The Nacreous Oughts

09 April 2009

"Love's Luxurious Esurience"

I knew it from your eyes long before.
Yes--i knew--but i didn't let it change me;
in any case, i would've acted strangely
faced with one so rich where i'm so poor.

Though you insist this secret must not travel,
i knew it from your eyes long before
and if they can't discern it now, no more
will anyone be wiser that we babble...

You tell me what, if you were only single,
delights of the flesh our fates would have in store.
I knew it from your eyes long before
but ask: shall not our spirits then commingle?

All this we spoke beyond your own front door
on neutral ground whose love is sympathy.
Whatever else remains to say to me,
i knew it from your eyes long before.


08 April 2009

"The Old Man in Pajamas"

An old man in pajamas sat
on his front porch swing as the bullets flew
in Fallujah.
He was sitting in Fallujah.

And the soldiers came, and to him they said,
"I would stow it on the floor if I were you
in Fallujah,
sitting in Fallujah."

Then another wall fell across the street,
and when they could speak, he answered back
in Fallujah,
swingin' in Fallujah,

"If it's Allah's will, I'll meet my fate
on my own front porch, with my walking stick,
in Fallujah;
I will die in Fallujah.

But you're ten thousand miles from where
the nearest person dwells who'd care
if you found your
end in Fallujah."

In Fallujah,
talkin' 'bout Fallujah.


07 April 2009

"Song of Democritus"

Worship is a reef against storms,
rough water, unmanageable tides.
As fast as the ocean erodes it
you forge new coral from beloved repetition.
You've found a single blueprint for survival
the ritual that cosmologizes ferocious universe
into something small, hard, and shiny:
building blocks that fit together neatly.
Not that you can ever forget how fragile
your shellcraft is, nor how terrible the packaged forces,
when every surface touched too long transmits a tremor.
You have heard the stars were falling but you knew it already,
the Surgeon-General's warning just confirmed your resolve
to leave no dawn-beached body for the gulls to gouge.



Slow exploringfeasting, by only the light of our hunger...
Again, we forge an unbearable will to return.
It seems like the only place, while it lasts.

But at 4 a.m. i grope on the floor for my clothes.
My hands still feel only a yielding of skin
as i plunge into the icy black, trembling.

This is the real world, stark empty & still
with only the movement of the stoplight's eyes
& a few suspicious solitary drivers.
I bear a mirage, a shimmer on all my senses

that is like a promise, & like a betrayal
of all those broken tonight on the stone battlefield.
I creep into my other bed at last
& lie awake watching the red digits change.


"The Great Ailment"

Compounded of pure caprice & winter sunlight,
She can't suspect how hard she is to follow.
Sometimes i fall behind. Sometimes i lose her
And gaze with longing eyes at the moon's ice halo.

A wiser man than i might fear to choose her
Lapidation softly by void's-pillow;
All i have done is claim my stolen sunlight
And winter caprice once promised me on furlough.


"Infernal Reliquary"

It was but a little while
They thought they could be lords of all the earth.
Poems of magnificent despair
We read them still, & one or two defaced
Monuments; few care to remember the wars.


03 April 2009

"The Higher Throw Weight"

tree answers tree · in chittering waves
fading from one · to revv at another,
the final buzz lapped · by the ascendant.

like leaping fire · the cry carries.
seventeen years' · dark-hoard, bursts
out of each emerald thorax · clenched on a twig.

shuddering with impatience · they fly when they must:
a dull careen · to the better outpost...
and their brief grim grapple · this season's for?

to scatter one further · generation
of crunchy casings · among the branches;
more dreamless gray grubs · in shallow silos.


"An Allegory of Good Government"

What fires am i watching,
that no smoke smells of them
even in this small close room?

Fires that can't be seen,
fires that cast their tingling
on the brain instead of the face,
fires like i have watched too long before.

The wood seemed turned to water,
surging and splashing, alive
only in this sourceless radiance
and for this night of watching
under the bright stars also watching.


"A Clown Plans"

My dreamtask slashed to ribbons, i face the day
with little more than hunger and a plan:
the hunger is for something i'm not certain,
the plan won't work.

I move through hasty barricades like clay
moves when dug with something made of iron.
A dreamtask left unfinished is forgotten
and won't come back.

This torment world is dreamtasks in decay,
decay in flower. I watch each clown come in
ready for applause and something satin,
and meet the rack.


02 April 2009

"Colloquy in the High Branches"

3 crows got together
to decide whether humans were people.
First crow said:
"They don't know how to stop moving,
they must be some kind of insect."
Second crow said:
"They are oblivious to their surroundings.
They are certainly plants."
But the third crow said:
"Haven't you noticed how they complain
at the drop of a stick, about anything and everything?
Their breed would remake the world.
In that alone, they are like crows."


V. S. R.

Justice is a stranger to the world,
as am i:
Justice never was, & i
shall never be.

How is it such strangers came to lodge
here in Time?
On the road to what, were we
when the storm fell?

Justice did not come with me
nor i with it.
If we approach, we pass as strangers.
--Strangers, who don't want to meet.


