the love that draws the sun & the other galaxies


The curve of the river twines the curve
of the path, they skip together
downstream.  Warm autumn weather
clears the mind a little (light mauve

asters nodding under cottonwoods).
The poem’s woven trace
catches the vif, the grace
of movement – Berkeley’s moods

in Paradise (Newport)... his eyes
commingling a million
threads beneath the sun
into a massive sky-warp of surprise –

Daphne’s comb or seaweed wave
of tears (the patient laurel
lifts gnarled arms from Hell
into the marrow of yawning grave).

The living mind, the raven-shadow
of Platonic iris-turtle... Venn
diagram or madrigal (ken
you my mosey-keening yet?) – below

the longing of the galaxies,
their milky sarabande –
a spectrum of star-sand,
poured from hand to hand.  He’s

just daydreaming of Marina now
(sea-daughter, blithe naiad
of Taurida) – be glad
you’ve followed his light-dancing prow.



Ravenna Diagram surfaces

In today's mail I received contributor's copies of the October issue of Poetry magazine.  At the youngish age of 64, this is my first appearance in that venerable & jazzy mag.  Editor Don Share took one poem, called "Cedar Replica" - an excerpt from the endless milk train, Ravenna Diagram.  I'm very glad to have one boxcar of it in Poetry - & grateful for that editor's generosity, his attentive reading.  In a few weeks, the first volume of RD, which includes this poem, will be available in book form.

p.s. I was especially taken with the cover image, by Marion Kadi (titled "Mille et Une Nuits").  It seems to echo slightly these lines from the 5th stanza of "Cedar Replica" :

Your icon, buried in the garden,
sank like a thousand ships
into the grass...


the same voice (Bonnefoy)

Another brief poem from the fine, the superfine, Yves Bonnefoy :


I am like the bread you break,
Like the fire you burn, like the pure water
That will escort you to the land of the dead.

Like the foam,
Which hemmed for you the light and the harbor.

Like the night bird, who erases the banks,
The night wind suddenly more rough and cold.

Yves Bonnefoy, from sequence "A une terre d'aube"

music of ordinary things


Music of ordinary things...
happiness at work,
when things go OK –
when the work is good, & skill brings

flowers to fruition; then at dusk
heading home, to family
& friends, where kids play
beneath a sturdy roof (hard task

fulfilled with courteous precision)...
plain telos of humanity,
pleroma of reality,
continuum of beauty’s diapason.

Grandfather’s house of rusty brick
along the River Road –
an engineer’s abode,
who loved an opera (Elvira’s cheek)...

One high lone raven corkscrews toward
the Pole.  This pillager
is Eli’s forager –
his black-hole fleece ties ragged

knots, makes nest for bread & wine.
Look how the prophet-priest
exalts his aerie-feast
where Time peals to a finish line,

B-flat – è FIAT... è finit.
Apollinaire smiles
in the wings – miles
overhead his plane lifts (azure, infinite).



from the bottom of the sea


Those howling Oklahoma twisters
are more than metaphor
for the ravenous bonfire,
the rabid war in the man-monster –

the Minotaur in the guilty coil
on the Chartres floor
(beneath wooden choir
where Theseus & Ariadne smile,

are reconciled).  Who can lift
the great icosahedron?
Unbind our Gordian
distempered steel – the feral gift

of chimp dominion?  One copper penny
spinning heads-&-tails
goes gyroscope.  Tall sails
press on from stony Normandy

(led by that spine of Juliet-Perdita)
past Flanders wars
into La Paix.  Who soars,
now, from the bottom of the sea...

an Acorn Maid, in a rite of spring
flecked from a deeper wound.
Crevasse of raven-sound,
convenient cripple-victim-thing

turns inside-out; one Joseph’s coat
patchwork mosaic spells
Liberty – swings bells
of Jubilee (round vibrant note).



alongside the canoe


John Slocum fell into a swoon
in the sea-tinged woods
by Puget Sound; his words
of hope shook many Shaker men

out of their sins.  Sparks fly far
from cedar blaze – the sea
booms in a ship’s eye
lashed by yardarm to the polestar.

It’s not the size of the cosmos
but the color of the scales,
gilded when dawn pales
rippling on ice-floes

across the horizon, back to Ocean –
over hide rooftops
sun-parched corn crops
in the jungle (Squaxin, Galilean).

