The Birth of Time
Results run backward gathering in force until they end up
in some sort of cavern miraculously well lit & everyone there
feels surprise & wonder.
They are more like phantoms than like little men: a
symptom of the way they cough & breathe.* * bob & weave
From the depths the girl at center rises, edges toward
the stooping man* & calls him father. * [maybe the stupid man is what you meant]
She is a distant runner, trained to smash against the
wind & carry on until some place draws nigh – where the
whole point of speed is relaxation.* * execution
It fits & lessens our predicament, although no final
strategy permits it.
Even so.* * Ebb & flow
My hand in yours allows a sleep in which each dream
is like a hole in paradise.* * a holy paradigm
The more you fall through it* the more it takes you * stall in it
to the birth of time.* * of rhyme
A Field on Mars
Hunted from their places,* fierce* & hungry* hordes & * pastures * skinned *angry
nomads plunge into our streets.
The word is desiccation, somewhere that was fertile
once, & now, battered by a hostile wind, becomes a field on
Mars, a world more lonely than the world allows.
Behold the grandmother , her skin a dirty grey* as if * [trying to see it in his mind]
the light were of a foreign color, absent, hidden from the hole
in which she dwells.* * she smells
These are no children’s games – or are they?
Cards slapped on a table, thrown against a wall, brought
as a pack down on the willing skin.
Saints alive !* * [words her ghost called forth]
The call to battle rattles the savage mind, a premise from
the present yet no less exotic.
Granted: that their funds are toxic comes as no surprise;
that the lack of means betokens a further struggle; that nations
once deprived rise in their millions.* * with their minions
It is a thought on which to dwell, shaken* from sleep. * rousted
The Lord of Duendecitos
The blast of the irreducible* comes to me little by little around * illegible
the quirky* memories of unrelieved spacetime in which we & * dirty
all we write finds its own meaning.
There is more to this than air, more than the mind-
forged chatter* night by night arising in our sleep. * clutter
I set out restless, following the path that Goya* * Lorca
traveled as the lord of duendecitos or their manager.
Offering his head, the neck beneath it painted in a
rotting red, the chest beneath that bare & hairy, waiting for
the little king to suck his own ripe nipples till he cuts them off.* * bites them off
How chaste, how wonderfully diffuse, these shadow
worlds more real than what the time* affords you – this is * the rhyme
what the mind absorbs against all reason.
In the days remaining, mindful that all art is science &
all science art, we can enter freely* in a struggle with ourselves. * fiercely
I am you & you are someone still alive & searching for
a place to rest & dream, still fearful of the days to come.* * [to whom then is he speaking?]
Walking the streets alone* you know you aren’t * at dawn
dreaming but have no way to prove it, knocking against a
sign but never waking up.* * breaking free
Follow the motion of my finger, how it taps* the * bends
empty air, not certain if each gesture taken brings another
world to life.
At its outer limits art makes way for art: the art of empty* * broken
promises like the art of resignation, circumstance, upheaval*, * denial
blindness, solitude, chimeras, dancing standing still,
returning to a former place, forgetting, torturing yourself
& others, going overboard.
What mars a mother’s mirth? what memory more
meretricious than a ram’s – reminder that a word once
sounded calls a further word to rise*? * to sound
Unleashed a leg kicks forward, falls & further falls,
the way a page is ripped* from time, the syllables dispersed * a leaf is torn
Forgotten never, but the call is to begin anew, to
name yourself a blusterer, a lonely father launched above
the clouds & waving sadly.
“Time cuts the wings of love” in Van Dyck’s
painting, startles me, the feathers falling through an
opening, a hole* inside the mind. * a hall
Too late to turn around, to wish that when the
first awareness came, there was a way to talk it down,
& knowing that there wasn’t.
I am I & you are you, but with a tiny twist, one
being morphs into another, faster in the word than in
the flesh*. * on the draw
Always in denial, always in search of other
ways to be.* * to see
The hand is too immaculate; therefore it
The eye sees not, the foot no longer moves, the
mind is poised to be the mind no more, the hard* * the tight
abrasions rise above the flesh, the tongue retrieves a word
more fleeting than a taste *. * a kiss
With no fixed home to speak of, I found
myself at home, wherever home was – as much there,
I meant to say, as here.
