Part 1


eric solibakke

go easy toward madness
        arrive fresh and vigorous
                 arrive with reserves
like odysseus , sufficient to pull
the most recalcitrant bow

for karl iván

Oslo, Norway
third edition 1999
1968, 1987, 1999 © eric solibakke

  1. Invocation
  2. Lines Written in Athens
  3. Children of Philapapou
  4. Salepi
  5. The Oriental Girl on the Akropolis
  6. Meditation
  7. Spring Song
  8. Celebration
  9. Windows and Mirrors
  10. Song
  11. In Defense of Poets
  12. Ballet
  13. Patterns
  14. Rendezous
  15. The Sixty-First Day
  16. Dionysos
  17. Man , they
  18. Rain
  19. Fire
  20. For Leo Creedon , Who May Kill Me
  21. Five Christmas Presents
  22. Bon Voyage
  23. The Aegean
  24. War Report
  25. A Traveler's Note



stand with me odysseus
                         and give me your voice
that i too may find
                         an end to my travels ,
some ithaka , some island
                         where my people
have kept my faith
                         and wait for me .

i need your voice
                         as i need nourishment
and the weight of your voice
                         to give timbre to mine .

you found your ithaka
                         and returned there full
of the ripeness of age ,
                         cunning , with the knowledge
when to lift your hand
                         to strike , and when
to strike out with words ,
                         when silence .

let my wanderings generate
                         in me the ithaka i seek
at the end of confusion
                         scarcely less savage
than your own .
                         fidelity to eye and ear !

fidelity to experience !
                         let your voice speak
through mine with persuasive
                         gentleness unweakened
by the reach of centuries .

                         stand with me odysseus
and lend me your strength .

Life Lines

-- for Emmett Jarrett

The weakness is
                                 to dream
to shuffle abstractions and apparitions
to revel in the joy of colors
                                                   never seen
to make of sunsets
                                    a sunset , the sunset
as if the cold vapors of
         the closed eye
                  work with gifts greater
than the sky outside the window
the inward window
the inward cinema , let's call it

Last month I was admiring the flight of gulls
        from the stern of a boat
                 outside the harbor at Hydra
and questioning my cinematographic
ability to stage anything ,
                 of such beauty !
gulls !
                 stop motion !
                                          parabolas !

Blaise Cendrars never writes poems down anymore

gulls are abstract
        what would you feel with a gull in your hand ?
as if with x-ray vision
        I saw through the hovering bodies
                 to their delicate white skeletons
and said to myself : that's it , that's the core .
feathers ?        flesh ?        so much baggage !

skeleton = structure

the mind senses structure
before the mind understands

Let's make a cinema together
                                   close your eyes and picture

                 2              g
                                 u                   4
1                                l
                                  s                                  5

now , animate them
lend them life
                 give them some of your own
(they will do only what you command)
                 choreograph them
what better way to praise the flight of gulls
than to remake it
                             after the way life made it first
                             and after the way of your own life !

Chinese pheasants tremble in the brush
until the last moment
        and leap into the air
        with a wing whir
                that startles even the dogs
hunters return to the city
every sunday during the season
with their full quotas of limp bundles
soft carcasses as if without skeletons

The weakness is
                             to make cinemas
of gulls in flight
                             when the ocean air
is crowded with them
                                          a sea gull is
                                                                   to soar
the weakness is
                             to dream of unnatural perfection
                             and rob the perfections of nature
                             of the structure of movement

some hunters are looking
        for a static point
                at which all change is decay
all movement a seizing-up of emotion

"I would believe only in a God that knew how to dance" said Nietzsche

The Parable

that rapping against the window pane
        as if the tapping finger of a night-spirit
                is a huge prodigal moth ,
                                                           a night-creature
who navigates the five-dimensional sea of darkness
        while the powers of growth
                are in hiatus ,
a common-looking brown insect
the drab brown of dry , infertile soil ,
in the raps against the pane are heard
the desperate sounds of living flesh
        and the dry rasps of living wings
                against the glass

beyond the yellow nimbus of light from the window
everything waits colorlessly in vague shadows
awaiting the joy of color , form , growth

between furious flurries of assault
        he walks along the frame at the edge
                of the pane , as if more calmly
with design hunting an entrance

during those moments
        I stare into two black eyes
                and two black eyes stare into my eyes
this huge moth
        sees me while I see him
and this brown creature
        destroys himself no more madly than you or I
        with no more prodigality than you or I

my night-companion
by how much larger and more powerful than you I am
I am by that amount less than the power
which can answer your plea

the goal you seek is enclosed in a barrier
equally adamant and unseen as the wall
        you waste yourself against
                and I tell you ,
                                          friend seeker
for me that light bulb
quivers like an organ ripped from a living body
glistening in a pool of yellow blood


