Saturday, May 24, 2008

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Saturday, May 24, 2008


Forms come to disappear
as damp stones and
a fox running through
a birch filled wood.

The dreamless night, hard and damp as stone
reveals morning and
running through the wood

Stippled with mists and mosses,
the peeling silvery bark on slender trunks,
whisper of acid greens and
the tenderness that is in spring.

What awaits in this day?
What persistent clouds will cover the filtered sky
with dangling questions and lingering doubts?
What fogs will sing initial apprehension
in a minor?
The motif returns in breath, a song.

Neonatal light is a melody
of startling configurations,
Cardinals and Wrens, Finches and Doves
in arpeggios, at first cacophonous
only to resolve singularly, a fiat,
chords in D major.

At the furthest edge before croplands,
the trickle, treacle slow stream
begrassed edges, beflowered grass
the damp stones and birch behind.

The fox follows a fugue of scent
to the den of his mate
gone 40 more days.


The glens and glades are Masonic Avenue and Anza.
The soundtrack is the tingle of James Brown barking and
cajoling Sex Machine.

I am at least
one fourth of the way hard,
laughing at provocative images of entwining.
Please, pass the Three D glasses.

Succulents in brick planters,
Walled Bougainvillea red, pink and magenta and
Junipers pruned and teased into
arrangements of spheres on a line

Offer a tentative respite from the forms
of forty days hence
on the rumpled bed linens.
Late spring morning light
filters through the wafting curtains,
the scene overlays
with reflections of planters
tended to order.


If James Brown is the Bach of Sex,
would Marvin Gaye be Mozart of Seduction?
Would that make Mozart the Marvin Gaye of opera?
and James Brown the Sex machine of the cantata?

(at his organ,
the choir exalts.
as the soloist reaches the crescendo
the space fills in glory
to all above.
Get on up ah.)

If honi soit qi mal y pense,
then does love come to he who thinks joy?

Look upon this as
a methodology,
a calculus for
arranging the momentary
into a semblance of realism.

If Jean Luc Goddard is the Ornette Coleman of film,
then is Ornette Coleman the Jean Luc Goddard of jazz?

Look on this as
A taxonomy, exhaustive
variations on walking Masonic,
from Geary to Hayes
on a theme by Bach
as seen from behind.


Today, I left dishes in the sink.
Today, is to be considered
in scattered images and
Burmese curry on tofu.
Today, is disquiet and determination
to have good posture.
Today, is a laugh from a distance.
Today, is the tiny dog chasing pigeons.
Straining at his green nylon leash as the pearly birds
flutter in disarray,
Today, fog lifted late
and warmth came promptly.

Consider this a phenomenology
of sensations in no particular order
that result in words of foxy non-importance.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Late Self Portrait by Rembrandt at the Frick

Late Self Portrait by Rembrandt at the Frick

Stand before me.
If you let me,
I will tell you what it feels like to age.

Not only will I show you
how flesh looses elasticity,
how lines progress to sags,
I will show you how
doubt creeps into the heart
slowly, like the inches
that come to the waist.

It is only,
it is only,
it is only from the darkness
that there can be light.

It is only from the night
that there may be a new day
when I may don
my golden tunic and my vermilion sash,
take out my sword and black beaver hat

to tell you
Look closely at the wrinkles on my hands.
These will be your wrinkles one day.
Look carefully at the wattles at my throat.
These will follow you into your life one day.

It is only because I have faced
the fear and the fact that
life comes to an end
that I may whisper to you,

Come closer
and you will feel
the approach of your last breath.

Come closer and
you will feel the gasp of fear
as the darkness takes over
and the possibility of light
recedes, like the fading daylight
as I put my brush to the pallet,
and the brush to the canvas,

to tell you, not reassuringly
that it feels like a kind of living hell
to see the ones you have loved
die before you,
to see that all you have accumulated as bounty
is dispersed,

but also to tell you that
for all the fears and pains,
you must stand before me
and quiet your mind,
and listen
as my breath fades from a rattle into
the Endless Silence

Where I pray there is Light.


I would enter your dream
as a Lark
I would enter your dream
in song.
I would enter your dream.

The song is a gift
as small as a kiss.
The song floats up from the
soft wet grass outside your bedroom window.
The song I would send
to enter your heart.

