Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Friday, January 14, 2005

Letter From Paradise (Jan. 14, 2005)

After a bitter cold holiday
where we groused drinking
hot tea beneath blankets
& the world outside was
foggy & chill in the two
weeks since it's been
nothing but warm,
days lightly breezy in
the low 80's, nights
in the 50's. But heaven
on earth is always
relative; the saturate
of kind weather is
pressed down hard on
our heads by the heel
of a God's hand --
a high pressure front
maintains this
infernal calm --
causing a legion of
headaches to sprout in
the day, my migraines
finding a pounding
counterpoint in the
bad sinus bangers
suffered by my wife.
In the past two weeks
we've had more than
a dozen between us.
So weave the pleasantry
of sky days with these
threads of thudding pain,
freighting each day with
a heavier step. No surf that
we can hear
this far inland but
that ever-approaching
curve and smash and
dulled recede is at work
in the ground we walk on,
the stations we work at,
the bed we sleep in.
At night as exhaustion
and the Sinus PM pills
reel us down from
the day's worn shore,
the news on TV is
mostly bad or sad
or maddening, southeast
Asia's coast a new
world of ravaged souls,
the President we did
not choose espousing
policy we despise, the
toll in Iraq daily and
grim and the resonance
of so much hard work
to support this house
grinding and feverish.
Outside the maple has
begun to bud, the
butterflies have colonized
the garden and our
cats are killing everything
they can. This morning
rain is falling off and on
in a massy blue brogue.
It's so warm at 5 a.m
I have the fan on.
I read about a huge
bronze horse a man
found in the abandoned
ancient city of his dream,
nine feet high with huge
wings and a half dozen
cupdion holding on for
dear life, none quite able
to climb aboard for a
decent ride. The ambiguous
gods have cursed us with
this blessed life my love,
for us to find a way
to make that horse a
home. Today we try again,
for better amid worse,
amid the spiculations of
hard rain and a deeper
sound below, tiding
far below the bed
we never left once
we there at long last
the other and married
every world with a kiss.

Procedural Note #1

God is love, and God be the within-ness of all things, the creative.

-- Meister Eckhart (transl. Matthew Fox)

Procedural Note #2

If you bring out what is in you,
What is in you will save you.
If you fail to bring out what is in you,
What is in you will destroy you.

- from the Gnostic Gospel of St. Thomas


Oh Niamh, thy kisses were as sweet as the blue joyous wine of the wave to the sea-wind.

- song of Oisin in Macleod’s “Orpheus and Oisin”

Water Bride (2002)

The water bride returned
in the silted waters
of night: She was weary
of wearing this or that
woman’s face, so she
came blind as the sea.
I was once desperate
to claim her for life
& so kept losing her
in comic motions,
shaping my body for her,
shouting into waves.
None of it worked: She
lapsed on back into surf,
leaving this bald shore,
even her smile erased
in the boneless wash.
But not lost. She curves
every line down this page,
across and down down
down, nothing I’ll kiss
again but deeper, a wave
washed through, forever
afoot in wastes of this heart.
I have been pickled in
her brine: I am that dawn
where she’ll always shine,
that scree of white
slippers dancing where
I pull my every breath.
It’s 5:30 a.m. on Christmas
Eve, the windows open
to a restlessness which
later will pour rain
then turn cold. I am that year
at birth once again:
son and lover of a
uteral gulf which streams
through the day
like the sheets of her
gauze bower, cell and
boudoir, well and tower,
ring to middle finger,
trothed to the wave’s
forever breaking smile.

A Statue of Eros (Zenodotus)

Who carved Love
and placed him by
this fountain,
he could control
such fire
with water?

-- (transl. Peter Jay)

The Wicked Horses

It was not long after that they found another high island, and it is delightful it was, and there were great beasts in it like horses. Everyone of them would take a piece out of the side of another and bring it away with its skin and its flesh, the way there were streams of red blood breaking out of their sides till the ground was full of it. So they left that island in haste and as if out of their wits, and they did not know where in the world were they going, or in what place they would find help or land or country.

-- from “The Voyage of Maeldun,” transl. Lady Gregory

The Great Bronze Winged Horse

On this piazza, ten paces from its beginning toward the door, I saw a prodigous horse like a winged steed, made of bronze with its wings spread and of excessive size. One of its hooves covered a circle five feet in diameter on the surface of the base, and from this circle at the bottom of the hoof up to where the chest began, found to be nine feet. Its head was free and unbridled, with two small ears, one pointed forwards, the other back, and a long, wavy mane falling down over the right side of the neck.

Many children were trying to ride on its back, but none of them could hold a firm seat because of the horse’s great speed and hard jolting. Some of them were falling off, others were ready to fall: some lay supine, others got up again and tried to remound. They grabbed the horse’s desne mane and wrapped their hands in it, vainly trying to hold on to the long hairs. Some of the fallen were trying to rise beneath the body that had shaken them off.

... One could not tell, in the end, whether this careless race-horse satisfied any of his jockeys, but I doubted it, for the figures seemed sad and weary ... It seemed to be bringing these maltreated children to the open portal ...

-- Hypnerotomachia Poliphila

The Water-Horse

I remember hearing, however, years ago, a mention made of the Fomhoraigh, which, without conveying any definite allusion to their stature, associated them with subterranean places:--An undergraduate from the neighbourhood of Killorglin, in Kerry, happened to relate in my hearing, how, when he was exploring some underground rdths near his home, he was warned by his father's workmen to beware of the Fomhoraikh. But on the borders of the counties of Mayo and Sligo I have found the word used as in the Scottish Highlands, namely, in the sense of giants, while Dr. Douglas Hyde and others inform me that the Giant's Causeway is called in Irish Clochán na bh-Fomhorach.

The Goborchinns or Horse-heads have also an interest, not only in connexion with the Fornori, as when we read of a king of the latter called Eocha Eachcheann [t], or Eochy Horse-head, but also as a link between the Welsh afanc and the Highland water-horse, of whom Campbell has a good deal to say in his Popular Tales of the West Highlands. See more especially iv- 337, where he remarks among other things, that 'the water-horse assumes many shapes; he often appears as a man,' he adds, ' and sometimes as a large bird.' A page or two earlier he gives a story which illustrates the statement, at the same time that it vividly reminds one of that part of the Conwy legend which (p. 13o) represents the afanc resting his head on the lap of the damsel forming one of the dramatis persona,. Here follows Campbell's own story, omitting all about a marvellous bull, however, that was in the end to checkmate the water-horse:--

'A long time after these things a servant girl went with the farmer's herd of cattle to graze them at the side of a loch, and she sat herself down near the bank. There, in a little while, what should she see walking towards her but a man, who asked her to fasg his hair [Welsh lleua]. She said she was willing enough to do him that service, and so he laid his head on her knee, and she began to array his locks, as Neapolitan damsels also do by their swains. But soon she got a great fright, for growing amongst the man's hair, she found a great quantity of liobhagach an locha, a certain slimy green weed [u] that abounds in such lochs, fresh, salt, and brackish. The girl knew that if she screamed there was an end of her, so she kept her terror to herself, and worked away till the man fell asleep as he was with his head on her knee. Then she untied her apron strings, and slid the apron quietly on to the ground with its burden upon it, and then she took her feet home as fast as it was in her heart [v] . Now when she was getting near the houses, she gave a glance behind her, and there she saw her caraid (friend) coming after her in the likeness of a horse'.

-- John Rhys, Celtic Folklore, Welsh And Manx (1901)

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Sea-Baptism: A Caution

It was the custom, the, and still is in some isles, for mothers to wet brow or finger of their newborn in the flow of the tide at the end of the third week of the child’s life. The twenty-first day, if a Sunday, was held to be the most fortunate, and a Thursday next to it: but a Friday was always to be avoided, and a Saturday was held in some fear, unless the child was dark in hair and eyes and colour ... It was above all needful to see that this wave-baptism happened when the tide was at the flow. If it were done at the ebb, woe to that child and that mother; soon or late the “baptism” would be called to sink in deep gulfs and be homeless and no more seen -- and, in the west, for the dead to have no green grave, for sleep-covering is a nakedness of sorrow ill to endure for those left to mourn.

-- Fiona Macleod, “Cuildh Mhoire” ("The Treasury of Mary')
((Mary or Mare, “The Sea”))

Baptised At Ebb Tide (Jan. 14, 2005)

I was baptised at ebb-tide
on the last day of my childhood;
the receding wave which
caught me there has ferried
me at last to here, a man
both of the shore-walking world
and of waters brined by God
with salt’s hard misery,
stinging every bliss with
a bottomless undrinkable.
Your ebbings have defined
my ways, always leaving
me alone to name the flood
which drowned every bed
I’d shored on nights before,
filling my mornings with
that empty dripping soft
blue door still resonant
with the cantakerous roar
which wakened in our kiss.
Each beach-song I
carve here is a nautilus
of your curvelike curse,
woven in the rounded way
you turned to me then
turned away; curvelike
the song rounds down
through the misery of
dry and drier nights
grinding down, like old
sand poured through
a wave-smoothed glass,
into these roundelays
of surflike refrains
upon a paper strand
where verbals wash, leaving
me at last again at the far
white end of every beach
you woke me on. On those
fragile magic sands
I leave this shell-seeming shell
for you to find again,
long after I have washed
out to ring the bronze of hell.
How best to return
the wave that bittersweetened
all with its cathedral
rise and smash
careening wild in foam
than to harrow full
the quiet draw in
every pre-dawn dark,
recalling every man
baptised at ebb who
drowned in love’s
reclaiming wave?
Such dead are like
seaweed at low tide,
green glyphs of
what remains, drained
and flattened of
their former flout
of spermatic equine fire:
Read me in that wild
blue latinate the
same tenor which
the selkies sing from
their black rocks,
of sea and shore
dreams inked. I am
a man long ebbed
from North Sea smash
where just the song
of foam remains,
stingingly unrepentant
in the wilderness
of that recede which
wombs the next blue
to drown the likes of me
in you.

They are in the sea as well

They are in the sea as well as on land. That is well known by those that are out fishing by the coast. When the weather is calm, they can look down sometimes and see cattle and pigs and all such things as we have ourselves. And at nights their boats come out and can be seen fishing,but they never last out after one o'clock.

... There are more of them in the sea than on the leand, and they sometimes try to come over the side of the boat in the form of fishes, for they can take their own choice shape.

-- A fisherman on Kilroanan Pier, in Lady Gregory's Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland, 1920

Voyager (2004)

we voyage.
The second singer
lifts wings to sail
to blue horizons
rid of this hooved
anchor that holds
me here. Rain and more
rain this morning,
cold and riveting the
hard talk between my
wife and I last night
in drear punctuation.
O how far yet we must
go before any real billows
spread for me in
her real arms. So I
get back to work here
reminded infernally
that all work is suspect.
But this Oran the
second archon obeys
the master builder
and goes down anyway
beneath the stone
floor of all abbeys,
singing his way down
through the cracks
in the ocean’s basalt
text. He falls so this flies.
Ornate capitals writhe
in Kells to the samba
of that finalizing sigh.
And seeks the words
behind the words
which dot the marges.
He sails toward the sea
god who can never
be shared or shored.
This home I live in
is the best I will ever have
and I intend to stay
on long with her
finding the actual
difficult and always
imperfect garden the
mortals call love. And
perhaps only because
my heart remains
does he find harbor
loose enough to
launch these boats
of longing with their
wordy sails. Send the news,
O traveller, on and down.
Harrow this life on
dry land with the salty
wave-smash of the voyage.
I may never set foot
on the Iona you dream;
love bid me duration
here instead. Be my
long back inward
down-imploring glance
where I’ll never quite
find her, nor should.

