Shall I contend that writing rhymes
Is like doodling designs
To relieve nervous tension?
How can verses end up that benign,
Spilling things I shouldn't mention?
While I thus create escape,
I, by that, incriminate
Myself. My creative hobby
Could eventually hobble me
With greater grief
Than that from which I sought relief.
That's the hazard of writing poetry.
THUD AND GRUNT
Poetry is the thud-grunt the watermelon doth emit
Thudding smash upon the floor,
Its swollen, ripened body making its last visit
To the earth from which it came, the force
Of plummeting sundering it.
In the choicelessness, alternativelessness
Of the thwarting of full red promises,
There is, alas for grunting students of English lit,
One crew-cut corduroyed guy tries
To predicate the wholeness of the skies
And the meaning of all laws above
All skies. His automous tongue,
So articulate, has never spoken love,
And cramps from words too heavy.
His face a cherub-perfect perfect circle,
His oscillating mouth the circle's center,
His colloidal tongue delivering
Confident and printable replies
That perfectly formulize living,
When the other similar guy cries,
"Why, universe, come and tell me why!"
Then the other guy
Presumes to philosophize,
Whereupon it's the former's turn to cry:
"Why, Universe, tell me why?"
The game, egghead eggrolling tete-a-tete.
The booked and schooled children play
With million megaton cosmic words.
Crew-cut computers repeating words heard,
Dull dunces and deaf to what they actually say.
They gave him a sign with a stick on it
And told him how to hold it, like a lolipop.
They assigned him his certain day
To march around a certain cafe,
And pointed out the spot to start marching from,
And yelled about his winning Human Freedom.
My soul's a damnable thing,
Desiring most to touch,
To see, to hear, to bring
A woman quickened pulse.
Also plumbing and I'll fix it
Myself, a husbandly thing, I'll risk it,
So it shouldn't cost so much.
IT REMAINS IMPORTANT TO REPORT
It remains important to report events,
And the single most important to report
Is a brilliant morning, not the rents
In dams in Baldwin Hills, all sorts
Of African revolutions, filling station
Openings, castrations or eviscerations.
MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE
Much more than anything else,
Perfume a woman puts upon herself
Is not itself an end
But a promise to begin.
Put some on. Then smile and say,
"I just like to smell nice; stay away."
Somewhere, where the desert sand's
Dryness demands the most of a man's
Life, go put up a smiling sign,
Lettered prettily, smartly designed,
"This water for mirage purposes only --
A steal at fifty dollars a dram."
Pluck it out, if thine eye offendeth thee.
And should thy heart hurt, similar surgery?
Shadows form a syncytium.
They are never succinct.
Life becomes a continuum.
Only death can be distinct.
The wind sends ochre sand jabs
Across the desert floor,
And harsh violet cloud slabs
Across the sky. More
Violent, the lifeless desert's rain squall
Than the rowdiest barrom brawl.
Three old ladies lay in beds,
Lips wrinkled, skin gone thin
By years and cancer, shreds
Of human beings, while again
The sun comes up.
Silver and gold have I none;
I turn your squeaky beds
To your windows, to the sun.
[Written after morning rounds,
fifty years ago, when I was an
internist and beds were squeaky.]
Gowned green, scrubbed clean,
Cutting various viscera out
with a sharp scalpel,
why strivest thou?
Do you strive, to drive, by the sharp knife,
A sharp-tailed Lincoln?
Or have you striven
For a place within the hearts of men
By having taken stomachs from them?
Cut, Make your fascial split.
Night and lights
Blackness and life.
The small eyes are lights
Impaled on unseen spikes
In a milieu of nonexistence,
With human antecedents.
When dawns come
Men take Tums,
Rub their abdomens,
and wait for nights again.
An unseen announcer's blurred words
Dominate the sky like clouds
(Announcing a one-yard gain),
And the earth's crust tingles
To a hundred megatons of rumble.
THE SKY BISECTED
Etched by a jet so high
The point is invisible and irrelevant,
A luminous vapor trail bisects the sky,
East from west, with arrogant
But not for long. Soon the fine
Is randomized, festooned,
Smeared and skewed like a line
Of a flippant Disney cartoon.
ENCLOSED IN PARENTHESES
Days are fogged blobs daubed
On time, and weeks are drab
Units of non-entity
Enclosed in parentheses.
LET ME WALK WITH YOU
Let me walk with you.
But first we ought to state
That we do not anticipate
Keeping in step, HUP TWO!
Like Nazis wearing helmets,
Goose-stepping in perfect cadence,
Or like well-rehearsed Rockettes,
Dancing with magnificence.
You will go alone
And laugh awhile or shop,
And I, you know, am prone
To go and brood a lot.
But shortly when I'm through
I'll be coming back to you.
THE EMISSARY COMES
The emissary from the subadjacent Empire,
A black blotter-winged bemedaled vampire,
Comes to hemolyze our hemoglobin,
And for this favor he expects to be repaid:
A motorcycle escort and a ticker tape parade.
I have seen him in the several places
People go to kill the time,
Drinking coffee, staring into faces
Or at nothings, reading morning papers,
Doodling on the menu of the day,
And always alone,
And doing anything which might delay
Returning to a loveless home.
ETUDES AND PLATITUDES
Of what monomers shall we synthesize our protoplasm?
Of phlegms and cautions, or corporate enthusiasms?
