This Ecstasy
--Chard deNiord 
It’s not paradise I’m looking for
but the naming I hardly gave a thought to.
Call it the gift I carried in my loneliness
among the animals before I started
listening to the news. Call it the hint
I had about the knowledge that would explode.
In the meantime, which is real time
plus the past, you’re swishing your skirt
and speaking French, which is more
than I can take, which I marvel at
like a boy from the most distant seat
in the Kronos Dome, where I am one
of so many now I see the point
of falling off. There’s not enough seats
for us all to attend the eschaton.
This ecstasy that plants beauty
on my tongue, so that if it were
a wing, I’d be flying with the quickness
of a hummingbird and grace of a heron,
is so much mercy in light of the darkness
that comes. Who would say consolation?
Who would say dross? Not that anyone
would blame them. All night I hear
so many echoes in the forest I’m tempted
to look back, to save myself in hindsight,
where all I see is the absence of me.
Where all I hear is your voice,
which couldn’t be more strange.
How to go on walking hand in hand
without our bodies on the path
we made for our feet, talking, talking?


Dream of Heaven
--Chard deNiord 
I’d smoke cigars all day and into the night
while I wrote and wrote without
any hope or slightest assurance
that anything I’d written actually mattered
or rose to a standard of literary merit.
I’d languish in the smoke that did me in
and call it the cloud of my unknowing,
so sweet in its taste, such as it was,
of Cuban soil. That would be paradise
in heaven that’s so overrated as endless
bliss it kills to imagine as a place for living
forever, no less, with nothing to do
or lips to kiss. I’d curse, therefore,
with the best of them—the legion
of Saved—as I sharpened my pencils
and smoked my Punches in the simple room
that I’d be given with a desk for writing
and bed for remembering the things
I’d forgotten. And reading too, I almost
forgot. I’d read and read since I’d be done
with sleeping, but dreaming, no, still dreaming
a lot. I’d live to live again with moments
of dying to see how “lucky” I was. I’d use
my body as an eidolon with invisible wings
that fluttered in the void as if it were air
and hummed in the dark in which I could see.


[ Short Circuit ; Robert Rauschenberg (1955) ].......


Notes on the City of Sprinting Feet
--Sally Wen Mao
                                                —after Bei Dao


Find it in the fire escapes,

the gnawed knuckles, the rye bread.

Find it tiptoeing past the sleeping sunflowers.


The night is an orgy of cuts & splintered

toes. Paper planes whiz in every direction.


Inside the honey jar, the last living lightning bug

lariats the rim of the universe.


Crack open a fresh apple core,

& find in there a wriggling baby.

This baby will grow into a worm into a boy into a caterpillar.


How is it that winter turns something wild like water

into a limpid ornament that hangs from a rooftop?


Cosmological jazz!-the missing kites all clap inside the trees.


Look close enough; see how palpable each face really is.


The piñata tied to an oak

looks to the east, where the sun sets, subliming the sky.

The flutes that hide around it come out to play.


An ornamental ostrich egg has sat all its life

in a museum of porcelain.

Tonight's the night the screaming cat music

breaks the glass and sets it free.


A dozen children ride their bicycles over a poppy field.

The babysitter kisses the crowns of their heads.

A red ball never stops bouncing against the sky.


Strange how the motherland is motherless.

It cannot suckle its own earth.


Find it sifting through crocodile silt waters.

Find it tangled in the drowned lotus root.

Find it spoon-feeding its child death with milk.


Riding Alone
for Thousands of Miles
--Sally Wen Mao

In Lijiang, the sign outside your hostel
           glares: Ride alone, ride alone, ride
alone – it taunts you for the mileage
           of your solitude, must be past
thousands, for you rode this plane
           alone, this train alone, you’ll ride
this bus alone well into the summer night,
           well into the next hamlet, town,
city, the next century, as the trees twitch
           and the clouds wane and the tides
quiver and the galaxies tilt and the sun
           spins us another lonely cycle, you’ll
wonder if this compass will ever change.
           The sun doesn’t need more heat,
so why should you? The trees don’t need
            to be close, so why should you?