A White Shadow
a target a mark a mirage
an upflow of seeing* * of being
the repetition of music
a song now clear for the eyes
all in white
a white shadow
abalone shell white
the ring* through which horses * the loop
are springing the vision
white as a feather
aiming the bow
she speaks to us
flowers rise through a crevice
snow so cold that it burns
a target through which
the eye passes
like an arrow
life on a screen
now returns to us
hither & thither* * farther & further
surrender is bliss* * bend for a kiss
Strangers in a Strange Land
Groucho Harpo Chico are the names we knew, that
mattered in the games we played.
In the first round all the little men step forward,
one who cannot speak & one who stammers,* speaking * stutters
in a tongue that rubs against his lips until they bleed.
Mother mine ,* the dew-eyed wanderer cries * [but more precisely “mama mia”]
out, a stranger in a strange land, hands that stroke the
keyboard or tangle with* the keyboard as he strokes. * melt into
They are prey to reminiscence, a history too
little known to be repeated, the ministers of fortune
waiting in a room for armies or the polizei to reach them,
arms outstretched for help or for the bosoms of fat
matrons decked* in black. * robed, or clad
Over their heads a line of wild geese fills the
sky, a herd of elephants tramples the prairie, schools
of porpoises leap through the sea, a ribboned* band of * raw-boned
warriors answers your call.
Squads of fire engines, motorcycle cops, baboons
who swing & sway over a footbridge, Olympic swimmers
coming up for air.
A man whose body forms a perfect C, professor
of the unshorn hordes against all odds, rejecting every
call that sense requires, when he makes his way across
the open field, the polis follows.* * the po-lice follow
What color is the mute man’s hair?
Red in a purple light or purple in a green light.
And the tropical explorer?* * the myopic schnorrer
Striding back & forth, his brother’s double,
where the cabin fills with images of those long dead,
the wretched refuse , broken blossoms, pitiful & abject.
Neither war nor victory is ours, the race is
long played out.
The face still hidden, painted on his lower
flesh, is more than he can bear.* * than he can bare
Landscape with Bishop (revisited)
The bishop cries cathedral cathedral save me from those
who stalk me.
Sad old bishop.
Temple boys from Cyprus dance with amulets
& rings*: eyes for sight, nose for smell, heart for touch. * savages & kings
All naked bodies, even the god-of-all bone
bare. * * sex bared
The raptors* tear into his flesh, where a word * raptures
like mortify would be enough to make it swell, a rosary
of skulls to quell it.
Nothing so sad as what stares out at him: a
thousand little prods,* each one a silver counter. * prongs
Honey still more precious, rubbed on the lips of
those he craves.
Elite, elect, alone, alive .
A garden where it is better not to stir the earth,
to know the life beneath his vestments throbs, the
discharge soon enough when lives remote from his draw
Precipitous at night, abject by morning, the man
who sails from Rome to Crete is subject to geography
& stars.* *scars
I am the bishop here, your house is mine, your
predilection but a poor excuse for scandal.
When the rector of the fabled school opens the
door wide, the ones* who enter shun us. * the nuns
A fluttering of wings, a solemn casing.
The march of time* deferred. * A stitch in time
Odd sentiments & sorrows.* * sediments & sparrows
Deep & dark.
A bird, a word.
A spark that leads them to the light.
The sun at night.
How right,* how fine. * How bright
A sight for sore eyes
or a sign.* * divine, divine
If the work of another translates my dream ,
his work is mine. (F. Picabia)
As Many Ghosts as Days & Years
Divine, divine, the figure like a figure in a dream, more
like it when the sleeper springs to life.
Diviner then, & then divinest, core* & corps. * corpse
He in the guise of someone old or lost, the oldest
in the gang of three or seven, pioneers he likes to call
them, first & last.
