Saturday, August 05, 2017

Nowhere We'll Also Never Be


With our wounded mouths
Slightly chlorinated nevertheless
We make noise till we’ve had enough

O listen!

Vast syllabic nebula galactic nervous system
Trembling and aflame the unexplained
Region of language

Listen we say we matter
Goddammit

Here we writhe
Like mute slugs beneath a stultifying blaze
Sun stunned and desperate for a bit of shade

Here we float on a little boat
Waiting for sound and sensibility
So we can throw the zebras overboard
And toss the zoo keeper too

Here we sleep without dreams
Silent in the outer reaches of the universe

Who cares how we got our cosmic eardrums
Leaving God nothing but his bones 


Friday, August 04, 2017

I'd Only Say to You


It’s not rare
Lost in a mother’s billowing linen
To drowse off dressed in dreams
Tracing a name in night’s thin voice
The ice knives of dawn
Waking and melting
When they touch bone


Thursday, July 20, 2017

What It Means to You


For a moment and then
Briars at best bitterly
Exhort night for other laughter
And yesterday still under snow
Listens for daybreak to inscribe
Its cold passage
When trees itch with winter sparrows
That quicken the slowness of dawn

You think you know what it means
But not too soon at last
You know the impulsiveness of God
The beardless clear-eyed moon
Offering a subtle grin and the first
Dark speech of morning


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

To Have Waited without Really Knowing Why


And to have felt the word
These trees breathe forth one
Syllable maybe two or more who
Knows these patient trees
Reflected in the Big Lake?

And to have stood among the silent pines
That haunt the bottom of Lake Michigan
And there to have sought
God’s great pit of a heart

And in the drowned village of sweet
Severities to have come upon a soul
You didn’t know you sought
And to have heard her limpid music
Echo as from a dry well

And to have remembered that you came
From this town knowing nothing
But ditch burrs and dust roads
Brief angry summers and the interminable
Spite of winter

And never to forget
The ice in your mind in your throat
Melting at summer’s livid end
When flags hang wet
Despite this ashen heat
This gray sky waiting for rain



Sunday, May 28, 2017

Tangled in Wrinkled Air


Beatitudes came near to luminescence
Those days that didn’t add up
Those inexplicable days in your city
Final as harrumph!

I’m trying
I’m trying to sleep
But I keep thinking about you about to say
Love’s wherever I see dogs peanuts and pigeons
Some hilltop city park
Where everyone’s happy for a change

Think of all the things those borrowed shades
Reflected all those eye-strain days
All the summers all too bright
When breathing became impossible

Why not give up those yellow streets
I wonder

April’s gone so’s May now June
Lurches pensively across Mississippi
Lumbering for a color MirĂ³ might’ve used
Your eyes a color MirĂ³ drew

I’m getting tired of not dreaming 
Winter afternoons in a painting by Bruegel
Instead of scenes from the last
Judgement of Hieronymus Bosch

Remember the nearness of our faces
There on that lumpy couch
Your cyan eyes a shade of mischief
But too hurtfully blurry – O my lost readers! –
Your words rapid and breathy

Remember when we allowed as how
Night’s white asterisks
Would form any goddamn constellation
We drew with our eyes

Ecstasies – what a funny word – came near
When the moon opened
Our minds

God we were fine for a minute or two!
Now I can’t look in my eyes
Without seeing yours

I’ve had enough of Bellini mirrors
Framed in pebble and driftwood
They’re so obvious I don’t care
How large the house they hang in is

Tonight I want to be alone which is why
The river reminds me of nothing

Out there beyond my window
I hear the solitude of trees
Bumping trees

That’s not really being alone is it
Sighs the saw





Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Wittgenstein’s Beetle


The director wants a hep scene —
She wants a kit as hep you
The princess of chiaroscuro calm
Striking vindictive notes on a white piano

I better may as well try and break
A five spot appaloosa so you can ride
The palomino rocking horse
Wobbling down this wind-spit page

I may as well break
That cedar cigar box you’re hugging
And see what’s inside if you let me
Know what’s in yours
You'll know what’s in mine

The director wants to see the street
We’re walking down she wants to see
The sea that sobs to us

We understand that we were once
Everything these lazy flamingos applaud
All things ecstatic and sadly savage 

We understand the presence of one
State of mind 
Requires many states of mind

A network of conditions — a structure —
A system — a causal architecture —
Physical processes framed as information

Far fountains wrinkle our white brow

I’m swinging now and changing inside
O I’ll show you inside my box
If you show me inside yours

The director wants
A machine that makes meaning
A little box in which we might find

A little bit of alright in there


Friday, May 19, 2017

Remembered as a Delight to Know


To know to know to see and know
How this light drifts through this room
Now to sift into a vase
Just as one awakens at 1:30
From a dream one can’t remember

To know to know to sift and know
A field in Mississippi where the canebrake grows
Ponderous cosmologies tonight
When one reaches with a certain fierceness
For a dream one can’t remember

To know to know tonight to know
As in a dream one can’t remember
As when one decides to speak
Upon a tired thought a tired peach
Bruised so lightly with regret

To know to know to speak and know
The size and shape of one’s desire
A language one must make to see
The color of the grammar
In any dream one can’t remember


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Daffodils Meditating in Mississippi


The sun shone viciously circular
That last afternoon in your yellow city
Our shadows on the sidewalk
Irritably golden and momentary

Why didn’t we
Call it New Guinea call it Poughkeepsie?

