I--allegro con brio

over it, desire for a finished landscape,
undulate forests bordering our common attention
drawn closer to a center stage
of privileged condominiums.
we won't speak of it except to say
that eventually you learn to accept
less. time maybe teaches this, or the lucky ones
have an instinct. either way we are rescued
as this beginning. but the way some things get off
left us fractured on the matted surface
of whatever living those days was like.
our sense of survival led us away
from a life of gin and tonics, mimesis,
simple forgery.
then came alone to sundry truths,
artists amid bones bleached
and whittled into familiar shapes
like the paradox of a mapped out joy ride
or box within box ad infinitum.
the word was out---we needed the freedom of a twister,
not blueprint and actualization but discovery
of how perspective establishes the new us
in the maelstrom we call creativity--
as man is, a somewhat orderly agitation of forces
which inform his abstraction---words, brush strokes---
and knowing this returns not to an illusory single seed
but to the plurality of what permits him.
various green things were given notice
as the sky settled on an orange cloud.
a question of power, really--day stripped down to its night
yet offering vague pockets of recollections, signposts
an occasional upward glance, once addendums
to the edenic frontrunner,
now blaring their music of dislocations
and masterfully.
forfeiture was maximum, its enormity finally understood
as philosophical overload having to do with the illusion
things get united,
a dissembling of which is necessary (perhaps evolutionary)
if we are to proceed loudly toward revenge.
initially each quarantined instant pushed off
from its previous and afterwards,
like mercurial pools englassed
to clock and record the temperature
of our times.
it was in this hub of forced entry
that the break up took on the graver aspect,
that of an unemployed blacksmith
forging no fixed countenance
but seized with his art merely
as duration expressed.
powered by contentious singulars
he arrived at a secluded inlet
roughed by weedy decay,
came to understand the primacy of desire
whose beginning and end is denial,
and there loosed his voices


to go beyond this is lurching in place.
but coloring the subject a different way--
this morning the canvases arrived. I put one in the foyer,
another over the bed between the bedknobs,
a third ridiculed the kitchenette, refused to go straight.
all contended for my solicitude
as I shuttled from room to room.
yet I was their center, and unwilling,
wishing instead to make of each a day, a partial creation,
a testimony, a witness, a sensible property--
impossible possessions! blasted me right off the wall.
I began to dress accordingly--a collage of grainy tweeds,
cavalier nylons, nightcaps and broken bottles,
moonshine, last week's lottery loser pinned to my vest--
I had strange desires for crippled women,
sold off my entire inventory of baseball cards,
all willy mays,
spoonfed heroin to children--
an accumulation of possibilities aimed at precision,
thought out in knowledgeable backrooms, decor socratic,
then pumped into streets belly up.
I returned with a hat full of capitulations
clogging my air space--
this was a dangerous moment, the sort where expectations
arrive at an all night laundry, washed out,
staring each other down, eyes under copper coins

the daydream was flat, two dimensional, pasted on.
emotions got left out because the new settlement specs
read like a celebration of war technology.
post-confrontation I was older, less dependent on my
morning cereal. still nothing really changed. spent hours
in the garden. set a few fires.
like I said, something cramped our waterfall of feelings,
a directive, maybe, from a high or deep whereabouts
to freeze the conduit, leave vertiginous the good life.
communication has become a thing of the past,
it said--
our new destiny our hostility toward ourselves

consider for a moment the avenues to freedom,
how, jerking us from our beds, each pending voyage
seems more desolate, night's engine at the window,
a dribble of moon on the glass.
to call on powers greater than ourselves
it is possible to sing, still, like a voice in a bottle.
our suspicions time is precious, not quite authentic,
a densely populated playground for kids
to lose themselves in, cigarettes dropping one after another
into an ashtray, suggest the caveat emptor we struggle with
and so continue juggling the books.
it's a little like sunday school, this poring over
someone else's organized folly we forgive
as an honest scrambling of the elements.
it gets more difficult talking about materials as just
another saloon where words congregate
and sop up perfectly good feelings.
anyway, the police receive daily notices of the impinging
art form, the cavalcade without purpose, but so far have not
responded. some stories, then, are not for everyone.
it depends the amount of death and excrement how much time
law enforcement will want to spend on this.
or is the other version more to the point, art being
like religion an excuse for neurotics getting together,
my desires to go unflattered, undressed, unloved?
or is the purpose to provide a collection service, to
dump all the garbage in one place?
what calls us, after all, to its broken feet? how many
bone chips plead with us for summation?
the brimmed cup exists like a stretch at attica, the cafÈ
across the street seats a thousand, the wall collects
my paintings--ages are stuffed into the mind

