Tuesday, April 4, 2017

christina's world

for Andrew Wyeth

brown hills of grass
where she slept

until the light
slides under
the surface of things,

she rises
as a fish 
patrolling a lake's still surface,

there is someplace to be,

in a chair
at a table
with a place setting
of one plate, one fork,

one empty glass.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

remarks concerning Wallace Stevens

What our eyes behold may well be the text of life but one's meditations on the text and the disclosures of these meditations are no less a part of the structure of reality. " -- Wallace Stevens 
Logic by itself is over rated certainly, but unalloyed intuition is equally the subject of excess estimation, and is, in fact, a recipe for perceptual disaster.

Stevens realized this and made a body of work that provoked( successfully I think) thought and discussion about the interaction of imaginative and materialist approaches to appreciating and divining the corners and contours of the earth.
"All the great things have been denied and we live in an intricacy of new and local mythologies, political, economic, poetic, which are asserted with an ever-enlarging incoherence. " --Wallace Stevens 

Intuition and imagination are the things that give the world outside our bodies the shape and scope, and logic is that no-less human tendency to discover the order of raw sensory data and thus engineer ourselves usefully within it.

Each capacity, with all their attendant subdivisions and distinctions, cannot be divorced from the other, the mind cannot exist sanely sans the capacity to know when the imagination ends and uncompromisable reality begins. This is the basis of Steven's work, his central idea: all the great poems of Heaven and Hell have already been written, and what remained to be examined ,in the kind of intensified investigation that poetic language allows us, are poems of the Earth, not the least in this subject matter being the ceaseless contradictions and conflicts of humanity's desire to name the world he lives in and control it.
"To regard the imagination as metaphysics is to think of it as part of life, and to think of it as part of life is to realize the extent of artifice. We live in the mind. " --Wallace Stevens 

The world, the Earth, Nature itself, of course, can be imagined in any number of ways, and humanity itself may well come to believe his abstract definitions as implacable facts, but Nature goes on in its own set of processes that man is finally subject to.

However reshaped into man's image (or the image of the God man believes himself to resemble), nature pushes on, grows, expands, decays, renews, recycles, re-molds , destroys and creates anew, constantly churning, upsetting and moving through the convulsions and rough beauty that are the evidence of its life cycle.

All this renders the hoary substance of humanity's definition into so many fictions, supreme and less so, a poetry that nears special knowledge but which lacks the final gaze beyond the last, final veil. Our language is our method for beautiful guess work. Stevens gave a poetry that centered around this, to which his last message might well be that we have Poetics that cast itself in perpetual awe.

What we draw from a poem like "Sunday Morning" is his penchant for addressing everyday occurrences in terms that approach the mythological. We can suss and hacked through the ornate textures of the writing and found the "common place" events and emotions that Stevens loved to broaden in scope with his righteously writ rhetoric. This, I think, is precisely the sort of reading he would hope a reader would embark on.

You've also given us a vivid time line with your deciphering of Stevens' lush tones, and have opened the door on his grand theme, that our world as we build it, live in it and contemplate its larger moral and aesthetic worth, is connected with a habit of mind, a quirk of human personality , that has never left us.

As with other modernists of his period--Eliot, and Pound, certainly-- Stevens viewed the material world as evidence of myth-creation, objects, art and philosophies that are extraordinary less for what they reveal about fixed and permanent virtues, but more the poetic ingenuity in the language created to make their case. Here, with a simple Sunday coffee by the sea and an incidental twinge of guilt, we are linked to legends and sins of cultures worshiping allegedly alien gods.

Our reality , composed as it is with particularized aesthetic rigor and moral complexity, is no less a supreme fiction. Behind the fictions and the dimensions of the respective paradigms they allows us to live within, lies the differentiated mass of humanity, constantly creating the grand poetry that is the essence and unseen breath of their lives.

I don't know why there's all this defensiveness about whether Stevens is "obscure" or not. Erudition is generally a description of someone who is versed in many subjects that are outside thhe scope of the everyday; such knowledge is by nature obscure.This needn't be a veiled insult, though, because in the hands of a supreme poet, it's not a bad quality at all.

The real issue comes down to readability , I think.It's the crucial distinction here between what Stevens gives the world with his splendid blend of intellectual rigor and musicality, and what this week's poet tries to slip under the door.

Steven's verses are with abstract ideas, subjects by their nature obscure and requiring rarefied terms and jargon to describe dimensions that don't readily lend themselves to streaming, concise captions. Stevens' ideas are smoothly parlayed to a larger world by way of addressing his emerging ideas of phenomenal existence through the lens of the world whose intransigent knowability he interrogates.

His is a world that retains its mystery and wonder and which is still capable of creating actual, unsentimental awe in the curious and alert mind. "Notes toward a Supreme Fiction", "The Blue Guitar", "Emperor of Ice Cream" have that rare musical curve and sweep that set up paradoxes and then resolves them in ways that make their perception as much a part of natural process as anything else a species creature like man might.

