Saturday, January 31, 2015

Pushing Mute


This dream of reality eludes
If we are fair. We measure
Ourselves against each other’s
Awareness then rear up
And howl that we know
All that there is and will
Be; yet when we are old

With hubris hidden away
Like something forgotten
In the pocket of a coat
We feel a knobby nudge,
The catch in the throat,
The blinking of our eyes
At the passing image that

Is nothing at all.  What then
At such a day’s end?  Shall we
Hunker down, watch and wait?
If so, what of the man who raised himself
So long ago and sought to know it all?
He is down the hall at his desk tinkering
With a few words before his morning nap.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

River Blockage


A country crew collected trash
From the San Jacinto then
Blocked off access with concrete
Stanchions laid on their sides
And with piles of very-large
Stones.  I long ago resolved
That if this happened I’d

Move to Utah or Arizona.
Today before the rain
I drove down to look
And found someone had moved
Some of the stones.  I moved
Some more and urged the 
Jeep up over them and down.

Rain had stripped the trees of 
Leaves and wind had broken
Them back.   I had none of my
Normal gear, neither knife nor
Hiking stick, but we passed
Through the desolation and
Then fish-tailed back up over

The stones.  I’ll carry a knife
And hiking stick next time
Out.  The coyotes have   
Gone or perhaps wait deep
In their dens for whatever
Comes next.  “A Marine is
Always prepared” springs

Frequently to mind. They
Didn’t mean for everything
Our D.I.’s but with the
Passage of time it felt
As though they did.  How
Would I enable the dogs
To run if they blocked

The river absolutely?  How
Would I keep Susan well
If she withered away?
I took no camera, there was
No point in recalling this.
Our passage was open
And with the way cleared;

Perhaps there would later
On be Spring.  I was doubtful,
Pretending there would, but
Suspecting all the while
That beyond the dense clouds
Awaited nothing more
Than a mere tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Longing to age


Craning my torpid neck,
Needing to check traffic
On my left I pushed
Some and guessed the rest;
Arriving at my destination
At last I’d passed
Through one more test,

But not as self-impelled
As I had hoped.  Was it luck?
I hoped not, but if it
Was I’d had quite a lot.
A small airplane passed
Overhead.  I remembered
Sitting with a spotting book

Watching them pass during
World War Two.  I was nine
Or ten but interested in what
We were doing, flying
Overhead to become
Ready to fly over there.
What was done

Near me furthered
Our fight against the
Germans and the Japs,
Whoever they were,
Whatever they had done.
I longed to become older
So I could fight them too.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Growing old


I must have thought back then
It would be enough to feel well
When I grew old, but it isn’t.
Susan needs a new liver.
My sister is too ill to see
Or hear or walk, and my brother
Is still recovering from cancer.

They are all here part of me.
Staring through the window
This morning at tree leaves
Still wet from an all-night rain
I watched a flock of unfamiliar
Birds throw themselves through
The leaves scattering the rain,

Delightedly chasing each other.
I thought of Hardy’s poem, and
We weren’t like that.  I stopped
Working on my computer.
They were too absorbed to notice
Me watching; too busy to
Care about how old I was.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Alternate Realities


Bloom thought Owl’s Clover Steven’s poorest poem,
Mixing it up with the Marxists armed with little
More than his family’s archaic traditions.  Perhaps
Because my family moved from the Midwest with
Disjointed and poorly argued traditions there seemed
No point in declaring Jonestown unreal.  Jones’ swerve
Devolved into a competing reality.  Speculation about

His imagination seems specious even if we could
Know it.  Prophets always declare “the Truth.”
I couldn’t have been in Jim Jones’ congregation
Having a “short to isolate” opposition in my thinking,
Never mind any imagination in a social sense
(Steven’s flaw) to social adventures the details
Of which can be discovered in any modern library.

On the other hand Karl Marx wrote love poetry
To Jenny Von Westphalen.  Marx and a friend then
Got drunk, laughed in church and rode donkeys
Through the streets of Berlin having been awarded
His PhD at Jena.  He was criticized for his anti-Christian
Reality eventually moving to Britain with its
Tolerance-reality where they smiled at his views.       