(An Empty) House of Plenty

Then they were going on through the length of a week in hunger and in thirst till they found an island very big and high, and a large house at the edge of the sea, and a door in the house towards the level plain of the island, and another door towards the sea, and against that door there was a weir of stone, and an opening in it, and the waves of the sea were throwing salmon through the opening into the middle of the house. The wanderers went into the house then, and they found no one in it, but what they saw was a very large bed for the head man of the house only, and a bed for every three of his people, and food for three before every bed, and a glass vessel with good drink in it before every bed, and a cup for every vessel. So they made a meal off that food and that drink, and they gave thanks to Almighty God that had given them relief from their hunger.

from “The Voyage of Maeldun,” transl. Lady Gregory

The Abandoned City (Jan. 11, 2005)

Beneath wide miles
of Guatamalean jungle
sleep the ancient
Mayan cities, palaces
and temple heights
and market squares
all empty, eviscerate,
drowned for centuries
beneath deep seas
of green. No one
quite knows why
these cities emptied
out and disappeared
from history (theorists
suggest overpopulation,
deforestation, disease).
What remains are
elegant and extravagant
ciphers now fast asleep
beneath the jungle’s
riot, human motions
where only stone remains
and only ruin endures.

Southwest of Cornwall
a mile down the North
Sea’s wash toll the merry
bells of Ys, that fabled
town the sea reclaimed
where split ships rest
on the rafters of the
Mermaid Tavern and
the cathedral’s south
entrance is blocked
by two basaltic boulders,
wedged there by Manannan
perhaps, or dropped down
from the surface when
Uranous lost ‘em to the
scythe of Cronos in
that red spume which
passioned forth Venus.

Here in Florida there
are ghost-subdivisions
of half-built houses
soaked in monstrous
sunlight, the properties
sold by scammers to
fools and believers,
the land untenable,
water-logged, inaccessible,
impossible to build on,
much less house,
and so age into
decades of stillborn
waste, roofless grey
timbers souring
back to black, unpaved
roads sprouting veins
of weed, a lone gator
dozing blissfully in
an empty pool this
subdivision’s main resident.

These necropoli attest
to fearful entropies
which riot to ruin,
the vital humor like
some vitiate dragon
who, once ridden to
the extreme, ebbs
to a ghostly emptiness.
I have visited these
ghost-cities in my dream,
quiet miles of towers and
streets which have
lingered empty for
years and millennia
and aeons, no trace
of the hands which
raise these walls or
waged lives in them.
Walked for miles around
the stilled citadel as
through a tomblike
labyrinth, bare even
of the epitaph the
last resident wrote
in blood upon that
lintel she walked
out and forever away.

So too that ghost-bed
you woke me on
in a crash of merry foam
and spray, singling
me out for eternity
and then forever washing
away. Each day I linger
at the memory of that
bed, lost for decades
now in a suburb
I’ll never find again,
the morning light still
etched in every window
like a golden filagree,
one curtain ruffled on
a breeze that froze in
place when you gasped
O Yes -- and then turned
your eyes away and
dove from that blissfully
split bed that was
sinking fast in the deep
blue water of a heart
opened full wide
to love. That bed is here
on every page I sail,
a ghost anchor hauling
my hand across and
down to every abyss
that opened wide
when love left the room.

I’m singing in the loneliest
town of all, amid the
ghastly oghams of a thrall,
the belfries still lucent
with their devil bells,
the streets a carnival
of wreckage form the
life -- whale ribs
and bent harpoons,
bosomy mastheads
from split galleons,
doubloons glinting
from the silt like
stars of a long-
fallen constellation,
necks of guitars poking
out amid ten thousand
whiskey bottles, upended
barstools and every
car to split into the
final tree on the
last mile to home:
In that city there’s
an unceasing blizzard
of spectral carnage
tumbling from above --
bits of flesh dropped
from the ravening
of desire, torn silk
tatters of your underwear,
poem after poem after
poem lost to the tide
which bears every curve
and smash of you
but cannot ever answer
my voice. It echoes
off every empty wall
and balustrade of
that city which you
abandoned lives ago
when I asked you for my heart
and you smiled and whispered
O No

from "The Waste Land" (T.S. Eliot)

Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine
There I saw one I knew, and stopped him, crying 'Stetson!
'You who were with me in the ships at Mylae!
'That corpse you planted last year in your garden
'Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?
'Or has the sudden frost disturbed its bed?
'Oh keep the Dog far hence, that's friend to men,
'Or with his nails he'll dig it up again!
'You! hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère!' ...

Missed Chances (Stephen Dobyns)

In the city of missed chances, the streetlights
always flicker, the second hand clothing shops
stay open all night and used furniture stores
employ famous greeters. This is where you
are sent after that moment of hesitation.
You were too slow to act, too afraid to jump,
too shy or uncertain to speak up. Do you recall
the moment? Your finger was raised, your mouth
open, and then, strangely, silence. Now you walk
past men and women wrapped in the memory
of the speeches they should have uttered-
Over my dead body. Sure, I'd be happy with
ten thousand. If you walk out, don't come back-
past dogs practicing faster bites, cowboys
with faster draws, where even the cockroach
knows that next time he'll jump to the left.
You were simply going to say, Don't go, or words
to that effect-Don't go, don't leave, don't walk
out of my life. Nothing fancy, nothing to stutter
about. Now you're shouting it every ten seconds.
In the city of missed chances, it is always just past
sunset and the freeways are jammed with people
driving to homes they regret ever choosing,
where wives or helpmates have burned the dinner,
where the TV's blown a fuse and even the dog,
tied to a post in the backyard, feels confused,
uncertain, and makes tentative barks at the moon.
How easy to say it-Don't go, don't leave, don't
disappear. Now you've said it a million times.
You even stroll over to the Never-Too-Late
Tattoo Parlor and have it burned into the back
of your hand, right after the guy who had
Don't shoot, Madge, printed big on his forehead.
Then you go town to the park, where you discover
a crowd of losers, your partners in hesitation,
standing nose to nose with the bronze statues
repeating the phrases engraved on their hearts-
Let me kiss you. Don't hit me. I love you-
while the moon pretends to take it all in.
Let's get this straight once and for all:
is that a face up there or is it a rabbit, and if
it's a face, then why does it hold itself back,
why doesn't it take control and say, Who made
this mess, who's responsible? But this is no time
for rebellion, you must line up with the others,
then really start to holler, Don't go, don't go-
like a hammer sinking chains into concrete,
like doors slamming and locking one after another,
like a heart beats when it's scared half to death.

-- from Cemetary Nights, essential

From Rilke's "Tenth Elegy"

... How woeful, strange, are the alleys of the City of Pain,
where in the false silence created from too much noise,
a thing cast out from the mold of emptiness
swaggers that gilded hubbub, the bursting memorial.
Oh, how completely an angel would stamp out their market
of solace, bounded by the church, bought ready for use:
as clean, disappointing and closed as a post office on Sunday.
Farther out, though, there are always the rippling edges
of the fair. Seasaws of freedom! High-divers and jugglers of zeal!
And the shooting-gallery's targets of bedizened happiness:
targets tumbling in tinny contortions whenever some better
marksman happens to hit one. From cheers to chance he goes
staggering on, as booths that can please the most curious tastes
are drumming and bawling. For adults ony there is something
special to see: how money multiplies. Anatomy made amusing!
Money's organs on view! Nothing concealed! Instructive,
and guaranteed to increase fertility!...

Oh, and then outside,
behind the farthest billboard, pasted with posters for 'Deathless,'
that bitter beer tasting quite sweet to drinkers,
if they chew fresh diversions with it..
Behind the billboard, just in back of it, life is real.
Children play, and lovers hold each other, -aside,
earnestly, in the trampled grass, and dogs respond to nature.
The youth continues onward; perhaps he is in love with
a young Lament....he follows her into the meadows.
She says: the way is long. We live out there....

-- Transl. Albert Ernest Flemming

St. Patrick's Purgatory (2004)

I swam down Oran’s Well to find
The islands that he shored there, the
Gods he named as they ebbed, like surf
Through his hands. I was warned not to
Fall asleep in that hollow, but I did;
It crept over me like a curved
Sweetness, the muse who writes that low
Psalm on every longing heart. When I
Woke I could never quite dry my
Meters of that wash, and now walk
My days harrowed by Oran’s haul,
Drowned in a long-lost coracle.
Hot torch now upside down, skull that
Won’t shut up: The wages of my sin
Are seas I daily fill within.

The Hidden Chapel (2004)

Magic isle washed by sleep’s blue tide,
Hidden chapel somewhere under
This brow of risen knowns: You are
The poem my hands wake to write
Aching to gallop long white reams
To find you at last, sweet turbine
Valving heaven’s hairy wheels.
I dreamt a high hill far west and
A river bent full round before
It, with drear rapids at the curve.
A wild choir spilled scented throats of
Flowerish glee as I feared the way
I must oar. Down and round a
Peril, then flow my way on back.
I’m sure the door’s inside that wrack.

Oran's Hell (2003)

Columba dedicated the monastery's graveyard
to Oran (Reilig Odhrain) and honored Oran’s
sacrifice by saying that no man may access
the angels of Iona but through Oran. The bones
of many Scottish, Irish, and Norwegian kings
were sent to Oran’s graveyard; Duncan and
Macbeth are interred in the St. Oran Chapel
at the center of the graveyard.

-- Oran and Columba: An Excavation

Lots of dead folks down there:
Drowned sailors from the Pequod
& Graubelle men pitched in peat
& explorers trapped in abyssal
caves, their knapsacks filled with
forever lost booty: Musicians and
alchemists and architects who built
their towering achievement
& then died with most of their work
undone: Revenants stuck in mortal
error, like Hamlet’s poisoned father
stuck in the frosty hours before dawn
with all his sins unconfessed
sighing swear ... swear ... swear
into his son’s malevolent ear:
My father’s St. Oran bell tower
is now my Oran’s well: his
tower is forever without
a roof, open to the sky, stars,
757’s, moon: No bottom here
either folks, just new heads
rising in the depths: Oran’s
sinister skull, yodeling Orpheus,
the Green Knight’s noggin
filled with a nougat of spleen:
Women and children too went
overboard here: my mother of
course with voice over me
at my very first beach:
Paula my first love, who at 3 played
topless in the wading pool
down the block & led me into
big woods in search of worms:
The girl of my fancy who fell
into a pond and would have
drowned had I not jumped in
and saved her: That early
fantasy was such a thrall, I’d
place my face on a pillow
& squirm my hips to the
narrative: I thought I rescued
her but she still calls from
the thralls below: The girl
on the playground holding
my forget-me-not bouquet for
one perfect second before
she snarled & tossed it back
First kisses, first feels, that
first shock of nakedness &
the squeeze up pussy walls &
the heart’s descent in that
down down down down down
till we drown Hallelujah:
Loves lost due to youth
& idiocy, who walked away
or were left sleeping in their
beds: Big loves of fantasy,
& bigger loves that were real:
wives, a daughter, cats:
Ogres, too, the Man in the Car
& the Girl in the Woods &
The Four Dread legacies
of Song, Sodomy, Burnt
Fiddles, Divorce: That naughty
drunk trapped in a bottle five
fathoms down: Big fists beating
the bejezus outta me: Errant
blades and can-lids and guitar
strings splicing deeper my split
fingertips: A bricolage of words
stewed from the hair of Homer,
cock of Ovid, heart of Chaucer,
saucer-eyes of Will, Spenserian
ears, Rilkean wings, tongue
a la yeasty Joyce: All the
the shadows they cast deep
beneath every letter of every word
in infernal resonance:
On and on the inventory of souls,
all now insubstantial & yet killingly
potent: whose distant and
watery hands all knock the
bucket as it rises from Oran’s
bourne to here, putting
in a ring or token stone,
wishing on me to sing of them
too, the human toll in
the drowned cathedral of soul.

Arthur's Cave (2004)

I have slept many lives in this
Hidden chapel with my knights and
Treasure, this island lost from view.
And waited for your pen’s prow to
Find me: One day it will touch the
Page and pass through, like a sword in
Stone, and the mists will clear ahead.
Three cranes will cross above. You’ll hear
Surf crashing and then sight land, a
Pale beach and a cove of rocks, then,
Deeper in, a door. Do you know
Why you rowed here, or why the door
Creaks loud and groans open to show
What every poet dreaming sings:
An old bell interred which now rings!

Merlin's Cave (2004)

At Tintagel in Cornwall, Merlin’s Cave
penetrates the neck of the peninsula
where the castle ruins remain, 250 feet
above the sea. At low tide one may enter
it and walk through to the beach on
the other side, but at the night tide the
sea enters and becomes impenetrable.
Merlin’s Cave is an example of a
paradoxical place, where it is dark during
daytime and where the sea is beneath
the earth.

