Results for category "2011"

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Riffs on the lyric Chloris

The lyric Chloris (after Théophile de Viau–1590-1626)

If it’s true, Chloris, that you love me
(and I understand that you love me well)
then the ecstasy of kings
couldn’t rival my happiness
and even the joys of heaven in death
would be unwelcome
Paradise couldn’t surpass the sweet ambrosia,
the fiery nectar of love in our veins
or how your favor for me reflects against eternity
and the love I see in your eyes


The Riffs
She hated solitude and wouldn’t retreat
He wasn’t interested in his illness
and wouldn’t discuss it
Mom was always smiling at people
she didn’t want to smile at—she did it for you
He remained in his tent that morning
and sobbed like some broken hearted woman
All felt for him and pitied him
The loss of the orange trees still lingers here
Not one of us will ever come back
Happiness is insensitivity—
he relies on suggestions, rituals, lightly held beliefs
Nature is wider than her obtuse, anxious, speculations
His loneliness for her is self-imposed
It’s time to leave her now...
They didn’t live together, not right away
May the universe obliterate her lies, or save her
This failure’s so severe, so human
There were no revelations in this ardent, anxious, violence— not for us
She pretends to love but he just can’t see her
She followed the hearse to the church
but didn’t attend the funeral
out of deference to the family
We’re all bad detectives, bad at discovery
It wasn’t a moral failure
It was a failure of fellowship and good feeling
She looked so small standing alone in that doorway...
Admiration or aversion— you praise, desire, blame or despise
She was attracted to swindlers and was a deep seated grifter herself—
he looked at her then with such love in his eyes

-December 20, 2011-


I had never met Watson, certainly never knew him
Remembered vaguely that he had a radio show a long time ago
that I used to like a lot, some kind of interview show, I thought
called “Listening with Watson”
In no time I found myself in a remote suburban place—
Lots of trees, flowers and green, and I knew the house I was walking past
belonged to Watson—so I walked down the lane to the door and let myself in
Soon a large number of people, men and women, arrived— mostly
middle-aged like me but duller and one of them
(a balding, slightly overweight, man— who later told me he
was Watson’s son) asked me what was I doing there
I told him I was a big fan of Watson’s and that I wanted to say hi
That was okay and, to much general laughter, he showed me a video of Watson
in Florida sunbathing and getting out of the water and told me Watson
was being treated for cancer and wasn’t at his Westchester home now
but that I was welcome to stay for lunch
Everyone began taking their seats in tables that were lined up
horizontally and vertically with an opening in the rectangular middle
with white table cloths and I carefully waited
until everyone else sat down and then cheerfully
seated myself in the one open seat left which was next to Watson’s son
He and I chatted a bit about Watson and his terrific radio show
Then he leaned over and confidentially said to me alone
“You know, many of Watson’s fans and friends come here
and they think I am far more generous than I am”
I assured him that I was not interested in
receiving anything, was not in need,
and always made a point of taking care of myself
When lunch was over I left the house,
quickly came home, and got out of bed determined
to look up “Listening with Watson” on the internet
It was an all night classical music show
from my youth that I now remember— there was no schedule, just music
and the deep resonant Watson voice— Watson a navy man who didn’t live
in Westchester and died in 1992 of a cancerous brain tumor
His surviving relatives all live in Texas

-December 17, 2011-

Limited physical contact…

We don’t know where we are when
the taste, at last, of death is on our lips and tongue
Our good will and abstract empathies tell us nothing’s ever real
He loves intimately, passionately, without any stop but
in this boundless, burgeoning, heartless, insidious world,
naïve illusion is a luxury
Knotty abstractions numb his mind
He was taught “all that is, is right”
No pedestal’s broad enough to hold her
Now 56, the old seductive hustle’s
a really hard job for her and she hesitates...
She just can’t bring it off
His high-toned courtesies, his subtle diplomacies were
perfect models of political diplomatic correspondence
She’s an autumnal leaf – yellowish, dry, cracked
When people don’t do what she wants or expects she shuts them out but
given his peculiar talents and reclusive eccentricities
he really hasn’t done, for her, so badly
He doesn’t want to see you in that place with those people—
the small continuous, everyday insults eating at you
His grandma used to ask, “What makes you think that you, among all who live
in this stinking world, deserve to be happy?”
She acts like an angry, sullen, survivor but she wants you to know that all of her
violent acts were always provoked, justified, involuntary and, in any event, quite harmless
He didn’t see his fellow humans much in the balance of things
Sometimes even his friends and lovers were strangers
He shocked the parental parsonage— swore,
smoked his old stinking pipe everywhere, drank Cognac from a flask,
dismissed the locals as “clodhopping fools”
and loudly proclaimed his atheism
Here’s what’s said in a framed notice hanging on the prison wall:
“Limited physical contact such as
handshaking, embracing (hugs), and
kissing is permitted between an inmate and a visitor
within the bounds of good taste
at the beginning and the end of the visit”


