POETRY + ESSAYS + MUSIC + TRAVEL + FICTION + TEXTILE ART
INTRODUCTION + HAAG'S BIO
I study the balls of men
squashed in the jeans of boys,
and know that is what it's all about.
The milky breasts of women,
and, warm between their legs,
carrying cases for babes...
Reproduction, fecundity, there
is nothing more. And me?
A dead end, a non-
achiever -- by choice -- on
the scale of evolution.
But come down my cul-de-sac,
see the exotic blooms, vines,
twisting, odd leaves and bright
colors, dolorous tunnels hidden
from the view of the breeder.
Quick as the fruit fly, like
the dinosaur, platypus,
I am here and gone. No genes of mine,
in their pure form, are squashed
into time. Like silver
illusions, I came, I
did, I am gone. The time for
reflections is brief and sweet.
Like bloom on the grape, succulent, like
venison haunch, savory -- eat and be
eaten with a delectable glee.
I'm the other woman
in a lot of men's lives
taking them far from spouse
and the reproduced kids.
born into adventure,
borne in pain but without
strife. I can leave when I
please, say what I think, drink
coffee enough to bliss
beyond realms of perturbed
speculation, an hour's
games, lending a friendship
Six six six is the mark
of the beast in Christian
mythology, the mark
of love is love alone.
The eight foot bell of black
iron booming in my breast...
Swinging the log that rings
it... Walking the reverberations
round the bell, black as night...
Three a. m. stars shining...
of log belling the dawn, drinking dew...
My soul in communion
with Buddha... Cold, shiver,
stalk the dawn, the promise
of peace... Korea, a foreign land,
winter, doors of paper
doors of glass, warm ondal
floors... Layer on layer
hiding my body beneath my robes,
rising to ring the black
iron, urging the night's
reach the stars, to plead for us... To end.
A space of infinite
stone, a night of remote
stars, icicles, high in
the world, white powder dusting my shoes...
Hope lies in the bell's tone,
the log smooth with age, rope
fraying and brittle, air
crackling with electric creations...
Soot spilled from the stars, space,
the void of the cauldron,
the bell, walled round by its
reverberations, repells the light...
My heart is lead in my
chest, contracted, heavy
with fear, beaten, resolved
into glacial acceptance, longing...
For warmth of the ondol
floor, heated channels, bricks,
mazes of pipes under
the earth, man working for heat, for light...
Just a few days after
the Enron Scandal breaks
the headlines announce:
"PRESIDENT FAINTS AFTER
CHOKING ON PRETZEL."
Like old Papa Bush
who, fainting in Japan,
ended up with his face
in a plate in the wake
of an automobile
crisis. They seem to
sicken by what they
feed on. Corporate greed?
Their world screwed up like
a salted pretzel,
an intricate web of
favors and desires,
against Florida Jeb
tactic, if ever there was,
to which the world paid
scant attention, yawned)
-- and the devious Cheney
with a heart condition.
God bless America.
Now the WTO, viper nurtured in the breast
of American Capitalism, turns against
our Corporate Giants, Microsoft, Boeing. To
lose Tax Benefits? -- to be sued by fellow Giant
AOL -- can it happen to the richest man
in the World? Eat well, Giant Cannibals. God bless
Random birds miles away
against a pink sky, birds
of beauty, birds of black,
birds of flight -- flock.
Seen through the narrow slits
between sky scrapers, swoop,
swoop again, ameboid
patterns in the sky.
Indra's Net, noded with
black pearls, turn the sky to
scarlet. Swoop again, feed
on the silver line of dawn.
Undulate before the light.
How precise the language is,
to wriggle or to wiggle...
wrig, wrick, wag, waggle, wiggly,
weigh -- with which you can pinpoint
twisting, swishing motion... or
The raindrops on the eyrie windows, crackle like
flames in the dark, obscuring, when I finally look
out, the city and its lights and, in my body,
I see the singular silk and lack of residue. There
is nothing left to burn, no ability or
awareness, no fragment of hope or despair, no
future, no past, as if there were a completion
in this flux of time called life and, at some soon time,
death. A riot of orange flame glows in the east
window. Too early for sunrise, it's late enough
for the parking lot, drowned in the rain, to be safe,
aglitter with possibilities of sleeping
cars. I have spent my time on the road, slept in pull
outs, and down beside the power poles, on obscure
forest trails in the west with no view as the rain
tattooed the van roof accumulating, finally,
the rain drops into lakes, vistas. Mt. Rainier does
not show in the dark. But even at one a.m.
the silent, two-eyed, bodiless bugs glide along
creating, faster and slower, undulating
lines -- with the near sound of the rain dripping. The whole
world is gilded pinkish and red when I gaze out
over time along the riverine ledge. Nothing
grows on my ledge -- just a round wire, a swift current.
The world empties, seeps away in my soul, the night
crescendos into a noisy play on silence,
nothingness and fire. I think of Mary in her
monumental room, her seven seven foot chairs,
her twenty foot dress, her wall of thin strips of clipped
and molecular photographs, proving fractal
pattern is more interesting than the content of
almost anything. The charm of the artist's eye
flicks open again in the tinder of my jerked
soul as I remember the bathroom in Early
Bizarre I rose at two a.m. to begin the
splashing of paint in decades ago. Even at
three, there's an occasional thud or crash -- other
artists still moving in. Life's a speculative
boon in my eyrie, an exterior mind. I
sit at my scrolling luminous eye eyeing my
reflected soul as the rain taps and crackles on
into the night, cool on my unclothed skin, longing
for darkness, bed, warmth, the obscuring sleep of age,
ancient dreams, remembrance. The refrigerator
motor, harsher than the computer, adds ash to
the night. The city reappears as I write, the
grey, ghost buildings thrust into the overcast that
remains as rain trickles and stops. Again, the wind
howls, again it scoots around the sheer, high cornered
room where I write. The grey-pink night, above all else,
wants to lie down in darkness, grow quiet, be the
wandering fern which for days and days and days has grown,
sending out a single tendril, snake-like, seeking.
Seeking what? Nothing. When will it feather or burn?
My skin feels like silk,
my body feels like the end of the line --
wondering what disaster will happen next,
the teeth, the leg, the hip, the mind
all seem to be having their brief encounters
with "enough" or "too much" or
"time to let go"
slipping into a silk-water Thames
urban and awful --
slime green and whirly-pools,
midnight oils in the wake of barges
barging about in the dregs of my life.
Happy life! Enjoy the dregs!
"The dregs of the day!"
Then there's death, of course,
out there in the starry night
at a four A.M. lull, when even the tall
buildings have shut their lights,
and only occasional, dim, two-eyed creepers
roll up and down on the freeway
heading back home to the wife
or to work or to doom.
And still, my skin feels like silk,
like the underside of a Kashmiri lamb,
and I am tired.
I shut out the night and, dredging sweet sleep,
go back to the warmth
under my down, deep in my silk.
A unique moment in the flow of counted
human time. It will not happen again.
The 20th day of the 2nd month.
The 20th hour plus two minutes
of the 24 hour clock
in the year two thousand two,
plus four minutes to write this poem,
about a world in which nothing
ever happens twice, but we're too inattentive
to notice until an unusual date appears
that exists only because we thrive
on counting the flow of time,
adore the serendipitous coincidences
manufactured by our manufactured
mathematics, set whirling
four more minutes ago
by systems we like to think
coded into the laws of the universe.
But these have been and have changed over time,
have changed once and again, and will, no doubt
change again over time. Principles of the universe
get outmoded as surely as the clothes we wear and the food
we eat. As surely as the clock now ticks steadily toward
2020 2002 2002
What happened on 2002 0202 2002?
One eighteen minute poem -- or another.
All the rest of the way to Moon Canyon
we wandered and sang. In to the volcanoes and out
we strolled light-heartedly.
Across the heat of the desert we floated.
Nor did we look up to ascertain the gibbous state of the moon.
We knew our destination,
we moved toward it with high humming harmonies.
Our pale skin shimmered under the silver light.
O Ethereal God unable to guarantee one full morning of sunlight,
let the shadows of music pass.
The penciled graph of rectangular buildings against the pale sky
offers no inducement of permanence.
Aztec's ripped out beating hearts
to salve the horrid unknown.
We stand nakedly revealed, studied into division
from our flesh, our blood. Graph it and you
don't have to hear the children sob.
Give it a name and you can chuck it into the volcano
of knowledge, forever more spewed as fiery lava
against the pain and sunburn.
Salve it, lest the sun we have peeled
retributes by stripping us naked of our natural skin.
Moon Canyon is our destination.
Push aside the eucalyptus and the cottonwood.
Scrambled on the beach.
Light a fire, make a hearth.
100,000 years of no change would be a relief.
Eating, sleeping, procreating, let's be careful
about scratching the earth.
The berries are plentiful, the tubers are under the ground.
Go girls go!
Lead the way!
Get out of here!
Get out of it!
"The Ministry of Health plans to fight suicides by limiting access to pesticides..."
"But experts say rural women [in China] need other help, particularly counseling."*
My dear Martin Fackler, idiot man,
they need a reason to live!
You try being a slave,
a piece of property,
see if you don't
rush for the exit.
What I can't understand
is why most women
from almost the beginning of time.
Pesticide for the "pests"
seems a natural solution.
Go girls go!
Teach the rest of us!
Let men and their infernal greed own the earth.
Let's go elsewhere!
A study recently published in The Lancet estimated, 157,000 Chinese women die by suicide every year [ Not a lot out of 6 billion, many of whom are treated like farm cattle -- maybe worse.] On the other hand, Lithuanians (men and women) kill themselves at almost double the Chinese rate.
It's a good thing that the major portion of my life
happened a long time ago. Short-term memory's
ambitious erasers don't touch it as they do where
I put the pencil a moment ago. Imagine frustration's
quotient in remembering nothing of five minutes ago
growing larger, larger. If I pause, do not think, dwell in
darkness for a blank eternity, most awareness dribbles back.
I can find the paper, bus schedule, book, blouse, key, cup
of coffee I just set down. But who now knows where
those past identities, persona, bits of personality,
preferences, attributes, desires, wants, fears
dwell -- if they dwell at all. Are they gone
if I can't remember them? Where have
they gone? Does the butterfly recall
the pupae? Is its memory in its
cocoon? Does the cicada
remember its hard,
ugly, bug body?
Does it exist?
I have spent my time on earth.
What should I do?
The black clouds drift and dip
I have spent my life on earth.
Every closed window
can be seen
fading in the black of night.
Every closed window
I had a friend who walked
the streets of Los Angeles discalced
for a year or two in purple.
Now I walk the cool dewed grass,
naked footed, older,
and, like her sister,
An avalanche of frustration pouring down the slopes
of my head, brain dead and dying.
Carefully, carefully I must pick my way
through the snow of life, flecks and bits
and ice cold -- never again to see clearly.
Never again to scatter out like frost
finely pointed, glittering bright, toward a goal.
The fog of avalanche snow clouding my vision,
my mind, grave dust. Remembrance was a delight.
I enjoyed it while I had it.
Forget it and forgetfulness now -- follow willingly
the Tao, avalanche's path is straight -- and long.
I am old, exhausted.
Across my ocean of golden floor
The kitten, Shiva-Purna, chases me, sideways.
Legs stiff, tail and back arched
Flame-like fur, I flee!
Then I chase him.
I wore a blue silk blouse today
And short red pants,
Both colors brighter
Than the colors of the Nyingma room
I sat in years ago
In the old house turned monastery,
In Boulder, with mahogany
Plate rails, panels, carved doors.
Painted and hung all about
Were vivid blue and deep scarlet red,
The Nyingma colors,
Dust-moted sunlight shafted at the edges of
Drawn curtains, in summer afternoon peace.
And, as today, catching my reflection, not attractive
In the shorts and shirt, I wondered
As then, "What am I doing here?
Doing this?" In the complication of life's
Afternoon. Why? To build memories?
In retrospect, simply building
Memories to be remembered, recalled
One day wearing blue and red and a semblance of peace
In my Soul on a Monday afternoon decades later.
