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From Notebooks Kept, 1973 – 1974


Festina lente.
Hurry slowly.

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



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

as he does

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.

Two sacks of maize bending his back

bent as the backs of women here are bent

with a baby 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 pure his shepherd’s pipe.

We were talking and grew quiet

asking ourselves in the beautiful time:

“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 breasts

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 eat 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

when I go 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.

And 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 upon 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.

because 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 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

but for 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

there 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.

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