There’s no excuse for cowardice
no honor in deceit
no ransom sum for innocence
nobody death won’t meet
no victory in bigotry
no sanity in hate
no substitute for dignity
no foresight into fate
these facts I know
but even so
I’m ignorant as Eve
without you, love —
I have nothing to believe.
i persephone though living wander
in death’s shade along the sidewalk by day
the moon raising her sickle overhead
reminds me monthly of the bloody dead
bodies who have carpeted battlegrounds
for generations laying their lives down
for the next generation & i am
a fly on the wall who will die with all
she has witnessed & not said & i’ve read
everything written about releasing
your final breath with ease & it’s no use
because fate just rolls a die & cuts the thread
but i wander in this land of the soon-dead
happy because i love you though doomed
photo by Angelos Michalopoulos
Love is not love
which grows uncertain in uncertain times—
love’s the same flame ignited in two minds
as burns in the
Image: Hubble Telescope (2018)
i picture the evolutionary
march from primates to homo sapiens
& stand in awe. i don’t need to carry
around the whole Origin of Species,
our genesis painstakingly described—
it’s a living truth, this instinctive
contest of minds that made sure we survived;
it’s in us all, in the nucleotides
that combine our twin helixes; it’s the torch
we burn running the course of ages,
our succession of phoenixes, the source
that makes us driven, loyal & courageous—
& love, too, was evolved, because, i think,
it yanks you back, hard, from the brink of death.
Once upon a time
in a land called Compromise
two people could win
if they could share the prize.
Painting by Émile Friant (1888)
We introverts by nature must
have solitude to live—
as such, we struggle with how much
Image courtesy of Pavel Brodsky (browse more of his work here!)
Last time I saw my son,
I was a young man. Now, he is.
It’s OK. I like listening.
I don’t resent the woman. I’m just tired
of traveling, listening, hauling
my tall three-legged robot & his box
of replacement eyes, ears & memories.
Things could be worse.
Want to see a grown man cry? Lie
& tell people he raped his daughter.
I think the purpose of taboo
is sort of as a last resort:
When people cut
their love lives short—
when isolation walls us off—
then, like a lung-awaking cough,
up to the nakedest of things—
love, which is why the caged bird sings.
image: Shatner & Nichols, 1968
How can something as dainty as a rhyme
stretch to accommodate a paradigm?
How could stone slabs, slowly inscribed by hand,
carry the weight of 10 divine commands?
How did the founding fathers—all mere men—
give birth to a nation with a pen?
How do hearts split apart by loneliness
let themselves be opened up again?
Where are you, Muse,
that you forget, so far,
to sing of that
which makes you what you are?
What plagues you, Muse,
that when I’m nature’s prey
you push away
Love even one more day?
Return, neglectful Muse,
the passion that connects us—
so no one in my time may yet forget
the power of a Love-infected mind.
Kill her with disparity
Kill her with despair
Kill her with the thousand shocks
to which flesh is heir
Kill her with brutality
Kill her with red tape
Build a deep surveillance state
no one can escape
Kill her like an animal
Kill her in the street
Kill her like a cannibal
Kill her while you eat
Kill your poet all these ways; then, if still alive,
kill her with the loss of love —that she’ll not survive.
(A study of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 66)
like father, like son, you’re destined to see
insight blunted by blind scrutiny,
innocence deformed by violent hate,
beauty overwhelmed by spectacle,
conscience crying out against its fate,
Mary ridiculed by Jezebel,
straightforward direction made obscure,
power-hunger crippling strength, & pure
& simple truth miscalled stupidity:
like father, like son, you endure all these
& so do i, by knowing you love me.
my love, your genius is hosted in you
like a parasite, a demon, an ancient
ghost haunting your wanting eyes—how
those little windows burn with the immense,
intense intelligence inside! what i’d
give to set foot in that cathedral, to behold
the hoard of treasure being held there
hostage by the fire-breathing monster
whose lair you are—it’s true, love, all i do
enslaved to this blunt, blind, unfeeling craft
is look for ways of understanding you
so one day i may be strong enough to
lay eyes on the unfathomable view
that is your soul & live to tell the tale.
Wisdom is moderation of all things:
to neither be a puppet
nor pull strings,
to lead with strength
but not an iron fist,
to smartly borrow from, but not consist
of lessons learned in lifetimes besides yours,
to seize the day, yet not forget your chores
& take action, but give in when you’re wrong.
Yes, balanced moderation makes you strong —
except in love, which no wisdom can touch:
love proves itself by loving
far too much.
How is it that Time understands
your quivering twin wands
& their commands?
Now takes shape as it passes through your hands,
resembling strong youth, infancy & age with equal grace;
Some rhythms are warlike; some fight for peace;
right foot runs straight & the left syncopates,
teasing timelessness out between beats.
Where is your totem pole? What tribe taught you
the primal ecstasy that invokes gods?
Whose ancestral wisdom pumps life into
these hollow drums, mesh skins & tapered rods?
One thing I know: If hearts do measure time
for other hearts, yours keeps the beat for mine.
all the great Masters recommend restraint
of thought, word, action & initiative:
always be ready to respond, but wait
for the right time to strike. how do they live
so disciplined, their only time around
more competent than others, but less proud?
as a dam may serve to irrigate the land
& pens pinpoint the fine control of hands,
their limits must be what defines their aim.
is love, which knows no boundaries, the same?
if i want lasting love, is there some vow
that can bind & secure me to its course?
or are great works accomplished to allow
their workers to draw closer to its source?
when i think about the Tao Te Ching
(though thoughts about it tend to distance it)
i fear the utter speechlessness it brings;
i dread being alone to witness it
when the universe of all things profound
pours out its annihilating secrets;
i’m scared of being infinitely drowned
in that vacuum where no light or sound
can interfere with the eternal Tao;
i’m scared of being disintegrated
& never returned to how i am now—
the fate to which all living things are fated.
but you dissolve all this. with you, i am
embraced by the great mystery, not damned.
If only, love—if only I could love
a tiny bit more deeply than I’d grieve
in the extreme worst case, I’d be above
peevish paranoias that you might leave,
free to release my passion with abandon!
The trouble is that even bottomless
love can never swallow up grief’s canyon.
Like balanced scales, grief is love’s consequence,
& as my treasuring of you multiplies
day by day, in layers thickening
around your heart, your speaking voice, your mind,
the thought of parting grows more sickening
but I’m far too far, already, to turn back,
so I’m flooring it until I’m out of track.
Once & for all time, Shakespeare says it best:
life’s short, love’s true, & silence is the rest.