Spend time supplying the mind with
Memories that will challenge your peace.
Later, wondering why that vision
Should be so sealed to my retina,
The longing so deep
As if my life, having shifted another way,
-- I never returned there to live --
fills me with regret,
Though I would not be by an iota
Other than I who I am.
Electric blue and lipstick red.
I have been driven mad by the vicissitudes
Of the body, the obsessions of the mind.
Each precious moment of the stiff-legged
Arched kitten's life may or may not be remembered.
Enjoy it now. Pay attention. There, there, run and play.
The next day, Nyingma was dead.
I exist on the verge of laughter
Stalking my sober soul
Wit has returned and rhythm
Due, perhaps, to the kitten or Nis
Or the rock of illumination's cradle
I exist on the verge of laughter.
Translucent silver cups, incandescent against
a black sky, shimmering in the eye of
the girl beholding them -- Click!
Onto the #9 bus, in the heat of a Seattle summer,
the Ethiopian women, delicate faced, with covered
heads and wild colors enter at SCC,
and I am pierced with the poignant thought
that I may never travel in India again.
Never again will I sit in the heat
and dust rattling across the Gangetic plain
on a flimsy, tasselled bus, past the endlessness
of desiccated land, through villages where
screeching loudspeakers wail music,
and thin wandering souls, barely clothed,
walk barefooted, where
saried women balance great baskets of cow-dung
on cloth rings, stride like queens through the kicked-up dust
of the bus I ride
not knowing where I am,
not having to care,
traveling on under the sweat of my damp hair,
clinging clothes, enervated, entranced, at rest.
My destination of no matter,
I know I'll be somewhere before nightfall.
Tired, I'll walk in the heat and the dust,
my heart singing with dryness
to a chant barely heard.
Yesterday I saw a narrow long-limbed
girl who belonged on a forest path in Thailand,
with fragrant flowers in her hair,
a sarong around her round breasted body.
She was walking the concrete streets of Seattle,
cell phone pressed to one ear,
heat rising from the hard walls around her
being trained to the unnatural enviornment
of trees allowed for in regular squares in the concrete
which cover all the earth and the land,
where the cars roar sleekly, booming
music that pulses the street.
My heart, weep for her, and for me
and for the earth, the dust and the path I may never
Unable to write my Shiva poem today,
I played with the kitten, Shiva-Purna,
Read more of the mad Emily's letters,
Couldn't find my favorite Massaman Curry,
Walked there and, halfway home,
Avoided going to check my e-mail at the U.
The hand, the thumb is better,
But still in need of exercise and rest.
Still unable to write my Shiva poem,
Talked with James and Randi, wrote Sister
That we might come to pick huckleberries,
The little red ones we all know about.
After the bread in the market
And the pita at Trader Joes,
Helped test the watermelon-liqueur Margarita's
Shopped for watermelon with Jere.
All my hall-mates suffer from
"The Best" complexes.
Making the hummus as my share
Of the Watermelon
"Hommage au melon d'eau"
Scheduled for tomorrow,
The first time I ate hummus,
Maybe thirty-seven years ago --
Rich and unctuous.
Drowned in a deep film of
One scooped with pita
And it dripped --
At the home of the great con-man
Whose name was Winters – something…
Odd how so many names have fled
My memory lately.
Struck that James resembles him:
The great cook, the great adventurer.
I decided I would not force my
Muse to serve my perfect-score imperatives,
I might even take a vacation
Of days or weeks.
I did not work on my Pound Sterling,
But saw Charles’ pound,
A five pound note:
No great fabulous pound sign.
Funny how my Work of Accumulation Art
So possesses my mind that I had convinced
Myself it would have a great big pound sign on it
That I could scan and incorporate.
Charles laughed at my naiveté saying:
No more than American money
Has a great big dollar sign on it
And momentarily I thought it did.
Apparently I live in a cartoon world where
I can't tell concept from concrete.
And so into the night
I write one more rant
Wondering about the price
Of the seedless watermelon.
Do the seeds weigh less than nothingness?
Mary has still not returned from
The Forest Festival
Charles taught me how to use my key
To unlock the door.
The kitten and the little boy
Dueted in and out of the blue
I will not write my Shiva poem tonight.
The world and its memories are disappearing.
It was there when last I looked.
But now the tall towers are gone.
Beyond the lake the city is gone.
I hear no murmur from the gulls
The distant crows, though black, are silent.
The vast sky, limited, has gone grey.
The mountain hides in mists gone white.
Dawn's hope of sunshine retreated while I
alone wandered down the stream become sand.
Darkness gone with the dew and waking
Light gone from people on the shore.
Though due, the sun has not risen
The wind died down at night's departure
Gone is the morning, measure by measure
Gone the noon, day, and no return.
The fog moves steadily into the forest
One plane's sound dies into the abyss
The balance is gone, despair can begin
Life has expired, gone are its memories.
Between the flu and/or alcohol poisoning
And reading Emily Dickinson's letters
a feeling of such unreality set it
I could barely recognize this experience
As human life.
Feel better this morning,
Everything cleared but the head.
Too many people died in Emily 's life.
She placed her trust in a hypocrite
Either of no taste or great jealousy.
But again, maybe T.W. did her a service
By keeping her far from the madding crowd
Allowing her the uninterrupted time/space
In which to leave her legacy.
But with such an excess of time, she wrote
Too much in code, maddening to read
A hundred years later, probably maddening
To many of her contemporaries as well.
T.W. was only human. Emily was odd, to say the least.
To say the most, she probably was on opium.
In an endless sheltered environment,
Free of all the wants and involvements of human life,
except Life and Death itself,
Her vision ran true as Niagara
Straight into the froth and foam of her
I look with a jaundiced eye on the house-party
That set off this vomiting spell
Too much to eat, too much to drink
Too much preparation for an impossibly small party
Too loud the music, too sustained the shouting.
No wonder the human system rejected it all.
I look with a jaundiced eye on the scurrying about
Of people in this insanity of a civilization we
Have made out of Emily's lyrical world of Bees
And Birds, magical flowers and Death.
We live longer into assured craziness.
Emily was odd, but we are the ones
Who are insane.
We don't die soon enough to avoid
inurnment to the disintegration of human reason.
Nothing remains but the memory of the village
on top, the curve of the road, down,
down, the sloping cliff-steep hill, and the village
below, a festival? fair, unglamorous market. The country
is gone, and the time, and who I
was with. Nothing remains but the vivid memory
of an early morning, and perhaps a yellow
building, people. My guess is America, for what
memory I have seems to call up one
of those towns, perhaps a mining village, at
one time, charming only by its setting, but
now inhabited by modern people, playing at market,
town square, fairs, trying desperately to stay out
of the cities of maddening slickness, and glee
as we plunge on and on into our
challenge of everything natural, rejecting everything god made
for one thalidomide experiment after another, 'til we
all end up flippered-armed, back in the sea.
Lately -- my brain flashes astir and awhirl; anxiety
Treads heavily circling round and round my irises,
Beneath my eyelids asleep and awake. Why? -- shrieks
My head -- a siren's wail. Or, lest my
Attention flag, the shrill beep! beep! beep! beep!
Of a truck backing up three blocks away
Signals danger and despair. When the wind is
Not blowing, not rustling the leaves of my
hundred-foot cottonwood, the traffic, sirens, warnings,
the pure white-noise, screams of our
civilization drone, pierce, stab, afflict constantly
lest there be even one moment
Of silence or peace. I prefer the wind,
Let it wail, let it cover up cover
Over the witlessness of our civilization, winking, blinking,
Clanging, banging, striving to warn of every danger
Every crevasse in time's fabric and -- they'll need
A study to prove this -- driving us lemming-like
Into insanity's seas. Billions are spent studying everything
Except! the noise driving us over the edge,
as we flee this cacophonous world
for silence. "Studying," done by mid-class
academics, who must be employed at
respectable jobs, substitutes for doing
Anything about noise, poverty, pollution, homelessness, killer medicines,
Study it! -- them! -- the whole caboodle! Don't waste
Money on the poor, nor confront, like nuclear
Waste, the Pharmaceuticals. Don't interfere with the way
Things are, the way they're going, the inevitable
Doom. They look busy, their work looks important.
It IS the status quo. The scientific study,
Science itself, is the Emperor's New Clothes. Why
are the poor poor? Because they
don't have any money. A million
dollar scientific study might discover this.
Why don't they have any money?
Because the rich conserve each dime for themselves.
Having studied and found out what you already
Know in your gut -- you're certainly not expected
To do anything about it -- you can pass
On to other studies, pure scientific research: causeless,
Baseless, useless, unquestionable, double blind, tax supported. If
The poor would only get themselves a scientific
Education, they, too, could study the remaining poor,
perhaps study them out of existence.
Well maybe that IS the point.
Just like noise pollution, if it
really gets too noisy, we'll opt
For deaf,permanent, congenital, maybe reintroduce rubella. Lately
It seems self-evident that we would rather kill
Each other, ourselves, our earth then try a
Simpler life, apologize, maybe even say we're sorry.
Upon meeting Anna Bing Arnold
(who had more money than god, a great deal more,
and wore her hair coiled over her ears)
for the first time
(as she arrived at the first meeting of the Directing Workshop for Women)
she said to me
(I can't remember why):
“I keep Arnold [her present husband] in a separate wing.
How else can I get any work done?
I get so bored with romance,
boy meets girl. Is that
the only human experience
worth writing about.
In American Fiction, in American Movies
you would think so.
Like the censorship of our news,
like the deflecting of our interest
from the depredations
of the mad man in the White House,
it seems romance is the universal
sop, the sole thing we can be trusted to be
But at almost seventy, what a bore.
What a bore, what a bore, what a bore!
For approximately the sum total of
69 years, years of time, I have thought about
other things, done other things
than falling in love and out.
But where's the poetry about that?
I think I am opting out.
The medical profession thinks
I am anxiety ridden and depressed.
My riposte is: You'd have to be crazy
not to be anxious and depressed
in a post 9/11 world run by
a non-elected madman
who thinks he can go
king-making in every other
country if they don't agree with
us, call them The Axis of Evil,
bomb them into oblivion.
The world has not seen
such mindless aggression
against its people since Pol Pot,
sure-footed on the footpath blazed
by Genghis Khan
and the old testament
went into "Enemy" villages and slew
"every man, woman, child and cow."
It was ever thus.
You'd have to be mad
not to be anxious and depressed.
opt out into the illuminated
sunshine world of cottonwood
shadows on the wall.
The bliss of not being here.
When the sun doesn't shine,
I am not here.
The shadows are darker than my heart.
My pain is illuminated by
the blankness of being.
Am I mad enough to be
more than crazy? Mad enough to
say something this society will understand?
What do I want? To go
to sleep and never wake up.
To fall into perpetual dreams, peacefully.
How come everyone I meet, read about
seems so much more able to take it!
The perpetual arising with anxiety
knawing at my finger tips
Their problems don't seem that
different, no more, no less
They seem to cope so much better --
with dread and hurt
The wind blowing like icicles thru
my heart, my lungs, as if
in Antarctica or atop the North Pole.
Why is that? And take it! in
another sense --
wrest their livelihoods from the world
in dollars and sense, with art and
While I -- I stand outside, twisting my
fingers and toes, wondering how to
in this world that frightens me so
with envisioned horrors. Why doesn't it
Or does it?
The smell of paint invades my room
the stairway was already misty yesterday
with transparent drapes of plastic sheeting,
brown paper for the rails, the stairs swept,
the landings papered pink. We live in paradise
enow, and tomorrow -- what is the next phase?
Paradise + 1?
Or is it two? -- with the scaffolding recently removed.
Light and air, and sheerness, light and pink and air
and luminescence, even the sky cooperates, with clouds
floating, sometimes tumbling in the blue. And Mt.
Rainier coquettish, teasing, lifts her veil and disappears
on que. At times, Seattle, unhid in rain, equals
Paradise + 1.
Signed today, one hundred forty years ago...
The "one hundred forty years" brings tears to my eyes.
