Archive for June, 2010

As Though to Protect

June 29, 2010

He’s got a hand out, not to touch the glass
so much, but just to be in sight—
just to amaze us with the view.

As if to say, ‘Mirrors will change the world
some day.’ As if to say, ‘They send you out
into a space too big to be imagined.’

Still, ‘Still waters often stink’. And here we are
about to wade into some serous,
self-referential shinola (as in ‘shit and…­’).

Like Parmigianino—‘the little one
from Parma’—who painted his portrait on a
half globe of wood, like it was the whole world.

Like John Ashbury, who in his Self-Portrait,
gives to reflection even more reflection,
like he’s using a mirror to face  death.

You are supposed to know it’s him in front
of the mirror, a bug’s eye take on what
must be one’s subject—or one that could be.

A reflection in a blown glass globule,
a model of transience meant for some
future subject’s sometime contemplation.

A walk in the forest of fairy tale
proportions, dark and dreamy woods,
where we can stop, reflect, and have some lunch.

Where we can write, or paint—philosophize.
Where we can read a poem together. I
to turn the pages, you to swat the flies.

As Parmigianino did it, the right hand
Bigger than the head, thrust at the viewer
And swerving easily away, as though to protect

Mr. Sun, His Ratiocination

June 20, 2010

It seems as Mr. Sun kneels down to pray
each night the earth below responds—a ray
of light, across a pool of shade, tired earth
at rest in night’s still arc. Thus the earth’s worth,
all its gracious growing, is a topic
for admiration, a philanthropic
metaphor, a formal language, found fierce,
found daunting—like armor no light can pierce.
Still, Mr. Sun looks down. Is gravity
his slave? All night his informality
will keep less certain syllogisms fun.
Cogito, ergo sum. It thinks. The sun,
so startling to man—its violets,
its rose—will be enough. Thus, it forgets.

The World Cup as Minimalist Poem

June 15, 2010

those crisp empty boxes have
been left there for the imagination to
fill up with mind stuff

for that kid in the park,
alone with a soccer ball, a good one,
one his grandma bought for him

for the World Cup
he gets past Maradona, yes, Diego
Maradona. Horton is ahead of him,

Tim Horton, in goal
charging hard, forcing his shot wide
for the goal of a minimalist poem

could be donuts, for Grammy
to take the whole team out for donuts
filled with mind stuff

Always Scream at the Sun

June 14, 2010


Look at that monster’s eye, Horatio; it’s like
reflections of sunlight from moon to sea
to clouds; it’s like reflections turned into
existence, a contingency—our thoughts
made real! Yet night is full of words, not spirits,
not selves. Today, I think you can safely tell Hamlet
he will not have vengeance on his stale breath
ever again. Write this with your eyes.
‘Ghosts need too much of the night sky;
dawn dissipates their power; light thus lances through
their skin—their skin becomes self defeating.
There could be no visitation on these
battlements last night, sir, for
old Hamlet’s ghost is nothing but a chill of air,
a big eye left to stare, to model empty space.
You can neither be a wife nor mistress here.’


That’s why I always scream at the sun, Horatio.
It lets the poetry come out. From night to day,
you know—the day, spreading o’er the dew…
a russet mantel…clad in light…

A pretty sentence for a pretty day—
prettily parsed—yon high eastward hill.
Just look around. That poetry lies in
the telling, lies in the play of the words…
There’s nothing portentous here.
Horatio? You’re pale as day.
Your eyes are nothing like the sun.


The speculation laughs. It is unearthly. He
might be a ghost himself, so pale,
so elusive—I’ll say it—so diaphanous.
He will walk with the phantoms many years,
unhousel’d, disappointed, unaneled.
As if we all were.


Can this be why we stand so close to ghosts?
They do reach out at me, Horatio!
They can be both Hamlet and not Hamlet!
Such vandalism! I too had a father who
must have had a father who had fathers…
And all in chains, Horatio, all dead fathers
and all in chains—and so on—back—back to
the egg. I too had a son.


But soft. The sunrise is upon us now.
Our watch is abrogated with the dawn.
It will be cloudy. It will rain. That eye,
ever so monstrous…
…well, Horatio, to sleep—
I know—perchance to dream—but those dreams must
be Hamlet’s dreams. Say goodnight to the cast,
to Bernardo, Ophelia—I won’t go through
the list. They will all die by the end of the play,
you know. They will rest in silence. All dead
except for you and me. And we remain—
remain to scream, I guess, for screaming is
like poetry…
We make it and remake it from the sun.

