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Bottom City Blues (collection revised, finalized, walked away from)


Bottom City Blues is my most recent collection, started in '02 and finished in '09. Strangely the collection's first poem was the last made. Somehow this makes sense to me. I put the collection here because the poems are no longer up for crit. They stand or fall as are. I need to move on from these babes.



           Bottom City Blues



The famous historian said to a poet once, “The only freedom left in America is the choice between what brand of products to buy.” Said poet, slow in his thinking, got back to the historian ten years later and replied, “The freedom to love trumps all closed systems, all of America’s handlers.”


           Terreson



Images of Invisibility

The electric light bulb, free swinging, overhead
that can expose absence of friendly cover in the
nuance and deceptive depth of friendly cover.

The bone’s chill in the pre-dawn hour, no matter
the latitude, and the one certain love who
throws herself from high rise, packed in the
death snow garden's cocaine can percolate.

The roadside, wolf hour when sleep keeping on
moonless night’s park bench is what a man has,
when then a vagrant sees he’s shorn of any conceit.

In Central Park too. Then again on Lexington Avenue.

In derelict’s camp I got invisibility of image more than once.
In migrant camp too when prostitutes came through.
In convenience store’s parking lot, brightest light, and
the Gray Fox wanting to split apart the night on our bikes.

Invisibility is midnight exposure on white beach, in
winter December. And the selection coming sweet, to
close your eyes in driftwood moment, forever’s sleep.

Invisibility can reside in pushing things too far.
Going feral, inhuman, counting on coyote pack,
black bear brother, hemlock trim to take me in.
Deep forest detritus dreams and underseen wishes.

But I think invisibility resides in this the most:
losing a child to your own body’s sins; second most, when
your lover needs your cover from her loneliness.



In Deep Song’s Register

“The heart has its reasons which reason does not know.”
           Pascal



1

I kissed a young girl on the road.
I was too stupid to touch her heart.
I made her go away.

Death is an old man.
Night is our mother.

Cradle me again. The train horn blows.
I am tired of my strength,
the tension in my legs.

Death is an old man.
Night is our mother.

Sunrise in the river sunset.
Water is in the stone.
Creole finger paints your skin.

Death is an old man.
Night is our mother.

Spirits have used me up. Shadow voices called.
The highway is your wind.
Let me come back to you, girl.

Death is an old man.
Night is our mother.


2

She sleeps on her side this morning.
Last night we did not want to sleep.

The secret we make is a nation.
It is well guarded in these rooms.
There is no other city-state
when we are together in the vines.

Then she must go in the afternoon.
And the black dog in my body
becomes restive, walks the levee.
Tonight I hate you, old man,
For taking her back to the highway.
I thank you for showing me
What hatred in purity is.


3

Gitana,
what is new to you
is not new to me, my
wide brimmed hat and long coat
just a left over
from highway life pressed in
service of the dark queen.

Moon’s stark blood flow
is what enthralls
you. Fascinates me.
The thrill in what calls to you
I honor with the rhythmic beat,
my cante, black shod feet.

But I must tell you
the rattlesnake road steers us,
bites the ankle of the half-believing.

Come home with me, Gitana.
And bring the little ones.


4

The sting is on my chest this morning.
The pent up need runs deep
and she marked me there.

Last night her love was furious.
I’m sure she startled herself.
There was no moon , and so
stark of light cannot be blamed.

Across the Parish line
she will not acknowledge me.

The mark is there and I say sincerely
I will kill the man, the song,
the wind who looks to take her from me.


5

Mockingbird sing your song.
Black brother crosses the water.

Mockingbird girl
you never repeat a note.
But tell of elegant brother
crossing over tonight.

Night bird sing.
The picture is in white light.
And black brother floats
on Bayou Paul.

Cajun boy got too close today.
He struck off smooth brother’s
head with my long knife.

Mockingbird sing your elegant song
to cottonmouth brother
who crosses over.


6

Gitana,
why float around my head
so frantically?
I am not a lamp light
looking to scorch your body.

But you have scorched my skin.

I know nothing anymore.
Not the Gulf stream womb,
deep forest’s wet light,
sand dunes scraped of life,
mountain’s hibernation, raven lore,
long highway, or city eye.

It is all because of you.

You are so pretty in your soul.
Especially when you rest.
When will you let yourself rest?

There are stories like ours
that never get told.
My heart is your home, Gitana.
And we know it.


7

You called me out and I came.
Sweet Jesus, your voice was close.

You called and you met me there.
The bow in your body told the truth.

You called me up and took me down.
What we found cannot be refound.

Until I die I will love forever.
You will see me in his eyes always.

Tonight the air is too luxuriant.
I hurt for you on the shore.


8

The bayou is my heart.
The bayou is my body.
What can my whole body tell you
if you do not know
this flesh of space, heat and chill?

Gitana, come down.
Come down, Gitana.

There is the scorpion sting
in my boot when she says
the real thing that says
the train through town
is just a passerby, just a passerby.

Gitana, come down.
Come down, Gitana.

The bottom soul percolates
in her homeland. Unmeasured,
so uncaptured in our river walk.
And turn returns on itself, crazy,
the sense we need of each other.

Gitana, come down.
Come down.


9

The red hour glass and the upturned spider belly,
black and gravid girl
poised in the palm of my hand.

Brother, I miss you in this bayou light.
You were always better than me.
I look for you now like a child
looking for stillness in your soul.

Roads to nowhere I keep to.
And to perfect love turning stone to water.
The gold shaft in you, in your bones,
clears the fields, stabs the levee,
sets you standing out heroic.

You never once questioned your passion.

It is the light that beguiles me,
tosses me down just when I think I see.
Shadows in summer’s afternoon
I figure have meaning too, have the close story.
And they do, my brother, only
your purity of vision saved you.
Impurity in nuance damns me.

It is the heat of the hour
and the uncalled for sighting of your face
that sucks the air out of my lungs.
This was not the plan we made
when we walked Chartres street and you said,
“My dance is my body, my God is my own.”

I swore by the beauty you saw that day!

It is this hour glass spider in my palm.
She rests deliberately, she is warm.
And you the casualty of too much Christ.


10

She has me down the streets tonight.
I am out looking for her.
But she will not be close by.

In Bayou Teche she has to stop.
I cannot call on her doorstep.
Do you hear me, hateful old man?
In her black night I cannot call on her.

Here at home we choked on the thing.
How it happened I cannot say.
The sting in my eyes might have come first.
Then she could not stop the tears.

What do you want me to say, old man?
She is love and I am life.


11

Play it down the neck, blues man.
The downpour is on the wind.
Play it hard, delta son,
hard to my mouth harp.
And death is on the wind.

Play it the same, blues runner.
Chase the old man down tonight.
I can keep you awake
through the falsetto dawn.
Death is on my ankle
and copperhead still near by.

Play it on the neck,
strike it in the bowl.
And death is on the wind.


12

The template at birth.
Texture and the lasting fingerprint.

It must be cause enough
to keep in view
the details of a girl
captive, dreamy, unfurled;
and the silk rope’s cinch,
the pounding feminine storm.

Today she skipped off
The blue radar screen.

All the same I love a squall,
the inside source, bayou downpour,
cleansing my used up body;

and I must keep right by her.


13

Gitana,
let it go tonight.
Please let it go.
And I still need
the kind of love I understand.

Sweet Madonna,
mother of Christ turbulence,
it is the river run
so confusing to us.
The way the bends twist, melt away
until east is west to sun.

On this blacktop street
a man’s need beats him down.
Another woman’s passion
bumps against the daily grind.

Gitana,
the horse you ride tonight
is instinct, keeps you to the road.
That is understandable.
Ride your pony, girl.
Ride what you know.

I got to keep to the wind spirit
I hear. Even on this dirty street.


14

Gitana,
the white rose you brought me
still smells of that hot day.
I have the rose here on your altar.

The hardness in the path
where I used to love the climb
in stair rock to your door.
And, moonless night,
why must you keep her so close?

Gitana.
Gitana!
The rose browns, bruises, and
I am your Christ moment
just before the cock crows.

Mother may you see her.
Mother may you see her.


15

Moon downs the bayou tonight.
The cold in her bones cuts the heart.
And I am the coyote man
you see in the shiver of a dream.

The road leads us away from here
and the receding face she changes
for another man in the cypress.
How I hate his money.

Black tupelo in the fireplace,
my face in the brand and ember,
she burns alive for love.
And I am the coyote man,
the stranger in your dream.

Bayou song, bayou wish, bayou summer again.
The sense of her flesh aches,
the honey dance waits for the sun,
and the coyote man she cannot keep.


16

The world is on fire tonight, Gitana.
It’s like you said it would be.
The flames lap up your sides.
The dark lady shows herself in sunset.

She is my first home.
Your love is my hell.

I cannot leave her in the near night,
and the carrion song you sing.
I cannot escape the fire flood, Gitana.
What is alive stays hers, in the trees.

And I saw her. And I knew her thighs.
And she showed herself. Exquisite.
On this side of your risen body.
On this side of that ghastly choir.

She is my first love.
Your hell is my home.

The little ones ask you remember them to the Lord.




Bottom City

Harrier hawk and she who
presses close in flight like
I should know the strength of her beat.

This was my land, her home, once.
But I misplaced it long ago.
Her fielding, her throaty call,
and now the starkness in the night.

Middle street is down to sleep
and the near surplus of white high rise.
Just the city sink and it must happen
when there is here the wolf-side hour.

Whoever knows that hour knows the price.

Hard on heaven
spread live oak and thornwood hang.
Hard on earth town street
the bottom urge keeps, the same.

I don’t exactly know the end, except
that when she opens her pure self
there is marsh flight in sterling sky.



Three Days Full

“We might call the poet’s piety a natural piety.”
John Crowe Ransom

I keep to you, girl.
Without the cross you bear
there can be no birth again;
no sweet fissure tongue,
no moisture holding together
complex cell, mineral, wound and mound.

Start of gravid belly,
the yellow pull of circle shine.
And I do not deserve you.
Inner city in its anxiety,
the bass note rumbling through
height of summer night.

On my dark doorstep there is this desperate man
whose face might be death’s, or does he
mean to say, ‘This is fall down life?’
Either way he must posture and
I must open the door to greet him and
the invitation calls, remains.

So I keep to you, girl.
Pull me down in your atmosphere.



The Mississippi Kite

In this town of too much atmosphere.
Love found on a blue light, downtown street
can make for the private investigation, while
love discovered back at home more dangerously so.