I would enter your dream
as a man.
I would enter your dream
as this man
in this uneven shape
and forlorn form.

I would whisper
the bird’s song into your sleeping ear
and offer a small gift,
as small as a kiss.

As our lips touch,
the Lark will sing to the embrace
As our lips touch,
Imperfections disappear as
I enter your dream.

New York Suite

1. While Waiting: Vuillard

Not lead.
Smoked cotton
Makes green more.

Redbud and dogwood
Filter the skyline.

Lines not crossed
Cease to be lines
And disintegrate
Into women

Forming and reforming
Between black parentheses.

It isn’t about the detail.
He only gives the resemblance
And an indication
Of possible details
That add up into another view.

2. History in the Heart

For Dan and Andrea

There is a shorthand
That functions as
Walking together
From the Upper West Side
To West 57th Street and 10th Avenue

Where histories are enhanced
In chill wind and warm conversation.

The day has gone from green
To a gray mist infused
With neon glow.

It isn’t the glass brick tower
At Fordham or
The slant of the light hitting a
Woman buying toothpaste at Duane Reade,

It is this moment of connection
Through laughter and love
Between friends.

It is the utter strangeness that has
Brought us together on this
Night so far from home.

It is the sheer joy of a shared meal
In a basement taverna,
Tzatziki and deep amethyst wine
From Mount Athos.

It is the touch of a hand to a shoulder
Or the telling of a moment
When a hand is grasped across
The table at the bar
At the Museum of Modern Art.

The accumulation of complexity
And the revelation of simplicity
Bring tears behind a closing door.

The elevator rings and
Floors below on the street,
We will all walk with
This new history in our hearts.

3. Memories of a Thursday Afternoon

In the middle of this
Steel and glass temple of modernity,
Across a table topped with concrete,
Hands meet and
A world of cold with words and complications
Opens into a
World, green and complex with possibility.

Your son, your daughters, your ex-wife,
My dead partner, my ex-lover
My sister
Your father
Combine into a current that
Runs from your hand through mine.
You walk me back to West 57th Street in
A drunken lucidity,
Stopping at corners to wait
For traffic and to lean in for kisses.

Moments ago,
Peonies in the florist’s window
Were tight buds.
Now, as we pass,
The ions and electrons flying
Off our kiss
Have turned these heads into
Pink explosions fit for
An Upper East Side matron’s Sunday hat.

As she sits in her pew,
Reading from The Book of Common Prayer,
She remembers
Kisses withheld, over time may become scars.
She remembers, kisses offered,
Sometimes in lust, sometimes in affection,
And sometimes an admixture of both,
Become, in the heart,
Another kind of prayer
For another new day
Of green or gray complexity.

Years withheld,
The tongue becomes a clapper.
This bell calls all to praise.

For CM, May 4, 2008

Cubism and Its Double

The breeze through an open window
hits the midsection,
causing instant death.

Well, not really death,
but a possibility of rebirth.

Not in the tinkling bell
and incense way,
but in the consciousness
of the recognition of the possibility
of another.

If I place this bottle and this glass
on this wooden table,
if I unfold this newspaper and
set it next to a spoon
holding a cube of sugar,

and then, I am struck by lightening,
Just where am I?
Just what view of me will you see
and What view of you will I see?

Initially, we must restrict to grays and browns.
This process reveals that
all color is gray or brown.

Or, that gray and brown can
stand for any color.

Through this realization,
we allow the window to open
further a crack.
There are leaks from the soul and the body.


Through this window
there is no return.
This leap cannot be reversed and

all Sound, vision, touch,
all smell and taste are reborn,
soft and squalling into orphaned sense
where everything is new.
Even newness itself
has not been patched or darned.

This is the long told mortal coil
housed in a moth eaten sock.
All that remains are rents and gaps
that give this insupportable structure
a lack of heft.

Having slipped through the crack,
we find there are no planes,
no longer walls.
All that is left is in between.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Taxonomy of Loss: Bodies of Water

Taxonomy of Loss: Bodies of Water


relentless rain,
the cistern overflows,
the distillation
and collection of all the sadness of the left behind.

water, dissipation in
swirls and ebbs, eddies and whorls
of blackness into light
and back to black
of water.
(the long night)

the all encompassing ocean
is the drop of rain
concentrated as essential loss.