-- Nigel Pennick,
Celtic Sacred Landscapes

You’ll find me far beneath the ruins
Of Arthur’s double court: A cave
Which by day leads dark and cold to a
Blue-foamed, crashing shore, and by night
Is drowned in ocean, a door to
Under kingdoms of driftglass and
Coral queens. Step down from high
Ambition to learn what crowns and
Treasures are tides of: Here dream
Dark’s plunder of the regent sun,
The sea’s upwelling of high ground.
Here I said farewell to men to
Bed my fair feathered Niniane.
Under every throne there’s a mouth,
Blues singer of the royal South.

Minne's Cave (2004)

Hands as big as my lust for You
Surely built this love grotto, deep
Under this hill where sheep graze and
Slumber. The stones which vault Your bed
Could raise cathedrals, but instead
The Old Ones hid them far from view
Beneath the turf, to barrow old
Ferocities of star and sea.
They are gone but we remain, fresh
Heart inside stone ribs. Only here
Can we let ourselves go in the
Star and sea frenzy that first kiss
Unleashed. Here, my love, here we will
Coil on crystal linen and sail
Verbatim into wild blue hell.

The Legend of Bala Lake

One story about the formation of Bala Lake, or Llyn Tegid ... I translate from a version in Hugh Humphreys' Llyfr Gwybodaeth Gyffredinol (Carnarvon), second series, vol. i, no. 2, P. I.

I may premise that the contributor, whose name is not given, betrays a sort of literary ambition which has led him to relate the story in a confused fashion; and among other things he uses the word edifeirwch, 'repentance,' throughout, instead of dial, 'vengeance.' With that correction it runs somewhat as follows:--

Tradition relates that Bala Lake is but the watery tomb of the palaces of iniquity; and that some old boatmen can on quiet moonlight nights in harvest see towers in ruins at the bottom of its waters, and also hear at times a feeble voice saying, "Dial a daw, dial a itaw," 'Vengeance will come'; and another voice inquiring, "Pa bryd y daw," 'When will it come?' Then the first voice answers, "Yn y drydedd genhedlaeth," 'In the third generation.'

Those voices were but a recollection over oblivion, for in one of those palaces lived in days of yore an oppressive aud cruel prince, corresponding to the well-known description of one of whom it is said, 'Whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive.' The oppression and cruelty practised by him on the poor farmers were notorious far and near. This prince, while enjoying the morning breezes of summer in his garden, used frequently to hear a voice saying, 'Vengeance will come.' But he always laughed the threat away with reckless contempt.

One night a poor harper from the neighbouring hills was ordered to come to the prince's palace. On his way the harper was told that there was great rejoicing at the palace at the birth of the first child of the prince's son. When he had reached the palace the harper was astonished at the number of the guests, including among them noble lords, princes, and princesses: never before had he seen such splendour at any feast. When he had begun playing the gentlemen and ladies dancing presented a superb appearance. So the mirth and wine abounded, nor did he love playing for them any more than they loved dancing to the music of his harp.

But about midnight, when there was an interval in the dancing, and the old harper had been left alone in a comer, he suddenly heard a voice singing in a sort of a whisper in his ear, 'Vengeance, vengeance!' He turned at once, and saw a little bird hovering above him and beckoning him, as it were, to follow him. He followed the bird as fast as he could, but after getting outside the palace he began to hesitate. But the bird continued to invite him on, and to sing in a plaintive and mournful voice the word 'Vengeance, vengeance!' The old harper was afraid of refusing to follow, and so they went on over bogs and through thickets, whilst the bird was all the time hovering in front of him and leading him along the easiest and safest paths. But if he stopped for a moment the same mournful note of 'Vengeance, vengeance!' would be sung to him in a more and more plaintive and heartbreaking fashion.

They had by this time reached the top of the hill, a considerable distance from the palace. As the old harper felt rather fatigued and weary, he ventured once more to stop and rest, but he heard the bird's warning voice no more. Helistened, but he heard nothing save the murmuring of the little burn hard by. He now began to think how foolish he had been to allow himself to be led away from the feast at the palace: he turned back in order to be there in time for the next dance. As he wandered on the hill he lost his way, and found himself forced to await the break of day. In the morning, as he turned his eyes in the direction of the palace, he could see no trace of it: the whole tract below was one calm, large lake, with his harp floating on the face of the waters.

-- from John Rhys' Celtic Folklore: Welsh and Manx (1901):

The Under Abbey (2004)

Look about the sprawl of my word:
An abbey of stone songs
Arranged like Oran’s chapel.
But its heart beats underground
In a souterrain of vowels.
Like a holy oak, the roots hurl
A sacred canopy beneath
Known limbs, to grip and drink from paps
Of earth. So my secret chapel
Opens beneath this white chair at
The ever-hour before dawn. Down
And dark are sacred courses the
Music seeks, safe haven for profane
Diffusions, blue baths in wombs
Of old. The door, it sings: Your tomb.

Washes (2003)

Iterate, reiterate: There
is a wavelike circulation
to these washes of
grounded thought,
hurling and receding,
a doppelganger
astride a horse of foam.
I love to read accounts
of ancient things: of
excavations in ritual
shafts and burial grounds,
descriptions of objects
dug up from bogs
and wells. That’s where
I find the next poem,
like a skull unearthed
and speaking what is
or was found there.
Such texts embroider
this sleepy dark hour
with the dazzling part
of the dark, as if something
reaches up as I reach
down and back. I also
read old journals, finding
bones and outposts
of all I am about today,
like the boy-man 14 years
ago who first mapped
these pre-dawn hours,
forging dream and myth
and verse in the singer’s
flame -- a mouth opened
from a personal grave
in an older brine, getting
to the inside of so much
raw, choleric spume
and spunk: The drunk
on his cross and his
thirst turned to a holy,
ever deeper and God-
darker well. Sometimes
the depths of it would
drive me nuts -- studies
in Apollo and Dionysos
and the Trickster and
Orpheus loosened a
compulsive flood of
thought which threatened
the field and home
I served in daylight
hours. My first marriage
ended with me resolved
to study hard and
write freer poems, yet
half that tooth was sunk
in some nymph’s
cyanotic ass -- bad move.
Again and again I’ve
learned the folly of
backassed dicking-in-
the-night, fooled by
the desire to live what
only can be dreamed
and more vaguely said.
Desire is the wave’s
dread veil, the curve
which lures us to the
drowned city of my
fellow fools, but only
that. Mistake it much
and you’ll saw any
life apart. Today my
vantage is hardly
different -- same lonely
hour, many of the same
texts, identical hand
scratching out the
same mix of heart and
brain, balls and feet --
Still half blind half drunk
half wild down this willed
well or illed beach between
dry purpose and drowned
wilderness, digging the
same way down the pages
which continue to pile
up and up a narrow round
tower which has Oran’s
head for a bell, that
ringing bone of this hour.
What sustains the motions
out and down now is some
sense of emptying that
well filled by God and
history -- giving back to
the creation the surf of
ideation, a tidal maw of
slat salvations fished
from where all of it was
buried so many lives
ago. Back and forward
we go in this blue
psaltery, antiphons which
rise and fall the
eternal call to sing our
heavens back to He
who leavened ‘em. fishes
and loaves here in these
bushels of words: Mashes
of herring and leavened
whale turds, skulls brimming
with cold water &
reflecting a face which
may be the moon, or
you, or me.

Hamlet to Yorick (2004)

Content yourselves I mention him
in the offal pile heaped next
to the grave of starry love.
All of him
that remains is the huge skull
still reeking of a man’s death
and this reel of memories
spooling from much happier
days. Ah Yorick! Such a big
fool, lumbering through the court
with my boyish self perched
on his shoulders. Whenever
I rode there I felt as if I could
cross the Irish Sea. Those
hours spent in play with the man
were the mint of every worthy
song and jest, the quintessence
of glinting eye and wide-as-life
smile. Now dust and ruin
are your countenance. I wonder
if Death employs a fool
in the darkened courts below.
A handsome man perhaps,
the apple of every beloved’s
eye ... only such unblemished,
sunny fare could turn those
gray rules upside down, and
ride the black horses round
the court of Dis where spirits
pine. Yorick, can you fool in
Death what living souls so prize
when their living hour is spent?
No more of that merry moon
agleam on the rivers of
your eyes; no more foolery
in the hallows which now
reside there. But then, I’m
not a merry man anymore.
In that fresh grave from which
your skull was pried lies a
woman who for lack of my
use of you went madder than I
and settled down the drowning
pool of her hair, like poppies
in the gloom. Her pale eyes
stared back awhile before
settling in that gloom, departing
from this weary shore. Ah Yorick,
amuse her while she sleeps
and I will write a masque
to make a fool of kings,
a deadly minstrel show
correcting what too long
had erred when you took
cap and bells elsewhere.
I could never stand as tall
as you, but on your vapored
shoulders do now ride -- the
words, old master, the words!
Make every doorway hard
to clear! Pour your physic
into presumption’s ear.

The Lost Decade (2003)

There are years this pen
turns a blind ear to—
as decade lost to ink—
Dunno if I’m just evasive,
or don’t know what to think—
Years as both husband
and father, a bland symmetry
of hard days digging deep—
mending hours of
time’s unbindings
walled back inevitably
as sleep.
I learned of limits then—
how much to learn, or ear,
in a single day—how far
you can love on dry
and dryer balls, & how duty
marries remorse to build
a sad, too-shaken home
which we all departed from
and I now rarely think upon.
My daughter of that age is
now 25 — a mother of two
with a man of her own —
for six years she and I cobbled
up a heart we knew as ours,
and tended it as best we could.
But now we rarely speak—
I left her behind in
loyalty to new love,
but sometimes I wonder how
I can prove anything at
that remove — what on
earth there is left to do —
but then I pet my cat
Violet & she looks fondly back
and I know it’s all one motion,
one beach, forever all I lack.

Labyrinth (2004)

Shine a light in here and
you’ll find a formerly
gearless Hell churning now
in a labyrinth tooled to
proceed to the always
next and never final shore:
A shire of beds and deep
blue wells where she smiled
and turned away: A viaduct
or proscenium inlaid
with skulls and hooves
and the gilded gossamer
of verbal wings: A siege
machine of oak and
hide on infernal wheels
bruting forth a ram
resembling the Cerne
Giant’s 40-foot cock:
A vault stuffed with
drawn pussies and asses
warded by monster models
I built at seven: A work
table piled high with drafts
of poems, designs for transit
and a bounty of shells
-- conches and whelks
and a cunningly wrought nautilus:
A gullet of fire which
consumes all this and
belches the next eager flame:
Roads carved in basalt
totems, circuits and
cul-de-sacs, spiral staircases
and oubliettes: Labial doors
and keyed to spermatic
oars: Dragon ships by the
thousand, each with green
plundering eyes: Missals
of gold hidden behind
a blue baptismal font, their
pages scribed in the
blood of Oran buried
further down: A room
stuffed with all the guitars
I once strapped on and flew:
A bar (now under lock and key)
where I sat rooted to a
stool milking dread
infinity: Gardens of richly
manured furrows and distant
hilltops where Uffington
wilds: Cups of exquisitely
fashioned silver and inlaid
with red gems, filled with
ink, sea-waves, mare’s blood,
well-waters cold as the Pole:
The Gundestrup Cauldron
and the Book of Kells and
the Willendorf Venus, each
in a room with a scholar
and a poet enlarging their
charms: A library older
than Alexandria filled with
well-thumbed volumes filled
with shore-lined marginalia:
A bone scriptorium where
sixth-century hands
ink all the texts that were
and are or could be:
Merry beds of bobulous
boobery slickplunging
derricks of blue oh so
blue tarrying joys: A cafe
where Rilke Joyce
Melville Jack Gilbert
James Hillman and Tom
Pynchon ululate all night
about the women who
matter and the materia
they write: A ripening
kitchen where Jung
pens his alchemy, tending
a vat of imagined
soul: Dante and Shakespeare
like titans of stone
or iron standing in the
sea looking over my head:
A restroom where someone
shits mightily what can’t
be used: A tank for Moby
Dick larger than any sea
& nursing a port for
the errant moon: A green-
leaf esplumoir which
towered Merlin’s mad
molting spell: Three
beaches -- Sandymount,
raw as spring where
the bird-woman first
flew; Iona’s Beach of
the Coracles, brutal,
wild; and Cocoa, so
dazzlingly white and
south of every dreamed
love: A bog further
out where all of this
cerebration bloats
and slows: Still further
out a bald strand where
all my bad ends click their
teeth like Norns: over
every crest Manannan’s
gray-blue island where every
voyage aims: Circe’s
rock too, delicious as
peach brandy-sticky
nipples: A pale table in
a bare room on which
the head of Orpheus
dreams of Eurydice
in the wedding bed of song:
A real-time ballast
lifting these keels -- cold
again this morning, wife
now in the shower,
news on TV of a bomb
in Jerusalem ripping
open a bus like bloody fruit:
A cave behind and under
the labyrinth with its whole
story painted on the walls
thirty thousand years
before you never read these
words: All of that you’ll find
between these lines,
west of first light
and east of the the tide:
And all of it muscles
and fins this pale hand
as it moves margin to
margin like a ravening mouth,
devouring the next promise,
the next voluptuous way in
to Your blue brassiered
bower where tomorrow
I begin: Every time I
enter here I ramp that
spinning wheel which
cycles through the ages
to bring God to view:
A vantage on a motion
which repeats the ocean’s,
waves of verbal blue
which fill the well with You:

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Dragon Voyage (3)


I found a skull in the
back yard, on the front
seat of a rusted-out
car sitting on blocks.
I once owned it, the
skull I mean, well
the car too, I wore
both out on the merry
marauding road of
guitars and bars
and tits in jars on
too-high shelves. I
found it there, the
skull I mean, while
I was looking for
another poem, rummaging
through fallen oak
leaves for a broken
snake, I mean its
tail cut off, chewed
off probably by one
of the cats. I’d found
it out there Saturday
as I worked in the
yard raking and mowing
on a hosanna of a
spring morning. Poor
snake, it was still
alive, crawling away
from my rake as I
probed the tiny grey
thing that was bigger
than a worm, almost
as round as the
buried cock of this
poem. I let it go
just then, reminding
myself to write a
poem about it when
I settled back here
in the court of
& starry ululation.
So today I went
looking for that snake
in the back yard, on
this page I mean,
uncovering not a
half-chewed still-
plumbing umbilicus
to chthonic hoohah
but woeful relics
of a wild bad time
I though were well
buried, sobered up,
the major archons
of those nocturnal
motions bound at
the wing and tossed
down into this
purgatory of words.
I held my old skull
in my hands like
Hamlet graveside
of Ophelia his old
pal Yorick’s jester skull,
the noggin huge as
a Neanderthal, perhaps
as old too. He I
brooding on old
merriment, old loves,
old thrall. Gone.
I half-expected
that half-snake to
pounce up at me
from a black eyehole,
at least sigh within,
hiss. Nada. Instead
the wind cranked
up from offstage hands
to moan and whistle
through that rusted-
out ‘76 Datsun 710
I pushed to the side
of the road maybe
18 years ago,
giving up that bar-
car filled with
cigarette butts and
blackouts for good.
One night I fucked
a hot rock chick
in that now splayed
and ripped back seat,
my 6 foot 3 frame
somehow compressed
to four as I boiled
sperm in her thrusting
shouting beach-white
loins. Some scent
of her sex coiled
in the orange blossom-
fume sailing on breeze,
corrupt as booze
and twice as fragrant.
Gone, perhaps, or
soured into that
awfuller smell of
the 1000 other nights
I didn’t score the
hot rock chick,
the sweat and the
futile frenzy of
desire’s crucifix with
its immortally
immoral nails oozing
a pustulent nacre,
that awful smell
from when I crapped
my pants in a blackout
one night when some
of the bartenders at
the Station tried to
push my car up out
of the bushes behind
the bar. Soured in
graverot: almost gone.
I asked my hand, just what
do I do now? Preach
my gospel of blue
motions til the brutes
receive communion
and settle on back
down to dark-as-
sweet-oblivion ground?
I wish I could, but
I don't know words
blue enough to bless
the dead. Instead, I
call on Prosper’s shade
from the hour when
his tempest stilled --
fatherly at last of
foul Caliban when he
said, “this thing of darkness
I call my own.” Indeed.
And so I put lips to bone
and battered steel
and call their evening
home. Somewhere in
the leaves beneath the
oak, just beyond the
borders of our yard,
I hear a snaky shake and
coil, reminding me
to write of him another
day, to let my ghoulplast
hold the rake and
do some honest work.
Maybe then you’ll find
proper burial at last,
salt my seas but good
and buouy that dolphin
boy who guides my hand
along every graveside
stone along this Road
of Blue-Boned souls.


(After the crew of the Pequod have caught their first whale, tied it to the boat and stripped it of its blubber and retired below decks, Ahab comes upon on the deck and looks on the head of the sperm whale which had been severed and chained alongside; and looks upon it as Hamlet on Yorick's skull:)

It was a black and hooded head, and hanging there in the midst of so intense a calm, it seemed the sphynx's in the desert. "Speak, thou vast and venerable head," muttered Ahab, "which, though ungarnished with a beard, yet hear and there lookest hoary with mosses; speak, mighty head, and tell us the secret thing that is within thee. Of all divers, thou hast dived the deepest. The head upon which now the upper sun now gleams, has moved amid the world's foundations, where unrecorded names and navies rust, and untold hopes and anchors rot, where in her murderous hold this frigate earth is ballasted with bones of millions of the drowned. There, in the awful water land, there was thy most familiar home. Thou hast been where bell or diver never went, hast slept by many a sailor's side, where sleepless mothers would give their lives to lay them down. Thou saw'st the locked lovers leaping from their flaming ship; heart to heart they sank beneath the exulting wave; true to each other, when heaven seemed false to them. Thou saw'st the murdered mate when tossed by pirates from the midnight deck; for hours he fell into the deeper midnight of the insensate maw; and his murderers still sailed on unharmed -- while swift lightnings shivered the neighboring ship that would have borne a righteous husband to outstretched, longing arms. O head! thou hast seen enough to make an infidel of Abraham, and no syllable is thine!

-- Melville, Moby Dick


THE FLOOD (2000)

Your house by the sea
is not a married one.
You are lonely for your wife,
remembering how soft
and open she sleeps,
her pale body curving
inside a green silk
nightdress like dunes
before a distant sea.
There is a girl inside that
woman who is damaged
perhaps too much
by your careens.
Your heart breaks
thinking of her
and so you call her
saying, I’m coming home.
She does not respond,
her silence both still
and oceanic. You
hang up the phone
and head to the
bedroom to start
packing a suitcase
when you notice
sea-water mashed
against the window
and rising fast.
Safe where you are
but desperate to
go home to her
you chance the door.
Cold water crashes
down on you in
a ripe, thundering
cascade. You think you
will drown but in the
next scene you stand
in a room harrowed
but dry: The couch
and table with its
telephone is just
the way you
remembered them
from the day before
when all was well.
Now everything is
ruined and even
dangerous to touch.
It is a room haunted
by its drowning,
unliveable and fell.
You wake with a
start to a ringing
telephone. Your wife now
hates you for what
you let in that door
trying to get home.


MARSYAS (2001)

Why do you tear me from myself?
Oh, I repent! Oh, a flute
is not worth such a price!
— Marsyas, Ovid Metamorphoses

My god’s a blue Mohican,
a virtuoso of swoon.
He slides round moonlit trees
like strings of a black lyre.

I tried my pipes against him,
playing a song tapped
from dark suburbs.
Played it well too, soulful
and true—so sure I’d win!

But then the god reversed
his lyre and played it
from below. Oh how the
Muses raved! He tore the ivy
crown from their hands
like a blade from its sheath.

Next I was stumbling down
city streets at 2 a.m. with
techno blasting out every door.
Girls in faux lame clattered
through me like beads from
a broken strand.

A god left me hanging from
this wild tree like a trophy,
a red acre at last pure song.

horse (2002)

At the gym yesterday
working on the
elliptical machine
& watching prim riders
hurl horses through
a jumping course:

A pure joy
raced like adrenaline
through me as
I watched, making
me happy to
pump my hardest too,
my heart so wanting
to gallop away
from permanent grief.

The ocean god
Manannan on his
horse Wave Sweeper
takes me where I
do not know.
I’m trusting this dark
fire with its
wild loud hooves
and wave high leaps—
Nothing to know,
no nature but my own.

Only this gallop
across sea ridges
and suburban roofs,
through the wind and wrack
heaving this horse song,
this banshee joy.

THE MARE (2003)

A screeching colloquy
of cats outside woke
me at 4 a.m., so I got
up & prayed for the
day & made coffee &
opened windows for
Violet while I sat down
here tiredly to read
from the Mabinogion
(“Pwyll”) and then
from Neumann’s “The
Origins off Consciousness”
(“From the union of the
hero’s ego consciousness
with the creative side
of the soul, when he
realizes both the world
and the anima, there is
begotten the true
birth, the synthesis
of both”). Mating with
the white mare-goddess
Rhiannon on this
mound of my meanings,
this puckered navel
to a dark well. Let your
eye travel down this page:
a narrow black oubliette
of words descend white
mare flanks; gauzy
nothing’s cheeks brush
this black rogering romp.
My best and worst
conjoined in tight wads
of verse pistoning up
and down, drilling
the morning’s blue.
Does it work for you?
All I know is that
I’m to remain here
swingin’ with the angel
horde, writing down
the voices & tales
like a scribe in a dark
scriptorium or
an ollave pickling in
the older Earish
tattlin’ house. Pick
up and shell and press
your ear close: you’ll
hear the same. Now that
this day’s bucket has
been spilled, I go back
to bed -- maybe for an
hour’s more sleep,
certainly to wake with
the woman who is
dayside queen to all
this, who emerges
with me from night
into the day we do
not dream, but make.
The cat will follow
me upstairs, waiting
for me to open the closet
door & windows so
she can have a higher
perch on the morning,
like an ear high in the
belfry tolling this lush
sweet morning in
Paradise, flowing out
from where I pulled
the reliquary from the
shelf, like a skull-stopper
in a dyke, like a poem
which crashes onto shore
and ebbs now softly away.



Engraved upon a basement
wall is a devil trapped in rope.
That’s how all churches, hooch-
stills, and marriages begin:
A raw, primordial age
when equal forces saw:
the good which would begin,
a dark which backwards falls.

There is a time when
principalities roar, the balance
terrible, a back-and-forth
over sweet prefecture and ruin;
the mouth which chants
the ululant vowel is also
filled with teeth, filed
to a glittering “T.”

There was a time not long ago
when love and its shade were split;
and on that tortured ground
all decency was spilt, sacrificed,
perhaps, so a carnal
knowing could evolve
from rough magic on to rue,
allowing it a dark enough depth
so I could know for sure
what going home meant.

A boy-man’s down there with
a snake gripped in his teeth;
I’m better off engraving him
lest sleep unloose the rope
and black wings again soar.



Saratoga Springs, NY

Ghosts prevail in this
overweening dark, the
nighmare’s blue-black
soiree like a bordello
on an ark filled with
every bird an its paired
song: I mean the shape
of history inverted in
the heart, the cave
cathedral and St.
Peter’s turned upside
down by these pangs
below, like cleats of
God rampaging on a
ruder turf than modernity
cares to admit. So let’s
say Dante’s hell didn’t
get down far enough
to the greatest Lords
of Desire but formed
a roof somehow over
them, their high massy
heads like pillars to a
sky our hormones
compose or our fates
hurl our histories across.
Time inverts such
majesties, you know,
flipping the coin ever
over and back, one face
of the emperors, the
reverse just that, an
eagle lifting the dream
of empire to be fed
to mountain hatchlings.
Those titans with their
pubic thatches wide
as old-forested Europe
and peckers like the
plinths of Stonhenge
have been blue-balled
since the crack of Time.
They can never be
satisfied nor complete,
not in any words we’ve
found on any shore yet
beached. Their voices
caterwaul this surf,
a boom of exult crossed
by every exeunt sigh,
the alpha man made and
unmade by his parched
white thighs. O Oran,
you were planted in
Their loins like a door-
jamb in the cunt of Hell
to hold transgress
with blue devils there.
And now You are an
archangel, Your silver
wings the sum of what
the surf’s voice wrings
from every desperate
call we send to that
beloved which salvos
back, Not Here. The
great book now housed
in Your great bell is
atop the titan spire,
clanging blue bright
tolls of narwhal jism,
that lucre of blue
Lucifer who rules the
next well’s whaling
groin. Make some sense
of this Lord, this giant
surflike sprawl, the tide
of where the giants
dream the next shore’s call.



