FYI France
Ebooks Experiments -- the project

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TWO MILLENNIA: POEMS

By Jack Kessler, kessler@well.com

 

GGPark Ents

 

To know the place for the first time...

 

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• Table of Contents •

 

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• about metadata •


____________________

 

One tiny methodological note: this ebook being as much an experiment, in online digital access & use as anything else... I am undertaking it largely to discover how these things work, in their latest incarnation.

Information overload is an old friend, and I am as sceptical as I ever have been about the latest round of information search & retrieval techniques: the Dark Web always has been large -- its continued looming omnipresence, or maybe under-presence / sous-présence, is at once our greatest challenge, to our techniques, and our greatest guarantee of the freedom of those techniques and much else besides.

So I am reading about Dublin Core & NISO & ISO & Google and other official and industry efforts, in standards development for these purposes. But I am not hopeful, on the one hand, and I am greatly relieved on the other: no we'll never be able to find & use everything, or so I am convinced from numerous past examples, universal bibliography is the chimæra it's forever been -- I am with Borges & Eco & Jeanneney, on this --- OTOH as long as something can hide and stay hidden, deep within The Matrix, perhaps there is hope for freedom, and for surprizes, and for renewal and youth -- & I am with Wm. Gibson, on that.

A few descriptors appear below, then. I figure no matter what structures-within-the-structures the metadata mavens eventually evolve, they'll always offer some means of combining & permutating (?) etc. a bunch of descriptors: so if word-term-occurrences and proximity-connections have anything to do with "relevance", the way Lasswell had figured they might, maybe they'll find my book. Or maybe they won't, we'll see.

I am not certain, myself, that there is not a "category mistake" at work, here: if a "book" is what is sought, then copious metadata about that object understandably may be useful -- but if what is being sought nowadays is a "text", an æthereal thing sometimes contained in a book but increasingly not, then metadata assisting in the search for a book is un ange qui passe -- the new philosopher newly-arrived from the US, standing at Carfax in the middle of Oxford, demanding, "But where is the university?"

So, metadata descriptors, maybe: poems, poetry, literature, me, you, us, other stuff, not ontologies, not relevance, not rankings, not content, not epistemology, not analysis, sometimes metaphysics, maybe music

 

 

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• Preface •

____________________

 

I have a lot of these. I began writing poems very early, at age 13 or maybe 14. I was inspired by an astonishingly-inspirational teacher named Don Jesse -- I still treasure the little Pocket Book of Verse he purchased for each of his students with his own money, my copy now much thumbed-through and much-loved. And I was informed, then & later, by Gary Snyder, who spoke to my generation so well, and by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, for at least one beautiful poem about "Away above a harborful of caulkless houses", and by Bob Dylan.

Here and in volumes which will follow I set my poems down out-of-order, almost at-random. Many have disappeared, over five decades of travel and life -- those that remain are old friends, I've read them many times, reading them helps me sort things out, broaden and deepen, and remember.

The poems are out-of-order too because I've read the poetry of others that way. My education gave me a wonderful lattice, a framework, on which I've hung things ever since, poems and poets among them -- Homer and Randall Jarrell go together well, there, Byron too -- Ferlinghetti may be happy to learn that he hangs with T.S. Eliot there, or maybe he won't be so happy, I don't know -- Yeats pops up in several places, at several times, he's entertained and helped and informed me at many stages, about many things.

In this volume the poems are punctuated with trees. These are old friends too, the photos are their portraits: I think of trees the way Jan thinks of her coyotes in her own photos. This particular tree-bunch stands on the Band Concourse in Golden Gate Park, in San Francisco -- I first saw them when I was a newborn, I learned to walk among them, in their summer shade, I played beneath and around them when I was ages eight and twelve, and I watched our sons play beneath and around them when they were ages eight and twelve, too.

To me, now, they're different: before, they were all trees -- now, though, they are individuals, nearly Ents although perhaps more tree-ish. Tolkien did not make us love trees, our own and his loves for trees are why we love Tolkien. I'll do other volumes of poems like this one, as I said. I have lots of poems to put in, as I said too -- all of them together will fill several -- and I have plenty of photos of trees and other things to include, as well.

A note about annotations: I've never found a poet whose poetry I've liked who's spent a lot of time explaining his own poetry -- "a poem should not mean, but be", I figure -- so that is not what I have done myself, in adding notes here. But I never would have understood The Waste Land at all, first time through, without Pound's help and Eliot's own notes -- not that I fully understand it now, 100 readings later, but I might never have made the latter 99 attempts if I hadn't had that additional annotated light.

Interactive is how I read, as well. For me it is fun, to guess at the meaning of a term such as "dry salvages" -- redemption? alcoholism? "garbage", as in Ammons? -- and then to discover that Eliot himself meant, or thought he meant, a bunch of little islands in the Atlantic... and then to go find those on a map, as well... and finally to read what others have thought he "really" meant or thought he meant, and how it has affected them... I've always read interactively. A good friend once told me I have a "good random mind", and I am proud of that and hope my writing shows it.

Whether the Internet will hurt or help my variety of serendipitous and really-fun reading, then, is one of the Great Debates of our Digital Age. I am firmly in the latter camp, I really enjoy interactive: so if you click on an underlined term, here, and if a link leads you to a name or citation or image of the Potala, or a map of the Aisne, or a video on the Amazon or on plate tectonics, I am not aping and comparing myself to Eliot & Pound, or telling you how to think, I am just showing you how I do it -- not "meaning" anything, because I feel a poem is a person who just should be, just like the rest of us.