In several other places several other drifters come
to rest, how thankful to be set apart, romantic in the way
they walk & talk.* * stall & fall
Never had seen a ghost before but now they fill
the plot back of his house, as many ghosts as days & years,
even when wide awake.
We can converse, the link between us growing
stronger, every story feeding every other, the phantoms
private to your mind nearly emerging in the words we
speak.* * the way we breathe
More come through the cyber air like monkeys,
signaling the roads down which they walk,* the fleeting * the trees they swing from
moments between life & death.
What I can scarce imagine, he sees clearly, hears
the clatter* of their voices, figures dressed in white & * clacking (S. Freud)
riding open cars until they disappear from sight.
Some cut their veins, some swallow wormwood,* * arsenic
some dangle from a cord,* some fall on swords, some * a line
fall & fail, some burn themselves alive, some into the
water leap* like holy fools, some starve, some eat beyond * dive
their means, some few – the last & least – drop through
a hole in time, some watch & wait.
As many ghosts as there are days & years.
False Words More Hip Than True
A word like hip controls the contours of their speaking
before it breaks apart.
A breath, a gasp, a short explosion,* much as * a brief eruption
their other meanings come to be, this one rings true.
(I will continue to speak, he says, the manner of
it pure & true, though subject like the rest to entropy,* * atrophy
the curtain falling down before his eyes, the other signs
for him & me of dissolution.)
Folly & dust, what lines up in the back of us like
ghosts, like memory,* is what our world most is, the past * like sleep, like dreams
that overwhelms the present.
In a sudden burst of starlight time stands still,
recalls a timeless* world, emptied of stars & memory, a * rhymeless
hole down which the sleeper falls & falters.
Iridedesced is such another word he gives you,
that you can’t or won’t escape.
Words are our only hope, the present thwarted,
the return to where you were when time began, the mind
in battle with the mind.
Love follows us.
An organ plays.
A child down* in the mud. * drowns
Her fingers splayed but cold.* * & old
The age of sentiment revives.
There is a war inside the dream that never ends,
take it or leave it, there is hunger* also, pain* is also here, *anger * gain
& cruelty,* from which the just man turns aside & lets it * penury
False words* more hip than true. * Lost words
Those Who Form an Aftermath
Archipelago of the wandering dream, a place to penetrate,
to find a home in, lost* from start to end. * sought
So like the captains of the fabled time before us,
where we start is never where* we figured in the first place. * [where is where?]
Deaf & dumb, possessed & manic, I must make my
way among the mangroves, till the vision almost out of
sight* turns real, recaptured, standing pat. * out of reach
A castle with two bodies, looming, luminescent,
boats along its far side nightly beached.
From these come riders, those in black* who race * in back
to meet us, lift us high, & drop us safely down.
So we will be your brothers ready to press on but
fearful of those who form an aftermath, a vaunted punctuation
or a stop in time.* * in rhyme
Hosanna!* An alphabet of sound is sound enough before * [Hossana, Anna!]
all sound goes black.
Faced by the killer where can the just man run? what
home or cave* is there to shelter* him? who hears him call? * hole or grave * bury him
The dream repeats itself, a house abandoned, the long
lines of hungry* marchers raising arms against the cold,* the * angry * the old
threat of ice, alarm bells buried in the snow.
Head above head the air is now so full of signals* that * angels
the end of time* confronts us. * of rhyme
Only a bitter sigh rings true, devoid of pity, the more
it sounds for us, the less we hear.* * fear
A Holy Paradigm
The man who makes the rhyme* collects the pieces. * takes the time
An execution is enough to make us stall: a holy* * lowly
paradigm, something so stupid one could well nigh fall
& not get up.
Another speaks the thought of death into your
mind, to let it settle & turn sour.
A boy approaches with a cheek so brittle the
skin falls off it, a stranger from a distant land* out of * state
I beckon & I turn away, slave to an emptiness
I can’t expel.
