Lanthanum 7.17


The old stone church, its simple commandments
Hobo left behind, has not left him behind ‒
under the chaste L of the lamb-lamp, its spine
of bone structure, marrow of the fundament...

of a law that makes a nesting-place for grace
amid kin, among strangers. Its arc follows him
into the wilderness of his lack-love, to limn
(in the abstract) its geometry, its resting-place ‒

like a map from the delta, returning to the delta
(Hobo’s pyramid of sighs). A sunlit eye,
submarine, filigreed with wavy festoons ‒ sky-
arch of acanthus, like a pattern of bear feet

leftover from the midnight pole (dancing
in a ring). Through curving lashes of palm-
leaves, & through the glinting rain-spectrum,
gleaming, shining... a human soul, glancing,

looks out ‒ like Promethean fire its light, its
smile... that will prevail. As through a translucent
babushka-doll (or wooden icon) wisdom’s acumen
twinkles through Hobo to Blackstone to ancient

hermit Maximus : who formulates (in chaste &
chastened syllable) a simple outline of the earth’s
foundation ‒ limestone sketch beside a lambent
surf’s salt curve. Where line & curve are one

like the dove that mantled & remained on Him
(as foam upon a wave’s bare crest) ‒ where kind
& personal are fused... where soul & grace depend
like the radius of a bowsprit’s arc (creation’s rim).



My new watch is my old watch

I took a walk this afternoon, around the East Side (of Providence). Sunny & brisk outside. I was cogitating the next Lanthanum passage... thinking about time & memory & my own time & memories... about Proust & Augustine & Nabokov, & a phrase from Nicholas of Cusa : "Thus time, since it is the measure of motion, is an instrument of the measuring soul." & I was thinking about how this related to 1) Aristotle's approach to knowledge, his affirmation of the absolute, the primordial integrity (in an epistemological sense) of the reality of individual, distinct, unique living things... empiricism, I guess, of a sort... (I really don't know much about philosophy - dropped out of the one ph. course I signed up for in college). & I related this sense of the soul also to 2) the Judaeo-Christian background, which is somewhat opposed to Plato's otherworldly idealism, since both Judaism & Christianity are all about hard & incontrovertible historical actuality (no matter how spun & mythologized) - about chosenness, redemption, Messianism, and Incarnation... about the History of This World, its fabric - the Greek "appearances" (which Aristotle wished to "save")... (ie., "Before Abraham was, I Am." That's a very soulful comment. It means, to me, that something in us exists before time & history.)

Anyway, I was very vaguely pondering all this stuff, in the context of some personal issues & themes & imagery in my poem - the question of time & memory & loss & recovery, of the things we love & don't love enough... wondering about the idea that "grace" or forgiveness allows one to re-enter the texture of one's own past, & love it & understand it in a new way... "Proustian" in a sense, I guess, or Nabokovian...

So, I was vaguely chewing over these things, walking along a side street on the East Side... when suddenly I noticed, down on the sidewalk... a wristwatch. In fact, it looked like a brand new wristwatch. In fact, it was the same inexpensive Timex "woodsman" wristwatch (sort of an outdoorsy, Boy Scoutish watch) which I had owned all through the 80s & 90s, & then lost or broken or worn out somehow, & replaced with a watch I have never really liked that much. I hesitated... but no one was around, no one seemed to be looking for it. "Finder's keepers," as we used to say back in Hopkins. Right there on the sidewalk, I took off my old watch and put on the new one.

It was a sort of epiphany, this afternoon - which belonged with the poem. I found my old Timex.

Lanthanum 7.16


Gray Seekonk ice is gone. Your river’s royal
blue today, Blackstone (kingfisher blue, maybe)
& trimmed with white ‒ a roving, silvery
sheen. Where you crossed over with your pal

Roger ‒ flinty Pericles of curious lone-
rosy city-state. You more quiet, private ‒
no less stubborn... the one who went
to live with Indians
. The record’s scant, sown

on fearsome wind (your library, notebooks);
you’re somewhat anonymous, like a historical
Jesus (who avoided interviews) ‒ typical
Everyman, like her, me... & this the crux

I would sing, this quiddity : in chaste eye
of Aristotle, Blackstone, Joyce ‒
a sea of ex cathedra cymbal tones
that ripple from the stem of every ordinary

