In RI : book-length poem (200 pp.), bilingual edition (English-Italian), translated by Anny Ballardini.

You can preview a few pages - & sample some of Anny's Italian - at the same link.

(The book is distributed by Lulu only in the US, I believe - but I hope to make it available overseas in the next few weeks, through their "global distribution"

p.s. 7/29 : I stand corrected. Anny just ordered a copy from Italy. & I looked at Lulu's website again - they do ship internationally now. Andiamo!
I'm in between chapters of Rest Note. Looking forward to resuming that. Meanwhile, have been prepping bilingual edition of documentary/history/"investigative poetics" poem written about 12 years ago, called In RI. Anny Ballardini translated it all into Italian - a marvel, to me!

Still reading O'Donovan book mentioned recently (Desire of the Nations). I feel more kinship with Hebrew poets of 2600 years ago than with my fellow po-blogmeisters. That's a strange way to feel. It's a strange world, po-biz & all.


Don't want to give the impression from previous post that I am some sort of scriptural fundamentalist. Far from it. The O'Donovan book is a study of Biblical concepts of political authority. Not sure that I agree with him, but the investigation itself is of interest to me.

The argument that structures of government and political authority, if they are sustained and legitimate, are evidence of divine providence, are the working out of history as a divine narrative - well, this is very questionable...

I'm more inclined to think that, assuming the existence of God, human nature has been endowed by same with natural capacity for government - and that this, itself, is the fact of providence, its basic expression. Humanity, through ignorance and sin, is capable of practicing injustice and oppression, rather than justice and good government. Bad government (or no government) can take various forms of anarchy, tyranny, aggression, etc. The existence of any particular established government is not necessarily an expression of God's will, as far as I can see. But that humanity has been endowed with the potential to recognize and value justice, equity, equality, peace - and the ability to work cooperatively with others to establish same - this seems like the first principle of "providence".

I don't know enough philosophy or political theory to be able to say what are the historical origins of this perspective. Maybe it's "natural law" theory of some kind. Aristotle : "man is the political animal". Dante : "man is the companionable [social] animal". The pivotal factor is that this is a universal human capability or potential. We are talking about mankind per se.

To assert this is not to deny, to any degree, the functions of revealed religion (and not just Biblical), revelation, or the intervention of the divine in human affairs. I am not arguing for clockmaker Deism. Rather I am suggesting that the prophetic direction of Biblical "providence" is toward the universal (or international) recognition of inherent values already instilled in human nature and earthly existence.

For the time being, anyway, as I investigate these matters, I remain a proponent of Roger Williams' essential contribution - separation of church and state. His insights remain highly relevant. He had a kind of magnanimity of thought : recognizing "civic virtue" was not, as the Puritans had it, a consequence of following the letter of Old Testament instructions, but was inherent in the common sense, and innate awareness of right, which were in evidence (partially) in all kinds of societies - Christian, Muslim, pagan, Native American... For Williams, basically, all earthly government was mortal, corrupt, fell short - Christian government included. The difference between the "two tablets" of the Mosaic Law, for Williams, symbolized the division between spiritual worship and civil order. Spiritual worship of God was a matter of individual freedom of conscience - impossible to impose by social pressure or government decree, because the personal discipline of spiritual worship, and the searchings of the individual conscience, were simply too difficult to impose or to follow "on command". They were between God and the person - and any social or political interference with same was out of order.


... by way of previous, see : The Desire of the Nations, by Oliver O'Donovan (Cambridge UP, 1996).
Another interesting post over here. Romantics & post-R's, theorizing about the cosmos & poesie.

The thing that seems hard to grasp, for reinvent-the-wheel Americans, is this : universe, reality, as a (supra)personal drama or event. Thus Law or Truth is not just an abstract proto-scientific philosophico-ontological thingness : it is Chaos ordered by some act (or ongoing judgement) of moral choice or will. This is the old meaning of divine Providence.

Scripture : testimony of abiding Ordinance. What binds People to gift of Land by way of observance of that good Law.

Who understands this? Some theologians, amateur & professional, I guess.

MLK-TSDQ - Melchizedek - "King of Righteousness". MLK - Martin Luther King. melek in Biblical Hebrew - "king"
Here we are, folks, with another Read-Along with Rest Note, the program where we peel away the onion layers, the unassuming gray surface of this massive Poem of Quietude :

Poem #14 :

Rest Note is a simple oscillation, an oscillating structure, a polarity, which grows into larger patterns. So the stanzas rhyme ABBA. So the books are divided into 2 chapters and the chapters into 2 halves. In each half, poems #6, 8, 12, and 14 are slightly different (6 instead of 7 stanzas each), and mirror each other; in each half, poem #10 is at the center and of double length (14 stanzas). So poem #14, in this 1st section of the 1st chapter, is the double or mirror-image of poem #6 in the same section. Got that? The sections (like each individual stanza) are "bivalve" : you could fold up the 1st half over the 2nd and they would match.

14.1 : "hollow hoot" - the sound of the train mirrors the "edict in the heart (its hollowness)" of poem #12. "sets its seal/on a limitless night" - cf. the "seal" imagery in poem #6. The sound, the word, dominates/controls the night - yet the night remains limitless. The image is of industrialized civilization dominating the limitless plains. "Plowman leans on a line..." etc. - the next 3 lines describe the State Seal of Minnesota; but the "plowman" is also the poet, looking back, like Orpheus, at what has been put aside, annulled, abandoned. "Red" - ie. of the heart.

14.2 : "Spirits shuttle..." etc. - cf. Hart Crane's poem "Emblems of Conduct", with its repeated refrain about "spiritual gates":

"Dolphins still played, arching the horizons,
But only to build memories of spiritual gates."

