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I once believed
I had the right
to make things happen
even if they weren't supposed to

or that my will defined
what should happen;

Now I question
if I even have the right
to be here

for something
to happen.

Reading famous poets...

is like driving past mansions
in a rusty car

glimpsing in massive outline
a few striking details

a mansard roof, white columns
a gardened portico

the soft glow
of Palladian windows.

I'll never walk through those
oak doorways

or pass beyond those
wrought-iron gates.


find things that are
slightly profound
and write them down

perhaps someone reading
in subway darkness
will see a small light

Girl Reading at Shinnecock Jetty

walking by you
with all that is implied
in my slow, deliberate step
and your refusal to look up

you could be
anywhere by the sea

Odessa, Lagos, Hebrides
and I would think, yes
you belong just there


keen winter winds
leave airy skeins
musk of hot sand

childhood summer
an old story

casual, deep

of sea
of sun
the muffled crash of waves


when we're asleep
and visit those
who show us
what we love and mourn
and let us wander in the stream

think not that when the visions close
they follow us into the storm
as we to ragged flesh return

angels don't dream

In time's transparency...

I would pass through
sliding glass doors
onto a luminous green lawn
sloping to the shore
where breakers ride
and storm clouds race the sky
charged with bright edges

the world at hand
but seething in restraints--
like Tesla's lightning
as willful lover
at my lips
your breast

with all my imperfections on my head

pen leaking ink
a splotch
a blotch
my fingers

trail of
wrong choices
missed chances

forgotten lines
wrecked sets
ruined scenes

gaffes that should have brought the hook
except the Gods were
laughing too hard

"what have I given?"
what withheld?

firmly shoveled under
anonymous dirt

some grateful

Tropic Breeze

mosaic dance floor
edging into sea

barefoot in warm surf
fingers behind my neck
fragrance of hair
swaying into shadows

along the beach
waves rushing

all Brazil the sound box
of a blue guitar

and in New York
the breeze
is still enough

only my footsteps

in the morning silence

harbor flat
a faintly hammered glass

Icy shadows...

drift through moonlit branches
falling in cuneiform

ancient voices
starlight deities

syllables chiseled
in silence


When she took highest honors
at Stanford pre-med
youngest in her class,
I was a guest
of her best friend
my daughter
at her graduation dinner.

I told her beaming father
we had something in common--
beautiful, brilliant daughters.

His was crushed to death
in a car.

on a height
above the shining Pacific,
I read his words on her stone:

         Joanne Hsaio
Sunrise 1979  ~   Sunset 1999

Demeter Musing

O, now I see her golden hair
between the branches, on the breeze
vibrant in the summer blaze
yet cannot follow where she flees
into the forest of the air
lost among the leaves of days.

A coffin may enclose the dead
with silk and waxen lilies lined
and all the ceremonies said
but what I cannot understand
is why she hides and why I find
vermilion petals for her bed.

For August Kleinzahler

I don't feel the drama
as you do
the existential moment
in the ozone-charged twilight
under the el.

For me, it's just another
spring evening
no platform at Elsinore
no airport in Casablanca.

And who am I to
judge people as you do:

dolls hanging in rows
waiting to be jerked alive,
hard working stiffs?

I slouch about
reading in corners.

Still I wonder what fire
flows in your veins

and the price you pay.


as a jigsaw piece snaps
into its matrix
or a tool clicks
into its socket
her shape ignites


a thought that darts
into the world's mind


Pierrot in Drag, Cyrano with Bassoon

the old comedian
harlequin of costumes
wigs and rouge
hiding behind the mise en scene
a host of glittering shadows

winkle Him out
pin down His formulae
unmask His poems
learn how on the fly
He flings up sets
creates those fabulous
special effects
in breathless action

see if He knows
who made the world's

or why kids starve
men die and

however briefly



the dark, suburban woman
with her stylish clothes
and warm thighs

I'd travel a long way
to explore her vulnerability

but it's her fierce independence
that I prize


my house is in your mind
your body in mine

the gales of your mind
shake my house

the needs of my body
bend your mind


the man
stands in the foyer
of the Museum of Modern Art

before a wall
swirling with calligraphy

he sees the woman strolling
along the Picassos

he sees a café
with sandwiches

shuffling of feet
subdued chatter of voices

he wears corduroy pants
and a green sweater

the woman, an orange sweater
mauve skirt

he thinks of things to say
nothing seems appropriate

she moves through an archway
to another room

he wonders about Picasso
a tune runs through his head

he debates taking the subway to East 10th Street
or walking

he thinks about the café
sees another woman

places on earth
come back to him

the neighborhood
east of the Brooklyn Bridge
Manhattan side

Pitkin Avenue
near Tapscott Street

a life stretched
on a framework of hours

B&W Movie

in the old

outside a dorm window
leaves blow
in shades of gray

young men
in smoky sweaters
ashen slacks
banter philosophy--

in the easy energy
of their speech

their intense glances

the leaves
are green


how can we ever forget you
California of Hippies and Beats
love children, face paint and beads
of Be-Ins, Berkeley protests, Haight-Ashberry
and City Lights?

