interlude.

I revived, and found you half-asleep, but still with that attitude

When you somehow manage to be indifferent, yet charm.

I pressed my face against your slightly pudgy arm,

Your hair surrounding your face, tickling me.

For you, I always translated musically.

Barbarous fruits hung in the shadows.

Bats would soon be on them.

I remember what it was–but not exactly how—I played.

If that dream had stayed,

Perhaps I could have learned greater music;

The tide gives swimmers an important clue:

How not to drown, when viewing languorous you.

But I drowned. This is what I tend do.

In dreams I sometimes know what a composer understands:

It has nothing to do with mathematics,

And everything to do with the hands.



The rose is no longer a rose?

There are three types of love/poetry/sentiment/politics.

Poe, Eliot, or Ginsberg.

All of us participate in these categories. The three types belong to all of us, to some degree.

Warning. This will not be an exercise in saying which is better.

Divide, we shall not.

This is not one of those “Which poet/lover are you?” exercises, in which a sad little person attempts to find out ‘who they are.’ Games such as these merely indulge human vanity. The question here is not “what are you?”

The question is, “what is it?”

What is love?

It is always better to be a scientist than a gossip—especially when gossip gets the upper hand.

Love has a number of elements:

1. Practical, or natural.

2. Moral, or sentimental.

3. Traditional, or cultural.

How is it useful? How is it personal? How it social?

Love is a wave—it has its own existence and reason for being.

The person is the particle in that wave; a person is unique, and is not the wave—but the wave nonetheless impacts the individual.

Whether a woman has children, or not, love—as it relates to children—will impact all women, and all human beings.

Nature, the mother of us all, has a great interest in reproduction.

Intimacy—or love—in its all phenomena, contributes to reproduction.

And further, Darwinian ‘survival of the fittest’ aspects (fighting, attractiveness, territory) intersect with reproduction, so nature interacts with love in ways brutal and rough, so that love finally sits with characteristics many do not consider loving at all.

So the first consideration—the practical, or natural one—defines love in such a complex manner that love hides, or lurks—and is manipulated by things we don’t recognize as love, at all.

This is why many scholars argue that love is a human invention.

Nature is interested in babies, not love.

But even if we accept that love is a human invention, belonging to society—the third consideration (customary, social) above—it would not make sense to pretend that the natural doesn’t impact society, or that the natural doesn’t matter in love.

Finally, we have the middle distinction: the moral or sentimental, and this is how love matters to the individual—how it makes us feel about ourselves, how it affects our feelings; in other words, matters “of the heart.”

So these are the three basic elements of love: nature, society, and the heart.

Society is what causes people to call certain aspects of love “weird, or perverted.” Society is what makes people “cry at weddings,” and makes people have weddings, and gives priests, or the state, authority to marry people. Society makes rules on abortion. Society has a great deal to do with love.

Society also has a great deal to do with “the heart,” and how individuals feel about love in their hearts.

Many feel “in their heart” exactly what society expects them to feel.

For many, the aspects of love we call, on the one hand, “society” and on the other, “the heart,” are precisely the same.

Further: since society—to a certain degree, successfully—reflects natural, or practical functions of love, there are many individuals who unite all three aspects of love—nature, society, the personal—in their hearts; love is their child, their husband, and their heart.

But love is not always so simple, or successful, or happy.

Love can be as simple as gravity—as relatively simple as the pull, or the dance, of the planets. Love, simple or not, operates in all human beings.

But navigating society, nature, and the heart, proves difficult for most of us, to say the least.

Biology is difficult, and biological reproduction involves sex; reproduction involves picking out whom to have sex with, and whom to reproduce with.

And to make things even more complex—and here we seem to leave the natural, or practical, realm altogether—sex exists for itself, and sex occurs a great deal without having anything to do with biological reproduction.

And society must ‘come to grips with’ this apparently random, and pleasure-or-power-driven, sexual activity—which seems to exist outside of the practical concerns of nature.

But speaking of “power-driven,” nature does care about power—and this is at the heart of Darwin’s view of nature—turf wars, mates competing for mates, and the whole martial aspect of nature belongs to all varieties of non-reproductive, sexual, and sexually-related, activity.  Sexual activity never stands on its own. It always has an object. This is true, whether we are talking about reproduction in marriage, a love sonnet, casual dating, rape, or purely-for-pleasure, kinky, sex.

Try as we might then, we cannot think of sex as somehow apart from nature, or apart society. Sex always belongs to the nature-society-heart formula, as does love, from which sex springs. Love does belong to one thing, then, as itself, within the three main considerations: nature at the top, influencing society, which then influences the individual.

Love should be seen, and can be seen, as one, with all its parts connected and related.

Love obeys nature, but how society views love can have a radical impact—think of Islam, versus the Modern West. The woman covered from head to toe versus the woman in a bikini. Or the Old South in the United States, when cousins married. Or ancient and not-so-ancient cultures with harems, or “child brides.” Homosexuality and the Non-Binary is accepted, or not, differently, by different cultures in different places and times. Society, attempting to reflect nature, manufactures how individuals feel about love—we are all caught in society’s web. Family, a microcosm of society and nature, also influences how individuals feel about love. Objectivity is nearly impossible; some look towards nature to find the objective truth of love; others cast away objectivity altogether, and listen to the vibrations of their hearts (which could mean testosterone hormone therapy).

Every radical and different view of love can be traced back in one direction to nature, and in the other direction to the heart. Love always connects to the three considerations: nature, heart, society.

How should men and women relate to one another? Nature created man, woman, and reproduction. But society created so much more, and society makes the rules. And in our hearts, we may agree, or not, with a part, or all of, society’s rules. But no matter how deeply love winds through our hearts, we cannot escape love defined by society, and, in turn, defined by nature. Conversely, no matter how strong nature and society are, the heart wants what it wants.

Poe’s “Annabel Lee” may be the most iconic love poem in existence. “Annabel Lee” represents a certain kind of love.

We all know the beautiful poem—“I was a child and she was a child.”

The Annabel Lee love is innocent, not worldly. It escapes nature—that is, reproduction—since a “child” is too young to reproduce. Society is present—we get the beloved’s full name, implying parenthood, genealogy and the record-keeping aspect of society. But children are not yet full members of society. So in that sense the beloved belongs to society, but not quite. Also, a child qua child belongs to nature—what is more natural than a child? But since the child has a name given to her by society, and she is not an adult, she doesn’t belong fully to nature, either.

The poet says “you may know” this maiden; and this “may know” is significant.  This situates Annabel Lee in the center of ordinary society—she is not famous (you “may” know her) but she’s not a recluse, or an unknown living in nature, either—precisely because you “may know her.” Or, Poe could be slyly implying that you, the reader, may be aware, or not, of the exquisite sort of love he is describing. Either way, it works. The poet needs society to speak, and be understood by others.

The “Annabel Lee love” belongs to society, and hopefully, to you.

“And this maiden she lived with no other thought/Than to love and be loved by me.”

Here’s the third element—the personal, the heart: “no other thought.”

Poe, in “Annabel Lee,” quickly sketches the trinity: nature, society, and the heart.

The poet takes care to establish the three as one: she is a child (nature), she has a name (society), and she “lived with no other thought than to love and be loved by me” (heart).

We do get introduced to her as a “maiden”—-before we get introduced to her as a “child.”

“Maiden” is more societal in terms of love’s rules, than “child,” and only when called a “child” in the second stanza (she is called a “maiden” in the first) do we get the transcendent passion blurted out: “but we loved with a love that was more than love.”

The impossible attempt to transcend, to escape, love—which is determined by nature and society—is seen in these two famous phrases from the poem: “no other thought than to love” and “loved with a love that was more than love.”

This attempt to transcend love, to be “more than love” leads to the elaborate trope which continues to the end of the poem: angels “coveted her and me.” Annabel Lee dies, envied and killed by the entire universe—“angels,” “kinsmen,” those “older and wiser”, “demons”, nature (a “wind” which “chills” her).

This transcendent love—what might be called the ultimate romantic love—all encompassing, pure, innocent, monogamous—fully existing in nature, society, and the heart—is tenderly hymned in a divinely beautiful, poem of ideal, musical expression. It belongs very much to the 19th Century, to High Romanticism.

Poe presents sweet, ideal, transcendent love, the kind which belongs to our dreams.

But the Annabel Lee love will inevitably lead to envy, disapproval, and death.

The tone of “Annabel Lee” is Shelley’s “sweetest songs tell of saddest thought.”

Melancholy, the sadness of idealism inevitably spoiled, hovers over “Annabel Lee.”

Yet, finally, the ideal—though it must die—is expressed, and finds its way into our hearts, and lives.

