28 SEATTLE and 1 NEW YORK POEM FOR THE 2001 POEMS
10 Birth - 10 Journey - 9 Death
In remembrance of the qasida I give birth,
spin out the spidery substance, allowing new
in a dew bespattered pinwheel of trembling light.
Fogs roil with summer's whispered
memories of birth,
choosing to reflect light in the teared rain,
choosing a rainforest's
nascent, watery, nurtured, non-visible birth.
Born in winter, with the chrysanthemums, my journey
began as a cold, wet, hard-clodded, long
into spring toward the viridian grass. The light
daffodil's gold sun, its stemmed
heaviness, its journey
toward bloom, its hard-sucking need for pattering rain,
birth-weary, evanescent, bow-headed, spring demands inevitability's journey.
Toward the end of afternoon, clouds signal death.
The sun setting in whispering pinks signals
The ice-blue, silver building's reflection in the light
signals new ways to summon
summer's of death,
which, lasting too long, readies itself for rain,
seeks the sodden leaves of autumn's announced death.
O Devayani, where to begin? Where to begin?
The evaporation of experience bugs you so you
dare to wake, sit up, move about.
After sixty-eight years of gathering and discarding
nothing left to give you comfort. But isn't
that what you have opted for? It was
beneath you to draw comfort from things, places
or people. You live only in the
of your mind and, as they must, they
have failed you. You have looked at each
thing of life and set it aside. Now
you wonder what do to, where to go.
You feel as if you
have been beaten
and bruised, as if you have been sick,
are not quite well. You journey toward death.
I've followed my master for sixty-seven years.
And who is your master, madame?
The necessity to
turn human experience into words.
Why turn it into words?
To make it graspable, meaningful, to catch
it like musical notes from the
The nature of music is to be heard and die.
I once wrote:
"There is nothing
but what happens
at the center of things."
But you don't believe it.
I believe it in that momentary way a writer does.
Tell me about the momentary beliefs
of a writer.
No human activity is more omniscient.
And then it is gone, like the music?
can see everything as you write.
Then having written it is gone?
So, its death today, once again, unease, fear of disease,
depression, repression, all arising from
the chemical soup
of a body with its own intentions and desires,
appetites, curiosities, drugging
You would have thought God smart enough to beware of giving
as limited as man the dubious gift of consciousness.
What does he get for his pains? Boredom, anger,
You'd of thought, omniscient, he would have seen it coming.
But it really
is all an illusion, there is nothing but chemical soup.
The world is Maya, they say, illusion,
It's what you eat and what you breathe that causes interaction in
the molecules. You
interpert them how you will.
It seems there is only one law beside Peter's principle. That it
who must decide what problems you are interested in, which you try to solve.
no life. So you might say the first creation was a propensity
for error, for problems. Then came
human beings to solve them
On a great field of gold, crimson and blood, was displayed all the
attractive problems. And the, preferably, young human being could
choose among them.
Nobody told him about "must". Only later in life,
finding one's self problemless, out of the swim
of life, did one know
how important that choice was -- that it was indeed the first
the universe to lead a life of other than despair.
Why the secret? Does it sound too trival to me
It's the law of civilized man. The wild-man, closer to the animals,
Still knows how to do nothing.
#05 BIRTH - September 11, 2001
Nine one one, the day that changed the world.
You walk in your friend's door, ready to walk their
The radio on, to keep the dog company, says:
"Two planes have just crashed into the World
O, you realize, take the leash -- and then your memory stops.
Did you walk the
dog or call your sister.
You'll never know which you did first.
You do remember it was 7:55 when
you called your sister.
You didn't want to wake her. She had a broken arm.
You asked if she was
awake. Advised her to turn on
the television set -- she never watches television.
You told her
about the Trade Towers, you sent some
rather casual e-mails suggesting it was Osama ben
doing it again. You canceled your trip planned for tomorrow --
all the airports were
closed. It didn't seem so very important,
on Television you saw -- well you had wondered
how the one
hundred story buildings could just fall down,
and then you saw --
first, the top
of one slowly sinking, puffs of smoke like dust
climbing up from the windows
one story down from
down one story and then another,
down down down,
up up up
a banana peel,
dust puffs folding down
great fountains of dust puffs going down
fog-shapes falling fireworks
a flow as fluid as an atom bomb,
but going down
and the central
down down down.
up from the street,
showing the hundred
just sinking into nothingness.
Another shot, and a roiling river,
like a tsunami of
flowing like a cumulus cloud
rolling down the street,
people fleeing toward the
Another plane crashed through from the west
three of the fortress-like
of the Pentagon.
