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The Journey to the West

Though we journey to the West We pray to the East More or less that's the way Each day begins and ends It’s a tale everyone ...

Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve Afternoon

I wrote this poem on the afternoon of 12/31/2011 standing in my recently reseeded back yard in East Quogue

Looking at the just replanted
Half-grown lawn
I pleased myself
With the thought
That the only thing missing
Now is the weeds

There being fresh grown grass
And dog shit enough already
To approximate the usual
Midsummer scene

Only lacking are the crabgrass
And dandelions leaving
Me oddly forlorn with
The realization that weeds too
Play a vital role
In promoting a man's
Sense of well being
By defining tomorrow's
Task with a spade on
Hands and knees

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Journey Yet to Come

No matter how bad
The cell phone reception
In a particular part of town
You always want to stay
Connected to the clear blue sky
In an unmediated way
And if there ever should come
A moment where it appears
Things are going rapidly
The other way
A late afternoon squall
Blitzkriegs in from the south
Much better if you're not caught
Too far off shore when it hits
Or you just might end up
Blown far off course
Much further than you
Can even imagine possible

Saturday, December 24, 2011

On the Afternoon Before Christmas

I wrote this poem 6 months ago or so and came across it today by chance. It strikes a chord with my mood this afternoon so I have decided to post it to the blog in lieu of words more contemporaneous. It was the afternoon before Christmas and I was home by myself, the dogs were both snoring, one on a chair and the other on the couch.

* * * * * * * * *

That it’s worth doing well

Doesn’t mean it’s worth doing

If no one else will ever know

Or care or tell

Unless you feel compelled

The way a swan plays the trumpet

As if it’s a necessary part of what

Or who you are and what

You have to keep doing

To stay alive

That’s what poetry

Has to become

Your daily meditation

And prayer

You don’t need a license

But it does take

Constant practice

So you can close your eyes

And pluck the truth directly

Out of thin air

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

To Dream Perchance to Write

This is a poem I wrote in my sleep on 12/19/2011, the night before I got fired from my job. I've tried not to change too much from what I first wrote down after waking up. One thing a little odd about the composition of this poem is that I woke up, wrote a line, went back to sleep, woke up and wrote another line, and so on four separate times. So if the poem reads a bit disjointedly, you now know the reason why

With or without
Careful adherence
To everyday

By some method
Both proper and good
And by reality

Whichever way you like
Or back and forth
If you can't decide
Already drenched in sweat
But trying harder even yet

Head over heels
Down the pathway
We tumble
Making progress
At minimal expense
A thing in itself
Neither good nor bad
While prone to something
Completely different besides

Saturday, December 10, 2011

About Animal Co-Dependency

Almost everything
I needed to know
About my own addiction
I learned from Guston
The one eyed cat

Who developed
A pretty bad
Drug habit himself
Just from sitting
On my lap

You see
That’s how he became
Hooked on weed
And seemed to lose interest
In most other stuff

Whenever he saw me
Pull out my pipe
For a puff
He’d take a running leap
And soon enough

From the glassy look
In his one good eye
I knew it was time for me
To think about
Straightening up

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Gan Yu - II

A Poem About Meaning

I don’t speak as
One officially trained
Or accredited by a school
Of higher learning
I have labored
With help here and there
From a few intensely wise friends
Followed by much
Dogged self-study

Poured over the dictionary
In point of fact
That proving
A most helpful way to learn
Through long steady gaze
At its handsomely bound pages
Only then did the patterns within
Begin to emerge

How meanings leap about
Whether by sound or sign
Or by means compounded
The mind thrives by
Such diversity
At each point
In the path
We notice
A potential

Or as opposites
Meanings continuously
Attract one another
From shelter to
It takes nary but
A slightly different
Shape of the tongue

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A New Hallmark Holiday Proposed

Tonight while watching
A sappy TV movie
I had a great idea
For a new Hallmark holiday

It would be
Called Homeless Day
And Richard Musto
Would be the official
Holiday spokesman
In all his cranky wonder

Now listen to me
One thing you have
To learn pretty fast
About living
On the street is
Never eat food with
Mayonnaise if you want
To avoid getting really