But I know exactly what my body needs
when I’m out of the city, in between the bayous,
and the Mississippi behind its levee
is the cooling, unseen breeze on my cheeks, or when
the honey bee girls fan my hand between the comb.

Viewed as trade winds I’ve learned love can be contrary.
Sometimes because even honest girls partially know their truths.

On a street at dusk, driving for my apartment,
road work narrows four lanes to two, then one.
Traffic standstill and I look up into the failing blue
and I get stopped a second time. She is that sweet on the eyes.

The girl kite sliding on the uplift, rounding, shaping
currents of air to best advantage;
flight stutter in insect catch, wings reaching broad,
tail fans to a spread. Then muscular, sharp wing pulled in,
so to keep her in perfect, rhythmic turn and tight.
And the equally perfect absorbing blue of her gray flight.

Such purpose in her instincts, in her body;
enough to carry me back to where I once belonged.



Meditations in a Low Rent District

Voice of redbone hound in tree shadow. Unmistakable.

And this Bottom City side street.
Mississippi hackberry tree. Live oak in low swing.
Sweet and pungent cypress smell, and memory immediate;
calling up first raised flesh, first hunt, and the
interior of more pungent, sweeter cypress swamp.

Then brother raccoon, his signature tail first,
mother-lover’s son in stronger shadow, belly low,
walking across
the opposing apartment’s rooftop.
He sees me, I see him, we stop to draw
on the same practiced pose.

Only, he is the better opportunist. Even as I may be
the better shape-shifter in city in exile.
Just two particular kinds of criminals.
And city down loves itself too much, maybe too little sometimes.
And city down forgets itself, maybe not enough sometimes.

I am grateful the landlord keeps absent, negligent
as any parish president should be, once elected.
This way home in Bottom City gives green in
doorway, in window, stair step and courtyard space.
This way redbone gives her scent to street, coon gives
promenade, and the soonday coyote to claim
back street. A night I anticipate.



Caravaggio’s Dark Haired Girl

I do answer to the way some women walk.
Not that I can explain the reason to
a jury of my peers, or to twelve
randomly good citizens.

She can be a woman. She can be a girl.
Hers can be the medial moment when she knows
she is the station departing, arriving between
two destinations,
barely separated, our lowlands and her backlight hills.

It can also be a city street where I’ve seen her.
It has.
And it can be a deep-hinter, narrow black road
between oceans of corn or cotton. It has.
Or the scene can be that most dangerous place.
The interior space of some good citizen’s home.
There too I notice the walk of certain women
whose feet neither slap, flat or negotiate the floor;
they just pull the moment up into their bodies like ground swell.

I can’t explain the thing. I only know
I’ve seen the pigments of the scene
too many times to deny a certain woman walks about.

A neighbor girl brings out these notes and reflections.
The self-owning in how she slants her head to all on-comers.
The way she seeds her body made of more earth than air.
How her feet take to concrete just like
cougar girl who takes deliberate step on forest floor.
And this: her eyes darker than what she tells
to her lover on their apartment doorstep.
A hooker by trade maybe. She might figure
business is best kept untouched at home.

Cousin crow in hackberry tree says he knows
the print of those footsteps too.
He just tocks and chortles.



The Girl Next Door

The girl next door is a painter, only
she is not a girl anymore and she
is not next door but across the walking alley.
As best as I can figure she
dresses herself, pays skylight rent, buys groceries,
meets utilities, makes car payments
on what she manufactures, sells, shows,
and decors.
Hers is a cottage industry in mid-city.

Certain observations of certain citizens are worth the record.

She is always up, about, out earlier than most.
She drives a jeep; the canvas top an emblem of
the sometime restive woman I’ve known before.
She mixes her paints, lacquers; spray seals
her paintings out the back, en plein air.
From what I can see she is always, almost
always, in motion. She is a small woman.
Skin is light brown. Flesh tight on the bones. Her face, toothy smile,
is drawn. And I keep wondering why.

Sometimes I’ve seen her holding her head
in her hands, through the open door, on her couch.
I think she told me once she had been a stripper.

When she steps out that door I rarely say hello
or look to engage her in conversation.
She as seldom looks up to my second floor home.
Somehow it seems wrong to disturb the painter in
Actaeon fashion.
The truth is I shy my eyes from her movements.
Even Diana I figure needs her apartment privacy
when bathing, not bathing, or working hard
to satisfy the time-stamped commission.

Last week she set outside, against the red brick wall, three paintings.
All of women, all nudes, in different comportments.
Stupid aesthete that I am I wanted her to know
which of the three struck my inside sense.
It was the uncertain, single, middle woman in defiant body.
The girl whose pond belly pulled on life,
whose face in line drawing bore the bearings of her thoughts,
whose textured flesh lent itself to
enigmatic movements. The ones no man dares describe.

That day she suddenly looked up at my door,
maybe self-consciously, maybe with suspicion.
Of course I said nothing, looked down to my business,
kept inviolate her work in progress.

Next door to the painter lives a blues man,
a Louisiana boy whose lone wail, sundown acoustics,
can come across, travel over, string river sweet.

Here too an observer should never intrude too much;
not when high secrets keep their secrets in the alley.



Lower Ninth Ward

The Big Easy, baby, just got easier.
Levee’s broke and my thighs know these dirty waters.
I can walk them and I can swing us through,
all the way through to street dry ground.

I got you raised in the promenade.
I got my chin as high as the sky.
I got my back. I got my thick legs walking.
I know I got you. To Chartres street soon.

Come on, children, and stop your fooling around.
Remember what I showed you.
How to swim to the man.
That’s all you need. What I taught you.
How to swim your way out of here.
See that now? He’s got his whirly-bird near.

Muddy bottom down, pulling on my arms.
He’s been my cradle. He’s going to be my grave.
Please, Mister, take my sweet baby’s body.
Keep her safe. Keep her high and easy.



Apogee

You are too far away tonight.
This afternoon by bee yard’s pond I felt
first year’s sun-slant on my cheek.
Then the uncalled for ache between my legs.

Night heron in her live oak disturbed, disturbs,
and her own slight surface of flight.
Because of you, sweetheart, I know that call.

What amazes me is how tied in flesh we can be
on the cusp
when white clover spells contentment
in foraging field and while
the death berry mistletoe
is not quite crouched, canopy concealed;

or tonight when I must reckon with
sight of gibbous girl out of reach.



Melissa

To make a living I work with honey bees.
Genus Apis species Mellifera sub-species Mellifera.
Some days, late summer days especially when
there is no local nectar flow, but any
overcast day when no sun comes through
to call out to forage with the older girls,
it is difficult to hold a water cup and leaving
a bee yard in bayou heat,
much less the steering wheel that gets me home.
Hand flesh stretched to snare drum skin,
forearms swollen to water wood limbs,
belly and back too surface close to take a lover’s touch.

Venom is a cocktail of twelve acetates and alcohols.
Sting a pressure pump of engineered musculature.

There are South Asian bee hunters
who climb the vertical, jungle cliffs
for honey’s cache in crag and crevice home.
We are unmet brothers, only
I work with the veil, they do not, and they
backing down cliff face, comb in side packet,
toe-sure in foot hold, eye flesh swollen shut.

Once I saw a photograph of a bee hunter’s wife.
I still see her face.
She is at village market. She sits. She smiles large.
As if hers alone to give she lifts to the camera
the flower fragranced, yellow honey comb.
But I don’t think I do this job anymore,
not entirely, for this Melissa.

You don’t really know a man until working a bee yard with him.
(A bee woman’s case is the accented case,
she who belongs to the Melissae.)
Until then you never let a man get so close.
One man I know is famous for how he thinks like a bee.
A second because he quickly locates Melissa, the queen.
A third because of the easy way he slips into a hive.
A fourth for his cyclical sense of honey bee needs;
he has it down to the year’s day, the day’s hour.
A fifth because of his trancement when in a bee yard.

A yard’s backlight atmosphere and the furious flight
make for such a trance. And alone.

In a colony, beneath pollen packed cells and the
wet shake of nectar flow,
in deep brood chamber, and nurse bees to fan my sweaty hands,
where sight of her, the elegant, body-tapered girl, the queen,
always stops me, sucks the air out of my lungs;

I get taken back in dreamtime to
the first time in dreamtime when
the first of the tribe got swarm drunk on
the first Melissa, first Deborah, and her face.



Two Fathers

“There is no science, no wisdom,
life has been lost from the day one thing
became known.”
Antonin Artaud

Man, I’ve been beating my brains lately, sorely missing
places closer to where poetry’s head proceeds.
Okay, so the fault is mine. I have insisted
on getting taught the art of inseminating queens.
Grafting the major girl I got down. Anybody can
with right royal jelly, with feeling for right age larvae,
rightly manufactured swarm conditions in cell builder;
and the noon steadiness of practiced fingers
to scoop her soft larval self from bottom of six sided cup.

Beekeepers’ wives graft for queens all the time;
nurse bees, fooled, automatically feed, then seal
the soon to be virgin girls in pinnacle pendant homes.
Twelve days max. and the chewed through, emergent chorus line.

Damn right I want more.
It is an exacting art, this thing of I.I.
(instrumental insemination),
with no allowance under microscope for
approximate close-to-right-touch, still the near miss.
Either Queen Mellifera is sperm tooled rich or she is not.
She either oviduct accepts and passes sperm cell through and to
spermatheca or she will not
(in her story viability is determining).
My bad, of course, but right here a poet’s
lizard brain registers interstice home of Beauty.

What beats against brain’s left-soft side is this:
what the scientist insists I get if I want to make life:

in germ cell there is gamete, the sex cell that divides;
in nucleus there is chromosomal, zippered string unzippered,
each half-string a necklace, gene beaded with
double helix, the spiral staircase locking codes, A,C,T,G,
A w/ T, G w/ C and in forever partner pairs;
then DNA’s enzyme and protein patterning
to make in sets of sequence threes, describing
the language, and life the self-insistent morph,
looking to pair, sperm w/ egg, zippering up again.
Then suddenly I get the indiscrete moment in early embryo
that does not set my germ cells only and apart
from fertile queen, her thousands of offspring, or her
anciently divided, ancestral wasp locked in amber now.

So I figure I got two fathers. The one I saw murdered,
mourned him and loved. The other I killed, still love and mourn,
who keeps in resonance, and the Horus scent down the corridor.



Matanzas
(a tidal marsh river)

There is a truth the gifted lover knows
and cannot find. Or ever love again.
It grows in the sand pine stand, bends down on
live oak, waters its way through savannah plain,
and then reddish in the tidal brackish where
instinct fish are spawned enough
to feed all the sea of swell. The layered need.

