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?

M Was Never An Easy One To Know

M was never an easy one to know,
for he thought of himself as just the first
or last hesitant outline of shadow,
a beginning or an ending, subtle,

Neither unambiguously the one
or the other, too vague for expression,
someone who was a half way hint, more than
he had ideas or aesthetic, plan

Or purpose, someone who passed life’s short term
beguiled by intimacies and fictions
arising only in him without clues
as to how they might be made more robust

A trace of M is not the taste of M,
who wished to be flower without a stem

Cancer Killed A Man Who Led The Vilna

Cancer killed a man who led the Vilna
Ghetto uprising, fought in the forest
and knew evil when it was live and fierce
all around him and he wrote poems still

Even after the cancer took his voice
so what was left was written character,
the smell of the hospital, memory
compressed in disinfectant, pain ruling

An empire growing minute by minute,
the glow of lights off the slick floors as night
moved along towards another cold dawn
by a river on a far strange continent

Abba Kovner, we let you go and stay
with us as steel spark of the darkest day

The World Is Beautiful With Breezes

The world is beautiful with breezes, snakes
of grace, serpents of softness, which avid
steal from tree to tree. So green slumber wakes,
animated to indulgence, shy kid

of goatish luxury, by the quick bite
of teeth envenomed with air’s elixirs,
first, last and best poison, in malice slight,
yet most rich in invention’s rare mixtures.

Sin original is mind’s first motion,
art’s intent, which like some fallen rainbow
stirs the waters of harmony’s ocean
in search of the sign which has drowned below.

Eve’s green garden was Adam’s best delight.
Eden’s trance is everyman’s prime birthright

Time, Most Dread Of Disciplines

O time, most dread of disciplines, who mends
not what mars us, but to woe bears increase,
as dull growth likeness unto likeness lends,
marking limiting’s limit in surcease,

upon your bank we draw ourselves in coin
so airily minted that pain’s dark thrust
mocks fitfully our minds, as to purloin
of self the better stuff of truthful trust.

Time, time, of tutors are you the supreme,
for gripped in toil of your usury,
we, paupered all, learn the seeds of doubting’s dream.
Of nought stamps this banker men to harry.

Yet faith, if it would be more than time’s fool,
no coin may show, lest mere coin, estranged, rul

One Lilac Fragrant Twilight Of Late Spring

One lilac fragrant twilight of late spring
a pack of dogs surrounded me just where
University’s flank joined the ghetto –
slowly they began to circle watching

My feet to see how I’d move – dogs yellow
and brown and black and tan, their ribs sticking
out from their chests, hunting me as if
they knew their hunger’s business, how to kill

Sweet the evening was, soft the fading light
as I wondered what it would be to feel
the fangs of these dogs, to fall and fade, die –
then came explosion of sweet savagery

As I roared, rushed, struck, stunned the largest dog
So they broke and left me in lilac fog

We’ve Got Our Hands On The Plans – DNA

We’ve got our hands on the plans – DNA
and RNA, histones and all the rest,
but we don’t see where our folly nestles,
how it is built so deeply in that what

We do with what we think we know in this
golden age of exploration is bound
to be clumsy, insensitive and blind,
so that when we wake from this spell our shame

Won’t be enough to guide us in how to
regret, repent, seek to atone, restore
what we have disturbed, rescue what we’ve bent:
future presence of mind is hard to find

Our hands on the plans repeat old troubles,
We become our own serpentine doubles

In Deep Blue Long Gone Huge Afternoon By

In deep blue long gone huge afternoon by
blue blue Indian sea under blue blue
African sky a yellow mongrel dog
sleeping off the heat went in my blue eyes

And never came out again – there he lies
on the dark sand in a palm tree’s slim shade
bowed like a pipe cleaner and sleeps and sleeps
and mixes forgetting and remembering

Just so wild pigments of my dreams
can steal from him true hues of love and loss,
the times it went for me and against me,
while waves rocked and stars climbed hidden ladders

A yellow mongrel’s work who once was flesh
And now is dogged in another mesh

In A Mud Walled Room With No Furniture (Brasil ’66)

In a mud walled room with no furniture
I am still sleeping in a blue hammock
the color of earth.. a two year old comes
to wake me, shakes me, saying, “Quero pao”

I grunt, rise, walk up red laterite hill
with his tiny hand in mine, buy four loaves
of bread still warm from the oven, for him,
his seven brothers, sisters, his mother

I’m twenty and it’s a summer’s escape
from the colder north where I belong and
not for thirty years do I recognize
Luciano’s my father who first knew

Himself starving in wartime – the rapture
Of his hand in mine I still have, sleeping

Share This