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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, February 28, 2015

The Blues - a poem first written as a Facebook post on a late February afternoon

The blue sky too
Soon may be credited
As one of humanity's
Greatest handiworks it seems
First as an observable fact
Only lately becoming an
Internet meme

Once upon a time
The Business Insider reports
We humans could barely
Speak of light at the blue end
Of the spectrum
Like water and sky
It appeared mostly
Part of the muddle
Never standing out
As a pigment in itself
That is until civilization
Had advanced far enough
To perfect the art
Of indigo capture

Whereas especially around
This time of year
Blue becomes its own ubiquity
It's there lingering amidst
The snowfield of shadows
Stretching across the front yard
Overpowering even earthy
Browns and greens in our
Entire way of seeing things
Capturing both the sea
And the sky before
Our admiring gaze
As we all become so
Many little Picasso's
Going through our
Very own blue phase

So much so that now we
Can't imagine the world's hue
Being otherwise as the blues
Have overtaken all other shades
Serving as best expression
Of our true life experience
As well capturing our vision
Of eternity too

*  *  *  *  *  *

This poem was written in response to a news item I came across this afternoon on Business Insider by Kevin Loria.  It was one of the more interesting articles I've read in quite a long time - about how human perception of the color blue seems to be in large part culturally derived and not just biologically determined.  The article is well worth reading if you haven't done so already; it's also quite timely as it arrives on the heels of the latest Internet meme about the blue and black dress.  Click here to read more.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Poem Composed This Morning While Stuck in the Elevator - Take 2

Between the need

To be loved and
The need to love
What is a man?

The doors close behind him
Neither descending
Or ascending but
Suspended there by
Thick cables of doubt
He stands in the middle
Wavering and immobile

Poem Composed This Morning While Stuck in the Elevator

Between the need
To be loved and
The need to love
What is a man?

He stands in the middle
Wavering and immobile

The doors close behind
Neither descending
Or ascending but
Suspended there by
Thick cables of doubt

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Poem written about suchness while waiting for the bus

Between the suchness
And thrustness of
Any given minute
It matters not in the least
Whether a blow
Be administered by
Manjusri's sword
Or a falling valise

A passenger in transit
Waiting in the cold after
The day's long slushy rain
When the bus pulls up
And the driver explains there's
A plethora of dreaded black ice
In the vicinity
And still you answer
The summons by
Climbing on board

That you are coming
Or going is one
And the same
Whether victimhood
Or enlightenment awaits
Is not but a hair's breadth
Of difference
Even if your seatbelt
Is tightly fastened when it
Comes to a jolt like that
Administered directly
To the head

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Poem Explaining How it Came About I Saw Venus Riding Astride the Crescent Moon Tonight

Jill texted my wife 
And told us to go outside
And there we saw Venus and Mars
Riding astride the crescent moon

And Jill said to me --

   It looks like another
     Moon tonight as if
       Ours should be rising
           In the East

And I wondered for
A moment if perhaps
She might not be right
Because this resembled
No planetary alignment I'd ever
Seen before 

Only a blurry image could
Be captured even with 
A 35 millimeter camera

So this is
Where we're heading 
Distracted by
The bits and bytes  
Circling the globe
We’ve lost our grip
On the most basic
Things our forbearers
Were sure to have known

Like what
A tripartite sighting
Such as this actually foretold
Instead in our modern ignorance 
We must now wait for the greater
Mysteries still to unfold

Monday, February 16, 2015

Weesuck Creek Through the Eyes of a Snowman

A For Sale sign
Swings with abandon
From the arctic blast
That sweeps down
Our block as
Once again
I find myself
Tramping out to
The mouth of the Creek

There I stand more exposed
But find the sky
Rapidly inflating
Overhead revealing the majesty  
Of those first starry beacons
Venus shimmering in the west
While Jupiter ascends  
In the East -- whatever
Such a planetary standoff
Can possibly
Mean to me

At the base of the dock
I’m truly nonplussed
To see these ghostly footprints
Standing in stark relief
Against the pier’s blacktop
Steps clearly leading
Directly to the water’s edge
Then suddenly disappearing
As if some lonely
Snowy wanderer
Had decided to leap

When I realize
What I’m looking
At is an eerie
Negative impression
Of my walk last night
For these ghostly prints  
Merely trace my own steps
Out along the pier
Through yesterday’s storm
My progress thus having
Been made visible
In the trail of twice
Compacted snow
Which alone remained
On the windswept dock

So the first nen
Comes round to see
What the others
Have wrought
But more deeply attuned
To the ultimate truth
Evident in the negative
Aspect made visible
By wind and time
Of the no-self 
As it has been revealed
To the self’s icy stare

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Words Written on a Snowy Evening

Drawing by Peter Rippon

The quality of suffering
Is not strained in the least
But falls in a pristine
Blanket of snow along
The banks of Weesuck Creek
I hear it too in the sound
Of the turbid waters
Churning deep underneath
The Bay Avenue dock
Where the ice also clings
To the pilings' tops 

