From many places, speaking truth
and making magic happen. Celebrating language.
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KOON WOON - Page 2
|Egg Tarts||How to cook rice||Far and near|
|A Moment in my rented room||Aberdeen, 1966||Hank keeps coming back to Aberdeen|
|Often a man||A Slow ox-cart hauls the sage;
his robe is opened to the wind
|I Have augmented my premise of
isolation and sorrow: the world comes into the pallor of my room
|There is a world I am...||The Wind is gentle on my forehead...|
|In my room...||This modal logical moment...
||A Moment ago I meant to tell you...|
|The Love this abode contains...||In the slowness of days...
||The Last time I got out...|
|At #1105; December 3, 1996||Chinese Waiters
||I've heard the Chan bells of the monastery...|
Go to Page 3 . Page 4 . Page 1
I squelch diary, querulous birds in hell &
Go to Ten Thousand Thigns Have Mothers Bakery
While Chinatown rust travels from building
To building, shop to shop.
It's a trick to feel Chinese even in Chinatown
Where tour buses inch along, the driver pointing out
Its exotic features while winos slump,
Street people, tattooed guns and knives,
Benevolent orders tight-lippedly banging
Mahjong, It'd take some articulate she-poet
To slit my bamboo frame: Opaque, hard, and abuse-
Resistant outside, but inside, a cavity,
Flip-flopping to dissonant winds, to needs.
Yellow lights of pagoda lanterns,
Unabashed verses, not wind through sparse bars,
Not winds through bamboo groves,
Papaya-ginger breath, I am not bamboo but arrows.
Now, Maria, I go for egg tarts to feel Chinese.
Little sweet buddhas behind beaded curtains
At 3 A.M., fashioned by Fushi, the god of creation,
Received by yellow bands and minds,
Belly-filling as verses translated from the Tang.
How to cook rice
Measure two handfuls for a prosperous man.
Place in pot and wash by rubbing palms together
as if you can't quite get yourself to pray, or
by squeezing it in one fist. Wash it
several times to get rid of the cloudy water;
when you are too high in Heaven looking down
at the clouds, yu can't see what's precious below.
Rinse with cold water and keep enough so that
it will barely cover your hand placed on the rice.
Don't use hot water, there are metallic diseases
colliding in it. This method of measuring water will work
regardless of the size of the pot; if the pot is large,
use both hands palms down as if to pat your own belly.
Now place on high heat without cover and cook
until water has been boiled away except in the craters
resembling those of the moon, important
in ancient times to growing rice. Now place lid on top
and reduce heat to medium, go read your newspaper
until you get to the comics, then come back and turn it down to low.
The heat has been gradually traveling from the outside
to the inside of the rice, giving it texture;
a similar thing happens with people, I suppose.
Go back to your newspaper, finish the comics, and read
the financial page. Now the rice is done, but before
you eat, consider the peasant who arcs in leech-infested
paddies and who carefully plants the rice seedlings
one by one, and this night, you are eating better than he.
If you still don't know how to cook rice, buy a Japanese
automatic rice cooker; it makes perfect rice every time!
Far and near
With the routine and inadvertent sounds of everyday machinery
still around me, I begin to hear faint perturbations from
greater distances. In the moments the ears adjust from near
to far, it is difficult to distinguish between a soft whisper
spoken in the bedroom from the dying breath of something
that has traversed the entire cosmos to reach me. Near or
far -- I don't always know the difference is it some immodesty
an acquaintance is speaking here or is it a great statement
rumbling toward us from a great distance, reaching us as
the breath of an exhausted Aztec messenger?
And my breath upon the bath water, when I have sunk so low
that my nostrils are just above the liquid, will propagate
waves. The waves will reflects from the banks at the far
reaches of the bathtub. I may mistake the reflections for
something that didn't originate with me. And perhaps I will
hold myself perfectly still. When I am perfectly still and
content, above the immediate and magnified sloshing of the
bath water and the drip of the faucet, I will hear my wife
in another room, reading to our child.
A Moment in my rented room
I sometimes think of myself as an astronaut
In my compact, rented room and look upon the bookshelf
With its deep mathematics books for deeper space
As from a voyage one cannot return.