Yesterday! -- in human terms. Not even a second ago
in earth's life-span.
How did we get started on such a path? A path of hatred
and laziness, wanting slaves to do our work. Why?
What was so onerous about gathering one's food, preparing it,
eating it, washing up?
Perhaps it came with large houses, too much land -- more
than one person or one family could easily care for,
enjoy. Or too much meat, too much good luck in the hunt,
the need to guard treasures.
I am self-sufficient and not bad off. I am alone and grateful
for my fellow humans mad desire to do too much --
just so long as I don't have to meet them face to face,
agree with their bad and mad
decisions. Why so much greed? Why so much passion?
Why so little ability to leave each other alone?
Is drama nearer life's essence than food?
Perhaps it is. Does boredom run earth's
circulatory systems? The lion lives alone. The lioness
lives alone or with cubs. They eat what they kill.
They seem to have no need for slaves or riches.
Why do we humans loath one another so?
Odd, isn't it, that we need laws to make us be nice to each other --
and lawyers to make sure that each thing that happens is somebody
else's fault. Will another Lincoln come, will such a one ever
emancipate us from the slavery of our nature? -- habits?
likes my cups of water, always wants to taste,
ignores his own. He's calmer now that the papers
are gone from the desk, and ignores the printer
now that it no longer rolls paper up from the floor.
He plays, once in a while, with the gentle twinging
twang of the elegant, enameled yin/yang musical balls,
blue and white, enamel and gold that Mary gave to him.
Right now he's got himself into the brown paper bag
I keep near my knee for discarded papers. Completely
concealed from the sunshine, he's in the bag. I tiptoe over,
find, except for papers, the bag is empty. Sly, multi-
places-at-once Shiva -- is now playing with the deer bones
on the other side of the room, and his small, light-green plastic
heart -- both he and I keep track of that.
And only I know that I write about the kitten to avoid
that sinking devastated feeling I always find at the bottom
of my excavations of the past. Thinking today of all my
loves being dead, the three main male actors in my life...
It's hard to believe there is no more to my past than that.
So I recall other gimcrack relationships, badgerings of my
heart, the bliss of motoring across the land, staring in
utter blankness at the beauty of the world. Interesting
how I learned a long time ago, that heart leapings,
exclamations, exaltations -- 90 % of them -- happen
only with others. Alone, one's pleasure is much
quieter, more matter-of-fact, simple notation, a staring
into the blue sky laced over with the delicate weeping
branches of the birch, tiny leaves. The kitten clings
to the wide white cracks of its trunk, his heart
in the house, his claws deep in the wood.
Seattlites had never heard anything like it:
a six days guarantee of no rain! Was it sheer
foolhardiness, a vast improvement in
meteorological science, a gamble, a frivolous
news bulletin, a dare? And which day was it?
After so many days of sunshine in the most
sunshiny summer Seattle had ever had,
who could pinpoint the day of the announcement.
And even today, though it was still dull and over cast
at 11:33 a.m., there was no sign of rain.
Was this the seventh day? Would the sunshine
and the drying weather go on and on. The lawns,
weeds, bushes turned brown, some of the trees, even,
began to look like California live oaks. New
Orleans was drowning in rain -- preceding or
substituting for hurricane Isidore -- and Seattle's
summer produced conversations, speculations.
Was it shifting weather patterns or fluke? The greenhouse
effect? Global Warming? Or just accessible fact, in
the information age, memorable and rare.
How different will it be today
and the day after tomorrow? Will
the will be left behind by
the shrinking hippocampi, unwilling to remember
what was always taken for granted?
It's bad enough now, will it
get worse? But of course, age
is not a developmental game, but
a switching-yard puzzle, trying to get
this to do that, and remember
where you put it, forgetting "why."
Down through the babbling creek of
memory, odd stones reveal themselves in
eddies of time, fifty years ago,
I was seventeen, and graduating from
high school. Rosa is seventeen now,
bought her first car, a bright
red bug and crashed it. I
have no difficulty (in my heart,
in my sleepless nights) in visualizing
her anguish, her hurt, her bewilderment,
her trauma. Fifty years from now,
she will still remember it. Be
careful. Whatever you do, you will
always remember it. But, eventually, even
today's remembrances will fade as fast
as they form. And that will
be anguish, too.
It started out softly, like a fog,
fine, almost unnoticeable, cool, like morning mist.
So I strolled on in my cozy,
newly-taken-from-storage, colorful, winter coat.
All around the lake the chartreuse, orange,
yellow, falling leaves reflected in the darkling
water, as if a Corot landscape were
the frame to an empty picture glass.
Within the brightness of a street light
I saw the mist, like the mythological
bombardment of neutrinos causing liquid rebound from
the surface of the world. Unable to
feel it still, I walked on, round
the duck-edged, willow-draped, mirror-sharp
lake still undisturbed by the playful drizzle.
And then I saw them -- drops, making
continuous lines through the dawn on their
unwavering trajectory toward my coat. Drizzle became
rain. I ducked into the grocery store
where, waiting for the bus, I bought
the kitten a dog chew. Perhaps, now
that he, at times, batted me with
sheathed, soft paws, he might chew leather
instead of bloodying my hands and feet.
Or is it simply old age?
I'm beginning now (for over a year) to know
why so many others are so disagreeable, why anger
rocks incandescent across the firmament, bounding from
country to country, people to people, person to person, raising
the killing hand, father against son, brother against
brother. I simply didn't realize how mellow my original
temperament was -- still is from time to time. Or, rather, it still
exudes from the ground-swell of my being, even as Peter's First Principle,
in perpetual motion, skyrockets me toward a realization
of why so many people are so awful, angry, brutal, inhuman,
why the world is run by dynamos of anger, deceivers, hypocrites,
screamers, fury bumping maddeningly up against the recalcitrance of reality, of
every god-damned little thing going wrong, of
everything being so difficult, most things being
unnecessary, aggravating: Jerk that child! Kick
that dog, bomb those god-damned foreigners!
Surely someone is responsible for skipping
jar-lids, this falling-down-skin-the-knee
world, the perpetual negative met head
on every time one tries to do anything
at all. Would you invent a world like
this? Neither would I. Fortunately, like
Buddha, I lived in a divine trance for (longer
than him) sixty-six years, knew peace, harmony,
and big helpings of good will.
At the bottom of the liquid, darkling, fluid
world, caught in a coffee cup, lies clarity of mind.
Conviviality with my spirit. Addiction is my middle name --
to energy, coherence. The peaceful blahs are not
for me. A stimulant, they call it. Without it
the days go by and the weeks and no energy
rises to do those human things: think, write,
wander about, over-rule lethargy, dominate
tranquillity with the power and vision to re-
express it in a poem.
It's been -- even -- years, I think, O Devayani
Since we have exhorted our soul in Sufic
Cadences. Odd, how life changes us in unexpected
Way. Little by little, memory fades, the pathways
Of the mind turn, go in other directions.
Morning walks may be the thread that wound
Me back through the labyrinthine byways and fearful
Chambers to dine once again with the crouching
Minotaur who, forever alive, breathes destiny's unexpected fire
Into the play in our mind's shadowy realms.
O Devayani, everything has changed, and nothing will
Ever change. The autumn leaves blaze once again
From the liquid amber, the birch and maples.
The sap scurries down, pulling summer's green into
The roots, preparing hibernations for feared, unwelcome thoughts.
O Devayani, why do I think fear when
I think of you? Perhaps because now in
My heart there is hope. Through darkest time
We have passed in recent months, through pain
And discouragement. But for days now the cockatoos
Of my longings are screeching with rampant delight.
Hush! The neighbors will hear! Hush! my heart
Hide your flares! O Devayani, there are accidents
On the highways, wild rotating lights and sirens.
Pick your route carefully or not at all.
Trust! As you have in past decades, remain
Unconscious. Trust! The Gods will tend to your
Needs. Foolish Gods, strange plans, put you here.
Let them tend the fires and the labyrinth,
Remember clearly, you have been this way before.
O Devayani, has your soul disappeared?
Is it sitting out on the bird ledge
Scrutinizing the anticlimactic world --
Warmongers and snipers gone loose?
As you get older and, presumably,
Wiser, does the breath of insanity chatter in
The dried out leaves --
Beautiful, cerise, golden, and dead?
Pick them, preserve them, dip them
In wax, preserve the grass blades, cloud shapes,
The rockery ferns, white
Begonias on long, unusual stalks.
O Devayani, you can no longer
Forget the eternal renewal, the spring's massive reburgeoning.
Let all else go.
Perhaps your soul became spirit.
There is nothing but what buds,
Blooms and dies. If there were no death
There would be no
Blooms -- old, parchmented curmudgeons everywhere.
The morning of Halloween Devayani wakes
to candy at the door, wrapped
and balled and shaped into Skull
Pops with two spider rings, one
orange and one black, a widow,
no doubt, along with two Creamy
Caramel Coffins in which to sequester
her teeth after the wild invasion
of sugar and sweetness and remembrance
of escape from former Hallows' eves
into the silent contentment of All
Soul's Day, the inevitable Day of
the Dead. Shiva gets the spiders
while you're out for your morning
walk, across the Aurora Bridge, high-flung
and never before walked -- in glorious
sunshine, Tahoma, the mountain, out, colors
ablaze in response to the first
grass-whitening frost. After Shiva'a morning
foray -- breaking your favorite glass in
his passion to pat everything to
floor level for tumultuous play -- Shiva
strides about, a full body undulation,
the hunter's elegant slink, Creamy Caramel
Coffins quite beyond his ken. Spider
body parts lie scattered about among
straws he steals from my coffee
cup. The neat packages of life
I once knew as each day's
progression, are transmuted moment by moment
into Trick or Treat. Mostly tricks
via Devayani to keep from being
buried alive in Creamy Caramel Coffins
and treats from Shiva, licking his
chops, testing my flesh for delectation
he prepares his broomstick flights.
O Devayani, it's one of those mornings
so fraught with tiny disasters that suicide
seems the only reasonable action. To live
forever in a state of perpetual annoyance,
anger, frustration, each moment needed to correct
the distress of the moment before, each
moment mounting to a catastrophe of inability,
inagility, lack of foresight, lack of planning.
But we, I scream, O Devayani, didn't
used to have to lay elaborate plans
to open a jar without hop-scotching its
lid, spilling the contents over the cat
which leaps to the stove where it
burns its paws, knocks over the coffee,
and dries its fur against the new-washed
pillow sham -- this is neither life! nor
fun. Does the law of tiny disasters
following the aging around, lying in wait
to spring when energy has flagged below
forbearance's limit. Enough, enough, you cry, you
scream, you thunder and croon toward sky
and God, and long for the long
sleep of death, where nothing needs doing,
nothing will skip or leap or jump
or break into the cosmic joke's pieces.
I hang out with the less successful crowd,
Some on their way up, some on the way down,
A few have a piece or two in the Modern,
Are invited to Venice, or get themselves reviewed by Art in America
Once in a while. Most of the more successful
Spend more time at their networking than at their art.
Odd how the twentieth century started the changeover from art
To entrepreneurship, and the 21st has already all but eliminated art.
Now it is politics, or theater or kitsch or comment.
Art, as Michelangelo knew it, has all but disappeared.
Except a few of the less successful, do keep plugging away at
Beauty and truth -- old fashioned ideas.
I, myself, have been waiting for the world to switch
Back to the real world I knew -- 50 years ago,
But now I'm giving up hope that it ever will.
Art has ceased to exist. Art has been divided up
And distributed through all other disciplines:
Engineering, welding, architecture, medicine,
Comics, and socially, psychology, anything that a human can do
Is now called art. When you ask someone who is making an eight foot
Penis, gold plated, that is unlikely to ever be seen,
Exhibited, sold, unless the person's Network is solid gold,
They simply say, I want it to exist, and I'm willing to put
My money where my mouth is/was.
And I, too, with my humble poems just want to make.
Human beings define themselves by what they make.
No one should give up their dreams, because the critics
Don't come around to criticize, to trumpet the magic media
Notes. Art died quite sometime ago. What we have now is
Salesmanship and who can tweak and goad,
And BE the most outrageous. There's no reason to call it anything
Anymore. People want to make what they want to make.
