Ravenna Diagram

As testified by both Annie Akhmatovy & Wheelliam Bootler Yeats (not to mention Wally Stuyvens), nobody knows like they do how much poetry depends upon the foul rag-&-bone shop of the dump.  So I confess I am very obscurely fixated on a work of probable horoscopic Masonic garbage (if seemingly very diligently researched) by one David Ovason, titled The Secret Architecture of our Nation's Capital.  Ovason appears to have turned poor Henry Adams on his Educational head.

Adams, scion of the original American Presidential-Egyptian dynasty, built his own historical philosophy on the contrast, the dialectic, between the Virgin & the Dynamo : the feminine-poetic-Christian heritage of the Middle Ages (Chartres, Notre Dame) vs. the technical-scientific Chaos of modern Power (Washington, Chicago...).    Yet according to Ovason, the landscape, architecture & sculpture of Washington, D.C. emanate a controlling hermetic geomantic pattern, overlaid on the nation's capital by the Masons - a radiance of the constellation Virgo, or the Virgin - the Corn Maiden, the Rite of Spring, Pocahontas, the Statue of Liberty... all those images & psychic icons certain ecstatic-Platonic poets (unacknowledged legislators) like Hart Crane articulated and defended as embattled (in prosaic America).  Somehow the Corn Maiden got in on the ground floor of the national grain elevator.

So I wrote in previous blog post about my personal affinity for ut pictura poiesis - the idea that at the heart of poetry is this visionary-shaping painterly dimension.  Poetry, by way of its rhythmic sonic mesmerism, communicates wave-lengths of vivid images - drawn from life and adequately mirroring living (as opposed to absent, detached, prosaic, humdrum, depersonalized) reality.  In the long-poem project Ravenna Diagram, I reckon that, for me, Ravenna represents a kind of civilizational matrix for this particular sense of incarnational iconophilia.  The "venn diagram" of Ravenna Diagram is a visual image of the union of two-in-one, the sacred marriage of spirit & flesh.  As an historical phenomenon : as a pivotal event which frames one's sense of the direction of our future world.

There are lots of things going in today's excerpt, which cluster around these ideas, along with others... I can't go into them all.  The idea of the "lattice" and the "Path P" are allusions to the chi-rho symbol : the pneuma (Spirit) P rising (like the Ghost Dance) over the lattice of the "X"... the "Path P" also refers to "poetry", thinking of Dante, buried in Ravenna - whose masterwork was completed in Ravenna, and which features, at its very end, another venn diagram (Dante's vision of the Trinity as a mysterious set of interlocking rainbow circles).


If I whisper out of this backyard garden
& word went forth from Ramah
Rachel weeps... no more
a cricket shuttles through the iron

lattice – churring chi-rho, chi-rho
a pigeon croons là-bas
là-bas... labarum... abba...
baa... lambs on a radius go

round, skip stones, elliptical
(up to the mountaintop).
Rough clay lips elope
for steppes, ignite pyramidical

lens – Nile coming-forth-of-July
in one almond canoe;
wooden frame for yew
rainbow (adieu beyond river-eye).

Beneath an avalanche of violence
the lattice rusts, the eye
corrodes.  Still clay
will coalesce, in tinder hands;

Giuliana in her mossy coat
& frowning eye signal
another way; lips channel
shapes (mosaic, inchoate)...

Ravenna diagram, vertiginous cross-
road into Washington.
Path P, star-tangled almond
tree – here chariots bloom (manes toss).



I am the Goat

Ours is a golden age of verbosity and explanation.  There is a very smart geek or robot or app for every verbal tic.  I, Blogger, am a part of the slough.

I certainly love music and musicians, but I think I love painters even more.  Why?  It seems more awkward, excruciating and difficult (maybe because I am more of a musician myself).  It seems even more anti-verbal than music.  Painters are famously inarticulate, no matter that they are makers of signs, semioticians par excellence.

