Collected Poems from 1972-2011



Intro

          I became a poet at fifteen because I was wildly in love with a girl who wanted a poet for a boyfriend.
I was a jazz musician, which was cool, but poetry would be the kicker for this blonde goddess.  So I
began writing poems.  I was reading a lot of e.e. cummings at the time.  Fortunately for most of us,
the manuscripts from that era have gone missing.  I owe a great debt to this lady, with whom I stayed in touch until her passing from this world three years ago.  She urged me to consider writing as a form of expression.
Love  drove me into the world of literature.  I will miss my first love, my teenage muse.



                                    Seeing Is Believing


            Jan 31, 1995

            A blinded soul
is a stubborn thing.
It must be ground and battered,
shocked, in the hope that one day
it will remember how to see.
So stubborn, it keeps its eyelids
tightly shut, until it must be thrown
into the furnace of stars, and exhaled
into the loneliness of space.
So blind that it must be exiled
time and again,into bodies that are afflicted
with warts, boils and tumors.
Wake up, wake up!
Its eyes stubbornly clamped,
it inherits careless mothers and cruel fathers,
like cold water in the face of the soul,
that it may through pure reflex
open its eyes, and see on the horizon
a glimpse of the home
from which all souls come,
to which they will, some day, return.
A stubborn thing is a blinded soul.
It has no memory of its memory.
It does not know
of the domain of seeing souls
who grieve for their lost brethren.
Won't you see, won't you remember?
they cry.  To the blind
it is a faint and distant sound
drowned by the thunder
of clenched and blaming hearts.
Here it is, here it is!
Just open your eyes, just remember.
The glue that holds shut
the eyelids of your sightless soul
can be dissolved
by the tears of your long, sad sleep.
           


Phobia



Jun 7, 1995

I have a phobia.
I am irrationally frightened
of reading poetry
in front of an audience.
I crave the attention that's so terrifying.
I want you to think me insightful, soulful,
and slightly mad;
but what if you think my poetry's bad?
That's why I might be sweating,
may have a towel around my neck.
What can I do?  Other than wipe my face?
Entertain?
Entertainment's cheap,
it puts me to sleep,
but still, it's good to spin a yarn.
Be funny?
Some of the things I've been through
aren't very funny,
though they might serve to pass the time.
Stimulate?
Go get a cup of coffee.
Raise your consciousness?
Sit on a pin.
So what do I make of this dilemma?
I know: why didn't it occur to me before?
Why don't I just be honest?
Why is that so hard?
We've all been here,
unsure what to reveal,
hiding and afraid we'll be laughed at.
There was a time when I cried so hard
that if I hadn't a friend
it would've been the end.
A moment so beautiful
I thought I'd crack
and the goose flesh
climbed up my back.
Ridiculous, isn't it?
Living like this?
Not knowing from one second to the next
who I might be
who I might love
who might provide me the text.
So, honesty's the thing,
it has the right ring,
I'll just stand here
and tell the whole tale.
It's a risk I'll take,
I'll make my stand
on this small piece of land,
hold tight to my shirt
while I spill all these words
that meant something to me at the time.
I was the person who wrote them,
I may not be him anymore.
But they were small steps
on a genuine quest
to find out the truth of myself.





What Is, My Love


           I wonder what love is.  I lay through the night and wonder what others think love is.  Are they the same, or are they the same name for what each of us holds alone?
            I’m in love, do you love me, how much do you love me, how much do I love you,  I want, I want to want, I need, I’m ashamed to need.  Is it warm and soft or a soul in flames holding back the night?  Does it lift you up or cast you adrift, an ocean current or a glow in a rift deep in the earth?
            Must I find one who knows what my love is, or must each love of itself be enough to fill the gulf?
            My love is a hurt, and a rage and a yearning, it moves through my body, sets my hands to learning the shape beneath the shape, the tone beneath the tone, the language of the bone, of subtlety and range, a way of seeing the strange.
            My love is an urge to speak in new ways, to touch places never touched, to dive farther down, a hole in the ground, a spear of light through the world that reaches to the stars.
            My love is magma bubbling in its pool, a man who feels like a fool, starting again, helpless and in pain.
            My love’s channel narrows, taming the wild torrent in my heart to a gesture that will tell you how much I love you by how gently I can touch you.  I want you to feel mountains of love in my softest touch, hurricanes of love in my lightest brush.
            Within the atom is the nucleus, within the nucleus the quark, within the quark is yet something unknown, so within my love there is never a final reduction, it always loops through itself to a deeper and more subtle emotion. 
            What is anyone’s love?  What is your love?  I don’t know if I am meant to know.  I can only keep striving to know what my love is, though I yearn with all my heart for someone to understand what is my love.
            What is, my love.


