Saturday, October 6, 2007


Hello everyone.

I have been on a creative hiatus for the last few months, as you may have noticed.
Although, since June 17th, the date of my last posting, I haven’t actually done all that much creating, apart from the 16 new stanzas of poetry I will be attaching to the revised poem below.

Rather than blogging, I have been working my way through the films of Akira Kurosawa, and I have been reading a few actual books--remember those--Basho, Byron, Steven Pinker, Donald Keene, the Norton Anthology of Poetry--those funny bricks of knowledge it is such a pain in the ass to pack up and move? I hope the time I have spent being away from the on-line world has not been entirely wasted.

The poem I have been so busily revising is the same poem I included in my inaugural posting last November. I have been working on this piece off and on for the last 6 years, and I can’t quite seem to let it go. It is a perpetual headache. Every so often I go back and read it, and I discover spelling errors, an area that is not completely fleshed out, or a pair of cheeks that could use a bit more color.

The Greeks used to say, Those whom the gods destroy, they first drive mad. To which I might add the corresponding corollary, Or they make the poor fuckers poets, if I ever used off-color language.

Which I do not.


The section I have added to the poem is that beginning with the line:

Consisting of a week in Italy...

And concluding with the line:

When it bounced back and hit her. How unfair!

Besides adding the extra stanzas, I have divided the poem into three sections, which I hope will contribute some much needed clarity to my Existence.

Hope you enjoy it!

Preface to A Life
For M.A.

Fair seed time had my soul, and I grew up…
—William Wordsworth, The Prelude, Book I.

Part I.

I have a dirty secret to disclose
Before we start here. Can I be candid?
This isn’t the profession that I chose.
I’m no poet. I don’t understand it.
Like any child, I dreamed of writing prose:
My box of cereal, The Daily Planet,
Proust—they spoke to me. And poetry—
It’s such a tragic way to treat a tree.

Your poet only has three subjects: love,
Despair, and death. Maybe the odd flower.
My numbers here are estimates—and rough:
I have just drawn zero for an hour
Which seemed like an Eternity—enough
Time to admit the limits of my power:
The Muses call me, but I cannot sing.
Sure, I can give you Shakespeare, gargling,

That’s simple: he is in this huge bathroom,
A Dixie cup in hand, an inch of Scope
Bubbling in his throat. Scope, I presume,
Not Listerine, which kills bacteria, Hope,
You, and me, and everything—ka-boom!
William was hygienic—not a dope.
I once was his—let’s just call me a guest—
Since I was underage, and such a pest.

My own facilities are less extensive:
I’ve got the standard toilet, white, a small
Bathtub, a sink. Talcum powder gives
My place a pale, late Roman air. Each fall
That fragile autumn light, for which I live,
Will form a golden window on the wall
Right above those faucets—there. I’m sorry
Faucets don’t figure larger in my story,

But try to let your mind fill in these gaps.
Use whatever odds and ends you wish:
Your own experiences, marbles, maps,
A plum stone glistening in a glass dish,
Your favorite pair of underwear—those chaps—
Leftovers from the rodeo in Bliss.
A big Bermuda onion. I don’t know.
Something should suggest itself. Let go.

Daydreaming is a thing I like to do
When I have these imaginary needs.
Most authors have a strategy or two.
John Milton summoned scrolls, papyrus reeds,
Imported at great expense from the past. It’s true,
Lord Byron also dabbled in some deeds
Of great Antiquity—at least on paper.
My own involvement in that curious caper

Consisted of a week in Italy,
Spent cruising, boozing, having the want ads
Read to me over oranges and coffee.
“Now, here’s one,” Byron said, “Do you drive cabs?
Have abs? Do you crave immortality?
I’m looking for an epic hero, lads:
If you are muscular, can swim, or fly,
Reply by photograph—and don’t be shy!”

His Lordship cut the ad out with a smile
I do not have the skills to recreate.
I had been out of work for a long while,
And since great beauty seems to be my Fate,
I did not add his clipping to the pile
Of orange peels I placed beside my plate.
I glanced down at my boxers on the floor.
I always knew I’d be a hero, or

A star, somebody special. Back in school
I did some modeling for extra money.
The teacher had me stand on a barstool
And said, “Pretend you are Apollo.” He—
I have to say I felt like quite a fool,
Since this Apollo isn’t half as hot as me—
But they were paying models cash—ten dollars
An hour. I pretended. Students, scholars,

Each sat stiffly at his flimsy easel
While teacher twinkled, orbiting the class.
Boys glared at me, like I embodied Evil,
As if I were one huge, malignant mass
Of muscle. All except this one guy—Steve—I’ll
Call him. His mouth just opened wider as
I began, quite slowly, to undress…
Excuse this small diversion. I digress.

Part II.

I have a feeling gaping mouths are not
The most propitious places to begin
A work of Art—but I am in a spot—
A god—Apollo. Can’t I be forgiven?
You work with the materials you’ve got.
And when you have a bunch of gifts from Heaven—
Nice teeth like these, luxurious, long hair
That bounces beautifully—you want to share.

Although I’d never damn a man to Hell
For praising his own features in this way,
Not everyone up here’s so wonderful—
So I’d be careful with that resume.
Among my peers on Mount Olympus—well—
The sad divinities who now hold sway—
A somewhat jealous spirit still prevails.
Venus will extract your fingernails

If you annoy her. All I do is rhyme—
Brain a lazy reader with my lyre.
I used to pass out plagues for a good time.
I lent my son the Chariot of Fire
And he obliterated Persia. I’m
Sorry for that. Kids. Our laws require
Celestial beings to be licensed now,
For all light vehicles, from crane to cow.