It is not a truth to find its way home.
This also the gifted lover knows.
In damp breath that hangs
on the heartbeat of the gorget’s hummingbird,
and hides inside the sip of hibiscus flower,
it rolls behind moonstone’s perspiration,
and on the tip of the last outreach,
the tongue of land that stands between
the coral, semitone sky and jetty’s dive.

I swear she is that gifted,
having seen her there when
my lizard brain blinks.
And in her manner she will not notice me.
She is her own high moment then.
She lets go, she who seeds the sea,
just when freight whistle blows,
midnight upends,
and crowned heron bends down the wing in pier light.

It is just not a truth to find its way home.



Ginny
(an old friend asks for a certain class of memories)

It came this way, sweetheart.
We both know a man can be rich
in the storied life, but with less else left
to give to move in a girl like you.
And the heat you own.

Motion of sea’s push into sand white stillness
can still raise my flesh.
So too mountain’s move, shift, uplift,
and the smooth spread of Piedmont’s stretch;
and savannah’s stream, Gulf rhythm, bayou’s breath.
But never in the way you did in that
midnight place while resting against me
and we resting against the white weight of the dune.

It was February’s night. We waiting to see a sunrise.
Silly, right? Two lovers waiting for the sun to come up.
The dunes were dunes of my birth. Dunes between your discoveries.
Your new finds then were newest to me.
Your new finds now, magnificent.
You at rest against my body that night,
my arms circling inside your jersey, holding you to me,
and I could feel your heart beat in my chest.
At first I thought it the pound of swell
to white surf, and bottom shift of sandbar.
But it was you, your heart beat, your rhythm need.
It was you that made the ocean pound in my chest.

With the way you need to come, and your need to go,
since that pure night I start when you turn back around.



Hilltop Hideaway
(Charlottesville, VA)

South of town; and the blacktop
that always narrows after the sun backs down.
On the other side of city limits.
On the inside of honey comb decadence,
the sweet and nectar night flow.

Richard had his steak house, if not for long.
In those years he was the best line cook on the grounds.
Farmington, ‘the white only’, Old Dominion country club
must have hated the day Richard got his black ass
the banker’s note to back him up on the roadside hilltop.

There was always the loose, sometimes too tight,
mix of professionals, randy academics, and the
restive student yet to get mortgage-stamped; of
other-country customers too,
the artists, midnight archeologists, jazz lovers,
and the pepper town aficionados in
plantation politics and blue light freedom.

Man, could I lose my religion on
Richard’s dance floor in speak-easy light.

She announced to the club she was a school teacher;
from a town a few miles further down the road.
Lynchburg.
And she had a voice. [sign in to see URL] voice
to take you out of your skin, take you to her inside place,
make you want to answer to her religious body.

When the bandleader behind the keyboard said
he was ready to take the requests
I looked up to the vocalist and asked,
“Could you give us ‘Summertime’?”
But the leader, chewing hard
on the soft inside of his cocaine lips,
looked down his exquisite nose,
calling on my Cracker ass, quickly said,
“We don’t do the greats, man.”

Then my savior, sweet girl, school yard teacher
who gets into the stage man’s space,
who whispers in his ear, “Let me do this, please;”
who then sings the song with every pore in her flesh,
steps out of herself, out of the room, into a night-south
where living is easy for her,
who tells a story that night that belongs to her alone;

who later kisses with me. And her bravery.
I’ve never stopped loving that hideaway girl who went back home.



Riff on a Theme

A woman can dream to sleep with a serpent son.
She well knows he will one day cinch, coil to her.
In the same way sometimes a man seeks out this dangerous girl.
He feels certain the chance worth the find between her thighs.

This is something I know about the beds of the dishonored
where enclosure secrets play out in a headlight;
when in her flesh she knows her man should die tonight for her,
and he knows the moment slight for slipping in, slipping out.

The one girl’s scene is a theme, tangled, liminal.
All the tendril laws she births, greens in midnight decadence.
She is pear fruit pull in her scent, fish taste sharp in her pores,
clinical crescent and scimitar mark on a new born baby’s cheek.

He knows he has always known her threshold moment.
She knows his finger touch will produce one small disaster.

When does the girl with snakes in her hair birth the woman?
When does the full moon grow out of the girl cradled in the old?
And when will she forget the Venus light he traces on her face?

A woman can dream to sleep with a serpent son.
In this same way sometimes a man seeks out this dangerous girl.



Summer Night Stories

“What! There is no treason?
This grief’s without reason.”
Paul Verlaine

Maybe the sibyl can say why, and crevice sulfur drunk,
the romanced old woman told her history tales.
Night after summer night that summer;
nearing the wolf-side hour’s thrashing floor
she called out, a court reporter reading from her notes.

Favorite brother betrays voiceless brother for his
wife; her skin the color of palmetto twilight, hair the
fineness of midnight, scent to swing a man up
without notice.
Other brother too who nurtures the Bible belt cheat:
five years in redemption’s sin; wife and children farm fed;
business partner’s daughter on the farm supply and feed floor.
And the two sisters in tandem !@#$ third sister’s
magical sportsman and delivery postman.
And he would feel up between sister’s thighs,
driving down the night ribbon, Florida by-road;
back seat sister’s and sister’s children occupied.

I never questioned her except to encourage her reportage.
I did not mention the child night when she got angry;
the bar scene night, whiskey sour and slum light night,
when her oldest, sweet daughter said no to her other, younger
favorite brother whose need of the girl he said would ease him.
I did not ask her the need she needed of her sons when she was drunk.
And I couldn’t have told the old woman how her youngest,
musk and sex scented sister
would drive the greyhound miles to fold in her comfort flesh
a middle child after the old woman was dead.

Treason and betrayal. Or blood need without reason.

Since those Daytona nights, rank summer night stories,
I’ve picked enough through the coral pink beds,
enough to know love is a submerged city-state
when midnight upends its lovers.
A republic without its sacred geese to trumpet the invader.



Saturday night meditations in this year of deep war and my baby fitfully sleeps

No one responds to lovers in a year of war.
And in America the foreign war is a sex game
punctuated by a Sousa march, in 4/4 time;
and majorettes lifting high their bare thighs
on city and township’s parade route streets.
And so no one can hear the lyric, Ionic half-beat
except maybe the child-warrior thinking hard on back-at-home,
the home lonely wanting child warrior, mother, brother, father
back,
and maybe witnesses reckoning in records past.

Cyber engine navigates; whiskey’s engine drives.
It is late. Long past Saturday’s midnight with
nothing more to lose today and nothing left to gain.
The open-end hour skinned of metaphor and conceit.

Search query: Vietnam War casualties.
Quickly appears the triaged numbers on the screen.

5,000,000 North Vietnamese soldiers dead
set in the captioning of thirteen years or so.
People of city, farmland, of family and dreams.
1,250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers dead.
Still of city, farmland, of family, of dreams.
Then this stat.: 3,500,000 civilians killed, caught in the interstice
(I figure of city, farmland, of family and dreams).
And here I must question these questionable civilians.
Were they mothers, were they of the North or South,
were they children (always the man-made borders),
were they Viet Cong who, in this year of war,
would be called insurgents whose tactics of terror
put me in mind of Bedford Forrest, CSA and his KKK.
Or were they Buddhists on fire, always the auto da fe,
were they sympathizers, actors, or unwilling hosts?

Cambodian and Laotian civilians getting caught in the
not-exactly-declared war net. But the numbers there
even less exactable. Just another 1,100,000 approximate,
of city, of farmland, of family, of dreams.

Then this on the screen. 58,239 U.S. soldiers KIA.
128,000 WIA. 14,000 MIA. Or this.
414 Australian soldiers KIA with
2,348 more WIA.

Of city, of farmland, of family and dreams.

In the red of the round the search calls out to eleven million
dead, wounded, missing. But engine’s site
says nothing about
war children playing in shrapnel fields looking to ignite.
No information on poisoned forest residuals.
And no information, no information, no information on
age-mates I meet on caved-in streets, in the missions,
panhandling, thirty years later, still footless in a jungle.

The year after Saigon fell I welcomed her last mayor.
Mr. Chung. This was out of New Orleans, in the deep Gulf swirl.
The rig was tagged TW 54, and the tallest of her kind back then,
as outstanding as a Westmoreland elephant.
We called her the Marble Mountain. When coming in
by helicopter she stood magnificent. The silver white shelves.
And one evening at rig rail Mr. Chung and I watched
a thread of porpoises schooling by.
He said the sighting counted down, signed good luck for him.
It finally did for him.

Old men like me got no sons to make anymore.
So we got to stick around to welcome the next city mayor.
Just the foreign war blues.

And people of city, farmland, of family, of dreams.



“My Dance Is My Body, My God Is My Own”
(to L.D. 1954 – 1990)


1

I drink too much these days, L.D.
You were long since gone when
self-medication became a good idea.

And I got a regular job too, L.D.
You would be disappointed by the news
while my family is finally relieved.

I sometimes see you, morning or night,
in your rooms smelling the smell of man loneliness.
Or we walking the dark streets talking the talk.

You are the only man I've ever kept after, L.D.
The only man I've thought worth
the time it takes to chase a man down.

This was all years ago and you checked out.
Tonight I got here shifts in green breeze.
What do you mean by coming back this way?


What do you want here, dead friend?


 2

Sometimes I see you in my daughter's arms
and she is your Madonna, more like your pieta.

All dead young men should get such a reception.
Only, you were her friend too soon to leave.

I think she remembers you, L.D.
I think she sometimes thinks of me.

I didn't know you were in my wife's bed that night.
Man, except to see to my daughter, I would have cleared the scene.

You didn't stick around to explain and I got two losses, every year,
to explain to myself in new green:

You and my daughter.


3

Maybe inside our one mother's womb, and she
the layer out who takes all men up at death,
maybe there you've heard the report too.

So many towns we had entered by then.
So many roads we had travelled
just to realize all roads bring a man
back around to the beginning again.
And there we were at the crossroad where
criminals and poets sport in crucifixion.

Word is we gave each other a beating that night.

The night was moonless and so were we, right?
Maybe all men are moonless in nature.
But I don't think so. I think the moon has sons
like loons on a lake, like you in your body’s beauty.

The way you pushed against me in your salmon leap
I knew you had gone berserker. I knew I had one chance.
Your body built to dance the weight of the world.
My body built to dance the weight of nothings.
One chance. One chance. One chance.

I want to take back my fist slam in your face.
I want to take back that moonless night.