Dublin bloom. The deep & potent human faculty
of soul, whose pregnant salience is the spring
of springs ‒ its clear Itasca hoisting up
Big Muddy time : for every pain & difficulty

here is the matrix of a healing symphony.
It is a qualitative change, a change of heart
that comes on incognito... unremarked & quiet
as a dove’s low anthem, cooing from a factory

of forlorn bricks, out of a central fall (Babel
to Babylon). That building salience of song,
lifting ‒ as when a grim lambda, unstrung
on the retina, turns over... into smile

(El-trove, Red Rover, veltro). You know your eye
has something of a Finnish curve (like Saarinen,
or Tuonela)? Like a Hopkins lake ‒ deserted oasis
where Franks met Steins (for wedding, by & by).


late night riffle


Lanthanum 7.15


February afternoon. The sun through a mosaic
of little blue-gray cube-clouds, like a glowing
Inca wall. Henry collects his 50 states of wing-
nut flux... (77 J-sessions, for sake of one LP).

& the stream flows on, ungraspable (almost).
Time’s newspaper, after the paper boy has grown
& flown. All those anonymous hollows, sown
in red-veined wilderness (blown wilder, ghostlier

day by day) ‒ your own heartfelt Nowhereville,
O most AWOL Unknown Soldier. Dispossessed
of every predicate, as Aristotle sketched it ‒
eraser-point of description, inimitable windowsill

of bifocal-vision : what you know, of what
you have been, of what you have made, of who
you are. And as you are, you are : owl’s hoot
or nom de plume - a chapter in the ziggurat

& its demise (brick-breathing fiery Book
of J
). What magnet trains this iron heart
toward its own sunburst? What alchemist
transmutes hungry desire to one sweet look ‒

one infant-newborn love’s Thanksgiving Day?
It’s just arisen... just a rose in your eye,
Sharon. Soul-salience, diamond mandala,
Almond Joy... one upright L at apex of a

wayward Noah’s arc (orthogonal, just) ‒
anachronic lanthan-cornice of Maximus-
Blackstone’s pursuit of personhood. Most-
sunny disposition. Ancient of Days... akme.



Lanthanum 7.14


This gray bird gravely mourning in the rock
shall not be moved. Rock-dove, rainbow-
neck... my pigeon-heart, filled with low
eaves, low-embered evenings. Aftershock

of earthy worlds. Those wheedling ravens
homing on their jasper nests (of sunken
anchors, knives, old nets) along forgotten
rivers ‒ droning (bass & catfish havens)

through steep hobo calendars (like iron).
Pretty soon Hen will do his spastic number :
1,3,2... (half-limping over that star-flower,
child). Mimic of a cold-cocked spring (one

Russian January’s janissary). & it is not
ashes’ temple he intones (the buried man’s
dry wooden corner). For the heart demands
answers (while the dove coos not today, not,

not today). Maybe tomorrow. (Promise.)
Answers it already knows, almond ‒ heartfully.
Hopefully (intuitive). The poem’s true play-
pen (play dough, play, Penny... play rusty-

green copper). Nailed to the mast
of a cedar-tree, in old Romania (or
beech). Where the fresco-church, for
centuries (of rain & wind) might last, &

last, yet. Where a wall of summer branches
flakes leaves that filter your philosophy,
Horatio... & rise through solid snow, Henry
‒ through river ice (Espiritu Santo, she sez).



Lanthanum 7.13


Birdy sings, Birdy, at the center of the earth
(shy, low, shy, low). Birdy of no form, no
. Pigeon (pi-Jean, pi-Jean), you
silly castaway, stray street-person, worth

less & less. A pig’s dungeon, maybe (Villon-
pissoir). Filled up with contempt, with
impotence, with rage. With rags (blithe,
Gadarene) of possessions. Old news (mon-

otonous, processional). Your soul (pearl
in disguise, disgusted). Ghost. Like mist
of melting snow in the pine barrens (south-
west Jersey, just past the freeway). Swirl,

pitch-black raven-Hellene (Isosceles) on
your silver tripod O
... O Gorgon-trestled
railroad-Pythia... micro-knife, who wrestles
pins from hobo-tribes... my seedy-cedar sigh

of Lebanon (Romania). Birdy calls us
(on the jasper perpendicular ‒ the hand
out of the depths of the sea, circumfer-
and on fire) to the old union, my Valentinus;

Love’s rainy monarch’s milkweed wasteland
leads lightly to Cedar Mountain, somewhere
deep in Mexico. On an angle lifted in the air.
On an arbor-breeze... (old amber ampersand).

