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From Notebooks Kept, 1973 – 1974

on leaving

The weary earth, the weary sky
each weary creature will stop what they do
to watch me return, kiss you, embrace
holding your face, heart like a bowl
ready to be filled ready to fill.


on painting

“Painting isn’t filling in the spaces
made by penciled lines premeditated
but’s existing as I touch
on the canvas with my brush
the woman there below
hanging out bedsheets that blow
among geraniums’ red explosions
about her hips.

In a moment do we see?
Life’s happening so quickly
I think I remember it
but push, smear color till I show
right there hung up on the wall
what is finished yet will change
each time you look.”

While you talk I take off my beads
to closely examine the delicate seeds
blue and amazing strung on a string
I bought today from an Indian.

You put down your brush
touch at them too.
Your fingers touch me
my fingers touch you.


in one firework over Popayan

As the Night comes walking slowly
with crickets about his feet
splashing them up as we
would splash the current of a stream
sending waves of white and crystal
and the sound of splashing
Night in walking
sends the sound of crickets
round stones, through flowers, fields
across a sleepy chicken yard
into the city square, each cricket
in the darkened movement of his foot, kicked,
picks it up, chirrs and so on continues it one step.

All music is is many being one.
Night, as two hands clapped on two eyes
obliterates the sun
leaves me to see in match struck flame
moving sections of your face
coming piece by piece out of the dark
as our reflections eyeless gaze back up at us
from off the river. Sky explodes
and the night goes full of fire
showing in its sudden bloom
you, me, the hills, the town; while higher
gargoyles press their bellies, claws
gazing down eyes carved and cold
the crowd about us parting
unmixes its heads and shoulders
scattering runs from dozens of boys
in the guise of red devils
who fling buckets of water
or white flour from their bellies
dance before drums, las flautas,
approach us on this wet and shimmering bridge.

Ahora es fiesta Dia de los Negros
y mañana es fiesta Dia de los Blancos.

Alain, I want to kiss your gentle face
before it slips again to darkness.


the shepherd’s pipe

I walked a street in Otavalo
looking for a cafe to sip coffee
at a table while I threw I Ching
smoked Camels, some of several ways
we travelers divide the morning in two.

You were with me. I remember
we walked behind an Indian who was blind
who played a shepherd’s pipe
a thing of gathered reeds
and twine tied tightly to odd lengths.
His feet were big, pushed flat
and unlike ours resembled earth.
Two sacks of maize bending his back
bent as the backs of the women here are bent
with a baby always strapped there
inclined him as the incline
up which Incas rolled their stones
through white under feathers of a condor
to build high and hidden towns
so if he saw he would see down
yet played sure his shepherd’s pipe.

We were talking, it was pure, and I spoke my mind.
“Would there be this song if he wasn’t blind?”


Cave of the Owls

The owls now gone on a nocturnal hunt
we heard not seeing late this afternoon
against the vast dark ceiling
when we climbed and came into the cave.

Such roaring wings we woke then
lighting our candles we whispered
entwined fingers as feathers fell around us
out of a howling darkness where our faces lifted
saw them spin frightening in the suddenness
surrounding us like hooves or drums beating
announcing the approach of something coming
at once at us not yet but yet expected
not said but yes communicated.

Gutted fruits lay in sweet decay
coconas and papayas blistered
dropped from claws, gored in the fall
open to be eaten, seeds left
with much flesh on the wide floor
where many beetles jeweled and crawling
among more beetles jeweled and crawling
transformed the earth to something living
made it awful walking, and the stalactites
a thousand years in making
with a heavy water dripping
formed what seemed humans petrified
who’ve looked where none may look
unless to forfeit flesh, movement
and miss completely pleasant death.

Sweet Monica, I soap your breast
above the tugging current
as evening comes
entombs us with each other.
From black forms of trees
black forms of owls break free
against the sky and silent stars
hidden and not hidden as clouds move
through pink and azure of a quartered moon
as quickly gone to darkness and the stifled cry
as fleeing sparks die in our eyes
above the cooking fire that’s now succumbed to coals
where we’ve let the bananas and the yuca char
uneaten. We are satisfied.


the gift

I cursed my luck.
Sometimes one passed, a jungle truck
ignoring my thumb stuck out
in the hot and wicked air.

