mercredi 31 décembre 2008

happy bloody fucking new year!

amerika, love it or leave it
a new year just o'er the hour
a us-jettisoned bomb falls on a
palestinian home, a calling
card of more to come, as
the prosecutors of war
stir the world to despair
just in time for a new year

why should they care?
their new year day was
months ago, forgotten with
their attonement prayers and
lands bought with wooden nickels,
as hawks sit on shoulders
and squawk, and the world
looks on, ever impotent

bye bye cheney bye bye bush
that's the way they put it
in the middle east
your days were always
numbered, the way blood
thickens when exposed to air
and the rows of grave stones
dotting a path on the straight and
narrow are lit up by the blood of
lambs and sanguine futures

hello capitalism, hello hillary!
i can't wait to watch you waddling
around the middle east in your
slick pants suits: they don't make
you anymore a man than
your fixed hard stare or
the hawk that sits on your
broad shoulders, quelle femme!

hello corruption, hello to more
blues and reds and in-fighting
and the do-something-anything!
congress who thinks it is god,
as it hands out toys for tots on
wall street: oh such good military
men, with no one whizzing off the
capitol steps: such excellent
role models of the corporate
catechism, a full-fledged religion
for the super wicked rich

yesterday today and tomorrow
hello to my heart that bleeds like
a fucking liberal, an ass no more or
less than my nemesis, blind, yet
grabbing as much as i can and
throwing it into the cart and then
wandering pointlessly with the
rest of 'em to cash out

hello my anima who bleeds
hello my animus who leads

jeudi 25 décembre 2008

Pour une femme qui déteste une certaine fête

à annie

où vas-tu, blonde et sombre, la belle au bois dormant? je suis ici comme d'habitude, me voilà à tes pieds en disant que c'est un jour comme tous les autres, il n'est ni spécial ni irrémédiable. j'essaie de parler—mais de quoi je ne sais plus ou presque, mais je vais marcher sur la pointe des pieds comme tu l'aimes. c'est le sens et le fond de cette fable, pour parler tout doucement de rien, que le moment n'est plus rien, un jour comme les autres jours,

sauf qu'il y a une vague de silence un peu exceptionelle, on doit admettre... et dans cette froideur de la ville, il n'y a personne dans la rue, on est tout seul, on peut presque entendre à l'intérieur le coeur qui bat! mais peut-être c'est juste que j'imagine ces choses, des choses en choses, remplies l'une sur l'autre comme des vieux papiers ou des fleurs mortes.

non, je n'ai écrit que pour dire que je t'aime un peu enfin et que je n'oublierai jamais tous ces mêmes matins, ces matines qui adoucissent le ciel au-dessus de la chapelle, ces adieux qui viennent trop tôt à la fin de chaque jour de décembre, un décembre comme tous les décembres, avec les cieux grisâtres et pleine la pluie quand ils s'ouvrent. un certain jour où on parle au coeur de la cité— tu restes dans ma mémoire, inquiète, tremblante, faible, et nous avions parlé sur les filles sans bordures... jusqu'à ta voix dans les messages est devenue plus calme et mésurée, ton haleine recommençait à zéro et la mienne ne s'arrêtait à jamais.

une heure plus tard nous nous retrouvions à notre coin et nous cherchions dans les rues un restaurant encore ouvert, trouvant seulement ton chinois à la fin du ligne 5. ce n'est pas un jour particulier... sauf pour ces lumières bleues qui se tordent dans le vent fort, nos mains brûlants du froid, pas de phrases complètes enrégistrées sur un dicto, rien sur cette certain couleur de brun que tu portais toujours. donc pourquoi dans ma tête faisait-il cet empreinte s'il n'y avait rien pour faire qu'on s'en souvienne, pas de mot, pas de geste?

je te laisserai m'expliquer un jour pas spécialement mémorable, à la fin de décembre, chaque année comme une autre au passé, après que nous ayons tourné la page pour de bon, laissé tomber les anciens vêtements, les manteaux contre le froid et les gants pour mieux toucher, toi marchant ici et là sans direction, moi courant après toi comme un parfum.

