Selected Poems

 

 

Taught I was
these were the last days. Watch the wheel, they said,
see how the world is a village, now dark & crumbling, riding
on its upper rim: soon it will turn, the wheel, dragging
man’s world down
down through the dark waters of renewal
to bring it back up again
quite otherwise:
abluted, kin to light,
pure. “I saw it budge,”
said my father, “I felt the impulse,” said his wife. Having believed them,
I lost my faith. The vision
left me. “It may well turn,” I thought,
“but the world will come up unchanged.” Nevertheless,
their words had clung to my eyes, I saw
the village, dark & crumbling, ever
ephemeral, perched on THE WHEEL, unworthy
of consideration, distasteful even,
& I closed my eyes.

from Poems, City Lights 1977

 

The three ladies hoarsely enjoy
their cigarettes together
before turning in,
one on the sidewalk,
one on the steps,
and one up by the door
to the Allerton Hotel
in the doorway’s light
half a block from the corner,
at 4 a.m. Memorial Day weekend,
a Sunday.

from 8th Avenue Poems, Spuyten Duyvil 2006

 

at a small table
in the cool morning
outside the closed café
on the deserted avenue
the couple banters
with nothing on the table top
their charm a matter of some apprehension
as I pass
appreciation withdrawn: the town is big.

from 8th Avenue Poems, Spuyten Duyvil 2006

 

It’s six a.m. and the sun is rising Memorial Day
on him reading on this Monday Sunday’s ads, seated carefully
back to wall, legs crossed, on the pavement, on another two pages,
his finger tracing down the column, facing the street stretching
the road of asphalt and the two strips of concrete concave and slightly shiny
running in the morning
not endlessly but far past him someone that you might say really has no place to go
but in the American Dream will get his shit together and start trudging
looking for that job to-morrow down the endless street, or more likely not
but looks neat, hair parted, the short line of his finger out from the wall
back toward his stomach slowly tracing the black letters
extended into the far longer line of the street stretching past him like
a banquet table, arching
past him from north to south, swelling as though beneath it rested a lily pond
and the avenue were a Chinese bridge, ornate and carved over its darkness, and he
the scholarly poet
gathering his wits in the early morning
on his estate.

from 8th Avenue Poems, Spuyten Duyvil 2006

 

March ’91

It’s winter, though on some days it seems not so. The war is scarcely
finished but spirit quickly moves: a poster
fairly printed in black on white evokes the crimes committed, ours.

from 8th Avenue Poems, Spuyten Duyvil 2006

 

Of late, more and more often, in the street men carry
the faces of Indians as though some upheaval
had brought to the fore in their faces the arched cheekbones, opaque
agate eyes, the wide expanses on skulls like boulders
of this race exterminated hereabouts and in the islands, the cast
of features of these victims, integrity of impassive non-collaboration,
pressing forward in these aliens
shaped, I surmise,
not by blood but by circumstance.

from 8th Avenue Poems, Spuyten Duyvil 2006

 

I admire
Che Guevara.
I recommend his life & death
to all those
capable of it.

from Poems, self-published 1976

 
Considerations. V.

The hero seeks himself, a transformation,
yet fears, he’s the only one he is.
What has he? Only what he seeks to shed.
But in the crucible: will he remain?
For God is threat and evil nothingness.
Yet ludicrous his search if he comes out of it
another: the hero dying as at birth.
A life spent for a change of clothing
and at the end one is at best and worst redressed.
Or caught at the annihilation
with one arm in a sleeve
the jacket noway better than the one one struggled out of.

from Tyuonyi, 1988, issue 4

 

Thanksgiving (1974)

The tenderness of love is extraordinary
in that in silent ardour it embraces this one
& this one’s body, her body, she, in one
her smile, her way of moving, speech, her thought
in flesh, & in her flesh herself, so holds
the other, other in her smile, her way of moving, speech, her thought
no longer other but her own true self
in love & loved at one embraced
& known.

from Poems, City Lights 1977

 

languages, any language seemed to me
so treacherous a code, every word
an alien vibration, world in itself,
about several nuclei indefinable,
that my phrases,
uttered in an access of muscular euphoria,
would instantly float away, silver
shivers receding
into the sea of air, their meaning all but
unseizable, nowise
anything
I might mean:
so that I have been reduced
to an essential muteness,
emptymindedly watching
my sentences
bubble away.

from Poems, City Lights 1977

 

Self-taught

When I dug down
through the turf of his face
I found a topsoil thicker & blacker
than I had expected
& full of junk, cokebottles, a bicycle frame, old
shoeleather, even
the giant iron hoops off old wagon wheels,
no longer there, but
soon hit groundwater, whereupon
almost immediately, I came upon
the sea,
the self-same sea,
the sea-green sea,
& slipped away in sheaths of color endlessly.

from Poems, City Lights 1977