The Root Drives Round The Rock

The roots drive round the rocks

and wear them down,

even as they heave them up;

the sun batters the rocks,

frost powders them;

 

Time

weeps her heart out

for her every stony, earth-bound child,

and as she does,

the mate

of the hand

that wipes her grief-sprung eyes

feeds every such child

to her own weeping lips.

 

And just as roots chain stones,

so will the roots themselves

be stripped

to their own bare bone,

until (fed to rock) they feed,

in Time,

some Other…

 

So roots drive round the rocks –

they wear them down;

the Suns chip and batter them,

the frosts etch and powder them,

and Time weeps

for we unthinking stones

to no avail:

 

Birth and Death – in Her,

all fulfill their stories;

in Her, all

are mirrored

in their purest innocence,

and in innocence,

all shall melt.

 

This is another of those poems that seem slight, and almost meaningless (or at least careless) to me, but which go over very well during readings.

I have a handful of such poems, and they are puzzles to me, fascinating not because of what they are, but because of what they do; I keep tinkering with them, trying to discover their secrets; I will modulate a poem, and then try the new version on an audience, trying to discern whether the change made the poem more or less appealing.

I haven’t learned much, yet, and I’ve been at this for decades now.

A few things I sort of know about these perennially popular poems: all are fairly short; all are easy to grasp; most use unusually vivid imagery. Finally, most use extremely old or very common symbolism and imagery, things many people are familiar with.

I guess that makes sense.

It also explains why I regard these poems as slight or careless – they require little thought or energy, and can be enjoyed while drinking. They tend to a certain sameness, too.

I try almost always to fold a selection of such poems into the first third of a reading, just to keep the audience engaged. The second third is usually when I pull out the big guns – the poems that take a certain amount of effort, but offer the greatest reward. Also, if I’m going to try any audience participation stunts, I put them in the middle of a reading – people are warmed up by then, and those who have stayed can usually be relied on to pay at least some attention.

For the final third of a reading, when people are starting to think about kipping out for a smoke or heading home, I try to return to easier stuff. If I read others’ poetry, it will usually be in the final third, when people are just a bit tired, with their attention in a refractory phase. Usually, I can perk an audience up with some well-loved Tennyson or Keats, and go out on a high note…

 

Blessing Moon

Full moon.

The Blessing Moon; that sounds nice, right?

What is it about the moon that gets us pumped and turns us so happily weird? I’m not just talking humans, here – lots of animals and plants get in on the loose and wiggly act. Is it just half a billion years of evolving under the influence? Is it the way it pulls on us, raising tides not just in the ocean but in our blood as well?

 

Noise

Sometimes I want to draw but I don’t, because I think it might get too real, and then I’d be uncomfortable and anxious. What’s that about? Feeling like that makes me uncomfortable and anxious.

I watch the world. I watch my family and myself and the larger mass of humanity in which we’re embedded and I watch the larger-yet world in which humanity is embedded, and I wonder at all the levels and at the things that happen big and small.

I don’t know how I feel about it all. Perhaps it’s just me getting older, but it seems that an element of randomness has crept into the world, a kind of insanity that makes these times qualitatively different from any other time I’ve lived in. Humanity has gone through some sort of phase change, and the world is a different place.

At least so I judge. The world seems to be slipping over some precipice of violence and indifference and I think very few of us will like where we end up, if we don’t redirect ourselves in short order.

I think we’re in big trouble. I think we’ve fucked up, as a species, and I’m afraid we’re probably going to continue to fuck up. Humanity as a dominant species is the equivalent of a hot mess teenager: we don’t know what the fuck we’re doing and everybody around us is going to have to pay for our mistakes. We’re on a collision course with all sorts of realities, and you know what? I don’t really trust us to do the right thing. We are running up against some hard limits, and I’m not sure we can navigate our way out of this clusterfuck. A time is coming when we’re going to have to pay the piper; face the music…

Speaking of which: I hear music all the time. Isn’t that weird? It just seems to well up out of the noise of living, and I am always bathed in these orchestral swells and ambient soundscapes and echoing whale songs and meadows filled with birds; really I should be hearing trucks and running taps and blowing fans and the rustles of trees and so on, but I hear music. It’s befuddling, but somehow comforting.