For a Woman Who Hates a Certain Holiday
to Annie

where are you going, blond and somber, beauty sleeping in the wood? i am here as usual, i'm here at your feet, saying that it is a day like all the others, it is neither special nor irredeemable. i try to speak—but of what i no longer know or almost, but I am going to walk on tip-toes the way you like. it's the sense and the heart of this fable, to speak all sweetly of nothing, that the moment is no longer nothing, a day like all other days...

except there is a wave of silence a bit exceptional, you must admit... and in this coldness of the city, there is no one on the street, you are alone, you can almost hear the heart beating within! but perhaps it is only that i have imagined these things, these things in things, folded one upon the other like old papers or dead flowers.

no, i have only written to say that i love you a little at the last, and i will never forget all these same mornings, these morning prayers that soften the sky above the chapel, these goodbyes that come too early at the end of each day of december, a december like all decembers, with these graying skies and full the rain when they open. a certain day when we spoke in the heart of the city— you remain in my memory, worried, trembling, weak, and we spoke of girls without edges... until your voice in the messages became more calm and measured, your breath began again at zero and mine stopped forever.

an hour later, we found ourselves on our corner again, and we searched the streets for a restaurant yet open, finding only your chinese at the end of line 5. it is not a specific day... except for these blue lights twisting in the strong wind, our hands burning with cold, no complete sentences recorded on a micro, nothing about the brown color you always wear. so why in my head did it make this impression if there is nothing to make one remember, no word, no gesture?

i will let you explain it to me one day not especially memorable, at the end of december, each year like another in the past, after we have turned the page for good, let fall the ancient clothing, the coats against the cold, the gloves so to better touch, you walking here and there without direction, me running after you like a perfume.

vendredi 19 décembre 2008

Explication du texte: "Tout sur les larmes"

Here is an explication du text for my last poem "Tout sur les larmes". Do people write explications du texte for their own poetry? This may be a first! But it was such a fun exercise, and I uncovered meanings I didn't even realize were there; it was like what Frost said about completing a poem, then being surprised by it and asking, "Now how did I know that?" It started out as a letter to explain the poem to a friend, and later, I edited it for this blog. What I hope to show is the sense of hope in this poem, which is found subtly in the first section, strongly suggested in the last, with only the middle section, the bridge, completely devoid of it. Secondarily, I would like to show how this poem was constructed, first as separate parts, then synthesized by actions that flowed from my subconscious.

In the first section of "Everything About Tears", I have just found in my grandson a window for releasing emotional pain, and he is comforting me like a mother, through his little pats on my back and shoulder. In the second part, I describe the "hole" I find myself in, where I am unable to cry or to feel; I am "emptied". In the third section, I'm making a choice, live or die, cry or feel nothing, drown under "water", in all those unshed tears--symbolized by rain in the second section--or rise into the bright light of consciousness and permit myself to grieve my losses. Finally, i will myself to dig down, back into the "hole"; but now I am outside it: I'm making "The Choice", as the title suggests, to dig until I find tears. The tears are in the "hole", which is myself: I have to dig through several layers of myself to find them: through ash (death and resurrection), terra firma (grounding principle), mud (depression), salt (essentiality, tears) river (the flow from life to death, possibly the river Styx), rock (hard barriers), then molten lava (passion, hot tears). But I do not care how hot it may get, how I might get burned: I must get at the tears because I know that grieving is the only way to get free of the "hole". We're left with the hope that the goal of grieving can be achieved and that it will free me from the potential of emotional death.

After writing the second poem, "How This Works", and getting an empathic response from a fellow poet and friend, I began to feel very sad about my condition and began to cry, not sobs, just tears rolling down my cheeks and dripping off my chin. The next day, because I had actually cried tears of grief, I realized that this poem could easily be related to the one I'd written the day before, "The Futility of Tears". It was then that I decided to write a third section, a resolution, and combine them into a single poem.

The title of the latter is completely ironic, as it means the opposite of what it says: of course tears are not futile. My mother, in spite of her flashbacks, will not allow herself to cry, and simply fights her memories and feelings. We might remember that she is now a great-grandmother, an elderly woman, who may not have the time or capacity to plumb her own depths, and we can thus have compassion for her. Her mother, my grandmother, who is most likely out of the picture in the present time of the poem, was an obnoxious drunk who taught her daughter "not to cry at funerals" but rather to bottle up or drug herself against her emotions.
Now, if my grandmother was drunk "at her husband's" funeral and my mother was also there--"my mother socked her"--we realize that my mother was at her own father's funeral, a terrible thing in itself for a young woman, with the added sense of embarrassment at having her mother be "drunk and obnoxious". As for me, the third character in the first poem and now a grandmother myself, "i'm still crying as i watch Bambi," who represents the death or absence of the mother. Further, through my grandson's acceptance of my tears and his prescient ability to comfort me (like a mother), I am beginning to find my way out of this "hole" or emotional dead-space, as unrequited grief has kept me, my mother and her mother buried under the weight of painful memories.