And part of all this is, too, that I have a burning fascination with all-things-Internet -- have-had since 1989, when I first discovered it or it first discovered me... "email, you gotta get this thing", Yasar wisely advised... And part of the Internet-fascination is a sincere conviction too that, as regards information overload, online digital information ain't seen nothing yet: now that everyone, everywhere, at last has access -- via inexpensive mobiles, in the latest and most massive re-packaging of that variety of capacities we call a "computer" -- the online digital world is about to see a flood of data which will make all that has come before look like a trickle, I believe.

We haven't been data-mining, we've been skimming the surface, taking off the cream -- the already-enormous Dark Web is about to grow broader and deeper by several orders of magnitude, thanks largely to the output and exposure provided by those mobiles, and there'll be no finding or filtering any of it efficiently, then.

So the iconoclast in me wants to contribute to this coming chaos, just a little: learn about it, do it myself -- mark up real ebooks and put them out in The Cloud and serve them to my iPad and to those of others too perhaps.

My personal knowledge of text encoding goes only as far as an older version of HTML, at the moment -- as anyone able to view the underlying codes here, and interested enough, will be able to tell. So I have not extended these files to XML, yet, on the principle that you never should speak more clearly than you can think...

There is no "NCX file" here, then, and as a result some of the elegant features which such encoding can bring to an ebook do not appear here. I confess I've tried it -- both laborious step-by-step in various user-unfriendly WYSIWYGs, and copy & paste & tweaking the way I learned HTML -- but so far earnest efforts have failed to convince either of the Proprietary Algorithms currently leading the infant ebooks market, Amazon Inc.'s Kindle Publishing Direct / KDP or Apple Inc.'s iBook Author, to load my creations, both just spin & spin... and the online instructions currently available just make my head spin & spin...

Until I locate the stray concept or character causing this, then, I hope readers will do without some ebook features. To me they don't appear to be necessary, in HTML versions: these don't let you feel like you're turning-the-pages, no, but I'm not sure that's all there is to reading, any longer, in a Digital Age -- it would be digital feather-bedding, railroads no longer carry coal-men, automobiles don't come equipped with buggy-whips... As with the ejournal I've published online since 1992, I hope improvements here will be additive: there my French e became an e' became an é, finally. We grow with our technologies.

The text here is not meant to be read linearly, anyway, the poems are not intended to be read consecutively -- they didn't come to me that way, as I've said, and their selection and order of presentation here both are nearly random -- so interactive navigation features would help with that, plus I just like links... I liked Ted Nelson's Xanadu ideas, and I traveled up to CERN to see Tim Berners-Lee's desk and terminal, once, where It All Got Started... But here, as of 2012, XML and NCX files will have to wait for a later edition.

Thence these poems: they'd have stayed buried in my old guitar case but for the Internet, most likely -- I might have done a printed paper book -- Jan still will get her paper copy -- but doing it all myself, online & digital, is lots more fun.

 

-- San Francisco, February 9, 2012

 

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• Dedication •

to Jan, much-loved

 

 

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• Poems •

 

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Plum blossoms, early spring

Never had it so good
As good as it gets
Cool rain, gentle wind
Petals
Some alone, some in twos,
Little clumps of pink popcorn
Brightening the universe
Or at least this tiny corner of it

The wet black bough, too,
Yearns for recognition
Twisting and turning
Reaching out to the street and beyond
Two friends, or three,
Bough and blossoms
Delicate symmetries in early spring

 

-- February 22, 2008 -- San Francisco early morning walk.
Return to Table of Contents

 

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California Story

Hundreds of miles of mud
Out in the valley
Once an annual event
Flooding

But it's a funny thing about floods
They're never steady
Up close they are surprizes
Blue moons

From far away they can be
Measured, calibrated,
Planned-for

But up close they're chaos
Swirling misery
The great grayness
Nothing worse, surely
Than being both wet and cold
When the water comes at nighttime
Must be the worst
Ma the river's rising
The levee's gonna break
Johnstown

Or the Hwang Ho, China's Sorrow
All those lives lost
Piglets and rice paddies
Next year's looking bleak
Starvation for survivors

Then, summer,
Blowing sand along dry dunes
River silt, running,
Blown in your eyes
Hot and dusty

 

Hard to imagine, then,
The terrible Springtimes
Cruel Aprils, when
Crocuses and sparrows sing
Above the floods

Water.
Whence it came and
Where it's going
A California story

 

-- January 18, 2008 -- Central Valley in early spring, flood plain east of Dixon.
Return to Table of Contents

 

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GGPark Ents

A tree =>

 

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Weir

Once I lived by a weir,
Memories, of Mole, and Ratty,
And Mr. Toad, falling,
Splash into the river, from his little boat,
Blustering

Weirs in England were tiny, and friendly,
Mossy, and always a little damp,
Twigs and stones and warm earth,
Politely energetic, not quite young and not quite elderly,
Like Mole

Here in California, though,
I have seen Mr. Toad weirs,
Fat and blustery,
Honking horns and blowing whistles,
Proclaiming
Taking arms against their sea of troubles,
Confronting, doing combat,
And, sometimes overwhelmed,
Simply falling in the river.

I suppose the Isis roars, at times,
I suppose the Cam breaches banks, tumbles down the roads, curls around the college gates and into the High Halls to exit finally through the garden gates, in back, returning to its beds,

I imagine a great heap of academic detritus, swimming before and through it, hard rolls from the hall, and scholars' gowns, silver spoons and port decanters, the odd ukelele, and torn and muddied pages of millions of books, all into The Wash and from there back to the Sea from whence the Vikings and Saxons came.

But streams in England generally are gentler,
Flow gently, sweet Afton.

 

-- January 18, 2008 -- Central Valley, California, Yolo Bypass weir northwest of Sacramento.
Return to Table of Contents

 

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Little really new

Great white windmills, turning,
Against a black storm sky

These are the dinosaurs,
Giant beasts, devouring,
The latest slouching toward Bethlehem
As they once chewed trees
Squashing smaller things with their giant hooves
Now they devour the earth itself,
Batting down birds mindlessly, not even to be eaten, absent-minded fun

To satisfy what, and whom?