Because what holds us
Together is nothing
More or less than
What Mitch Albom describes
Only what it holds
Together I’d hazard to guess
Is not exactly
Co-extensive with
Either his experience
Or imagination

Gan Yu - II

A poem about the importance
of a strong sense of place

You know the role
Played by Richard Dreyfuss
In Close Encounters
His complete obsession
With Devil’s Tower

Well how come
I’m not quite sure
But that’s exactly the way it's
Always been for me
In and around
These few square blocks

It’s the place
Where I most belong
And how can I explain it best
Except by saying it’s been such a long time
Personal and business address as to
Become one and the same
A single location that pervades
My entire sense of well-being

Or like water
That’s circling the drain
I’m intent to continue holding on
Just a little bit longer
Thinking perhaps the path of
Least resistance is remain right here
And try to make myself
An even more integral part of the
Midtown South Precinct scene

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Gan Yu -- II

Alone or Together

Alone or together
Is one of those imperishable
A toggle hard wired
In our hearts and minds

Just so I found myself
On the corner outside
Where I first noticed her
Beautiful and self-possessed
Regal throughout her being
And online at Pret
Again she was
Behind me
Long auburn hair
America’s next though
Slightly aging supermodel

As I paid for my mid-afternoon snack
Keisha asked:
Alone or together?

I do my best to keep
Things together
But I’m all alone when
It comes to her
If that’s what you mean

And then I glanced briefly back
And when she smiled
I said to her
For the first and last time:
And you’re well put together too
If you don’t mind my saying

To which Keisha crisply replied:
Why don’t you pop her the question?

To which I quipped in return:
Is all I get three dollars change?

But the best of it yet
Is that after stepping back
And later still
As I remembered the scene
No matter what I said or meant
Keisha came to her own understanding
Such that I ended up paying
As though we were together
Whether or not we were
In fact or in mind

So what exactly
By this question is meant
Alone or together
In this or any other context
Each of us for ourselves
Each and every time
Must redecide

Gan Yu -- II

(a poem about the benefits of embracing change)

    Once again

    As I get ready

    To quit my day job

    In truth I recall how always

    I have found it much easier

    To keep faith

    By embracing change

    Instead of getting

    Bogged down in

    The status quo

    All the Dao asks for is balance

    And no matter what you give back

    Many are the ways

    Chemical physical and emotional

    To pry your third eye open

    As you find your own way

    Through life

A Poem About the Gan Yu

Does it mean

Feelings about things

Met along life’s way

Or better yet just

Things encountered

Such is the nature

Of life in translation

And such are the transformations

As we move from tongue

To tongue

Sometimes the choices

Seem very enormous

Almost overwhelming


At the end of the day

The Gan Yu shall

Speak for itself

If you’ll just kindly do your best

To keep me and Chen Zi’ang

Both far from mind

Instead try striking out

On your own

First by crouching down

In the depths of the forest

And then calmly wait

Listening for the cuckoo’s

Loud lament

Friday, November 25, 2011

My Thoughts After Reading a Letter from Richard Musto

What am I

To Richard Musto

Or he to me

Both questions are


And there's nothing

More laughable

Than my answer

It sometimes seems

It’s not just money

That brings us together

Though a little more

Of the green stuff

Deposited directly into

His account from time to time

Would go a long way towards

Buying me peace of mind

Meanwhile he is looking

To engage me professionally

In order to pursue legal remedies

Against half the known world

His sister’s son and a desk sergeant

In the South Bronx both of whom have

Done him grievous wrongs

A whole lifetime of

Disparagements still

Awaiting redress

And in all caps and bold face scrawl

Again and again

He reminds me to



It’s pretty clear what

He expects of me

But what do you suppose

I am destined to learn

From him in good turn

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A Common Misunderstanding About What Dietrich Really Said

  • A lot of guys
    Stop to ask me
    What’s the secret of life?
    And I’ll say to them
    How the hell should I know
    Except it’s what you see
    All around you like
    People sitting on the bus
    Pile their bags so high
    On the seat next to them
    Because they don’t want anyone
    Sitting right alongside
    You see everybody is afraid
    Of someone or something
    Getting too close

    And it’s the same with the rich
    You know flying around
    In their private jets
    It’s the same damn thing
    And it’s very dangerous too
    All those movie stars
    Politicians and musicians
    Who lost their lives
    In their private planes