And one final hi-jacked flight,
not too far from Pittsburgh,
not too far from Camp David,
The White House was evacuated,
so was the
Our frat-boy president flying around in the air
from place to place
The numbers of the dead withheld
You look up the specs.
Trade Center Towers could house
Many ran down steps for fifty, ninety
One in each doorway,
homeless people sleep.
The great doors, of course, are
Except on triumphal occasions.
Cascading down the steps,
perhaps two hundred
Some, in tall blue-glass jars,
still alight at five a.m.
Not a great
many, but some.
Paper wrapped bouquets,
some in jars, drinking
to stay alive.
stagnates in the Seattle air,
cool, now, in September.
Up on First Hill where the
towers of the great cathedral rise,
where the doors are locked
for the dark,
five thousand missing
or dead in our teetering new world
there's no room inside
Yet, O Devayani, as you look at the twin towers,
you are grateful for Christianity.
Its great buildings grace the landscape
of almost every country.
And you like
You don't much like humans,
but you like their works,
their hubris throwing
and concrete into the sky.
even the hutzpa of knocking it down.
time with planes.
Airplanes of people.
Christianity may have destroyed the
civilization after civilization after civilization,
peoples upon peoples upon peoples
with their architecture
and their gods,
but they added new buildings.
And the Muslims,
with their blue mosques,
and Sufi skirts,
perhaps it was
who knocked down the twin towers
of the Golden Calf.
Like the implosion of the World
Christianity evolved into world Capitalism,
Islam into Retribution.
the homeless, sleep peacefully
in the twin doorways of the great
they are not allowed to rest,
even with five thousand
crushed to molecules with the steel,
concrete, the computers,
the blizzard of papers,
the financial papers of the world,
out as far as
the statue of Liberty,
"no room at the inn."
The stock market will reopen on Monday.
They have said They will try to
restrain the trading.
Lest someone make money on our disasters,
as we've made money on
O Devayani your once-best-friend, who plays to win,
wants vengeance, as
Mickey Mouse, our President.
He's got what he wants, what his vengeful
party wants, not
but military control -- new rules,
new powers, new games to play
lives of others.
While the homeless sleep at the locked
watched over by the light
of the blue candles,
I live in Seattle, white-haired, in the fog and the drizzle,
and wonder if
other lives are as skimpy as mine.
On paper, just the bare facts of my life
but I know the thinness
beneath the narrative
It takes not a minute of experience
to fill up pages and
catching the essence, the nuance, the scarlet flush
of the dawn in a
of uncountable molecules,
horrifying death, birth, journey,
I wander on, amazed at the richness,
the thinness, the grid,
but of sixty-seven years, I spent only
three months, three
weeks in India,
and a lifetime's study,
I spent a year and a day in
another three other weeks,
and a lifetime trying to wash
seductive, distortions of life from my life.
But, if they had not done
others stood by to conquer the world.
When there were no countries left
America flexed her muscles of power,
did much the same as
without needing to leave home.
They say its man's nature to
one another. But there have been civilizations
of peace --
rarely, individuals of peace -- often.
I dwell on that in the fog and the
In the middle of a beautiful, oncoming fall,
in Seattle, with
more sunshine than usual,
I saw the 9-11 planes crashed into the Towers,
Pentagon, and our civilizations changed,
I began to change.
I had been
to the top of the tower once,
with a man, a dark angel, an archangel, now dead
(if angel's die).
He painted his way to the top and jumped off,
himself to death on the way down.
He, too, tried to exercise his morality --
Is there a poem in me this morning?
I doubt it.
The grey mantle
hangs over the sky.
The gloom is in my heart.
I dealt with the
and heard some of the "poets'" response,
subhuman and inhuman.
I had heard that "the boards" on the
are full of vituperations and insult,
that they collect a
lot of the scum.
I never thought to experience it.
Well, I'm dirty
asking if the suggestion to repost the poems
in such an
environment was a favor.
But then, I look again at the sky.
is blue, the sun beginning to shine.
The crispness of autumn is in
I like to wear heavier clothes.
Summer is the season for
but Seattle is too temperate to indulge.
clothes are a boon
along with a heavier heart.
(Found and added in 07-24-04)
Out on the streets of Seattle, the newspaper says:
the Dow plunges as low as 1933 --
the year I was born.
And, indeed, I feel like the muck and the soil
where the daffodils were planted
the year I was born.
Born into a new journey:
A sixteen year old on the bus
doesn't know that Canada is a separate
country, doesn't know the reference to
"You can always go to Canada"
when he says he won't "join" the draft.
