Saturday, January 11, 2014

For Jeannette

Pushing the limits of fragile as strength,
you endure, an impoverished queen in exile.
Waiting for your grandson to finish playing,
you quietly hold court in the park.

A cormorant spreads its wings to warm itself
in your sun-filled voice over the phone.
It lulls me back into a stroll through a rose-garden
near midnight, and your blessing on my road.

You ask me, how are things? I pause, over the
translation from sycamore into spruce.

During winter, a tide in Cook Inlet is bizarre.
The once-grey ocean becomes an ice-factory,
conveys it in crackling sheets side-ways,
grinding it inexorably into shards by the shore.

The biting wind only allows a few moments to stare
at the way the ice plays tricks with light,
giant pastel lanterns flick shadow-puppets
across Sleeping Lady's grandest pinkish-orange peignoir.

While your voice, dear friend, is a flock of wax-wings
Swooping round me, a figure-eight, a sudden gathering-in.



Imprimatura



It is conceived as a vision unseen.

First, a shadow swath of bright brush
across a canvas stretch,
lamp black and ochre
swept from pear-wood,
a sketch obscured
by imprimatura.
Add linseed and oil of lavender,
patience feeds on faith,
and lets it dry cross-wise;

burnt umber curlicues,
errors excised through


merciless knife-scrapings;

from leaner layer to fatter,
a dark nearly the death of hope,
and dead grey 
penumbra,
a film of mystery,

breath of turpentine;

in spread and smoothing
stroke of miniver,
with persistence
flesh appears;

a priming of Prussian blue,
madder-lake deep,
a touch of cinnabar
in the seventh wave,

let all of this light
be sealed by damar--

and by purest dread, lest the painted eyes
meet their creator's gaze in recognition.

Friday, January 10, 2014

white night

Because the night has swallowed the moon,
in the glare of its milk-white teeth,
the moon-daughter waits in shadow,
in the tangled mane of a weeping birch.

Is it her song that stirs the leaves,
or is it the fingers of the wind,
lunar servants, silken
reminders of silver rays?

She steps out with blind eyes,
shivering, testing her footing on
each mossy root and rock ledge,
until she finds the place in her memory,

further on and up, into a clearing
fringed with lingon-berry leaves,
where the last few star-flowers cling
to the edge of a sandstone cliff,

where she holds a twilight vigil, waiting
for the midnight sun to fade into moonlight.

she runs past the pain

she's got one left knee
painted with iodine
a girl on a cot
with huge question eyes

what the crap
that's all she wants
to know

she is more her grandmother
more her father
more of anyone
else but me

the blue gloves
draw out fluid from her flesh
drawn from my flesh
and I don't know
anything

except

what I've given her
and what I've lost
and what she takes
or leaves

twitching that sheaf
of blonde hair

and I have no answer
but a curtain
of silence over her future

when she kicks that soccer ball
she's breaking out
she's this brightness slashing
every barrier

and
I will her to
emerge

while I

run

past my pain

Olesya

In my eyes whirl the splintered particles,
A simmering of stippled jots;
Sweepings of ostrich plumes
Signal the curtains' rise and fall.

Who will come in the night watch,
Whose glacial voice will call me forth?
"Who, who, who," shrieks the snowy owl.
There is no haven for me. No veil, no cover.

Mine is the flight of a grey dove,
A small flutter, a noiseless dive;
Crimson dripping on the ice,
Ai, ai, I am too heavy for the air.

If there is a word for me,
I cannot decipher it.

During the night dance, the dream state, 
She extends her porcelain pencil fingers,
--recall how they trembled so long ago--
 those hands are surgeon-steady now. 
Soul sister, where have you gone?

I'll send her a white lily
to match her calla arms.

golden plover

Fastened in my metal cage,
I glide above the pebbled path.
Grinding, humming, rattling,
Rare ore surrounds me.
Melted sand has forgotten the shore;
Through its lens I glimpse the sea mist.

There, where cotton grass clings to the silt,
High-stepping, the golden plover dances for its mate.
How do I know this?
Once, as a small girl, I followed my stick boat
On its way down a stream.
A shore bird and I nearly collided.
My hand groped and I felt its pulse
Quicken as mine does now.

Ashamed, I let it go at once.
Twig-like tracks in the sand
Must lead to a nest in the grasses.
The aroma of crushed ferns
should flavor the sun-dappled breeze.

Oh, free me from this clattering contraption!
Fly away with me
To where the spanish moss waves,
And the ash tree trembles,
Where fresh water
Springs only to your touch.

The Unwrit Poem

Afternoons on Old Arbat Street,
Pushkin's ghost emerges from his monument.
Wondering where his wife has flown to,
He lingers near the artists and buskers.

A new attraction, a pantomime--
has caught his eye: a mute woman's
hands describing the boundaries
of an invisible cage; it moves him strangely.

At the end of her performance,
She is led away by Faustus,
Tugging at a silken rope
Threaded like a noose around her neck.

Mephistopheles follows behind.
He offers her a scented chocolate.
Ravenous, she accepts: as soon as
it melts on her tongue, she swoons.

Mephistopheles takes a knife,
slices her hands and feet, and
into each wound he chants,
You are mine, you are mine!

Faustus, striding forward, face fixed
In a grimace, drags her onward,
Oblivious to the blood
Dripping onto the cobblestones.

Drawn by the smell of fear,
Imps appear on the scene,
Attaching themselves like leeches
to the fallen woman, taunting her.

