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.

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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.

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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

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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)

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She

lives inside  her head
somewhere around my heart
her head maybe  is my heart
or only maybe her teeth
puncture it

her feet sparrows balanced
on the inverse root of my cock
where sometimes
with a gleaming moonlight knife
she dances

sometimes
demure  she blushes away
from what I seem  sometimes
she bellies a raucous laugh
harpy crone coyote-woman

a splash of salted sport
over penile presumption
over pretence of potency
white lily red rose thorn she is
a drop of blood
she craves
the lesbians who trust me
she lusts  she

urges me in reluctant
pursuit of gay beautiful men
who flee  she is not
a façade a mockery a fey parade
Shakespeare in drag she is not
the sham she likes to say I am
she is the real thing honey  and oh
how her piano plays that honky-
tonk that estral rag she

is an isthmus of reality
where all that is left of me
must tread if not to wet its feet
in the tide  vestigial backbone
impaling screw  scarecrow skeleton
that my true love body
doting
flaps upon

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April fool’s meditation

I.       Merlin wandered hickoried hillsides,
Ceridwen’s pig his wild last companion,
his grunting beloved  and pignuts
rooted within his brain
till writhing cerebellum birthed
relentless words piled end-on-end.

A torrent of phrase haunts all sleep,
has climbed its banks and washes
over muddied rocks  the slippery stumbling
of toes on a path

where hickories grow
out of Merlin’s brain

II.      In medieval Russia there wandered
peasant monks who could not put one word
before another  rough-robed and barefoot
surviving on begged black bread
“Fools for Christ” they were called

on their lips an endless prayer
a circle bound of words

to banish words
a wilderness of words
that might otherwise lead
a spiraled ladder upward
out of mind

III.    There is madness disguised
that skulks behind the words
of popes and princes
and poets and paupers

and there is madness
such as Merlin’s
that brings us finally
into the companionship of pigs

IV.    And pigs shall lead us  in slow
and grunting time
to Cernunnos  antlered and oak-crowned
seated yogic at the World Tree

whose supple limbs are fruited
with the stars  whose tap-root
reaches into Ceridwen’s core

the maelstrom of formless words
and worlds
where Merlin fell
and falling  found
all things
finally
possible

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ear of a blackbird

I want to talk to you
I want

you to talk to me
you to talk to you
you to hear me
I want

to hear

there are thirteen blackbirds
teaching
Wallace Stevens to fly

thirty thousand poets
wandering
in a blackbird’s eye

I want
you here

I offer you these:
deciduous clavicle vitreous scapular
candescent ventricle constellatory nimbus
plexus: cervical brachial solar lumbar sacral
sacroiliac sacrosanct epiphanic coriander coniferous
vertiginous antiphonal juvenescent ascender
polyandrous zygotic phylogenic philogyny—

there are more, of course
not all can be recorded here
these are essential

blackbirds need none of them
blackbirds
can fly

poets are rapacious
a glittering
in the prism
of a blackbird’s eye

to listen
to hear
requires these words
these, and their sisters, their brothers
and the breath between them

all rolled into night
into soft and vibrant
into dark shimmering
into fluttering
silence.

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In god’s kitchen,

you can’t quite see over the top of the stove.
It’s old and a little rusty, looks like someone’s
great grandmother’s stove, it should be burning wood,
from the cast-iron look of it, but you know the trees
in god’s backyard are holy so it doesn’t seem right
to ask what’s burning inside the stove,
but it’s as warm in this kitchen as coming inside
in the fall when the new-dug potatoes are baking.

God’s an old white guy— and yeah, I know
that story’s old, too, older than god, so to speak,
but you don’t understand, I don’t mean it like that—
I mean white, like snow on the first morning.
If it weren’t for the planes of his face
and the shadows they make, you’d see
nothing at all, you’d go snow-blind looking, so I guess
the difference between god and a good snowstorm,
is a little bit of bone and muscle underneath the skin,
or the way light plays off them.

