A tenor pan repeating its high note,
flowers of brass cornets, maracas stars,
an alto sax's interrupting throat,
a burst of rain from drizzling guitars.
Each day fills full
heaves a word past blot
with much to tell
on each strange street
not without love
nothing will tell
on our groove
until we can be still.
Forget how to time
night's wee tomb
or what is home
must be warm.
We can't say one
but picture stone.
That talk about morn
each day's small pain
too late to return
to mistimed noon.
Strange how we burn
skin to rosy bloom
the holes in the sun
turn age to crime.
If only we'd seen
the leaf's green hem
without heat's harm
in a car's long dream.
No cloud obscures
the drape of flowers.
When Planets Softly Collide
This is not a poem about dust,
there have been too many of those,
but may be about wind, who knows,
the remaking of deserts, endlessly,
when sand becomes a definition
of scale or boundaries or change
like weather squeezing out lines of heat
that drives from solid midnight freeze
up into the sweat pressure of midday.
These conditions are inescapable, no relief —
still there are flowers, stubborn and pink.
Yesterday, strangely, began with showers,
laying the heat demons down and out
for a moment and the air, wet
with the ghost of something old.
Whispers like clouds of aimless particles
which one day could form something solid,
whispers and the slight reverberation
of planets softly colliding,
showering each other with dust,
which they have been trying to avoid,
hoping for a poem about something greener.
As if rock didn't survive,
and dust didn't dance on air.
'Clock time' is a neuropsychological construct, a measuring rod confined to homo sapiens. The old labrador owned by the geologist next door obviously has a different sense of time, likewise the cicadas beside the pool. Even the materials of my body and the lower levels of my brain have a very different sense of time from my cerebrum-- that uninvited guest within my skull.
Simultaneity? It's possible to imagine that everything is happening at once, all the events 'past' and 'future' which constitute the universe are taking place together. Perhaps our sense of time is a primitive mental structure that we inherited from our less intelligent forebears. For prehistoric man the invention of time (a brilliant conceptual leap) was a way of classifying and storing the huge flood of events which his dawning mind had opened for him. Like a dog burying a large bone, the invention of time allowed him to postpone the recognition of an event-system too large for him to grasp at one bite.
Notes on the Articulation of Time
It becomes a critical account
of all that’s spoken, done:
the drawing in of breaths, even,
these nights whose atmosphere
reminds us of mountains,
white volumes of air. We need
these narratives, we want them:
the city lies before us
and some one person in the sleeve
of a streetlamp awaits
our enraptured attention
as we await the concept of the city
which tells us how we move
in the particolored geographies
about us. We can’t be certain
we are moving toward this person
nor do we require certitude.
It is enough to acknowledge
the movement itself, shavings
of light inscribing a circle.
Our childlike sense of the other
bears these forces toward
completion and renewal,
a lexis of infatuated sounds.
The Sky Is Clear, But It's Raining
Under the trees, where everything
Is still possible in prescribed doses:
Hundreds of accordion-like units
Without edges. But there is no unwinding
Of minutes to stay the execution
Of a rain-shot weekend in early
Beach weather, no elixir
To revive the amputated flower
Still kicking on its ghost-stem
In a bowl of water, no direction
In which to steer
The hapless, puzzled out-of-towner
Other than straight ahead,
To the sheer drop-off
Where his guidebook gutters
Or deposits him, addressless,
In thin air.
from The Garden
Meanwhile the mind, from pleasure less,
Withdraws into its happiness;
The mind, that ocean where each kind
Does straight its own resemblance find,
Yet it creates, transcending these,
Far other worlds, and other seas;
Annihilating all that’s made
To a green thought in a green shade.
Here at the fountain’s sliding foot,
Or at some fruit tree’s mossy root,
Casting the body’s vest aside,
My soul into the boughs does glide;
There like a bird it sits and sings,
Then whets, and combs its silver wings;
And, till prepar’d for longer flight,
Waves in its plumes the various light.
In Perpetual Spring
Gardens are also good places
to sulk. You pass beds of
spiky voodoo lilies
and trip over the roots
of a sweet gum tree,
in search of medieval
plants whose leaves,
when they drop off
turn into birds
if they fall on land,
and colored carp if they
plop into water.
Suddenly the archetypal
human desire for peace
with every other species
wells up in you. The lion
and the lamb cuddling up.
The snake and the snail, kissing.
Even the prick of the thistle,
queen of the weeds, revives
your secret belief
in perpetual spring,
your faith that for every hurt
there is a leaf to cure it.
Talk to Strangers
--D. A. Powell
don’t talk to stranglers
when yr wasted do
talk to swingers don’t
talk to swindlers if
you can tell them apart
from the strangers who
are just strangers no
stranger than you alone
and afraid to be alone
cuz they might want
to touch your throat
Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark
--D. A. Powell
I play the egg
and I play the triangle
I play the reed
and I play each angle
I play the lyre
and I play the lute
I play the snare
and I play the flute
I play the licorice stick
and I play the juke
I play the kettle
and I play the uke
who ever thought of the triangle
who ever thought of the clarinet
the castanets the cornet the
discotheque the harmonium
the euphonium marimbas and
tom-toms and tatas
I play the fiddle
and I play the jug
I play the washboard
and the washtub
I play kalimba
and I play the koto
I play the organ
and I play the banjo
I play the fool I play it cool
I play hot and I play pranks
I played your mixtape
forgot to say thanks
Glitter in the trees
Glitter in the trees.