Let them do it. Fall back into solitude.
Avoid the crowd.
Is it a mark of civilization, eating meals --
instead of grazing wherever, whenever we please?
Do we risk return to the caveman's mentality
if we eat constantly, ubiquitously, hunting, gathering?
Is that bad? -- the caveman, our first environmentalist.
The caveman, did he eat at eight, at
noon and at seven? Or did he
eat when the kill was fresh, the tubers
newly unearthed, the berries sweet, dew plentiful?
How committed was he to killing his fellow
man? There is evidence, rationale, for supposing he
wasted not and wanted only upon occasion.
Marrow-sucked bones, cleaned bones for carving, building indicate
thoroughness, mindfulness of the useful in everything.
Live in the now. Delayed gratification. Is that
our reward for settling down, settling in? Nomadism
haunts the soul of almost everyone: mobile
homes, walking bright green Right-of-Man paths in England,
sailing anchorless into sunsets across the sea.
Wander. Know. Make one's bed beneath the stars.
Sleep in the streets, curl up in crackly
autumn leaves in the dark, wait for
traffic to decide on fight or flight. But
no one comes. All are sunk in
deep lethargy mesmerized by shadows on the wall.
Are wastefulness, restrictions, anger, marks of civilization?
Today some question wealth, beauty, some question
war, question greed, act "like savages" hidden in
the moon's dark, they slurp unshelled oysters.
Others eat timely meals, missile their fellow man.
Can you imagine other people's lives?
Can you, for instance, imagine a repugnance for wealth?
The Chinese eat a lot of pork, the Jews
eat none. My aunt was born
on 10-11-12. Caught in the rain
yesterday, and the infinite, always, on-going drama of The
No Necklaces Lady, I was re-energized, by the time
I got home in my long,
soaked-through, utterly irritating, trod-upon, fake suede,
Anne Klein, thrift-store coat. I never have to wear
that again! was my premier thought, as I shed
it to hike two-steps-at-a-time up my
five frigid flights. My second thought,
expressed earlier: "Is drama nearer life's essence than food?
Perhaps it is. Does boredom run earth's circulatory systems?
The lion lives alone. The lioness..."
My kitten is behaving badly. One
can't behave any worse than a kitten -- tearing up
the t p, lapping up both my toilet water
and my pitcher of water, wastefully
flushing the toilet again and again
jumping, claws extended, on my thigh, my back, drawing
blood drops. I knock off my glasses, tossing my
pillows onto the closet's highest shelf.
Fortunately the often misty glasses don't
break; they're plastic -- like every other god-damned thing in
this life! And irritating. Like even this ancient computer
capitalizing my "i" if it stands
alone for even a moment, even
by accident. When the No Necklace Lady apologetically left
me off from her new-bought car, in the dark
and the downpour yesterday, to bus
my way home, yard by yard,
through hours of Husky football traffic, we chatted to
the very last minute, until we saw the bus
coming up the hill. I was
telling her about the mind-stopping stroke
I may or may not have had, grabbed her
umbrella (on loan) and splashed across the street -- turned.
The visible bus was still visible
It exploded into a huge, billowing,
white cloud. The rain came down veiling the bus
where it remained on the hill's brow -- (maybe is
still there slithering) unable to gain
traction. Thus began a series of
jumpings on and off the busses, toward town, away
from town, trying to outwit the traffic. But I
never did. Two hours later, I
was home! Life, in the urban
jungle! It is hard to imagine other people's lives:
bomb's dropping, no house to go home to, no
life to be resurrected, no house
to be reconstructed, life a survival-achievement
only! The Lady and I had been listening to
Arhanduti Roy on Alternative Radio, the half-hour, only uncensored,
all but unique, tell-it-like-it-is, audio program
left on public media. Roy -- young,
female, Indian -- detailed America's shameful exploitation of the earth's
people. Our guilt greater, probably, than that attributeable to
of colonial times. Maybe I don't
want to imagine other people's lives. I exercised my
hands (the one with the tendinitis and the other)
and turned my neck round and
round in the cold damp on
the bus, lest the old body opt for rigor
mortis before I get home, glancing, from time to
time, at the very ancient, bus-riding
small woman sleeping through the darkness
and the ice-cold night, as I carefully calculated whether
they should banish football games to specially built, Roman-circus-type,
individual cities and/or insist people
arrive by foot or bus. But
crises are energizing. The question is: Do we need
such energy? art? -- feels-better, laughter, gaiety? Have you notice
how all the recent criminals -- Enron's
criminals, as well as the Sniper
boys, appear in the news smiling, gleeful -- happy-faced, attractive,
made for TV, made for the NET, video games --
training us to live like predators,
shoot straight, enjoy whatever comes down
the pike. Don't you just want to vomit when
being told over a million are out of work
in this country (many already living
in the streets), the same 'zine
enjoins you to enjoy bright, golden pictures of new,
trendy, sumptuous homes -- 35 million dollar houses owned by
comics -- with master bedrooms large enough
to house maybe a dozen Afghani
families, maybe two dozen Iraqi broods, certainly the four-
son family of the Necklaceless Lady. Her family-problems often
irritates me. I would desert them!
Reject, eject them! -- the jail-bird, drug-besotted,
ex-daughter-in law, the almost autistic, forty-something son, the not-quite-criminal peace
officer retired into the ecstasy of Peruvian roots. Maybe
I lack compassion, maybe she lacks
good sense. Once-in-awhile a computer displays
my old poems in Greek. Is that a comment? --
you 0-1-0-1-0-1 digital creation.
It can't happen, the angels say,
no more than that un-elected, war-monger
in the White House can start, has already jump-started,
The Third World War. Farewell earth, it's been fun.
Unable to imagine other people's lives,
I do my laundry, eat my
pork, wonder about the recently found ossuary of Jesus'
brother, study the developing fetus, an ugly, bug-like pupae.
My kitten, Shiva, stares at me
with baleful eyes. Always. Are his
huge, round, depthless, black pupils a reflection of my
soul? Of God? -- the angry God, the wild God,
the whirlwind, the hurricane, squatter God
on the charnel grounds, always stirring
up drama, energy, refreshing our flagging spirit with energizing
chaos? Can you believe that you are here and
gone for no purpose whatsoever? Watch
Attenborough's oceans film: billions, BILLIONS! of
fish, eating and being eaten. Which one is you?
I have written 3,000 poems and nothing
I've said makes any difference.
Partly because the poems are unseen,
Unremembered, even by me;
Partly because what is said is the past;
Partly because life is not art, nor words,
Nor capturable, nor anything but itself.
I walk, and the trees, the grass, the flowers
And the dew, disappear like my words.
They will not be here tomorrow.
Today, the wind whispers indistinguishably
In my ear. What did it say? But it,
Whistling, it is gone.
Poems are on paper, in cyberspace,
Read them if you dare, read them and weep
For I have written my life and said
Nothing. There is nothing to say.
The sun will rise or not rise.
The gibous moon will fall, I walk by the lake,
I will tell you about the
Autumn leaves, their colors, their hues.
Forgive my blank stare. There is nothing
To do or not do. Remember that when you
Sing, remember that when you cry.
"There is nothing
But what happens
At the center of things,"
Said the Poet.
When I was a child the leaves fell from the trees,
as they do now.
The rain pittered the windows, drops ran,
as they do now.
The wind's whine, billow and howl seemed to touch my spine,
as it does now.
The kitten was soft with warm fur,
as it is now.
Now, safe in my eyrie, the nuns' dark ghosts protect me
-- time has run out.
The heat struggles, my heart beats fast,
timorously in the night.
The dark shadow of war's wings hover like breast-beating helicopters.
It frightens the cat.
People will die next week for no
other reason than leaves
falling from trees -- fleeing before the whine and howl of cruising
missiles, overriding the flow
and ebb of human life. These words
are distilled from raindrops
running down the midnight-hued branches of my softly failing heart.
Saw this fellow, felt a lot of compassion
Too timid to stop
Too shy to see my rage against the world
The Daily doesn't mention that aside from scratching
his arms, he was
young, Asian, well-dressed, crying. His problem seemed to be people,
too many people.
Rage, rage! Kick those trees! Pull those fencing stakes!
The world drives you insane,
as it does every other crosser of Red Square. Only you
had courage to shout it out.
In a new research study (I expect to read) they have discovered that
rage is the major component of the soul.
I would have forgotten to write
this poem if I hadn't seen Page 7, November 8, 2002
The Daily of the University of Washington
It would be like inviting other
people to live with me again
-- bring them in at the door
and set them down, comfortably.
Ask them about their health and
their wealth, their stories and their
kin, like the Southern School, Capote,
Faulkner and whoever came in-between.
Even the "bee that stung poor
Chucky" might re-emerge, transmogrify the night,
set with me in the kitchen
by the dim refrigerator light
listening to the cicada's scrape, buzz
and novelize while waiting for misty
dawn to seep through grey moss
clumps. Reading Lescroart almost convinces
me I can write again, order
the world, tease meaning out of
chaos. His characters, so different from
me -- like Martians -- have actions,
have meetings, convictions, errands, live lives
of devastating importance. Crimes to be
solved, loves to be won or
lost. It matters to them
-- so deeply -- if one person murders
another. For me, for years, its
been like: one more or less
person doesn't make much difference.
How can it matter when "my
country 'tis of thee" goes off
bombing millions, yes MILLIONS of other
people -- Vietnam, Cambodia, Columbia, Serbia/Yugoslavia,
Afghanistan, lets millions die of starvation
with wheat rotting in our lockups.
So who can really care if
one human murders another for
a few thousand, million bucks, anger,
hatred, love. We murder every day.
It's just who does it and
who gets away with it
or who doesn't. O, I suppose
that would make a novel. It
makes hundreds of novels which people
read and disregard. Free speech
means you say what you please,
write what you want and everybody
reads, hears it like poetry -- irrelevant
to life! "Free speech" has
convinced Americans you can shout it
in the streets, write it in
the sky, march one-hundred-thousand strong -- what
you say will be ignored,
forgotten. Writing might have some therapeutic
effect on the writer, but no
effect whatsoever, on any democratic representatives,
the decision-makers who listen
only to God and the corporations.
But that isn't why I don't
write novels anymore. It's been a
lack of joie de vivre,
the lack of a reason for
being, lethargy, fatigue, the lostness of
living, a sense of dying, slowing,
aching, bewilderment at the non-effectiveness
of EVERYTHING. What makes a difference
(doesn't make a difference) today, no
matter what happens, it will be
remade, fancied-up, resold by tomorrow.
The relative madness of everything in
flux, Shiva dancing... But that's not
it either, it's blank mind. I
never did have anything to
say. I've written 3 or 4,000
poems, have said nothing, nothing that
will be heard. The trees stll
lose their leaves, the cat
boxes my hands, the wind blows
heat up the radiator. Some will
be counted and some will not.
It hurts, if one stops
to think, to be among the
un-counted caste, among the outcastes, where
most people dwell like churning fish,
orchids swallowed by the sea.
The city appears -- grey, ghostly
silhouettes in the white overcast
covering the world -- then disappears.
The rain tinntabulates against
the panes, sharp, sparkling, tinny,
almost a tattooing fingernail
sound. Is there a word?
is for the bells.
Tinntabulation -- shall I invent it?
The running, dashing, clicking,
sound of the rain
bullied about by the susurring wind.
The city is disappearing again.
Only the shape of my head in the window,
reflected from the mirror,
reflecting the windows
beyond the silver mesh of the raindrops.
Even as I watch, the city is gone.
Tin-edged mist, a few reflected lights,
my east windows with bare, black
trees, reflecting in the south windows
which reflect the grey nothingness
which was -- and will be again --
assures my surdity.
taste like one's eating the seashore,
rain swept, wind swept,
storm clouds and rattling shale,
the grand rumbling symphony of nature --
as fresh as watermelon.
my taste for them was misplaced.
A dozen years ago.
I don't know.