The tone of melancholy isn’t accidental, but primary—precisely because the ideal is placed, by the poet, in the world which destroys, and casts it out. The ideal doesn’t exist pristinely and abstractly on a blackboard—it suffers inevitable death and decay—and produces its natural result, melancholia—by facing its ridicule and downfall, in the actual world of brutal nature and envious kinsmen. Even the “winged seraphs of heaven” are jealous—the whole thing is even worse than we think. The established ideal envies new ideals which strive to be more ideal.

The ideal is always tragic.

Idealism is the most profound manner in which the horror of the real is known. The ideal can hide—but also reveals—the real.

There is no victory, no escape, in any attempt to be ideal, for ultimately it is vanity—songs and poems which are ideal are finally abstract and do live apart from reality (the final, true reason for the melancholy) and so it both is, and isn’t true, that the ideal “lives” in the poem and in our hearts, and does not die. The ideal always hits the wall, always disappoints, always sinks into despair and sorrow. But because it is ideal, we continue to seek it, even if it gives us sorrow—and the beauty which accompanies the sorrow becomes the one, real thing we do experience, and is valid, and gives lasting pleasure.

T.S. Eliot’s early 20th century poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” and Allen Ginsberg’s mid-20th century poem, “A Supermarket in California,” follow directly in the footsteps of “Annabel Lee,” Poe’s mid-19th century masterpiece.

Eliot and Ginsberg’s poems, like “Annabel Lee,” despite being “modern,” are both melancholic, idealistic, iconic masterpieces on love.

All three poems feature characters with full names:

Annabel Lee. (Imaginary woman)

J. Alfred Prufrock (Imaginary man)

Walt Whitman. (Real man)

All three of these lyric poems end with the trope of water: forgetful, drowning, memorable water.

Romantic love is satisfied to provide a lovely sounding first name—but in these three poems love is examined in a larger context.

The Romanticism of Poe in “Annabel Lee” is a romanticism already a failure, albeit in a beautiful way.

But Eliot, a few generations, later, follows Poe naturally, with the hyper-sensitive male suffering a Hamlet-like indecision in the presence of…not Annabel Lee, but a number of women. Eliot originally called his poem “Prufrock Among The Women” and this seems to be part of the problem—there are too many choices, perhaps?

“And I have known the arms already, known them all…And how should I begin?”

Alfred Prufrock doesn’t form a union with Annabel Lee. There is no “Annabel Lee love” in “Prufrock.” In contrast to “Annabel Lee love,” Prufrock’s love is the modern situation of secret desires, without any love.

Allen Ginsberg, 100 years on from Poe, and 50 years on from Eliot, in his poem “A Supermarket in California,” describes heaven in the following manner:

“Tasting” item after item in a supermarket while “never passing the cashier.”

Like Prufrock, the narrator in “A Supermarket in California” is unlucky in love, but with Ginsberg, the issue of class is implied—perhaps if he wasn’t a poor slob, he could have Annabel Lee?

The Walt Whitman in Ginsberg’s poem is a less refined Prufrock, with a hint of the wandering, the predatory, the scandalous: “lonely old grubber…eyeing the grocery boys.”

Ginsberg presents us a picture of breeding nature as it relates to love: “Whole families shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!”

Despite this picture, the melancholy and the lonely prevail in Ginsberg’s poem: Poe’s melancholy amid the plenty. Prufrock’s sadness amid the salad.

“Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close in a hour.” Nature (“babies in the tomatoes”) is not enough; nor is society (“doors close in a hour”).  The restless, nocturnal heart needs some place to go.

Shakespeare’s Sonnets begins with “From fairest creatures we desire increase”—-in this dense phrase Shakespeare’s genius expresses love in the framework of nature/society/heart even quicker than Poe does in “Annabel Lee,” which, in its melodic melancholy, establishes love as hopeless ideal. In Shakesspeare’s Sonnet #1, “increase” is 1. nature, the “desire” for that “increase” is 2. society, and to “desire” the “fairest” constitutes matters of the 3. heart.

Is the healthy when all three are one?

The great rash of sexual harassment cases making headlines currently, are matters of nature (sex drive, power and dominance) and the heart (secret, squeamish lusts, and desires).

But while they reflect nature and the heart, they are making headlines precisely because they don’t fit societal norms.

But one might say they are making headlines because they do fit society’s “norms,” and this is precisely the problem—societal reform, which protects and respects women, is necessary.

Society is the focus in these current scandals—and how we as citizens/individuals feel about these sexual harassment cases.

Our reactions are filtered through our politics (as accusations hit those on the left or right), politics which significantly define many individuals.

The politics of the “cashier.”

The current political landscape, some argue, is why all these scandals have suddenly become public—they are driven by 1. frustration with the success of Trump, and 2. the hubris of Bill Clinton.

As individuals, we chiefly feel “glad it isn’t me,” and “let the courts and the individuals affected decide how to proceed,” and “hope this scandal brings down a politician I don’t like.”

But somewhere in our hearts we also perhaps bitterly realize that nature and the heart never change—the plethora of scandals will do exactly nothing to change the human heart and the laws of the jungle.

Society—as it rather ineptly attempts to mitigate the horrors, encourage the pleasures, and administer justice—is too large and corrupt to improve anything.

Many don’t finally trust that these scandals will make things better—even if secret, taxpayer-funded payoffs by congressmen are exposed.

A scandal always means an individual has been caught. A heart has been found out. The secret heart which is wrong has been seen—but too late, we feel, for prevention, for good to be done, even as we glory in selected shame and punishment.

What is normative in society, as it pertains to love, happens slowly over time—it doesn’t happen as a result of scandal. Scandal is not the cause, but merely the effect of what society at any given moment happens to see.

The case of Poe—was this southerner Roy Moore’s ideal?—in which a chaste and studious twenty five year old man marries a thirteen year old virgin—and both remaining happy in a faithful and artistic marriage, as long as they both live—is considered foul today.

The 21st century American citizen, who condemns Poe—lives by a code in which one has numerous partners, induces numerous heartbreaks and quarrels, divorces numerous times, and aborts offspring along the way—and this, in society’s eyes, is considered perfectly acceptable.

Scandal gets at a truth—but not the whole truth. And endless curiosity may get at a greater truth, or not.  Meanwhile, public opinion frets, the law acts, and the vulnerable continue to live in fear, and perhaps take risks to further themselves.

The truth of love lies in the endlessly complex interaction between nature, society, and the heart—as it plays out in different cultures, and local politics, over many thousands of years—the single thread of love twisting and turning, like a snake—partly in pleasure, partly in shame, and partly in agony.




Image result for flowery path in renaissance painting

Look. Here’s the path I used to take.

If I took it now, my heart would break.

It’s the path she and I took.

Now I can’t look.

Here’s the train I used to take.

If I took it now, my heart would break.

It’s the train she and I took.

Now I can’t look.

Once, I spoke tenderly in these places to her.

It’s not uncommon to see love occur:

Actors can make it happen.

It’s a simple matter of math.

The universe is one. We were two.

Now I cannot take that path.





Image result for view of tall building renaissance painting

Only architecture saves the poem;

The stairs can be built with sighs,

But there should be a hint of something solid

When the poet in front of the audience cries,

When the poet mourns never, never, never,

Will I look into your eyes.

The poem can be built with emotion.

But will it withstand the heavy wind

As it stands by the picturesque ocean?

The wind has a tendency to blow

About the roof—which covers what you will never know.

Architecture makes the poem last—

Famous Raven rhymes and stanzas from the past.

The fact of your form dissolves and fades;

Never will your old self return;

Never will you return to the earlier grades.

But this poem balances on a block,

Devoted to a poem’s walls, equipped with a clock—

Deep-voiced, vibrating, in heavy tick-tock.

You can see from the top of the poem

Where the passages of rhetoric go.

Your promotion, thanks to architecture,

Allows you to see insignificance below,

The whining around Big Sur,

Masonry too close, now, for anything to grow.








Image result for moon in renaissance painting

I write poetry, every day,

In a cartesian way.

I’m traveling to the moon.

I have less and less to say

To those comparing bars in bars.

Yes, pretty soon

I’ll fall into silence,

The various winking stars

My only friends.

They crowded upon me, once,

North of the busy city,

When I was a boy,

Cousins young, life a floating joy;

The plentiful, silent stars

My loyal companions, not

The panting excitement of politics,

Government and ego distributing sticks.

Distance is my mother. Bless me, I’ve got

A body, ambition, and a mind;

I feel; I know; I’m not blind.

Thank you. Of course you’ve all been kind.

I’m traveling to the moon,

Where silence envelops me soon.







Hurt me as I sleep. Sleeping, I know nothing,

There is no injury, when nothing is real.

Invade my orchard. There are no apples to steal.

Hurt me as I sleep: the poetry stays inside.

Seeing my inner melody only, you cannot possibly deride.

