All Poems © 1994-2017
Email me at 19suomi48@gmail.com for permission to reprint these poems.

Table of Contents:



Put the Fingers of Your Left Hand in the Palm of Your Right

Razor Blade Life on the Mountaintop as Seen from the Lighthouse on the Rocky Shore

Christmas Day
  
The Bystander
 

Ascension

I Want to Write Like Pablo Neruda


I Did It

The Verdict

The Beginning

Time, the Hero


Failure, Death and Necessity

Away

Squirrels, Sailing and Five Notes

Veterans

You Know It's Love

Overtaken

Before Existence

Radiant Heat

Come Back to the Breath

Why is the Universe Smiling?

Picnic On Mars

Encounter at Ground Zero

Come Eden, Slowly

We Will Wait

Interim

How a Family Relates to Death

The Little Man Who Thought He Was God

Make Me Laugh

Sarajevo, 1914

The Shore of My Name

Leave Us In Darkness

Not to Speak So Kindly

Perception

Death of a Flapper


Morocco:  1926






Put the Fingers of Your Left Hand in the Palm of Your Right

The earth touches itself,
a sky touching clouds
as we seek a mirrored heart,
a face inside our face.
We are all either alone in collective silence,
or a congregation of noisy majesty
singing as geese flying north toward spring.
When you go to sleep
place the fingers of your left hand
in the palm of your right.
It is the moonlight touching dreams,
the crocus touching sunlight,
laughter breaking down walls of sorrow,
one heartbeat defining birth.
Put down the appliances and circumstances,
put your body down to earth,
fingers to palm.



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Razor Blade Life on the Mountaintop as Seen from the Lighthouse on the Rocky Shore  

You can’t tell who lives there
until the sun goes down
and the occasional full moon
shows shadows on the drawn curtains.
It could be either one man,
or a family.
It really doesn’t matter who is there.
What really matters is the way the light seems,
the way the wolves slip away like pennies,
what tune the machinery hums,
how the galaxies conjure our children’s reveries.
The house is all the houses you have seen
on several forgotten streets,
the windows showing off boring lampshades,
the roofs huddling under the weight of worry.
But you and I are on the shore skipping stones,
and all we can do is guess.
Imagination grows with distance,
dreams grow legs and walk into the mountains,
the houses and the man or the families
become ants beneath the earth,
we stand beneath the light,
turning our backs to the ocean’s rocky shore.


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Christmas Day

I see the bare branches of the locust tree
welcoming the natal,
lifting up as angels’ wings,
triumphant in annunciation.
Beyond the sheet of gray
that claims the sky,
I know the sun is there,
for us, for lovers united,
for the ones alone this day.
The locust tree is a family
of trunks and branches,
of leaves fallen or blown away.
Yet it stands in all the seasons
and especially now whether
on a greeny lawn or in depths of snow
, eternal as heavenly love.
I am not annoyed
by the lack of snow,
or by the lack of the sun’s fierce fire. I hold my lover in my arms,
hold her love in my eyes,
hold her life in my heart.
Today is Christmas
and the locust tree
reminds me of the greatest gift.




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The Bystander 


 

Only watching, he is full of avoidance and delay.

How do the hours and minutes tick?

Asleep in his bed, he passively dreams,

awakes afraid of what he must face.

A day full of wolves,

a funereal night he covers himself with.

All the people, all the activity,

are potholes he must drive around.

His job is a carnival ride

taunted to take,

the only relief is leaving it.

He is fearful of touch, of talking,

only does so to run from death.

He wants the perfection of his body,

the perfection of his family,

the perfection of death if all

his dreams are dust.
 

Sick of watching, he walks out the door

to go where waters run without effort,

where weather only is, and takes shelter

in all it has. The rain is his rain,

the breeze is his breeze,

and the warmth of the sun is also his.

He realizes he can watch no longer,

must immerse himself in the flood of others,

and becomes an ocean where all the great creatures

pass through him.

The bystander is become a swimmer

in all the currents flowing,

not afraid to drown.



