Best Poems From
(04/23/52 - xxxx)
What Pablo Saw In His Final Dream - Una Cancion Por Pablo Neruda
for Jose - 'now he is with the Lamb'
translated from the Spanish of Raul Voz
'The fact is that until I fall asleep,
in some magnetic way I move in
the university of the waves.' - Pablo Neruda
'Power at its best is love seeking justice.' - a radical priest
each my eyes
one was still
shook the high
rock from which
my house was wrest
Making my bed,
that grand ship of
many seas, its feminine
sails billowing in
salt winds out of
young, false with
their own, blew
in and frightened
the birds away
they did not come close
they were afraid of
their own guns
But not me
fearless I faced
pale young faces
the bullets tore
them more than me
their flesh being
bread still fresh,
oven warm (white
flour smeared upon
their reckless cheeks
crushed too soon
by women's hands
to dutifully bake)
and mine - flesh - mine
of the mountain patch
formed of Woman's hands
far where my Mother
toiled with me safe
upon Her back, my first
keel, the bow upon which
I first learned to kneel
to earth, to sea
I rocked in Her motion
rowing the faithful Earth
the yielding softness of
She to me (shipwrecking
all my my future hardness
eventually) my boy hands
not yet bleeding with pens
She fed me Her workers'
songs, of earth, songs
of fragrant sweat, bitter
herbs beneath Her feet
of copper and jade,
the little potatoes
yellow and purple ones
flavored stones softened
by Her presence, Her
sure toil, lullabies wooing
endless sky into each
clouds for Her eyes to
see to shade Her from the
intemperate sun to cool
the hard soles of Her bare
feet, no pesetas, only
songs, for shoes
The rich cords, veins
of the sun and the moon,
conjoined in Her labor,
hardened into the lead
of my first pencil,
the lap of my first page
And conspiring late
within me ran the black ink
of Her relentless tenderness
Never then broken by
threat of oiled guns
shining, the radiant
beauty darkening before
me of a sparkling morning
born of soft woolen waves
shyly attended by youths
too frail, too dispirited
to know what bullets really
mean, their bare feet soft
with obedience, their
leather boots polished,
lined up at the General's
door, another morning's
Never then by black
boots broken, but broken
only by the poor, my poor,
the mountain patch without
voice or even these
two last birds of
Only I could see
faces beneath their
tilted to lure
and sleep never
to be confessed
that my hands
little birds too
were extended to
them in welcome
my words to them
only seconds to go
(the waves were
counting on their fingers)
fire and smoke fierce in
little round mouths,
theirs to mine
'Lads, aim for the silver
pen, the Pole Star of my
shirt pocket where you may
always kindly find the
that one bird
for each their
was yellow and
the other red
aim well at the
weft of cloth woven
of my Mother's earth
Her relentless tenderness
pen and ink
done with 'say'
of childhood play
for feet fade
each my eyes
one was still
shook the high
rock from which
my house was wrest
For All The Words Dished Up - Two For Emily Dickinson
For all the words dished up,
A plate without meat. Maybe, bone.
No love fattened you,
never used your flesh.
Green as grass you stayed.
Dauntless, no narrow fellow passed.
This talk of death, dear Emily,
I know it intimately - plain talk
describes it best, as you know,
this Mystery grotesque -
concreteness like tombs hard in
the eye or that slant of light
obscured by a fly.
OK. It's done now. And ever will be,
for all the words in green
afternoons cannot evade mortality -
and soul no more than that butterfly be,
I laugh to call it Eternity that waits
beneath this plank, that other room
where a coach kindly stopped,
dropped you, yellow wing, still and
dark, now daunted and alone.
Even Pretty Buddhas - Rumors Exist of Han Shan's Unfettered Inscriptions Of Wind
From a preface to earliest publication of Han Shan's poems 'Lu Ch'iu-Yin...claims to have personally met both Hanshan and Shide at the kitchen of the temple in Kuo-ch'ing, but they responded to his salutations with laughter then fled.' - Wikipedia on Han Shan
Red Pine poem 18:
I spur my horse past ruins;
ruins move a traveler's heart.
The old parapets high and low
the ancient graves great and small,
the shuddering shadow of a tumbleweed,
the steady sound of giant trees.
But what I lament are the common bones
unnamed in the records of immortals.
Dates of Han Shan's life are uncertain, anywhere from 5th to 9th century A.D.
'How strange is life in old age
- an old mountain waking up'
White haired, nearer now to
Yellow Spring**, a few teeth remain.
My humor with the world remains intact.
Toothlessness does not block endless
laughter, a small favor of the gods
perhaps. Perhaps not. A human virtue
at any rate. And a strong constitution.
Even alone I laugh out loud, a
victory over my enemies and those
frivolous, ill-tempered gods,
all my youth wasted given over
to their sly manipulations.
Useless it is to demand those lost
years back but suffice it now to
presently steal more boldly from
Kings, Lords, the 'Glorious State.'
Even the temples are not safe from
my pilfering. I kindly repay them
with a poem scrawled on the door
or wall or a nearby rock. It really
is enough recompense for what I
take, a root, some rice, a persimmom.
Nothing more than I need for a day
or two. If they do not know how
to spend my words then so be it.
They have been paid in full. My
conscience, silly thing it is,
is clear as is my mind. Blood
hot, I fear no god yet respect
most men for both good and
bad suffer alike.
My fight is with the gods.
These fickle powers control
mortals who fear invisible
things but I have seen through
them and I laugh and I am unfettered.