When Davy the Song Prince pranced
alongside the canoe
Maggie saw what she knew
was hers, & grew embarrassed –

yet her almond eye looks to the sea
& the song endures.  A stone
fell from turtle-grey heaven –
the flare of a meteor, a mystery;

an infinite cloud-bank shaped like wing
a feather of ring-dove
signifying love
left brush-marks down by Slocum Spring.



Memory is full of Providence

                           i.m. Henry Shelton

Fall steps softly to the door
beside the river now.
Memory, somehow
is full of Providence today – your

little hideaway of brave
adorable & free
spirits, whom to thee
were given – opening, wave on wave

sea-gates of joy & liberty.
Like that dear one
on Petersburg pontoon
floated to town – Elena, she

of the midnight sun – as if an emerald
kamen-ring of Gumilev
(tattooed ghost-brave)
stood there, incarnate – held

my hand, like Word made Flesh – began
to dance & sing; as if
Columba on his acorn skiff
arrived in New York harbor – shine,

Franco-Irish lantern – beam
your torch around the globe!
Moss-copper robe
whose folds encompass freedom’s dream

whose web of mutuality
is wind-blown sail
on cosmic Ocean trail
chaste vision of equality


tall northern pine who will prevail
like massive cedar tree
in Puget Sound   like she
who danced the Shaker upland trail

to soul freedom, with John Slocum
or Henry Shelton in
Rhode Eye   Franciscan
mule of social justice   plumb

spine of Blackstone’s Catholic Oak
or Williams’ open hand
give me your poor... stand
in my healing shade... Manitou spoke

on Wisdom’s dancing-wheel of joy!
& my hoarse scar-tattoo
on Queequeg’s silver-blue
casket – my burbled Jaybird cry,

confessional – only an ochre scratch
on earliest cave-wall;
only a golden ball
of Ariadne-wool, wet sheepish match

balled-up by selfishness.  Who lit out
for that stony kingdom –
ancient Big Rock Mountain,
deeper firmament, beneath the shout

of pokey politics – that Cosmosphere
of lovingkindness, where
the soul finds Primavera air
& breathes... & sighs... & lives forever.


4th of July, Providence harbor


Yves Bonnefoy, encore

Another attempt at translation.  This is Yves Bonnefoy, "Le Pays Découvert", from his sequence A une terre d'aube.  (The last word of this poem seems nearly untranslatable, since le temps can mean both "time" and "weather".)


Star on the threshold.  Wind, held
In motionless hands.
Word and wind in a long contest,
Then there was this gust of silence.

The open land was only grey stone.
Very far and low lay a flash of empty stream.
But night rains over the surprised earth
Awoke an ardor that you call time.

bronze mood of river


The crickets’ eerie premonition.
The bronze mood of snaking
river, mirrored in
cottonwood’s heart-shaped fallen

shield.  Identity’s an equal sign
in autumn – twin banks
the Mississippi makes
to fringe the tender almonds of a span

darken toward evening, of a year.
That wavy, sooty smudge
afloat below the bridge
no raven now, but King-bird, here –

old Balder Will, majestic, serene
sailing with the wind
downstream.  You’ll find
his imago, dispersed, unseen –

scattered in brown eddies, copper jags...
the soft green lichen
of anonymous kin-
folk.  King Who-He-Who-She brags

like Pharaoh, but it’s all a masque –
autumnal Shakespeare,
smiling through the year-
dregs... tears toward Phoenix-Pasque.

Chaste vision is an equal sign.
Justice like rain – drifting
magnanimous wing
from Cosmosphere, where all things shine.


bald eagle in flight, reflected below bridge


an aria of Ariel


On the vast floor of the nave at Chartres
a golden labyrinth
circles the square.  Myth
of primal clay, where everything starts

over... springs up from the ground;
even the epic poem
circles back toward home –
Thanksgiving hearth of heaven, lost

& found.  It is an Ithaca
where Daphne-laurel molts
back to Penelope – bolts
from the yarn, like Minnehaha

laughing upstream toward Itasca –
primeval Persephone
(O veritas caput).  She
looms at warp speed, like an aria

of Ariel – zips through the Gateway
Arch, to Providence –
races around, from Florence
to the Golden Gate, where she will play

out safety nets, & save the day –
& from Pacific to New York
lift up her blazing fork
of sea-green, Lincoln-penny Liberté.

