Meditation At Point Reyes
Sir William Occam,
from whom we get the term
Occam’s razor, showed us how
to be efficient in our reasoning,
showed us the errors in Saint Thomas Aquinas,
on Aristotle and the Church . . .
Accused of heresy,
he fled on horseback, and
died of the plague in Italy.
We sit on a promontory,
flat surface of sheer black rock;
watch the heavy pound of surf,
the systalic violence in wave and ocean roar.
Higher up, not twenty feet away,
orange-red flowers flutter above the canyon’s shore.
Ice plants are magnified in morning light.
In the fourteenth century,
the world shuddered and knew
that Occam was right,
that once again faith and reason
lived in separate camps,
like step sisters who would not
End of the twentieth century,
computers track the stars, pulsars,
equidistant twin suns in nova,
trapped in a gravity well,
and no one reconciled.
Today, below sheer cliffs
we stand at the western most point,
watch as seals appear, lazily
navigate the brutal ocean wave
and rock of tidal flux.
To see it so easily done takes the breath;
the sea made suddenly serene.
Poems from Louisville Review No. 78, Fall 2015
Santa Monica Beach
After all day driving down Highway 5
I lie back floating, adrift
in the windblown surf beside a new, white high rise,
bold gold lettering advertising
a prodigious billboard over the sand.
An occasional pelican, wet from the waves,
dips across the rich salt sweet air he rides.
But the order here seems clear and pure,
brightly colored along the cleanest of lines,
yellow trash cans every twenty feet, as in a painting,
and the McDonald’s fits in,
á la David Hockney,
open sky of sails and clouds, miles away.
Trapped in a snapshot,
I think I can’t hold onto what I see.
I almost disappear in this day, this day,
taking my son down to UCLA.
It makes me feel as if none of us is alive
outside the order of things, the same as
the way the wind picks up the gull from the beach.
I watch him back up and up, riding what he feels,
until I am gone with him, the two of us,
having simply been here,
What I hide from myself
I have begun to know.
Like an umbrella
left behind in the rain.
A blossoming azalea
bends its new December flower
against the basement window.
It grows inappropriately pink,
suicidal in unseasonable heat.
Off-kilter, in my father’s house,
the present is not my own.
His idle lawnmower
smells of oil and gas,
his red tool chest still locked.
I stand in this window, thinking
of this false spring’s hushed tones,
“Don’t believe it. Oh, go back. Wait, wait,”
and the wind moves
through the blossoming trees, whispering
to the leaves to be still, quiet,
in words like dreaming and sleep.
Sound of rain accumulates
and the gutters overflow,
water drips past me,
the confused sounds of a world
crying out like croaking frogs.
Pine, oak, ironwood, birch, apple trees
and the ground still wet,
dusky ochre brown.
Last year, it was a clean winter kill,
dead red leaves lining the ground.
It is time for me to go.
I have grown older.
My life reads backwards
as well as forwards.
Tonight I stand still
and having lived,
and wrong directions mucking up my maps,
and a woman who
loves me, who knows
where I’ve been.
And I look down
at the Bay, down windy streets
at the tiny boats, white dots,
at the curves of blue in the gray
flat sky, the same way
live in me like characters in a play,
like pieces of the language
(insights that never helped).
We grow in spite of ourselves
and know no boundaries
that we will not invade,
like yellow dandelions in untended yards.
In Japanese, ma, the word for space, suggests interval. It is best described as a consciousness of place, not in the sense of an enclosed three-dimensional entity, but rather the simultaneous awareness of form and non-form deriving from an intensification of vision.
A recently minted poem in Nimrod
November in Berkeley
The back door,
hanging by its heels,
and it’s November again.
Outside, Pittosporum berries,
orange and whiskey-scented,
have fallen to the ground.
But there will be no snow,
no bears in the driveway,
and no frozen pond, its murky waters
gone veined and milky as glass.