Growing older
It gets harder
To hold reality’s strands
Separate and apart
As the spectrum of light
Keeps shifting about
But tonight I see it clearly
In the strange luminosity
Of this snowy evening
In the jaundiced glare
Of the streetlight
As it spreads across
Notebook’s page
And plashes onto 
The snow banks
Just below

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Poem for Marissa written on the bus

Today is Allan's birthday
I've been thinking 
about him a lot
Even as I stopped to buy flowers
From Tyrone on the corner of West 28th
In the midst of rushing to catch the bus
I was struck by the apt beauty of this bouquet 
Of roses -- lavender and white and 
Adorned with a spray of red carnations
That's sitting beside me

Do you realize Valentines' Day 
Is poised equidistant with 
The Day of the Dead 
-- at least from the solstices' point of view
So I've been prone to visions intermixed 

Of love  and death in their ferocious embrace
With a heart that is straining in the grip
Just as the bus ' engine

Is straining in the HOV Lane
As we're racing ahead
Approaching terminal velocity
Of so it feels to me now

Heaven help us all
Sisters and brothers

With much love - J

(Poem written in lieu of a valentine card to my wife)

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Poem for Marissa

This is a poem I wrote tonight for Marissa while looking at a copy of painting #30 (which is my current reigning favorite) from her upcoming exhibit.  A copy of the painting is included as a reward for those of you who manage to read through to the end of the poem.

Poem for Marissa

What could possibly 
Be the portent 
Of such a present tense
And exquisite 
Delicacy of touch
Showing the least fillip of life
Whether laid out in the shade
Or broad daylight
As if outwitting 
Photoshop itself 
As to both accuracy 
And verisimilitude 
Yet also framed abstractly 
In perfect equipoise 
As to both color and light

As if somehow 
Carrying daylight’s cross 
Each of the 36 steps along the way
Descending to the next rung 
Of the ladder from here to Eternity 
And back again or else in the present case 
Making an ecstatic leap off the page 
Into the very midst of my arms
To sit with me here in the living room
Tonight right now -- or wherever you happen to be 
Dancing with the Bolshoi or singing at the Met
Not just come hither but summoning me now!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Poem Written in Times Square (thinking about Ian McEwan and his not so saucy bark)

This poem is addressed to Ian McEwan.  You see I've just finished reading one of his latest novels - Saturday.  And I have to say I was pretty disappointed.  I've always enjoyed McEwan's novels going back to one of his earliest, A Child in Time, which I remember reading in college, or shortly thereafter, and thinking here is a major talent.  But this latest book falls pretty far short of the mark in a number of ways, most of which I won't bore you with right now.  For purposes of explaining this poem I've just written, perhaps it's only important to say that McEwan's story culminates in a particularly cheesy fashion with a creeky plot device that turns on one of the character's recital at knifepoint of Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold.  Saturday comes across as one of those very English novels that attempts to describe the way we live now but somehow with the intrusion of the crusty old Dover Beach there in the story's climax it all takes on a very Victorian air, as if McEwan is disclosing nothing so much as his very own drawing room self.  This is precisely what strikes me as so disappointing about the book.

That being said, here is my poem for Ian McEwan.

With nary a puff
Yet already my lungs
And my chest
Start to twitch
On a cold winter night
Such as this
And after digging in
To the stash of ghee
In the studio fridge
I've caught enough 
Inspiration and drift
To venture a poem
Here and now
Walking fast
Through the midst
Of Times Square

I’d be hard pressed
To ignore the
Spectacolor screens
Hanging high overhead
On the Vornado Realty
Billboard atop
1540 Broadway
Or on the proximate
Block heading downtown
Where a guy from the Cheetah
Club proffers his business card

I'm lit up just as much
As the Great White Way itself
Only now it unfolds in this HDTV
Display lining both sides of
The street

No doubt there’s
A visual correlative
Of Moore’s Law
Which tells us that
Every two years
The resolution will double
Yet there's no doubling
 In our acuity
Visual or otherwise
As the signal’s
Received in the mind
Of the beholder

Our own perspicuity
Not having changed
Since Victorian times
It seems we’re still lamenting
That note of sadness and
The long withdrawing roar
Of the waves crashing
Whether on Dover or
Sagaponack Beach
It matters not in the least

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Poem Written During Superbowl XLIX

The Superbowl is really the holiest of holidays here in the US of A.  So to commemorate the occasion of Superbowl XLIX I wrote the following poem  - started it during the pre-game coverage and then added the finishing touches during the scintillating half-time show.  A special shout out to both Katy Perry and Dante Alighieri for the inspiration...

*  *  *  *  *

In the middle 
Of life’s passage
I discovered by chance
A new middle way
An intersection where
Opposites abut one another
Where folio meets recto
Leaving only the
Faintest line running
Down the middle
Of the page

And each mudra
Raises a tent pole
Of possibilities
Each woman and man
Extends like a limb
Of the family tree
A sister or brother
Or else something
Altogether different
But no less by the xylem
Firmly connected to me

*  *  *  *  *  *

From The Silent Journey by Marissa Bridge;
this is painting #30 in Marissa's new series.  I really love the balance in this composition.  It's exquisite. It suggests to me what it must be like to watch angels dancing on the head of a pin.