Curriculum Vitae

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 11 of 37 in the series Bridge to Nowhere: poems at mid-life

 

I was never the wise child who, hearing a patter in the leaves, tilts his open-mouthed face toward the sky. I dreamed of powerful machines with banks of dials & buttons encased in gleaming alloys, beautiful & mysterious as cathedral windows. I practiced levitation by standing on one leg — it was better than nothing. Prophesy fascinated me because of the way it made otherwise clearly random lives appear significant. I learned two different ways to hypnotize chickens. What was merely a parlor trick at first turned into a new way to make them tractable prior to execution. Adulthood came slow as a summer evening in the far north.

Lullaby

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 12 of 37 in the series Bridge to Nowhere: poems at mid-life

 

Dance, house.
White as a corpse in moonlight,
in sunlight white as a small hill of salt.
Dance in your wig of rain streaming from the eaves.
We who pass through you, who sleep
under your asphalt-shingled hat
are little more than ghosts.
The earth might move or it might not,
but thunder comes knocking almost every day in the summer.
How long can you sit while the moon circles like a madman
& flowers fade?
You don’t have forever, that sterile seed.
Somewhere on the other side of the world,
with nothing but water beneath it,
a white sail rocks.

Gibbous

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 15 of 37 in the series Bridge to Nowhere: poems at mid-life

 

Shameless procrastinator,
ragged tooth unsullied by the dawn.

Full, you went to bed on time;
a quarter empty & you never act your age.

Hasp with no padlock,
no wonder the night got away!

Old flat tire.
As if my poet’s O were set in gothic.

* * *

Note on the series

I’d been aware that a few of the poems I’ve written this spring and summer seem thematically connected, and was thinking that when I had accumulated a half dozen or so, I should put them into a new series called something like “mid-life crisis poems.” Not that I’m having a true crisis, but the unifying theme of these poems seemed to be a pervasive anxiety about aging and the body. Imagine my surprise when, after finishing the above poem this morning, I went through the archive and discovered I’d written 16 poems that fit the theme since May! It’s already almost the length of a chapbook.

So I guess my middle-agedness has been more on my mind than I realized. But as Charles Simic once told an interviewer (I’m paraphrasing from memory), one of the distinguishing features of the poetic mindset is a continual astonishment at the passage of time.

Song of the Millipede

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 16 of 37 in the series Bridge to Nowhere: poems at mid-life

 

International Rock-Flipping Day 2010

I lived like a hundred-legged king
in the faceprint of an idol
who followed my every move.
What drew me to that house made of twilight,
whose rooster swelled like an ingrown toenail
trapped between toe & shoe
& never flew?
With floor turned ceiling,
where would the weather vein?
What rod would rout the lightning root?
Unreal estate no bank would back,
underwritten only by undertakers,
each inch of space had been stolen from a grave.
From time to time, I caught
the musky scent of soured hope
& snuffled for Persephone
at the foot of the missing stairs.

Autumn haibun

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 17 of 37 in the series Bridge to Nowhere: poems at mid-life

 

Fall is a time of strange promptings, even for those of us who never succumb to vagabondage. If I happen to spot decades-old spiderwebs like wings of dust in a corner of the basement, I glance quickly away & reach for the jar of screws. And when the green is gone, when it has leached from the last of the leaves & the ground is ankle-deep in gloria mundi, I want to know the trees as Indians once did: from the flavor of their ashes. I want to learn restlessness from the natives, stand still enough to become a landmark for a mob of lekking gnats in Indian summer. I want the little brown bat in my portico to find a hibernaculum no other bat knows about, where he can hang all winter like a stilled pendulum, safe from the killer fungus the color of snow. I want my bootprints to collect the November rain & freeze: windows for whatever Argus might still be with us, insomniac, going over & over the dwindling flocks.

The Amtrak’s
quick double blast—
then cricket   cricket.

Bread & Water

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 18 of 37 in the series Bridge to Nowhere: poems at mid-life

 


Direct link to video on Vimeo.

This is the first in a planned series of one-minute movies made in less than a day with text written in response to the film images. I include the text below for the benefit of those on dial-up, but I’m not sure it makes too much sense on its own.

Bread & Water

I cast my bread on
the water, but
it didn’t come back.
Did you call?
I wrote. I made tea
from every leaf in
the garden.
Would you know it if
you saw it again?

I would.
I would know it slowly.
I would know it as
a failed boat.
Wasn’t it full
of air pockets, like
a lung?
No, those
were just open
dates on a calendar.
It was fresh.
It had skin for a skin.
What will you do when
you tire of waiting?

I’ll whistle back to
the old steam grate.
I’ll lick the lenses
of my glasses until
the street looks clean.
What will you do
if the bread
comes back?

I’ll teach it to sink.

Jersey Shore

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 19 of 37 in the series Bridge to Nowhere: poems at mid-life

 


Direct link to video on Vimeo.

Another one-minute movie. The postcards displayed are all from the Garden State and span the 20th century. Here’s the text of the poem:

Jersey Shore

the shore is a kind of road
that leads only to itself

the sound of its traffic
is said to be soothing

its sand grains attract
hourglass figures

we bury each other
up to the neck

gulls & gamblers take turns
screaming at the sun

we eat white sandwiches
& colored ice

there are rides no one
has ever dared get off of

there are entire hotels
patronized only by crabs

paperbacks sprawl
face-down like drunks

we hold hands & walk
into the surf

it’s the only way to leave
without paying a toll

Initiation

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
This entry is part 20 of 37 in the series Bridge to Nowhere: poems at mid-life

 


Direct link to video on Vimeo.

Another one-minute videopoem, this time featuring the Play-Doh creations of my dad and niece. Here’s the text.

Initiation

Before I learned to write, I could barely see. My days were empty Os to be filled at random in a multiple choice exam & fed into some mechanical reader. Then the pen came down & baptized me in its blue or black ichor, & I traveled whole through insomnia’s corrosive labyrinth. The snowpack had melted & frozen again, & the ground was blinding in the sunlight, an immaculate foolscap. This is it, I thought, everyone has preceded me into the next life. I walked with eyes averted until I passed between columns & entered the temple of trees, the ordinary forest.