Poems

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

be reconciled.

 

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.

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Poems from Louisville Review No. 78, Fall 2015

 

Santa Monica Beach

               For Demian

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

GENERAL TELEPHONE,

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,

and left.

beach12

 

Leaving Alabama

 

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.

images

Interval  

I have grown older.

My life reads backwards

as well as forwards.

Tonight I stand still

between living

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

my children

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.

MA

 

A recently minted poem in Nimrod

November in Berkeley

for Gail

The back door,

hanging by its heels,

swings open

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.

Pittosporum-pentandrum-4

Two of my poems that appear in the latest California Quarterly

images

Winter Garden

                                             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.    

   

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A Suicide

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

opponents,

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.

His vacuum

left us outside ourselves,

his swift passage

like a wind in our lives.

kgo-instagram-new-bay-bridge-night-shot-ryrycalguy-090313-600

Esse Est Percipi

To be is to be perceived.

 — Bishop George Berkeley

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

View More: http://rochellewilhelms.pass.us/entrekinwedding

Roots

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.

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The Dead

Dispossessed they

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.

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Azaleas

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

next to my azaleas.images

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