then was a moment burly as a chain saw and just as hungry
chewing at our heals
and you came to me in the sun dusted wreckage.
I wish to speak to you in the way of this poem
which assumes a monstrous tower of babel
splitting its sides on the landscape, our sole sacred event.
I wish to speak to you now, as daylight
sifts among discarded notions of love and,
in the form of a brilliantly scorched evening,
suffers over them.
hence the stocking torn through the heel,
the slender calf,
overly burdened thigh, fleshy ass, belly, breasts.
but such words fracture themselves on the face
of sexual need,
erecting instead some wasted myth that functions
as a potholed intersection
for bumping fenders.
hold the phone! the real dope is
I can't have you.
the objects of knowledge keep disappearing in the hand
until we're left with an empty refrigerator
which is nevertheless beautiful, all chromed and inviolate.
every instant means the walls are closing in, covered
with pictures of past lives
though that's the way we push off the prenotional
so why gripe?
everything is finally outside us, including us.
everything remembered, novel as the word that recovers
our memory of what is forever banished.
these impudent bits, masquerading as you and me,
amount to a couple of sparrows who walked the wire
right through the densest foliage,
leaving nothing but a disconsolate chirp chirp
sweet in the distance

we are suddenly at the edge of our affliction.
dementia of morning--darkness sinks into a bowl
of lavender oranges, destined for the core of things,
that final arch of color--coffee, white chairs on the patio,
moments scurrying in the yard--the business of walking
around where we might be seen.
what evidence? currency? in the weeds strippings like
from an old fence, worn out expressions
peeled from our faces

sounding out the impenetrable cube of summer, believing
we've always wanted it, someone and a house, and rows
of azalea, and sculpted hedges, the pure maintenance
of corners not the actual getting in. though today
we have names--you are dry and very plump in white dress,
one extravagant thigh quivering against the other

words. table scraps. everywhere the language of loss.
desire leers from the balustrade, unable to translate

the shadow of your hand--your velvet purse

we will all choke on the garbage of the upper classes,
waiting for the subliminal change of seasons.
lone cardinal blinking his sphinx from gutter pipe
directs our sense of enclosure to flat blue sky,
white writing in aimless drift, a semblance, fashion plate,
new floatations of cloud language.
here, now, your bare heel
circles that dogged patch of dead grass
next to the crocuses.
earth and I are desperate in small quantities, strictly
a bourgeois affair, like the house chipping away at itself.
not one more drop of manure! let death spread like
the cardinal's red wing. let each moment blister and fall,
recanting the minutiae of perceptions contained in
comings and goings, height and depth, rampart to rampart--
no, this I cannot say to you, beautiful waterer of lawns,
nothing here but dirty dishes, bird droppings,
my second cup of coffee and the curling steam
activity divorced from its bed
and decadent

a fatigued afternoon sinks
into the trees,
branches strained and holding,
now dropping their cloud
of leaves

old sentiments fog and whine like
windows in their rotted frames,
adjourn to broken stoops
where tendered air,
spirits, spanish rice,
language splashed into a woman's feelings,
these fluttering pages

gestures required of us
as the procession of harlequin days
teases attention from passers--by

we must not take our memories too seriously
since the worst bruises are the most colorful.
those autumn flappers go kicking down the boulevard
into the last blast of the furnace

I darkened to create memory.
accept this spilled September,
fanfare of a tired man.
we who go blackened beyond recognition
lift our voice to the trees,
and piled on the backs of old houses,
scattered unintelligibly into streets and alleyways,
our lives


death left him speechless

other places the streets are marked,
cheques written, morning bubbled out of the sun.
what we say of our grief
hustles this baggage of perceptions across a litany
of todays, word following word
to where we might have been, should have been

so that's one down.
we continue as the aftertaste of soured port.
there is a period of accretion, broken field running,
the general bloodletting

the word surrounded him

he had nothing in his pockets, caught fully unprepared
by the mindless face on the giant billboard
in the empty parking lot and deadpanned out of existence.
a language of denials rose and flourished around him.
we inherit this, braking, crushing cigarettes,
swallowing our spit as the atmosphere takes on
a choking density, an air of cartoon ballooning
with cloud lingo and everything else flattened
against the frames.
darkness arrived like an overturned blotter.
the physician reverses his shingle.
the trucker, his eye on the road, sabotaged
from every direction. finally
forgetting how we are pronounced by his death, drawn
as this muddied stream of light through the sluices
of afterhour dives, all night laundries,
and into the next day's revelation