1. Containments and Releases

a. Volcanic: Crater Lake, Oregon

purpled by altitude,
a granite bowl of ink,
the sky, dull and listless by comparison.

drowsy with color,
drifting in all directions;
trunks in silhouette
gnarled by the short light of the long summer morning,

in a car, nearly 45 years ago;
with my parents and my sister.

b. stagnant puddle

teaming with larvae and polliwogs
losing tails to gain legs


The spent and smashed battery,
the clot of leaves,
runs the gutter.

outside of Woodland,
after too much malt liquor
and too many Reds,
Cookie Del Rio wrapped her Rambler
around a light post.

where would she be
30 odd years gone down?

chasing after Mexican boys
outside of Winters?
Or reformed, working her program
and swimming laps at the Davis Y?


oak table
in a green room,
the glass vase holds
daisy water from days gone long.

that room was your bedroom
and is no longer.
whenever I pass,
I am reminded.


The ocean keeps getting deeper.
15 years falling
into the end
that never ends.

cold fingers of memory
rescind the real and move it darker,
into another sadness that is
the ocean getting deeper and deeper.

15 years passed
and gone still, and utterly forever:

water over rocks
in dappled sun.
fishing for trout
on the South Fork of the American River
past Placerville, Strawberry and Lover's Leap
past Tamarack and up the hill and at the Bridge,

or in the secret spot
down by the red cabin.

Salmon eggs
on a hook
on an afternoon in 1963.

two rocks hanging onto the side of the bank
a rainbow trout skitters under.

the scent of Queen Anne's lace,
shocks of lupine across the bend,
the glint of the salmon egg on the hook
as it splashes into the darkness.
the current carries the bait under the rocks.
a slight tug
and the old Rainbow is snagged on the hook.

the slow hum of Highway 50 as
The South Fork of the American River runs and
flows through Sacramento, through Cortland and
Rio Vista and Antioch and Martinez
to the Bay and
out the Golden Gate.

(bridge to bridge)
(mountains to oceans)

2. Streams of Arrested Desire


did he save or sell his soul?
did she walk to work?
did he try to get better?
did she ever really feel connected?
did he want for affection?

did he ever want to jump from a bridge
into a frigid river
under a titanium cloud cover
in a wasteland of discarded furniture and bric-a-brac?

did he ever love a man in a cabin on a beach
on a churning night
in a summer
in the nineteen- forties?

did he ever ford a stream
with his heart full with another?

did she fill his heart or
did it ever?
does it ever?


Was it parenting in absentia?

under a spring moon,
on the cascading water,
blossoms drift through the breeze.
birdsong trails into a quartet.

did you ever sing for him?
did you ever reach under his arms and lift him from behind?
did you ever sit
silently together with your memories
of sad love songs from the radio?

Did you talk about the watery weather?

under the bridge.


how much is real?
how much is what was memory of what was heard
or some combination of
memory and having been told?

On the back porch, flush with measles,
being washed in the concrete sink.
Happy sings in her cage
hanging over the raised floor above the basement door.
Sansaveria in a ceramic pot in the high window sill and
the scent of cleanser and linoleum.

Out the screen door,
a shrimp plant and carnations
and metal lawn furniture painted silver.
The ballerino's house was beyond the hedge
through a hidden gate.


So will there be some kind of a bookend
on either side:
a neat package
of banality and revelation,
a final gift before
what is left of life leaks out?

Will it be reflected in the pond outside the window of a hospice
where just within hearing are red winged blackbirds and pheasants
in the dun reeds?

e. sparkle

bounces off the shimmering waves and
elevates the quivering motes
into a rippling and roiling current.

dappled iridescence elicits
slinking charcoal and a coral burst of
slipping into an aqueous sunset.

f. Absence of Love

is Hell

g. presence of the past

20th and G Street
Said yes
and didn't:
a living room on the second floor
a flat above Ali the Pakistani
who beat his wife.

solace, liquid in perpetuity.
it is mostly light now,
speckled and wandering in memory.

a vacuum cleaner is left behind.


