Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Either Oar (A Book of Original Verse & Translations)






Table Of Contents

Preface
Part I:  Songs of Truth and Knowledge
Part II:  Songs of Language and Reality
Part III:  Songs of Mind
Part IV:  Songs of Self
Part V:  Songs of Time
Part VI:  Songs of Higher Things
Part VII:  Songs of Art and Literature
Part VIII:  Miscellaneous Songs
Part IX:  Songs To Apollo
Part X: Four Cantos Of Sophias
Appendix ATranslations
Appendix B:  Juvenilia


Dedicated to: 
Thaddy Cockrill
 
                                  
PREFACE

    Carolina Parakeet

I wonder who will sing for me.
            With no brood of my own
Extinction means no echoes of
            These measures when I’m done.

Last Carolina Parakeet,
            I sing on in a tree
Mid wonder in the coming days
            Just who will sing for me.


PART I:  SONGS OF TRUTH AND KNOWLEDGE

    American Debate

    I. The Conservative Mind

At best,  for all we know mind’s round
            So any way we’re bound
Will lead us back where we began.
            We rest the wiser man.

At worst, for all we know it’s flat
            With un-fenced edges that
Imperil travel.  Thus it’s best
            For all we know to rest.

    II. The Liberal Mind

The form must fit the thing and not
            The other way around.
The head is right and not the hat
            When lack of fit is found.

If spheres restrict our motions or
            Planes cannot hold us we
Pack them away instead of us.
            The closet is for them.

    Conquistadors

Europe’s knights of course were horrified
At butcher priests who did as heaven bids
In taking hearts and wearing others’ hide
On Montezuma's hills and pyramids.

Presumably, such high minds judged a word
By how it bettered man or made him worse.
Indignant, Europe’s knights thus sepulchered
Such priests and burned their codices and verse

Though somehow missing their own words that wear
Men in the Aztec fashion.  Those, too, stitch
Strange costumes out of flayed and tortured skin

Of men to fit the text, an awful switch
Of roles--though essences poke here and there
From out grim wrappings sewn to hold them in.

    Ignorance And Bliss

It wings as though it will forever fly--
God spared the sparrow knowledge it will die. 

For it there are no final chances, broods,
No sadness ever of one fewer spring
Or its attendant Canterbury moods,
No end of little arias to sing.
It lives without all knowledge of an end

To ills increasing as it ages when
Time freezes joints and adds new parasites.
Nor even in the clutches of a kite’s
Sharp talons that are shredding up its skin
Can that poor sparrow know that pain will end.

It cries as though it will forever cry--
God spared the sparrow knowledge it will die. 

    Reflections

We had a budgerigar that spent most days
Tapping a caged window where his bud
Returned the rhythm from the other side
In silly proof that opposites attract,
That opposites can both have boyish blue.

How foolish, yet how pleasing to the birds
And us in watching them, in watching us
Take images for things though they but bounce
Off rougher glass of grass or tree or post
Or us who would our greater reason boast.       

    Lee’s Statue In A Southern Park

In decades past, some sculptor plied his art
Perhaps for its own sake but, too, in part
To advertise for further work.  His ad
In stone brought no commissions now. Instead,

The gnomon tethered shadows that a lad
Clocked. “Merely atoms,” Chemistry now said,
 "Not art."  Bat-echoed obstacle at night,
The landmark guided pigeons in the light

And served as paperweight that held the park
In place on windy days.  There dogs could bark
While spraying stone to set out metes and bounds
That squirrels ignored while making frenzied rounds.

A place for vandals’ work, there Hylas read
“All’s in a mind—Philonous” brushed in red.

    Habitats

An Answer in its habitat
            Lives well--there’s no surprise
In that (or in the converse that
            In hostile climes it dies).

          Belief

A tramp (if that’s the term)
Converses with a long-time airy friend
None has disproved beyond all certainty.
Such comrades ruminate about the fiend
Beyond disproof as well within the lamp
That flickers on the corner of “their” street.
The hieroglyphics in the movements of
The flame serve as their focus in between
The random clinks of quarters in a cup.
The half that’s visible would break the code
In terms of verticality of strokes
With all remainder merely ornament.
The half unseen holds a more complex view
Of fiery alphabets.  With flourish but
A form of beauty and therefore of good,
It contradicts the notion of a fiend’s
Cuneiform embellishing a stroke.
Bums snipe therefore in shifting measures clocked
By an old cup and quarter metronome.

A petty thief slinks by
Observing too few coins to justify
The labor requisite for felony.
His left shoe brushes close beside the cup
That jingles to his ear the same as to
The tramps’ though each one hears a different cup
In value and entitlement.  The thief
Has learned the Ptolemaic principles
Of ownership merely to interact
With those medievals round him.  He himself
Is scientific.  Properties are sensed--
They’re fictions otherwise.  Thus, property
Is not a property and he’s no thief
Or unicorn or other thing unseen.

A suicide searches
His trousers for coin he tosses in
The cup.  “What need have I of it?” he thinks.
“God bless,” the unseen hobo quips unheard
While his seen friend works on translations still.
“There is no purpose in this strange machine
Transporting us we know not where.  How can
There be a course without a pilot or
At least a wheel upon the deck?  I’m not
A fool or worse delusional.  I’m smart
And man enough to take my leaping chance
Before the crash of any craft.”  He takes
A rope into the park behind the block.

A simpleton (if that’s
The term) can no more see some pilotless
Craft in this world than coins not claimable
Or messages in flames.  There’s better, too,
Coherent with the sights and sounds about--
Some purpose in conveyance is as safe
From disproof as are demons in a lamp
Or vacuums of the suicide.  He thinks,
“Why not embrace the kinder certainty?
If that defines the ‘fool,’ that’s fine by me.”

    Good Science

“Good science is objective, has no trace
Of taste or other bias that would bend
The mirror.  Right reflection must depend
On flawless optics.  Humor has its place

Perhaps in circuses.  A concave glass
That warps for laughs might serve clowns.  It’s a fraud
In laboratories.  Truth of course is flawed
By all distortions.”  “Which means every glass

One grinds without a purpose or a bent
Lacks science.  It’s a square?  Just one and three
Lines?  Four?  Two twos?   To do geometry,

Choice is imposed.  Which suits?  It’s evident
That science in itself can never be
Without some taste and some morality.”

    Reason’s Da Capo

Behold eternal Spring
Around me!  Blossoms will
Splash endless colors, bring
Fixed fragrances that fill
Gilt halls where angels sing.

And then the furrow comes
From naught, an unforeseen
And ugly harbinger
Of worse.  The visage warps.
Legs slow from weight of  snow
Piled more upon on the crown.
Frost spreads its fingers, too,
Around the throat and worse
To make it silly now
To nip no Heaven.  Thus,
Communion calls.  I shall

Behold eternal Spring
Around me. Blossoms will
Splash endless colors, bring
Fixed fragrances that fill
Gilt halls where angels sing.

PART II: SONGS OF LANGUAGE AND REALITY

            Hold

No mile is more or less
Than any other.  Walked,
The definition holds
Despite the variables

Of weather or incline.
No minute’s more or less
Than any other.  Clocked,
The definition holds

Despite the sermon’s drag
Or pleasure’s brevity.
All disconnect is but
Illusion in us till

The definitions’ hold
Slips as we age beyond
The language and its reach
To pigeonhole and preach.

    The Darkroom

There must be error in a language that
Would label violets violet although
Such color is the only tincture that
The little petals will not keep but throw

Off fast as offered up.  How can a tongue
That calls the summer green and autumn red
Not knot itself , misspeak and get it wrong
As fall in fact keeps green, the summer red?

But words of course just ape the senses in
Their hues, and Plato missed a flaw within
This shadow-copy, image world of men:

One must be careful to remember when
One talks about this world in which we live,
One handles not the print but negative.

    Alphabet Tea

Where’s the exotic beach
            Where letters wash
Against the thing, wet line
            Of mush between

The spray of word and the
            Referred?  I’ve heard
The little roar in shells
            A captain calls

The Lord’s Victrolas, heard
            The waves, yet found
No shore that bound the thing
            And sound, no place

Where name’s teeth sink and link
            The word and the referred.
No screen between the parts,
            I am estopped

In cafes to complain
            One failed to strain
That comma or a T
            Left in my tea.

