FYI France
Ebooks Experiments -- the project

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TWO MILLENNIA: POEMS 4

By Jack Kessler, kessler@well.com

 

Anthropomorphs: boats, always

 

Anthropomorphs...

 

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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 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 •

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People never interested me much, when I was younger. When I was very young I was a loner: weird kid -- age 4 wore the home-made pirate's costume, made by hand and with much love by my mother, to the neighbor kid's Halloween Party where all his other friends wore fancy store-bought, and I professed not to care or even notice -- age 5 my favorite role at nursery school was traffic cop, telling other kids where to drive the little cars, even though I realized they just ignored me -- at age-14 I flipped personalities, from briefcase-toting nerd to most-likely-to-exceed-Mr.-Popular, scaring myself badly with my own political success, fame can ruin you quicker and more completely than liquor -- a bunch of people discovered themselves through me and I discovered myself through several, and then I gave up, and then I became really interested in one, and she in me, and we're still married. So it goes.

A young child's interests are very scattered, I suppose. Patch says he can remember age 4 or even 3 -- remember us talking to and about him but not understanding his replies, so maybe it was even age 2 -- his great-grandfather, my father's father, in very old age remembered standing in his baby-crib in Hungary, looking down as the delivery cart trundled home through the driveway below, and he'd sing old Magyar nursery songs he hadn't heard since the nursery -- so maybe when I'm 80 I'll remember, but my pre-teen memory is mostly blank, of people and places and things and events. So maybe it's not really lack of interest but only memory.

Interest in people did begin with a bang in teenagerhood, though -- along with everything else, people became fascinating, at age 13 my mind was balancing hundreds of interests, teeming. By age 14 that had grown to thousands: literally anything was interesting, and everything I learned stayed with me -- I read and re-read, many times, the old printed (!) World Book encyclopedia set ("You mean somebody actually downloaded and printed-out the whole thing?", the awed undergraduate exclaimed to the librarian...) which was the badge of learning of my generation, and it seemed as though my blooming mind could absorb it all and forget none of it.

And then, finally, came real people -- slowly, dimly -- the kids at school, the teachers, the extended family and even, with its problems, the nuclear family itself. My mom and dad became Mom and Dad, my sisters acquired names, my grandparents and uncles and aunts and cousins acquired personalities and foibles I'd never known they'd had.

Anthropomorphs, then, sort-of like people...

I never fooled myself into thinking I knew actual people, until I met Jan, but I did gradually assemble a few portraits, of what I thought were parts of people I knew, and then I began going back to those and retouching them as I gained more and more experience.

It is frightening, to revise in that way -- it shakes the understanding you once thought you had -- very slowly you learn that constant change and revision are in fact that thing you thought you understood, a dynamic not a static. But it is particularly hard with people: you so want to understand those, and yet those change and revise themselves and get revised too -- just like paintings, just like old neighborhoods, just like political opinions and personal loyalties and clothing fashions. It gets a little dizzying, by the time old age begins to hit, but at least you understand that the understandings you once thought you had are not it. And neither are the people -- they're different too, daily.

So, anthropomorphs: we see people "through a glass, darkly", just the way we see everything else -- but they are really, really interesting.

    -- October 5, 2012 -- San Francisco

 

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• Dedication •

to Jan, who understands me well, as I understand her too

 

 

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• Poems •

 

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Poisons

Pretty mother
Fixing her face, every morning
Glaring at the wrinkles, and the sagging

Waiting in the coffeeshop line
With two daughters, two

The older one age ten
a beauty like her mother
Staring into mirrors
Seeing her own reflection, only
She looks just like her mother
Only slender, fresh-faced, perfect
Reflection of her mother's jealousy
The insecurities

The girl is clinging, affectionate,
In that love-mother stage which ends so abruptly
For now though the two entwine
The girl tender, holding on to babyhood
The mother too, holding on to baby,
Her separation hell will come later

Yet there's another daughter
Scraggly, snaggle-toothed, bouncy
Out playing with a little dog tied to a parking meter in the rain
"Come here this minute," comes the command, still clinging to the other
And she ignores her
And there's no follow-up
"Can we get a dog?", she wails, not for the first time
And her mother ignores her back

From the window the waitress announces, "We have a table for two, are there two of you or three?"
The rain pours down
"We could be two," the mother says, hugging the elder and gazing at the younger,
The little un-hugged girl is solemn, and silent, and stares back at her mother.

