O more than moon


90 years ago today
Papa was 5 weeks old.
Lindbergh took off, bold
Icarus... Spirit of St. Louee.

Daedalus built his labyrinth
to keep the Minotaur
at bay.  OK so far.
Only minor casualties – 8 millionth

civilian, 1913 (unknown
poilù).  Our engineers
built expensive tears
into delicate ships, Apollonian

on combers like phosphorus, behind
the shining cranium
(a sort of No-See-Um
mosquito zone).  Dear blind

(icky) Eddy posed this question
to himself : Who’s my father?
Phoebus compiled a rather
complex artifice (Olympic Stadion

to be Demolished Tomorrow)
in order to swim again
beneath Shoshone moon –
just 8 light-years away (somehow

we’ll get there, Apollinaire).
She’ll do her zephyr flute-
dance (Bonfire En Route)
as lithe fiery planetary star


Stravinsky set for 8 août
– he had to settle for
the 4th (Madame Bouvier
demand) – juillet, or thereaboot.

Guillaume bowed to the plumèd crowd.
Jesus on autopilot
rose... began to float
over la Tour Eiffel (meek, not proud).

Lindy surrendered all his clothes,
like Francis (to his father
dead) – rose further
in mondaine esteem – only to close

that gap between our earth & moon.
Bright mother of reflection,
pearl of intellection
(pupil Christ within your black hole zone)

my jottos ink into Francescan gloom,
your caved-in grotto
on my kitchen plot.
Light tenders mercy in that little room.

O moon, your melancholy face
reminds me of my lost race
to perimeter of grace.
Mayflower, constant Falcon-Ace...

paternal covenant of trust.
O arrogance of youth!
To jettison the truth
like so much ballast (bursting dust).



leaves of the cottonwood


The leaves of the cottonwood are silver-green,
the river flows green-bronze.
That old green man’s
gone home to his fathers now.  He’s left the scene.

Hobo will join him, by & by.
Leaves only a memory.
Childhood in Mendelssohn, Heidi...
where we drew the plow from the slough of Bye.

Home is the place we’re hailing from
forever & ever, to infinite
space – echo of minute
alien birds, mingling in one b-flat hum.

& home is familiar Elsinore
where haunted Prince Hamlet
spins the wheel – to forfeit
Ophelia, at heart’s grim core.

Time is inexorable, yet life
is sweet.  Violets fade
while a slow parade
carries the king to the tomb of his wife

down the path of a labyrinth
dark gold & green.
Where a trompette marine
strings one tone (teal-absinthe)

Ariadne hums too, as she spins
the silk safety net
round orange parapet
knotting a quipu where Time begins


& Hobo apprends l’alphabet
blu.  He’s buried in summer
like acorn mummer,
coddled in hay, enfant Hamlet –

like Ionas from London (graybeard
or grey bird) cross-
dressed for her Highness
to pluck from the crowd, to be cured

(so they heard).  She’s singing there yet.
In a grey ermine robe
in the heart of the Globe
her voice, claire-voie, will penetrate

your ear.  O incommensurate
ineffable Spirit
one with your Incarnate
One, who sent Me as advocate

to make a waltzing Tree of Love
out of the union of
the twainClay molten Dove
from Kiln-no-Day, soaring above

sky-wells of Ocean Stream, I AM
your mandorla of light
& joyyour mirror-bright
bee’s honey-eyemultiocular OM

circumferencing the whisper-dome
breathing Hagia Sophia
through most-human sigh
urging love’s coracle to kingdom come.



a line in the road


Sarah found a baby turtle
this morning, inching along
a line in the road.  My song-
salience, or green volcano-yurt

on slow horizontal too... toward
her thorny rose-matrix;
my scrambled pick-up-sticks,
snarled with gold poncho thread

in limpid greys of dawn twilight.
This mutter-dome of whisper-
leaves, of zephyr-vespers
veils an agate lamp (magnet

for Blue Morpho & monarch flight)
pendant amid cedars –
like black-yellow flickers
gathered into marigold (O milky knight).

My abstract worming through its raving
scribble-babble, cartoon
peacock incarnation...
a myriad glancing-whorl becoming

the figure for your beaming face.
O the clear air of this
metaphysical silence!
Whose pause released one Finnish race

to lift her soaring steel mandorla
into lofty grace
planted in pivot-place
of riverine & prairie space – ah,

Psyche!  Sister Persephone!
I feel your sunny smile
now – lifting lilacs mile
on mile into an octave-harmony


of active commonality –
Joy’s hero-trial!
Path P – Indian file –
thread-thin tattoo to Liberty!