She is the almond in a nest of nests –
a hollow echo-tomb
from which Columbia will bloom
again, spring-fed by Galilean breasts.



down a river to the Keys


End of summer on the river path.
Light almost plaintive
through cottonwood leaves,
a frieze of tall pillars.  A froth

of rambling wildflowers, tender lavender
nameless to me – it’s not
rhodora, in this woodlot
astride mud-coppery earth-bender...

So Hobo goes mumbling along.
A road of melancholy
adoration (holy
fool, remembering a door, a song-

agate)... rowing, rowing down
a river to the Keys.
Angling through trees,
light rhymes with breeze (a wind-sown

octave); a fleet bird whistles
through hearkening cedars.
Her labyrinth of tears
might be a simple maze of thistles –

a hobo circus of circumference
around the dense mast
of a coracle.  Its ballast
is adhesive mutuality – love-sense

smiling through some kid’s affection
for a friend... Mendelssohn
in harmony, one
ark out of many waters (milky lesson).



not made with hands


I’ve spun a zigzag ziggurat
not made with hands, muttered
Oblomov-Hobo – squared
round Galilee with palmy lariat

lime-green & violet.  With Okeanos
built a pineland font,
a Big Rook Candle Mint
that floats majestic Liberty to Rus

by U.S. Forest Service (Lincoln
would).  There’s still life
in a copper penny, if
you’re willing to be leaf – we can.

Disenchanted materialists
unlock a spiny Jenny
idle now for many –
Berkeley’s little tree twists

like Atlantic rotor, like Bermuda
paddleboat... clap hands
& sing, who understands!
A dream – dream-songe (Ojibwa)!

Great Manitou be Hole-in-the-Sky now,
mind – love’s apple-tree
a laurel (Victory).
She beams from the heart of Notre

Dame, my voyageur, extending her
green crystalline moss-
copper palm of sobornost
Rhodos-Colossus 56 (soul harbor).



Bonnefoy, la traduction du jour

Here's another fling at translating Yves Bonnefoy... the poem is "L'Éternité du feu", from the sequence Le chant de sauvegarde.  (see original below)


Phoenix says to the fire, which is fate
And bright landscape throwing its shadows,
I am one who awaits you, says he,
I come to lose myself in your grave land.

He regards the fire.  How it comes,
How it plants itself in the gloomy soul,
And how dawn breaks at windows – how
Fire goes mute, falling to sleep deeper than fire.

He feeds on silence.  He hopes
Each fold of an eternal silence,
As it descends on him like sand,
Will aggravate his immortality.

down to St. Lou


Henry’s Chair is in the woods,
beside the Rio del Espiritu
Santo.  Hobo to you,
mayhap – lost in his darker moods;

drawing a diagram in river-sand
of Ursiana’s barer pillars,
moss-bound Giuliana’s
pines (forlorn Ravenna swampland).

Emblems of spiritual epilepsy,
moon friar.  Lame lone wolf
Dante, crying for a proof
of integral radiance (nay, nay

sobs hunchback Leopardi).
Hiawatha whistles there –
follow the tripping Hare
Whirlaway to Itascasee?

The spring.  Mammoth drone of stream.
Down to St. Lou,
where airs axle true –
bloodveined grey sponge, clay dream...

tuning-fork in the river road.
Wheel, innocent rabbi,
through your Galilee
of primary colors – lift the load

from Henry’s sloping shoulders.  Bend
a prism to Columbia,
slate panoply of Jonah-sky –
who lights the harbor at grave’s end.


Henry's Chair


something not rotten


Two lean ancient red pines
standing blue-green beside
Grandpa’s old house, abide
fanfares of trumpet-vines

(pure orange bugling).  Something
not rotten in the state
of Norway, loco Hamlet –
needles for constant farthering,

an evergreen encounter with the Pole.
A fado rudder for America...
mercurial Columbia
glows with her dusky song, high, whole –

hidden in clouds of starry Eire
that slake eddies of fear
into limey atmosphere
like elfin emeralds from the mire.