The weakness , I say , is
                                          to dream
like a man of my acquaintance
        who advocates war
                as an opportunity
for men to do such magnificent things
" but men set their limits by action "
and the heroics he imagines
violate the horrors he ignores

Congressionally appointed gentlemen
        wear precious metals on their hats
                and move around like actors
                                                                   in an ugly drama
arrogant insignias laminated
        over their brains
                confined to the real world
of fire power , logistics , strategy
the way a shark is confined by his hunger

they don't especially relish human flesh
and who expects a prehistoric savage to think !

I met one once while diving --
        a smudge of black paint
                daubed on my turquoise canvas

he moved without throbbing
        like a jet fighter
                taxiing on the flight deck

a crew of pilot-fish
        in color coded overalls
                giving last-minute instructions

they look modern
        a smooth beauty of essential forms
                                                                   like a Brancusi
table knives , reading lamps , chairs
        modern forms
have finally caught up with the creature
built to penetrate a dense medium with speed and power
                                 to kill

evolution of beauty
a nineteenth century scholar
        argues that human genitals
                have not gone though
an " evolutionary process of beautification "

your prick is so tiny , she says
        are you mad , he yells
                lie ! lie to me !

another says  :  I've seen some
        marvelously beautiful genitals
                on some damned ugly men
and she adds  :  built to penetrate

The weakness is
                             to dream
tell me , Blaise
                             how coldly you must stare out at us
        are we wandered so far afield
                             that you no longer share with us
I tell you , Blaise
                             we need you

April 26 , 1937  :  the German army defends freedom
                             by destroying Guernica , Euzkadi ,
                             with incendiary bombs
April 26 , 1966  :  the American army defends freedom by
                              sending " more than 1000 U.S. warplanes
                              ....over North Viet Nam to drop
                              an estimated 10 million lbs. of bombs
                              on the country's heartland . "
                              Hai Duong , Phy Ly , Uong Bi , Thanh Hoa

the fires that burn all night in the palaces
are ignited by a brand from the conflagration of hell

o century of death
what do you dream in your moments of armistice
of women and children rotting on the avenues
of naked trees in springtime
of poisoned food , the cupboard bare
of death hugging you to his bony breast
of burning flesh , man and animal
of smoking earth littered with human limbs
of fireballs as big as cities
        snuffing out the lives of cities
                working the ravages of ten centuries
                         in one tenth of one second
of deadly rains bringing winter in april
of empty towns and drab market places
of overthrowing death by usurping his throne
         killing of the left , killing on the right
                killing in front , killing behind
        killing above , killing below
                killing before and killing after

Let's make a cinema together
                                          close your eyes and picture
1          2           3          4           5          6          7
                                                  eviscerated children

now , animate them
lend them some of your life
                for they have none of their own
stuff vitals into abdominal cavities
replace the cinders that were their eyes
mend the severed necks , twisted limbs
and blow breath into the charred lungs

gather them around you like school children
        -- their voices will not pipe in song
                nor their feet jump to the dance of play --
who , knowing only horror , takes time to play
who , knowing only pain , breaks into song
and you explain to them
        from your store of wisdom
                from your hoard of feeling

what joy is
what pleasure
what beauty
what happiness
what strength
what health
what fun

I tell you , Blaise Cendrars , poet
                                                           we need you
as an infant needs milk

" Greek News in Brief "        Athens News

Six-year-old Constantine Pizanias was killed when a hand grenade which he had found , and was using as a football , exploded , in Kalymnos on Tuesday .

A 12-year old shepherd , Sotirios Kataroumbas , was killed from the blast of a hand grenade which he had found and was handling , when it suddenly went off , near the village of Riza Epanohoriou , Kephalonia , on Wednesday .

A strange object resembling a bomb was washed ashore on a beach between the villages of Karitsi and Kokkino Nero , Volos , yesterday . Authorities are investigating .