    Rugged individualism
    Is what they used to call it
    Back in the day
    But that’s just words
    They used to use
    To try and give it
    A positive spin
    Something to say for
    A good cub-scout leader
    Maybe an infantry captain
    Or anybody who knows
    How to get by
    No matter what
    To live off the land
    Just like me
    Yeah I guess you could
    Say that about me

    It’s like everyone
    Made the same mistake
    About what Marlene Dietrich said
    She never said
    She wanted to be alone
    No siree
    You see
    That wasn't what she
    Said at all
    She said she wanted to be left alone
    And you can take it from me
    That’s a completely different thing
    If you get what I mean
  • What Richard Told Me

    You know why
    There has to be a God

    Richard says to me
    Sitting in the back
    Of Ali’s Deli
    On 29th and Sixth

    Look at the trillions
    Of fish in the sea
    And all the rice they grow
    Underwater in the paddies
    You take all that rice and fish
    That comes from underwater
    And you have enough for
    A very healthy diet
    Right there

    And don’t forget
    You still have
    To call back
    That Landlord
    Down in Atlantic City
    And if he asks you
    How long I’m gonna stay
    You should say
    Just as long as he’s welcome
    Just to show him that
    I can be a very accommodating person
    That is accommodating to
    His disposition
    And you have no idea
    Frankly how temperamental
    A Landlord’s disposition
    Sometimes can be

    Saturday, November 5, 2011

    For Dan

    Let each poem
    Be a celebration
    Of life be it a moment
    Of truth or continued

    As with the Saturday
    Arrival of a package
    From Putney
    What the fuck?
    My younger son exclaimed

    And after opening it up
    Holy Shit he further said
    It’s a letter from Natalie
    That says my application
    Is complete and look here
    It’s a plastic cow she sent me

    Am I in or not?
    Stop sending me
    Rubber cows please
    No more kitsch
    I want the rest of my life
    To begin already

    Thursday, November 3, 2011

    This is a poem I composed at the James A. Farley Post Office on November 3rd where I went to send out one last package.

    Let each day bring its own
    good measure of life changing
    into existence

    Each day may
    the Kabbalah Truck
    remain parked outside

    With carts filled
    with trays filled
    with fresh baked
    loaves of wisdom

    Just waiting to greet you
    on your way out
    the front door

    Thursday, October 13, 2011

    Blind to the World of Spirit

    I wrote this poem early this morning. I wanted to post it quickly before having the chance to revise or disavow it.

    Blind to the world of spirit
    Only with eyes closed
    Can the map's contours
    Be discerned

    How energy flows up
    And out through
    The crown of the head
    Always rising and yet
    Maintaining its own
    Steady state

    To know spirit
    Is to know flesh and
    Its dielectric constant
    The permittivity of the possible

    That love in every breath is
    Made visible however
    Limited in extent
    In the chill morning air

    Extension Cord by Brad Melamed

    I love this image that my friend Brad Melamed posted to FB today.  This is part of recent series of work in which Brad has been exploring the connection between his hands and the rest of the world.  It seems like such a perfect drawing to accompany this poem - the permittivity of the possible - the idea could be more perfectly or cogently conveyed!

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    A Song of Lu Moutain

    Here is a translation of one of Li Bai's spirit poems. The Madman of Chu appears briefly in the Analects and chides Confucius for thinking he can or should meddle in affairs of state.

    A Song of Lu Mountain

    I am the madman of Chu
    Who sang for Confucius
    And laughed at him too
    All the while
    In both my hands
    A precious jade staff
    Tightly I clasped

    To Yellow Crane Tower
    At dawn I departed
    Onto the Five Sacred Peaks
    Searching for Immortals
    Far and wide

    For an entire lifetime
    Across Ming Shan
    I have wandered there
    Then across Lu Shan
    Where I approached the Big Dipper
    Through the nine screens
    Traversing through clouds
    Like wind through
    A brocade clothe

    Out of the shadows
    And into brightness
    I found a crystal clear lake
    Its surface shimmering with
    Dazzling colorful rays
    And the gates of golden watchtower
    Opened silently before me
    Revealing in the distance
    Two more enormous peaks