Each journey begins with a single step
over and over and over again, beginning
the year I was born...
What do you expect from a book titled:
Guns, Germs, and Steel by a
in "progress" called J. Diamond:
for those individuals
most effective at producing babies and
helping them spread to suitable places to live." p. 198
writing, as quoted from Claude Levi-Strauss:
"ancient writing's main
'to facilitate the enslavement of other human beings.'"
There you have it. What else is new?
Here we sit
psyching ourselves up for a biological warfare
attack while I lie
reading, remembering how, in America,
my ancestors got the
continent in the first place:
smallpox et al, we arrived and reduced
of Mesoamerica from about twenty million
to maybe 1,600.000 (with the help of a little
And the inhabitants of North America from 20,000,000
by about 95% to about 1,000,000, also with
a little warfare and a
lot of smallpox blankets.
Wouldn't you say its sort of, "poetic
justice" for our present
"civilization" to be brought down by germs,
to write about it
in a language system
(in a country snatched
by Christians -- the precursors to Islam --
with the aid of disease
and religious fanaticism)
only ocassionally misused for poetry.
With its crosses and dirt, represented in Spatial
Composition by Tadao
Ando, glass and cross
on the edge of the lake, a swamp of
I argue with Sergio constantly -- in my head
against assigning meaning to the abstract.
I design some of the
most complicated grids in the world,
but I "put that there" because
"I like it there,"
never because I think others will react to it thus
Who's to know if high space fills another with terror
awe, who's to make another's reaction wrong
by saying: high spaces
mean thus and so.
Theoretical response to abstract space is
personal as sex. A four square building of joined
with struts from illuminated floor to glass ceiling,
in between: a box. It's the house I always wanted to
live in, in
the woods, in privacy, open only to the woods
and the sky. I'd make
one change. I'd replace the cross in the swamp
with Shiva Dancing.
The war has began.
The war started yesterday.
I cannot find in my
more than a neutral statement of that
around, I try to imagine Seattle's tall
buildings crumpled, its hills
searching for small foodstuffs, drinking from
in the Arboretum, ice-cold at night, shivering in the
No, I cannot imagine it. And why should I?
The reality will or will
not be here soon enough. Along with
Christmas, the birth of Jesus, those
who refuse to believe in the
Second Coming -- in Mohammed -- will soon see
who wins. The world in
shambles and chaos. It's happened in my lifetime to the
Cambodians, Pakistani, those of Bharat, East Timor, and earthquakes
Why not us? The Columbia Tower, now called Bank of America
around our freshly wet ears,
BUSSING IN SEATTLE
I ring for release from the 43,
walk across the Montlake
mountains to the left, the Olympics, mountains,
Cascades, silhouetted against the red rising sun,
to the right.
and down, via the lawns beside the canal, behind
the Hospital, get my
66-cent coffee in the Plaza Cafe,
walk the corridors into Health
the garbage cans are having a private convocation
in the vast never-used lobby, hemmed into their
privacy with yellow
their fat cheeks not quite touching,
5 cans, and one
in the middle. The person
who passes me says: "There must be a drip."
My scenario was more exciting: the world
in disaster, why shouldn't the
invoke their own? Why wouldn't they get discouraged
called on too often and for too much?
Why shouldn't they send a delegation out across
the bridge, look for
someplace else in the rising
sun to perform their services
of hauling away mind trash
manufactured in the serene
walking, there is nothing to be thought of except the frightened
in Afghanistan hiding from the bombs. First their husbands, now
One can begin to understand how, sooner or later, garbage
the receptacles for babies.
The gray shroud of the sky
the wet pavement of the terrace
crashes into the silence
-- its noise.
It's now reflex to pay
to the sound, wait 'til it
disappears -- and a little
Is it circling back? I live
long way from the airport.
Few speak of the Trade Towers
We hold public ritual grief sessions
it is a bit
embarrassing to grieve personally, when 3,000
one from knowledge, from encounter, from
the smell of
5,000 pulverized bodies
being slowly digested by bugs, no
survivors themselves. The constant fear-chat
biological warfare already bringing it into
through the mail -- sick
willing to respond to the media's
goad to be heard, to
in the news. Or is it
Diseases unknown carried by colonists,
smallpox blankets sent by the
to the Indians, 95% of Americans
or two. Biological warfare
before it was invented, nonetheless
Today, horrors! -- we would never do
But the pharmaceuticals, who don't mind
expensive, out-dated, poisonous medicines to
the 3rd, 4th, 5th worlds,
making their fair share with everyone
dead in an hour. A little
Anthrax to be cured? -- not a
What does postage cost? Let's all
be patriotic and
mindful to preserve
the shoppers. The Trade Towers barely
our president urges us to "go
out and shop," "fly,"
confidence," preserved the economy, even if
is death to the human soul.
