"the root of what dazzles us is in our hearts" In the grey light before dawn the birch trees are slender and white I lie in the dark the bark of the birch trees printed with symbols of migration silver foil leaves folded out unlike the aspen so sudden & startling in the wind unexpected, the light on the lake, the loon, the solitary rowboat & sudden chill birch logs burn best their white curls like old secrets locked in the desk the silver light slicing the trees in half as if a sash from the window thrown open the language of birch trees is silence the trail leads into the woods the birches bend by the pond cluster near the open space there is no light in the center of the clearing yet the birches glisten white the radiance of snow held next to the wood the birch trees stand up wrists held to the light trees balanced in a dream, their green weight weightless against each other sticks used by children in their games in a forest of trees, birch bark glistens like the inner skin of an egg each birch tree a column of rain hit by the wind the birches are a sheet held over the horizon the air is cold you can almost hear it the silence glistens like an old shoe left out in the rain (when the evening light hits the buildings their gold tips against the city sky they might be birches they might be those white trees bark curling within my fingers fraying like old cloth) someone has forgotten their umbrella there is a coat left on the fence the stones are silent if there was any sound from the leaves, it would be white it would fall like snow and turn each branch into a birch tree
In the old times a Buddhist king left on a pilgrimage to visit the sacred places in the outside world. He gave command of his kingdom to his younger maternal brother. This man cut off his own penis to prevent evil passions from rising within him. He placed it in a golden casket and gave it to the king, saying, "When you return, open this." The king gave it to his bodyguards to keep and left. When he returned, certain members of the court said to him, "Your brother has been helping himself to the women in your palace." The king called out his brother and was about to have him punished severely when the brother said, "I won't run from your punishment, but first open the casket." It was opened and the king saw it contained a severed penis. "What is this and what does it mean?" he demanded. "When you said you were leaving and giving the kingdom to me I expected that people would slander me when you returned. So I cut off my penis. You see, I thought ahead. Have mercy on me." The king was deeply impressed and moved with a strange affection for his brother. He allowed him free passage anywhere in his inner palace from that day on. One day while wandering the countryside the young brother met a herdsman on his way to geld 500 oxen. He thought of the pain he'd felt in relation to the pain of 500 oxen and said, "Isn't it true that the pain I feel now is the result of what I did in some former life?" He offered this herdsman a great deal of money and jewels to spare the oxen from being castrated. Because of this act of love his mutilated penis slowly grew back, and he no longer went to visit the women in his brother's palace. The king was amazed by this when he heard about it. He asked his young brother what had happened and when he heard the story he declared his brother an extraordinary being. The king built this convent to honor his brother and carry on his name. [from the Si-Yu-Ki of Hsuan-tsang, trans. by Samuel Beal as Buddhist Records of the Western World]
"There is little use to talk about your child to anyone; other people either have one or haven't." -Don Herold "Feel the dignity of a child. Do not feel superior to him, for you are not." -Robert Henri "In sanity is hereditary. You can get it from your children." -Sam Levenson Dribble Diseases teething is certainly the pits sort of like having horny gums & a hole in the chin for saliva waterfalls pouring everywhere . . . Who Needs Exercise? ? ? Who needs exercise Have a baby instead Who needs jogging- when there's a "bouncing bundle of joy" present in your life It's all part of the new PRESIDENT'S PHYSICAL FITNESS PROGRAM Have a baby-exhaust yourself Keep that flabbiness down to a minimum & weariness up to the maximum Who needs yoga yogurt or speed? The training schedules of Diana Nyad, Billy Jean King and Nadia Komenici can't compare to the BABY ROUTINE You can see the moneys saved Who needs racquets, balls, or fifty dollar pro keds skis & roller skates are a rip-off Who needs Designer Uniforms or special areas in which to sport? Have a baby- The world is your very own playing court Who needs the Boston, New York or Oshkosh Marathon Who needs the Olympics (winter &/or summer) (any year) (being held anywhere) Who needs exercise? All I need is a helluva long vacation. .