The girl, frozen, on the gloomy stairs,

Who seems to be reading a book,

Is merely frozen. Take a look.

You might remember that it was then

You failed to remember. And again.

Or her, laughing. Do you think she cares?

Hurt me as I sleep. What can hurt us when we’re dead?

Only slander, by malice, or innocence, fed.

Fire, earthquake, or flood: the dead will not feel pain, or wake.

The same with sleep. It has no heart to break.




Image result for the smile in renaissance painting

We see moments, and moments

Don’t make any sense.

The moments are going to places

We cannot see.

The all of it moves forward gallantly,

But living in the present tense,

We flounder blindly.

We cannot understand faces.

When strangers arrive,

We try to know them when they smile,

And know in a moment the truth,

That dies after a while.

We don’t know our friends.

We know them in the beginning of a moment,

But the moment ends.




Image result for trivia clothes in painting

This poem hides what inspired it.

If mentioned, the poem would fall apart.

This is the pity of love. This is the cunning of art.

If you saw the image which inspired

My words—words which make their debut

As a poem, you would laugh.

I leave it out. Even though it’s true.

Truth contains some laughter.

Expression begins in sorrow and rage.

The emotional life weakens you.

What starts warmly in life, ends on a cold stage.

It must die: the seed, the laughter, the loud heart.

This is the cunning of love. And all its art.




Image result for dante in painting

Someone knows how we loved,
Someone knows how we sighed,

Someone knows how we met secretly.

Someone knows how we laughed,
Someone knows how we cried.

Someone knows how we wanted love,
But no one knows how it died.

No one knows we still love the love our very love denied.

Only love ends in love,
In love, as in the beginning.

But we were ignorant.

We thought we were sinning.

When our love ended, we smiled weakly;

We were strong only in our resolve

To end a love we couldn’t solve.

Love couldn’t solve the love, either.

I was weak in love. I could not leave her.

So I loved her more.

She went back to herself.
No one knows how.

Only poetry
May write to her now.

Isn’t this what love is for,

To make the end resemble the beginning?

Killing the end defines the sinning.






Image result for kissing in renaissance painting

Kiss, a word often used,
Came to mean something lovelier when we kissed—
As when honey oozed and snake hissed
In all that uproar of nature;
There can be no dictionary meaning for that rapture;
The meaning will inevitably be missed
Even if you see the word:
Kiss, kissing, kissed.
But use the word anyway, because our kiss
Isn’t anything a scholar can dismiss.

Our kissing was unofficial; it was slang;
It was like love being taunted by a gang.
Our kissing wasn’t supposed to happen,
Just as nature and existence weren’t supposed to occur.
I don’t know if it was me, or her,
Or why, or whether it had to be,
Only that it was joyful, and joyful still,
Now that our kissing is official.
Our kissing has its uses now.
You cannot find us in the dictionary,
But no scholar stands above
The result. It doesn’t matter how
Unofficial became official became love.



Image result for dark weather in renaissance painting

Efficiency, the lauded, is no one’s friend.

If work’s efficient, your employment must end.

Quick robots are making humans obsolete.

I put my humanity, humbly, at your feet.

Where is my use? Where is my pride?

A machine? A poet? Can you decide?

Love is pleasure—the highest efficiency

Makes you happy in a robot’s arms, miles from me—

Out of work, alone, slowly revising poetry.

The news of the layoff came in a flash, from above;

I had no real choice—as in poetry, or fate, or love.






Image result for having a drink in renaissance painting

May this poem not know what I’m saying.

For the best poets are just playing.

May this poem not know my mind.

For the best poets are unkind.

May this poem never pause or think

What I’m mixing into this drink,

What in the reader’s blood will flow—

Before the poem has a chance to know.

Yes, I loved you—but it was all in fun.

It’s a sensual poem. Are you done?


Image result for rimbaud

Why would a poet ask for anything?

Like the philosopher, he disturbs

By questioning.

He wants reviews, blurbs,

Public praise, letters of introduction.

He’s empty. He doesn’t own a thing.

The poet is constantly needy,

And needy with honesty.

The poets feels a lascivious heart

Is not as bad as slander.

Do you think a poet has anything?

Do you think truth has anything to give?

A poet is the last one to tell you how to live.

Sit on a hard seat, and listen to him gas.

He’s no ordinary lunatic;

He wants you also to be an ass,

As you celebrate poetry,

And give stuff to him.

This makes you civilized.

O, the ice cold glass!

Before you drink, kiss the rim!

You, too, can be prized,

By writing things on him.

Hey, try poems yourself, stylized

In a way which makes them extra short.

Almost say. Be a modern heir.

He’ll give you a glowing report.

Look for it in that great big pile of papers there.



Image result for stream in renaissance painting

Perfection waits,

In the word, heaven,

Or perhaps somewhere else,

And look, it is almost here,

In the morning’s white-turning-to-blue sky,

With the intersection, the streets, clear

Of traffic at last, the holiday tourism gone by,

Since all obey the calendar,

Like one cell in your body telling you to die.

Everybody listens when the time arrives,

But you missed the signal, thank God.

Here you are, waiting by the stream.

I was afraid you would find my request too odd.

Perfection is more than a dream.








Related image

To those we love, it is farewell always.

Those we hate, do not get, from us, a goodbye,

But like those we love, they, too, may give us a wave, when they die.

If rivals receive fearsome displays,

The nothing the hated receive, is more unkind.

Yet the calm we affect

For those we deeply love and respect

May make us seem careless and blind.

We are in this fix and we cannot get out—

We hate with such certainty, and love with such doubt,

That sometimes we find—

In the morning, after the battle,

Everything cold and still—

One we loved with our senses poisoning our mind.

The body hates the mind—

Which tells it where to go.

And death is only bad because of the ones we love, you know.


There is only one Linda,

And Linda wants it so.

Linda will always be Linda

As far as Linda will go.

The first time I saw Linda,

I didn’t know Linda was her name.

But Linda came out of her mouth

And that’s when Linda came.

My eyes fixed on Linda

And Linda registered fast.

Her name flew quickly after:

Linda, a memory to last.

Perhaps the leaves she held,

Bunched in her lovely hand,

Will keep the memory,

As I in my memory understand.

She belonged to Linda,

And seemed to want to be Linda,

As I later thought,

When I reflected on meeting Linda

By chance—not sought.

Not seeking Linda, or anyone at all,

I had sauntered up to her.

Sometimes these things occur!

She was indifferent then,

Indifferent now. But when

She complained that even men

Were using her name, Linda,

I wondered what possible agenda

Could there be?

Linda! Tell me.

But Linda remained aloof,

And sad, like any owner,

Turned away, as I cried,

There is only one Linda.

And I have proof.











I love beauty more than love, and she

Was able, after a while, to see,

Because she was beautiful, this truth about me.

Everything to me gradually became ugly:

The farms we visited, rural places

With ponds and moss, faces

Of other women, sunsets, the sky,

The bees. Music needed her sigh

Before I could listen. Beauty flew

Away from everything. Finally, I knew

Only what she was, what she could see.

Her love took beauty away from me.

Beauty was hers, and love made this so.

Her beauty the only beauty possible to know.

But she knew this was wrong.

She didn’t want her beauty to be all of my song.

She was uncomfortable with her beauty’s report.

She thought her legs were too short.

She didn’t want her beauty filling my head—

So all other beauty to me was dead.

She knew beauty lives throughout

The world; of course she began to doubt

My love for her; it was only beauty

I loved—her, the only beauty, was insanity.

She could not be the only beauty for me.

And now that she’s gone, a door

Opens: Beauty I’ve never noticed before.

But beauty only makes me sad

Because of her—her, who I had.






Image result for the little devil in renaissance painting

And love all human kind” —Shelley

Misanthropy is the greatest evil.

Misanthropy’s siren song is difficult to resist.

Misanthropy will make us love—by hating someone else, by hating others.

Misanthropy insinuates itself even into love.

Misanthropy takes many forms, and is the great seductive pull against all that is necessary for life.

The poor depend on small favors from people to survive, and vast millions of urban poor have no escape from the worst aspects of the human race—most of the world’s poor either put up with people to some degree—or they perish.

Great persons emerge from peopled poverty armed with the greatest weapon: a deep love and understanding of mankind.

Misanthropy is the basis of insanity, false rhetoric, slander, crime, and all sorts of human misery.

The rich can select who they associate with, and boss around the rest.

This is why the wealthy lifestyle is so attractive—it allows us to keep needy and annoying people at a distance, but the danger to those who escape the gravity of having to deal with people is that the rich devolve into hateful misanthropy, and end up seeing people as objects.

The rich, at the top of the food chain, fall prey to hatred of those below them. They loathe sprawling humanity—and the buying and selling which caters to humanity’s wants and needs.