Just the latest technology,
The first ones Moloch's,
These new ones Man's

Down below them,
Nestled against a decayed pier on the river,
An old ferryboat, also rotting,
Its once-white form chipped and peeling,
Sending flakes into the river waters,
Then larger pieces as the molds and rust do their work,
Finally sagging, into itself,
Some future year's flotsam washing up on Ocean Beach, downstream

So the younger/older technology,
The windmills, so new yet so very old,
Play leapfrog with the ferryboat,
Astonishing us, with the newness of the ancient
For the ferryboat, well, it's old too,
And we've had windmills for some time
Not these modern whooshing giant things
But smaller towers, both more and less elegant
So it goes in cycles
There is little really new, even if it's different

 

-- January 21, 2008 -- California Delta, Rio Vista road to the river, view west.
Return to Table of Contents

 

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Parnassus

Which way to Parnassus?
A dying daughter
He a father of daughters
Fancy car, desperate wife
She on the cell beside him
Furiously worrying, trying to hear

Or maybe it's a birth
First grandchild

Left here and up the hill
Then right on Castro
Then left on Haight and to the end
Then left again and it's 3rd or 4th on your right
The car and clothes and quiet desperation
All speak of suburbs
Too-large house, too-spacious lawns
The big pool in back where she learned to swim
And her room, still untouched, school banners still emblazoned
All about to learn a lesson in mortality

Andra moi ennepe, mousa,
Events we can control and some we can't
Orpheus lost Eurydice, but gained her immortality
And she for him

 

-- February 22, 2008 -- San Francisco early morning walk.
Return to Table of Contents

 

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New Creek

A new creek, down in the Presidio
An old creek, exiting, over in Glen Park
Human marauders, like those
Little be-masked raccoons

On our wall at home we have a map
Showing creeks of a time before
I don't know what time, exactly
Maybe recent
Humans haven't been here much
Ask the serpentine
Consult with crows

The brush we clear grows back
The trees we fell sow thousands of seeds
Millions, more,
This week they fell the trees
Preserving, hilariously, one dead one
Trees planted last week, only
Next week re-planted again

Ecology in geologic time
The old rocks don't really care

 

-- March 3, 2008 -- Twin Peaks.
Return to Table of Contents

 

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GGPark Ents

A tree =>

 

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Jesse

A small death in the shadow of Katrina
A very little man, with a very twisted back,
And something wrong with his lungs, it looked like,
Those three puffs he managed in the morning
Before he gave it up and everything else with it
Helped him along
And something wrong with his head
Definitely something wrong with his head

He was too happy, Jesse, too happy for what he had which the rest of us saw
The toothless grin, the beady eyes, the limp and pain and
That horribly twisted back

The first time I saw him I thought he was faking
There goes another nut, I said
And then the hump started forming, high up, just below his neck
And that S curve in the scoliosis
And then another one
I asked him about it once, early on,
Motorcycle accident when I was young, he said

So he's dead, now. He was happy,
In spite of all of it, he grinned,
He had no right to -- the dirt, the degradation,
Begging on the street, washing windows for pennies,
Hobbling along

But then I bought him groceries the day he asked me for a ride
The one and one half blocks to the corner store
Go home, Jesse, I'll race you

And I bought them for him -- a swiss cheese sandwich on whole wheat toast, everything on it, and a pint of milk, make that a quart of milk, and a pint of chocolate ice cream,

All they had was Cherry Garcia, and Ripple Fudge Gooey Sundae, and things like that, so I got you this Chocolate Crumble which looks ok, I told him,

That's OK, he said

And then he tried to pay me -- really upset him, that I wouldn't take it -- $9.50 -- he peeled off a few from the wad rolled in his pocket but I made him put it back

Next time you're buying, I said

Keep moving, that was Sophie Tucker's advice, or maybe it was keep breathing
We repeated it to each other every time we met
Him hobbling on his crutches and trying to catch the bus
Hoping that I'd be there to give him a ride instead, which I did a few times

Cheerful little guy -- up from LA in the 1960s and never went back, he told me
No right to be cheerful, at the end, but still, he was.

 

-- September 9, 2005 -- Noe Valley.
Return to Table of Contents

 

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Fennel

Pretty yellow plant
Tall-stemmed, strong-standing,
Like my ancestors who came from Hungary
I photographed your flowers
Only yesterday, against a grey sky city background
You brightened my walk

But today it seems you have become an immigrant,
Invasive, breeding,
Too strong for weaker neighbors
So it's Roundup, for you,
A chemical death,
Immigrants become invaders
But those become natives
And we're all invasive,
Every one of us.
Such a pretty plant.

 

-- August 18, 2007 -- Noe Valley.
Return to Table of Contents

 

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Arbol

One man's beauty
Tall and slender
Graceful, like waving wheat
Long strides, angular

Another is tiny
Delicate-featured
Elegant limbs
High-shouldered frame
Designer's dream

Or a muscular one
Shoulders inward
Powerful arms
Stems for grasping, holding
Enveloping

And yet there's bias, opinion
Room for personality
Intelligence, hope
And difference,
Varieties of trees

 

-- March 6, 2008 -- Noe Valley.
Return to Table of Contents

 

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Trapped

In-law apartment down the stairs
A good income stream, she said,
Mortgage payments under control, too
Time to refi when rates drop
Soon, she thinks, the paperwork

Two babies done they're cute, she thinks,
Asleep in the back room
Cribs and bassinets
His mother gave and shoved them there
She thinks
Only cute when they're asleep, though
They're his and sound like his mother
She thinks

He's away again
It's work, she's half-convinced
Meetings numerous, studying endless
There's never time, any more
And he never liked it all that much
Anyway