Alan I said, later; I said we'd do it later; I said it'd keep till later, until you crashed into my room at 1 a.m. (you never did have any sense of time, making that godawful noise at 1 a.m.) you, scattered to the winds and plains of Nebraska. Nebraska? What in god's name were you doing in Nebraska? You never knew what time it was, or where you were, or who cared -- you and your sweet, tough wisecracks all blown away on the wind.... (if it had been a New York wind, but Nebraska?) Dropped right into that slit of Mother Earth. Even tho' it does, it doesn't matter; it all blows away on the wind anyhow, all away... Don I'm watching the sky thru the glass pane as it ends in gray turning deep and deeper rose over the river, and I think of you driving that car straight thru from Oklahoma to LA on the burning highway, straight thru the flames on an arrow road to nowhere. Baptism by fire; a ride beyond redemption, gray, and far away -- like last night, like your Oklahoma eyes, your cheap tricks, your charm ... Requiem "Mr. Natural, what does it all mean?" "Don't mean shit." 1. I'm upstairs, wandering around the apartment, trying to see what's to salvage in the wreckage on the living-room floor. The propeller tilts over the lampshade; pieces of wing are on the dresser; the TV's running, images, no sound ... In the mess, I pick up a half-used Scotch tape; pots, sheets, a bed-stained mirror; bent nails, a canceled stamp; Don, the bridge between the dead and living, both and neither, friend/betrayer, comforter and comfortless 2. grey Oklahoma eyes, focused on 10,000 miles of nothing, swallow the night where somewhere something lost is crying to be taken, warmed and comforted You/He/I A great desire to love and be loved. 3. There I go, proclaiming it to those winds again. my life is an open book, and the pages are blowing away in the wind that blew you to the corners of Nebraska, that fanned the flames burning that highway you saw without seeing Don, driving through death, and the front of the car melting, blowing away Can I hitch a ride with you over those plains of nowhere? Death rides at our shoulders; your pygmy charm has only a lifetime guarantee.
the hieroglyph for an alligator avalanche fused lightning above the atoms into soft globes glowing globes, whose simmering earlobes made a halo of bruised thorns about the body of a madhouse the wind snared its breezes from the most static emotion that was airborne along the twilight's frozen edges clara got airborne a trace of ash on her receding bits already the zeroes were collecting on her eyes passed on like the dharma with rabies fire held like a cobweb dark light from the half-sun until the air could weave the moon into a wolf s howl the moon met its mate when she saw it washed down the canyon like watercolors nightbird with paws on the bed paused my car's headlamp about to be spotted i was gone when i got there i'm gone now a protean nebula sleepwalker from the construction paper snow spilling like paste on the jungle big as a grape when all went out like a listless morning on the cat who dipped the city into a paint brush the nomad who motored the aimless homeland stretched a little more to where the ancient shape it was in let out sightings of a new land.
A Sampler From
from Lessons to a Fourth Grade Class
and other poems
Lesson II The sun spins the earth circles the sun turning on an axis with a moon revolving around it held in place by a force we cannot see unless we whirl a bucket full of water There it is! See it? Perhaps birds flock together directed by a force we cannot see except in the shreds of iron here before us. Rub the needle on a magnet. Watch it spin and point to where it always will. Go! Get your coats calmly. Do not shove your neighbor. Leave the guineapigs on the windowsill. Line up, single file, march out into the hall. Cover your heads, be quiet, and concentrate on the space between your knees. Those horrible things you see coming at you from the depths of the lining of your new ski jacket, they are only your imagination. Lesson III Vikings wearing heavy jewelry rowing dragon boats with striped sails picking at big hunks of meat stuck between their teeth worshipping strange gods and thinking about big-breasted bare-breasted blonde women may have been here first. They made nothing of it. They were just out for a ride with Leif. Columbus discovered America. He wore a puffy-shouldered velvet blazer with tights and slippers all the time. He wore a hat with a long feather in it. He had a compass dangling from a sash around his waist and he even slept with it on. The world was not flat after that. But the world is not exactly round. It is sort of pear-shaped, kind of bumpy, blemished by meteors and cracked by earthquakes. Only a fraction of the surface of the earth has been smoothed out, touched up, and filled in, by men and volcanoes. Poor Pompeii. Poor remains of the baker in his bakery. The bread is still there like it was only yesterday. Was he happy? Was he enjoying himself? Did he have time to act? Perhaps he felt the bread was more crucial. Was he baking for survivors? Or was he just baking and taken by surprise? Columbus knew where he was going. To India. Lesson VIII They rebuilt Hiroshima. (Lightning, if only out of pity, rarely strikes the same spot twice.) So, when they rebuilt Hiroshima they built it where it had been before. They rebuilt London. (The mosquito bites twice and again. It buzzes above us and ruins our sleep while filling its body to bursting with blood.) They rebuilt London after the swelling went down. The tissue of the scar grows thicker than the skin. The earth has learned to tolerate the sky. And man persists-- Adapting by not adapting, rejecting acceptance, testing all patience ... And sticks out his tongue in the face of oblivion and screams, Catch me you old gorilla fart-- C'mon! Lesson X why bother digging down to China? China is expected to fall in the rain that clings to particles of dust down upon your sweet head by mid-morning. Look up to China, sifting down slowly through the atmosphere, clinging to your nose-hairs, making boogers with fortunes inside. Dig if you want, but you will not find China there.