In the third poem, "The Choice", I've found a way out of the "hole": I have to cry, and I compare and contrast the two options of crying or not crying and their consequences. Ultimately, I decide to bring my grief into the "sunlight" or into the open, to consciousness--"the eye...wakes up"-- and I will do what I must in order to have a breakthrough of my long buried grief. I must get tears to flow and, consequently, the feelings behind them. I am choosing the flashbacks driven away by my mother, I am feeling the feelings drunk away by my grandmother, and i'm going into those depths, even as i squat outside them, looking in. I have made my choice; I will dig myself toward the tears, I will spring them like a fount, I will free myself by feeling, which is the opposite of what my feminine ancestors have done. Because I have chosen the positive, entering the "sunlight" or action, and not the negative, drowning by "water" or inaction, there is a sense of renewed purpose and enlightenment, and the reader is left hoping, if not knowing that I might well succeed.

mercredi 17 décembre 2008

Tout sur les larmes


to Georgia Ronan Crampton for dreams, allegories and visions

I. The Futility of Tears

My mother told me that
she sometimes has
flashbacks in the shower,
but now she simply shouts
"Get thee behind me!"

Her mother taught her
not to cry at funerals:
at her husband's, she was
drunk and obnoxious
until my mother socked her.

I'm still crying as I
watch Bambi with my
grandson. He's put
his arm around my shoulder
and he's patting me,

His little hand taps
a smile through
my tears, our eyes
connect in a strange dance
of familial understanding.

II. Comment ça marche

J'ai un vide
qui m'habite
qui me nourrit
et me mange

le vide infernale
où je dors
pendant que
je meure
chaque jour

tristesse san fin
un trou pour
tout le temps
où la pluie
tombe d'en haut

moi en bas
sur le dos
coeur leger
coeur vidé
mon sacré coeur

III. Le Choix

If I try a bit harder
to hold myself
beneath the surface,
I will drown and be
no more, no fish,
no rock, no twig,
not even a lark of
a thought, a naught.

If I rise like a bubble
and blink in the sun
with a glint of a fish
scale jumping up for
bugs, then mere air
will carry me along
like the odd, thin-gray
bird one spots in
winter pictures.

An eye underwater
cannot discern a
lakedrop from a tear:
ils ne tomberont pas
dans l'antigravité des
eaux, ils se fixeront
derrière ces bulbes
en les poussant ouverts
comme les yeux morts.

The eye caught by
sun wakes up: hot
it weeps out effortlessly
its acidy depths, then
dries of its own saltiness:
les larmes, un son,
l'appel d'une mouette,
la lêvure de tristesse,
l'ouverture d'un tombeau
je ne voudrais pas
être traître du soi:i will plumb a grave
with empty hands,
i will dig at silky ash
then terra firma,
mud, salt, river, rock
then molten lava
until they come.

John Everett Millais, Ophelia

mardi 16 décembre 2008

Le Choix

If I try a bit harder
to hold myself
beneath the surface,
I will drown and be
no more, no fish,
no rock, no twig,
not even a lark of
a thought, a naught.

If I rise like a bubble
and blink in the sun
with a glint of a fish
scale jumping up for
bugs, then mere air
will carry me along
like the odd, thin-gray
bird one spots in
winter pictures.

An eye underwater
cannot discern a
lakedrop from a tear:
ils ne tomberont pas
dans l'antigravité des
eaux, ils se fixeront
derrière ces bulbes
en les poussant ouverts
comme les yeux morts.
(they will not fall
in the antigravity of
waters, they will fix themselves
behind the bulbs
in pushing them open
like dead eyes.)

The eye caught by
sun wakes up: hot
it weeps out effortlessly
its acidy depths, then
dries of its own saltiness:
les larmes, un son,
l'appel d'une mouette,
la lêvure de tristesse,
l'ouverture d'un trou
(tears, a sound,
the call of a gull,
the leavening of sadness
ouverture of a hole)

je ne voudrais pas
être traître du soi:
(i would not want
to be a traitor to the self:)

i will plumb a grave
with empty hands,
i will dig at silky ash
then terra firma,
mud, salt, river, rock
then molten lava
until they come.

lundi 15 décembre 2008

Comment ça marche

J'ai un vide
qui m'habite
qui me nourrit
et me mange

le vide infernale
où je dors
pendant que
je meure
chaque jour

tristesse san fin
un trou pour
tout le temps
où la pluie
tombe d'en haut

moi en bas
sur le dos
coeur leger
coeur vidé
mon sacré coeur

(How this works

I have an emptiness
that inhabits me
that nourishes
and eats me
from within

the infernal emptiness
where i sleep
I am dying
each day

sadness without end
a hole for
all time
where the rain
falls from above

me below
on my back
heart light
heart emptied
my sacred heart

jeudi 11 décembre 2008

The Futility of Tears

My mother told me that

she sometimes has
flashbacks in the shower,
but now she simply shouts
"Get thee behind me!"