 

 

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Anthropomorphs: a rose is a...

Anthropomorphs : a rose is a...

 

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Iceplant

The iceplant's back
Bursting through grasses
Planted to replace it
Bright purple, yellow, green, gold,
Tough, resilient
Stamp it down
It springs back
Frustrating our bureaucracies

There were places, in the city
Where the sand showed through
Primeval dunes
Scrubby and ugly
The best a continent could manage
Against the wind, and the ocean

The pavements came, like people,
Covering and smoothing,
Channeling wind and water,
Engaging, conversing, connecting
Overwhelming
The Moldau floods
Overwhelming the Danube
Here it was the pavement, and the people

There never was a chance, though
Against the wind, and the ocean,
Not until our view from the moon showed us
How very big both are

So it's the sand
And now the ice plant, back,
We can live with that
It's been just sand, all along,
Lurking there, beneath the pavement and the people
Fine-grained, arid, sterile stuff,
Safer than the wind, and the ocean, and the radiation, though
Eating into our seawalls
Turning rebar into rust, concrete into sand again
Subducting, erupting, flowing, overwhelming
We need to be grateful for whatever grows

 

 

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Clock

The only advantage the Greeks had
Over their gods
Was that humans didn't
have to live forever

Ozymandias

It's only hubris, Stewart

 

 

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Sometimes

    "There's one more kid that will never go to school
    "Never get to fall in love, never get to be cool."

      -- Neil Young, Living in the Free World

 

Sometimes it's not all worth it, no
Not worth the time or the trouble
The pain gets to be too much
Ending it's the detail
To be considered

Only fourteen years he gave it, tho
Bang the drum so slowly,
Only a decade or so
The first wink, and wiggle,
And he's gone, now

Time is the thing to be considered
Not the ending of it, not the detail,
Not how to snuff it out
Teach them,
How much there is,
And how many ways there are to spend it

 

 

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Anthropomorphs: animal friends Anthropomorphs: animal friends Anthropomorphs: Sue & Fred

Anthropomorphs : animal friends

 

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Dreams

Dreams, hopes, chances
So long ago
Up in that tall building
Cross-ribbed for earthquakes
The City Accordion, they called it
I was open to everything,
back then

The leavening in the loaf was hope
Dreams became my dreams
Glances, suggestions, possibilities
Became hopes

The best things which happen
Never have been hopes, however,
Chances, yes,
But it's more a preparation to receive them
Than a longing

 

 

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Anthropomorphs: neighbors Anthropomorphs: neighbors Anthropomorphs: Sue & Fred Anthropomorphs: neighbors Anthropomorphs: neighbors

Anthropomorphs : neighbors

 

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Play

It's lonely
Not having children

Not having friends
No family and no commitments
No strings

Life in the city
Bogart standing in his hotel room
As Bacall circles 'round him, warily,
Central Park on Sunday
The prowlers, predators

She jogs
Plugged-in firmly
Looking neither right nor left
Hoping someone will look at her

He commutes
On the bus to his cubicle
Wi-fi and caffeine on a Wednesday morning
Hoping secretly someone on the bus will be open, vulnerable,
able and willing to care about him

And the old woman walks to the bank, wishing
For someone just to talk to
Someone who will listen
And for that she will listen, too

And the old man does the same
Stuck, also firmly, in his routines and his rituals
The same coat, the same coffee,
It's never worked in all these years
No reason why it might work now

The thing they seek is play
Coyotes, hunting and breeding and feeding and fighting
But through it all it's someone,
Someone else,
To play with

 

 

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Anthropomorphs: wild animal friends Anthropomorphs: wild animal friends Anthropomorphs: wild animal friends Anthropomorphs: wild animal friends

Anthropomorphs : wild (?) animal friends

 

--oOo--

 

Aishwarya Rai in the Supermarket

It's all new
The energy, and the money,
The confidence, self-assurance,
The arrogance is old
The diffidence, disappearing
Castes born in the British Midlands
Some old, some new