You melted in my arms like a lover does.
I hugged you in your body like a mother does.


4

Chartres Street was different in our day
as was Jackson Square and the Cafe du Monde.
Bourbon Street keeps the same, but then
a town’s sex machine tends to keep the same.

Charlottesville has prettified herself, man.
Jefferson's bookstore, where we met, is gone.
The graveyards we tripped through late at night
no longer allow a poet the easy access.

Providence's Thayer Street would not allow
the likes of you or me on the hill anymore.

Philadelphia was hard on you, with every letter
the message of outcast hardness came through.

You are the best poet I've ever known. What I mean
is that you are the most lover of poetry I've ever known.

So why the final destination?
Why NYC, the town that did you in.
 

5

The Ozark cluster of crystal quartz
is still on my altar. Scraping your knuckles
you chiseled it out of the cave’s floor.

Memory is sometimes a death wish.

The music you put to
my songs made you into
a song singing down the hall.

I think you romanced the death wish.

Your guitar was overwhelming
in close space and intimate room.
Medial women answered to you.

Young men too, too much sometimes
seduce the death wish.
As do some medial women.


 6

L.D., I can't remember if we had this conversation about two ancient friends working in Latin poetry. I do remember I discovered the stories when you and I were street whores, before your wives and family made you into something immaculate. Seriously. Did we talk about the Roman patrician, Ausonius, and his friend, Paulinus of Nola who Ausonius, a devout man and a Pagan, lost to the subversive love of Christ?

Maybe we never talked about the friendship. Maybe we didn’t need to talk about friendship. But I remember clearly the day we were together and I found the poetry collection carrying the tale of ancient friendship. And of ancient friendship’s loss. It was in Portuguese town, near the docks, in Providence and we were there together in that used book store. I remember as clearly how steeped we were in the Carmina Burana songs telling tales on vagabond scholars, poets, and itinerants working in Goliardic lyric.

Ausonius was landed gentry, a Roman patrician who held property in Bordeaux. You never cared about such things but he planted a vineyard still under till. Paulinus got caught up in the new, religious fervor, refused his friends, sold off his property, and finally became a bishop or an abbot or something like that.

So much holiness in Paulinus' election. But for what? This is my question tonight. For what is holiness worth? And why do I have to carry your Christ love for sacrifice? Why can't you leave me to Ausonius' love of the vineyard, of Bordeaux, and of friendship?


7
 
L.D., I got to tell a story on you.
Sunday afternoon here and I am late
for a most important date
with the queen of the Laundromat.

I've never known a man as much in love
with books the way you were. No joke.
Back then, of course, books were not so expensive.
This was before the Reagan years, before he
started the tax on publishers on their back list inventories.
Maybe you've had reason where you are now
to reflect upon what enemies to civ. Republicans can be.

I damn near coveted the books you bought.
In your rooms, on your tables, there were your books.
And they were essential, sexy, your books.
You were into the great souls and thinkers and into
artists only who turn a moment's vector.

We met in a bookstore and god damn you loved to hold a book.
I would see you down in the basement and you
taking in the book smell as if it was your oxygen.
Someday I need to tell you about the fire
an embarrassed accountant started, down in your basement.
She was !@#$ the manager. The ledgers were kept in the basement too.
Her embarrassment was due to her bad math.

Then up in Providence what do you find but a bookstore job.
A mail order outfit and there you are boxing up books
like some kind of Hermes boxing up communiqués.
And I bet the delivery was tender.

Your last job I know about was in NYC. NYC. NYC.
A burg I've not put foot into since you died.
And your job was with another book dealer.
And why did you love books the way some men love their titles?

L.D., I am to the punch line.
It involves a question I never asked you,
not wanting to embarrass you.
You never read the books you bought or mailed out tenderly.
You never read more than a few pages or a chapter.
And this has always puzzled me!
And I am still trying to figure out the message.

I don't know, man. Maybe Hermes
sees his job differently.
Maybe the delivery is what matters to him most.

 
8.

It is the graveyard talk I remember tonight, if not as late as then.
It is as if we were looking to raise the dead.
And isn't that too what poets are supposed to do:

looking for commerce with the dead and the not yet born?

Thinking of you makes me think of things
both dead and not yet born.

Isn't that why you put Yeats to music?
I think you fell in love with Crazy Jane that year.
And the commerce.
Isn't that why you put Joyce’s poems to music?
Still the transactions.
I think you fell in love with chamber music that year.

What was it we once talked about? How Joyce took Yeats to task
for addressing beauty from the past when he himself
wanted to speak to beauties not yet born.
I think we agreed that night they both were right, yes?
 
You were not like any other graveyard robber I've met.
What in hell or heaven were we looking for among the dead?
You could walk through like a cat parsing his steps.
You could walk through step-still and certain.
You could walk through like a mother black vulture for whom
the dead are baby fresh and darlings to her.

I remember our graveyard, late night and city park walks.
I remember all of my questions.
I remember you never seemed to have any.
I can't remember your answers, unless
the long drag on a cigarette was your answer.

L.D., I can't shake your memory, can't slake
each day and each late night of our scansions.
You knew something about the dead and the not yet born
I didn't and still don't.
 Maybe it had to do with the commerce.


9

Man, this is going to read like a grade "B" movie
whose last scene’s actor lacks talent for delivering his lines.

God damn but we were young Turks then.
You, me, the Virginian and Red.
And C’Ville was our camp town.
And we didn't care who approved us.
And we had the unnamed need in our bellies.

You were the slender one, you in your lyrical soul.
Red was the honest one for whom word
must match to truth or meet the guillotine
(you do remember his love of things French).
The Virginian, always impeccable, slightly patrician, in inflexion,
who we slightly deferred to and who you once said
was the best one among us.
And then me. The sorry assed high school drop out.

There were four of us. And that town
in the Blue Ridge foothills was where we convened
in high feast fashion when grail quest gets presented
in the Fisher King’s chancy spring.

My God but I never thought the friendships would end.
Or that the hankering after poetry could get cancelled out.
I never thought we wouldn't meet again,
year after year at feast time when friends
come back together, give their reports and forward intelligence
on sudden valleys, asphalt, and sacred enclosures.
But it happened.

The Virginian I lost first. It might have had to do
with his wife and it might have had to do with mine.
Either way you were right. He was the best of us.
Mostly I think he got lost to poetry, needing instead a regular life.
Red, the last I heard of Red, he was in a Russian
(Soviet) plane flying out of Africa with his teenage wife.
I miss that small man who had the courage of a century of warriors.
I got his play written in his hand about the Albigensian Crusade
(you do remember his love of things French).
Then you were gone. Your going did collateral damage on us all.
Damn it, L.D. and I am sorry for saying so, but
dying from melanoma at your age amounted to bad taste.

I am left. And I am no Percival.
The body is wearing down, weights get heavier,
women no longer find me pretty the way they once found us.
And I am not even sure what the right questions are anymore.

I envy all of you. I just can't let go
of what we agreed upon.


10

There is this starkness between you and me.
It is past posture, past stance, past scenery.

You are the only man, before or since, who loved me;
in brilliant sunlight and in black night you loved me.

I failed you, man. I should have been the better friend
than the friend I was in the days of our undoing.

It isn't that you gave of yourself too much, but you did.
It isn't that I asked of you too much, but I did.

It is that you grounded me in the way no man or woman has.
It's why my wives were jealous of you in Solomon fashion.

I think you didn’t know how much I needed you.
Men never say to each other how much they need each other.

You are a dead man tonight and I am not sure,
sometimes, what it means to be alive.


11

An old line from a war movie keeps with me.
It badgers, taints, drills its way through:
'I was born of two fathers,' the line goes.
Sometimes I think my daughter was born of two fathers.

In the corner of a closet, in an archive box, in
a folder I have the last and second-to-last batch
of poetry you sent. Twenty years sitting in the dark.
I bet you knew the diagnosis was a done deal by then.

The second-to-last? Your Tarot poems where you
pull in to, answer through each Trump card
from first born Fool to World encircling Serpent.
Just the mystic’s indigo Way.

When my daughter was born you first threw her cards.

With the last batch? By then you had become a reporter.
The hallucinations, your letter said, radiation induced
you found fascinating and worth a record.
I've never read such a report of brain torsion and epiphany.

The letter that came back was from your mother because
you were gone. I think I don't accept
you and my daughter are gone.
 

12

Tonight, L.D., a friend, so close a reader you would fall in love with her, questions my themes. She means to say my themes reoccur and she is right. Her comments bring me back to you.
 
The themes, my brother, are still the themes you and I tracked down when you were alive. All I've looked to since then is an opening in the scene in which these themes get played out, fleshed out, predicated upon. But isn't this true of all the blues?

I got a picture for you you might remember of two young men. One is the son of fortunate circumstance. The other is a son without circumstance. They meet in a bookstore. They are both devotees of a certain type. One could not be less concerned, less motivated by his good fortune. The other could not be more unaware of his lack of fortune. When they meet the understanding between them is immediate, coming even before the first exchange of words. Their preoccupations have to do with one thing only.

They meet in late August of '73. While it comes across as a cliché it is apt: their paths diverge December of '77. For over four tendering years they walk, walk miles through different towns, work together, walk through so many nights and so many days, talk and argue in so many shabby apartments, push each other, question through so many days, day by day, go off on their adventures and come back comparing notes and edging each other on.

My themes, L.D., come out of those four plus years. And they were your themes too. And I can prove it. And I can prove the plenty of our themes. It is what we were after on the street, in the apartment, in the work place, by dawn and dusk. And what I’ve decided is this. Keeping to it all is what stays the unfinished, thematically driven business.


13

Damn it, man.
Tonight I want to reach you
through your music, and I know I can't.
Music is what poetry wishes
to be and knows it can't.
Not in the fleshed out sense,
not in the sensual ear.

I've made a discovery.
It is a poem I made. It was the year you died.
Only this moment I make the connection.
I called it Sheet Music.

Unsung
a poet's job is
half-done.
In print
lovers are left to
trace lips.

You had a way of strapping
your guitar to you like she was
a big bottomed Venus holding you up.
And you in the hallway or down
in that Newport tavern swinging her
from side to side like she was
the only instrument to get you
through another Rhode Island night.

Fol de rol, Crazy Jane said. And
Love is all
Unsatisfied
That cannot take the whole
Body and soul. Crazy Jane said.
And I understood the beauty of Yeats
and of his Crazy Jane by the music
you put them both to.

When I want to hear your baritone again
I go back to Yeats again. I read
the poems you put to music.
And your voice is inside me.

