OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD

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,

                   Agonal poetry.

 

 

EGGHEAD TETE-A-TETE

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.

 

THE DEMONSTRATOR

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.

 

DESIRING MOST

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."

 

EXEGESIS

Pluck it out, if thine eye offendeth thee.

And should thy heart hurt, similar surgery?

 

STRUCTURE

Shadows form a syncytium.

They are never succinct.

Life becomes a continuum.

Only death can be distinct.

 

LANDSCAPE

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.

 

THERAPY

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;

     Instead,

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.]

 

STRIVING SURGEON

Striving surgeon,

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 SCENE

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.

 

FOOTBALL GAME

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

        Decisiveness,

But not for long.  Soon the fine

        Preciseness

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.

 

PORTRAIT

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

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

                                      My God,

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!

 

LANDSCAPE

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.

 

LANDSCAPE

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

      excitedly.

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?

 

 

 

SEASCAPE

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.

 

CARDIAC OUTPUT

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.

 

 

 

 

 

M e a t i e r m é t i e r... README AND TRY NOT TO CRY Meaty stuff, mostly metered unless amok and free verse, This is sweaty stuff, Ogden Nash in reverse. Expressive of personal shaking times And sundry such agonies sobbed into rhymes Because that's the only way my soul can give it lip, Except that somehow some part of it always comes out flip. EPILOG OR EPITAPH? You need not remove thy shoes, bare thy head; Not sacred, not hallowed, this poetic ground you tread, Though evoked by pretty tough times, yea, a shaking time, Times embalmed in this slurry of vaguely rhythmic lines And uncertain rhymes, some more solid, mostly looser. Orchids from the lava flow? Sparks of art from the smoking forge? From the slag came crowns? Or from the fog, clowns? Award-winning literature or wretched Wasteland oeuvre? Take your pick. I'd say simply fallout from the meltdowns. That sounds classy! Alas a cooler rhyme for looser oeuvre is manure. OHIO SKY IN A DROUGHT Like a baby always peeing, the young Spring Ohio sky, forever raining. The summer is old now, with prostate trouble And the sphincter of its sluices is clamped shut tight, And the heavy leaden sky Seems to be just sitting up there, grunting, straining. GERIATRIC PATIENT. Old, old old, very old: you are the old of oldness. Like a frozen cat, like a viscous frozen cat's corpse. Like a useless garden statue, heavy, With stuck-out arms which get in the way, apt to be snapped off, You lie until two nurses turn you over. Otherwise you merely lie Unturned, flattening like a softening peach, Without smile or frown, fear or love, thought or speech, Your brain is dead. Uninformed, your heart persists in thumping-pumping blood To nourish a forsaken head. Your face is abandoned, neither man nor woman, Sparsely whiskered, shrunken, remotely human: A funnel draining into a flaccid, open cave which snores. He, or she, with whom you lay in love has been entombed A thousand million years, and memory of him died from earth With the dying of your mind. And now a day is celebrated only by the coming of an inspissated fecal Stone. They roll you over and your fingers instantly are resurrected, Reincarnated nervous flies momentarily disturbed. And this is life: forgotten by all, forsaken by death. A 707 JET AND 97 HUMANS A 707 jet and 97 humans First and second class in the friendly skies until This night, in the night rain, were spilled Across this Massachusetts hill. Stilled The blasphemous human laugh, The arrogant machine scream, (Obligatorily, headlines say things more succinctly), Listen to the rain-chant liturgy mumbled indistinctly, Celebrating the long sought marriage of Machine and Man Witnessed by the night and solemnized by night-wind hymns. On this charred marriage bed the agonal orgasm Of molton aluminum in writhing protoplasm, And then the afterglow and rain, after the mating. Structural junk, Samsonite trunks, headless torsos (first class) Dumped as from a sack, careless picnic clutter on the grass. The eye of passenger Blacker and the tracker Radar are alike sightless, blinkless, twinkling In the rain. A halved brain. Amorphous things. FREEDOM RALLY Another jet and multitudionous humans, first and second class, Flying to a massed Freedom Rally, crashed. An unscheduled Freedom Rally on appropriatened blackened grass: An unqualified democracy of anatomic trash, Black skin, white skin burned black, blackened: integrated Maximally, molecularily, and freed from creed And hate and untogetherness and prejudice by being debris And being disintegrated. ELYSIAN PARK Elysian Park, in the mornings fogged, is old: Pitted-rutted are its sparsely tarred untended roads Over these pass balding cars chugging, dripping gas, Alopecia mars the miscellaneous aging grass: All tints of not-quite-green thinned with