India was interesting, in the 1960s
Contrasts, back then
Bhubaneswar on a Tuesday
British Calcutta's masses of beggars
An old man in Ambala
Standing in his hovel doorway
Pukkah sahib khaki shorts
Dark skin dusty roughest leather
Bright eyes shining at the maybe-Britisher foreign visitor
Impeccably mustachioed
White, thick, handlebars waxed ends
He saluted me crisply

Now though bright blue-green eyes
The world's most famous beauty
Impatient, in the supermarket,
Hoping-not-hoping someone will notice
The stunning blue-green
Eyes that enchanted Alexander

I do, then she dares me to break her solitude and American anonymity,
And I don't do that

India, melding with the outside world now
Combining with the present
In a new Old-World supermarket,
New York is London, now
Grandpa attended Berkeley
Discovering the future
Bringing along her rich and ancient past

 

 

--oOo--

 

Anthropomorphs: memories personal and collective

Anthropomorphs : memories personal and collective

 

--oOo--

 

Crying

An 80, and a 90,
Crying and complaining
He's dying, he says,
The other says he's moving
Or being moved
To an old folks home finally, he says

So up to the kiddies' playground
To see what others say
And there a tiny toddler is telling it
Bawling for her mother
Crying and complaining
They never listen

It's a beautiful spring day, sunny
The birds are singing
My belly's full
My knees are working
Neither 4 years old nor 90, yet,
Make it last

 

 

--oOo--

 

So Much

I'll have died three times at least, before I die
A motorcycle, a cancer, and a bug,
My horseman passed by all three
Successfully, it seems

How many others, all unknown
Ghosts of the night and day
Who came and went
And left me here

It's because I did the right thing, perhaps
Married the right girl
Helped her raise our two fine sons
The gods took pity, maybe

Or perhaps it's chance
The gods' jealousy
Of my mortality
Simply overlooked me

So far, Siva has been kind
Or absent-minded
Kali has danced, but not for me
Not yet, anyway
Or perhaps it's just not my time, yet,
Simply not my time

A steep corniche, and a long skipping skid
A tiny poisoned walnut, glowing in the dark
And the anonymous and pale spectres of doctors and their deaf-mute statistics
And an even tinier bug, self-replicating rapidly and self-transforming constantly, crawling up my leg seeking any place to burrow inside
It's a lifelong battle, a war, but there are allies
A bright blue pill, a tiny metal seed, those anonymous doctors,
Fate on a beautiful French day,
Two children, a wife, belief,
There is so much

 

 

--oOo--

 

Envy

I envy you your youth, your excitement
But not your innocence, your ignorance
I think of the brightness of new things
Of their surprise, their shine
But then of the terrible discoveries
Of the pain lurking, beneath and beyond
And then I'm happy I remember

So much more, there is,
Of pains and pleasures
And of their combination, the journey

Stroking Janet's beautiful hair
Admiring it, from a distance, if she'll let me
Holding her only occasionally now, before she wriggles to escape
Watching her demonstrate coyotes, gesticulating, with those long and beautiful hands and slender fingers

It's coming, it will arrive,
For me it's here now
And it truly is wonderful

There was a time when I skated, though,
And fenced and gasped and wondered
It is fun, remembering that now

 

 

--oOo--

 

Tilden

Sitting where old Kessler walked
His weekly constitutionals
Dreaming of old Berlin

And older Kesslers met and loved
Hiking clubs
The ancestors

And newer, the parents now
Are their ages, not my own
The children tiny and so young

And there so many greens
Different shades of the same color
As there always have been

 

 

--oOo--

 

Anthropomorphs: nostalgia, youth

Anthropomorphs : nostalgia, youth

 

--oOo--

 

Dali's moustache

partial lines, partially written
partial thoughts, partially expressed
partial lives, partial living
cooking with something left out
driving but not looking
staring without seeing
touching without feeling
walking but not on the ground

sentences with no punctuation
punctuation with no sentences
choose, which is worse?
would you rather have --
the substance without the style, or
the style without the substance
Lady Gaga naked, or beclothed and
bejeweled and painted
she's laughing at you, that one

 

 

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Forlorn

No coyotes, this evening
A long trudge across the green sward
Tripod in hand
Nice try but no coyote, this time
A nice big dead raccoon, though--
Travails of photography
You have to love what you do

 

 

--oOo--

 