                        
                           Hunted By The Hawk
                                 1998


                 Make joy from stones.
                 Make wit from mud,
                 make humor from blood.
                The tiny finch flies crazily,
                 for the sheer fun of it,
                 though it knows, each morning,
                 that it’s hunted by the hawk.
                 We too, each morning,
                 are hunted by the hawk.



Aish Avidya  
 1972
My heart would be completely full,
but for the tiniest speck of emptiness.
All my sight of the world
rushes into that hole,
and peers out, as if from a prison,
wishing for fullness of heart.   

   
Everything
1972

Everything is in a look.
Yet still, everything
is in looking away.
Unable to breathe suns from each other,
we turn to contemplate
lonely space,
and wash our hearts
with what warmth remains.
And again, that look,
rending the cosmos,
pours from the vat of creation
in our eyes.
The unspeakable love dashes its silences
to death,
against the perimeters of our exiles.
Yet, and there is always a yet,
to be born, to be resurrected
in a touch.  The miracle is
that my skin was made to meet your skin,
that unknowable lightnings are our servants
to carry the burdens of love and loneliness.
Somehow my universe gathers energy
and spreads, with the vague arms of an amoeba
to some call on the horizon.
No matter that horizons always recede;
if you too were to will your stars and dust
towards the furthest reach,
perhaps we would meet on some plain
lit by the ecstasy of celestial collision.
And perhaps we must die
to know each other.

Look!  I would fling off my skin
like a cloak,
to show you the sun that burns within.
But as it is, only my face,
and what desperate radiations that can pass
through this terrible cloak
may reach you.
Know me!  Know me!
Not by my escapes into smiles
but by my facelessness,
too full to shine,
too lonely to weep.
We are infinity
yet the mystery is always a deeper note
than we can hear.
Hearken to the remotest timbre,
it rises from our source
but hides its silence.
Listen to the mask of music,
behold the facade of suns,
yet be ready to fling them away
to peer into the depth beyond depth.
Love only wears faces to entice us
in our simplicity.
God dons the robe of the cosmos
that we may not plunge into her nakedness
before we ourselves are naked love.


Perfect
2000


If I became perfect in the very next moment,
my body would no longer suffer,
my mind no longer struggle,
my emotions no longer anguish.
If I became perfect,
I could eat air
and do just fine
on a few gulps of sunshine.
If I became perfect
I could help everyone, with just a glance
or a word,
to become perfect too.
If everyone became perfect,
in the very next moment,
they could help me become perfect
every time I slipped from being
perfect.  But, of course,
If I became perfect,
I wouldn't need anyone's help,
because I would never slip from
my state of perfect grace.
That would be really perfect, wouldn't it?
Right?  Right?
Anyway, it is certainly possible to become perfect
in the very next moment.
I've heard of stranger things.  I've heard
that Jesus walked on water and that glue sniffing dogs can become celebrities in Hollywood.
Any kind of strange thing can happen.
I could become perfect.  You could become perfect.
In the very next moment.  I'm waiting....I’m waiting…..
I'm still waiting. 


                        Scianna’s Song , from my novel The Gods of the Gift.
It is spoken by a creature who has been a Robiot, a cloned slave without feeling or autonomy.
Part of the book's plot is taken up by the Robiots' coming to full awareness.  This is THE first
Robiot poem in the history of the new race.