So the little tree of J
is ever-living.  So
Jonah bee surfacing
tuned to your buzzing play,

high Sophie – through the fallen timbers
west of gray Verdun,
the world’s war-passion
settled in destruction.  Embers

from a wraith of spring, the sack of Prince
Henry’s royal oak...
one ashen acorn spoke
welded to purple wheel of Providence.

The crayon trembles in my hand.
The palm curves green
circumference – Iona
ray, from Ocean State (to every land);

the grey bird murmurs through the surf;
the Camelot of JFK
& blessedness of MLK
merge in the spray, resolve to turf.

So Thunderbird ruffles the stream.
The turtle is a Phoenix
swelling at the matrix –
agate child skipping (on waves of dream).



your whiskey mule


The bulb in a wild Chinese lantern
is a bright orange berry,
edible, tart (very).
Little octagon amid the fern-

pine forest, summer Halloween
memento mori; lamp
in Thanksgiving pumpkin,
blood-orange earring for a queen.

My cedar gazebo in the rain
magnifies your painted
facets.  I’m your slanted
saint, beaming gray Bretagne

matière, like old Guillaume d’Orange
in his gelato-cool
Gellone prayer cell –
the armored ape (‘tis passing strange)

grown peaceable & rocky-mild.
Repentant berry-man
in shady homespun
camouflage (as orange span stilled

leaping crag to crag – a frisky
beggar-stag in Frisco
Bay).  My Lady, O
high-hearted votary!  Your whiskey

mule I’ll be – show stigmatized
tattoos you needled through
cliff-jagged river-scars to
radiant Pacific blue... baptized


in Minnehaha Falls – by Manitou!
Her figurehead (surmised
miraculous surprise)
bobs like green fiddlehead, unfurling You!

Blue-green pine haze of Tian Shan,
whose snow-cone peaks
harbor bright lightning streaks
& pure transparency of oxygen...

be like her molten meteoric smile
my natal cog upon
whose wheel of rose spun
hurtling through light’s peristyle

into galactic congregations
sharing pain et vin
Melchizedek’s Come in,
my wounded daughtersprodigal sons!

The berry, man, the berry lives,
though crypted in the cradle
of an origami grail –
sun of Manitou, sum of beehives!

That copper moss-green Lady
in the harbor lifts her torch
as an intelligible iris-arch,
so read the sign : her rainy-shady

smoke-signal, pine-scented candle
of a little tree – her fiery
omnipresent Amor, mirrory
agate Agape, all blumen (mandel).



a little air


A little air, a melody
out of Mendelssohn, maybe –
like a wisp of smoke you see
afloat above Red Wing one day.

Like pipes out of Apollinaire,
trompette marine – sole
zigzag rigmarole
of an enigma (serpent’s lair).

You walk the blank maze, Oedipus.
With ghost of Ariadne
by your side.  Keen
pal, forsaken thesis – surplus

collateral, original
betrayal.  Henry Adam’s
dusky twilight madam’s
mad, quiet... a virgin owl

nested in stone Columbia.
Only her bird’s eye
as the crow flies
correlates phantasmagoria

out of the desperate heart of Cain
into clay valves
where muddy stars revolve;
through the dawn labyrinth again

from light, toward light, with light
blazing mild power –
like some firefly bower
mowers glimpse of a summer night


beneath remote aurora-shower
bearing fathomless delight
miraculous & right
to chastened human hearts in flower.

So I behold Dante & Job,
David the King,
hedged by ironic ring
of instinctual violence – the mob

of envious, avaricious rivals
circling their prey
to make King for a Day
once more.  Florentine hovels

I see transposed to Catlin prairie,
vertiginous Beatrice
mingled with Platte clay.
To the horizon’s elegant Bluejay

molts saturnine Cawtantowwit
with amorous Jenny-
Jonah; they buried be
only to soar in monarch-flight

O harbingers of Milky Way
whose kingdom is an Ocean
Stream – salty communion,
sea-green flock of Liberté!

Out from the massive turning of the wheel,
where Miriam churns the cream
of every starfish dream
into her almond meal (Messiah-seal).


sealed by kiss


This May light by the Mississippi.
Evening radiance
of ripeness – deep silence.
Nature can’t be explained, you see –

just felt.  The invisible sustains
the visible.  The unspoken
bee-silk tread, unbroken
dangling between a line of cranes

(fixed image from a coasting film
of tears, pooling in swamps
outside Ravenna dumps).
The retina, the iris-realm –

trim silence of almond canoe
hung up in dim garage
of old Ferrara (green
mirage).  She’s looking for you.