Invention

Having re-invented myself
So many times
I have found that it is not my Self
Which re-invents
It's only a process which forms
My relation to the world

Corn does it every year, showing
Those bright luscious yellow ears
When the truth is in the stalk below

An evergreen presents delicate needles and cones, great branches, swirling bark,
But the truth is in its roots
The wind and rain and sun
Trope the tree to respond
And it does, bending, growing differently, sometimes breaking
But the roots are the tree
They stay still

Old Tolstoy discovered this, finally,
Old Berlin that he had--
Neither foxes nor hedgehogs
It's all in the roots

 

 

--oOo--

 

Cricket

Panhandle cricket with Mariza
The gorgeous voice
With the pretty little crooked face
And the beautiful body
And amazing clothes
And enormous soul

The kids from the Urban School
Their cricket pastiche
The grandfather's game
From the War To End All Wars

The Panhandle on a sunny Tuesday
San Francisco's finest
The varieties, the strangest,
I'd rather be here than anywhere

Some places are imitations
Some are real
Forests New, music in the manner of, Bach and Petzold
But there are no rules
It's all in the delicate balance of the mix

 

 

--oOo--

 

Last

The last one's the worst
Because the others have ended
Life belongs to the cats

 

 

--oOo--

 

Years

My year of magical thinking was 1988, I suppose,
Seeing my eldest son last night
Alive, bubbling, energy and brilliance,
All as before,
And yet maturity already setting in:
"The younger ones don't know much from their schooling, but they have energy and drive, they'll work all night," he said

1988 was the year my father died,
A heart attack,
Then I learned of my wife's heart condition, desperately-belovéd,
Then suddenly I had to sell that career and change
And I changed utterly

It seems so long ago, now, 1988,
23 years,
That's a third of it so far, at least,
With any luck,
Maybe even less if my doctors get it right
If it all ends tomorrow nearly half
And for him it's nearly the whole adventure, so far,
He wasn't even ten, back then,
He wouldn't remember

But who do we remember, looking back,
The old ones linger, as they did in life
Combing through family photographs
Saving the past in digits
The unfamiliar younger faces are of those who died old,
The people I remember are the shipwrecks, the final founderings
The insane asylums, ambulatory care wards, the drooling, doddering,
the struggles up the stairs and the great fears of falling down,
and the smells, particularly the smells

It keeps on happening, now, a sister dying, an uncle gone any day now,
A final aunt on the edge for years,
Yet it doesn't seem to be happening to me,
It was that year, that 1988
There was a break, then, with my realities, a change

The strangest faces in the photos are the young ones who ended early, frozen in time,
The people who declined later were different from those youths

So we change. Perhaps it's different lives. Perhaps it's several.
Young Patrick, the wonderful baby I remember, becoming middle-aged, and mature, and wise, learning life's lessons and in his case even teaching them

I tell him what happened to me
And the similarities amaze him
Already he appreciates the differences
But until now his world has been unique

I remember that. He was two, and he had a baby brother, who changed his world -- and a wonderful mother, who changed mine. The world was young, and fresh, and unique, and unchanging, back then.

Now it renews again. For him, maturity, for me the acceptance of growing wise. It's not just one life, Patch, it's several.

 

 

--oOo--

 

Things missed

Things missed about Tina
Your warmth and good humor
A sunny disposition
Your family sense of humor, awkward but fun
Your hard sense of reality, occasionally,
When it was needed

There is a knowledge of the past
In a sister
In a brother too, I suppose,
As although I've never had one
I've seen its evidence in our sons

It's my own past that's remembered
Whether the rock was thrown with malice
Or whether I rose up to receive it
The important things

Mothers have such memories
And fathers too
But they have a stake in outcomes
Something personal, which bends perceptions

Not so a sister,
Not so a brother maybe
They're on the same plane, perhaps
They have less personal stake
Unless they're the one who
Threw the stone

And mothers and fathers pass on
Before the others, usually
Soon they'll all be gone, for me
And I'll be one, left standing, alone
Me and my stake, my biases
No one left to temper those
If not with truth then with balance
And humor, awkward but fun at times

Just a fone call away, for so long
An occasional walk, a talk
Now gone, no one home
Or if she's there she's not paying attention
Or can't pay it to me, about me

There's a childhood in there, somewhere,
A childhood missed, recovered, now gone missing again
Missing with a sister, whose mind has gone they say
Wherever it went I hope she's happy

 

 

--oOo--

 

To Tony Judt (never sent)

Tony Judt,

I am among the millions, I suppose, who have benefited from your books and NYR articles and general wisdom about our Modern Era, and had no clue about your disease. So, very late last night, post-nightmare and worried about Obama and the Afghans and my aching hip, feeling sorry for myself, I read your NYR article about your health.