This human thread, purple... immeasurably
subtle (weft of butterfly across Armenia).
Aimless, free. My soul, my soul (Jessie
Ophelia, Jenny). Rainbow in clerestory.


for Valentine's Eve

This is a section from the long poem Forth of July. Tom Fleming was a childhood friend, passed away around 1990.

i.m. Tom Fleming

You would have been glad to be here today
Fleming to read the Sunday funnies
Aaugh! As Lucy lifts the 12-millionth football
and Charlie Brown flips for the 13th time Bonk!

A little sad too the way the everlasting ends
this evening light limping so slowly only lent
limpid toward the vague rim of tonight’s Milky
Way Sparky’s wavery quickness trembling

only lent now Good grief! While it’s raining the
Doctor is [IN] and you are uncommonly
weird like a Red Baron’s flying mach-lemon
in the mind of a pup and the rain it raineth

every day like frogs pummeling our foolish blind
shopping carts ah for I am sick of love he
cried running down the street in Lisbon
that twines with a tiny pulse a nub

like the distant crown of Shakespeare’s head
a curvature this pause or sigh this dome
between waves or salient mud-caked
seed so small set adrift (centuries

surrounded with fire your burning bones, Tom
a greenish Copernican flame in the marrow
planted amid the avarice of the pilots the raw
and envious violence of Ahab a mote

that will grow limpid) you know there are women
limping with this cenacle (like myrrh afloat
upon tears) (chambered in the upper tiers)
(up the stairs) helical of their wombs

unknown to us but only a promise
when the last full measure is poured out
beside the shores of great rivers the trumpet
sounds into the depths of that prairie siempre


lanthanum 7.9 (with text)


Lanthanum 7.12

This section was written as a sort of riposte to an earlier section, written on the 4th of July a couple years ago. I'm thinking here about my grandparents, Edward S. (the WW I vet) and Florence Gould (born on the 4th in 1900). It's also a counterweight of riposte to this earlier section (Lanthanum 3.12), written on the 4th of July.


A symbol is less than nothing, less than empty
word, husk of oblivion. Unless blooded with
life’s valve, heart’s pulse. Watered with
tears, that Liberty Tree. With the Thirty-

Third Division he was in the St. Mihiel drive...
for gallantry in action... Meuse-Argonne...
decorated... Silver Star
. Verdun Medallion.
His Book of Common Prayer, peppered, hived

with shrapnel. Florence, at home, barely
grown yet. Father swept off in the flu
rampage. Starts going to church then (blue,
yearning). Born on the 4th of July (1900).

The sabbath day, the sabbath day
rooftops the world with its gray
cloudy clerestory; & my old tree
(shrub mountain laurel) blazes 33

99 strings of alpine bells (their echo-
avalanche). Thus I follow the yoke of
your wool-shrouded shoulders (odd murk-
moody bulwark). To that pin-oak (riveted,

revolving axle) where my seven weak
candles join the fifty stars. Galaxy
of mortal gravity & winking lights, cast
up ahead... Amalgam-sign (meekness,

fortitude). For the grain of the song stems
through suspension-spaces in a hollow nave ‒
as snowbound Berryman jumps from his grave
or branches nest above brave woodchip throng.


lanthanum 7.11 (with subtitles)

Experimenting with including the text with the video... have a few kinks to work out, but here goes...


Life as a left-handed Bluejay

About 16 years ago, around 1996, I started writing short interlinked poems, in a simple rhymed ABBA quatrain form. I was modelling them on some poems & sequences of poems I admired, by Osip Mandelstam. Written toward the end of his life while living in exile in Voronezh, a Russian provincial river-town, the poems were collected posthumously in the Voronezh Book or Voronezh Notebooks. I liked many things about these poems, including their very lyrical pathos and their sketchy, "outdoors", plein air quality - & also the way individual poems echoed & responded to each other in short sequences.

About the time I was just getting started with this, I remember sitting out in the backyard & hearing, for the first time, a bluejay really improvising - like a kind of strange scat-singing. Somehow this experience got infused quite deeply into what I was trying to do in poetry : the sketchy improvisatory element, but also the persistent desire to synthesize things, in longer complex works... the result, after a couple years, was a book-length poem, Stubborn Grew - which, just as soon as I finished it, triggered two even longer book-length sequels (The Grassblade Light & July). Finally, around 2000, I finished it, & called the whole thing Forth of July. (All these books, & others, are available here.)