Then multiply by several million men who cannot marry,
Men who cannot own homes, or work, or go to college.
This is almost equal to the space effort.
But why all that money? I can go to Pluto by just
Being in a bad mood.
Sometimes I think of the loneliness of deep space
In my rented room. The neighbors have busily gone off
To Epsilon Centauri or Galaxy X-2137 or to the 7 Eleven.
Sometimes I look at my 16-oz. jar of coffee; I know
What the minimum daily requirements are. Cybernetics
Steers me to avoid collisions with black holes or stars,
And my hot plate sustains me with pinto beans and bacon rinds,
And on my mini-stereo, always the Blue Danube.
It is rainy today. My room is a bastion. I am filing
The sparse bars of prison. I am building a mental atom bomb.
I am designing spaceships. Multiply this by several millions.
or, driving around for a poem
Driving behind a logging truck with dancing flags
Pinned on the logs, I listen to "Norwegian Wood" by the Beatles.
Miss Freeland wants a poem for hr creative writing class.
In the pulse of sawmills, I cut this logging town
Into board feet with my '55 Plymouth, with sawdust
Plenty to make ice-cream cones. I tend to forget
The manure that gives us Red Delicious, or this memory.
Between windshield-wiper swings, I hear the tugs' blasts.
Perch and red snapper flap on Scandinavian boats,
Neighborhoods where I sold subscriptions of Reader's Digest
In Finnish or Polish editions. Catching a glimpse
Of a girl at the S.H. Kress coffee counter, I think
Of the book on the backseat, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness.
The doctors in the antiseptic Backer Building can't take away
This and other pains of a small town.
It is near Xmas. My little brother peeks out the window
Of the car. He is promised hot dogs and ice cream for coming along.
If a pretty girl raises her umbrella, I'll write a long poem.
No such luck. We cross over to Cosmopolis to see
Boys fishing the Wishkah for sturgeon.
The car is damp, the heater doesn't work.
In the monotony of rain and windshield-wiper swings,
I think I have a rhythm to beat the words against.
My brother and I settle for hot dogs and milkshakes
At a drive-in going out of town.
Hank keeps coming back to Aberdeen
Thinking of the hometown is checking the oil stick of the car.
Hank keeps coming back to Aberdeen
With his bare arms in the stickers, to pick Evergreen blackberries,
To find dew-covered, almost empty, slug-aboded beer bottles in dead-end streets,
To mow dandelioned lawns for two bits,
To stand on the seat of his moving bike, to bowl, to shoot 8-ball.
Agent orange sky, sulfur in our throats;
The sawmill rips logs into lumber. Pulp, paper mills suck up the town's abled;
(Mr. Duffy, the disabled, lived the quiet terror of long afternoons, game shows, and Oly's.)
Clean air wasn't our class concern;
Povertied minds have no tendril nor palms reaching from the end of thought.
My mother steamed the suckers I caught at the slough without thought of raw sewage.
We lamented free food being lost in oysters in mudflats,
Dangerous crabs when the immense Pacific surf rolled in, black with birds' feathers and baby razor clams.
Hank comes back to reach, bare-armed, into the Evergreen cyclone for hand-staining sweet berries.
Often a man
Often a man listens to faraway woods, like a wolf may pause
In snowy shadows for winds that may bring the aroma of bread,
And reflects on the glory and the shame of the pack,
How it hunts and tears flesh from flesh, sips blood from the jugular of
A lamb, and how yet when the pack moves stealthily by a country church
In the moonlight that falls and glides on the frozen fields
To the ailing schoolhouse, their bags unzipping to penciled wisdom
Gleaned between the milking of the cow and blowing out the long candle
In the childhood bedrooms that fill all farmhouses that flock together
For comfort and company, and in their communal pledges,
Erect churches where the pastor says it as best he can.
The man often hears blood in this ears when in his bed alone.
He looks up at the ceiling and he knows he should not be smoking...
The woman, not his, is meticulous and tender, who at this hour is annointing her face.
Which is already beautiful, her curls dangling at her temples,
The skin smoother than the skin of grapes, in soft whispers she calls
The name of the man she loves but they have never met...