Modes of transport differ. Even here,
In Heaven, we find harmony elusive.
Although each god has been assigned a sphere
Of influence, gods can be reclusive—
Some would prefer we didn’t interfere
In your affairs—and some turn red—abusive—
Chanting, “Blah, blah, blah—not anymore—
Just look what happened with the Trojan War!”

Let others dwell upon that dismal plain
Where Troy once stood—that heap of stones and ash—
Her towers toppled, all those horses slain—
We’ll turn our eyes toward young Aeneas,
The faithful son of Venus. I’ll explain,
In case my tongue is galloping too fast:
Aeneas left the cinders of his home,
And one of his descendants founded Rome.

His wife near death, dad hoisted on his back,
His son, Ascanius, clutching his right hand,
‘Mid smoke and flames—and that spine splintering crack—
I saw Aeneas assembling a band
Of refugees—still reeling from attack—
Astonished, terrified, and angry—and
I was amazed: away these people stole,
With only life—Existence—as a goal.

Now, there’s a man I could work wonders with.
And when the moment for departures came,
I joined the Trojan forces. I exist
Now thanks to them: Apollo. Same name, same
Athletic youth I always was—no myth:
Some gods are good at the survival game.
Since Rome was destined to devour Greece,
I felt that Heaven ought to get a piece.

I chose Olympus, naturally, and we
Crowned Jove with victory. And Zeus, poor dear,
Our late, lamented chief has been—you’ll see.
It can be odd to be a god. One year
You’re Lord of Lightning—next you’re History—
A bunny nobody would ever fear,
Banging a drum for better batteries.
As you can tell, I am not one of these.

I am the god of Prophecy. That’s why
I tend to show up on the winning side—
Even when the contest is a tie.
You can’t prevent the turning of the tide—
Although you are at liberty to try.
The last time that I saw the Moon defied,
I heard my sister sigh, and with a shrug,
She crushed this kid’s sandcastle, like a bug.

Diana’s rather moody, for a rock,
A maiden prone to madness. Take the rage
She showed Actaeon—that bewildered buck
Who stumbled on a sliver of her image
Floating in a pool: it always struck
Me as severe—given his young age.
She sent a pack of hounds to chat with him:
They ripped the lad apart—limb from limb.

The birds still speak of him, so do the trees,
“O, Actaeon! Transformed from man to deer,
And then—a frightened fragrance on the breeze.”
You may have sympathy—but let’s be clear:
My sister does exactly what she please—
She’s not—what is the phrase—not in your sphere.
We all have boundaries that we must obey.
Perhaps one day we won’t. It’s hard to say.

But when we don’t, I’ll tell you. At Delphi,
Cumae—wherever strange events occur—
I’ll dress up as a lady, for a fee,
And murmur things to kings about your Future—
Things inconsequential, friends, to me—
Since Mars, remember, is our god of War.
I’m Archery, Arts, Medicine, the Sun.
I am in charge of germs. And hydrogen.

Making music is my main concern;
The Fate of you, your pets, your family,
The gases Pompeiians give off when they burn,
Their density, volume, toxicity,
How many embers children can inurn,
Are governed by a different Agency.
A different Deity—I should say,
Since we are all Olympians today,

Aren’t we? I do not count that child—
That Cupid—mixing milk in with his wine.
“Pray, Bacchus, see his empty skull is filled
With burgundy—with visions so divine
He thinks he’s God Almighty.” Love has killed
More than one mortal trying to combine
The forces which set God and Man apart.
Our differences aren’t subtle. People fart.

We do not. And we look better in
A leopard, dancing, tearing off your head,
Your legs, an arm, whatever is virgin,
Or available. Somewhere I have read
That men taste more like pork than roast chicken…
Not that it really matters. I’m in bed
Most evenings well before ten o’clock—
Long before the clubs begin to rock.

I am an early riser, and homicide
I find a bit disgusting. There’s no rush
In death for me. Besides, it’s hard to hide
From Jove—The Thunderer. I still will blush
When I remember how I almost died
One morning. Suddenly, no warning—Whoosh!
I happened to be hunting for my sister.
How narrowly that arrow missed her!

T’was then, I think, I entered Medicine.
“First, do no harm,” I say, with emphasis.
You can thank me for aspirin, Ambien,
Peroxide, dentures, and Q-Tips. And this:
This box of Trojans—in gold foil—in
Case anyone should try to force a kiss.
Humanity will do that. Sometimes,
Men are deaf to Reason. Even rhymes.

You are exceptional. Don’t get me wrong—
I love humanity. I love the lark—
I add a pinch of brilliance to his song
Each dawn—when half the planet’s in the dark—
When Vulcan’s snoring in his forge among
Computer guts and cannons—it’s a perk.
We’ll share a Milky Way on Sunday nights,
Admiring you, and all your satellites.

I had Vulcan make the crystal ball
I gave Cassandra—Cassie. Pretty girl.
She hated my prophetic gift. She’d call
It cursed—called me despicable. She’d hurl
That innocent glass globe against a wall:
The silly thing thought she could change the world
By shattering it! Imagine her despair
When it bounced back and hit her. How unfair!

Part III.