The greater death was raging out of sight, your
Babylon or mine, the thump of bombs at night, more
dreamed* for us than real.* * real * dreamed
When the earth shakes bulbs drop from the
chandeliers, the cousins whom we never knew caught
in their sights.* * in its lights
The little squads of boys fall to the ground, not
in a play* but in a nightmare. * in a game
A gallery with photos of the dead, the walls of a
small living room tricked out from floor to ceiling –
these are the ancestors, young men with beards & yellow
eyes, the maidens at their sides eyes pale with craving.
Forgotten, fitful, come around by strides where
we await them.
The poems bespoke this first, caught in the web* * the net
of retrospection.* * introspection
A Hat as Dark as Sundays
He has shoes with lights,
a hat as dark
as Sundays. * or Thursdays? Fridays? Saturdays?
When he begins to dance
the floor beneath him
trembles, sending splinters
through his veins,
the sharp electric tacks* * shocks
sealing* his eyes. * peeling
The image on the screen
is real, more real
than what appears
that which his fingers hold* * brush
cold to the touch.
A crowd of diplomats
crosses the first Rhine bridge
a crowd of acrobats
hang by their heels.
They flail their arms
& scan* the ground * span
of time & false
victims of a war
that will not end.
An instance or an interval
is rhyme* enough. * time
Time * is abolished * Rhyme
the world is o’er .
A Ladder Hangs in Space
It flew down from the sky & tore apart the fabric newly
sewn.* * spun
A ladder hangs in space, I climb it & look down,
afraid with every step to lose the earth beneath me.
King of the only time he knows – or I know – in
a world where majesty comes slowly, inch by inch,* he * yard by yard
follows where I lead but lets me be.
Sleep arrives, the word is counterpane, in which
the sick man rests & tells the hours.* * counts the days
A poem issues from his lips, the pain of speaking
almost too great to bear.
A flush, a blush, a thrush – the birth of rhyme* is * of time
only a breath away.
Music would say it better, somewhere in the throat
or deeper down, the rhythm of it pounding in his veins.* * [unknown, untold]
The times * are never right, the words once spoken * the rhymes
live inside the mind, the garden glimpsed from space is all
Released a crowd explodes & fills the crevices, the
human sons in every corner, fat & full.* * fair & frail
The word is revolution*but the time to strike isn’t * resolution
today, much less tomorrow.
From where you look the earth is blue, the air is
red, the viewer floats above us like an angel.
All that we ever wrote fits in a needle’s eye.* * a grain of sand
How deep the chasm between this & that?* * that & this?
The Sound of Water
With every new invention* what was long hidden launches * extension
Spectacular , the groundlings cry, the baby plutocrats
who live this side of Russia.
There are so many here, so little time to push your way
between them, trembling,* where the owners of your lives, * mumbling
intrepid, brutal, face off for a final round.
The sound of water* was the title but the words were * slaughter
not the same.* * the name
In tune with which a long procession follows, baring
their teeth like rows of diamonds, glittery like glass or little
Colorless green ideas sleep furiously , the banner reads,
back to the dawn of childhood dreams.
Up stands the captain, head in hands, the thought
renewed in dullness, triggering a voiceless rage.* * age
Command, condemn, control .
The age* of oligarchs begins anew. * rage
From every corner of the heimat those who buy their
circumstances sally forth.
All is forgiven, all is not forgiven.
The word is divagations, is it not?* * [or is it?]
To Calculate the Dream
How many deaths before your own? he asks himself,
the answer buried in his brain, unknown.* * [unknowing?]
Arising from between two beds, there is no way to
calculate the dream, to take the measure of the room in which
he sleeps, poor shadow* in a world that fades from view. * shatn
They call the hall of ghosts Die Stille, a sheol-hungry* * angry
world unfathomed by the man who dreams it.
Vu ken er loyfn * when the time draws nigh, the getzn * [Where can he run]
following in hot pursuit, bim bom the sound of bells exploding
in his ears?
There is no room for silence but the word persists, a
nightclub in the dream, an ample paradise.* * gan eyden
Jumble of words, mixed messages, like gogl-mogl
sliding down your throat, a taste that lingers.