Devil in the deep blue seas
Devil with a blue dress on
Devilish my blue ink scree
Salving every wave and psalm

Poet as beached monkey man
With nothing but his verbals on
Heating every blue degree
Which this song is cooking on

Devil in the foundry fire
Devil in the whale’s basso
Devilish the old church spire
Gleaming in the mire below

Dragon with a dolphin head
Mermaid with a siren’s throat
Verses drawn and arrowed
Nailing this devil in the moat

Who sings like an angel on high
With the wings of dragon ire
Whose exorbitance must die
To gut this cocheanal lyre

And be thrown back in the sea
To salt the blue mellifluence
I tide to you eternally
Like a moon under the influence

Devil in the deep blue seas
With you dripping blue dress on
My song is your disease
Busty lauds to milk the dawn.



Sometimes you make this devil
music because God sleeps late
and the world can’t wait
to get on getting down,
ears impatient, like sails
begging to trim wide wind
and haul ass across the blue
bottomless scree of soul.
Day busting out all over now,
cats circling outside, inside
cat rapt in the window
licking her lips, staring at
me with her red so blue
so black eyes. Inside this a jazz
hurlyburly that doesn’t
make sense yet is carefully
attenuated, a 14-bar blues,
all instruments out of tune,
guitar in one key and
trombone sliding off into another.
The grid which amps this poem
is powered by a herd of sea horses
rumbling overhead. I can’t
make sense of this, but that’s
the point, that’s the music the
world wants to give to this morning,
some of that broken moon
boogie from out beyond the
last shoal, the last sand bar
that tries to measure or contain
a split the smuggler’s hotcha boat
carrying countraband -- skiff,
Haitians, tuna, gold, I don’t know,
but I better get busy with it.


THE DEVIL (Dec. 2004)

My voyage to you
on tides of such
insufferable blue
are harrowed
by musics too
high and low,
a commedia of
pure roadshow fire.
Yesterday we
drove into the
maw of holiday
shopping hell,
the day cold
and breezy,
overbright hammers
walloping the migraine
in my skull, my wife
was immersed in
the fret of gifts,
staying overlong
in every store
trying to find gifts
too elusive for
the eye -- an
elven mischief
making for harried
sore and worried
passage. And me,
all I wanted yesterday
was her in full
sail of her desire,
that most elusive
absence of our
remarrying, and
my petulance and
hurt grew to mad
me over that long
day’s peramble through
the stores. And
oh God what women
I saw throughout,
no doubt because I
am so stubborn in
my need for ocean
fire -- women in
heels and coats
with ravaging
busts and bums
in their coastlines,
their eyes all like
my wife’s intent
on other shores
than I, other gods
than sexual desire.
The devil walked
next to me while
my wife shopped
more intently in
different regions
of those stores, my
eyes on books
and gadgets and
boobs in blowsy
blouses, my ears
washed in a brine
of sappy Yuletide
tunes. The devil
merried in my
misery, guffawing
low and shaking
his belled staff
each time my
eyes washed over
the next curved
shopper to look
some other way,
delighting in how
each tore through
me like a nail.
Well, I thought
midway through
that holllied wood,
two can play at
this, and so I looked
every where I
shopped, my eyes
faithful to what they
believe, even if
no mortal woman
ever would or
could want to.
Lingering at
beltracks and palming
those strips of
coracle hide, weaving
my way over and through
a curved and saucy
tide which was mine
to jolly roger in
the wild demense
of my salt reveries.
The devil smirked.
You burn with such
a futile fire, your
cross is my delight.
To which I retorted,
let’s remember who nails
who. Without these
sailing eyes you
have no hill of skulls.
Without this heart
there’s no fuel, no flint,
no flagellant abyss
to even name
your cap and bells.
I smiled and paddled
on through all those
stores seeing nothing
but the sea of my hopeless
blue desire, fanned
by all the siren waves
which ache the song
toward every shore
and give it such
old depth. And as my
wife and I drove
home in the hardening
cold dark, I loved
her distant distracted
heart for keeping
me on course
across this boneless main
where every whisper,
every moan, every
unzipped and coiled
deceit remains as free
& unrepentant as
it is requited,
underwearing what
you spread my
life to proclaim.


NEKYIA (2003)

Without a prayer,
these falls are cruel;
without ritual wraps,
the cold is killingly
dark, stripping and
flaying the coracle
of my ass like
the houndage of Hell.
I’ve found it dangerous
to sail sans pen and
book, drowning down
a bottles neck in search
not of dark truths
but their uteral burn,
their cold fire. What’s
an addict but a monk
whose tossed his book
to the sea, babbling
a blue inpropriety?
The chaos sings to
of a killing plunge,
of upturned asses on
sheets of blue stain,
of dreamlike hellbent
furrows past God,
past love, past this
noisy, chilblained
chainage to life.
No more of that
black winging for me --
Now I dip my feathers
here at the same
predawn hour, the
cat always in the window
the dark soaking
into this page,
exhuming all I
wish I could say
but can’t, though I must.
Maybe its just lack of
balls that rivets me here
on the chalice dipping
the Well, hauling up
waters cold as hell
for your thirst, absent
reader, beloved I’ll
never truly see: But
at least I know that
now, and trade the
old jackal jaw gildings
for this singing geldage.
My questing for
real grails always left
me bankrupt & on
the iron ledge of the
tallest bridge with only
one word left--leap.
None of that here folks,
no sirree; just dutiful
descriptions of what
it feels like stepping
out onto the feathers
of the wind soaring
up at me, angels of
that hard north wind
where all the devils
go, buckets of banshee
riot jissomed up from
the Well which allows
me today another story
to tell of one more
harrowing of a
common and fructive
and nougating hell.



The fact is that I’m rooted
here in this word-woven chair
peeking through the tide of night,
by choice or fate or nature.
My hand moving across the page
is one exempla of the rule
of that starved ghost who
launched a thousand ships,
marched ten thousand armies,
drove me through a million
nights in chase of darkling thrills,
each isle the scent of cleavage.
Desire’s old two-step of ache
and quench has faithfully
steered and wrecked me
yet again at this lonely hour
when no one waits on
the next pale page, though
I doggedly I still believe
this time I’ll coil to rest
around the blue she left behind.
A crannog is God’s
erected throne inside me,
a stiffie ten millennia long
and three billion achings deep
thrust into my care
from the caves of Lascaux
and Dorgonne where
beasts were scrawled
by hands as pale as mine.
And so this poem
is His next rude head
poking through the hour’s shorts,
strangely round and soft
and chivalrous
for all the angry horses
clamoring in belfries
drowned below. This
isle an hour from dawn
was driven and is risen
by the God I named
through clenched teeth
when He was loosed at
last, the stars sea-horses
swirled on sky-tides.
This crannog is the water-
house of kings who married
water-mares for kingdoms
down that mere.
Each line I write logs
the aching shape,
thrusting as it cries
for mother Uffington
in her nocturne’s bed,
her milk the silence
of the itch full fed.
Oh I’m old as stone in
this rude crannog,
as hard as the diamond
stars still burning at this
hour with the same
white desire that cut me
so clean and true
ten thousand lives ago,
when every wild cried Yes
and empty shores sighed No.

Dragon Voyage (2)


I don’t much recall how I got
into those rooms—at closing
time all doors are dark—though
waking seems in memory always
the same, bedside in rooms lost
in suburbs you know are out there
yet pray you’ll never see, and wouldn’t,
if only you stuck to your own life,
if you knew just how to turn
that heart of yours into a home.

Coming to in still-drunk degrees
I’d scan those random bedrooms of
those women who’d lost their way too:
The bed queen-sized with a heavy duvet
and a half-dozen pillows (where I
had just one). The other pieces
of a bedroom showed old veneer
—haulage from a bad divorce,
fag ends of once-hopeful store.

The room was always too warm,
the slowly waking day sealed
by thick curtains. The closets were
stuffed with a party girl’s Circean wares
(padded shoulders, spangles, belts,
boots); and on the walls
large dopey fans, or worse, those
awful ceramic masks, ghoul-
symbolons of lust’s carnival.

The clock radio played smooth
jazz or country songs, spooning up
sugared bliss and rue—as if true love
ever danced in the wounded light
of such remaindered days.
Dreadful, dreadful, those room-sized
riffs on longing, hurled from a
wholly opposite heart:

And all of it narrowing down
to the groaning figure who was always
reaching out to hit the snooze button,
her back to me, the naked curve
of a freckeled shoulder, ribs and hips
like the strange bay of an island
I had stumbled into from a bad sea.
Her face was always hidden by hair
and that too-early hour of awfulness.
One more fuck and I’d go go go.

Love is not lucky, but lust may be,
harboring for one night that clench
my dayside hands could never shape,
no more than I could stop drinking
once the first drink of the night got poured.
There was a terribly familiar shape
to it all as I tried again and again
to get it right, ending up back in
my own bed staring at the ceiling
cursing my name or worse, rising
from huge hungover beds not mine.

This morning I sit in my home at the
usual early hour as cold rains slowly
fall outside, remembering those polar
beds of a heart now settled in itself,
struggling forward in a marriage I worked
hard as hell to keep. What’s familiar here?
Everything. It must be, else that sad
wanderlust return, seeking those damned
distant empty rooms where no light enters
and everything in darkness burns.


BOOTY (2003)

What did I keep of her
all those lost or stolen nights
when she took me home
and bid me swim
her naked blue? Sights --
pale revealings and the
shock of sheer nature:
Beachside motions as
I pinned her and she
my mine, all curve and
wave and fatal crash:
Three words she
whispered just before
dawn which sank so low
in my ear I can’t repeat
them here, though all
I say is a toil and toll
and vintage of them.
I see those hours a
fraudulent, pale vicars
of a drowning faith
that nearly damn killed
me til I found a home
at last. Now I sometimes
wonder if the booty
I brought back was
just the darker
blue insides of my
own too-hot heart,
the part where she
always resided. There’s
a mirror she once
looked into lying on
an altar far below,
the portrait of a gaze
over my shoulder at
the love she could not
find that damned and
boozy night where
we both made off
with booty -- silver cups
we spilled so utterly
which still gleam
bluish white inside us,
visible only on moony
nights when the
sea we call the heart
is calmed to glass.



Dark life. Confused. Tormented,
incomprehensible and fabulously
rich and beautiful.
-- Tennessee Williams

Suddenly as he peered down
and down into its depths, he
profoundly saw a white living
spot no bigger than a white
weasel, with wonderful celerity
rising, and magnifying as it
rose, till it turned, and then
there were plainly revealed
two long crooked rows of white,
glistening teeth, floating up
From the undiscoverable bottom.
-- Melville, “Moby Dick”

Huge wood I can neither
resist nor enter. Danger
and wrong the petals
of a heavy blue orchid.
My breakage an artery
hurling toward your breasts.
Elusive verb radiating nouns
like scent. Milky hour of
beachside enactment leading
to death & that float
in blue waters of we.
Ink which disappears
the closer I get to writing
the actual bed. Itch and fever
of the violate child. My war
with the gods of no and without.
Summer afternoons
which build and slake are
still distant; for now, this
high heat which has too
much pressure, like bright
balls clanging against
off every pendulate roll,
heave, sashay. All of it zipped
yet pent, waiting,
plotting, grinding teeth
as the day groins on.
Most difficult angel, You
belong most to the God
inside these raw words. The
poem about sex is a water
horse at noon: the fleet
shade of shadows narrowed
to that hour’s high drone.
A roar like a wave like
a wound like a man
at his meat, grilling over
an unrepentent fire
burning everywhere at once.
A door opens, the blue
mystery resumes
as I tumble down and down
what’s under the heart,
the sky, the summer,
the page, one fin to write
with and endless teeth below.