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Ascension 


 

In time’s elongated choreography,
my senses carved all that was known
into recognizable shape.
I was kind to animals,
gave humanity wide berth,
loved a few people well.
Light from the sun,
longing questions from stars,
the grasping great moon of November,
drew answers from my looking.
Trees with spring buds,
snowladen like layers of white linen,
angular and majestic,
gave me growth in a kindness of wisdom.
But no human can know another
without missing them first.
Forget me as you knew me,
remember me as an interpretation of the world.
Remember how I blew out candles in the dark summer night,
the orderliness of my underwear drawer,
how seldom my bathroom was clean.
I walked on solid ground with you,
shared words of breeze and brick;
we became expansive sea.
At the beach-edge,
I ascend into the drowning resurrection,
nonexistence will not contain me,
I will swim in waves of eternal remembrance,
night water weeps the natal song.



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I Want to Write Like Pablo Neruda 


 

On the beach of sanguinity,

Pablo Neruda drinks the blood of nuns,

becomes a sky of azure clouds,

with rosaries falling from an ochre sun,

penetrating his thoughts like a harpoon

cast into the shark's eye

by the weary fisherman

who wants the sun to be a woman,

luscious fruit of Pacific shores.

Pablo Neruda sifts mournful sand

through the fingers of his hands

like so many tired bulls,

and he is tired.

Tired of the mountains,

tired of the jungles,

tired of Tierra del Fuego,

tired and offering prayers

to a god who is only found

in marketplaces far from Santiago

where gray dogs bark at dust,

where gray women do not smile at tourists,

where gray houses have no color.

The small village priests are revolutionary moths,

fanning the flames of Anaconda insurrections,

fanning the flames of sin,

fanning the flames of Pablo Neruda's guilt.

The rainbow, barely seen,

is Pablo Neruda's oldest pair of sandals,

wearing down the decrepitude of the Andes

where soulless birds are a cathedral dirge

of unremembered penitents.

Pablo Neruda sees all the infants as hungry worms,

wriggling their rebellion toward the moon.

But the moon is an empty plate,

the infants starve,

die a condor's death,

its wings - their arms -

a panoply of tears

on the beach of no horizon

where the nuns

are once again tears of Catholicism,

where the ochre sun

retreats to a night of peasant's curses,

and in Santiago,

the guards before the presidential palace

watch Pablo Neruda walk,

his sullen pencil

bayoneting their fascist desires,

his teeth flashing in their tortured dreams.



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I Did It 


 

It wasn't him, it was me.

I went to war, came back

gung-ho frenzied and

crewcut stoic.

I killed the enemy in the desert

and became my own.

I turned hard right,

veered off the pavement

and lost my license plate.

Somewhere,

away from the coasts

where the truth of body counts

is a buzzing fly

you can't swat away,

I stowed my bombs and my hatred,

then bestowed these gifts

on faceless children,

on unknown wives and husbands.

(When your family and your friends

are only ciphers in your conspiracy,

it's not hard to kill people you've never met.)

The family is a shattered crystal,

the children are a thousand specks of light

caught in the glance of the sun,

I am the shattering hand that holds them.

I can't be caught,

I can't be brought to trial,

I'll never be convicted.

I cheat on my taxes,

vote down school budgets,

eviscerate the editors.

It's me, not him at all,

it's me, and I knew it all along.



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The Verdict 


 

No matter what the jury says,

someone is always guilty.

The racist in me says all blacks are guilty,

the liberal in me says police are pigs.

In television's three-ring seriousness,

everyone maintains their innocence

while they secretly cash

in their collusive guilt.

We all cheat and batter each other,

it doesn't matter

if you put a suit and tie

on a murderer,

no one will ever really know.

We all bury the truth

by planting evidence;

we stay safe from

being murdered that way

and continue

to kill with neandrathalic suavity.

We wring the tree dry of details,

ignore the root of cause,

and excuse the woodsman and his axe,

cursory tears rake up the fallen leaves.



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The Beginning 


 

They found them first in Minnesota.

Like honest politicians, something was missing.

Some thought it was the water,

the air,

maybe something they ate.

Frogs without legs,

without eyes,

without normalcy.

This was the first sign,

then again, maybe it wasn't.

Maybe it was the Challenger explosion,

maybe it was Charlie Manson,

maybe it was the Garden of Eden.
 

