Tornado (Joy)

We spent endless minutes in the basement
Our minds brimming with a joy
When the world was dusk yellow
The backyard sick with fever
Winds prophesying our immanent return
To unbridled joyful bodies tossed
Within the holy trinity of mindless rage
Of air become a vacuum
And my fingertips filled
With an inexpressible urge to run
Into the surging night
To greet its joy with my joy –

But one night
Our parents pulled us out of bed
Still asleep
And waited out the night below
In silence.

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Tuning Peg

I always see someone I think I know
But it turns into a different face.
Tell me –
Who did I see?
Did the face really turn
Casting uncertain quantum waves
Like a soggy blanket over my feelings
On a cold night, rain-swept and infinitesimal?

If I see you in so many faces,
Can’t you learn to see me too –
Anguished and searching all those eyes
For a semblance of someone I used to know?
Memory is not even a feeling
But a memory of a state of feeling,
An aborted daughter in the womb of childhood pain
Cut from limb to limb
But somehow still living.

Which face goes where?
Who places them like guitar strings
In their proper slot in a floating bridge?
O Floating World, over-full
Tune me tightly, like a lover
Until I snap from rage
Then turn again
And let your face be the one that I place there
Threading you through a bridge
Gently pulling you up and down
Smoothing out you’re trembling,
Wrapped in soggy night terrors,
Lost to the turning of eyes.

Untitled

When I’m on the Long Island Railroad
The trains stops and momentarily
I feel that we’re moving but in reverse
As if to be at rest is lost ground –
Only inches, true, but anxious lost ground.

The train cuts a razor course
Across roads, and cars digress,
Splitting, so we progress,
Fixed in point, pitiless to distance
Cutting forward, fearing distance.

And yet I feel us moving back.
Inch by inch at every stop we inch;
Forward motion fakes the feeling.
From February to March, maybe,
I’ve moved a quarter mile back.

And between the suburb and the city
I feel the pull of constant progress
Always forward, so rest can’t move me back
To the times when I sat by a window
In the breakfast nook watching sparrows.

Evening Avenue

On Evening Avenue, the streetlights are always half lit
A sunset always permeates the space between
The circlet of a girl’s silhouetted chin
And the primordial mess of her hair
And it usually reflects back to you at a sidelong glance
From the mother walking towards you
Or a refracted flash from a driver’s ed Taurus
Might momentarily blind you
As you walk the length of the evening from it’s birth
To the night at it’s end.

As you walk down an after-dinner way
Ask yourself again what made you come this way
Or why you unexplainably sat next to someone on the train
And heard him write the novel of his life
Though narrated, unreliably, in fits and starts
Ask why you sat that way, or came this way
Or what made you leave early, or come late.
After all, at the hour just before night
Any path you take can lead you to or from the leaving sun
And you’ve not forgotten why you didn’t know
How your left or your right might lead you
To a half-light momentary suburb-like glow –
Come here again tomorrow night
And every closing storefront,
Every ten-minute-late evening dinner date
Will change, and no colors will look the same.

No, you’ve not forgotten
And the reason why you wouldn’t know
Might be a girl in a distant low-rent salon
Or a high-rise forty-second floor flat
Filled with new uncertain friends
Grouped around an ancient text
Wringing out their hands and hearts
Ringing out the feedback from the line array
That broadcasts the bloated doubts
That brought them there –
Yes, the answer might be here
In amongst the shelves of these closed books
Waiting to be read
By a man like the man on the train
Who at least could speak his mind
Like reverberating sunday evening church refrains.

Yes, an evening road like this might lead to many places
But when you find yourself
Remaining, listless, by some bleak Victorian porch
Imagining all the past embraces
And faces filled with evening sundown grace
That must have lingered in that place
Recall slowly to yourself
The other evening faces passing
Crossing differently at different ways
And let your eyes become the lanterns of the porch
That led you, years ago, to a home where wringing hands
And ringing bells
Wrought the iron in your heart
That keeps you walking down the evening way.

Something Like a Manifesto, Age 24

The more silent the poet
the more poetry he speaks
and the more he speaks
the more he feels the need to speak
and can’t help but say more
and say more of the same things
in different ways, saying
“Do you hear? Am I understood?
I’ve said it well
but I’m a slave to saying it again.”
All critics who call this poet dilettante
fear what needs to be said most
and instead say what fear heeds least.
“Do you hear? Am I understood?
I’ve said it once,
I’m afraid of not saying it again.”
He fears the loss of words –
poets only fear the loss of passion,
and where words end, passion blooms.
There the poet’s fear falters
but the critic, wide eyed,
falls into the gaping mouth of poetry.

All poets are critics.
No word can withstand scrutiny
when juxtaposed against another
and only those words that say
the thing that most needs said
are said beneath po’s condescending glare.
Poetry is criticism actualized.
The actual is poetry.
Poetry is critical.

The scientist writes with a scalpel.
Precision magnifies the illusion of infinity
until the stars befriend quarks
and questions pass away
in the face of knowing.
“Do you hear? Am I understood?
I’ve said it once
and I’ll never say it again.”
The layman who calls the scientist pedant
fears the true nature of reality
and realizes only nature’s fear.
Many scientists are laymen.
The true scientist fears nothing.
Where nothingness ends, reality resumes,
the scientist is fully known
but the layman falls prey to science.

***

In this fight between doubt and faith,
in the small hours between giving up
and giving again, convinced of mere selfishness,
belief retains a hairline split –
irreconcilable isolation
adrift in laughing bitter digress,
a split between the fixed point
and the endless sea,
between the single word and the iliad
and the poet finally finds
he believes only what chills his spine,
while the scientist admits
to trusting only
in the poet’s post-mortem spine under scalpel
and both come to find
that neither possessed a spine all along
and only the critic and the layman,
the least of these
not many wise, not many nobly born,
not influential, but called,
these possess the spines
that cause the whole of humankind to walk,
to speak and not to speak,
and the poet’s tongue is finally stilled,
and the scientist finally free to dream.

On Uprooting

If you’re going to uproot
yank hard.
Half-hearted yanks won’t move roots.
Your hands will prove raw
dirt will keep the tendrils taught –
unless you yank hard.

It’s not indifferent, either
to yank hard.
Uncertain grabbing
Only bruises leaves and stocks
you need to kill everything you pull.
It’s not easy and it doesn’t seem right
but yank hard,
and you’ll clear enough space
to find the good dirt where love knows to sprout.

If you’re going to uproot
make space for compost.
Even what you kill can keep your garden
and shoots from other tills can keep it too.
All life throbs in matter
and joy knows which dying stems
tomorrow’s newborn grief will birth
and so she moves from age to age
in Abba’s ever-shifting sculpt
and whether shadows on the cave
or things in themselves,
breath and lung can only work as one
and all life heaves for each.
So if you’re going to uproot,
yank hard.