"Sonic Icons"

--That liquid cough.
I cringe inly
for the millionth
time, hearing
in it the sick child
ignorant of remedy,
the unloved adult
without hope of succor,
& the pathetic slave
fearful of reprisals
for a day's absence.



To watch the mists advance
with the moon full upon them
and their tops barely higher
than the slow moving trees

then to see them enfold
one, two, three streetlights
making them brighter
making everything shine now

as you drive the wide maze
that's different every time
is to know she's waking
and thinking of you


"The Ones He Should Have Failed"

For what they paid, they might as well get it right.
I don't understand. Of all the ones in the class,
These quiet, sober, studious young men
With shining eyes seem least the careless type.
But time after time, their shoulders hunched at the screens
Of simulation, I watch the perilous veer;
I see the flashing end of one more session
Gone terribly wrong, & wonder if the language
Difficulty should be held to blame,
Or something in my teaching that's unclear.


"Atomic Roach Poem"

they are fewer every day
the roaches, since i left them bitter candy.
plastic chapels invite them in.
then they go back bearing lingering evangel.
i never see the corpses;
even the ones i smash get carted off
& eaten in huggermugger,
their way of refusing to concede.
i used to say jokingly
"don't touch that roach!
it might end up the sole survivor
from a nuclear war, & repopulate the earth."
i never spoke to them then.
i kind of identified
with their secretiveness,
their perpetual ineffectual conspiracy.
but now i know
they outnumber us in the cities a hundred to one
& hide for play not fear.
the news makes them tremble with excitement.
perhaps this day will be the day
they get to use their radiation-resistance
a thousand times higher
than any other creature
on this provident planet, that foresaw even Raygun.

i almost mourn the roaches
now that they're endangered, just like me--
a new kind of poison
is right this moment climbing the food chain,
no doubt to be banned
in the year 2000.
by which time my liver will have garnered toxic dose.
i try to forewarn them,
admonish them to live in the present.
"enjoy while you can,
these runaway rice crumbs lodged in the nappy mauve.
your days are numbered
& your number's up;
& soon when i turn on the kitchen light
only shadows will scatter."

but what of Adam & Eve
in that soot-shrouded dawning?
will only our robots be left
winding down on distant shores,
their telemetry unacknowledged?
i keep my journal
in an acid-free notebok to last 3 centuries:
from somewhere i have won
assurance of no precipitate foreclosure.
i don't know why.
it started when i quit listening to the news.


"The Ivory Gates"

When i lick you
it is homage to the Goddess.
The pleasure flies up your spine,
you twist & moan, & the Goddess is well served,
but you are not the Goddess.
These temple walls have been here longer than the earth;
this bed is only given us for an hour.

So we divest of masks,
our names, our roles & offices,
why we have come, where we will go afterwards,
all our mundane identity; & we divest
at last, even of the mask of Desire.

Just to belong for a time in the sacred precinct.

As we shudder into sleep, rockingly soothed,
immense with ecstatic promises,
let it go unremembered
let it dissolve.
We cannot bear this waking knowledge
past a hazy somber longing
& mute poignancy...our cicatrized hands
blindly seek to clasp of their own volition
as you sit beside me in the car
talking of triple lives & the need for caution.


"The Dead King Hunts and Eats the Gods"

The dust i brushed one day
off a new-cut pane of glass
is long since dissipated now:
not so, the tiny splinter which it left.

O, hours of digging never brought it to light
until at last, defeated i had to admit
i'd carry for the rest of my natural term
this deep-hid jewel in my palm.

The jewel in my palm but seldom pains me;
the jewel in my palm unfits me for work.
The jewel in my palm i wasn't born with
has grown its own cocoon and means to stay.

Shall i describe the jewel in my palm
i've never seen and yet's most intimate?
The jewel in my palm is always silent
except when i'd forget its constant lurk.

No scar reveals where it conspired entry
and should i dare deny, no one could tell
that there's a stranger here who also holds
the heft of everything i take to hand.

But i've found uses for this trespassed jewel
undreamt of when i swung my careless palm:
it links me to the far approach of thunder
and touches me where Time has closest swerve.

The jewel in my palm i would have planted
on purpose if i'd known its final aim,
sometimes makes me wish to sooner free it
but not to rid my palm and grasp without.

For when the phasing of my seasons falters,
this hourglass-fill of sands within my form
will finally have been sent to join the first dust
i scattered in the air so long ago.

The jewel in my palm will start another
less passive journey then, through finer flesh,
and glass of fiery origin that it is,
nothing but fire can stop it--to fire will go.



        I will stay,
i will learn to live and die in the body,
the body's knowing and what it doesn't know.
My armor will be that i am flesh
without appeal, in the fleetness of its perishing.
Here on this island of Easter
gull's cry flies forever among the stone faces.



    Though she is gone from me & far away,
& i have not desired her for awhile,
to think in her direction is to weigh
the world against a most superior wile...
In vain i seek for any other way
than falling in love anew, to lose her smile
but i cannot be free, once brought to trial,
    though she is gone from me & far away
& i have not desired her for awhile.