Calling you.  Her light curves round.
Curves round a pyx
hexagonal (X marks
her).  Regal Em, par exemple   bound

for glory in an Amherst cell
her russet star flames
golden dome   her name’s
a plunging eagle’s parallel

O gram of wheat  slanting to water
where the match strikes fire
in Mary’s   mirror-empire
as   furiously spinning   mutter-potter


echoes one   light-blazing choir
fluke-blinded hearth-power
of black earth-heart   your
milky diamond   from trench-cold mire

The universe is made of this.
A new world beckons now
from almond soil.  Plow
of the old world, sealed by kiss –

recycling topsoil of time
from Raven-Wife to salt
Ravenna – vernal vault
of Juliet to St. Louis sublime.

Moses – padre of Cleopatra,
stepfather of Jessie O.,
veteran of Shiloh...
he might know.  The river mantra

for the quick & dead (a strong drown-
gong) is fugal drone –
peepers in a mud-cone
warbling (like robins in a round).

Across there, from Monk’s Mound.
The planetary plate
is studded with jagged fate –
but we will make a joyful sound,

O froggy clown.  King Charles 3rd
awaits his guilty crown...
Henry is plastering his own.
His throne’s Columbian (a golden bird).




from Agate Rock


A pink drift of crabapple petals
lights the rust-brown bricks.
Hobo sniffs lilacs
through your gazebo’s flimsy walls

of ragged cedar.  Transparent air
& Saturday quiet;
a tiny spider’s lucid net
shines like platinum from here to there.

His soul’s invisible as God.
His heart beats slowly.
Time in the Family
of Man sways over Land of Nod.

His hammock is a green hummock
where hummingbirds & robins
warble, strum... Someone’s
calling you, Hobo (from Agate Rock).

You loved the looming sweep of limbs,
the creaky oaks in autumn
storms... quick, winter’s come.
The columbarium of paper hymns,

a windy wasp’s nest in your heart,
the melancholia
of sentimental sigh,
chilly memorial... you play the part,

poet.  These lilacs will not last.
Odysseus, in the Sirens’
grip, resists – sharpens
his ears – clings to the swaying mast


shuts eyes against his blinded sense.
Light tiptoes through, at last.
The shrouded cosmos (vast,
remote) circles a pilot’s evidence;

the pole star of his meditation
lifts into incarnation
(ark of a nation
anchored to her own grave station).

So Hobo’s apple petals scatter
in a spring chaos.
The Minotaur lurks close.
Greed splits matter from anti-matter,

rigid red from angry blue.
These violet bowers
dangling sweet flowers
bend over you in vain, Hobo.

Your dark twin leans from Golden Gate.
Her black hair beckons toward
the deep.  Only my Word
is closer to your heart, shipmate

your heart, & hers.  A violent order
is a knot of pain, a riddle
of ingratitude.  They fiddle
while my planet burns, smolder

in contemptuous hate (for neighbors
not their enemies).
Mauve Whitman breeze...
salt loveliness of tide’s martyrs.


the definitive quid

"I seemed to be living under a bell jar, and yet I felt I was close to something essential.  A subtle veil, a thread, barely separated me from the definitive quid."    - Eugenio Montale

Once in a while, in the midst of your bibliophiliac meanderings, you happen upon a book like Ezra Pound's would-be "ball of light in one's hands" - the true intellectual manna, the book you've been searching for half-consciously.

Not long ago I tripped over such a book : a work in philosophy by one Borden Parker Bowne, published in Boston (by Houghton Mifflin) in 1908, titled simply Personalism.

This book (and the Cambridge academic group loosely associated with it - now called "Boston Personalism") played a role in Martin Luther King's early thinking.  I suppose I was drawn to it for that reason, and due to my own prior interest in "the person", the personal (in an abstract, quasi-philosophical sense).  I suppose it was the same focus which had motivated my enthusiasm (7 years or so ago) for the philosophical writings of Michael Polanyi - another advocate for the "person".

I'm not in the mood for strenuous, inadequate paraphrasing tonight.  You'll just have to read Bowne's Wikipedia entry, maybe look further yourself.  Prof. Wiki calls Bowne "an acute critic of mechanistic determinism, positivism, and naturalism."  He was also an acute critic of abstraction, idealism, and totalizing systematics.  Nor he was one of those run-of-the-James American pragmatists.

Bowne seems to be located somewhere in that dawn twilight between late-Victorian disenchantment, on the one hand (the Brown Decades), and early 20th-century dynamic physics (relativity, uncertainty, quanta) plus mid-20th-century Existential neo-Medieval (Eliot) suprematism/despair, on the other.  He's a very sharp knife... a very free-thinking kind of Methodist minister, if you can imagine that.