My 60-odd year career in poetry swamp might possibly subsist on a few basic touchstones - patterns which survive the various zigs & zags of enthusiasm & commitment.  One of these touchstones is ut pictura poiesis.

My mother in her heyday was mainly a painter, a potter, a maker of images.  & also a reader & a storyteller (to children such as myself).

Three poets who quickened me most surely & steadily : Guillaume Apollinaire, John Ashbery, Osip Mandelstam.

Painting the image.  The sonic image.  The mysterious fanfare.

I feel very strongly that the contemporary whatnot scene, the global blabbateria & confessional cannibal-fest, the photo-shoot, the selfie-group love-yogurt hut, the total hug machine & forthright commitment speechification party, the holy us-v.-them war, has very little to do with poetry, no matter how much it has to do with humanity.  Ut pictura poiesis in this environment is a way of stepping back a little.  The otherness will jar slightly with your Community Jar - but without otherness there is no togetherness, right?  Every schedule needs a goat.  I am the goat.

Telling it slant.  Telling it so slant you don't get it.  You just gonna have to look & listen for a while, like Oblomov lying in a Russian wheatfield.  Life is larger than Tolstoy, according to Tolstoy.

You are not going to "get" my poetry, America.  Summer is here.  Go jump in a lake.


The gray underside of these
dogwood leaves, clustered
over my head.  The blistered,
lingering pussy willow.  Evening’s

repose à Providence, which I
must exit before long.
Into the slough I’m diving...
weedy heartland (lake country).

Roger Williams’ apple-root,
Blackstone’s Yellow Sweeting
will remain.  A meeting
at Swan Point – starry circuit,

milky wheel (Pappy’s birthday
pivots on your mother’s
grave).  Some Vladimir’s
renunciation – icon of clay

starfish, her lambswool tracery
around a baptistry –
Boethius in ecstasy
after the rack is rolled away.

Uncle Henry weaves his spiderweb
out of one gold strand
of maidenhair.  Trebizond
cell for Guillem, Maximus – ebb-

tide for violence, with violins.
A child skips over granite.
Spinning, inviolate
djinn, dynamic Virgo (mason’s pin).


MRG, painter, potter


Grace Ravlin


The summer’s Sky-Reflector-Net
is replicated in a gentle
eye : matrix of the spindle,
mote where lattice angles meet.

From Providence to Paradise
a simple triple-step,
sideways & back.  Steep
recapitulation – say, Toulouse

to Matilda, Queensland to Provence –
by cavern candlelight;
those hallowed aliens might
be us; San Vitale’s green silence

the dawn of some Franciscan renaissance.
She is the tender sphere’s
orbit... her love inheres
in eggshell domes, the garden’s permanence

Apollinaire after the war
ash in his peace pipe
Georgina with ripe
plum   to hand   so far

from feral death’s-head   pride   spite
the nations sleep   their rage
assuaged   hate in its cage
for now   low flute   bonsoir, bonne nuit

Grace Ravlin sets her easel there
Overlooking George Washington’s
Garden   good evening, Cyrus
greetings, Rose   O somersault   sweet air


Grace Ravlin : Overlooking George Washington's Garden, 1922


Tin Mirror

All my poems are local, parochial, topical, occasional, & universal.  I can't resist the temptation to hawk & honk them from the rooftop, hot off the grill.  Por favor, please share if you like.  Xerox them.  Paste them on your mirror.  Gracias!


The color of those clouds, above
that soaring pine (her arms
flung wide, green Miriam
bedecked with cones) – vague echo of

El Greco, Michelangelo –
a bit marmoreal.
Disconsolate King of Coal,
Concrete... former Numero Uno,

about to send tears stumbling down
again...  So we sketch the local
monarch.  Him we all
know (Only-Two-Well).  Then someone

in Michoacán – Rosario Ocampo,
maybe – fashions a fine
tin mirror, sealed with twin
doves on double doors (closed, now)

& mails it to a mountaintop
in Galilee (just north
of El Grotto). The earth
is in travail, he murmurs – ope

mi puertaup periscope, Jésus!
Stormclouds part for a flint
moment (lightning) – slate,
smileEl rey ha muerto, vivez

le rêve!  From grassland salience
(Tower Hill, or Mount
Zion) her milkweed font
purls into sylvan stream (pine-sense).