In Les Yeux Verts
of Marguerite Duras The wind plays Lightly Drowsing in a basket A tape of Bruce Odland at the piano Filters through A row of windows Performed with care And composed Of sounds like cubes Melting in a glass We see the fish Float by in the air And think of Chimes in a cave Living beneath our footsteps Shrinking as they swirl
Everything that takes great skill and feats of concentration is magic And the amazing thing is that the Media will Not be there when the Master Bard delivers the goods unveiling the new Lady Of The Lake . will take you home for a very brief stay, and everything will suddenly be dancingly clear The Night of the Great Century!
I am his Bride in the Bath: one among many. in the lead-lined tub of his unconscious trying to reduce me to my biological constituents, he fails. Pouring the corrosive of his prejudice, he gapes into the bottom, and recoils to find me there. I will hold fast, my grin suspended catlike: scorn's emulsion. he draws the curtains tight, there are some outside who would object to this procedure. nothing to be done. the fragrance of cognition, lingering like tuberose, will betray him. as they drag him off, he is still searching the perfect chemical.
the stillness of my white birch reflections holds her walking; poised now in the water of pond she was young she would never be imagined again without the brown pool of a pond impossible to gather her up in our arms she is dissolved into liquid wipe your eyes the grandfather smiles winds, day, night, light, suddenly dip of a baby swallow, hits her memory in a white gown into the gooseflesh waters she is gone silent as the indians; the blond child in the mirror, retained the sweet grandfather fishing, retained into the swallow of the lake with the moon, I could not keep awake to watch her cross the sky from my lakeside cabin so I created the swan-- she walks in her white gown around the lake mornings left here, visiting from the Land of the Dead her speech is the waters my longing for her in the waters dark nights she is not in the ponds, you're gone away, I'm here by the lake there is no motion she can make apart from the water
I Don't ask the dunes any questions. They keep sliding away. Shaped by the wind into queer peaks, by morning they won't recognize each other. They need their disguises, the sunset to change their colors. The beachgrass strains to hold the dunes. Needle-sharp, slender, sheathed, it does the best it can. II There are no messages in the sand. Full of holes at tideline, farther up the beach it forms long lazy ripples; a lake stirred by a breeze, brainwaves during sleep. And today might be your last warm day. You walk a line of foam between sand and surf, August and September. Embedded in each cell, your memory of cold. And if you could shape clouds with your breath, grab fistfuls of pastel air, if stars could spell out your name, you'd still need your disguises. III So stay just for now. Lie on your back. Let your fingers uncurl. Sleep here is like no other. An hour is a night. You sink into the sand. Your breath goes in, out with the surf, escapes as you try to hang on, give in finally at the point where your drunkenness and waves collide. Then stand naked in sea caves. Whisper in the reeds. Twice, the tide will splash your ankles. It says everything over and over again. It gives you what it can.
The Bullet Enters Lincoln's Skull
He dreamed and saw her under the tree in the pink dress her mother hated. He felt a small hand in his in the darkness and wanted to escort the boy. He saw the sun of that afternoon on the circuit when the horse was lame and he had a headache. He heard the voices of the hecklers for the first time clearly. He saw the burned city and the white city and the prairie town Capitol. He smelled the market stores along the river and the fish there for purchase. He saw his father by the woodblock with an axe in his hands and the body of an animal at his feet. He tasted blood.
George Segal at the Whitney
It's wrong to stand in this air-conditioned museum spying on lovers, listening to men talking over coffee Their essence is individual the silence of the soul and the cold cold touch of plaster static quality of motion immovable I'm not sure these people please me I can see them crossing the street into nowhere grouped separately, or the exhausted penis fucked out on the bed Do I need a taxi into this moon light, red and blue stars washing tired bodies, crusted minds with souls that have only the spirit of my spirit Nostalgic fascination of a time old movie marquees and rattan subway seats into which a people are caught into art by mistake: the art of God and Segal I can look into my street anytime at sophtic buttocks and smell armpits, touch frost on coke bottles and hear gibberish: "God! it's hot." "Take a walk, brother." The rarefied is sometimes banal, too
It's the unexpectedness of it. Like the circus. You can always look forward to the next corner, wherever you are. You turn it, and there's love, balloons, the river, a cloud turning a somersault, two scotties frantically chasing each other in circles, a forest fire, a volcano erupting, the wind blowing to hurricane velocity, the sea crashing in over the city, the street caving in under your feet, the gun, the knife, the car out of control, the body hurtling from the 20th floor landing on you ...
The New Book
You took your book and tore out the pages, you took the pages and tore out the words, you took the words and rearranged the letters upside down and backwards and every way as your fancy would have it. I said, Son, let me know if there's something I can do: I'll buy you a book and tear out the pages, I'll take the pages and tear out the words, I'll take the words and rearrange the letters upside down and backwards let me know how you want me to do it: I am your obedient father.
Copyright © 1980, 1981, and 1983 by Telephone Book for the Authors.
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