These curves along Rhode Island Way!
Hieratical Byzantium
leans down beside a tomb
hunched in Ravenna tamaracks – Dante

& Roger shaking hands (the ghost
of Beatrice will not bow
before the imperial scow,
nor heed the plutocratic boast

of idle punts).  Just a bivalve ark
(tender ellipse of fatherhood)
redeems the bent wood
Caesar to seahorse – shark to lark.



bebop robin


Sophie’s sunny little birthday balloon
with the starry polka-dots
is losing air now – that’s
how it is with balloons.  Under octagon

of the gazebo roof, like a spiderweb
in golden brown.  The Sacred
Wood was reconfigured –
scarred & scored rough oak nub

rounded to slight chaste coracle.
Apollo’s memory of Daphne
wells near Mississippi
into gnarled pillars (maze or miracle?);

one bebop robin solos from 
an Okie nook, wears
pork-pie hat... & there’s
a poppy (rich red-purple plum)

unfolding down his chest – an origami
floating city, cordial
with accordions, with all
things orbital (inverted harmony,

fresco to Viennese).  An island rose
out of infinite green,
balanced on submarine
turtledove blimps (of caritas);

the loping soul of liberty
sprang from Goodwill
her dancing shoes – & (still
traipsing) turns opal Star of the Sea.



Pines in Atlantis-land


In the powerhouse of Providence
lame little Eddie Poe
must play the game hero –
like a minnow tar, fire-pitted mensch

against Mini-Mini-Tick Leviathan,
his haunt of fearful gravity.
His force is a depravity
of animal instinct – Heraclitean

axis of control – apes’ pecking order,
magnified by policy
(raison d’état, you see).
O too-familiar monster, O – our

puzzle-master, oiled in wrestle-hold,
whose flags flap overhead
above each engineered 
corpse-shed (floods memories untold).

The silver dime, Elsie – your Grecian
Artemis – will not
suffice; this Ariadne-knot
must be released, for peace to reign

the dam must burst; an equilibrium
of equity must level out
the bruised minefield.  Bright
misery in wells of eyes... come,

Maggie Shekinah, come Galilean
Buffalo Gal (Eureka-
Psyche)... Standing Rock
pines in Atlantis-land – rise up again.



emerald, magenta, rust


These heavy green butternuts
fall to the green grass
from the milky axis
of the Po-treego thump & burst

(each one a miniature globe
of moist black earth).
Thus Hobo mused, at berth
among the river fronds, robed

in emerald, magenta, rust.
One such blade his wand,
divining rod – her land
releasing signs out of the dust;

smoke-signals, signed, co-signed
into a circle (arcing back
to the beginning of the track).
Jade footsteps from a cloudy mind,

a raincloud out of futurepast;
merging, centripetal –
heaven is integral
a raven knife, a pinecone mast

(that rotates on a maze of grass
within a vapid place
of sterile office space).
Flowers are immortal – pass

then, with Hobo, through the Gate!
Arc-welded acorn
crown for children –
rainbow-faceted checkmate


that beats Goliath with a tiny mite!
A baby meteor,
a coal of holy fire –
wholeness at heart, golden moonlight!

Her orb gleams like a seal, a coin –
meek penny versus
dolorous minions,
or muted acorn humming down

brass trumpets of disputing despots.
It is the dolphin-seal
of Ocean State, an Israel
incarnate in the rose bee-glade.  What’s

hidden in the earth, a promise
limping with Natasha –
with immovable Nadezhda,
still in Voronezh – liberty, justice;

a rainbow equilibrium, that harbors
simple shining Gates –
St. Frisco’s nail-bites
lifting iron weights, up to palm-arbors

evergreen!  That glory be hidden
like a key, or like a rudder
in the wave – to shudder
into light upon the crest... thy pardon

for this history, White Rose!
Row to the Keys, Hobo –
Eureka by the Po,
our watering hole – look whose Face glows!



he was no Big Fish


Like a Showy Ladyslipper in the woods
unseen by all except
chipmunks (scrabbling adept
through silent clerestories of dead

cedars) Hobo strayed, from Ursus
Major to St. Apollinaire;
he was no Big Fish, barely
a minnow Star du Nord (Jesus

his seine-maître, toiling away
upstream).  America
steamed on, formica-
sleek, pregnant with Labor Day

& White-Tailed Rabbit & Polar Bear
looked on, from cell blocks
melting in the superflux.
The Man of Concrete was no longer there

(he’d cried himself to sleep).  Henry
by a berried Berryman
stood by, his Resurrection
Plot cartooned in St. Paul snow (flaky);

apathetic Oblomov, at the gazebo
spied Olga in the distance –
wading through native plants
like sweet Cordelia coming to rescue

jet-bagged Lear.  Earth dangled
from one silver hair,
suspended over the bear-
cave (striped with blood, star-bangled).