Mona, Gavin, Roger He is So White He is Wong,
The Lady Montessa de Rambova and
Dino, who might have been there,
but I am not sure,
one by one
jumping out the first floor window into the hedge.

the dew dampened the back of my shorts.

after, around the table in the dining room,
peaking as Mona talks about Pioche,
I see spheres within spheres,
and hear the sound as they radiate outward and to the side: Spheres;
sounds within (within Spheres)
sounds within (within Spheres)
sounds (within Spheres).

July, midnight blue under street lights and stars night.
You will always remember your wedding cake and
the back of the red couch
and the scent of the disintegrating geometric patterned hotel rug.
Could you forget the drops of light
that sparkle in geometric patterns from every object?

Mona took me to
The psychedelic shack high in the sky.

Behind another house
and up a rail less, steep staircase.

The black walls,
patterned with fragments of broken mirror,
shimmered with reflections of leaves and sky.

The psychedelic shack high in the sky
was more shack and less psychedelic.

3. Currents

pulls out stronger than in.
go under.
and go out further without a raft
into the night.

there are no stars under the water.
phosphorescence is no substitute.

b. Lumahai Beach, Kauai,
with John and Zella and Bob and Chris.
We were the only ones on the beach.

A steep drop from the mangroves to the water,
but just enough room for mats
and places to drift off into the afternoon in the
overarching sun.

Body surfing:
swimming out and waiting
for a wave
to ride back to the beach.

Zella caught in a wave
tumbled to the floor of the ocean,
twisted her shoulder
and had her breath knocked out.
She lost her confidence
around the ocean for a long time.

c. Water Falling On Rocks in the Redwoods

4. Cycles

There are more questions than answers.
questions breed more questions.
answers are mutable.
questions are permanent.

Will there ever be a resolution?
or will the questions become the resolution?

the rain evaporates into the atmosphere as
sadness dissipates,
yet never disappears.
the cycle of grief is not the the cycles of water and weather.

ten years without clouds.
ten years of rain without end.
ten years a reign of something other than joy.
yet, in the joyless sound there is
a tinkling chime that somehow allows it all
to go on.
somewhere there is a glint or glimmer
that plays as a refrain
returning and reminding
that the past is ever present and
the future never arrives.

in the cabinet in the living room
Aunt Cassie and Grandma Nettie are still bickering
so many years after death.
Aunt Edna is ever suffering.
the arbutus in the front yard drops fruit
at once brilliant and bland.

Grandma Lopez is ever present with coffee milk and little fish.
Grandpa's hat is on the lampshade, ever on this side of singe.
It is before he got more mean and before she became a bear.

The living room and dining room are taken over by an amalgamation of tables
that stretch so long
that if you are sitting in the living room
and need something in the kitchen,
you have to go outside and around the house
and go in through the back door
to retrieve what it is that you need.
Mom and Dad and Zella
and Grandma and Grandpa and Grandma Nettie
and Aunt Lollie and Uncle Raymond and Patty
and Aunt Babe and Uncle Tom and Diana and Karl and June in a high chair,
Aunt Vera and Uncle Jack and Johnny and Jimmy and Mickey,
Dick and Jan Ryan and Donna
and sometimes Uncle John and Aunt Dorothy
and sometimes Uncle Buster and Aunt Marianne and Butch and Tommy and Jimmy
(it is before the little Ben) gather to celebrate or mourn
or both.

Most of them are gone now,
but the memory of putting pitted olives over my fingers
and plates of ice cold celery with cheese spread
are as vivid this night as they were
when everyone had gone home
and my Mother was washing dishes at the kitchen sink
and my sister drying the dishes
and my Mother saying that she would never do it again
until the next birthday
or holiday came around
and everyone would be at the table
eating spareribs from Barbecue Heaven or take out from China Palace
or Grandma's awful concoction of chicken in Sacramento brand
tomato sauce with hard boiled eggs.

Disintegrated into energy,
reformed by breath alone

Floating, disembodied,
detritus and ephemera:
the stuff that comes together to form
the veil.

The closet becomes an elevator
the bare light bulb
with a string and chain to pull on and off.

Floor please?

3rd please.

2nd floor - ladies foundations, better dresses and coats
3rd floor - notions and yardage, cafeteria and gift wrap.

It was never my turn to be Miss Universe.
I was always the first runner up,
Miss Venezuela.