    Drowning
   (Or Burial At Land)

Deflated, wordless my
Now frayed and punctured craft
No longer glides across
The choppy continents
Whose undulations take
Millennia to make. 

I slip airless into
Those slower unsaid tides
Without sufficient breath
To fill a vest.  With no
Lines left, I flail about,
No longer draw me out,

Distinguish foot or hand
From ripples in the land.

    Mountlawn*

“It’s by your fruits I shall know ye.”
            Mere dust (our end) we are
Thus cast as roses also are
            By hips, not blooms.  To be,

Crab grasses crawl sideways across
            Gravestones erasing them
Despite the herbicide.  They hide
            Names old baptisms tied

“Forever” to the coffined.  No
            Names.  Only dust.  Fonts lied
Or failed the bones that journeyed out
            To names that also died.

*A Cemetery in Wilkes County, N.C. where much of my family is buried.

    Unmarked Plots

To ration stones is right.
One would not spend one night
In “graveyards” save upon
A dare perhaps or on
Some Halloween in some
Prank festival.  Too glum
For other days, we stay
“Elsewhere,” sleep safe away
At graveless “home” we raised
Where countless others razed
Before most surely fell.
Well spoken, we don’t dwell
On such eternities
Before us, on the bees,
Rats, birds and hominids
Who fell where language rids
Their mortuaries.  We’re
Much wiser knowing fear
Is easily tongue tied,
That words need not abide
The dead beyond the sphere
Where they would interfere.

    Urban Planning

Perhaps those tall dump walls do well obscure
Some glasses that smell somewhat fetid now
That the eyes that used them once are either dirt
Or sliming in the sockets still.  Perhaps
Some handgun’s sulfur smell needs stifling.
Perhaps some bought teeth do indeed reek where
Slick worms floss gaps words once slipped through with their
Slick barbs, woos, gests, gossips and promises.
Perhaps there are unpleasant odors, too,
In some torn doll some child now either dead
In ground or in adulthood once held close.
Perhaps some molding coat fool’s fashion dumped
Unfrayed would have decayed much worse upon
The back of some poor shivering soul.  Regret
Is nasty, too.  There’s much to sanitize.
Mind reasons out of mind qualms that arise,
Builds dumps outside its cities of white lies
“That might offend the nose,” we euphemize.

    Why Not Translate A Rose?

Why not translate a rose
To meter?  It cannot
Be blasphemy.  No pens
Presume improvement of
The work itself--God’s art.

Which elements, pray, are
The Lord’s pure handiwork?
The “splash of pink”?  The “whiff”?
The greater baggage “bloom”?
Which endless others?  Choice

Imposed, the poet tries
Diversity of eyes
Not satisfied with those
Birth gave him.  Lazy prose
Instead should scandalize.

    Ra’s Poet

Ra’s poet mummified a rose
            And laid it in a tome,
Bloom nature chose to decompose
            Penned in a catacomb.

    Winged Egg

That egg-thing still stands up.  Although
            We've passed the first of spring*,
It seems to have no trouble no
            Less.  Listen to it sing

Dumb as I do.  Refuse to "know"
            The essence of the "thing”--
Untamed by all our phrases, no
            Words lime its shell or wing.

*Some claim eggs can stand on end at the equinox.

    Imitations

The thing’s poor imitation of
            The word.  Things never can
Quite measure up.  I’ve never found
            A straight line or straight man.

The thing’s poor image of the word.
            It never captures all
Thank God.  By “Sin” and “Fear” the things
            Themselves don’t stand as tall.

    Mimesis

If thoughts are mirrors of the world
     The most reflective head
Is like the stillest waters or
     In other words is dead.

    Weathermen

A gadget turns.  “The wind has blown.”
            Some tubes rise.  “There must be
Some temperature.”  Hair length has grown.
            “There is humidity.”

There’s stillness.  Melancholy’s high.
            I ask how long the spell.
“When nothing moves?” Neckties reply:
            “The question’s not put well.”

    Map’s Ball

I’ve rhythm in cartography.
            The lines I use are not
The same each moment.  Constantly
            My zero’s shifting.  What
Greenwich does is dance with me.
            Each map is a gavotte.

    Plain English

I know a simple word. It's "all."
            And since I know its sense
Am I all knowing?  May I call
            My usage of it hence

Precisest verse in but a breath
            Of boundless universe
(With every life and every death)
            In plainest, purest verse?


PART III:  SONGS OF MIND

    On William James

Mozart of me, my bars encage
     Fit melodies instead
Of me. The chords of others round
     My neck seem to my head
An abject yoke. I sing therefore
     A world for me instead
Of them which means I also sing
     For them as well. I’m led
By songs of conscience, too, whereby
     Polyphonies are bred.

       Sinking Solipsism

Perhaps I live with faces, nothing more
Than masks borne up by mere frames aping more.
Perhaps I live with less, with nothing more
Than un-extended sense I took for more.

Perhaps I'm loving nothing and no less
Despising nothing when I see things less
Their coverings.  Perhaps all fails unless
Admitting only me.  Yet am I less

As well?  Perhaps unmasked I, too, am no
More than a face borne up by mere props.  No
Mere solitary comforts even?  No
I?  Horror serves the answer here: as no

Truth fails to work, no truth denies us when
The moral sense requires a world of men.

    Pearls

Enameling around
Shards caught within, the gut
Diligently dulls
Rough edges that might cut

Deep.  Viscera’s still paste
Of smooth repression may
Pearl over coarseness that
Is better kept away

From inner softness.  Hate’s
Smoothly re-skinned, love, too,
In that mute oyster’s craft
That generally will do--

Though syllables sometimes
Prove safer coatings for
The sharpest splinters that
Eviscerate.  Therefore,

One plasters round the void
With purpose, better, best,
Until it’s rolling round
A jewel in the chest.

    Work

In sinless suicide,
Pull down the coffin lid
From dawn to dusk and hide

Within that sturdy box.
Shelve volumes and take notes,
Sip tea and watch the clocks

Till dark most dark has hid
And resurrection comes.
Crawl out, leave wide the lid

Till break of dawn, till one
Crawls back into the vault
Where another death’s begun.

    Weather In The Brain

There’s weather in the brain.  Aloft,
            Cows trail long shadows down
On folds they pasture over till
            Transformed to serpents grown
From cumulous inconstancy--
            Or maybe mind’s instead--
There’s weather in the weather.  Hail
            Smarts bouncing in the head.

    Doing Fractions

The schoolboy and the man
Fear fractions that they must
Combine, subtract, divide
And multiply—school boys
Upon the page and men
Upon themselves forewarned
By younger ink that aped
(In black or blue instead)
The convoluted red
Of ciphering on life
Where nothing’s perfect, whole,
Where all combines and parts
In pieces, ends and starts.

    Hardest Rocks

The hardest  rocks that I've to move
            Are weightless.  Hercules'
Grand boulders pale beside and prove
            The heaviest are these:

The weighted fear and leaden doubt
            And ballast of the night
From quarries no one talks about
            Yet works beyond the light.

    Lights Out

In art, the perfect as a goal delights.
In life, it tortures, taunts, demeans, and slights.

It slips its bogeymen beneath the bed
Or in the closet when the day is dead,
When few distractions serve to keep the dread

Yet unrelenting nightly thoughts at bay
Of patent, latent flaws and what they weigh.

    20/20

Fear’s eyes are fragile, too.  They therefore turn
Unthinking from  more blinding actual frights
To darker, conjured ones that do not singe
The retinas that instinct would keep keen
To vex as sharp tomorrow and as mean.

    Mourning Depression

At sunrise, lashed heads wrestle like poor flies
Against threads spun at night.  Their web has bound
Them firmly to their bedding.  Though they’ve found
No reason for the effort, still they rise
To pick the web off as the spider lies
In wait to weave again when night comes round.