Our dance across the stage, shall it be a decorous minuet,
Or shall we writhe and twitch and get our armpits wet?
Shall we fall down flaccid and prone, and acquiesce,
Of shall our particles radiate, our passions effervesce?
Shall I smother you in white petticoats or strip you nude?
What is life? A punch-card platitude or an endless etude?
I fled from Him around the labyrinth
Of body and of mind, being bent
Upon evading Him in laughing and intense
Visceral stimulants, and in intense
Thinking of things, or in ironing things,
Or just in things. I heard Him still.
I fled from Him, my itinerary including
Places Jonah never knew or thought of;
Inviting myself to every party; concluding
That other people, groups of them, or maybe love
From one of them, could possibly replace
The need of Him. I heard Him still.
I fled Him daily, nightly, compulsively.
He followed easily, persistently, lovingly,
At length suggesting, "Thy neurotic
Perambulation endears you neither to man nor Me.
By always running do you get a thing but episodic
Claudication? Come now unto Me. Peace, be still.
I DO NOT LACK FOR SIGHTS
I do not lack for sights which demonstrate thy might.
I see your calm dawns, molten suns, starred nights:
Tops, jacks: toys the child left,
Forsaken tokens cluttering floors, left
For me to trip over. Return, please,
reclaim your toys -- and me!
Powder white, chalk white, salt white,
These cliffs confronted the sun preceding the night.
Now returns the sun to bring the day
And the cliffs are blood, that red.
Are not mountains immutable?
Are they not reference points of dependability?
whatever changes, mountains don't?
Mountain immutabileness is changeableness,
submitting to the slightest requests of impalpable light.
Out here where land is vastly horizontal,
Where beyondness spreads the sky,
Where earth's ends, its horizon's lines
Are harsh hills as distant as the sun,
Harsh, but by distance subdued,
Subtled like petals, and as translucent,
Where earth's breath sounds are rumble-thunder,
Hardly heard but eternal;
Where God, though not more seen
Than in man's confined canyons,
Is more in fact here than distance is;
Where the incidental is man.
Here, scattered upon the sand
Like symbolic absurdities,
Are flattened, rusting beer cans.
WHERE IS THE MEDIA?
If the incredible red fluorescing those hills were fire,
Not dawn, the hills could be no less red.
Crazed would people be, from fright --
Crazed, and forgetting their beds and the recent night.
All manner of mobile media of mass communication
Would arrive, converge, and describe the catastrophe
As it is, the incredible dawn comes silently.
WHEN BETTER THE LIGHT STRIKES
Then, when better the light strikes,
Will reality be seen to be
A plain box-coffin stripped of filigree
Which cannot, thus perceived, excite
Emotion other than dejection? It might.
What is now an innervating laughing gas,
Evoking euphoria, will its euphoria pass?
Will body odor threaten digestion? Plug tight
The nostrils against this dread offense.
At eight a.m. shall the dream evaporate
Like clockwork, refusing solid state?
Can love be conjugated in the present tense?
Indolent and gray in August heat,
The surf breathes in then out, slow but deep,
And the block-broad beach is soundless otherwise.
The shadows. Once, briefly, a dotted line
Of seabird shadows scanned the sand,
Like silent thoughts pass through a dozing mind.
And an ink-streak on bleached boardwalk --
A streetlight shadow: black on chalk:
Unequivocal -- points a long demanding finger
To the doorless dusty straight-up staircase.
She lies across the cot, in the attic.
The sea at other times is deeply cyanotic.
CHILD, DO YOU MAKE
Child, do you make temples
In the sand, and marriage beds?
When your dimples are wrinkles,
What shall you, a man, have said?
The tide comes in,
And so does sin.
The tides go out.
The child, now the man, doubts.
The sea eats castles and years.
Life eats dreams
And the ocean gains
A few more salty tears.
CASUAL PATHS, UNPAVED, TREE-LINED
Casual paths, unpaved, tree-lined and grass-bordered
Lead into this valley, warm and slightly humid
And sometimes filled by unpretentious bird-songs.
And here are blue-greens and yellow-greens and fillips
of red and orange, warm and slightly humid colors grated. Here and there by cooler shadows where blues and purples are. And pervading all like a warmth is a Presence.
Pervading all, like the humidity, like the tinnitus of insect bizzings
Is a Disturbingness.
THE HIGH SCHOOL GIRL FRIEND
A high school girl, she is a memory monger,
A pressed-flower fondler.
I am a lovely long-ago but still-remembered thing,
A butterfly wing.
Remember me, therefore, every once and awhile
And smile a connoisseuring smile.
OREGON COASTLINE DOES THAT TO YOU
When I saw the peaks thrust up from the Oregon coast,
Stark like burned toast,
I went erect, looming from the fogs.
But then I saw the bleached beach logs
White and large like giants' bones.
I got limp and went back home.
Her heart is big – it has no limit!
The piece of it she gave me wasn’t small,
Yet she never seemed to miss it.
Or is it that she has no heart at all.
POETRY HERMENEUTICS ISN'T
Hermeneutics allegorizes God's Word
Rendering it irrelevant, unheard, dead, absurd.
But in the scripture they thus would allegorize
I sense overriding ever stronger poetry
Breathing life into the Word and me,
Rendering me and the Word ever more alive.
God hardened Pharaoh's heart,
Hermetically hermeneutically sealing it.
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