I am reading Mistry
First book first:
Such a Long Journey
Why does his slow
pace and description
of the commonplace
so lead me on?
I was going to say "fascinate,"
but it doesn't fascinate me
at all. It is more like
a comfortable, quiet
(inevitably leading to death)
like, I suddenly perceive,
life ought to be, meditative
slow, as if each gesture
had a meaning.
As if time could be taken
to perceive every moment,
know each character.
All his characters -- who would be
dismissable in my lived-life --
on my bed, between covers
supply me with sources
I would not bother with them,
if I met them in the street.
I know less about my father
and mother, then he tells me,
in fifty pages, about his most
Mistry's not yet as good as
R.K. Narayan. What I had
accidentally heard/read about Mistry,
reminded me of Narayan.
So I asked for his books at the library.
And I remember:
The long days and evenings I spent in the
ice cold room at Helene's on the black,
leather, horsehair mattress, the books at my nose-tip
beyond the brass bed-head in the bookcase
against which the hard mattress pushed me.
All of R.K.Narayan. I read through them all.
One by one,
The essence of India, amusing, tragic,
slow paced, trivial, the naked, volcanic red dust
accumulating into metaphysical insights,
the behavior and helplessness
of people in the midst of a creation
run by a god.
33 million of them.
Detailed, witty, unbelievable --
no more believable, then my
minute by minute life
ending in outrageous disaster,
horrific good luck --
the slow pace, the fallacious logic.
There are not enough characters in
American life to make an Indian novel.
We're cast into molds younger
and more rigid. We can't do without a plot.
We can't do IT, anything,
without a plot. There is no such thing
as just life being lived.
In Mistry, almost all the drama, the incidents
the plot, take place off stage, in the past,
in a by-the-way, a by-the-by. Life is what goes on,
pulsing on the surface, while all the murders,
accidents, disasters, wars, humiliations, even
celebrations, joys, attainment of nirvana
are introduced like flourishes
on the wedding cake.
The rains come and auspiciously
wash away the, rangoli, the chalked mandala
from the earth.
The river goes on, the rocks stick up. Mistry
pauses only long enough to remark the rock
as inexorable life flows on.
In western lit, the rocks are lovingly dwelt
upon, as if they had some meaning,
almost as if the writer never perceived
the river flowing on,
as if the writer didn't know one can't
step in the same river twice.
As if the event somehow was the flow,
the mystery of Mistry.
But the flow is the flow is the flow -- to paraphrase
a much quoted but not very widely read
Quiet meditation is life. It makes one slowly
drunk, it makes one heady, it makes one believe
that there still might be
life out the window that one could be
a part of -- instead of a series of encounters,
mostly with machines
reported in the media
happening after, often weeks, of
The event is the prediction,
the prediction is the event,
but not slow enough
or broad enough or juicy
enough to engage
I had just about reached perfection
and then I became angry.
Why all this endless effort to appear
Happy as a Clam.
Who thinks a clam is happy?
Vishniac filmed the clam's
beautiful blue eyes
and -- besides being a
brief and tasty meal --
that's about all a clam can offer.
But this is about perfection
and my newly acquired
avalanche of anger.
Let me elaborate:
In my later years I have found that --
if there is an opening no bigger than half a wormhole,
and I'm eager for it not to happen --
with unwavering instinct my effort,
unbeknownst to me,
will hone in on that wormhole
and, as impossible as it may seem,
the can't-possibly-happen will jump through:
The soap will stand on its razor edge;
the computer will read my poetry in Greek;
the door handle will catch even my narrow sleeve;
the fitter I become, the stiffer I wake;
if only one fruit is being served,
it will be mango --
a twenty-five-year allergy
which still eludes medical testing will,
none-the-less, if I eat, touch, or cook it, cause
my eyes, cheeks, flesh to itch
It can't happen.
Well it does.
I can't straight-forwardly sell
enough poetry to supply me with food even for a week,
but some egregious fool will plagiarize,
more than one-hundred-twenty of my poems
and post them on the NET as his own.
It can't happen,
but it can happen to me.
The last airline ticket I ever purchased
was due to be used on September 12, 2001.
I hide in my eyrie,
speak to few but the sun,
track the waxing moon,
report the boys playing on the roof --
steep pitched enough to scoot
them to their doom.
I had about reached perfection
when I became angry enough
to scream at Trimurti.
All cheeks had been turned enough.
I, too, will now ride the midnight wind,
slide like greased-lightening
on black ice
down from my steepled
Kill hope that anything will ever
Take a potion, withdraw.
Patience exhausted, I've snapped.
Go girl go.
Shiva-Purna sits at the computer's corner
trying to catch "idam ch'dam cha"
and "z arrow z to the second power plus c"
on my screen saver
-- when the machine is on.
When the machine is off, he
plays with the grey mouse,
nudging it over the side
to dangle in space. Then, he is torn
between chasing its pendulum-ing
from the table top or lying in wait on the cold,
desirable floor, where, fur-coated,
he can watch, purring.
There's a mirror on the floor as well
(waiting to be hung)
three feet long and eighteen inches wide
in which Shiva-Purna sometimes sees the other
cat that dwells here, a cat seen most often in the huge,
upright mirror that reflects the sky.
He also pursues, from time to time, the long
and elegant -- almost as long as a snow-leopard's
-- tail which follows him around, more surely than the shadows
he is obligated to annihilate --
but only on sunny days.
He also finds pleasure in the small,
wooden peacock finial (now headless) I brought home
from China twenty-two years ago.
Each thing grows more preciously individual
as he and I reach
for that just rug-kamandalu-and-computer state represented by
on the screen saver.
She's a peculiar figure in the daylight,
but in the dark, her silver hair...
Inspired by the day and the Cascades
silhouetting themselves against the dawn
now that the leaves are gone...
The moon rising, perhaps uncertainly.
but most certainly gone by dawn...
She stands teetering
as on a sawhorse too narrow
for her dainty feet,
on a moonbeam too slight
for the intellectual dynamism
that tells her:
Half those mountains are trees
in the foreground
-- lacy, black as the mountain --
but to be distinguished as
the pink and gold of the sun's
washes in the dawn that will be gone
before she walks abroad.
For she has been detained
-- writing poetry.
Two lines of fog between the dark trees along the lake
And cerise behind the mountain
Seagulls over the high roof
Haunting the kitten at the window
Sparrows manifesting from
The mattress-y pink
The morning star higher
The world is pink and blue
The tall buildings shine like police shields
Against the dawn
Pink clouds blue sky in the rain water along the roofgutter
Pink cloud not so bright in the mirror
Sun leaping up -- still invisible -- into the reality
Of blue sky pink clouds,
Turning them to gold then silver
The lake turning pink
I grow impatient in my high eyrie
Everything bleached to silver and grey-blue
Except one streak of pink
Getting out the bacon
The sky itself turning platinum
One mosquito at the double paned window
The mountain pink
Where on earth is the sun?
A single fog bank over Bellevue now
Between dawn and sunrise is the longest hour
The clouds over the mountains getting too bright to watch
Layer upon layer the clouds rising
Like a shiny shoreline
Ahh, there it comes: 7:28! --
A silver needle
A golden orb
Pop into the sky!,
Everything now blue and grey
As it slips through the stratus
Blindingly golden up up into the sky.
The mountains gone blue.
A brilliant haloed golden sun
Dominates the day
The world was not there when I got up this morning --
fog so thick not a tree or twig nor Lake Union
nor the skyscrapers of Seattle could be seen.
A dim light somewhere close by,
illuminating nothing --
the grey of nirvana,
all gone, quiet,
I could not wait to dress, dash down the steps
out into the nothingness. I walked in the middle
of the street all the way to Greenlake -- which, also,
was not there, only the misty emergence of trees
along its edge. But the lake itself, blank and gone.
I heard peeping, cheeping. It was the ducks, I discovered
sounding like sparrows hopping about
in shrouded joy. I could not see them
until I step onto the fishing wharf which
-- it too -- ended in nothingness.
And just now, the sun comes blazing in, trying
to dissipate the cloud that has sunk down to still, at 10:00 a.m.
keep the ground concealed. Trees emerge, houses, but the city
and the lake remain hidden.
Fog is not a frequent phenomenon in Seattle,
or maybe, I have not seen it in so many years
because I did not live high enough to be among
I get up too early.
The sky is filled with light
and color and promise. I walk,
but by the time I get back,
past the giant pine where
the crows come cawing,
the fog, the grey, the mist
turning to drizzle,
overcastting the day with
is here again,
turning my eyes
turning my energy
The cat has learned to
flush the toilet,
but that does not
on my hand,
Soft and silky
his white paws
In the grey morning,
his blue eyes
Shiva's blue eyes
lose their color,
is not to notice
to sleep late,
Well its morning and its warm and
the mist rolls in again.
I live in the clouds.
I sneeze, the cat wanders, I learn from Pinker
that there's a stretch of DNA that makes me
Well, a lot more than that, it seems to me,
makes me anxious. One of them being
floaters in the eye, which, while reading,
late at night, tends to distort the shadows
in my dim-lit eyrie. As if ghosts
had come to dwell with me, in the evenings
-- sharing or creating odd sounds
It's as if I,
who have almost never been afraid to be alone,
indeed thrive on it, might, at almost seventy,
become afraid to be alone
in my locked tower on the fifth floor where
no one but those who live here, those I know
can possibly get to
in the wind, in the night
-- now that the scaffolding is down
It's just me and Shiva the cat,
in this huge high-ceilinged s[ace.
and a very odd array of apparently airborne
bugs who flutter and creep across the floor
as I lay reading. Shiva follows them with his nose,
and pats them with his soft white paw.
I squash them into black specks --
unJain-like, but there it is.
How is evolution to happen
if we don't make room for the new?
I look out upon my view -- expecting to see snow
someday, possibly soon.
I have less and less eagerness to leave
my sanctuary, except for walks in the dark
in the dawn or in the twilight
peeping into other people's lighted,
I have discovered, late in life
(it has been a growing, evolving realization)
that there are three, already wonderful, kinds of perfection
in my life. I used to look upon them as wishes
now I realize they, of and in themselves, perfections:
1) Driving in the country I used to want to stop! live!
be! in one or another of those pastoral villages, farms, retreats
2) Walking in the evening, I use to want to be within
those warm yellow, inviting, homey walls,
3) Watching airplanes flying high, disappearing
into the blue, banking, curving and returning,
I longed to be that pilot.
What I have discovered indisputably, is that the longing itself,
the perfection I long for.
I want to be exactly where I am:
driving by, walking along, watching the plane in the sky
enjoying that sweet, poignant, longing,
that pleasurable heart ache,
fantasy to be
in or of
that landscape, homescape, skyscape.
But I am human and not landscape
homescape or skyscape.
I would die of claustrophobia
if I were trapped in a rural village, tidy evening home,
or instead of having that unobstructed immensity of sky
in my eye, panels of dials I must twiddle and control.
I may be the last person on earth who always sits in a
window seat and watches the sky when I fly
longing -- but I cannot really tell --
to be a cloud or a cruising high altitude bird.
It's the having to occupy a seat that rankles.
The longing essentially, I think, is to be a whizzing
molecule that occupies my mind.
Well its morning and its warm and
the mist rolls in again,
obscuring the city, civilization.
I live in the clouds.
I sneeze, the cat wanders
I stretch my DNA anxiety,
develop ever new strategies to cope,
to sculpt the natural and unnatural
world into something I can perceive, handle.
The grey mists, the crows caw,
the Shiva's white paw taps my thigh lightly,
before his claws sink in for blood.
What is the point of human experience?
I once stayed over night in the Gamble House,
ate from their Havelin,
drank from their crystal
slept in Aunt Julia's bed.
Years later on a misty morning I remember this,
when I am in the throes of
wondering what is the point
of human experience.
It's a thing one might chat about
at a social gathering, something
witty, and prestigious enough to
interest an academic crowd,
probably of architects,
But I almost never mention it -- so many years ago
so many experiences ago,
so very very gone,
especially in my moods
of wondering why one does anything at all
To be alive is to roam about, fill in time
with interesting experiences,
fill in more time, by writing them down.