rooms and the furniture of ruminations.
promises like a winter orchard. rooms to rent.
"r" is the sound of our world, "sh" of the other,
e.g., "mashed and the motor still running."
lots of talk at the funeral, much capital and women
rolling their digits together.
paintings mostly abstract

this life of minutiae lower case, versimilitudes,
becomes the portrait of our wishes,
the way death is re-called, played upon a screen
darkened as the actors penetrate our observation of them,
the look of one deserted passageway meeting another.
nonplussed by decay of the concrete he collapsed
into himself like flaming tenement on avenue "a"
near parking lot where it all happened sans intention,
leaving us astonished and little else,
the hub of the thing too hot to handle. leaving what?
myth, the self--consuming outline
of desire

it goes on, one by one we pick up the tab.
"o" is the sound of understanding, or emptiness,
either one, both. things to consider-- is there a will?
everything is relatives

later the bridge plunging suddenly
to the fireworking city, our wheels left spinning air,
we accept a direction without signs, off ramps, slushing
headlights, a place unadorned where the physician
fractures his instrument on the incurably sick,
and I say this to you
and the saying devolves into what we can gather
of crisscrossing harbor lights whitestone bridge
black highway to the heart of downtown, his death,
all falling like broken glass in the path of the trucker,
this glitter, this language, this desire we can only speak
and annihilate

so what's left? a nebulous windy beach.
muddy waves lift themselves like ideas
out of the sludge, our general ocean.
often seems this way, tribes of misfit days
drifting past the vacated lifeguard tower
or else an orchestra without instruments
going through the motions of a backbreaking
but meaningless symphony, each note fractured
against the surf.
I recall your defection, the sudden loss of narrative power,
but what replaced a sensible walking in and out
was hardly storm--blown.
the buggers dive and the girls go for beer.
shifty goings on, plenty getting said immediately
washed from the page, and the future's still
on the drawing board.
you don't get the straight of it
but for a few afterhour watering holes
where the nickel and dime life persists
like a scratch on a major recording.
the highbrow walk right up to you expecting
something meaningful
in the sense of those heralded skyscrapers
that cast not into the unknown so much as plug it up,
not swearing their way through a dark room
or bouncing off the furniture.
symbolism gives way but there's still
a lot of surface and small talk.
the poets scramble like beach bunnies,
avoid svelte craftiness, say what they mean
but it approaches you like the husk of a city
after everyone has gone to sleep,
or at least retired to the country,
or treading water

IV--allegro vivace

so eventually the sun falls from its coat hanger,
tumbles through trees, flickers by baskets of leaves,
blinks out in slivers of glass along skid row--
old life, what remains, like a pile of worthless stock
torched at a meeting of literary trustees.
we loaded the truck with sturgeon, oriental drapes,
florsheims, two dollar bills, the poem as garage dump.
we went under--galloping horatio street
on the backs of guitars, women dabbing lipstick targets
on these blue eyes.
I remember rolling up my sleep like a vagrant,
unfolding to a thousand second chance cockcrow church bells
and shuffling off with the maundering sun well again.
I remember my youth as it was called out of me
like a newspaper chasing space down a deserted sidewalk,
and I remember my father dancing his jag around the rain,
picking me up in his strong crumbling arms
our muggy clothes straining against our separate forms
not to separate us--
and I lived funnel-eyed and I ate my suppers

witness to oceans
pounding out a code no one can undo,
this motley autumn
miscarried in transit and
delivered to earth in lifeless bundles.
still a few leafy words did a cakewalk on a cool breeze,
arrived like on a six--wheeler
right through the display window.
the problem now is what to do about the mess, myself
reflected in a thousand glittering bits.
hey you! come here. provide an ear and a calculator,
allow this landscape to construct itself as you desire.
so the sky filled with water like a big bathtub.
it began again, new droppings of comprehension
floating over the rooftops
as you stripped to bare essentials.
the rococo clung to the bone,
traffic lights flashed
at all the major intersections--
to be so enamored of death
that to dress it up and play it on the streets
becomes our and nature's occupation

like a street gang I have kept that feeling from you