Her mother taught her
not to cry at funerals:
at her husband's, she was
drunk and obnoxious
until my mother socked her.

I'm still crying as I
watch Bambi with my
grandson. He's put
his arm around my shoulder
and he's patting me,

His little hand taps
a smile through
my tears, our eyes
connect in a strange dance
of familial empathy.

vendredi 5 décembre 2008


I wake up in the dark
A little light shimmers
from the oil burner, 5am
and the tv's on with
a conversation that
pulls me in:

"We are the ones
we have been waiting for"
It's Alice Walker, her
round beautiful face
glows with peace and
enlightened thought,

Her voice soft and deep
like a lilac-filled breeze
and she's talking about
massaging the feet of the
great Miriam Makeba
after a New York concert

while Miriam explained
that she had to wear those
high heels because her
public expected it, but
Alice tells us that
Miriam died singing barefoot

Alice had written an
open letter to the newly
elected president Obama,
the first African descendant
to move into that famous
house built by slaves

She tells him, cultivate your
own happiness, don't become
like all the other graying
men who take on the
enemies of past presidents
and lose their bliss

She told him, Be a lover,
father, light to others,
keep that winning smile,
and let the rest of us do our part
to focus like a laser on war
and eradicate it for good

"We are the ones
we have been waiting for"
I think about Nina Simone,
James Baldwin, the men and
women who sang and wrote
about hope, esperanza

as my friend in Spain calls it,
Nelson Mandela, Jesse Jackson,
and oh yes Hugh Masakela
and Mama Afrika, yesterday
we said goodbye to Odetta and
esperanza's what's still going on

Built up brick upon stone,
it crossed infamous bridges,
batted tremendous averages,
sang wild and beautiful arias,
found infinity in a peanut, landed
hundreds of knockout blows

Esperanza's been chanted
in long marches across city
and town to the top of the
mountain, where we strained
with our steps toward
a promised land of good

Alice tells him, We always
knew you would come
to fulfill that promise, a new
generation to redeem all
that we have lost and won
with the totality of our hope

But let us each do our part,
It doesn't fall alone upon
your shoulders, we all
need to participate because
"We are the ones
we have been waiting for"

And suddenly that esperanza
fills me up too, it comes
fast, hot and hard
like the rocket gibraltar
or a riff by Jimi Hendrix,
blue like Bessy Smith, red

like Ella, and i'm ready for the
healin', ready to be washed
clean and reborn, rarin' to take
it on because i'm here waiting too,
lit up with the morning light
and a boatload of poems

mardi 2 décembre 2008

Letter to my son

i've been looking for my youngest son for several months; i figured he was alive and well, wherever he was. and i found him where? myspace (of course).
reading one of the poems on his blog, i heard strong traces of my own language, rhythms, rhymes and repetitions, and i thought, could poetry be part of our genetic inheritance or did he simply hear enough of my voice that it became an intrinsic part of his own? someday we might isolate a poetry gene: would that all the world could have it or be damned by having it! it depends on the poetic vision, and i believe that all voices are needed. my son's poem spoke of optimism and hope, leaving behind sadness and failure and grasping the future from atop a starlit hill. i echoed his sensibility in the note i left him. i felt changed.

think you're gonna do it, bébé/ over the hump and into the ready/ following your heart or your foot, doesn't matter/ what matters is the journey to it/ when you get to the top, jump up/ catch a star, or better, create one/ the least important thing is the past/ the most important thing is truth/ and love's the brightest star of all that burns so hot/ it's petrol, nothing lasts without it/ or comes of any good because/ it's what the stars are made of in this world/ the stars that outlast death and birth/ where is is and was was and/ there's no time like the present to be born/ now as the great transitive chord reaches across/ eons of pain and wipes them out with a silver blade/ and we look down from the mount and then raise our glasses/ to the thing that gives all joy and sacrifice/ love, more than a wonder drug /love, the one element that ain't retrograde/ it's ahead of its game, it's a paved highway/ straight through the heart of darkness to the light/ and to the city on the hill where we'll dance/ to celebrate the second coming of love incarnate/ you're gonna do it, bébé, you're gonna be there to see it

love you, bébé.

dimanche 30 novembre 2008

The Last Ashram

recent events have awakened some specific memories and yearnings in me, so i've decided to be flexible with my little vow--never say never!--to publish only new poems on this blog as a way to keep myself motivated. i wrote this poem in 1997 after a heartbreaking separation from a hindu priest to whom i was very attached and the local indian community i had come to love and worship with every sunday and beyond. my decision to separate was due to continual verbal abuse visited upon me for years by another member, the temple "amma" (mother) and swamiji's cook and caretaker, a physically glorious woman who had taken an instant liking to me, followed by an active, aggressive hatred. unfortunately, i am not the only one to which this happened and it was indian women as well. why swami did not intervene only swami knows for sure.

initially, i felt i was being tested and shaped for egoless service and i worked my butt off to be silent and compliant; but ultimately, i decided that it was going to be up to me to shape myself and that i could do it without abuse, starting out on a new path to vanquish a major theme that had followed me from childhood. but i miss swami: he was my mentor for ten years.