They thought and postulated,

had a cup of coffee,

turned the page

and put down the magazine.

This is how it started.



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Time, the Hero


 

In the frenzy of clocks,

like the antlered deer

at dusk sniffing

for snow-covered apples,

there is a calmness of ticking

that marks the seasons,

that gathers the days

into collectives of crowded minutes.

The holidays and demonic elections

are weeds in the garden of time,

and time itself becomes

guardian of life,

sentinel of our souls.



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Failure, Death and Necessity 


A child with dirty hands,

narcissistic grunge,

and a paycheck.

Indecision of clouds

is a heavyweight,

choking the ropes.

The clock ticks bloodletting

like the gleeful surgeon,

the cardiac rivers gurgle and spit.

Pompous media drivel passes on the right,

speeds toward the exit ramp,

collapses on the corner.

Everyone's mother is dying,

questioning children

about their jewelry,

about the weather.

You know you went to school,

you know when death first knew you,

you know and knowledge doesn't satisfy

your hunger.

Nights wrap themselves around your days,

and all your imagined comforts

are stray dogs that won't come near you.

You knock down the hornets' nests,

paint and plaster,

see the doctor,

and pay the bills.

When the neighbors pull up their gardens

and the sunset is more southerly,

the clarity of dawn is more apparent.

A fully turning circle turns more fully now,

the slow walking of warm weather quickens

in the ripening of apples,

all the family ties itself together

like cornstalks in autumn fields.

The equinox takes stock,

calculates the dividend of seasons,

and pays handsomely to each deserving day.



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Away 


 

How do I measure distance?

I drift in an ocean

of people and things.

They swim, float and sink

and the waves hide time.

If they take away my face,

will anyone know me?

If my arms and legs vanish,

am I just furniture waiting on some curbside?

Everything, everyone I hold close

is dust on the mantle,

the only currency I hold is memory.

Every sound higher than moonlit geese,

becomes fainter, erasing faith in what I see.

Death deals the cards,

I see death crossing the corner.

I want to eat the hand of death

so it will not grab any more.

I want to swallow stars, galaxies,

constellations and become a universe

that knows no distance.

I want to bury all the clocks,

destroy all vestiges of time,

so no one will know of any passages.

I will make a stillness of life

and in that stillness, life will be,

and be.



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Squirrels, Sailing, and Five Notes



I have no idea of how the mind

works, of how to sail, or why

squirrels leap from branch to branch.

But I do know how to peel a banana

and enjoy an Oreo cookie.

It's these little things that suck up

our attention and make us saints.

If our brains are little forests

and all the thoughts are squirrels,

it is no small wonder our talking

is rain on parched ground.

A wind dies beneath a sobering sun

and we cannot sail until the moon

rises like an old man from an easy chair.

Can we force a wind from thought,

or pray for such? Still, the boat

drifts thoughtlessly on our whispering.

Above all this commotion and conundrum

is the chaotic piano, heaving sounds

at anyone too close to hear. Five notes

slap my face and I burn a melody at the wall.

There it dribbles down, collects itself

into song, only to attack another

unsuspecting fool. Every note takes aim,

seeking rearrangement and now

we know how the mind works.



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Veterans


War has its children, its orphans;
all of us have bleeding wounds.
Each of us has their own Vietnam,
the secluded teenage bedroom,
the deluded marriage bed,
the half-room where we wait for death
and don't know the nurse's name.
Not just the brave men,
the men of duty, honor and sacrifice,
the children and the women
have hard won their ribbons.
Most of us know no foxholes,
no falling bombs, comrades shot dead
before us.
One day each year, we honor the fallen
and the forgotten.
Who remembers the nameless?
Who will build a wall for us?
I will cry for the children, murdered playing.
I will weep for the women beaten and driven out.
I will mourn for all the nonwhite veterans
eating injustice.
I am a veteran, too.
I have been shot with falsehoods full of salt,
tasted the twisted sea shuffling
poison on its uncaring shore.
We will honor all the veterans,
the abandoned, the abducted,
the amputee who has no voice to cry.
I have died every time you have died,
and I am buried with you.


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You Know It's Love


If the air's on fire

when you speak her name,

if her smile shames rainbows,

if together you are unstoppable,

you know it's love.

