Tuesday, October 25, 2011


The Ecstasy of the Sculptor Steiner

I would turn my skin, so fair and pale,
into something beautiful (not macabre
or historical) like papyrus
and write there the truth: I live in fear.
Tiring fear! that soon, or now, something near
will turn dark, with a minimum of fuss,
and no turning back or show of power.
With death so close, my skin should be a sail.

--after the movie by Werner Herzog
Steiner was a wood carver and a competitive ski "sailer".
The ski sailers of the 1970s flew far beyond the
artificially constrained limits of Olympic skiers.
He's currently a gardener in Sweden. The lucky stiff.
We've never met -- the voice in the poem is fictional.

The Right Stuff

Beyond a certain point, atmosphere fails --
as its own skin fails the salt burned child --
until the gasping jet chokes on nothing
but freedom pursued to a sacrificial end.

The siren sounds our hurry to descend:
a welcome home of skintight fire, distant bubbling,
and desert quiet intent on being mild.
When we are done, a single echo wails.

In the movie's penultimate scene, Chuck Yeager
crashes in the desert an experimental plane by flying higher
than a mere jet could go.
Another Icarus.

Q & A w/ Tiresias in Hades

-Which was worse? To change your sex or lose your sight?
-What’s Sex? Women have clung to dreadful men
From the start. And men only love to have their way.
As for sight, what’s worth seeing so many times?
What was worst was to know God’s crimes
Before He chose to wreak them, to wake each day
and have the long-seen future repeat again and again,
Swarming out of the sun and turning day to night.

October 11, 2011
Several months ago, I read one of those weird internet polls -- if you had to switch either your race or sex, which would you do? Nobody said they'd switch sex. Poor Tiresias did -- rather he had it changed for him -- and then had 2 kids as a woman. When the gods changed him back to a man, he screamed at the sky, "Pick a lane, you bastards!"

The Grouper and the Bat

The Bat, the grouper half-explained, could not look down.
-Look down? the other grouper asked, his mouth an O.
-For fear of falling, you see. The other didn't.
-In my dreams, he screams in terror. -Yes, I see.
-It's instinct, not desire, that makes him go Eeeee!
and open wide for the bugs. -Could you give me a hint
about the bugs? the other asked. -You ought to know
I can't shake the feeling I'm about to drown.

Love Poem

I believed you all & I still believe
& each belief begat a girl. Oh, yes!
Tonite there isn't time to lie to or seduce
the blonde upstairs, a California nurse
who smiled & listened & cued & worse:
all of it a dream, straight from Dr. Seuss,
as if she were an egg & and I was less
& there...I want to be young & never leave.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Lost in the Fun House


I remember when all I had to do was read
to you, pat your back as you slept, make a face,
silly noises...when my nonsense didn't need sense,
and the carnival of my love was all.

Now you're camped in your room down the hall,
and when we pass, it's like strangers across a fence,
and my sideshow of faults is empty space.
I should have known that love isn't all we'd need.

1. Storm from the Gulf

The wind flattens Nellie's fur as she herds,
her back to the land, the gulls above like kites.
She doesn't understand that birds won't pen,
and won't leave and don't complain. They sing
the storm closer -- caws and effect. Rising
tide waters bring the junk in -- sardine tin,
magazine cover, fishing line: delights
like the answered prayers of empty words.

2. Comedy and Tragedy

Rain blew up against the condo's shingles --
the storm a placid placer miner, clearing
us out for the gold of holding this place alone.
But we hunkered down and got a video:
The Thin Man, Charade, something we know
enough to love, something loved for being known,
the last summer before child rearing
became child losing, parents as lonely as singles.

3. Beauty

You dawdle like every teenager -- mirrors
and the world look back like you think you look.
One minute like a ballerina poised upon an egg,
next the egg, waiting for the crack to come.
You are, of course, beautiful, as winsome
as any woman a father ever loved, but you beg
me to say nothing, and so I don't, and write a book,
full of the words I've never said and all my fears.

4. Generation

Slugs beset the roses, leaf rot and root rot,
even the bees are dying -- a menacing aphid
undoes their wings. A social insect with no place
to go. My prayer for you, whenever I pray,
is that you'll live a little more each day.
This one day is all we get, one little race
we run, one plot in which our flowers are hid.
For you, my dear, here's one forget-me-not.

Teenage years. What would we do without them? Much better now.

Friday, October 14, 2011

News Reel: Raising All the Boats

The fresh dead along the shallow Irrawaddy
From the cholera in the wells. A flash of silk
Waving from the tied-up junks, and a buffalo caught
In mud, his rope lead taut as the foam churns.
Further down, we chase smoke where the peat still burns
And fly west with the tide where the battle is fought
Against a nemesis as old as mother's milk:
We must burn the past to feed this morning's body.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Peasant in the Woods

Li Po built a life away from Life.
Away in the deep and lonely secret places
Where his work was almost swallowed
As he passed. He stole a life and then a wife.

A dullard from a place she’d thought remote,
She soon shrugged and shared the hollowed
World he’d built, ate his food, raised new faces,
And one night, while he slept, she cut his throat.

12/20/2010 12:05:13 AM
Heavily influenced by the Robert Calasso book
"The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony."
The elemental foundation myths of Greece
are of rape and betrayal.
With AGW, we'll get a chance to check that out.