This is why wealthy elites hate “capitalism”—which, when we clear away the endless, complex, professorial, socialist, theorizing about it—is just buying and selling.

Pro-capitalists cannot be “elites”—no matter how large their bank accounts. You may be rich, but if you are a businessman, you will always be seen as an uneducated buffoon.  You will never be fawned over in Vanity Fair. You will never be loved by the Windsors. You will never be a senator from Massachusetts or New York. You will not belong to secret societies—unless you are a secret traitor to the capitalist cause.

This is why the elite believes contraception is preventative health care. Less people is considered healthy. After all, in their hearts, all elites feel it is the poor and the ignorant who tend to have more children. Women in poverty who are in the trenches having children and peopling the world live the most painful life imaginable.

Misanthropy belongs to money, and it isn’t stupid; it’s quite logical—which is precisely why its evil is so seductive.

Actually, misanthropy, for all its “logic,” is finally more stupid than stupid, as evil always ultimately is.

“Less people” drives up prices,—college tuition, food, fuel, everything we need—because there are less people paying to keep elitist institutions afloat—institutions whose very message boils down to “less people is better.”

The fashionable Left is educated dumb.

The working class Right, because it is less misanthropic, is even dumber.

But there is no Left or Right.

There’s only top and bottom.

The “right” is near the bottom—those Trumpers, those members of the working class, who vaguely, in an uneducated manner, or under-educated manner, object to elitist manners and logic.

“Left” and “Wealthy Elites” (some call it “Deep State,” some call it Kennedys—or any family seeking to be the new American “royals”) have become the same thing.

Human devolution is always a top/bottom event, not a left/right one (and here, ironically, the Left is correct! but the Left—again, an irony!—is now the “top.”)

Why does the ‘no debate’ philosophy of radical, doom-oriented, environmentalism—misanthropic at its core—spring from wealthy elites?

Isn’t the answer obvious?

Why is liberalism, which favors, in all its edicts, less people on the planet, the essential religion of the richest of the rich?

Isn’t the answer obvious?

It is the siren call of misanthropy—which seeks to free itself  from the torture of living.

Ah, living! The “fever called living” as Poe called it: all the painful, human-centered burdens of life: raising children, exploiting and controlling vast, indifferent nature, the complex and laborious tasks of engineers and businessmen and blue collar workers. And then, in addition, the ‘car salesman’ support of this painful, traditional life with morale-boosting religion—human consciousness giving itself up to something ‘higher.’

And what is this ‘higher’ entity, finally?  This God that the secular Left sneers at?

What is God, really, after all the symbolism is wiped away?

Nature, fecundity, and growth.  Stupid capitalism. What people do.

That’s what it is.

God, a fancy which defies settled, logical, misanthropy, is the opposite of the savvy, scientific, leftist “less people is better.”

“Less people is better” is the modern, leftist, elite mantra.

And the opposition’s mantra, only vaguely understood by the working class members of the anti-Left (anti-Top): “More (and the efficiency and ingenuity necessary so more can thrive) is better.”

Misanthropy seeks escape from “more people is better” pain.

Misanthropy seeks peace, extreme pleasure, future-less hedonism, the ease of limited feeding from natural sources—so much easier than the complex needs of an ever-increasing, “more people is better,” human society.

It is easy to see misanthropy as a good.

Misanthropy is the desire to be alone with the beloved.

To exist in perfection apart from the competing, striving, teeming world.

Misanthropy is the poet, the lover, and the sage.

But, alas, false gods, these.

Misanthropes are smart. The cheerful are stupid. So the elites say.

Misanthropy is extremely seductive—and has a myriad of songwriters and flute players.

Necessity, which is at the heart of labor and comfort for masses of sprawling, buying-and-selling, waste-discarding, polluting humanity, is the most powerful enemy of misanthropy—the phenomenal advance and expansion of human society since its primitive recorded beginnings is proof that misanthropy is the temptation, but not the rule. Misanthropy is the solipsism from which we eventually wake.

But why necessity?  Why is expansion, why is more—the growth witnessed throughout history, since humans were hunter-gatherers—necessary?


Death makes wild, reckless, cunning, persistent, growing, stupid, capitalist, breeding, life, necessary.

The sorrow of death has one cure. More life.

Crushing sorrow has one cure. More of whatever is good. Never less of whatever is good.

Good always demands there be more of itself.

More is not always good.

But good is always more.

The only antidote to death is life—life, whose essence is to ever increase, in order to safely defy the eternal pull of gravity, entropy, and death.

The highly educated, avant-garde, misanthrope lives in constant fear, as ever-naive, ever-productive, ever-needy humanity—whether the Mozart, or the simpleton—crowd in.

The misanthrope is certain: cunning, sleepless humanity, irresponsibility breeding and increasing, is evil, and this evil can only be remedied by the misanthrope’s “quality of life.” And this “quality” always demands the faucet of humans to some degree be shut off—the “quality” of the misanthrope inevitably means one thing and one thing only: “less people.” Not less pain. Not less bullshit. Less people.

The misanthrope fancies there is no God—in exact ratio to how much he fancies he is God. The misanthrope is certain he knows happiness—in people individually, and in humanity as a whole—and the misanthrope is certain that 50 million people have a better chance at happiness than 100 million people. Not in some cases. But in all cases.

The misanthrope is obsessed with “quality,” and “quality” always translates, for the misanthrope, to “less people.”

The misanthrope asks, why shouldn’t “Nature-and-how-people-live-in-it” define human behavior, rather than “ever-expanding-human-happiness?”

The misanthrope, being a misanthrope, doesn’t want to hear the answer.

All “human behavior,” and all “how should humans behave?” questions include “Nature” by implication, and “happiness” and “expanding happiness” is the only human motivation which can possibly exist. And what is the very essence of “Nature?” It grows.

The misanthrope, in his less-is-better dream, in his desire for the immured, and the peaceful, and the self-ordered, lives in constant, anxious, tortured, indignant, superior, elitist, dread.

In person, he may not be misanthropic at all.

His learning makes him so.



Image result for gold jewelry in renaissance painting

How can I calculate your worth?

Diamonds, gold, oil, are tucked inside the earth—

To the penny we calculate their worth.

And the calculation of getting them.

Are you worth more than a gem?

Are you as rare? I got you for a smile,

And you make it infinitely clear

I cannot trade you. You’re here.

Let me be in your quiet company for awhile,

And never estimate your worth

By things we wrestle from the earth.

You’re common, and came to me with ease.

You weep; you say “thank you” and “please.”

So why are you more valuable than gold—

Which everyone wants, and which never gets old?



Image result for the writer abstract painting

Virtue grows to become vice, until it shrinks again, back to virtue.

Vice grows in stature, is virtue, and if it keeps growing, becomes vice again.

The dials of morals constantly adjust.

Vice and virtue are not absolutes.

This wildly fluctuating truth often escapes morally determined individuals—who contribute more to vice as virtuous individuals, than those, who bent on vice, accidentally discover they have done a good thing.

True condemnation must be reserved for those (usually leaders in a position to impact society) who grasp the dynamic described above, and, masking themselves in virtue, fan virtuous behavior into a conflagration of vice.

Love, for instance, is a virtue— until it becomes so predominant that it leads to hurtful promiscuity.

Selfishness is a vice, but growing into a healthy independence of spirit, turns to virtue.

Moral transformations are unpredictable, and even unruly—continually challenging our moral intelligence.

The usefulness of the Program Era—where mere students of literature were converted into students who write literature themselves—has devolved from virtue to vice.

We have gone from: “I would like to become a writer.”

To: (whiny voice) “Look what I wrote!”

Millions who fancy themselves poets (that is, every reader of poetry today) are now purveyors of harm—the virtue of curiosity for what it might be like to be a good writer, has expanded into the vice of certainty that one is a good writer.

The virtue of literature as a bridge to understanding, sympathy, and knowledge has been replaced by the vice of literature as personal soap box. The people have turned into an ignorant mob. Democracy guided by law has grown into a clamor of self-interest.

Not only do the poets ignore any writing which is better than their own—no, the situation is far, worse—they positively resent writing which is better than their own, since they fear it will usurp them and their mantra, “Look what I wrote!”

Talk about the bad chasing out the good.

Vice (for the moment) is rampaging like a flood, through all channels of poetry, to a profound degree, and the Creative Writing Industry is to blame.

In the rush to be someone, no one knows anything.  Like what a good poem is.

Quadrivium has been pushed out by trivium.

The swords and spears of rhetoric, grammar, and logic have crushed what used to be the feminine charms of poetry’s soul: geometry, arithmetic, music, and astronomy.

The virtue of literature—a beautiful device for subtle yet expansive communication within a nation of educated readers—has become the vice of literature—a megaphone for anyone with a loud voice, a sore bum and a big ego.