"Die Faster"

To know to the penny
what you carry;
to harbor the cough
that doesn't go away: these
are the Puppies of Hell;

to not want to enter
anyplace they might pierce you
with that look.


"Not a Church Wedding"

I never can remember the morning rain
so quietly does it become a mood,
& thence a land, where all things bent & dismayed
by Time's oppression dwell in immaculate ruin.
The light indoors seems stronger, though unwell.
I wanna/ sit alone & contemplate the taste
of autumn, empire's end, & death; I'd test
bounds, if but in parable to wail
by a gray shore with the immaterial forms...
    Usually I have to go somewhere, which forms
the context of this feeling, for the tarn
I leave behind, unvisited, its murk
& mists & dragging winds lacking my bark
to laze there, counterpoise,
                --begins to churn.



Across mean years i lost my taste for sugar;
my childhood sank, thickly encased in sugar.

Go, i said, you have no further claim
on these poor bones, your kiss a waste of sugar.

The garden was a dream of riot run
in which we lay, our thirsts replaced with sugar.

City rose upon city, each droll layer
marked at the point its populace embraced sugar.

Graywyvern turned in the dappled labyrinth
to see ants hefting his pathway traced in sugar.


"ODE: A Crime Against the Moone"

The music of the years, too dear for me
a candle drowned in its own wax
slavery has returned to the world
where urge & the Story dovetail

we trade mutable masks, i & the dead
one of us has lost the code
false phosphorus, indigo on black
a skinhead reads me my cards

you're paying too much for entropy
i know where you can get much cheaper
of the dispossessed
enters my body
wordlessly, like the chill
of a great cathedral.

Fathomless answer, the city
had assumed its golds & even the undersides
of the overpasses
were lit. Down the narrow alley stairway
four detours on the way there
wonder underway, marooned near doom
ineluctable return. Railey
Silvered by slug trails of joy
the hundred-foot statue of Stalin
visible from across the Trinity River.
The Story
into thirteen swans divides;
the colors of a bruise are not the sunset's.
In napalm i have burned
cold orb & bright
impoverished kiss, forage
five old wolves
tarrying at the shadowless duration.

Crashsound returns as ingots
wasp tattoo of the bronze mortgage
graves laid upon graves
the weeping statue, righted
i keep hearing singing in the walls
jarring the gyro
through the Hunger Wall
an experiment in mixing musics
MC 900-foot Earthworm
in this former empire
without the stained glass
House of the Black Mother of God
the moment, overly edged
salvo of ornaments gargoyle scree
can't argue with the cold
alone in the Police Museum
fenced pit of rubble
the basement walls bared to the sky
return to a dubious parking place
mayor of the besieged town
distant birdsong
in this bright abyss of air
curiously intimate.

Or say my Evil Eye had flowered
Under a rain of stones
on the beach of the lifeless sea
from watching fires elapse
then flick an ant away
the counterclockwise clock
conspirators' passageway
opened in the tarry afternoon
stone forest chess game
by a saffron quaver
following the wires
vegetarians carrying candles of animal fat
divvy the gleaming implements
ridged to my thumb.

Possessing you, why does my time compare
captioned victim ore into slag
rose vowel interval wall of starfish
last night of the Winter King
open door, molten road, shoe in the moonlight
pointing the ninth candle
& these details are things i want to know
& what i want to know i have to find
orange sparkspray
the length of an eyeblink
car-tossed cigarette at night
the Shrine has vermin.



there was once a king
a stupid king
son of a king

and he ruled a great empire
greatest of his time
and a pious king was he

so pious
he wanted to punish
everyone that didn't believe

and he made a department
to spy on his own people
this pious king

but it was war he loved
constant war
war with no object

he made war till he exhausted
the wealth of this richest empire
he ruined his country

to utter bankruptcy
and it became
the most backward country in Europe

and after this king
whose name was Phillip the Second
a Golden Age of art & literature

was snuffed out
like it never existed
and it was three hundred years

three hundred years
till Spain produced anything good again


"Everyone Knows the Way"

The map graved in my nomad blood
is a mask or the dance of death
i gather my things
again for the long uprooting
one with all the homeless ones
millions on every continent without a place to rest
antheap kicks antheap & the turmoil widens
& though this time
i know where i'll be going
i am no less the prey of that nomad blood
driven with nothing to follow
but my hatred
like a pillar of smoke by day & my fear
like a pillar of fire by night


Sonette an Orpheus, II. 29

Quiet friend of farflung furlongs, feel
how more & more your breathing swells the room.
Among the rafters of the gloomy belfry
let yourself toll. What takes its life from you
gathers to a greatness over this repast.
Embrace the transmutation,--there & back.
What's your most excruciating practice?
Does drinking twist your face? Turn into wine.
Be, tonight, out of overplus,
wizardry at your senses' intersecting;
of their weird conjunction make the sense.
Then, when all the homely round forgets,
to the sempiternal earth declare: I run.
To the rushing waters answer: I remain.

--Rainer Maria Rilke (my tr, 1987)


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