Look to your minds mortals and
there find the open sky, the full
land you seek. There are some
others like me who freely roam
without explanation or excuse,
without self rebuke. After so
much youthful, frivolous sanctity
I am an old fool emptied of all
that. I know the ways of those
who speak for the gods. Naivete
about them is especially
dangerous for men.
Still, I cry out time and again in
a dream where I am remaindered
to Silence. When awake I laugh
through tears and avenge nights
from hostile heaven's envious thieves,
their priestly minions mumbling on
robbing men of years on earth.
Even my cave is taxed!
and so is my sleep by such a dream.
Some real troubles come only in sleep.
Why should I be exempt?
A habit now, I sit at the Buddhas feet.
Their faces are convincing enough. I
ignore much evidence to the contrary.
Undergarments even of Buddhas reveal
a truth which does not flinch and I
may perhaps pinch my nose in disgust
even of holy stench all the while
celebrating my own for what else
am I here for? Odor is the Thing!
Even so, in spite of meditations long,
I am flung further into life's fray though
I sway charmed by chants up to the Eight
Celestial Flights, my steps light forgetting
their feet of dung.
Long in exile,
dizzy with The Path,
human beauty broken there beside,
in every field shy flowers want all
our windows and stoops to proudly
present themselves upon.
This only now but happy do I discover.
And I am old, my scent upon the wind
down human lanes where even dogs
take pleasure from the air, where
children play and narrow water flows
and petal by petal night and day the
joyous moon swoons in the liquor of
splash upon stones happy to be worn.
There, almost within reach, the blossoming
tree brightens between darker bricks to truly
dwell. It is for me a shy son of mists to see
in spite of big chunks missing, lost, wasted,
torn out, that the Celestial World is not as
it appears to most, It yearns for much needed
hardness for spirits without shoes still long
to be bread that they may dwell in our finitude.
To them then I am a daffodil dandy at a rusty
gate where heaven and hell conjoin. There
where the thinned road ends vague statues
sway out of focus lamenting their redaction
to stone, no river to move them petal by petal,
unable to move at all, for movement is not nothing.
Even pretty Buddhas pretending eternity
cannot move by themselves alone in need
of human feet and arms. In this way then
they become like me for I too will be
borne by men or wind to the grave no
longer able to move on my own.
Nothing to lose, this rag of selves.
With what glory remains of hungry pockets,
I skip forward singing, La La La, a willful
don, a lord of nothing-much, poems a'pocket,
knowing it's all a shell game but I'm clever
having learned something from all the dice
rolled knowing that here and there (Heaven)
weight matters and that there is more to here
than there. Wised up now I always pack a
change of draws, a piece of broken mirror in
my pocket to gaze within practicing my smiles
to fool the gullible gods who think they are
smiling at themselves.
If stopped and questioned at the Gate to
Yellow Spring, I'll blame you, old Ghost
of too many former selves, a meandering
rumor still muttering the old hymns, who
grants me permission the entrance to boldly storm.
Between what these final breaths remain and
the horizon closing in, my fingers still work.
On behalf of all sentient beings I will plead
I'll write until the quill is taken from my cold hand.
Even then I shall be dirty with righteous indigence,
only the gods to blame - they love a good
argument anyway. Why should I disappoint?
In dying I become human through and through
which comes from doing.
Be damned and done with mirrors and pockets,
a man can curse at the end having earned the
right to do so -
a wink and a
then come the flies.
Whose hands shall
shoo them, whose
hands un-shoe him
and run quickly
I leave my poems just as they are.
When I'm gone let the worms correct
spelling and punctuation.
Meanwhile beneath willow tips
I will tease slowly the grasses to laughter
which is the only horizon I have known.
**Yellow Spring is a Chinese version of 'purgatory'
I Can't Close My Eyes, What Wings Also Are For
With this anniversary I accept my
avian better half, though the human
half be allergic to feathers, wedded
to an inhaler, plumage still embraced
in spite of the divided self.
The hard beak gently preens eyelashes
one by one each hair.
The odd eye-stare, the bobbing the
jerky head especially when walking
less so when hopping, do you even notice?
the head tips to one side then
It is all
sound that is out of
I sing to windows from forests,
to rooftops from street puddles.
I bathe in mirrors of sky.
Trite to say it, grand to do it.
Rumor has it that I once was a reptile.
And so too are you, disguised, two legs
thickly meated of the ubiquitous hairs
everywhere inflated eyes up front,
not much perspective or balance,
like a weak pine you fall more than I
and when I do it's on purpose (unless
it's for love) without complaint of the
air which never fails. Air, that is.
Just to be clear.
Just to be clear, I am at home wherever I
land scanning available horizons which are
also always home.
High, low. Vertical is the thing. And spin.
Speed goes without saying.
Greatly fond of drift, I am easy in the
I will not speak of dawn's greatness,
how you quickly forget.
You say that I repeat myself often,
am limited in expression to only a few notes,
clipped patterns in the song, the cryptic
call always an ellipsis. Boring, you say.
Interpretations, really, it's all in the
inflection after all the years now -
There's always the dancing too
in powder blue without shoes or
need of them,
claws nicely do the
deed is done the changeling comes
note that I am singing to you how
the way it's done.
I tell you the weather but do you listen?
For love, shall I say it again?
I shall say it again.
For love I leave calligraphy in guano
but you do not read it much less see that
are its messages all around.
And still I am with you trying
to wake you. I peck. I scratch.
I even dance again, a frenzy brightly
ruffled, boasting to impress:
I can lay an egg. You?
Words only. Brittle sticks
but none to land on, or perch,
standing on one leg,
head beneath a wing.
I am so tired.
I can't close my eyes, what wings also are for.