He is a singer who moves across the stages of the world,
More famous than Russian poets or political leaders,
He croons just three words and young girls swoon; he lines his guitar case
With drugs and contraband goods, exits with the brutal custody of bobbies,
And the woman, no longer a young girl, knows everything about the singer,
And in the late hour, when snow threatens to fall on farmhouses,
She flicks on the bed lamp and reads the magazine of famous people,
Forgetting altogether the dreary hours at the checkout stand of the large variety store
Where she's a cashier, pennies go with pennies, and five dollar bills with five dollar bills.
All the while the man who often hears blood throb in his ears
Dreams about five numbers straight across, a pack of Old Gold cigarettes,
And is wondering about the feasibility of a hamburger at Jack-In-The-Box
At this hour...
A wolf too may listen to a man when a man is happy and is strumming a guitar
Like the water of six rivers, the wolf too may sing as a beast can.
After he steals the oil of sanctuary lamps and forgets about childhood shame,
He wanders over sweet grasses and white barley, his nostrils moist
And filled with the aroma of bread that rises from the chimneys of farmhouses
In little villages, out of which little boys and girls walk
Into hospitals and company-owned gift shops, or go as high as the lectern
Of a state-run university, while the man with the blood throbbing in his ear,
The woman reading the magazine in bed have never met except, unknown to each
He hands her a dollar for a lottery ticket, and she's very happy
At that precise moment because, over the music system of the store,
They are playing a song of the singer she loves...
A Slow ox-cart hauls the sage;
Such a slow journey, cats will sleep,
his robe is opened to the wind
The Western Capitol will change hands.
Out with beggars, the sage sees red
Apples whose insides are rotting
While the outside remains fair;
The sage sees the nation as
A well-armored bug in late fall,
Who, if a wind blows him on his back,
It is the end. Going from gate to gate,
The sage knocks lightly, so as
Not to disturb the entertainment there.
When granaries deplete to feed mounted
Archers, and song and dance crescendo
Inside imperial walls, it is time for
Beggars to go begging; the slow ox-cart hauls
The sage, his robe is opened to the wind.
Ruffians intimidate the weak and the poor,
And in the dead of the night,
An arrow is shot at the emporer's door.
How sometimes in graveyard hours,
In the kitchen of our Chinese American restaurant,
All lights flicked off save one naked bulb, sitting at a makeshift
table, sitting on milk crates,
How my father, in his soft green sweater,
Now softened by age and grudgingly recognized by his competitors,
Which are other Chinese American restaurants, pizza parlors,
Mexican restaurants and the like
Now it's 3 A.M. The walk-in refrigerator hums a forlorn
tune, what a hobo sometimes hears of the rails humming...
We have finished eating, after the whole town has eaten.
In the necessary fury of work, we have overlooked our simple needs.
He repeats his story: build your future on the foundation
of your forebears; that someday I am to understand; now the light
from the naked bulb is frazzled and somewhat eerie,
but there's really no need to turn on all the white lights
of the kitchen, and after all, there's only us here, and we can
talk in the dark without losing comprehension,
even without looking at each other...
How my father, his back curving more each year
From the weight of the morning air,
The ever-increasing weight of wife and eight children,
All permissable dreams and sorrows clinging on like grapes,
That in the unofficial histories of his veins,
Bombs dropped near his village, metal and body parts flew;
The naked bulb here was the same naked bulb in Angel Island,
detained there because he was an immigrant, a Chinese immigrant...
How his back would arc more,
That over forty years he bent over the wok,
The only use of his curved back now is to use it as a bow,
Like the bow of William Tell,
Take his children and grandchildren,
They are arrows,
And from his curved back,
Shoot them toward the stars....
This is a romantic story.
He died young, labored away his time rather than love.
And consequently he accumulated money.
His oldest son,
Whose mind was mended by electric currents,
Has a receptive mistress in every town,
He visits every town as a salesman.
The competitors are awed by his powers of persuasion,
And grudgingly admit his gift,
But first they isolate his history from all other histories...
How my father was buried
In the same cemetery as Bruce Lee. I am not comparing heroes.