When your eyes first meet

and all the glaciers melt,

you know it's love.

It's love when you throw away

your self-concerns,

when the world disappears

and becomes only the two of you,

when Eden is rediscovered.

If he gives up football Sundays

for country walks,

if she gives up miniseries

for the affection he cannot ask for,

you know it's love.

It's love when wrinkles

and signs of atrophy

are not way stations,

but are seen as beauty

graceful as turning leaves.

When the telegrams of death

no longer can be ignored,

you know it's love

when you open the door

and let your breath

walk behind the one who's gone.



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Overtaken


The sun cuts hills to splendor,

spines of dinosaurs yawning

in the mouth of dusk.

I am drowned in joy,

floating a mystery of stars.

For almost fifty years gravity

has impaled me upon the earth,

and my mind runs with mercurial feet

to seek the horizon's other side.

Money almost becomes important

until I see a sunny sky.

Today the blue, tonight the moon

and no clouds intervening,

the hours are snails,

the axis is not noticed.

Every muscle is complacent,

each breath irretrievable,

an eye blinks noncommittal.

Does the railroad drudge on?

Does the highway drudge on?

Each traveler sees the way

go onward, disappears into it.

The gravity of space is tenuous indeed,

we need not know

what holds the stars together,

to see is to see

and perhaps that is enough.

The horizon's other side is

a hairy wolf, the sun a reasoned bride,

and I will float the mystery of stars

to see.



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Before Existence


Anarchy, chaos, void,

the three graces of nonexistence.

Before there was before,

prior to everything existing,

even before nothing,

there was - what?

Silence requires a vacuum,

space requires limits

time requires measurement.

There was what is

before it was defined,

before the birth of its language.



It was white, it was black

it was large, it was small

it meant nothing

it meant everything.



No one saw it,

everyone has seen it.



The past never existed,

a fairy tale!

The future cannot be known,

imagination is the death of fear.



Order, logic, truth

are guardians of existence,



we are trampled by experience,

we see and know,

we see and know.


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Radiant Heat



How cold is heaven?

Without a sun or burning star

what happens to all the runnings?

Things pressed together making movement

are creative in their expressions,

they create measurable energy.

All our motions are frictions,

bouncing molecules ad nauseum.

Ever notice when you pet a cat

in the dark that it gives off lightening?

And lightening itself ascends.

Where is all this radiant heat?

Its transience is discernable,

it leaves a memory, a shadow on summer lawns,

a thirst and hunger on drawn afternoons.

In tempestuous beds, lovers know

this heat, but cannot hold it for any length.

Only in thought does heat exist,

not in ovens, in any machine,

in any material thing is heat held.

No one knows its secret world,

the world of rising and falling,

of its eternal shining.



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Come Back to the Breath



The planes appeared,

the towers fell,

we watched in disbelief,

we wept in anger,

came back to the breath.

Now we seek

revenge or justice,

either will do,

we come back to the breath.

The enemy is close by

and far away,

he sleeps and we do not,

we come back to the breath.

We are more than any one person,

we and they are hydra,

speak many languages,

wear many faces:

hatred, selfishness,

wastefulness, blind rage

and self-absorption,

and again,

we come back to the breath.

In the media's unblinking eye,

we still see the horror

and the waving flags.

Regimes posture,

come out swinging from their corners.

We come back to the breath.

Across the protecting oceans,

selfrighteousness preens,

courage takes stealth.

Victory will come with great cost,

great sacrifice.

We come back to the breath.

The television will not broadcast this,

the flags will either wave or drape,

quiet determination will decide.

We come back to the breath.


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Why Is the Universe Smiling?


On a flat plane, or perhaps a slightly curved plane,
we walk through cornflake morning darkness,
gather teddy bear flowers along giddy paths,
and die a slipping through one
of those immense things that suck in
all existence, eating ice cream cones
from the bottom up, as it were.
Things burning, shining,
triangles and parallelograms of youth,
are bathtub battleships,
and everything is large, so large,
a hat covering your head, all the way to your neck.
You want to believe your importance,
a giraffe that eats the topmost leaves,
but the noiseless silence, the crashing of light,
the ripping and the building of subatomic structures,
the birds in their nests hatching,
make you the same in the straight
line of your thinking.
Even the beginning holds you in its cry,
no ending can be thought of,
no grayness, no blackness, no concrete shoe
in the river of forgetting.
All and all is all, nothing you can see
is what you see and that is why
the universe is smiling.