We've broken away from the swami games,
the clashing of kartals, the clanging of tongues,
jealous retribution in a kitchen
until one feels
not a wit oneself,
fit or be fitted,
incline or die.

We can leave our shoes outside but
we bring the baggage in,
and to win, what a prize!
To sit beside a laughing man,
a place right next to the plastic man,
a man guaranteed to make you cry
in your sleep, in your dreams.

"Come, oh ye sheep,
to the butcher block
of heavenly peace."

jeudi 27 novembre 2008

deep night in the terrorist state

in the wake of the mumbai attacks

this little world i've created

is not enough
to keep out the terrorists.

compassion's not enough
nor is knowledge,
and truth seems a blight
on my consciousness.

a million disembodied
voices cry out for kindness,
but there is not enough
manna nor enough water
to assuage the infinite want.

i sit, deep in the dark
of the darkest night
and confess that i am
not enough, not enough
even to keep out my
own hopelessness.

if there were a plan for
all this carnage,
we'd have to ask what
kind of god would
visit upon us bloodlust
and hunger in order to
turn us into
worthy servants.

i can't even ask you to
ask that question,
i can't even ask you
to still see beauty
in the tiny acts of love
between human beings,
i can't ask for anything
but an end to my pain
that rages hot and endless.

something is happening
that could turn the tide:
but when i reach out
to touch it, little clouds
emerge from my mouth
and rain vomit and blood
onto the earth.
i am not a messenger
of hope, i'm not sure
i have a message at all

as i sit in the dark
of the deepest night
tranquilized with fear,
overwhelmed with terror
that seems to live within,
that seems to consume
all my attention
and leaves me black
and suicidal with despair,
my disembodied voice is all
that you know or hear.

i am a failed prophet
because i'm inside myself:
my inward terrorist winds up
turned on its head,
chanting in nonsense tongues
about love, when i wonder
if that is what we want
at all, a slap in the face
as one being touches another:
perhap we want simply to
suffer alone as a sort of perverse
justification for assumed guilt

and compassion only denies
us self loathing which
a religious education and
enough societal abuse
has hardened into our bone
and usurped the good
from our latent brain,
the one that knew intrinsically
how to survive, the question
being do we survive alone
or as a whole of good
en face the terrorist state,
when it is ourselves we hate.

can we unmask ourselves
enough to reveal the will to
revenge that lies beneath
the surface and controls us?
or do we only wish to be seen
as conscious beings
with nothing to hide at all
as we move through this world?
good luck with that,
my fellow seers and peers.
i've been abused by those
who only wanted to help
or so they said, and i've done
the same to many.

so what of good and evil?
my shoulders feel a burden
that doesn't belong to me,
handed down generation to
generation through slaughtered
jewry and
la politique blasée.
but the terror sinks below
the surface and arms itself
with patience, emerging at
the right moment to cut
the enemy in twain
and howl victory to the
highest hills, which all bow
down under the sadness of
our failed evolution.

vendredi 21 novembre 2008

r.i.p. petite dent

poor little eye tooth

you've been through so much:
it was glorious battle!
first you broke on a baguette
still chewy and warm
from the best bakery in paris
a sunday brunch topped with
fromage, if only laughing cow
and me in bliss, so enjoying
that i couldn't believe it!
you broke on the best
baguette I've ever eaten

wise tooth you were
it was a clean break
right below the gum
and i remembered that
a pin and a bit of glue
might secure you to a
second life, might like other
stuff i have lost and won
resurrect out of the ashes of
my will and my sorrow
remain to chew another day
keep me somewhat pretty

so i wrote an email
and sent it out to all
my new parisian friends
and everyone wrote back
with sad stories about
the sorry dentists of paris
until i got anxious
but saïd responded with
bonne adresse
1 blvd voltaire
and i telephoned in my timid
french for an appointment

i couldn't believe my
bonne chance when i
rang that bell on the street
and was greeted at that
door, one floor up at the
top of that grand staircase
la petite américaine
with a hole in her mouth
and you in her pouch
more in awe of the
experience than (per habit)
frightened of the dentist