South Carolina occasion

Every now & then (occasionally) my infinite knit-parade project (Ravenna Diagram) intersects with current events, and then we have an occasional poem.  This one has to do with the terrible sadness which took place at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.  I am deeply impressed with how that embattled congregation spoke with one voice of courage and forgiveness after what was done there.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

This poem, as with most things I come up with, has its obscurities.  I'm thinking of the "Old Glory" as opposed to the Confederate flag, and of Jasper Johns, who lived in South Carolina (where I once saw an exhibit of his work at the Greenville Art Museum).  Johns layered encaustic over his U.S. flag icons, and shrouded scraps of old newspaper columns and images under the paint.  His figures of hands, circles and seemingly drowning men (see Hart Crane's poetry) connect with the image (in this poem) of a deep whale-hum or humming bird (Jonah means "dove" in Hebrew) - sending a different, more substantial message (of love, not hate).

The poem was composed at my temporary work-station (see photo), on a ridge overlooking the Blackstone/Seekonk River (while my house is being painted).


The tiny whiz-bird hums & floats,
hovering over my rose
pontoon, her paradise.
A flint blade chimes bell-notes

out of Grime’s Graves (neolithic).
By the grey Blackstone
Hilario J. Robin
snake-charms knotty hillside oak –

dauntless redbreast, passionate
Guillem d’Orange.  Whose cell
is gathering mass (black
wholeful o’moss) in triplicate

like an Old Glory spun of Greenville
jasper – caustic wax
to burn each switchback’s
cussed fer-de-lance (eternal

jail) into a trillion spangle-tiers
of morning (milky spider-
barn).  Haul it down before
nightfall.  The soul in tatters

seeks a deeper, quieter call –
Jonah’s Pacific hum
from whale profundum – bee-
balm croon for Memphis Emanuel.

Will set you free.  Sweetly now
the offspring of the sun
are fielded, droning, into
one (farfalla-Gaspee... rain bough).



A Jewish Cemetery

Recently, as I found myself laboring over the latest stretch of poems in the ongoing projective geometry of Ravenna Diagram, it struck me that the materials & means that I use to compose poems might perhaps be remote & unfamiliar to many people who read & traffic in what is understood as poetry these days.

I realized, for example, that I was writing some poems which were actually examples of "widerruf", or parodic inversions of previous poems (Celan, for example, did this) - in this case, a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called "The Jewish Cemetery at Newport".

Longfellow is a wonderful poet.  (My mother was a childhood friend of his great-granddaughter.)  One stanza runs as follows :

Gone are the living, but the dead remain,
      And not neglected; for a hand unseen,
Scattering its bounty, like a summer rain,
      Still keeps their graves and their remembrance green.

I played around with this stanza in particular, because while it refers, ostensibly, to God - providentially looking after the forlorn Jewish graves - it can also be understood as referring to some of my relatives, the early Quaker Goulds of Newport, who befriended the Jewish community there & were involved in the caretaking of the Newport synagogue grounds & graveyard.  My versions are parodic, however, in that they invert some of Longfellow's dated - though considerably complex & empathetic - attitudes toward the Jews; & I completely flip his concluding line ("And the dead nations never rise again").

All these things are not very visible in the poems in question.  They are hidden, imbricated, implicated.  This is how I understand poetry.  It's a wrestling inward toward some kind of mystical condition of utter freedom & truth-telling.  I feel a kinship with Wallace Stevens in this sense.  "Poetry is a health."

But who today would  be in a position to be even close to noticing such things in poems?   Civil War re-enactors, maybe?  Brass rubbings collectors?