Sometimes it makes it hard for me to hear people, though.

I wonder what it’s about. I wasn’t always like this – I think it started just in the last few years, maybe even the last year.

On the other hand, I’ve always had trouble hearing people – so that doesn’t seem to correlate. I guess I can’t blame the internal soundtrack for that, right?

Not for all of it, anyway. Maybe for some of it. Maybe it’s just gotten harder for me to hear people because of the music.

More and more it seems like these internal distractions are interfering with my ability to actually exist in the world. Is that an "old person" thing? Sometimes it all feels wrong, like I don’t belong here anymore.

Not a very good feeling, that. But then – the music swells, and I get carried into some internal movie, and don’t give a fuck for a while…

 

Trinity

The Trinity test took place today in 1945. Ostensibly code-named by Oppenheimer following reflections on John Donne’s poetry, including this:

Batter my heart, three person’d God

 

Though it’s hard to know if that’s true. Oppenheimer sometimes was a bit of a revisionist when it came to his own motivations, and this might be a case of him thinking of something cool after the fact…

 

Swept Into The Loom

it was a very literal roll in the hay

a summer assignation

in the uncut summer grass

before the mowers generated

their careful fragrant bales

 

we stole away to populate the breeze-blown

cloud-swept green-wind fields of night

to watch and celebrate the moon’s absorbing rays

as soft reflected light went glancing

on the dirt road wires and poles

 

in between the shooting stars we listened

to the singing of those wild lawns

as they caressed

the dreaming cattle hooves

and mixed into the chuckle of the spring

 

our every second turned into a birth

and we became the greening weeds

and fizzling insect life

the stones and earth

the sweeping atmosphere

the clouds and cold

and then the belts of power

surrounding our fragile little planetary ball

 

and endlessly then

again and again

back we fell

together

into our bodies

again we collapsed

angelic

as though fallen

from a realm of joy

then out again

with clasping hands

as one

into the realms of light

 

again and again

our eyes and hearts reformed

coalescing as do miracles

from subatomic mists

once again entwined in flesh

in what we knew then to be

nothing more than still-warm

still-wet dirt

we sacrificed

surrendered

one to another

 

for endlessly again

and then again

and as we rose and fell

we whispered questions

for the now and then

 

 

where comes the autumn

that will frost these bones

 

why does every soon-to-go arc of summer sun

bleach our blood into reforming stones

and then to finest mulch

 

how can we contemplate

the wormcast we will soon become

 

 

we lay together in our nest of grass

and wondered at our so-regretful deaths

though we were sure that even then

whatever we might soon become

 

our you and I

would still be sharing verses

laughing at the furies

in both bitter chill and warm

 

our earth-filled eyes

would still be dreaming

of these starry skies

and as they dreamt

they would accelerate the on-off motion

of the day and night

until the Earth’s rotation

sped into a blur of clay

 

into a gray impasto

of the night and day

until the years

in endless decades slipped away

 

and in that blur of fast

our human dance

would sublimate into an evanescent wisp

into a wistful spirit and a mournful ghost

 

the changing seasons

would explode and smoke

and fade to mist or dust

or into nothing but a humming tone

 

and as we sped the eons through

the larger dances of the universe

inevitably would scale into view

 

the prancing eons

spritely

they would promenade

beneath the hardened glassy torii of the skies

the nets of power that ensnare

and feed and consecrate us all

would fill with shapes

and intimations

and the dead

 

and as we dreamt

within our scented house of grass

the orbits of the planets

would harden into glittering lengths of chain

as delicate as knitted rings of wire

swinging round a sun maned like a lion

a sun like a consuming fist of life

 

and as that star continued spiraling

into and through the sparkling mist

of quantum foam we all call home

 

