Transgression: 1967

 The scene : School bus: guerrilla warfare in the high school jungle. Smalltown Vermont. Depression and McCarthy are only now fading together. A wife is still property,  faggots are fair game. The farms are dying fast, the boys leaving; Viet Nam a patriotic war that’s coming home now.

The cast : Steve: class president, consummate athlete, whose intelligence and art are focused entirely on perfecting the highest level of sarcasm. Goes steady with the captain of cheerleading team (this is 1967, after all), but all the girls are wrapped around his so-to-speak finger. Debbie: neither part of the popular crowd, nor not. She is a being unto herself. Yet sits with him because Barbara Cheerleader has her own wheels, doesn’t need to ride the bus. Debbie is short-haired dark-eyed a mystery of silence to: Me: child of alcoholics, intelligent, viciously angry, silent, romantic poet; an athlete’s legs, farm-boy’s shoulders and between, a sensuality of girl’s curves. The rest: “underclass­men” (and further-underclass wo-men); silent, faceless: witnesses.

Debbie has just left Steve’s seat, moved to the front of the bus for her stop, next after mine. For the first time ever, I notice the swaying curve of hip as she brushes past. I rise to exit as she sits.

Steve calls out loud: “Hey Nick, Debbie thinks you’ve got a cute ass.” (remember the year, the place. we do not say these things. we do not.)

Debbie turns, caught inside a secret that has a dark shell and pink interior. Pearls that have just been cast. Cheeks burn a high quick rose. Eyes weld to mine, challenge, will not let go till I am past and off the bus.

Steve: laughs: coyote, hunting.

The rest: titter: nervous birds.

My cheeks are hot as hers.  I hate myself, that he has touched me once again.  I long to turn, and deliver over finger raised some withering repartee.  My buttocks are hotter, rising to her gaze, longing to be parted by her—or by him, with her as silent eager witness.  Jewelweed in late summer sun, opening to the hummingbird’s beak.                          How the nectar flows.

Steve, today: mildly successful salesman for an inconsequential company. Kitchen cabinets, perhaps. Still some tired charm, the anger gone, the edge dulled by liquor. Me: the poet remains; the athlete gone. Ass gone sadly flat, like an old tire. Debbie: lost, returned to the shadows she came out of. Her name, forgotten, is a fabrication for this account. I never spoke to her, not once, nor she to me.

yet her eyes dark fire  that locked would not release        
the glow that rose up the cheekbones they make of this        
prose even now some thing that writhes that will not stay        
within its lines.        

Leave a comment

Filed under gender, poetry

Morningpoem: 1

in the high dawn
faint yellow over orange
a shiver of wind through bare branches
a thin gasping cry

the woman downstairs
is coming  or
the man downstairs
is killing her  or
there is no one downstairs

or a dream

is slipping through the cracks
in the walls of night slipping
into
my day

order
dishevels

birdsong
sunlight

a faint humming
through the timbers
of my house

Leave a comment

Filed under poetry

Nightpoem: 1

A singular weightlessness
pervades the existence I call my own

endless chatters of doings float
through a bedroom window

softening them: a lullaby of rain-mist
still a hundred doings not done

sort themselves, settling: ballast
to hold the float-away pieces

weight against muscles limbs
inclinations that stretch outward

weight that binds neck to shoulder
head to neck  here to now

birdsong to day-star
these bindings  and then

a knife of night to separate me
from my trivial bones.

Leave a comment

Filed under poetry

Koshuiti 2

word is elegy to what it signifies
                                        —
Robert Hass

word is not word
but portal

essence is passage
to a land where water walks
on silken ears

Where, in this,
does beauty lie?

she lies
with a swarthy beast named Word,
passaging together
portal into portal
the burden of essence

silken ears, silver tongues
are barks
that walk on water

bestial essence
is the burden
that floats the word
on fields of silence

what is this
I speak to you, or you
to me? silver tongues
swimming
through silken ears

Call to me
out of silent fields
when you arrive.

Leave a comment

Filed under consciousness, poetry

Yes

after Rumi

 

Just say it.
Say it now, say it quick;
don’t dissemble, pretend
you don’t know
what you know you know.

Speak. Speak quickly;
speak your knowing;
sing it to the dancing shadows.

You know, you’ve known,
in the marrow of your bone,
in your fingernails, in your guts.
in your hair, your sweat,
your shit.

You know, you’ve always known
since the first time you said “no”;
since before, when you were a sperm,
swimming, an egg,
waiting.

Since that moment
when the stars exploded into being,

since you heard the air
whispering to the cedars.

You know, now.
You hear it,
in the singing
of cicadas.

There is only one word
of which the universe
is sinewed:

“Yes.”

Just say it.

2 Comments

Filed under poetry

Harlem summer

—for James Baldwin

on the twenty-ninth of July, 1943
         —your father died.
         —his last child was born.

his funeral
         was your nineteenth birthday
         Harlem exploded, a wilderness
         of splintered plate glass

the journey to the graveyard
         was a black-hearse silence
         in the unquiet
         the ruined streets

see him even now: a dark deep face
         in the window
         betrayed by children
         reaching toward the world

the streets swelled like a boil
         people moving in every direction
         against you, every face white
         gleaming in the night

a big-bellied man grabbed you
         began to beat you
         you kicked him and he went down
         your friend in your ear: “Run!”

it would have been better
         to have left the glass
         in the windows
         it would have been
         intolerable

Harlem needed
         something
         to smash

3 Comments

Filed under General musings

First Words

I have long believed that writing is a shamanic art. The earliest spoken language must surely have been poetry, because word is metaphor and voice is music, and where these are combined, poetry begins. In its written form language must have been developed as a magical art of shamans. The intrinsic power of writing remains today, and like other shamanic arts, it is one by which the multiple realities of our existence may be understood and integrated, an art through which reality can be created or altered.     (more)

Leave a comment

Filed under prose