A New National Anthem
--Ada Limón 
The truth is, I’ve never cared for the National
Anthem. If you think about it, it’s not a good
song. Too high for most of us with “the rockets
red glare” and then there are the bombs.
(Always, always, there is war and bombs.)
Once, I sang it at homecoming and threw
even the tenacious high school band off key.
But the song didn’t mean anything, just a call
to the field, something to get through before
the pummeling of youth. And what of the stanzas
we never sing, the third that mentions “no refuge
could save the hireling and the slave”? Perhaps,
the truth is, every song of this country
has an unsung third stanza, something brutal
snaking underneath us as we blindly sing
the high notes with a beer sloshing in the stands
hoping our team wins. Don’t get me wrong, I do
like the flag, how it undulates in the wind
like water, elemental, and best when it’s humbled,
brought to its knees, clung to by someone who
has lost everything, when it’s not a weapon,
when it flickers, when it folds up so perfectly
you can keep it until it’s needed, until you can
love it again, until the song in your mouth feels
like sustenance, a song where the notes are sung
by even the ageless woods, the short-grass plains,
the Red River Gorge, the fistful of land left
unpoisoned, that song that’s our birthright,
that’s sung in silence when it’s too hard to go on,
that sounds like someone’s rough fingers weaving
into another’s, that sounds like a match being lit
in an endless cave, the song that says my bones
are your bones, and your bones are my bones,
and isn’t that enough?


Roadside Attractions with the Dogs of America
--Ada Limón 
It's a day when all the dogs of all
the borrowed houses are angel footing
down the hard hardwood of middle-America's
newly loaned-up renovated kitchen floors,
and the world's nicest pie I know
is somewhere waiting for the right
time to offer itself to the wayward
and the word-weary. How come the road
goes coast to coast and never just
dumps us in the water, clean and
come clean, like a fish slipped out
of the national net of "longing for joy."
How come it doesn't? Once, on a road trip
through the country, a waitress walked
in the train's diner car and swished
her non-aproned end and said,
"Hot stuff and food too." My family
still says it, when the food is hot,
and the mood is good inside the open windows.
I'd like to wear an apron for you
and come over with non-church sanctioned
knee-highs and the prettiest pie of birds
and ocean water and grief. I'd like
to be younger when I do this, like the country
before Mr. Meriwether rowed the river
and then let the country fill him up
till it killed him hard by his own hand.
I'd like to be that dog they took with them,
large and dark and silent and un-blamable.
Or I'd like to be Emily Dickinson's dog, Carlo,
and go on loving the rare un-loveable puzzle
of woman and human and mind. But, I bet I'm more
the house beagle and the howl and the obedient
eyes of everyone wanting to make their own kind
of America, but still be America, too. The road
is long and all the dogs don't care too much about
roadside concrete history and postcards of state
treasures, they just want their head out the window,
and the speeding air to make them feel faster
and younger, and newer than all the dogs
that went before them, they want to be your only dog,
your best-loved dog, for this good dog of today
to be the only beast that matters.



--Ron Padgett 
I’m going to look at my watch
though I don’t really care what time it is.
Just slightly curious.
It’s funny when you see
it’s much earlier or later
than you thought,
but even funnier when it’s exactly
the time you thought. 
But at my back etc.
Etc. being
“Desarts of vast Eternity.”

I give up.
It’s eleven eleven. 
What ever happens
at eleven eleven?
Vast eternity!


Ladies and Gentlemen in Outer Space
--Ron Padgett 
Here is my philosophy:
Everything changes (the word "everything"
has just changed as the
word "change" has: it now
means "no change") so
quickly that it literally surpasses my belief,
charges right past it
like some of the giant
ideas in this area.
I had no beginning and I shall have
no end: the beam of light
stretches out before and behind
and I cook the vegetables
for a few minutes only,
the fewer the better. Butter
and serve. Here is my
philosophy: butter and serve.


Ticking and Tocking
--Ron Padgett 
When people say
“Time is running out”
I see an alarm clock
with a bell on top
and with arms and legs
dashing out the door
of a room in which
time has stopped
reminding the human race
that we are running out. 
I carry this idea
to a corner of the room
and set it down
I don’t want
to wake it up.
Then I tiptoe away.