It’s good the way we invent what we need,
catering our lives with beginnings and endings,
the way I look backwards wearing disasters
on my sleeve while you plan ahead,
search for joy in every potted plant, and
it’s as if here,
where winter never really comes,
we have learned
to rely on our inner clocks
and let the seasons
reach inch by inch
into the soil of ourselves.
Two of my poems that appear in the latest California Quarterly
Each of us has become private, and no longer shares the common thought of the “world soul,” except at a subliminal level. Thus our real life and purpose are conducted below the threshold of consciousness.
Philip K. Dick
Just so, waking up
like a green plant lifting from sod
I am my own chromosomal pathways,
my own scatter of associations, my own
leafmold alleyways of understandings,
I am old and new, still growing,
a burning inside me,
an inch a day, containing
this imperfectly elaborating feeling,
a decidedly uncurling thing.
for Ryan Taylor (1971-1994), whose father said,
“He chose a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
Of that big-boned boy,
of Ryan lacrosse player,
I remember his running gait,
his loping signature way
of moving through air,
around occasional transitional
and how the zoom lens of the game
would come to rest at the center of him,
as he would feint, stepping sure footed as a horse,
and break into gallop.
But we will never know
why his future was lost in the shotgun’s blast.
He was buried in the crowd’s noise,
and in the cheers and in the winning score.
left us outside ourselves,
his swift passage
like a wind in our lives.
Esse Est Percipi
To be is to be perceived.
— Bishop George Berkeley
- REMOVING THE BANDAGES
A canopy of white guy-wires
sweeps skyward as we cross the new Bay Bridge
into San Francisco.
I cannot see the Ferry Plaza,
the Transamerica Pyramid,
gray Embarcadero monoliths
reflecting stark afternoon light.
I listen to the rhythmic thrum of tires.
Instead of the cityscape, my brain creates
leafless winter trees
rising over open meadows
floating past the car window
highway to Tuscaloosa,
Alabama winter-green grass going brown.
I know this image is all wrong.
But the grass sways with the motion of the car.
- RETURNING HOME
Winding up the two-lane road
past the California landscape:
manzanita, bay, live oak and evergreen.
I remember leafy shadows, evening light
but I see the tall red brick tenements
stretching up 14th Street, NYC,
Lower East Side, 1970,
as far as my eye can see.
Where do they come from?
The buildings waver, remain following me
around the curve, over the creek.
As we drive on, the mirage
disappears in oncoming headlights.
I am learning to make friends with what I see.
Not what’s there.
- LETTING GO
“Take a look at this photograph.”
The page of the album turns
in a crisp November light,
colors swirling: red-brown, rose, white, grey.
No form, no shape.
“Isn’t she beautiful?”
“What am looking at?” I ask.
“Nate and Kelsey, at the altar,”
and the grey becomes my son’s suit
the rose-red a bridesmaid’s dress
and the sun gleams clear
through the redwood canopy.
Roots in Clay County, Alabama,
Sticking out of the ground
Like hard old men who’ve made up their minds,
Set their grip hard against everything
Young and swift —
When I walk out across this piece of earth
All covered over with honeysuckle and weeds
The ground seems to suck at my feet
As though it were alive
And needed me
Holding soil in place
Replacing stumps falling into rot.
no longer need
to defend themselves.
The bodies they owned are gone.
But remnants leak, linguistic
particulars reappear, and
voice, gesture take hold.
The dead are memes inside us,
pollen spreading before the wind
passing their invisible seed.
I sail over the causeway
flying across water and time
through the scent of salt sea air
past sand dunes and sea oats
to the bright white driveway
of my father’s last house.
Inside is a Formica table,
an old oak chair.
Across its solid bent back
hangs a faded work shirt,
red and black plaid,
the shirt he wore in the garden
of string beans, okra and elephant ears.
In time, when I try it on
the shirt comes apart in tatters.
I will bury it under the pine duff