Tired of his dark dominion . ..
George Meredith

It was something I’d overheard
One evening at a party; a man I liked enormously
Saying to a mutual friend, a woman
Wearing a vest embroidered with scarlet and violet tulips
That belled below each breast, “Well, I’ve always
Preferred Athens; Greece seems to me a country
Of the day—Rome, I’m afraid, strikes me
As being a city of the night . . . “
Of course, I knew instantly just what he meant
Not simply because I love
Standing on the terrace of my apartment on a clear evening
As the constellations pulse low in the Roman sky,
The whole mind of night that I know so well
Shimmering in its elaborate webs of infinite,
Almost divine irony. No, and it wasn’t only that Rome
Was my city of the night, that it was here I’d chosen
To live when I grew tired of,my ancient life
As the Underground Man. And it wasn’t that Rome’s darkness
Was of the kind that consoles so many
Vacancies of the soul; my Rome, with its endless history
Of falls . . . No, it was that this dark was the deep, sensual dark
Of the dreamer; this dark was like the violet fur
Spread to reveal the illuminated nipples of
The She-Wolf all the sequins above in sequence,
The white buds lost in those fields of ever-deepening gentians
A dark like the polished back of a mirror,
The pool of the night scalloped and hanging
Above me, the inverted reflection of a last,
Odd Narcissus . . .
One night my friend Nico came by
Close to three A.M. - As we drank a little wine, I could see
The black of her pupils blown wide,
The spread ripples of the opiate night . . . And Nico
Pulled herself close to me, her mouth almost
Touching my mouth, as she sighed, “Look . . . ,”
And deep within the pupil of her left eye,
Almost like the mirage of a ship’s distant, hanging
Lantern rocking with the waves,
I could see, at the most remote end of the receding,
Circular hallway of her eye, there, at its doorway,
At the small aperture of the black telescope of the pupil,
A tiny, dangling crucifix
Silver, lit by the ragged shards of starlight, reflecting
In her as quietly as pain, as simply as pain . . .
Some years later, I saw Nico on stage in New York, singing
Inside loosed sheets of shattered light, a fluid
Kaleidoscope washing over her the way any naked,
Emerging Venus steps up along the scalloped lip
Of her shell, innocent and raw as fate, slowly
Obscured by a florescence that reveals her simple, deadly
Love of sexual sincerity . . . I didn’t bother to say hello. I decided to remember
The way in Rome, out driving at night, she’d laugh as she let
Her head fall back against the cracked, red leather
Of my old Lancia’s seats, the soft black wind
Fanning her pale, chalky hair out along its currents,
Ivory waves of starlight breaking above us in the leaves;
The sad, lucent malevolence of the heavens, falling . . .
Both of us racing silently as light. Nowhere,
Then forever . . .
Into the mind of the Roman night.



for Linda G.

I am piled up so high
in your walk, I
slide down a chute of years.

Touch me, mountains
rise, & the pleasure
tears us into a song.

Quicksilver skies, these bird
over the Four Corners
down through Gallop & Wandering Rock

catch fire in clouds.
No god tells them
different. No hand

disclaims our closing
distance, as doors open
under the sea.


VAMPYRE (2003)

On cold mornings as this
I recall the vampyre
who folded me in his
black so red cape
during those hard winter
months of my worst
carousals. He picked
me off as his own
and sported me me
like some backassed Virgil
through the blasted
dead precincts of
infernal desire. Outside
it was bars at closing time,
dreary parties at some
wastrel’s duplex in
a forgotten suburb,
the bottle clubs at 4 a.m.
with their disco whirl
of wolves and waifs.
Under or inside all
that was a bitterly cold
nightscape in its
most feral remove, like
living on the moon,
or working at the bottom
of the sea, or roaming
frozen steppes miles from
the nearest farm. Wrapped
in his red caul of utter
wrong made god I fell
down my ravening’s ravine
on wings of black delight,
my vision narrowed to
a single blurred impulse,
the flash of ass in
the murk far below
like a tunny in the wake
or a neon sign in
a bar window at the
far end of the last street.
He was humming absently
in my ear a vacant,
droning air, repeating
draught for draught
all the thirst housed
down a bottomless well.
His face was smooth
and pale as ogham-stone,
a death-mask forged
in my own image
when I stared into the
mirror behind the bar
and saw a king of
nothing there. Only
the eyes showed life --
Owlish orca-eyes,
lidded and burning
inside polar ice as
they scanned the regions
below like whizzing
arrows of an opportunity
it is death or worse to
greet: old eyes too,
eternally tired, haunted
by a root insomnia
to shadow every
dark impulse from
damning dark to
doomed red dawn.
His breath stank of
sour mash and cunt
and the vomitus of
a sea-lion's heart: Desire
may be holy, but
greed is its marauding
Dane, cleaving the
abbot’s head, nailing
all the nuns, burning
the rectory and sailing
off with sacks of booty
(silver chalices stained
with blood, jeweled
reliquaries dumped of
grey bone fragments
at the last departing shore.
Mine all mine, that
foul breath saws, in and
out like the metronome
of a missing pulse, like
a blueblack blickering
tide. And the fangs!
Let’s just say that they
were spread behind
my worst blackout falls
in the dead of that
last winter of my drinking,
the angels of longing
and satiation standing
at the gates of every
3 a.m. to haul me
down again into that
cold maw where I’d lost
again, lost it all. Again
and again, night after
night, I died trying
to wing an imp
to the heart of a heat
I could not legitimately
fashion, much less bleed,
ruled as I was by that
outward motion that
makes of love cold ocean
and high winds the wings
by which I fanned
a berserker’s suburban
rage. I travelled way
way out there all alone
to pick a fight with
a vampire’s sippy bone.
Fool -- and yet that
passage wound me here
on this first cold morning
of what we call winter
in these sub-tropics,
a blanket on my lap
and surrounded by a
house fully home at last.
A cop car rolls
up the street with
a searchlight fanning
bushes and nooks
-- they’ll never find him
lurking there. He’s
somewhere overhead,
up in the branches
of a burning oak, spreading
wide his wings to a
late November moon,
drying all the blood,
warm for fading seconds,
eyes all the bad ends
my life could dissolve to.
His owl-eyes are big
as plates, as altars,
as moons. Cold as
he knows it bladed thirst
for pale warm necks
which pierce like wurst.
Such cold is in the pyre
of that that vamp
who angels my old nights,
a cold which one is wise
to fight with a real life
-- cross your heart
and pray it rise
with the next day’s sun.



An appalling sweetness
slipped into view
when I lost the last
wet curvature of you:

Well, “lost” is landfill
for all tossed verbs,
numens of that last kiss
trucked from dead suburbs.

Atop that dread mound
an eerie twattage glows
as ghoul cockage choirs
in solemn, bony rows.

That chorus sings to me
the beat-to-hell old news
that I’ll not find her again
not even in rear views.

Who knows why forsaking
me was for her so easy,
why she drained the glass;
Or why her sleazy

voidings like a vacuum
in me yet clench,
a vertigo in all makings
with a familiar stench,

deigned to rule a wold
of cold and moony nights
with thorn plecturings of
strings no longer white,

their amperage sucked dry.
What’s horniness if it
douses not in fire
but bone-dry recit,

unbuttoning not blouses
but stone lips of banshee
rue—burning wicker men
because some dame decreed

my hands anon away?
Who wants to fornicate
unnippled sprites of ire?
Let’s banish hope, excoriate

the lust: debone the ghoul
who haunts the ossuary
of every stiffie lost:
let’s remit the actuary

before tits up it tanks.
She rose up from a wave
of breaking blue joy;
and then without a wave

she disappeared, willing me
this stale and sour undertow.
I’ll not find her on this
beach again: It’s time go:

Time to rearrange
into less salty, surer show:
time for bright diurnals
where fresher boners grow

beneath the fertile loam
of an untroubled sleep.
I’ll plunge on alone now
on waters twice as deep,

ghost-captain of a boat
destined for dryer shores,
calmer nights, no matter
how she always gores.


CORDAGE (2002)

At first it was just a small lie,
fitted like a joist into a gripe
over how little you get paid
for all you do. I threw the first stiff
in a ditch — who needs dead
old grandma anyway?— and
sent back to the funeral home
an urn filled with cement and
potting soil. After all, human
cremains are just dust,
silt-grey silage of all other ends;
besides, I needed the 50 bucks
for rent. Soon the money became
a form of income, and so my crimes
became the day’s routine,
stacking bodies like cordage
where I could, in ditches
and in vales, rigor upon rigor
heaped with lime so I could
fill my cupboards with Cheerios,
Jack Daniels and potted meat.
One week I swaled seven bodies
in a row beneath the clothesline
so I could buy my Mary Lou
an engagement ring from the pawnshop—
small gold, smaller stone— and oh
how gratefully she smothered
me in her love that night!
I guess that sealed my deal
with the lying devil.
I sent back my baggies
of God’s saltpetre
with my condolences,
ringing up the till and pocketing
the stiffs every which
way out of sight. You know,
it takes a skill to hide
six feet of bone: I made
of it an art. I furrowed ancient
farmer types to labor under
the field and dropped prodigal
sons like tears just beyond the fence.
Sixteen wives I arranged like petals
round the ruins of a homestead
a half-mile toward the swamp.
I never thought much about
the families who received
my purses of dim dust; dead is dead,
I reasoned. I sent off Mary Lou
when she started complaining
of the sewer smell that seemed
to rise from the grounds.
Marriage, hell! My bride
was veiled in dirt, a good woman
who asked no questions
after dark when the whole acreage
hovered in a greeny glow.
Still, it took a lot of Jack
to drown those tiny voices
which mewled sadly at the window
just below the crickets and frogs.
It took a pint, then a fifth, then two
a night to erase the vapid litanies
of homeless daughters and sons,
husbands, wives, the occasional parent
too. Believe me, the chorus at 3 a.m.
at the Groveland Crematorium
would appall the devil himself.
Well I got sloppy, eventually,
or maybe just went nuts.
I started stuffing corpses
helter-skelter where I could,
in the toolshed, beneath the trailer,
even in the bed of my truck.
Ten years, fifteen. I should have
hung a No Vacancy
sign beneath my official one:
my small lie had become
an empire bursting at its seams.
Finally it happened, someone
must have wakened in the night
to wonder what was really
in the urn on the mantle,
and was nuts enough to
call the cops. They didn’t
have far to go to find the first one:
A finger was crooked above the dirt
by the mailbox, welcoming the
two deputies in. I’m in jail now.
I can almost hear their spades
pawing up that bounty of finds:
five, two dozen, fifty-three, one twenty,
the bone racks come up like
prices in an old cash register—
ka-ching!— ringing up
the same lie again and again.
Just call me the Enron of the dead,
a middle-man profiteer
who peddled in old ashes
and pocketed all the gold.
The suits in Houston will never pay,
nor will I: Convene your hand-wringing
committees, line the litigants against the wall.
What can they convict me of
that I haven’t already heard
from a rabble of skulls?
See how I fashion a noose
from these bedsheets—there’s
always a loophole in this business of life.
As sure as sin, I’ll swing from them all.

Dragon Voyage (1)


For arrested drunks like me, there
Are only two ways to live -- The
One astride the dragon’s tail, the
Other always rowing here. When
I’m riding red I’m far afield
Burning cities, hearts, and sense to
Char, backwarding on the blade which
Slices off my own ass grabbing
All I cannot have. Off tail I’m
Pure drollery, the sea before dawn,
Nothing in my moves to catch the
Torching eye. Drunks climb on that wild
Thirst and never wake; their nightmare
Flies for life. Let them sear in soar.
My living’s calm though words here roar.


I have never heard any definition of the sea more impressive than that of a fisherman of the isle of Ulva whom I knew. “ She is like a woman of the old taleswhose beauty is dreadful,” he said, “and who breaks your heart at last whether she smiles or frowns. But she doesn’t care about that, or whether you are hurt or not. It’s beause she has no heart, being all a wild water.”

-- Fiona Macleod, from “Cuilidh Mhoire,” in The Winged Destiny


"He must be possessed by a devil," said Mohi.

Said Babbalanja, "Then he is only like all of us."

(Babbalanja:) "...says old Bardianna, ‘All men are possessed by devils; but as these devils are sent into men and kept in them for additional punishment, not garrisoning a fortress, but limboed in a bridewell, so it may be more just to say that the devils themselves are possessed by men, not men by them ..."

"... Devils are divers -- strong devils, and weak devils; knowing devils and silly devils; mad devils and mild devils; devils merely devils, devils themselves bedeviled, devils doubly bedeviled.

