Archive for the 'literature' Category

Mr. Senescence

July 20, 2017

There were those that would have wept to step barefoot into reality…                            —Wallace Stevens

A picture of my family:
My mother and father and me,
all wading in some river.

Must be 1949 or so.
I can’t really remember it.
I would have been two.

But my feet were wet.
My father had his trousers
rolled up to his knees.

And mommy had a dress on.
The cold, clean water ran
through our toes.

(I could walk then. )
When your tongue reaches up
into the sky, the sky kisses it.

Yippy yi yo kayah.

The Baby Winnims

February 6, 2012

Such eyes could be the pearls that we can’t see.
Each movement could be a breathed image so
Consummate in reflection that when we
Try to compare cheap wine with fine Bordeaux
And foolish ecstasy with foolish love,
—just, you know, to feel your pulsing accuracy—
You  become like the sky you can’t possibly see above
The  surf, a cuttlefish, say, but one free
From its watery origins, one that appears
To disappear. Poof. Gone. So gone its mind
Becomes a coral reef. So gone our fears
Become just like the blind leading the blind
With eyes so full of tears. Child, if we stay
Together, I will eat you. Swim away,

Baby Winnims, swim far away.

Babysitter

July 10, 2011

The babysitter sits—as time, as breath.
As time, it could be a baby, a snail,
the dawn itself—and nothing you could kill—
as breath, the  grass around the child, a trail too thick
to notice…a tension, a poultice .

And so the discourse starts again. It’s just
the guts this time. I touch its skin.
And sun will light it all in full array.
The imperative tense begins.
The baby crawls; so much is made of clay.

That the Wide River Widens

January 26, 2011

Sad, in a way, for her to be saying this
to all her creations: sad, that they are like
a rift of land entranced by all the rivers,
its air protected by all her fears, fears
that tear the morning river’s gown into its evening shreds;

that each one is unique, each one a form
become more formal, a portrait
where skin is portrayed as both egg and shell,
a simple breechcloth left to cloak the escaping air;
that a child can be born; and that she knows she must hide
his face, and then, like a tiny boat, float down

the river, a river that she must imagine all
her children floating in too, as it flows through
all our towns, just as we must imagine our friends
and our children, our lovers and ourselves, afloat,
alone, un-chaperoned, perhaps for the
last time, buoyant at last.

*

Yes, sad, for her to say goodbye,
for the wide river widens,
and that river…
that river is ever distasteful
in our open mouths.

Chapel of Words

October 21, 2010

Again we see a cloud of seals—as if by their mating,
they join the land with the sea and sky.
Sit here, sir, on the edge, out of their sight.
Sit and let their words sit inside you.
In this darkness, they look like mounds of sand,
a crust that must form in the tides.

We of the Earthcutt, we
will bury a loved one here today
among this procreation.
We will ask it
to take its breath back,
its voice back, its words—that speak
so valiantly for him—back.

We will write his names. We will write the verbs
as the tides let us—in a kind of prayer
that unites the near-living with the near-dead.
We will continue to listen
even as the words empty,
as they crash inside the beach.
We know we lack body. We lack substance.
In what will emerge, we will find our place.

May the peace of our home
stay with you and your absent family.
May it stay in the sand.
May we bury the words we write right here—as
the sea will take all of us—
my friend, our many eyes, myriad friends.

Life is prayer.
The Earthcutt send you blessings.
We wash away.

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.