Resurrect your frivolity out
skies and the dead cement, carry
up your rights with glee, preserve
the guilty government into
whoever it represents -- not you or
me -- would
carpet-bomb the world, preferably in silence.
For a little
extra cash. Profit.
Why not? Sell guns to your
have a nice little war. Train
them in terrorism, espionage,
last a little longer. Who usurped
Is it democracy? What happened to
you and me?
Awake Seattle's sunshine, doing my morning things,
rising from bed,
from my anxious sleep,
swallowing my pill, reading a few
about Mount Mazama -- exploding, leaving
crater behind, 400 feet deeper than
the World Trade Towers were tall.
And up, green tea now
that coffee makes me itch and
Seattle tricked me yesterday, sunshine at 7 and by noon
downpour. You'd think, practically born a Seattlite,
I would be so
susceptible to trickery. But I got soaked,
skipped one of my treasure
lectures when I saw
the bus coming early!
Home, whiskey, hot
bath and bed. But restless.
In the morning, the radio. I listen to the
radio now in the morning.
Write about the anthrax scare. Still
doubtful, still cynical.
But always listening to the news and noticing
all the clues
for terrorist. Each time the reporters broadcast a
fear, a potential way to disaster. If I were a terrorist,
I'd be taking notes,
and I'm sure they do.
If that's what they fear next, let's give them some.
water? Well, that's not such a bad idea either.
Collapse of the
economy? Let's ratchet up the fear. I wash my dishes,
I cannot wash my
mind. Except with impatience, I turn off the sports
news. Write one
more poem, another downer packed with
Welcome to the earth: worse than it used to be.
On the streets of Seattle, the newspapers say:
the Dow plunges
as low as 1933
-- the year I was born.
Indeed, I feel
like the muck and the soil
where the daffodils were
the year I was born.
A sixteen-year-old riding
in the dark
on a pre-dawn bus doesn't know
that Canada is
country, doesn't know what "You can
go to Canada" refers to
when he claims he won't "join" the
Each journey begins with a single step
over and over again
-- beginning the year I was
At a genetics lecture, I hear the question:
simplicity works, why is
Like an echo of my breakfast of
every morning, dinner of despair
But the questioner corrects:
If it's so
how does it evolve?
Hence we're slow, so very very
Every time the computer balks from
in its complicated process
Phylogeny recapitulates ontogeny.
question may be,
if it wants to progress,
everything so complicated?
And why are we, progeny of our own
so dedicated to stasis?
I seem to dissolve with the illusion
that I AM
Whatever my thought,
it makes lines; lines move
the word is made clear.
As if the
were churning on, like a locamotive
Black smoke ascends to heaven
and is gone.
the ash of words, the detrius of thought,
when the wind comes by
branching the yellow autumn trees.
Let go of the belly of the worm.
Rearrange your molecules to
Madness springs from the base of the
Change your vocabulary
Ninety-million raindrops later,
Amber still fakes sunshine,
Eager to fall to the earth
leaves stand still
Chicken cooks on the
but clucks no more. Bid for birth or
Obey the binary code:
Ice-cold come the moon and the stars.
The leaves are
Scarlet and gold,
no one remembers your name.
black trees finger the sky.
Winter comes next
humanity cries under
the leaden clouds, rain clouds
Climb to the moon.
You will never reach the sun.
Divisions spring in my
Diversions I create
Divided by laughter,
Desperate concentrations of
Dewali's flames and splendor
Development of a new
Distinct cleavages in
Another of these sunless
suicidal Seattle Sundays,
the gray, the
small plants dying, oddly
learning, as I never
before, that there is no hope.
modern, teaches me that,
or architecture or medicine
politics, economics, trade,
buying and selling in the streets.
of it is tied to investments
in some people killing others,
depriving them of food,
deporting them for slavery,
oil so they can
drive the countryside as
bombs pit other parts of
Accept it. Become a part of it.
No way. Let me be the
to run out for joy, welcoming
the falling missiles. It's a
we can't divide the world into
two worlds and keep them
separate. Those who want
peace and those who want
war. Let the
each other. But what command
will keep them from the
gathering berries, being born
everyday anew under the
sunless sky on the mourning earth?