That was over a decade ago. Since then, I've never really gotten out of the groove of that simple ABBA form. I've made a few forays in other directions, but never for long. I've written at least 2 more long sequences - "India Point" (in the book Dove Street), and Rest Note. Repeatedly, upon finishing one of these long poems, I take a deep breath & say to myself : "OK, that's it. Time for something completely different." Yet here I am, writing (for a couple years now) yet another poem in this vein (Lanthanum).

It's gotten to feel a lot like sculpture - or better, woodcarving. I'm very, very comfortable with it. But that doesn't mean it's easy for me. It's as though a special idiom, or language, or way-of-speaking, or mask (persona) has fused & intertwined itself with a particular form (these quatrains, in a repetitive-numerical design). & I feel most free & intellectually alive when I'm in the midst of composing these poems, working out the words & imagery & meanings I want to hint at or convey - elaborating, again & again, on old, cherished, half-expressed themes. When I'm not actively focused & composing the poems, well... lets' say the process makes me happy. So, this see-saw between writing & not-writing tends to make me feel perpetually a little on edge, off-balance... I'm in a co-dependency relationship with a left-handed woodcarving Muse. Something like that.

So I'm writing these long, seemingly-endless, repetitive series of poems, continuous variations on a simple form & a few themes. My approach does not have much in common with the short, direct-hit manner of much contemporary verse. & then another thing I was attracted to (& tried to emulate) in Mandelstam, as well as Hart Crane : a kind of indirection, an elusiveness. Maybe something like Edgar Poe's idea of the "vague." The truth is, I am slightly bored with clear, transparent speech in poetry - no matter how elegant, intelligent, profound or clever it manages to be. The meaning comes at you like a kind of aggression. I'm more passive-aggressive, I guess : I'm drawn to infinitely-absorptive poems - riddles, mysteries, puzzles, indirections. I admire musical imagery that signals a feeling before you understand it (if you ever understand it). I've steeped myself in this kind of indirection : it's a huge part of the persona or idiom I've projected. Readers might be tempted to misinterpret this as an expression of religiosity, mysticism, occult tendencies, etc. - but this would be a mistake. I like this kind of "secret" speech purely for it's game-like, puzzling, aesthetic qualities. I like the tune of something just on the edge of reason - like wind blowing through tall grass.

So I'm writing these endless, repetitive and obscure series of poems... again, not the most popular modus operandi these days. And I've grown tired of trying to win acceptance through the regular channels of the literature industry. I suppose people look at me & for many reasons think "crazy, eccentric." But put yourself, if you can, in my place. I'll be 59 years old this spring. I was writing poetry before most of the senior editors of our American literary magazines were born. After a while, you get a little discouraged - you simply grow tired of the rejection. I think I'm not taken seriously; I'm marginalized. Well, what can you do? I know something about copy editing, about DIY publishing. I've learned about YouTube (which I disliked at first). Now I've adapted my writing process to "instant accessibility." I write a section of my current, seemingly-endless work in progress : as soon as I finish editing it & shaping it up, I recite it on YouTube & publish the poem on my blog. No editors, no sifting, no middle-people, no problem. It's poetry as it happens, available immediately. Of course, I still don't get no respect - but that's not the main thing. The main thing is taking dictation from the woodcarving Muse (if she's still around today, like she was yesterday).

I don't go anywhere, I don't see anyone. I have a day job at which I must show up, bills, and family obligations. I'm a bookworm & a writer. I can't - & don't wish to - gallivant around on the lit-biz party circuit. I'll be 60 pretty soon. I'd rather try to concentrate, remember, meditate, contemplate, compose, write. As long as I'm still standing. I like woodcarving (it's a laurel tree).


Lanthanum 7.11


Poverello Apollo patches together some laurel twigs
or blackberry (always was a berry man) for a
memoir of his lost tree-limb ‒ O nevermore,
he raves (orphan Orpheus). Swigs

liberally from wooden cup of ruddy, runny
mead. Gathers motley woodchips for his
crazy-tilt word-house - a potent gray ace
in circuitous moor-dance (double solitaire).

Only turn the leaf over. The new leaf
(elliptical enantiomorph). The lens
of deep green ‒ scored to bronze &
Ionian bark (Karelian canoe). On a reef

in Petersburg. & like the lightness of rumors
through lofty aeries, elevations ‒ hopeful
murmurs, birch-kindling ‒ he finds a river-trove
in mute soil, blown loess, looming stillness (hers).