 

the bloody-minded mosquitoes

began to fly and sing and sting

 

 

and then we laughed

and spread our clothing on the grass

and made a cave within the chest-deep hay

 

you wove a pillowcase from haystalks

underneath our heads

 

and as the universe careened

as drunk as pigeons in a cherry tree

above our nest

 

and as our hearts were brimful

with a joy that comes but once

 

you wept

 

you wept

 

you mourned the consequences

of the loom of living

you spoke your curse

upon those warping threads of doom

 

you went ballistic in Fate’s wefting web

and swore to never settle in its weave

or contemplate the way

we battered ones shall all be swept

into a final

ordered

changeless

cloth of gold

void

and without seam

or crease

or fold

as frozen and immutable

as massless particles

falling through an endless tale

never to be fully told

 

In my e-journal for 2004. Originally, it looked like this:

I am swept into the loom touched on by warp and doom glance off the cords of fate settle in the weave to ruminate in the bale and the well-swept field at night, when moon’s rays glance on the wire and stubble my eyes form in the still warm earth, soon-to-come autumn will frost the bones soon-to-go summer sun will leach from the stones and wormcast and leave the field chill accelerate the day and night into a blur of gray let the years slip away and the human dance becomes a ghost while other dances scale into view, the prancing trees in their sedate promenade and the hard glassy torii of the planets as they swing around the consuming fist of life

 

This was (like so many of my first drafts) just a shorthand, a reminder of a night spent within the "deeper hay" in the company of someone I loved.

It took some time for me to form it into something resembling the original vision – not because it was hard, but because it was common; I have hundreds of these scattered notes clogging the pages and paragraphs of my journals, and all of them are equally worthy of attention, but most of them will never get even a tithe of the focus they might warrant.

This is not a new poem, you see – I have written similar sentiments dozens of times. Often, I think, doing a better job than I’m doing here.

Once again, in this poem, I’m marveling at the intimate connections between our minor human events and the stupendous depth of universe in which those events occur. This is one of my chief revelations about existence, and I tend to harp on it – to no one’s benefit, I suspect: I’m like a nagging spouse, always reminding their mate of some unimportant duty they’ve perhaps neglected.

Or perhaps, I just think they have…

 

As Bouncing Caretakers

As bouncing caretakers

develop each floundering gaze,

helpful interns jiggle kindly lambs.

 

Meandering navel-gazers

open preternatural queries

regarding simpler times.

 

Upon vocalizing wonderment,

Xerxes yowls zeroically…

 

Yup – that’s what the world is like, at certain early hours of the morning, before light begins in the eastern sky…

Today is John Dee‘s birthday, or as folk would say in my old stomping grounds in Brooklyn, "boithdee". Today is John Dee’s boithdee. And I think Johnny-boy would like today’s ABC-style constraint sentence – he was one of those things-are-not-what-they-seem types, after all…

 

For What Time Waits

the limit to what was

 

stands at your elbow

is a child just eight years old

looking like Medusa

 

with a wicker basket

full of power cords

balanced on her head

 

fanged plugs and mute rattles

dangling from the edge

hiss at the past

threatening

mayhem to everything

that is not of the Now

 

as well they should

as well they should

 

looking like a minor goddess

looking like Medusa

 

except for the high wattage smile

Medusa never smiled like that

 

looking like the end of the world

 

 

the limit to what is

 

is lost

in our freedom from the past

or perhaps

we fool ourselves

 

wouldn’t be the first time

 

From my 2008 e-journal. About the alienation that change can engender in those it leaves behind.

I used to write quite a lot of elaborately formatted poetry, but it was so often frustrating, because the meaning I was able to convey on the page was a superset of what I could convey in a reading, and that bugged the crap out of me, as it would anyone. Punctuation can bug me in the same way, particularly things like parentheses that don’t always have an accompanying aural cue.

In readings, I’ve tried many devices to mirror textual formatting; most successful were performances, in which different players would take on different textual aspects. To use the above poem as an example, I would have a second reader for the indented text, and hope that this created the distinction required to convey the textual flow. It only ever half worked, though.

