Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"How We Could Spend Time"

we could for example


smear ourselves

sneakily into the top of the hierarchical bureau

arrange the papers

reverse the ones and oughts

such that

a hollow hole gaping

swallowed up all of the lentils

which the peasants had patiently

placed on the stoop


they were for everyone’s good


we could

wander through between among the grasses shrubs tall trees

alongside children brothers sisters

old old elders too pausing awaiting their shuffling gait

til they attained us

and all of us could then and would wonder

at the infinite sun-struck leafiness

feathering our eyes


we could sit

in the piazza lazily

our collective rumps you and I and they

all around an impossibly small circular black iron table

the metallic top of which would be

pierced with diamond spade club like holes


of a deck of cards

quite crowded

with our espresso cups

and there

we would spend time


as the roman languages say it


the seconds minutes hours days months years

you can keep spinning out the tape as you wish

but in fact

we know



would spend us

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Archaic Torso of Apollo"

Rainer Maria Rilke
My translation, with help from versions by Stephen Mitchell and Galway Kinnell

<A poem of fierce magical power!>
~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~    ~

We cannot know his unprecedented head

with eyes ripening like apples. And yet his torso

still glows like a candelabra

in which his gaze, though burning low,

holds on and shines. Otherwise, the prow

of the breast could not blind you, and in the soft turn of the loins

a smile could not run down

to that center that held the procreating power.

Otherwise, this stone would stand disfigured, cut short

under the transparent plunge of the shoulders

and would not shimmer like a predator’s fur;

and would not burst out from all its sides

exploding like a star: for there is no place here

that does not see you. You must change your life.


if every thing is like every other thing

still there must be

to avoid

the homogenized One


grit in the eye

a piece, a hand

ten tesserae forming the hand of

a frozen warrior about to be


on Alexander’s spear

thrusting across the wall

of the Naples museum

"A Pane of Glass in the Grass"

standing vertical

shoved into the grass

one-third below eye level

below the dirt horizon

two-thirds above

in air

three dimensions

looking two

you should walk around it

this side and that

ignore the thin edges the third dimension

and focus on the two

what do they say

do they speak in their own accent

do their very words

their merest syllables

speak uniquely

using vowels consonants no one else has ever used

or do they use a common currency

notes and coins rubbed dull by so many fingers

that they barely can express

this clear

"On the Absence of Context"

“On the Absence of Context”

what do you think about the experiment long ago

a literary one that is

not using vials and flasks and sulphurous fumes

done by a teacher in colonial Ceylon

teaching or trying to teach his

colonial charges

the upper crust of the overseen population

how to read poetry

important poetry that is

poetry in the imperial words

how to read those things


so he distributed to them

the poem about the Emperor

and ice cream

and asked them to write their thoughts

it is about

they said

an immensely powerful


an abode of frozenness

where all bow down

in humbleness

and awe

before the Mandate of Heaven

when I first


the sunlight was inside of me

not from the window


was a book

opened on the shelf

wrinkles on my toes


those of the caiman

its shy teeth


in the sunlight

Sunday, August 22, 2010

"On Contemplating Oval Stones In Barcelona From My Front Porch In Key West"

why seek oval stones in Barcelona

artful architecture

slurping shapes of sandpile steeples cornices and such

Catalan concoctions of

stubborn verbs

conjugations wandering from Madrid’s strict path

come back to your constricted island

the tumble-bum scrum of

hip-hop hope

asphalt lanes

and Hemingwegian derring-do

the sand truck dumps

a dream of drug-dulled dozing on the beach

Paradise Itself the website says

here the stones are weathered other

un-sleek lumps and gritty bits

coral crushed a billion years into

insensate ordinariness

looking at you without nuance just itself

hence the need for false eyelashes mascara neon pasties and

oh yes

a fabulous Patti-Page-pink boa (she was Clara Ann Fowler before the change)


look at the unglamorous marl

the front walk’s rooster shit

half-chewed chicken bones strewn streetwise

the fawning frangipani cooing the camera’s eye

tourist hawkers hooking their day’s pay

reeling them in like sleepy snappers unawares

do not ask what is it

come let us…buy the ticket

to the Fantasy

but that’s ok too

cuz the second day it’s

the same old play

it’s the is-ness nothing less or more

the dumb-dog quiddity of time and place

let it be what it is

and you too


"You Can't Be What You Are Not"

you can’t be what you are not

can’t be the water in the pot if you are the pot

can’t reverse the order of things

and be that curving container of cooked earth

if you are the unpredictable liquid inside

but maybe you can become


alter transform transmogrify

or however you want to call it


to a place

a state a condition a perception

a way of moving through the surfaced variety of what surrounds you

in a way different from Tuesday

or the day before

think therefore

about that baked clay container

didn’t it used to be water

at least part of it was

some moving force curving around bends and rocks

before it was scooped up

mashed with dirt of a special kind

turned round and round

heated up then cooled down

and it thus became

that which could now hold

that which it used to be

Saturday, August 21, 2010

"After the Key West Poetry Writing Seminar"

read it again, she says

you read the words and stop full stop reverse rewind replace again announce renounce

is there some other way to say the pulse and flash of ache aspire envelope (verb that is not noun) the Om-infused encompassing?