I can only represent what you taught me.
I cannot flesh out the tonalities of your truth.
And you are right, L.D. In fact, unsung
a poet's job is partially done.

I want your music back in my ears.


14

These things you said and still
in stillness of how dead poets speak
you said in stillnesses of every lover's night
and we walked in the moist winters
and we talked through the strong springs
and we worked through every summer, only
to lose again in autumn what we knew.

This is the truth. Every time
we lost what we knew in dryness leaves.

We never bettered ourselves or our lovers.
Our scansions always lacked a little.
You couldn't figure through your loneliness.
I couldn't figure through my false steps.
And always the year came back, back
around to where you were wanting a girl
in dead leaves and autumn breeze.

This is the truth, L.D. I envy you
every time autumn comes on.


15

Perspective shows nothing of what we see.
Perspective tells only how we see things.

I've got the pen and ink drawings you made thirty years ago.
It was commissioned, work for which you never got paid.
Just now I see how the set contains a portrait.

A portrait of you.

In the back-distance there is a cathedral whose spire
is as stylized as a fairy tale church or as falsely heightened
as a wealthy, Texan, Baptist sanctuary.
Coming forward to the drawing's surface it must be noticed
there is no mid-distance, nothing to accommodate
the vanishing perspective where distance and closeness meet.

Just at drawing's surface there is the dancer.
He is muscular. He is stripped down to his ecstatic soul.
He is poised and balanced on one foot, his other leg bent
in the certain leap whose high step extends his reach.
And his arms, strong, arc above him to make a nimbus over him.
He is taller and nearer than church spire.

I never made the connection before. I never got
this self-portrait of yours in pen and ink.

They say King David shamed a wife when he danced to the Lord.
I say you danced to your body’s holiness as shamelessly.


16

The case is famous. But here again I never knew what you knew about what you could get yourself involved in.

Fransesco Cenci (1549 - 1589) was soaked too thoroughly in his patrician power. Do you remember the Polanski movie, "Chinatown", in which John Houston plays the character of an urban developer so powerful he irrigates a desert, murders a civil servant wise to his development take over, and so makes modern day Los Angeles just by channeling water resources? Do you remember how his character says he is powerful enough he can do anything with no consequence to himself? And then his daughter, played by Faye Dunaway, who he !@#$ and gets pregnant, and watches her killed in a cop chase scene down in Chinatown while he drives away with her child by him unconsequenced.

Cenci outstripped Houston's character in lack of proportion. In this sense he might have been the first modern man. He wasn't just an opportunist. He was a man for whom will itself was reason enough to make material his will. I submit that modern man takes after Cenci. He being just a prototype, a first trial model for mass production.

The legal case was circumstantial and unclear. It is likely Cenci murdered one of his sons who stood up to him. It is more likely he raped his beautiful daughter, Beatrice, time and time and time again. It is fact that Beatrice and her other brothers conspired to kill their father. I am guessing their mother knew about the conspiracy, but would plead innocent to the facts at trial, just as she had pled ignorant of her daughter’s rape.

There was a Pope involved. It seems like there is always a Pope involved in poor decisions and judgment calls. Pope Clement VIII refused a pardon of Beatrice. And so she got executed in the fashion of the day for having seen to her father's death who likely killed a son of his and who likely raped her again and again and again.

I am getting to you, L.D. Hang with me please.

Shelley might have been the first to take up the story. He made a tragedy of it all. And tragedy it was in his eyes. And tragedy is always the final scene in the contest between prerogative and liberty. Then Artaud who took up the story. The story fitted perfectly his notions about a Theater of Cruelty. And how thin is the gossamer shield between order and disorder. And how through dance and body language the theater must again get symbolic in action.

Now you up on the stage that night. You the dancer, one of the bravos Beatrice and her brothers hire to commit parricide. You in your body speech playing out the stylized body speak of father-murder. I see you this night the way I saw you then, back in the fall of '75, when you were a dancer and you were a murderer, when you were on the stage stylized. You dressed in black and dancing, appearing once, then twice in the back space like a slowly building suggestion, then a third time, only now, leaning your body into the act of parricide, no longer just a suggestion. You, my sweet friend. You the father killer. And the acts of murder before you and after you that you stylized. In black. In dance movement. In act.

Seriously, man. Did you ever reckon, even once in your sweet life, with all you could get yourself involved in?


17

Days and nights.

You were a masseur that year.
You had taken to healing bodies with your hands.
You got a job at the Edgar Caycee Institute
north of Virginia Beach. Surf pound would have been in your ears.
The Virginian and I drove over from C'Ville.
We picked you up, brought you back for Christmas.
The Virginian wrote one of his best essays
predicated on that day, cold and winter gray day beachside.
And you, all the way back, in the car,
saying your disgust at having to kneed your fingers into
the doughy flesh of the self-indulgent who can afford
tuitions particular to spiritual institutions.

Another day. Actually it was hitting on midnight when
you showed up, walking three miles between our apartments,
with sketch in hand, and you scared and seized and
shivered by what you had in hand.
I've since published what you saw and called her 'Lady by the Pond.'
I think you were shaken by what you saw that night,
drew out in pen and ink essentially;
this naked woman kneeling before a pond, the
tree stripped of leaves behind her, the crescent moon
on her lips and reflected in the pond.

And a third day. The day you showed up in St. Augustine.
Unannounced.
I was so !@#$ weirded out that year. My mother dying,
my other wife beating me in private more frequently,
and you suddenly there, sitting on a park table under the light house,
beneath the squat oak trees,
waiting for me to come back to town, certain I would show.
I saw your face in the dusk and I was home.


18

Over there where you are in Summerland
I can't know who has the media monopoly.
If Rupert Murdoch's interests have extended so far,
man, your news is screwed on a daily basis.
If Fox News is the only channel, you got
bigger problems than a Texas free range chicken.

About your drawing, "Lady by the Pond." Her belly
accented with a single line’s stroke, her breasts defiantly underlined,
the way her moon smile has for mediating between
ineluctable moon face and water reflection.
And that single, leafless tree back behind her.
I put your sketch on the cover of a poetry book I made.
I put it there because it was beautiful and spoke
to a certain thing you and I believed in.

I couldn't sell the book, L.D. No !@#$.
Bookstore managers, when shown the book, saw the cover.
They never once bothered to open to the text.
I guess they found your exquisite drawing of beauty dirty.
Or something like that.

I think the likes of you and me are born out of context.
I think your drawing is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.

And this. I've never known a man as shy as you
in the company of a woman's shoreline energy.

So, anyway, does Summerland have a wire service?


19

You had slipped out of town.
There was no word of goodbye and I've since imagined
it was a midnight slip, and so done in darkness.
Within a month or so I left Providence too.
But you left town for NYC.
My departure was more a strategic retreat.
I was back in C’ville, back to the
bookstore where we first found friendship.
I've wondered what my wife must have felt that winter:
first her lover and then her husband.
But not to worry. She became a wealthy woman.

In those years I started renting rooms let out by old women.
My rent supplemented their income.
My presence offered security.
My motive amounted to a further retreat.
And you took to New York City streets like
a honeybee takes to tupelo nectar.
I think the city streets in which you found yourself
eased your body and pleased your sense for nonsense.

There is something I've wanted to share with you all these years.
It is a discovery I made.
You may recall how we brought each other discoveries.
There is a reason for this I'll get to presently.

It was the anthology of Chinese poetry Confucius
defined, set for all time, made classic.
The odes, smaller and larger, and the folk songs.
Songs of city life, songs of mountain and river,
songs of love and friendship and exile,
songs you would have taken to, put music to.
Confucius summed up the message of some 300 poems this way:
"Have no twisty thoughts."
This is why I know you could have put those
ancient poems to perfect music.

I’ve never reconciled to losing you to the City.
But here is how I think the City spoke to you.
It is a poem Confucius would have known some
2,500 years ago and called "Town Life."

Sun's in the East
her loveliness
Comes here
To undress.

Twixt door and screen
at moon-rise
I hear
Her departing sighs.

There is a story, my brother, about a valley
and mountains and a river and two warlords whose
armies stand ready, poised to
throw themselves into each other's arms murderously.
Between them sit Confucious and his lyrical friends.
 
Maybe they are in the middle belly of that valley.
And the young man refuses to leave off singing the odes.
And the opposing armies are forced to wait for him,
cool their heels, entertain themselves with chit chat.
And Confucius sings the odes, plays his music, knowing
what matters to him. Only then is he ready to go.

I should have sent you the poetry.


20

L.D., I get it and finally why
these poems address you and you damn near
two decades dead. Your mother
wrote a letter that said you tried to keep alive
long enough to see your one son born.
I think of this and I think of your one child's mother.
It is the double pain some women must bear in birth.

We both know how memory is mostly a liar.
We filtered through the range of lies when you were alive.
We both know experience does not tell on a man.
And we both know that behind it all, the
women, the children, the workplace, the title,
when a man comes back to his space, room or wilderness range,
he must measure where he stands in the range of things.

Sometimes I envy you that you got to die young.
Other times I figure you should have lived longer.
Then you would have taken in what it means to
love and die, love again and die again
in the way all sutured lovers must.

The rain beats down
on my window tonight
like the rain
beating down on my door.

It is the poetry in you I miss the most.
The way you had for going after things.
There was no censor in your proceedings.
There was only the discovery that counted.

You are the only man I've known to speak to me this way.
 

21

I am finally getting around to asking you
the question I've meant to ask all these years.
I never thought to ask the question when you were alive,
or, if I did, I think I knew it would do us no good.

A man who trades in ideas like a man trading in
women, the stock market, in futures, or in politics
is an unfinished man. He is a first born fool,
a gallant tarnished at birth, a rube, romancer, a
charlatan, snake oil salesman certain that
the next flim flam he pulls off will complete him.
This is something I know about theorists, intellectuals,
and ideologues, all careening between
one idea or another and the next.
It all keeps unfinished business, and it keeps that way
because such men are born unfinished business,
no matter the sway or the convincing moment.
The same is true of certain women. Only,
they play out the incompleteness in
beautiful dance step beautifully. And in tragedy.

I know this to be true, L.D., since I am such a man.
I have always been unfinished business, one step behind myself.
I was unfinished the first time I saw you and saw
the completeness in the way your feet stood you to the floor,
and I will finish unfinished, a trickster and shape-changer.