But its an odd occupation,
one must admit: this memory, turning
al in the world to memory.
My cat remembers where the straws are.
He steals only the whole round ones.
Once chewed, he loses interest.
But there's no doubt he remembers
where they are and which he prefers.
But mostly is life, like mine,
is eating and sleeping,
And more at ease with his body functions,
hunger and tiredness, than I am with mine
for he has no need to evaluate the nutrition
value of his food, or the ability/necessity
to choose among ten thousand things in
the grocery store, all of them made as
tempting as possible, and with or without
What is experience for?
To talk about?
What do you do with it once you have done it?
To have such questions, suggest too
much time on one's hands,
too little action to fill up one's life,
perhaps a low level of energy.
If one's life is nothing without doing things
if to be is to be nothing
until one acts.
Well, many people never encounter these questions.
But I do.
I have time on my hands and
a computer at my disposal
and sometimes the beauty of
or the remembrance of the beauty of the moment
overwhelms me so
that the question dissolves.
Most of the time, my mind is a grey mist
as is the weather for days and days past
in Seattle toward the end of November, 2002
a couple of weeks to 69
-- that mulitidirectional symbol --
are you getting some of it figured out?
-- as the cat sits on the heavy dictionary in the box
which straddles the paper-feeding-into-the-computer
box, in the sunshine,
then, deciding it's not worth it,
crosses over to bury
his nose in my
on the other side of the computer.
His great, blue eyes, wide open, beneath
huge dark ears and harlequin
mask, stare at me
if I'm worth another bite,
He goes after my made-in-Thailand
#2, straight-edged, white-bristle brush
that stands with my pencils and scissors
in my All-One
I switch it to the other side.
He noses away the pencils and bites for
the brush again.
He knows what he wants!
He chewed all the rubber bands
my envelop packets. Rubber bands are his
favorite toy. Why can't I understand?
He needs the brush.
He hops down, circles around, over the bedding,
and creeps into the tipped-over brown bag at my knee into which
I throw my used-up papers, first-draft speculations, notes,
the finished articles of others.
I can't see him, but patiently...
He will be there! --
He has slipped out as cleverly as he entered,
and now he is gone --
the tease around my working at the computer
over for the day.
However, I, curious as a cat...
Suddenly, coming from no where,
he strolls away with the long, lassitudinal stride
of a lion on the savanna,
past the plants, into the sunshine.
Where has he gone?
As with the passing years, I am so curious
I must get up to see where he has come
Near his scratching box; out of the sunshine;
not asleep. He likes the cool floor.
I return to the computer.
I go on snapping my synapses,
that I ,
bridge the gap
finishing the poem,
I find him on the rocking chair,
resting, in front of the pillow,
I scratch his chin,
soft as the silk of nirvana.
My most important relationship is with my cat.
He's here. He's always here.
Having parted, angry, violent, feisty or purring,
he comes to the door to welcome me home.
He tucks his toys under my book,
and lays his cheek on it's edge.
the straws from my coffee cup --
only if it is round and new.
He pats delicately, very gently
anything moveable from table, counter or chair
unto the floor
and ignores it.
He respects my papers and my books.
He chews on my hand and feet
learning to do it gently.
He simplifies my life:
breaking things, misplacing things...
What worlds I discover
I can do without!
He schmoozes my cheek at 2:30 a.m.,
bites my nose at 5:45,
eats when I eat,
and very little,
He dislikes a heaping plate.
Recently he has learned
to flush the toilet.
I now hang a towel across the handle.
No doubt he'll figure that one out, too.
drops his favorite toy near my hand
as if he didn't notice,
but follows the line of throw,
bats the toy about
and again accidentally drops it near my hand.
He always tires of this game before I do.
He tongues my hair as I lie in a hot tube,
making sure I am clean all over.
His paws are pristine white.
Maybe he thinks my hair will finish
coming white if he tries hard enough.
He watches the seagulls fly,
runs from the helicopters,
sniffs the cold fresh air,
knows the doorways out of here.
Chooses not to go.
I walked up Fremont this morning
and learned a couple of things:
One) my knees may hurt because
I always walk down hill and never up.
The scuttlebutt from running days
was that it is harder on your legs
to run down hill than to run up hill.
Now that I run no more the knees
may mind my uni-directionality.
Two) I also learned, upper Fremont
is old, scruffy, a weird combination
of unmatched buildings, empty lots,
fire hazards, like Seattle used to be
and ripe for re-development.
It's far older than I am, and I'm
ready for re-development
So I'm glad I saw it one last time --
before all is obliterated into early
21st Century Bauhaus.
Lower Fremont, block by block is being
absorbed into those block
buildings the high tech world
works in, lives in, dies in.
There'll soon be one row of false fronts,
in front of the fortress walls,
quaint and upscale,
ye olde arty neighborhood,
Of the bones lying about in
my life, in my studio,
along the curbs and gutters
of the dim, post-dawn light,
some become the kitten's toys,
some are dead animals,
one small vial is some bone-dust
left over from mother's cremation.
squirrel I keep from the cat --
a work of art incorporated into
my work of art. I have luck finding skulls
and bones. They leach from the cliffs I pass, the gardens
I stroll, they manifest for my discovery, delectation.
They ring my bells of inspiration.
Underneath my soft skin
my pliable muscles, I, too, have bones --
living bones, accreting, occasionally breaking.
A skeleton -- it's an odd kind of calcium-fed structure.
that each of us caries,
which caries us..
Sitting here, barely breathing, thinking about bones,
makes bones seem an impossibility, an unlikely, too intricate
concatenation of jointed events
to ever be workable,
ever be invented.
Some bones become body-parts
sought as treasures at enormous expense.
As if, having once been alloyed from dust,
they must ever-more, until eternity
be distinguished from dust.
Yet, dust is free, floating.
Up high, where I live now, the cosmic
dust increases appreciably --
along with cosmic bugs, the unscented
pure air and the suspicion
that one day soon my illuminated bones
will rise up, rattle off in a dance
and, like sunshine through glass,
penetrate the impenetrable
and be gone.
Yesterday, because I had time and nothing much else to do,
and perhaps because it was Thanksgiving Eve, I finally
looked at one and a half of John Pilger's Cambodian films.
Today, I am compelled to ask: Why?
life must go on -- Why? given it does and it will
do I feel compelled, being an isolate, mostly unable,
unwilling to engage my fellows -- even for dinner --
why do I need to look at some of the greatest
I use that word though I don't believe in it, indeed reject it
(because it is a Bushism) -- committed by human against
human, by The United States of America against a little
nation that never threatened or hurt us, nor did we
disliked in anyway. We went, dropped bombs
and helped the evil guys, and kept doing it
and doing it
and doing it
and doing it
and doing it
and doing it
and doing it
'til we were forced to drop "genocide" from our vocabulary,
lest the world, thinking we were the greatest evil on earth,
come after us on the basis of that forbidden truth: Genocide.
So that's what I did on Thanksgiving Eve. This morning
I walk with my sister and, even before that Charles
-- also not going to "family" -- asks Shiva Purna and me
to join him and Bill at 2:00 p.m. This I shall do
still wondering just why we need to go on in the face of
people -- not here, but elsewhere -- who kill their fellows
mercilessly while we, gentle artists, mouth "human rights,"
and inadvertently find our destinies evolving with butchery.
The rest of the world, so they tell me, goes shopping today.
I don't and never have.
I see the newly formed Seattle Alliance for Media Education
is encouraging UW students to participate in
Buy Nothing Day,
It's primary focus -- of the Alliance that is -- is to teach
media literacy: the lies and half truths, the evasions
and persuasions, the censorship
and dictatorship that rules our media. Best, I would say,
to sponsor an Avoid Media Day
which might be
prolonged into a Disregard Media Week, and then into
a Month of Abstinence, and years perhaps of
getting that nonsense
and prevarication erased from the daily brain. Put the genie
back in the bottle. Avoid the government
and the news.
Go out, look at the grass grow, actually watch your fellow
humans. See how many murders you see
See how many plane
crashes you witness, see how many drug addicts invade
your space. Depending on where you live, of course,
I would suggest: Very Few.
Of the 31.6 million teenagers alive and well in the U.S. today
I would bet, if they turned off the television,
avoided the movie house,
the radio, most wouldn't see a violent death in their lifetime.
Not withstanding our Unelected President's
concentration on war,
our media's obsession with the blood and guts of the rare
murders in this country.
Yes, I believe
in a Consumer Fast from all products and all news. Let reality
sink into your bones. Try it every day.
is more peaceful than you think it is. More peaceful
than the propaganda machines of the Unelected
would allow you to believe. Think for yourself.
Don't beg for the eager supply of tragedy,
look at the gentle
rhythm, the real sunshine of your own life.
Your happiness may make another happy.
You begin to notice what's there:
the bare branches, bending, rising, lace
in the fog. The sun high,
an incandescent white cloud, nimbus radiating.
Cool air comes through the window.
Nothing more. Crows cawing, a seagull
wings by. The cat moves, stretches
flat on the sill. Last night
in the high-ceilinged, white shadowed room,
the huge room full of soft,
cemetery light, an illusion of Cambodia...
The cat, barely discernible, sits on
the mirror: black ears and twilit,
black tail, playing with something or
something's reflection in grey-shimmering-gold light. In
the darkness I imagine the long
aisles, towers, faced-stones of Angkor Wat.
Pimai. I was there, not at
Angkor. Reality is real. It substitutes
itself for read-about things. I try
again to imagine myself Cambodian -- in
jungle darkness, in the oil-lamp luxury,
fine delicacy of Suryavarman's exuberant dynasty.
A young girl, lying in twilight,
watches the Siamese cat -- reflected, paw
moving at the shallow moat's edge.
I try to imagine myself Cambodian
with Nixon bombs dropping, "carpet-bombing" -- one
bomb for the rug's every stitch.
A million and more die by
bombs, land-mines, starvation, the American-encouraged, genocidal
Pol Pot. Bombs arrow down, tracing
designs in the sky. Great clouds
puff, fog-like, embroidered with the branches
of fragmented trees. Skulls lie everywhere.
piles of skulls, pits of bones.
I lie in my high-ceilinged white
room on soft sheets, in warmth
and comfort, watching the Siamese cat,
playing in the mirror. I have
nothing to do, nowhere to go,
in the night or by day,
except into my imagination seeking to
envision the Cambodian Holocaust -- ignored by
the world then, ignored now, horror
so beyond imagining, that even choosing
to think about it, cannot be
imagined. Yet, for them, for Cambodians,
the bombs, dying, deaths, skulls, hunger,
the torture, the disembowelments, the shrieks
as real for them as fog
in the branches of my winter
trees, vast and lacy in brightening
light. How odd that any part
of the human race has stomach
to go on, after what we
have done to each other, still
do, daily. So I live in
silence and alone, trying to shade
my eyes into seeing what is
there. Is a single human life
worth anything at all? Or is
it, like the cockroaches, the billion,
billion oleander blossoms? Who'd miss one
or one hundred? The mass will
go on reproducing, reproducing, reproducing, reproducing
even unto guaranteed destruction. No one
counts the branches of the trees
in the fog or in sunshine.
Or, if they could, which count?
Today's? Yesterday's? Tomorrow's? No imagination can
equal the dropping of even one
bomb. No imagination can resurrected even
one moment of life in Angkor,
Pimai, Ayutthaya. No one, not even
I, can imagine my life, alone
in the night, in the fog-dimmed
light, watching the cat play with
its reflection, like the dark-earred cats
of Angkor Thom must have played,
dipping their paws into their own
reflections in the great, artificial lakes
beneath the explosion-headed, smoked-shrouded palms.
