Friday, January 11, 2013

Wanting: Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibility


It’s hard, we want much
And raw but fine
And many pulses
In every line.

     Shamefast plunge
In hirsute mask
Lax caresses
At the lean task

Too much to hope
From one swell fount:
Cornucopia from
Horn of a goat.

And oxen yoked
Apart since birth
Tunnel vision
Into earth.

     And Don Juan fire-proofed
Is suited for Hell:
What it’s life to love
It’s death to love too well. 

We want the glow
The sly undertow
The high dive
Into waters alive

The silent swim
Too deep to tell
Of the diving bell

And the surge
And the flow
On the ocean floor
Pulsing with species
Hidden from light
Unbidden to the shore

We want to be blessed
By the heat of the sun
To sing and rest
Before we run

Run to ground
Run around
Run someone down
Run around town

We want to pause
In the early light
To keep our fires
Burning bright

To start anew
On a cool clear morn
To breathe, to sigh
To be born

We have beseeched
Time out of mind,
Prophetic speech
Beyond our reach:
Mnemonic of vocal design

We have expected – 
      Romantic in our
      Attitude –
Of poet and astronomer
A passionate solitude

Loneliness of the long distance runner:
Loneliness of the stranger, the other:
Storyteller’s beatitude

Glory to the story
Stored in the mind.
Glorify its invention
And retention.

Glory to the first pilot
Alone, exalted
In the night skies.
And blessed be the ties
That bind.

Oracular the Tell
That tells true:
The give-away,
The bodily clue.

Oracular the spell
Incanting the truth,
The bodily rhythms
Of the words:
A chattering like forest birds
Telling lies forsooth

Lies hid in thoughts unspoken,
In the whisper of words unheard,
For every word a token,
For every pot a shard

Use your tokens for admission
To the House of Truth and Lies
House of elegant concision
Where Poetry once dwelt, and
Love looks not with the eye

Here you’ll find words
To re-make speech,
To repair its sense and sound
Words like shards
Lying on the ground

Build a tower of language
From the cast-off words
Build something new
Even a House of Cards
The Tower of Babel

      For when it falls
As a tower will,
Another can build
A fortress or a stonewalled keep
From the words that lie
At your feet.

The House of Truth and Lies
This House Full of Love
This House without a spy
Where Love looks not with the eye
Finite, created realm above
Usual suspects heart and mind
Here neither sight nor sound
Can make sense any more
Of a house without a window, a door.

A house that’s dematerializing
A disconnect
You know how to resurrect.

Be careful! don’t cut your hands on the words
When you gather them up from the floor.

Rebuilding, you see, is up to you
Of this ethereal House of Wings
Make a solid place,
An Alpha-space
For living words

Use your guile
Use your daring

O, honey-bees,
Come build
In the empty house of the starling

Fill with words
The lofted air
Build for heart and mind
Create with agility
A kind sensibility

 Eyes fast shut
We see miracles.
Smelling the smoke
Of sacrifice,
We promise
To be good and nice.

Eyes wide open
We behold
Quick looping hands
Whose work seems play:
DNA Origami.
With shapes untold
Our futures they unfold.

We want prophecy
Wrapped in secrecy,
The inside track,
The inside story

We want stimuli
That amplify
The ode to self,
Self-talking chorus
Of lyrics laudatory

We want an ersatz
Of our every opinion
Instant petitions
With Everyman
A signatory

We want the
Tip Top Story,
Au courrant,
In your face
Without a trace
Of reticence
Or grace

Promises we want
Premised on

Champions in armor
Bright and strong

To protect us
And defend us
Whether we are
Right or wrong

Experts in battle
On their mettle,
To wow us

We want to know
      The story-arc of every
      Embedded video;
How every cyber-war ends
Before it’s begun

We want the thrill
Of the remote-control kill
The virtual rush
The crash, the crush

We want confetti,
The victory parade,
And an ever-ready Ferlinghetti
Patriotic troubadour
Singing the wrath
Of some modern Achilles:
Praising the win,
Lamenting the war

And when it’s time
For our troops to go,
When every capo’s made
We want to know
Pity and dread
In the limitless
City of the Dead.