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Picnic On Mars


Sometime when our bodies are regenerated
from their cryogenic state,
we’ll pack our basket with Saturnian wine,
the finest cheese from Mercury,
and in a nanosecond find ourselves on Mars.
There will be meadows, streams, bright fluffy clouds
now ensconced there in ethereal pebbles.
Once again, we’ll find ourselves naked,
unaware and happy,
young, receptive, and responsive.
On a blanket of petals,
we’ll play a symphony for 88
with one finger,
paint a museum with an eyeblink,
not need to read, not need to think.
There will be no intrusions,
no religion or politics,
no media entrapping.
We’ll dally for an eternity of infinite eternities,
eat and drink and never tire,
taste all the galaxies,
be full and never filled.

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Encounter at Ground Zero


Beer swallowed, cigarettes thrown across a table,
thoughts scattered among french fries, a girl staring
at me with one eye.  A tourist in the realm of
a philosopher king, prying words from teeth
clamped shut in self-defense.  My mind surrendering
to common inquiries, his presence a redwood shadow.
His hands scattered like pennies on a southside sidewalk.
The girl stared with one eye, left her friend,
our places empty.  Off to the low road,
driving through hard rains of reality.




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Come Eden, Slowly  

There are days that are continuous,
independent of yesterday,
free from tomorrow.
These are the days spanning creation
and permanence.
Adam and the homeless man,
Eve and the soccer mom,
Cain and Abel are rival football captains.
All knowledge is unknown,
a tree unplanted, ethereal as windbreath.
Here is the minute of building,
here is the hour of planning,
here is the century of tears,
we will not live anywhere but now.
Motion is change and time
is the measurement of change,
we eat every turning corner.
Celestial bodies sing silently shouting
their orders unheard by the barbers
and the fishmongers,
we hear the white dreams
of our children calling from our blood,
we see the hands outstretching from the sky
that reach for ours,
and we tremble for the safety of our own arms.
The apple waits hidden.

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We Will Wait

i can't see above
the fog-covered ceiling.
the house that i will
someday build collapses,
laughs at inequities.
she waits in closets
and hangs my coat next to
used pants.  i wait impatiently
for ironing boards to spread
themselves across muddied shadows.
my boots need cleaning.

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Interim

The ink spilled from the quill,
the light from a thousand windows,
all seemed quiet compared to the
state of my unsettled nightmind.
     The bed invites the tired
to take refuge from the day
and prepare for the next
     interrupted by incoherent dreams.
The cricket's harmony
is testimony to the noisy work
of unseen hands and feet
creating another day to be cast
into our midst.
The darkness surrounds me,
but I am near the light,
the quill--the windows
are not there now--there
is no light.
The thoughts turn off
the curtain descends--
the last act is played.
No applause as the audienceday
exits.
 
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How a Family Relates to Death

I remember the months they waited
for his death, like grim timekeepers.
I loved that old man--he read me comics
when I was seven.  My own death
doesn't bother me now. 
I have no wish to live beyond
my time--a parking meter, an unexpected
ticket.  Marking time until the
inevitable, I can't stop myself
from screaming at that nagging calendar,
can't stop loving sunrises, like so many
prison postponements of high voltage
and small tablets.  Why do I think
of that old man so often?
My life seems shorter than a broken shoestring.
I'll wait for the grey express,
luggage in hand,
ticket under my tongue,
the traffic of my eyes
moving toward a final destination.

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The Little Man Who Thought He Was God

He comes in to eat and observe the people.
He sits in the corner and chants,
"I come to this country in 1956",
because every civilized person
needs toilet paper.  He probably lives
on the north side, lives part-time
in the back row of the church.
He is omniscient, but puts only
30 cents in the box.

