O Fontegaia...


As the morning egret rises from a river
of regrets, the word insinuates itself
into a flow of weakling years. Glyph
of gesturing brave guests - kernel-sliver

with a sail. So your mother whispered
"go!" in every syllable of Frisbee's tale -
you, the hero, donning a chain-mail
letter-sheath, making the glinting sun

your sword. It was a geste for a ghost
of honor (George, a red crossroad at night;
Al-Khidr, kidding around with simple light).
Just a return of something poured out, lost...

delta of streaming confluence, its source.
Eric the Red, Robin Hood - whoever it was
who sang in the crooked, fibrillating bras-
embrace (gong's dislocated endlessness).

It's like the shadow of a profile pent
around a mountain or a tree. Faded,
blent... reticulate inconstancy of jaded
leaves. Fan of limb-design (serpentine,

elephantine). Dauphin in the mind
of Joan, the J in the imagination
of a springtime jig. Someone
waiting at the end of the line -

Hobo or Oblomov, a maypole Juliet.
Beside the muttering ark above the sea,
the chest of secondary ribs - a perihelion
of sunken pain - golden suspense-duet.
Attended reading at Tazza last night. Hosted by Mairead Byrne. Keith Waldrop, Michael Gizzi & a bunch of young students, some of them OK. Especially one young Chinese woman, whose name I didn't get, who read a short poem that shifted quickly between English & Chinese, within individual lines. Really beautiful. Chenglish.

Keith Waldrop looked like an old ethereal trapper from Arkansas. Read, very expertly, short sequence in his usual spooky, terse, whimsical-philosophical manner... but I heard some echoes of Whitman there.

Handsome Michael Gizzi did his wry beat Bogart to good effect, except he hurried off too soon.


Hopalong Fontegaia.


Green grow the rushes, oh
where everything begins again.
A circle of fifths, in the empyrean
hot stuff (original Large Boomerang-o).

Countdown to take-off. Launch
the launch, Lance - step onstage.
Disseminate dandelion leaflets,
green the page. Cowwamaunch,

Canonicus (Egyptian phononaut) -
I love you (ringed in Narragansett,
Roger). A-okey-doke. Over and out from
one evasive (pre-enthroned) clay moat.

Into quiet of the photograph.
The retina's retentive curve.
Unspoken spoke. A concave
almanac (a summer cenotaph).

Here lies the clay of the land.
By Circe of sheepish kingdom,
sleepy orb, sunlit shalom, shalom.
South of the mouth, by a mile, of Nile,

understand? Where buffalo roam.
Outside Rome, inside the dome.
Not far from home. Salome,
Solomon, Sheba (green centrosome).

Infinity's the trail - path P (for poetry).
Some pieces of eight. Double one 32-ft
(mosquito-size) bard equals a lady egret -
white mane eddying abaft the parquetry.


Some photos from Anny Ballardini's visit & readings at RWU and Brown.


Had a good presentation on Wednesday at the ol' John Hay Library (bust of Dante at the front door). Peter Thompson read his translation of a very interesting West African poet (Veronique Tadjo, Red Earth), as well as his own series of "bar scene" poems. Anny read a Ronald-Johnsonesque take-down of the Book of Revelations ("Apocalypse"). I read a couple poems, & talked too much (& too disjointedly) about Roger Williams, Milton, epic, & translation, etc. Then Anny & I read together from the bilingual In RI. This event was videotaped too, so maybe we'll relay it to the public somehow.

Yesterday walked with Anny around RW's old stumbling-block, Boston town, on a sunny day. Italian North End, Beacon Hill. Stumbled upon a lot of bookstores & coffee stops. Quaint historical plaques, flowering trees. Talked about all the friendships & connections Anny has made through the poetry internet. Pretty impressive. She brings some Italian warmth & Alpine intensity to her endeavors. One dedicated hard workin' hungry scriptor-sparrow, that is for sure. Reminds me slightly anyway of Elena Shvarts (cigarette smoke, airy leanness). Annie Oakley types, sharpshooters.


At the RWU event, along with listening to Anny Ballardini's italian, & reading the In RI english, I talked a little about Roger Williams & the epic poem. & how it interested me that RW, epic hero, was a friend of John Milton, last poet of ancient epic. & how the Gould genealogical elements helped me displace the Romantic/Modern obsession with the poet (the poet's consciousness) as the hero of the poem. That is, unlike Whitman's ongoing song of himself, or Pound's cumulative/accumulative "rag-bag", or WC Williams' self-conscious poet-experimentalist (in Paterson), the "Gould ancestors" in Salem & RI fit both more seamlessly & more peripherally into the narrative history of the founding of the RI "counter-state". In RI is not an open-ended series or personal epic, but a rough-hewn story - with beginning, middle & end - focused on RW's basic mission. So I used some techniques of these other long poems, but turned them in a different direction.

