All the Great Syllables

IMG_7587.JPGWe don’t see each other often
yet in my time here
through the laurel leaves
that even winter doesn’t claim
I’ve seen on their sun and moonlit faces
all the great syllables of loss and hope.

For this morning there was a birth
and this evening there was a death.

And they keep walking soulward.

Who keeps walking?
You know who.

And on the bright true path of broken things
The red-soaked wings of banded dove remains.
And her veins flow dirtward.

For at dawn there was a hunger
and this afternoon there was a feast.

And they keep flying.
Who keeps flying?
You know who.

Through the slanted sun
A brightest green unstoppable
Like a stubborn fertility god
Drunk on rain and light.

For in the summer there was a drought.
And in the winter there was a torrent
flowing swardward.

And It keeps growing.

What keeps growing?
You know what.


Lament For the Makers


Hamlet and Horatio in the graveyard, by Eugène Delacroix.

This poem is dedicated to Ursula Le Guin, who died this week. RIP, Sorceress. I adore her EarthSea series, and have enjoyed many of her other novels and essays. This poem’s theme and form is modeled after 15th century Scottish poet William Dunbar’s Lament for the Makers. Dunbar ends each stanza with the phrase, “Timor mortis conturbat me,” translated as “The fear of death disturbs me.”

In is interesting to note that the word ‘poiesis’ is derived from the root meaning ‘to make’, and extrapolated, means, “the activity in which a person brings something into being that did not exist before.” So the subject here is poets, writers, musicians, all creators and their creations juxtaposed with death, or that which returns all to the nothingness from which it rose. And in particular here I honor recent artists that great mysterious sea has recently drawn into her fold: Leonard Cohen, Prince, David Bowie, Maya Angelou, Tom Petty, Ray Manzarek.

The strong unmerciful tyrant takes
All that will and desire makes
Down to that great and dark deep sea.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

What’s built up must come down,
The ruin of all laurel crowns
The fall of all pageantry.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

All the songs sung in the day
Will in the night be swept away
And embrace the fate of darkening.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

The Sorceress of EarthSea told
A suite of magic new and bold
Now to furthest shore carefree.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Beautiful Loser sang Hallelujah
He sang it dark, but not to fool ya
He rang the bells that could be rung
And sung with dark but golden tongue
And then the end as meant to be.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

She knew why the caged bird sings
And sang of all the beautiful things.
But in the end the bird must flee.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

He sang to us from afar
The vision of his rising star
But Ziggy rises and Ziggy falls
And in the end the black star calls
Reclaiming its space oddity.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

A heartbreaker who loved to toke
‘Twas his heart that finally broke
He’s still working on the mystery.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

The Purple One played his part
The doves will cry and break your heart
An artist formerly known to be.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

He took us for a wild ride,
Led us through the other side
Come on light our fires, please.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

When the tune’s done, the fiddle’s set down
Where is the ear that can hear to be found?
Perhaps beyond all what we see.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

When every third thought shall be the grave
And all that we attempt to save
Will be sunk in the unknowable sea,
Timor mortis conturbat me.

All the art and artifice wrought
Falls to the ground to finally rot
And fade into the Big Dream.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

All of the songs by beautiful breath
On their way to the dusty death
Perhaps a memory yet may be.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

There’s more we want to hear and see
More we want to make believe
Much more we want to love and be.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

But the end is built into it all
The makers’ splendid fires fall
To ashes and the embers cool
With death as the final school
A hard and ruthless finality.
Timor mortis conturbat me.

Conversations With An Emperor of Dust

black holeAmor vincit omnia (Love Conquers All)

“Rust may never sleep, but then, neither does moss.” – Brian Awehali

Emperor: I am Conquest.

My dark army vanquishes all
with its settled presence,
The wide world yields before my dusty scepter.

What I don’t cover with my relentless rind
I break and tear and dissolve into me–
my appetite knows no end.

All to ash, I say, All to ash.

I: Pin not your proud imperial hopes on me,
for I’m the rebel to thwart you, Dust.

You may fall, I’ll sweep you clean.

Emperor: What you build, I devour,
for at last you and it and I are one.
I will fade your brightest colors.

Call me King, subject!

I: You may tear down my citadels,
rend each wall and roof asunder,
but I shall thrust up once more
a sparkling edifice, refulgent

with a heart beyond your dark fingers,
my lineage is indefatigable
its coat-of-arms bears the Phoenix
on whose feathers no dust remains long

Emperor: Look around, what pitiful Phoenix do you see?
I’ve ground each beak and wing to dust.

My soldiers have thrown to their tasks well
rewarded with their own unending meals
Nothing is beyond the vast reach of my march,
All submit to my…

I: NO! All do not submit!
This is the voice of the one
who does not.
My head you shall cover,
my feet you shall sully,
my works you shall dissolve,
with Time as your conspirator.

But No, ‘King’, my heart slips through your grasp.

‘O King, O King, O King’,
the word mocks itself
on the tongue of my fierce beat.
I’ll make of your crown a tiny watermark
within my ferocious design.

Whatever power you usurp through the eons–
from the imperial center of decay
to your outposts of dirt–

I defy it like a riot.

My heart is no subject of yours.
Its riotous root runs deeper than your Rome,
where your empire has no purchase.

Should your mindless soldiers
dare ask its name, it’ll reply,

“Tell you master, my name is Defiance.
My task, Creation, my motive, Love.
My will be done.”