The sky's apathetically cold 
Here in Mississippi

My bad elbow aches with it and you
You’d tremble sweetly
Here in this disorder of rain

The dogwood’s blooming
Soon the redbud'll bloom too

I hate the shoes
You’re not wearing

I feel your steps in my steps
Your perfume breathes in rooms
You’ve never entered

You inhabit my hands I hear you
Slightly shaggy and smoothly carved
Breathing near my secret thought

Call it shish kebab or Zanzibar

What’s this language that speaks us
As if a word imagines us?

Only a word
For something about the body
A word we put in our open hands

We who gain a sort of knowledge
To which metaphysicians traditionally aspire
A truth that others may not
Easily attain

Suppose of them
Everything we won’t admit
Everything of which we’re finally fondly capable

Call it lotus leaves
Call it lavender shadows

How many people didn’t see us
That last evening we held each
Insufficiently necessary part
Of sufficiently unnecessary thoughts?

You smiled you said
Causes explain their effects
But effects don’t explain their causes

Your eyes offered exactly the final cause
They rendered Aristotle’s that-for-which

Call it cataclysm call it
The swallow’s loop instructing stars


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Flag Day in Vicksburg Mississippi


The “thing-in-itself” (which would be, precisely, pure truth, truth without consequences) is impossible even for the creator of language to grasp, and indeed this is not at all desirable.
        Friedrich Nietzsche

Pain always produces logic, which is very bad for you.
        Frank O’Hara

Here I am on a southern sidewalk
Standing at a lamppost and holding an umbrella
Thinking about the words of Frank O’Hara
And of you again

Distant as drizzle over the Pacific
Near as night mist rising from the Mississippi
Fog pooling in low fields and lapping at the hills

I remember you
Wore a dress of Turkish cloth
And a tunic edged with fine gold braid

You were laughing and laughing
Blue eyes white teeth very red lips
A face with the colors of America

I am writing a poem
Not about a flag
Nor about a song about a flag

I am writing a poem
About mystery flowering into any ear that listens
Things blooming in strange domains of language

O lovely stranger

I’m writing a poem
About us

Our story’s noble as a tattered flag

I remember the light of your metropolis
Was a little bored and disgusted
Like the landscape’s hard beige hills
Light lost in the alleys of your yellow city
Light that wanted to be near us

Now that I’m back in Vicksburg and can think
The night grass is gray when street lights come on
Here where fortuity blesses our difference
Here where to be not what one seems
But what one quixotically becomes

Here where Heal-All and Prairie Phlox bloomed
On Independence Day 1863
When Pemberton surrendered his sword to Grant
Flowers that gave the lie to a fallen city
And gave the lie to ironic guns and the sorry rig of 
     refugees
That gave the lie to twenty-thousand killed and 
     wounded soldiers

Remember how your poetry teacher
Made you believe in never getting bluer
Or greener or purpler and never going on and on
Like nightfulness like the dark?

She believed in the rules of poetry
An elaborate but fake symmetrical order
Like the old courthouse in Vicksburg
With its big portico and inflated columns
Yet with the real work done in back rooms
Where in the decades after Reconstruction
White landowners contrived to disenfranchise
Generations of black Americans

Many decades passed before the town
Officially celebrated the Fourth of July

You live in a place with no memory of an enemy’s boot
Is that why ennui haunts your city’s light?

I remember the cadence of your steps up a blind 
     staircase
Ending at a door that might have opened on the void
Maybe you were reading too much
French poetry

Words you still feel but can’t remember
And may never see again
Like phantom limbs

We have dreamt a space within us
Dark and small enough for infinite silence

You’re so beautiful
Who would ever dare to love you?





Thursday, November 17, 2016

Caught Up in Absolute Gravitation


It’s true
Antonin Artaud told us

Life consists of burning up questions
Sharp sensations in our limbs
Stilettos of ice lodged in our throats

Night’s blurred voice
Scraping against the earth
A low mutter over cold stones
A thin untethered scuff—a moonlit scrap
All tangled up in the toils of desire
Igniting tiny constellations in our eyes

A word like what?
Just like a naked foot
Rippling the black water of our love
A shivering pane of star-swerved sound
Immoderate ecstasy or anger
The whole goddamn milky way
Hurling over us

Friday, September 23, 2016

I See You Walking Into


A sweeping meticulously white
Frivolity O these wind-tossed petals!

Yes it’s tough when we’re here
Always wanting things to be beautiful

Momentous events are just
One two three trillion flakes that keep
Falling off these pear trees 

Now you a little troubled
Rejoin the others and a quiet
Adolescence when you tasted wonderful
Air every morning before school

Yes and those days were still
Irritating and boring and svelte
Perpetually ardent like spring
Blossoms trodden and run over


Monday, September 12, 2016

Far Away Lips upon an Armpit


When you come to Vicksburg
Will you take a boat?