& lots of other stuff.
All went well with Roger Williams epic (In RI) at Roger Williams University yesterday. Good turnout, fine acoustics, interesting questions from audience, even sold a book. They made a video - maybe we will air some of it somehow. Peter S. Thompson, RWU faculty, translator of francophone North African poetry, and home beekeeper, hosted reading. Afterward, resorted to local italian restaurant, where they accidentally gave us a $99. bottle of wine, & didn't charge us for mistake.


The charming Anny Ballardini has arrived. We're planning for tonight's reading at Roger Williams University. Planning sessions held at Prospect Terrace, near RW's old burial place.


As per, John Latta's got me wanting to read some more... in this case, Dos Passos. Latta can make this ol' Ivy library mole squirm sometimes. Discomfort is bad for you. Bad for you is good for you.
Pondering (in the shower, on way to work, etc.) next week's events with A. Ballardini.

We'll be reading in libraries (RWU, John Hay). Yesterday visiting British poet John Cayley orchestrated a performance piece in my library, via linked computers, called "Impositions" - involved chanting, singing alphabetical algorithms - very unusual ambience for "the Rock"...

the poet in the ancient matrix of texts...

reminded me of the also-ancient, generative duel between the poet and writing, texts. (I've tried to deal with this before.) Poetry's roots in oral performance and personal presence set up a kind of rivalry with the more-distinct separation of speech & text represented by prose. cf. Whitman on/in Leaves of Grass : "this is no book... but a man". There must be a rhetorical term for this kind of exaggeration - certainly a paradox, anyway. Of course, it is, in fact, a book you are holding in your hand... but Whitman's statement - his persuasive, beguiling poem generally - plants a doubt in the reader's mind.

So I was thinking about this, and then about Pound's Cantos. Pound set himself as the heir to Whitman. With the "beak of his ego", as Olson put it, he attempted to bring old documents, old texts to life - by setting them in vivid, poetic juxtaposition. The poet setting the "beak" of his person within the dry nothingness & vast wastes of history & historiography - & in so doing, identifying himself with the lifegiving Osiris or Orpheus - bringing the millennial vision of springtime renewal into earthly history. This is how Pound set out to "re-do" the epic task of the epic poet, in the path of Homer & Dante.

& he saw his approach as specifically marshalling the special rhetorical powers of poetry, in order to challenge the displacement of the epic role in literature, from poetry to prose fiction & other forms of prose discourse.

So I was thinking about some of this this morning, in relation to the talks & readings I'll be giving with A. Ballardini. Back in the early 80s, I started to glom onto these special long history-documentary poems - Pound, Williams, Olson, David Jones, & others. They had an immediate appeal to someone like me, who has been avidly reading history since early childhood (I remember that big terrific Random House series for young people - the "We Were There" books, the history of science books - which I devoured when I was about ten or so).

& I started walking in that path, of the long history-epic poem. & now, due to Anny's translation/interpretation of In RI, I'm starting to think of these things in the context of translation. If poetry, in its rivalry with prose, is manifested under the sign of embodiment - of personal presence - how does this relate to translation, & specifically to In RI?

Just as there is more than one way of considering translation, there is more than one way of considering presence or embodiment. A. Ballardini provides an example of 2 types of translation, as I've noted previously - linguistic (English into Italian), and conceptual (text into interpretation - ie., her essay on the poem).

The Bible, correspondingly, offers at least two kinds of presence - both of them hovering near the sign of translation. In the King James version, Elijah, when he rides his burning chariot into the sky, is "translated" into heaven. Secondly, in the New Testament, there is the paradigmatic event of Pentecost, or Whitsuntide. Here, the ghostly presence of the Third Person of the Trinity is manifested by an explosion of translation - the famous "speaking in tongues", when the disciples from many nations saw flames flickering over each other's heads, and, though speaking in many languages, immediately understood each other. (This is a representation of the dual aspect of translation - linguistic & conceptual - fused together.)

We could say that this narrative of personal (or Personal, or supra-personal) presence - ordering and translating language into a new efficacy - is analogous to the role of poetry, in which personal presence manifests, vivifies and celebrates linguistic meaning.

So I was thinking of these things this morning, and of how A. Ballardini's attention and understanding of the text of my poem to some extent brings it to life; just as a poetry reading brings text to (celebratory) life.

In the context of In RI, we are talking about the epic tale of a "hero" (Roger Williams) who was, in many ways, both the product and the agent of translation. The new "counter-state" of Rhode Island, for which founding he was most responsible, was in a sense the outcome of a clash between the medieval & renaissance culture of autocratic state and enforced civil religion, on the one hand, and the radical, anarchic power of the newly-vernacularized Scripture on the other. When ordinary people could read the texts for themselves, forces of liberation were set in motion : forces which Williams, perhaps more effectively than anyone else, marshalled on behalf of the actualization of real political liberty. (p.s. some scholars have suggested that the term Williams used to identify RI as a "sanctuary state" - defining it as a "refuge" - might have been borrowed from an old report, in Italian - the first European description, by explorer Giovanni da Verrazano - of Narragansett Bay as a pleasant "refugio".)