My father was not a hero.
His grandfather was another immigrant from another century
to these same lands, when rails were young.
My father admired the blood of his precursors, going back
to the dawn of man, and their blood is in his blood,
their history his history,
And so my father tells his oldest son:
"Consider the foolish man who tells an ox to climb a tree..."
How my father lives again in the Chinese American kitchen,
In the mind of the oldest son,
Whose mind is mended by electric currents,
Who could not speak for vacant decades,
As entropic grasses grow over cemeteries,
But here is the Chinese immigrant,
A stooping figure amng the sacks of onions, vinegar and bittermelons,
A yellow lemon contained entirely by its rind,
And people, and after awhile, his own children
don't like the same rice, the same telling of those histories,
Because underneath worlds of sugar and love,
There are basic routines.
The father who told of his grandfather,
Who told of opium in China,
That for the peace it gave, a man his daughters sold..."
I Have augmented my premise of
Mi compadre, everything of importance comes into the pallor of my room,
isolation and sorrow: the world
comes into the pallor of my room
Like furtive sunlight when I take a furtive look, pushing back the drapes.
Water comes into my room, and it is backed by the city reservoir,
And backed by the sky itself, virtually infinite in scope...
And today there's a gray sky over the gas chamber outside my window,
And why do I feel the fear of 10 years ago, when Vincent Chin's head was
Bashed in by a Michigan baseball bat, as I try to be judicious
About jalapeno, garlic, oolong tea, and tempura, and how do they differ,
And how are they the same? It took 10 years and the destruction of
6' x 4' x 4' or 96 cubic feet of poetry and 10 years to make me feel better,
And I have now moved into a bigger room, room enough to blues the guitar,
Have now room for Nietszche and Immanuel Kant on a corner bookshelf,
And now my phone calls someone and that someone calls smeone and so on...
And now I can reach the White House oven indicator light,
And so I've retreated from many many premises in my life but I'll
Retreat no more, because my psychiatrist said, "People are jumping off bridges,
This is a city of paved streets, and it takes a city 300 years
to have its buses run on time..."
And in 300 years, the garbage dumps will be archeological sites,
And all the glory of our civilization will be carefully examined
By our children's children, but no temples or roads will remain,
Only the subterranean songs that flow in the people's veins...
There is a world I am...
Whether it is this world's tomorrow,
Or another world's today,
There is a world I am in the machinery of the infinite,
Whereas some shapely tenement woman makes the "o" sound,
When frightened by mice coming too close to the candle,
When the fuse governing the city's electricity is blown...
And when I see her human face over the alphabet soup she ladles
In the ho-hum of a slow existence behind the workman's counter,
I know I will pull her from the elevator,
While my typewriter is in fast idle,
Awaiting impatiently the rhythmic slams of the carriage return...
There's more than a third of the world in the Third World,
Where self-augmenting is the word while the words augment themselves
Elsewhere, where civilization is theft and word thieves meet book thieves
Over a New York steak and talk long and thin
In the empty restaurant;
While I sleep under the statue across the street, waiting
for this world's tomorrow, or another world's today...
Waiting for the machinery of the infinite, for a world of inadvertent sounds,
A world in which I am...
The Wind is gentle on my forehead...
Going to the hills of October,
The wind gentle on my forehead,
The wine and sisters of friends
Light up these copper hills;
An insect falls from my cupboard
Among the ketchup, soy sauce, garlic,
Coffes filters that smooth my skin,
Lulling me to the belief --
A massacre of a million is always
Somewhere else, and how else
Should I think? That I am a criminal
Because mankind is a criminal
And I didn't say so? The three lines
On my forehead are the trigram for "wind"
And "gentle" like the cool October wind
On the forehead after a night of
Torrid reasoning. Give me this chemistry,
Give me, Eileen my love, intoxicate me,
For I cannot wake up: I wake from one dream
Only to be dreaming again of you,
Twenty-four years later. A gentle wind is blowing
On my forehead. I am smoothed by your palm.
Yes, there is a slight fever, my love;
There is a slight fever, indeed!
In my room...