And her looks are unfaded
Curves and radiance
It isn't her, she's sure, she thinks

But the work has not been good
It was her looks they wanted, after all
That's what his mother screamed
Last time they'd fought about it
His mother's here so often, now
She's here to help you, he'd said

And he's not home now
Sleeping on the couch when he gets in
Loving her still, he said, not waking her
But no holidays together, any more
No meals, even

She sits at the window, naked,
Early morning at the email,
Staring through the man,
walking by across the street,
who is looking up at her
She's wondering who to write to

 

-- March 3, 2008 -- Cole Valley morning.
Return to Table of Contents

 

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Kids

Kids in school
Find allies, friends
Head for the strong ones
Weak ones
Prettiest
And most weird

Affinities and dissimilarities
I remember deliberately
The big fat girl with personality
Bouncing up to the two withdrawn
Black girls who
Must have had Asian mothers
Or fathers
"Do you think we should?"
She bounces excitedly
"Do you want to try?"

Energizers
Politicians

 

-- March 6, 2008 -- a San Francisco elementary school.
Return to Table of Contents

 

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GGPark Ents

A tree =>

 

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Kitsune

From Kitsune to Haida to Wily E. Coyote,
A small mammal
Smart, curious
Both scraggly, at times, and beautiful
And very quick, and wide-ranging
A wanderer, a survivor

 

* The Rising Sun

It had to be an island-nation
One western, this one eastern
They span the globe
Not the place for settled population
Enclosures, urbanizations
Then they turn inward, and feed upon themselves

But they need tricksters
Boundary-spanners
Bandits and outlaws, pirates
Who can dangerously inspire

And so came Kitsune

 

* Across Bering's Straits

Scofflaws wander
Athens sent off Alcibiades
Socrates died, rather,
Fifth sons leave the farm
Outcasts leave the pack
Misfits, nonconformists
The too-clever ones, who wouldn't fit
Americans,
And so Kitsune,
She crossed the great icefields
To the Northwest Coast
In search of food and toleration

People there lived settled lives
Fish and acorns
A wet but calm existence
But there be dragons
Volcanos,
The great Pacific crashing into North America
Subducting, boiling magma
Then shaking and exploding
No warning
So, Kitsune

 

* Hollywood & Vine

Years later, strangely, she surfaced once again
This time south, and in the city
The desert bloomed and sprouted fantasy
The island peoples, again,
Boundary-spanners
Scofflaws, outlaws, refugees from everywhere
Global rejects come to America
American rejects come to California
Let that little light shine
But then a society settling
Needing dangerous inspiration, once again

And so came Kitsune
A small mammal
Smart, curious
Both scraggly, at times, and beautiful
And very quick, and wide-ranging
A wanderer, a survivor

Andra moi ennepe, mousa, polutropon,
Hos mala polla planchthe

 

-- March 7, 2008.
Return to Table of Contents

 

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Heat

The heater works
The body's pretty good
A few scratches on the underside
Front fender where Hondas always scrape
They're low-down, Hondas
Got it off a guy who's
Moving to Australia, soon
A pretty good deal, he says

The old bus is classic
She shined up the wood
A '78 Vdub woody wagon now
TLC to the paint, the tires
Shiny hubcaps, even, for the old boy
Childhood companion
For sale soon, he says

Childhood for sale
Freedom
The toughest thing about old age
Needing a reliable source of heat

 

-- March 9, 2008.

 

--oOo--

 

Ents

Great standing trees, softly growing,
Vertiginous whorls, their branches,
Personalities, each one, and history

Before things, and people
Memories in their roots
And latest news from birds
Who visit their branches
Very up-to-date, these old trees

Is there a genome in there, intelligence
Structure, maybe, any tree is structure
Living through its skin
Built to last
Delight and memory of the natural world

And a sensor
It hears warnings from the birds
Feels them in the roots
Small mites crawling its skin give it
Warnings

Nature's semaphore, a tree
Nature's flag
The way leaves curl
The moss, the branches
An information system
With antennae, sensors, circuits
Senders, and receivers sometimes,
And so much memory
A giant base of data, this old tree

 

-- March 26, 2008 -- in The Panhandle, Golden Gate Park.
Return to Table of Contents

 

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Onthebus

On the bus
Late morning
All the usual
Nothing special

The big and fat guy with gold rings
Got off at Castro
The old Latin lady with the crocheted cane, at Market
The pretty lady's still sitting in the far back, iPhone's plugged in,
peering around apprehensively,
All eyes not on her,
That's the price of beauty, dear

In front of her a cool dude lurks
Eyes wary, mouth set to grim,
Beast in the urban jungle
The worried ones always
Sit in the back

At Market another cool dude boards
This one older, less worried maybe,
Fancy rings and black fedora
Walking stick and easy strut
Nice threads

And the already tired mother
It's still early, not even noon,
Stays seated in the middle
Looking around but blankly

People get off
More people get on again
Late morning on the bus

 

-- April 1, 2008 -- San Francisco Muni.
Return to Table of Contents

 

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Varieties of men: Joe

He was his mother's only son
She cried

Joe played pool
He had a ready wit
Also hair combed correctly
Just the right trousers, too

He'd set his cigarette
In the corner of his mouth
And pluck it, with his fingers,
Like so

A whiskey glass seemed a fixture
Joe knew all the best whiskies
Knew how to hold the glass and the cigarette as one
The other hand extended
Tentative handshakes
He would look everyone in the eyes
But his would have a veil over them
Inside I'm hurting

Temptations of the East Coast
These and other wonders
Somehow the expectations
Sink their claws in
The anxieties of others
Their very real fears

It was all too much for Joe
He crumbled
His mother should have been
More careful
Sent him West, instead

 

-- April 4, 2008.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

GGPark Ents

A tree =>

 

--oOo--

 

Planning

The things you can't plan are important,
The things you can plan, aren't.