It seems to me that the whole fun of poetry involves overcoming self-chosen obstacles.  At the same time, the poet should be shedding the borrowed idioms & slang & mannerisms which pass for poetry in the slick media all around us.  Obstacles help block out the glib, the cardboard.

I wrote this poem on my little "Neo" keyboard today, on a secret park bench along the Blackstone/Seekonk River.  Roger Williams & Wm. Blackstone paddled down below there just yesterday (380 yrs ago).  It's another installment, another diagram, in Ravenna Diagram.  It's full of obstacles.  It's an iceberg.

What is poetry?  I keep working on it, though it seems like a very solitary way to behave.  No one pays any attention.  But that may be for the best, in the long run.


White swans on Blackstone
tiptoe across the water.
Wingèd liftoff.  Were
angels perched in that April midden,

or only Morpho blues?  No one
will say.  Of course
it might have been a Paris
rain... nitrate of mafia drone

in Dallas haze... an ordinary
human end.  Design
from nature, grim, benign –
the maker’s nick (encaustic jay).

This park’s a quiet hideaway.
Oaks on the steep ridge
cast a shadow-bridge
for Andes orioles.  Say,

Francisco, if you can – why
the proud builders missed
the mark?  I would have kissed
you, cuz, who embraced the sky

too soon (Psyche, Persephone...
ravined by gravity).
One eucalyptus tree
(Eeyore, Eurydice...) must (line

by limb) restore your salty skein
of handprints, raveled
veins – Eureka, you have
found me! (jade Cuzco refrain).



Nostalgia for world culture

Quick stray thoughts tonight... Osip Mandelstam once defined the impulse of the Acmeist movement (early 20th cent. Russian poetry) as "nostalgia for world culture."  Nostalgia for world culture.  Implying that "world culture" once existed (or still existed, elsewhere).  But then Acmeism also promoted a Bergsonian, anachronistic anti-sense of Time - what was deep in the past (Ovid, Dante) was actually calling to us from the future.  (In this he may have been attempting to one-up the contemporary Futurist movement, among other things.)

But what would be a real world culture?  A global culture, life-supporting, life-enhancing, humane, refined, playful.  Not the world as we know it today... but maybe an aspiration.

Then again one way of thinking of culture is as an inherently parasitic lichen-like growth.  Culture is opportunist.  For example, the culture of the "divine king", established around the world in various phases & formations - the culture of powerful rulers and autocrats, with their enormous suction machines for collecting & channeling the labor of millions of slaves (see : pyramids) - the culture of royal power might be seen as a defense mechanism of the kings themselves.  A survival mechanism, in other words, insinuated into society by the rulers, to protect themselves from being divided up and eaten, tossed about in communal games, by the whole peon mass of the tribe itself (see A.M. Hocart's Kings and Councillors for a consideration of such phenomena).

Then imagine that the speedy vine-growth of culture takes another world-historical bend, once the ziggurat of royal power & totalitarian government reaches its apex : I mean the turn toward apocalyptic messianism (see Norman Cohn's classic study of the Iranian-Zoroastrian roots of same, Cosmos, chaos & the world to come).  Here religious thinking happens upon a viral antidote to overweening political power : the idea of the return of the God-King - the uber-King, the "King of Kings", who will finally put the tyrants in their place (like Yurtle the Turtle, at the bottom of the pond).

I think of these parasitic culture-shifts as edge-phenomena, happening on the margins of something even deeper & more invisible & slow.  I'm thinking of the historical project of "species-Man", homo sapiens, seeking equilibrium.  Humankind is still building the conceptual house which is truly life-enhancing, lovable, livable.  This, as it happens, is another theme which turns up in Mandelstam's version of Acmeism : the idea that poetry has a role to play in the human project to "domesticate" life on earth.  "Domestic hellenism", he called it.