    Due Diligence

Ed noticed in his tree a small, low limb
Had withered.  He grabbed clippers given him
By his dead father years ago.  As he
Prepared to do the little snip, a plea
Lashed out from a pedantic neighbor:  “Freeze!
How do you know those aren’t protected trees?
How do you know the blades within the shears
Aren’t toxic to that kind of tree?”  Such fears
Expressed, the neighbor thought of others:  “When
Does city code permit such work?  And then
Do those times mesh with county, federal, state
Or other timing regulations?  Wait!
Are there endangered species living on
Or in the limb or others that are gone
But will return and need it?”  Questions raised,
Ed found that careful reason rather dazed
Than gave enlightenment.  Perhaps the cut
Could let in fatal germs good bark had shut
Out.  Maybe changing one limb’s symmetry
Might make the winds work harsher on the tree.
More research was required than Ed had time
Or willingness to undertake--from time
To time, his father told him anything
Worth doing was worth doing right.  The thing
Was clear therefore.  One should not snip the limb
And Ed put back the clippers given him.
 

PART IV:  SONGS OF SELF
           
      Gibberish

I'm crowded in yet lonely out.
I've worlds to tell the world about
If only I were spoken there.   


    In & Out

The world we see
Is in our head
Yet floats around
Outside instead

So you’re in me
And I’m in you
No matter what
Our members do.

    They Christened Me

They tied me to a font with their choice name--
No matter what I do I'm called the same.
They've roped me tight with air until I'm through
With chords designed to moor my phantom, too.

    Free Fall

My optimism set, too, with the sun
That whited out lock-stepping stars by day.
My little hope at night was in the way
Clouds sometimes covered up their endless run

Around unmoved Polaris.  I was one
Who feared the implications of those tracks,
Those constant circles.  For if Heaven lacks
More freedom, what hope in comparison

Had man?  The thought was too depressing. I
Had turned to remedies of blindness, of
Concealment till a chance look at the sky
Conveyed a different message from above--

A star had stepped out in a fiery fall
And brought down hope of freedom after all.

    Writer’s Block

If we're so bright, then why
In our mythologies
Are gods first?  Brighter men
Would use a different pen.

    Moses Or The Muses  I

It's Moses or the Muses?  No
Dilemma here since both horns grow
From that same skull, that Western Head.
Let's sharpen both for use instead
Of severing one and running on
Like bulls with half their prowess gone.
                     
    Moses Or The Muses II

It’s Moses or the Muses.  One
Can’t square the two.   Therefore be done
With killing babies, calling plagues.
Instead have wine, attend good plays,
And love in all your normal ways.

    “Pretty” Love

Love has its fashions, too.
Some colors do not go
Together well nor do
Some genders mix--or so
Designers maintain who
Take sums for what they do.

    The Human Physic

The human physic is bizarre
In mapping how its members are--

I'm minor in though major seem
By markings of the herd,
And so I pass among the team
With light commotion stirred.

    Inversion

Deflated, I stood outside looking in
At opposites, at all the boys reversed
From me.  I studied their strange ways, rehearsed
Their words from right to left.  That taken in,

I painted masks that reproduced my skin
As theirs.  And yet no matter how immersed
Within such backward play, how un-coerced
The drama seemed, years gutted me within

Till I heard Lettie yelping when she caught
Her backward bitches taunting in the glass
That held reflections of me, too, who ought

To focus right.  If mirrored in the mass,
I must adjust for the inversion, must
Be in if out, hold warped those posing just.

    Debate

“I’d do more living, pick
A bloom or two to stick
In vases weren’t they prone
In hairs’ breadths to be gone.

“I’d do more history
Did past not also flee
As fast as well, did all
Museums, too, not fall

“Inevitably.  Bound
Straight back into the ground,
I shirk now, shirk then.  I’m
A realist toward time.”

“I think instead you prove
The opposite.  I’d move
But faster for a taste
The surer of the haste.”

    Goethe And Chapman

Each generation forms implicitly
A secret and a closed society
With rituals each takes for granted and
Assumes eternal--till the last one stands
Deprived of that most fundamental right
Of judgment by a jury of one's peers.


     Ghost

Sometimes I fear I may have passed away.
How might I know?  They close a corpse’s eyes
Of course.  Yet might one sense death otherwise?
With ears embalmed, could one still hear them say

How lifelike one appeared, how peaceful lay
One’s visage in the box, how Lettie cries?
Could one still smell the moth-balled coats and ties
In circumambulation after they

Embalmed the nose?  That’s possible and yet
The facts aren’t questionable:  the pen is no
More noticed than the voice, I move and yet

Do so among the shadows here below
As spirit rarely heard or seen by most.
In English is such phantom not a ghost?

    Alive At Last

He’d feared he’d stopped too late
To conjugate “to be”
In life’s right grammar--right
Inflexions on the tongue
Had somehow not expressed
The reference.  Though am
That’s mirrored in the breath
That’s mastered early kept
A present orbit, too,
Somehow he’d foundered with
That heavier reference words
But modeled in the air,
Had long mixed am beyond
The bounds of sense into
The morrow, little marked
The nonce that limed the self,
Had lived not for today
But for tomorrow.  Old,
Yet physically still in
The present, now he had
Found morrow never holds
A beating heart.  Illumed,
He’d not lament the loss
On balance of his life.
Regret would transpose, too,
The tenses and espouse
The airy then for now,
Slip his gold wedding ring
On former clock hands whose
Now vacant substance would
Drop bands, recalling thus
Some meter he once read
Etched on a tilting wall:
Twelve Lines Of A Poor Bard
On Loving What Is Barred.
The hand that’s not, next hour’s,
Is never now’s or ours.
Embrace the moment.  Seize
Its hand, the one one sees,
And ring it, tie the knot.
Fools pine for what is not.
The morrow ducks the here
And now the live can’t hear
Or see past.  No gold band
Fits shadow fingers banned
From present altars.  Air
Would be their only heir.”

    June 18th

I am not captain of the world!
However it may reel
Or list its axes in the void
I do not hold the wheel.

How plain--and yet how facile to
Commit the fallacy
Of care for what I do not do
And bear the weight on me.

No, let the poles and mantles go,
Loose their fictitious weight,
And row but self and finally know

That larger smaller freight
Whose vassal vessel spares
The chains the helmsman wears.

    His Tale Wags Man

His tale wags man--defined by intellect
That moves in time, it’s simple thus to tell
Man’s essence is the story.  (For what else
Is mind in motion but recounting?)  Thus,
Fantastic tales are mummified and kept
In common vaults called past wherein they lie
(Yes, lie) with former blooms, picked summer crops,
Dropped autumn colors, and long-melted snows
In inventories quick men rearrange
And supplement each year to prove at last
The present more fantastic than the past.


PART V:  SONGS OF TIME

    The Adams Stone
    In Halifax’s Graveyard

Beside an hourglass upon its side,
An earthworm wriggled metronomically
Till dinner for a crow.  I can’t decide
If the tombstone told the truth or if it lied. 

    Time's A Poor Liar

"The present holds."  Omitting the "for now,"
Time's hardly-clever perjury would shame
A half-wit if attributed to him.
"I shuffle--take your time," Time tells the child
Who nonetheless sees days accelerate
Till eighty years are nothing much to count.
Trust not its meters.  Time betrays itself.

    Turning Forty

I wed those lips forever!  But I fear
They're tempted by variety.  Each year
The feigning seems more certain in the glass.
I see temptation growing. Every pass
Reflects a deeper shame they spent the night
With tempted ears and legs who've lost delight
In me. Tomorrow will I wake alone?
A pile of cuckold jilted to the bone?

    Among The Fastest Lies

Were I to draw a list of fastest lies,
Near the top I’d set out Horace’s “time flies.”
Equivocating, “time is fast within
The present,” he maintains, “since one’s within

The here and now with no recourse to quit
The present while one’s time continues.”  (It
Is years and years since I was born.  Yet I’m
As mired in present now as then.)  Thus, time

Is fast all right though never fast enough
To break the present bondage of that tough
And tiny cell between infinities

That Horace could not burst with sophistries--
Time’s limed so fast “non tempus fugit” proves
The phrase for such a bird that never moves.

    Reunion

Some summers they allot
A summary weekend To
Come inventory what
Once was and wasn’t, too.

This summer one had found
New mettle. Having earned
New metal, he was bound
To have him, had returned

To seek him out at last,
Unwavering till he lost
His bearings as he passed

The bald and bloated ghost
That crossing campus made
Brief note, too, of his shade.

