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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 ...

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Song for the Passival Voice

Cast off the chains
Of custom and commerce
Step into Blake’s world
Of energy and delight
Where the house is abuilding
The song keeps on singing
The gift is what’s giving
Over and over again

Not doers and makers
Not sellers or takers
But humanity living
In the way of vobiscum
With all flora and fauna
And rerum as well united as one
Neither subject nor object
Nor by grammar possessed
But of the natural order and
All equally blessed

*  *  *  *  *  *

This poem is the happy accident of a little Internet searching. This morning I came across a Wikipedia entry that described a verb case, called the passival voice, which was considered proper grammatical usage in English up through the early 19th century.  The passival is defined as an intermediate case between the active and passive voice.  Sorry to all you grammarians if I have misused terminology - you can read the wikipedia entry here.  In any case, it strikes me as a real pity we have lost touch with the passival voice as it comes closer to capturing the way of the natural world.  

Sunday, April 26, 2015

In Grammar as in Life - part 2

For who among us
Is not at his or her best
In springtime
The Wasteland be damned
When the sap first rises
It brings a smile
To the face of life itself

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Poem Written in a Moment of Recognition As I'm Closing in on My 58th Birthday

Standing on the corner
Of 23rd and Seventh tonight
This old guy approached
And said to me:
Hey man can you
Spare some change
To get something to eat?
I’m nearly 58

And I said to him
I am too
As if to let him
Feel equal sympathy
For poor old me

And he looked at me
And said: You look
Pretty good for 58

And I said: You too
And I meant it
As I reached in my pocket
To thank him for the compliment
And he walked away
Equally grateful

For the brief exchange

The Blue Flower (an exchange with Fleur_du_silence)

Recently I've been experimenting by trying to write a poem through a series of tweets exchanged with another poet.  This poem is the result of just such an exchange with another poet I know only as Fleur_du_silence.  I've taken a few subsequent liberties with the text.  It seems we both share a fascination with the image of the Blue Flower.

There’s a full life story
Inscribed on each petal
Of the blue flower
A frail dream that remains open
No longer than a moment or two
But in that tenuous span of breath  
Filled with nothing but blueness
It composes a verse complete
That quivers in a tenebrous light

And here's the photo that Fleur du silence posted on Twitter that served as the prompt for this composition:

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

In which the Author proposes a new Turing Test of a rather important sort --

A Turing Machine

Tonight I had an extraordinary experience.  It was the occasion of my first extended phone conversation with a semi-intelligent piece of software code.  You see, around 7:15 this evening the phone rang and I picked up.  The caller on the other end told me his name (Paul Everest, he said it was) and where he was calling from – a state policemen’s beneficial association, one that happens to call quite frequently soliciting donations.  Paul paused briefly and then asked if I had a moment to speak further.  I said sure and he launched into his pitch.  I listened quietly for a moment and then interrupted.  But Paul kept on with his pitch, not deterred in the slightest.  I cleared my throat more insistently and tried to get his attention –

“Paul,” I said “how do you spell your last name?”

There was a long pause on the line while I thought I could hear Paul’s brain shifting gears.

“Am I speaking with a man or a machine?” I asked in what I must admit probably sounded like indignant disbelief, not that Paul himself cared in the least.

“I’m sorry. I’m not allowed to answer any questions that are off script,” Paul explained.

“That’s the lamest excuse!” I continued in a similar vein. “What kind of FTC regulation would prevent you from spelling your last name?”

But clearly I had lost Paul’s attention.  Or perhaps he was preoccupied with the thirty dozen other calls his central processing unit was busy dialing out to or otherwise interrupting just as they were about to sit down to dinner too.

“Ok, well thank you very much for your time.  I’m going to sign off for tonight.  I’ll try to call back at a more convenient time.  Good night –“

And what a strange encounter it had been, I thought to myself, between me and Paul, from first to last.  Here was such a proud robo caller, he insisted on trying to pass himself off as something other than merely virtual; and I couldn’t help but imagine all the other software programs now being developed out there and the other random bits of rogue code lurking in the shadows, waiting for their own shot at a similar telephone introduction to me – ready to leap across the divide in demanding their own bit of mindshare in the rapidly expanding marketplace for avatars and simulacrums of all manner, shape and size.

So in honor of the occasion of my first such robo call experience of this particular sort, I hereby propose a Turing test with a new set of rules - I challenge you to produce a robo caller good enough to fool me into thinking it otherwise, equally as well when I’m good and drunk as when I’m perfectly sober, and moreover a robo caller good enough to know the difference in my condition likewise.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Long Island Bayou

It's misty cold and damp
Almost Bayou like tonight
Out here on Fourth Neck
The trees so articulate and
Promiscuous in their growth
They've overreached the normal
Bounds of time and space

The Long Walk Home

Now here's a
Great thing about
An artist's love
For the universe:
It's wild and
And it can be
Expressed in
An infinitude
Of ways

It can hold
In the slightest
Change of
An orchid's palor
From day to day
And when you
Open yourself
To the world's majesty
You hear it too
In the bird's
Vigorous chirp
And the raindrops
Tapping on your shoulder

So I'll let the first Nen
Take care of itself tonight
On the long walk home
While the rest of me
Prepares to gets blitzed
On bourbon
Scribbling notes
Smoking hash and riding
Kondratiev's long wave
Out towards oblivion

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

And then I had another idea about how to compose a poem

Are you of the party of the first part or are you of the party of the three legged dogs?

A sight whose truth proves 
The disposition of Time 
In its passing aspect
Prolonged perhaps just like
A series of tweets

No more or less open
To all the other possible
Outcomes -- at least half a dozen
or so others so I'm told -- 
More than you're ever
Likely to be privy to

As if we can fathom
More than a small fraction
Of the thirty thousand
Moments of Suchness as fall  
Into a single moment's passing
Or half again as many of
The possibilities it takes 
To fill up even half the seats
In Albert Hall

So I have finally done it -- I've just come up with the idea for a new sub-genre of Lampoetry.  It's the practice of composing a poem starting out by writing a series of tweets. Thus the tweet really serves as a medium of expression and not as an end in itself.  Only after combining the tweets, and then reworking them in the hope of making a slightly more extended work - one that hopefully will prove a bit more long lasting than the nanosecond or two allotted to  the typical tweet -- voila! we have a freshly minted poem.