Vatic Drift

June 7, 2010

What if the story’s like a piece of wood
that drifts to shore.  What if it’s like
a fairy tale where logs float back to land,
become a tree. What if it seems to live, this tree.
It seems to move.  It seems to stretch its branches out—
like magic wands the sun wants back…

But suppose the story’s not about a tree
at all, suppose it tells a tale that wants a slow
and skeletal danse macabre,
one played as a rehearsal for our common time,
and child-proof too,
and one that’s carcass inappropriate…

I am the planet’s drift. Today I am
a spiny plant, a flowing spike. Today I am
the king and clown of color, the blue the sky
could be, as morning light drifts back to earth.
You can see it through my open window—
like welcome gifts the dear ones bring.

The story sees me as a hydrotropism,
not an intensity. It sees me as the place
where osmosis has conquered gravity,
not how spring has prepared life for spring rain,
and not for the story’s demise. It simply sees
all the worlds that end in stories, nothing more.

So summer comes as a surprise each year.
The heat, the cows across the pasture, the dear ones,
the night’s saloon burned off too soon, the brunt
of bare feet conquered with such low regard—
all the worlds that end with a story. They
could be about the summer sun, a tide of solar wind.

Which is the drift. Some vatic lines. Poetry
as stuff… Still, it remains a sad time to breathe
each year, this cycle of summer, in summer’s heat,
this time of the dear ones:
the story began,
the story barren,
the story childless again.

Mr. Whistler’s Brilliant Replies

June 3, 2010

Imagine you’ve just created one of earth’s great paintings. It’s not your masterpiece but it’s a breakthrough. Call it ‘Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket.’ John Ruskin writes the following:

. . . I have seen, and heard, much of Cockney impudence before now; but never expected to hear a coxcomb ask two hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face.

If you’re James Whistler, you sue the bastard.

Henry James described the trial as a ‘singular and most regrettable exhibition… The crudity and levity of the whole affair were decidedly painful, and few things, I think, have lately done more to vulgarize the public sense of the character of artistic production’.

Whistler won the case and was awarded a farthing for his trouble. The court costs bankrupted him.

As Tigers to the Sea

Can we inhabit earth with paint—the way
‘Coxcomb’ and ‘impudence’ seem to confront
Impatience, the way earth maintains its say,
—say, tigers to the sea—tigers that hunt
Among the strange eddies the clouds create—
Air tigers left to find their way inland…?
But this cloud is no cloud. To fabricate
The stillness of still earth, the night’s demand
—to parse night’s sky—why must it fling itself
Against ‘the public’s face’? Why let its kin
Involve the earth in earth’s mistakes, earth’s stealth?
This thing you want us all to paint, Ruskin…
It seems too faint to show the rain cloud…might
The land, John, earth, be focused now, our sight…

On These Tiptoes

Mr. Whistler began a song for toes
Tonight. He could do worse, you know, than act
To bridge silence, among such ancient woes.
Call it his treat—as if it could refract
Both toe and tip—done like Degas—prisms
To light—but horse to whip—like a  trip through
Last year’s hurricanes—through last year’s rhythms—
Through candy canes you must not lick or chew—
Through John Ruskin, boohoo. What if the kids
All sit in silence, stunned—what if for once
The song just steals the air—it so forbids
Our thoughts—it blocks our sun—what if just once
Even Ruskin, the biggest kid he knows,
Just tiptoes in—on Tintoretto’s toes?

Stands There

He can’t quite say this all in court, can he?
But flinging paint in pots—it’s just perfect!
It’s brilliant, John, to make an art that’s free,
—free of finite monkeys, free to neglect
An infinite Shakespeare!—with time enough
To type the permutations! You stand there
Ruskin! Villain! You need God’s time to fluff
God’s pillow out! As if the earth was bare
Before the monkeys typed their victory song.
Articulation tends toward triumph.
Mr. James will show us how so long
A story can be false, can poke the rump
Of both the teller and the tale, and art…
Why, art’s not worth a farthing or a fart.

Is it Mr. Bones?

(Aw, come on! Let’s imagine Henry James
In blackface, just this once.) So, Mister Bones,
To the podium, please. State all your names,
Your novelist’s identity. Skip ‘Jones,’
Skip ‘Smith’, but ‘Madam Ng’, however, works
Just fine. We’ll call you that: The ‘flung’ become
The ‘far-flung’—implicit in Whistler’s quirks—
And explicit in Ruskin’s quarrelsome
—I cannot say ‘aesthetic philosophy’—
‘Philippic’?—no, I can neither pronounce
Nor say such things, Ng. No, it cannot be
Philosophy at all that you announce.
Simplicity is not a song to sing.
So, no spring, no fling, no wing, no king, Ng.