The Dream of Robert Kane Scholars

My kitchen is filled with men in black suits
I ask one of them to tell me the story of Batman,
as I know the outline, the bare facts found in comic books,
but not the deeper mythology.
Their spokesman listens patiently, says:
“We can only tell the true story of Bruce Wayne in plainsong.”

He assembles them as a choir. They tune, begin.
The low, solemn voices of men rise and fall
as the tragedy of Dr. Thomas and Martha Wayne
unfolds.

As I wake, I think: this melody is not plainsong or chant.
It sounds a bit like nineteenth century hymnody
like “Abide With Me, or “Lead Me Gently Home, Father.”

Where I Live

I am disoriented,
waking up on the literal wrong side
spending half my life in a city
I am in transition to.

Stocking two shelves
Between two stools
Two of everything,

Which has been a theme in my life,
owning spares, looking for certain promises,
a better city, but winding up trying to decide

which place gets the best of me,
which one gets the back numbers,
the ragged couch.

Close Call with COVID

Around the end of last year, someone I know went somewhere with me and sort of overlooked the fact that he and his wife had respiratory symptoms. One day later he called me to say he had tested positive, his wife negative.

I spent the next 2 weeks as quarantined as possible. I work remotely, so that was pretty – quarantined. I did not go anywhere in public. There were a couple of occasions where I had to enter a building briefly, but I stayed well away from people. My wife had been to a doctor’s office (routine visit) the morning of the day we got the news, so I told her to call them. Their reaction was pretty blasé.

A few days after getting this news, I came down with bronchial symptoms (fairly mild). I saw a tele-doc, who agreed with me that the symptoms did not seem to add up to COVID, but to keep an eye on it and go to emergency care if fever, loss of taste and smell, etc. resulted. She prescribed vitamins and an inhaler. And took the opportunity to get on to me about making sure my blood pressure is under control. Over 2 weeks later, these symptoms have largely subsided, and I have resumed my usual (but still pretty cautious) ways.

All of this was peaking around the time Trump once again tried to circumvent the election on January 6.

All of the above may serve to help illustrate why people deny it’s a real thing and why it keeps spreading. It’s almost like Schrodinger’s cat. One person taken and another left (my friend is fine; his symptoms were also fairly mild; apparently his wife never caught it). I wonder if I didn’t catch whatever virus (not COVID) my friend may have passed along from his wife. The farther it goes, the less we seem to know.

Make no mistake; I believe COVID is a real thing. We should wear masks, isolate, and take the vaccine. Beyond that, I think we’re doing a lot of imaginary things around it, because we still know less than we think.

Iambic

The beauty of the evening shade is what
we make of it; the sound of water flowing
down a stream that we cannot see, even
though we peer into a night that has

a moon; a full and round thing shining in
the distance over water towers that we
saw with younger eyes; we told each other
that the cold would never reach our love.

The Lights

The search for lights
takes me down suburban streets
both similar and literally the same
as my childhood; the strange thought
in the shadows surrounding the people
inside, the progression of lives
as they keep turning along the solstice.

Real Life Update (and last Twitter auto-update)

In which I make the usual excuses and focus on the collective, veering slightly to the personal

Very early in the Trump administration, I posted something that began with my favorite one-line poem-within-a-poem. Reynolds Price attributed it to Robert E. Lee, but I strongly suspect Price wrote it himself:

A country emptied by the fear of war.
from The Dream of Lee, Reynolds Price

And in that post, One Nation, I mused in a stream-of-consciousness way about the implications of a Trump administration and the way social media keeps eating our brains. If this scrap of writing has no other value, it reminds me that I had some awareness that something was up vis-a-vis the Russians at a very early date. Not that this makes me any kind of a prophet: quite the contrary. Questions about Facebook’s passive involvement or acceptance of such events were quickly swirling. But the nature of Orwell’s memory hole being what it is, it feels like something from a later stage.