The most urgent Greek news is 3000 years old
        and is outside my window at this moment
the high-city of Athens
        shining under the full moon
                as if sculpted from a mountain of silver
where once a goddess of wisdom and justice stood
more skilled at war than Ares himself
within the impregnable height of the parthenon

tourists swarm in the shell of the temple
reciting dimensions in feet and inches
and reading anecdotes of another epoch

Athene , where are you now
o majesty of man-woman , warrior of peace
once reigning from your high quarters above the city
once defender of men
once so tall that captains entered the harbor
                                 by the sight of your staff
once so full of life
                                 you blew warmth into the inert clay
                                 and animated the race of man ,
                                 you and Prometheus at Phokis

Athene , in what dark chambers do you now lie
in what sunless dungeon do you wait for the tide
of human wisdom and perception to turn
                                                                 and raise you
again over the city , over all cities

The full moon throws afternoon-long shadows
in the immense attic silence
a river of lights flows past the far shore of Hymettos
an owl alights on the pavement
                                                       Athene speaks :

" You must build an new akropolis
" A new temple of Beauty within your soul
" A new high-city of justice
" On the ancient height of wisdom

" Listen to the music of joy
                             and learn the dance of wisdom
" The savior of our world
                             shall be born of Beauty's Kingdom

the moon begins with its reedy melody
                                                               low at first
followed by the stars , growing in volume
then bush , tree , grass add their voices
insect , stream , and stony soil itself
pipe in until the music of joy shakes the earth

the music of joy is so thunderous
                                                     it appears silent
the dance of wisdom so complex
                                                     it resembles stillness
" Beauty is this , Athene says
                                 thundering silence , moving stillness

ololu                         ololu                         ololu


" Dear Eric : I too am griped by many things of the past. Since not much can be done about them, I try not to let them bother me too much. I probably worry more about the future, now that I am old and about out of enthusiasm. I have not found a dream to replace the various past ones. Having always had a dream to think about and be buoyed up by, I feel pretty empty most of the time. Circumstances and I have rather forced me into a corner, albeit one that is pleasant enough....We have not found one person, even, who enjoys sitting with us and listening to good music. Really, about all that is lacking here, for a person without ambition, are a few good friends with whom one can carry on an intelligent conversation. Intellectually and culturally, one might as well be dead as living here. Friends are hard to come by, I find. Most people just want to use each other, I suppose. Wish they would spend some money researching human lonesomeness, rather than reaching for the moon.                 Dad. "

                                          you are dreaming , Blaise
tell us your dream


The hillside slopes upward
        grass and loose stones
                to the base of sheer granite
that supports the fortifications

elbow to elbow
        warriors show off their strength
                breast plates and plumed helmets
a spear upright in each right hand

their armor shines out
        in the full moonlight
                over the darker face of stone
so many spheres of consciousness
                                          opening outward
layer upon layer
                         radiating outward
from the eye at the center

passages       directions       newness

no room in the unbroken rank
        for a barbarian , like myself
                         with dirty feet and torn robe
were my hoard capable of conquering
        it would take possession
                         of a dusty relic , no longer
shining out against the darkness
        of the long night , no longer
                         the citadel of Athene , although
in shape and form as grand as ever ,
        only a hollow stone reminder of
                         things sent to the coil of memory

here in the land of the past
                                          memory's coil unravels
the tense realizations of pastness
                past and present married , of the same spirit
                                          consecrated by death
the paving stones of the past
                                                  lie under our feet
the columns and lintels of the past
                                  bear the weight of the present
                                  as they bear the weight of
                                  Pericles , Theseus , Athene
                                  man , hero , goddess
and death for us now here
        energizes the mind with its power
                and claims its daily tribute

with feet still rooted to the rocky soil
piled against the base of the akropolis ,
I feel the tyranny of time changes relax
        I have conquered the citadel in the army of my
                 eastern master and march to take possession
I speak a strange tongue
        a language of the East
                syntax of conquerors
                         my djellaba is sewn with silver
    my holiest of holy
    lies now in Mecca
                         I come at Mohammed's command
                bearing the gift of life
        in his name I declare this
modest heap of stone a mosque
        my armies march toward the western ascent
        and pass out of sight , melting their colors
        into the pale colors of October night
                the ghoulish colors of full moon

alone I face the unscaleable height
with the bouzoukis and guitars of the Plaka
at my back
                   wooing the tourist dollar
                                  " ho thromos einai skotinos "
                                    the road        is       dark

the dark road leads from the mind to the world
        and passes through all knowledge and all data
                returning in the end to the mind
                         where all meaning takes place