I wonder if I’m cruel enough to be
Convincing as Apollo? I don’t know...
I was born in Buffalo. Actually,
The Town of Tonawanda—land of snow—
A rusty suburb of Reality.
We manufactured autos, long ago.
Nothing much goes on here anymore.
Luckily, our taverns close at four.

Here, Mendelssohn wed Edwin to Kathleen
Around the time of my conception in
A battered Skylark. Dad was a Marine,
Lance Corporal. Loyal, like most Marlboro Men,
They say he shot a cigarette machine
On Okinawa, from frustration, when
A pack of twenty Camels tumbled out.
Yet, I never saw him smoke, or shout.

Mom insisted that he switch to snuff
When I was born. They slowly separated, and
I only knew my father long enough
To miss him really—hold his massive hand.
The debts he left made life extremely tough.
Some kids need discipline, you understand.
Mom did her best. She did not spare the rod—
Her special spatula—the Wrath of God.

That spatula and I, we still survive.
We pass strange things along in my family.
Ghost stories, mostly. Like who dropped the knife
(This bayonet—my father’s legacy)
Down the laundry chute. It’s my belief—
And here my mother and I disagree—
The thing was cruddy. And so down it slid.
It needed washing. That’s what mothers did.

I brushed my teeth and I was sent to bed
Early that night. That sort of shocked me, too.
I’m sure that in my Future you saw red—
A bloody end, involving scarlet dew-
Drops, total melodrama. No. Mom said,
“Do you know how I got this big boo-boo?”
I nodded very meekly—in this style—
And pointed sadly at my brother, Kyle.

“Man hands on misery to man,” of course,
Nothing could be easier than THAT.
Happiness is harder, and a source
Of great perplexity to poets—at
Least those creeps who scatter metaphors,
Like tears, across each page, without éclat,
Éclairs, or anything more pleasant. I
Sincerely hope I am not such a guy.

My mother heaved the huge, eye-rolling sigh
She usually reserved for The Three Stooges.
Despite my innocence, and cuteness, I
Was tucked in tightly. Kyle burped brown juices
On his bib, not quite comprehending why.
To this day, that wicked child refuses
To admit anything—though he can talk.
And walk. He’s even lost his taste for chalk.

Well, before I fix him, it is clear
We need to straighten out this dialogue.
Now, what were we discussing? Proust? Shakespeare—
He once permitted me to walk his dog
When I came over. It was pretty weird:
My mind filled up with music, then a fog,
This mist precipitated in my eyes—
I thought it was just raining. Big surprise:

I was back in the old neighborhood;
And Heaven only knows how I got there.
We moved a lot. But I was pretty good
At climbing out of trouble. My highchair
Proved to be a problem though. I could
Not master gravity. Perhaps the air
Malfunctioned. Or my wings. At least I tried.
I cracked my cranium, and cried, and cried.

God, curiosity must be the bane
Of my existence. Take this incident:
A bawling baby with a bit of brain
Exposed. Was this a portent, or the dent
Death left inside my consciousness? For pain
I received kisses, not the monument
I wanted, carved in marble: TRAGEDY.
I need to work more on my savagery.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Even though I write poems from time to time, I also like to think I am a practical person.

There is something which I don't understand: with all that practice we have in airports, train stations, bus terminals, driveways, vestibules, vehicles, love shacks, bungalows, and hovels, it should get easier to say goodbye the older that we get. But somehow it never does.

I mean, we get used to so many things in our lives
—snow, rain, pimples, work, even our own facesbut departure is always difficult. I wonder why that is?

Can anyone provide an answer?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Apart from a quiet interlude of peace yesterday afternoon, in Jackson Heights, when the light in the room was perfect for photographing elements of Heaven, it has been a dreadfully disillusioning couple of days here in the Land of Iambs.

First, thanks to the Flaming Curmudgeon, we learn that much of Mankind--the best part of Mankind--is destined to die of throat cancer. Second, our Japanese language school has announced it is closing down its Japanese program--and we are about to be cast--ignorant of Kanji-- on to the streets of New York. And third, the dentist had to reschedule this afternoon's appointment with bib and ice-pick.

Well, maybe that last item doesn't quite come under the heading of disaster, but when you have successfully psyched yourself for a bout of torture, it is hard not to be disappointed when the ordeal is postponed.

The impulse to lose my head and run screaming back to cigarettes is strong, but somehow I am resisting the urge. I have started eating large quantities of Empire apples--with no ill effects.

This is not to say that the Imperial Apple of Knowledge may be consumed in large quantities without some startling consequences for the human body. (I refer the reader to the book of Genesis for a full explanation of the human predicament.) But these consequences are relatively benign in nature--rich in pathos and metrical regularity--like the best poetry. Never has indoor plumbing been greeted with such sighs of
joy by an audience. Or relief...

As for me, I believe that as long as the toilet paper holds out, we can hold out--wherever we happen to find ourselves deposited on this globe. Contrary to the predictions of doom-mongers. Man is an inventive creature, and never to be underestimated in his will and his capacity to survive.

If we can keep our eyes firmly fixed on the Future, these moments of stress--second thoughts and self-doubt--environmental, economic, psychological, physical--will pass silkily out of our system like yesterday's apples.
With hardly a scrap of thought or paper wasted.

This why I like the the poem, If, by Rudyard Kipling. And if I were poet laureate--now there is a scary thought--I would not screw around with subways. I would see If posted in gold lettering on the inside door of every privy and every public convenience in the Land.

In this day and age, where else can a gentleman find the time to properly concentrate on literature?


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Idle Brain.