So I was thinking about these things... and also about the title of the poem, In RI - which has a sort of double meaning. You see it in many medieval & renaissance paintings, as an inscription printed by the Romans over the crucified Jesus. Here is a counter-symbol, the polar opposite of that of Pentecost : an authoritative text inscribed over a dead body. At end end of her essay, A. Ballardini quotes an email I sent her in this regard :

"[The poem] is political. About founding a "counter-state", based on rights and popular sovereignty, which themselves in turn depend upon human empathy, fairness, openness, solidarity. Thus the title "In RI" sort of telescopes two things: an abuse of judicial language, and a special place (RI). By the abuse I mean the inscription 'IN RI' written by the Romans over Jesus' crucifixion. They had a procedure of writing the crimes of the condemned in this way, on the very instrument of execution. 'In RI' stood for 'king of the Jews', thus accusing Jesus of rebellion vs. the Roman state (actually a sort of stand-in for Barabbas). The political foundation of that "special place" (Rhode Island), through the agency of Williams, effects a sort of reversal (in world history) of the type of injustice represented by the inscription "In RI" (a mirror-image of the founding of Rome in Virgil's Aeneid...)."

So... anyway, I've been thinking about the role of poetry & the poet, in the context of a centuries-old literary predominance of prose. & how these varied elements of presence & translation - embodiment & ghostly transposition - are somehow activated by poetic performance...


I re-read Anny's essay on In RI. She has really done me a great honor. Actually she is "translating" on different levels - first, linguistically, into Italian; second, conceptually, through her critical interpretation. It becomes a kind of collaboration. Maybe all big heavy poems need something like this! I'm very lucky.
Nicholas Manning, over here, asks Anny Ballardini : "how Gould's poetics of historiographies contrasts with the heritage of Olson, or even Pound?"

I probably shouldn't barge in... but here it is anyway, from the horse's mouth.

In relation to the "long history grab-bag poems" of the 20th century, In RI was a latecomer (1994-5). It's closer to Williams' Paterson than to either Pound's Cantos or Olson's Maximus Poems. By that I mean the style is for the most part more discursive & prosy - less elliptical/discontinuous (Pound) or vatic/obscure (Olson) - though the 2nd Book (of the two) starts to take off in that direction, to a limited degree.

The most obvious contrast, I think, between my poem and these others, is that In RI is not an open-ended, improvisational "life poem" (which approach Pound & the others took primarily, I think, from Leaves of Grass). Underneath the seeming divagations of the first part of In RI lies the simple bone-structure of an epic narrative : Roger Williams' exile to Rhode Island, his friendship with the Narragansetts, his founding of a new kind of political entity designed intentionally as a "refuge" from state & religious persecution.

The "subplots" of the first part - the Pequot War, the witch trials, the story of Anne Hutchinson, the Gould genealogies - serve as a contextualizing backdrop, the "ground" of Williams' "figural" epic deeds. In a way, the subplots present the dead-ends, the dangers, the obstacles, the tasks which the hero has to confront.

I could have approached the material with a different kind of style - and in fact I considered doing so. There were other models, such as Crane's Bridge, and, even closer to home, Brotherly Love - Daniel Hoffman's historical sequence on William Penn and the history of the Quakers in Pennsylvania. But In RI was a sort of intentional side-trip. I had already been writing long poems in a kind of overwrought imitation-Crane style (a series called Spring Quartet), and a felt a certain revulsion for that stuff. I needed to do something different. And, for a long time, I'd been reading & thinking about those long poems in the more Poundian mode. (My first effort in this vein, called Memorial Day, was written around 1988. I "published" it back then as a very homemade chapbook. I still like that poem, though I don't think I'll publish it again. Buffalo & Brown libraries have copies.)

More later, maybe.
It's a minor personal miracle, that - after years of blathering about my own poetry - someone else, with her own viewpoint, has actually given it some careful consideration. Anny Ballardini found valuable sources about Roger Williams et al. which I never consulted. Her paper is a good introduction - emphasizing some important things, putting them in a clear light. I'm very grateful to her.

Nicholas Manning, in her comment section, also asks an interesting question, which I will think about...


& so on.


Some prehistoric microlevel of the dome's
mosaic law. Beneath the fixity of royal
crosshairs (where PT-109's red-purple
wake left the Pacific for a martial

martyrdom). Under the stippled panoply
of curved Gargantua-gazing eyes. Past
crystalline strata set in mordant paste
down to the furtive ricocheting clay.

Where the life resides. Persists. Kenosis
(unwritten law of shrouded self-
displacement). Love's non-com - Sergeant
Elf (oldest service in the universe).

A gap in the fabric's polyhydral harm
(world-histrionic tragedy, a comedy
of air). Somebody sleeping in the eye
of the sty. Cyclone of prophet-phlegm.