the grand
salle d'attente
was filled with the best art
like a paris exhibition
and a kindly dentist came
and shook my hand
and led me into another
large room as big as my
living, held the film to my
mouth, took the shot
and there it was above me
you or rather half of you
still alive at the root

two visits later
and 150 euros
you were back intact
and i thought you were
worth so much more
but france has a different
pay scale for dentists
i called all my new friends
and flashed them my smile
happy that you were
well again, until one week
later when i ate a baguette

i lived with you broken
for another six months
i was heartsick and
filled with funk
but eventually, back
in the u.s.a., i went to
my own cruel doctor
with his nitrous and his
oxides, and you were formed
with something like
plaster of paris, and you
had your third renaissance

a few months later
i could not bite on you
without wincing in pain
something was wrong
you were oozing and swelling
without anything evident
i was forced to go back
to my nazi dentist and
was told you had to come out
you were broken at the root
fractured somewhere
even if we couldn't see it

i was so attached to you
i couldn't accept your demise
we drove for four hours
to see an endodontist
he took new pictures
gently poked and prodded
until with tears in his eyes
(or were they mine?)
softly explained our
predicament, beautiful
though you were, you
were cracked at the core

so dear eye tooth
i did what i had to do
i bit the bullet and
had you pulled
and there you were
cracked horizontally
and vertically
with a half-inch screw
like an achilles heel
i didn't take you home
instead i shut down
and lamented your loss

as two baguettes,
a good address, and
all my paris friends
flash in my brain
and i think, i at least
should have kept you
in a drawer because
that's as close as i'll get
to loving a tooth
with so many memories
to sustain me through all
the losses yet to come

petite dent
my beauty is gone
and with it my youth
my paris days,
mes rendez-vous
baguettes and apples
with twelve teeth left
in my large overbite
and a pale, bitter sorrow
that haunts my heart
as i take the
that dry out my mouth
and dream of better days

dimanche 16 novembre 2008

dreams of a disabled woman

for Ron

doorknobs make

good lovers
fish smells
linger in the kitchen
empires crumble
beneath my feet

there are countless
stars in the sky
there are dreams
that come and
go in a flash
and I can't keep them

they say timing is
everything: miss a step
and fall flat on your face
then try to remember
how god's grace felt
before the crash

someone mows a lawn
because the sun is out
i mute the television
so i can write a poem
about nothing at all
and dare to be a god

a broom sits waiting
for the filthy floor
the cat at my shoulder
is bored to death
we both want to be fed
by the god upstairs

but he is sleeping
who cares? it's still morning
a face on the television
looks wise as he speaks
do i dare to hope
that i might believe?

everything wise
loves silence:
i close my burning eyes
and meditate on breath
then light a cigarette
to appease my pain

death isn't silent
it comes rumbling
into town with
a broken muffler and
no brakes
radiator exploding

i've been told that
women have no
adam's apple at all
could it be that
the tree of knowledge got
stuck in adam's throat?

who knows.
who cares.
there are places to go
people to see
things to believe
but not for me

my sickbed is a place
that god visits
with a wink and a nod
as if everything and
nothing are understood
maya, karma and

blood on the wire:
the cat sits on my arms
as i type, she seems
to like the dance
of my words on the keys
an unsteady rhythm

then leaps to her feet
angry and hungry
she sits with her back
turned against me
tells me to get up
and do something!

i don't protest
i light a cigarette
and feast on smoke
I'm no fool, sweetheart
I know what you want:
the god upstairs to descend

he does so every day
picks up her dish
gently teasing her
opens the can of cheap tuna
warms it up and ever so
sweetly calls her to sup

it's a big lawn
across the street
the tv may be dumb but
there is not enough
silence for an
accurate poem

there will be no
punchline today
the earth is turning
but i can't feel it
someone wise is speaking
but there's a gag in his mouth

i feel the smooth knob
rub against my vulva
i remember i'm celibate
and wake up stunned
there are sounds in the kitchen
god has arrived, ungloved

why was i born?
how does the earth turn?
where oh where
has my libido gone?
the lawnmower roars
and no answers come

i sit cross-legged
on the couch
i don't get up
to shut the door
i wait in this no-silence,
putting words to nothing

like dreams
that come and go like
an old woman's libido
but the face of god
is always welcomed
at the end of the day

he is the action i lack
he is language
he makes a happy cat
and fills our bellies
and signals an answer
to my continued existence

it's a very large lawn
across the street
i unmute the voices
and call forth wisdom
like tumbling out of bed
with a bang and a whimper