    Down a winding path I strolled
    Where there flowed a silvery stream
    Under three stone bridges
    It passed and then tumbled
    Down a sheer precipice
    In a misty waterfall
    Obscure in thick with a
    Blue green haze

    While on the skyline
    Clouds glowed persimmon
    Herald of the morning sun
    And birds beat their wings
    In endless flight on their way
    To the state of Wu

    Ascending these heights
    What great vistas have I seen
    Of Heaven and Earth
    As well as places in between
    A river that flows apart from
    Space and time
    Measureless and vast
    Filled with whitecaps
    Flowing fast
    Yellow clouds
    Propelled ten thousand miles
    By the relentless wind
    Towards nine distant
    Snowcapped peaks

    This is the song
    Of Lu Shan
    The spirit that
    The mountain speaks
    At leisure I gaze
    At her rocky crags
    As into a mirror
    More clearly
    It’s my own heart
    I glimpse

    Down pathways
    Long overgrown
    Moss everywhere
    A thick dark green
    Taking an extra dose
    Of cinnabar tablets
    Beyond this world
    The heart stirs
    Like a zither
    Strummed three times
    It trills from
    First to last

    And far in the distance
    See the Immortals assembling
    Filled with roseate inner light
    In their hands they hold
    Hibiscus blossoms
    To present the Jade Emperor
    In the Imperial Court

    Before crossing the void
    Nine levels ascending
    At last arriving
    At the truth of Lu
    Approaching utter clarity
    Though the work continues
    Onward still

    Saturday, October 1, 2011

    From the Desk of the General Counsel (II)

    With apologies to Gus and Jim
    And to all my other clients
    My sincerest regrets
    That I couldn’t take
    Their legal problems
    Any more seriously

    But being so ill-suited
    To the tasks at hand
    The endless wrangling and
    The mind numbing detail
    While nonetheless needing
    To keep on paying the rent

    Just as the scam blogs lament
    I came to be compromised
    To an unbearable extent
    I felt guilt and distress
    About the fraud of the law
    But what’s a middle class boy
    Supposed to do
    When there’s rent
    To be paid
    And various other markers
    Are all about to come due

    Reflections (III)

    This is my translation of a poem by the Tang poet Zhang JiuLing also known by the courtesy name of Zishou. Don't know too much about his work. He served as a senior minister to the Emperor Xuanzong in the early 700's. The spiritual flavor of this poem reminds of sonnets by John Donne.

    Reflections (III)

    Into seclusion returning
    A man resumes his lonely perch
    Deliberate in manner
    Bathed in purity and truth

    Like a soaring goose
    Feeling full of thanks
    Because of the great distance
    Spread out underneath
    Over which the soul shall pass

    Day and night
    Mindful of
    But can anyone
    Attain its essence
    Soaring or sinking
    From self fully

    Am I to find
    Such comfort
    Please tell me truly

    Friday, August 26, 2011

    On Mutual Longing

    This is my translation of a poem by the Song Dynasty poet Lin Bu. I don't know much about him. Supposedly he lived the life of a recluse and turned down successive requests to attend upon his Majesty the Emperor. According to one source, although he lived as a solitary hermit, Lin considered himself betrothed to his plum trees and together with them is said to have sired a child who was a snow white crane. I can't swear to the biographical accuracy of this story, but in any case I consider this to be an incredibly beautiful poem.

    On Mutual Longing

    The Wu Mountains
    Are clothed in green
    So too are the Yue

    On both sides
    The green hills
    Regard each other
    In uneasy greeting

    As if such like beings could somehow
    Overcome the distance and feelings
    Holding them apart

    The gentleman weeps
    Without restraint
    So too does the lady

    The same feelings
    Swaddle their separate hearts
    While remaining unfulfilled

    The river of tears
    Rises to equal level
    Atop the distant banks

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    Ode to THC

    What’s been said
    About youth
    Is equally true
    About drugs
    Being wasted
    On the young

    Take it from me
    My son
    You really need
    A little seasoning
    To fully appreciate
    The improved reasoning
    That comes with THC

    And to be able
    To speak truth
    To weakness and power alike
    And never by flattery
    To be seeking advancement

    Always haphazardly
    Proceeding through life
    Though it’s not quite a random thing
    The way I take a hit or two
    While walking around the block