-December 3, 2011-

It would be easy…

It would be easy to assassinate me
I do the same things at the same times most days
Scrutinized with an assassin’s close scrutiny
I’d make an easy mark
When gone it will be as though you were never here
They take all your stuff, your work see,
they put it in a box and label it by you
and send it on its way to their storage facility in Ohio
What price brilliance?
She inflames her enemies,
alienates her friends,
disgusts, baffles, and offends
We happily fall, slide, love, ride—
our lives intermittently careen
But after the break-up the whole thing seems
like a series of small-minded transactions to me
We don’t support him for what he is but for what he isn’t
He’s neither an assassin nor a thief
He rides the fine ride through streets
of purgatory, silence, sorrow and oblivion
“The roads were covered with icy snow
The men suffered greatly for
many of us were without shoes and the broken ice
lacerated our feet”
Harmless now and imprisoned the old Mohegan writes:
“Still covered with the blood of my enemies
still hot with the joys of battle, victory and vengeance
Surrounded by my brothers
I am the greatest war chief ever
But even then I can’t bring back the dear ones
I can’t recall them back from the dead
Smile on me, I’m happy and joyous in revenge”
They get older but hardly change except for their thin facades
They’re like adolescents who have withered
Her god is portrayed in that holy book as narcissistic,
misogynistic, genocidal and most certainly insane
Her audience knew they couldn’t trust their eyes
but they didn’t mind
If you like, that girl will dance just for you
If you pay her to
The small gnawing hurts of everyday
make her cringe and sear inside
He stands by her when she’s crazy
She stands by him when he’s drunk
You don’t want to fight this guy
If you hit him he likes it
If you knock him down
it just makes him mad
“To advance would be madness
To stand still the height of folly”
The sickness lasted six months and then
disappeared all by itself
It’s heart is coal black as it spins slowly through space
He self-medicated his frustrations with drink and cigars
Paced, chain smoked, retreated into stoic silence,
erratic ups and downs
“There’s the drugs that jazz me up
and the drugs that drown me down”
No progeny—this misbegotten line ends now
“When do you feel like you can play this thing?”
“Never” “Never?”
“Well, some days it feels pretty good”
Unforced glimmers of grace and well-being
come to him unbidden at the strangest of times


-November 20, 2011-

Broken Patterns

The pattern’s broken
What’s loved is gone, taken
Her faith failed to prevent her caustic breakdowns
or her eventual car exhaust suicide
Malignant fates—
sailors above deck heard the bubbling cries
of the unfortunates drowned in the seas below, no fear—
we’re all just visitors here
What if the vessel can no longer hold
and the sides leak, collapse and crumble?
Unlikable people behaving implausibly, so
he pays and pays and pays
She can’t get past the disgrace,
the human demotion, the disrespect,
this unsavory person, all of her personal contaminations,
and sickly, damned aversions
Her body possessed no magic
but enthralled him nevertheless
She breaks the pattern of his
unremitting sadness
He likes the fantasy she pretends to possess
But any day now, just to defy him, she may
twist it, worry it, stomp it, and
thoughtlessly toss it all away
Don’t worry about it
Life’s a kind of jazz, an
improvisation, so to speak, no need to worry—
you either dig it, or you don’t
No critic, he’d stare at a painting for an hour
sometimes with full appreciation, but
found he couldn’t say anything about it
except “wonderful, wonderful”
The dream is in browns, yellows or grays
peopled by those who say dreadfully little
Alone in a well-lit elevator that never stops and ascends
she hears their voices from across closed doors
645 years of the duchy produced no genius,
only two rulers of any ability, countless dullards and
not a few imbeciles and lunatics
She wears her pain like an old frayed coat
Now he no longer fights to win
He fights to make his victorious enemies pay
Anger makes him want to hurt them
Hate makes him want to see them dead
She was wrong about a lot of things
But she was right about you, bitch
He was just one of many antagonists
whose ambitions matched or exceeded his own
War is glamorous, heroic, holy, thrilling,
manly and cleansing
War is immoral, repulsive, uncivilized,
futile, wasteful and cruel
A potential competitive advantage can’t
motivate everything and won’t necessarily win
There are plenty of bodies to maim and
strategies are the same everywhere
Our victories are ash in our mouths
Buffeted by deadly events, atrocious blind customs,
humiliated with sorrows and incorrigible violence
they believe the absurdities told to them are real
That emotional son of a bitch, our leader
“I long for the day when we shall attack them with
an overwhelming force and annihilate them
May I live long enough to see them all hacked to pieces”