My first thought was how dim, by comparison, my own worries and problems appear to be. The second, though, was of the interesting contrast between debilitating disease and everything else. It is, as you say, a matter of, "diverting my mind from the body in which it is encased".

At the best of times that is a useful skill, I can see. For achieving objectivity, making judgments, seeing things truly in any sense, illness becomes an art which comes in handy. Norman Cousins' book about the remedy of laughter does something similar. In both cases we put distance between ourselves and our worries and afflictions, and such distance can be a good and useful thing. At the worst of times it can be what sustains us.

The point of your example is to remind me forcefully, this morning, that this mind/body separation is a daily event, and not something occasional. I went searching on my iPhone for news of Afghanistan, one of my own nighttime & nightmare worries, and found your greatly shocking article. Yet the article provides much comfort: that Afghanistan may be not so serious -- that ALS is something moreso -- also that personal health problems, a couple of which I've encountered too in this my 61st year, may be survivable, as well.

The trick is, then, as you have done, and as with objectivity and so much more, to separate myself, the mind from the body... That contradicts so much philosophy, yet it is so useful. Having read your article, now, Afghanistan seems more manageable and less emotional, just as health problems do: all that is "out there", in a sense, even the physical pain, and life does in fact go on, until the end of consciousness and I suppose of the pain.

So thank you once again for insight, this time one far deeper than the many intellectual insights your writings have provided so far. It remains a mystery to me why very serious things happen to some people and not to others, but that I suppose always has been and will be one of the greatest mysteries. You are providing a useful tool for coping with it when it happens to us, at least.

 

 

--oOo--

 

Anthropomorphs: people we know

Anthropomorphs : people we know

 

--oOo--

 

Encounter

Pretty Latina girl on the bus
Wobbling her coffee
Younger than he is
Her backpack wobbling too
Money peering from its pocket

He has the baggy pants
Backwards cap
Sloping posture, young toughguy,
Rings and blings and tattoos
Soulful dangerous look
But suddenly it's love
He stares,
At her, at the money,
Then slowly he makes his way up the aisle,
Taps her shoulder,
And whispers,
"Shouldn't carry your backpack like that"
She glares, he shrugs back down the aisle to the exit door
While she sits, flustered

So I lean across, point at the bills
Bursting from their backpack pocket
"He meant the money," I say to her,
Suddenly stricken, she says, "Please tell him thankyou!"
I step down from the door with him
"I told her -- she says 'thank you'!"
His sudden smile is shy, then he flees,
But our whole day brightens

 

 

--oOo--

 

The 27 Bryant morning bus

Jabba the Hutt, sitting down
On the bus across from me this morning
Same enormous wrinkled head
Great slashed thin-lipped mouth
Wonderfully-slanted misplaced eyes
Bulging from their sockets
All the strange, unreadable
Weirdnesses imagineable
Alien races, and their long slavering tongues,
Stretching, to engulf our women, children, manhood,
Small curios, collected,
On one of their exotic polished foreign-wood carved shelves
To be fondled, lasciviously

The fears, the wild imaginings
The movie fantasies nothing more foreign
Than the whining roar of your own familiar and comfortable dog,
Nightmare closets
Truth and fiction intermingled,
On the 27 Bryant morning bus

 

--oOo--

 

Anthropomorphs: strangers in cafés

Anthropomorphs : strangers in cafés

 

--oOo--

 

Busy

Busy lady at the donut shop
Immaculate, dressed in her fancy jogging suit
Juggling three small scrubbed kids
In private school clothes
And donut box
Her turn to feed her Womens Team today
And she's on her cellphone