The Native Americans have melded into the spiritual shadows (cf. "Soo Line" - Sioux Line - in #12) like figures in a Virgilian or Homeric underworld. "Vulcan sets/ the type" - the Iron (industrial) Age is set in "types" of vulcanic fire - both typesetting and human character. Only the "rugged" characters seem to dominate ("rugged" - Cleopatra shows up later in the poem, in a rug, as in legend she first appeared before Caesar). "Calypso, Circe" - mirror the "Empress" in the Russian ice world of tyranny in poem #6. "Scalds, scars" - scalds are both "burnings" and "epic poets". Odysseus's scar was his identifying mark.

14.3 : "Wolf-meals" - melds an image from an old Anglo-Saxon lament with a recurrent image in Mandelstam - poet among (Stalin's) wolves, becoming a wolf himself. "mirror-brethren" - poet vying with dictator for the sceptre of spiritual authority. "Medusa-headrest" - a kind of infernal parody of the "rest note" toward which the poem aspires : amalgam of Orpheus-Perseus - victory & authority based on fright, mirror-paralysis. "Slumber" - it's a kind of troubled sleep, based on 1) images of death (engravings of engraving) and 2) displaced, isolated verbal icons or idols ("star" for star) (a phrase from Mandelstam's "Flint Ode").

14.4 : These submerged evocations of Crane, Mandelstam et al. in the underworld are building toward a kind of structural model of a reality which includes some (hidden, effaced) sacrificial action. "As you move..." - echo of Stevens' late poem, "As You Leave the Room", titled thus by Stevens after experience of giving a reading at Harvard, during which bored students walked out. "Leavings" - leaves, poems, relics over the "speechless" (or "limitless") deep of the unspoken. Mirrors poem #6 again, "...hushed... behind a hedge of speech". "A boy who wanted to play..." - Crane again. The identification with the Word itself exacts its price ("its name, its doom").

14.5 : "He frets your opulent asides" - to fret is both to bother and to ornament, to filigree. But who or what is central, what is marginal? The world's opulence is an "aside" to prophetic, poetic speech. Parallels stanza in same position in poem #6 with its elegant toy soldiers). "you feel/closer to home, Ulysses, as you steal" - this passage an attempt to summarize an aspect of reality in which human heroism depends on a prior sacrifice, a prior abject victim. The "encrypted", submerged "burial" is an "abiding score" (cf. Crane's poem on Melville).

14.6 : "you clipped his jasper bandolier" - the victor brings a token from the victim back to Penelope, who "toys with it" in the grass - thus closing the ring (the poet's offering was the original gift). "jasper bandolier" - martial echo of the "banderole" in poem #1 - the mysterious curtain or cloth dividing earthly image of authority - the king, the emperor - from heaven (in Byzantine and medieval art works).


The first book of Rest Note is available as a chapbook.


OK, here's the last of the first (chapter) of Rest Note. I can only do so much - need a breather. This is the comic coda.


We waltz toward August, slowly now. A storm
named Beryl swings out of the Caribbean
toward the coast. Treetop cicadas sharpen
rusty shares (portents of the sharks to come).

Old documents are buried in tree-rings,
blue Morpho prints. What draws out Teddy from
the jungle, Jonah from the whale? What crumb-
line on the forest floor, what ninefold kissing-

cousins' game? A golden ball goes glancing,
askew, across the floor... the map's a whorl...
the mower's lost his way, his heart is gone
a-morris dancing, amor is a-morris dancing...

Still, sweet, a voice arises from a zone
of rest. Rapid little wavelets, ringlets,
reverberating through suspended nets
of marigold sun. A wreath for the horizon.

Only a heart playing loop-de-galoot with a gal
with a blue-green beryl on her brow. A berried
lobster, lobbed over her shoulder, ferried
toward hurt seaman's tomato bucket. Sail

ho, Pilgrim! Can't bury me yet!
Lazarus (like cicada in sequoia, Hitchcock
in San Fran... like Everyman). A cricket
see-saws on a fiddle. Summer wells

up from a lily pad. All hearts are in
suspense. Upon the coracle Capella, panning
gold from Saturn. A lute-string's spanning
chord sustains : it is the tender rose's twin.
Fine bit over here today.

Ezra Pound out of Treasure Island?
On we go with Read-Along with Rest Note :

Poem # 13 :

13.1 : "jungle was a mutiny..." - we are back with fevered Teddy Roosevelt in the Amazon jungle. "mutiny of limbs" - more play with micro/macrocosm. As the jungle is a tangled "mutiny" of tree-limbs, so Teddy's feverish limbs are mutinous (& as Teddy as presidential "representative" American represents a fevered, lost country). "each hypertrope" etc. - see Candice Millard's book again (River of Doubt) on the voracious jungle ecosystem.

13.2 : "death was comedy" - the bizarre hunting/killing mechanisms of various jungle flora & fauna - their predatory quality - pushes the sense that life is cheap. "renounce all vanity" etc. - this environment is teaching TR to recognize the similar forms of malice & brutality which turned the "civilized" world into a jungle too.

13.4 : "jaguar" and "chrysalis" etc. - jaguar as avatar of jungle itself; dangling chrysalis as symbol (related to many others in the poems) of art or poetry - pendant, swaying between sky & earth. In this stanza the unknown & uncanny forces of both are interrelated or fused to some extent.

13.5 : "Fevered"... etc. this fusion - a sort of act of literary magic - is part of TR's fever; it leads him to find metaphorical/symbolic relations, to "poetize" himself. Thus he sees his father as both tree and "oaken volume" and "valid redeemer" (Vladimir Nabokov acronym); his mother as the almond tree with the dangling nest (Mandelstam/Jewish subtext), and all becoming a pendulum-breeze. This may sound rather "fevered" in its own right : but there is a subtextual logic to the lines. If TR is a persona or mask for the poetic speaker, then this narration - about language/jungle/human lostness - is in part a story about the poetic process in general, and in particular about the literary ancestry of the speaker's poetic voice.

