Frederick Jackson Collected Poems

 

 

Sacred and Profane

 

 Portrait of the author by Patrick Manning (2004)


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 In loving memory of my dog Joey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Introduction

 

It is a pleasure to publish my work in such a medium as this, that affords a writer an immediate and direct access to a world-wide readership (at least potentially), something that would have been impossible only a few decades ago.  It is a Godsend for unknown poets.  My work is presented here in three parts: Early Poems, dating from 1964-66, Later Poems, dating from 1996-2006, and Recent Poems, dating from 2007 to the present.  The thirty year hiatus in between my early and later writing was due to several factors, chief among which was a demanding career in science (I have a Ph.D. in physical oceanography).  My early poems were self-published in 1966 under the title The Stem of One Colossal Flower and were sold in several bookstores in Greenwich Village.  One of these poems, “My Phoenix Dozed”, appeared in the poetry quarterly Athanor (New York, Spring 1967)*.

 

My poetry moves between the sacred and the profane with unabashed ease.  Indeed, it is at the core of my religious sense that these two poles of the human moral compass are both planted in the same holy ground, that they both subsist in the same (pen-?) ultimate Reality.  It is in the disruption of the free flow of spirit between these two poles of human experience that so much sexual perversion, religious fanaticism, and pornography results.  My feeling about this has not changed since I was young.  I expressed it in “My Phoenix Dozed” in the lines

 

when there is no more contradiction

between the Mystery and the Movement

 

Nevertheless, some readers may find some of my poems (or parts thereof) too frank for their taste.  Out of respect for these readers, I have marked with an asterisk (*) any poem containing language that might be considered in the leastwise offensive.  Of the poems I have earmarked, only one -- “Brisa” -- is bawdy from its inception.  The poems are arranged here more or less chronologically, both the early ones and the later ones.

 

_______________

*Athanor (MS 97), University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries. Special Collections Dept.

 

 

 

Early Poems, 1964-1966      Later Poems, 1996-2006      Recent Poems, 2007-

 

 

 

Early Poems, 1964-1966

 

SOLSTICE   I AM A LOVER IN A BASKET   (For Bob)   1/52 TIME *   WE ARE   NOW THE WELDING BLIND *   OUTSIDE THE CHICKEN-WIRED WINDOWS   MY PHOENIX DOZED   ONE WEEK'S LAMENT OF A LOVE-STRUCK SALT   THE MONKEY'S TRICK   O MIRACLED AMERICA, WHAT ARE YOU MAKING?  

THE SIGN

 

 

SOLSTICE

 

Snow caught on branches

     Bare 

          Shoulders

Tumbling hair

Rare, this love, like it would melt

When summer came

And run

     Lazi-

          ly

              down

                   the

                        drain.

 

New York, 1964

 

 

I AM A LOVER IN A BASKET

 

I am a lover in a basket

my lover keeps me there

when-

ever she ent-

ertains visitors

(it's a wide wicker one

with a top).

 

I coil about inside

when-

ever my lover

takes to tea she says

to me, "you'll only frighten

the company,

          so please!"

 

It's not too bad really;

I can even peep outside and

see my love curtsey and

          smile, and

listen to their dis-

course, so fine and yes, re-

          fined.  But

at mid-night they leave

(tired, brown and brittle)

and my love (see her fly!)

          comes

to uncover me, ent-

          reatingly.

 

 

 

(For Bob)

 

Poor symbol of peace

Your pain

Like fettered falcon

With talons of ten broken arrows

You are

Asymptotic in your grasp

To glory and its grail

And forever damned as Tantalus.

 

 

 

1/52 TIME*

 

Now, the month's quartering is compulsive,

The moon's menstrual flood is dammed.

 

Now, the week is a knotted sphincter,

A sterile organ crammed with paper.

It stops the song;

It passes gas with clocks

All the long year

And hangs on the orbit string

Where fifty-two eunuchs fling

Hairless heads

Into successive buttocks

Precisely spread

Around the palace floor.

 

 

 

WE ARE

 

We are

Octapodal.

Undersea blue

Collimates axial,

The stem of one colossal flower.

We are

Concentric.

And undersea Orion rotates

Through the ink of our eyes.

 

Spent and salty

The nights of epochs

Fossilize.

We are not small-eyed whales:

We bob on necks

Thirsty to reconcile

The sun.

 

 

 

NOW THE WELDING BLIND*

 

Love I cocked a time-bomb in your belly.

In one crimson coming I met you bull

And marked the calving time.

Now the welding blind is bitter.

These dissecting days diminish nights

Of musk and rough anvil meeting.

Love has spun beyond our bargain

And turns slow marble in time.

 

April 1965

 

 

OUTSIDE THE CHICKEN-WIRED WINDOWS

 

Outside the chicken-wired windows of D's place

Time stopped to find itself

An old woman stumbling

Through the canyons of my creature,

The millennial shawl of night upon her shoulders,

A boy beside her with a looking‑light;

All bent among the soup cans.

 

Inside my ticking gut, clocks cry for an end to revolution

Where time dies

Or is born in the bowels of creation,

Still as the city;

As my instant blood across Manhattan

From still wine to sleeping woman.

 

In the cathedral of my frescoed skull,

A crooked hand directs the dull gaze of a catatonic boy

Cold in the climate of a photograph,

Where image is ultimate;

Where freedom is longing and the looking glass

 

And I am dumb to lose dimension.

 

In this alley-world, the young will not demand

What old women search for

In the dead-dayed dreams they wear about their necks

Like bent birds they killed at dawn

Or the yawn of a woman wet with time.

 

 

 

MY PHOENIX DOZED

 

I

 

In childhood,

when Mystery spoke

through the mirrors

of my clouded head

of zeros split by zeros

and of all things being

the products of dreams,

my Phoenix dozed,

feathered in a child's fancy

in an ageless tree,

in the puzzled branches of my longing bones;

marked the days in null time,

clocked the nights by Pharaoh's oxen

whose obedient turns

through the moon-struck sand

provided life for the wanting land;

time would be for the bird to rise,

not in the Mystery

of spirit, but in the flesh,

unleashed and beaking,

fresh from the grave,

from the tomb of my eyes --

my eyes, sewn to the petals of roses.

 

II

 

That time that would be is come:

it is manhood,

signaled in the cock's brain

when the yearning yoke that bleeding youth

wears about its neck

cracks like the dawn,

shatters and flowers

in the rising of woman,

in the resurrection

that is the consummation

of desire; when

somnolent days are eaten

as the bird shall eat

of the petals of roses;

when there is no more contradiction

between the Mystery and the Movement;

when I can build no church on earth

to God who is the holiness

of all things fired

in the burning second,

in the hour of my sun;

nor can I forge wingless Phoenix

for Peter on the stone: --

no, not when woman is the rock on fire.

 

Pacific Ocean, August 1965

 

 

ONE WEEK'S LAMENT OF A LOVE-STRUCK SALT

 

One week, my love, 's'no gulf o'time.