"Pinecone", by Marcia McEachron

Quatrain by Yves Bonnefoy

Another stab at translation.  This is an untitled poem from Yves Bonnefoy's sequence "Le chant de sauvegarde" :

If the bird were torn into pebbles, you said,
He would be, aloft in his dawn sky, our shore.
But he, shipwrecked from harmonious vault,
Already sank weeping to the clay of the dead.


Rock Candy Neva-Neva trail


The little white cabbage moth
& the dragonfly, following
Hobo down his bumbling
Rock Candy Neva-Neva path

beside the river.  Past the bridge
nearly finished, almost
restored... some ghost
dance out of Petersburg (knowledge

from chaste visionredemption
blooming like a morning
gloryeverything trembling
at the dawn of timethe Galilean

tacking in the wind across the lake
zigzagging like a monarch
slanting orange-black
over sumac, milkweedto be forsaken

& his cup to take)...  So the dream of a girl
is the grail of a dream, when
startled Magdalen
beholds him (where fern-worlds unfurl).

Like a fiddlehead figurehead, a nettle
Beatrice, the dream ramifies;
what was there always
unveils, the whole sweet kernel-coracle –

as Hobo finds his bearings in the smile
of a limestone Ursus profile,
in the lofty Milky Whale
of a firefly Jonah (rainbow trail).



remote highways


The multifarious facets of this vine
are emerald-veined, to catch
the sun – each tendril-latch
anchors cucumber to mosquito screen.

Shade-ravines along remote highways
or melancholy tamaracks
up north... waltz parallax
on Ocean Road (revolving maze).

Hobo, drowsing at Camp Who-He-
Who-She-Wah, slipped
down a culvert, overstepped.
His gravity condensed to mercury –

a silver thread of frozen fire;
sum of all his non-
action, his diffident un-
charity (dead fisheye in the mire).

As if the shining labyrinth,
Ariadne’s fever-chart,
led inward (part
angel, part beast).  One leaden plinth,

one stony-crumb foundation (churled).
One personal scar
of sorrow, raveled far
down Rua Tonimminotaur.  Pearled

diamond from Tsyan-Shizi, or
Marienbad – her glance
a glint, a last-chance-
ghost, a smile (for dancing bear).


Bonnefoy summer

Have been slowly reading and enjoying poems by the late Yves Bonnefoy.  Here's a rough translation of one of them, from the collection Hier régnant désert :


Nettle, O prow of this shore where it crashes,
O frozen upright in the wind,
Show me a sign of presence, O my servant
Robed in scaly black.

O grey pebble,
If it's true that you harbor the color of blood,
Rouse yourself from this blood coursing through you,
Open to me the door of your cry,

So that in you I draw near her
Who is pretending to sleep,
Head closed over you.

"Une Voix" (Yves Bonnefoy)


The Love of Poetry

Ben Lerner's much-bespoken book-length essay, The Hatred of Poetry, is built on a conceptual framework drawn primarily from Plato and one of Lerner's mentors, the late poet Allen Grossman.  Allen Grossman and I, as it happens, attended the same high school in Minnesota (in classes exactly 20 years apart).

Although I admire Grossman's deeply-felt and magisterial writing (he produced a wonderful essay on Hart Crane), I've never taken to his theoretical perspective, his philosophy of poetry.  Nor do I agree with Ben Lerner's recent extrapolation, here, of some of those concepts.

I wrote an piece called "The Love of Poetry" in response.  It's not a review.  I try to mimic Lerner's anecdotal, autobiographical style in order to draw different conclusions.  The essay was published today by the online journal DISPATCHES, and you can find it here.