What would be a really "domestic" global culture?  Livable, lovable, familial, gemutlich?  It would have to involve the old English theme of liberty - the freedom from encroachment by tyrannical government.  But, on the other side, it would also have to involve something beyond pure individualism : the active engagement in the common good, the commonweal, the welfare of the whole community.  (These are, you may have noticed, the primal ideals, respectively, of the two major political parties in the U.S. - yet how sadly & stupidly & rigidly & uselessly & backwardly & corruptly & blindly & dogmatically & inflexibly they have worked themselves out in the electoral process.)

What's really needed in order to stimulate Mandelstam's "world culture" - what's required at the most basic level of conception - is a spiritual orientation.  Pope Francis, it seems to me, is saying some of the right things in that direction.  The "poor church" is the global house we share.  The spiritual attitude is one that sets aside narrow pleasures & greedy ambitions & haughty pride on behalf of a sense of wholeness : a "gratitude for existence" (another Brodskian, Gumilevian, Mandelshtamian theme).

How is this possible?  I'm not an advocate by any means of any kind of theocracy : don't get me wrong.  Rather I am talking about something much more basic, simple, and primitive - the kind of childlike faith represented by the original St. Francis.  How can we live in the global house if we cannot trust in the benevolent love of the Spirit that formed & created it all?  How can we build a future without a sense of being "at home" in the universe?  I think of Jesus, the first "son" of God, as playing the middle C on the piano, of a major chord of affirmation - of union with the source of Being.  Francis only echoed the same.  "Unless you turn & become as little children, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven."

Granted much of this will strike many as idiocy or ideology, or both.  So be it.  The poet represents a "nostalgia for world culture".  As such he or she represents a link in the spine of historical time - a time working itself out in the human sense of reality & possibility.  The poet's vision is grounded in harmony, triggered by a basic sense of wonder : of wonder at all that exists, majestically, from nothing at all.

The personal, subjective & familial love we experience among ordinary friends, strangers, & family, might someday be echoed & reinforced by culture at large - & this might, actually, be a return to "Nature" itself - the natural cosmos stamped by the seal of divine Providence.  "The Son of Man is coming, & he will restore all things."  O ye of little faith!  Sursum corda.


Deep lands

Home again in Providence.  Tucked into the old house, with the dogwood & the weedy patio in the backyard, the books upstairs.  I realize after 25 years how much I have become an appendage of this appanage.  I'm part of the local landscape.  May have to leave it soon.

Driving non-mindedly through springtime Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania... wide fields, deep lands, prim farms... trying to keep things going.  The banks of weeds & flocks of trees along the roadside (somebody's Rock Candy Mountain).  The beckoning earth.  (Burchfield's Ohio.)

"Beauty will save the world."  (Dostoevsky)  Reading The Education of Henry Adams.  Adams' quasi-Buddhist passivity.  He understands the futility of late-Darwinian naturalism - yet scrambles around without finding an alternative.

Faith, from the naturalist view, seems an expression of bad faith - a deliberate shuttering of the rational mind.  Mantra for closed eyes.

My whole focus an attempt to justify another view : one which has grown on me over time, prompted by a sort of unconscious prescience, an adolescent St. Vitus' mime of my own future orientation.

The naturalist reads the universe in a context of shock - the shock of recognition of the unknown.  This is the real psycho-cultural after-effect of the development of modern science.  Thanks to the Hubble Telescope et al., we see the universe more immediately, more concretely - an incalculably immense wasteland of burning stars & circling rocks.

The religionist sees the universe as a metaphor, an allegory, a sign.  This kind of seeing is now judged, by the scientific mind, to be the most egregious & central scandal.  It's a kind of evasion, an idealistic feint - as fiction, myth-making.

The poet (arch-Romantic) believes in a vitalist, personal, Reality.  The poem is a document of this faith : a vivid speech, a living voice evoking a living world of living beings.

I can't convince you of what I believe - I can't even enunciate it.  I'm trying, but I fall short.