                                    If I had known before
                                    what I know now,
                                    about how love feels,
                                    I would have died waiting to feel it.
                                    If I had made the way in my heart
                                    for you to join me,
                                    and you had not been there,
                                    I would have cracked in two
                                    from the longing to feel you close to me.
                                    How lucky I am that you are here
                                     to save me from such a fate.



For Fox
July 19, 2001


I fear loving.
Loving fears me.
Fierce loving.
Loving fierce.
Me.
Loving you,
I fear loving you
fiercely.
Loving fiercely my fears of you
loving me;
your fears of loving.
You.
Me.
Loving.





Breathing

 August 2, 2001

 Breathing.
My cat goes up and down
on my chest.
It is not me that she loves,
but my breath.
Up and down, up and down,
she rides the gentle pendulum,
infinitely soothed.
If I have to move,
have to remove her
from my breath,
she departs with a grief,
and longs to return
as soon as I will permit.
Breathing.
My cat knows what counts;
not love, not my smell,
not my scratching of her ears:
just my breath.
Where she lives,
where I live.
Breathing.




Counting Sleep


Last night I counted your breaths while you slept.
Towards morning, I lost count, but you soon awoke
so I rounded the number off and privately recorded
your many thousands of sleeping breaths,
in the journal of love I am making for you.
This entry:  the night I counted your breaths while you slept.
I wanted to have a secret way of loving you,
so that all the known ways I love you can have a private underside,
a place where love is always new and mysterious.
I know that you count my breaths while I am awake.
Somewhere, inside the busy pain of your mind,
you find a peaceful grotto, and there
you count my breaths, without even knowing you are doing it.
Your love is so constant, it is a place where my fears vanish.
I must practice at loving, I must work harder.
Loving is your natural state, you need no practice.
I must keep awake and make vigil,
so that while you dream, I am doing something important,
being the clock of your breath,
helping you sleep.
I can do nothing more loving for you
than to help you sleep.
You always wanted someone to watch over you.
You felt abandoned and alone. With this secret, I heal you.
I count the long slow breaths, I catch at the sudden twitches,
I invent words to accompany your dream-mumbles.
I will show you this poem if it will make you happy.
I wanted it to be a secret.  But tomorrow night, or the next,
I will do it again, or find another way to love you,
something only I could think of doing,
and only you could know why it was done.  



No one has ever seen the next poem. There was a period in which I was obsessed with a woman. It was a terrible, destructive, painful experience.

The woman enjoyed her power over me and used it to pull me in, push me out, toy with me. She wasn't such a bad person. She was simply in thrall to her own problems and the two of us constructed an awful parody of love. During that period I wrote several poems exploring rage, obsession and the difference between healthy love and obsessive love. I chose to include it in this collection because I think such experiences are not uncommon. Many of us have been through the agony of obsessive, jealous, manipulative and enslaving attachment.

What Isn't Love?

Staring into space at work,
while over and over you rehearse
something you must say to wound your lover.
Or having to replay
again and again throughout the day
some way that your lover wounded you.
Listening to the sound
of cars homeward bound;
to extend the range of audibility
farther and farther down the street,
parsing motor noise as you wait:
car too big, car too small,
how long will he or she be gone?
Wincing when your lover smiles
through a party's unheard talk
with a too-attractive stranger;
it feels so much like danger.
To miss someone is sweet,
but helplessness is bitter,
and love does not taste bitter,
rejection is the acrid morsel on the tongue.
Trying too hard to be good;
trying too hard to be bad;
trying too hard not to feel;
feeling too hard to try,
and wanting to cry
when you beg for love
as if it were a drug,
then moan in shocked surprise
when you don't feel high.
And you grow more passionate
with each betrayal.
What isn't love?
Heat without light;
lust without compassion;
compassion without passion.
No word exists for what isn't love
but it's always been around
in promises that are broken
in the language being spoken
by those who cannot hear
its splintered sound.
































































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