Aldona brings me narcissus, Paper Whites,
sharp-smelling, upright and angular -- as she
is -- sweet, witty, with her white-teeth
flashing. Too early for spring, even
before winter, the hubristic narcissus thrust
high in their white-papered pot. Later,
we walk the fog, in four
p.m. darkness drifting among trees,
across Red Square's luminosity speaking of
Russia, under the cherry trees' black
umbrellas and into the night. Pensive
Aldona brightens my life like haloed
light in the mist. The 21st
Century is a dark affair. If
I had Bertolucci's options, I'd put
Aldona -- intriguing, chiaruscuro, intense, shy -- in
a Bertolucci movie. Distinctive, complex, at
cross-purposes in the day by day
world where quotidian concerns dominate, intrude
against her goddess-evoking presence. Mysteriously controlled,
graced and nuanced, in the hands
of the master puppeteer. Hesitant, dainty,
sparkling with laughter's filigreed pleasure -- smell
the narcotic pungency of the Paper-White's
scent as they accelerate into bloom
in the fog-shrouded, high, white room.
Tall, feathering, they whisper Aldona's paleness,
vulnerability, sorrow. The leaves, like green
sentinels, guard her, stay her from
returning to Poland -- or Lithuanian, where,
she assures me, her animal-like ancestors,
unsophisticated, dwelt wild in the woods
howling. She says with sly, smiling
insinuation, she traces "Aldona" to them.
She submits to the necessity for doing
things slowly, in gradual steps,
not at all -- doing
less and less until there is nothing left to do.*
What was I born to do?
Write four thousand poems -- easily, rapidly
in twenty-six years? They pour through
like prune juice, assuming the world's
burden. They keep my digestion in
order, provide enough paper to replace
the biffy's catalog. One lover confided
to me "You're built like a
brick shit-house." I have never unmixed
the metaphor. He is dead. I
still don't know exactly what he
meant. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc:
I adopted Poppy-petal as my name,
hoping to shed a few pounds --
I've hoped to most of my
life. But eructations of poetry are
lighter than nanotech bits, valued most
when discovered on mummy wrappings -- ancient
and modern. Shed all you want,
you weigh-in the same. Let them
number the poems when you're dead,
tabulate the commas, verbs, nouns, variations,
while convincing themselves no poem could
be different -- unaware of shifting stones.
Contemplate the gad-zillion capturable molecules and
write. Nudge the words into an
order -- unreadable to the next evolution --
hanging like drizzle-drops on the bare
branches of winter, iridescent, illegible, evanescent.
I've lived a life not unlike
Emily's, both more restricted and wild.
The poet's doom or poet's grace?
I've published even less than Emily,
but share her enamorment of death.
What was I born to do?
I have written four thousand poems.
O who will study them when
I'm dead? Who'll read my notes
to the world? By studious neglect,
scholars force ill-affordable donations to knowledge.
Who could charge? Who would charge?
How confident the world that poets,
a natural phenomena, come free. Cerise
and gold, they fall, leaves from
a tree, exploding colors, leaving rain-soaked,
fragile skeletons, torn, lacy, fading, beautifully
futile. Annually, like leaves, they will
come again for the indifferent world,
negligent forest walkers. They grow gnarled,
ancient, fluid as the elephant's maw.
I paste my poems into cyberspace
hoping surfers will hear my ticking ciphers,
rustling bits and bytes; that electrical
code will survive into evolution's next
choice. Why do I write poems?
Too much time, not enough love?
Too much love, but no return?
Something to do between the tick
and the tock, hieroglyphs to contemplate
when the new full set of
answers has flown. Something to chisel
away at between the moon's rock
and the sun's black pool? Something
to celebrate as the risen sun
and unset moon apportion the sky?
The great glaciers melt in Glacier
Park, Seattle winters turn foggy, sunny,
warm, atrocities populate Celine and Mistry.
Humans all, humans dead or alive,
maimed or whole are jerked through
their lives. Appreciate the dance if
you can. What was I born
to do? I've written four thousand
poems sounding away into silence, accumulating
to zero. Rocks tell their tales,
trees accrete their rings, whisper their
legacies, rivers write their courses, to
breathe is to write. What was
I born to do? I've written
four thousand poems. Nothing distracts me:
a cat -- fodder for poems -- a
few plants, the poplar's yearning twigs,
brittle branches, the droop of lychee's
leaves reflected, grey brown in my
screen, nodding acquaintances, a friend or
two living elsewhere, the crescent moon,
the motion of stars, the fog
and the blue sky. The elephant
hide reflected in the screen is
my neck, Ganesh-like, grown old, less
smooth, less bowed. We are made
of molecules. The molecules will claim
us, convert us, press us to
prune juice, intestinal flora set free
to whiz as the wind, encourage
us to gambol, trap us again
into flesh, and flesh into words.
Inadequate, uninformative as they are, I
have written four thousand poems. Emily,
died one hundred years ago on
the date of my own mother's
death, and is now canonized. Ah,
to be dead and duly discovered!
What was I born to do?
Write four thousands poems for wind,
rain and stars, for the flow
of the words and the rhythm
of my heart, for the sunshine.
I went to a reading of poets
last night. I came away thinking: I'll
give up poetry. Why do I want
to write poetry anyhow? I
went to that "entertainment" because
I'm applying to be one of their
poets -- still seeking, at my age, crumbs
of recognition. Why? Why do I
need that? Want that? When what I want is
what I do. I siphon from the source
within, pour out my "take" on the world.
It has been enough for a long time.
It is still enough. Especially
as I have no choice. Does it make me
happy? -- at least, less suicidal?
My soul has been irrevocably
branded by 20th-21st
There seems to be no way to cut, rinse
it out, re-brand to a different
master. What if I could? Possibly
one less disturbing-anxiety-
producing thought rattling in my head
-- almost empty now, having done no-
thing -- different then on the morning of
December 10, 1981.
Asleep under the long East window,
feet toward the South, longer window in
my City of the Angels eyrie,
I woke to a hynagogic state,
a vision of Muktananda's words:
"With great respect and love I welcome
you all with all my heart." Love, hate, joy
despair, revenge, generosity,
hurt, ecstasy, hope, misery, fear
failure, sadness, success, penury,
hypocrisy, bliss, emptiness, all
human feelings flew swift as winged darts
into the bright, haloed, segmented
circle of my heart, a receptive,
open mandala. With great respect
and love, I welcomed each with all my
heart. The day was grey, much like today.
Unremembered now, another, less
important part of the vision is
recorded elsewhere. But in the grey
light, I see those arrows piercing my
heart, feel again my clear welcoming
of each emotion the human heart
contains: negative, positive, each
joy, each sorrow. The vision has saved
my life from time to time. I lay there
in the grey morning calmly, letting
each emotion enter my heart. I
opened a place for each, welcomed it
in. Life has no opinions. Reject
nothing. Everything is. Everything
is welcome. Which blossomed into a
second vision meditating in
at a Korean temple asking:
"What exactly would Enlightenment
be -- in your case?" In the blank wall I
read: "Total Trust." I knew Total Trust
IS enlightenment. That, too, has helped
to save my life from time to time. What
is is. Destiny is what you do,
what you are doing. Trust that. Welcome
all and Trust. A great asparagus
fern undulated at my feet (or
my head) in 1981, by
the grey light of the long window, on
the gold table. Peace, serenity
quietly overlay the pain, fear,
and inability to decide.
Twenty-one years later, I think of
that vision on its anniversary,
and feel the need to celebrate once
more, thank it, go on from there. To where?
No longer devotee or seeker
I follow nothing other than my
own questions. I honor my gurus,
but lately I scan the many paths
I have wandered and turned from. Is it
Shiva? -- blue-eyed God, hypnotizing
me if I dare look deeply into
his eyes. Between he and I exists
a hypnagogic state -- from time to
time. How do I know this? In the year
I had my December 10th vision,
I learned you can KNOW many things if
you slow down, pay attention, and Do
Nothing. Shiva told me years ago --
when, jewel-bedecked, he appeared to
me within the roots and stalks of a
banyan tree in India. Standing
on one leg, the other foot crossed over.
In pain, I cried: "What should I do?" "Do
nothing." "How does one do nothing?" "Do
nothing." At another point in life,
I asked another of my gurus:
"Do the notes in the music have colors?"
"Yes." "What are the colors of the notes?"
"You will know." Especially in music,
it has taken me years to know what
I know. And poetry? More years, each
growing in intensity. Each poem
chiseling my soul, chip chip slowly,
almost imperceptibly. I now
know the colors of notes and from time
to time I know the sound of silence,
I know creation exists in my
fingertips gliding over the keys.
Shiva is the ubiquitous god,
untouchable, intolerant, full
of joy, unkind, the wild swirling of
hurricanes. The storm increases, rain
tattoos my window. Perhaps today
is the day I leap from my eyrie
into the wind. What is the shape of
a soul? The work you do, the steps you
take into being. "uuuuuuuuuuuuuuux" -- Shiva's comment.
He has become like reality
to me. Each time I touch him he bites,
frustrates, shows his anger. I am lost
on a wide tide of incompetence,
out of control, lack of harmony,
seething mouthfuls of bile, awkwardness.
I have lost my dexterity, my
grace, most of my passion for any
thing but the light and the wind and the
poem. Shiva sits in the window,
following the raindrop rivulets
down the windowpane. Head tilted down,
his paw lifts. He claws me. But he paws
everything else with delicacy.
Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuux -- Does he mean it is time for the
drop to dissolve into the ocean?
The reflection of my light in the
poplar opens the tree trunk to me.
If it is Shiva he has shrunk to
the size of my computer. Last night
I dreamed of Shiva in the park, wild,
carefree, reluctant to come home, yet
still willing to guard me. I feel I
am wandering off to realms I don't
understand -- nor will you. The storm lulls
and accelerates, accelerates
and lulls, the rain runs down the windows,
the tears fall through my heart. But there is
no sadness. Perhaps my Polish friend
will renovate my being. Perhaps not.
I live in Repunzel's tower with
no hair -- a nun, shaven headed in
her nunnery. But hair grows, even
after death, relentlessly. How to
stop it? Who's to stop it? I'll go to
no more meetings of poets. I'll sit
out the wild storm naked in the rain.
Images flick by like seagulls, spread
wings, unseen. Shiva, chin chattering,
watches. The heater fan hums, I wait.
Is Shiva's gaze so malevolent
because I keep him in a prison?
Locked in form, locked in shape, the storm now
passes, all is unendurable.
Day's end lights the horizon. I have
bad habits. I will never reform.
The end will be as the beginning
in chrysanthemum-time. Do nothing.
Here comes the wind again, defying
the light. What if you died today? What
would it all mean? Grey visions on a
grey day, cool drafts on my thighs. Then came
the wind again, away blew the grey,
and the clouds exposed the sun. the blue
sky. Bright sunspots speckled the landscape.
Early lights. Welcome the early lights.
Peanut butter ice-cream from the Penn
Campus dairy. Random memories.
Unable to sift them out, planted,
enlarged, engrossed, like blood pulsing through
Zebra-fish's translucent body.
3:33, waiting for the four
o'clock sun to slip below the clouds,
gild the Eastern leaves, welcome the night,
the hypnagogic image, the red
mandala, arrows, the light. Shiva,
lonely, winsome ascetic, appears.
Parvati seeks his advice. Paper-
whites betray the spring. Winter and spring,
each is acceptable. Lying prone,
doing nothing Shiva-purna is
adorable. Adore: "To worship
as divine. To love deeply."* "With great
respect and love, I welcome you all
with all my heart." The wind begins to
howl again. I am going for a
walk. May love follow in my footsteps,
may acceptance take my hand. I do
remember walking the Catskill road
knowing I must welcome the pain, the
pain, the life-giving pain of my love
being dismissed. The necessity to
agree to live. I got some green tea
ice-cream mochi and ate it all, all
the way home
Calm, at ease, silent, alone,
I have allowed everyone
and the world to desert me.
It's as if I belong here,
belong here alone, I have
never felt this before.
Calm, at ease, silent, alone,
as if now I'll find out.
Find out what, my love?
That damned longing to be more than I am,
smarter, prettier, younger, more competent,
more loved -- it interferes with my bliss at
being. It makes my heart heavy in the light.
Each day is a contradiction to death. Each
death, a path that begins after the shadows.
So what is this game we play
my mind and I
sitting astride the horses
of reason and despair?