13.6 : "Bored then... the planet was enough" - an arcane encounter - wrestling match, chessgame - between nature itself (the jaguar) and poetry ends in a kind of draw. The jaguar pads off, leaving the president in extremis : yet still he mutters, "the planet was enough". This phrase a sort of amalgam of Wallace Stevens with Osip Mandelstam's credo of Acmeism : that one of the deepest motives of poetry is to "humanize" the earth, to domesticate it, help people to recognize their kinship with it and each other, their "at-homeness" in reality. Stevens & Mandelstam came at this from different angles, but paradoxically shared many affinities regarding the (humane) values of the earth.

13.7 : "absolute/checkmate. And he wore a crown..." - in his "defeat" by nature's fierce law (the jaguar) - his willingness to encounter it - the poet/explorer actually wins the crown.
Follow-up to yesterday's post : Silliman's historicism is always framed to promote the idea of an oppositional community - the New Americans, the post-avants, etc. Ironically similar to Ignatow's presentation, in that interview, of himself as coming out of an embattled real American/WC Williams school, which only recently (the '70s) had come into its own, as the authentic American mainstream.

My view of all this remains the same as ever. It's poetry itself, not the poetry community, which is the diverse/unified vibrant entity.

As long as poets and critics continue to deflect criticism along the path of social branding/collectivity exercises, the real issues - of style, form, rhetorical address, aesthetic values, themes, influence - will be obscured.

People would rather politicize the art - turn it into a tribal checkers game of who's where and who's who - than think and evaluate poems and poets independently - empirically - as part of the unified field called "poetry".

Another irony in this situation is this : as long as poets and critics characterize themselves first and foremost as members of some literary subculture or other, they will continue to fall short of the social and political directness and emotional/logical force which poetry always has the potential for showing. And does show, in individual poets and poems - phenomena which always seem to jar somewhat paradoxically with the theories of social branding which are supposed to contain them.


I'm glad Ron pointed out that interview, though. I like how he tries to historicize the poetry phenomena - rare thing on the noisy blogways. Even when he gets it all distorted (in my view).

Ignatow's embattled-existentialist attitude doesn't really appeal to me. I lean more toward the Whitman-type negative capability or idealism which he seems to renounce.

He saw himself as battling the pioneers of the new academic poets (Berryman, Lowell, et al.). But they were just opening the doors for the next generation - his & WCW's heirs - the thousand flowers of MFA.
I'm out of practice debating with Ron Silliman. Wrote a long response to his post of today, on David Ignatow. Then had to delete it.

Silliman takes a faintly patronizing attitude. If only Ignatow had had the sense to make common cause with the Objectivists or the New Americans! He would have found a happy home & cameraderie. "an American tragedy".

He says Ignatow equates the genteel, quietist strain with "intellectualism" - and WCW, Olson and himself with "anti-intellectualism". But Ignatow never uses those terms himself. I suspect Silliman is imposing these categories, because at some point Ignatow criticized the language poets for too much abstraction. Langpo would never be accused of being "anti-intellectual"! Ignatow's personal poetics are a threat to theoretical poetics - this is what helps get him labeled as part of the general School of Quietude.

Silliman writes that Ignatow's antagonisms reveal the "deep divisions" within the SoQ. It might be more accurate to suggest that those antagonisms and differences call the "School of Quietude" pigeonhole itself into question.


Here we go again, another

Read-Along with Rest Note.

Poem # 12 :

12.1 : "I heard some crickets..." - sometimes the poem drops the masks - the Teddy Roosevelt, Hobo, Lazarus, Oblomov, etc. "Soo Line" - an old midwestern freight train line.

12.3 : "a mask of gravity" - that is, the cricket sound stimulates memory, penetrates layers of past time, so time suddenly feels heavy, material, present.

12.4 : "railroad's ruthlessness" - refers to 19th cent. tension between small farmers, on the one hand, and railroad/mercantile interests on the other. "edict in the heart" - echo of TR's messages to wife "Edith" in previous poems.

12.5 : "peevish king" - allusion to Shakespeare's Richard II, figured variously in this part of Rest Note. "yon imperturbable" - God, divine providence. "shuffles the weights" - again, the oft-repeated motif (pervasive theme here) of balance, see-saw, polarity, swingset, between two dimensions of reality : heaven/earth, time/eternity, etc.

12.6 : "swingset... formula" - back, forth, life, dream... the polarity again. An architecture of reality - an old way of looking at things - coming back again, somewhat, somehow.

Curious how Rest Note is developing, in a sense, out of the final stanza of an important little section appearing early in that poem of several years ago, Stubborn Grew :

It begins with the headache of a rational animal.
Sepulchred, perhaps, in a whitened rhyme
or bibliophile's musty drawers – reflective rim
or echo chamber, some titanic scuttled shell.

And you lose the thread, and this is the thread.
Purpled, from the mordant notebook,
from the charitable extinct awk's
last corkscrew into a cup of molten mead,

like lead. The chorus and audience withdraw.
You are alone with the sound of an evening of a swing.
Here's the church, here's the steeple... here's the door.
I'm almost finished with another section of Rest Note (one more poem to go). I've posted what I have over at Alephoebooks.

This along with the previous section (also at Alephoebooks), together form what is provisionally the first complete "chapter" of the poem.

The plan now (after I do one more poem for current section) is to take a short break and start putting together the next chapter. (Whether I can actually take a break from this mild daily Je est un autre furioso is another question.)

Stay tuned for more Read-Alongs.



The old maps of the world were circular.
As on a ferris wheel or carousel
each coracle, carrack and caravel
defied the stormy ocean in the mirror.

Upstairs, in the house next door, a woman
singing, practicing her scales, reminds
me of a world in balance (as it happens).
So on the walls of city hall (Siena)

Justice, buon governo, reigns (in pastel)
on her throne - the scales of equity
hoisted in hand; and on a busy street
below, calm maidens mime a sweet rondel,

a rondo in a rondure, round and round.
We know the ferris wheel is iron, not gold,
yet this the Oro Pendula has not been told -
she skirts a circuit-plumbline off the ground.

The displaced mowers on a wide prairie
are not quite ready for a painted hallelujah.
And shall they never find their home? Selah
shalom they shall
goes murmuring Windy Mary -

out of the womb of her anemometer
in a mazy mummer's Amazon. She figures
the breeze as a sigh between even shares
of scythe and sky, down to the caterpillar.