 

-- April 4, 2008.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

Cute

"You are cute when you are young
Because that is why we have you"
Severe older European lady
Very slender, fit and trim,
To her fat little American grand-daughter
Dressed just right and gazing in the store windows
Already working on her weight
Someone just told her grandmother that the little girl looked cute.

It does begin early
The severity
The sins and insecurities of the elders

 

-- June 16, 2008.
Return to Table of Contents

 

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Dynamism

I remember the dynamism
The city would throb
Roaring up to 9th & Market
After that glorious soar across the Bridge

Excitement was everything, maybe
The men in their fedoras, brown
The women in real dresses,
No skirts, skirts were too informal
Back then

Hard realities
Bricks, and mortar,
And heavy fifties suits
The traffic heavy too
Solid steel cars
The City Tangible
In the early 8am commutehour morning

The energy still is there, but different,
Now it's lighter, swifter, leaner, far keener,
Industries are offices, offices are homes
The hardfisted knownothing workingman
Nowhere to be seen
Or his coffeeshops, his diners,
The newstands, shoeshines,
Tough handshakes, hard looks,
Ford and General Motors, both gone,
Gone utterly

The lightness now seems
A bit stretched
Thinner
Spanning the globe, now,
Doing more with less, maybe,
Or wraiths

There is a fury in the city, still,
But it lurks beneath
Boccioni,
No longer on the surface
Where it once reigned, elemental
Setting pace and tone
Being seen, and touched and felt, and seeing,
Not Chicago, any longer, hog-butcher,
Nor Manhattan, either, empire of your tired, your poor, your huddled masses -- where will they go now, I wonder,
Stay at home, dial in,
For now it's Dubai
Star Wars cities floating in the desert
Oil money, sinking into sand

 

Beneath, though,
Behind the false walls
Beneath the strained smiles
Suppressed, subconscious,
Subcutaneous
The newer energies are enormous
Dubai, daily,
Shanghai on Sunday for facetime, ten days,
Somebody in France, dialing in,
Wired, Linked,
No limits, No Exit,
The City Electric

 

-- June 20, 2008.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

Resentments

Resentments

Re-sentiments

Ressentiments

Thinking again
Over something already thought about too much

Painting the old barn over, once again,
Maybe a different color, this time, maybe not
Mostly just covering over old mistakes

A barn better-painted would not need re-thinking
But that's not what we do

 

-- June 26, 2008.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

Ficciones

The Long March
Valley Forge
Fictions
Of real lives needing stories
Histoires

The lives of a daisy
Wind-waving
Insignificant
But somewhere in all of that
There is meaning

We give meaning to the daisy
We give life to the Old Stories
We are the ones who live it
Ford the river at Luding
Hand over hand across the bridge
We give beauty to the daisy

 

-- June 29, 2008.

 

--oOo--

 

Lafayette

Restaurants phony Italian
Latin cooks, dreaming of refuge
Yuppie management, dreaming of status
Chinese waiters, their minds on money

Teenagers at the registers
Summer jobs
Craving an exit
To anywhere, it really doesn't matter

Painted ladies in fancy cars
Dressed up for each other
The jewelry, the makeup,
Tension, everywhere

Reset, the girl said
The quick joke
She got it, and handed me better
There's nothing slow, here
Nothing un-intelligent
Rapid-fire, and rapid delivery
The tension

It's the future
But then it was that in the past
We were the bright and bored and promising ones
Fifty years ago
Not phony Italian restaurants, back then
But restaurants at all, Lightner's,
Where cow pastures had been, before

We are their past
They are our future
We are their future, too
Surrounded
No exit

 

-- July 2, 2008.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

Rheem

Eight-fold paths with no trail-markers
Wheels rotating, endlessly
Calming chant
The cross on the hill
Focussing
Kailasa
Than longyn folk to goon on pilgrimages

No exit from the cycles
But widening gyres
Passing over the same turf trod
In my beginning is my end
Knowing the place for the first time

I remember Rheem
Yeats remembered Sligo
Its memory
His Sligo has a fastfood restaurant in it now
But that's not what Yeats remembered

Turning and turning
The falcon cannot hear the falconer
Anarchy

It's not that, though
Stuffy old pompous Yeats
Insecure and fearful
Blessed and cursed with his terrible insight and clarity
No wonder Maud shied away
He scared them both

A small woodpecker cleans
A bright planted cedar
Scratching through the heavy bark
Methodically

That's cycles, no exit
The little bird
The gardener
The young tree
The beetles in its bark
Karma
Ahimsa
Shanti, shanti, shanti

 

-- July 2, 2008.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

Tony Blair

Tony Blair, taking Little Gidding a little too seriously
Eliot too, perhaps
Souls of a feather
The depth isn't there
And what's on the surface is the small stuff

It's the pretension, really,
Sophocles
Œdipus crying that he alone saved Thebes
Well, he didn't

Blair's sacrifice is his wife, his children
He'd do better to run over to Porsche
And buy a new Carrera
Take Cherie for a drive
Around the South of France
Too late for Eliot, but Tony's still early
Only 55

At 55 one should see clearly
Tony's still pretending
After all those years In Office
Still slaying dragons
Or believing he can do that
Believing he has "the touch"
When the small stuff is real
The rest is not
The wife, the children, their children
The neighbors, the garden
A precious few ideas

The power to sway is fickle
Little enough power over children and a wife
None, if one really understands
Which Tony never did

The pain of being pretty and glib
The awful frustration
Washed ashore on Baghdad's rocks
Not the first such soul marooned there
It's why religious people left the Middle East, Tony

 