In my room the world is true
Simply because I say it is true,
And truth is "spread out, like a patient,
Etherized upon a table..." in many rooms,
Rooms like mine...
And if you come to my room, one of the many
Parallel rooms that connect like the sections
Of a dragon, one black and one golden,
Interwoven and locked in mortal combat...
And in which room with a couch,
A man writes in the air with his index finger,
And the heads of the two dragons peer into this room,
And that's when the shooting starts,
Below the window of the third floor,
In the streets below.
And in my room you appear without a summons,
And the many parts of the mind
Assemble themselves here,
And I touch your hair,
You turn and smile
In this room, a room that is so similar to,
And yet so different from all the other rooms,
Simply because you have entered,
And suddenly more than one mind contemplates the rose,
Not here, but where they do such things...
Here, the only thing real is
What you say is real, Eileen,
And you ask, "Will there be an operation?"
And operations of various kinds have been going on
In these rooms for years,
And the operator says, "let the Tao move the scalpel"
And do not assert or proclaim the current coffee,
Nor any flags on ships that transport grain,
Because what one hungry world wants and one solitary room needs
is love, love for all the rooms in this similar class,
And rooms that will fill all the spaces of the universe
not already occupied by atoms...
This modal logical moment...
The guitar, its notes falling as a fountain in Spain
Modeled in tape, and bearing the agitated humming from the typewriter...
Know: life is not forever...
As the wind and water softly whisper a record on the beach sand
to say my life was not among the favored,
and the enormous numbers I bet on with a slide rule
Also did not come to at the rail...
And now you are afraid of my anger, because I rip the calendar off,
For over a half of my life I did not search in the right places for you,
Though you saw me all the time as a hapless Bohemian
who sees one tree and asks, "Where are the other nine?"
And goes into a forest as one tree and becomes lost...
And now I type into the typewriter this:
The four corners are illuminated, and this room is a great philosophical inquiry,
Catch the light in a rented home.
We have our allotment of bugs and mice,
And in a coin-operated universe such as this one,
It is possible to punch the wrong item,
And there could be some faulty wiring,
And you may not get what you want, if you get anything at all.
But be my friend for this evening;
I am lonely and time spreads itself languidly on the bed,
A rented room somewhere but not far from the tracks,
And you briefly come into it, and Unknown stealthily seeps in,
Pretending to be wind...
I need your presence in this room; it is a good room;
And I am doing good in this room, as Lucifer in his way hangs onto
His corner of Hell, and all the events in the Universe are chained,
And this is a possible room you may have passed through,and it could also be
A necessary room for you to stay, and it is not necessary and not possible that
It is perfect. No, it is a lit room, and a typewriter is at one corner...
-- after J. Seifert
A moment ago I meant to tell you...
It was a ship which brought a storm ashore;
But it is not important now.
I managed the night fine without you, but the day --
The day is another matter; it goes emptily on and on...
I read a magazine; I might as well have been reading a piece of
stale bread, or the grime in the sink...
There's something, a great matter that the ship brought in
just before it burst into flame...
Don't look any longer; don't look anywhere for it;
Look for it in my face:
See how the shock turns into a grimace for a moment!
That was a moment ago...it is not here now!
A moment ago I wanted you to touch my face...
But just then a ship ran aground and burst into flames
and lit up the night...See? Nobody is sleeping now.
How can they?
A moment ago you touched my face...
The Love this abode contains...
We have lived in 32 abodes, Susanna, red brick, four square,
Nearly a palace, or 32 pages of thin paper, a small book,
And in each story, there's an abode of red brick, inside
Which are a set of 2 books, and the love each book contains
Is more solid than red brick, and four squares together make
A foundation, and so, Susanna, why did you say our love
Cannot exist in paper or fenced by red brick, and is that why
You sold jewelry because you were convinced it was good jewelry,
And stamped visas because we needed more investments in Hong Kong?
Now I'm alone in a single abode of wood and iron nails,
And lone and lonely the cold air seeps and my pen fails,
And, Susanna, where are you since the hospital in 1993?
Should I print your last name and shame your father, who took you
Out to drink with his buddies on the eve of the Chinese New Year?