The opposition between things


Nothing abstract about Leo Ryan losing
His face at Jamestown.  Congress gave
Him a medal posthumously.  I wonder
What he would have thought of that.
Larry Layton received twenty-four years
For the shooting.  Was Ryan’s face blown
Off before or after he was killed?

“After” according to the official record,
But I think “before,” pushing as he did
Into Jim Jones’ world which was run
In accordance with his imagination.
Stevens wrote “the effect of Owl’s
is to emphasize the opposition
Between things as they are and things

Imagined; in short to isolate poetry.”
I would never write that.  Anyone
Interested would testify that
I would have argued with Jones
And been excommunicated before
He left the states – never progressing,
Never shooting into Leo Ryan’s face.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Callas’ Face


We watched Netrebko sing
And then heard but didn’t see
Maria Callas sing the same thing.
I have always loved Callas’ voice
But in this case not seeing her face
I had to imagine
The passion.

Netrebko sang so perfectly I almost
Forgot Callas facing
The audience with more anguish
Than I saw in Sutherland, Caballe,
Or Kiri Te Kanawa; yet
Callas isn’t in the Sinfini
Top Ten.  Listverse on the other

Hand describes
In poor prose
Her “magical quality”
And “a kind of soul.”
None of those above despite their precision
Were as great as Bellini, but Maria it seems to me
Comes close to what he must have meant.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Stones and other Quests


That stone I thought was mine
Is apparently not, nor will
It do to find another, stones
Being under the will of
Someone else. I find upon
Reflection I don’t mind.
A childhood friend said

Looking down is the only
Way to find good things,
Old knives, screwdrivers
Forks, wrenches, cups
Parts of dirt bikes
And buggies, perhaps
A twenty dollar bill.

But it isn’t that reality
I seek, that being
Hitherto defined, but
What’s beyond, back
Behind, dreaming while
I walk.  I can’t take it up at will
But grab at it when it holds still.

Monday, January 19, 2015



When she speaks I hear
Her differently from someone
Who might say the same,
And she will speak
And I’ll enjoy hearing.
She can’t be reduced
To her implications.

She never stood away.
I heard her with my eyes
Even when I failed to catch
Her words, she speaks so softly
And more so as the day wears on.
She likes verbal rules
Which I burst listening.

This is intermittent,
Mario Lanza at thirty-eight,
Lord Byron at thirty-nine.
I’ll stop listening
When she leaves the room,
Resisting whatever arguments
The blackness has, and night.

Coming through


Coming through I’m never sure
Of where I’ve been or if I’ve been
There never sure of what it was
I thought or heard or saw.
It is reality of a sort
As far as I can tell but
Precisely what I never know.

Is everything encompassed now
Or if not when?  Do my thoughts
Impose these words or do these words
Constrain my thoughts? I’ve struck
The now against the long ago and
Within that frisson found 
An image being chipped.

When the concrete’s dry
I’ll walk out, finding
The sun glancing from
My weak eyes to where I’ve been.
I’ll bend down perhaps and grab
A tiny stone, a token of there
And of a brief being here. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015



My mother after she left my dad
Rented a room with Country
Folk, Hill-Billies who played
Music we’d never learned.
Taking the bus to school
(I was ten) I’d mimic
It in my mind.

In Kunsan we had
A small group, a guitar,
Harmonica, and I would
Sing nostalgic songs
About the girls
Back home who
Wouldn’t wait.

Later Susan from back
There liked Country
And I let her be.  We
Live in a rural town now.
I have a shotgun and
But we don’t get

Good reception:
Mountains block everything,
I don’t hear as well
As I used to and can’t
Sing as well either.
Maybe if I liked Country
No one could tell.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Reading Byron once more


Byron fled to Europe.  I fled
Wilmington at a younger age
To Korea and Japan – merely a
PFC I could not match
His wanderings, traveling
To Kunsan, Cheju Island,
Two trips to Japan.

When my tour ended
I saw Treasure Island,
Twenty-Nine Palms and
Pendleton which I didn’t
Need to leave but did
Having read Byron
In the base library.

Was it honorable
To settle down in
Aerospace or continue
Seeing the places at hand,
Vietnam, Nicaragua, Panama?
I was at those times reading poetry
And diving off San Pedro’s shore.

I never wanted more
Than what I had:
Not the belletristic wealth
That Byron, Crane, Pound
And others sought; which
Ought not to preclude
The poems it seems to me.