-- July 3, 2008.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

Time

Time past and future
In the present
Conflated into The Moment
Nothingness

From young Wordsworth
At the beginning
Anxious and eager
Wanting to embrace and feel it All

To old Eliot, at the end,
Self-sorrowful
Drowned in London's ashes
Reaching for religion

Several catastrophic wars
Intervening

The hubris of thinking
That we construct and control it
When it's like Chuang-tsu's river
Letting us bend it, a little,
Or like a forest fire, laughing gaily,
Our elderly Buddhist trying to embrace it
As he mans the fireline to save his home

Whether 'tis nobler to suffer slings and arrows
Or by opposing end them
Cowardice or hubris
Wisdom or folly

It's the placing of the stone
And the timing
And knowing to do that, and to do no more and no less
When to hold'em, fold'em, walk away, run, and never-count-your-money,
Fine arts of effective intervention
And the sometimes-painful process,
Of learning all of that
Eliot's sad and troubled life
More happy at its end
With that sunny lady with whom
He finally found his peace

Wordsworth's earnest irrepressible goodness
Impossibly cheerful
Never took a chance, that one

Once, though, he let his guard drop
Surrender
Yeats tried to
Eliot did only at the end -- now she's elderly, still-smiling,
Becket must have, several times
Wordsworth once, then dried up and never recovered,
The trick is to surrender

Surrender places you
In time past, time present, time future
Gives meaning to forest fires
Reality to rivers
Reduces Arjuna's need for one transcending masterful moment
Awareness of incapacities, of universalities
It's just one damn thing after another
Time

 

-- July 6, 2008.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

GGPark Ents

A tree =>

 

--oOo--

 

Cycles

My childhood world was rules and regulations
My parents were children in hard times
My grandparents remembered experiments, as children, wild & crazy,

So that's the way things go
From wild & crazy changes,
To hard times settling in,
To rules and regulations, for getting out of that
To wild & crazy again

It's generational
You never do what your father did
Even though he's there in you
Your mother's ghost too,
In there, somewhere

So the 1890s had its Gilded Age
The 20s and 30s its wars and depression
The 1950s its rules and regulations
By my own time we were ready for
Experiments again

Hard times will follow
They always do, after experiments
I suppose they must
Rattle the bones, shake the dust,
The dust being what holds us together
Dusty rules and regulations
Sometimes it hurts when it's shaken
Leaving gaps
Uncushioned edges

 

-- July 12, 2008.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

Concert

The concert
Was a great success
Due to two arpeggios
Because your smile was
The most beautiful part
And that I know
Was due
To those two arpeggios
So that was the concert

And the music
Was beautiful too

 

-- July 19, 2008.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

Layercake


-- On the Stanford campus

People
Like ocean depths
Froth on the top
Darkest secrets down in the Deep

In between, self-satisfied tuna
Majestic sailfish
Glittering sardines
Sharks
Some eels
Vast schools swimming only in unison
Great whales in pods
A few loners, swimming solo

The hard life of river fish
Striving always upstream
The easy life of fat and happy catfish
Waddling through the Everglades
Until, *snap*, the 'gator gets'em

The delicate small things in ponds
Elegant languid blue whales in
The great oceans
Unapproachable, untouchable
Innocently unafraid
Then, drums in the deep,
The darkest terrors,
Lurking way down there
Like nightmares in the trailer park
The worse for ignorance
For lack of resources
The constant insecurities
Eat or be eaten

Whether to be a bubble, floating on the top of a tiny guarded pond,
A little fish, really,
Although big in a pond's world
the Hollings' tidepools

But there are nightmares there too
Imagination
Every bit as big as the trailerpark terrors of reality

 

-- July 30, 2008.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

Strata

Like the undulating layers
Of Glen Park rock
Once molten, hot,
Surging forward, up and out and over,
Swirling like a thick, giant, pudding,
Then cooling, to bake hard, in memory,
Formanifera
Radiolaria
The chert combining rock with life
Multimedia

But radiating outward, still,
Like the oceans
Down there somewhere, deep
The hot and molten core
Imperceptibly cooling
Violently volcanic
Occasionally still
The metaphor guides us, misleads us,
From societies to brain structure,
Urbanization to systems design,
Centralization and hierarchy
When it's more a messy reality
Interweavings, boundary spanners
Interstices
Rules and their exceptions
Life on the lisière

Choose a layer
So many little layers within it
Life as a radiolarian
Unaware, simply, of the possibilities
Of strata

 

-- July 30, 2008.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

Couples

Young couple smooching in the café corner
She gazes deeply into his eyes, over there, every day,
Gives him hints,
Murmurs to him her darkest, dearest, secrets
Speaks to him of love

I caught her cheating, on the campus the other day,
Seated with another, across that café's courtyard,
Gazing deeply into his eyes,
Arching, exposing her long neck,
Then languidly stretching out, on her back,
Him sitting rigid, upset, excited,
Her rising chest, available there on the pavement beside him

Should I tell this guy in the café now?
He seems smitten
It wouldn't matter, maybe,
There's some undoubted explanation
One "just a friend", perhaps,
Or a fight and get-even dalliance,
Undoubtedly some "understanding",
My intrusion resented
Benefiting no one

Cowardly thoughts
There's great pain, in there somewhere
Great frustration, disappointment
Two men, one woman,
And boundaries in need of greater definition

It's always been this
Will always be
It's just that now with
Four decades of looking backward
I look four decades forward, for the three of them
And wonder how much of the pain might be avoided
None of it, I expect

 

-- August 5, 2008
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

Doo-wop

Faces in the subway
Four old guys
Bright white shirts and baseball caps
Gold teeth and earrings
Harlem barbershop
Rockin' with the rhythm
Down by the riverside
Doin' it right
Ain't gonna study, war, no, mo'