When about ten miles south of our exit into downtown Toronto, my wife and I turned on a local radio station and found out that  a celebratory parade was being held for the Raptors NBA championship crown-- approximately two million people being expected, all amassing in the bulls eye for where we were headed, pretty much bringing infrastructure to a standstill. Not being at all familiar with the city, options were limited and the best seemed to be to drive on into the heart of the tempest and then take it from there. And what followed was very quickly finding ourselves locked beneath skyscrapers in go-nowhere-traffic and throngs of revelers steadily swarming around the car. A situation where annoyance could easily creep in but since we were are on vacation, so be it. Safe, relaxing, quiet times are what home is for. When traveling its about the experience and to truly make an experience rise up from the bland and on into the memorable, a little peppering from the unexpected helps out. Although my patience was still with limitations and after about an hour, our Google directions got tossed out the window and it was time to instead rely upon back-channels of some slightly reckless improvisation. What my mom calls ‘creative driving‘. Eventually we made it to the hotel, with are wits more alive than ever.

Concerning the victory parade, not surprisingly it got a bit out of hand. When we were sitting there helpless in the bubble of our Prius, the riot potential was increasingly palpable. Fortunately things didn’t quite escalate to that level, however there was a shooter that caused some non life threatening injuries, an unrelated stabbing, some property destruction, and several people taken away on stretchers after losing consciousness from dehydration or what I presume were anxiety attacks. Interestingly, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was speaking at the event. Considering that there was little to no security to manage the open crowds, who were not just at ground level but also atop delivery trucks, sandwiched into the upper floors of parking garages, looming above rooftop ledges, I guess Canada doesn’t concern itself with hidden assassins the way we do in the United States.  The morning news largely echoed this optimism, declaring the parade nothing less than a roaring success. Though I might raise an ironic eyebrow, I would still heartily agree. Life has an inherent level of risk and while reasonably minimizing the potential for where things can take a turn for the worse makes good sense, doing so at the expense of trust and a willingness to allow the human spirit to freely flourish how it may only stifles the vibrancy needed to bring smiles to our faces (I write this as a siren twirling fire truck and ambulance fly through busy traffic from a street fair the next block over...).


[ Victor Earhart Finds a New Hill ]


--Devin Johnston 
A mockingbird
perched on the hood
of a pay phone
half-buried in a hedge
of wild rose
and heard it ring 
The clapper ball
trilled between
brass gongs
for two seconds
then wind
and then again 
With head cocked
the bird took note
absorbed the ringing
deep in its throat
and frothed
an ebullient song 
The leitmotif
of bright alarm
recurred in a run
from hawk
to meadowlark
from May to early June 
The ringing spread
from syrinx to syrinx
from Kiowa
to Comanche to Clark
till someone
finally picked up 
and heard a voice
on the other end
say Konza
or Consez or Kansa
which the French trappers
heard as Kaw 
which is only the sound
of a word for wind
then only the sound of wind


Parlor Music
--Devin Johnston 
Advertised in the laundry room,
a Wurlitzer spinet from ’46,
abandoned by a tenant
who couldn’t make the rent:
The manufacturer calls to mind
a jukebox with its neon arc,
carnivals and carousels,
entertainments cheap and public.
I’m doubtful they made good pianos.
Still, the landlady let it go
for three hundred dollars
and helped me wheel it
down to my unit
where it sits against the wall,
a wardrobe of mahogany wood,
sheet music stored inside the bench
purely aspirational. 
My aunt had such an instrument,
an upright polished yet unplayed
in a parlor that no children entered,
couch and armchair covered
with plastic slips, a faint whiff
of lemon Pledge and potpourri.
Through all those years, the lid held
a basket of wax fruit.
Strict and taciturn, my aunt
only sang in church
and kept her daughter away from us,
as we were wild, unsupervised,
and mixed with every sort.
Her shotgun duplex lay within
a ward of silent porches,
lawns overrun
with star-of-Bethlehem,
the local industry reduced
to ring binders and rubber stamps. 
After she died, and we all came back
for the funeral, a small affair,
I stripped off the plastic
and stretched out on the couch.
My cousin, then past fifty,
picked up a dusty wax peach
and with a confidential air
turned it over to show me
the imprint of a child’s teeth.

[via lithub]


--Devin Johnston 
From the foot of Cotopaxi
and across the Gulf 
a Blackburnian warbler
follows a pulse, 
follows Polaris
and the Pole’s magnetic field 
through travail
and travel’s long ordeal, 
until he drops
to a black walnut’s
pinnate leaves 
tossing like waves
in the North Sea 
and glances toward
my lamplit, stationary world
of smooth planes: 
against a cloud,
his throat’s flame.