Friday, January 16, 2015



Though a Marine, I was
In only for the war.
Only in fancy could I
Have stayed.  It is much
The same now, not
Seeking the usual but
Writing the agitation,

Whatever significantly
Flares into mind in
Whatever form,
While I won’t
Wish to spend
Too much time

I remember the training,
How to rig a sling, walk post
In the dead of night, write
Of the squeaks and rustles,
The moon passing the trees
Illuminating my rifle’s dark glint
And catching whatever is there.

On reading Byron

Harold Bloom on page 242 of The Visionary Company, A Reading of English Romantic Poetry writes, “The Fire stolen from Heaven both kindles and blasts, and in Rousseau, human love is one with the stolen flame and in turn becomes existence itself.  Byron praises Rousseau as inspired, but dismisses him as ‘phrensied by disease or woe,’ an anticipation of modern Babbitry toward Rousseau’s genius.  Byron’s ambivalence is a necessary consequence of the extraordinary view of the natural world that Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage develops.  Every element given to man is simultaneously a way to moral greatness and divine blessing, and also a quicker way to self-deception and damnation.  Every human act that widens consciousness increases both exaltation and despair.  No other poet has insisted on maintaining both views with equal vigor . . . .”

Childe Harold in Cantos I and II is a poetic narration of Byron’s abandoning of England for Europe but as Bloom indicates, it rises much above that.  Moving from place to place he engagingly discusses his progress.  The Promethean fire consists of reaching into oneself and finding that which is incumbent upon the poet to flesh out and write. Byron is measuring the places he passes through; one sees his beliefs and prejudices but with evidence of introspective maturity.  This doesn’t mean he’s right but it does mean he strives to be honest; which ought to be capable of being said about any poet.

Perhaps because Byron’s most notable poems are long they have been neglected in this age of the personal short-lyric.  I plowed through Don Juan forty or fifty years ago but I passed over many of the details because the edition I was reading wasn’t annotated.  The edition in which I’m reading Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage is the “Delphi.”  I’m using a Kindle Fire 8.9 which allows me to click on strange terms or places and see definitions or descriptions. 

I wonder if Byron would have seen the effect of Rousseau on T.S. Eliot, Hart Crane, and the Robert Lowell clique.  We have had them for most of our lives and accept them as normal, but Byron wouldn’t have.  He would probably have seen them as likewise “phrensied by disease or woe,” and perhaps he would have considered Ezra Pound to have been the worst of the lot.  Other poets, Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore, Elizabeth Bishop, and William Carlos Williams for aren’t “phrensied” perhaps, but perhaps they don’t escape Rousseau’s disease.  Stevens used humor and playfulness in his alternatives to religion, but he was serious at the same time.  It was a great loss to him to no longer believe the Christianity he was raised with, but he was a successful businessman and poet.  He was neither phrensied nor diseased – although he did die of stomach cancer: a metaphor of the internalizing of the conflict he wrote about in his poetry.  

I seem to have burned myself out on the “Moderns” for the present, with their phrensied disease or woe.  Byron is a move in a more healthful direction, at least for the present – maybe he won’t be if I tackle his “Cain,” which was roundly condemned by many of his contemporaries.   Aside from the Modernistic phrensy my old eyes paid the price of reading the small print in too many books of criticism.  I’m better off reading from the eye-friendly Kindle Fire when possible. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

An Infinitude of Futures


I must have been programmed for this
Unless I created it in a dream.  I had
Translated it into a program and distilled
It in just this way and rushed out to the ship
With its glistening skin loaded previously
With all that I held of value, everyone,
And strapped myself in the pilot’s seat.

I inputted the code
From secrets long concealed
And launched us past the moon
And sun, and just as I knew,
The idea that we couldn’t go faster
Than light was a fiction to bind us
To this error that had reduced the earth.

Everyone stared out his window
As we passed comets, asteroids
And then the stars until we arrived
At a planet like the earth
Had been eons ago, but gentle
And green with a wholesomeness
Never seen by any of us. Rushing out

I set up camp, furnished with all
The good things there and all I had brought.
The new world was arrayed before us,
Lighted leaves from glowing trees,
Eyes gleaming beneficently in the
After glow of our landing,
An infinitude of futures.