Not much to report today--at least not here, my friends--not here in River City.

The world is surpassingly beautiful. The sun is out. The azaleas are out. There is a white cabbage butterfly hovering over the horseradish patch. And the fiddlehead ferns near the air conditioner have started to unfurl.

A zen-like Zephyr is sprinkling sakura over the flagstones leading from the porch into the backyard. The rusty core of an apple sits on a small plate to immediate right: my passport out of Paradise.

Before the Heavens alter these details beyond recognition (there are thunderstorms in the forecast for Tomorrow), I thought I should try to capture at least the furtive flavor of this moment before the rains arrive. The air is thick with the intoxicating odor of lilac.

Yes, the lilacs, with their deep green, heart-shaped leaves. They have us practically surrounded. Aren
t they lovely? I have just come back into the house from clipping a cluster. They now sit in a crystal vase on the dining room table.

While I was busy with the shears and the bushes out back, I put the finishing touches on a villanelle that rubbed his eyes open yesterday morning. It all began quite innocently enough, as many of my projects do: as a very ordinary, very commonplace hard-on.

While I cannot say what happened to that hard-on over the subsequent 24 hours, I can assure the curious reader that I dedicate this poem to no one
s anatomy in particular, just the glorious, transformative power of Music!

Variations in the Key of C

A Baroque Masterpiece

When I consider the curve of your cock—
In even this mild, mathematical way—
I notice strange images start to knock:

Sticky things, mostly, things made of rock—
A petrified marshmallow showed up today.
He either was stale, or scared by your cock,

So, I sent him away. A while back Bach
Appeared at my door. He started to play
A sort of pipe organ. Bach did not knock.

Nor did his friends. He arrived with a flock
Of cherry-faced cherubs and a golden bidet
With the weirdest fixtures—curved like your cock.

Now, very few stores keep these in stock:
Which is why I thank God for Bach and eBay
Whenever strange men with strange instruments knock...

Speaking of knocking, I think I forgot
To mention something. What I meant to say
Concerned a key, more than it did a cock:
This is for you. No need, you know, to knock.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Advice to young readers.

Hopefully the lapse into free verse in my last post did not leave the lyrical foundations of your psyche shaken.

The last--or maybe the second to last--thing on Earth I would wish to do as a poet, a prophet, or a purveyor of fine, rectified spirits would be to send you out lurching into the night--like a little lost lamp--with nothing concrete to hold on to.

Concrete may not be the most comforting substance to grasp--I prefer men wrapped in mink--but, as a writer, I find that whatever delicacy concrete lacks in terms of Art, it more than makes up for in rude Reality.


Love is a Luxury

Love is a luxury you can
’t afford;
I know that this knowledge may cause you pain
But who has time for tenderness, or
All of this messing around in the rain?

Come over here, precious, under this light:
Now, let me have a good look at you.
You probably gave your Mom quite a fright
When you emerged from that Bar and said, “Boo!”

I am just kidding. Isn’t Life funny?
Almost nobody has a good time—
Even on days when it
’s more or less sunny...
Well, here
s my advice and a dime.

The lips, they cost extra. So does the bed.
And a goon with a gun collects the fee.
So, don
’t let his liquor go to your head.
You will be charged for everything
you see?

Friday, May 4, 2007


On Thursday night, around 7:30pm, while I was wrapping myself in a damp white towel at the Y, I bumped into Steve and my fellow blogger the Flaming Curmudgeon. We hadn't seen each other for a couple of weeks. I mentioned that I had been working out at the Y in Connecticut.

The Curmudgeon smiled and blinked and observed in his usual penetrating fashion that I had not posted anything new on my blog in a few days, inquiring rather archly--where was I?

I fondled my soap bottle. I thought about saying, "I was discussing poetry in Connecticut...," but the Curmudgeon would have instantly impaled me on a spiky and skeptical glance. So, I studied my feet in shame.

I really could offer no defense for my absence, but a guilty pink hush.


Still, I
was discussing poetry, at least part of the time, the intimate subject of which is never all that far from my lips.

Part of that discussion has led me to reconsider a piece I wrote a couple of years ago and abandoned to cryogenic suspension in a old manila folder in the basement.

I preserve these things in the hope that someday I will discover something new, something that my Hunchback and I hadn't noticed before, some idea that, with the assistance of electricity--lightning--poetic technology--will allow us to resuscitate what is, for purposes of this discussion, a corpse.

Or, at least, rip out the cancerous old lungs of our compliant patient and replace them with a pair of lovely new elastic ones. Preferably those of a long distance runner--since we might need this pair to huff and puff their hearts to pieces for at least few millennia.

I know this all sounds kind of gross--offensively forensic. Somebody is always suffering for the sake of something, I am afraid. Most often, in the case of this Blog, it is the reader.

Anyway, in that frosty folder I discovered the following. It is written in a style as close to free verse as I seem to be able to manage without breaking out into hives.

Bleach Spots

When I was sure you were asleep

I slid out of bed.
I tip-toed to the kitchen for a top
secret rendezvous with a wedge
of pumpkin pie.

As I slipped into the fridge,
in the light, I couldn’t help noticing a line of
stains adorning that soft, blue tee
I wear when I’m chilly.

I counted nine pastel blotches
along the cuff of my right sleeve—nine luminous dots
the powdery pallor of Tang
(the Astronaut’s drink).

And, moving the milk, I thought,
“That big orange blotch is the color—
the exact mixture of citrus and sky
I had been searching for

all night.”

