I wrote a poem for my father, about how one afternoon the oddly green ’57 Caddy appeared in the driveway and he polished its chrome for hours, even waxed the black bumper bullets. It was the love of his life he said, except for his wife, he added after a moment. The years would prove that addition was most likely false. I could send him the poem, he might actually read it, he would remember the Caddy, much as he now remembers my mother, with a fondness that fills the voids in his fading memory. He is not much for poetry, never was, wasn’t all that much for reading and poetry had to rhyme, at least the good ones did, but while he agrees with Hecht, he would no more recognize that name than that of Amichai, even rewritten in the grating hand of Ted Hughes. My father does not understand poetry, does not understand all that much these days and what little he does bears constant repetition, and yet he remembers well odd bits and pieces and forms them into his own fictions that become momentary realities. He is Brodsky rewriting Mandelstam, a new Tristia, sharing only a name with its precursor, but one its author claims is truest to its origin. My poem will be tucked away inside a yellowing journal, his Caddy is rust and scrap, but in his dreams he carefully polishes the chrome and waxes the bumper bullets.
First appeared in The Alchemy Spoon, Issue 1, Summer 2020
The Japanese invented haiku certain that a painting of great beauty could be completed with only a few strokes of the brush.
The Japanese have no word for what we claim is higher order poetry, academic and pedantic are two other English words which easily apply. And the Japanese are hard put to comprehend so much of what we deem experimental, the result, a friend named Yoshi said, of what seems the odd scraps of a dictionary torn apart by an unexpected tornado.
In Tokyo every tree knows that at least four poems lie within it, each awaiting the appropriate season.
I picked up a book off the shelf this morning one hundred haiku
it was like sitting down a word starved man, tired of searching for an always denied sustenance, and here laid out before me, a repast of the sweetest grapes, bits of sugar caressing a tongue grown used to the often bitterness of ill-considered prose.
As midday approached I knew that this was a meal to which I’d return.
It should come as no surprise, for both Buddhism and Hinduism grew out of the same fertile soil. An older Hindu man said, “do not look for your Guru. When you are ready, your Guru will find you.” I knew the Buddhist equivalent, and its corollary, when the student is ready, the teacher disappears. My poetry professor’s yin couldn’t grasp my yang, and I am still waiting patiently for my poetic Guru but despite my growing age, he has yet to appear, but my spirituality seems on firm ground, so it may not really matter. But during my weight, I have found Oatley, Duval, Rose, Kirk, Cullen, and though I have met none, and not a one has found me, the Nirvana they place in bottles at my disposal, that they willingly a ship from Australia, makes me wonder what other possible Guru I might need.
(for Allen Ginsburg) You died quietly in your bed friends gathered around the cars and buses of the city clattering out a Kaddish to a God you had long ago dismissed as irrelevant. We would have expected your to howl, to decry the unfairness of it all, but you merely said it is time, and slipped away. Who gave you the right to depart without leaving us one last remonstration against the insanity that surrounds us, one last censure of the fools who we have so blindly chosen to lead a generation into a hell of our creation. You had your peace but what of us left behind, what can we look forward to in your absence save the words we know so well, can recite by heart that no longer beats in your breast.
First appeared in Living Poets Vol. 2, No. 1, (U.K) 2001 and reprinted in Legal Studies Forum vol .30, Nos 1-2, 2006
He says that foremost Mao Zedong was a poet, and knew that all poetry must at some level be political, must incite the reader to rebel against complacency. I say that Zhao Zhenkai wrote as Bei Dao as the ultimate act of rebellion, sacrificing his very identity. He says that I am anchored by the weight of realism, and I say that he needs reeducation. She says that neither of us will ever write the just open bloom of spring’s first rose.
First appeared in the May 2019 Issue of The Broadkill Reivew
It was a Tuesday in October or a Wednesday in March, hard to say which, but evening. We had taken a cab from the Hyatt Embarcadero or the Fairmont, it didn’t much matter, and sat in the Chinese restaurant on the edge of Chinatown, or a pasta and seafood joint in North Beach, and you said it was a small earthquake, while I was certain it was the waiter who drained the half empty wine glasses en route to the kitchen. We walked slowly along the street past the “World Famous Condor” in all its tacky glory, and I said it was the birthplace of silicon, we had Carol Doda to thank for that and you said I was perverted and suggested we go across the street to the club featuring nude dancers, but I balked when I saw they were men. Finally we compromised and walked around the corner to the City Lights. You wandered impatiently around while I stood transfixed in the poetry section, a warren of shelves, a ladder on wheels and corners, and held, almost fondled a fresh copy of Coney Island of the Mind. I read it slowly, a man stood behind me shifting his weight from foot to foot, “It’s not all that good, adequate, but there’s Bukowski and Ginsberg.” Without looking back, I reached for Gasoline. “At least that’s a good choice,” he said and in growing anger I turned and sneered into the nose of Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
First Published in Creative Juices, December 1998.