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.
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 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.
I was on my way to Corinth
in the process of pushing
a bough of pomegranate from my path
when there she was, Athena
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.”
Art, the noun, is holy
though its adjectives tend gory
as that guitared comet, Jimi Hendrix,
a young poet who went beneath his vomit.
among survivors on lost summits.
If God is Love then 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.
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.
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.
Poems written 1974-76.
Stephen Spera helped me put this chapbook together in the early 80s,
but I never quite got it together
—the original cover was Stephen’s.