Saturday, April 28, 2007


Well, she certainly seems to be having fun; but as you can tell from the portrait on the left, the flowers have not yet begun their riot of color, not in our corner of Connecticut. And yet I feel certain that the reds, the blues, the oranges, purples, and even the whites, are about ready to pop: the forsythia have already hung inflammatory banners over the wall, as a warning. May Day is coming. All nature awaits a sign.

Even within me, your humble correspondent, I can feel a surge of sap returning to my limbs from hitherto frozen lakes and unfriendly ground. It is a nice feeling. I find myself walking more, swimming more, writing more, smiling more at strangers. It is the smiling, I think, which feels the best. Life is returning to life. It began in Japan, a few weeks ago.

During the past week, when I haven't been at the gym, or going to job interviews (more about THAT later) I have been spending an awful lot of the time on the porch, laptop on my lap, staring at squirrels, listening to lawn mowers, dreamily attempting to tap out a new poem.


On Thursday night, while visiting a friend in New Haven, we happened to drive past a very ominous, gray Gothic building. On our left is the edifice where the secret, Satanic rites of the Yale Skull and Bones Society are carried out. I have no idea what these rites are, or their relation to the Spring, but now I am aware of where they take place. No knowledge I acquire is ever wasted.

We happened to be discussing writing classes--words in general--what our favorite words were. He told me about an assignment in a college writing course where he had to pick out his favorite words in English and incorporate them into a story. One of the words he chose was brouhaha, which is a pretty hilarious word when you think about it, containing as it does the very seeds of laughter.

As for me, I was kind of caught off guard when he asked me what my favorite words were. I know I should not have been, but perhaps I was distracted by the radio display, shifting gears, or something else in the car. The only two words that immediately occurred to me were adjectives: the words anthropophagic and celestial.

The stars I need not explain. But I have no idea from what chthonic depths the word anthropophagic arose; except that I can remember feeling kind of hungry, and maybe slightly cranky as a result. I do know that the word celestial occurred to me first, which I find rather re-assuring. And it was the one I uttered.


Later, after we said goodbye, and I caught the 11:18pm local back to Stamford, I went back to the white wicker rocker on the porch. I flipped open my laptop, and I began to piece together the evening. I had had a good time.

I don't often seem to talk shop with other writers, no matter how garroulous I appear on the subject here. The word celestial kept ringing in my ears. And the forthcoming brouhaha among the flowers--especially the syllables ha and ha. And suddenly, as I sat sipping a tall glass of orange juice (my nightcap of choice), everything seemed to slip into place in my subconscious: the Spring, the sky, the lawn, the laughter, the squirrels, you and I.

I know it's extremely unusual, but isn't it nice when things work out perfectly?

It certainly is for me.

The Squirrels
For A.T.

They act a lot like we do, in a way.

Once, while I was studying some porn
I had discovered in an old suitcase,
I came across a slightly cracked acorn.
I can remember thinking, “What a place
To store your nuts.” Don’t attics get too warm?
And is an old suitcase the ideal space
For storing nutrients—like nut protein?
No wonder all those squirrels look so lean…

This was my thinking at the time, okay;
I probably had missed my morning nap,
Or something similar. I cannot say
I was delirious. Or curious. The crap
I do—I did—astonishes me today:
I had a dozen lovelies in my lap,
And far from having a hard-on, or stroke,
I ran outside to plant myself an oak.

While nothing very shady was forthcoming,
I lay there, on my stomach, with my spade,
Yawning, pelting birds, and maybe humming—
My other activities all seem to fade
Into oblivion. I am running
Over some details of this escapade:
The time, position of the sun, my age.
To Time alone, I have devoted page—

Page—page—well, I can’t seem to find it.
I’m sorry. It was remarkable—a classic
Piece of metaphysics. I designed it
First to entertain—which is the basic
Premise of this poem. And behind it
Lies no philosophy—no specific
School of thinking that I can remember.
This doesn’t mean those moments I surrender

To retrospection—in my reverie—
The sharper edges of the Past will soften.
My spade does not get duller, although we

Do get dirty in the garden. And, often,
We dig up buried treasures. Do you see
That bloke behind the oak
—the hard to love one
Who could use a slightly closer shave?
That’s you. (I would pull up my pants, and wave.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A few words about Auden.

This morning as I was standing in the vestibule of the 8:37am MetroNorth express, hurtling towards New York, my eye happened to bounce over a blue-suited shoulder. I noticed the name Auden in the left hand column of section B1 (as in bomber) of the NYT. Now, the Times is not a paper I normally read for news, preferring as I do to get my propaganda free of pretensions, but I have to admit that the name Auden caught my eye, like the face of a beloved old friend suddenly glimpsed in a crowd of strangers.

This year marks the centennial of Auden's birth. I was reading Auden's poem, September 1st, 1939 on the morning of September 11th, 2001. For six years I carried the book, The English Auden, edited by Edward Mendelson, around in my backpack wherever I went. A dilapidated copy of The Collected Poems of W.H. Auden, bound discreetly in duct tape, sits on my desk here at work, to my immediate right.

I have spent more time with Auden in the last decade than I have spent with anyone else, even myself. But I haven't been reading much Auden lately, and the fleeting glimpse of Auden's name over a gray column of print reminded me that my life has been emptier for it.