He’s merged with her murmur-shadow (Imogen,
imago). Like Charlie’s wagon with its axle, or
the bear with its growl... like St. George &
his rude crusade ‒ his rusty crow, his Injun

shade... his evening bough, its lengthening.
Like that pin-oak where the king was flown
with autumn leaves. Her grace, to be gone
until he understood : the dream-songe, ringing

out of time. That gray ace, hovering
like jasper crown over the bleeding heart...
& the lamp-lance... baobab, almond, cart-
wheeling Jesse-tree. Past 51 P (sky-written).



lanthanum 7.10


Hidden on the inner lining of an eyelid ‒ whose?
This hologram or macro-hole. Dangle-matrix
for raisin-fall of many a fair grape ‒ tricksy
mirror ever which way, like an eyebrow’s

bruised black eye, radiant with shooting stars
of ouch (agony galaxy). Still, bend of dream.
High vault that only you can reach, Centime ‒
penned in thy nonpareil & francophone corner

of desert, jungle ‒ whoever you are (burdened
birdy). Go down, Moses ‒ de day’s yo own.
Like me, sort of ‒ you. Get it? One
agate ray sees W.H. (in Willie’s hyper-learnèd

wail). What gray ace, Falcon ‒ after a great
long watch ‒ is yours to play? What raven
now dare caw thy rage? I’ll wager y’hat, men ‒
fished from mummers’ Troyes-town ‒ been ate

already. No? Nein? Could be, then (ten
to one it ain’t). & yet we’ll go for broke
around this yearning wheel again ‒ each spoke
a buried radius ‒ straight to your heart, Gawain.

Because the arc of this pinwheel tryworks is
grounded in you. This is the sanction
for each river-vagary, Hobo, each Western
Celtic bowerbird’s aromatic isola di rifiuti;

for as the spring leaps from the rock, &
wind shares its news, rocking the willow-limbs,
so the sleepy player-king slips from each grim
forecast ‒ pencil-thin, belovèd (able ampersand).



lanthanum 7.9 : for the people of Egypt

to the people of Egypt

If you were here now, Grace, I know you’d be there ‒
from your Pink Gate in Morocco, en voyage
today, to this Cairo kairos ‒ embattled assemblage
filled with fortitude ‒ in Tahrir (Liberation!) Square.

Grace indeed encircles this square : plain men
& women, standing up at last to their full height,
facing down the hireling bullies (Pharaoh’s night-
owls, rabid birds of prey) to speak again

their ancient birthright : liberty. One word
found often on Williams’ tongue, and Clarke’s,
the cityfounders, here in their young upstarts’
res publica ‒ along with another one (heard

not so much these days) : civility. Providence
divine ‒ the providence of God, they held ‒
had granted humankind the capability (swelled
from primordial springtime root) to sense

the right, the true, the just ‒ the common sense;
& so, in wisdom, kindliness & fellow-feeling
to love thy neighbor as thyself (deep keel
of every commonweal). Heartfelt experience

shows in its works, proven by trial : to stand
with the people, singing, we shall not be moved.
Upright, on the square ‒ a human treasure-trove,
a sea of civic light. Triangulate my headband

of purple, Grace, beside you, there ‒ from here
in Providence, off Morris Ave. (near its honey-
comb sphere, Temple Emanu-El). I’ll wheel my
mummer’s dance your way, fluting... What Cheer?...


lanthanum 7.8


Sings in the dark, where no one hears,
the deaf-blind fiddler, his secret way ‒
there in Bukovina, by that Tree of Jesse
flaking from old wooden logs (like tears,

in paint). Nobody’s song, & everyone’s ‒
the one without numbers, the ignorant
one (lone sum). Like stubborn plant
dead-centered on its half-wit revelations,

crippled vagaries of revery. Only,
possibly, co-revery (careening toward
recovery). If you’re there, that
is, windy beard-blown bard ‒ Henry’s

sown rye, oats, lea (unsprung) flung hard
a-lee (O wild, O light, O heavyweight JB).
J, be. Be tree. B Mine. Be three
in one, & all for thee, dark tan one (shard

of shepherd’s bole). Bucolic pin-oak, or
the king’s own regal-eagle hiding-place ‒ your
terrible, ferrous, bulbous salience (a meteor-
hole). Follow him down there, into the shelter

of nonentity (old rivery Hobo, medieval tater) ‒
into the core of primordial gravity (everywhere,
for Everyman). Earth-mouth. That feral O
you cannot know (where you must go)... waiter,

janitor, servant, slave... Melchizedek, dark
Sheba-spouse... dead weight in the tomb or
stubborn womb (of tomorrow’s bride’s bride-
groom). Bloom, wayward almond; homeward,