" Listen to the music of joy
                         " and learn the dance of wisdom
" The savior of our world
                         " shall be born of Beauty's Kingdom

the words of the living goddess mean no more to me
than the beating of waves on the shore
than the howl of wild creatures that hunt in shadows
than the sound of moonlight falling on the air

the words of the living goddess
    are whispered to me by the fallen stones at Delphi
    and I know she speaks from the other kingdom
    freedom from want , freedom from pain
it is Athene at Delphi who fills my ears with death
    and death at Delphi which fills my being with life

ololu                        ololu                       ololu

the weakness is
                                  to dream
of another death far removed
of another life somewhere distant
        for hell is here and now
        and heaven is here and now

Beauty's Kingdom          music of joy
savior of our world        dance of wisdom

Blaise , Blaise

" The spirit of man is being convulsed as was the earth itself in ancient geologic periods. It is death we are shaking off -- the rigidity of death.
        The most dazzling possibilities enfold us.
Take this everyday world
                                          and embrace it !
Cease laboring altogether and create !
For Creation is play,
                                  and play is divine. " (Henry Miller)

The thrust of diesel-powered propellers
        churn the sea gray-green
                and bubbly shades of aqua
with white waste like sweat on top of the waves

the hull banks in a lumbering circle
        and takes a course
                between outlying islands
hunched like dark beasts on the horizon

the mind so full of shapes
                                          the eye is accustomed to
how simply gulls soar
                                      the breath is their home
        unfolded outward
                                        holding wingsful of wind
as you and I would hold a rope
                              except in the drifts of our imaginations
blue pastures
        the color of freedom
                                        sky        blue         sea        blue
the direction of life is upward and outward
effortless altitude
                                             above the slowly rolling deck
only two gulls remain
                                      now a third , a fourth , many
                                      and where I had feared poverty
blazes again new feeling
                                      new flight
the play of myriad gulls in the endless dimensions of
                                      sky blue

Life Lines


the children of philopapou
                                          wear uniform blue
and play on the hillside under the pines
like a herd grazing
                                  my beard amuses them
and the funny way i dress
so unlike their round fathers
in dark striped suits
                               and smooth hair
no eyes are darker than athenian

the teachers all sit on rattan chairs
on an outcropping of rock
        a scene fellini might invent
the children say : you speak english ?
        and think how light the germans are
        to be such a dark people
the soil is red and gravelly with potsherds
                 from uncountable generations
understand how strangeness attracts

three girls jumping rope make eyes at me
especially the middle one whose face
is on innumerable vases in the museum
        she overtakes me with a weapon
        adults lost when they stopped
playing out under the pines
                                          like a grazing herd
military occupation
ranks among the nastiest pastimes
i also consider it unfortunate that germans
        tend to look like me
yes , i speak english
        i also speak the eye talk , body talk ,
spirit talk you speak when
        talking seems remote from your minds

perhaps adults are wiser
        but i hasten to swear that my lightness is light
                 my strangeness conceals no poison
adults wear whatever clothes they want
and look the same
                                  the children wear uniform
        blue that shines beneath fresh green trees

the real strangeness clings to rattan chairs
in a landscape of adamant memories

Life Lines


the salepi peddler hunched out of the wind
behind a kiosk
                             with his copper samovar
and copper tray with four copper herb shakers
        a charcoal fire
        in the base of the samovar
        glowed red
against the sidewalk and the polished metal
reflected off dented facets of years of service

some power in me resisted the unfamiliar
        it wasn't the peddler's face
                                                       a peasant's
face , round , rutted , openly in rebellion
against the blade
                             i approached cautiously
and asked in hopeless greek
what it is , the brown liquid
                                                  he sells in
white plastic cups
                              tipping the awkward samovar
over his knee , selecting the spices with a single
movement honed to precision by repetition

one of his waiting customers
a most unlikely interpreter
salepi is good for the throat
taken with cinnamon and pepper
when put into english words
the brown juice seemed more attractive

i felt the pettiness of having held back
to a limitation i resisted breaking

on the tongue salepi feels like the crushed
flesh of soft fruit , guava perhaps
taut spiced as a spring
                                          and covered
with the warm familiarity of cinnamon
perhaps it is good for the throat
perhaps not
                         but the utter newness
                         and the taste
        an ancient taste , cheerful
salves the formerly restricted spirit