Decisions of the day
Priorities
She jumps into the huge Land Rover
Intently chatting
She starts the beast up ready to roar off
Still chatting
Notices the bright pink donut box she left on the curbside hood
Still chatting
Then she turns, shocked, to see the three small kids outside too, waiting for her to unlock the door
She races around to help them in
Then, still chatting, she races back and jumps in and roars away, late for everything

 

 

--oOo--

 

Mix

Ambition and ego
Fear and greed
Salt and pepper
At the end it all made sense
The ambitious district attorney
Showing up on the final day, only,
To watch her troops catapault her to stardom
But the surprise verdict was "not guilty"
Deflating
And then she left
Simply left
No thankyous, acknowledgments,
No pumping back up of egos,
No encouragements to get out and try again,
No, she just left, walked out sullenly

Angry, bitter maybe,
Her hopes dashed, her opportunity squandered, her political future, her...
And she left her damaged troops just out there, hanging.

Paz was right, about Mexico and generally,
It's very much a pyramid
Not just for power, also blame,
And all of it travels upward.

We twelve trooped in, and they read our verdict
Imperfect, but it's an imperfect world,
And that's justice.

Some were shocked,
And some bewildered
There was silence, in the courtroom, complete and stony silence,
The Mysteries at Delphi must have been like that --
The Oracle would speak,
The listeners would stand there, dumb,
Wondering what to make of the pronouncement,
Like an Omen, not enough simply that the Eagle flew but what did that flight portend?

When the answer's simple really,
It's just more magic
Dressing up, and drawing out,
And cooling down, and sealing,
The harder, harsher,
Fear and Greed
Which we govern with our
Ambition and our Ego,
Mostly.

 

 

--oOo--

 

Apples

The alien streets
Of the shiny world
Not Cezanne's apples
The warm ripe fruit glowing
But their digital versions
Fine-tuned
Spots on them only by design

I walk down King Street
To find surprizes
The glassy exteriors do not beckon
They reflect, instead,
They repel

The greatest defense against burglary is mirrors
Who, seeing himself, in flagrante delicto and surrounded by his accusing selves, would venture within
The security, of glassy surfaces

So perhaps that is what we're inventing
At King Street
A future of glassy surfaces
Shiny apples
All of it perfection
Even the spots are planned

 

Anthropomorphs:ghosts in machines

Anthropomorphs : ghosts in machines

 

--oOo--

 

Two

The first love affair fades,
Blending, as many things do,
Into the imagination,
Things imagined having meanings
Which we give them

You miss her, so much, the first few years,
Then you miss it,
Then it's them,
It's only when finally you realize
That it's you, that you miss,
That it all becomes more clear

That you loved her, not that she loved you,
That you had the capacities
The feelings, the sensations,
That another person could mean so much
But it's all about you, a love affair

Love is a little more -- not much,
There's still the selfishness, the self-centeredness, still you,
But love in addition is coincidence
The melding of two minds, bodies, lives
And the sheer accident of it occurring

So walk your way in your sadness, girl
Same age as my sons, who are lonely too,
Trudge to work, regretting, yearning,
As they both do,
Because the coincidence, if it is to happen,
Must be accidental
I can't introduce you
For then it would be me
And it must be you
The two of you

 

 

--oOo--

 

Astyanax

Thrown from high walls
Caught by a soldier
Survived to become French
The foundations of empire

Quicksand
How little great buildings resemble
The questionable muck on which they're built
Liquefaction
Add water, shake it all a little bit
It turns to quicksand
San Francisco's downtown towers
Montgomery Street used to be the beach

But fantasy overcomes quicksand
Saves us, enables us to live
Just so The Bear Flag Republic
And The Forty-Niners
And Founding Fathers

And just so Astyanax
Old Fredegar worrying, mumbling, scribbling,
Quicksand
It all shifts, and changes

 

 

--oOo--

 

Anthropomorphs: deaths

Anthropomorphs : deaths

 

--oOo--

 

Mattress

A man walks by me
His mattress rolled beneath his arm
Nice raincoat, nice shoes,
Gray fringe around his hair

Wife threw him out, looks like
She has the job, he can't find work
A final fight, the last straw
His pride, he thought -- at last, she said

Age takes us from the permanent to the temporary
From doorknobs forever in their place
To new plastic models, unfamiliar,
Things we haven't seen before

So he trudges up the strange street
Looking for the familiar
Where to sleep tonight

The woman from the church
Leans out of the café door
Frankie you sit here I'll buy you a cup of coffee, she says

A derelict, dirty, lurches
Down the street toward him
Plastic sack of scavengings
Infection-reddened skin
Filthy clothes falling off him
Slept rough, he smells
Eyes bleary
Frankie hands him the coffee

John Merriman says that
Your mattress was the last thing you'd sell before starving
In 19th century France

 

 

--oOo--

 

Waste Lands

Watch out...