But this could change, and quickly.

Present vice need not be destroyed and conquered, only diminished—into a virtue.

The clamor will tire of itself, and reduce itself into a voice.


And you will hear.





Related image

1) Sushmita Gupta— When the waves lashed and the clouds loomed and I was alone.

2) Diane Seuss— I could do it. I could walk into the sea!

3) Rachel  McKibbens— as you lie still within the soft forgotten witch of your body

4) Daipayan Nair— The maker of a house carries its hardness.

5) Eminem— The best part about me is I am not you.

6) Sharon Olds—  I had not put it into words yet, the worst thing

7) Natasha Trethewey— two small trout we could not keep.

8) Billy Collins— The name of the author is the first to go

9) Terrance Hayes— but there are tracks of your syntax about the land

10) Robert Pinsky— The label, the labor, the color, the shade. The shirt.

11) Bob Dylan— How does it feel?

12) Dan Sociu— the quakes moving/ for nothing, under uninhabited regions. (trans. Ana-Maria Tone)

13) Ben Mazer— Mother then/I am your son/The King.

14) Denise Duhamel— Ken wants to feel Barbie’s toes between his lips

15) Molly Fisk—  Then someone you love. And then you.

16) Sherman Alexie— They were common people who believed only in the thumb and the foot.

17) Jorie Graham— the infinite finding itself strange among the many

18) Charles Simic— Have you found a seat in your room/For every one of your wayward selves?

19) Louise Glück— In her heart, she wants them to go away.

20) Richard Howard— inspired by some wag’s verbose variations on the theme of semi-porn bric-a-brac

21) Donald Hall— so that she could smell the snowy air.

22) Stephen Cole— For the knowing heart the known heart cannot know.

23) Laura Kasischke— as if the worship of a thing might be the thing that breaks it.

24) Mary Ruefle— the dead borrow so little from the past.

25) Tony Hoagland— Nature’s wastefulness seems quietly obscene.

26) Kevin Young— a freshman, I threw/a Prince party, re-screwed/ the lights red & blue

27) Maxine Beneba Clarke— penny lane/on the Beatles trail/all the locals say and they nod/as if for sure they know/our tourist game

28) Carolyn Forché— What you have heard is true.

29) Mary Jo Bang— A plane lit down and left her there.

30) Dan Beachy-Quick— Drab bird unseen in the dark dark’s underbrush

31) Carl Dennis— Which for all you know is the life you’ve chosen.

32) Christian Wiman—  Do you remember the rude nudists?

33) Stanley Plumly— I clapped my hands just for the company.

34) Major Jackson— All seeing is an act of war.

35) Gary B. Fitzgerald— A life is gone and, hard as rock, diamonds glow in jet black skies.

36) Mary Angela Douglas—  the larks cry out and not with music

37) A.E. Stallings— From the weeds of the drowned.

38) Joe Green—  the teacup is filled with the eyelashes of owls

39) Dorianne Laux—  It’s tough being a guy, having to be gruff and buff

40) Collin Yost— I’ll love you when you’re mad at me

41) Rupi Kaur— Don’t tell me my women aren’t as beautiful as the ones in your country

42) Wendy Cope— The planet goes on being round.

43) Warsan Shire— when the men come, set yourself on fire.

44) Savannah Brown— Hi, I’m a slut. What?!

45) Brenna Twohy— My anxiety is a camera that shows everyone I love as bones

46) Lily Myers— My mother wanes while my father waxes

47) Imani Cezanne— Addiction is seeking comfort in that which is destroying you.

48) Ada Limón— What’s left of the woods is closing in.

49) Olivia Gatewood— resting bitch face, they call you

50) Vincent Toro—  This island like a basket/of laundry 

51) Koraly Dimitriadis— the day I moved out, I took my wedding dress to mum’s house

52) Nayuka Gorrie— I lose it and find it and lose it again.

53) Hera Lindsay Bird— Keats is dead so fuck me from behind

54) Marie Howe— Where do I want her to hurry to? To her grave?

55) Valerie Macon— You are the boss of your canvas

56) Patricia Lockwood—  OK, the rape joke is that he worshiped The Rock.

57) Danielle Georges—  O poorest country, this is not your name.

58) Frank Bidart—  In the evening she takes a lethal dose of poison, and on the following morning she is dead.

59) Eileen Myles— I write behind your back.

60) Leila Chatti— Are you also dreaming? Do you still worship me, now that I’m here?

61) Claudia Rankine—  After the initial presidential election results come in, I stop watching the news.

62) Anne Carson—  I can hear little clicks inside my dream.

63) William Logan—  the pastel salons require/the formalities of skin

64) Marilyn Chin—  lust drove men to greatness, not goodness, not decency.

65) George Bilgere—  The mysteries/from the public library, due

66) Robin Coste Lewis—  what’s greyed/In and grey slinks ashamed down the drain.

67) Daniel Borzutzky—  hieroglyphics painted on the/walls of financiers who accumulate capital through the/unjustified sexual behavior of adulterous/women

68) Maggie Smith—  Any decent realtor,/walking you through a real shithole, chirps on/about good bones

69) Kim Addonnizio—  a man who was going to be that vulnerable,/that easy and impossible to hurt.

70) Kay Ryan—  If it please God,/let less happen.

71) Dana Gioia—  there is no silence but when danger comes.

72) Megan Fernandez— The bullet is a simple, adolescent heartache.

73) Kushal Poddar— My mom, a wheelchair since two thousand and one

74) Sascha Aurora Akhtar— I ate/But I am/Hungrier than before

75) Jennifer Reeser— your coldness and my idealism/alone for all this time have kept us true.

76) Linda Ashok—  a sudden gust of Kalbaisakhi/changed the conversation.

77) Ramsha Ashraf— tremble and tremble and tremble/With every kiss

78) Amber Tamblyn— If it had been Hillary Clinton, this would’ve never happened to Harvey Weinstein.

79) Ruth Awad— Nothing grows from me except the dead

80) Merryn Juliette— I will love her all insane

81) Nathan Woods— The best poems swell the lungs.

82) Nahid Arjouni— My headscarf will shudder if you speak with anyone. (trans. Shohreh Laici)

83) Philip Nikolayev— the fool moon/couldn’t stand the iambic pentameter any longer

84) Saira Shah Halim— The rains left behind a petrichor of shared verses

85) Jay Z— I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man.

86) Nalini Priyadarshni— mostly bookish, as sinfulness should be

87) Mark Doty— Into Eden came the ticks, princes of this world, heat-seeking, tiny

88) Paige Lewis— I’m making love easy for everyone.

89) Mary Oliver—  You don’t have to be good.

90) Lyn Hejinian— to change this nerdy life upon row upon row upon row

91) Afaa Weaver— I stand here where I was born,/ and the masks wait for me.

92) Alex Dimitrov— What is under the earth followed them home.

93) Ben Lerner— jumpsuits, they have changed/painting

94) Wendy Videlock— the owl devours/ the hour,/ and disregards/ the rest

95) Joie Bose— I own that you from that night in November

96) Amy Gerstler— Pardon my/frontal offensive, dear chum.

97) Nathaniel Mackey—  Some new Atlantis known as Lower/Ninth we took leave of next

98) W.S. Merwin— into a world he thought was a thing of the past

99) Juan Felipe Herrera— Where is our exile? Who has taken it?

100) Charles Bernstein—  Think about it, Mr./Fanelli.


Some arrange their lives this way,

So it ends with sitting, exhausted, thinking of nothing.

There’s a worse way to end: bitter, blaming others,

Moving a lot, blaming others. We’re always blaming others.

So it’s not bad to surrender, I suppose, utterly defeated,

When love is inextinguishable and goes on forever

For this one person, though it didn’t work.

Blame ruins everything, even love.

Why do you want fiction, or poetry,

When you can have the real truth here?

Despair and love combine to make she and I last.

She, alone, and I, alone, just as we were in the past.



There are three truths. The first: society is polite

And what is right for them, for you must be right.

This is the truth of laws and what is published and said.

This is language and morality and all that needs to be read.

This is value, in the building and the gem,

These are the rules, and it’s your loss if you don’t understand them.

But there are two more truths, and these apply to you.

Your appetite, your wishes, whatever outside of society you desire to do.

And your truth, unlike society’s, is not one truth, but two.

Democratic society’s one truth applies

To all—but not to the individual; otherwise the self dies.

Those you meet who are dense, cowardly, obedient, and have no soul

Are brittle keepers of correctness; they have no art; they are apes who play a role.

Worse are those who avoid rules, and believe “I am the measure of all.”

Eccentric, controlling, crazy, their goal is to make you crawl.

But self-knowledge and understanding is the Code of Three,

The truth of laws—plus the the double truth of the self—and that would be me.