In the garage
mixing a potion
of blueing, bleach, and amonia
and painting it
on the three foot dancing doll.
Waiting to see the results
as the fumes wafted out the door
open to the street
across from Mrs. Clark
who lived next door to Wilda
who raised earth worms
in a bathtub
in her back yard.

Wilda lived across from Don and Hazel

Janice wore a makeshift veil to
married her Siamese cat, Charlie,
with a backdrop of pink "Naked Lady" Amaryllis.
Patty officiated as a priest
of the one Holy and Apostolic Church.

I was ring bearer and witness.

at about 4:30 p.m.
in the late Spring
at the side of Aunt Lollie and Uncle Raymond's light green house.
Strawberry guava scent the ceremony.

Twice, we went to Seattle.
The first time I was six
and the second time I was eight.

The first trip was
picking blackberries along the street,
watching Curtis and Rodney and Janice fighting over
chicken hearts and gizzards,

and waterfalls and Puget Sound.

The second trip was
the Seattle World's Fair,
digging for razor back clams
and a kitten caught in the fan belt

We stopped both times
to visit Mrs. Pearsons and Maxine.

On the second trip home,
we stopped in Tillamok
and tasted cheese at the factory.
We stopped at the Tress of Mystery and
posed with the giant Paul Bunyan and
his Blue Ox, Babe.

My Mother and Father would wake us at 2:30 or 3:00 a.m.
Zella and I would be in our pajamas.
Groggy in the backseat
we set off in our Ford
up 99 through the Valley.

Sleeping and dreaming on vacation.
We would stop for breakfast.
Zella and I got dressed in the car.

Hash Browns. I always wanted whatever came with hash browns.

We crossed the Columbia River near dusk.
We crossed the Columbia River in the early morning.

We stopped at a beach in Oregon
and climbed down a steep cliff
and collected colored pebbles.

We stopped at Shasta Dam.

Once, Gordon and Vera
came to Sacramento.
They brought Rodney and Janice and Curtis and Cheryl.

Rodney and Curtis and I slept
in Uncle Carl's and Aunt Lil's house trailer parked
in the driveway.

Rodney and Curtis taught me how to play squirrel.
Go for the nuts.
I wanted to play Squirrel every night.

Another time, older, Rodney returned to Sacramento.
He taught me how to roll cigarettes from butts.
He was a narc.

Cheryl married a black man.

The only time we ever made Grandma Lopez angry
was when Zella sat on the salt shaker and
the little metal ball at the top broke off in her butt.

We all laughed and Grandma scolded us as
she comforted Zella.

The little silver ball is still buried in
Zella's butt.

Afraid of my uncles in this order:

Ted and Lynn were with Peps.
Ted set a church on fire
and ate wax fruit.

Ted put a bean up his nose
and it sprouted.

Lynn doesn't register.

Pep's died of cancer the night
I went with Wade and B Bill to see "Help
at the drive-in.

Ted went to jail
for shooting a man
who had spit
on his car
while cruising K.


Dan and Marianne lived in the projects.
Aunt Lollie and Uncle Raymond did too.
Dan and Marianne lived in a brick house
down by Southside Park and the cemetery.

We took Grandma Nettie to cemeteries.
We cleared the weeds from the graves
and put sweetpeas and carnations
in mason jars.
It was Uncle This and Second Cousin That,
a neighbor and
a child.


5. Bath

Eleven years and forty-seven days gone
and still, when I walk into that room,
you've never left.

It seemed like days were night and
it would never end
and then, it did.

The rattle is real.
Until you've heard it,
you'll never know.

After the rattle ended,
I closed your eyes
and called the doctor and the coroner.

I went into the yard to tell Zella
and called Theresa and Rabih.
They tried to comfort me.

But, I did not know how to accept this comfort
until I had performed
the ritual that I knew I needed to complete.

I put warm water in a basin.
I found a cloth
and I began to wash your lifeless body.

I don't know why I did
I just knew I had to.
I washed the lesions and wounds.

I washed your feet that had not touched the ground in weeks.
I washed your hair and your once beautiful face
I washed your arms that had been so recently connected to the IV.

I washed what had been public
and I washed what had been most private
I dried your body with a soft towel.

At some point while I was performing this last offering for you
I saw your soul fly out of your body and through the open window.
The coroner came, wrapped your body in a bag and took it away.

You were not gone for long.