It's just that this ol' ship's so slow

I'm lookin' at you eight behind.

An 'though I'll see you soon, you know,

This time's so tough, it's achin' so.

 

Panama, August 1965

 

 

THE MONKEY'S TRICK

 

Between your skin and a pinprick,

Love's set to hiding,

And time, the thief of monkeys, quits;

Leaves love abiding

In stupor wrought with senseless fits,

These nights confiding

In dreams the bunched monkey's kick.

 

-- Between your skin and a pinprick --

That close to grief;

No comfort in the eyes of night,

But dark relief

In stark time turned dumb, and the light

Of your belief: --

My dance of needles is the monkey's trick!

 

Chesapeake Bay, September 1965

 

 

O MIRACLED AMERICA, WHAT ARE YOU MAKING?

 

This 7 o'clock on the Chesapeake,

I see sooty Vulcan

Spread his carbon wings;

Through the mills and chimneys

Of Baltimore, he sings:

"From ashes to ashes forever..."

His labor spills

Through the shipyards and timber docks

Over suburbs and Niggertowns

Where children play

And old folks squint at strangers

Through the evening paper.

And Europe's bastard,

Industry, frowns

And goes about his business

This 7 o'clock on the Chesapeake.

 

Baltimore, September 1965

 

 

THE SIGN

 

Our intransigence

of doubt

is pendulum

and metronome to Proteus

 

is intelligence

as arc of muscle is

and leap of firebrand.

 

The sign

is belief in minus

 

and consummation

momentary

as forever

our sweetest salts

and flowers

deliquesce

in universal ether.

 

 

Top of the Document

 

 

Later Poems, 1996-2006

 

THE WATERWORKS *   (To P) *   (To Caroline on the day following her birthday)   ECCE HOMO! *   TO CAROLINE ON HER ANNUNCIATION   UNDER THE FALL   WALKING AMONG THE DEAD  .FOR MIKE’S SAKE   BRISA *   BABY ISA AND THE BLANKET   THE BEAR AND THE CROCUS   THE INSECT   GEE-LEE’s PLACE   GHOST-LIMB *   ALTERNATE LIVES   FORTY TIMES I WEPT   POETS SELDOM …

 

 

THE WATERWORKS

 

Part I Epiphany (For M.)*

 

I wish I could describe the moment

I first pulled her panties down below her hips

     and exposed her whiteness

          and her dark brush.

 

In this moment she was glorified.

 

 

Part II Youth and Middle Age (To Me)

 

You know my eyes were opened several years ago

     and I nearly died for the beauty.

 

It was then that I first saw the light in the faces of the young.

 

It was then I became middle aged.

 

 

Part III  The Fire Plug (To the Fire Plug)

 

But it was only this past summer that my eyes actually touched

the white-painted dome of the green-painted fire hydrant

     in the bright sunlight

          outside

by the loading dock where I would smoke my cigarettes.

 

And I was so wonderfully filled with gladness and love.

 

 

Part IV  Salvation (To Joey) *

 

My dog is so beautiful and soulful

I think that maybe even you might appreciate this thought I have

that if I could truly love my dog then I could truly love.

 

But this will never happen

if I am so preoccupied with thoughts of salvation through love of him

that I fail to take him for a walk; a shit;

for a good sniffing of and pissing on the tree or fire hydrant of his choosing.

 

 

 

 (To P)*

 

Entering you, madam,

I am become mad in the asylum of my choosing.

 

Embracing you, dear one,

I know His tender mercies.

 

Loving you, my lady,

Is not I think a willful act of mine

But God's grace investing us,

My animal and yours.

 

 

 

(To Caroline on the day following her birthday)

 

Yet just be perfect in this one thing:

 

Do not smile.

 

And as surely as the day follows the night

And as surely as a man is drawn to a woman

 

You will smile.

 

And when this happens, I tell you, Caroline,

The angels will make their habitation the corners of your mouth

And their music will issue from your lips.

And God will smile with the pleasure of being through your eyes.

 

 

 

ECCO HOMO*

 

I.  L'Allegro

 

Noble and glorious... Is this man?

This self-esteeming sack of shit,

This walking, talking, witless twit,

This self‑adoring crumb,

This wailing fan of TV sports, this morally bankrupt bum?

Why, you just ask him and you'll find

That like a strumpet on the can who's straining her behind,

Who does for dollars in her bed any man she can,

This boorish man doesn't give a damn, he doesn't give a shit!

So tell me, tell me if you can,

How noble and glorious is this man?

 

II.  Intermezzo

 

We do not kid ourselves, do we my friend,

For we know man's score at the very end

By what he's earned along the way of grace

And by what he's lost in pride of place.

 

III.  Il Penseroso

 

Noble and glorious -- this is man,

This humble sack of shit!

Indeed, my friend, nor you nor I possess the wit

To honor him, or take his sum

When the end of all his days is come.

Nor can we reckon at the end of time

Just where he'll be, this bag of slime, this work sublime!

For this man, the spawn of stars, ingenious seed of Adam,

Who from darkness comes to suckle tit

And wrest the light from Lucifer, this man

Is the Lord of Love and nemesis of Satan!

 

 

 

TO CAROLINE ON HER ANNUNCIATION*

 

You tell me you're an angel;

I tell you I'm a dog.

Not that I am proud of it;

Nor am I ashamed.

Nor should I think you to be

Proud of your estate,

For we know what your fate would be

-- Whose company you would keep --

Were that to be the case!

Oh, Caroline, what were you then

When the world was founded?

I still dream of the days I was a frog

Singing hosannas in the bog

To our Lord most high.

And I still haven't figured out

Just why I was promoted,

Why my croakings

In a joyous chorus

Under the light of a Permian moon

Were not enough for Him

To whom I sang my praises.

 

          *****

 

You tell me Caroline

You're from Arcturus.

I tell you I AM Sirius,

Dog Star,

Brightest in the heavens,

The very soul of Lord Osiris.

And like Anubis I am ever faithful

To Him who gave me ears to hear with,

Nose to see with,

And a lolling six-inches of

Tongue to wag.

Yea, I am faithful unto death.

(And by the way,

My dear Caroline,

Who's to say whose heart beats faster,

Whose breath is sweeter,

Who's more loyal to his or her Master?)

Oh Caroline, you do not know the joy

Of sniffing crotch!

The pain of being stuck

In a man's body --

O evil smelling creature that I am become!

For this man I am become 

Is too dumb

To know God's pleasure

Is in a howl and a yap

In a croak and a slap

Of waves against the log I sit upon.

 

            *****

 

My spirit is so ancient

I WAS before the world was made.

I AM the genius of the glade,

The nova and the nebula,

The very tooth and tongue.

Oh Caroline, why am I stuck

In this man's body

When all I want to do is howl?

To sing His praises,

To hump a bitch,

To smell your crotch!

 

            *****

 

Oh Caroline, you taught me

I make my own reality. 