Friday, January 6, 2017


You think of another city
That comes between this gas station
And the “x” on the map we’re driving towards,
Sounds something like
Goat cheese,
you joke,
A smile
For every mile that went
Silent behind us,
Goleta, I tell you,
And tap beats on the
Steering wheel,
Billy Joel is getting out of Allentown
With his piano and acoustic guitar,
Sing me a song, I ask,
Sing me something
That will make me sad
And glad to be breathing,
You drop the magazine to your lap,
Smile, as you do,
When mystery discovers the
Parts of your psyche
No one could find
On a map
Of all the bumps on your head,
You place the map,
Folded in three wrong directions,
In the glove compartment,
You stare to the highway,
Santa Barbara is nearing,
A Sad song, you repeat,
And croon, husky and low,
“Happy Birthday to you..."

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Say What You Will

Say what will
when we park on the hill
and forget to turn our wheels
toward the curb,

Our clothes are damp
as we stare at the stars
in a drizzle from clouds
passing over the moon,
downtown is a vision,
of a city of jewels,
white, green and red lights
embedded in leviathans
poking the black sky
like they were hungry fingers
seeing how taut the skin is
before curling into fists
to be shaken at a God
who says nothing
but Words neither of us have heard,

I miss you tonight
and cannot or
will not think of you
not here arguing for
a better seat
an elbow to my ribs,
My heart remains
where you placed it
after you took it
along with my breath,
you made my blood rush to my head
from the mountain top
where we’ve watched
the sun set and the moon rise
for half a decade of
coming and going,
kiss and groping
between jabs to the ribs,

I think of you
driving all night
with your keys
still on the hook,
your car
still parked
with a week of groceries
in the back seat,

Yes, I said
let us worship
at the altar of our talent,
let’s be humble
and create reasons to be
something other than
the anonymous
expiration dates
that lurk and loom
and wait for us
to make promises
we didn’t mean,

Your silhouette
is unseen and
next to me always,
the way you slept
changed the way
I toss and turn,
I say your name
without opening my mouth,
the moon breaks through dark clouds
and it begins to rain,
the water beads and glistens
on the lens of my glasses,
the world is little else
but a ghostly white radiance
when the light is allowed,

My fists unfold,
you touch my head
and ask for some gossip
as I wait for you to kiss me
but then there is only
the dark air surrounding
Where you would have stood.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Rag Basket

When the swing goes over the top
so that the universe is turned inside out
like the glove you left in the vestibule,

I will drop the disguises
and the basket of cleaning rags
to follow you to the end
of the next sentence you speak,

Days turn into years
with all this scenery skating by,
our hair turns grey
just counting our change in the check out lane,
angry weed clusters break through the asphalt
when we return to the car
with our bags full of grace,

Half of what was purchased
was an expectation of tightening the screws
on a platform of a reasonable trance,
the other half being
aware that neither of us are dreaming this dream,
our eyes are open, wide as a camera lens,
noting what has gone and what was replaced,
the grey dirt that gathers
in the rain gutter,
the leaves that carpet the walkway,
the paper torn on billboards advertising
places to visit,when money permits,

You say you'd prefer the sunset to daybreak
and then ask
why I am always yawning,
my bones ache,
my knee is weak and creaks
with the rhythm of the city as it
battles the music I want to hear,
car horn vs saxophone,
air hammer body slams vibraphone,
sunlight meets horizon,
the night is better
when there are no dreams
to give it scars.

Cecil Taylor In War Time

Nothing fits the cadence that 
quits before a fist can pound 

hard ivory blocks for truth 
that is both black and white 

and a chronic wash of rifled tones
flying in formation around the
shape of your head as you forget dreams
and addresses of friends you need to call,

drums lay it down, high hat , snare rattle,
a road that takes you out of town

to further reaches past the beaches
and downtown corners where you
cars and their screeches
as they stop for pedestrians
chatting up phantoms with
empty cell phones, wasting
minutes as they cross,

fingers building and knocking down
chords and melodies to the rhythm

that has ceased to be a way to move forward
and is now a quaking way to meet
the man in the moon,

piano jazz in the thick of cocktails
that muddy the distinctions between
a screaming blues sting
or the sideways , shard -ridden
gray-hued murk of Dachau's
lost voice and string quartets,

a music that's constantly waking up
in night sweats, angular and hallow
in the chest,

are there shadows dancing
with one another as this
music plays? 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The night gives you magic

The night gives you magic
you can see between the leaves
that cling to dead limbs,
the city is a profile
that leads with its chin,
night birds sing the songs of chimney ash

and cinder fireflies spiraling  in hot red-yellow streaks
before vanishing into the black tarp,

the blues harp
moans from the window
in a house set against a mountain side
that is getting ready to rain,
but it is always raining in my heart
when your lights go out,

a small notes tells me
that you've gone for the night

and maybe the week
and that leaves me
staring out the window
through the screen
at  clouds and madness
that is a rime of light
cresting over all our business

when the city pulls up the
covers and reads
the word by flashlight.