    Sunday, August 14, 2011

    As Yet Without a Title (for Marissa)

    A rainy day
    On my way home
    Down West 28th
    I stopped to consider
    The water accumulating
    In the detritus clogged drain
    Above the uptown stop of the IRT train

    You know the whole damn block
    Is so lush and green
    With palm fronds and rare orchids
    Like a rain forest it casts off petals
    By the bushel per hour
    Being by far the most tropical part
    Of the Midtown South Precinct

    Then there comes a shift
    In the spectrum of light
    To yellow from green
    With the rain-streaked taxis
    Parked along both sides thanks
    To the Ramadan crowds
    In the Mosque
    North one street

    These and other things
    I've noticed on my rounds
    To and from the studio
    Ambling for enlightenment
    Every neighborhood provides a motive
    For a longer sojourn
    But here in particular
    I'm held enthralled

    Home being where a man
    Dares and feels the need
    To show both his most masculine
    And feminine sides
    This petal strewn block
    Is the very place where
    I've had full recourse
    To expose both of mine

    Monday, July 25, 2011

    Humbert's Peak

    In the angular light
    Of a late July afternoon
    I reached Hubbert’s peak
    Sexually speaking enjoying
    Pleasure so great with you
    It felt beyond compare

    Or should I say Humbert’s
    Because there you appeared
    In your red Target suit
    Dark sunglasses and all
    Looking both Lolita and her mum
    And then we went
    From two to one
    Like a sea nymph
    Urging me forward
    Until we grew nethered
    In the deep end together

    While nearby the blue wheelbarrow
    Stood upended in the dirt
    Its arms for legs splayed
    Saying to me
    So much depends
    On the here and the now of it
    Wherever you happen
    To transplant yourself
    Make sure this time
    It really counts

    That it was shared with you
    I find unsurprising
    Nor am I perturbed but delighted
    By the promise of all the lesser peaks
    Between us yet to come

    Sunday, July 3, 2011

    Never Once My Dear Friend, Not Once

    Something I have a hard time
    Understanding about you
    My dear friend
    Even after all those years
    Not once did you ever pen
    A word of complaint

    I mean there is nothing more deadening
    In the whole fucking world than
    Insurance law yet there you were
    Ensconced as a corporate VP
    In charge of legal affairs
    For the Hartford
    And never did
    You manage a peep

    Discounting all the fancy rhetoric
    About the emptiness of the snowman and so on
    Which you may have intended
    As a coded lament about how
    Your work life was utterly boring

    But for that reason I content myself
    At having been the more direct
    If less artful poet
    Having found similar means
    To support myself I nonetheless
    Don’t trend so much to abstraction
    Or self satisfaction that scribbling
    A line or two will ever amount
    To a whole hell of a lot more

    Friday, July 1, 2011

    The Naming Ceremony

    We sons of Marv
    We partied hard
    And learned to live
    With immoderate risk
    Whether we or the dice
    Became more fully loaded
    There’s room for continuing debate

    But when the time finally came
    For me to choose my own name
    I chose Blue Flower Poet
    With aspirations so clear
    It still remains to be seen
    Just how well
    It may be said
    I lived up to it

    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    Poem for My Father

    For all those reasons too
    I have scribbled in obscurity
    Through each day
    The alembic drips

    Whether defying received wisdom
    Or spurning proffered sympathy
    Yet still longing in private
    For some crumb more
    Than self-respect

    Towards the Finland Station
    You made your way
    Constantly crisscrossing
    The tracks proceeding
    At your own good pace
    So restless means seldom bored

    Through it all
    You composed a song
    For a Jazz Combo
    Where urban sets the beat
    Balanced by a country air
    As with strings of longing
    Drawn forward
    And from student days
    Hear the flute's
    Lyrical call
    While a guitar provides
    The loin's true heat

    Even to those who
    Consider themselves
    Of animal or plant parenthood
    I say the heart must stay strong
    However divided
    As two pieces of obsidian
    Broken from the self same stone

    And so I am
    My Father's Son
    I swear it
    On this very ground
    Where he lies today
    I leave one half
    While the other
    I take away