But you. You came on the scene complete.
You were like the sibyl's son whose father stays mysterious.
You had instincts of a cat who trusts himself completely.
You had the body-knowing of a bodhisattiva sitting
lotus fashion underneath the bodhi, woman tree.
You never questioned what you desired, and ideas
were play things for you or costumes you put on
in the way a woman puts on a dress just to judge its properties.

Your mother delighted in telling stories about you.
Do you remember the one about when you were five?
You were living in an apartment, some storeys above ground.
You went out on the balcony, climbed up to stand on the railing.
You must have perched perfectly between balcony and air.
Your mother found you, controlled her panic,
and in even tone asked what were you doing.
Your reply: "Mother, the truth of it is and that's the way it is."

This is the sense I make of your life.
Decades later and I make no sense of your death.
It is too late now and, anyway, nobody asked.

I would have taken your place, my best brother.
You had no business with Death.
Why didn’t you let me take your place?


22
 
There are only ten days or so left before
the Janus door between us closes again.
Whoever said the door is a swinging door between
your land and mine is full of !@#$. The dead
never give more than they take. And the living
never give enough, then waiting to the end to say they’re sorry.

Yes, L.D. There are some things your sweetened soul
would not have abided by. But time is getting short.

I can't remember all the names of the parks and
the halls and the streets and the graveyards and
the apartments and the restaurants we haunted.
I can see these places like I can see my next step.
But I can't remember their names. Maybe you have the record.

This afternoon I was sitting in a car, in the parking lot of a supermarket,
beneath a live oak. I was eating store-cooked chicken.
It occurred to me this is something an old man does.
Then the drab little house sparrows coming in
with every bone tossed out the window, a bit flamboyantly.

And I remembered our young man days
when we ate on park benches to much the same degree.
 
The little drab house sparrows. You get the scene.

 
23
 
Today, my dead friend, I drove up into a bee yard,
turned off the truck engine, stepped out, and
heard the engine a bee keeper most hates to hear.
It was a swarm of bees looking to leave a colony.

It always starts out in slightly tornadic fashion
with thousands of workers looking to lead the older queen.
Certainly queen cells are back in the boxes
and soon an emergent, virgin girl will chew through, appear.
But these queens are important and so I hate to lose them.
Swarms point to my negligence in spring.

You would love the beauty of a swarm and in
the same way poetry could put a shiver on you.
I know this about you too in my body.

Sometimes I stand in a swarm, like today again.
And each bee belly engorged on nectar.
It is the furious still point in high relief
that points to the furious still point in every man's life.

I watched my girlie bees with their queen settle
in a branch, a temporary stance, too far out of my reach.
And I thought of you, staying too far out of my reach.
And I thought of your still point and the furious

peace in your soul.

  
24

Late night here and Saturday.
Where you are do you time factor anymore?
It is hard to know how exactly to address the dead.
All I have to fall back on is how I take in
a train whistle whining, the sound of it crossing
a river separating me from the mainland
and maybe from the dead.

But I figure the way is still slightly open between us.

It occurs to me again memories are liars.
Just like poets are supposed to be and Cretans.
I can't remember, man. Had we talked about this stuff?
Or had I already lost your complicity.

All I remember clearly anymore are the days and nights,
the streets, the rooms, the compressed spaces in which
we tensiled truthy things no philosopher can manage.

I remember this too:
your passion for the lyrical in voice, in dance, and in play.

I want to see you how you were, not how I remember you.


25
 
I want to see you, L.D. I want to tape back
together your bones and your flesh and your soul.
I want to see you seeing things again.

Down in C'ville I could find you in that
Greek restaurant. Gus and Sophie owned and
ran the place where we would meet up and
maybe we would talk too much.

But place never defines a man, unless, of course,
he is not his own man. You were your own man.

Your eyes looked through lies while forgiving the liar.
Your body spent itself on truths you had no name for.
You heard rhythms no one else could hear.
Your needs only once or twice betrayed you.

You were always quick to recover.

Maybe you remember the last time we sat across
from each other. It was an all night diner up in Providence.
Dirty street, late night blues runners, you and me.

That was the only time you ever lied to me, man.
The lie so deep in your eyes is what broke my heart.



In Her Service

Beneath the crossroad’s crucifix
where recent criminal hangs
the cottage secret mothers collect
when these are the bad old days.

Body memory can bob to the surface
in dream, in shank of light, in
blanch of noon, disquiet of night.
And there is no governing then
what the inside senses recall:
the girlie gathering, the coven,
the outlawed fertile passage, that scene.

Such a picture scratched in dead man’s white thigh bone.

And they always must come together,
village sibyls and pastors’ daughters,
to then draw down on surround of circle,
transept of son through
feminine curve, the Celtic cross.
And the wilder womens’ sacred will
when then touching hip, to swirl, seize, sweat,
chanting the fire stream alive, to tongue,
swaying his way, to make him come.

The invisible man in black whose
ash staff and wide brimmed hat
sign the dark face in
lonesome office when he does.



Merlin to Vivian
(maybe just before she encases him in crystal)

I see you best

when you push me in my steps,
when yours becomes the way,

and your body tilts the ocean,
and you meet your touch to fires you crave;

when you stop yourself from killing boredom’s hurt,
when you keep yourself sane,

and you show the world your naked luster,
and you show us all grace in the gloom;

when your breath touches me, when you trust,
when you tell the policeman I’m yours to keep,

and the baby you bloom is yours alone,
and the smell you smell is yours alone;

when the night you wake to is your friend,
when I am not the enemy,

and your belly’s need pulls on love,
and your belly need calls on death;

when you no longer care to know yourself,
when you stare clean through the stars;
and the cave you keep is your home again,
and you are what grounds me in the way you do.

 

Eros & Thanatos

Joseph, this is the little I know about the living.

She invites me in, takes me down, keeps me
buoyant until I can breathe in her lungs.

Just like your mother does.

She pulls me by my legs down, deliberately;
it is a kelp forest in which she meets my lips.

She doesn’t parse herself there. She parleys there where
every trust is a chance, every chance decides us.

Mostly her intention is to splay my truths.
This way she tests the claim of each lover

who tells her he is adequate to the love of her.

And there is something small I know about death too.
He is an old man standing to the back.

He looks over the crowd’s angular shoulders.
He looks to find out you, me, or anyone who

would act through his certain scabland of certainties.

Joseph, my son, my brother, this is most of what
your mother’s uncertainties have brought me to.

Beautifully.



The Wandering Jew

You can imagine the time on my hands I’ve had to consider the case.
In between nation and city-state, down nowhere roads, in the
interim moments separating a man’s loves from his lovers.

Sure, I remember the day He came down a Jew’s Jerusalem street.
It was my paved way then. It became His paved way too.
What’s been reported about me is untrue. But record keepers
rarely get the chronicle right, not how poets, gypsies,
women, wanderers, mystics do in the soft-side reportage.

Stated again, the record is wrong. I did not refuse Him
rest against the sweet brick wall of my house. Nor did I
urge Him to pick up His pace, go His course, get on down the street.
He did pause in His steps in front of my door. And I can’t recall
what frightened me the most. The look in His eyes or the spectacle thirst.

Our eyes met in that moment. I think we angel-wrestled.
Is it hard to explain how frightened I became, in that moment,
for my first family, my children, my first wife
to sing the Song of Solomon with me? Yes it is.

In so many men since I’ve seen the look I saw in Him first.
In the auto da fe of fires made to free flesh from its desires.
Savonarolo’s type too preaching against the body of Beauty.
And it only needed one Wagner opera to see His eyes another time.
Then the Wasteland theme keeping its Fisher King
bleeding perpetually.
Or the family picnic in joyful tableau spread below the
New World’s strange fruit in noose hanging from New World tree.
Religious wars predicated on religious wars I leave out.

I can’t exactly remember all the cases anymore.
Sometimes it seems like some different kind of god keeps me on the scene.

That He cursed me that day to the wander’s way I take. Mine is
the company of outriders, vagabonds, shiftless folk who
have looked in His eyes too and seen the unseemly thing.

What I saw. On that Good Friday. It was a man too much in love
with his own death, the transept of his crucifix.
The coda to my story could be this:
every kitchen child I’ve born since then.



Salome

She said once she was badly used by her mother.

Memory
is an image moment as involuntary
as a shiver underneath a thunderstorm when
the atmosphere, charged,
pulls on, makes skip
the electric bolt in your body.

Sometimes sweet. Her breath in a dream,
her cedar scent, her moist encounter,
and the house she dreams of in the dream;
her fleshy space.
And sometimes the seizure moment. The night’s stallion
she must ride, by herself, in slant light,
pounding like machine beat
down highways, over sea lanes, across black sky,
etching nails into a man’s chest.

This is the memory woman, close, young, and old,
all four faces, to whom I’ve been drawn since birth.

I am also old now. Like her. Only,
she does not age. She is preternatural that way.
She plays herself in all the girls who dance their desires
for one further dance of desire,
and the fire lance she takes between her thighs
because she takes her rites to
courthouse, to
church, public square, and late nightclub.

The dreamscapes familiar to her, revisit her,
she plays in her private home’s private theater.
The movies she threads, reel to reel, involuntarily and in
the voluntary way she has for screening herself
in a naked body whose movements, cinematic,
are a silent dance, to no music, to music
her calves and hips and stomach and the
river muscles in her neck make for her
when she is alone; when she is sure.

Memory is a reminder that the man she lets see
her exquisite face is never the same prophet again;
invited in, regretted, or pushed out.
Her inside sense is closest. And she knows it.
When she rests in the company of strangers
she doesn’t always close her eyes in her sleep.

Once I awoke to her sleeping. Her eyes were closed.
She was resting.
That is the memory. Her familiar.



Involuntary Moments

There is a mystery told to fertility, and
long since untold except in secret fashion.
It involves a mother, her bare feet blackened with soil,
a mother’s daughter, her self-begotten child,
and a man whose eyes are those of a crow’s.
That man was once known too well, first to
mother, then to daughter; and, yes, the storm and the stress.

My sense of him is his surrender to them.

Mysteries keep as mysteries only while
they stay in practice between the living and the dead;
even as mysteries can move in mystery just as
black orchid can open, without call, in midnight moonlight.
And so I wonder, these many years later,
what was she thinking, your mother above that
beach, overlooking the wine dark sea,
in her patio precinct where no man enters unintended?
What did she require of your firmness and your green flesh
like a madam whose house is in underground surround?
And why did she choose for you a man with
the eyes of a crow, body of Lebanese cedar, with the
brains of a coxcomb? Tell me please what she meant?

