Coastal Fog

In longhand in blue ink on white paper
at the Claremont Hotel on vacation in Maine
just outside Acadia National Park, I wrote
down with urgency just a few early lines –

about how nothing lasts forever, nothing
is utterly distinct, how each of us is almost
a second coming of others who once were,
who were themselves almost second comings…

and so forth , turning just slightly aside
to notice that the mind lives in complex space
native to a profusion of infinite regressions,
finding myself now on path of genuine interest…

but somewhere between Southwest Harbor
and Harpswell, Maine, the pad and the lines,
and the beginnings were lost, with nothing
quite distinct of it all left in my mind…

I can say what was lost was nothing
and say at the same time what was lost
may have been everything – I write an
elegy for the indeterminate, coastal fog

The Birth Of Pallas

Zeus said, “I have the worst headache
of my whole life since the beginning.”

Zeus thought, “Hera is a pain, but not
like this that is so near my center.”

He swaddled his head in dense cloud
dimming the sun but got no relief.

Since gods are two –year- olds
writ large, he threw a temper tantrum,

scattering thunderbolts to the horizon
so shepherds feared for their flocks

and those lucky ones who had skins
of wine, drank deep as they worried.

Zeus’ tantrum was of no avail, so he
changed times and donned human guise.

He presented himself at dusk to an ER
in San Antonio, one more droplet

in a brown river of nameless suffering
and told the triage nurse that he had

“the worst headache of my whole life
since the beginning” – she came awake.

Zeus lay in the tube of the MRI listening
to noise with none of thunder’s glory.

When he came out, the resident told him,
“Listen Mr. Z we have to operate.

You have the largest aneurysm anyone
here has ever seen. You’ll die if it bursts.”

Just then the pain became even more
lancinating and a small patch of mist

burst forth from his forehead and grew
and grew and took form even as it grew

to be as large as Zeus himself, but with
gray-green eyes whose depth was wonder.

“Ah,” said Zeus, “Pallas Athena herself.”
“Becoming, great Zeus, is suffering,”

said the wise one, daughter of depths
and foolishness and thunder, too.”

Then they disappeared, Zeus and Athena
in just a single patch of cloud, moonlit.

“How should I document this?” the resident
asked the chief of the ER, old Watkins

who replied, “My back aches, my feet hurt –
just let yourself go and use your imagination.”

New And Uncanny, Too

I’m having trouble making anything
because where invention once seemed

like piecing my own only head together,
adding new space with novel views,

now invention seems like taking my head
off my neck, exposing its inner workings,

a matter perilous from the outset in which
I’m likely to lose much more than I gain

I’m aware of an inhibition, a hesitation
that prevents me from taking the dive

so I’m left embarrassed with inklings
of what might be, of what might have been

My old ignorance that licensed my daring
has been replaced not precisely by knowledge

but by experience, thousands of flavors
composing and recomposing atmospheres

that have turned me inwards even when
I’m not aware and feel I’m looking out

To make something new when I’m
someone old, I must use myself as

preamble, go into what has been in
order to let it go, refresh itself, put on

a familiar costume that is yet fabulous –
I make myself new and uncanny, too

As If With A Bit

As if with a bit thrust into my mouth,
as if with a bit lodged deep in my mind,
a story takes me wherever it wants,
not rider but horse, not rider but horse

A story dissolves me and resolves me
into what I’m not by an alchemy
that discovers no philosopher’s stone
but finds instead a stoned philosopher

There is no way back, there is no way back,
a story is a chronic infection,
a story is a cosmic infection,
there’s no cure for its ravishing allure

Day after day I’m the story I tell
Myself, bit after bit, silver and gold


I am watching the fire take, listening
to oak kindling snap as first plumes
of white smoke thread their way up
through the logs of sweet cherry wood
that will be substance of this blaze

then come slight orange tongues of flame
that have no words and also no feet
but dance with phantasmagoric verve
without least inkling of what they do –
dead tree is its own funeral pyre

thick braids of smoke shade of cloud
rise to lose themselves in summer sky
and the fire clears, is more orange than
it has been, more fierce, more fixed
on the work of consuming the wood