I love my country, then myself, and then myself expressed in poetry.

I love others as members, like myself, of lawful society,

Secondly, I strive for self-knowledge: what, in my soul do I want?

Thirdly, the truth of you—if I want to love you, but I can’t.

Loving and knowing the society of rules

Is necessary—but this is not the love of individuals—

The passion of sex and jealousy and psychology and murder,

Desire which kills, enslaves, eats, bites, hates law and order,

The emptying impulse, which also fills.

But even the murderer is a victim of rules and laws.

Strict obedience lives in the lion’s claws.

Poetry has one truth: the truth of you: what do you want?

The genius breaks rules for you.  But you can’t.

Escaping truth, you wandered into the shade.

You thought to escape poetry, but found out how it is made.









Image result for moon in renaissance painting

When love was a mood,

At times it was happy, at times it was rude,

At times it was crude,

When love was a mood.

When love was a thought,

I sold remorse and remorse I bought,

And sometimes we fought,

When love was a thought.

When love was a word,

It was near another and became absurd,

Or was true, but hardly heard,

When love was a word.

When love was a spell,

I wondered and pondered so it made me unwell;

I, in awe, she in her shell,

When love was a spell.

When love was a tune

It circled the moon

And we knew the distance would catch us soon,

When love was a tune.

But when love was you,

It was then I knew

Nothing was true,

When love was you.





Image result for praying in renaissance painting

The great love is always assumed to be wrong.

“I don’t want to be right,” says the passionate song.

The great love is never between two

People. “I’ll never find another you”

Is what we think, but this is true

Only because something is wrong.

The world is filled with passionate hearts,

But a heart must die before it starts.

Everyone knows inside what is right;

Intricate seeing requires some light,

But morality lives in the dead of night;

Morality guides us every day.

It is who we are. Morality never goes away.

And morality and the heart are the same,

Justice and truth, our life and our name.

The great love, as we suppose, is wrong.

It wonders at the moon. It crawls along.

It is not a decision made by the mind.

It thrills and dissembles. It is not kind.

I heard its sad, inhuman song,

Beautiful and right, ugly and wrong,

Which sounded in the squeaking of a train,

In a voice, desperate because of the rain,

A voice annoyed because of the wind,

A brittle smile refusing to give in,

A secret whisper, a pain, expressed,

Which found no comfort upon my breast.

A despair, which none could see,

Killing her will, poured over me.

A song shared with no one around

Was more than a song. It was ours. A sound.

We saw things others couldn’t see.

She looked with bewilderment at me.

Our love, waking and dying—

Was a fear of a truth, betrayed by lying—

So that our truth, only our truth,

Was the one and only proof,

That something exists which is unique,

A loneliness, terrifying and weak,

Because it moves apart

From every good and perfect heart.



Image result for ozymandias

A poem is just an interesting person saying interesting things.

I don’t read Heine and Shakespeare and Keats for phrases of pretty alliteration.

The poets today describe Shelley’s statue—and then tell you what it means.

The image at the end of Ozymandias is not an image, per se; Shelley is saying something.

All purely imagist poetry is nothing but pathetic fallacy, or, if not, then it is pure impressionistic poetry, comprised of images only—which more properly belongs to painting and the eye.

Be a Japanese painter, if this is the kind of poetry you are interested in.

Critics complain of “statement poetry,” as if poetry were not the simple desire to say something—which is all it is.

Shakespeare is great because of what he says—as he adds in his art.

Like rhyme, which is avoided because it becomes sing-songy, if one doesn’t know how to do it, poets avoid statements, or speech, because they are deficient there, too. They have nothing to say.

When Shakespeare, the master, asks “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day,” he is not making that silly mistake of trying to describe a summer’s day. No poem could.

Keats, in his sonnet, “The House of Mourning,” professes the same sentiment when he rebukes Wordsworth for writing a sonnet “on Dover.”

There Dover sits, Keats is saying, and a poem about Dover is bound to fail, precisely because poets do not exist to say anything about Dover. That task is for a painter, a photographer, or a travel essayist. Nothing at all against Dover.

There are those who think song lyrics have rhyme and therefore poems should not rhyme. And they reason themselves into a corner, unfortunately: if any attempt at sound as a tool is eschewed, what is left?  Describing what we see—but pure seeing cannot be done with poetry.

We’ve seen trees, and therefore, when trees show up in a poem, we think we see them in the poem.

We don’t.

The poet has not, and never will, make us see, with certainty, trees.

The poet, every time, is saying something about trees.

But critics and readers who are sure that poetry is not someone saying something (having convinced themselves that poetry is far more subtle and attenuated) rejoice in the idea that no reader will agree with another—you do not see the same “trees” I see; correct, but instead of seeing this ambiguity as a bad thing, the ‘poetry as seeing’ error is compounded, as poetry of precise and accessible speech is rejected, and a far more insidious error arises—the one which celebrates ambiguity as a good.

Either way, the poet will go about describing Dover, naively thinking Dover (not actually depicted) really is presented—or: implicitly finding the “poetry” in the very fact that there are a million Dovers.

I have heard, countless times, readers celebrate a poem for meaning a different thing to every person, as if this obvious shortcoming were somehow a virtue. They know poetry cannot be seen. And, for this reason, are sure it cannot be understood, either.

Now poetry can see a little bit, but only in the service of poems like “Ozymandias” or “Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer’s Day?”

These poems do not attempt to describe Dover. Yet every citizen of Dover, if they can read, will read these two poems—and agree on what they say.




The black cat explained the history

Of wardrobe, whisker, claw, and the clues

He kept dropping became

Obvious enough after awhile.

The rubber Frankenstein reminded no one

Of Mary Shelley. It was useless

To talk of origins. Vampires

Want to suck your blood

And don’t give it another thought.

It’s dark. You’re drunk.

No, really. Don’t think about it.

The witch made some good points.

Her partner, the guy dressed as a gentleman, made some good points, too.

That costume is sexy.

I wonder if it’s true?



Life is a fountain. To escape the mucky earth of graves

We build towers and houses and beds.

The rationalizing and intellectualizing and facebooking,

The bubble of mainstream conspiracy which keeps us aloft

Glitters, and we are crazy and wrong.

Soiled soil, who soiled you?

Few attend the poetry reading. The poet

Is slightly more psychotic than the audience.

“Introverts don’t like to explain things. Accept

Their silence.” The term “introvert”

Becomes another word for creep. Cover-up is all.

Let’s keep the shit under wraps, and pretend

Our political side is good, just because it’s best,

Or let’s send the shit flying everywhere.

Factually speaking, I don’t know whether the facts

Of the conspiracy are true, or not;

These hammy journalists don’t know either.

Partial information is quickly printed, and you decide

Whether you want to appear as the type of person

Who tends to believe in poetry, or not.

We ride the fountain. Facts don’t like facts.

We keep talking and explaining, vainly,

Going with our gut, our eyes, our wants.

Officials do things, and this becomes fact,

Even though the premise may be wildly off.

Even romance and children fail to be profound.

We even sound like a fountain.

Error keeps talking as the earth

Waits, the path—see it?—leading to a dark hole in the ground.






Image result for first cigarette in painting

When beauty tries to love, we laugh.

The porn actress’s biggest gaffe

Had been innocent; she vocalized a love for a person

Who hated her—which led to her ruin.

She took revenge on eyes of flesh

By putting her beauty before the camera.

Venus looks good, naked, in bright light.

But look at her angry face as she pursues pleasure

Which is of no substance, and has no measure.

Films with tense, obvious beginnings, but no end,

The false paradise of the addict’s dreary end.

Your first cigarette, your first staying up all night,

All leading to “Are you alright?” when you’re not alright.

That’s why modesty stays out of sight,

Abstaining eyes which always remember.

Eternal love! False pledge!

Look at her smiling, out there on the ledge.











Poetry is a joke.

This was well established long ago

When the first clown took the stage

And the fighting stopped temporarily

And laughter was given to old age,

Laughter by poets sad and old.

Poetry is a joke. The jokes were bold.

Poetry is a joke.

This was well established long ago

When tragedy sang the pain of war,

And actors first made their sad gestures

In amphitheaters stony and roomy

For audiences gloomy, but war still went on.

Poetry is a joke.

When lyric replaced the epic

A young and beautiful person spoke,

And, to the elders amusement, dared to complain

That the young and beautiful can also feel pain,

And feel it even more acutely.

Poetry is a joke.

When letters to lovers

Were analyzed by professors

And put away in books

And words were separated from music

And all to themselves words were read mutely.

Poetry is a joke.

There’s nothing I can say—

My love is greater than the Milky Way—

To make my true love stay.

Poetry is a joke.

Ladies. And gentlemen.

I’m sorry I spoke.