What I mean to say : Bowne seems to offer a logical, informed, & convincing philosophical ground for my own more cloudy poetical conceptions.  He makes a rational argument for the plausibility of a "metaphysical" universe - originating in a living creative benevolent ineffable divine Person, and manifested (or progressively accomplished) in an experiential reality of free spiritual persons ("souls", you might say - human beings) joined in fellowship.  A reality of Persons.

And he's a pretty incisive critic of rival theories : scientific positivism, materialism, determinism - any kind of "objectivity" which reduces human beings to pawns, cannon-fodder, statistics - chips in a cosmic-mechanical system.  He shows them to be unthinking extrapolations from both common sense (ordinary experience) and science (the useful application of observation & measurement to ordinary experience) - neither of which give access to meaning in the philosophical sense.  The final cause(s) & purpose(s) of existence - beyond both common-sense utility and scientific measurement - have yet to be comprehended.

Bowne provides, I guess, a firm & bright "phenomenology" (probably wrong term) of the Person : not just the physical, embodied individual, but the thinking, feeling, invisible "subject" - the living, breathing personality/soul/spirit - the invisible Me and You beyond physical cycles & change - and related to (stemming from) the original, originary, creative Act of the perfect invisible ineffable universal Spirit-Person in the hidden heart of our own beings, and at the center of the Real.  Thus the individual human person exists as an imperfect, partial, limited image or "child" of the Spirit from whom he or she is created (& thus, also, "we hold these truths to be self-evident..." etc.).

Imagine how such a particular philosophical firmness or intellectual integrity might fortify the confessional faith/confidence of someone like Martin Luther King.  And to what heights (& depths) that might lead him.

I'm nowhere near being a philosopher.  I'm just a poet - but maybe a poet with philosophical tendencies.  I've always had an interest - since childhood, I daresay - in the "big picture".  My conception of poetry has always harbored a polemical aspect : I'm against the abstract objectification of the human person - the various philosophies, dogmas, pseudo-scientific theories, & ideologies aligned against the human being as a free spiritual-material entity with a future.  I think of poetry as a force of expression - a bearing-witness to this living, breathing, personal, metaphysical dimension of the human soul, persisting in relation to that benevolent over-arching Love-Plenitude-Origin-Being we call God.

Many inured cultural habits of the modern mind militate against the patterns of such a viewpoint.  But like Eugenio Montale, I feel myself on the edge, walking along a wall topped with broken glass - so near that definitive whatness, just beyond this thin veil of worn threads...

I feel we are on the cusp of a new cultural Aeon or Era.  The heavy meteoric Stone (Mandelstam's akme-kamen) of divine Presence hovers near again... the Ghost of Manitou, the leader of the Ghost Dance... the human incarnation, the global human per se, arises at the crossroads of time & reality.

The human soul is integral, invisible, personal... & stands under judgement, in relation (to the horizontal-vertical, the neighbor and the Spirit).  Nothing in the universe is either objectified or determined.  Your soul is alive as it revolves, turning toward its own intelligible Origin.

Of course, this could all be phony mumbo-jumbo.  But poetry stands as a criterion for dialogue, simply because poetry is undetermined by anything but dialogue. It emerges out of the living encounter between speakers & listeners, listeners & speakers.  Poetry is the opposite of discourse, lecture, prose - because it recognizes (intuitively) that it bears witness to a creative force both proportional to and incommensurable with itself : the mysterious origin of life, love, beauty, truth (& poetry itself).

I'm not suggesting that poetry per se has some special role in advancing this new Aeon.  This is only my own personal application of poetic resources toward a particular polemical end.  Poetry & State, in general, should both keep a courteous distance from Religion.

But we have had enough of Man the cipher, Man the factor in an abstract design.  We live in a dense world of love & sleep, of conscious & unconscious motive... moving in a dance of form & feeling.  Man the spiritual Person abides at the center, amid vast fields of other ineffable Persons (invisible heights & depths).

I believe in the ever-living Spirit, shaping the cosmos toward miraculous reconciliations & renewals.  I believe that Beauty is the signature of a creative Mind as Source; & that moral beauty - the beauty of compassionate & selfless love for all Creation - has been imprinted upon human history, like the trace of a smile across the ravaged face of suffering & grief.   Mary, Francis... John... the women at the Cross, the Tomb.

The tomb, the crossroad, dead end, turning-point.... anonymous blind alley, where the unknown soldier (Everywoman, Everyman) turns toward the hills.  Walk on up there...

Borden Parker Bowne