Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The arrogance of work

He sits and struggles, wracking his brain;
He’s arrogant enough to dream of fame
and assumes that work will allow him to learn
the secrets of chocolate, stars and rain.

No matter how hard he works,
Those who have more talent will do
Whatever it is better than him.
They will not have earned a tiny parcel

Of that advantage, grace has put it there
And, no matter how hard he tries,
He can never make a miracle
Nor equal by sweat and tear

That which they found waiting for them
With wide open arms and a cheer.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Happy Men's Day! Can you not cry for the millions? Are your tears dry as newsprint?

You dream headlines, I weep

I was on the road to a surprise
and the sunrise scratched at my window
long before the high above
Satchmo sang Brecht in German.
Bavaria breathed a flurry of yellow leaves.
Wine whirlpool.

The naked form of gluttony
danced before my eyes
less funny than hippos in tutus.
Wander to the bathroom
slowly, drop the seat,
no time of day,
there’s nothing better to do.
Hotel room.

Do you care this is about a person, not people;
does it matter this is about everyone, not me?
The plate is greasy in the restaurant
the food slides off and we might eat it
but do not, we were born full.
Song empty.

We are weakness strong in number -
Marx was right, he was wrong,
he knew the answer could
only be imposed or
no one would get it.
He knew I didn’t deserve to know.
Pain teacher.

Tear lake.
Swan dead.
First bird flu.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Can you set the sky right?
Beowulf could. Can you avoid the
Temptation to take advantage of what you know?
Doc Brown could (most of the time).

Can we save humanity from panic
And keep their ignorance intact?
J and K could no matter how many
Bugs came for a killing spree.

Can Neo come to understand
And save us from our slavery?
With love enough, of course.
All you have to be is a good person.

Can I learn to be a good poet?
Can Sisyphus roll a rock?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Gulya wore her heart on a sleeve

The world was a morning that became the afternoon
in which children ran all over the meadows and
in and out of the small ravines.
Of course the banks of the river
hung precariously over dreams of an
unsupervised time that should have been
a school day but was an entertainment for
somebody, I don’t know who, as the adults
nervously got together, worrying about how
they looked and what their kids were going
to do, which they had already done and were
getting ready to do again, as playground fantasies
became real trees and streams in the mountains
with the same bees and ants making
small, soft brown flesh to have the same red bumps

Busses and classes and kids and cars
and everybody segregated so we could be watched
by each other, always not noticing what
someone was doing, everybody always
in ever changing groups except the adults
who were already overdressed for the wrong event
and anyway I brought my samovar, so strange
that the one foreigner should have an
object so common, it should have belonged to
somebody else but the strange man who
visited the English classes (after the kids had
done a forced march through two weeks
of dialog memorization – you know, the usual talk,
which nobody ever has) had agreed to be there
and wanted the impossibility of being a part of the thing,
which he was, but not the part that drooled on his pillow
or chatted with the other guests who were parents of
the kids who were sneaking off in plain sight everywhere.

Everybody was doing a different time, the afternoon
was already too long, we should be getting back, Pavel and
Slava had found a path down to the mountain stream,
not fast anymore but broken into a hand with, intermittently,
too many or too few trickling, snow cold, clear fingers, so that
Katya was telling Roza we couldn’t go back yet
because they had to get there, that place they always
go to but hadn’t time to get to yet. Wait a minute
so we can sing folk songs in Russian and the fool
can sing Strangers in the Night in English to
the absurd afternoon gathering and
they all smile and clap, no one understanding English
but the teacher of the English class who was trying
to keep me from feeling so strange
in this setting just like I might have done with my own kids
in another time in some place on the other side of the world
not feeling so different and not needing any
hot tea, cold day, parents and teachers, kids running everywhere samovar.

I kept trying to escape so naturally I was really trapped
The children kept wandering further away
And were so preoccupied with every anything
finding joy in being able to get away from each other together
that I saw my chance and looking at some dangerous branch
wandered off to save the children from their freedom
created by the society of adults I so desperately
needed to escape and they, of course, were glad,
what was I doing there anyway and there is so much
to talk about only not now because, although his
Russian is really bad, he might get the gist of it
and we are trying so hard to make him comfortable
I think the English teacher’s going to have
a nervous breakdown and what is she thinking
about anyway, oh, thank God, he’s across the ravine now,
I hope the kids are safe, how will they talk with him?