A dream. Old Neapolitan, melting
in rings of irrational national colors
(three, three, three...). Nature abhors
a rotund vacuum - let him keep painting

descending eagles and other things, until
his bright, monkish, contemplative eye
wells up with figures so continuous (pie
squares) only the river of ages will

fulfill their overflowing way. Even now
I hear those waves cascade over Victoria.
And the sun-dog suspended there, an aria
shading the area... a rosy-fingered plow.
Fontegaia rambles on.


Something curls in pale fiddleheads,
filtering green cobras out of a dank
spring swamp. L-shaped mountebank
in bat-cape, with cure-all meds -

green knight, al-Khidr, bold St. George
whose penetrating transverse blade
pierces the charade of winter
murk. The hero's urgent

fatal geste... Effort of the mind
to grasp the nettle of the crux of things
finds its analogy in his blind quest. Wings
meander just behind eyelids... unwind

the shroud. Outline, profile, silhouette -
winding-cloth of one slow-wheeling planet.
Through elliptical sun-paths, a chariot
of fiery thought - viridian alphabet

whose chrome transmutes the metronome
- monotony to optic choreography,
mantic morphology; lips tippling topology
until they topple from their Babel-dome into

Mare Magdaleneum (or magma-mare).
Shadow of the curving earth
(circle of a single mother's
brow) her precinct, everywhere -

the potter's fluid handiwork, the mind's
unknowing amplitude, the emperor's
surrender of a miniature hill-crown
town. To her (evasive leaping hind).
The amazing AB has now posted an essay she wrote about the poem she translated. This is the first critical attention the poem has received since it was written almost 15 years ago.


You can PREVIEW some of Anny's Rhode Island reading, here.

(& here you can find her text...)
Comments are back. Previously I was using an external service for this, & unfortunately, I was having problems with it. The new set-up is internal to Blogger.

I regret losing the old comments. I hope those who wrote in will accept my apology to them. I'm grateful for all non-spam, non-flame comments here, criticism included.


Starting to prepare for Anny Ballardini visit & readings. (We'll also be reading at Brown, in the John Hay Library, on April 23rd, 3-5 pm).

Looking over In RI, which lengthy chronicle she translated, the whole thing. This visit has a lot of work & history behind it.

In RI is sort of an anomaly among my other poems. A prose-poetry amalgam. Something like WC Williams's Paterson (or the Bible). (A piece of it appeared in Apex of the M #4, way back when.)

The last epic poem which fulfilled the ancient generic expectations was Milton's Paradise Lost. Since then, prose fiction happened. Epics became "personal" (Wordsworth's Prelude). Pound set the template for the modernist experimental epic (The Cantos).

In RI is modelled on Pound, Williams, Olson, for the most part. However, in some ways it's more like a straightforward "epic chronicle". The state of Rhode Island is, curiously, a kind of city-state - founded by a bona fide "epic hero". Roger Williams was a city-founder in the Virgilian mode - courageous, magnanimous, visionary. His story of exile, struggle with authorities, relations with the Narragansetts & other tribes, travels, war, and state-founding radiates ancient epic values. In RI sort of balances aspects of epic, chronicle, and personal reminiscence & anecdote (the poet "sinking" or dissolving into local history & personal history together).

It's a palimpsest, a mish-mash. The story of Anny's translation of In RI into Italian (a language Milton introduced to his friend Williams, while RW was in London - in exchange for Williams teaching Milton a little Narragansett) combines the pre- and post-Gutenberg situation; that is, on the one hand, In RI reminds me of those old texts & compilations - rag-bags, incunabula - you find in early printed books; while on the other hand, this translation-collaboration was made possible by the internet.


Fontegaia meanders along.


Billions of years from now, melted down
in the furnace of Milkomeda (black hole
of calculations)... death without parole.
Everything changed. Planets unknown.

Here Maddy became her meditation.
In a place of desolate vines.
By a barren cave. Mind's
(dislocated) irrational

sixth sense took over. 33
years ('tween cryptic epiphany,
spooky return). Old prophecies,
lightwit beehive wheels... wheee...

PT-109 nine times around Mt. Helicon!
A trim, grayish cicada boat, immersed
in mist... O breadbasket of Melchizedek!
Weird Circe's chalice! Almond-eyelid-sun!

Only 32, mon eleve. Not much time
to figure out universe as continuum.
Arms' bending willow branches form
primordial, frigid arch... a sturdy rim

of rhyme, a hula-hoop, a hand-sprung
loop-de-loop. Poco al poco (haunt us).
For the hand that wheels the wheels
within wheels whizzes unseen, unsung...

lifting the weight of serpentine copper
across green moss of Moses-magma,
charted long ago through fiery tetra-
grammatone to faery stream-stopper.
p.s. "Lucy" in previous... refers to name given by archaeologists to the famous skeletal remains of one of the earliest humans, discovered in Ethiopia....

she showed up in a few of the earlier sections of this chapt.