Nowhere will the simple soul find solace, nowhere
the edge be smoothed, the passage into death* a source of * life
rapture not a further emptying.* * oysleydikn
Clatter of wheels repeats itself each night, for which
the hidden word is tuml, clamor, always a gap behind
the mark,* the waters closing in. * the dark
It is your fate to end here with the rest, poor shatn,* * shadow
like myself, like you, like all we will become.
Every morning is a new day, every night the same.
Every memory a memory of loss.
Where Memory & Dream Are One
In the dream I stretched out almost motionless, the words I
tried to speak caught in my throat & nearly choking me. The
place was filled with faces, like a giant hall,* a kind of night * a mall
club with the sound of distant music ringing in my ears.
Someone to the right of me, another sleeping figure, said its
name was Stille or die Stille, which was clear enough in
German but I couldn’t find the proper English* word for it. * Yiddish
Even more puzzling, I was aware, if vaguely, that it was
taking place in Russia, & that the strangers with us were
from the newly minted* class of Russian billionaires. I tried * favored
to point it out to those around me, that this Russia was far
different from the one we once imagined. I was overcome
with grief & longing – emotions in my dreams, rarely in
waking — & alarmed at the water that had started rising in
the hall. I had long loved the word cockeyed & mouthed
it as a sure* expression of my thoughts. It came back in a * a pure
flow of rhyme* I spewed forth for the other sleepers. Was this * of time
hall a mausoleum & the sleepers all of those I knew in life,
now safely stacked away, forever? I stepped down from my
perch & tried to swim among the beds & tables, following
the voices of the rich that led me to an outer courtyard. Even
here the word tsunami rattled in my ears, my fingers groping
for a ladder that was out of reach. Was it the inland sea,* I * the sea of reeds I
wondered, a lake with putrid birds, a bog, a fen, a mash of
crimson bodies, more than I could count? My shoes had
little lights attached,* enough to lead me down a narrow * [was it my dream or his?]
causeway, the end of which was darkness more dense than
death. Time is abolished was the line that came at me – the
world is o’er . I thought if I could start to sing, the words
would carry me across, but what? A song about a king, a
bird, a fallen tree, all too romantic. The pressure of the
ooze under my feet that pulls me down, that sends an ache
up through my legs,* makes me wonder that my heart can * my groin
still keep beating. I would rather sleep or crawl back to
the hall, the place from which I came. But where? in
which direction? with what name to name it? Stille or
die Stille , if they ever found me here, would anybody
understand me?* These were what I feared: the hangman, * [in what language? what account?]
the exploding bombs, the curtains blocking sight, the
holy fools, the drifters, the march of time, the rosary of
skulls, the wings of love, the broken blossoms, the
children’s games, the hostile wind, the duendicitos. For
me the oldest memories are those of being lost: a hall
of celebrating giants, a cellar with a furnace burning
bright, a point where memory & dream are one. I
crawl my way toward waking, still bereft.
The Final Word Is Desecration
The bang & clang of hasty* hammers take me half away * nasty
from sleep & hanging free.
The quality of noise invades my music, even the
words that scrape against each other, crash & clatter till
they break apart.
The final word is desecration, words like pebbles
in a blender,* ground to dirt. * grinder
Mismatched, misshapen, mise-en-scene,* the * miserere
ear of the commander* sharper than his eye. * the director
There is no beauty left to tell, no sky exploding
into clouds, no reason to cry out for life,* only the * [M. McClure]
march of time that puts all time* in question. * all rhyme
Funny season starts again: the chatter on the
wire turns to words, the words to smiles too deep for
tears , the tears & smiles too deep for words.
Where time* is endless all we know as time* *rhyme *rhyme
dissolves, the future & the past become a timeless* *rhymeless
This is also testimony, shared with Goya &
a paradise of others, poets* where the memory of poems * brothers
will be forever lost.
Only tread here softly, lest the voice of someone
hidden* hides your own. * other
They are all the shadows of my mind, those whom
I love & bury with my own.