Glitter and shadow. Leaves
Massing like birds or
Faces, clusters of people passing
Through the narrow
Streets, full of litter
And heroes. A serenade
Of buses down the road
From the spaceship
Library! Our incense
Is the smell of raw chicken
And tilapia in summer,
Our rough cassavas
Precious gems -- no
Stopping between the hours of
Primark and Rizla, only dancing
On a reservoir on top of
The world: look what
The cat dragged in. Oh angels
Of Peckham, from the nail bars
To the Common, we sweep
Your fiery steps clean. The
Clink of glasses
Is found music, a belated
Poem: our temple to lager
And order, archive
Of dogs lost, old
House holding our stories between
Its boards (please
Respect the neighbours). In
This ragged and ordinary
Palace, our voices merge
Like rustling leaves. The way
A dozen tea lights make
A constellation: stars
In the dark, our collective dreams.
No matter where we go, it always looks like California.
Get in the car and drive. Our invisible friend
Comes with us everywhere, like a shadow.
He tells us how to keep moving on. We’re haunted
By news of the absurd, by doors without locks, by bottles
Rattling in six-packs like bones. The game of
What’s behind the dumpster. The game of Don’t be
Such a dick. Behind every door is another
Motel room: light as a feather, stiff as a board,
No place for the weary. By the time you read this
We’ll be gone. We can play air guitar for hours.
We can go anywhere, as long as it’s east.
The needle points a finger, the birds in the sky
Make a V, the road to hell is paved with fresh
Burritos. The case of The unwashed thermos. The case
Of Sit and spin. Behind every day is another
Freaking day: trail of breadcrumbs, devil dog, a long
Line of shrunken heads. We study the book
Where all the words are written down. We follow
The script. There are more endings than we remember.
For me, every poem is about consciousness. Primarily mine, but also consciousness as I understand it from what I’ve read and from what I’ve seen in a lifetime of observing others. What the reader is being offered when they read a poem written by me is the movie of my mind, but in flux. The film has to be in flux because the mind is not only multi-layered but also dynamic. If you limit yourself to language to represent a fluid mind—then, of course, the representation will be inexact, abbreviated, and it might sometimes seem chaotic, or at the very least acrobatic.
In order to better represent “what I mean,” in the poem, I try to exploit the sounds inherent in language, as well as the fused layers of meaning that accompany sound (sonically, for instance, tail evokes tale if you put it near the word “fairy”). But no matter what I do with language, I can’t open the cabinet door and allow the reader to see everything that is in that overstuffed Fibber McGee-ish closet that is my mind. That’s the problem, isn’t it? No one can completely know the mind of another.
--Mary Jo Bang
Darwin dreams of orchids while I dream of Darwin saying mutability isn’t always elegant, not like the cult objects we once loved. The now-past post-utopian scene is so frayed that the residual sounds like a disintegration tape. What is missing is what we were when we were the gorgeous beginning. Silence can be the gray painted edge of a ship where the water’s nothing takes the shape of the mind forestalling deciding what to do next. Going downstairs and out again onto the patio, the movie of your mind returns you to the dodo, a bird now only believed in. We believed and that brought us to the drowning of the ticking clock and to air filling a well-defined building and years.
In the Street
--Mary Jo Bang
Here we are, on top of the utopian arc. The water is shallow. An oil spill shimmers on the surface like a lens catches light and folds it in front of a mirror. If someone stands next to you, they are there, even when outside the picture. Which makes total obscurity relative to luck and such. Unlike the law, architecture lasts. A façade, like an ideal, can be oppressive unless balanced by a balcony on which you can stand and call down to those in the street, Come over here and look up at us. Aren’t we exactly what you wanted to believe in?
There is a proverb that says, "If you seek shelter, then rest your wings beneath the largest tree." And indeed there are always some who are willing to kneel down before the wealthy or to oil their tongues in the presence of the powerful.
Here in this village is a large chestnut tree that stands near Suwa Shrine. And although the tree does not seem particularly heavy-laden, not a person comes by who cannot pick up a chestnut or two every morning.
How Could I
--Ryszard Krynicki (trans. Clare Cavanagh)
What are you doing, little snail, on my balcony,
so many floors above the ground?
Are you coming back from Fuji?
Oh, how could I
not know you, Issa, at once?
Who Finds Comfort
--Ryszard Krynicki (trans. Clare Cavanagh)
......................................................to flee with your soul on a leaf...
Who finds comfort
in a sentence made of metal?
I'd rather read on a little leaf
a poem by the snail Issa,
who once before, after centuries,
brought me urgent news
from a free world.