Saturday, February 28, 2015

In the Wind


The bending of trees after the wind,
After several years of wind, stretched
The branches across the yard toward
My room, a canopy of shade come
Summer, but on these dark winter days
They sway awaiting winds to come.
What did Emerson mean when he said

Homer was too “historical”?  A tree
Like a Cyclops reaching out a dark
Branch to brush its leaves against
My window?  I planted it years
Ago and since then it has weathered
Everything.  It cannot now be afraid,
But is it urging me not to be?

A trope then for pathos
Suggesting why argument
Can never satisfy nor
Philosophy explain;
The rain splashing
Through these leaves
To leave me speechless.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Prince Otsu before his execution


Life isn’t as short
As some say.  As we
Age we forget the details,
Whether when executed at age
Twenty-five or thinking 
Back at eighty while listening
To a familiar Concerto.

Even imagining what was
To come and setting my
Seabag down to wait for the bus
To Camp Pendleton, and later
Watching the Yellow Sea
Come across the seeming miles
To lap through the wire fence at my feet,

It is very little amidst
All that was and is now forgotten.
We aren’t fashioned to recall it all
Else why would we go on?
Better to sit still remembering
All that was wonderful
And would never be as good again.

Prince Otsu experienced fleeting
Glimpses of what he would miss.
Alas, it wouldn’t have been as he
Imagined even if his executioners
Never Arrived and even if he lived to eighty.
He would merely sit by a fire and fail to recall
Much of whatever it turned out to have been.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Ancestral Dialectics


From New England in the Seventeenth
Century they moved west, many of them,
Stopping in Indiana and Illinois for
The Civil War and then came further
West.  What does it now mean
That I have lived so long near
The Pacific, swimming, diving,

Spearing fish, sailing to Japan
And back again? Was it Japan
And Korea I truly sought?
I thought so for a while,
Reaching toward them to touch
But came back again.  That couldn’t
Have been it.  I’ve since moved

Part way up a mountain and sit
By a window watching a low-hung
Cloud full, or partly so, of rain
Which won’t be salty like the sea
But perhaps just what I need to
Determine which direction I should take,
Whether to pull further back or move on

Saturday, February 21, 2015

On China’s one-child policy


China’s one-child resolution has bred
A generation of soldiers who prize
Themselves as their mother’s do.
They whine and want to quit.  The
Generals are vexed.  In my case
My mother signed so I could enlist
At seventeen.  She still had my brother

Who was twelve and another newly
Born.  It wasn’t just that though;
I was overly independent,
Prone to fight and with
A chip on each shoulder –
Just the sort to be shipped
Off to whatever wars

We wanted to pursue.  As to my
Worth my mother said years later
She wished she’d stopped
Having children after me.
She would have been able
To cast me into the priest
Of her mind’s eye.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The advantage of indeterminism

    When one like Marlowe or Crane,
    Shelley or Keats has achieved
    His self-determined goals,
    Well, it is time to declare it
    Done and make room for whoever
    Comes next.  Some of the rest
    Of us however aren’t so sure.

    There are goals abounding
    And nights when our hypotheses
    Are rent by witches with sniggers --
    That die away perhaps but are
    Soon replaced to fend off
    Our latest conclusions, the next
    Painting, poem or design.           

    We rail at critics but were
    It not for them we might
    Think our slight efforts
    Worthy of places along
    Side Byron, Blake and Defoe,
    More insightful than anything
    By Wittgenstein and die.

Monday, February 16, 2015



Fighter planes came low
Over the house all morning.
Ben looked concerned, “just planes,”
My son said, but why here,
Why now?  Somehow something
Had changed.  A siren howled close by.
They were coming for us once again.

There is an important obligation
Not to discriminate, not to
Tell Susan they can’t give her
A transplant when she is old,
But the chief surgeon
Confessed the chance
Infinitesimally small.

We answered the call
And agreed to tests, as much
As they liked.  She never
Complained, but she is weary
Especially of the more
Stressful demands and
Of the treatment.

In my dream she was
As beautiful as she used to be.
I took her in saying,
“You have always been 
Beautiful.”  She looked at me
Out of her torment, crying “it is too
Hard now.  I’m not like that any more.”

I woke suddenly, stumbling
Up out of my lounge
Chair, unable to keep
My balance as the room
Spun.  I lurched down
The hall to see for myself the
Soft rise and fall of her breathing.