And you wanted to know if I could get SSI if I went with you
To PSU? Where I would live and youw ould annotate my mishaps
In your sociology book; and I would tell you everything about
"Michelle," the woman you were so jealous of, and asked me
Is it true. It's half true, Susanna, and only half for half of us
Live in abodes of paper and half of us live in abodes of brick,
And where the truth is, Susanna, is underneath your left breast,
Where you let me put my right palm in the hospital, because
That's where your heart is...
In the slowness of days...
In the slowness of days I learned the power of soap,
How to formulate a consumable plan on the stove,
And the domesticity of dishes on the counter...
And as the coffee drips, the bare bulbs glare down
Because my lunch is Spartan, and my boots are surplus combat,
And Beethoven's martial music is beating its way
Out of the cabinet which confines it...
And the machine-gun click of my typewriter, Eileen,
And all the endurance of slow days non-punctuated
By ginger or garlic because only enough money for onions...
And the soy sauce is brooding dark, and salt is cheaper
By the pound, and may truth be revealed that in slow days
And slow ways I have always loved you best...
And the television faces every point on the wall by the bed,
And the opposite wall contains a cabinet for my meds,
And boxes of notes, as noted by the government inspector...
And I do not know, Eileen, why I am anxious and nervous today,
Despite the fact we made love not long ago onthese premises,
And our voices kiss and caress each other's ears down to the loins,
Daily since the world began. Because in the slow crossing
Of existence, if I do not see my friends, I have gone into
The next room, and so, my love, let's never be separated
In different chambers of the heart, let us journey together
From the center of love to the extremities of fingertips and toes,
And come back as our courage flows like red, red blood,
In the slow crossing of days we do not grow weary or waxed,
In the slowness of days we will blare like the bolero,
And weave and repeat our love in the slowness of days, of all days!
The Last time I got out...
There was no bicameral dichotomous mind the last time I got out of the bin,
The snowflake was a snowflake, and the thought of the snowflake was the thought of it,
It was simply cold reality, and no matter how much I am sexually attracted
To mannequins in store windows, reality was hard, and hard it comes...
The logical conclusion has to be: Someone is looking at the cold facts of cold cash
The wrong way, and it was not me,
For whatever there's money, the world is busy,
As in wherever there's honey, the bee is busy,
And women can smile and men can get hard about cold cash,
And all over thieves and lawyers discuss contraband and private stash...
This time as I left the hospital with $25 for a cab and a hot lunch,
I had no bicameral dichotomous mind,
It was all due to the courtesy of the police,
And the ambulance who had to keep busy,
And the high rises in this city that dwarf and keep the hospital hidden,
And it is not listed or advertised in the phone book,
For a revolutionary in a temenent nook.
This tme it was not for simple crooks,
Nor for all the fizz in Manhattan,
Nor for all the piss in China,
This time it was for the way I live,
The way I had to live,
And there were no zen verbal tricks,
For I was born in a house of red bricks,
And I came halfway around the world to live in a house of wood,
Then the sheriff took me outside and in the snow I stood...
A homeless man has a homeless mind,
Because that's the way he has to live,
And no powers will give,
And so across Man's boundless mind he roams,
And never, never finds he a rightful home...
At #1105; December 3, 1996
The peace within an underheated, empty room;
the pensiveness of café noir & a Galois cigarette at age 21,
already deemed too old for dueling;
a writing pad, such as this one, while sprawled on a sleeping bag,
deep onto the cold house, the cold airs of thought...
Now 26 years later, knowing the "in-between,"
and all the "biting-into-wood" silences of exiles in rooms such as this one,
underheated and undermanned against chaos
seeping in, time and time again;
this has to be my life, Eileen,
knowing the wistful air, the solitudes,
as well as the uncontrollable swellings of the breasts,
the air gushing forth,
the bitter tongue,
& the burn of red peppers,
& the hunger, always the hunger..
Edsel of Sam Wo is forgivably curt
and flirts with single, white patronesses.
He smiles, dabbing sweat with a restaurant towel,
like Louie, Louie Armstrong.
And Sam of Tai Tung smiles, smiles
smiles of an imperial fool, but no fool is he
thinking of his kids in school and wife in a garment shop.