When I arrived at work this morning I gingerly opened the paper and began to read. Half way down the page I encountered the following lines, from "Tell Me the Truth About Love," soon to be appearing in a subway car near you:

When it comes, will it come without warning
Just as I'm picking my nose?
Will it knock on my door in the morning,
Or tread in the bus on my toes?
Will it come like a change in the weather?
Will its greeting be courteous or rough?
Will it alter my life altogether?
O tell me the truth about love!

"Will it alter my life altogether?" I think if it is the real thing, it really should. I know that if it is the wrong thing, it certainly will. But how do we distinguish between the real thing and the wrong thing, and avoid ruining our lives?

I have no idea.

Do you?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Learning Japanese.

No poetry today. I have been spending every waking moment studying Japanese, preparing for my trip to Tokyo later on this month. When I went to Japan last year, I couldn't speak a word and I felt completely lost.

I have determined that this time will be different. I will not have so much trouble with what is on the menu. I would like to have a conversation with Takaaki's friends over sashimi. I want to make sure I can order enough katsu. I want to book train tickets to
Hakone. I think it would be nice to be able to say more than "please" and "thank you"—although you can get pretty far in Tokyo, I have noticed, if you can deploy onegaishimasu and domo arigatou with the right amount of dexterity. These are magic words in Japan. They open doors—shoji.

Even so, Magic is a difficult art to practice, in any language. But I think it may be hardest to master in Japanese. There are three 'alphabets' in Japanese: the hiragana and katakana syllabaries, and kanji—the imported Chinese characters adapted for Japanese use in the Middle Ages. Right now, I can read my blue shampoo bottle—that part which says shampoo, anyway, in katakana— and I can understand snatches of lyrics in a few Japanese songs. I watch at least one hour of Bleach a day, and I am getting better at distinguishing phrases. But it is hard. I am more or less at the hiragana and katakana stages of development. This would probably place my mental age at about 4 or 5. I can count to 13 in Kanji—on very good day.


Still, I don't give up. Japanese literature has always been something of a hobby with me. Mishima Yukio was my introduction to that. The book was Confessions of a Mask, I purchased it in June 9th, 1992, at 3:43 pm, at Glad Day Bookstore, on Boylston St, in Boston. Very often I use receipts for bookmarks, and the receipt remains with the book as long as I own it. It is a very convenient technique for marking your place in Time, and for constructing a mental history of yourself, should you ever be asked to do so by the Authorities.

I think my eye was initially drawn to Mishima's Confessions for one very particular, but very superficial reason: the torso featured on the cover—a samurai version of the
St. Sebastian motif.

We all know what happened to poor St. Sebastian, and what Mishima did to himself, but I am less sure what happened to me when I read that book fifteen years ago. I think it was then that something about Japan first began stirring in my imagination.

It can take years for the effect of words to sink into your imagination. And with some authors—most authors—the words never do. Most words are dropped again as soon as they are picked up off the page. You hear something beautiful you hadn't noticed before—perhaps the furnace ticking on— and you forget where you were in the last paragraph. At least, that is the case with me.

I think Mishima more than Godzilla was my introduction to Japan. And after Mishima, I moved on into the mysterious world of Akutagawa, Murakami,
Lady Murasaki, and others. Then I met Takaaki.

My favorite Japanese author is probably
Soseki Natsume. There is something very funny and very dark about this man's sense of humor, something sinister. There are times that I feel like his stories were specifically crafted to entertain me, which is preposterous.

Kokoro is Soseki's most profound work, I think, and Botchan his most congenial, but I think my personal favorite is I Am A Cat. Half Tristram Shandy, and half I, Claudius, and altogether Japanese, it presents a cat's eye view of the world, from the birth of one lonely kitten until his untimely death.

Don't get me wrong. I do not enjoy I Am A Cat because I especially enjoy the company of cats. I am not really a cat person. In fact, I think my relationship with felines bears an
eerie resemblance to my relationship with men—Mankind, I mean. I am allergic Him as a collective presence, but I intensely love individuals.

That must be why we get along so well, I think.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Tokiyou ni ikimasu.

After the hideous cold of the last two weeks, the temperature in New York has climbed back into the 40s, and there is the distinctly tangy scent of spring in the air. In fact, and I hope you are sitting down, I actually enjoyed that my train was a little late leaving Stamford this morning. The extra eight minutes of sunlight on my face did me some indescribable good.

Last week, during the depths of the evil cold snap gripping Connecticut, and my insides, I made reservations for a return trip to Tokyo, in late March, to see some cherry blossoms (sakura) and spend a few afternoons soaking in a nice hot volcanic bath with Taka-chan.

Part of the reason why I have been writing such miserable poetry over the last few weeks is that I have been feeling frustrated with myself. I want to find a nice well-paying job in Tokyo, so Takaaki and I can start cooking rice together, but it is proving painfully hard. And why is it so hard? Obviously, I must be doing something wrong, even if I seem to be doing everything right.

Sometimes there is nothing harder to face in the world than your own reflection in the mirror. And when I turn inward, I can turn particulary vicious. Introspection probably should not be performed by an amateur with a deformed soul, but by some sort of detatched and finiky professional, with a gentle but penetrating eye. I really think I need that volcanic bath.


So, here are few quatrains totally unrelated to Japan, volcanoes, romance, or anything else. They are about the most boring subject imaginable: writing.

A Note to Alex
Inserted in his new notebook

One hundred pages occupy this book,
One hundred clouds of suds and rolling thunder,
One hundred sacks of coconut—and look—
A fish fillet. That’s right. I think it’s flounder.