-November 5, 2011-

Forged Narratives

Forged narratives, collages, corruptions
The sex was great, our fiercely stoned pleasures,
elusive, exciting, excessive—
but it wasn’t enough—we couldn’t last
My false friend, my hypocrite, my liar
Sad ex-wife, sad mother, sad lover
Don’t be naïve,
the past wasn’t innocent,
the present’s not pristine
They only spoke the language of their murderers—
they knew no other,
the German of their fathers and brothers
She can be steely—
if she has to be
Scant solace there
To make these dark perversions
and hold these dark thoughts around secrecy,
detachment, melancholia
He wore a good quality overcoat,
a dark hat and carried that familiar old walking stick
with the ivory handle
He looked, for him, almost elegant on the day his father,
that violent, thick-headed bastard, died of a heart attack
while drinking his usual glass of morning wine


He advertised his unoriginal ideas in an original way
Operational details were for others— propaganda was his alone
Carelessness and indifference in everyday affairs
Muddleheaded, confused, he often didn’t think clearly
Still, everyone had to hear his fiercely held views
He received no mail or parcels, even for Christmas
What is disturbing those birds?
Garbage in the reeds—deflated birthday balloons mostly—
Home to wild boars and nauseous eagles,
radioactive, scarred bears and
atomic pine trees that grow like bushes
I don’t remember who I was then, where to go, or who I was with
33 years old, thickset, round chunky face,
low forehead, small eyes, fleshy lips
His mouth was always open, thick red neck
When he left, he left no forwarding address and neglected to pay the rent
“People say they like mavericks, but they don’t”
That’s what he said
Harsh vigor, stern melancholy
seriousness without intelligence
Passionate, abrasive, smart but inconsistent—
she can’t achieve reflective depth or delicacy of judgment
She’d use pretend emotions to bring to life
that happy fervor, that suppressed gaiety of her nature

This time together is precious
Before his music stops he desperately holds onto every penny,
determined not to be buried alone in the rain like Mozart,
in some unmarked pauper’s grave
Only brutes directly enjoy the violence of revenge—
the violence his music expressed
The construction worker stopped working—laid off
Couldn’t pay me back, wouldn’t say so and insisted,
as a matter of pride, that I deposit his check
which unsurprisingly bounced the next day
His daughter would have been embarrassed if he couldn’t pay
I have a daughter so I happily lent him the money
It isn’t that she has more on her conscience
than I know or believe—
It’s that she has more on her conscience
than I care to acknowledge or discuss
When love dies another world soul closes its eyes
Just one more thing to regret and mourn
“At home, our parents spoke Russian to each other
We spoke Yiddish to them and English among ourselves”
He wasn’t an overly intelligent thug, he was just a thug who made his fortune
through shady deals in Turkey and an opportune marriage to a rich heiress
What matters: secrecy, detachment, struggle, survival, victory—
This comes naturally to him and permeates his being