and i wait
sitting cross-legged like
an indian mystic
the world screams
around me nonstop
but i like silence best

i like perfecting poems
in the dark
i like dreaming of love
i light a cigarette
and inhibit the sickness
that swells in my stomach

while i wait, a bored cat
at my shoulder again
waiting for god to descend
as he does everyday
it's clockwork, it's grace
it's a bittersweet dream at best

in this do-nothing world
there are exceptions like poems
that occasionally flourish
and wise men on television
that fill a hole
while we wait on god

he's got my ear again:
i listen intently for
his footfall on the stair
he banishes all loneliness
he understands my prayers
my god is come

my god is love!
i'll fold back the laptop
and stroke the kitty
then feast on fish
whilst my god and i visit
and count the stars

an infinite number
flickering in the sky
everything is turning
and we follow suit,
there is nothing more
that we gods can do

doorknobs make
good lovers
fish smells
linger in the kitchen
empires crumble
beneath my feet

there are countless
stars in the sky
there are dreams
that come and
go in a flash
and I can't keep them

dimanche 26 octobre 2008

as your eye finds me

before your camera

i'm too self-conscious
you can see it in my eyes
and read it in my smile
i'm trying too hard
to be beautiful

my mother was beautiful
elizabeth taylor beautiful
i'd stand at her side
as she brushed her hair
put lines on her eyes
like a cat or cleopatra

lips perfect, brows narrowed
cheeks flushed with apple
and those round, full
breasts that took away
my breath whenever she
held me too close

(me and everyone else)

and i'd think never before
was a child so ugly
they'd scream you're a witch
they'd chant you're a freak
with my long thin nose
like a goddamned ski slope

i believed myself an
orphan, i couldn't be her
daughter, no wonder she
was ashamed of me and
had no time to listen
to my songs and poetry

all i had was words for
charms, magical words
to draw the stars and to
understand what earth could
hold and could not hold
this bag of skin and bones

(ontologically insecure)

i learned to frame
a line of verse and hold
it up like a beggar's cup
collect their awe and smile
and bow, a gallant minstral
or perfect clown

i learned to dance and
shake my hair and put
on makeup (just a touch)
i wore strange clothes and
starved myself until i
looked a part of smart

but little did i know that
beauty can hurt, it aches
with the pain of a one
night stand, so i learned
to love my funny frame
and to turn on a dime

(and drew men like flies)

beauty is only skin deep
she'd say, then enter my
classroom with a long sashay
and i was so proud even
if she was not mine, i'd
claim her anyway anytime

just as you claim me now
as your eye finds me out
and you focus in and
click, and i turn and dance
a quickly jig to make you
laugh, and then look up

my eyes are larger from
below, i stare at the lens
and shuffle and glow
i'm beautiful in your eyes
i know, and i'm just not
comfortable and it shows

(i make myself small)

learning to love yourself
is hard, harder than hard
when you're born so weird
but you come to see that
your soul is transparent
in someone's caring heart

in someone else's frame
there's a little bit of star
there's glamor in a camera
when it's filled with love
and the dance has begun
with a jig and a nod

and i'm not afraid
to play the fool and pretend
to be beautiful just for you
and i'm amazed as i see
the pictures you've shot and
can't believe it's me

(uniquely wrought)

samedi 25 octobre 2008

random thoughts on misunderstandings

each one unique
yet all the same
we break our bread
then lay our blame

offer up love
then hit the fan
overrated balm

i'm just a worm
lying in wait
for another corpse
on which to eat

forgive me
i'm slimy
a pestulance
of neo-psychology

each one unique
yet all the same
we lay down odds
to frame a debate

one is rich
and one is poor
we feast on lore
grapple with god

educate ourselves
about the cold
put a sweater on
and just shut up

i've had enough
of deep division
i'm going fishing
in a frozen pond

maybe i'll sleep
perhaps just nod
as beautiful souls
turn into frogs

i'll steep myself
for a second time
in lore's bright colors
and poetry's rhyme

forgive me, i'm
but a ranting log
replete with bugs
and dessicated wood

i'm outside in
and leftside right
i'm torn asunder
by frozen blight

each one the same
yet each one unique
opening blithely
closeting the cheek

trying to belong
aching to be better
with horses naying
and rag-a-tag weather

i'll put me to bed
wake up, try again
but i'll never quite get it
will i, dear friend?

each one the same
each one a god
we'll die before
we understand it all

lundi 20 octobre 2008

night, les vers

i wrote a version of this poem a year ago in paris and over this week have completed it. it's one of those rare poems that, no matter how long i rework it, i find myself dissatisfied. finally, i had to admit the reason: a long-standing grief.