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Make Me Laugh

If I threw bricks through your mind's window,
would you chase me down the crying street?
If your face bleeds, needing to be touched,
will you call my name and grab my sleeve?
I will come back, tell you fresh jokes
and give you crisp toast on Sunday mornings.
I can make you laugh, but can you
embrace my sadness, spray my unpainted world
with the colors of a winter sunset?
I will I could tell you of the visions
I have held so tightly, that have been
filed under "miscellaneous".
Will you make me laugh,
will you hear the water thunder
over the rocks
of my long-shattered dreams?

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Sarajevo, 1914

He, not noticing eyes
inflamed with hatred,
sunlight danced on uplifted sabers
cleansed of heroes' blood.
Revolution's dream next to the throne,
chaos born of polished boots
trampling cries for bread and liberty.

A black-winged bird
sped toward the open carriage,
screamed its hymn of victory,
the Hapsburg blood drowning Europe,
the chandelier cracked and darkened.

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The Shore of My Name

Today, the dolphins are silent.
Rocks reveal their sadness,
my feet leave no shadow.

I have seen the sunrise,
wondering if the sun has
kept its warmth.

This sandswept place has not defined me;
cliffs behind me where swallows sleep
in summer.
A shore will always follow me,
my name in silent sands,
in constant tides.

Today, the children play,
their games important.
The world holds their names in clouds.


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Leave Us In Darkness

I    Worlds collide in fear,
            men fight darkness with
    silver pitchforks
    while children hide in
    muddy sandboxes.
                 they scream
    "He comes," but the
    catastrophic wearer of seven crowns
    brings only clouds hiding snow.
    mountains slide toward
    quiet seas, amending beaches
    with heavy sands.

II    people stare as garden's harvests
    are gathered between bloodsoaked
    hands.  the only death is yours,
    i have come to help,
    my feet curl into that fetal state.

III    worlds are entreatied and
    clouds die, atmospheric conditions
    must be right.  heavy balloons
    skim chimneys, rooftops and
    desiccated cities, they
    leave us in darkness,
    we live between empty bricks.

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Not to Speak So Kindly

I asked myself about life, other things,
finding no answers.  Could I live in France,
go boating on the Seine?  Could I be an artist?
Possibly--like weaving smoke.
People I see speak kindly, I will not.
Illusions hold your hand,
your mind explodes with answers.
Questions have no place in your mind's recesses.
Do not speak so kindly,
I live in common worlds, wear suits common in dreams,
think thoughts common to no one.


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Perception

If I had wings, like a gull over some shore,
melodies would live inside me, needing
no one to explore harmonies within me.
I am what you know is real
only to yourself.  If you could open
your inward eyes
telescoping a barren shore,
would you see gulls?
See sand oozing between babies' toes?
You can see and not yet know, not yet feel.
Love--that great imperceivable--
will shatter your world.
Horses with white riders
will tell you where the next room is.
They will not take you--
you must know the way.
On the street we perceive the last parade.
Notes weave clouds together,
the last flag has been folded.
Let us leave now.
Home, my friend?


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Death of a Flapper

She sat in speakeasies guzzling gin.
Her pursuer stood with
one spatgarnished foot on the brass rail.
She was his favorite,
next to whiskey and fast horses
that paid off well.
She could outdistance anyone--
Man O' War, the Feds,
a Model T dealer from Chicago.
He said he'd dance with her,
soak her insides with cheap talk
and bad booze, take her home.
Stars imprinted their warning
as much as tied-up dogs would
at a stranger's approach.
The blade embraced her throat,
she loved the flood of liquor
drowning her, the night
smoothing her dress,
escaping to the elevated's shadows.


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Morocco:  1926

American movie audiences feasted
on cinematic fantasies of bronzed oases,
the truth being much more hot.
Klieg lamps no match for sundrenched sand dunes.
When Mohammed's crescent swam
through mint-mouthed skies,
aromas of date trees and goatsmilk
rushed to fill the void
inhaled by jeweled clocks in palace chambers
near Casablanca.
The cruise ship left decadent flappers,
merchants of apples and American Express agents
on the dock at Tangiers,
carrying rainbow parrots, cracked urns -
memories of tennis at Southampton
left behind with silver tea services.
The movie ends, a swooning lady
in the arms of her sheik,
the bedouins smoking their hookahs,
the eternal camels sailing their thoughts
through seas of mirages.