NYC Miscellany

abandoned
the sky
the forest
the sweetness of fruit in our mouths
the metaphysical sweetness
of a kiss

we go
into the long
abandoned fields and dance
in the weeds and sterile grains
we cut the weeds
and trample our way
to the waiting line of cars on the highway
we wave to fields of cut barley we wave
to our neighbors
to lovers waiting naked in our homes
to one other standing
foolishly smiling

sugars losing sweetness to soil
leaves becoming mulch
gasping in summer sun

Coda for an Abandoned Poem
the man
in circles
runs away

the forest
is quiet

in the nests of certain birds
interesting things happen

the man goes far
i see him
before he was born
when he is walking
before his first love affair

he is wandering the woods
looking for something to happen

flies are everywhere
the marsh
what was is thick

i have seen him on his guitar
hitting random chords
singing some lines from baudelaire:
“From where do you come . . . this strange sadness
climbing like the sea on the black and naked rock?”

Coin of the Realm
In life
There are no lyrical moments
At least in this life
All the rosaries are taken
The lines into church
Are long beyond belief

Long ago
Before I came to know the size
Of my mind
Before dishes were unbreakable
There was a little man who had a son
And the son then had a little man
Of his own

In life
There are no lyrical moments

Crawford House
Wednesday we hustle at the hotel.
You sell oil lamps and snow scoops
And I paddled serpentine dressers
And racks of antlers.

Our performance lacks brevity:
Its main feature is memories
Of barber shops and skittles games O childhood
With your casual approach to life’s yet unreveled
Sense of pacing.

Now my crib drifts up
Over the exit sign and the Bingo game darts
By the bath mats nbeatly stacked by the Lenny Lind bed.
Without recorse to a backyard movement
In time, of course, all our yearings
Come to naught.

Long ago I lost my sense
Of music an a special sensitivity to brass butter knives.
But most of all it was the wish to grow up
That kept me from the picture of Lincoln in your Dad’s
Garage that hung for years by the drifgtwood collection.

Thus when you talk of selling
The Sellinger sketches for ready cash I cringe:
As if the years have not been quite as kind as I thought
To my memory of the pool table of the old Philco.

But it’s true isn’t it that you’re negotiating
For one last item?
Can’t you wait just a bit longer before selling
The sleigh the coke machine and the wagon?
Just another year or two and I’ll have hit that last
Beautiful, if somewhat dull, chord on the Chickering.

Gabrielle Dupont
“At night,
in an old coat and knitted woolen hat,
she would prowl along the edge of the pavement . . .
searching for cigarette ends.”

Debussy
never married her
nor did he marry Camille Claudel
the sculptor of Clothos
he married a pretty woman
who liked street music

Isadora Duncan
The ballet was old;
One could not fail to see
The clones of limbs
Transforming the hemisphere into an Age.
Isadora said ballet was the creamy white
Of an artificial egg;
“It is dangerous
To separate the toe from the point. . . .”

Embedding herself
In the intensity of delicacy
She emptied the bone of its rigor
And brought the Quattrocento alive.

The scandal was temporary

the mexican compression
the mexican connection
brings a mexican confection

the mexican confection
brings a mexican complexion

the mexican complexion
brings a mexican confession

the mexican confession
brings the mexican connection
august 29, 1974

1961
A woman tells her husband
They will have a child
And he smiles, sinking his toes
Deeper in his sandals. Arms,
Tired from months on tables,
Flex again, White cheeks darken.
After a long day he turns to her
Full of yearning, anticipation.
All evening his aching fingers
Tap the table. He checks the fences,
The dogs, he drags his bare feet
Through the ditches. The rains come
And sometimes . . . But this year
The grapes are almost too sweet.
He is in no hurry but cannot wit
Forever His soft eyes, lovely as a boy’s,
Caress his wife’s belly. Twelve houses a day
He works the vines, but he is grinning
All the time now. The barren fields
Attract crows. The other pickers
Imagine the thin, cool glasses of wine
Perched like storks on the checkered cloths.
The boy now is crying all the time now.
Soon the clouds
Will spend themselves.
The men will plant new cuttings, they will
Toast the moon and swallow.