when i was in college studying french and english, i discovered an amazing word in the french language, "vers". this beautiful word means both "lines of poetry" as well as "worms", and with this discovery wrote the most amazing poem in french that i have ever written, about a dead poet who cannot stop articulating "les vers", even as he lies beneath the earth and "les vers" pour from his mouth.

i was in a writing and conference at the time with jeanne bernard, the first french woman elected to the académie française for her teaching in an american university. madame bernard loved "les vers", and after we had worked on the poem for an hour, i returned in my youthful exuberance to give the newly penned poem to her as a gift but without keeping a copy for myself! this was in part, i believe, based on an old idea i held and practiced about writing: i would lie on my stomach in the backyard and pen poems into the dirt with my finger, one word upon the other, believing that all poetry, great and small, would eventually be distributed to the wind. i was probably right, but this hasn't helped the loss i've felt over that remarkable poem, my only recompense being that it was her to whom i had given it.

i've been trying to recreate it ever since without success. in paris, i decided that i would try my hand at a variation in english. while it is nowhere near the perfection of the first, i accept this poem for what it is, even as i must accept my earlier folly, and as the poem attempts to articulate, live with the eternal trials of a poet who longs for an earlier muse.

night of infinite hours

night sans sleep (again)
this no-dreaming pushes
away all the fight in me:

i opened iris bulb in lamp light
with blue and weepy eyes
i dug green shoots into
brown earth, lay erect

felt the cold smoothness
of les vers between my toes
lines of life, worms of death
that leave their trail of nutrients

i savored sweet and bitter loam
its tangy bronzed metals
burned lines into my entrails
i sucked in stinging rain

"Pluck, pluck"
the devil whispered then
and i on my belly tore at roots
like coarse and hanging threads

fragile and starved
and i was their cause
i'll pay any price
to assuage that sin

i'm not where i was
in the beginning

o i used to be much better when
les vers made felt their presence
i could find matter in the dark
and transcend any form

bridging bilingual
with infinite sibilants
like flowers strewn
on a beautified corpse

i was not afraid to die then
i dug in with horrific force
and made the earth
warm and pliant

la nuit me manque quand
huddled with thought
i swallowed red clay
then spit it out, blackened

o unearth my silent thought
break my bones
and shatter my heart
night comes, sans vers

naked and robbed
drenched, torn and cold
my blood no longer boils
with ancient song

a cold blank page
is all that is left
when the worms retreat
and the tongue grows deaf

and the earth opens up
and no flower can stay
when les vers retreat
it's forever day

mercredi 15 octobre 2008

the day my shit got fouled up

the day my shit got
all fouled up
i said, shit or get off
and got off 'cause
you can't straighten
out your shit when
your gut is removed
from your head

a bell went off
and i thought it was
time to bake a loaf
time for the risin'
to be riz so it seemed
but what seems is
not what i bought
or its origin

the pillbox was
hid behind a
bright coffee cup
the bell went off
and i thought
best not to forget
what? the bell
that goes off 3 X
per 24 hours

but today my
shit is all twisted
and the bell just
signifies any bell
and the pills still
sit in their stall
and i'm wonderin'
what the hell?

why is my shit
all fisted in my gut
why's the sound
of a whistle in my
ears and the pangs
of despair and the
fangs of pain
and the end of days

is the end of fear
shit, can't get worse
than this, can only
get better, like
"oh shit, i forgot
the fucking meds
again" and set the
little bell that
rules my world

dimanche 12 octobre 2008

Webster, Mass. - 1972

Shufflin' around this lousy town
I mixed with free radicals and crazies
left my dna in all the wrong places

Mother scolded me about the black
guys I liked, she warned me
mulatto kids have a very hard time

I strummed my guitar in the park
then played opposite Bonnie Raitt
asked her for a Kool and just saved it

Shy to the max and passive
Lots of guys had me and a few women
fancied me when I drank with them

One wrapped me up in her long red hair
made me sing like Bessie Smith
then winked, diss'n me 'til I kissed her

We'd sit in one of those throwaway bars
pretendin' to be older divas and dons
only to be thrown out for being loud

It was disco, Sartre and Frisco
It was dreaming of getting out
but it was not knowing how

Smokin' the last of the grass
we'd lie in the van, sweaty and hard
six legs and six arms interlocked

By summer I was a boy:
Lake Chagogagog was muddy and warm
I swam everyday, cut my hair short

then hitchhiked to Boston
It was a much bigger ride there
It was too big and I missed my friends

As the seasons changed
and the chill kept coming in
I mailed myself back to Webster

Over and over again
Over and over again
Over and over again