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

 Marriage
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. 

ENVIRONMENTS

   House


Cold smoke

thickens

in the creamy light


clouds of steam

bathe the white room


hot house grapes

float in milky bowls


the TV

rains zombies



           Terror

intrusions and collisions

of time


wind blows down

leaves and bricks


in the absolute city

the inhabitants lie

listening

in glass modules


a red trolley

rolls into the cobble-stone plaza


at the end of the street

beyond the jungle


they swim upward


implacable


City

 houses lean in rows
beneath snowy skies


we are a desert people
a rock people

living in cells of light


the stone holds light
dripping
like a gourd


filling the courtyard
like a beggar
singing in a megaphone


 Finale


stonefish
antelope
salesman


searching the same ground


O heroes
wading to the violet dawn


we think of you

pouring tea
in firelit rooms

grim night falling
forever
about our windmills


Beginning


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

        I
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


        II

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 

Lessons

 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

        I
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


        II

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 

Tempo

 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
wind-chimes


swings, hammocks
cicadas
melting snow


and other

ordinary things


Sundial


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


Lotto


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