White, white, white, is what you see; the only color
is in his eyes—but I can’t tell you about them
it makes me dizzy to try. And I keep saying “he,”
because he has that kind of look about him—
sort of rugged, you know, but a little broken-down—
and there’s the beard, because that’s what’s expected
of him—but still, I don’t really know about the “he” thing.
The truth is the Christians’d probably call him a faggot
if they weren’t so busy being afraid of him; he’s easy, a little
soft, somehow, more like somebody’s mother
than they’d just as soon think about, but I don’t really know
about that either (the faggot part, I mean)— we like to say
this gender thing’s just a human idea, that god’s above all that,
but believe me, he’s got it, all right, gender, I mean,
got more of it than you can shake a stick at,
it’s just that— well, there’s nothing you can call it.

So anyway, I was saying, in god’s kitchen,
with the holy trees talking secrets to each other soft
in the backyard, and the ragweed growing out
around the back stoop and going to seed
and the Michaelmas daisies peeking in the back door,
you stand there just inside, looking around
kind of careful, and god busy with what he’s doing
at the table by that big stove, doing something you can’t quite
get your eyes to focus on, and god looks up
from whatever it is—looks down, really, because like I said
the stove is so high you can’t see over it, and the table
likewise, and even after you take the proportions into account,
this dude is tall, you know?—

so finally he looks over at you, says, “Hey!
What’s up?” and then you think maybe that big
scruffy cat that just slipped out the back door past you
took your tongue along with it, because your mouth
just doesn’t seem to want to move, but god just says
“You want a cup of  _______?” and somehow
I can’t quite tell you what the word he uses is, or what
it means, exactly, it’s kind of a word you never heard,
but soon as he asks, you know that Yes, that’s exactly
what you do want, and so he reaches over to the stove
for a pot of something steaming there that you hadn’t noticed
until now, and pours you out a mug of it, and it smells like morning
lying bright and easy over summer grass after a hard rain
when you’d just had a night of really good sex
with somebody that’d just come out of nowhere
making you feel like everything
that had ever been wrong was all of a sudden
going to be alright, and afterwards you lay
skin to skin in the dark curve of the night
just breathing and listening to the storm coming

and when you drink it, it’s like there’re these glyphs
that are tattooed on the inside of your skin
that’re suddenly visible, telling you who you are
and why you’re here, and just then the cat comes back in,
rubbing against your leg as it goes by,
and then you speak—I can’t even tell you now
just what those words are that you hear yourself speaking—
I’m just telling you the truth, with whatever words
I can pick up off the ground now and dust off to use,
that words are spoken. What matters, and what I remember,
is this: that when he hears you, god laughs
a great big river of a laugh
up out of the belly of the world
and when you hear that laugh,
you smile, because just like that,
you get it, you know?

and you turn and walk away,
down the rickety steps
past the blue daisies and the thistles gone by
with the goldfinches gone to heaven, and
the ragweed and the lanky grass, you go out
through the trees that nod and stop whispering
for a minute, their heads bowed to one side,
listening with you to that laugh
rolling out behind you,
and you walk into the underside
of the forest there, under dark hemlocks
and through the tall ferns,
till you come back to here, to now,
tired out,
but ready
maybe

to start again.

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Cows will dance

Prose piece about “coming of age” during the Viet Nam / Kent State era (click here)

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Genesis 3

Snake was the nakedest creature in the garden.
The smartest, as well. Snake said to Woman:

“Is this for real? Did God tell you not to eat
from the trees in the garden?”

“We eat from them all—every tree in the garden—”
she said, “except the one with the pretty fruit,

that grows in the middle. God said
if we ate from that tree, we’d die.”

“Na-a . . .” said Snake. “You won’t die.
God’s afraid; god knows,

if you eat from that tree, your eyes
will open, and you’ll be gods too.”

And her eyes opened. Just like that.
She saw. She saw delight;

saw joy in that fruit. A dark worm
too, curled around the pit, but still,

what’s to say? Simple. She ate.
And eating, looked into the heart of God.

She saw the first lie, progenitor of all lies:
beautiful garden, dark worm curled.

She called her man, and fed him
the fruit, and O-oh, it was good.

It would be so easy, after this.
They’d lie to god, first—

he had taught them, after all; and they
were gods too, now. Her man

would lie to her, and she to him;
they’d lie to their children,

and god would lie to them all,
again, and again, and again.

And she and her man
would go spinning outward

into the chaos
of a hundred thousand years

of lies. But Snake was no god,
and Snake would never lie.

And for that, they all
could hate him.

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