Life Lines


if stone can embody an idea
                                          the parthenon does it
with the intentional standing
                                          and the unintentional fallen
upright and fallen a chalice of order
opposing , say , chaos
and the tourists contribute their elements
                                  random movement and darkness

today i want a thunderbolt from this pile of stone

the wind is cold
and fills my eyes with fine dust
when i look off toward the bay of phaleron
where five american warships are anchored

sailors swarm over this rock
with their two-dollar cameras
and sedate almost formal uniforms
they look like groups of mourners

today i'm begging for thunderbolts
to blast me out of this cell in my brain
the rooms are vacant
                                          i need proof

an oriental girl sits at the base of a column
leaning comfortably against the cold stone
        she is writing something
                a letter to her parents
                         or a haiku of ideographs

she is alone

other foreign girls are escorted by smooth young greeks
with forty words of english
        a half dozen familiar expressions
        picked up from american movies
and nervous arm motions
                 as if conducting their thoughts
pidgin english is the language today

                                          the men look contented
they screwed the girls during siesta
        the girls look happy enough too
maybe they look forward to tonight
        the thunderbolt from the loins

i want one from that column of rock
        the oriental girl is leaning against

sailors arrive by the busload
from five warships in the bay
they have just come from the war
it's the same war
                             i wonder if they realize
they are touring the house
        of the cleverest warrior of all

come on , athene , blast this smooth stone
under my feet

at sunset the guards will drive us all
off the rock like a herd of mountain sheep
        and just like sheep
        we will all climb down the steps to the road
with sunset like an infection all over
the western sky
and the long rays piercing the pink temple

the sailors will return to their warships
and the blond-haired foreign girls will take
their greek boyfriends by the hands
and lead them toward quick hotels

the oriental girl will find a quiet place
to polish her ideographs
                                          letter or haiku
while athene
waits patiently for the new day

Life Lines


every little birth
is like coming up out of water
into air

the conspiracy  :  to rob us all
of our sense of well-being

song is the miracle weapon

i wonder how many thousand years
it takes for a bird to polish his song
up to the standard he wants it

the whole world is a stage
but i am no actor

every place i've been is the place i am
everyman should be joyfully where he is

to talk about ' the end ' is false  :  everything changes
it's the law of the conservation of energy

the differences between everything is their similarity
chaos is the natural order of things

when i say yes i mean yes
when i say no i mean yes
all i ever mean is yes

Life Lines


the only way to go is all the way
                                                           flat out
blood pounding
blood rising like sap to make flowers
rhythms         to mount spring like a wild horse
                      and ride it into submission
the male prerogative
        bloodstiff and quivering to set the pace
seasons         constant motion and motive
        april is the month of joy
                                  with his shoures soote
the month of revelation
with fecundity jabbing out like bright lights
again i come back to rhythms
                                                  it's spring
spring in crete where emmett is
                                                  idle as a saint
talking with the chthonic gods
about where the furies disappeared to
under the lid of crete
in athens where i sit on my terrace
                                                  in the shade of akropolis
while the smell of new bread blows up
from the bakery on the corner
                                                  athens , i say it again
i don't like
the way you spread out like a muddy river
all over the hallowed ground between hymettos and aegaleos
from pireus
all the way up the valley as far as i can see
                                                  motion is not progress

i've done a little excavating myself
since i've been here
                                 carting off the layers
of modernity that concealed the beautiful
essential savage in me
as i was a few thousand years ago
        hobnobbing with dreadful beasts

it is my first experience with death
        and i survive
my blood is rising like sap this year

Life Lines


colored hats , masks , noise makers , funny wigs
the tavern owner
                              has beefed up his force of musicians
people have been saving for a few weeks
                                                               and they go out
in a new skirt or a special pair of shoes
they dance a little
                                 chit chat
                                                  and have a drink
on street corners where barbary organs wheeze

now is the                     carnival                      lent
                 time of the                 just before            !

confetti , tambourines , plastic daggers , tin swords
three muskateer and zorro costumes for children
countless little shops appeared this week
        in empty doorways and toy stores
on every corner in the plaka policemen
                                          are wearing their grim costumes
in the window of a bridal shop
        i saw            superman
        with the        count of monte christo

hangs over the little park at the edge of the plaka
recently built around the choregic monument
        of lysicrates -- he put it up himself
        to celebrate his support for the play
which won the tragedy competition in march 334 bc
        at the city dionysia
                the festival of dionysos
a half dozen linden trees
        around the base of the ancient memorial
pruned back to stumpy limbs
        claw through the candy-scented air
                like silent furies

