Poems 1990-1995


Tarot: The High Priestess

she is explosive growth
the birth of stars

avatar of fire
fusion of gametes

hers the dense islands of the sea
fruited by equatorial heat

the hanged man swings
awaiting her pleasure

crazed dancers
clashing tambourines

she is the triple lightning
shattering the tower

the seven swords
piercing the soldier's breast

Women on the Beach

Indeed, I look too often and too long
I peek, I glance, I survey, study, stare
At breasts stressing the print of a sarong,
Heads turning in a tangle of brown hair
At thighs shading in stride to deeper dark,
Revealed, concealed by veils whipping in air.

So set the sentence for my sins
To blind, imprison, scourge or flay.
Orpheus and Lot's wife will be my friends
In Hell,
                  I cannot look away.

The Going Rate

Not for love
But for a son,
Repays him in
Compound disinterest:
Contempt, avoidance
Passion withheld.

A quarter century on
A Niagara of invective
Bursts its bounds.
She shrieks eunuch! bastard! failure!
And drenches him with shit
Before his son.

So every lie
In coin of equal weight
Is paid in full
And at the going rate.



Cold smoke
in the creamy light

clouds of steam
bathe the white room

hot house grapes
float in milky bowls

the TV
rains zombies


intrusions and collisions
of time

wind blows down
leaves and bricks

in the absolute city
the inhabitants lie
in glass modules

a red trolley
rolls into the cobble-stone plaza

at the end of the street
beyond the jungle

they swim upward



houses lean in rows
beneath snowy skies

we are a desert people
a rock people

living in cells of light

the stone holds light
like a gourd

filling the courtyard
like a beggar
singing in a megaphone



searching the same ground

O heroes
wading to the violet dawn

we think of you

pouring tea
in firelit rooms

grim night falling
about our windmills


Starting from here
Where the green-rustling leaves
Are almost too brilliant, the air
Almost too clear.
Where cool breezes on warm skin
Evoke an aching loneliness and need.

Starting from here
Where the machine
Replays the voices of my son, my daughter,
My lover, my ex-wife.

Where night-lights play
On moving waters.
Where gleaming pleasure yachts
Ride at anchor or chafe in their slips
Quiet voices drifting from soft-lit cabins.

Starting from here
Where I am fifty-eight
And skilled in nothing
Accomplished not at all
Still writing commonplace verse
Still falling in love,
Yet buoyed by the feeling
That it is yet the beginning,
That one can be reborn
Slay the dragon
Rescue the maiden
Cure the Fisher-King
And find the Grail.

Called from the Poetry Conference to the Hospital

how time
always moves
toward the consummation
of style

how words shape feelings
from the deep history
that shaped us

how they bridge the rift
between the temple of art
and the emergency room
where all the nuances of technology
glassine plasma sacs
stainless machines with glowing readouts
green screens etched with flowing graphs and numbers
serve the young woman in shock-trauma
the guy who broke his neck diving
my lover's son with torn lips
and a deep hole gouged in his back
by a convertible top

and how these poems are buried
in books
you can't even give away


hunter in brake or stand
zeroing on the prey
rifle along his hand
still as the summer day

aligning in squinted eye
barrel and beating heart
a suddenly stifled cry
marriage of death and art


archer in darkling wood
circling on his prey
deer in the shadow stood
still as the summer day

aligned in a squinted eye
arrow and beating heart
a suddenly stifled cry
marriage of death and art


singed wings
teach moths
the lesson of the flame

agony finds insight
or goes insane

there is no end to learning
or to pain

An Apology...
                             For Sue Barker

...for the interruption of
our conversation.

God, the magician
Sent Tim,
A clamoring distraction,Behind which you vanished
Like a palmed coin
In flying fingers

Before I could say
How beautiful and eternal
In star-chaste black
Reciting under floodlights

You appeared.


If I encountered
In an ordinary shop
Across a table of books
The Goddess

With deep-gazing eyes
And marble brow
Beneath a sea of black
Of golden hair,

Gold lariat
Coiled at her belt
And diving knife
Strapped to her calf,

A lasso to subdue
A blade to slash
The rotten from the clean,
Could I survive

Would I become the sacrifice?


days don't foreshadow
selves unfolding

wrongs beyond redemption

the desperate instant
love withholding

haunts us
for a thousand years

Apartment Houses

walls of dream

how far
far back

words echo
against brick

Thirty-Four Years Ago

it was incidental
that the park in opal dusk
unfurled young leaves
or that a kid with a guitar
serenaded some girls
or that Phil Rosen and Jack Brewer
leaned over the stone chess tables
watched by a guy with a patient shepherd
on a leash
or that I bought a large orange
at a pushcart
and gossiped with a friend, covertly
eying the women

but it's what I remember


Beneath the troubled surface
schools of spearing
fled the marbleized shadows
hunted by gulls from above
Snapper below.

From the aimless drift, rose
the red eagle codex
the dragon book
with diagrams of crossbows.

You dropped from the clouds
eyes like lanterns, skin
folding to foil--
a falling star.


not in your speed-up time when everything must be done and won in
passionate seconds now now now and whatever beckons to go next always
frustrated and vexed on the verge of breakdown meltdown crash and smash

but normal time...

where you're not obsessed
with missing
your prime
and don't feel pressed
can let months go and flow
rhythm of roof-rain
swings, hammocks
melting snow
and other

ordinary things


rust filigrees
frozen statuary

scarves of graffiti
trace a garden wall

we are surviving
but the clock is running

sleeping and sunning
we fear it will run out

before arriving

For Ionesco

as I speak to you
hair sprouting from scalp
beard, armpits, groin
fingernails lengthening
skin flaking like snow

I am a flowering grotesque
a mere cartoon

a mass of cells
warring, propagating, dying
so I can stand here quoting Nietzsche
who was crazy

even for a human being

Lost Destiny

I could play winged Mercury
Apollo, Jove
fight regiments, scale
stormy battlements, seduce
the coldest beauty
in the tallest tower

save for the imp that follows
taunting me
my nearest demon, my abiding fear

that I will forget my lines


I buy a ticket
with prizes at outlandish sums
knowing that mathematicians
know nothing's truly random
in an indeterminate universe
outside Plato's Las Vegas
and if Providence rolls the dice
a dollar's still worth a dream

Gargoyle Song

I am a gargoyle
I gargle
with motor oyle
I glare from the roof
I'm missing a toof.

I'm not very social
I don't get emotion'l
but it would be cheerful
to give you an earful

so come be a star-goil
and kiss an old gargoyle

Why We Failed

we tried to climb Everest
no tent, ice-ax, or sleeping bags
in tennis shoes

struggled half-way up
before one slipped
spun into yawning blue
(or maybe just let go)

I don't know who

Mood Piece

wet leaves pile on sidewalks
pavement reflects street lights
steam films the windshield

we are driving toward daybreak
the jet pink trails of sunrise

accompanied by the long
low notes of a cello

a blue heron's
single leg

laved by ripples
wakes of ferries
and fishing trawlers

exhausting their force
to lift a tress of eel grass
stir a stalk