Clapton on the BART train, just before,
Old Slo Hand,
Dandling a baby
Beautifully-cute little boy
In dungarees
Gurgling and laughing
One and one-half years, now,
His proud Austrian grandma told me
Eric sitting there, unshaven, smiling shyly at the baby, then picking him up to hug him and breaking into the biggest grin,
It's the rhythm
Gonna let my little light shine

The girl said she'd never heard --
Very young, very slender,
Smiling sweetly at the baby
Very shy of the very old
Public man beside her
She was a baby like that herself perhaps
In the 90s
He's an old guy, a favorite guitarist,
I said,
He brings me memories from the 60s, good memories --
It's the rhythm
You have a father, my sons

 

-- September 26, 2008.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

Layercake 2

Looking for wild things
In the city
Jan with her camera
Climbing over rocks
Wading through sands
Poking up alleys
Into drainpipes
Beneath buildings
The dark and hidden spaces
And high, into the air
And far out into the water

The land, sea, and air
Each a different universe
Peeling back, one by one
Layers of a cosmic onion
Sweet, pungent, nourishing
A little flaky sometimes

Now there are two sea lions in the cove
Homeless trash and feces higher
Wartime terminus nearby
Where children went off to die
At the hands of other children
And nearby too among the termini
One where human life ended
Boarding the boat to prison on
The Rock, out in The Bay,
Watching pretty girls on-shore
Saturday nights, but far away
Through steel window bars

But there's another layer
A dimension
The sea lions didn't care
The cormorants
Pelicans
Alcatraces
Crabs quarreling on the rocks
The starfish has
His own life to lead
Woven around the human
As the human is woven around his

Saturday morning kendo class
Bamboo canes go whack
With zen
And the sea lion's look is curious
She hears the noise
And sees the strange things humans are doing now, up on the shore,
But her rich and complex life is in the water,
About fish and tides and temperatures
And hunting, being hunted,
Predators, prey, occasional propellers,
Mates and pups and friends
Kendo is of no concern to her
Nor the starfish, or the crabs
An entire universe, a different dimension
Woven into ours

And beneath it all the rocks are moving
In this case northward, rapidly,
To Alaska, millimeters each year,
Making kendo and the sea lion's oceans
Seem small
The little prison on its tiny island fragile
Just because the little glob
Of solar magma still is cooling
From its massive explosion
A millisecond or so ago

And there are the microorganisms
And the stars

Layers
Google's earth
Frosting
No candles

 

-- September 20, 2008.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

Struggle

A branch, lifting out of the water
The old tree striving against
Its own decay
Dipping, slowly,
Until reached by the algae
It began in water
It will end there

 

-- October 1, 2008 -- watching from an old rowboat on Stow Lake.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

Invitation

When you move, it's a ballet
A valse, never a tango
Those long extensions
The lightness, the lilt
Fingers floating, particularly the injured one
Such a little body
So lithe, so long
Such energy in it
Past injury
Hardly ever touching the ground
Glowing
Alive

It's for this that the others train
The too-thin ones
The ones not-thin-enough
The performers
On-stage, acting
This is what they dream of
You are what they were, once
On-stage they dream about returning
Silken steel

Watching you move
In your kitchen
Early morning sunlight

 

-- November 6, 2008.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

GGPark Ents

A tree =>

 

--oOo--

 

Helicopters

The terrorism helicopter
Purchased by The City
To protect us from The Others
Used in fact now
By Authorities
To protect us from Ourselves

Tony Blair's
Big Brother
Chilling citizens'
Civil liberties

Madness
Why do we teach people not to kill
By killing them

 

-- November 7, 2008.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

Years

The years are multiplying, now,
Our sons are growing wise, and old,
We ourselves are like two stalks of wheat
Somewhat spent
But still waving

I see the others, bent,
A few broken
Some already gone
Max was his daughter's age
Tiny, bright, first-grade
The first five years gone by

Now there are fifty
Sixty, soon,
And they are dry leaves
In beautiful colors
Accumulating
This one Max, bright still
A little daughter, of whom he's proud,
A tiny son, for whom he's bursting

That one a boy of ours
That one the other
Each in his personal little whirlwind
Racing through exciting youth
Reaching the end reluctantly now

Those over there, the driest leaves,
Cluttered together
The older neighbors
Sad, wondering who will be next

These two, the brightest green remaining,
A new couple moving in
Exploring the surroundings
Her from China, him from Concord
A newer brighter combination

It's autumn, now,
The leaves are falling
There is much comfort in them
After this there will be winter,
And then there will be spring.

 

-- November 29, 2008.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

Scores

She knows her sports scores, cold,
The wins, the losses,
The runs the hits the errors
Data-mining
She can perform the calculations

About her heart she's clueless, though,
The body's needs
The calculations, wins and losses,
So precisely,
A few of the yearnings
But none of the satisfactions

Reading a book by counting the letters
Summing up the pages
Knowing the binding, the wove,
The digits, the watermarks,
The universe in terabytes
Faces in the subway,
Petals -- how many petals?
The zen, of a single petal

He offers her his hand
But she counts it
"One more," she says

 

-- December 12, 2008.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

Isms

Totalitarian
Isms I have known
Imposed, upon the city

Once-giant, Shell Building
Soaring old granite
From the 50s, maybe the 30s
Maybe before
Your windows now too small
Your steel thin and rusting
The whole thing rigid
Breakable
Not made for bending, in The Big One
But still beautiful

The new ones all are blue
Green tinges
Fishbowls
See and be seen
Towering, enormously, far above my old Shell
Swaying, bending

And there are the even-older ones
With pediments hanging
like so many Strozzis and Medicis
Marching down the strada

Il Duce, at one place and time
And 19th century dynamisms
And the relentless hope, of the early 20th, despite its terrible realities

Then the innocence, of the early 21st
All that lightweight steel, and heavy glass, and tiny slender steel pins, waiting for The Big One