Life Lines


between windows and mirrors
                                  in the etheric architecture
massive doors
huge wrought-iron hinges
bolt heads
oak planks
                as thick as a man's head
enormous iron locks
                (on a chain around my neck
                a key that fits one
                would hang like an anchor

while gazing through a window one day
i leaned my shoulder against a door
and it opened silently outward

later , coming to rest
i examined the old mechanism
and found it had never been locked

Life Lines


to die full of song is ignoble !
        let it out !
                sing the movements of your mind

the shocks and vague shades ,
        meanings , some erupting , some
                slow to form , taking shape

minute as atoms , slowly cohering , dividing .
        sing the accidental cities ,
                the unforeseen countries ,

and the places without name or precedent
        you live in and visit .
                let it out !

to die full
        to die full of song
                to die full of song is ignoble !

Life Lines


they take things seriously , they believe in beauty
and despise ugliness
                                  pain hurts them , they hate hate
lies bore them
what they did yesterday means something today
                         everything means something
                                  all they need is something and
already it means
                                          it's all that vitality
it's all that saying  :  yeah man , let's
it's all that saying  :  fuck your dainty cautions

cautious men get tiny trying to save black lines
drawn on the map you don't see when you walk out
there where the black lines are supposed to be
cautious men are
too busy looking at the map to take a walk out there
where those black lines don't exist

it's all that saying  :  a vast creation charges with extreme
grace the windblown pine and windborne smoke
                                  and that chaotic vast
                                          creation is chaos
they're laughing with the universe laughing
        suffering against all the tight little islands of security
three squares a day and a roof for the rain
        a place to run to when the boss gets mad
                 taxes paid                 shoes shined

caution                 caution                 caution
everything falls from heaven
                                          from the heavens
no news simply no news
there's a wild world out there
        bristling with ignorance and unknowns
as long as some bastard is suffering more
that's security
the commuter train on time
that's security
the breakfast jam pure the beef not horse
                                                  that's security

800 dollars a second  (  Nov 1966  )  squandered
        in Viet Nam to keep the securities
        jam              beef              and a lot of slant-eyed
                                                 " bastards " hungry & dead
2 billion $ a month                     that's security

everything means something
        the poets all murmuring about beautiful things
joy is old fashioned
a beautiful thing will bring thousands at auction
                 all beautiful things were made
                         in antiquity , in the renaissance
now is the time to market them
                 high water in Florence ruined
                 Cimabue's triptych
        let's make another
        twice more beautiful
                                  the great age of cataloging
                                  now is the time of inventories

science is right
if the moon won't come to you
                                                           you go to it
a satellite festoons the night sky
as beautifully as any star
                                  predictable , so much
                                  more comforting , useful
                                  since manmade and devoid
                                  of mystery
except the mystery of being beautiful
                                        flying across the constellations
beautiful universe makes it beautiful
not man
heaven itself cosmic universe
that's the secret known to poets

the mystery of the universe makes the manmade beautiful
        cast your works into the universe
        and they will be beautiful
but beauty doesn't make commuter trains run on time
and beautiful jam can kill you
                                                    one risk among many
would you have beauty bound up to you , tail wagging
        like a favorite house pet
                risk , one risk among many
out of chaos
a triptych more beautiful than Cimabue's

the unreliables and do-nothings
        missing the train , gorging on jam
risk , extension
                         everything has meaning
give a poet a chance
                                  he'll do his best to tell you
risk makes it worth the effort
                                  and risk makes it rare
what happened yesterday seems ages old
        every moment having infinite meanings
        every moment plunging backward through time
                                                   an infinite distance
awed by every meaning
                                          infinitely awed
        the poet opens his mouth
        to provide passageway for
        words into the world
out of the chaos endlessly flowing
                                      he chooses in the matter no more
                                      than the apple tree chooses
                                      its fruit
a vast creation charges him