Only lizards from the dust
lifting their heads glanced back, if once
before they fled into the underbrush.

When from four stilts a bamboo hut
rose from the hacked green land
out of it a woman came with a bowl of boiled beans
in her brown hands for me to take beneath a tree
where white hens were scratching all around me
kept from the cruel sun, hid away in the kind shade
while up from the river her children run
watching till I’m done to thrust at me
a gourd full of water I drink, wash
with what’s left over the bowl I take
going to pay something to the woman
who shakes her head and says, “De nada,”
getting from me empty what she’d given full
I wanted at least to thank her and was about to
my lips puckered, tongue still on my mouth’s floor
not used too much if I can detect at all
in the beginning sound of pronunciation of the word.

Muchas gracias,” I said. What I saw
was a breathing keeping watching in us all.


Boa Constrictor

Hands lift her there and leave her.
Immediately she knows
there’s nothing now but waiting
for the silence in the corner
to one day move, grab her
and starts to walk back and forth
without stop, clucks or sticks her neck
between the wires sending skinny cries
across the market and the river
though no one comes to save her.
Then she steps in its water dish
only to step out of it.

Cascades of copper, the green of unripe bananas
bands of black separate like a shadow.
Shined stone it seems, an idol come on suddenly
separating boughs of leaves.

I watch it, wait to see it breathe:
slight undulations at the rib cage.
What doesn’t think or blink, reacts
eyes staring opaque depths
where light is swallowed never to come back
from many coils, a sucking swirl
thick big round ball—out of that
its broad flat head is resting flat
against the wire floor of a wire cage.
The jungle goes with it. I see it stays.


to a mezuzah

For five long years I wore you
silver shining around my neck
believing that God was in you
and believing that I was next
until today I took you off
you interfere with oral sex
always slipping into vaginas
or strangling the phallus neck.
Dear Lord, do you forgive me?
You’re everywhere I suspect.
It just wasn’t much fun
with you next to my tongue
so visible and so wet.


Place of the Rocks

O physical love! O pain!
You’re so much the other, so much the same.
Only remembered the moment you happen.
Must we sit, must we wonder
at what we’ve forgotten forever?
Flesh perhaps is death.
Of breast and skull I’ve tasted
and yet remain unquenched
though there’s something in the breath
that does sustain and keep me.
And the future, one of three
mouth, vagina or a wound
never comes then came too soon.
Among the tombs we kiss, we parted.


Lilies of the field

Cut for my eye’s pleasure
set in a vase withered.
Within my wanting hand
those fiery raiment became rags.
What’s plucked is ash.
I cannot put them back.


without calamine

When bitten do not scratch
where the skin will rise and fester
where what surfaces and permeates
begs you to be reached.
It’s not the gnat remains.
Gnat’s gone again to high grass
with your blood digesting
left an agony not over
should you ooze and spread the sore
for a moment’s pleasure and respite.
Scratch it, what goes comes again grown
sore more than it was before
and so on etcetera
till madly wanting it to quit
you’ll be completely itch
with all your fingers there
lifting flesh up into nails.


Mad Sara

El que no tiene amor
no ha conocido a Dios
pues Dios es amor.
Where your treasure is
there your heart will be also.

Somos monos,” Sarita tells us
then with both hands holding her groin,
“This too is God’s,” she warns.

Now all the Christians have gone south
in search of hidden peaceful valleys
and the coke dealer’s met a bullet’s tip
on a side street in Callao.
Those who remain think she’s mad.
Even Inti her son avoids her
squatting with his face turned from her
shitting the shit of fruit consumed only
on our blankets and the floor
defiling our philosophies, Inti wailing
when she dumps his matches into water.
for the lighting candles and book pages
is his only occupation and he can’t understand
this three year old when mother says
“The fire must come inside,”
and not along his fingers where
he likes it better burning everything.