The possibilities for visions grow
The closer you get
Vicksburg’s lousy with quizzicalness too
You might like to know

That’s okay
My door's open to midwinter rain on the magnolia

Come on in
Put out your hand
Isn’t there a poem suddenly there?

Each day’s a new line in the poem of our life

The purest fragments the clearest
Residue of mislaid sound

You could say dawn
Sometimes revives a curious plant
Which might symbolize possibility
Or half a dozen other ilities

And then again sometimes dawn
Unzips a sleeping dog
Vicksburg’s lousy with those too
Unzipped hounds

There’s a haunted mansion
We should inhabit on a promontory

Remember when you said
You don't really get me
High anymore

I said I do
Four because one’s not enough anymore

It wouldn’t surprise me
If I had a vision
People have them in Mississippi
More than you’d think

I wander drunkenly here

Going up for a change
Was all we really wanted
That afternoon on the escalator

Now it’s always the last heist 
On this escalator where I’m only slightly 
Piqued to find my only slightly sullied wings
Hidden in your garretless eyes

Vicksburg’s lonely without you
Your irreprovably sour smile

How many teeth have chewed this
Little piece of eternity
As if beauty’s a thing
That keeps going up for a change?

My solitude has your face
Your sigh-colored hair
Your silence which comes as a kiss

What I really want to say is
This place could be
The happiest moment in all infinity

When will your boat
Arrive at the landing?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

No Further Than Forgotten


When as if entangled in dry air
A memory opens like a dark rose
And again you lean close to whisper

Your breath caressing my neck
Your curls touching my cheek

I can’t sleep

Night breathes darkly on my face
And unbuttons my mind with dreaming fingers

I think of your lips
Your mouth a pink rosette
O sweet cockade of passion!

I have several festivals inside me
One of whose doors
Only your voice opens

My heart is a cavernous ballroom
Where silk-slippered acolytes
Dance among the mirrors

I have tombs of air inside me—
Hear my dry mumble
Echo in your city’s yellow canyons

Until I saw you
I never knew a woman
Without a shadow
O fire of naked flowers
Far from these avid fingers
What good does it do
To hold out the hand of my thoughts?

Since I came home
Spring squats on bare haunches
The hungry season waits
Like a dog in the road 


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Pernicious Advice of Dreams


Tonight I take no interest in the dark
Thundery torrent
Of angry decimals pelting the window

Tonight I feel like Hindu numerals
Before there was a symbol
For the missing position

When zero trembled brightly
Just out of earshot
Where music turned to noise

I remember you sweetly
Took the corner of your napkin and wiped
A prime number from my lip

I remember how you stood
Suddenly before a tribunal of angry algorithms
Having found among your many blonde hairs
A gray one

O fire of naked flowers
Far from these avid fingers!

In the rule of three
Multiply the fruit
By the desire
And divide by the measure
So you get the fruit of the desire


Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Deciphering These Snow-Ridden Thoughts


Certainly this able-bodied day
Fills up the page
Distance always occurs
Where light comes to rest
Imagine how to write it
The ill-fated sentence of a still-
Born affection squeezed between
Parentheses O demonstrative act
Of love be adorned and so forth
Be but some tender estrangement
Ceaselessly deferred and given
To simplicity given to simple words
Maybe too a common prayer
Or a double dash why not--
I haven’t had a hair cut in weeks
I haven’t even cut and cleaned
This intractability of fragments
A necessary return to distance
A space where I might find this
Inscribed date happening in silence
A precise imprint slowly forming
Right here on the very spot
Imagine a dome of cavernous air
Imagine!
Phosphorescent volumes of thought
Moons among demolished moons


Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Light in the Attic


Gustavo says it’s qualities of light
In whatever he looks at
The way someone’s past glimmers up
The trunk and into eucalyptus leaves

The way broken sunlight carves
A throat as radiant as yours
Or how a cloud shadow tills
Tender alleys in this yellow city

What does he know
Holding on to it for grace
For your silence!

Gustavo goes walking
With some intent to knock
He goes walking towards the sky
That passionate suffering can’t wrinkle

He goes walking
Where the sun blinks its infant eyes
Aflame in this immortal desire to die

The Sun Scalding the Little Day


So you promise we won’t die
A flashing bolt
A sudden kiss
Just laid onto the page
Just there you say
In whatever form
We can find it
Perhaps like a snow fart
Perhaps a tiny city
Drowned in a snow globe
Shake well touch on
Anonymously statuary
Watches us you say
The way we look
Our faces
Emblems of weary futurism
All winky and all kissy
All wet with digital ink
This isn’t paradise
It’s just another way of saying
Clouds consist entirely
Of ice-crystals 
And lateness
You say isn’t just
A book of poems
David Shapiro wrote
No way not at all
It’s also colors
We see through waves
As we stand by the balustrade
Admitting that this hotel 
Will be the death of us