a picture
he sits against a tree
playing his thin shaft of a flute

she is at his feet
curled around his legs
stroking a blue-black arm

a brown cow and a white cow nibble grass
by a nearby stream

their attendants–
two young girls–
have fallen asleep
on a mound of daisy chains

a breeze shakes a few pink blossoms
from the tree. . . .
she is scolding him with a smile

each time a flower floats onto her hair
the magnolia blossom in his left hand
flutters
december 25, 1975

proofreader’s fourth work poem
N. M. Émanuél’
you’re my hero
you present the papers
to the academy of science
in journal after journal your name appears:
“Presented by Academician N. M. Émanuél'”
or just “Academician N. M. Émanuél'”

how’d you do it
in such a country
and with a name like yours

if my boss only knew
how diligent i am with the two accents
and the aspiration mark in your last name
if he only knew
my favoritism and the way i lean back in the hard
metal chair whenever i see your name
in the russian chemistry journals
1975 nyc

raku
upstairs.
in in in a house she stands
stands he stands the walls
the the the walls are yellow.

next week i,
last week today i,
tomorrow i,
tomorrow it will rain.

winter.
in winter it rained last year
it it it rained today today in
a house she holds his shoulders i am wet.
she is yellow and comes from the future i dream.

today at seven a.m. the the dream the dream is
is yellow and cracked.

in in in he she yellow whenever.
it will it will it will it it it it.
october 15 1974 new york city

the room
it seems as if
as if nothing mattered
the rain
will i ever read proust or learn french

yes and my glasses are here
on the bed to the right
on the indian spread
maroon yellow and gold
black and blue-green designs
yet as if nothing had happened
when
and it seemed so long ago

lines
emerging from some long forgotten past
lines of other poems
while now
warm damp air chilling my cheeks and feet
you are not here
no one is here
but me and other poems

if i excavate
then you arrive
stomping around in your english manner
whispering loudly lingering wishfully
among the dispersed images
i would have had at my command

last night
my fever broke
i finished some lousy book and tried to think
a few poems
or rather
outlines of future ones
i read them to you
yet you are unlike her
the other you
in every way
around the room
in an aroma a few hairs and fingernails
you
and all the others
hot summers in small rooms
somewhere in california

eyes
and the others all the body parts
that seem far away
the glasses are still here
and the rain
and the other recurring objects in this particular pattern
threaded with the abstraction
of nostalgia

where did i go
can i write fast enough
to catch up
where am i going
i change positions
and wear the glasses
licking my lips
a bit nauseous

you never stop moving
or looking around
chasing young women in tight denims
or being gentle
no
rarely that way
more often confused and hard
uncertain of where to find the softness

now you are hard to see now
a cold-hot sweat on your forehead
fogs our glasses
your high shoulders—and your back
makes you one of those poor nervous wretched
you are always pointing out to me
i tell you something
and with your marvelous voice
shaky, dry, monotonous, gravelly, and totally incomprehensible
you tell me the most wondrous things
about arnold schoenberg
who you just studied for months for one article that will never be published
and of gurdjieff and the story of the sixth chinese patriarch
such wonderful facts
so wonderfully tied together in your mind
insatiably curious

i listen to you though at times
when you overload me and self-indulge
i can’t take anymore and ask
why you do it
and who you are anyway
though i also must ask who am i
the ancient question a cliché
yet . . . and yet we go on

i take off my glasses
and nod
my body casually arched on the bed
the other way now
thinking all the curves of memory
another line of a poem
softness like an old man’s
yet only twenty eight
where to go
when all has been
when all has been done
done and said

we sit on our porch
and experience the evolution of the race
or whatever we are
this is later
when the small details have been spliced into the plan
pen in right hand
blue and silver ballpoint
thumb, middle, and index fingers involved
left arm folded
head against left hand
fingers and thumb in hair
the rain i think it has stopped
summer 1975 new york city

sixlines
the prickly pear cactus
has red fruit
that tastes like watermelon
and doesn’t even
resemble pear
1974 new york city

The Sweetness of Chrysotile
When rocks and mushrooms come together
Anything can happen
A jet could fly in from Peru
Or the lady next door might smile
Instead of grimace when I say hello
With a handful of lava
Or my longing to perpetrate
Uneasiness in my friends by stirring
Up the vast steaming oceans
Inside them could subside and
Slide onto the shore
Like a plain but nicely worn pebble
For some little boy to pick up
And lose in his wet pocket

My apartment is full of surprises
Meadow mushrooms amid piles of jasper and cinnabar
Machinations between the opals and tourmaline
Soapstone carved into neatly shaped doubts and despairs
Hung in mobiles
Lapidary stones grinding away
On agates of desire and fine jade pleasures
Grinding and grinding in showers
Of rubies—my machine sends off no plain sparks
My pearls get buffed
With the soft buds of new mushrooms
Then fried in butter and set out
In imported crystal trays like mints