But come, let us avert these
Ghostly men,
Let us whisper
To their souls, to go.

Subverting our end,
Let us descend.

Making no noise,
Let us repair

To a level where
We find the things
We want to know.

Mark twain on a riverboat
      Two fathoms deep,
      Twelve feet,
For wit and tragi-comedy

     Nemo journeyed twenty thousand
     Leagues beneath the 
     Seven Seas

     A four-league drop:
     Twelve miles
     Into the wild,
     For a sci-fi séance in the

Sub-marine domain of an Übermensch:
Mania Most French.


To the DeepSea Challenger:
Journey Toward the
Center of Earth. Drop
      Six thousand miles:
In the Mariana Trench.

Let us repair
To a level where
We find the things
We want to know

‘Why’ we’re on this
Earth, and
‘When’ did we arrive?
(3:30 a.m., 7:59)

‘Where’ we came from
(Elemental goo)
And ‘What’ we are
(Woman of that girl,
Man of that boy)
And ‘Where’
We’re going to
(Address Unknown)

Now take away
The quotation marks
And ask me
Once again.

“Where Do We Come From?
What Are We?
Where Are We Going?”

The figures in the pantomime
Painted by Gaugin
Mimic natives of that place and time,
Phantoms made of sun, sand, and clime.

Images made up of
How many brushstrokes?
Impossible to gauge –
Flat on the page –
Stark on the canvas,
They won’t be going
I guess.

Exemplars of  
Exotic Polynesia,
On your wall,
You can ask them
Any time
At all.

You can ask them
One by one

Those existential
Posing naked
European questions.

The wife married
Without nuptials
Or vows,
Ask her tomorrow:
Ask the young girl
To her sorrow

Islanders’ images borrowed
To illustrate
A catechism
Written in
Color and line:
Painterly angst
In tripartite

No redress
For the models:
No thanks

Their purloined culture
Made impure
Their camouflaged quietude
Left obscure.

Gentle Nature
Genuine Spirit

In the name of Genius:
Pillage unabated.

Behind the phantom screen
Reality hidden, faces unseen:
The show a Western fantasy
Claiming universality

Primitive scene
Soft focus porn
Bourgeois dream of
Native forms

When the last question
Has been posed,
Collateral harm  
Can be disclosed:
To men made vulnerable,
And women exposed.

The questions then
Belong to us.
Let’s ask them now
Of our own lives
And answer what we can
Without presuming
We speak for Man.

Now take away
The quotation marks
And ask me
Once again

Why are you on Earth?
Because you wanted to be born

Of starlight were you made
Early that morn
On the very long day
When the galaxies formed.

When the 

At the beginning of Time

Then was your conception,
Reason and rhyme,

Then was your Election,
Your Predestination,

Your original direction,
The moment of creation:

Your chance or luck
At the crux
Of Spacetime and matter

A random opening
Onto life-forms, eons later.

Destined for a world
Where you would be
Finite and created,

You swirled in infinity’s
You waited.

That was your beginning
First of many births,
Bound for Earth,

Arrival pending
Specific directions
To the folks in reception:

Parents made of
Stardust, too,

And isn’t that more thrilling
Than elemental goo?

Where did you come from?
You came from afar,
From a time-wrought,

Where did you come from?
You came from glory.

What are you?
A human,
A man
Or a woman.
Just that.

Where you’re going
Is the real story.