And the busy little old Chinese ladies, rustling for last-minute Christmas bargains, whose grandchildren from those tall blue towers will launch and be the Next Big Wave

The city in layers
Urban archeology
San Francisco downtown walk,
A few days before Christmas

 

-- December 20, 2008.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

Battle

It's a battle, really,
A war-zone, The Front,
The old industrial infrastucture, crumbling,
Up against the new little marsh-gardens
Like tiny candy-stores, for great soaring birds from the north
On their way south
Surprising then for a two-day
Stop-off in San Francisco

The line in the shoreline sand is drawn
The War on one side
The Waste on the other
The birders for now sandwiched in-between
Hatreds of the 20th century
Industrial excesses of the 19th,
Which built them
Now the newer theme, emerging,
New enthusiasms, managing the planet,
A new city, building from the slum beneath
The Superfund's cleaned the old toxins
Ferrying the new workers
Down Third Street to Mission Bay
New industrial structure
The new productivity
All of it bright and shiny
And new

The old serpentinite beneath
Doesn't notice
Doesn't care

That it's a New Year

 

-- January 3, 2009.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

Music

Kurt Masur
Mumbling in a café
Humming, really,
Scowling,
In your old brown oilskin coat
So you saved Germany
The Muzak still can reach you
With its lilting, jilting, toons

So Bach is simply students' music
All those partitas, and cantatas,
The soaring Masses
The great toccatas

So we all should learn
So old Bach had learned that
And he taught it

It takes some study, then
It's nothing gentle, nothing easy,
Lasts a lifetime
Music

 

-- January 9, 2009.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

Politics & Medicine

Politics and medicine
The bad news and the good news
The two arrive together
So it is a choice, after all

 

-- January 9, 2009 -- on learning of the cancer.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

Time

0 Berkeley
10 Orinda
20 NY, NH, Oxon, Eur -- student travel
30 SF, SEAsia, India -- business travel
40 Change -- Internet, France
50 Noe Valley
60 Medicine

Where does it go?
Berkeley to the biological
Whence it came, where it went.
My sons.

 

-- January 26, 2009 -- on thinking about it.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

You

You are so beautiful,
It makes me want to cry and laugh
At the same time

-- January 27, 2009 -- on thinking about it some more.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

Blood draw

A very pretty girl
Sitting down beside me
In the blood draw area
Waiting, at the lab

Existential moment
She was young
Aware of her own looks
Normally
And of their effect on men

Today though vacant
Ruffling through a stack of papers
Absently
Each one marked boldly, blackly,
HIV

 

So, the bad news comes
The microbes, infections, weakenings
Neiges d'antan
Wondering when will it hit
Where will it strike
Danses macabres

She puts the papers down
Gazes out the window, now,
Absently
Perhaps it's over,
Another thing's just begun
Where will it lead

Lives built on hopes and expectations
Puncture easily

 

-- January 28, 2009 -- and thinking about it even more, altho it's OK now.
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

Café

Life is regrets and hopes
So the café is a place to dream
The coffee warm, the bitter taste,
Sunshine in the outdoor chill
Remembering yesterday and
Fearing tomorrow

She sits proudly at age eighty, now,
Remembering being loved and desired
Recalling the rapid pulse
And listing the suitors
We were young, she said

Why all this doesn't translate to the present
Is her question
Why people now seem so unhappy
Why she herself gets lonely
Even though she's active

It's her remembering
The people were the same back then
But she has changed

Bob told her, just the other evening,
I have done so much, he said,
Dismissing an admiring introduction
Because I have lived so long
I am so old

Wordsworth saw it all, once,
The sheer sweep of it, looking back,
Instead of being a forgetting, though
It is a battle
There is so much life going forward
When we've not yet lived it looms so large,
Exciting, threatening,
But once we have it seems somehow smaller
Less imposing, less exciting,
More frustrating, like a small ache in an elbow
Or arthritis in a hand

It's not smaller, though,
It's the same
The waiting lover
The trials, the temptations
Janet with her photographs
The exhibit, the exposure,
The chances taken, the risks
The disappointments and elations

The small child reaches out and grasps a flower
Crushes it, in his pudgy awkward hand,
And cries at its destruction
Then he reaches out again, but this time more gently

 

-- January 29, 2009
Return to Table of Contents

 

--oOo--

 

GGPark Ents

A tree =>

 

--oOo--

 

• Glossary •

____________________

 

Note:

Kindle Digital Publishing currently says, "Indexes are not recommended at this time", or maybe they are, or maybe they are in Kindle 8 or Kindle 5 or something... And Apple's iBooks Author so far hasn't said anything -- they tend not to, until they've got it "perfectly" figured-out themselves -- always been that way, Apple folks are the Republicans of the digital biz, wear the belt and the suspenders, great investment and great products, but they tend to leave their few users who are in the dark, in the dark... "B-b-but it's intuitive!", spluttered exasperatedly... And Microsoft is, well, Microsoft, obscure and obscurantist, too many Word explanations of how to create Back Matter, all of them saying too much.

So this is a Glossary, but in the medieval sense: glosses, glossators -- people forever have been "writing in their books". So these are not "explanations" of the poems which they accompany -- see the Preface, above, for my diatribe against that -- instead they are additional ramblings, some relevant to the poetry and some maybe not. Another friend assembled a famous collection of Marginalia Books: old stuff, some of it very famous, in which people, some of them very famous, had scribbled in the margins & underlined & otherwise marked-up, people more interested in understanding the text than in worshipping the container, in his particular collection's case people such as Erasmus. Also, I tend to have a "good random mind", a good friend once praised-me-for-that-I-think, and these are that: it is fun for me to follow "leads", in my reading -- this glossator's Glossary, then, is for those who share that delight.