Sing-song, goes the wind, pitter-patter
comes the rain, the rain that raineth
every day. The ferris wheel complaineth
not; the swingset is a kingly litter.
I guess I'll save debates & polemics for my essay blog, if ever. The going's too good here to spoil the mood. I don't want to break the spell.



Constant sibillance of a cicada, hidden
in an oak tree's curtained crown, his
hiss like a little silver scythe, it is
strictly historical, it is a timeline,

seething (yours, mine). The loopy garden
swells, meanwhile, beneath his minatory
contrail. Everything expands, full-sail...
the season shimmies into flower... then

slows... slows down, a little more (slowly,
slower...) as if the famous ferris wheel
and cantering merry-go-round conceal
beneath their furious flurry (ply on ply)

full stop. The summa of some springing
theme. Unspoken axiology.
Lazarus arose, arose, and tendered his apology -
time's not what we suppose, suppose, O pondering

. The maps lead nowhere, seemingly.
The ancient iron of the rusted garden gate
is wrung with painful frets. A filigree
of curlicues, ordained to gradual decay.

Hobo loved his dead-end neighborhood.
He lay there buried in the weedy grass
until the stars unfolded. Let them pass,
pass. Flowers are immortal
. Stood,

staggering. And then the voice in the rose
beckoned him close, close. Anemone,
muttered the wind. A measuring.
Mesmerized. Memorize how it goes.
(p.s. "Oblomov" - main character in 19th-century Russian novel of that name, by Ivan Goncharov.)



Far-off rehearsals of a whippoorwill
send Oblomov into the summer deep.
Yearning's sister is eternity. The steppe
is brother to the sky. So still

the planet's perihelion : so beaten round
the concave of the heart. Its cup
so plenished with pleroma-envelope
(reverberant bell-boom of circum-sound).

I am but a poor herdsman, a dresser
of sycamore trees
, bespeaks Hobo. The priest
(amazed) beseeches him, leave off, desist!
His plumbline oscillates from nothingness.

Its long suspension seals the summer rain;
the swingset's rusty interrogative
repeals its requiem (equable ruth).
A whippoorwill replies. They will remain.

Across the rolling distances, a prairie
butterfly makes delicate, indifferent way.
Zigzagging here and there. A monarch, say,
or viceroy : his plangent rule a mockery

of rule, his slip of flight a sweet retort
to blind and dutiful raison d'état.
He's gentle evanescence, only that -
an evanescent elegance, the earth's éclat.

The sound of the whippoorwill penetrates
the humid summer afternoon. Late summer,
later afternoon. Oblomov twists an ear
of wheat between his fingertips. He waits.



Dragonfly launches from somnolent lily pad
and joins, with agile grace, the air force
of the world. Pivoting planes course
unforeseen plateaus (Nature's toolshed

multiplied plein air). Hobo-Oblomov
meanwhile rests his case. His little file
of origami paper. Like a pillow-
case, under a drowsy brow. Off

work again, it seems. Homespun topology
(a gyroscope, in a bottle, in a shipment
of vodka). Crisp spirit quiescent
holding pattern - Pure Oblomology.

Between rest and the forest comes gardening,
, his friend keeps telling him. Hobo
looks up from his model Blue Morpho, glancing
across town. Bottom of the ninth inning,

somewhere, he thinks. Life's a ball game.
Players play, lawyers lawyer, builders
build, mothers mother, poets... ponder,
lapping their papyri into paper flame.

The fold was not a simple alternating
crease. Each step led upward, on a steeper
plane. Cocoon came first, crimped sheer
to chrysalis. All in by agitating

linked caster-cortèges through a stiff
iron gut, separated from pulchritudinous
hencoop (voltage 715 henrys) (deceased)
by hunched inchworm (butterfly valve).



St. Crispin's Eve, at summer's apex.
Poets draw near (andante, Dante). Parallels
merge at the crown (a vein into the well
of vanishing). Within his vivid text

of sleep, Oblomov blooms. He mumbles home.
He is himself a drowsy drone; a summoner
tucked in a crib of absent blossoming
he translates bumble into honeycomb.

Yearning. Behold Oblomov, cusping late
into the moonshine (for a missive he misplaced).
The servant snores. The brazen paces
of a pendulum (tick, tock...) oblong his fate.


In slack forsaken gardens gone to seed
the Petersburgers gather to imbibe
neglected nectar. So that wayward tribe
welcomes the prodigal. Someone will read

from the uncanny text, a honeyed poison
for the ear, the tintinnabulation
of an iron age grown old, new wine
poured out across a motherland... so. Sewn

into her waspish, bitter osier (sil-
vered, oxidized). Forgive what I have written,
if you please - one catenary restitution
will excel the posh, lost horsemen. Smile.
Will try another Read-Along today. With Rest Note. & will try to keep it brief. Am skipping over poem # 10 : it's the centerpiece, twice as long as the others, sort of projected onto a different "plane" of the poem's structure. (That's the plan, anyway.) So I will leave that for another time. Here are some over-the-cliff notes on Poem # 11 :

11.1 : "only a single line..." etc. - life as a race driven by competitive desires.

11.2 : "a bugle" - TR's military trumpet. (cf. the distorted trumpets in # 1.1.) The horses also faintly akin to pegasi (poets as horses).

11.3 : "A Hawkwood..." etc. here's a nice obscurity I can happily explain. If you've been following along with these read-alongs, you'll know that the figure of Shakespeare's King Richard 2nd hovers in the background, as a sort of amalgam of wrecked poet/monarch. Hawkwood was a fearsome English mercenary and warlord, famed & hated in Tuscany & Lombardy for his contract wars, devastations & plundering. But he was so successful at it that he gained wealth & legitimate social standing among his employers. Richard II welcomed him to stay at his royal estate. (see Barbara Tuchman's wonderful history, A Distant Mirror. A good read.)