Wanting to know –
It was really
Never a question of
Forbidden fruit –
Of fruit, yes,
Sweet taste of
Channeled by
The six senses –

Cosmic knowledge
Not forbidden,
Only hidden

In spacetime,
In matter,
In biology,
In history;
In patterns

Made manifest
By Time’s

      And a Glorious Revolution:
      Without a doubt

      The position you retained
      Remains the same;

      Advancing intelligence
      Changes the game

      Balanced between two infinities
      Demarcated by birth and death

      You are in equipoise,
      Poised to sound the depths

      Between two infinite worlds,
      Macro and micro,

     You are the vital go-between,
      Demiurge of dataflow

Now in your lives
You have the chance

To learn what matters,
Find what’s hidden

For you the synchrony,
The happenstance;

Now are you bidden
To the cosmic dance.

        Echo Speaks

How long have I murmured in this forest
Vibrating vainly to the vocatives
     of men?
I’ve loitered here so long that I’ve
The timbre of the voice that gave me

Shadow-like you come beneath the
Soft bright arms and thighs that
     undo me.
How I wonder at your form of light
     and water!
At your eyes rippling tenderness, tenderness
      to me
Narcisse, for you are kind.

Once I would have cursed you for this
     loosing of tides,
But even here in the forest primeval,
     times have changed.
Our crafty Age will renew time-worn

And I won’t reach for your watery
May you find who you seek in the
     swirling pool,
May you rejoice in the pure light
     of morning.

       Wanting Passion


White suns turn in their moorings mournfully
While twinning moons collapse the gabled sea.
Like some small voice revolving in a wind
I call your nameless motion back to me.

I am not chaste I do not breathe the breath
Of gods or any other deathless thing.
I do not tender anchor, line, or ground,
But times that circle when they circle round.

My force is not by day, by season fast
But wakes in dark and insubstantial times:
Sparked when suns are twisting mournfully
In moorings, deceptions, rhymes.

We want to live
But we’re always dying
We want to give
But we’re used to taking
We want quality of life
But we won’t let go

Of T-shirts or letters or videos,
Of straw hats or yoga mats or radios,
Of bodies

When the mind is gone,
Of compunctions when the
Brain no longer functions.

We won’t let go
Of too-big houses,
Too-big cars,
Knives and spoons and cookie jars,
Of string or rings or

Things forgotten,
Commitments mistaken,
Ideals forsaken.

We want to live
But we can’t say good-bye,
Or whisper farewell
To days gone by,

Or stop the small sigh
That escapes
When our heart
Is too full,
Our daily tasks
Grown long,
Grown dull:

Throwing pebbles
Down a well,
Winding silver threads
Around a tiny spool.

We want to stay
Alive and awake
We want to make
Best use of our time

We want to plan
The weeks and days
Leave space
On our calendars
For concerts and plays
We want the shallows

But half of our lives
Are spent
In the deep,
In the seeming of dreaming:
In nullity of sleep;

In dreams that are jumbles
Of homes past and present,
Bedrooms from childhood,
Family vacations,
Fantasies and agitations;
Of joy and dread,
Of the living and the dead.

And when we wake,
When we open our eyes
To a world we no longer

Did we sleep too long
Like Rip Van Winkle?

Too long and too deeply,
Like the Sleeping Beauty?
With never an inkling
Of our daytime duty?

Did we sleep too heavily,
Like creatures of stone
Enchanted by a witch
In the courtyard of her home?

Or did we sleep too lightly,
Our dreams too porous,
Letting too much world in,
Racing time before us?

And when we open our eyes
Do we catch the quick flutter-by
Of butterfly wings
Patterned, resplendent?
That butterfly
Dreamed by Zhuangzi,
A vision so vivid,
So lilting,
So bright,
The sage thought
The butterfly
Had dreamed him–
Was he right?

Do we dream dreams,
That are our own?
Or are we entertained by
Shaped by
Our desires and drives,
Our waking and
Sleeping lives.

If we want to live
Forever and a day,
Our selves enhancing,
Lifespans transforming,
Curiosity fueling

If we want to live
Forever and a day,
Why should we sleep
Half our lives away?

Why, indeed,
Should we sleep at all?
For we’re seeking the life
Lived Before the Fall,

Infinite in its beginning,
Reaching for the limit
At the end.