    Clavier Construction

A string of hammers tapped one day
            In steady carpentry.
The box already finished they
            Would frame the melody
            In tight security.
            They’d kept a single key.
They'd have no burglary.
But Time did not agree.
He swapped them peace for piece and stole away.

    Metamorphoses

A bit of serpentine hose left behind
Brings Ovid’s Metamorphoses to mind.
The scaly garment lies on blades transformed
From Plato’s Formal Green.  Though newly formed,

Such green soon morphs again.  A brittle limb
Shakes pears brushed with a nervous jade that leaps
To moss around the trunk till emerald seeps
In man, Othello’s eyes, the rest of him.

The wind coagulates.  Flies pirouette
Within a thickening breeze not curdled yet
To clouds.  Red robin clots stick to a limb

Until the airy flow dislodges them
As drafts once stirred up Shakespeare’s clotting till
The congealed breath dissolved, the voice was still.

    Moon Envy

I'd scoff at each declining phase.
I'd count the meager, fleeting days
Until I waxed again complete
With means to re-perform the feat--

I'd rarely chant a minor tune
If I could wane as you, O Moon,
And know that time would surely share
Another youthful face to wear.

    Newton Must Have Lied

I've found a warp this summer's night
            That turns the out inside
And brings the boy again!  Delight!
I'm where I started!  Hold the light
As crickets sing "the heart is right!"
I'll think it now (though impolite):
             Old Newton must have lied.  
 
    Autumn Should Be Read

Judge tomes not by their covers, hard advice
In Autumn’s case with brilliance of its spine,
Its crimson front, its golden back, its fine
Leaf traceries not found at any price

In frontispieces man has minted.   Price
Not books by such bright bindings though they aim
For parity with sunrise, boast the same
Splashy effect and pallet.  Hard advice

Until we notice little movements in
The corners, till we see some extra thread
Appended to our things.  Eight legs have read

The volume not the cover and thus spin
Their final webs round doors they creep inside
To prey until the last red ember’s died.

    Falls

Flower Fall,
Flare Fall,
Foliage Fall,
Flake Fall,
Time’s always dropping
Itself and not-self
In seeming circles somehow.

      Closing

It was a lovely village looking east.
I quickly put a contract on a new
White bungalow before the price increased,
Before a strangely sour odor drew
Attention to the west.  On turning round,
I caught the village graveyard.  Occident
Dwarfed orient--prospects of gothic ground,
Of graves collapsed and others holding blent
With the horizon.  Retching, I beheld
Bones of all sizes, shreds of flesh and hair,
Foul residues of countless faiths time felled
Midst systems’ cogs, crown fragments littered there.
To breach or not to breach?  It differed not--
Dead deal or dream in either case was rot.

    Cousins

Good rounds in flesh (like those in fleeting air
Expressed) will twice be forfeited should their
Notes not be chorded in some sheets of songs.
Each loss (of present understanding plus
Ancestors never known in future) wrongs
Live melody as well as dead whose strains
Of rising, falling tones in such refrains
Give undulating joy and counsel.  Thus,
Years' notes we keep for us and those of us.       
 
PART VI:  SONGS OF HIGHER THINGS

    Star Of  Bethlehem

Though no celestial maps then showed it there,
A little fire began up in the air
That overturned the language.  Nonetheless,
Most kept their broken grammars.  Meaningless,

They babbled on as they had always done
Too stupid, lazy or afraid (which one?)
To recognize a second Babel.  Few
Thus journeyed closer to inspect, to view

The metamorphosis.  In common sloth,
They did not circle round (though any moth
Would make a greater effort with a flame).
Most ride no high horse now.  Most do the same

Today.  They lock up revelation tight
And yearly celebrate the Silent Night.

    Unlocked

We never close the canons of the dead
Or living as more words may lie ahead--
Should we uncover lost Cardenio
We’d revel in another Shakespeare play.
And should the attic yield another note
Grandfather penned, there’s more of what he wrote.

And yet those greater authors then and now
Have no more words that altars would allow?
The Spirit and the Father and the Son
Spoke, speak and will and still their canon’s done?
Yes--less to study is less troublesome
For priests who labor for some facile sum.

    Holy, True?

They say it is a sin to desecrate
The scriptures although God himself commits
That very deed eviscerating thus

All paragraphs with ink-dissolving rain
We sometimes thwart awhile with shelters.  Not
Deterred, he sets the very air and light

Upon the page and ink in gradual
Mute vandalism that re-renders both
Dust in mere fractions of his cosmic span.

Determined by his endless efforts to
Erase them can he find them wholly true?

    On Proverbs

God's Word is pure*--complete--how add
            A note to what's so true
And stitch in texts that we are bad
            As crafty preachers do?

*Proverbs 30:5-9

    Piracy

Beware of human vessels.
            Like a yacht,
Religion can be hijacked.
            God cannot.

    Graven Image

Religion is a poor
Substitute for God,
A swap of course which makes
A graven image, breaks
The Decalogue.  How odd
That’s nothing to deplore.

    Silence

How comes disorder when
He holds the thunderbolt?
By what mandate can we
Chastise a schism on
Such principal’s behalf
Who’s quiet though the church
Is rent, though Philistines
Live regally?  No sound
Is often sound if heard.
Like Holmes’ mute dog at night,
So much is said in naught
Though often missed, untaught.
The stick is fallacy
As he of course must know
No less than Cicero
Nor sway less perfectly.

    Sky Bible

Will we need scriptures up in Heaven, too?
If so, will those two testaments still do?
Can angels juxtapose with pearl and gold
The gore of men and animals that's told

In "holy books" of him and slaughtered towns?
Must women angels cover up their crowns
With veils and lock their lips?  Must slaves recall
The men who chained their bodies reading Paul?

Would we still need to measure symmetries
Of priestly testicles by books like these*?
Unless right double-speaks it would seem clear
We need those books there just as much as here

And thus I go on quite consistently
Without such talk, with only God with me.

*See Leviticus 21:17-21.

   Font On High

If God's unchristened how can we
            Address him in a prayer
And know the one who hears is he
            And not some devil there?     

Yet if he's christened how can we
            Pretend to know his name?
We've never seen the registry--
            Our quandary’s still the same.

       A Response To
        Father Cadfael

I'd give confession to a tree
Whose limbs link Heaven here with me.

Although denied a Roman seal
Its rods and staffs are no less real.

It wears no needless priestly rags.
The cross it bears it plainly drags

Un-planed to stand an upright post
For any missives mortals post.

    Anselm To Franklin
     (Or A Monk On Deism)

If on the seventh day the Lord
            Had nothing left to do,
That perfect mind would have been bored.
That is a contradiction: “ bored”
Lacks something; “perfect” cannot.  You
            Cannot say God withdrew.

    Akhenaten’s Fool

If it’s more primitive to praise
A group of two than one,
Does that same logic not require
The worshipping of none?

    Incarnations I 

Truth must concede the Devil did it first,
That incarnation's happened more than once.

While God remained on his resplendent throne
In heaven's comforts,  Satan first dared drop
New skinned into our crueler habitat.
At harshest levels of the serpent, he
Slinked wholly snake, yet wholly Devil, too,
In that first incarnation paradox
That's rarely parsed out by the orthodox. 

    Incarnations II

How hard is it believing in
The manger given we
Are inundated with all forms
            Of skinned eternity?

It's wearing robin feathers for
            Some worms it's come to bite.
It's hanging head-down in a cave
            For insects of the night.

It wears a chunk of floating ice
            For men upon the sea.
It wears a gentle shawl of mist
            For drivers who must see.

It picks from endless skins the one
            In each case that is right
To introduce itself.  How hard
            Is faith in Christmas night?
  
    Rebuke

I’ve met a man who’d judge men by their face
Yet piously condemn as “primitive”
Those Hindu gods with several heads?  But, sir,
If we assume a face a hieroglyph,

Won’t God need more than man?  And does man’s one
You think you see now even make the whole
Inscription?   No, unlike the scrolls I’ve seen
That end and that begin, I’ve yet to find

A man unrolling all his faces.  (I’ve
Not seen my own--the quill’s not quit the ink
Were I so brave to do the reading--and
A hieroglyph may tell a fiction just

As well as truth.)  No, here, too,  Reverend,  we’d
Be wiser not believing all we’d read.

