The deepest dream is of mad governors,
Down, down we feel it, till the very crust
Of the world cracks, and where there was no dust,
Atoms of ruin rise.
- The Deepest Dream – Mark Van Doren (1894-1972)
He appears, inexplicably,
on a panel talking about the death of JFK,
the day after, late in life, surely years after
he wrote The Deepest Dream.
He doesn’t say much. Unlike his son,
not given the answers, he doesn’t
wind on like the others, doesn’t speak at all
until late in the program, and then
speaks mainly of the past.
But then later, coming to this:
Whoever did this…
defeated his own end more completely
than one can say.
But then, he is still speaking
of the past, of Brutus and Cassius,
of Lincoln. Perhaps thinking
of the early church.
The camera pans the eminent men:
the worldly philosopher
and seems as dazed as they seem
in the wake of the few lucid words
that anyone can say.
I kept finding you as a friend of friends,
or in the spuriously precise terms of LinkedIn,
a 3rd degree connection. You’d added to your CV -
various certifications and jobs at companies
which weren’t even around in the days
we worked around a so-called platonic attraction:
The ways we fit together broke down under the strain.
Much of this wasn’t true.
What’s true is a lemon-scented shampoo smell in a lobby
the then-stylish bob from which you’ve moved on
a fit, sun-damaged woman in a tennis dress
the sound of a certain cultured accent
a taste for Shiraz I still have
and tell myself it’s nothing to do with you.
This frictionless conservation of momentum
this communication event horizon -
I could send this message to you right now
and there’d be only one reason
you wouldn’t answer.
“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”
- Martin Mull(?)
At first, we’re told, guttural cries
were what passed for expression.
Passed is not the right word, but professional
critics often rule out categories, deny
expression after the fact, and have tried,
from Mozart to Schoenberg, to call attention
to the various sins against form, the tension
between the old skins and new wine.
Schoenberg, for his part, had no use
for laws that came after the fact,
said they burst under special kinds
of tests — exceptions which make us loosen
rules disprove their need. He backed
off to be free of a tonal bind.
He backed off to be free of a tonal bind
of his own making — tired of being
a test case poster child, perhaps,
or just to hear an audience
understand again. Now we do
dance about architecture, expanding
criticism to throw the rope around the free form
and strangle it.
The jazz cats
cut class when they passed
out theory blue books. Nuts
to the squares who have to sit
with a slide rule and figure out
Coltrane blowed a G#13
just to know, just to get back
to the guttural cry, to every
Originally written in the ’90s, and I’ve been tinkering with it ever since.
It wasn’t that important to solve anyway,
which is good, because it doesn’t yield
to analysis or much of anything.
Even in physics we learned one can observe
vector or velocity, not both,
which leaves room for something. Call it God,
but not the god of flannel cutouts in cigar boxes,
musty Sundays, leading us to ever more thinking.
But it’s not nothing.
Or if it is, it’s the type of nothing
expressed in the tired old lines:
Have you seen my wife?
Is she about 5’2″, red haired, wearing a blue sweater?
That’s her! Have you seen her?
No, man, I haven’t.
First day in new house:
nothing found in cabinets
web is all the same.
“Found” Line-sestina: Cologne Cathedral’s Stained Glass Window, Gerhart Richter, 2007
It could have well been placed in a mosque or a synagogue.
- Cardinal Meisner, archbishop of Köln, objecting to the commission of the window. Read more…
I’m sitting in this motel room
with a notebook and a pen,
writing angry notes
to God and Angelina.
I don’t know where I can send them off
so I guess I’ll tear them up
and the whiskey contains all the proof I need.
It’s heading south tonight on a northbound train.
And I don’t know how it can be this hot and not rain. Read more…
During her speech, the nutritionist had said
we can only begin with where we are
speaking of a gradual reduction of fried chicken in our diet
When question time came I rose and asked:
Were you consciously evoking Wendell Berry’s
line we can only begin with what has happened
My father at the breakfast table with Mom,
hanging up the phone: “Well, Dean is gone.”
My mother’s damn-you tears: how can you?
What else could he do? The time he called
to tell me about our friend who’d been
electrocuted, we were crossing the state line,
my wife and I, the young childless couple
heading back from vacation, and he said:
“There’s no good way to tell you this…” Read more…