So what is this game we play
his world and my destiny
sitting astride the missiles
of annihilation, vaporization, nothingness?
Hope gives way to astonishment,
the dubieties increase.
That's at least 90% of the "dubs"
according to my 1933 Century Dictionary and OED.
Ending, but one, with the cowboy
-- in the White House --
drawing the world,
as we know it,
to an explosive end,
a bang-up of an end,
not a whimper.
Goodness me, what do I do now?
I feel like the weather, after the sun
and the clouds, the rain and the wind
-- what do I do now?
Repetition, variation, dry, wet, done that;
Up, down, spirits in transition,
wandering around the globe, pulsing
on a level no one understands.
Dub it day or night,
fortuitous or favorable, there's probably
a necessity to the stomach's ache.
Enough chocolate to make the nerves tingle;
coffee, caffeine's vehicle,
peanuts, too -- whose to examine or
disagree? And the moon will be full tomorrow.
Yesterday, late afternoon,I saw the film about Kissinger,
the genocidal maniac, the urbane, smooth, smiling
killer of millions, which ends with the last puzzle
piece dropping into place: on the morning of September
11, 2001 the newspapers were headlining his being accused
as a war criminal, 'til, a few minutes later, the planes hit the
Twin Towers, the Pentagon, etc., and the Pres. fled
round the country from airport to airport, for the rest
of the day.
There was never any doubt in my mind that this "terrorism"
was orchestrated by Bush, to divert attention, to protect the oil,
but who was the dubash? the agent, the go-between?
Kissinger. Then to cap the brazen brouhaha of it all, a year
later, he's to head the investigation committee into the Twin
Tower Terrorism. But a few people have memories, such a hue
and a cry that he must resign, and the other fellow,
But have you looked around lately to see how many
Republican Party criminals our unelected Bush has pulled
from the mothballs and re-employed to help shape up America
and the world.
Looks like he is bucking to be in the line of descent:
Bush & Bush.
to say nothing of Gengkis Khan
the Christian Patriarchs
the Islamic Fundamentalists
Muslim and Hindu fanatics set at each others' throats by the British
the extermination of the early Americans by the "Americans"
the savagery of Europeans
the hordes, the hordes, the hordes.
Do you think this doesn't haunt the 21st Century mind
of the most powerful people ever to inhabit the earth --
able at will to dominate or declare a moratorium.
It was ever such, since the beginning of the world:
the mad, the greedy and the power hungry.
What are the lives of a few million people
compared to one's thumb on the button?
She staggers around slowly,
full of dubieties, trying to
pull her life back together,
seeking it among the rubble
of her dreams, her fears, her
recent, all too recent, nightmares,
full of oil and water, not mixing
well with her past, nor her
present of vague shapes, fuzzy
hopes that something will
turn up to clarify the way,
the whereabouts, the whereto,
He staggers around slowly,
full of dubieties, trying to
pull his life back together,
seeking it among the rubble
of his dreams, his hopes, his
recent, all too recent, nightmares,
full of oil and water, not mixing
well with his past, nor his
present of vague shapes, fuzzy
fears that something will
turn up to render transparent the way,
the whereabouts, the whereto,
Leathern bottles for ghee
smelling of smoke and open fires,
men wearing long gowns and big
turbans, bearded, thick-lipped,
self-indulgent, having arranged
the world according to their liking:
classes and cohorts of servants
to whom to be charitable, their
image, their lawlessness infecting
the world, returning to might-is-
right, dressed in smooth-fronted
trousers, where the war room is
more exciting than the bedroom,
where the whole world, balanced
on the tip of a penis is grabbable.
Fifteen, twenty million, a billion
lives -- so what? That ejaculation
of power worth every bleeding,
screaming child, every old man,
old woman, wandering around in
cratered fields. You bring down
our buildings, we'll bring down
your world, build a new one, sans
"evil" for the 2% club, drink pure
ghee from the 80 pound
duppers and dubbers.
Knighted, dressed as a hook, cropped,
blunted, pointless; to dub, and by extension
a drummer. Dub-a-dub dub. Or pooled, a still, deep
pool in a river is a dub in the North of England,
and possibly elsewhere. A thrust, a poke, a beat,
a smoothing. A dub is: "A dull, stupid fellow;
one who is awkward or unskillful at anything."
Avoid being dubbed, styled, titled, name-called.
Avoid being a dubber, a dubba, a dubbil, or
a dubbin: "A preparation of grease for softening
leather and rendering it waterproof."
Do not let yourself in for a dubbing,
nor marry a dubbler, nor agree to
The dubbletie or dubbeltje is a Dutch coin worth
about ten cents. If you are duberous or
dubersome, speak up. The dubiety of dubya?
-- well get out and build your bomb shelters,
the concrete mixers need work/money,
the munitions manufactures need targets.
Cooperate in the duberous dubiousness of dubya.
Celebrate shopping and the Third World War.
Something between boredom and terminal ennui --
I've suffered for weeks now, week after week,
maybe for months. The only thing I do is
write poems, one after the other, rapid-fire.
This protest is not unlike another I registered
earlier in life: Wanting to be a novelist, I was afraid,
that I would never be "anything but an immortal
Well, here I am, a few years later: same fear, different
form, writing at top speed, unable, almost
totally incapable of doing anything else -- as if I were
possessed, as if I will one day beg the Gods to leave me
But not yet, so far, not yet! I don't want to get out of bed,
I can't make myself hem a pillow case, can't get to cutting
a piece of cardboard for a new work of art,
or put a stitch in my aging needlepoint.
I can't bother to eat properly, almost can't
bother to cook, grab and eat, grab and
I don't want to go anyplace, see anyone, nor even
hear lectures any more. I do want to walk. I try to every day,
but that long slow walk through the dawn into enchantment,
I only manage about twice a week. Ennui. I'm not keen enough
to get out of bed. I love walking when I'm doing it,
but it's too difficult to rise up from
warmth and ease and half
I play with the kitten because the kitten demands it.
He teases me. I try to pet him into tranquility.
Mostly my mind is blank,
I want to lie and stare and muse, nothing more.
I read mysteries, but can barely get myself to consider
a "good" book. It's amazing, this day-after-dayness,
this incapacity to do anything. Quotidian ennui.
Chocolate, I find, clears my mind
enough to enjoy writing poems. Other than that,
The dishes get done incidentally, the bed gets picked up occasionally,
the floors get swept because I dislike treading on grit.
I do the laundry mainly because the kitten likes to run
up and down the hall. I wear the same things day after
day after day. Only at the key board...
It's not that I feel alive only at the key board, it is more like I am
able, for a little while, to absent myself from the self of
There are at least a hundred projects I would like
-- not so much to do as -- to have done.
But they sit in their boxes or files. I have no energy
to lift the lids. It's too much effort to lift
my eye-lids, too much effort to open my eyes.
Ennui unto death?
Only time will tell.
This too shall pass?
Have I gone into decline?
Time will tell.
The hours were last seen skidding off towards dawn.
I would have liked to see their dubil in sleep,
but the kitten objected, not for lack of food
or affection -- from sheer loneliness, perhaps,
or ornriness or, at times, I think Shiva-purna,
like his name-sake, is mad, dubious, to say the least,
full of malice and probity, side by side,
a Siamese twinned with a Yeti,
a creature whose nature we know not
or we know too much of and should remain
shy of, skittish, careful, like the hours crawling,
low-bellied, off towards dawn.
One streak of light, one bird,
the sunrise going through its orchestrations
of crimson, cerise and gold.
The radiating disk rises into the howling wind
and the rain, into the cloud cover;
I descend into the day.
The wind, gale force, bending the poplar.
That hundred year old tree has stood;
it will probably stand through this.
My heart thumping, my toes tickling,
longing to be out in it. I'm promising
myself a booted walked through
the arboretum later today, down
Azalea Way and up along the upper path,
dodging the blowing branches.
Alone, for there will be no one there:
"You'd have to be crazy to take a walk
like that on a day like this!"
Right! We, the people with comfortable
homes, have a secret commitment
to not, even accidentally, let in the homeless.
Offer them charity, good will, good cheer,
but let them enjoy the ecstasy of the wind,
the wild pounding rain, the chill, the cold.
When you come home refreshed, you'll smile
at the man with the white beard, the knitted
wool cap, hunkered with wrapped arms
in the garden, compassion in your heart, envy
actually. Musing: if you didn't love the wind
so much, would you invite him in? He who
has reason not to love the wind, not to
love the weather and the freedom, of being
alone in the garden under the flouncing trees.
I sat with Hawley-Hughes, observing, last night
in a windowless computerized room, looking
at numbers and charts, graphics and graphs,
watching stars in the slit, being recorded
from New Mexico's sky, not a breath of outside air
in the humming room. We watched the dance
of what may be two stars, a pinhead of light
in a small black square, The question is:
how fast are they circling each other? Will they
join? merge? annihilate one another?
By choice? In ecstasy? Fear rises in my
heart as the wind increases. Will I trust my
heart, by booted feet or the numbers? Will
I dare walk in the wind? Just for the love
of what? Spraying raindrop-stars? Forever?
Within an infinite universe in infinite space
within a perimeter dotted by quasars, within
superclusters of galaxies, among billions
of billions of stars in one of those galaxies,
within the millions of miles within a solar
system, dwell a very few billion human
beings. Among those, I dwell, insignificant,
writing endlessly, without name or fame,
having lost interest in individual humans,
including myself, trying day after day, year
after year, to figure what it is all about,
wishing someone, lots of ones would tune
into my words, that one or more might
answer me. But why?
The only terms that make any sense
is watching the cat's play. Having interrupted
it's natural rhythm of hunting and eating
and sleeping, it cavorts all day long in
mock play, mock battle, roughly tearing at
my hands and my feet, lacking the guts
of gazelle or mouse or bird or rat.
It is adorable. I admire it. Does it have to
mean anything beyond its contentment,
my admiration? Life is life. It goes on.
It is pointless. At times beautiful, at times
ugly with the carnage of human willfulness.
The earth spins, the galaxy whirls, we study
the patterns. We are insignificant.
Our knowledge is curiosity outsourced.
Gathering in all that we know, can we affect
things? Yes we can. We can erase ourselves
or others, warm up the planet, decrease
the number of species, blow up a paltry part
of the world -- if we coordinate our efforts
with all the nuclear weapons of all the world.
Is this expected? Or, if a surprise, will it hurry
up evolution -- by what, the tick of a tock?
Is there any possibility that we will ever settle down,
enjoy our home? Unlikely. What keeps
us alive, keeps us conquering beasts? Curiosity, pride, greed.
What tells us about the limits of the world, tells us
about the limits of ourselves, our insignificance?
So we have this and one other try in 2002
(if we want) to explain everything -- what
I'm doing, why I'm doing it, where it will
lead, from where it will return, when I will
die. Sickness, depression -- always entertaining,
but is it enough for a poet who aspired in 2002
to chat with the stars, probe the isolation of
humanness, tickle the funny-bone of time?
Up at dawn eating Wild Turkeyed fruitcake,
outsmarting the kitten, hiding under my
feathered warmth, polishing residues of 2002,
sticking things in place, positioning thoughts
along the synapses, peering closely at opinions,
ideas, theories, wishes, patience, hope -- none
of which altered one second of the expanding world.
The kitten gambols. I write words. Rain falls in 2002
Well, you can practically see the new year
peaking out from under the cloud layer,
Snicker-snack goes the heat, in a moment --
too much. The sky goes from hopeful to dark
gray. A tall chimney next to Suzzallo gushes
billows of white smoke. I try to locate OUGL,
I've always found it before, but maybe the trees,
evergreens all, have grown. I've always been able
to see the Good Shepherd from OUGL. I'll have
to check if this, too, has changed. My heart lifts at
the thought of: Holiday Tomorrow! --
as if I were laying plans for another
walk through the deserted city.
One never knows what one will do, constrained,
as one is, by the laws of total freedom.
POETRY + MUSIC + ESSAYS + TRAVEL + FICTION + TEXTILE ART