Life that can be lived once,
And then lived once again.

          Wanting Innocence

     Double Time

The silver the golden the gold we lay
Dark-weaving fine fair-seeming.
The lily the rose the rose we lay
For wind and fine hair streaming.

The baily berith the bell away:
Solemn, solemn, in stone repose.
At one with book and chair they say
The baily berith the bell away.

The night rain drummed on roofs and eaves.
Braids brushed bare backs and shoulders.
Hands fluttered light as wind-borne leaves,
Or dropped like ash that smolders.

Solemn, solemn in stone repose
At one with book and chair,
One hand slid down beaded clothes,
One spread like undone hair.

The night train roared past silent towns,
Past villages wrapped in darkness.
In dim-lit castles silken gowns
Formed pools opaque and starless.

The silver the golden the gold we lay
Dim-working fine fair-seeming.
What baily berith the bell away?
What wind and fine hair streaming?

The night train screamed its headlong flight,
It sliced through freezing air.
The night train screamed in pure delight
As brides in berths brushed out their hair.

     Staying Chill

Not the water but the ice,
    a sliver
Not the loaf but a slice,
    a crust
Not the rand but the gold dust,
    a nugget,
Not the sea strand but the shingle,
     a single grain of sand:

From the gold mines
Lining the Basin
Of Witwatersrand

Scooped by hand
Lining a pocket,
Compressed in a locket

Or ground like coffee –
While photographing friends –
Into the zoom lens

Not a symphony, not a quartet,
       a duet
Not the violin but the bass,
       the bottom
Not the harmony but the melody,
       the song
Not the plainchant but the motet,
      the descant

Riding atop the cantus,

Not the canter but the trot,
      the clip-clop

Hooves against cobblestones
High profile skin-and-bones,
Sitting – but not astride,
Skirts to one side
Riding sidesaddle

The clop-clip

Of high heels on pavement
Or clipping down linoleum
Down abject floors
In the company basement

Quick efficient legs
Turning every head;
Secretary smiles,
“Knock ’em dead.”

She smiles:
The hallway’s a lane.

Day-dreaming her
Bowling game,

She lobs the ball,
Hears the pins knock and rattle,
Watches them fall:

Score! It’s a strike.
Like riding a bike!

She hears the refrain
Inside her happy brain:

“Watch them all fall down,
Domino dancing,
Watch them all fall down.”

She should be dancing,
Maybe drinking
At a posh night club,
Champagne flutes clinking.

Not the new wine, that callow draught,
      the season’s cull
Not the old wine, that mellow swill,
      the storied vintage
Not the ice wine, cloying, so sweet
      you can’t think:
No, the polar drink, the clink
      of cap and bells.

 Feeling sly now,
       So high, so fly now,
       Flat as a buzz cut,
       Outta the old rut.

Getting chill,
      Numbed by ice,
Battened down,
Surround sound,

Feeling nice;
Not too friendly,
Not too lonely,

Feeling swell:
Cap and bells.

And afterwards for fun,
A modern dance
Perforce abstract,
Compact –
A bodily

Not dancers entwining, enfolding,
One another, and the cluster

Not dancers wheeling and
Their black leotards, black
Making them look like a
A night-rider.

       Or even worse
The rhythmic beat
The plash of joy,
The breaking up of

Not a world
Sacked of sea-legs:
Small Craft hobbled by
Daily currents;

Staggered men
Along the shoreline,
Shoes laced with
Drinking tea with
Their swollen ships on
Watery troughs.

Lurching and
Rock, rock-a-bye,
Beware, beware the
Darkening sky.

Neither the pitch heroic
Nor the timbre orchestral

Nor the black velvet night
Every pulse is fright,
Every parse is light.


Anthony Bulloch said...

A whole wonderful poem-cycle. Great pacing and tempo.

linda colman said...

Thanks! (You are a frequent commentator on this blog.) It's actually a work in progress. Not quite finished yet...