Image result for bloody battle in renaissance painting

Hurt, hurt, as much as you can,

Hurt and flirt, and torture the man,

All of you women, hurt men like mad,

So I don’t feel so alone and sad,

So I won’t feel the horrible pain

Of the dying soldier who dies in vain.

Let me see pain everywhere,

To ease my wretched care.

I won’t feel alone in my crying

If other hearts admit they are dying.

The loveliest melodies sing of wrong

But I won’t be lovely in this song.

This song screams for battle,

For love to kill lovers like cattle.

For blood, and blood in the dirt,

Wars where millions are hurt,

And where the dagger hides in the shirt.

Women were invented by men,

To breed, work, and when

Their flesh is dined upon,

God—who used a virgin to make a son,

As gentle as new leaves,

Cut by bullets, when a battle heaves

Blood upwards, towards the sky—

Causes me to bleed and cry.




Image result for moon in renaissance painting

You don’t know. How could you know?

We never know what another knows.

The thing we don’t know is what the other knows.

We know the rest. The light, everywhere light goes,

The darkness, and how the darkness leaps and throws

Shadows, and everything else the movement of a shadow shows.

But we never know what the other knows.

I don’t know what she knows.

I only hope the wanting to know sweetly shows.

The music. And anything else that glows.

I want to love her and I want to know.

If only love did not quickly come and go,

And ignorance were not a prerequisite to know!

Do I complain of what must be so?

Does she have to know I know she doesn’t know?






Related image

My limbs are tired. The flesh I prefer is the eye.

Heaven’s in it. It’s almost an effort to sigh.

I lie around, enjoying beauty,

The kind that’s always been there.

Another ordinary day has offered sun and air.

I don’t try too hard. I wrote her a letter.

The words didn’t make a sound. But they made it better.

I strike the match and its flame

Lights the cigarette. I will never be the same.



Image result for dying in the shade in renaissance painting

Love was a silly dare.

Because it involved care.

When my lover began to not care,

She embraced it. Love is so much care

That we love it when love is no longer there.

She runs from me. I am care.

That was love, but that was where

The burden was, the heavy burden of love and care.

The memory of that bright affair

Is all we have, in our dark care.

And so that was my doom.

She got up and walked into another room

And saw how easy it was

To surrender to joy that involves no love.

Love is a burden because it is care,

And when the burden fades away,

We see why love doesn’t like to stay.

When old age starts not to care

And feels the burden of life fade,

It feels the attraction of the shade,

And then love leaves love,

And happily we see good move;

Good goes, which caused us pain,

And we lie opiated, and let all things fade,

Too lazy to be good, or explain.

She smiles—but feels so much hurt,

Poems are her only means to flirt,

Short, wise poems on the Internet,

To those she hasn’t kissed yet,

And never will, because far away

Her readers sit—and love, it may

Want things, but the burden of love can never stay.

The child grows old, and poems will say

The burden, love, will fly away

Like anything that wisely goes

Before it sees the dying of the rose,

Before it sees the dying of the king,

Who cared too much for everything.

You loved me, but there was too much care.

Love was just a silly dare,

Though I was bold, and you were fair,

As fair as the fairest flower—

Which burdened the ephemeral eye for an hour.





Image result for Woman dreaming in renaissance painting

And if you dream, they call it procrastination,

Which is bad, they say. You lose all, wasting time.

Yet think of all the good I did, putting off

The adventures that could kill me. I would have died of a cough

Had I been ambitious about smoking, a habit I adore,

But I was lazy. I paused. I was too late to open the store;

For then there would be customers. Like an extra pet

Who pees in defense against the other one. Affection will cause you trouble yet.

All my plans backfired when I was scheming.

The best thing that happened to me

Happened when I was looking away dreamily.

I’ve saved myself many times from love, by dreaming.

I’m glad I slept. Otherwise I would have met you,

Who would have broke my heart—dreaming was the better thing to do.

Here’s a list (on your phone) of every attraction

You possess. (A long list.) That’s why I took no action.



She picked me out, a gentle soul, to love—

Finding a different man within—

To love rivers, slow, feeding deer and dove,

To love placid phrases and the easy grin—

Not a fighter and a rival, obsessed with her, and sin.

How could such a bashful guy, casual, and thin,

Be a mountain range of monsters within?

Did I own castles, and a fast plane?

No, I was an ordinary lingerer by inlet, weed, and lane.

I was perfect in my feeling under an urban sky,

Kissing her in a municipal park, as the ignorant walked by.

She wanted to control what, and when, she would see

Me, who honored her wishes, obediently.

Alert to her looks, and safe with the usual advice,

She knew I was a poet.  She thought poets were nice.

She didn’t like gifts. A poem costs less than a rose.

Bad poets are nice. But I wasn’t one of those.

I was a poet ready for mountain and sea,

Cleaning up the universe, for her and me.

I was a good poet. And those don’t come cheap.

Nice is nice, and I was nice. But my love made her weep.

I made her emotional. I looked at her, within.

I found sardonic pettiness, which couldn’t let me win.

She writhed and groaned under my spell

And convinced herself she was imprisoned in hell.

But she was the demon, and it was her light

Making the cave ghastly, ghastly her own eyesight.

She struggled, love’s captive, to be free.

She made that old accusation: jealousy.

But I wasn’t jealous. I was more than that.

A poet wants no rivals. I knocked them all flat.

I was more than a river, feeding deer and dove.

But she won in the end, for a poet has to love.




Punishment is interesting.

Who gets to punish? You, or the fates?

“Getting what you deserve” fascinates.

Love is when we say, “you deserve me,”

And then we put our lover through hell,

Because we know nothing will ever go well,

And punishment happens every day;

Is that what life is? Punishment?

The worst kind is when, without a word, the one you love goes away.

The best kind?  Kissing, and then, too, there’s nothing you need to say.

Punishment is love when punishment involves two.

Death is the great ignore. Death is goodbye I don’t care about you.

Don’t die. Punish me every day. Be silent and strange.

But suffer where I can see you. Stay in range.




Image result for moby dick the great whale in painting

What has happened to contemporary literature?

When did it become so overly serious, so full of itself?

What is literature supposed to do?

Literature is supposed to show us life, if not here, than over there, as it is.

OK, fine. Kill me and torture me, but with an enjoyable read.

Our modern era revels in the Weltschmertz novel—fiction written from an autobiographical ditch of despair, allowing readers to thrill at an existence more heart-breaking and miserable than their own.

Schadenfreude sells.

Literature, whether it is American literature or literature from somewhere else, has one use:

Drop the reader into a silo of pain—a place (real, fantastic) or a time (if it’s historical fiction) so terrifying, we are overjoyed, when we finish the book, to return to our boring, mundane existence.

The only difference between the more modest torture devices of contemporary literature and the gigantic, cumbersome classics such as Moby Dick or Ulysses, is that we don’t finish these epics—but we say we did.

The famous authors we read—Faulkner, Orwell, Huxley, O’Connor, Golding, Greene, Fitzgerald, McCarthy, Burgess, Bradbury, Miller, Waugh, Hemingway, Bowles, Rhys, Styron, London, Conrad, Kesey, Pynchon, Bellow—if we finish their books—blind, maim, confuse, madden, burn, demoralize, crush, enslave, confound, and kill us.

Henry James? He just bores us.

Why do we let them do this?

Do mystery or fantasy genres make us any happier?

No. They torture and murder us, too.

It’s all quite grim.

Modern literature. A maw. Of insanity and torture.

Look at any list of the “The 100 Best Novels.”

Check the list. Where are the great comic novels?

Where is the literature which lifts us above this dreary life?

Where is the genius of insight and humor?

Garrison Keillor recently got into some hot water, because Keillor wrote in the Washington Post that humorless, bleak, Kazuo Ishiguro should not have received the Nobel Prize for Literature—it’s because we let the grim Swedes pick the prize, Keillor half-jokingly opined.

Keillor must be shocked at how much genuine hate and scorn he received for his recent essay—for simply voicing his opinion, in a witty manner.

This is what we’ve come to.

Where have you gone, Oscar Wilde?

Or, Dorothy Parker?

Does every book, esteemed, or popular, need to feature hacked limbs?  Or clouds of confusion and depression?

Does every book need to be about how we’re trapped, and there’s no way out?

It only gets worse when we turn to modern poetry.

Expecting a rhyme to make us happy?  Guess, again.

You are in the dark, in the car, watching the black-tarred street being swallowed by speed; he tells you his dean is making him hire a person of color when there are so many great writers out there.

This is from America’s currently most critically esteemed, contemporary poet.

And the prison walls of the harried soul close in.

So we go back to novels.  At least there, we have an arc, a story, and not just snippets of doom—as we are brutally killed and demoralized.

What a joy, then, to read the shrewd, brilliant, philosophical, poems of Daipayan Nair.