Although at first glance there may appear to be a fairly thin line between them, there are significant differences between the attempt to somehow magically exert one's will on tangible reality for one's own benefit (manifestation), and the inspiration to imagine entirely new realities (sometimes to add color and bounce to the drab waltz of existence, sometimes to facilitate the recognition of wonder, sometimes just for the hell of it); between an attempt to mentally force fortune to alter its course for one's personal gain (to manifest, say, a winning lottery ticket), and possessing the lightness of spirit and the freedom of mind to live as if such developments would pale in comparison to those one regularly experiences at the piano, the easel, the writing pad, or upon viewing a pattern of fallen leaves in the gutter; to live - against all evidence - as if advances in fortune were already here. 
--from 'Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life'; Tom Robbins

[via whiskey river]


Haiku- Spring 2019

snow melt leaking
through a wall of cobble stone-
the muse finds a way

umbrellas tracing
the downsloped heads
of those in the rain

the dog learns it all,
those scents down in the mud
of the drainage ditch

notre dame burning,
a century's worth of stories
told in a few hours

before the blossoms
a woodpecker resounds

worn tired of culture-
tulip blossoms closed beneath
bright, bittering stars

pairing off-
tree pollen whirling
with the sawdust

spring air hung with sweetness,
the sound of my foot steps
sound much too loud

lithe cherry blossoms
beneath craggy old oaks-
between fly songbirds 


.....There are Relics We May 
...........Fly Above Them 
warble his native wood-notes wild
-John Milton
Transient flowers mimicked as I zephyr
this foreign language, bonker along 
the float of soda while these twistful rain
renditions slowly fed up by black sky 
belly born their wonder, in dapple gem
petals unfolding overlapped tangles 
loud with the volute tone of tertiary color,
wholly profound with untapped fragility. 
Pupil composites that spritz yet not
without the pull of collapsible ruckus 
as with that of a harlequin's nudging
muddle across hazel flounced ground, 
that bounded impartial towards nimble
folly in figurants of angled down mirth, 
the clay between every stone forever
set and lain beneath the surface of all 
which we are but are not-- temperate echos
flapping our inflections vivid to field 
where thought can dime-back corpus,
blithely traipse through dog eared  
morning this trip that button catapults
when zippered by the toe, come fantastic 
the world's citra appetence swizzled,
top-spunned, rallied onward to this, this 
enduring misprint of some thoroughfare
giclée residual to a never long lasting sun.


The River of Bees
--W. S. Merwin (1927 - 2019)
In a dream I returned to the river of bees
Five orange trees by the bridge and
Beside two mills my house
Into whose courtyard a blind man followed
The goats and stood singing
Of what was older 
Soon it will be fifteen years 
He was old he will have fallen into his eyes 
I took my eyes
A long way to the calendars 
Room after room asking how shall I live
One of the ends is made of streets
One man processions carry through it
Empty bottles their
Images of hope
It was offered to me by name 
Once once and once
In the same city I was born
Asking what shall I say 
He will have fallen into his mouth
Men think they are better than grass 
I return to his voice rising like a forkful of hay 
He was old he is not real nothing is real
Nor the noise of death drawing water 
We are the echo of the future 
On the door it says what to do to survive
But we were not born to survive
Only to live


The Singer
--W. S. Merwin 
The song dripping from the eaves,
I know that throat  
With no tongue,
Ignoring sun and moon,  
That glance, that creature
Returning to its heart  
By whose light the streams
Find each other.  
In its own country
It has a gate to guard.  
There arrived without choice
Take up water  
And lay it on your eyes saying
Hail clarity  
From now on nothing
Will appear the same  
And pass through
Leaving your salt behind. 


The Poem
--W. S. Merwin (1927 - 2019) 
Coming late, as always,
I try to remember what I almost heard,
The light avoids my eyes. 
How many times have I heard the locks close
And the lark take the keys
And hang them in heaven. 


[ Joy Spring ; Clifford Brown ]

b- George Morrow
d- Max Roach
p- Richie Powell
t- Clifford Brown
ts- Harold Land