Category: POETRY

Again, look up “poem” in the dictionary if you don’t recognize the word. Or, better yet, just have a look at what’s here and form your own impressions.

 

something

if on the odd occasion something stoops
to sweep aside your granite benchmark
boil your sleeping shadow’s guts
and leave you with a burnt medallion

if this thing blinks
out of a shot-through animal eye

or if it wakes from tickled loins

or in the judgement of your ape

or in the nightmare of your child

whether it touch you like a tongue
or taste you like a knife

even if you understand

 

27 November 1976

Swallow Dog

I trip on the shadow of some black Other
fluttering
in the corner of my eye.
It is not unfriendly, it wished only to remind
to write what I have seen.
I saw in the same twilight
minutes ago, swallows
skimming the surface of a reedy pond.
They convinced me not to look directly
at reflections
of mountains and clouds, lest they appear apart.
I was a bit dazzled
with the full moon.
And a fat dog ran in the mud
panting and barking
chasing the swallows hopelessly
across the interface that belongs to them.
How like me, I thought,
and the swallow flew in the face of the moon
and in my face
at the same time
and the dog cheered.

 

Summer 1976

Coho

The call caught them
all across the Aleutians.

In the middle of scooping krill
they heard the sound of a wordless shiver
tickling skein and milt.

They eased to South.

They ate hard across the huge current
slashing herring ritualistically
in a dance of secret steps.

As each found far out
a tiny scent of home
the chemistry began in earnest
subtle at first
tasting of sweet death.

Then it was urgent, urgent
eating their flesh with the need to leap
to find the source, to change
utterly
into the mystery.

Spending what they had been
they came to the place
ready to slough their shredded husks
to feed the nursery.

Finally
shuddering off dying confinements
they came free together
thin smoke on the embers
round and newly sparked.

Huddled
in the spaces between the stones
they dream of the next return.

 

01 February 1976, revised 14 July 1976

Steelhead

Quicksilver flash,
in the reel’s screech
you rush from your green shadow
into this rare air —
splash me to shock.

You came here shrewd and wild
home to this river
not to eat hooks
yet now we meet.

Dance with the spirit of Poseidon
against the persuasion of split cane —
soon, lovely alien, you will visit
my world of rocks and dry oxygen.

Now the connection is complete.
Gather your courage to meet my touch
but I disappoint your death,
watch your brief disbelief,
then shout
as your bullet body darts to the depths,
loose.

 

5905 Yew Street, Vancouver, 1975

The Rise

Between the watercress and the dream,
Salmo trutta, you and I
leap for a moment from this stream,
cracking the factual shell of my eye.

Out of the blink-held glitter of your gills
you lift my vision to the deeper flow
of another, wilder spring that spills
echoing through the cosmos from the rock below.

There in the currents of your art,
rinse the insensitive skin from me,
wash the worms from beneath my bark
and lead me to your liberty.

 

22 September 1975

Japanese Toilets

One, two, piss on your shoe.
Three, four, shit on the floor.
Breaks your knees, makes you sneeze,
but you don’t touch nothin’
so you won’t get disease.

Anticommuting Operator

It’s nice to be an anticommuting operator,
driving along the thoroughfares of life.
I’m happy to be on mass shell as a propagator,
planning a long-term future with my wife.

I come when everyone would go,
and go when they all come.
I doubt what others claim to know,
act smart when they act dumb.

When others’ interactions
are strongly inelastic,
I get my satisfactions
from tripping light fantastic.

So stay out of the mainstream,
ignore what others say.
Follow up your own dream
and go the other way!

 

Originally intended to be a song in the style and to the tune of Monty Python’s “Always look on the sunny side of death“, this was written in 1969 or 1970 when I and my new (first) wife, Suzanne, were living in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco and I was commuting across the Bay to Berkeley every day, while she commuted to Stanford.  Crazy kids!

To NOGAF

A sodden mind sheds soggy morals
off its duck’s-back basis of relief.
Squatting now upon their laurels
years of yearning learning get relief.

An open mind is fertile earth,
ideas raining down on it at length;
like land, it drinks when near its birth
with gusto, turning moisture into strength.