    The Maker Cannot Be Conservative 

So many lenses grinded differently 
And glued in such diversity of orbs
Encased within such panoplies of heads
On varied scaffoldings of legs and wings 

Evolving over time must all disprove
The conservation long of any view
Despite "closed" canons that conservatives
Claim are the word of God, that same God who

Not only makes such lenses but disease,
Beasts, and time's scythe to further scramble sight.
That unmade maker of discordant eyes
Through eyes would have his creatures realize:

Prodigious views, none suffered long to live,
The maker cannot be conservative.

    Spring Cleaning

He’s perfect and can’t be
Too lazy, cluttered.  He
Throws dogs and fathers out*
Therefore each year.  No doubt
He can’t do differently.

*My father, Abby, and Lettie all died in the Spring.

    Experiments

I love test blooms (don’t get me wrong)
            God resurrects each Spring.
But wonder why he takes so long
            In the attempt to bring

Back Daddy.  I would settle for
            Just Spring returns we see
Experiments with crocus prove
            A possibility.          

             Resurrection

The Resurrection’s glorified
But I confess am terrified.           
Which I will rise that day?
There's much I'd tuck away.

    God’s Acrostic?

Seared pigeon chicks shriek as sparks light their nest.
Old turtles hiss as shells melt.  Much distressed,
Deer shake off orange cinders from their breast.
Once-flawless roses flame.  Howling wolves halt
Mid fires to have a lick of Lot’s wife’s salt.

    Clean Title

I would forego a Jericho
            If blood is on the deed
Though God would sanction taking it,
            Such fee I'd rather cede.

    Hazing

Although roots of the rituals are lost
Somewhere in prior ages, still the new
Initiates endure the ancient cost
Of rites the universe would have them do.

Thus trees still dress as whores come every spring.
Perfumed and flowered first, they change into
Their greens then redder garments that they fling
To stand ashamed and naked where they grew.

Thus raindrops still climb up into the sky
So they can plunge in terror from above.
Thus beings do the rites, do not ask why
They’re being hazed, why there is horror of

That first night of a newborn in its room
Or that first evening spent within the tomb.

    Eager Martyrs

Like moths into a flame, repeatedly
They throw themselves in much harm’s way.  Mere clay,
They do not fret the damage.  They would say
Instead they have religiosity

That buys a bargain.  God’s annuity
Thus purchased dwarfs the premiums they would pay.
“Earth’s fleeting.  Quick!  More pain!” they pray.  Do they
Strike clever deals?   Or do they wretchedly

But crucify themselves in foul foretaste
Of worse?  “Bear up your cross without complaint!”
Not “any cross”-- “your cross”--not others you

Choose?  Seeking other pain befits a saint
Whose true cross lies abandoned in fool’s haste?
“Your cross!”  May one seek pain and Heaven, too?

    Dry Worlds

The different's good. Just see his seal,
            That rainbow in the sky,
Proof multi-color is ideal
            In worlds now promised dry.

    On The Epistle Of James

When widows die before their husbands, when
Half’s whole and circles have their corners, when
Thought and belief can be disjoined from their
Effects, one need not fear for Christians who
Are saved by faith and not by what they do.

    Acolytes

What is a fitting faith today
    When one can't drag a cross
On planes or elevators whose
    Widths tend too small across?

    Knew Aborting New

I read somewhere the Lord at judgment time
Will punish those who failed to put to rhyme
What talent had allowed by reading each
Aborted work aloud to them—He’d teach

The measure of the loss thereby to those
Responsible and by such lines impose
The proper dose of guilt.  The lesson?  One
As much as murders new things unbegun--

And yet how so if new lives nonetheless
For reading at the judgment?  One must guess
He knew aborting new, a crime as grim
As any sloth had done the homonym?

    Economics

They tell me Heaven’s paved in gold.
            With gilding everywhere,
The surplus shining stuff must be
            Deflated in the air.

I’m told it’s full of good souls, too,
            While short of bad ones. By
 Their rarity, the vilest must
            Be precious in the sky.

PART VII:  SONGS OF ART AND LITERATURE

    Three Paintings

1-Whistler’s Symphony In White

Embellished in the purity of fair
Folds, virtue’s marble blossom in her hands,
A white façade in right demeanor stands
On an eviscerated feral bear
Whose lifeless mouth lies in its pseudo roar
Of untamed, unconverted life.  A bloom
Dropped on that grizzly fur that rugs a room
Goes almost unobserved among a more
Impressive floral pattered rug.  What’s right
In fact?  The painted buds?  The creature that
Has spread a being as a surplus throw
Upon a floor already rugged?  Or might
It be the beast despite its mouth and eyes
Suggesting life where only carnage lies?

2- Turner’s Approach To Venice

What inference do we draw about a Sun
That never tries the night though weaker Moon
Swings both ways rising up before day’s done
As readily as at night?  One might soon
Conclude the frailer orb the braver or
The more inquisitive, industrious
Could such bold reasoning somehow ignore
The damage to the language.  It can’t.  Thus,
One says it’s not the Sun but is the night
That flees the Sun, that logic by some sleight
Has cleaved the two.  Where Sun is day is, too--
One’s words demand that Sun could never do
As moon.  Obedient, the Sun retires
So mind might have those shadows it requires.

3-Boudin’s Beach At Villerville

They prop their little world upon the sand
With axis uninclined.  Erect they stand
(Or sit unslouching) as their rules demand
For such an upright orb no forward hand
Dare spin.  From there they fix their glance beyond
That upright sphere in some astronomy
Of distant clouds in ethers that abscond
Some yellow planet and a galaxy
Of salt suspended in geometry
Their Newton might “decipher,” too, should he
Desire.   Where pretense meets the chaos sea
And clouds may wreak at will, unwillingly
The dog holds back.  When he must correspond
With separate spheres at once, how else respond?

    Shadow After Poe

We noticed there was pestilence about
And played instead of passive victim an
Aggressive agent capable of plan
And execution. In, we locked it out,
A simple action, really, which we sealed
With weighty velvet curtains drawn across
An iron door bolted tight. “Our gain, Hell’s loss!”
We toasted with good bourbon and were steeled.
“God helps who helps himself,” we boasted till
We saw a shadow by a comrade still
And cold throughout the reverie. It hid
As quick within the heavy draperies. Did
Drink fool? No. Oh, no fancy has composed
Such vast lost voices in a single ghost.

    Hawthorne’s Window

An urchin’s barrel-organ down below
Encases some still human figurines.
He turns the crank, spills out twelve strings of notes
To animate the figures. To one tune,
The maiden milks enthusiastically,
The scholar reads, the miser boxes gold,
The lady fans, the lover woos, the smith
Strikes anvils while the soldier swings a blade.
Moved, too, we marvel at the progress till
The boy’s arm tires abandoning the crank.
The figures stop themselves where they began
As though they never hoped or labored. We
Include ourselves. Retreating from the pane,
We shall not be so gullible again.

     Je meurs de soif auprès de la fontaine*

I’ve never sensed more depth within a soul--
The waters must indeed run deep behind
That visage.  Nor would I too much extol
His beauty claiming I shall never find
Apollo’s twin again.   I’m of a mind
To stroll across the plaza, show him how
(In urgent manner though yet still refined)      
I die of thirst.   Beside the fountain now

Where he is standing, I, too, pitch a roll
Of pennies in the spray till his eyes find
My own.  Alas, in perfect self-control
His eyes keep moving focusing behind
Me on another as though he were blind
To my imploring glances. Yet I vow
To persevere (why not?)  because I find
I die of thirst beside the fountain now.

And yet it takes quite little to cajole
Those deep-blue eyes back round where they then find
My own in horror.  I cannot control
The way my thoughts and feelings have combined
Insatiably.  Alas, I am consigned
To everlasting thirst no matter how
Abundantly he shares.  My fate’s unkind.
I die of thirst beside the fountain now.