    Sunday, June 12, 2011

    Hey Mr. Archangel

    Ending up
    In your presence
    Later tonight
    Will not be quite
    By accident

    Whether sitting alone
    Or with my wife
    It was she who
    First brought
    The notion to mind

    Although I should
    Also mention
    I personally arranged
    For an extravagant bouquet
    Of white flowers

    Two geraniums
    On either side
    Of a towering
    Snap Dragon together
    Serve as backdrop
    To a teardrop orchid
    Ladled on top
    Of a green chevron
    Why don't you come in
    And see for yourself

    And this poem in the form
    Of a prayer is what
    I'm thinking right now
    Whether it carries you
    Over the threshold or not
    Only time will tell

    Two by personal invitation
    One by intuition
    And then as to
    The three wishes
    Let them come
    Straight away
    As my heart swings open
    Like a garden gate

    Perhaps Enlightenment
    Always proceeds this way
    City side streets
    And narrow alleyways
    Up the back stairs
    Until St. Thomas and the others
    Arrive with a rustle of wind
    And unpack their bags
    For a five night stay

    Friday, May 27, 2011

    To Fellow Members of the Academy

    Unsure on which particular day
    I first became a member
    Of the American Academy
    Of those who dabble in verse

    I found myself sitting down
    From time to time
    In front of the typewriter
    With an energy that was
    Incredibly succinct

    Though nearly capable
    Of bursting through my capillaries
    That’s how sharply it pulsed at times
    And how much I found myself
    In need of release whether
    By means of measured rhyme
    Or just the reverse

    It came to me
    Line by line
    Like an extension of my very self
    Yet also as if begotten by ghost hand
    Powered or perhaps informed
    By someone other than I

    All the while
    It resonated so deeply
    From soles to crown
    Measuring the totality
    Of who and what I am

    So now I say
    Let poetry itself
    Be the foundation’s rock
    I don’t need Harriet Monroe
    Or anyone else to help decide
    In point of fact
    And difficult though it may be
    To get the news from poems
    Let no man die for lack thereof
    For want of trying

    Tuesday, April 26, 2011

    Qing Chou and Lao Nian

    I trouble myself
    Now and again
    Thinking about
    The three stages
    In the life of man
    Qing Chou and Lao Nian

    Wondering where
    In their midst
    I presently stand
    Betwixt the there I go
    And the here I am
    Not entirely sure
    I still know the difference
    Between Qing Chou and Lao Nian

    Thursday, April 14, 2011

    At MOMA Wendesday Afternoon

    By the Philip Guston
    You stood deep in
    For a long while while I
    Blackberry in hand
    Proceeded through
    The arabesques
    And swirls heading
    Towards whatever
    Next came to mind

    Not long after
    Pollack realized
    He wasn't Picasso
    You saw how he figured it out
    Through a flick of the wrist
    Paint thick on the brush

    And in the room next but one
    There it was again
    An image that lingered
    On the retina of
    Barnett Newman’s inner eye
    Abstraction made
    More vivid through
    The pushing and shoving
    Until you stood
    At the very forefront
    Of daylight's parade

    Then heading down the corridor
    Twenty years in the making
    By Rothko in contention
    With failing light itself
    Along the dimming path
    Of a darkening palette

    It was precisely then
    I understood you
    As a student in
    In the same academy
    The same impulse of light
    Though sometimes
    Inclined to take up
    Disguise just
    The reverse

    With a firm grip on the brush
    The horsehairs bristle with life
    In a virtual reenactment of
    The flowering act
    You follow a genetically
    Determined path just like
    A bumblebee races along
    The curve of light
    Enfolding the tip
    Of the hibiscus bud
    Next about to bloom

    Saturday, February 5, 2011

    Sonnet No. Thirty-Two

    If I just happen to be
    Wearing a cardigan
    Due to inclement weather
    And there’s no message
    Inscribed either in the top
    Or bottom of the bottle
    And I’m stuck in the middle
    Of the universe trying
    To clear my mind in preparation
    For rhyming meter or blank verse
    Though a paper cut may give rise
    To a daub of blood upon my brow
    As I prepare once more
    To assume my forgetful state
    Let the real world slip
    A continent or two away
    Though I remain incarnadine
    In an inconsequential sort of way

    From the Extension Chord series by Brad Melamed