"Beauty will save the world."  This is Dostoevsky's version of what was once (back in medieval times) understood as "the economy of salvation".  Divine Providence has a plan for the redemption of the earth.

The story of Christ's death & resurrection is a kind of metaphor.  A mystery play.  A symbol, a sign of the "Son of Man" : that is, a representative image of the destiny of the human race as a whole on earth, and of the fortitude of the individual person enmeshed in same.  We die, yet we live again.  We overcome evil through love.  We redeem the earth.  This is "Man's" project here, "Man's" goal.  Joseph Brodsky : "Man was put on this earth for one purpose : to make civilization."  I would revise this formula, however.  Man was put on this earth to discover the love of God (which is really the same thing).

All these phrases of mine are completely useless.  I can't put into words what I really sense & know.

I helped bury my loving, steadfast father last month.  He went into ashes by Minnehaha Creek.  Yet he lives.  He leaves an outline of the Son of Man, a fulfillment of one local corner of the creation, where he shone like a star.

"Ariel was glad he had written his poems..."

"A Tear is an Intellectual Thing,
& a Sigh is the Sword of an Angel King."

Beauty will save the world.  There is a harmony to the whole of life which no artist or scientist has been able to express.  It is "grace", it is "love".  It will overcome evil & will make all things new.

It is personal beyond our understanding of the visible person.  It is whispering to you.

Which reminds me of this little poem I wrote about 30 yrs ago :

from a cave

Such a small voice,
I would not stop to hear;
the sun was going down, and
there were no houses near.

Such a strange voice,
whispering out of the ground -
familiar, though it seemed
unearthly, utterly profound.

Such a sweet voice,
twining my cavern ear;
a vine for water jars, when
all the wedding guests are here.


The poem that took the shape of a state

One last memo from Elkhart.... a very old (& now a little revised) "shape poem"

 Maze of lakes in northern Minnesota,
 Crisp air adrift on owl's wings
 Between the wide gray skies
 And fanfare of muted pines;
 Waves lapping, lapping
 Against the riding prow
 Of the motorboat, my dad
 At the tiller, looking
 Out toward shore, quiet,
 His beard grown rough now
 After a weekend in the woods –

 I'm afraid to dive too deep
 Into the scales of the past,
 My callow bones, the large
 Boy head full of springing
 Illusions, upstart to replace
 A sense of imperfection
 With voracious all-devouring
 Enveloping thought – fishline,
 This daily bait of blind birdsong.
 Before you, Iron Range long gone, I
 Will always be that unbound, reedy son.

Hieroglyph for a father

Reporting once again from Elkhart, Indiana, en route to Providence.  Elkhart is green & in the middle of the country, south of some Great Lakes.  Today the sun shone, the trucks plowed, the bugs spattered 'gainst the windshield of the golden Buick.

I wrote this poem about 25 yrs ago, thinking of my dad, and also of the "word of the father", the Biblical Word filtering down the Nile between sand dunes & pyramids.  The Twin Cities are a sort of Egypt in reverse : the Mississippi is the Nile, the great seed companies (Pillsbury, General Mills) & the many grain elevators are like the Pharaoh's storehouses, watched over by prudent Joseph.  My Dad was a very wise & prudent Joseph himself, a sort of self-contained perfectionist & workaholic.  Coming of age in America in the late 60s, I think I (along with my brothers to some extent) found it hard to reconcile our highly motivated, organized, dedicated & driven father, with the sharp & sour odor of violence, chaos & confusion of that time.  The "social malaise" (Nixon, Agnew, the War, the riots, the Weathermen...).  I was part of that prodigal confusion myself.

He worked in a profession (intellectual property litigator) saturated in conflict, rivalry & stress.  But he didn't bring it home or channel it against us.

Anyway, this poem is about my father but it's also an allegory about the Word.  "Out of Egypt have I called my son..." - the son Joseph of the 12 tribes, & also the son of Joseph, the carpenter...