Gosh, this chapt. 4...!!! I been writing at the very top of my game, as far's I can see.

Hey world, get a clue. Here's how it is : there's the currency of USA poetry today, & then there's my quartetto-train, circlin' like a big grey eagle-bird way high overhead. That's how it is. No brag, jes' fact.


...that was certainly one of the more baroque entries in the Fontegaia show... I must be channeling Spenser or something.


Fontegaia keeps on walkin'...


Since earliest Lucy walked upright
there remains one city, one abiding law.
Steadfast, victorious, from misty Ethiopia
she journeyed toward it, keeping it in sight.

12 precious gems adorn its pinnacles;
dodecagonic gates unveil each side;
there Moon wed Sun (while her bride-
groom decanted dew-lit canticles).

Within the midmost confines of that place
a temple dome glows like a honeycomb.
All radiant within - where waves of foam
(in silken folds) enframe an enigmatic face...

Wizard of Oz? Or someone of that ilk...
hiding away in order to be found. Like
Ptah (primordial ground, Indian mound
- the master of her manor-catafalque).

Here Lucy stood. Her marriage-rite
a riddle-trial, where sparkling Circe
meets serpentine Odysseus. Morse-
coded hero's hieroglyph - knight's-

move inquest - a Sheba-test for Solomon.
Their easeful teasing sparring bowls
all through the night, til Robin solos
(pretre naturel) - sums up the dawn.

That vine-fed honey-mead they shared
appeared merely to clear and cheer
their thoughts... O union near! A dear
rain-arch above deceptive falls (sun-flared).
Yesterday was a very good day for Fontegaia-poem. Reached a sort of turning-point in the design. (I knew it was coming, but I didn't know how it would go.)

You never know how such things will turn out, but in a way it feels oddly predetermined. Embryonic, & then born. Some of it you plan; some of it just appears, like magic. I feel grateful for the symmetries & synchronicity.

Here's an example : I think of this poem as a kind of companion or coda to the long poem Forth of July (7/4). I reached its pivot or turning-point yesterday (4/7).

Here's another : I planned the pairing of "1-3-2" and "1132 pm" in the framing poems (#13 & 15). But I didn't even notice the pairing of composers (Beethoven - Quartet 132; Mozart - Requiem) until this morning.

My poetry, anyway, is a kind of give-&-take, an interaction. The section just finished struck me as an example of how the compositional process can liberate the writer from his/her own preconceptions about it. Now possibly I can move forward in a slightly different vein. I have a rough idea of where it's going.

I'm simply operating an alternative poetry making/dissemination process. It's outside the usual channels, parallel. I know the poems are not easy reading on the web. But anybody who's really interested in looking at them more closely (& who has a computer) can download them pretty cheaply from here, or buy the book. The current chapter (#4) is not in there yet, but if all goes well it will be fairly soon.


So... Fontegaia takes the Big Bend.


A saturnine Pharaoh, by an empty goldfish pond
counted up his losses, mourned the absconded
myth (his darling pride and joy). Wounded
in his nether hoof, he dreamed of Trebizond.

His glances lingered in the pond's recess.
A memory of black, disturbing eyes
that drew him, stumbling (so unwise) to
far perimeters of his domain. A single kiss

from her, his only aim (sweet target
summoning his whole desire). He gazed
into the pool. He seemed to see those eyes
again. He realized : they mocked him yet.

They gleamed there, twinkling, above her smile.
And then, as out of overhanging willow leaves,
a whisper came. Have you forgotten, peevish
prince? Never understood at all? The trial

of love I bid you run - and did you fail?
You loved my image and yourself, not me.
Think how I turned your eyes away - toward
the frescoes of Siena. Ponder that. Farewell


In a far well of years, in a quiet chamber
high above the rooftops of the town,
those frescoes dwell. Through grinding
poverty and strife and plague, earthquakes

and bickering, still they remain - a single
figure full of figures, gesturing toward civic
hope. Swept along (like some light bark
across time's stream) in Sienese

unperished hearts. What cargo do they bear?
What whispers fidget under spectral
flourishes? It is an image of regal
equality - pluperfect rain. Justice wears

the crown. For in just hearts, each neighbor is
sharecropper of all goodness - goodness
bubbling up like Fontegaia, from a fond recess
where buoyant, sunny Pax sheds every care.


You pointed toward my darkness,
dear one. Where words fail,
perish; where old private travail
merges (pangs of tenderness)

with a round earth's rolling drone.
It's forlorn Hobo's simple moan.

Look toward the southern sky.
Disconsolate Centaur frames a W
where hopeful eyes turned once (to
you). Papa's gonna be home, by n' by.

Out of a glittering, dreaming ocean.
Out of an Indian expanse... the sun.

Where a Frisco angel floats, mid-air
over an emerald catenary span -
a double rainbow-catamaran.
Frisbee's paper hat, still spinning, there.