Well, how would you interpret all this space?
Pour fresh foundations for a concrete world,
Or copy something? Sketch some kind of face,
Left earlobe laden with a teardrop pearl?

Our choices can be frightening. Take drug stores:
How do you choose a nice deodorant
Among the dozens of toxic metaphors
Out there? Try everything? Experiment?

Here’s roses and Rottweiler. How sublime.
There’s oxygen for dizziness—and wine—
If you have trouble breathing. Take your time:
Rhyme ‘kiss’ with ‘bliss’ and you should be fine.

There may be more I’d like to say to you;
But I’ve been told—by somebody who knows—
That I am just a book—a blank one, too.
So, fill me with your poetry. (No prose.)

Amateur Hour

When I’m at work—when I have time to think—
I’ll dip a long white feather in my heart,
Concealing how my pen and inkpot clink.
I am not sure this qualifies as Art.

I think a poet should be more profound;
He ought to scream, “Look at me—I exist!”
It also helps a bit to hop around,
Pierce pieces of your tongue, and shake your fist.

The fist establishes your right to speak,
The piercings vouch for your sincerity.
Of course, if I ever began to shriek
Somebody here would call Security.

So, I make do with the odd metaphor
For those emotions I cannot address
With people listening—like that cri de coeur
I spent all morning trying to express…

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Please, do not adjust your set.

In keeping with the dismal note I sounded the other day, I have decided to post another dark piece. I hope you don't mind. I only propose to do this until it gets warmer.

I feel it is better to get these things out of my system, rather than let them sit in my brainpan foully fermenting, possibly blowing the top off my skull, like a hairy old cork. I have no wish to wind up like a bad bottle of champagne.

And I have no wish to create a great pink and gray mess for Walter to scrape off the ceiling in my office. He is a kind and diligent man. He and his bad back live in the Bronx, and I worry whenever I see him ascending a ladder.


Anyway, here is another poem.


My Poor Fool

Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life, and thou no breath at all?

King Lear, V.iii.352-53

Heaven was just the place for him to go.
He never understood this world. You know,
We would discuss it over marmalade
And coffee—matter—how the world was made.
He would take
small triangles of toast
And dip them in his egg—completely lost.
Most considered him a child—my half-wit.
Like any parent, my poor heart was split:

His jokes were creaky as an outhouse door,
And yet I loved him—loved him to the core.
He turned the girls to jelly. For, in his
There twinkled something wild in black tie
Which frightened the officials, children, and dogs.
He painted funny faces in the fogs
Which rolled in like thunder from the sea
Those nights we kept each other company.

He tested my love constantly. He
d twist
My heart right
into knots—without a sweat
One drop of effort. For some reason I
Don’t fully comprehend, he teased me,
Are you so melancholy, Lord—so blue
He pinged me with a pebble from his shoe.
Most fools are a bit impudent. Of course,
This lad was lucky: he wound up a corpse.

I hanged the lad in public to remind
The peoples of planet Earth that God had died.
They stared at him like vegetables. The few
Who cried for Mercy I hanged twice. Like you,
I never thought his last remarks were fair,
Until I had him hoisted in the air.
“Good grief,” he gargled, “how the rafters shook

When we gave that carpenter the hook!”

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A fine and private place...


I’m sorry it has been so long since I've written. I am afraid I haven't had anything to say. I have been in a funk, as it were. Winter has been getting me down. I hope you haven't been sitting in cyberspace all month, sighing, and waiting for me to write.

The fact is, I have been drawing a blank since the day after New Year’s Day, and I don't like to write when I don't have anything to say—just to fill up some space—it seems like such a terrible waste of effort. I know that this is probably just a seasonal thing, related to the nakedness
of the trees, the lack of sunshine, frozen rivers, ice, and snow but it doesn't seem like an ordinary blank either.

It reminds me one of those big blanks they like to hang in museums: a vastly underpopulated plain
upon which any passing vandal with a sword may inscribe anything he wants. What I wouldn't give for a couple of good leafy Gainsboroughs right now! Just to confront this ghastly gloom! Just look at the expressions of confidence on those faces—even the dog's. Who cares where they were going, off to their bedroom or off of a cliff. In the 18th Century, some people at least appeared to have a purpose!


I had had the idea about writing a few things about the Gainsboroughs, about lovers in general, using as a point of departure, Andrew Marvell’s poem,
To His Coy Mistress, my favorite poem of all time. I fooled around with the concept for a few days, before I finally abandoned it with a shrug. Nothing amuses me now: not him, not her, nothing. I could get no further with my original idea than borrowing two lines from Marvell and calling this pathetic posting, “A fine and private place...”

The grave's a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.


Normally, I have very little time to spare for regrets, but somehow I wish I hadn't erased those early ruminations on Mr. and Mrs. Gainsborough, Andrew Marvell, or his mysterious muse, his Mistress. If only I had followed them, their example, they might have lead me somewhere besides this terrible spiritual cul-de-sac. They seemed such a lovely couple. At least he did. I really didn't get to know her...

My biggest trouble is that I tend to obliterate everything that I create which I do not personally consider perfect. And, as I am sure you will agree, my literary criticism is
decidedly second rate.

Usually, I try not involve other people my artistic program. I am a quiet person, not at all political. When I lose my way in a work, I press a button on the right hand side of my computer and delete the document I have been working on. I don't mind starting over. I must have started my life over a zillion times. This is one of the benefits of being an American, I guess. You can always tear up the past and start over. It is a very simple action—a bit like turning out the lights: clean, neat, and—unless you get a shock from the carpet—relatively painless.