Papa was always working on the house,
his long shadow bent across the sill
like a letter in an unknown alphabet,
his hoe or hammer making their steady
marks across the vagabond afternoons,
the deep summer water we lived through
holding our breath, our lungs tight
with promises, danger, laughing gas.

And when we grew older, more serious
and dangerous, Papa was always working
late at the office. For all we knew
he was a drone of the dread Pharaoh,
one of the caretakers of the Sphinx,
late into the night composing riddles,
subtle passwords and husky undertones
which opened the secret granary doors.

And it was only later, as we watched
his dry wooden boat slip underground,
that we understood the clean framing
of intention, the straight crossbeams
of its execution, that house of his
a kind of sounding board for praise.
Working across the tightrope of the
roofline was his way of walking on air.

& here's another, even older poem, which gets a little at that difference of the generations, and the feeling we had of our Dad, moving on ahead of us into the pine forest.


Every morning my father followed
the dusty freeway rings - a welter
of iron circles, a maze of wheels
dodging beneath the vertical
shelter of the concrete law.

And he jousted with the cold
steel cables of the elevators;
he stood before the judges,
spearing a wet dollar each day
in the rockbound pool of possession.

Somewhere between the inventive silence
of the shop, and the hollow hunger
of the labyrinth, he traveled out
with a ball of legal twine, ready
for turbid blades in the gripping dream -

and at the end of December,
the two of us, the rusty brothers,
trailing those roads again
in your rattling clunker,
remembering the dance steps

of the breakdowns, the power,
the glory, for ever and ever.
A mystery man goes on ahead of us,
on through the green light,
into the lake-blue sky -

(and there's a charitable shadow
in the norway spruce tonight, a star
already hidden in the thunderhead;
there's all the peaceful sleep
we never knew, winging over the highway).


The other Henry

Driving home to Providence tomorrow.  The route (Providence-CT-NY-NJ-Mercer, PA-Elkhart, IN-Chicago-Wisconsin-Minneapolis, and flip/reverse) takes about two and a half days.  U.S. 80 etch-a-sketched on my brain, as by a no.2 lead pencil.  I've seen the heartland, from winter to summer - busy old world of pasture, trucks, silos.  Roadsigns.  Burning machines, fleeting memory, archaic billboards.  Sunny green slopes & wide, sly streams.  Beef jerky.  Construction fellas from Tennessee & Missouri, families back home, playing beanbag in the motel parking lot night after night (beer & barbecue).

The little witches' hat of the water tank on Tower Hill (only high point in the metro area).  Conical green cap peeking up in the exiled distance from my mother's balcony (steadfast old Southeast lady, shipped to the old folks' home over in St. Paul).

These past 9-12 months, very rattling for me.  Change in the air.  I retire from ye olde library at Brown, I go back home to help my Dad in the throes of dying, & deviously the life he's made is snarled, inwoven again with the so-called life I made.  This is going home, I guess.  I'm reading The Education of Henry Adams in my off-time.  Watching the early swallows from my mother's strange new balcony, I think : Henry could have been a poet, if he'd listened more carefully.

The Big River, with its screech of pileated woodpecker, & ghost of Berryman, is listening.

I mean Henry Adams, the other Henry.  A sort of translucent mind & heart, plangent & sad.  He never did get it.  It wasn't up to him.  (I mean that other Henry.)

I, me, this Henry, will get back to poetry, though.  I've made a vow on my father's strong handshake (as I quote Ecclesiastes in the obit : "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your strength.")  My father was a mighty man, a righteous man.  My mother has a fine hand too (artist, through & through).

I have this sense that America doesn't quite understand itself or its own poetry yet.  Poetry is a spiritual discipline, a trial by fire.  That lead pencil pressed down by the 2-yr-old - that US 80 with the green-gray "Venus Wins All" down the margins - is an ash-trail of a blue-bright flame (world-shaping metamorph).