Driftwood lingered in the fragrant night
beneath cascades of tiny mountain bells
(in laurel leaves). Looked into the wells
of sky, where every river takes its light

spring into gravity. The Milky Way
(a kind of Whitman-suntide) tenderly
revolved - he saw the martyrs (soldierly
Venusians) - saw the Old Man of Clay

with the key to the highway (one
green helicopter-penny) - and then
he saw the mirror of his own
heart, flowering. A moonshine

ring (suspended, circling) where
light melds everything - bends
gently, sturdily - to bear the ends,
& all begins. Sweet bells, ring, ring.


I dreamed I was a prince, once, in Siena.
The damsels flocked to me as damsel flies
to their bright day; through dense mosquito-
swarms, I led an expedition to Moon River

(er, Diana). Almost immediately, all went wrong.
I lost my cosmic robe of gem-bedizened silk;
my proud equine quartet (so incomparably
caparisoned) shrank to one equable donkey

(stubborn old stump; still, serviceable).
My brilliant companions disappeared.
I wandered nowhere, seemingly - weird
circulation! - Paradise a bramble-stumble

now. I leaned against a concrete wall
and looked across an unfamiliar plain -
a stranger to my native town,
it seemed! And then a melody (in laurel

leaves) rippled, lowly, in reply :
You searched for me where I cannot
be found. I'm not in Rome, nor Camelot;
not in Jerusalem, nor under any tree.

I'm in your heart. You are the spring
releasing me; I am your fountain,
you are mine; not nigh nor high, neither

lointain, my friend, but everywhere - wing

of sad weight lent flight experience.
And you will gather up all glancing strokes
in one great wheel of everlasting spokes -
one lofty arc
. I woke, and it was Providence.


Gesthemane. The coptic sentries by the sepulchre
plinked somnolent piano keys. It was 11:32 pm.
We slept. A pity. 10, 9... Mozart. Requiem.
Midnight. The ghost is knocking at the door.



Fontegaia reaches watershed.


Light pattering of lakewater along the rocks.
Cool air; strange sighing in the tamaracks.
Lead sky. Ineffable figures fingers make,
tripling across piano keys. Heartbreak.

Beneath immaculate octave-dance
implacable forces held in check.
Harsh steel's taut harp-neck,
yoked by calm endurance.

As tiniest calibrations of a brown recluse
enfold a pattern coiled in an attic room
for centuries... so ponderous doom
plights equilibrium (4 sides of Opus 1-3-2).
I liked the essay by Taylor Branch in NY Times today, on Martin Luther King. (You may have to sign up for online edition in order to open this.)


Fontegaia's been on quite a streak lately.


It was early in the leaping-water-season,
one grey morning. Lonesome Drifter,
like a chip of wood, squared
with his name under a see-saw sun

in an empty square, in San Francisco.
Played peek-a-boo with gray-tinged light
across chill blocks. A cube of salt
from Nile-fed sea, like silt he'll flow

where the whispers go. A puttering
mourning dove pecks at his feet.
On her gray throat glints rainbow light;
a band plays ring-structures (cueing

for flight) behind, below her feathered
fold of wing. Music for Four Winds
dies down. Silence penetrates the sound.
Plaque for plague victims. Fresco, tethered

with a hopeful pact - sealed
with mordant of a raptor's art.
Hobo halts there, listening (wrapt
in ragged clods). The pigeon wheels.

Pivots. 10, 9... his fingers counted
down a line of graceful lineaments,
their linen governments... all present
now. As when a morning word fountains

into overwhelming wave, his overtaken
heart (adoring) wondered at its source.
And then the sun rose like a moon-horse -
Ocean glittered, surging, under Golden Gate.
More wild Fontegaia-nonsense...


The old primordial spine of Providence.
Beneath colonial clapboard, college
collage, the tenements. A prehistoric ridge.
To think of lightfoot Narragansetts here, once...

April sunlight. Everything
nascent. Expectant. Recalling
Ptah, the mn before the 9 - thrumming
helicopter wing (with copper spring)

whose hipster lifts a manuscript
from Rome (for slim white buildings
by a riverbank). Memphis. Seedling
Parousia. Windblown remnant. Coptic

gypsy... O that old Mississippi garbage-
barge, still chugging upstream (in 4/4 time)
loaded with everything rifled from home.
March into April. May be just mirage,

Junie - but let's let 19th-century Nature
take its course. The ineluctable Lucy
will arise from Ethiopia, and walk home
free - once-jejune Logos - now mature,

secure. Andromeda equality. O Lamp,
! It was for you the limber
Negus climbed from his light-trembling
mosquito boat, golden - assumed the lamb-

skin - felt his blind way (upstream
from Memphis). Meanwhile a dram
of equilateral mood-poetry illuminates
unspoken trail (sweet Sheba freedom train).


K.S. Mohammad pointed out this interesting review of collected poems of Philip Whalen, by Jordan Davis.
40 years, today. 4/4. 44 is ancient Chinese number for "death".