-October 18, 2011-

Brain Flares

Brain flares, shrill voices
   scraps of melody, scorches of memory
   torturous, crowded, pitiless voices, screeches
   in his head, all at once, hot, infected, shrill, soft or loud –
He throws himself in the cold river— they pull him out
   He’s no longer, he can never again be, that man
Her advice—“I wanted to mention
   a few more things for Elise—
Do not let her take too many things
   If she needs two chemises a week, let her bring six
   If she is used to wearing only one, about four will do
   Stockings—six pairs, she only needs two changes of dress
Keep the nice blue one at home it will be ruined
   in the packing, if she has a black petticoat
this will be best for traveling, and then
   she will want just one white underskirt
Too much luggage is inconvenient on a journey”
   Mechanical, blind, we go on
   Still, with her usual decency, uprightness, charm, she adds
   “You know how heavy my heart is
I don’t want to talk of it
   My heart bleeds at once”
People give, when they give, their own gifts
   The aristocrat admired his brilliance
   But his sarcasm and bad manners “are a disgrace”
   He later said “I leave the world to go the way it pleases
I’m difficult and for that, I have often
   suffered the consequences”
Wild justice, revenge
   When you want it, you really want it
The deepest wounds never heal
   Skin just covers over them in waves
   His comic touch only added a grotesque element
   to the pathos, pain and haze of that sad day
Either learn to develop calluses
   or keep yourself safe at home
We spoke frankly as far as such a thing
   is possible with him
Though they reconciled at their father’s death
   relations between the brothers
   remained entirely superficial
   She wrote “Everyone there assumed I was a normal person
The girls giggling with excitement, the boys proud and manly
   That was rather weird”
The death count’s wrong, they didn’t live
   Tens of thousands were discharged to die
   Tens of thousands died within the first few months
   Tens of thousands lingered for the first or second year
You understand people too little
   and you trust them too much
She fell in love with fire
   Sick of your ridiculous dreams
Your stupid plans, your empty promises
   Never pretty enough, never really thin
   He painted her portrait, caught the bloom she had
   before the loss of innocence
I know how it feels when you’re in trouble
   and no one’s there
No more edges, you might drown—
   There’s nothing left to cling to
Old men nursing morning beers
   This is where the slaughterhouse was
   The transvestites hung out here, near the sex club
   When she gave up meat she still loved the smell
of the slaughterhouse, the animal blood, its visceral
   wildly cold justice

“Well I think it looks smart,” she said,
   “That’s the difference between you and me
   Your hair is too long and greasy
   My hair is all done up special
I think it looks smart”
   I thought her sweeter than red lollipops
When she couldn’t move and was waiting to die
   She’d stare at silver balloons outside her window
The wind moves the branches above me
   It bends the leaves
   The sun in the river vibrates in gleams
   of  white light on gray water
As he tells it he always fought harder,
   flew faster, and gambled smarter than anyone else
The balloons were set up outside for her delight
   This house has no woman now
Every lie sickens him more and the longer
   he lives the more they lie to him
   Go out there where no one can help you
   Accept who you are and live
Some things, when you have to ask for them,
   aren’t worth having

-September 27, 2011-

The Sky Hook

He’s an old lion
She’s his oasis in this callous,
hot, beachy, astringent sand—
his refuge from the damage
cool and subtle
No one could stand the imposter
in any capacity other than leader
He was aloof, enclosed, controlled
But he lets them believe in his sky hook dreams
He hoists them happily up, they think
Be like that fish hunter bird
Not much of this world gets to her
For awhile she floats with the intensity
of wind gusts, supremely observant—
and at that perfect time she drops
from the sky, her sharp beak like cut stone
He wouldn’t talk about it, not then,
there was too much to say
That false election was all about appearances anyway, and
angry, blood stained, streaks

The water drifts from right to left
Sunshine sprinkles the tips of the wake
This is how “we” becomes “I”
She goes ponderously, cautiously past
the prickles of sheen in gray water
He makes them all feel important
But I saw him run out of his office more than once
to avoid unwanted visitors
The camera terrifies him and he can’t abide
the idea that his recorded voice might survive
He knew he couldn’t make a living
from this kind of music
An honest, upright, honorable man
No offers of sky hooks, no illusory gifts,
nothing much  popular from him
He commuted from Poughkeepsie to New York City
then up to New Haven four times a week
No problem, he said, but we had good trains then
I seek for her like some seek to see the illusive white leopard
I believe in this “us” and our disparate pleasures

He intimidated some and really didn’t care
what anyone said
He never neglected anything, he was balanced
Today, although we are so trusting,
not one of us is trustworthy
If his dream is destroyed his life goes too
The press was not invited so none of it was staged
A tendency to secrecy and camouflage
We come out of nothing and then disappear
No happiness that year, no giving of thanks
He could no longer see layer upon layer
depth upon depth
It was all flat confusion now
A wave that comes only to you will tell you
what to do about it, but listen
He had a couch in his office because
he used to get these heart attacks
He liked sports, as a student, Greek, Latin and mathematics
Treatment left his head heavy and feverish
Delirium lifts him up, he towers above us