The trees were killed in 1995
Uprooted, burned, bonfires,
They worked hard to obliterate,
Hoes to the stragglers,
They sowed salt

Again, a few years later
Someone found a use
So, at great expense this time too,
Helicopters, barges,
Good enough for government work

A few years later still, then,
Death by fire, again,
Mysterious causes
This time the fire was wild
Burning everything
Canopy and understory,
And trunks, roots, the ground itself,
The dirt,
The eukaryotes with it
Ivy, mistletoe, fungi
Raptors and robins
Squirrels and possums
All the many tiny mites
Which live there lives beneath the bark,
The bees,
All burnt,
Scorched earth

An ecology being a universe
The arrogance of any generation
Defining globalization for itself
When now we do not include planets
Arbitrarily
Just as Columbus' generation
Did not include America or
The Amerinds,
Just as the Chinese Emperors
Declared theirs the Middle Kingdom
And all the rest Hsiung-nu
Or the Greeks found the Rest
Beyond their tiny villages
To be mere barbaroi
The earliest Caveman
Peering fearfully beyond his cave
Saw information overload
There be tigers

A universe fell that day, then,
A universe of bees, and bugs,
And squirrels and possums,
Raptors and robins,
Ivy, mistletoe, fungi,
The eukaryotes with it,
The dirt,
And the ground itself, roots, trunks, Understory, and canopy...

If we can see a universe in
A blade of grass
We must learn to see
An ecology more clearly

Fires renew
But repeated fires destroy
That island now is waste
On which nothing grows, or lives,
Where so much was lush before,
Cool shade in hot weather,
Wonderful in wind, majestic bluegum eucalypts,
But attendance is down,
No one bothers to visit now

Maybe develop it as a resort,
Casino-on-the-Bay, San Francisco

Things may grow again,
But Nature follows the long waves,
So we ourselves may not live to see that
Memories of my own and my children's childhoods
But for my grandchildren, desolation

Island of the very strange Angels

 

 

--oOo--

 

Battlegrounds

There are frontiers, lisières,
Between people
Among neighbors
Separating streets and trees
Citizens and politicians
Nations

Even the magma
The magma strives against other magma
Atlantic ridges keep things churning
The Pacific bubbles like a cauldron
Gondwana floats, this way and that
Bumping up against frontiers, lisières

Without our differences we'd all be soup
Without our frontiers, our lisières
People would be all the same
There would be no balances, no compromises, no complementarity, not even relationships,
Neighbors would look alike and think alike and talk alike -- always dangerous,
Streets and trees would grow together, the forest primeval, nothing could move, trees would choke on the cement,
Citizens and politicians would sit down together, the politicians with no jobs, the citizens with no representation, no government, chaos
Nations would not know where things end or begin, wars and revolutions,
And the magma -- the magma would fuse, the planet solidify, a small blu-green floating marble, solidified, hardened, slowly cooling down and turning grey

The place where there's the greatest conflict is in the trees
Roots dig into soil
Mites dig into roots
Parasitic plants burrow
Symbiotic plants shade
Encouraging some things but killing others
The war of the bugs and the woodpeckers -- terrible battles, wholesale slaughters,
Higher up in the canopy the raptors and the blackbirds fight for turf, for branch-space, for survival
Life is trouble only death is not, Zorba said

The trees taught us
But we haven't learned their real lessons
It's the conflict, old Professor Hampshire said,
It's about the process, Christo warns us,
If ever it settles-down, or stops, we're all dead.