-- Melville, Mardi


“Ha! ha! ha!” roared Goodman Brown when the wind laughed at him. “Let us hear which will laugh loudest. Think not to frighten me with your deviltry. Come witch, come wizard, come Indian powwow, come dveil himself, and here comes Goodman Brown. You may as well fear him as he fear you.”

-- from “Young Goodman Brown,” Nathaniel Hawthorne



He dipped into his deep blue
pockets and brought out a handful
of foreign gold. The coins burned
in his palm like the suns of strange
countries. He had been among
mermaids and monks and winters
and whales such as I had scarcely
dreamed of..
-- Christopher Rush,
“The Woman and the Waves”

I played that big sea music
for a decade or so tethered
to an angry god: Walls
of water behind me leapt
and spat as I rode my
midnight blue guitar.

The world in that season
was wild with wastrel noise:
Snare-snaps and bass
thunder meshed in the squeal
and squall of humbucker
pickups as we aimed those
metal stallions of song
through a dank peripheries
where women trailed
infinity in their perfect,
young bodies.

I was pickled in that brine,
the same way booze distilled
in me drunk plunder: The homeless
waves of that music splashed
through me and pooled
into some inner, wild sea,
waters which seem
ever sillier the older I get.

I sit here my house quilted
into a quaint Florida town
with the beloved cat in the window
sniffing an approaching front.
Soon I head upstairs to
wake my sweet wife. Soon
the day’s payment begins.

Yet still I can feel that
full Atlantic moon
burning high above,
it’s blue aeries capsizing
this room, this poem.
All I can do now is write
that old music down,
shut the book, and push
off into the day where
no wild waters remain
though their savageries
leave a brutal stain.



From “A Breviary of Guitars”

Late autumn 1983:
Ah squandered!
What oily
squeaky leaky
squawky rotgut
floozy flights of
frenzy I lost
on a bottle(s)
and a night(s):
What a raging
river of booze
I drank: What
sea did I ever
approach: Christ
when I read back
over the journals
of that time the
motions are like
Homeric pithies:
“After practice
we headed out”

a shorthand for
“ever more furious
excess” and the
prayerful “when will
it ever stop?”: O
the energies
provided out the
gates of excess:
Wish I had
a nipple for every
night I suckled
too much booze:
I drank my
guitar into
its grave: The
partying was
always more primary
a motion than
the playing: The
lesser but more
immediate angel,
the easier flight:
O the energies
within “the fiery
drink of the black
mother” as the
Greeks called booze.
boon of slaves,
bane of empires:
But that’s just
one trope on
those energies which
dissolve all names:
My father told
me round that
time of an
encounter he’d had
at Iona — in a
half mad or half
dreaming or half
otherworldly state
in which he met a
huge ugly man
at some outer
& neglected corner
of the island: Terrible
& churlish, loathsome
though my father
only felt a great
love for the
monster: The
being’s name was
Thor & he was
a guardian energy
of the ancient island,
one of a council
of energies my
father invited
to come live
with him at his
Columcille: He
believes they
rooted in the
stone chapel &
stone belltower
& in the standing
stones: Surely
they inhabit the
titanic work that
went into building
Columcille: I’ve
never felt more
exhausted than
at the end of
a work day on
that property: Those
energies drink our
mortal blood &
enthusiasm like a
booze for angels:
The energies
demand it all:
Sleep is a sieve
which washes
blue physic
through mind
and body &
we wake ready
to harness the
plow again: Like
a Celtic
warrior killed in
battle & dropped
in Manannan’s
cauldron at
the bottom of
the sea to
rise again fever-
bright & ready
for the next
fray the next
day: Today it’s
Friday & I’m
beat from another
fierce week of
short sleep &
early rising &
long rows down
these pages &
then working
out furiously
in the gym
(the energies
gales & hammers
& hoofs outta
each workout)
& then fighting
the good war
for King Features
Weekly Service
battling the
new weekly
syndicate & bad
billings & staff
fucking off: &
Then coming
home to maintain
the marital dance
with Beth sans
sex: All duty
no booty: Have
I ever worked
a day harder?
The energies of
such a life
lived thusly
rage at 95
to 105 percent
of max, a static
pace which
sees no horizon,
no port: Energies
anneal their own
fire, their own
mode of life:
Through them I’ve
burnt up many
lives: Hard
years of long
days devoted to
Jesus sales
& years of
monastic study
alone in a room
far west & years
of chasing a
dream of music
& years of AA
& therapy
& professional
work & finishing
college & writing
through to here
Such devotions
have the teeth
of compulsion,
discipline an
iron collar I
ratchet as
far down as I
can: Horsed
and goaded
by those burn
angels Force
(Bia) and
My father looks
old for his years,
his poor body has
taken a major
shellacking from
years in the
service of stone:
Nerve damage
in his neck
where a huge
stone hit him
falling off the
belltower & feet
numb & several
toes amputated
from years
of walking on
stone rows:
I’ve got ear
damage from
years of loud
music & liver
damage from
booze & speed
& a bum shoulder
from too much
swimming &
lifting & aerobics
all at the same
time & dim
eyes from all
the reading &
carpal damage
from all the
& a damaged
heart from
all the fires
of love: Lack
of sleep I’m
sure ebbs some
other vital fuse:
Not by providence
but victory
the energies
scream in
my deep inner
ear & the
dolphin swims
on & down:
Like Thor’s
hammer thrown
at an ever
distant mark
I have become
the work to
the utter detriment
of any other
life: Full time
husband, athlete,
worker, writer,
all in one: Yet
how much more
the energies
require: Not
more lines down
the page but
finer rages right
here: Not
more weight on
the press but
better form
& focus — nail
those muscles
in their clench:
Not more sex
but better loving:
Not more hours
at work but
another level of
the work
hurling better
& loftier & more
hammers: Ah
but why bitch:
Think of what
the energies demanded
of James that
January day
which seems too
long ago: How
his blood must
have raced to
head out to
the beach on
a fine day, cop
some rays, listen
to some jams,
drink some beers,
eye the pretties,
drive hard and
fast and harder
and faster &
even harder
faster till he
was plucked like
a fruit ripened
by the energies
which demanded
that he never
stop, never buckle
up: Think on
that then wonder
if your lot is
all that bad, pal:
They let you
survive all
those failed
guitars & women
you wrongly
nailed: How
many times they
could have tore
you from the branch
you so willingly
hung from:



On this cold clear
April night I stand
with my father
in his ancient yard,
the moon at full blast
lathering these stones
with the black milk of
the sea’s hurled soul.
The bell tower is a pale
gem gleaming in
that lamp, faceted
with uncut faces
—seal-man, ogre,
dolphin, snake —
each adrift in that old
moon-music, singing
from some place
we surely dreamed
before we knew.
And high above
in the newest portal
a harp’s clef stretches
wind-strings taut
and burning with
that other fire,
like tongues of heated
heart, or sails of
starry soul.
And O how they
tremble inside
that April moon
as if to tune our
own wild nerves:
Together we
are strummed
by a cold wind
weaving through the
garden of the mind,
and sing on through
that beaming door
which opens on the final
room of our strange career—
a richly booming,
darkly gleaming shore.


GUY’S WALL (2002)

... Less than a billow of the sea
That at the last do no more roam,
Less than a wave, less than a wave,
This thing that hath no home,
This thing that hath no grave ...

— Fiona MacCleod, “In the Night”

Tonight I sit beneath
a naked mulberry tree
on the stone bench where
Guy’s ashes were interred
a quarter century ago.
Long chimes in that
tree knock their sad sweet
bones, while the moon
swings brilliant over all,
though coldly, prowing
across a raw spring night.
Sitting here is a vantage
on the productions
of myth and mystery,
not so much cynical
as peripheral, bluesy,
bittersweet. Age becalms
the spirit’s buoyant fire
as surely as death
inks a darker fluid
in the pen, a weight
which does not rise
so readily. I do not mean
to criticize the night:
rather, this seat befits
a threshold half in
wonder while the
other half’s cold
with rawer truths.
The bell tower and
standing stones are
all so beautiful, sheeted
as they are in such
blue-white silk-
lovely, yes, even
evanescent, engaged
in one of the oldest,
most fertile dances
the mind can imagine,
can hope, can dream ...

So why then carve a
poem from cold hollows,
brooding over the ashes
of a long-lost, scantily
remembered person I but
briefly called a friend?
Who will know this
bench serves also
as a crypt in
another 25 years?
Who will care? The stones
I sit on which cask
that dark oil
tell me nothing
of the man who once
sat up in the limbs
of this mulberry tree
as the rest of us progressed
below heading for the field,
sending down over us the deep
bass of our childhood God,
reminding—no, telling-us
to be good. The stones cannot
(or won’t) explain to me
why Guy died of cancer
before age 30, scant months
after his wife Judy gave birth
to Jennifer. Stones are honest
but most times mute:
And so I must scan
the edges of the far field
where the wood gets darker
and memories are faulty
but a certain truth
can only be found there ...

I knew Guy but a season
two years before he left us all.
He taught me a little about
tuning a piano. One day we
were up in someone’s hot
attic sweating under the hood
of an old upright. You have
to feel the pitch, Guy
told me. If you think about
whether the string you’ve
plucked is sharp or flat,
you’ll never get it tuned.
And then he showed
me how, weaving his tuning
hammer up and down
the loom of strings
like a sonorous Thor.
He couldn’t really explain
it-never enough for me
to learn—but he always got
it right. And when he
finished he played Billy Joel’s
“The Piano Man,” grandly,
rolling up and down the keys
with authority, harmonizing
the bent quiver of the piano
to the arrows of that song.

Guy had a frantic pulse
for life, for making everything
count. Some ambivalent
genius drove him to seek
the spirit’s moony suburbs
halfway between nirvana
and New Jersey. One night
we walked in the woods
over there smoking pot
and talking New Age
He showed me a railway
tunnel which had
long collapsed. We
crept into that dark
until we came upon
a rubble pile. Anybody
home? He boomed to
the devas on the other side.
Surely we’d manifest
a potato god or the
queen of cherry bloom.
Instead there was a crash
of glass and a terrible,
ball-curdling shriek;
we hauled ass out of there
terrified and giggling,
the air behind us shredded
by the nails of whatever
was and was not back in there.
It really happened, though
I doubt tonight it could have.
Only Guy can concur with me,
and he is in the stone.

Guy argued long that summer
about whether the formal
event we were planning
should be called a party or a festival.
The distinction would decide
how much much booze
would be allowed, and when:
perhaps it was a silly point,
but Guy took it to the lists
as fiercely as he whirled
that tuning hammer. Maybe
he just wanted to win the
argument, but he seemed
struck by a certainty none of
us quite fathomed. I surely
didn’t know, just turned 21,
half of my father’s making,
half of a something far from home
which strummed its blue guitar.
Guy lost that argument,
at least in the first sense
of things; that hot midsummer
day was the first of many
festivals celebrated here
round and down the years.
We set a wood tripod in
the middle of the field and
laced it round with bright ribbons.
I played guitar and my buddy
Dave mandolin as revelers jigged
their best in clouds of gnats
beneath a feral, summer sun.
What else transpired? Why
does that day dim so fast
and what followed stay in
focus in this sere, cold light?
At dusk we drank May
wine with wild strawberries
up in the house, listening
to Pachelbel’s Canon in D.
It was all we thought a festival
should be and none of what
we knew, a culmination of
adjacent, airy enough dreams,
formalized into a dance
beneath the hottest,
brightest light of all. Over
the years the tripod was
replaced by standing stones,
and the festivals got bigger
and somehow sweeter:
equinoxes and solstices,
from Samhain to May Day
and back, attended by hundreds,
each devotee of a different
spectra of our faith:
neo-pagan, neo-Christian,
wiccan, vegan, Buddhist,
tattooist, biker, blancher,
blickerer, blueist, each
blaring their reformed
taboos, bedecked
in robes and wreaths and
and cha-cha-cha tutus.

