Monday, January 30, 2006

I will try, in the lilting amble
of my little life,
to learn all the languages
in the world.

First: my mother tongue.
The one I wield now,
like a blunted gun
hacking through a dark wood.

Second: zee romance.
La langue belle, e la lingua
piu bella; an ordinary fellow
like me needs all the help
he can get.

Third: The Nobles:
et tu Brute? they will inquire
and I will reply, "No, no,
sum ego."

Fourth? One for the Africans?
Someone will have to love me
enough in this case, to move
my tongue to the right place
in my mouth. Not in the french sense,
mind you. This is Africa, where
we share bodies like we share the air.

This is how it will be.
I can see myself now,
easily conversing behind the pearly gates
with the Asian proselyte
whose banging language grates
like a dishwasher fulll of diamonds.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Robert Bridges Reprise

Once again, I must say that my respect and love of Testament Of Beauty grows with each reading. It is a beautiful work, and I wonder at the way that it has been ostensibly wiped from literary rememberance - I have no knowlege as to its real elimination, but from my vantage point - as a young suburban male in middle class Oregon who has never had any real literary training - it is effectively non-existent.
I love didactic poetry. From the soft romantic didacticism of Whitman and Berry to the pronounced and philosophical didacticism of Dante and Bridges -

Don't we see that art is not a game? a volley of sentiments? a feather to tickle the higher senses?
I say this partly with a play in mind that I recently saw; one which made a profound statement (Timberlake Wertenberger's "Love of a Nightingale"); one from which the audience was able to rise quickly, apparently, from their seats and begin again the discussions of preoccupied corporate americans.

I could not rise, and wipe the slate clean. This is called a play, but it is not ... play. It is not a game. It is real men and women phrasing the question in song, profoundly, stunningly. We can eat drink and be merry, yes, but we cannot turn away as if this were not saying something that is specifically applicable to us, now, at this moment, here in the theater.

It was the myth of Philomela, the girl whose tongue was cut out, the girl who was turned to a swallow. This incarnation of the myth turned her, in place of her sister, to a nightingale.

She sang to young Istis. He put questions to her, like pilate to Christ, and she, instead of answering, sang.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Ex Cathedra VI -not really.

Note: these poems are written without much premeditation. I have had these dark religious symbols of death and birth congregating solemnly withing my heart for years now. Obviously I am relying heavily on Dante's Divine Comedy imagery.

I am not attempting to write good poetry, but rather to write poetry on a regular basis, online, with that strangely warming and inspiring knowledge that there is the possibility that others are watching.

I am looking for life. I am looking, in my poetry, to find humility and repentance. Poetry is always in the pursuit of knowledge.

I will, of course, try to say this in a poem.
Right now. Here we go.


Bly, you are my brother.
And Stafford, we share blood.

And therefore I must straighten your collars
as I pat your backs. Because I see
that your poems are fields of velvet-furred
lemmings, marching, upward.
You care for each lemming
as I care for my birds - you carress
as you let go of each. Saying
"Go, and do the magic dance once more"

which they cheerfully do, shaking hind legs
in rhythm to their boisterous barking.
You see, they are always going somewhere.
You cannot release a creature of the wild
and think he will not go somewhere.
It is only the disease of man to sit.

Up the gleaming hillsides they stream
in rivers of bright eyes and oily almond hair -
almost romantically fair, except for the fact
that they are rodents - there is humor in that.

You wait, I wait, for that moment beyond the humor.
When they come to the hill-top, beneath the very sun itself,
and come to the end of themselves, the end of the thought,
where our genius careens downward suddenly.
But the words, our dear Lemmings, dont know any better.
They keep marching. We wait to see what will happen,
you and I, and I know, my brothers, this is the moment
that poetry is brightest - when they have suddenly pause in air
before the wide-eyed tumble down to the sea of our unknowing.

They are most beautiful in that moment.
I know. I have held them in my arms in that moment.

But, Bly, Stafford - they fall.
They do not redeem us at all.

I know you have considered this -
I know I'm not the first.

But it is my holy curse
to make a creature
who bends his little leg - who stops before reaching
the beauty of the death of a mind
trying to see the sun itself -
a field of awkward little rodents, shining,
kneeling. Waiting on the world's edge.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Ex Cathedra, V

Two Roads Diverged

Two roads diverged in a darkened wood
and sorry I could not travel both
with any certainty. Long I stood

and looked down one as far as I could
to where it stopped in the undergrowth
abruptly, violently, a wall of tangled roots. I licked my lips

and turned my dripping head-housed eyes
to the east, where a wan morning light
was glimmering under the steel lid of cloud.