And so I would now go to sea

To live on moon-swept waves,

My soul to raft on the blackest deep

Under night-skies clouded bright

With His eternal light,

My rendezvous with Him to keep --

As man as beast as star as ME.

And whether part or parcel of

Or solitary

Be I dumb or sentient,

Just let me lick the crumb

That from His table falls,

And let me hearken to His calls;

And let my barking heart rejoice

IN THAT I AM His faithful dog!

 

Alexandria, 1997

 

 

UNDER THE FALL

 

(I want to go to the well and drink;

With my beloved I want to drink.

To the waterfall I want to go;

With my beloved I want to go.)

 

Under the fall she dances

With droplets sparkling about her;

With tapered hands upraised

And feet immersed

She gambols in her whiteness.

 

Under the fall we dance

And take delight

In each other’s company

And in the nakedness we chance

To one another's sight.

 

Under the fall we stand

The one before the other

Our veils of separateness removed

Each by the other's hand.

 

 

WALKING AMONG THE DEAD

 

Walking among the dead

This warm, late June night

The fireflies surprise me,

Astonish me with their bottled light.

 

There! just up the cemetery path

Beyond the black mass of a bush

I see the host of little lights

Disport, unmindful of my ambush.

 

Fairies! I think; or, could it be

That these are the souls of the dead?

(And might it be Midsummer’s Eve

That such nonsense moves my head?

 

And yet) I walk with a lighter tread

Than last time I was here

For then I had a friend with me

And moonlight showed our way.

 

(Early June it was then

But seeming like October

The way the mist in the moonlight

Hovered, as it would on bog or fen.)

 

Tonight my only company

Is my dog beside me; and when

He’s not, but is off upon his rounds

I've comfort still in familiar sounds.

 

For the moon is down and darkles

The cemetery ground, and forms

That all around me loom

Of headstone, bush, tree, and tomb.

 

          *****

 

Prayerfully now I stand, head bent

Upon their dark, green bed

In spirit, or in wordless prayer intent

To hallow them, these dead.

 

And comes to me that past

Is present in these dead;

That I, as if already dead,

Am present in the future.

 

Whence the kinship that I feel

With all those buried here,

All those who've rested here

These past two hundred years.

 

          *****

 

For some time more I stumble through

The blackness of a moonless night

Treading lightly with my dog

Unawares that now the ground grows light.

 

For a large orange moon

Has risen in the east.

It floats for just a moment

Above the darkling brow of trees.

 

A sign, I take it, my vigil's ended

And a seal. a seal upon a vision,

One granted me as a boon, I think,

By a grateful dead.

 

Branches gnarled and intertwined

As dense and intricate as old grape vines

Reach out from either side of me

To touch the ends of time.

 

It is a vision of my soul as being

Mathematically transformed;

So soul, I see, is nothing more than

The proper function of my being.

 

As heart's dove, soul’s so very small

(Therein to be contained); but when

Transformed and unconstrained

She fills all space and time!

 

My soul is like a cosmic tree

Whose branches span eternity.

Ah, sweet dove, your secret’s out:

You are the tree you occupy!

 

Alexandria, 1997; revised 2006

______________

Note:  In mathematical physics, a "proper function" or eigenfunction is a solution of a the (linear) equations describing a physical system in the absence of external forcing, and which is used as a basis for constructing the solution in the general case of applied forces.  As such, the eigenfunction (or set of eigenfunctions) represents the "soul" of a system, as it contains all the natural oscillations, or resonance’s, of the system.  In frictionless systems, the resonances, or modes, will have infinite temporal or spatial extent; for example, the sine wave that represents the response of a rung bell.  The mystical understanding that all (God) is contained in a point so small it is “lost in the Gnostic’s heart” (the actual quote has it as His “throne” that is lost) mirrors the physical and mathematical understanding that perfect physical law is universal (One); and that therefore the Godhead resides in a point; that the (Fourier) transform of such a point function is a uniform spectrum of (sine) waves spanning all space and time.  Additionally, one cannot help but think of the wave/particle duality inherent in the nature of the photon and all matter as well.

 

 

 

FOR MIKE’S SAKE

 

Day by day I see the clouds grow across the blue Gulf of Nicoya.

To the northeast, a lone towering cumulonimbus now sits in the afternoon sun

Like a wedding cake, resplendent in serried hues of pink and gray.

 

Puntarenas lies that way, I think, that poor city that was once a busy port

Whose only paying traffic now is in despair – a little sport fishing –

And the occasional ferry passenger.  Mike is over there, alone and indigent,

 

Mike, whose gnarly nose was broken ten times (he said); who told me of Mussorgsky

And his great love for him; how Rimsky-Korsakov would induce him to compose

By shutting him within a room with just the right amount of booze

 

And of his birth in Sicily in 1943 (the same year I was born)

To a father in the Wehrmacht; of his construction business in Boston

Now long gone for drink and (roomfuls of) hundred dollar whores in San José.

 

I think of how he told me this as we sat at 3 a.m. outside Hotel Helen

A can of beer in his large, capable hand, the two of us together smoking cigarettes

By the still warm and filthy curb, inhaling, drawing in the pungent city air.

 

Will it rain soon, I wonder.  For Mike's sake.  Too poor in spirit

Or too reverent to voice, even silently, a prayer, I let it lie within me.

Better this -- inchoate, unformed -- I think, than stillborn and dead upon my lips.

 

Eventually the rains will come and there’ll be dancing in the street.  But now

The cattle thirst, the peninsula is parched, and the mosquito breeds in stagnant pools.

The sand is warm beneath me and mercifully it does not move.  God knows

 

My life so shifts about me!

 

Montezuma, 1998

 

 

BRISA*

 

O Brisa! long-legged, tall and lean,

you stand your corner like a lioness!

There, beneath the street lamp, dress

hiked high upon the thigh (its seam

 

Distressed, near bursting, I would guess)

you move within the pool of light

impatiently, dramatically, as if the night

were stage and this a film noir scene.

 

Unforgettable, the unexpected sight

of you, at the acme of your stride

hip forward, calf extended;-- oh, wide

is your gait as you restlessly pace, O queen!

 

Not for you, because of your pride,

the crowd of far less attractive whores

who, too, ply their trade out-of-doors

but on the corner opposite.  Too mean

 

For you are these, whose nightly chores'

performance your fastidiousness does lack;

who lack the courage and the grace, the knack

you have for setting terms, serene

 

In the knowledge that never on your back

will any sordid, venereal contract

be consummated willingly;-- not while the act

may be performed in ways men deem

 

Lubricious, and unhygienic contact

still avoided.  As well, for rapid egress

you know it's best to have your dress

entirely on, no matter how it seem

 

To one who pays a callousness;

for, ingress may by ingenious ways

be had, despite the corset and the stays

or their modern likes, impervious as neoprene!

 

(Or, Brisa, are you outcast for your ways

that so distinguish you and set you apart

from the vulgar company?  Too smart

for them are you, so victim of their spleen?)