She wipes shit up. It’s time to bathe.
She picks up Inti. Now his head is shaved
as is her head since yesterday.

Cocaine allowed into the vein
many days without sleep
the flesh of San Pedro the cactus consumed
scraped off of the mirror
where Monica’d prepared it, left it drying
those green crystals like the scales of fish
sent flying into the sunlight on her knife’s edge
bitter and nauseous.

All these things are partly the reason
we made a fire and danced around it
an ancient fire, the same
to which our kind first came
out of whose flames we pulled all faiths
charred bloody meats and poetry
our chanted sole security
when sun sinks into sea
and it gets black
and no one is so very sure
the light is ever coming back.

Some of us played on flutes
some clapped, all travelers
come from many places drawn together
dancing for a time in harmless hallucination
except Sarita who sees in our movements
a door swing open where she enters
and it closes on her there without us
though it would seem within us.
Now she holds us, weeps.
Strange words she speaks that make no sense
and with her fingers offers signs.
Now nothing is the same. It all has changed.
She snaps her fingers, gives us other names,
in words finds words using them as seriously
pleading into night leaving us no sleep.
Some answer harshly, “Wait, Sarita, till we wake!”
But now the word moves in her ear
moves everywhere, a word we can’t hear
yet see her talk to dogs with it
to the river and the street.
It’s only with us she can’t speak
for where we are she isn’t
and where she begs us come we wouldn’t
because whistles and knelt agony on a mattress
are not paths to us but the certainty of madness.

“Sarita,” we say, “please listen.
No word balances equal in any two ears.
No object is perceived the same.
We are all alone in the same room
and this ultimate coupling that you seek
is never reached.
From different wombs in different times
enticed by a certain set pattern of stars
that gathered for our moment to pull
and still pulls us out of one earth
fed by one rain we are each different
and in that the same.”

But she pounds the wall and will not listen.
She sees, she flees from us. We hear her in the street.
“Amor! Amor!”she screams now vanishing
now appearing in the market
where dogs gnaw a carcass
drag it from stall to stall
zigzag and growl down the foot flattened aisles
edged by old women who soon will be selling
the sacks of potatoes on which they’re sleeping
wrapped in their blankets like a low wall
Sarita passes, stoops
to find a mango squashed and left to rot
which she carries to the river
to eat what she may of it
flinging the stringy seed into the Rimac
whose swift awful currents
would tear her limb from limb
if she fell in but on the very edge
she lifts her arms in moonlight
and the sound of white splashing rocks
is wetting her with spray
as mountains rise off in the distance
dark as the night but clearly seen
because they hold no stars
like the vast sky behind them.

“O black horizon, won’t you speak?
Who are you, ancient Andes, reclined in sleep
piercing the sky with your heads and sharp hips?
Wake, wake,” she sings and then
drinks from the pissful river
washes her hands and hops a ride to Lima
to stand in Plaza San Martin as the sun is rising
telling passing people nothing really matters
but people walk they do not listen
so to show them what she means
she takes off her shift
a simple movement of white cloth
a muddy bed sheet sewn together
with the leather that was left
from many hours of making purses
that she sold to tourist ladies
who stepped out of taxis into barred hotels.

But of the eyes and mouths
the laughter that is fear that gathers
bringing policemen, priest and obscene calls
of all of that she tells me later
when alone and barefooted I meet her in Chosica
beneath the pepper tree Mina
once told me was her dead drunkard father.

And she comes soft and pretty as a flower
with an aura and a calmness all about her.
She laughs and says, “We’ll have to share
our blankets; the night’s cold.”
While Inti squats to burn my volume of Neruda
in the dust she draws a line
with her finger there between us.
“The choice isn’t yours but mine,” she says,
“if I want to cross this.”
And then she stands, touches my hand.


on walking through a caterpillar plague

They come down the threads they make
crawl in a straight line.
There is the sound, soft rainlike fall
of leaves chewed off.