An artist, secret angel, rises from his easel
in protest. The outlines of the woman become
Translucent; she divides into many selves,
Each one with its attendant imp.

Certain of the woman's selves begin
to torment the others; a conflict ensues.
Harsh voices issue from her mouths,
alternating with cries for mercy! mercy!

The noisy cavalcade processes around
the corner and into an alley-way;
A few fascinated pedestrians
Drop coins into Faustus' hand.

Lukomorye! I must record this!
Exclaims Pushkin, digging into
His pockets for a pencil, but
there finds only a dueling pistol.

Alas.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

The Shade

Wrapped in a begrimed man's overcoat,
a blind woman haunts the cemetery.

Shuffling, awkward in this carapace,
not daring lift her head to speak,
nor remember the shattered shape
of words, their colors or music,

her gaping sockets are shrouded with rags.
Unable even to gaze up at the hills for comfort,
nor to bridge the unfathomable distance
betwixt the verse of a cretin and a poet,

She traces the lineaments of each stone,
searching for a name she can't remember.

At night, she visits her eyes,
perched on a mausoleum shelf,
listening to the icy flow of her
hidden tears into goblin-cups.

In this world, such sorrows
are nameless, and homeless.
Too caustic. They might etch epics
onto the glass of a mirror-world.

Driven by shivering, her fingers reach
for one last match, which she grasps
carefully, not striking it. Darkness
covers her with its cimmerian cloak.






bearings


At a party, an eccentric pair of eyes,
hollowed, all aglow with homing instinct,
ready to flee South to fishing grounds:
to Alabama, rivers, sands and sea;

wondered aloud why snow, and how
it managed to conceal cabin windows,
yet reveal the tracks to wolves' secret lairs,
during the years of his sojourn with solitude,

and mused on days measured in tromps to the lake,
by the number of visits by moose,
counting hills traversed by snow-shoe,
cranberry muffin recipes and stacks of firewood,

till I reminded him that once, emerging from hibernation,
he spied a neighbor fallen through the ice,
threw out a line and labored, wrestling the man
from the brink of the coldest embrace.

"Come to think of it," leaping like a lure,
the eyes flashed, reminiscing, over at his host,
"maybe that's the real reason I ended
up in that place after all," and his mouth,
crimped by self-doubt, relaxed into a pursed
smile, then commenced the narration of his tale.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The reality that is present to us and in us
call it Being ... Silence.
And the simple fact that by being attentive,
by learning to listen
(or recovering the natural capacity to listen)
we can find ourself engulfed in such happiness
that it cannot be explained:
the happiness of being at one with everything
in that hidden ground of Love
for which there can be no explanations...
May we all grow in grace and peace,
and not neglect the silence that is printed
in the center of our being,
It will not fail us.

--Thomas Merton

Tuesday, January 07, 2014



O frabjous! I've wandered into a Rimsky-Korsakov playlist and cannot find my way out.




his course is the caress of the hill

What is a saint? A saint is someone who has achieved a remote human possibility. It is impossible to say what that possibility is. I think it has something to do with the energy of love. Contact with this energy results in the exercise of a kind of balance in the chaos of existence. A saint does not dissolve the chaos; if he did the world would have changed long ago. I do not think that a saint dissolves the chaos even for himself, for there is something arrogant and warlike in the notion of a man setting the universe in order. It is a kind of balance that is his glory.

He rides the drifts like an escaped ski. His course is the caress of the hill. His track is a drawing of the snow in a moment of its particular arrangement with wind and rock. 
Something in him so loves the world that he gives himself to the laws of gravity and chance. Far from flying with the angels, he traces with the fidelity of a seismograph needle the state of the solid bloody landscape. His house is dangerous and finite, but he is at home in the world. He can love the shape of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love.


--Leonard Cohen

Bridges and Dust

Once again I'm sweeping up the crumbs
left behind by scurrying feet
sometimes I get lost in a swirl of dust

remembering the gritty wind
from the brick factory
and that woman in the courtyard

her hair was cut short and square
she wore outmoded Soviet-style lipstick
she did not smile, she did not frown
her face, a mask,  flickered
while our children frolicked in the sand box

she was the Afghan wife of a Russian officer
we tasted the sand in our teeth
while the wind whistled between
twelve-story cement towers
that's how our friendship went

never did tell her where I was from
we hardly ever talked at all
but we were different than the others

who smoked like sailors
dressed like movie stars

we were bridges to a culture
that was slipping away from us
you could say, bridges to nowhere --

after the time in a Moscow hospital
I cut my hair square and short
dangled myself and the wash out to dry on the balcony
tried to lose myself in the whirling dust

but it wasn't my time yet
not yet -- not yet --

while I still can, I say it's a time to build bridges
but there's so much sand in our eyes
too much blood spilled
too little trust --

Monday, January 06, 2014

At the gateway to night
Orange blushes the town
Gloaming in the twilight,
Painted shadows reel round.

Rippling channels of fire,
Dust and pulleys charnel,
Vehicles of desire,
Vectors twirl and whirl.

Pass the place of yearning,
Speak to the dusky plane,
Heed not the smarting wings,
Singed by purity's flame.

Flow and soar, climb and see:
A hamlet translucent,
Tinged with throbbing beauty,
Lambent souls in movement.


En plein air - in memoriam Andrew Bellon

A dreamless sleep falls from the shimmering leaves. --Sappho fragment, tr. Andrew Bellon I changed, thickened, ...

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