11.4 : "The forest..." etc. Rainforest, according to different sources I've read, can show an oppressive side of bleak sameness. The stanza is one of repeated oppositions (in this poem) between human doings and a kind of natural fatality. "A cataract..." etc. we are back into inside/outside imagery - the jungle cataract (or disease of the eyes) ends in the "blind whorl" of fingertips - lost identity, individuality. The palm-tree - and the palm with the fingertips - marks a grave.

11.5 : "tangled knolls" - bad pun (noli me tangere). Another Lazarus in garden/jungle image. "Shrouded cloudbank... etc." - the "incarnate" word is blurred, absent (gardener long gone); the image of the word as hovering between (and uniting) earth and heaven - constant element of this poem, reflected in various strands of imagery (esp. the "swingset") - here appears in a doubtful, uncertain mood. "Magdalen" (who met Jesus-the-gardener at the sepulchre) is "lightheaded".

11.6 : this stanza sort of outlines poet's role, while mocking it. He or she stands in between "prudent and prodigal" - "hunting" for something beyond both (mere) worldly wisdom and the diseased passions represented by the race-horses & mercenaries.

11.7 : "sortilege" - a word for fortunetelling or prophecy with negative connotations (magic, witchcraft, flummery). "Yet the lantern..." etc. despite the scepticism, these final two lines affirm some kind of kinship between art & nature, poetry & truth.



Tall heads of the daisies in the evening light
grown spindly in the rain (July's procession).
A dragonfly plays acrobat on the clothesline.
Summer ascends its oscillating height.

The map was not abstract, a planetary plan.
It was bare footprints, someone who loved
before we knew. Considerate fingers carved
her firm reply (imperturbable caravan

for craven days). She was prepared for us
somehow, as words before the lips are formed,
or leaves before the tree. There are women
determined to accompany each limping Lazarus

until he flowers from the grave (almond,
magnanimous). And there is no forsaking her.
The rustic bond is adamant, an earthbound
anchor; so the broken wheel comes round.

You waited, Ponderous, for rain to end.
Weary with weariness, with a decade's
knowingness. In the forlorn backyard,
the jungle gym (its latticework of iron).

The premonitions of precocious kings
are humored, patiently, by humid soil.
An Oxford Book of Oxford, reconciled
with Journey Down the River Oxus. Wings'

imps, prehensile, Archimedean... wrought
by your unslaked heart, and mine. We go
into this game of Go before we know
what passionate bough prefigures every flight.


I know I'm in a creative state when things on the radio or in the newspaper or things people say seem prefabricated to fit into the next part of my poem. I suppose some people think of me as very anal-obsessive formalist, but in truth, 86.7% of my work is pure improvisation. On a good day.
So goes the summer.

This section has a little puzzle in it. There are several obscure oddities here; however - to the first person who can identify the particular little code I'm thinking of, I will send a book!


Lost sailors in late far extremities
(deserted) dream to the antipodes.
A pendulum swims wide above a void
where butterflies solo (perplexing sky).

Ambushed by ambitious shrubbery
(trysted credence of disabled cane)
an edict's submarine reverberation
mutters (barely audible) its remedy.

Invisible (veiled arcs of curving ribs)
grave weight it fans - heart's hollowness;
waiting (reed-girt, ruddy bell) to bless
the crimped coin of the realm (dark Sheba's


tinder star). She makes her bed with bedouins
weft in the iris of a camel's eye (otfe);
greenrusted purple meteorite - ray
inviolate - she is a Bess in the abyss,

pent Penny in the well. A sailor's ark
she rocked so (in the air) on Ararat
an iris flowered overhead - the fiat
of the desert was in flood - its park

prismatic (minuscule dew). And so it was.
Bell-flower, concord's covenant. Solemn
Solomon's-seal. Oasis-pendulum.
The quiet crickets' rusty susurrus.
I've been slow to get to that review I want to write about John Latta's Breeze. Held up by my own obsessive versifying. But it's on my list. I found it a very interesting book of poetry...



So much rain toppled on our juggled race
we were as on a distant, moister planet;
blindly we moped along, making a circuit
where we meant to draw a line. The place

was unfit for a pilgrimage. Bellicose
with bees and bugs, a broken Belgium
(crocus belli, abject, burnt in gloom).
We floundered on - blinkered, morose;

we sought a scapegoat for a game of fear
and found one (some fabled hermaphrodite
the sailors fetched - covered in frostbite!);
stumbled ahead... and struck Capella's anchor

with our feet. Somehow we'd hit bottom.
Where was the ship? Rotating overhead?
The iron itself was tightly filigreed -
cartwheeling polka-dots, a wired A-frame...

and lettered there in hieroglyph, we read:
the ship is nought; you must rebuild the ship;
otiose Atlantis, dozing Z (your smoked fillip
of corny Amsterdams) are zeroed, zed;

you float upon the Nile (an oozing iris
of desire)
. Scattered hoots savored the jungle.
That grim report of some unruly Amazon
jangled our nerves - some angry Pocahontas

scrambled the rune for us
! And left a maze
meant to confound. Umbilical, the strangled
vintage clapped obdurate palms... angled
at unseen light... umbering crazed castaways.


On we go. This is the ornamental midpoint of current "chapter". (Companion to #10 of previous chapter - posted over at Alephoebooks.)


What sort of voice is this, then (in blue light
of cave-mouth) whose semaphoric gravity
slowly seines the iron? A river-ditty
cups an osier (Joseph's willow-basket) -

its homely suavity retrieves the gardener
from grave retreat, its pulse a counterweight
to fictive terror in the tales. Reciprocate
harbinger of recognition, angelic warden

of the vengeant arm, sergeant of Abraham;
answerer, twin-sister, echo, dove.
Gold-withy florin, painstaking... Love's
grandmotherly and oaken logogram.

Concentric rings compile a universe
of anniversaries (reflective palimpsest
and testament) for Providence. A nest-
collegium (eccentric, implicate, obverse).