 

 

--oOo--

 

Anthropomorphs: Battlegrounds 1

Anthropomorphs: Battlegrounds 2

Anthropomorphs: earth

 

--oOo--

 

Nova Albion

 

All that is bad, and good, in England
Small soggy island
Multiracial from its start
The difference among villages being
One is family, the other's just cousins
The smells of different breads, baking
On a motorcycle morning

The snobberies
How impossible to see
A straight, direct statement
Language analysis
Learned from suspicious Austrians
No trust at all in the seen world
The heard thing
There must be a better world
Lurking beneath, beyond,
Behind the words or music
Innuendo
The Tempest landed them
On magical islands not their own

Yet the Lake District has its beauties
I've never seen anything so green as England
And when a man tires of London he tires of life -- I've seen that too, and entirely agree
And most of all the comforting warmth, in those villages
Even if it's fencing out a bitter damp, outside

What will become of you, England,
If you cannot capture California now
You nearly did once, not far from where I'm sitting
Your roving pirate beached his ship here
Just as millions of your beaten-down Yorkshiremen did
And your beautiful and melodious Welsh
And the Cornish choirs who came here for gold
For the generations of California who are English I salute you
Grandfathers, it was you who sent us here

But now the continents drift further
A mid-Atlantic ridge spreads us
Farther from each other
When we should grow near, perhaps
California goes, as it always has
West, toward Asia
Your descendants eat pho, now
Study the exotic accents you exploited
Speak fondly of Shanghai
They will have beautiful almond-eyes

Drake stopped here because the place
Reminded him of 'ome
The White Cliffs of Dover
Bedecked with magical sea monsters
Elephant seals, snorting on shore
Majestic whales the size of palaces
Mountain lions, elk
Great sea birds like none ever seen before

But he and his men were homesick
For a place with great attractions
Give us our place too, California
It's a place your own children
Now call home

 

 

--oOo--

 

Waves

It was a very happy time in my life
It goes in waves, I've noticed,
One wave after another,
Same ocean

Punctuated,
By commas, mostly,
An occasional hyphen --
A semi-colon, when something hangs for a while then suddenly bursts forward;
A full colon once in a while, when one thing leads to another, which very rarely happens:
And even, very rarely, a period -- full-stop, as the English say -- sometimes we gather in, look around us, see a new direction and go there, instead, always taking a little baggage with us but leaving most of it behind.

Wave after wave, breaking against the inexorable beach of our mortality,
Sometimes we can push its sands,
Rearrange them in new patterns,
Build them up, tear them down,
But always they are there, waiting for us,
Waiting to absorb, and obliterate,
What we thought was so important,
What was so good, or so bad,
So pleasurable or so painful,
About our lives.

Some of the little waves linger,
After we're gone,
In our children,
Also in our friends, our enemies,
In others we've touched

Occasionally in things we've built or designed,
Including ideas, such as,
Others must do it for themselves
There needs to be innovation
Even if it's reinvention
Each of us learns to walk anew

It's never, as the Hybrid says,
Only end-of-line
It -- she -- wisely realizes,
There will be another line after,
It's a loop
It cycles back upon itself
Improved and deteriorated but different
Turning and turning in its widening gyre
A falcon, soaring upward,
But circling

An older father leaves the café
With his tiny baby boy,
A little tyke, barely walking now -- he loves him dearly
Brings him in for breakfast, mornings,
Talks to him, helps him, teaches him, enjoys him,
The father's black coat reads
Leukemia Lymphoma Society
They'll visit her at the hospital,
Again, today,
Where she lies in bed, waiting.
Waves.

 

 

--oOo--

 

Trees

 

Trees bleed, and they weep

 

Trees bleed,
And they weep.

 

 

--oOo--

 

 

Anthropomorphs: sunrise, continuities

Anthropomorphs : sunrise, continuities

 

--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.

 

 

 

--oOo--

 

 

• The Legal Stuff... •

____________________

 

 

 

 

Warning: legal stuff ahead--

Jack Kessler makes no express warranties or representations and disclaims
all implied warranties regarding any content of this ebook
or any resources reached using it,
including any regarding accuracy, currency, merchantability, or fitness for use.
We're just tryin' our best, here...

Copyright © 2012- by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved.
Document maintained by: Jack Kessler,
kessler@well.com
ISBN-10: 098567203X ; ISBN-13: 978-0-9856720-3-4
Urtext edition, in HTML ; other EPub etc. versions will be made available.
First published: October 5, 2012
Latest update: October 21, 2012 12:38

--hjlm--

 

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