Pour me! I’m caught within a cureless bind.
Oh, Duke,  no matter what he would allow
(No sips, a few or all that I’m inclined)
I die of thirst beside the fountain now.

*The Duke of Orleans supposedly held a ballade composition contest using this refrain.  In modern times, Richard Wilbur has also taken up the challenge.

PART VIII:  MISCELLANEOUS SONGS

    The Garden After Rain

And we, that now make merry in the Room
They left, and Summer dresses in new bloom,
Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth
Descend-ourselves to make a Couch-for whom?
                        --Fitzgerald

Events unfolded after heavy rain
Late yesterday exposing once again
The thinness of my garden’s showy skin.
Beneath the petals and the feathers in
The day, came evidence that  depths of black
Hid underneath.  Smoke signals through no crack
Apparent in the garden slowly rose
In low, thick puffs of gray.  Up wafted prose
Of Indian ciphers from the clays below.
Funereal signs!  Grateful I could not know
The meanings of these missives I in lieu
Observed a beam of sunlight breaking through
At last.  It fried a rock whose verges next
Commenced a subtle steaming hiss that vexed
Me worse than any slinking serpents I
Had seen.  How many former snakes must lie
Below that rock now hissing for them?  Cold
And clammy updrafts brushed by me. They told
Of agitations underneath.  I feared
The ground would tremble, too.  Quakes have appeared
In these parts, too.  I dropped my silly dream
My garden’s much.  However buds may seem,
Beneath the garden’s painted membrane squirms
Much humbled jumbled rot among its worms.

    Fossil Fueled

We’re warmed by death,
We’re moved by death--
Though death is still and cold
We’re told.

    Père Lachaise

Put Callas in a jar?
Was done.  I’ve seen the shelf
At Père Lachaise myself-
Some carbon in a jar
Might fuel a house or car
Not far.

    Ken Hovey (10/17/1945 to 5/25/2006)

Keen as his name suggests (his mother had
Evoked him right from the beginning) I
Now try to do him justice in five lines:

He platted places maps omitted, searched
Old charted places now disfavored.  His
Vast globe held ever-greening continents
Enticing those who spun it—till green Time
Yearned for a master’s undivided craft.
 
    Joyce Sidden's Dead

She made some fields out of her bed
            And violets from her sheet
And smelled the garden in her head
            As frost set in her feet.

She saw a bee that wasn't there
            That didn't want to stay--
As lab coats said "How sad, Unfair!"
            She followed it away.

    Light-years

Our science says if one knows where to look,
There should be light from all the years that were
Which means still yet my father's days are mixed
With mine within the universal light.

I scan the Heavens wondering which stars
Drop that December's light when he was born
Or that more recent light when he first spoke
Or turned a man or when he wed or when

He brought his first child home or when he lived
Those countless other days whose hours converge
With mine no less today than otherwise
Both here and in the heavens.  In that cross

Of faith and science I know past the sun
The father still looks down upon the son.                         

    Slept Standing

My chair slept standing like a cow
            On four legs through the night
In easy sleep the gods allow
            To those who live upright.

    Playing Abraham

"The world will see how good I am!"
Shout tyrants playing Abraham.
"I'll stab my own,
My proof is shown,
As long as I've a lamb!"

    Spinoza

We operate without a knife,
            Grind lenses that explore,
Remove, repair, add here and there
            Without blood, scarring or

Trauma to stitch.  Reversible,
            No eye is altered for
The rest of days since spectacles
            Come off.  In peace and war,

Appeal to force is fallacy.
            Best doctoring therefore
Is verse.  Just like  Spinoza, we
            Grind glass and nothing more.

    Three Keys

Sing notes in one, in two, in three,
The basic keys in poetry.
The best must sing in all of these--
Sing Tao and Pound and Auden.  Please
Fill opera halls with all of these!

(Note: Compare C.S. Peirce’s Firstness, Secondness, & Thirdness.)
 
    Abomination

Sea creatures are defined
As “fish” so one must find
A tale and fin to eat
“Seafood”—not scallop’s meat
Or shrimp’s.  Too, one cannot
Mix fabrics or one’s crops
Unless a loose tongue drops
Some category lines
In better grammar.  It’s
Abominable indeed
To mold oneself to words
And thereby mutilate
God’s image, make the tool
And not the wielder rule.


   Best Medicine

The kindest medicine
For eyes is poetry.
No knives, just glasses we
Can wear or not within
Our own discretion, try
Without scarring an eye.

PART IX:  SONGS TO APOLLO

Now is the time that gods came walking out
of lived-in Things . . . .
                        Rilke


            Invocation

Do masculine inflections used
            On me by those who “know”
The language fit?  Apollo, show
            Me whether yes or no,
O sun, wherein the traits are fused
            Archetypically so.

    Reason Alone

His Reason is peculiar to mankind
When other traits are shared.  Beasts breathe the same
Air, spiders work, are two legged (if we maim
Them), parrots speak, chimps play; good dogs are kind,

The lone dove mourns, wasp swarms are evil when
They sting, hyenas laugh.  A single thing--
Reversed ex machina--God drops a string
From his vast ball of Reason down to men,

A loan that hoists his image he is bound
To raise above the dirt.  The public show
Of worlds suspended proves such Reason--though

Alone, such Reason's harder to be found--
Some nights disoriented by the door
Shut, we have gone back out and mixed some more.

         Dogged Reason

I’ve Reason.  I can play with numbers, prove
That Nature must abhor a vacuum, know
How silverware is placed, attempt to show
The Lord exists by how the planets move.

I’ve reason to believe beasts sink below
Mankind because our kind’s the only one
That reasons--though the logic here is done
With residue admittedly.  Although

I’ve Reason, I can never hear the dead
Conversing or their rappings at the door
Or smell their little trails across the floor

And with good reason double up, am led
To supplement the greatness.  Thus I’ll beg
For Abby to come curl beside my leg.

          Root

Unlike the beasts, I’ve in my pedigree
That shoot called Reason.  Genealogist,
I rooted round for details I could list
Within the branches of that family tree.

I formulated an hypothesis
That Reason is progenitor of genes
That seek the truth (since reasoned action means
Right acts).  And yet I soon abandoned this

Since Abby only tries to lick the hand
That’s truly there, since even butterflies
Suck only real blooms, since I realize

That mockingbirds just set sights for and land
On real limbs not illusions and the tick
Bites only on real flesh where pincers stick.

            Tongue

Tongue is the magic trait of man and thus
Of Reason I’ve good reason to believe.
God is the Word.  Believers should believe
That very likeness, too, was pressed on us,

And Reason even pagans should agree
Is words inside--our syllogisms burn
Just them, no other fuel--which means in turn
That man runs on the same, his quiddity--

Except that Abby understands her name
And other terms in My-speak not to speak
Of Abby-speak she teaches every week,

Except we’d contradict ourselves, be same
No more.  If Reason, we would ebb and flow
With wine, with sleep, with how our phrases go.

            Via Negativa

Then I am what I’m not.  My Reason flies
Above mere sense beside Apollo in
That streaking solar car above the din
Of passion and of earthly things some eyes

Fix on.  Ignoring those red herrings low
To ground,  my sights are set high. I would win
Or lose upon the merits.  Fools who pin
Worlds on blind faith aren’t “rational.”  Not so,

I’m rational--though calculators, too,
Use no faith calculating half two’s one,
Though faithless ragweed grows up toward the Sun,

Though honeybees have faith their wings will do
The job, though bloody tyrants have through time
Lacked faith that there’s a reckoning for crime.

            Munchhausen By Proxy

Though bruised, his Reason may define the man
Through healing which requires some injury 
First--good must first have bad if good’s to be.
Thus, reaping good from bad, we’ll single man

Out by his inclinations and his mind
That cures diseases and provides relief
In others.  Lives of insects are too brief,
The donkey is too dumb, the mole too blind

To measure herbs--although the wolf might lick
Its wounds and other apes might groom and pick
The vermin from their neighbors’ heads before

They bite again, though only we have bled
Bowls full as “medicine” or urged instead
Of healing showers Zyklon B and war.

            Witchdoctor

Where man partakes of God’s form as the Good
Book tells us, he must also have a share
Of magic in the imitation.  Where
Is God if he can’t render Daphne wood?