Or it might have been she met her sorrow when
he left her station, left scented mother for
scented daughter, for the solitary girl whose life is
less a lease, more the sweet-root strife
when she says what her body means with finger tips
pressing pomegranate’s flesh and fruit to her tongue;
and she too who will have the dark door man for herself.

Aegina’s seascape viewed from a certain portico,
both entrance and exit, is a memory picture kind of unsettling.
Yours and your mother’s under-earth souls
moistening yours and your mother’s dark chamber through him.



Cycladic Beauty

I remember the night she came in from the workshop.
She had scared herself;
by the shapes suggested and that she found
in marble shimmer; by its water weight and
instinct for beauty; by that she knew village industry
would have to reject her inside sense
for exquisite form and body and touch in stone.

But this happened years ago.
Our trade in figurines with the Labyrinth city
was not yet a memory loss to the Greeks,
not yet fabled in tales of Atlantis.
The earth shaker’s tremors and quakes, by his hands,
had not yet thrown down my fresco walls;
and my mother’s island home, Thera,
was not yet thrown below the wine dark sea.

When she came through the door
her black eyes could not speak
in the way I know they can speak
in that crafty moment when she
needs to ride the bull, finds me.
Her hands trembled. Her lips
were like the Cretan’s crescent, axen moon
just before it takes from his body a man’s head.
And she came to me tenuously,
holding in her shaking hands
an unseeable thing, unseen because
wrapped in the rubbed down boar skin.

I do miss those islander days. No matter
how I try I can’t get her face out of my eyes.

When she unwrapped the girl-stone she had shaped, carved,
polished to easy touch on my finger tips,
sweet water contained in her body, toe to full belly, to breasts,
arms crossing her chest, to face ineluctable,
I saw the third most beautiful woman I’ve known.

We held each other close that night. She wept in her chest.



The Green Girl Suite


(Green Girl)

She sends a likeness of herself.
First, how her face shows featureless, and in the way
a woman can evoke a dream of herself;
nothing of her lips, her eyes, her cheek muscles
to tell a man too much too soon.

Then her neck as strong as a tent city girl’s,
a camp nurse, a new born woman’s will
meaning to keep in love with her first born truth.

I think she guesses I see inside this strength of hers.

She has arms she raises above her head.
Arms meeting to her hands and that hold
what she raises above her head. What she
herself raises there. Raises there.
And her arms of tendrils, rowan berries; of strong vine
that could seize the sky.

I bet she knows she has seized the sky.

Her left breast sucks the air out of me.
Her right breast waters my instincts.
Over left sweet nipple her newness crescent rises.
Over her sweet other the honey bee looks to sip.

My guess is that her body knows what she
doesn’t always want her body to know.

From waist to toe she covers what a man like me
can never be allowed to know too publicly.
I get the need she has to keep to her mystery;
in the dark green, in the dark green, in the mystery.

I think I just saw her put out a toe.

 
(Her Privacies)

My green girl weeps voiceless this afternoon.
The bowl she holds above her head,
her atonement, is filled with hot wax
and ignited on the fire
which is hers and hers alone.

Her perfect body is the shape, outreaching,
of desires she knows are her unsayables.

In the bee yards I often see her too,
but not like in how
she lets me see her now, today.
There, I think I want her too much.
Here, I think I want her too much.
In both bayou heat and bayou cold
my greatest fear is that I could fail her.

She chooses not to divulge her rightful element.
She knows what public women do not get.
The way of her emotions is a secret way.
The secret of her way is her emotion.

I want to keep quiet about her element,
but I can’t when what she is overfills me.

She cries sometimes for no demonstrable reason.
Sometimes she cries and there is all reason.
She can be like the exotic canary in a mine shaft.
And my table today is waxy and on fire.
The wind of her blows through this tenement.

I think my green girl is woven.
Her textures surprise me.
 

(She Is)

Her heart is straight-forward,
it knows what it wants, does not want.
Maybe because she once was loved in the auto da fe.
Mine is twisted too easily, in the segue sometimes,
gets confused, is less sure a sign of
which way the cardinal compass points.

I am older than she and so much younger.
She is younger than me and so much more certain of things.
It all comes clear when she lets me touch her.

She is the green girl whose head is on fire.

I’ve known before the kind of truth she calls up.
On road’s shoulder, hitch-hiking, in riptide,
in vagrant‘s park, in freight train village, in
bottomless Gulf stream, the barracuda boys,
or in extremis of bayou heat.

The bayou heat testing as much as she tests me.

Then there is this in the cooling when she moists,
and she gives in and I am no longer a liar.
And she says in her breath
and she says in her breath.
She is not a liar trading in experience.

 
(Sunday Waits Too)

How can it be I saw you tonight?
Your face, your body, the way you step,
and you a thousand miles north of here.

You are wiser than me. And we both know
the truth of it. How your skin takes everything in,
how my skin can only take in what it knows.

She was you in your most recent photo,
A little younger maybe and not so tall.
But the face of hers was yours I saw.
Your turned lips, distrusting of all onlookers.
Your sea down eyes, distrusting of all onlookers.
Your slanty sides, Venus hips, your shoulders, your
body talk when you say the way you say
the truth your body says at night
when you are home and close and allow
your one onlooker.

You suppose it matters somewhere, maybe in heaven,
if a man might want a woman like you this much?

How god damn strange I might see you tonight
when you are a thousand miles away and in
the north, country I cannot penetrate.

And this too. Or when I felt your breath, moist,
earlier this afternoon and on our balcony,
breath and moist and your breath and your moist,
sun slant in the green just like your thighing when
you stand as close as a woman can stand as close,
and the word you somehow said, “Somehow.”

 
(My Questioning Girl)

She is a realist, more so than me.
I get what she means when she asks her questions;
when she means to have realness in reasons.
I get the layers in this girl who does not raise her voice,
and she never lets go. She is a thinker.

They say Heloise was sharper than the man she let in.
I figure it true in the rooms where he tutored her;
and on streets where students recited his Heloise songs.
And in the abbey where she wrote her excellent letters to
the man whose warrior anguish would castrate him to her.

The abbey to the Paraclete, the white dove, the soul
of God that has always had a woman’s face.

I try to tell her things, such as what she means to me.
Every time she says back, “Well, what does your meaning mean?”
It is enough to drive a thinker out of his mind,
the way she sorts through real, not so real, the way she
has for culling through her certain histories.

Today I give in, understand her layered sense of meanings.
Last night late I thought I had the right answer.
I said, “I love you because you touch me deep.”
With time to think on it, today she asked,
“So what about me is it touching you so deep?”

 
(A Little Line Play)

In Pamplona, my girl, streets are stylized,
and what we need to see.
You need to see you. You need to see me. You need to see us
both framed, shaken, seized by what you need to see.

Pamplona is maybe different in my eyes
when you are what and who I stylize.
When yours is the blood of the bull and I am the runner,
and yours is the heat, mine the acrobatic art;
or when yours is the acrobatic take and I am the bull.

What are we to do?

I see those ancient streets and I see you.
Streets that are narrow, girl, no latitude.
I see the ancient lust of youth
in the muscles of your neck. And I see you. Stylized.

Pamplona. Pamplona. What are we to do?

 
(My Mother Tree)

Green girl, my Mother tree is doing this March night
what you can do. She is fulling herself in tender shoot.

The first greening of a young girl will stop me in my steps.
The second greening of a middle woman always catches my breath.

You and my water oak teach a thing larger than what I know.
The oak king scene, hanged man theme, I’ve known for fifty years.

But not this. Not this shoot of leaf and sap, this middle surge
of bayou spring tilt this way, this tilt of yours; and her insistence.

No reason can name the name of why you take up with me.
No reason in the name of Mother tree going to green.

When I think of how close to the surface her roots are
I think of how close to the surface your emotions are.

But now the sun is down. We just said goodnight. I cannot see
my Mother oak tree. May we please talk in your bedded sleep?

 
(In Low Relief)

Right side rises in crescent this evening.
Tung tree, fast growing, an exotic whose shade
crowds out grasses in courtyard space.
There is meaning all men know but cannot speak.

Moses had the same problem. He needed brother Aaron
who himself could not speak the textual message
without the rod of God in hand.

Men know so little of the surround of truth.

Sure she waxes. Then she wanes. Then she pushes herself full again.
It seems to be the moment I am slated to visit most often:
her fourth order, her mystic, her indigo madness;
the back side of her that never reflects borrowed splendor,
involving her alone, folds in on herself entirely.

It is when she is her own girl, her ocean where
the engineer’s blue print fails the scene entirely.

Tung tree pushes through second-storey window.
And how she sends green tendrils to tell her stories.
Stories I never tell at work, sometimes try to tell my lover.

Then the successions in her disturbance.
And she always flourishes in disturbance.
And I always look forward to what certainly
grounds a man. Her disturbance.

There is a girl Bottom City cannot abide by.
And larger voices that call sometimes.
I just saw her strike an extravagant pose.

 
(The Sweetie Three)

Green girl, I need to talk to you tonight.

My needs are disproportionate, and the hour is getting late.
The urge was smaller when there was time enough to need,

when sky cloud woman opened up her midnight thighs
to a city bottoming above the inland sea.
And the berry brown girl who touched her hips to mine
down in that Matanzas, tidal marsh night.
Or the chorus of girls whose faces rose to pond’s black surface,
who called on me to follow them through, down into their depths.
Then the white wave swell that carried the Cypriot girl,
to spend herself in the foam at my feet. Life scent unmistakable.
Yes and the indigo river sky, and Mother Night holding me close,
suckling me, who said in her smile, “Yes, my darling son, yes.”

It might have all been the stuff of loose visions.
I must have figured too loosely I was elected.

December’s frost can be on the leaf and never touch the root.
April’s insistent sex can carve across an old man’s bones
when memories are not yet born, not yet with flesh.
Now the rat is in this tenement’s wall, scrapes out the script,
spells down the death of an older lover’s open soul.

I suppose it is possible all visions are lies,
all poets cowards, and mystics promoting false contracts.
I remember a Rosicrucian adept, a criminal by profession, my uncle
who said, “Sometimes, my boy, dreams tell the untruth.”
And I remember the day he had his say in a Denny’s Restaurant.
Afterwards, down at the marina, he was fitting out the Sweetie Three
for one last Caribbean drug deal.

White ibis in low close flight touched her talon to his head.

So you see, green girl, my need to talk to you tonight is essential.
But I won’t call and you won’t call, like when the need was simple.


(after Catullus)

Green girl, I must tell you something,
and still never knowing when you can receive me in
the morning, after noon hour, or just before
you let go, your night untroubled and body sure.