The Desert Teaches Me Thirst: Three Cheritas

blue desertI recently discovered a poetic form called cherita from poet Annie R. Ray. Cherita [pronounced CHAIR-rita] means ‘story’ in Malay and was created by poet ai li in 1997 in memory of her grandparents. It arises out of the English-language haiku and tanka traditions, but allows for a micro-narrative and is slightly more flexible in form and style. It consists of a one-line stanza, then a two-line stanza, and ends with a three-line stanza. This is my first fling with them.

cold blue night

beside an abandoned cabin
I lay like an orphan of the world

the desert teaches me thirst–
thrusting in my throat
like a murderer

(inspired by a day and night of being stranded in the desert last August)

a quiet laurel grove

you’ve stopped running
I’ve stopped chasing

you crown me with leaves of bay
I crown you with what I say
an ancient royal ritual

(inspired by my relationship with my anima, the forest where I live, and my adaptation of the myth of Daphne)

still black cow

on a hill,
a mother’s cry in the mist

the first was the last breath–
baby bovine,
you did not make it

(inspired by seeing a stillborn calf on a hill on a misty winter day)

Owl Saint of Night

owl of minerva
“The owl of Minerva takes its flight
only when the shades of night are gathering” – Hegel

the crickets howl at dusk
amidst the peace

at the edge of the meadow
a cold hoot stands sentinel

and a great hunger arises
from the center of things

seeking satisfaction
along the perimeter

Rabbit bows her head
in quiet ceremony

safe from shadows swinging
down without a sound

Oh Owl Saint of Night
creamy rhythm in furtive flight

knives from killer sky
piercing jugular, jumping
screaming bunny, heaving
high-pitch horror, bleeding
body kicking, raining
remains of rabbit rapidly
dying into darkness, flying
final thoughts as these:

“hope is not the thing
with feathers, and for all
the feathers fine
a bitter chill it was,
the bitter chill was mine.”

the curtain closes with a hoot
on ancient afternoon

as Artemis smiles from the east
a winter silence resumes

Solstice Ren·dez·vous With Butterfly

butterfly2“Why does it all go away?”
Butterfly asks,

perching on my shoulder
as I read the shortest day

in my Meadow
I say the butterfly asks this.

An abrupt question for a sunny solstice
and I have no answer for her.

Unreason for the season
What is the grass?

the books are loud
the small voices clamor

but the god is quiet
as he decays the day

breathing the Pacific flourish
in deepest lungs

we’ve had a standing ren·dez·vous
the last three days

getting to know each other
me, Butterfly, and the god

like long separated Rain from Earth:
much to discuss

I don’t know if we are retrospecting
or forecasting

then realize it is neither–
we dwell at the bottom

of the present
from which the What booms

we sit tickling each other’s

delicious undulations
of nuanced joy

and dread, until
a wind through Eucalyptus’s hair

sweeps and moves the god to admit
in a winter-scented accent:

“I torture myself to discover myself.”

oh, what a syrupy loneliness
issues from this sincere divinity

then, from behind the Laurel curtain
a vision of the self-hanged god

from black hole

to sea storm
to solstice

to my eyes
to the wings of Butterfly

a silently floating pyramid of Original Dust
ancient winged Atom

takes a gorgeous belly
full of orchestral oxygen:

“I pour myself into shattered interval,
become Time twisted,

and Time wears a Janus face:
Art, the Unfurling,

to the one side
and Death, seed of wisdom,

to the other–
the twin visages

of suffering sacred mirror,
Holy Companion.”

I say the god says all these things.

Everything at my feet is decay:
all the Petals

have sunk their heads
for the season

a minute ago the fingers of the red Walnut
strung the Tree house with brightest lights

but now a black mush
fickle Fern rotting mess

fall of Sparrow rules
dive of Beetles in debris

carry off cartwheels
to too cruel song sung

by crushed buried erotic nut
in the Squirrel pantry

the Light is fading

Butterfly and I chase
the low winter Sun, the warmth

the Flower, the Fruit
the Sweet, but can’t quite catch it

“Tomorrow’s the Day of Promise,” she says. “Just as Today.”

“There’s no reason for us to believe
the Sun will not abandon the Earth,” I reply.

“Other than that everyday
the Dawn is delivered on time,” she says, crooked smile.

“Look, the Worms come in battalions,
dancing. There may be no Return.

The underbelly is winking electric.
The sun is setting.

Perhaps THIS is the last day,”
I sing a cold Melody.

I say it is I that sings this.

She has a warmer lyric:
“I’m stocked wing to wing

with thick Desire,
though Desire’s end be Death’s friend.

In my last place, the lights went out,
and I don’t remember

what came before. Only Blackness and then
Something dissolved in me–some torture sublime.

Then, the New Dream.”
“What’s the New Dream?” someone said.

Without a word, and with smiling wings
in Orange delight

Butterfly performed a one-Woman play
for me and the god

in the dusky Meadow
and the god knew himself

it was just enough
no more, no less

to redeem the final Day
and the longest Night

whether or not
the Sun returns

Note: the line “I torture myself to know myself” is from a Robinson Jeffers poem called At the Birth of an Age [vision of the self-hanged God). Here’s a longer passage from the poem: ‘Whatever electron or atom or flesh or star or universe cries to me,
Or endures in shut silence: it is my cry, my silence; I am the
nerve, I am the agony,
I am the endurance. I torture myself
To discover myself; trying with a little or extreme experiment
each nerve and fibril, all forms
Of being, of life, of cold substance; all motions and netted com-
plications of event,
All poisons of desire, love, hatred, joy, partial peace, partial vi-
sion. Discovery is deep and endless,
Each moment of being is new.’)