-September 9, 2011-

Don’t talk to me…

Don’t talk to me of love, liar
your desperate, hateful, lies about love
A friend of mine, though much alone,
is rarely, almost never, lonely
He lacks a gene for “loneliness”
What if he breeds?
An acquaintance, a French teacher,
finds no task too dry, tedious, or dull
She lacks a gene for “boredom”
What if she breeds?
If they breed together their offspring may happily—
Don’t talk to me of love, you bitch, you liar—
never, or rarely ever, suffer
the hurts of loneliness, the heaviness of boredom
I go to the prison to visit him
But before I can they make me change my pants
You can’t wear khaki pants to prison visits
That’s what prisoners wear, it’s forbidden
What if I’m old, sick, alone and have no home?
Where will I go?
Wholly unreliable, regardless of character
and rights of others,
incapable of discrimination and jealous
to do something overwrought, dangerous and sensational
A completely despicable leader, yet heartily admired,
untrustworthy, weak, vicious
When things go bad they really go bad and
they go bad fast
On that day it was sunny
so I rode my bicycle
No, on that day it rained so I couldn’t ride it
No, on that day it was sunny, but
I didn’t feel like it so
I didn’t ride my bicycle
What an impudent dash it was past the trees
With his bad eyes the world began to shimmer
and spin in the distance
He would judge where he was by other means
not all of them visual or fall in wet grass
He would reach for those mountains alive
with an outstretched hand, so close
did they seem

The heart of the dog-fish cut from its chamber
continues to beat on the boat deck
Not for long—violent emotion,
gentle release—not for long
Fields thick with the dead
Torn and discolored bodies swell in rank
humidity, turn black in the sun, many look upward
their dead eyes open to brute light
We fought in wet grass, we bled...
My advice— give up this absurd fascination
with dank, bloated corpses—
We will, without mercy, kill
enemy snipers wherever we find them—
Study viruses instead

Don’t bore me with talk of your love again
or even simple human relationships
She asks, “Do you know who I am?”
“I think so, you may be my wife” he said
Her hurts were no less heavy or sharp
when imaginary
There are no human relationships, not really
We merely compare notes
Purple and copper stained hair, sweet legs
a world weary expression soon to be earned
Those in love are ill and must be forgiven
So this is what it was like, prehistory—
When they met again they’d engage in rudimentary, guarded courtesies—
everyone was cold, hungry, odious  and young



-August 20, 2011-

The Unwalled City

“Against other things it is possible to obtain security, but when it comes to death
we all live in an unwalled city”—Epicurus

A train clacks through darkness
past a derailed train in darkness, broken stops
The coin in his head
can only guess at its other side
Ferocious and deranged means dangerous
Most of them don’t imagine or love anything much
This leaves them unmoved, inviolable and untouched
When water freezes the chemical reactions
needed to create life stop
If only the actors would annihilate themselves
The survivor lugs his corpse in her head
and do what they’re told
The harsh impulse may pass before it begins
Let’s make it stop now, shall we?
With his right ankle on his left leg
just above his knee, he’d sit and watch TV
If he saw something he liked
he’d sometimes laugh and wiggle his left foot unconsciously
False promises of rapture, exhausted by the effort
night after loveless night—
too old, blighted, lonely and afraid
He found her intelligence prickly and abrasive—
difficult to stay together, impossible to leave,
universal in sympathy, they’re outcasts by nature
a rancor that develops, naturally when two people live together—
gaunt and haggard, more hawk-like than ever,
this ceaseless process of work, creation, despair,
invention, laughter and destruction
She tries one key than another
struts her air guitar as though I can’t see
The seductress, the would be fuck-hole of Forest Hills
isn’t fun anymore, and still can’t sing
If I wake up beside you will life still be bleak?
It was always bleak, even when I couldn’t see...
Dressed in the French manner, she flaunts her tin jewelry
She reduces her anguish by taking many lovers
She knows just how the tricks are done
Wrinkles start at the elbows and knees
I once saw her rub her face with magic lotion
and her wrinkles miraculously faded into blush
This one has a remarkable military aptitude
but his intelligence is less than robust
Sometimes I don’t know which I hate more—
to wear suits or the pricks who wear them
He has a distinct horror of polite,
feminine, diplomatic conversation
She speaks of the past like it was now
of people long gone as though they still live
the exalted and pathetic, pleasure loving dead


-August 6, 2011-