We wandered your hills from Larkspur
to San Francisco ocean-front
and down to Palo Alto, stopping
at Kepler's Books and Oasis Burgers
then over the Coastal Range and Skyline Drive
Campbell, Los Gatos
to Half Moon Bay, the caves
of San Gregorio;
then east to Salinas of Mexican restaurants
and San Jose and west again
to wharves of Monterey
where gulls rise in morning fog
to pace the fishing fleet
along the rocky coast
to touristy Pacific Grove
down U.S. 1
to Carmel Valley and Thunderbird Books
past Point Lobos with its twisted cypresses
to Big Sur where bacchanalia
echoed the woods
and restless spirits
fled on past Nepenthe
to lofts and garages in Santa Barbara
awakening before dawn to steer
old cars and motorcycles
south on El Camino in steady rain
to Venice and San Diego
on the endless road to Old Mexico

Love's Capital

you'd trade futures in love
invest in precious metals
hedge your moves

a billionaire at baccarat
trying to buy fidelity with pride
betting it all to hold me in a thrall
under a scope
a tissue on a slide

Croesus of love
just as it can't be bought
love can't be sold

unless it's freely given love is dross
dealing in love trades always at a loss

The Rescue Effort

a voice of thunder in the lines of rain

we dug through rubble five days
losing hope

a few survived
bubbles in the avalanche
reading and writing by an icy light

we call from opposite sides
of this sudden chasm

murmur of questioning
days go by

the air carries our tears

World Trade

ceilings buckle
walls implode
towers dissolve in smoke

the impregnable empire
shudders against the dawn

"This," you say, "is what
we have come to,
our lives
as small
as yours are large

worth nothing but the price
of your death

one will redeem the other."

after the towers fall...

we ask
what have you heard
from the inside
the other side?

walking amid the park
spring green

in tinker toy city
of alleys, basements, bars--

I can report
scratch of cricket
moan of mourning dove

no more the city
where we swam like fish
or the apartment
where you followed
charmed by my words
meeting in nakedness, even

as silver condors
soaring and serene
steered by prayerful madmen
home on our beacon
vectoring in

The Glory

we are nowhere
and here
we are part of
and gone
does anyone miss us
when we disappear?
does anyone care
where we burrow and run?

we are pieces
of future
and pieces
of past
surfing a wave
made of charges
and math
and we ask
what is now
and how long
can it last?

we bestride
the arena
are cheered
by the crowd
sudden is glory
the wave sweeps us on
then streams out from under
the glory is gone

Bye to Long Island

at fall's peak
leaves blazing
I bid farewell to friends
whose love I hope
never to lose

to wavelets
of the Great South Bay
and rolling billows of the Sound
which many a summer hour
I crossed in boats

to bike rides from
Sag Harbor to Montauk
Remsenberg to Potunk Point
over a maze of shining
ponds and streams

from beaches at West Meadow
and Smith Point
to distant Orient

from symphonies at Staller
recitals at Shoreham
films at Huntington
folk songs at Centerport
and festivals at Northport
to parties and poetry
from east to west

to all the loving people I've known here
hoping you will hold me fresh in mind
so I can return at times not as a ghost
but fondly like an uncle just breezed in
from Salt Lake, San Diego or Des Moines
with humorous anecdote and scary tale
a dreary winter evening to regale


like Carroll's Chesire cat
alive and dead

heuristic paradox
or quantum wile

the King cannot decapitate a head
't Hooft cannot renormalize a smile

we can hate and hate...

hurt and hurt
kill and kill
but the fact remains

we have all come from lovers
all searching for lovers
all estranged


the day is magic real
light so intense the foliage
opens inside the eye
the lineman on his pole
a demiurge

poetry is about poetry

it has no other subject

life is a useful amalgam
for casting poetry


they have a strange relationship
keep breaking up and coming
back together, they must have
broken up ten, fifteen times, sometimes
for months
till someone calls sombody
and they're back
in love again

Lowest Denominator

holed up
tapping a keyboard
jabbing a remote

actors for friends

my eyes still catch yours
on a crowded street
my shoe still sets my weight
against the world
my blood still flushes
this indifferent flesh

someone is here