I feel the heat that I have unleashed
warming my cheek from four paces
I find myself overcome with awe,
not that I have not done this same
incendiary act hundreds of times,

not that I have not felt this awe many
times before, even cherished it as a way
into the mystery of what is ordinary
and extraordinary all at once, how fire
is destructive and creative both

the wood wanders its way to ash,
past the flickering and glowing coals
that seem to have an inner life
as they have inner light and heat,
become coated with elegant gray

I watch the fire and know that I am
watching myself, that I can no more
tarry on the way than the wood can,
that I know as little as does the wood,
that where I’m woven, I’m consumed


I am in the prime of my life
because each instant is prime,
not reducible to any factors,
but simply stubbornly itself

I have accumulated age, carry
it now with me and within me
I’ve been through more than I
can say, although I try to speak

This instant of December near
the winter solstice, gray, twilight
coming down early, has a freshness,
even a sparkle, a way that I

am prime with myself within
the vessel that I take for myself –
I hear melodies I can not sing, frame
scene after scene I can not paint

I am with myself as darkness
descends, no stars tonight but
the scent of wood smoke mixed
with the scent of skunk, fading

No instant can pass for another
but each one passes for itself,
and is replaced by yet another,
incommensurable, vast and free

Always In Flux

Summer is becoming autumn.

Even before the equinox, the days have cooled
and become bright and breezy…

The ground is littered with acorns.

The squirrels are busy.

I see a bronzed praying mantis.

The first leaves, scouts for the coming armies,
slant down to land on the green of grass.

There is one red as a cardinal.

A new moon climbs up late behind a bank of oaks to the east.

The great blue heron is so still that it seems
a part of the half submerged branch on which it stands.

The monarchs have passed through.

My white beard prophesies snow and springs I will not see.

What has changed through my seasons?

Not so very much – same quality of attention, same quality
of intention, same quality of invention

Yet I’ve been always in flux.

I dance away from myself without malice

“At The Age I Am I Can Be Any Age”

Nymph of an oak slips from ring to ring,
dances from where the bark meets the air
to the central rings, which are the beginning
after the wild burst from acorn’s inspiration
and hold still the green joy and exuberance

Nymph is a changed nymph in each ring
where she lingers and does not so much
remember as recover, return to this ring’s
seasons, its spring and summer and fall,
winter snow and stillness and deep sleep

So many springs’ waking, so many red
buddings, so many tender new green
leafings out, so many leaves lifted up
to take in what the lordly sun spews out,
so many deep green leaves, sweet acorns

Let Go, Let Come

I know that I am retreating from what I was –
the swirl of these days confuses me –
names don’t adhere where I want to place them –
even my very own on me doesn’t quite stick–
it’s as if I had lost the polestar of vanity in my mind
and so saw things both more plainly and bleakly –

I am only a leaf among other leaves
and the machinery that let sun animate me
is worn out beyond hope of repair –
that gold bird, the sun, is heading south
and autumn plays its ancient script out,
a thing of beauty mixed with glory to make

an elegy while I cling to my branch –
yes, this is confusing, that I am next to nothing,
that I do not know when the wind will come
to harvest me, only that it will come –
there is wisdom, I suppose, in my confusion,
in my learning to let go, to let come, to be done

In The Head Of A Young Person

Who can tell what is in the head of a young person?
Who can tell what lies behind soft smooth expressions?

When we are young we are general issue,
wearing the uniform of possibility.

When I was young there were islands of awareness
maybe even an archipelago in the ocean of bafflement

Time goes on and life writes on our faces, turns
them into masks that hint at what may be inside

Everyone is an enigma, but there are questions
of different kinds, framed by hope and despair.

It is not only that we decorate ourselves with illusions
that are dear to us as life itself, our very own lives.

We decorate whomever we see, whomever we think
we want to know; we pin medals on their chests

What is in the head of a young person comes out
as life goes along and recedes even deeper as well

I look at the young and remember, but remember
all wrong, mixing my own elements up

I don’t know what’s in my head, I still sail an ocean
of bafflement, why should I question the young?

I confess when I look at a lily, at a rose, when I
take their scents in, questions form in my mind.

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