We know Apollo does his medicine.
There’s magic there: the mottled man’s remade
One color;  black depressions in brains fade
To light.  But is such magic essence in

The proper man?  Could he be rarefied
And elevated by his dancing  to
Snake hisses at the charms upon each shoe

While circling with a painted, symboled hide
Round smoldering fires that cough out colored smoke
To old drum beats with an invariable stroke?

      Achilles Heels

Distinguish man from dog?  One heels, one heals--
Terms Adam chose reflecting in the sound
Perhaps alliance where in spelling’s found
Distinction nonetheless.  Language reveals

Both knot and not where man and canine share
Somehow some ancient commonality
Though one is active, offers remedy,
Though one’s submissive, though one knows to care

For golden things the other cannot.  Man
Guards krugerrands no starving mouth may eat
And heels a good boy at his Mammon’s feet

While gold-blind canines curl beside the man
And heal the monger--“mongrel”  I’ve inferred
Is thus another clever Adam word.

            Straining

Man’s prowess shows in music, too. A lyre
Once served a plucking widower who strained
Beyond the realm of earth itself and gained
His lover back (though briefly).  In the fire,

The peace, the plaint, the spectacle of song
Would seem the very manly essence well
Confirmed by all the discs where men excel
(Caruso and the rest).  But Horne?  The song

In Callas or in Abby’s plaintive whine?
Or what about that melody  we heard
In vocal fireworks of a mockingbird

Or last night’s rhythm in a base scrub pine
Some wind shook as a rattle, or a tune
A brook played on some rocks all afternoon?

            Aside

What was I thinking?  Seeking some reply
On high must implicate some sense of an
Intelligence.  I’d not presume a man
Or dog I haven’t felt somehow.  Could I

Treat deity with less care and accept
Its higher rank?  I might take Otto’s course
And claim a common sentiment of course
Implies such being after all except

With Sherlock, too, I note strange silence of
The dog.  Her nose and ear much keener, she
Should trail that higher scent instead of me,

Hear and bark.  Abby dogs nothing above--
Unless (in ignorance hope!) her praises be
In hound quite indecipherable to me.

    No Son To Bear

No offspring's murder?  Could a father kill
A child he never had?  Could Abraham
Have chosen as his substitute for lamb
Such issue, stab at air, and do God's will?

That would, it seem, have been a mockery
Of Him and thus the absence of a son
Can't be equivalent with slaying one--
Although there seems some inconsistency

When trees are judged by fruits.  The Lord has said
As much.  Therefore, the crop would be the same
In either case and bare would bear the blame

Of murderer? Grandchildren, too?  Unbred,
One's damned for genocide of thousands who
Can't be because of what one couldn't do?

    No Sun To Bear

Wrights reasoned it was wrong to ground man.  "Why
Can't man  build chariots for pulling, too,
The Sun across the Heavens, have the view
That's wasted on much lesser beasts that fly? "

Writes one biographer.  I can't deny
I envied birds their feathers, too--one, two
Times even thinking mere moth wings would do
When I, too, somehow thought men couldn't fly,

Before I passed a carcass on the street
Some hours there.  There swarming round to eat
Were blowflies and a murder of some crows

Each taking pieces from the head to toes
In different flight paths.  Give me gravity.
I'll fly too soon too many ways for me.

    Rowing

Advancing to infer the progress,  I
Am thrusting and therefore am man.  Instead
Of “anti-man,” I am not used or led
As dominance would have.  Wood winged, I fly,

Above blue depths.  Wings churning, I create
Aesthetic patterns in a passive field
Of little note before.  I see revealed
Some agency.  I swirl some “he” to sate

Me till the depths are contemplated, till
One plainly sees such plane waves are no more
Than furrows in wet skin (not innards or

Bones), till one finds the wrinkles proving we
Have grown have dissipated rapidly,
Until one sees how soon the seas are still.

         Either Oar

One turns to Kierkegaard when on a boat
As anywhere. The waters also place
One in dilemmas when one has to face
A choice to either row or merely float.

Yet is it such a simple either or?
There is the dock of course. Why sail? One could
Read just as well dockside as not. And should
One row, one might still favor either oar

Or both or neither oar. Complex — and yet
We’d rather move than not and so we slip
Both oars into the waters where we dip

The possibilities and where we make
A journey cross its surface to forget
We’d drown within the belly of the lake.

            Fly On

Fly on, Apollo.  Burn across the sky
With all your tempting features men aspire
To have before their time upon the pyre.

Fly on, Apollo.  With your music fly
Seductively inducing men to come--
Shoot past with darts, herbs, logic.  Troublesome

Example, prove old Aristotle wrong
It’s virtue that brings neighbors out.  Instead
The tempter scored, the serpent wooed and fled
The garden.  Fly on, too, Apollo.  Song

And dance time’s over.   All seductions leave
Us standing on mere faith alone that we
Exist at all.  Men, heaven equally
Are Sunday things.  Sum ergo I believe.


PART X: FOUR CANTOS OF SOPHIAS


For  my  friend George Vamvakas

Canto I

Eva Sophia I

What moral hold’s not grounded in
Divinity?  We all
May pen

“Our little codes.”  Yet how glean out
The binding from the not
Without

Petitio principii?
The only option’s deity.

Philomela Sophia

What kind of deity?  A god
That keeps his distance yet
Makes broad

Demands on those below that he
Aloof avoids himself?
No, we

Know that hypocrisy is sin.
A virtuous god must take
On skin,

Therefore, descend and suffer an
Incarnation like a man.

Eva Sophia II

If something “is” and yet “is not”
We’ve tied our tongue into
A knot.

A circle squared is plainly wrong
(If even doable).
Along

Those lines we plainly err should we
Claim God is man or man is he.

Lettie Sophia I

Sophie, if contradiction (three
Yet one) can lever us
Then we

Should use (why not?) such physics where
We need the lift unless
Aware

Of better instruments or that
More harm than good would flow from that.

­­­­Platona Sophia

Such machinations generate
More questions than they would
Abate: 

To make it right one time sufficed
For men to torture and
Kill Christ?

To make it right one time sufficed
For God to torture and
Kill Christ?

To make it right one time sufficed
For God to kill Himself
Through Christ?

And must he live and die a shrew,
A weed, all other life forms, too?

Canto II

Eugenia Sophia I

If contradiction causes pain
It’s wrong to wish that way
Again.

Excluding middles follows thus
From what including does to us.

Eugenia Sophia II

Right axioms don’t float about
Untethered.  They are linked
Quite taut

To us if right.  The wiser taught
That contradiction should
Be thought

Wrong only where harm flows When we
Desire the contradictory.

Pandora Sophia I

Enlightenment that ends the chains
Of endless rebirth of
Same pains

Requires one’s rules of logic that
Work with the sentiment
(And not

Against it) in a general way
Tomorrow as they did today.

Pandora Sophia II

How does one end the endless birth
Of contradictions’ pain,
Bring forth

The closure?  One constructs one’s world
Round what can be.  The right
Is willed

When acting on desire that can
Be followed yet not taint the man.


Canto III

Sarah Sophia

Could it be right to kill a child
If God would have it so?
One would

Submit the question makes no sense
As God could never sin
And hence

Would underscore morality
Runs round not from divinity.

Immanuella Sophia I

Yet where to find it?  In the air,
The water or the ground?
Despair

Not. Reason can point out the way:
Ask “what if all behaved
That way?”

If we can will it so, then we
Have proved some good morality.

Eva Sophia III

But can’t one will that all first tie
The left shoe or the right?
First, why

Pick one above the other?  Two,
Since opposites could both
Be true

How could we have morality
When rules prove contradictory?

Immanuella Sophia II

Then reason might instead rephrase
The question:  “Could we wish
Always

To punish men for such a deed?”
If so, we must conclude
The deed

Is wrong and therefore reason can
Thus still ground ethics well for man.

Eva Sophia IV

But does that not return us to
Platona’s paradox?
And do

We beg the question?  How can we
Sans sin impose some penalty?

Canto IV

Abby Sophia I

In analyzing suffering,
Desire per se is not
The thing

At fault.  It’s contradiction round
Desire instead where pain
Is found,

The wish that’s inconsistent or
Consistent that one would ignore.