It’s true you are what you eat
This morning I noticed soft yellow curls
Sprouting from my scalp—
Too much witches’ butter I suppose—
And last night I noticed a faint green
Flow on my face—
A luminescent soufflé I presume
Then there was the time I turned red
As a Scarlet Waxy Cap and all my friends
Thought that was the end until I
Took a long hot bath in a tub full of mica
Which left me cool and mildly translucent

Anything can happen in a place like mine
For though it has four corners
And as many walls
In one corner a moonstone
Quietly perched under a toadstool
Is secretly winking at the smokey-gilled woodlover
Across the room
In another corner the fly amanita
Precious as magnesium in its own way
Helps me hop my magic titanium horn
And blow myself far far away
Into the compost heap of lime and slippery jacks
Where I bed me down for the night

I rarely sleep, however,
What with all the rose quartz
So fondly embracing the yellow Chanterelle
What with amethyst moons
And meadow-mushroom clouds brushing each other
In the unbelievably red skies
Instead I hunt among the worts and cicadas
For the lemon someone long ago promised me
To enliven my daily omelette
But you know what?
I don’t think I’ll ever find it
Anyway, I prefer the sharpness of boletus and uranium
Minced finer than the finest flour
Sprinkled like salt on my eggs
And the sweetness of chrysotile

things
they asked me would i
but i wasn’t and said no
do it yourselves
so they did

then they asked me what i was doing
i said what are you
they said “things”
figure it out for yourself
so i did

i was looking for my me
so they said to my me various “things”
same to your me’s i said
and so they did

one day they shook my hands
now you know
know what i said
you know those “things” they said
and so i did

yo he ho
yo he ho
i grunted
i know “things”

still i saw i wasn’t
when they asked me would i
i said no
do it yourselves
and so they did

the trumpet
a flower opens
a flower closes

a flower opens a flower closes
a flower closes a flower opens

day
night
night
day

yellow white white yellow
yellow white yellow
white yellow white

This Halcyon Age
This halcyon age of ours
Is a stuffer of an age.
Its best minds peddle chestnuts
On Seventh Avenue. Ballet
Is better than ever but
What about jazz. Who
Can name the greatest jammers
Who can raise high the roofbeams
With painless plans and acey riffs.
The questions of our most golden age
Require answers but we
Have lost our tongues
To the senile bickerings
Of the new politics. Sensuous
Sly
Slow its leaders
Cry real tears but unlike
Barbie dolls are not true to life
Where it counts: up front.
Truth is private property
Beware of dogs. Central Park
Is no longer the most expensive
Plot in the world. The whole
Scene is a plot. Paupers we are
All of us and before we leap
Into seventh heaven how about
A quickie dream to unbend
Our bows. It’s the only
Quickie we’ve got
A terrible thing
To waste.

uncertainty principle
this is my voice this
is my voice this
my voice this is my voice
is this my voice
is this my voice is this
this is my voice is this my voice
(either read as a regular poem or read and repeat each line as many times as you feel like)
august 29, 1974

whatever
yes he told me
then more
why i said
why all this telling
it’s for you you and your friends he said
but who told you
and he told me

still
whenever you did such and such
you made me do this and that
but how else
and you should
so when have i ever done this in true whatever
he assured me

then i fell asleep
puzzled by all the whys and wherefores too
june 1975

The Woman
the woman loves herself
her dress
and the color of her body

she loves her reticence
the way she eyes
the men she wants
and the way they notice

i touch her hair
thick
long
an inexact color
she smiles
a flawless smile
with imperfect teeth
fall 1975 nyc

The Wrong Age
In the country I live in
I am forced to whisper,
Lest I be understood too loudly;
We all have a good time playing second
Fiddle to each other, crossing nonexistent highways
Between towns and kissing
Lips just like our own.

Holidays are full of grace,
Wheeling and dealing–
A soft-hearted way of seeing
The things that glow
Before our very eyes the glow
Of honest success.

All the plates and glasses
Have rough edges and corners;
Expressions are most delicate of nature,
What with pens and pencils so cheap,
Postage easy
And first-class breathing
Almost free again.

Our affairs are run by the book,
Our simple, silly ways
Of cheating on each others,
The way we thread our hindsight
Through our foresight,
Our sense of shame
Through our lack of clarity;
Truly we lack sensitivity
To the shape and shapes
Of fame.

Nothing is lost on us.
We have our share of romance, lust,
Love notes passed over tables
In the hot Southern sun, day after day
After work on into the last moonless night
Of our prosperity before it changes
Into austerity.

In the country I live in
All corners have rough edges, clouds
Yellow, holidays full of grace.
Nothing is lost on the people:
We all have a good time.