I haven't forgotten when tourists ask
to see the Chinese menu. (The menus are the same, actually.)
I wore the waiter's yellow jacket
that had been worn for three generations.
My smile was almost genuine --
You like our food, we like your money.
And with tips I bought a brand new Nietzche.
(I figure soemday I want to be a writer, not a waiter.)
And on the stone of my great-grandfather,
the grass grew (hard to find it).
And I saw for a moment that Nietzche had written
the inscription: "History walks on the backs
of those like so many stepping stones."
Swirling down, the Van Gogh sun readies the blueberries
into jam. The woodpecker concertos rouse my shadow
who squats beneath me, waiting for the hours to enlarge him.
A stump is my throne in this roofless palace
in this clearing, my domain.
In the hobo stove I stir barley and parsely soup.
I am not to be consulted; my phone is off the hook.
Even the bears in the deep woods know this,
and even my shadow, moving like a fat bear, arms scoop-ful of honey.
I often camp here when I write flowcharts at work,
when everything must go somewhere.
But here, I am static as Buddha, retaining my identity
while crossing a foreign border.
My shadow is pleased with the soup.
His hand goes from bowl to mouth in a circuit.
Look how alert is my shadow with the wine!
I give us both wine and I dance with him.
I often camp here because astronomers say the universe will collapse
on itself. My shadow appears pensive now
as if knowing this.
I wake to find my shadow stumbling. But in time
he gets very agile, packs, and moves ahead of me.
I often picture this place, twenty miles north of Big Sur
and three hours above the Pacific. I lug myself down
the trail. And with encroaching darkness, my shadow dissolves
into the surrounding darkness. And the car drives away.
I am wearing a sheet of summer heat,
as nihilistic as a small town drunk
stumbling from tavern into the river
to the beat of twice never.
Those who pity me wear an understandable frown,
while they pitch their shillings to the Crown.
The voice beyond tells me to speak as I must speak,
to move as I must move, shorn of pleasure or pain,
and to assume the shapes that I must assume,
and never to move or to speak in vain.
Yesterday it was thirty years ago
when I thought I saw an enviable role.
But imagine my disappointment when time collapsed
like a bird dead from exhaustion on the snow.
Please don't ask me to come to supper
for the ones who betrayed me are inordinately clever.
They hide under laughter and smiles of butter
and with concealed knives and paper shredder
to do me in twice for good measure --
once to cut my throat and once more to silence me utterly.
Today the sunlight is benign as my room is already heated by Susie the goddess of electricity... My ongong illness for two decades now is taking a benign turn, sweet reprieve, and peace. And partly it is due to you, and to my taking a course, that it is easy, and benign, and nurturing. And I want to do good... My coffee, sufficiently hot and eye-opening, And the steam from the mug holds up the air... Flight was the return to a room, a room facing the general direction Of the morning when I rise; And there's already fame in between these two rooms, But there was a lot of rain in between sunny days... And the goodness of whales returning to drowning sailors; And so we shall find salvation, Alms, and hunger appeased, And do not turn around now, someone is entering the room, That someone will stand at the door and listen to the clicking of the typewriter And listen for the spaces between words, The silences between this world and its next step, And the benign, to compose an inhabitable room, One with a typewriter, like this one, And a mug of hot coffee, The sunlight laminated through the blinds, casting a shadow at once dark and unique Against a pale wall, a pale fire, The visitor nods a silent encore... And tick, tick, click goes the typewrite
I've known the valor of underheated, intrepid rooms the wistful air, the undernourished underside protected by the midnight disappearances of the thirty spokes of the wheel... And it is in this land that I first knew courage in the piano hands of a bag lady and I am blurred as to What's coming squarely down on me like a piano box in the twisted boots the mannequin looks of druggies and the empty roar of bellows And what's more What's more Are the "urinating multitudes" of headless vagrant bands one-meal from death In the door of the knives, one-meal from death And in this urgent twilight I heard The bells of the Chan monastery And the fog clears And I am lined against the wall facing six long rifles And instantly I awake And human voices wake me "we drown..."