Lettie Sophia II

The Buddha took too large a knife
Excising all desire
From life—

Though wished impossibilities
Of course must frustrate, why
Not seize

The possible?  Are there not pains
In quashed desires when one abstains?

Lettie Sophia III

Though I’ve a soul, I’ve body, too.
Demeaning neither of
The two,

I’d give them both their proper due
As both of them would have
Me do:

Mind comprehends the evil in
All forms of suicide
(Both in

A whole or part) and thus denies
The body’s something to
Despise,

While tangibly the body knows
The evils of a mind
That goes

And thus as well refuses to
Condemn its “opposite.”
Both “true,”

I cherish equally, am kind
To both the body and the mind.

Abby Sophia II

I am not gauged by others and
They are not gauged by me.
We stand

Or fall on our own merits.  Thus,
Our true self is the rule
Of us

Implying first a duty we
Uncover that true self
And be

Most faithful to it.  Second, we
Must judge our systems by
Degree

Of efficaciousness in how
They move us as true selves
Allow--

We’ll only be judged scandalous
If have squandered much of us.

La fin


APPENDIX A

Translations

            The Cicada and the Ant
            (La cigale et la fourmi)
            By Jean de la Fontaine

Cicada having sung her song
All summer long,
Found all her cupboards bare
Once winter's winds were there.
She couldn't even spy
A bit of worm or fly.
She cried of hunger’s gnaw
To a neighbor ant she saw,
And begged a bit of grain
To ease her hunger pain
Till spring had come instead.
"I'll pay you back," she said,
By harvest--word of animal--
Both interest and the principal."
The ant was not a lending bug,
Of all her faults it was her least.
"What did you do till summer ceased?"
She asked the beggar with a shrug.
"I sang all night and day
If Madame finds it fine."
"You sang? Why, that's divine.
Now dance instead I'd say!"
           


The Wolf And The Lamb
            (Le loup et l'agneau)
            By Jean De La Fontaine

The strongest beast is right we say
As we can show here right away:
A thirsty lamb was drinking where
It found a pure and flowing creek.
A starving wolf then came to seek
His luck--his hunger drew him there.
"What makes you foul my waters here?"
The wolf barked at the fleece’s ear.
"You'll pay for your temerity."
The lamb then said, "Your Majesty,
If you'd just hold your anger back
And measure out my careful track
You'd see I've merely come to drink
In waters which I'd surely think
Are twenty paces down from you,
So I could not in any way
Be doing harm as you would say."
The beast responded: "Yes, you do,
Mean lamb who slandered me last year."
"How so? I was not born, I fear,"
He bleated, "I am nursing yet."
"Then was your brother." "I regret
I've none." "Then was your family--
They are the worst group I have met--
Those shepherds, dogs and sheep all three--
I've heard enough; it's vengeance now."
He dragged the lamb into the trees
And had his dinner anyhow
With no more process, no more pleas.
           
            Evil
            (Le mal)
            By Arthur Rimbaud

While crimson globs of grapeshot spittle fly
All day across the wide blue firmament;
While green and scarlet troops of soldiers fry
Close by the king who mocks them as they're spent;

While awful madness grinds away until
A hundred thousand men smoke in a mound--
Poor dead that nature made in her goodwill
With joy, in summer, in the grass and ground!

There is a God who laughs at altars laid
With damask, incense and their cups of gold;
Who falls asleep in sweet Hosannah's fold,

And wakes again when mothers come arrayed
In anguish weeping in their black old caps
To give him one whole penny each unwraps!

            Gilded Verses
            (Vers dorés)
By Gérard de Nerval


Oh! All is sentient!                              
         -- -Pythagoras

Free-thinking man!  You think that only you
Think in a world where life bursts in all things?
Despite the forces that your freedom brings
You, you don’t give the universe its due.

Respect the mind that stirs in creatures, too.
Each flower’s a soul that Nature has enclosed.
Love’s secrets have in metals, too, reposed.
“Oh! All is sentient” and affecting you!

Beware in the blind wall a look that sees
You--even matter has its language.  Thus,
Treat nothing in a way that’s scandalous!

Gods often hide in obscure entities,
And as babes’ eyes beneath their lids begin
Maturing, pure minds grow beneath stones’ skin!

            Fall’s Song
                        (Chanson d’automne)
            By Paul Verlaine
           
The long sobbings
Of fiddle strings
            Of Fall wound
My heart by
Monotony
            Of dull sound.

Suffocating, pale,
Hearing clocks wale
            As chimes keep
The hours, I’m cast
To years long past
            And I weep;

And then I go
With winds that blow
            Ill, that hurl
Me here and there
And everywhere
            Dead leaves swirl.           

The Gold Ship
            (Le vaisseau d’or)
By Émile Nelligan

It was a massive ship, a gold-carved one
Whose masts touched azure upon seas unknown;
Love's Venus, naked skin, hair sparsely strewn,
Sprawled on the prow in the excessive sun.

One night she struck a large and perilous
Reef in that lying sea where sirens lull
And the horrific wreck inclined its hull
Toward the abyss, changeless sarcophagus.

It was a gold ship whose translucency
Revealed some treasures profane hands at sea
(disgust, hate and neurosis) could contest.

How much is left in a brief storm like this?
Where does my heart, deserted vessel, rest?
Alas!  It sank into the dream's abyss!


              Ithaca
            By Constantine Cavafy

When you set out in search of Ithaca,
pray fervently your journey may be long,
full of adventures and of things to learn.
Fear not the Laestrygonians, dread not
the Cyclopes or Poseidon’s awful rage:
such things you’ll never find upon your way
if your thought’s lofty, your emotion’s rare
in ways that touch the body and the soul.
You’ll not encounter Laestrygonians
or Cyclopes or Poseidon on your way
unless you carry them within your soul,
unless your soul itself sets them on you.

Pray fervently your journey may be long,
that many summer mornings yet remain
for pleasant and for joyous anchoring
in harbors you have never seen before.
Pray you may stop at fine Phoenician marts
acquiring there their finest merchandise,
their coral, mother of pearl, their ebony
their amber, and their sensuous perfumes
of many kinds in many quantities.
Pray you may visit many Egyptian towns
and learn from many educated men.

Keep Ithaca always before your mind,
that your arrival there’s your destiny.
But do not rush the journey in the least.
It’s better that you travel many years
and anchor on the island in old age
with all your treasures gathered on the way
without expecting more from Ithaca.

For Ithaca gave you the wondrous trip:
without her you would never have set sail.
Now she has nothing left to give you more.

And yet she won’t have fooled you if she’s poor.
The experience and wisdom you’ll have gained,
Will have shown what Ithacas must truly mean.

(Working from Sachperoglou’s Greek-English parallel translation and that of John Cavafy)


APPENDIX B

Juvenilia-Poems From High School

            1-The Yadkin

The aging old Yadkin
Was such a sad sight,
Slowly tugging her skirts
In the warm evening light.

Mud, slime, and filth
In her waters were seen,
Tinting her sickly
In brown shades with green.

Nearby poison oak
Climbed old sycamores,
Which grew among garbage
Along dirty shores.

And a filthy old bridge
Loomed high overhead,
Where cars and loud trucks
Constantly sped.

But soon night fell
And the bridge traffic waned,
Then the river's faint silhouette
Was all that remained.

And in the dim light
As I heard her flow,
She was once more the river
Of centuries ago.


            2- Autumn Defined

Autumn is trees ablaze in pastels,
Cooled by the whisk of a chilly wind,
While daylight shrinks and evening swells,
The glowing trees are slowly skinned.

Autumn is a field of brilliant mums,
Exploding in rays of light,
Where the wind their petals softly strums,
And Jack Frost spends the night.

Autumn is harvests with bountiful yields,
Of crops and hay in yellow bails,
Standing with cornstalks in the fields,
Under migrating birds and their parting wails.

Autumn is the mystery of Hallowe'en nights,
Sparkling with pumpkins grinning,
As children in their flickering lights,
Send their thoughts off spinning.

Autumn is a classical tinter,
An always welcome comer,
'Tis the prelude of the coming winter,
And the postlude of the summer.

            (October 6, 1975)

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