The Ones We Know Best Are So Hard To Know

The ones we know best are so hard to know,
slip through our fingers as we ourselves do
as water does, as worth does, as wish does,
as love does when we try to bestow names.

The ones we know best are so hard to know
for they become for us habits only –
we look and look away and think we still look
when we have moved on to distract ourselves

The ones we know best are so hard to know,
because knowing is always risk and we
abhor risk because it’s our undoing,
the silver snake slithering through green grass

This is no latitude for empty gaze,
Labyrinth where we ourselves amaze

Brains In A Bucket On A Cloudy Day

Brains in a bucket on a cloudy day
black lab tops under fluorescent light
“This once was a particular person!”
I don’t shout, but pry gently, with fingers

Pink, blunt, huge, sausages that dwarf thinking,
a process once extant but now extinct
in the pale tissues being dissected
in the search for structures, tracts, commissures

This was all matter of fact long ago,
staying with me as matter of wonder,
sequestered somewhere in my gray matter,
just like what lay in those buckets that day

Rain fell and spring thunder came and sweet scent
Smoothed away what brains in a bucket meant

Each Day Your Being In This Broken World

Each day your being in this broken world
you repented and invented in the same breath,
struggle proceeding without theory,
only in practice, with awkward actions

I watched, not knowing what I watched or why,
you confused me, because you repented
your invention of me, too, as if I’d
be better not to be, better with you

At a safe cold distance so that your plight
couldn’t contaminate me, except that
you had an instinct, too, for warmth, so I
was drawn closer and closer to you

So close that sometimes in dreams I was you
Unaware of myself as someone new

In Memory Of David Victor Lewin, 1912-2002

Everything’s Pretext For Mourning, So When

Everything’s pretext for mourning, so when
that old space bird fell in fiery pieces
across west Texas, burning up the son
of Holocaust survivors, I thought of you

How the worst had come as a surprise so
many times at last it could not surprise
because you kept it always with you, near,
the hurt intimate with your heart, too close

For anything like comfort – when I saw
the face of the Israeli astronaut’s
old father, I recognized the look, like you,
unsure that survival is a blessing,

Steadfast, even when he’s most despairing,
For we and our world are past repairing

February 2, 2003

What Escapes Me

They flee from me, the lithe and lightning fish,
whom I would catch and dally with and keep,
admiring their embroidery, a dish
of light to make the queen of art’s heart leap.

What tailor’s hand their small scales stitched all tricks
of counterpoint and fugue, as Bach, did know;
with nimble wit fantastic threads he picks
and sets them all in unison aglow.

Not by seasons does the sea change fashions.
Fish clothes are classic, some pre-Jurassic.
On their skins sleek creatures sport their passions.
Some are fierce, some soft, some mock and mimic

This sea, where arts converge, makes light music
and music light, shows lust an ancient kick.

White Jellyfish

It is as in the deep a silken tent,
yet vagabond, without a central stay.
Adrift in its capricious element,
where currents play it finds its silent way.

It floats all dreamless through the star struck night.
If something like a dance it does, it knows
no step and nothing of enchantment’s might
though phosphorescent from within it glows.

Between wet and wet it’s sheer filament.
It seems a ghostly rag, stolen from fog,
this pale aimless form, home to no intent,
white jellyfish, inexplicable cog.

The close stitched seams, the catenaries sweet:
What knows no enclosing meets no defeat.


How Many Minnows

How many minnows, unnumbered as stars,
hang silver still in these warm tidal pools,
a vast progeny cradled by sand bars
while the sun unwinds as from golden spools

I am huge among them, these tiny fish
that hang just below the air’s interface.
I think of Faberge, that school’s relish
in the miniature, in pride of place.

The minnows surround me. I am the hole
in the doughnut about which they revolve,
each a limpid instance, fish without bowl,
each a riddle no art can solve

Singing so, I paint fleeting immersion
Of breath, each has only his own version.

Stranger’s Melody

Mollusks are their own mathematicians.
Blind in the deep they discover whorled forms,
yet they’ve no use for metaphysicians.
Men die for purposes and drown in norms.

The lowly mollusk echoes galaxies
and cares not a wit. His shell bounds his world.
He lacks light for larger intricacies,
bothers not how stars through heavens are hurled.

I culled today a shell from dreamy sea.
It made a point and seemed to wear a map.
With lines of green latitude, precisely,
it was ruled. I disturbed it from its nap.

Now for the deed there is no remedy.
We both lie lost in stranger’s melody.

Each Second I’m Launching That Second’s Guess

Each second I’m launching that second’s guess,
second guessing all seconds that have gone
before, adding one more awkward mirror
to a hall of mirrors that’s never done.

Now each second’s guess prepares a surprise
for all the seconds that are yet to come,
for the invasion of minutes and hours
that can’t stop itself and does not conquer

Any objective, but is caught in risks
that bloom from mornings and bright afternoons
to become catastrophes, opposites
of what was intended or expected.

Don’t forget worry is an art form, too,
That we can’t bear to live only what’s true

So Many Times Now Have I Asked Myself

So many times now have I asked myself
the same old questions that I’ve gotten used
to them as parts of me: it’s no longer
a question of answering them, but just

Of knowing where my edges used to be,
how I’ve gotten smoothed down over the years,
so it’s hard to recollect my roughness,
my inarticulate passions, their ghosts

If I start to think I know what my life
has been and is, I’ve passed into stupor,
those old questions, hypnotic, until I
finally join them in the river’s trance

What’s more precious than a question’s curved mark
To keeps us company in our own dark?

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