Thursday, October 31, 2013

To suffer it all again

It has always been obvious
to my lovers and children,
to comrades and friends,
that I am an angry man.

I didn’t start that way,
or mean to be like that.
I was never made by anyone
to be other than who I am.

How I got that way remains
beyond my comprehension
and expressions of regret
have been too long delayed.

Confession helps, of course,
but memory makes a better bridge
to a second life in joy and dance
and boiling blood and small victory.

Anger abides as always,
but bends before the recurring wish
to jazz it up once more,
to suffer it all again. 

Darkness at Noon

The unnamed fog that stalks by day,
is dark and deep
and flips the pencil in my hand,
erasing faster than I write.

I am pummeled and buried
and wandered away,
unable to say
how I solve this.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Rich, rich as we go

I loved the moment
leaving work behind,
striding long, traveling lean,
one job done, another to come.

The way to where she was,
to where we would welcome
touch and wonder—
not right then, but coming soon—

the way to where she was
rich with byways,
forks and crossings,
some were blazed and others not.

I was fast and I was ready,
and quickly rolling through,
long and longer,
still and quiet,

alone and alone
with green leaves rustling
and winged birds soaring
and damp earth rising

In my turn,
I am rising
to move again along my path,
striding long

and traveling lean
one job done,
another to come,
and rich, rich as we go.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Glorious Day

Once I walked
on a glorious day.
Early light stroking
greens, reds, and even the yellows
to passionate fits,
birds raising
a unified chorus,
leaves and small mammals dancing
a synchronized rustle.

Walked through this
celebratory space,
tuning in slowly
until the clear message came:
This is a glorious fall day.

Monday, October 14, 2013


It is in our DNA
to dream things,
to build some version
of what we dream.

But we have moved so far
from where we started,
standing alone until someone else
stood up, someone on whose shoulders

we could stand to see further,
and see that we were
standing on the shoulders
of those who stood

on the shoulders of those
who stood—and so on and back
through all those compounded dreams,
the serial dreams of who we were

before we were ourselves,
before there were dreams
of complicated things
like wealth and justice,

back when we aspired
to a day without toil,
without torment or terror,
until all those hopes and wishes

became a dream of justice,
a very new thing compared
to how long we have been dreaming
of lesser things.

There is still
another DNA driven thing
that sees a vision of ourselves
resting when the building’s done,

resting in the thing we’ve built,
that sees ourselves
relaxing into the dream
that became the thing we built,

like some retiree
on a white sand beach
who is thrilled to spend a day
without dreaming.

Mind and boldness mix and blend
in the dream we aspire to build,
wishing along the way
to be done with this building,

to be living in the dream complete;
and wishing along the way
to seize the dream of justice,
the thing that can’t be built,

cannot be seized
or even dreamed alone,
the thing that sometimes seems,
but never is,

And there we wish to rest,
relax into the thing that can’t be built
alone, will always be unfinished.

It follows then that in the matter
of justice, it is the journey
that makes the difference,
that becomes our measure.

like she who is no longer distressed by struggle,
we must be satisfied to dream,
and to build, together.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Thanks for Writing, Jorie Graham

Mid-morning. Overcast. A brisk breeze carrying a hint of chill.

Lots of birds about. A jittery flight of starlings comes and goes.

As the breeze picks up, becomes wind, the dominant noise is a rustle of leaves so loud it makes me think, "racket of leaves."

There's a warning on that wind. "You won't be wanting to sit here, nursing your outdoor poetry shtick, when the rain on the way actually arrives."

I open Jorie Graham's book, Overlord. It's a beautiful book, a thin volume, hardcover, more rectangular than most books, but perfect for poetry. A small, evocative collage, centered against the black background of the dust jacket, features a red smear, something like an ideogram, overlaying fragments of newspapers in French and English. The book design is totally first-class. Lucky Jorie. I'm jealous.

I don't usually want to like Jorie Graham. I don't "get" a good number of her poems, which frequently seem to feature literary allusions I don't understand. I have no idea who she is really, but I always think of her as some genteel WASP lady from the East Coast, somewhere, or maybe from some college town where one of her parents was a professor of literature. But I don't actually know who she is.

And, oh boy, I really do like her poem, "Impressionism," which begins with "the silent little girl in a white frock," posed on a picturesque little bridge, imagined, perhaps, or strategically positioned in the French landscape, so that Graham's poem might begin with the kind of Victorian image characteristic of so many Impressionist paintings.

The girl, whose "hair is held by tiny yellow bows," seems to recede in the distance, replaced by a heron whose "foot uplifts in the isosceles of just a single wading-step--half-interrupted," revealing "the half-truth that can be caught."

Further along, the poet observes "eleven crabs  attached, all feeding wildly" and "clacking their armors into each other," not long before they themselves are "crushed, each, at the head by the child's hammer taken to them one by one."

As she collects her many impressions of the world around her, Graham discovers that she has moved on to a place a surprisingly long distance away.

"There's no way back believe me.
I'm writing you from there."

And, as the rain about which the wind had given warning begins to fall, outdoor poetry season is interrupted. It is the indoors for me, at least for now. But I am grateful to Graham for taking the time to write.