Your king (yourself) conveyed upon a sled
into the boneyard of the replicas
has answered back (a fecund Amazon,
familiar Magdalen, resurgent riverhead

of recognitions). The gardener's ground zero
of transgressions is transposed to chords
of a resplendent bower-bird's word-
hoard - both gambrelled listener and hero,

your still-tendrilled mirror of reunions.
Tentative, antiphonal, the whispers
built a stony circle of fifths - spires
above Nevaland, refulgent onion-


domes; it was a floating coronation,
water-lily incarnation, signal-design -
echo of the heart's unearthly pine
(sustent beyond the garland of the nine).

Time uncoils unseasonal suspense
across the quarrels of the tribes. A stone
hand hovers over the edge of the canoe
at Prospect Park. What tender balance

swings that audible city of audacity
toward pity?
Listen, listen - O Eternity,
he cried - weaving a crib, his muttering
- O concave octave framing unity.

Then springs of praise - pervasive tree -
scribbled from every margin to the sea;
transpolar (equable, inviolate) civil society
espoused the conscientious refugee

And what of the map? The map's a rude
and woody crossword (love's ninefold ormolu
of equatorial and jungled parallels).
Equations of experience; the blooded

pattern of rust in green extravagance.
Earth drones in the labyrinthine furnace;
the stirring of her mettled source
reverberates through every elegance,

silvers the ploughshare, stills the swing.
And then a suspended seventh sounds again.
It is an amnesty for labored denizen,
the planetary pinion (Saturn's wing).



An iron bell (muffled by humidity)
sounds, distant. Sailor understands
he's touched haven; not vagrant winds,
but lubber's arms, wring such solidity

from air. Sound hangs suspended there
from metal flower (pendulous too,
titanic water-lily - amid blue
depths, beneath infinity). Somewhere

nearby, Sailor Town lies nestled (rocked
beneath green hills). Metropolis to him,
where locals scramble up a worsted scrim
of news - packetfuls of letters, interlocked,

a pillowy osier cage of breathless deeds
uncounted - then counted, recounted; tested,
tasted, registered, restated... ballasted
to earth (as only iron words can be).

Landed, they may not mark the miracle
performed - unfurling suddenly, mountain
erupting from sea to sunlight - when
a young green fiddlehead (tentacle

sprung free) arises from rusted urn
fractured by wayside. Wobbly
Peg-leg canters trippingly
in hoarse euphoria; old adamant

stern planet (curdled) strands him firm.
There is a proverb in it for the wedding
banns; the word is perpetrated, steeled
with fortitude. Waltz on, brave earthworm!
Worn out today, too tired for read-along. Maybe I need a crib.

So many swings & swingsets in this poem. I am going to have to look into the science of Oscillations. There is such a thing (math, physics). Vibrations, wave theory.

Some poetry puts words through what we guitarists know as a "phaser" (a sound oscillator).

All work & no play faisent Jacques a dull garcon, however. Perhaps I should go back to advanced osculations. Sacre bleu! Mais non.



The stillness of a quiet pond reflects
a round world in the round
, he thought. Captain
(not sad, now) had folded up his fogged-in
spectacles. In an upright case. Below decks

(in the red wheelhouse) compass and chart
were sealed up too. He sank a weary temple
to the jungle floor (an awful bed, though ample).
The soul is feminine, some poet wrote,

he thought; a mirror is her port, and portal
. And as he fell into a drowsy doze
amid the studious saws of stewed cicadas...
suddenly he saw - aloft - a water-


lily. (Lotus. Trim chrysanthemum.
Behind the ruffled well of Maggie Carr,
the swamping vamp of gaudy Riviera
Lil.) Cicadas, crickets clept their random

hum. And in the shadow of slow sound
another figure crept across his sleep :
a woman like a butterfly (shrouded, adept,
all wayward, skyward... faithful to ground).

He dreamt, like Nebuchadnezzar. In a delta
(ecumenical) the riddle of Rapunzel spread
(wrapped in an eggroll) on a rugged bed
of caesar salad
... so his Z sighed Ah.
Read-Along with Rest Note

Poem #9 : Rest Note as a whole is built to some extent on patterns of 3 and 9, so as #9, this section brings the first full sequence to a close. And it's a winding-down, in a hesitant, doubtful mood. Can poetry ever escape its solipsistic, irrelevant, self-indulgent prison-house, in the midst of a social world of suffering, inequality, injustice?

Much of the opening of the poem concerns a "Lazarus" figure, and in this section he's tempted to go back to the sleep of the grave from which he has heretofore been stirring. The poem circles back, curves downward, and ends in a supplication.

9.1 : "Raindrops curve" etc. - the figure of micro/macrocosm (windowpane/retina), inside/outside (camera obscura) - the general oscillating movement which runs through the whole poem. Writing returns to "crumbling moss" (ms.).

9.2 : "iron ball" - a ball & chain dragging at the poet's "foot". Contrasted with awkward "toes" which do not dance, but tromp, oblivious to the empty canyon they inhabit. Poetry's dilemmas of solipsism. "coyote jest" - bad pun on "Quixote geste" - acting out of chivalric delusions.

9.3 : "lead mines" - Teddy Roosevelt (the "chivalrous" Prez) has begun a risky journey which seems to have "led" him to a deadening lead mine. But he will be a brave Teddy bear. "El Dorado"... etc. - it was not a fool's gold dream which led him on, a dream of riches. "compunctions of the scullery" - ie., to contrast with Wallace Stevens' "complacencies of the peignoir". Stevens (in the epicurean-Romantic, post-religious mode of "Sunday Morning") is contrasted with Roosevelt's crusading-heroic attitude. "scullery" - faint echo of Golgotha (cf. previous motifs of Last Supper "table"); "sanguine" - ie., simultaneously hopeful/bloody.

9.4 : "Horse-sense", etc. - poets as Pegasus-knights, as participating in a historical remnant-holdover of domineering feudal mentality ("dominion"). "Spent millions" - both the money squandered by fraud & decadence, and the worn-out multitudes who subsist in that debilitated condition.