A Good Story


A good story or passing dream,
The Pearl Poet or Hart Crane
Are all the same.  There is no
Real reclusiveness: the mind
Keeps bringing up old ills
Forcing the teeth to gnash on old
Grudges against long-dead men.

But if one not letting any of it
Go gets caught up in someone
Else, some other guise, it is a bit
Like restful sleep, better
Sometimes if the dream was full
Of rancor but the story takes
Off on diverting journeys

In someone else’s steps,
Even if it is a spy’s risking
His life for the Russians
With a wife who doesn’t
Understand him and with
Assassins bent on his destruction,
But if the writing or acting

Flags, one finds oneself
Returning to an embarrassing
Childhood gaff, say, some rebuff
At seven by a gorgeous girl with
Resulting anguish more poignant
Than the story, and one always wakes
Much sooner than one expects to.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Confection of Wills


The illusiveness if not able
To swerve into certainty
Nevertheless enabled some
To banish God and delight
In the green freedom
Of a cockatoo on a rug
Pulled from under

A flat earth and stationary
Universe.  Is it because the
Brightest words were
Spoken long ago and
The God of them silenced
As those prophets died?
One can still if one wills

Hear the disturbance of echoes.
Ben in the back yard darkness
Howled in near-human anguish
And implored me to lead him
Back in despite the existence
Of a doggy-door he might have
Used if he’d had the will to.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

This Loving of Wives


If I for example have a wife
I’m fond of and find myself
Hoping she won’t die
Do I diverge from Nature’s will,
Or God’s, which of course I do;
So in being out of step
Do I typify some significant

Principle, for I have heard this
Is a common thing, this loving
Of wives so would it serve a
Purpose when she dies to rail
At God knowing as I do
That all wives die?  And if
Not should I somehow learn

To love less – or perhaps
Embrace mourning more
As a thing to be desired,
And if not then to measure
The distance left in following her
Or believe she will be in heaven
When she dies?  But if that

How could I be sure
My belief in heaven
Wasn’t merely assuaging
My grief and deep down
Know that though she be
There I will be left
Behind in unbelief?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

An Idle Singing


“An idle singer for an empty day”
Sure!  But also dizzy from
Watching movies of war and
Differences between the one
That sent me to one and the
Current mechanized strangeness
Of Middle-Eastern combat.

“Would I still have gone?” gave me
A headache – had I stayed I could
Imagine Vietnam as a Sergeant
But not loaded with so much
Gear I needed a Humvee to haul
Me to the battleground.  Was I
Conditioned for a few wars only?

And why was Ezra Pound so astute
About poetry and so inept
Politically, praising Mussolini,
Adolph Hitler and himself above
All to those who would listen and did
In dwindling numbers till he died,
Or was he merely crazy as many believe?

The mountain through my window
Is turning green as it does this time
Each year.  Susan was up late listening   
To her sister while I watched and
Listened to strange songs sung in
Humvees by Marines who occasionally
Stopped to shoot large numbers of Iraqis.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Returning to her again


Sage rested on the soft
Sand of the trail, her mouth
Gaping, her tongue aquiver,
Her eyes half-closed, and
Ahead through the trees
Were more places to rest,
Sand at an easy pace.

Returning to her again
Waiting on along
Looking back my only
One back then again
I’ve never accepted
This dying of sage,
Finding another in her place,

And Susan
Waking as she once did
With bright eyes and clear
Sweet smile, but
A little while left
And we’ll both begin again,
Or someone will.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Shanghai’s New Year’s Eve Stampede


Thirty-six killed with the matter still
Under investigation.  We were supposed
To take the tunnel under Lakewood
Boulevard back then to get to the
Parking lot.  One day walking up
Into the open air a bicyclist
Looked over his shoulder and

Would have had us had I not
Grabbed his handle bars.  One
Can’t encompass everyone
We knew we were cattle
Hardening some of us willing
To ward off the aggression.
The 405 was much the same.

An impatient lady moved between
The lanes intending to change from
One slow one to another.
I hit the brakes on my
KZ200 stopping inches
From her wide eyes.
The anarcho-primitivist

Ted Kaczynski received eight
Life terms and is incarcerated
At ADX Florence for his
Recommended solution along
With Faisal Shahzad, Ramzi
Yousef and Eric Rudolph who
Complained about the misery and pain.