Wrote here recently that "Life is drama." One thematic trend of recent Fontegaia alignment... I'm trying to evoke the notion that history, time & reality have already been sacramentalized, made sacred (through love, devotion, sacrifice). History = sacred theater. This is the kind of public feeling which emanates from "memorial days" like today.

(Mandelstam wrote about this, in his essay "Pushkin & Scriabin". Western art set utterly free, paradoxically, by a prior sacrifice.)


Writing these days feels like fresco-painting. I use a Neo - a simple keyboard designed for schoolchildren. Looks like a Stealth bomber.


Fontegaia goes da guerre...


The lunar light of old daguerrotypes.
Here Brady's trenches have become mass graves.
An evening star, suspended, distantly (pellucid
wave of tender blue)... Death grown ripe

to bursting (life to death, death into life).
Feral eyes in hard gray photos plead
for final recompense - and ferried over
yonder, trade one copper for the sum of strife.

A far-off shunting in the railroad yard
reverberates against a wall (of falling weights).
Some counter-measure lifted all that stone
to height of cloud, at windswept Chartres -

the wide mandala-labyrinth laid underfoot
patterns its path down to a 10-9-1.
Stony Franciscan target zone, a sermon
sine glossa... Time, unburdened, follows suit,

steps into light. And ink sinks into paper
twilight, too. Steeped in bitter chemicals,
its phantom, inching... achingly coalesces,
fixed - a Bruegel waltz, a dirge, a pauper-

twirl. Meanwhile a graybeard hobo, unknown
soldier, camouflaged beneath gray skies,
reached out both hands, to stanch the rising
wound. Adhesive love. Unconscious bandage-man.

The earth proceeds in mourning black and white,
an image stayed in billowing relief; her canvas
sails toward afterlife - some stubborn Jonah's
spectrograph (green almond in midwinter night).
Religion & spirituality are fine things, but literature & poetry have to stand on their own two feet.

We take an interest in art as art, not as politics or philosophy.

If poetry doesn't please us in its own right, then it will never edify us either.


That being said, I am not simply a poet. I do not worship at the Temple of Art.

My life suggests (as I see it, anyway) a comic (or pathetic) melodrama, full of stumbles & slippage between artistic & religious interests & enthusiasms.

Every writer brings their own preoccupations & subject-matter to Poetry per se.

Maybe in a case like mine the private preoccupations have overwhelmed the common idiom, the shared life, ordinary speech.

Well, everybody's different. I'm working out my views on what's what. & as I see it, Life is Drama.

It would be good, as a reader of poetry, to find a special quiet space where all the middling discourse, the "talk-about", the peripheral chatter & observations, have no place at all. The ideal poet would be consistently closed-mouthed about the poems. They would simply be sent out into the world, to take their place with the other serious business out there which employs human language.


More dashed-off Palio obliquities...


Fern-like wing of pterodactyl memory
flickers across my still piano keys.
A tight-wound, sprightly voice (for skating
stories) glides aslant late winter atmosphere.

Today's bright leafless April air.
What roguish Osric sun enforced
the tale's evasive metamorphoses?
Nile Indian-mound harbors a meteor.

Some sweet-sad circus waltz, limping
toward lair of Boris - and Natasha's
eyebrow-temple's early-bird nostalgia's
blue-gray mini-Yenisei lone-wolf lope.

Shuttlings, crisscrossing strings -
knots, hefting a milkweed countryman
suspended from bronze-copper perihelion.
Mean angle, hour unacceptable. She hangs

about, her gaze freezing the frieze,
arms flung high like everlasting piers.
Not to move. Gray dove (in tears).
A quit-coin, masted, bridged, in breeze.

As if the catenary lift (elliptical)
of all those wheeling premonitions,
prohibitions, circled your Samson-
shoulder's own shy shadow (typical

eclipse). The fresco registered each one.
Your date is waiting in the wings, forlorn
like some unlucky Frieda for her balder
Abe - an April skid-schedule for Phaethon.
About yesterday's post : I don't want to give the impression of simply tying poetry to religion. I've always viewed the market/racket in artistic "spirituality" with distaste & suspicion. The various cults of transcendental thinking, the hi-jinks, occult mumbo-jumbo of poetic mages & popularizers - the whiff of pseudo-religion puts me off Robert Bly, Robert Duncan, some of Olson, many more. But maybe to others I come across the same way...

That's not my intention. Poetry's purview is everything under the sun, every subject, ever level of tone & style - omnivorous - lightweight & heavy, secular & "catholic".

However - by the same permission - there's room in poetry for special projects like my own (the saga of Henry). Dante thought so, anyway.


Fontegaia, Fontegaia...


The light slows in the evening, thickens
like dark honey, grows more dense.
In the high room - in the quiet confluence
of silent frescos, frozen civic scenes.

Here time slows gradually toward stillness, too.
The moon glints through an eastern window,
sunset radiates the western view - tomorrow's
just a Washington slept here, nestled in futurity.