Nair says his “real muse” is “my own ‘distorted’ mind,” and though he belongs to the Neruda/Whitman school of poetry, this, we think, is the proper way to approach writing: don’t be afraid of your own distorted mind.

His childhood in northeast India had “fairy tale lullabies,” but “school and growing up” put him “survivor” mode, and then, finished with school, according to Nair:

The birth of poetry in me was more like a ‘rebellion,’ though I started with penning lyrical, romantic verses. One can say

Falling in love is
Like following a trend

Understanding love
Is kissing a rebellion

The excellence of the epigram is nowhere better exhibited today than in the writings of Daipayan Nair:

She doesn’t
Speak much

It gives me
One pair of lips
Two eyes
And an entire face
To talk to


How I will die
depends on the life
After my death


Time is a spoiled child.


The maker of a house carries its hardness.


Poetry is a poet trying to fathom his poet.


Let’s be silent
With each other tonight,
As our words
Have found better routes.
They take to the air,
Fly at luxurious speeds,
Landing exactly where they
Want to.

When I hear a voice
I only walk towards
The terminal.


Beauty, as helpless
As its beautiful posture
Reflected on a ten story window,
The walls of which
Are on fire.


Let’s die together.
What use is your cover
When it has
Nothing to cover

Sucked in my grave.


The future of a soul
As formless
As its disintegrating


It is not that Daipayan Nair’s writing refuses to deal with death and mayhem.

It does.

We are not here to praise the sunny colors of poetry which can be described as overly optimistic.

Some accuse Billy Collins of this, but there is an edge, an irony, beneath the surface, in Billy Collins—but this is a debate for another place and time.

The point is this.

Daipayan Nair does not belong to the sunny optimism school.

You have darkness.

And either the author is part of that darkness.

Or carries a light.

Some readers want mayhem, (or political indignation only) and need to see characters crushed by real cement and bricks. Killed by real despair.

With Daipayan Nair, the wit is what buries us.

It is the philosophy, not the sad life, which makes the writing important.

And which deserves a closer look.

Let us see again, that list of great writers.

Daipayan Nair deserves to be on it.

Related image


Image result for half moon

I wish I were sad, sadder than I’ve ever been before,

So my heart—which is sad—could respond to these waves dying on the shore—

With a slow, somnolent, monotonous sound—

Befitting a slow symphony beginning,

O fated feeling! Sorrow wins! Sorrow will always be winning!

In half-sorrow, I stand, and watch the waves, without turning around,

Listening to their mournful, burrowing sound,

The water, dark, but the waves, hectic, and white,

As they hit the sand, the air, gray, with the coming night,

Unable to move in my sorrow, I’m aware

How I’ve always wanted to be sad, so I might dare

To be crazy and still for hours, to observe

The unfolding light in every cloud’s curve,

Nothing unfathomable, but all known

Eventually, as I look at sea and sky, alone.

But impatiently, I always feel the urge to move,

Moving on to the next thing, the only thing we love.

But besides the poet, who wants to be sad? No one.

Humiliating darkness covers the moon. I should befriend the sun.

Science has always saved me

From cold self-pity by the sea.

I once thought the moon’s phases were from the earth’s shadow.

But we see the phases, not because earth’s shadow throws

Darkness on the moon.

The moon is seen by where the moon goes

In relation to the sun, and where the observing earth is.

Night on the moon is like earth’s, not from a planet’s shadow.

My lover’s moods, or how, or if, she loves, is not a shadow of me.

Earth and moon must be dark or light, and the position of all three—

Dark moon, dark earth, and sun—determines what we see.

Love is not her or me,

It is not the earth shadowing the moon.

Love is the sun, the only light, and only love can tell if love arrives soon.

I can be sad—you made me sad—I can write poems, and crazily stare at the sea,

But also let reason—optimistically guessing the unknown—be the light for me.












Image result for the little devil in renaissance painting

What is life? Making toilets clean. This is what we do,

And the veneer of vanity becomes thicker

As we move up the totem, standing on this task.

Cleaning solves the old, and discovers the new.

Vain poet, the beauty you praise is not even a flicker;

There’s nothing moral or formal to know—do not ask

Useless questions. A testament,

A love, a landscape painting, a music, a law,

Exist impermanently, a paean to clean,

And if each offends, because secretly we know nothing’s permanent,

We say it’s personal taste, or poor method, but every flaw

Is ours. Vanity makes us blind and mean

To life’s true nature; the swift janitor

Is judge, poet, builder. Clean is all we are.

Smooth, uncluttered, this face in stone.

His majesty’s monument in the wilderness all alone.







Image result for drapery in renaissance painting

A festival’s autumn, slanting sun

Found beauty, and there was more than one

Among the young women, walking,

In comfortable clothes, makeup, not much talking.

When light shines in a beautiful woman’s eye

One sees the deepest part of woman’s beauty

And what we have always guessed appears to be right:

Beauty travels at the speed of light.

Beauty and desire have speed,

But love has a greater need:

No matter how swift the beams,

Love needs to be wise, and slow, and draped in dreams.




Saira Shah Halim is an educator, communications consultant, activist, and poet.


And they live in us like little monsters, trying to break free, the sum total of our losses.
No, you never really move on!
Times of gullibility, when you were duped.
The friends who let you down.
Times of incredulity, when it all melted.
Times when you crossed oceans for people who wouldn’t jump puddles for you.
The bullies you took on, in life’s naivety—it was all there when you took it all on your chin then.
The ones who left us too soon, the buds of February, it doesn’t heal; you learn to live with the idea of seeing them on the other side…
And you wear it all on your face; the rawness has a character now, more determined than before;
The monsters you dealt with then seem like a ‘cheesy story,’ thanks to years of resilience training.
You are fighting different monsters now; it’s been awhile since you discussed people; it’s not even about events and social niceties anymore;
It’s about strong stands and the whole hog, and you know that you will survive it with a little help from your friends.
And you watch everything in slow motion seated in the front seat of a grand opera; and you smile at life’s benign design.
You had rehearsed and played it all in your head, a number of times; and now you are on the stage after the umpteenth rehearsal,
No more fumbling, no awkwardness, it’s your time now to break a leg…
The ‘despondency’ monster has left, he left his friend ‘melancholia’ behind…
The emptiness monster looked weary, too; he left behind his ‘perspective’ jacket…
The camera is still rolling, and the curtain is not down yet.

Saira Shah Halim



There is a debate, currently, about what poetry is supposed to do; “emotional labor,” the term which is on everyone’s lips nowadays, threatens to become poetry itself.

“Emotional labor” began as a definition of intangible, positive, workplace behavior—largely a matter of keeping inappropriate emotions in check. Don’t call your boss, or a customer, a jerk. Be polite. It’s the traditional, patriarchal success mantra: control your emotions. Be rational. Don’t be emotional. It goes back to Socrates, the wisest of all philosophers. The more emotional, the weaker. All of us, in our hearts, know this is true. When we’re emotional, we can’t do anything. We don’t trust ourselves. Aristotle had a slightly different take than Socrates; emotions were good in art—because it helps us purge them—but emotions are still bad.

Saira Shah Halim is a successful woman who lives in India. Her poem is comforting. It does emotional labor. Her poem looks at life, and deeply at all kinds of emotional aspects of life, without complaining.

American feminists have taken the term “emotional labor” and run with it in a different direction: emotions are good, and women do all the important emotional labor, by being emotional, on account of being women. Emotions are work, and women are not appreciated for all the emotional work they do. But is the feminist position really so different? No. Emotions are a burden, finally. The feminists agree with Socrates: emotions are bad. Emotions are work. Labor.

A good balance between thinking and feeling is what we all want. Women can be rational. Men can be emotional. Gender clichés have no place in a complex, dangerous world.

We all experience the “loss” and the “monsters” in Saira Shah Halim’s poem.

Saira Shah Halim’s poem is both smart and emotional. And this is what poetry, and life, should be.

—Scarriet editors, Salem MA, USA


Image result for insane in renaissance painting

“They fuck you up, your mum and dad” –P. Larkin

A good immune system will stop any germ,

But the mind has an interest where the body does not;

The body grows from egg and sperm,

But the mind alters the ethereal plot

Of what it is; the mind lives with other minds,

And every thought another thinks or does

Is what we are; the life my heart finds

Is you; I am what another was,

In a book’s distant past, or what

Your poem says, or you, or mine,

And all the thinking on the plot

Is reason after a bottle of wine,

The wet earth rising to greet us,

Voices resounding in a green dance,

Sense making sense of the crisis,

The soft, floating network our only chance.

I’ve noticed, in the few meetings we’ve had,

Since our love is no longer ours,

I trigger you really bad

And I am silent like the stars.



« Older entries Newer entries »

%d bloggers like this: