I was evidently part of the system
Fucking up your ducks. The line has blurred
Between hard and soft drinks
Although your eloquence retains a whiff
Of sulfur. I drive my truck down to the sea
And glimpse the childhood years you spent
In dull rage. Far be it from me
To prejudice the case with untimely truculence.
The white teacups said ‘do not touch.’
And will soon be forgotten,
It was the seventies
As inscrutable as the private lives of siblings.
The appointment need not be kept.
In the picture the buildings stand next to the park
And the park stands next to you
And all of us are inverted in space.
As I am learning only now, this
Was supposed to be the denouement.
If any country could kill poetry, surely it is the United States of America. Our capitalist, media-driven, Republican culture hardly seems conducive to the aristocratic, bookish, and intellectual pursuit that is poetry. The real question is: Why aren’t poets extinct?
The Hand Gestures of Plants
Having retraced my steps, I stood in a field.
Perhaps another way of being, like a clean shirt.
Banal, ethereal, unmoved. A true statement
The pointillist apocalypse dissolved
When I walked around the musical trees.
I did not at first perceive the emptiness behind the song.
How can powers fail that one never had?
O leaf-blower be thou be thou me!
I keep thinking something will break through.
All evidence is to the contrary. The days are drained
From the calendar and dumped into this
Purgatory without sprinklers or fire escapes.
Goodbye to the sweaty nuptials of narrative.
I write (who is not pissing away his life?)
Permanence without substance, beneath the world
Of ideas, past remembrance, a sea of rust.
The chimes announce the edge of an event,
Pure movement, and then one rides the lip
Of consciousness, each thing being itself
As each becomes in turn yet something else.
A truer way, I think, than casting memory
In bronze. Questions arise like balloons
So beautiful, we watch them disappear.
I note what I can consoled by the obscure.
A sagging stars-and-stripes declares a lull
In the eolian cross-talk of shrubs
And Queen Anne’s lace in the dirt parking lot.
A vine of flowers overtakes a barbed wire fence.
Small vibrations of colors. Along the embankment
The majestic spiraling of foliage arrests
The gaze. Is that a sign of valediction?
Breathing pillars emit confusing speech.
Now that the high façades have dimmed their lamps,
Some form of secret communication occurs
Under the surface, down where the juices cook
As crazy saps trickle up the green fuses.
My early correspondence with Jasmine
Vanished among unstoppered starlight.
The further I peered into her rank darkness,
The more fatal any declaration proved.
And what about the distillations of my soul?
Somehow it doesn’t matter, rude woods.
She cracked open my navel-gazing
While I was walking around looking at the sky.
I did want to communicate something:
“Thank you for trashing my confidence.
It was blocking my salvation.
I am almost sure you know what you are doing.”
Like the rest of us, the pigeons are going nowhere
Under the high pewter clouds in the west
As the sun streaks the sky with its orange bands.
Small dirt squares in the concrete sidewalks
Bubble up grasses whose fine-haired stalks
Harbor the stray droplet from this morning.
Cars stack up like red and white blood cells
Oozing through jammed arteries
While domiciles are honeycombed with a saffron glow.
No pleasure is forbidden while I traverse
As from the inside of a raindrop
Pockets of light and zones of tangible dark.
One of the dogwoods lights up a solitary bloom,
A small pink lamp. After labor day, too.
Never produced much during the grandiose blowout
When everything rhymes with decadence.
Now a hemisphere teetering on the brink of exhaustion
And this reverie in broad twilight. The bleak
Designs of capital once more postponed while they may.
That has always been the way, hasn’t it.
Stopping where one finds it, lingering awhile,
All our most pressing affairs left in suspense,
Till the clepsydra of our attention drains away.
But gazing up into the hyperbolic purple
I cannot help but ask myself exactly how
Do I translate that? Whereas I almost understand
The clumsy sign language of urban trees
Or the Morse code from small white flowers.
That is not all. This sprawl of asignifiers
Encompasses the lovely curves of animals
Standing in circles, walking about, moving the air
With spirit motions of the mouth. A true
Perception of ourselves before the rain forests
Reclaim our capitals. Truth will survive
But only at the symbolic level, up there
With that small, inaudible cyclone of gnats.
The lawns are stubble. Twitters swallow the sky.
An orgy of late vegetation disgorged at last,
October rolls over like a wet, smelly drunk,
With an orange leaf stuck to her buttock.
My hunched shoulders wait under dripping trees.
The gently oscillating boughs, the sweeping branches,
The flapping leaf, become the movements of a mind
Without consciousness. This I am is its double,
Strung through time like self-knowing syllables.
The long, jagged puddles between the curb
And the macadam cleave what they redouble.
Moons drown themselves one by one in the moon.
Unbearable stillnesses descend at winter’s sill,
The sky locked in a box of lead clouds.
The pinnacles of the houses point up, but
What succor ever came from iron indifference?
A buzzing mind would tear the whole thing asunder.
Better to dwell in the fragrant, metaphysical dark
Conjugating with the powdery blue mist
Like a swimmer of unspeakable voluptuousness
Than stand in the stench of confessions aired.
The ghost of jasmine echoes like a memory.
Support for this poem has been made possible
By absences like you. Thank you.
Poetry is not a tank and it cannot stop a tank. It works, if it works, below the radar, beneath the opinion poles, silently and stealthily, when your back is turned, your eyes closed, perhaps when they are closed forever. Stalin killed Mandelstam, but did he silence him?
How Do I Sound In My New Poem?
I pulled with all my might on the reins
Of the galloping horse,
Time had a will of its own.
I lived to see myself write this
But not long enough to see you read it
For whom it was written.
Are you Japanese, Saudi Arabian?
And what language is this?
What country and what century?
To dispel the myth of human separation
I coaxed these words into the light
And scattered them, like dice,
A prodigal who never sees his own return.
I never did learn the name of the bird
That I came to love. Perhaps
You know some version of its song,
The austere beauty of its wing.