Life Lines


contractors mold a huge building
over a gaping hole in the earth

children flood out of movie houses
on saturday afternoon

bakers work all night like elves
to prepare brown loaves

office girls shoulder into subways
at five o'clock

trees spring up like artesian wells
ooze squeezes leafy jewels
barnacles comb the sea

mountains hold the heavens
at a safe distance

Life Lines


from the movements of hands
                                                  patterns emerge
and from the stillness of hands
                                                  patterns emerge
poised on the air like the grave profile
of a trapeze artist as she launches out
over the net

from the stillness of stones piled on each other
walls take shape and divide the herds
        even the earth
can be owned and the minerals hidden in it

the earth broadcasts influences
                                  like secret radio waves
and the human tendency is toward systems
names catalogs maps files borders compendia
the human tends toward death-stillness
asleep without dreams
                                  the order of stillness
patterns spread out like gas
carrying the essence of death

as if with the blood of a million dead
the soil heaves with unexpressed passion

Life Lines


tonight i am 28 years old in athens
looking out the window i see the illuminated akropolis
and i say -- greece , i have a rendezvous with you

at this moment a white bird
flies along the base of the rock
just above the bank of lights

it traces two lines across the silver stone
one white and pulsating with motion
the other a black shadow silently following

and in the sky above the massive base
clouds and constellations join
to form her towering figure
with orion as her radiant helmet

Life Lines


daughter of one man
sister of another
lover of many
28 years in the making
60 nights in my bed
secrets i can only guess at
unfamiliar expressions
she takes me to her as if she had no memory
my instincts urge me to revere
                 the female as if memory were alien to her
the feminine strengthens me against sarcasm and satire
Life Lines


on the plain outside thebes last fall
grapes were bursting out of the ground
and swinging in the sun like golden jewelry

i stopped the car to cut a few bunches
and tore off my clothes , posing as dionysos
for my friends to photograph

not one frame form any of the three
cameras turned out  ;  at the time i did that
i thought dionysos was dead

Life Lines



man , they
        say , is the same
                here and there
same man
        cave to
                cave , same
man , room
        to room , man
                the needing
animal , needing
        warmth from
                outfanned hand
needing food from
        the farmer's
                garden , needing
a roof to
        stop the rain
                and heat
to warm
        the soul , fire
                heart , warm
as hell's morning
        toast , cave to
                cave , room
to room , man
        the needing


green peas
        on my plate
                rare steak
in the street
        warm fingers
                breath warm
in the night
        on my neck
                holes mended
ah love ah
        love ah ah
                love love


handing out
        in the dark
                hand , heart
in the dark
        deeds of love
give and take
        love's motto
                like me be
like me
        and take and
                give like me

Life Lines


rain falling through wind
hammers the air to stillness
pummels round sea flat

the house of rain with glassy walls
surrounds me with myriad reflections
and turns them away
with bell-like laughter weeping

rain works the air
and forges steel plates
the hills are etched on

the myriad reflections of the house of rain
always fall

Life Lines


incense is burned in this country
on a small pad of charcoal
impregnated with lighter fluid

when you touch a match to the charcoal
fire sputters from one end to the other
with an air of inexorability

the burning charcoal throws off fumes
that have a characteristic odor
i sniffed once , twice and yes it's there

the smoke reminds me distinctly
of the sputtering combustion of life
burning its way through my flesh

Life Lines


for the first time in my life i have an enemy
who is weaker than i am
and i always win when we fight
even when he lies in wait with a flower pot

he comes to my house in the middle of the night
and tries to force the front door
to get to his ex-wife who lives with me now
and wants nothing to do with him

he is always drunk when he comes
and that makes it easy for me
to slip out the back door and nail him

he's mad  :  he can kill you without getting
in trouble because everyone knows
he's crazy ,
his friends tell me

no matter who gets killed , i'll be a dead man

sometimes i get carried away
and bash him too hard
he invites it with his stupid
drunken helpless insistence
his face smells like wine when i punch him
after every victory i can puke with shame

god man , quit beating yourself to death
on my fists  :
stay away
you don't fit my philosophy anywhere

Life Lines

-- for I. V.

miracles in heaven are old hat

limitations restrictions slave of this grounding order
of commerce and talent and the whistling vagabondage
of chance at the time of miracles on earth

this whirling planet shows signs of vertigo

with a ho ho here and a ho ho there
here a ho there a ho and everywhere a ho ho
the symbols of miracle pop into shop windows
and the children of santa exclaim

the spirit of giving haunts the streets
in the costume of a jolly shopkeeper

on this day the laws of causation
seem more logical than any other day
under the chaotic laws of creation

causation is a false tyranny

for proof i offer you five presents each as
big or small as you want and wrapped any way
you like completely as you would have them
containing only what money can't buy

undoubtedly it will take longer than one day
to decide what each present contains

