Archive for March, 2010

Raw Seed Catalog

March 29, 2010

For example, take these two:
a whale breaks through the surface sea;
a seed begins to germinate,
a seed so singular we need
parthenogenesis just to predict
its title—the Tomato Oracle;
it breaks into another clear surface too,
like the one heaven should have, if only
—only—there was heaven…
Acts of fruition find variety
in just that transfer of raw energy.

I urge you to find the opposite other.
For example, a whale
blows through a ray of sunshine in
deep water; the light pulls him to
the surface, rips the surface.
Is energy transferred? There are many
varietals in the Oracle family…
the Red Leviathan, the Vindaloo,
the Ketchup King all come to mind…
So, yes, energy in both veins and rays.
Yes, take the seeds, all of them, yes.

Morning Raga

March 27, 2010

Birds tend to think the ideal morning raga is
a mathematical formula, an idea
which will describe ancient silk petals, say,
or nascent flowers in deep movement—
objects whose proof lies in open comparison to
sunlight. The birds, when they
listen to this old raga, played by these
old hands, still say that it’s a language which might be
a new language, and not the same old drumming sound
played next to their gold and silver cages.
Birds truly are sensate beings.

True thought consists in singing chords that seem
a repetition of this new language
—even in pain, even at death—
even though this cannot be. Imagine
each bird singing a thousand songs at each
advent of thought. Think about it—
a thousand songs before the sun moves one degree,
a thousand songs before each bird
can take a breath,
a thousand songs against that one moment,
against the passing of that moment…
It is impossible. It has to be.
Of course this too is why I play raga.

So morning’s first raga should not just wake
the sleepers, it should first disturb their dreams.
It should with open eyes bend over their
shut eyes, and watch them come to consciousness.
It should pause at the edge of its destruction,
for soon its vast body will fill the air.
The day is now upon the land. The cage-
bell-flute-beauty, this breath,
is now an abstraction and powerful.
For each day the morning raga finds its way
to garden walls, to destroy those walls.
And for the birds that can fly off,
who are at least alive in the wind,
the morning raga plays a thousand times
in that wind. And then the day begins.

Terminal Moraine

March 20, 2010

So old, you might think her a little frail—
but you also might think of her as an
elixir an exhausted god might use
to sink poison into its very roots—
to take its own life. Nemesis, pushing back
the folds of earth, not so much as a goddess,
but as a glacier. Think of Nemesis forcing
the earth apart, her manifold, her weight.

It seems funny, doesn’t it? Our deepest
imaginings imagine God a man,
but Nemesis as a woman. As Albrecht
Durer, circa 1500, engraved
her: Nemesis is hard upon the land;
her big fecund body (pregnant?), wings stilled,
her weight, the solemnity of being, realms
inviolate. You think I’m crazy? Wait.

They say an educated man knows where
his food and water come from, where his garbage
ends up. Take water: snow on Long Island
percolates through the surface soil down to
an aquifer, three aquifers, (I looked
it up): the Upper Glacial, then the Lloyd,
and then the Magothy. Long Island, itself
a terminal moraine, formed by the weight,

the shearing, brute power, of glaciers hard
upon the land, of Nemesis, harrowing
the soil, her origin in gravity—
this island will return its beach erosion
to the ocean as glaciers melt, turn pure,
pristine and virginal again (is that
even a possibility?). Dinosaurs
will wade through brackish swamps again, hide, wait

for snow again. The mystery why things
go right inside why they can go so wrong,
ordinary sins alive inside
the extraordinary, piles of snow,
soot black, where artifacts, like golden stones
and tiny eggs emerge as spring arrives.
Is she there, Nemesis, with all her weight,
to watch this world emerge, to wait, to wait?


March 15, 2010

They say the night growls. Let’s suppose that. Dogs
out there, dogs scared, showing their teeth, mongrel
dogs, ready to rip skin, barking at windows.
A brutal world, this night. It’s why we sleep;
it must be. Teagarden, though, is not out
there, not tonight. We call him Tea for short.
Nice name for a dog, yes? ‘Teagarden’, as
in Jack Teagarden, trombone player
extraordinaire and ‘Teagarden’, as in
the pleasure a tea garden might bring:
The pleasure of music, the pleasure of
place. Teagarden right now is underneath
the bed, under the ground, digging his way
to China, I suppose. Teagarden is looking for all
the useless tea gardens of this world…
Dogs do dream, you know. Dogs do write poems.
‘Hey Tea, there’s a good boy, come on, wake up.’


My friends, follow me here. My humble attempt
at definition, at poetry:
Listen to Tony Judt in ‘Night’, his piece
in The New York Review of Books:
One is thus left free to contemplate
at leisure and in minimal discomfort
the catastrophic progress of one’s own

His intension here, a serious disclosure,
is not poetry, per se. It’s not a metaphor.
He does in fact have Lou Gehrig’s disease.
a motor neuron disorder… a variant
of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis…
‘Night’ invokes, of course, Ellie Weisel’s
famous book; but ‘night’ remains
the night for Tony Judt. Thinking and thanking
issue from the same source: in distraction,
in destruction: …I suppose I should be
at least mildly satisfied to know that
I have found within myself a sort of
survival mechanism…
To survive
the long night, left propped up in bed, Tony
Judt constructs memory palaces,
mnemonic rooms you occupy with thought.
Read Jonathan Spence on Mateo Ricci
sometime, how he used his memory
to impress the Chinese, who thought memory
the highest good, who thought
the real resides in passing time, and who
were just a little worried about that cross
around Mateo’s neck…
You worship suffering, Father Ricci?

Perhaps we do worship our suffering,
perhaps it’s like digging for bones, old bones
in ancient tea gardens in ancient China.
Perhaps that’s what poetry is: ripping
the hell out of an idea, searching for it.
So ‘night’, so ‘sleep’—words to remind us that
the Earth is a mass of rock that blocks the sun.
You too should be digging to China, Tony boy.
I think a good god would have made that mass
transparent. Earth should glow, be warm,
radiate peace, make sleep passé, stop wars.
(Oh, and leave us sexually satisfied,
prosperous.) Leave us healthy.
Leave us part of our commonality.
At death we should join the communion…
Instead, at night we stand as souls, we lay
in bed as souls: all the useless tea gardens
of this world: ‘Come on Tea, up and at ‘em.
Let’s go for a morning run.’

For the night growls.
‘Come on Tea boy, let’s run for the sun.’


March 8, 2010

for play, they make a mockery of it;
they create it out of nothing, like glass
pulls frost out of the empty air. The sky
is full of frost—or so it seems.
The frost has formed a kind of costume,
a costume so cold that most children can
make a sport of it. And do so
every day whether
they like it or not…

But if it is the cold, make it so simple that
it might be a child’s voice.
Make it a voice that’s difficult to speak.
Make it a voice that’s difficult to hear. Make it
a conversation between two old friends,
say, one that’s being overheard,
whispered, and one that
is left on the window, steely, icy
with the frost, with only wind
between them, with the sun, the wind,
the frost on the glass.

You think it’s youth that forms the gods?
You think it’s children who choke the dead?
It’s frost.