Was this an option, a road, this sky
that drew my eye upward? Not now
but later - soon - so plunged into the dark

where no path went. So dug a hole downward
like a mole, a rodent, frantic for hibernation,
frantic to find the dead loved one, entombed,

so made a sign, writ with my own jittery hand
"Abandon all hope ye who would find
a hope. Forsake your life, ye who would find it"

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Ex Cathedra, IV


If only the Pope could have told me.
If the old powdered man
could have leaned his wobbling head down

and kissed me with the holy kiss of foresight.
I would have tumbled with less illumination.
I would have tiptoed down the mountain.

I would certainly not have come like Moses
throwing Gods words around.
"Righteousness" like a glass, shattering.

My mind turns inward upon itself
with the question, now, always with
the question. The dark wood spreads

before me, wet with the waters of the Lethe,
twisted branches lifting in one area, allowing me
entrance. But most importantly,

the Wood is downhill, gravity my ownly
power toward movement. Shall I accept
the extended cup? I wait, knowing the ship

of Death is a day away. Oh Beauty,
my light, Oh person of true being,
I cannot climb Jerusalem's steep walls.

For a friend in the new year

you will know who you are
by the end of this poem.

I refuse to give you dishonest words -
I refuse to mend the holes in our cloth
with nylon string, though it might be strong
though it might make things last long
drawn up into a stiff smile.

You know me - I am a silkworm
to the bitter last, and if I can't spin the
thread from a bright worm heart,
no matter how small, I wont
spin the thread at all.

You are not always concerned with me.
But you are the kind who keeps a hand
on the fabric of your life, feeling for worn parts,
always ready to re-sew, to make new,
and so you know of my silence.

What shall I do?
Shall I lie to you?
No, I will instead
keep my mouth closed
like a tomb.

Maybe the dead will rise,
but, God knows, they usually don't.

May the God of peace keep your heart
strong and warm and free from dark.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Ex Cathedra, III


Father forgive me, for I have
woken from the deep sleep of men.
My eyes have been opened

Just as the glittering snake foretold.
And what has been revealed to me?
Good & Evil? No, but the stunning beauty of the world.

The bright blood of the fruit
was still wet on my lower lip
even as words were materializing

like figures in a dark room
as the morning light slowly
appears, atom by atom - one here, one there.

Drought is coming. A dry wind blows.
The light has reversed its atomic process.
Father, forgive me - I chose to wake.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Ex Cathedra, II

Dark Wood

In the middle part of the year
I came upon a dark wood.

My mother had packed me a lunch.
She opened her mouth
And gave to me bread & meat.

I had stopped for the meal
And my bones had knit themselves
Fiercely together.

I existed with clarity.
And as a mountain stream descends
With jubilant purity

I tumbled downward willfully
Like a drop of water
Reflecting the whole world.

At the foot of the mountain
I came to a dark wood.

Ex Cathedra, I

Ex nihilo

A man will collapse upward
Gasping, from sleep,
In his early twenties.

The way God pulled Adam
From the mud, heaving
Like a hooked trout

Finger of spectral light
Burning the nerve-glutted
Underside of the blood-red gill.

A man will gasp up
In his bed from a pool
Of seminal slime

Into a silent world of light.
With wide cataracted eyes
Blinking like a newborn,

Full of the knowledge of his will:
To walk back down the stairs
Toward the light.

It was his choice to rise from the dead.
Darwin’s fish has not yet realized
What a fool he was to take that step.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Robert Bly

I have a new found love for Robert Bly's poetry. Here is the first one I could find on the internet, which, by the way, happens to mention this blog's namesake.


Some love to watch the sea bushes appearing at dawn,
To see night fall from the goose wings, and to hear
The conversations the night sea has with the dawn.

If we can't find Heaven, there are always bluejays.
Now you know why I spent my twenties crying.
Cries are required from those who wake disturbed at dawn.

Adam was called in to name the Red-Winged
Blackbirds, the Diamond Rattlers, and the Ring-Tailed
Raccoons washing God in the streams at dawn.

Centuries later, the Mesopotamian gods,
All curls and ears, showed up; behind them the
Generals With their blue-coated sons who will die at dawn.

Those grasshopper-eating hermits were so good
To stay all day in the cave; but it is also sweet
To see the fenceposts gradually appear at dawn.

People in love with the setting stars are right
To adore the baby who smells of the stable, but we know
That even the setting stars will disappear at dawn.