What do they need to say? As everything is obvious anyway,
even though it only looks like what we think it is,
just as we only think we know what it looks like,
and that is why the kids are all so busy looking around
and the adults are trying to avoid it at all costs as
the little corners with the rips in them and the
frayed places in the processes of fooling ourselves
where we have grabbed them too tightly for too long
and the holding on to them has worn everybody out,
especially the kids, but they are not so desperate,
you can hear it because they can still laugh and
it doesn’t sound like a policeman dragging a table
through a crowded bazaar when they do.
I’m obviously trying not to be noticed and the kids
understand that part because that is why they are also
wondering around out here in plain sight where
people can hardly notice them. I’m getting lucky at it, too,
which is a relief, as the strain of being a happy adult
was starting to fit me too tightly like too small underwear
and all the smiling and nodding was just the basest bit
of something so thin and fragile you are afraid
to hold it any longer. The kids did and didn’t understand.

They just made it so I could be there and it wouldn’t matter
(which was something impossible for the adults)
and I began to look down and up and around, finally
starting to see brown leaves and spider webs and ugly little
round pebbles everywhere and there was sparkle on the
wet, grey stones where it didn’t belong, just as it
had always been. I was so relieved to see it again
that I wasn’t prepared for the next moment when the
whole mirror cracked and the kids came and got me
to show me that he whole view had changed and
everything was back in place now, just as they
had always known it was but I had just started getting used
to fooling myself about it again. They silently brought me to
a cold and clear and fast flowing bit of stream and
stood there wordlessly waiting for me to see it where it was lodged
against a big round stone that was pressing it to the bottom.
A young woman’s arm, neatly severed at the elbow,
sat there like a dully grayish pink bit of trapped driftwood.
The fingers were relaxed and rounded as a handshake but the skin on
the tips of the fingers had been abraded in some places
as it had tumbled in the water down the steep mountain.
Her fingernails had been neatly trimmed but had no polish.
It was surprisingly light for being waterlogged. I used dead
branches like chopsticks to remove it from the water and hid
it behind some rocks on the bank where it would remain
among the fallen leaves and traveling stones like history.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

surrender to making war

for Laura

funny how the days slip by
an urban surrender
to a time tsunami
filling the tide pools
of the nighttime’s passing cars
it hurts too much
this world of scars and sharp steel
I have no other way to talk to you
do not race your wheels too slowly
we have too much to do and say

Friday, February 10, 2006

I learn to oppose creation

I have asked my name of the whisper god
But will pray it loudly and with violence
For there is among people a certain deceptiveness
Which cannot be hidden and the whisper god
Is too kind with it to be tolerated
Nor can his hand be trusted to do
As would be satisfying for me.

Though there is nothing he cannot do,
He would tolerate this thing which I am
And let me make him weak and foolish
And a servant of my pleasure.
He will hear the horrible things which roll my drums
And march on trembling legs to my glory.
Thus he will be my greatness and
All shall fall in fear and death before me.

I will fight to raise myself up and
He will be the battle cry my crowd will yell.
As I have watched his faithful minions
Shame themselves with sin and pride,
I have heard my deepest longing
Gurgled with their dying breath.
The pack of little dogs that bite from fear
Inspired me to power this year.

As for his eternal glory,
We will have our day this morning.
My short heaven will only be
The hell I create now.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


The light is precisely as bright as always;
Your eyes have grown dim.
Why bother to turn the lights on
It won’t help much
So pull the unseen darkness
Around you like a blanket.
It will not warm you,
It’s more a comfort as you
Do as you have always done,
You could do it with your eyes closed,
As you now prepare to hang the wash,
Wandering the dark corridor
From the pitch black laundry room
To the dusky room with the folding clothesline.

Curtains are not important
You cannot draw them wide
To flood the room with light,
If you could, you’d gladly
Tie back the curtains in your eyes,
Or maybe not, perhaps
Now darkness is your Taj Mahal.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Sotto voce

I have this voice, it’s over there,
In that box under the dusty case of beer.
I just found it again, by accident.
It slips away and, truth be known,
I sometimes forget to look for it, although
I need it more often now.

It is the most surprising thing,
Hiding here and there.
I never know where to look for it.
Sometimes it lurks to the ruin of a comfortable chair
Or can be found in the fridge’s cold foods.
Other times it’s in a book on the shelf or a shadow under the stair.

It always takes me by surprise.
With my tousled hair and rolled up sleeves
As I sort through things looking for it,
Suddenly it is there, making me wonder
If all is not as it would seem,
If it hasn’t been looking for me.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Four Postcards

I have seen you wearing
nothing but urgency
and it was beautiful.
In the calm of dark
I have held you, felt
your tenderness and fire

and glided quietly
to the distant shore.
The answer to the
questions I’ve forgotten to ask,
I have seen burning
in the sunset that

shines behind your eyes.
Please come in my room,
look out my windows to
see yourself standing outside and
find the quiet and excitement
I feel when I see you on my step.