can you even mark the or tiptoe the or circumambulate the

words to be, thoughts to be avoided

Inisuch a serious seminar-place?

lest you be smirk-smitten, cliché-cajoled?

suspicious syllables such as soul, yearn, the-Viennese-whipped-cream-way-too-glucose-high-schlag-induced-Mahlerian Sehnsucht?

how tres uncool to dump them on the table

like an untrained puppy pooping on your host’s new Aubusson

in that air

above the table

in that hollow zone of sound which is more than sound not really sound at all more like a particle bit of what? light untouchable

in that space

you are aloft

at rest

and moving too

and not

in that still micro-point

between the magnet poles




like the anole’s eye

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"The Tour Guide"

1. Introibo

let us go into then

the Great Hall of Tickets

and select slim bits for our flypaper postcards

dodging the local

eschewing the quartier and

choosing instead

distant topologies of sight and site

2. Calakmul

the tour Day Two

or perhaps One it depends on

the way that time turns its page

backward or forward

backward goes actually laterally

way over into left field or right

where the pop flies arc bounce and bump against

the ball court at Calakmul

to get there drive way down from Detroit

turn left at Xpuhil

you can’t miss it

3. Rome

Tour Guide: Please don’t touch

please don’t touch the baldacchino

or any of the putti

although they look ethereal

in their gilded mirth

actually they are just posing

taking a break from their heavy duty day job up above

the bamboozling Baedeker comments on the whole shebang

the losing feathered warrior

Pakal’s pawn seed-drugged

fingers numbed

catapults to St. Peter’s dome

let’s follow him closely one by one

do not delay

squeezing through Michelangelo’s shells

up to the lantern all crowded round

you’ll get a great view

looking on the imperial urb

the bedizened warrior tumbles down

falls into a king-sized Serta ™ bed

and cruises to the next port call

at Cefalu

4. Key West

over there, the little shoebox building

smeared grey flaking stucco

you would pass it beer in hand never a glance back

lo it was the home of Ponce de Leon

setting foot on the Isle of Bones his minions crafted

this small palace set among the palms

golden plates adorned the roof

scaring the pelicans not to mention the F16s vaulting overhead

5. Nag Hammadi


that postage stamp parchment shred

lying in the garage mechanic’s toolshed

of the Nag Hammadi Auto Repair Shop

the faint upside down angled zigzag T

it is the middle name of

would you have known if I had not told you it was so?

"Beyond Balance"

the Uxmal dwarf piled

one block on top of another up and up vertiginously up

and standing on the top tip toe

painted his fingernail silver

trimmed it thin

and tossed it up into the black sky

Luz my neighbor painted her house

with shards beads broken glass

palm fronds udjat star and wave

I see them on her wall when I walk my dog

sometimes at night I walk myself

and fly through her wall to the moon

"On Awaiting the Death of a Friend"

the museum book

page 71

shows the right stone foot

of Apollo Alaios at Krimisa

just above the ankle

it stops

just a chunk a carved foot fragment

each noble toe so perfectly


toe-knuckles ripple the cuticles curve

so regular and fine

and at the foot’s flat level top

a square hole lacks its metal dowel

linking the lower leg of wood


good marble being scarce

in these parts of Magna Graecia

hence the need

to hew good wood instead

hew it into necks and legs and such

doweling them to the outer marble bits

these middle parts are long since gone

back to earth

a trope we know so well

the marble head yet fixes us

the sockets lacking ivory eyes

still shine sufficient Rilkean force

to bind our impatient gaze

just one moment maybe two

before we turn the page

"Maybe You Know Enough"

maybe you know enough now

maybe you know how the Greeks

actually wrote 5678

starting with pi or maybe gamma

adding a squiggle to signify a quantity

and etas after that and more and more

or you know


whether the rivets were actually cast


so that when the hull was built

there was no way that it could withstand

that icy crash

almost at midnight 14 April 1912


if you lived your life correctly

would you really care

if you could calculate

all by yourself

the actual speed of light?