9.5 : "a ring/ of blue... corncobs" - sort of a synthetic image. Blue corn - Indian corn. Corncobs - old country poverty. spontaneous - both the horses bolting from the Derby starting line, and a sense of "spontaneous combustion" - the silos exploding. "squads of backs..." etc. - Lazarus-Hobo contrasts Teddy's fatherly-chivalric exhortations to rugged individualism ("character, my son!") with a different memory, the sense of "characters" as letters and numbers, printed on the shirts (& backs) of the chain gangs. This is the would-be heroic poem's dilemma.

9.6 : "Someone swings a scythe..." etc. - the sun, mysteriously, swings a scything shadow as it crosses through time & day. This is a "draconian sway" - far more elemental than human dominions. "chameleon/mimics a lemon" - ... ie. but it's not simply the sun, it's a "someone" - a person, a being (inverting, converting the power of the sun, the way "chameleon" punningly inverts a (sunny) "lemon". Who is this round someone, now "scything" the eye? (A gesture toward Blake - "a tear is an Intellectual thing / and a Sigh is the Sword of an Angel King".) "windrow" - combining the "windows" of the eye and the "windrows" created by the scythe.

9.7 : This stanza somewhat shucks off the anxious formulations of previous stanzas, in favor of a personal supplication. Following up on the sense of personal presence in previous stanza ("someone"), TR makes a direct appeal to "Edith" (his wife). Let the curves end in a smile. "Be a nine, San Juan" - no longer the curve of a physical battlefield (San Juan Hill), but the spiral of a spiritual goal (cf. Dante : "Beatrice is a nine." San Juan de la Cruz was a mystical poet.) "Draw tight..." - the race is replaced by a "trace" - the inward discipline of a (horse's) harness.
Just a note to new visitors, as to what the heck I'm doing around here these days :

Have been posting an ongoing poem called Rest Note, and also providing some stanza-by-stanza commentary (Rest Note Cliff Notes). I know this breaks the rules... you're not supposed to say too much... but I like, for example, Wallace Stevens' semi-explanatory notes. Plus, I'm not telling you everything... (how could I?)

The sections of the poem are posted together over at Alephoebooks. It may seem a little confusing, because I'm simultaneously posting new, just-written parts of the poem, while commenting on previous.

The commentary always refers to sections already consolidated over at Alephoebooks. The first Rest Note "chapter" (of 19 parts) is already complete over there (& that's what I'm currently commenting on). Meanwhile, I'm on to writing the second "chapter", and posting it here at HG Poetics.


And the ship sailed on.


The river slipped through fog, and mist, and rain.
The Amazon was brooding, fanned by waves
of sullen heat. Exploratory faces gave
the ship a garland for its rim (straining,

staring outward)... yet that humid blur
(airy water, watery air) merely
mirrored their imaginations (barely).
Silence offered them a nameless murmur;

each face on the circumference was faced
with someone's solitary thought. The river
bore them onward; forward, toward a sterner,
saltier conclave (where the current was erased).

Never have I felt so far from home,
my magnetite. Yet was the shore a-brim
with voices. Someone spoke, they echoed him;
swift was the shuttlecock, empty the game

The river bears a secret life, a bidden
Name (muttered through the wooden fountains
of the hard-pressed palms; risen through rain
into an iridescent orchid garden).

Unwitting fog-scouts hear it whispered, sometimes,
on the borderlands, where lonesomeness weighs
heavily - where all the sailors, Jonahs
are, their sisters, doves (tattoos, rhymes)...

Iris always beyond the pale for that lone
galoot (whose dreams, in fact, are signs
of a scythèd Guadaloupe - whose rose aligns
with swells of hay) adieu'd on the gramophone.


I've been doing some shuttling myself today.


A monarch ambled aimlessly toward Mexico.
Lost in the corn, he knew where he was going.
Knowledge fed humility; he was a gentle king.
There is a cypress where all monarchs go.

The cricket schemes a quainter camouflage.
His ordinary droning screed pretends
it cannot penetrate the summer blinds,
short-circuiting the season's slow demise.

But we hear differently, upon our swing.
Its iron triangles are Archimedean;
paired parallels ascend into a green
and absent-minded Paradise (creaking).


A swing rocks back and forth, reflectively,
summoning evening summers out of night
and day. Its governance is just (slight
scraping of the hinges, anyway); see

how the old saws of the legal hacks (Coke,
Blackstone) frame up sturdy guarantees
of civil equity : see how proud trees
bend branches to a sigh's brush-stroke.

The bookish founders of our liberties
reflecting in their libraries (on Rome,
on London), brooked a necessary home-
truth : let the flower lead the bees.


We softly cribbed the engineer's remains
in a reedy basket in the hold. The double
lenses of his broken spectacles - what bauble-
manifolded wilderness had they made plain?

Worming through the undergrowth, he was
cocooned beneath those spectral bastions -
gray limbs like elephants, the vines' festoons,
a labyrinth of parchment (lost papyrus).

And left some papers of his own. A treatise
on the laws of railroading; some blueprints
for a trestle bridge; A Ratio of Gradients
For Laying of the Track
(et cetera)...

And (in silhouette between two sheets of wax)
the shadow of a Blue Morpho. Cindered,
only a remnant - two half-oval (sundered)
wings (Aurora, lanced in parallax).

There must have been a hearth somewhere
for Biddle, even he. Schooled for the line
and junction, he was mapping his emerging;
some immortal longing was that Morpho's sire

and fiery heir. There was a ring, perhaps -
immersed in jungle quicksand, so to seal
ecstatic secrets home; Earth will reveal
streams moseying beneath our serpent-maps.

A leaden box, dropped from Capella's stern,
buries the memoirs in their well-earned element;
borne below widening ripples, which cement
both shores in circles (like a swing's return).
Happy 4th of July.