This place has become
a capital of bucolic
whims whirling round
the eminently silent stone:
But you and I, Guy, we
were there for the first one,
peripheral to what my father made
but central to its darker twin.
For as good as all festivals go,
you had wanted more-
something closer to the
world’s more fecund crotch—
and madly, so did I. The day had
been too church-like, too blanched
in that too-bright summer sun.
Two glasses of May wine
couldn’t do the job:
Some other, redder impulse
was needed for our fire,
an ire which only could be found
long after the white one
went down. And so a
dissident faction of that festival
drove over to Guy’s house
to do the party part,
blasting Bruce Springsteen
on the stereo, pounding
shots of Rebel Yell with
our tall-necked Buds. As we
hooted and hammered
and blasted that party jive,
Guy’s brown eyes were like
ebonies of that other music
beyond the ribboned field,
burning, perhaps, with
the soul’s pagan fire.
Or maybe it was cancer.
Whatever Guy might say
of that night, or how
I might remember it,
tonight I believe I’d seen
my patient, my dark mentor.

For I wanted more.
And so later that night Guy
passed me to a crazed cousin
who lived in a house
on the Delaware. I don’t
remember much of what followed
except she was dark in some
folded-in, sad way, and
that her welcome had
to it a sort of ritual clench,
the birth-grapple of
the dark-hottest booze.
The next day as I made
my retreat — shrill trumpets
of a hangover blaring
in my brain pan —
I looked out a window
on the porch to see
black water flowing
almost under the house.
River house, river
witch, bestowing on
me a dark river’s blessing,
carrying me away
at the end of that summer
25 years ago. I was
not ready for the New Age,
not with the big night
music playing so loudly
in my ears. The party kept me
from the festivals for many
years; tonight, again, I
try to return, and end up
here in the borderlands.
I thank you, Guy,
wherever you are among
this night’s windy shades,
for teaching me about what’s
been tempered between the
two faces of the dance.
We yearn and burn,
our sight is split; the view
can kill us or bless us,
be coffin to our ecstasies
or currah us to shore. I’m
not sure you had a choice,
Guy, but I thank you for
making one possible for me,
your shade my trusty door ...

Yes my friend, tonight things
are good. Before me the pond
stares back at the moon with
its black mirror and the standing
stones choir pale homages
in the field. Up in the house my
father and the others are drinking
a Scotch before heading to the field
to celebrate Wesak, the Buddhist
festival of the high Taurus moon.
Tonight, only a few folks are here
— smaller even than the baker’s
dozen of New Age hopefuls
who tried with us to manifest
the sea from a glass of May wine
back in ‘78—but enough.
For wherever two or more
gather to plead human alms
from immensity, a least
a spark of it wilds through
into the mortal bone.
Soon, Guy, I must go and
join my ragged voice to
that prayer, but before
then I want to tell you a few
things, since it will be awhile
before I sit with you again.
I’ve heard your daughter is
now out of college and Judy
is happy in her way down
in Miami-No Jersey charms
for her! Second, my wife
and I emerge from our dark
hours slowly, perhaps toward
a happy enough future; my party
now at end, perhaps that
festival can begin. Her cat
Buster died last year but
appeared in a dream, saying,
I’m OK now, just wanted
to let you know I had
a good life but I won’t be
coming back again.
—Did you ever let your wife know?
—And finally, my father grouses
at 75 years old that he can’t stop
coming back, long after the day
five years ago he was so certain
he would die. In your time
I’m sure that time comes
soon, too very soon.

That’s about all. We don’t
hardly know how
to tell our stories, Guy,
much less brave an end.
I’m not sure how this poem
will get there. As I listen
to those chimes beating against
each other first calm then wild,
I know they’re all I really
have of you. I wish I
could see half of what I
dream is here, but I’m
grateful you and I
remain where we are, citizens
on either side of a stone wall.
As a cold wind blows indifferently
over us, I think of all the others
whose ashes are also buried here -
AIDS victims, earth mamas,
prodigal boys who couldn’t quite
get home, my dad’s dog Lancelot
beneath a small dolmen next
to the house. There are crypts
beneath the chapel floor
waiting for my father and Fred,
for Albertine who’s just entered hospice,
for the hopefully mixed ashes of
my brother and his wife.
There are plenty of memorials
on this land, too, heaps of stones
in the forest, feathers slung
from limbs, trees planted to
grow where we stopped,
like the weeping cherry
put in last week for a young
woman who killed herself.
So many dead limn this land
with you Guy, fading into the
moon-cast shadows of
oblivion, silent witnesses to
the horde of living who come
back every season to beat drums,
swing crystals, and troop the wood
in search of what, I suspect,
only ashes find by scattering.
Some day I’ll look into that
bell tower door searching
the space my father departed
through, sniffing for a trace
of Borkum Riff or Scotch whiskey,
straining my eyes for a glint
of his laughing blues.
I suspect I won’t see
anything but stones and field
and the wood’s black umbers,
all awash in and resonant with
this same old brilliant bonelight.
And I suspect I will say then
to him as I say to you tonight:
friend, fare thee well, the real world
is carved from your strange hallows.
Your music’s in my bones.
Play me a song Mister Piano Man,
grandly on the ivories
of those chimes.
Sing to me about the wild
betweens and how to love
the living wonder there. Voices
are now weaving in the bell
tower; the ceremony’s
begun. Will you play Buddha
for me tonight, old friend,
high up in that mulberry tree,
and you add your deep voice
to our still-human weave?
Will you bless us with
what you’ve earned
among the ancient stone?
And will you keep tuning
this heart of mine with
what’s strung between
the blood-root of this stone
and the dream which praises all?



from “A Breviary of Guitars”

The energies call
and caul and cowl
and cull us
beyond our every
pale imagining:
Just when we
think we know
how to master
‘em, a different
flame rises up
to scorch us
in the ass,
hissing that
heaven is not
as commonly
supposed nor
hell as imagined:
Poison physic
returns to scotch
its maker: Hooch
unmade me for
sure, it drank
my rock ambitions
down to the
dregs: Sure it
kept me loose,
the eyes must
be lidded to
perceive the
thrall of dark
desires, equiporpoise
in winnowing
waves & parting
willing thighs:
You had to
be half-looped
to fly rather
than fall:
But a drink
never made me
a better guitar
player: And
neither did a
guitar make me
any better lover:
Th energies
are savage
cunning and
patient: When
my every ambition
wrecked out
on the alcoholic
reef there was
nothing to do
but put the
plug in the jug
& chuck my
guitar down into
the pit where
all my loves
were buried too:
Eight years of
AA rebuilding the
ruin of a life
or maybe starting
the first one
for the first time:
Jung’s formula
for beating the
bottle is simple:
spiritus contra
spiritus meaning
“it takes spirit
to counter spirits:”
The living you
see cannot endure
the full gale of
energies which
call us beyond:
Our survival
requires us to
harness ‘em with
oblique forces,
Rein in the
hot horses of
spiritus with the
cool slake
of spiritus:
Addition is
false veneration,
worship of
whatever we
wish our gods
promise: Cure
consists then
in surrendering
to the terrible
truth that our
gods are not
the way we think
they are at all:
Not that eternal
glow between
the second and third
Scotch: Not
a prolonged orgasm
water & wild
between her
perfect parted
thighs caressed
by venereal
ululations of
my name: Not
more passionate
singing over
some irredeemable
suburban abyss:
Try to drink
your fill of
these things believing
this time
it will all come
true: The energies
will batten
on these dreams
like maggots:
No: The only
hope in
surviving immortal
desire is to
sacrifice that
passionate singing
to another song,
another spirit:
change the
lucre, invert
the worlds: “It
was almost a girl /
who, stepping away
from / the single
harmony of song
and lyre, / appeared
to me through
her / diaphanous
form / and made
herself a bed
inside my ear”

sings Rilke in
Sonnets to
Almost a girl:
Almost rock
and roll: Almost
a bottle:
bears imp and
angel faces which
both lead us down
the primrose path
to hell: The song
wants me to
believe with all
my might that it’s
a girl, almost:
And it’s all
too human
to build
cathedrals round
the first part
of the phrase
& bury
the second:
Wallace Stevens
transcends the
old-time religion
when he writes,
“the poem must
resist the
intelligence /
almost successfully:”

“Almost” is the
vault where in
lie the dead’s
“final, forever
saved up, forever
hidden, unknown
to us, eternal
valid coins of
again, this time
his 5th Elegy):
Almost is the
dragon of
metaphor loosed
from the foundations
of certainty:
A threshold
which restrains
us from our
godlike addictive
falls: Allen
Greenspan criticized
the market’s
exuberance” 2
years ago
which just
seemed to goad
the new market
mavens on: Stock
money is the
coke of the Oh
Ohs, promising
fantastic boundless
unstoppable returns:
Even last week
when there was
a whopping selloff
the investors
returned with
a vengeance
gaining it all back:
in nature is
a tyranny”

(“Macbeth”) Ask
any addict:
is bull territory:
Alas! How hard
we’ll fall before
we accept that
money is almost
but never never
never ever enough:
Some day we’ll
hurl into the
pit our stock
options & margin
calls & Rolexes
& brokers: Clean
& sober & broke,
perhaps for the
rest of our lives
our generation:
Though at the
window we’ll
always see her
dancing so
beautiful & pure,
weaving gold round
her every curve
and curl:



... The right maps have no monsters.
Now the minds’ wandering elementals,
Ousted from their traveller-told

Unapproachable islands,
From their heavens and their burning underworld,
Wait dully at the traffic crossing,
Or lean over headlines, taking nothing in.

-- “Fourth of July,” Ted Hughes

A chalice used by the Iona abbey was broken and Columba had it taken by one of his monks to the Celtic sea-god Manannan, who magically restored the chalice by blowing on it. Manannan sends it back to Columba with a question: Will the sea-god achieve Christian immortality? “Alas,” replied the saint, “there is no forgiveness for a man who does such works as this!” The message is returned to Manannan, who breaks into an indignant lament: “Woe is me, Manannan mac Lir! For years I’ve healped the Catholics of Ireland, but I’ll do it no more, till they’re weak as water. I’ll go to the gray waves in the Highlands of Scotland.”

Wild energies flee
approaching light
too conscious of itself,
too missionized by God.
When Manannan
left Iona the day
turned too sunny,
the sea smoothed
to brilliant glass.
Men saw themselves
in that water
and no one else.
History began its
holy fifth age
with no one to
blame but ourselves.
Patrick smiled
in his grave: No
worm battened on
his bone. The
sea-god was
swallowed by the
Book of Kells;
mere splashes
of cerulean ink.
Sometimes my
hazel eyes turn
that blue-gray
and all I hear then
is the mash of
waves, a laughter
in the roar of
surf, Highland airs
whistling keen
within the feral
octaves of the
wind. His home’s
below, where all
my terrors and
delights batten
on the daily fuse.
I hear him when
no word can
suffice and the
page yawns down
below the last
impotent line.
At my wits’ end
he begins, sweeping
far, the ocean fist
inside this well’s
obfuscate mist.



Talk dirty to me barks the sea
As I amble down the naked
Shoreline of a prayer. Shake it,
Shake it like a horny Pope down
Angelic apes stand in
The wash stroking huge erections
& mouthing every name of God.
When old men enter puberty
It’s a rude uproar: Our lust is
Brown-eye ugly to those oiled girls
Sunning for young kings & hard hooved
Rings of fire. I’ve stopped caring for
Good press -- It’s time now to get down.
Watch me lower my shorts down to
This ankling tide -- I’ve seas to screw!


TAIL (2004)

High and lower god, you both have
Tails: No wonder ass is both my
Cup and curse, the gnomon of dark
Doors & arch foolery. The drunk
Has shit for brains, getting high on
Lows, his first thought hot for the worst
Rub-a-dub ding-dong diddly-dunk.
Ass chants its own high mass, just turned
Upside down: True in the fishy
Funkiest derange, chasing each
Salty dog from tail to sea to
tell all again. O give me the
Purest baptism of all, my sweet,
Nail me deep to all I cannot say:
Soar this song’s end -- O walk away!



How to milk blue shadows without
Falling into them? That’s the rub and goad
Of every surfer’s curl. To plow
The naked secret in its rude
Rawest silk without noosing in
Those hot imps of more. Indulgence
Bred the worst of times, yet drydock
Was somehow its worse father, a
Desert sun of cracked bone welling
Sand as from a clock’s wound. No: there
Has to be a different poise
Between wild and world, a night-like
Nougat for the tongue which can ride
Between white shores the bluest brogue.
May this page milk my ape and rogue.

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