One’s crawling on my arm.
Shaken to the ground
my foot can squash but no,
the trees are full.


Oh!

Peg screams to see
a mole peek
from the sharp and gentle
jaws of the cat
she’s lifted for a kiss
beneath the apple tree.

Snow white pink edged
falling blossoms spin.
Some end in the black fur
or clinging to her curls.


sighs between the silences

Sighs between the silences
as we are between unknowns
my mother sits bare breasted
on the white commode
having one last cigarette
before she dares her quiet bed.

They’re the only sounds I hear, her sighs
but for the gentle rain outside.
I see her forehead and closed eyes
against the cold white tile
where drop by drop clear water forms to fall
out of the fragrant soap-smeared faucet
as lines of smoke out of her mouth
spread to permeate the dark
about her face.


Tiresias remembers

I was on my way to Corinth
in the process of pushing
a bough of pomegranate from my path
when there she was, Athena, Miss Perfect Wisdom
covering her breasts and running out of the pool.

As for what’s come, this gift in my eye’s stead
that lets me see what isn’t yet
it’s like Arachne’s thread about my neck
when she falls and is still living
not yet that eight legged thing weaving
on the daisies in the evening.

So delicate and golden this thread is
it might have been touched by Midas
that thinly yet holds me completely
as an oar slave to the bench.
To the most awful thing I find I’m wed.
In it I see no end, only smoke and a sailing.
A smoke not perfumed as Delphi’s risen
but a smoke from a pyre full of mourning
that drifts along a shoreline
where dead fish and fish lie gasping
lifted and forsaken by the slow storm
left upon the sand and foam unsinking
and the wormwood, wood and bodies severed
among the dune grass and the violets are rank
all rotting and the sailing is a sailing
where the Furies fly impaling.
Indeed there was no choosing
and though they’d think me mad
with dung and my dread I covered my head
before them prophesying.

“My brothers,” I said. “We are already dead
and the wall of Thebes stands shaking.”


The Noose

Art, the noun is holy
though its adjectives tend gory
as that guitared comet, Jimi Hendrix,
a young poet who went beneath his vomit.
Cannibalism’s commonplace
among survivors on lost summits.

If God is Love than Art is God.
Destruction’s Creation, The Way.
Just be careful where you stand;
your actions are boomerangs
even when it’s Love you project
to break your enemy’s neck.

Saint Peter understood.
He said, “Hang me upside down.”
Saint Francis fled his nice warm bed
to die on the cold ground.
“But God is dead,” Nietzsche said
going immediately out of his head.


on poetry

I dug out a stream
in the cold early spring,
dug and redug
down to the bed.

Where water flowed quickly
there it cleared quickly
where it moved slowly
the mud remained long.

For awhile it looked ugly
with mud flung on the land
and stones, logs and planks
bracing the draining banks
but the grass grew, the swallows
and flycatchers swooped and shoots
of day lilies grew up
to flame their orange flames;
the pasture soon regained itself
and didn’t seem touched by me.

This is how I want my poetry.
Gladly I’ll sweat the structuring
but Nature, you must cover it
all in your good moment.


O Pretty Self

A snake curled in the sun
feels my shadow come and goes
ripples over stones.

The stream falls down
and oozes out of moss
and mud where a deer’s stepped.

No, I won’t pick this violet.
Let it clutch the cracking rock
blue out of yellow from a black dot.

When I leave these woods to work
and stammer or say two words at once
I’ll think of it and stop.


La Fonte

You borrowed San Juan de la Cruz and kept it.
I saw it again when you returned from the West.
It looked like it had fallen in the mud
with some pages stuck together like a book
kept mouldering in a cellar
and though now dry still marked
by the past days’ dark. I thought of my heart.
Tonight you came, took my guitar and sang
La Fonte saying you learned it from the book
I’d given or you’d taken.
What more could I want from you or anything?
Happy you sing. Happily I listen.

From notebooks kept, 1973 – 74

Festina Lente.

Hurry slowly.

Canta y no llores.
Sing and don’t cry.

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