It turns out after all I am a foolish man,
rube enough to believe in dream worlds spawned and
coming in on currents no one can actually see.

Last night I took ownership of hollows in the hills
and the Catskills.
Col. Mosby, the Gray Ghost, never penetrated so far;
and a woman’s diffidence giving way to my fingertips.
Yesterday apple blossoms throbbed against the frost
just like your heart beat can when you do
demand of a man’s body the invasive truth.
Then the damp day before
when you made it clear to the whole world
your loneliness is an act of rebellion,
as defiant as any political testament.

Yes, green girl. I want it all again. Every fresco. Every scene.
The hammock of your belly. The secrets of your body
when you choose to speak your secrets publically.
I’ve known other orchards before, and slopes and hollows.
But not like this. Not in the cold you kept me from.

I heard you this morning. You called me an intruder.
Then you clung to me close when we said goodbye.

Now, tonight, in a dream, and a thousand miles
south of your sweet valley home
the moon bristles at my back, the stark fullness of her.
She is behind me certainly, only, she makes a point
of placing the whole of her body in the mirror
so I can see her, leaving no doubt of her intentions.
She is white like your midnight complexion. Porcelain.
She is round like your bottom, you stepping up into
the hotel suite’s hallway light.
And her face is just like yours when you get demanding.

You could be dangerous to the likes of me.
I figure too the moon’s is a predicated truth,
a back door’s open swing, not for all on comers.
And the strategic advantage sometimes in the surrender.


(A Movable Feast)

Green girl, they have us on the run, and you who
know when you must keep to your middle retreat.

Spring is the slant time when all I’ve wanted
comes back, all your faces just inside near reach.
Winter has never shut us down, not even when
the old man’s whisper persuades you again
I am the stranger you want, do not want, in your bed.

Spring is the nervous time between two lovers who
give all cause to the histories, to the rules, to
too much of what frightens green girls into thinking
surrender is the greater loss, greater than
the sum of new born, old born, unborn souls.

I think we’ve been here in this season before.
The hairs on my forearm stand up on end. And you
the green girl equipped to seed the slant of spring.

Egg shell light is a beautiful light, my darling.
Even back on the road. And you in your movable way.


  
ars poetica

 i want the heat a word will generate,
the embrained heat that pulls up on, inside
my intestines. i want the dizzy swing
pushing me to my knees and that
is sea change, undertow, riptide current;
scrape my chin on sharp sand shelf. unforgiving.

i want the clinician’s cut, what
meets blade to my knife, exquisitely, and what
cleans the wounds all first lovers know.

i want the playword tech. on high wire.
in big tent. no net.

mostly i want the bottomed out
blue moment set in high relief and
given out penny a pound or for free;
on dirty sleeve when blood speaks to blood
and my lover, in the involuntary way,
raises her head from her sleep.

   


Last edited by Terreson, Oct/18/2012, 6:34 pm
Jun/10/2010, 8:46 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
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Re: Bottom City Blues (collection revised, finalized, walked away from)


Okay. Ya'll are reading the likes of a collection you ain't going to find in a bookstore. Protein rich.

Tere
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Re: Bottom City Blues (collection revised, finalized, walked away from)


Tere,

I started to congratulate you on the completion of this series--but I'm equally impressed by your commitment to the process.

I've just begun to read. Thanks for posting.

Chris
Jun/14/2010, 5:19 pm Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
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Thanks, Chris. This commitment, if I may use the term, sometimes kind of blows me away too. Why, would be a fair question. The only answer that comes to mind is in something I keep telling myself: wanting to get the poem right at least once in my life. But possibly there is another answer involving an epigram by an ancient Greek poet by the name of Archilochos. It's called "Proverb For A Great Scoundrel."

           The fox knows many tricks,
the hedgehog only one. A good one.

I have come to know many things and have come to experience many things. But only one thing has occupied me fully. Poetry. Even if I still don't know why.

Many of the poems you've read over three different boards by now. No shame in passing over the ones that didn't interest you the first time around. Thanks, my friend.

Tere
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Re: Bottom City Blues (collection revised, finalized, walked away from)


hi Tere,

Just read this from Bottom City:

Hard on heaven
spread live oak and thornwood hang.
Hard on earth town street
the bottom urge keeps, the same.

Gorgeous.

Chris
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Thanks, Chris, for commenting. Truth is it is one of those stanzas that come your way and you have no idea where from. Funny how it says what it says without actually saying it. Something like a Debussy tone poem perhaps. Thanks again.

Tere
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Re: Bottom City Blues (collection revised, finalized, walked away from)


So far my favorites are #12 and the Caravaggio poem. Why wouldn't we see this in a bookstore? It's very well written and engaging. Richly romantic.

Auto
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I don't know, Auto. I honestly don't know. And yeah. The Caravaggio thing is kind of cool to me too. So layered.

Tere
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Funny but I never do actually finish a poem, much less a collection. Up late last night because I could, because I didn't have to get up early today. Decided to review this Bottom City Blues thing and read all but a few. Sure enough I found two more poems in the L.D. series too weak to stand and a little repititious. Some may remember the series came out of a Na Po poem a day game, what, two years ago. Anyway, the two got cut. I almost cut two more poems: Erose and Thanatos and In Her Service. After a good night's sleep I decided the only problem with the first was placement, so it got moved. As for the second poem, while tone is a bit arch I think it has a story worth telling, even told in the right way. The collection has one poem left still dogging me. The first. Enjambment problems I think.

Tere
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Re: Bottom City Blues (collection revised, finalized, walked away from)


Such a numbscull. I forgot I had already reworked the first poem in MS form. Changes reflected.

Tere
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Relationships never really end, are always open to to reinterpretations, refining of feelings, redefining of motivations and nuances, even long after we have thought them dead and buried.
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Hi Tere,

I want to come back to this sometime when I have more time and can read through the whole book. Just wanted to say I'm glad you have been putting the finishing touches on the collection.
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You are so right, Libra. And you just give me something. Relationships, pretty much what poetry is about, don't you think? All relationships. Anyway, I realized a long time ago it can take me years to find the precise, right word, image, or association.

Kat, I hope you get the time some day to read the whole of the collection. Preferrably in one or two sittings. I am good with it. For me it reads true, which is what matters the most.

Tere
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I keep coming back to the collection. I just remembered my original intention. When I came to Bottom City in the spring of '02 I was trading a deep wilderness environment for that of a city's. I experienced environmental shock and it was physical. For my own sanity I needed to somehow bridge the two extremes. From a place where coyotes, bears, the sometime cougar were my closest neighbors to a place where people are packed in like so many particles bombarding each other in a particle accelerator. What saved me and still does is a kind of reversal. Living in a city, when I go to work I am between the bayous and in farmland. Twice now, and in as many weeks, coming up into a couple of bee yards near to each other I've spotted a mature red fox, tail white tipped. Since the fox is coming out in the daylight, presumably forced to forage, my hunch is that a den of pups is near by. That is what keeps me sane.

There is a word in the science of ecology. I came upon it in a dictionary today while looking for another word. It is ecotone and it means: An ecological community of mixed vegetation formed by the overlapping of adjoining communities. I remember. That was my original intention. Going ecotonal. The poem, In a Low Rent District, is a point in case. As is the Mississippi Kite poem. As are the bee yard poems and several of the Green Girl poems. But behind all of the poems there is the same ambition. To bridge.

There are poems here that are some of my best. They may be my best. They certainly draw out something Laura Riding called for: the New Romantic who she described as "romantics with the courage of realism." But I suspect my ambition here is a singular failure. There is no reconciliation between Bottom City, a name for all cities, and Wilderness. No ecotone allowing of the two communities. Except perhaps for this:

I am watching vines grow up the red brick of an apartment complex. Left undisturbed they will eventually crumble apart the bricks adjoined with cement mix. That is my hope and why Bottom City's fathers must eventually declare me a public nuisance.

Tere
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Tere, I've only just started, but I can say this:

Breathtaking.

Thank you.

--Liz.
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Invisibility is midnight exposure on white beach, in
winter December. And the selection coming sweet, to
close your eyes in driftwood moment, forever’s sleep.


This just grabbed me and gave me a proper shaking. Just saying. Now I have to try to keep my cool enough to read more ...
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quote:

But I think invisibility resides in this the most:
losing a child to your own body’s sins; second most, when
your lover needs your cover from her loneliness.



Awe-inspiring, man. I have only just now given the first poem a few reads, but man oh man did you manage to set me in a feeling, put me in "that" place and fill my (beleagured) late-night mind with an air of resurrection.

I love it when a piece of writing may seem so vital. I felt the urge to just say that.

alki
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There is so much here, Tere. I can approach it like divination by Bible reading -- randomly picking a passage and going with it.
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Libra you are not exactly given to saying too much too loosely. That is something I respect. Actually something I note in all our board's members. Kind of makes the place a bit different, n'est pas? You go right ahead and divinate, if that is a word, then get back to us please.

Alki, I was hoping, thinking it possible, the Invisibility poem would come across. I figure you are an expat. In a sense we all are, every poet I've ever known is.

I spent the afternoon reading through the L.D. poems, 25 in all from an original 33. Made a few edits. I was looking to slash and burn. If somebody can find flatulance in that ensemble please tell me. I can't. I've never read poetry like this of friendship. Not even from a woman poet, except for Sappho.

Tere
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I've brought the collection over from our forum, Ateliers. It needs to be read. Not something that can be found in a bookstore. No poet alive in America is making poetry like this.

Tere
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Hi Tere,

I think I've read almost all of the poems in this collection at one time or another over the years, but I've never read the collection as a collection. Looking forward to doing that in the coming days. emoticon
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Likely you have, Kat. My collections are always thematically driven and, don't know how to say it, placement arranged I guess. Read from begining to end you get a kind of story in sets.

Tere
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So I don't expect people to read the collection. Just reread the suite of 25 poems entitled "My Dance is my Body, My God is My Own." Older members will remember poems were first penned in '09 during the NaPo month's poem a day game. Originally over 30 poems. Suit's conceit straight forward. Poems addressing a dead friend.

I know of no poetry doing what I've succeeded to here. Not sure I can remember poetry even trying. The poems in Latin exchanged between Ausonius and Paulinus come close. But, Christ, that was in the 4th C. What a friendship ours was. What a dynamic created by two poets for whom poetry was a devotional. People thought we were gay, lovers even. We were neither. We were young poets setting out and for whom everything, even our women, were secondary. Doesn't matter. Poetry is what matters and L.D. would get that.

Tere
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