And yet, I still get emotionally attached to certain metaphors from time to time, and always against my better judgment. I can't help myself.  I am sure you have enjoyed similarly pointless relationships. They are fine as long as the flowers are fresh and the sex remains satisfactory. But eventually...

I always wind up on the phone with mother, soliciting her advice. Our conversation is always the same:

She says, "Don't be an idiot. What is this bitch to you? Your mind is full of metaphors, you fool. You can always manufacture more."

"But mother," I plead, "this one is so enormously original, so pink and pretty, it seems a sin to destroy her..."

"You are just as bad as your father—all guilt and gonads—that man was. My sister was the lucky one. Your Aunt. Just look at her now: Queen of Scotland. I should have married MacBeth."

Maybe she should have. But then, we wouldn't be here, would we? I don't know. All I know is that after a beer and bit of judicious editing, I usually feel better in the morning.


I hope you can understand better why I think it is fortunate that I am a poet, and not a politician, novelist, professor, or other grossly over-paid, over-indulged kind of gasbag. I know from hard experience that I cannot afford to be promiscuous with my powers. If I want my voice to be heard, I must be economical with my images. I must make the most of the fact that I am a Nobody, and that the influence which I retain in Society is purely imaginary. I am a poet.
All I have is a voice.


Over the years, I have learned to control my voice, mostly through
trial and error. I have also learned that only in very rare instances are words indispensable to anything, or anyone. Words can be replaced. Words are not women, after all, or children: words are more like men. At least the words that I have dealt with are like men. Many have hidden lives, hidden meanings, hidden messages. None are ever straightforward. Some, particularly verbs, even have minds of their own.

But linguistics is such a miserable science. I bet that we, you and I, could burn Bibles and dictionaries day and night for a 1000 years, and still not discover a workable definition of the truly terrible depths to which some words would have us stoop. My mother is a harsh woman, but I am also afraid that she is sometimes right. This is why I do not feel guilty when I delete a million words at a time.

This has been a very difficult lesson for me to learn, as an artist. My earliest efforts at making music involved only tears. I grew up in the 20th Century, you understand. And my notes from those frightening years—living on the kindness of strangers— prostitution and potato peels— are very sparse, very chaotic, indeed.


And here, I think, for the first time in this tedious post, we may be able to discern the tinkling skeleton of a theme...

Coffee in Chelsea

I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.
-Robert Frost

While taking a transfusion of caffeine
Extracted from a scorched Arabic bean,
I may select a slice of yellow cake
By pointing to biscotti by mistake.
A spongy cube (about four inches thick)
Is dropped demurely on my plate and, sick—

The side with chocolate frosting flops face down—
A diabolical, soft-plopping sound—
Which I do not propose to imitate
If this is to be our final date.
How do you feel about the soft, peach light
Gilding parking meters here tonight?

I know the present focus of my life
Should be some napkins—nay—a fork and knife—
And not these little crumbs of loveliness.
My manners are Medieval. I’ll address
That bit of barbarism momentarily.
Forgive me if I use my tongue. You see,

Beyond the purple lip of this French door,
The world is wandering toward another war.
Each day we find it harder to be nice.
My heart has not quite started pumping ice,
But something has been thickening in there.
Okay, it’s curdling. I don’t really care.

My point is this: one small, atomic spark
Incinerates the elms in Central Park:
How will you survive the Holocaust
That follows? Will anyone lament your loss
Except for maybe me and, I don’t know,
Some crazed curator putting on a show?

Well, what’s a civilized person to do,
When he is forced to bid his faith adieu?
I think that vital questions such as these
Deserve much more than your dismissive—Please!
There are times I look into your eyes
And I see nothing to immortalize.

That must be why I turn to Mercury,
Who’s modeling, this evening, a T-
Shirt thin as tissue paper—ghostly gray.
Just on the verge of cycling away,
He switches gears: he straddles his crossbar,
And lights a Marlboro, like a movie star.

The other Messengers don’t seem to mind.
Okay, one pedal whirls with a whine
When lover boy rolls up—but no one slits
A single throat when they eventually kiss.
Most men are angels in this universe.
The worst they do is smile here. The worst!

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

So far, so goo..

The only wrinkle is that I haven’t posted anything new in 5 days, which is appalling behavior for a blogger, especially one with a following of hungry readers that numbers in the billions. I hope to make up for this lapse in the very near future, not only with an especially witty post, but perhaps with a selection of tasteful nudes.

Before we get to any skin, however, please let me pause to thank Carol and Eileen for a lovely New Year’s Eve 2007 and to recommend a wonderful brand of hot sauce I experimented with this weekend: Scorned Woman. Excellent on your eggs and delirious in Bloody Marys. Never will your eyes water with more pleasure...

At least not in public.

For M.Z.C.

I'm glad you bang me like a door
When I stick pins in your behind;
Your lap is my electric chair,
But, onion of my eye, be kind:

My jawbones click like castanets,
The moon fandangoes in your face,
Our knuckles crack in common time,
"The organist has lost his place!"

O, Cupid you're the devil's priest!
Behind that laughing mask of gold
You rummage in my heart for plums
Then gobble up my living soul!

Hell is just a state of mind,
As the lovely Lucifer observed.
Although my things are singed a bit,
I've come from Heaven. It's absurd:

I need you more than cyanide,
You put the strychnine back in tea:
I'd rather run around with you
Creating total Anarchy!