We would sit around the small park
as evening made a hasty retreat
to somewhere, anywhere more lively
than Salt Lake City in the heart of summer.
We’d pass a jug of whatever was
cheapest at the state package store,
usuall Gallo this or that, and roll joints
which made their way around our circle.
The cops would drive by every once
in a while, and wave, and we’d
politely wave back and yell thanks
which brought a smile as they drove off.
In Salt Lake City, in 1969, there was
no drug problem, and you only drank
in private, or smirked at those who did
in this boring little corner of Mormon heaven.
One deep and abiding beauty of dreams
is that it is entirely logical for
Marina Tsvetaeva to be engaged
In an animated discussion with
Corso and Ginsberg where none will
acknowledge that the world they
wrote and imagined is a total mess.
Over in the corner, Mandelstam and
Reznikoff have agreed that for eternity
every game of chess they play will
result in a stalemate, if only
to drive Brodsky to distraction, that
and having Osip say he prefers
Reznikoff’s free verse translations
to Brodsky’s ponderous rhymes.
I am looking forward to a cup
of espresso with Sylvia Plath, but she
says here she only drinks single malt
Scotch until it’s at least 5 P.M.
One morning last week I decided
to plant myself at a busy intersection
and begin reading poetry, mostly
my own, I have to admit.
I was generally ignored, my usual
state, and that sadly of most poets,
when a scruffy, bearded young man
set up easel and paint next to me.
The morning seemed to relish
the stillness of this urban way station,
and we were easily ignored by the odd
pedestrian on her way to please not here.
As lunch hour approached, the streets
filled, and we were ready, this was
our moment, our world, until the
asylum escapee joined our duality
and preached loudly to those who
dared not avoid us, that the end
was nigh, and that we, artist and poet
were the living promise of heaven and hell.
God is fixed in the firmament
seen as puppet master by some
patrician uncle, small child
endlessly shifting blocks
in new, transitory universes.
All things recede from a point,
have since the creation
and that point, dimensionless
is God, vast and infinite.
It swings lazily, back, forth
a needle in its cusp tracing
lines in the bed of sand
in constant motion as we
and earth, and all of our
universe spin slowly
around its focus, it swings
lazily back, forth, tracing
an ever-shifting path
marked in displaced sand
ponderous from its fine
steel tendril which rises
to a point without size,
shape, or time, frozen
a singularity from which
all else emanates. God lives, bat-like
on the ceiling of
the San Francisco Science Museum
and the Hayden Planetarium
and countless other buildings
given to science,
omnipresent yet fixed
dimensionless and infinite
always a ladder’s climb
just out of reach.
Published in The Raven’s Perch (August 3, 2020)
As 33,000 feet, you want the smoothness
that experience tells you, the sky
will once again deny.
Strapped in, you contemplate cursing
the gods of travel, but no,
they are simply meeting your expectations.
Getting this close to heaven was once,
she says, a mystical and spiritual experience,
but then we transcended all of that
with the first step on the lunar surface,
overall a small step from one man
and a crushing of dreams for all
but the great religious cynics of mankind.
With clouds below obscuring all you know
the sun is mocking, surrounding
your dark mood, painting it darker
and you begin to hope that the thunderstorm
that will greet your arrival can somehow
wash away the hesitation of an eternity
trapped in a seat on the lowest margins of heaven.
He said, “I’m looking forward
to heaven for a reason you cannot
begin to imagine, and, not
that I want to rush my arrival.”
She said, “It’s rather audacious
to assume you’ll end up there,
I place the odds as at best at
50-50 and I’m being generous
because I’m still in love with you.”
“But you’ll never guess the reason
so I’ll just have to tell you.
You know how much I love
rich buttery sauces, the more
butter and ] heavy cream the better?
In heaven I can have all I want
without worry about cholesterol
and arteriosclerosis and that would
certainly be heaven to me.”
“You realize,” she replied, “that
there’s a better than even chance
that God as creator of everything
might just be a vegetarian, like
we all were in the garden, so
Just in case, eat your Brussels sprouts.”
My mother no longer speaks to me. It is not that she has been dead two years, that passage would hardly be an impediment for her. I would like to think she has nothing left to say, having said it all so many times in the past. Some say we will see each other again in heaven, but it is unclear which, if either of us, will be there, and I don’t look forward to once again being a child who can do nothing quite right enough for her, yet again, and for eternity, this time.
We have mastered the art
of making promises,
we can do so without reflection.
We are not certain why God
seems so reticent to join us,
we were created in His image,
we are constantly told, yet
even when we ask, no promises
seem to be forthcoming from heaven.
Some say God is far too busy
to make even simple promises,
for God would have to deliver on them,
without fail, something we
have never quite managed.
Others say promises were what had us
evicted from the Garden and we
still have not learned our lesson,
or so promise the priests and ministers
who assure us our place in heaven
can always be secured for eternity
by a sufficiently large donation.
If my mother was here
she would ask me what
I have to say for myself.
Just this once, I
would remain silent,
for there is nothing
that needs saying
and she would be certain
that if there were
she should be the one
to say it, but silence
would drive her mad.
So perhaps it is good
that she is not here,
that she did not ask,
though if there is a heaven
and hell, God or the devil
will need to tell her what
they have to say for themselves,
or they will never, ever
hope to hear the end of it.
Bill places his fingers
on the keyboard, nods
to the drummer and bassist.
God waves his hands,
demands heavenly silence
and unsurprisingly to you,
no one argues the point.
Even Evans, sitting
at God’s feet,
smiles and says
“it’s so nice to know
our legacy is safe,”
and turning to Blakey, adds
“Ain’t that so brother?”