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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, November 29, 2014

A Poem Written in reply to Don Share's Tweet

This poem is the result of an exchange on Twitter prompted by Don Share's tweet (in which he quoted the novelist Ali Smith as saying that poets should revere translators) to which I then replied reverence has nothing to do with it -- which as a translator I feel entitled to say -- and he replied he reveres his masters and so on....

And so we tweeted
Back and forth the other day
About the aptness of reverence
For poets and translators
Masterful or otherwise
Yet there was one more thing
I still wanted to say

Because even for poets
I’m inclined to revere
-- like Neruda Akhmatova or Blake --
I would be astonished
If any one of them 
Had ever intended
For their words
To be fetishized thus
Or construed so as to impose
An anthropomorphic gloss
On what is and always
Remains a matter of
The poet’s deepest
Abiding faith

To say nothing
Of the greatest sages of all time
Such as Lao Tzu and Zhuang Zhou
For whom meaning subsumed 
To the messenger  
Would be inimical 
To the Dao itself

And so it goes with
The best of poems
As with any testament or sutra
That it may be understood
More as means to an end
Or an expression of striving
Rather than exalted as
An end or meaning that's
Been fully attained

Monday, November 24, 2014

Words Spoken to a Muse in a Hotel Room in Syracuse New York

So no one can accuse me
Of not laying it out on the line
Most of the time
From the very title of it
Leaving little room for doubt
About with whom I'm speaking
Or where I've been

That’s what you call
The network effect
Of modern life
Filling in the story
The way the eye likes
To complete the arc 
Of the rainbow's glory
From only a hint of color

We laughed and drank and talked
And then like a couple 
Of old ghosts draped in muslin
We danced in the moonlight
At the end of the hall
While Marissa took a short nap

*  *  *  *  *

--> Marissa crashed out on the bed not long after we checked into the hotel – it had been a long day’s drive, and she’d spent more than 3 hours behind the wheel.   The traffic droned by on the Interstate that ran parallel to the parking lot just outside the motel window.  I sat and after a while fell into a meditative trance.  Then I went downstairs to change the air freshener in the car.  A puff or two later I was all set and went back upstairs.  The drapes at the end of the hallway billowed in the breeze.  Or was it something else, a dust devil perhaps or the exhalation from a nearby air vent?  

Because life is inherently interesting – that’s what I told myself – that’s reason enough to keep writing, even if it only means that I continue scribbling things down in one my little notebooks.  With a memory so porous as mine, there is simply no other way to keep track of all the amazing things that happen in the course of an otherwise quite ordinary day.

Poetry entails a sort of scientific inquiry into the nature of the universe – its spiritual dimensions.  I closed my eyes and rested my forehead on the edge of the desktop.  I listened intently to the hard drive whirring hoping I could better discern and transcribe everything it said.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A poem that first started out as a tweet

So here is a new wrinkle in the way I've decided to play around with Twitter.  I started writing a poem as a Tweet.  And then I hit the 140 character limit and I kept going.  Oh well.  I guess this twitter poetry is a rapidly evolving form of art in which we make and break rules with abandon.  In any case, here is the poem that started out as a Tweet:

A poem may
Be nothing more  
Than a moment in time 
That brings heightened command
Over the King’s English and 
In which insight waxes greatly
(in other words, a tweet)
Only briefly to transpire
And no longer suffice
For the expression of whatever
Meaning it was that
Was initially conceived

Monday, November 10, 2014

Ode to Nothing (or a brief note jotted down while examining the vortex)

How the vortex shows
Nothing may be such an active
Presence in our lives
Like the drone of bees
Gathering around
The hive it is an
Effusion we give off
Collectively as a species
As we go about building
Out the honeycomb and preparing
For our own demise

The image above is by the artist Brian D. Cohen and first appeared in his book The Fools' Journey, which is filled with striking images based on Renaissance cosmography. You can learn more about Brian's great work on his website:  www.bridge-press.com 

A Note of Thanks to Francois Jullien

I jotted down these lines after first opening up the pages of a revelatory text called The Great Image Has No Form by Francois Jullien.

The ineffable remains
A frontier by rational
Intellect largely undiscovered
Reachable much more readily
Via the Arts than Sciences
Not easily susceptible to
Measurement or dismemberment
Or remembrance in daylight's glare
But in embracing it
We ourselves are subsumed