Below that tower, on a sunken stream
(imaginary Di) somebody's plucky packet
boat makes for the source. He plunks
half a piano, for a double-deck of dreamers -

weaklings, cards - dressed to the nines
(someone elected them almost at least...)
- he played the fastest 44 out East, they
said. Curved ivory whispers in the pines.

Music revolves around and round
until it finishes where it began -
a double wreath of birth and death,
the milk and honey of Melchizedek.

A tom-tom of the doom
Such were words he muttered quietly
while tinkling the pilot's keys, while
angling that penny-swap mosquito boat.

Such be the b-flat of finality.
It drones for you, for me,
it is the adamant of history...
the high room's bright hilarity
Can I say anything more about this poem, Fontegaia, without spoiling the fun (if there is any)?

Have been at my idiosyncratic process for so long it's sort of hard to take a step back.

Is it all so dark, abstruse, obscure? Maybe. Maybe requires a lot of scaffolding, instruction manuals...

I follow certain ways of seeing things & thinking about things. I share much of this, I believe (I hope), with other like-minded people. But as a poet, I don't enjoy cliches and shopworn generalizations about deep & mysterious facets of experience. I want to see (& say) things as they are, or as they were "on the 1st day of creation". This is an aspect of the intellectual game of my poems. The serial-continuous-repetitive forms are, I guess, in part anyway, a mode of expressive contemplation or meditation. I want to express the "brow of reality", in my own way.

As you can probably tell, I've come increasingly to see things through some kind of spiritual-theological lens. (Of course, this loses a lot of people, scares them off.) There are a few mental foundations I return to, whenever I try to do one of these self-summaries.

Such as the notion that reality is "personal" in some ultimate sense. That the universe is suspended in some fairly indescribable creative consciousness.

& the idea that human history is subsumed within a (very) dramatic narrative of salvation history, which involves, on its most basic level, a promise or covenant between the Eternal and the mortal, the human; and which promise is fulfilled in the most distinct and "incarnational" fashion, in actual human history.

& the counterbalancing notion that this "salvation drama" has been, from the beginning, in some sense a symbolic intervention - a representative action : the full, mysterious, intricate, various & particular truth(s) of which cannot be concretized in language. Language - even "sacred" language - only acts as sign : pointing, directing us to look & see & understand. Truth itself (going back to the notion of the "personal", subjective quality of creative consciousness) can only be embodied. (Walt Whitman descants on this point over & over again, in great phrases : "The words of my book nothing, the drift of it everything." & etc. etc.)

These two counterbalancing notions (actual - yet representative - salvation drama) find their crux, for me anyway, in the Good Friday & Easter events. A representative (unjust) death; a representative resurrection. As the death on the Cross is a figure for the death of Everyman & -woman - for our own particular mortality; and the resurrection is the same, ie., has representative meaning for each of us, personally, subjectively.

(Someone like me might also argue (& in so doing enter perhaps confusing & dangerous theological waters) that the clear recognition of both the actual & representative elements of this drama, is the sign itself of Joachim's & Bonaventure's coming of the "new age" : which was, for them, to be a change & renovation of the world, under the reign of contemplation.)

In my poems these events are encapsulated in the various "plays" I make on the letter "J", the word "Jay"... in one important example, "J" stands for "Jonah", which means "dove" in Hebrew. In this word are meshed both (1)the (comic) story of the runaway prophet in the bowels of the whale (a symbol, for me, of the existential blind travails of Everyman), and (2) the story of Pentecost, of the simultaneous and omnipresent manifestation of the post-resurrection-spirit - the "ghost-dance" presence of God (as dove) in the heart of Everyman. So in "Jonah" you have the melding of both crucifixion (the whale) and resurrection (the dove).

Poetry, in my view & practice anyway, offers a means of expressing visions of "how things are", which contrast with the methods & results of standard discursive prose, philosophical reflection, scientific analysis, etc. Poetry, as an art of "embodied" language, offers fundamentally dramatic models of reality; by "performing" language as self-sufficient play and exploration, these models suggest a universe which (somehow) underwrites & shares these same qualities - by rendering it suffused with personality & consciousness (as Whitman, again, pioneered so powerfully). In my understanding, a recognition & growing trust in these aspects of reality might help open the door to the full flowering of the love and confidence which is already hidden (in potentiality, in seed-form) in every person.

Fontegaia, I guess, is a kind of river-trip exploration of these & other realities. Along with previous extended poems (in Forth of July etc.) I try to dramatize & recapitulate these realities in the present, in the lingo of today.... and in so doing, to offer evidence for the idea that Time itself, as we know it anyway, manifests some kind of arcane ring structure - both ever-Now and (historically-chronologically-actually) symbolic - the mystery of which is in a process of continuous unfolding....
John Latta, today, conveys a discerning comment by Denise Levertov, on the Beats & "experience". More useful background on Our Past Poetickal.