So what does the indentation do in this poem? What is its technical justification? Well – the indented text is somewhat parenthetical; without the indentation, the larger sense of the "looking like" lines –

looking like Medusa

 

 

looking like a minor goddess

looking like Medusa

 

looking like the end of the world

 

… would be confused or muted. I suppose there are other ways to achieve this – ways that might work very well read out loud.

If there are tendencies in my poetry, they are increasingly based on reading the poems, and an unwillingness to rely on purely textual devices to convey meaning. Thus, I often eschew punctuation, as well as indentation, bolding and italics, parentheses and any other formatting that cannot be conveyed when the poem is read aloud.

This isn’t always the case, of course. I have few hard and fast rules, and in any case, many textual devices can be conveyed when vocalized.

But it is a trend.

I also have a taste for lyric iambic pentameter, just the pure music and joy of it, and who gives a damn if it can be conveyed in a reading…

 

Warm

Enslavers choose to profit from the free,

but you teach me why joy has been

the key to every lock we’ve ever known;

how chains must mock the owner and the owned.

 

Enchantment is our chief ability,

and you show me exactly how and when

to love your well-spun poisons: in their time;

you touch my heart, and fill my soul with rhyme,

 

and soothe my depths; you’re an insanity

I crave; you’re like tobacco – heroin;

like deeper purpose hidden in the pain

descending through my net of singing veins.

 

You proffer reasons for my vanity

(such baubles – never lost and never won),

and populate my empty grace, and fill

my ghosts of hands, and ease their boundless chill.

 

And as I sink beneath your lidless eye

and aweless gaze, our hearts are sheared and spun –

you join with me, in life’s abyssal gloom –

abiding there, as in a cozy room,

 

confronting what we are without alarm,

and showing me – again – how to live warm.

 

Well that’s interesting – a rather sweet paean to a loved one. Haven’t written one of those in a while…

Pretty regular iambic pentameter in four-line stanzas and a closing couplet. The first line of each stanza (with the exception of the closing couplet) rhymes with every other first line, and all the second lines rhyme with one another, although more casually – they’re at least assonant.

The last two lines of each stanza are rhymed, as is the final couplet.

So the first two lines of each stanza carry an architecture across the entire poem, and provide the big-picture feel such larger structures always create, while the last lines in each stanza offer the immediacy and spontaneity of purely local rhyme. A nice juxtaposition of perspectives.

 

Static On The Wire

Intro:    C    G    F    G

                            When the . . .

 

Verse 1:

C

schematic you been livin loses

G

continuity, there got to be

F                   G

static on the wire; static on the wire. They

C

promised us an upgrade, but it's the

G

same old circuitry, now you can be a

F          G

diagnostic check, you can live in

am        F

8-bit parity, or you can be

G                         G

static on the wire…………..

 

Verse 2:

When resistors heat to overload

in half our delta t

there got to be static on the wire

when your living shorts to ground

in superconductivity

well you can be a breaker to be popped,

communicate asynchronously

or you can be static on the wire

 

     F

I am static on the wire

     G

I am static on the wire

 

Verse 3:

Cuz when the envelope been dirtied

and there's distortion in the air

there got to be static on the wire

and all them cabled people

who been shortin out our scene

say we can be headsets out for hire

or we can be signals to be pulsed

but I'm gonna be static on their wire.

 

I am static on the wire –

you can be static on the wire. . .

I am static on the wire –

you can be static on the wire. . .

 

This song uses the language of electronics and circuitry to do social commentary. No, this isn’t original, but my version of it is at least a bit lyrical and fun to sing.

This has been something of an anthem for me, and has been carried into other parts of my life – nicknames, user names, in-jokes – the whole megillah. Lots of people who know me know this song; I wouldn’t say it’s a common request (and I don’t play much at parties anymore anyway), but it comes up, now and then. It’s an angry song; vengeful and righteous, and people apparently like that sort of thing.