The summer mind’s ideas flower,
flourish with the rains, until at last
its fruits and foliage – wisdom’s power –
are harvested, and the day of youth is past.

Now Autumn minds grow brown of leaf
and rains erode the sated autumn earth.
The spare supply of wet belief
is wasted. Lack of want destroys its worth.

Yet know that though the ground will freeze
and snows of dullness cover summer’s green,
yet ice will melt with the first warm breeze;
and somewhere there are always evergreens.

 

-Trinity Class Poem, 1967 –
(Somewhat of a rush job – could have used a bit more polishing.)

Goodbyes

The sun purred cautiously
and stroked my back with claws now sheathed,
battle-weary lion —
spiralled down black distant dots
in shimmering thermals to their prey.
While she fought the moon for the firmament,
memories of grasses dried,
died and sprung again.

There was no game.
Little life remained to cross my path;
while time passed on too fast to pause
and wait for me to dig
rabbits of freedom with my dog.
So kicking my boots with the talcum sand
I rapidly walked the road.

I met the oldest oak
and kind moss-fingered
ponderous limbs
asked to oak-leaf me and lift
and heft and hold my weight.
I left my boots
and I swung,
shimmied,
jumped and crawled
to the very
tip-
top . . .
where the gaps in the cool green leaves
glimpsed the golden splendor of the sky,
of sundown.

I saw and swore I would not descend,
never walk on bloodless
to the black highway —
But when from a perfect airplant cup
uncurled a curious circus coral snake,
I had to climb down from my limbs in fear,
unripe. He came too near.

Had I met him,
let him kiss my hand,
I could have hugged the rough old bark as tight
as now these bars, my ribs —
I would have dried,
fertilly burning, someday maybe sprouting
Ressurection Fern.

 

Trinity Review – 1967

The Swamp

I enter quick,
Rabbit-scared of the dry sticks,
Crackling reeds and weeds, once-watered sedge;
Dry fear, dangerous, eats at the swamp’s crisp edge.

With the muddening of the earth
My scampering softens to a slink;
Lungs reach tenderly to touch the humus stink,
Shrink, but stay; I give dead stumps less berth.

Gracefully crawling now by scummy pools,
I hide in spidery grasses, feel small fishes
Nibbling like persistent wishes;
Softly at first the swamp asserts its rules.

Insects, intermittent frog-falls intersperse
The silence; alligator calls now echo low.
Coiled and bead-eyed, I need not rehearse
The slither or the strike — for now I know
The serpent’s still-imperfect marriage; more,
That even this fearless moccasin form of man
Pays obeisance to the land.
All’s as before.

 

Trinity Review – 1967

Public Image

Now
Deep in the muddled reaches of
Nearly landlocked inlet tide
Rises in dark a desolate verdant mountain,
Mangrove-ringed, a peak of motionless pine;
Buoyed on the salt-sweet oyster-studded mud, its speech
Whip-poor-wills peacefully through the night,
Whispers the substance is not in sight.
Bathed in the carbon light that leers from the human beach,
Effigy island inverted, admired in wine:
Eyes give symmetry to the greenery fountain
Seeming to flow from just inside
Itself — the whip-poor-will tells with love
How.

 

Trinity Review – 1967

Middlemen

The pilot of the droning plane above cannot conceive
the lazy summer sound his craft’s exploding pistons leave
to swim through waves of warmth to us, who, watching far below,
in turn cannot conceive the kinesthesia he must know.
Sit and listen, how the swimmers splash across the lake;
they can never step away and hear the sounds they make,
and so are only singing, never listen to the song.
The dead can stand detached, but cannot live through life along
with swimmers, pilots, all: the superficial and the rest,
who feel life’s essence; we, apart but feeling, can know best
their vices and their virtues — climbing hopes and crawling fears;
our power to observe outweighs the retrospect of years.
Things which cannot feel themselves are also in our view:
Tin roofs dulled with rust, a live oak’s mottled shade, a hue
of sunset’s autumn: such as these we add to our wide store
of feelings and appraisals, which, combined, make something more.

 

Trinity Review – 1965