 

O mistress! it was chance, the start

of this, our brief relationship

and short and sweet it was the courtship

that I paid you.  To boot the green

 

Was right at USD 30 and the tip,

most certainly, was well-deserved

so artfully was I served

by red hibiscus lips and body lean!

 

Not chance, the second night I nerved

myself to seek you out again

O Brisa, passing by again

the others standing there -- a team

 

Of mules compared to you!  And when

I saw you standing as before

upon the very corner, once more

it seemed to me it was a dream!

 

Que lastima! How I would adore

to doggy you again, O Brisa!

this time not to come con prisa

but to err the other way, extreme

 

In vigor and duration, O Brisa!

that I might exact full measure

of the sensual, the carnal pleasure

that such congress -- to some obscene --

 

Brings to a man in need.  No measure

of praise I can bring to you suffices;

for here, too, fail all my devices

my canny use of words not keen

 

Enough to pen your vulvate virtue

or paint a picture of your mien

so leonine, so worthy of esteem: --

a picture worth the time with you!

 

Oaxaca, 1999

 

 

GRAVITY

 

Couples bound by mutual attraction,

Whether basely so by sheer inertia,

The massiness of years,

Or whether purely so by the truest love,

The passion of their tender years,

 

Will not have their orbits budged

By so much as a feather;

So cannot sense what the solitary do,

That strange pull of gravity

Exerted by all things upon the naked soul.

 

It is the lover who alone does long,

Who, by fortune mean or mercy rare,

Is left to God's peculiar care,

A derelict, bereft, awash upon the tide

Of love, and sailor-bait for Sirens' song,

 

Who hears the call of all things Real,

One to another, that through all nature

Sounds; who feels a strange attraction to

The objects in his view.  Nor comely must

An object be to exercise its spell on him;

 

For, a worn and blackened pavement stone

Or a simply crafted stone bowl, a parrot's

Yellow piercing eye, or a leafy frond

With a sunbeam on it; all these, alike,

Can draw this lover to.  Think you,

 

Perhaps, it's but the image of his soul

The lover sees reflected in these things

And mere illusion it may be this bond

Of gravity he feels; that like Narcissus

Espying his own Beauty in the pond,

 

His heart aches only for himself;

That any love requited

Is only Echo's gift,

And the only gift of God he knows,

Unyielding Reality?

 

But if the wind should blow

Upon Narcissus' pond

And make his image go

Into a thousand pieces,

Will his love then multiply

 

Among the multitudinous facets,

Or will it die?  Oh, there's a test

Of what this lover truly feels!  Just see

Whether, like his image, he is shattered,

And, like a drunkard, moans and reels,

 

Or whether he, God's own, survives

To make room in his heart for all

The multiplicity in Things;

To know the bonds of gravity he feels

That these are his myriad wedding rings.

 

 

 

BABY  ISA AND THE BLANKET

 

For Sheikha Fariha al-Jerrahi

 

Four dervishes, Fariha,                        Dervish: A mystic lover of God, often a member of a

in hearts and souls allies,                      Sufi order or tariqat  From the Farsi “dar” = door

hold corners of this blanket

on which the baby Isa lies.                     Isa: Jesus in Arabic

 

It is a vision pure and true

that I wish to relate to you.

It came to me in dhikr circle               Dhikr: From dhikrullah, or “remembrance of God”.

when last I was in Mexico.                  Dhikr is at the heart of Sufi spiritual practice

 

As I sat with Suleiman,

Abdul-Azim and Aisha,

there before my inner eye

I saw the infant Isa lie.

 

Naked he lay, the holy child,

on a blanket of pure energy;

in the air he was suspended

by the love we all extended.

 

Both were the identical hue,

the baby and the blanket; as

pure energy they shimmered,

iridescent pink and blue.

 

Just imagine and you'll see

the baby and the blanket.  O

see how they shine so bright

in the tekke's subdued light!               Tekke: Turkish term for a dervish meeting hall

 

Now, in spirit, we all did hold

a corner of that radiant cloth;

yet, only I was conscious of it,

its awesome beauty to behold!

 

Neither Aisha nor Abdul,

who as Mariam and Yusef

might be cast; nor Suleiman,

who, likewise, as Magian

 

Might be cast; none

of this dervish school

was blessed to see but I

this vision of the Chosen One.

 

Nor to anyone but me,

unbeliever and blasphemer,

idiot of God, whom

you know by his flower,

 

Which is the red hibiscus,

fell the task of telling you,

my Sheikha, of this miracle,               Sheikha: fem.(?) of sheikh: a (spiritual) leader

this vision pure and true.

 

O my Sheikha, well do I know,

that in the tariqat I'm no adept;            Tariqat: Turkish rendition of Arabic tariqa, used

yet, I would ask you to accept             to denote a particular Sufi order, or to mean the

this, your humble servant's story!       mystic path in general

 

Perhaps it will endure,

this telling of my vision pure.

Perhaps illahis will be sung                 Illahis: Songs,, or hymns, sung during a dhikr

by mystics under other suns,

 

Members of the Tribe to come,            Tribe: A reference to the larger Sufi community

progeny of precious tariqat!

Gone will be the hill of Arafat             Arafat: One of the several hills around Mecca

in time, but not the will of some

 

To worship Him, the Source

and Substance of the universe.

He may be like the holy child,

innocent and mild,

 

Or furious and wild

as Isa was that day

when from the Temple Mount

he chased the wicked ones away.

 

For He is All;

Allah is His Name.                              Allah: God; etymologically related to the Hebrew

He is the Manifest;                             Elohim

He is the Hidden.

 

There!  Habib has said

what he set out to say!

So now pray for me, Fariha,

and utter me a Fatiha!                       Fatiha: The Sura Fatiha is the opening verse of the

Qur'an.  It functions in much the same way the

Say to me: "Rejoice,                            the Lord’s Prayer does in Christianity

for you are with Allah!"

Say: "Whether today

you breathe your last,

 

Or whether you live

to outlive your past,

just say: 'Hu, O Thou,                         Hu: Literally “thou”, but used also by Sufis to

O Breath of Creation!”                        signify the Divine breath

 

_______________

Note:  Sufism is a broad mystical stream that flows within Islam.  At the core of Sufism is the sense of the unity of  being.  The Sufi poets Rumi and Hafiz have become well known in recent years from the popular renditions of their work.

 

 

 

THE BEAR AND THE CROCUS

 

On hearing Naziri sing Rumi

 

forsake me not my friend

for if you do you know

I'll be the one forsaking you

 

cold and dormant you'll then lie

within my icy breast

waiting for some spark of change

 

to change the climate of my heart

you'll wait until the time is come

or wait until I die

 

you may be patient as the bear

that slumbers through the winter

or maybe as the crocus is

 

that itches for a thaw

when yet a snowy winding sheet

enwraps the earthen body still

 

*****

 

your son's not dead you know

but merely rests

waiting till it's time to rise

 

and greet the wedding guests

he rests upon his stony couch

waiting for the bell to ring

 

(ding ding)

 

announcing the festivities

the hymeneal feast

will someone now bestir him please

 

and tell him that the music's started

the new wine's poured

the wedding guests are all arrived?

 

the women at the postern gate

are showing signs of restlessness

one of us must make a move

 

or they shall die of grief

in the blinking of an eye they'll die

for a love they know 's impossible

 

          *****

 

will you bet whose move it is

the bear's or the crocus'?

would you bet your son's inheritance

 

on such a dicey outcome?

I know that when you choose my friend

what you will

 

will be done

but where's the fun

in knowing moves ahead of time

 

o subtle one?

enough it is the game is yours

the rules your own invention

 

why load the dice and stack the deck

when cheating is a sin?

nor counter me it is but venial

 

for that's only if you're mortal

you my friend are a special case

and death remains an option

 

o friend this game of intellect

grows tiresome

and is hardly worth our breath

 

so let's return to where we were

when this dialog began

when we were speaking with our hearts

 

of denial and divorce

of icebound hearts that break

the fastest of all friendships

 

shall we talk it over now

in a quiet corner

now before the dancing starts

 

and things get rowdy?

let us while the table's set

and the good wine yet pours

 

 

 

THE INSECT

 

My cherished human beings

who long to become truly human…

 

Lex Hixon

The Heart of the Koran

Meditation on Sura 2 Ayats 21-25

 

How generous your heart O Lord

that you should cherish this

your vain and impudent humanity

for in this one insect is a beauty

far beyond that which I find

within the breast or outward form

of much of humankind

 

See him as he sits O Lord

upon my upturned finger pad

inspect him: marvel at his form

its primitive economy

how much more raw and simple could it be

this narrow little triangle

perfectly isosceles

but 3/1000 of a meter

from its apex to its base

and his color: toad-like brown

with stripes of blue upon the sides

a blue like lapis but blacker still

and slightly iridescent too

consider his spirit O Lord

just ask: does it presume to own

the very ground it sits upon?

 

What inspires you to love my Lord

this vain and impudent humanity?

perhaps it is because we're toys -- new toys --

and like all boys you love to play with gizmos

every day is Christmas Day for you 

among whose countless playthings

are reputed to include

18,000 worlds of pretty galaxies

bright galaxies of worlds

of mountains plains and seas

worlds of flying crawling swimming creatures

leviathans and dwarfs

monsters and men

 

I see you charmed by all the sights

that meet your open eye

the myriad bodies of medusae

afloat in azure water

big-horn sheep in mid-leap

sparking from their flying hooves

echoes flying crag to crag

I see you look with curiosity

upon the hearts of men

how bloody red with discontent they are

while golden green and serene

are the hearts of artichokes

 

And on your birthday

you've got cherry bombs and firecrackers

to celebrate the day

what a great big bang they make O Lord

enough to take you all the way

from here to kingdom come

I can imagine reflected in your eyes

a zillion galaxies of stars

how bright-eyed you must be on Christmas Day

to see your presents sitting there

beneath so-many a Christmas tree

 

See you now this jackanapes

parade about the parlor floor

how like a little nutcracker

made of wood and paint he is

how proud he is to be a man

so central to your cosmic plan

what is it Lord that fascinates?

what keeps you playing with the little ape?

I think it more than curiosity

in what you make

in what presents itself

to bright expectant boy's eyes

I think you have an eye to growing up

and the prettiness you see in galaxies

and bright enameled toys

is in your native heart a sign

that beauty must enchant you

 

Perhaps you see potential here

in the little ape

for beauty unadorned

a beauty past desiring's end

I your little ape have seen it here

among my humankind

a beauty barely hidden

easy to divine

a beauty manifest I'm sure

somewhere on this good green earth

in deserts cities forests plains

if you'd only look to find

 

To Sodom you sent angels

looking for a righteous man

your son you sent to Bethlehem

looking to redeem us

now send a legion of your angels

and your Ideal Son

and have them look among my kind

for the Perfect Ones

a man and woman pure of heart

and keen of mind

as perfect in their outward form

as in their inmost being

but two among the many

who alone redeem us

are reason for your mercy

 

Make a present to yourself

of these Perfect Ones O Lord

put them in your treasure box

with your marbles and your jacks

your nebulae and quasars

and all your other precious finds

I think you'll come to cherish them

in the course of time

perhaps enough to keep them in your purse

till time has run its course

and perish this the universe

 

 

 

GEE-LEE’s PLACE

 

To G.L.

 

…’fink i'll take me down t' Gee-Lee’s place

'n' get me sumfin good t' eat

sumfin ’s ’ll fill m’ stomach an' stick t' m’ ribs

sumfin ‘s so mouf-waterin' good

y' can taste it jus’ by finkin' 'bout it

now i ain't talkin' only taste here

-- now you listen brover what I be sayin’ --

'cause Gee-Lee’s food is food dat feels good in yo' mouf

 -- 's got what dey call textcha --

an' lemme tell ya he got diss way of mixin' 'n' matchin'

y’  meat an' greens an' grits an' all

like dey's a jammin' combo d' way diss morsel an' dat

o' what he servin' a 'ticular night

-- what he call hiss blue plate special --

dey play togever if y' catch my drift

an' dem helpins o’ whatever

dey look good next t' eachuver

jus' like ' fine lookin' brover 'n' sister dressed up da nines

goin' t' church sun'ay mornin'

o' maybe gettin' married f' d' very first time

if y' ain't been t' his 'stablishment down on Florida an' U

maybe you seen Gee-Lee anyway

' got dreads an' soul like'd the word's meant t’ be for

-- sh' -- i mean real soul

an' a real good smile too

good lookin' brover an' ladies' man anytime he want t’ be

but he spend most hiss time cookin' an' fussin'

so 's t' make folks feel comf'table like

like dey was royalty o' somefin’

o' jus' like dey was back home wif d' family

sittiin' down t' dinner on a long win'er sun'ay af’ernoon

d’ sunlight streamin' in gentle like frough win’ow panes

t’ain't been washed ta impress no one

an' yo' manners come easy an' natural like

like d’ food dat come from y' mamma's garden

 

…what i be sayin' now?... oh yeah

it's like i can taste hiss good cookin'

anytime i wants jus' by finkin' 'bout it

yes suh

like right now i can taste hiss catfish sandwich

all battered up and fried

so's all da li'l' bones ' so soft doan matter

-- sh' -- jus' doan taste it but feel it on my tongue

an' up on da roofa  m' mouf

ever' li'l' morsel like a alphabet letter

jus' crunchin' an' poppin' an' slippin an' slidin' 'round in d' mouf

kinda like dey was a playin' games wif your mind

much as wif d' taste buds on yo' tongue

 

Cap'n Ahab Took a Fish  'e Isn't Supposed t' Have

 

…see what i mean?

how dem letters kinda tickle up dere on d' roof a’da mouf

especially wif dem li'l' doo-hickies da letters got on dem

an' hows dey make y' fink about jus' whatcha eatin'

so's y' doan jus' sit there lookin' like a dumb cow

chewin' it's cud not finkin' 'bout nofin' 'cept maybe

cow heaven an' how much clover it got dere 

now doan get too excited brover

'cause 's not like d' food always spells it out f' ya

jus' what it be an' where it come from

but sometime it do an' den it tell its pedigree

' can't say dat 'bout da food y' get in restaurants

an’ carryouts these days

'cause mos’ ta time it taste da same

fish chicken poke doan matter

it all taste the same

den Gee-Lee ‘s got some good iced tea

help t' wash it all down wif

an' some fine home baked pie like strawberry rhubarb

(whish be my personal favorite)

iss 'bout d' best yo' gonna get any place

dis side o’ da Mason Dixon line o' fo’ dat matter

any place y’ can get yo' saggin' ass to

wifout spendin' all yo' bread on a tank of gas

yes-suh

' goin' take me down to Gee-Lee's place

an' get me sumfin good t' eat

 

_______________

Note:  My language here is inspired by what little of Deep South Black dialect I recall from being there many years ago.  It may be mixed with some Northern idiom for all I know.  As well there may be some plain “malapropisms”.  And I am not sure how far my speech may depart from standard “Ebonics”.  Please bear in mind that the poem is simply a spontaneous expression of my admiration for a fellow poet’s work, where somehow food became the appropriate metaphor for the sustenance I found in his verse, and a Black vernacular a natural medium of expression, since he is Black and was raised in the South.

 

 

 

GHOST-LIMB*

 

Nothing… Nothing can compare

To this embrace of empty air.

Arms, lips, and warm moist loin

These I know, are familiar coin.

But this!  What commerce

Or dynamic of the universe

Is served, supported

By this token of your love, reported

Fruit of (painful) intercourse

Among the saints, reputed source

Of being, this pregnant emptiness

So vast and unsupported, this fullness

Of the beggared heart, the empty bed?

You are no like or opposite to wed.

Nothing to see or touch.  Instead

Like a ghost-limb remembering

Old cells and ganglia, offspring

Of the severed self, you come

To fill the air between the sighs

To make whole again one

Who, in the night watches, cries

Who has no mate, no inviting thighs.

 

 

 

ALTERNATE LIVES

 

It is raining now, and as I look

At the stores’ marquees in front of me

Something like nostalgia strikes.

A change of season, a turn in the weather

Will do that.  Sometimes it recalls

Our childhood; but it may summon also

Ghostlike memories of lives

We’ve never really lived.

 

It always seems more circumscribed

And comfortable

Life in these alternate lives.

Like now:  It is as though I’m married

-- Not happily, but contented --

And all my universe were centered here

In this shopping center, in this car

And my heart didn’t have to travel far.

 

April 2004

 

 

FORTY TIMES I WEPT

 

Forty times I called your name and wept

Because your name is beauteous.

 

Was it you or an army of the righteous

I pointed to across the Ganges plain?

 

Your chords instructed me to dance.

I am Shiva, but I have only two hands.

 

I am a unicorn.  My horn

Is a bridge to you across the sands.

 

 

 

POETS SELDOM …

 

Poets seldom in their subtle art

Grow old gracefully; rather, start

-- Sometime past their 22nd year --

To write so artlessly it could tear

Your heart.  It seems as if a vital gear

 

Once whirring with all its sprockets sharp

Had been stripped; as if Homer’s harp

Had lost its strings, and all worthy things

And sentiments, all truth the poet sings

Have no accompaniment, so hollow rings

 

His call.  If at all he has an eye

Or heart, great truth or beauty to descry,

He fails in mind to identify, and his ear,

Enfeebled, hardly hears the spinning gear

His nature winds, or the falling of a Muse’s tear.

 

Pray God that I upon my 61st year

Find my harp strung, that the work begun

When I was twenty-one will have lost none

Or little of its vigor in the interim

Of drunkenness, and a long career.

 

 

Top of the Document

 

 

Recent Poems, 2007-

 

THE BRONZE FROG (short)   THE SONG OF JUAN SINMIEDO   (For Sobiah Nawaz)   THE SOUNDS OF LIFE   THE BRONZE FROG (long)   IT SOUNDS LIKE RAIN  DISSOLUTE UNION  THIRTEENTH STREET  THREE HAIKU  CYNTHIA  LAS HORMIGAS  SPARROWS   OAXACAN EVENSONG  TO MY FRIEND JESÚS -- IN MEMORIAM   WEEP, WEEP, THE GOLDEN WHEAT   WHAT’S YOUR HAPPY?   WALKING AMONG THE DEAD (short)   MY FATHER TAUGHT ME

 

 

THE BRONZE  FROG (short)

 

I think the happiest thing I’ve done all year

Has been to buy this green bronze frog.

 

He sits atop my toilet tank

Where daily he greets me

 

With sparkling black glass eyes

And an eager, wide-open-mouthed smile.

 

Now every time I go to take a piss

I share in his felicity, his bliss.

 

 

 

THE SONG OF JUAN SINMIEDO

 

In all the world there is no ass sweeter than my own;

For you to find his match, señor, him you’d have to clone!

 

See him as he stands demure, his burnished feet so close;

You’ll see why it’s hard for me not of him to boast!

 

His eyes are sloe, his coat is thick, his mien beatific.

Oh, when we’re apart it hurts! Aiyee, it’s like I’m lovesick!

 

Each day I wake I wake with joy to know my burro’s here

For with him I have a livelihood, free from want and fear.

 

Oh, how I love him so, my dear, dear Conejo!

Together you may see us go round about the pueblo

 

Stopping at the likely spots where tourists may be found 

Who’ll pay to pose for a photograph, mounted or on the ground.

 

And what a picture he does make, with garlands gaily freighted

And upon his close-cropped mane, paper flowers plaited!

 

His saddle blanket’s brightly hued, his saddle finely tooled;

To me he’s like a princely steed, caparisoned and bejeweled! 

 

The day be done we head for home and a currycomb.

I fill his manger with fresh oats and hay that’s newly mown.

 

The other night I had this dream, of God it was, not men:

I saw our Lord upon an ass entering in Jerusalem.

 

A swelling crowd hosanna! cries, when in the ebb and flow

Lo! I catch a glimpse of Him upon my dear Conejo!

 

_______________

Note:  Juan Sinmiedo, or Fearless John, is an epithet by which our subject is known about town.  The epithet seems to have been inspired by a popular story and television series (in turn it would seem based on the Grimms´ tale).. I can only guess how our hero feels about this  (I was reluctant to ask him).  The burro’s name, Conejo = Rabbit or Bunny.

 

Puerto Vallarta, November, 2007

 

 

(For Sobiah Nawaz)

 

Oh, daughter, go, fetch me a towel,

Wet it, and place it on my brow.

The day has been long and I am weary.

I’ll take my rest here in this room

-- The one beside the rose garden --

The one your mother loved so much.

 

Look, the eastern mountains blush

As a maiden might at a suitor’s touch 

Purple and pink the distant crags

But red the nearer rock faces

A red that calls to mind the blood

Shed daily now across the land.

 

Ah, a cool draught, a breeze I sense

Coming from these selfsame peaks.

(The air there must indeed be cold

To hold its freshness to the plain.)

Come, my daughter, and sit by me.

You are fair and gladden the night --

 

The night and the rose-scented air.  

 

_______________

Note: Ms. Nawaz is a native of Baluchistan, the province comprising south-western.Pakistan

 

 

 

THE SOUNDS OF LIFE

 

Such authority in the slamming of a door

Such competence, it’s truly hard to ignore!

The sounds of life are jarring and they mock me

For I cannot write a single line of poetry!

 

 

 

THE BRONZE FROG (long)

 

I think the happiest thing I’ve done all year

Has been to buy this green bronze frog.

 

He sits atop my toilet tank

On a hand embroidered table linen

 

Where bride and groom in loving stitches

Wed amongst the flowers.

 

Above this tableau

 

A red paper flower’s hung

By its green wire stem

 

I’ve wrapped about the copper water pipes

Protruding from the bathroom wall.

 

The verdigris’ applied, I know,

It’s been produced in a chemical bath.  So?

 

Only a purist or a prig would care 

Just how long it took for the green to get there!

 

The frog’s insouciance is irresistible.

Every day, no matter how I feel,

 

He greets me

His black glass eyes a-sparkle

 

His broad head lifted up expectantly

His mouth agape in an eager, ear-splitting smile.

 

Now every time I go to take a piss

I can’t help but smile and share

 

In his infectious bliss.

 

Puerto Vallarta

November 2007

 

 

 

HAIKU

 

(The Mourning Dove)

 

She lifts her small head

Her wet beak ablaze.  A sun

Beam pierces my breast

 

(The Reluctant Samurai)

 

Time I write haiku

Battle over, daimyo dead

Not so: lose my head

 

(Banderas Bay)

 

The curve of the bay

Is like my bey´s scimitar

Beautiful, cruel

 

 

 

DISSOLUTE UNION

 

I want to drink

Till every molecule of me

Is dissolved, rent

Reduced to more elementary forms

-- Amino acids, atoms, ions --

All afloat on a simmering sea of lipids

The nondescript color of vomit

(This I somehow strangely envision)

Every particle of me a smiley face

Looking up at me

Absolutely, divinely drunk.

 

 

 

IT SOUNDS LIKE RAIN

 

It sounds like rain

The rat-a-tat-tattling

Outside my bedroom window

 

Or is it the wind I hear

Rustling the dry leaves

And clacking them like castanets?

 

Or scissoring the palm fronds

-- Rasping them --

Like a locust its hind legs?

 

The advance of the light

From the corner of the nearby rooftop

Suggests it is a star I see

 

And that the night is clear   But

The branches of the tree outside

Never do seem to move

 

And the cool draught that now pours

Through the open window

Insists it is the rain I hear 

_________

Note: Puerto Vallarta has a dry winter that extends through May.

Cool downdrafts are associated with raining cumulonimbus clouds.

 

 

 

THIRTEENTH STREET*

 

(For Dee H.)

 

The spics sleep on thirteenth street

Their jungle bongos beat …in perfervid dreams

Of rut and rot, of purple mountain tops

And breaking glass.  Toward Avenue A and up

Up the blank-eyed tenement walls I look

And I own it all, the city and the night, the light

Enhaloing the streetlamps, the still warm asphalt

The fretwork of fire escapes, I own it all

 

Behind me a few doors, San Sebastian

Twists in agony in his gilt cappella

His hermaphroditic plaster form pierced

By a dozen well-fletched Roman arrows, his gaze

Through the store-front chapel’s plate glass window

Imploring, piteous, ecstatic.  And next door

My own apartment the year before the plaster

-- Like my youthful pride -- would buckle and fail

 

Dee, I loved your lisp and how you said

The first line of this poem The sthpics sthleep...

I loved your body and how you looked in jeans

How the springs of the folding bed would complain

As loudly as that AA Wendy bitch

Across the dingy sounding board of a hall 

And Bach on the bare old Zenith by the bed

And the warm orange light of its vacuum tubes

 

Spare as a monk’s cell I imagined it

My apartment, no stockings, no woman’s evidence

As callow and ascetically inclined I was

I was lucky to have missed the eye of celebrity

That that pot-bellied poet-pederast of Tenth Street

Never wrote a poem for me entitled

“Gimme Yr. Ass Boy” not among his best 

If there were any best after his youthful Howl

 

And dear Kim, who quit Balanchine

Before she was fifteen, and Roger, the seminarian

He was as close I got to faggotry

And proud I was, not that I was stiff

And he limp, but that Mother would not approve

…The spics sleep on Thirteenth Street …

Indeed, I envy them their sleep, their dreams

For what I loved and lost on Thirteenth Street

 

New York, April 1965; Puerto Vallarta, April  2009

 

 

 

CYNTHIA

 

The long-ships arrive festooned

And laden to their oarlocks

With bride-gifts for Cynthia

Olaf’s fair daughter. 

Furs from darkest Rus

And silks from Samarkand

All sorts of precious gifts

They bring to Bergen’s king

To celebrate the wedding   

Of Cynthia, his daughter

To a Christian prince.

 

The flood of dragon ships

Fills the great harbor

Buoyed by bright Selene

Upon her heaving bosom.

Oars are sharply shipped 

And sails are sudden dropped.

A clangor now is heard

In Bergen’s great hall

As servants carry baskets

Of bread and set down trenchers

And tuns of mead are opened

While in the royal kitchens

Spits turn with veal

And with venison and lamb

And divers fowl are roasted 

And baked in savory pies.

Mulled wine is ladled

For each arriving guest.

The galleries are full

Of musicians come from France.

Hear them as they practice

For a night of song and dance!

 

In the tents of Ishmael

The timbrels are silent

The flute laments a loss

And Yemen’s moon is pale.

The emirs all discuss

When Elif will return --

Elif, their August moon!

What caravan will bring her

From Egypt or from Aden

She of noble lineage

Her journey to complete.

 

Lines composed on the news of the wedding of a friend

Puerto Vallarta, July 2009

 

 

 

LAS HORMIGAS

 

They pour though this tiny hole

No larger than a pinhead

 

Down the tile grouting 

And out across the countertop they flow

 

A tidy stream of living dots …

 

***

 

“WHAT DO ANTS HAVE TO DO WITH ART?!!!”

 

Yells dragon lady, top heavy

With bust, bangles, hairdo and makeup

 

Nearly knocking me out of my chair

And wrecking me for a week

 

***

 

Now I see this line of tourists

Filing down Matamoros Street

 

The block is short, the sidewalk narrow

And hewing to the wall they seem

 

The Word made Flesh, the providential

 

A…       r…

n…       t…

s…

w…

e…

r…

 

To the lady’s question

 

 

 

SPARROWS

 

I love the little sparrows

The way they hop about

When they’re foraging for food.

I love the way they flutter their tail feathers

When they’re bathing in the cooking ashes.

I love their little puffed-out chests

When they ‘re braving the cold.

I love it when they quarrel

And jostle each other for space at the feeder.

How dear to me they are!

 

 

 

OAXACAN EVENSONG

 

In Oaxaca, the city by the ancient mount

(Once a sacred center and now a charnel house)

Evening has come, and with it this, an evensong.

Around the city’s central square, the Zócalo

People softly walk and talk.  The colonnaded

Restaurants and cafes that ring the square

Are quiet now. Only the clatter of dishes and clink

Of glasses are heard, as waiters prepare for the nighttime throng.

The balmy air is lambent, suffusing an orange light

To all its boundaries, to the masonry and stucco walls

To the sidewalks and park benches, to all that we call things.

 

Monte Alban is sick.  The sacred mountain is sick.

An invisible pall hangs over it.  A sick energy

A miasma, pervades the ruins and open grassy spaces.

Even on a breezy day when the sky is blue

The mountain’s ill can get to you.  Maybe it will

As you are leaving, somewhere between the young woman

Aum-ing and the archeological museum.  Sitting there       

Enchanted by a place whose genius left it long ago

She may not have noticed it creeping up, the headache, the thirst

And a mental nausea such as I felt but once before --

In an empty Senate chamber of our hallowed US Capitol.

 

The Church of the Society of Jesus opens its doors for vespers

Admitting me with the faithful -- the elderly and lame.

The priest says missa and from the rood a transfixed Christ

Is taken down, his olive skin still warm and moist

As I hold him on my lap. (A queer Pietà we make

As my heart is moved to pity.)  Pure air now fills the nave

And my charred lungs, air, like a cool blue liquid fire

That dispels, at last, the last of the mountain’s ill I bear.

Now ends the Mass, the legless man upon his pallet

Is swiftly ushered out, and close behind disgorges

The ugly crowd, and overflows the porch outside

 

And poisons it.  What does it take to poison a place?

For four hundred years this church has held its own

Against a tide of human woe.  What benediction

Or genius of the place has saved it from the fate

Of Monte Alban?  Or is it only a matter of time?

The sacred mount held out for fifteen hundred years

Before it was abandoned and given to the dead.

Was it simply our need and ugliness that poisoned it

Or was it some great evil committed there that doomed it?

Our bodies too, like these sacred places, may sicken and pall

By an evil we may commit, or by our daily sins.

 

Oaxaca,1999; Alexandria, 2010

 

 

 

TO MY FRIEND JESÚS -- IN MEMORIAM

 

You left so suddenly

I didn’t know you were gone.

I didn’t know until my friend Alfonso

Mentioned it.  What?  Murdered?

A heart attack?  A drug overdose?

Oh, not you, not you my friend!

 

Perhaps I should have known

Something was amiss.  Now that I think of it

It was a week or so went by without my seeing you

At your usual haunts -- by the empty kiosk

Outside the Café de Olla on Basillo Badillo

Or on the beach at the foot of my street, Calle Pilitas.

 

You would always have your work with you

To work on and to sell.  There

In the bright freedom of street and beach

You’d make these bags and purses.  You’d make them

Out of the small colorful squares of magazine clippings

Which you’d then wrap in clear plastic strips

 

And weave together.  They were functional

And pretty and nicely lined, these bolsas you made

And I bought several of them as gifts.

You know, Jesús, your death hurts me more

Than will the death of mother, brother, sister

Because you are decent, gentle and unassuming.

 

I remember one night you complaining

That your poverty caused you to live with unsavory types

Who were always causing problems

But you didn’t call them cabrones -- that was not like you.

And then in the spring came the economic crisis

Making a tough time tougher.

 

Was that it?  Did this finally do it?

Did all this finally break your beautiful heart?

If you took a drug and overdosed

I would understand.

I remember the conversations

We had about addiction.  Often

 

As I was on my way to an AA meeting

I would stop to chat with you.  And you understood me:

Yes, good, go to your meeting.

For your part, you told me of a long relationship you had

With a rich American girl; how she would punish her father

And you in the process

 

With her promiscuity, drugs and alcohol.

So you understood.  But, Jesús,

Never once did I see you intoxicated

Not in the slightest.  Ever.  Your eyes were always bright

And your smile was always genuine

And your heart was always …

 

My neighbor Paula said

You had high blood pressure.

Was it a line you did to relieve the pain

That caused your heart to break?

Or was it directly the sum of life’s disappointment

And the struggle to survive that broke your heart?

 

I love you my friend, and I will miss you sorely.

 

Alexandria, January 2010

 

 

 

WEEP, WEEP, THE GOLDEN WHEAT

 

Weep, weep the undulant wheat

Weep, weep the combines beat

Weep, weep the golden main

            Weep, weep

Weep, weep the threshéd grain.

Weep, weep a stubbled mat

Weep, weep

Weep, weep

Weep, weep the prairie flat!

 

(To the silos the land’s increase

          To feed the world and our obese

The straw be fodder for our kine

The chaff o’erblow the land supine)

 

Eastern Pacific Ocean,1965; Puerto Vallarta, 2010

 

 

 

WHAT’S YOUR HAPPY?

 

A fellow asked me the other day

(I swear, this is what he had to say)

 

WHAT’S YOUR HAPPY?

 

I paused a moment to reflect

On this unhappy turn of phrase; replied

 

SPARROWS; GOD

 

Which must have left the man perplexed

For the conversation then, it up and died.

 

 

 

WALKING AMONG THE DEAD (short)

 

Walking among the dead tonight, the fire flies surprise me.

Fairies! I think; or, could it be that these are the souls of the dead?

Tonight is different from the night I walked here with my friend Zohair.

It is later in June now and the air is warm and humid.

No moonlit mist hovers above the headstones

And in the dark I am alone, alone with my dog and the dead.

 

I stand upon their dark green bed in silent contemplation.

The only sound I hear is Joey  -- the jingling of his collar -- 

As he noses through the grass nearby.

I sense the past is present in these dead; that I, as if already dead

Am present in the future. And so it is with a sense of kinship shared

That my heart goes out to them in prayer.

 

As yet before the moon has climbed above the line of trees

A vision comes to me (a gift, I take it, from a grateful dead):

From either side of me an old grapevine grows, its gnarly branches reaching out

Toward the ends of time.  It is a vision of my soul as being

Mathematically transformed, its eigenfunction as it were

So soul I see is nothing more than the proper function of my being.

 

Alexandria, 1997;Puerto Vallarta, 2010

 

Note: A proper function or eigenfunction represents a mode or natural resonance of a (linear) system.

 In this sense the set of proper functions represents the “soul” of a physical system.

 

 

MY FATHER TAUGHT ME

 

My father taught me

that a geometrical progression

is better than an arithmetical one

my mother taught me

that if you want your pillow fresh

then fluff it every day

all else I learned in kindergarten

before I was expelled for throwing blocks

and in that most inclusive school

known as

the school of hard knocks

 

 

 

 

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