Life Lines


we drift along side by side in two boats
and they drift slowly apart now

we have slipped the sea moorings
that made us one vessel during the calm

and acquire sea room in anticipation
of the coming storm

each of us has chosen
to weather the danger in his own craft

i raise my voice to hail you now
while you can still hear me

Life Lines


the aegean looks dry over the white sand
dry water
                 sun                stone
rocky hills demand their place in the air
houses confer no responsibility
                                                  no challenge
white , square , white
blue and the subtle browns of july
the mossy scrub hides nothing

visitors sleep on the white sand
run , talk
                and laugh
with their hands on their brown thighs
and never suspect that a kaiki
fell on jason
                         not very long ago
they must have carried his old body
solemnly over these brown hills

aegean blue dim as memory of his eyes
        senses the thrust and rake
                         of the papery wind
the edge of the sea deceives my eyes
i urge it into existence
like the air giving the hills room
        and the sea room
                and room for the white houses
                         under the sun

Life Lines


                         -- bulletin --

in 2000 years rome added nothing to language
but satire and one good copy of homer

the roman mind thinks only war-commerce
and its language is a tool of war-commerce

the opposition forces of truth-beauty
rally under the leadership of shakespeare
cervantes            blake             rimbaud

caution  :  the romans are winning again
the opposition is being sacrificed like beasts

                         -- front lines --

on all sides i hear explosions
from factories , city streets , in the air
engines , machines , bombs
i hear the ear-destroying sounds
of matter-into-energy , the flesh-rending
noises of steel against steel

poor efforts to make , to create depend
on the destruction of matter , the air
we take into our lungs , the earth
we walk on and cast eyes on ,
the water and nourishment
we no longer trust to support life

the new sounds
added to the spectrum of hearing
by this modern age grate against my ears

the invention of the violin
and mastery of its technique
is a slow explosion of energy-into-matter
of greater magnitude than the explosions
of matter-into-energy that destroyed
himoshima , nagasaki , that propel trucks
tanks , those awkward bombers , and so on

we who created the atomic explosion
have forgotten
that we were once capable of creating
the violin

                         -- rear echelon --

huge snowflakes swirl like white feathers
and the boughs of the pine pitch
like the decks of ships on a wild sea

through the window i watch a small bird
struggle against the snowy blasts
and i'm ashamed that we abandoned him
and all the others
who hold their thin bodies erect
under our burdens

i want to invite this bird into
the warmth of my room

all that i know of protection
from strong wind and snow
i would pass on to him , to comfort him
and all that he knows
of the delicate manoeuvers of flight
he would make gift of to me

he could rest in cheerful comfort with me
during this storm , and later in the spring
i could fly with him
over a host of bright-colored valleys

note : angels are not only provided with an excellent pair of wings , they also have the necessary breathing adaptation and body control to swim under water with the fish . in fact , angels look like a beautiful new animal made up of man , fish and bird . one of their primary gifts is the language of all living things down to the very life contained in stones , and there is great comradeship between angels and all living things.

Life Lines


athens is weeping
        tomorrow i leave
weep goddess
        cold tears of sorrow
i too grieve
        i am full of fear
charming lady weep
        for a lover who travels
for a traveler
        who loves and goes
gray day in athens        rain
            story of man's struggle against himself
                  sees the features of the devil
                  more clearly than the flesh of god
        pocks into the shallow lake
                                                   on the terrace
AFRTS network
                         over the transistor
' strangers in paradise '

space interpenetrates
        and functions on two
                separate levels
the actual cuts across the possible
like a plane
                   of extension without depth

                         beyond the gray'd-out sky
                sun burns through the blue
        and the pirouette of stars
time slowburns through my flesh
the same time that records
the struggle against himself that
man calls history
                           man is a slave
of his possibilities
enslaved in the thin
                             plane of the actual
        the testimony of doubt and fear
man is not grand enough
                                 to support his own greatness

i was too saddened by joy to tell you
i am a stranger always
a traveler with love in my heart
and i am real
                     a traveler with a heartful of realness

Life Lines

Quiet Clouds, part 1: Lifelines
Quiet Clouds, part 2: Pause , Pulse
Quiet Clouds, part 3: Drywater

POEMS 1966-1996 | My Story | Giftwaves | Silly Bulls and Dog Growls | Oh This Yes | Eternal Perfect Beloved