straw, effete; A Victorian too-much-walked-on earth rug worn by feet That long ago walked through the morning fog. Dusty. Old. Known trees, which legions of fingers Have cut initials and human equations into. The trees Have toughened, the sap has ceased to seep From the gashes, and those who carved have walked into the fog, Unremembered. Is it they, now gray, who come from the fog Walking wispy raucous romping yelping dogs Young and dark, Who return, remembering? Younger lovers walk in younger parks. INSPIRING COURAGE Intrepid, indomitable, undiluted, Her soul is courage undisputed, Diffusing through the town, inspiring it, How she personifies the beatitude ("Blessed are they who suffer") Is the town's richest possession. Her minister, in his consoling sessions, Announces, "To you courage would I impart, But you've fortified my own admiring heart; Your smile, precious little lady, giveth inspiration." And she faithfully relays all this adulation To us, who would be more meaningfully inspired Could we know just why such courage is required. CATASTROPHE YESTERDAY The catastrophe yesterday blessed us all, Whatever it was, I don't recall (A fire? A flood? A small girl in a well?) Well, it gave the papers news to sell (Revenue-wise, their day went rather well), And husbands and wives were give atavistic harmony To fight the crisis with -- transient anomoly, But quite a marital conversational blessing. And a thing which raises a critical question: Which the greater wonder, the fact of harmony (In crisis all are lovers), or could it be The instant, eager, casual way That that harmony has been abandoned today? TO DEDICATE A HOSPITAL INTENSIVE CARE UNIT Can a human being's death be monitored On a piece of apparatus; his heart beat's Ineffectiveness, the arrhythmic march be honored On a multichanneled visualization of its sure retreat To nothingness and dust? Are the tears made less, Tears of those who stand outside and wait, Are they lessened by mechanizing the state Of the one whose further life is hours or less? By tubes from every available orifice do we Secure a life? These all do play their part. A caring heart and intensive care By us and by a nonmechanical God we importune: These the qualities which set apart this room. I REMEMBER VESPERS I remember how, As over the Christian college quiet would descend After amplified and tape-recorded chimes Had for twenty minutes dominated darkening time. And thus the week would end, the evening begin. The Sabbath had come in On tinkly piano hymns. Then, like stars appearing, soft-lipped promises With evening eyes and Sabbath dresses Would materialize at Sabbath vespers, Now the vespers of my mind, and I remember how They seemed so close. I could reach and touch them Like stars. Like stars. The night is old now, And who has ever touched a star? ALLERGIC TO DUST Soundless, Soundless up here, eighteen floors Of outer space insulate this room from the city's roars. This room's walls are pumpkin-colored and enameled glossy, There's a bloated, crepitant couch, dyspeptic and grumpy, And a concave mattress filled with unresilient putty. Intricate lace, stiff as frosting on a birthday cake, As ornate, finely grates the sunlight willing to invade This room. I sniff the ancient dust, which made Its reservations before eternity was organized. Do they say that order in the universe is prized? If so, the proper place for dust is in an old hotel room, Or in an unopened tomb. Both are very much alike: Dust hallows both as laughter tempers schoolyard fights. Dust is Time's fallout. Particulate memories Of what man was and portents of what he is to be. I came by train just last night, tomorrow I leave. Tonight, here, I salute eternity with a sneeze. PORTRAIT OF MAN AS A TANK DRIVER Invulnerably Embedded in a tempered steel mountain moving ponderously On four-inch thick tank treads crushing earth thunderously Is a frail bit of epauletted protoplasm: The Man, Cradling testicles soft like a baby's nose, that small, and damnably vulnerable. CAN YOU DIE WITH SKILL AND GRACE? We are pleased you have the skill to sew. This a gentle and a proper art. But does this set you now apart As having other skill than you could come to know By merely passively letting it grow Through several undemanding years, Requiring only minimal deliberate work? Have you learned the trick of suffering hurt? Can you politely manufacture tears? And can you die with skill and grace, Not committing some social blunder, Applying just the proper smile to your face, Extracting just the proper sympathy from others But not so much that you might alienate, Or their own hearts eviscerate? JUDGMENT DAY Those with muscled arms shall shake them, Daring rocks and mountains fall. Those with hollow brains shall hide in them, Safely in the caves of Not at All. NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S IMAGE (DANIEL 3) A gummy amber varnish peel sealing up the damps and mash gas And rain-bearing electric clouds wet with charge; And the metal mitochondria bigger than a normal human liver, The liver bigger than the second Himalaya, And strangling all, the hellish heliacal DNA pythons, untamed, at large. Agar-agar anger constitutes the colloidal internal milieu. Now what the heck is that assemblage? The mélange you behold, by royal indulgence, is the sovereign image, Man-shaped, a blimp upended, platinum plated, king-sized, That by royal regulation and fiat must by all be bowed to, Kowtowed to. And for refusing, three were to have died, By fire terminated.

 

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