Cinquain: Zazen

The students,
Gathered in the zendo,
Are still and silent as stones.
Wrestling with tics, I wish for a breeze
Or birdsong.

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The Place of Transit

In the place of transit,
In the space of neither,
Where the tubes of neon
Glowed by the staircase,
You led me earthward
To the waiting metro.

A ticket machine
Dispensed a handful
Of brassy coins,
And I thought myself
In the elves’ country,
So strange were their sight
And their weight in my pockets,
In the wool of my coat.
In their jangle I heard
The words of Herodotus:
“In the name of the Goddess
Mylitta,” they said.

It rained that night:
The streetlights’ glow
Was mirrored in the roads,
Diffused in the puddles.
Walking, you wrapped
Your arm around mine;
The puff of your sleeve
Was a cushion for my side.

Tonight it rains:
It falls on my window.
Hills and rivers,
Roads and highways
Divide us now–
I am far from the lights
On that rain-glazed road,
And the metro’s neon.

Cut-up: Pomp and Circumstance

A cut-up made from the first five chapters of H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror.” I wasn’t sure what I would get going into it, but I ended up with a very unflattering portrait of the New England Ivy League crowd. (It reminds me a little of the Monochrome Set’s song, “The Ruling Class.”)

Township of insane father —
   Tool-shed heathen gods,
      Boarded-up sheds of taciturnity;

The New England gambrel roofs,
   Cleated, wooden immaculateness
      Under which they blaspheme living,

Rushing their airy sons to Harvard,
   The customs fast falling —
      Screaming in the child’s dwelling.

Father had cleanliness:
   He read avidly
       On the better use of windows.

The boy…
   His appearance was not of brilliance —
      Something animalistic,

Elusive about his nature.
   Mother and horror
      Seemed vaguely linked.

More than scholarly,
   Had done university four years before —
      Vast flocks at the college, screaming.

He crossed the bit of campus
   With a visible shudder.
       (Librarian’s face of disgust from the window)

Each doorway horror —
   Yelping dominion of the ancients —
      Students of flesh and archaic lore in Boston.

The Conundrum (2019/04/29)

(NaPoWriMo Day 29.)

Ἕροσ δαὖτ᾽ ὲτίναξεν ἔμοι φρένασ,
ἄνεμοσ κατ ὄροσ δρύσιν ἐμπέσων.
–Sappho

Unrequited passions are out of fashion.
Not since Yeats was anyone’s reputation
Won with longing. Surely a host of notebooks
Strains to contain it,

Stuffed in backpacks, hidden inside a locker:
Composition notebooks with piebald covers,
Loose-leaf pages, crammed in a binder’s pocket,
Penciled with secrets —

Still no second Yeats. It’s a tricky business,
Making new the oldest of human problems —
Half of all the poets that were, have been there,
Done that already.

Not to mention all the unwanted limelight —
Portinari guiding her artsy stalker
Up to highest Heaven. He hardly knew her…
Nobody wants that.

Therefore, shades of Sappho, Alcaeus, Ovid —
Help restrain me, turn me to other subjects;
Help me not to liken her face to Helen’s —
Everyone does that.

Cut-Up: Is This a Worm? (2019/04/28)

(NaPoWriMo Day 28. A cut-up incorporating Shakespeare’s Sonnet XXXIII, per yesterday’s prompt, and the third part of William Blake’s The Book of Thel. Since cut ups create poetry from other poems, I think it also fulfills today’s metapoetry prompt, albeit in a different sense of the word.)

Art thou a Worm? Heavenly splendour on my brow;
Is this a Worm? She bow’d over astonish’d,
Viewed its golden face one early morn.

Sun staineth the weeping worm upon meadows green.
Ah, weep not little infant
(And her its dewy bed, gliding pale
In milky image of art, alchemy, brow) —
Is this a Worm?
With ugly rack on the region cloud,
And none to answer, none to ourselves.
See they lay humble eyes, helpless & naked,
O beauty of the Lilly’s leaf, full his celestial face,
Hath mask’d him.

Ride, sweet maid; but he that loves knows not,
And I, triumphant,
Cannot know. Is this a Worm? I cannot ponder.
But out! alack! See they lay flatter,
And binds his love with ugly nuptial bands;
And kisses me, yet I live,
And was but one hour helpless & naked.
This, my love, no Clod of Clay —
And so I am mountain tops.

Carmel (2019/04/27)

(NaPoWriMo Day 27.)

At Monterey, where the land juts out,
By the sea-foam straddled, Jeffers reared
A tower of rough stone, of the kind
A Cyclops would build: rock against rock,
Mottled in color, unmarred by mortar,
With slits like a snake’s nostrils for windows.
And the sea, I imagine, darkens the stones
Of the shoreline with spray, though near or far
I never learned. The ghosts, I imagine,
Of Esselen words have nestled among pebbles
And the pearly dust of abalone.
The foam strokes them; they echo in the splash
Like a note blown on a glass bottle.

Elsewhere, Sterling posed for a painting
In a robe and turban, the moon at his lips
And a vine crossing behind him, his brow
Adorned with a cluster of leaves and grapes.
I wonder if the bottle of poison was with him,
Already in his pocket; in time he would take it,
And his name, like a Pharaoh’s name on an obelisk,
Remains on a street in Berkeley, and a bench
Of stone, somewhere in San Fransisco.

And Smith walked there also: Smith
Who flared like a comet’s tail, then darkened,
But was dark like an onyx is dark, or obsidian.
Later the pulps found him, and Lovecraft;
And later still, he carved eidola
From soft soapstone, cut with a pen-knife.
When I handle soapstone, smooth on my fingers
(It falls in flakes at the touch of a file),
I wonder at the root of the piece, and whether
It shared a mother stone with a sculpture
Carved by Smith. And when Smith died,
The Romantics, likewise, turned to ash.

Mountains, deserts, and time are between us.
I would lay the leaf of a vine on that bench,
And something with scarlet petals and thorns
On the ground at Pacific Grove or Auburn,
And touch my tongue to the white sea-spray,
Taste and separate eons from salt.