I never knew Biddle, the man with spectacles and a butterfly net,
but a first rate railway man, who left that net outside his hut
one morning, and at evening was buried, but now I am doomed to
think of him while I live
- H.M. Tomlinson, The Sea and the Jungle

The good ship Capella sang in the wind
like a little round oracle on the sea.
She was sound, and round, and though the River Z
was a bumpy logogriph, she could understand:

word married thing, in commonwealth parlance
(Adam and Eve, engaged before they met
in a net of chit-chat). Mankind a kind of poet,
sort of, waltzing in a circle-dance

of hermeneutical honey-dew. Footsteps
of the forebears paved a slow pavane (stately,
exact) for weathering reality;
life was proof (by trial) of their precepts.

In the shade of overhanging willow limbs,
the tail-end of the tribal trail... the compass
of an oscillating nest, or crib; slow rose
of sanded pendulum. Some noose of hymns.

We took a shortcut through the twilight aisles.
It is not good to be alone. Grey monotone,
brown boles, parchment of laurel; flowers, none.
Dilapidated lianas in the high, dark vaults.

Back at camp, we squabbled over maps;
the humid air had melted our concord.
If Ralph left at A, and met the pair at Z...
fumblers for words, sodden slippers-into-mishaps...

And where's the President? His father's ranch?
He set out looking for shining Cibola,
found his caboodle kit, and lost America.
What's left of Biddle? Add it to the launch.


& over the Cliff Notes we go again, with Read-Along-with Rest Note :

Poem #8 :

(dedicated to John Tagliabue, my (ex)father-in-law, who died last month; last Saturday (which would have been his 83rd birthday) a memorial gathering was held, people filled a restaurant to read poems, reminisce. A group did a staged reading of an excerpt from one of the Mario puppet plays. There were a few old hippie-zen people from the 50s or 60s - one guy who said he had come upon one of John's poems in a magazine, & it changed his life : he was holding a "tailgate" party outside the restaurant, sharing bottled water and his enormous collection of small-press Tagliabue materials, which he'd been collecting for 50 years. He could hardly speak before the audience, this old taoist hobo. It was an emotional day.)

8.1 : "Hobo drifts..." etc. - poet as exile, outsider, prophet. "privy contretemps" - could mean a number of things. Private shame, embarrassment; Yeats's "the quarrel with ourselves" out of which we make poetry; and (punningly) a secret or arcane (prophetic) anachronism, or "counter-time" : the poet's alienation has something uncanny about it. "pet raven" - his muse here is one of denunciation and doom (self-doom, too, thinking of Poe's "Raven").

8.2 : "narrow gauge" - both a type of railway line and a "gage" or glove thrown down for a duel (between the railroad - here representing social power, generally, that which "railroads" everybody, in Populist parlance - and the "thin red line" of the poet's lips - here in a martial sense of doing battle. But the lips are closed, in a "curved plum of silence". At this point the poem's emotional affect turns (on that curve). Paradoxically, the place where ships seemingly "descend" - "go down" - is a measure of the earth's curvature, the horizon : and the "promise of their tutelage" - that is, what is learned, from the exploratory effort of the ships, is a promise of concord : at the "vanishing point" - ie. at the meeting-point of all the lines of exploration.

8.3 : underlines the hopeful direction of previous stanza : "shared reality". However, this is one of the poems which is short (by one) the usual 7 stanzas, marked by an asterisk-break at the midpoint.

8.4 : The divide marks another turn in the poem's register of feeling. The second part of this poem shows not so much a simple union or reunion (symbolized by the ships or the earth's curvature) : here it is more a matter of establishing a balance between firmly separated things. "Edith, I slept.../hopelessly" - In a poem dedicated to John Tagliabue, there are a lot of personal elements emerging here. Hobo, Teddy Roosevelt, Lazarus, & the speaker are blending together somewhat. "Edith" was TR's wife's name. "Edith" is also the 1st name of my ex-wife, John T's eldest daughter (though everyone from the beginning called her by her middle name, Francesca). The "jade tree" - an India Jade - was a wedding gift from my mother, which is still growing (large) at the corner of Francesca's house. Hobo, Whitman, "Passage to India", the earth's curve, etc... "the driftwood" etc. - the image here is a sort of fusion between a sense of life & time's "drift" with the image of the swingset - symbol of a mysterious sort of constancy, recurrence, strung from "parallel" ropes from a tree. Image itself recurs in many forms through the poem so far.

8.5 : "suspended gravity" etc. - the idea is that the desire and longing in the human heart have an otherworldly (anti-gravitational), infinite aspect (the parallels meet in infinity) - which is, in reality, the ultimate measure of things and of the goals of the human will and activity. Out of the vision of this comes the "inclusive arch" (in a sort of echo of Crane's Bridge) of poetic speech; it is the source of the Whitman-style magnanimity which Tagliabue, in particular, lived out so eloquently and fantastically in the course of his life.

8.6 : "lambency/of recursion" - in poetry, the word both recurs and recoils on itself (in a doubleness like a swing's back/forth motion). "almond shadow-lens" - many things compacted here. The almond tree, flowering in winter, links back to the uncanny "exile" of the hobo (almond being the representative tree of Judaism, faith of wandering exiles) and the otherworldly "suspended gravity" of the heart's desire. The "shadow-lens" goes back to the Lazarus camera obscura; "shadow" also implying something still (or always) hidden from view. (A lens is itself an almond-shape : the geometrical vesica, joining 2 intersecting circles.) "twirled into one/untutored sport" - the oscillation of the swing takes on inertial energy of its own, twirling - into the "untutored sport" of nature. No longer under the "tutelage" of explorer-ships, the poet-hobo is an athlete, a "sport" whose "spirit-ditties" seem effortless, unschooled - like the Taoist poets & painters whom Tagliabue emulated and seemed to become, eventually, himself.
I'm only happy, lately, when I'm writing something, constructing. I like to identify with my grandfather, who built grain elevators and shipyards.

This is something new : using the diaristic form of the blog to write a serial poem & commentary. We're going back to the Canterbloggy Tales.