Anyway, I wrote very little poetry after that. I have two intervening entries, one of which I actually wrote in early 2019 after kind of a spiritual shock, promptly forgot about in drafts, and have just published.

While I did not vote for the man, I have been impatient with the notion of letting someone live in my head. Not long after the inauguration, I had to dismiss a developer who worked for the company I then ran, because he became obsessed with the matter so thoroughly that he was not getting any of our work out the door. This tragedy (if I may use that term about losing a job as a developer) stuck with me – we need to soldier on, and keep working.

At least, that was my thought. If we consider the importance of “doing the work” in the sense that councilors, preachers, gurus and bartenders mean it, I have badly neglected the work.

As have we all, perhaps – since we find ourselves where we are. I thought about Price/Lee’s one-liner often at the beginning of the end of the Trump administration – COVID-19. The line worked perfectly. Taking “war” as metaphorical, it’s exactly where we’ve been for almost a year now (one may muse on the thought that “emptying” for a short while would have greatly reduced the toll of this particular war, but let’s keep moving).

One of the ideas behind my blog is that we creative writers veer between trying to create something eternal while being as stuck in the present as much as anyone – so keep shipping some code poetry and don’t worry about whether something ages or dates. But I have badly neglected the work.

Another thing that changed in the last two years – I was very underemployed for a year (so – worried about going bankrupt) and then got a fantastic job with a hosting company (so – learning that job, traveling a LOT before COVID hit.

Excuses, excuses. I thought about this blog frequently – and then scrolled Facebook or Reddit some more. Exhausted at the remains of the day, to evoke Ishiguro’s fabulous phrase.

And then the symptoms hit, which perhaps all creative types recognize. Sadness, to the point of tears. Bouts of nostalgia. Not being able to sing a silly song about Jesus without getting emotional, and not about your bad chord changes. Reading one’s own past work and tearing up, which may be the ultimate in narcissism.

I’d better get back to work.

One last thing: I’m unhooking the Twitter auto-post function after this post. I may tweet there occasionally, or may not, but something about social media bothers me right now, and feels like part of the problem.

Realism

I’m welling up at the worst times:
years of scales falling off my eyes.

Someone I love
said they didn’t believe any more.
Another two or three or ten
gone to glory, adding to the cloud
of witnesses, pressing on me.

“Go up and join this chariot,” over and over.
Sometimes I’m tired of running, sometimes
their lips aren’t moving when I get there,
sometimes it’s fireworks, but never

according to the way I ran.

Begun March 2019 and found in drafts in this strangely neglected blog

Photo by Paul Summers on Unsplash

Raymond Chandler

several times I read each novel
by Raymond Chandler
enough times that I noticed
something about

why Raymond Chandler
failed in business once.
something about
why Philip Marlowe

failed in business once,
letting clients and lovers push him around
then Philip Marlowe
grew weary and wise about

letting clients and lovers push him around
enough times that I noticed
he grew weary and wise in the
several times I read each novel

 

 

 

Photo by Craig Whitehead on Unsplash

One Nation

A country emptied by the fear of war.
from The Dream of Lee, Reynolds Price

WE sat together in a coffee bar,
sheltered from the gentle autumn wind,
streaming the speech of Russian subterfuge
an out-of-style wartime
dream, a shadow war played out
on social networks filled up by the fear
of truth.

Memorial Day

I sat yesterday at the scene of a previous poem,
listening to a unctuous woman recite M. L.
Greenwood’s God Bless the USA,
cringing at how poorly she scanned it.

Poetry is often the refuge of people stuck
between an old truth and a new expression.
and I respect what they’re grasping for, and I’m proud
to be an American

So I played marches with the band,
sitting under a tent in a parking lot
and listened to a recording of I Am the Flag
the high school JROTC played through speakers
connected to someone’s iPhone, while they
passed a folded flag to anyone
who wanted to touch it.

The ritual would not have been diminished by
Quaker silence, an undeclared question.

He played taps again under the tree,
a sweet, sad, eternal bugle call.