Journey in the rain, a yarmulke of baldness
in the center of his
long grey hair,
slightly stooped, walking slowly, drama his
Allan, back from the grave on Diwali
He lives in his bones, said someone Jewish,
you know, resemble the Jews. Later
that night, after the oil lamps
and the flowers' scents and the incenses'
thickened the air, we, studying world architecture,
how all the great civilizations of Indian, Muslim,
Jew, Egyptian, Turk, Aztec, Inca, Anasazi, African
in equal triumph, equal beauty, until
the Christians went out and
cut them down,
reduced the greatest cities, cultures, architecture, by
savagery, to stone and ash and bone, terror.
Allan walks now, with a holy,
bald spot, open, uncovered in the rain,
from the open, unquiet, lonely grave of peace.
The Aztecs, the Incas, the Indians, the Chinese,
the Vietnamese, the
Africans, the Arabs, the Moroccans,
the Mound Builders, the Hawaiians,
the Aborigines -- remember,
these were some of the most advanced
cultures, organized and beneficent institutions of
that the Spanish, English, Dutch, French, Portuguese,
and American, disease ridden mobsters, drug lords,
went in and took out. (Find the list
of all former
colonies and names of civilizations
that were conquered,
devastated, humiliated, decimated, obliterated to
colonies as well as the names
of the ruthless terrorists, robbers and
Perhaps it is time to rewrite the history
of the world, to see if we might
change so-called human nature,
learn humility, beneficence, peace.
Mort, dead, heart-sick, my body hangs in there,
my spirit has fled. I
no longer understand
why I put one foot before the other.
journey is finished, completed, kaput, dwindled, amortized.
nothing to want, nothing to do.
I have shrunk my world to a
I pass in the night not heard by
an angry God, unnoticed by the seductive Devil.
There is no illusion, no illusion of
The path has twisted down to a chosen
where to go, nothing to do.
Motions remain the same as the tears
But even the tears are illusion and non-illusion.
sadness and artifice, the pain a drama,
a drama ending in the blankness of being.
The Holidays: Hanukkah, Eid, Christmas, Being Laid Off,
Year! 7,000 people laid off this
week in Seattle, who knows how many
Freedom, holiday, no work -- this day or any
Enjoy! You'd think by now, in
our relentlessly driven Capitalistic.
consumer society, that they'd
change, for the sake of their own
either the Holiday dates OR the fiscal yearŐs
finality. How can we fulfill? -- do our patriotic
the President exhorts, if we have
no money to shop with in honor of
Jesus, that poor Jew who had/wanted nothing
What is poetry for? To stave
away the darkness, to fend one's
from the rain, one's heart
What is darkness for?
the life of the soul, to
shrink at the grave's edge,
What is rain for? To imitate
sadness in the
hearts of humans,
stimulate greyness before the eyes, to
from gaudy flowers' illumination by the
sun, lest their
brilliance wrest the
heart from despair. Then what are
To bloom and die without questioning
their existence on
the rim of
the Tarim Basin, their death in
Jets and email have changed all
that. How many flowers
grown in cyberspace, to stave darkness,
The black, iron-rimmed, glass topped tables
become repositories, pools
for the rain.
The iron chairs stand guard. Raindrops
only against the dark. The jumping
high. The wind blows.
At night trains shriek their passing,
their assent. The rocketing of planes
noticeable in the sky. I
read about Urumchi and wonder. Why
make earth? or not? Why an
evolution to the point of
despair, universal suffering, universal triviality. "Go
shop -- for the war effort." Even
civilization was founded on
the travel of tradesmen, defending the
Again, at night and the pre-dawn
hours, Ella has become my
She often rides. I walked through
past the Karakorm, Kashgar. Today we
wander the Tien Shan,
Issik Kol. She claims to be
But it seems to me
she is surrounded, inundated, by people
own ilk. When does
alone? Part II, Chapter I
"Alone." We'll see. The many famous
loners of history
seem never to
I note with a certain jealousy,
certain pride, for I, who
have traveled alone in out of
places, walked alone. No horse, no
camel, no dog, nor cat, no
companion, all my helpers, always, only
kind people along my
way in India. Until I began
to feel truly
welcome on the earth,
A feeling that does not last
a lifetime. But to have known
it once, at least once! I
Western sociology says one does not
live alone, and proves
dwellers in the desert and uninhabited
sadhus of the forests and in
the mountains, live alone, and
themselves. The senseless breeding of overcrowded
with them. Nature may be blind
with lust, humans need not
Whence this torrent into the future?
does one glimpse of enlightenment
suffice for a lifetime. My vision
lasted overnight, a few hours in
It was not
suffused with love
for my fellow man, it was
knowledge that there was
nothing to do -- or not do.
I read on
and on in
travel literature, accompanied by Ella, others
my bed, awake to
More of The 2001 Poems