Red Wing colors


Sun through winter clouds, light
grays, pale blues...
Red Wing colors –
Mississippi stoneware (molded tight).

The heavy clay, churned by the river.
Earth forms distend,
disintegrate... days end,
begin... arrows in a quiver

of darkness.  Black Sea, cold, dead.
Salt lashing the eyes,
unseeing eyes – Oedipus
in his beast maze (Minotaur Ed).

Bruegel with his traps & nets.
Sardonic Injun Joe.
Taut lips of Little Crow.
To the bottomland we go, eaglets –

where Janus wrestles in the ice
with icon of his father.
Horned (narwhal weather).
Stars nest in a pair of dice.

High in stretched vaults of shade
stone elms lean down
over a golden corn-
maze (Ariadne made).

Light-roping constellations chant
reunion, reconcilement –
on twin wings of prairie-tent
coulombe (your ghostly complement).



slab of puddingstone


My lovely Providence, a microcosm
in the ruins of modernity.
Gray pebble by the sea,
colonial casque.  Slow periplum

around a clamshell iron rim –
like horseshoe crab
with buttresses, or slab
of puddingstone Bermuda-dream.

Today’s your birthday, spiny Jenny.
Evergreen of grief
& joy – almond leaf
of love’s firm spiral (funny

soul’s integrity).  You showed me
Piero della Francesca –
candid paisan Maria
pendulous with incendiary

monochord (trompette marine).
You showed me Providence
over your mother’s dense
grass gravestone (swan depression).

April is your azimuth;
mine too.  The cave
where Earth’s a voided grave,
where Berryman’s a vernal mouth.

Cicadas of Apollinaire
buzz over Île-de-France.
The veil of Adams’ Isis
tears – Columbia croons everywhere.


Newport, RI (near Berkeley's Seat)


Hyper-formalism & the Long Henry Poem

I made a simple creative decision about 4 years ago.  I knew I was about to embark on yet another long serial poem (I've written about 9 of them).  I decided that the individual parts (the separate poems) within the whole thing should be, if possible, more free-standing.

In part, I wanted to make my writing more accessible.  I wanted more magazines to accept my poems for publication (always a real struggle for me).  In order for that to happen, these smaller parts would have to be more autonomous, complete in themselves.  They would need separate titles, not just "Lanthanum bk. 12 no. 28" & the like.

The titles were the easy part.  My plan has only been partially successful.  But partial is better than nothing.  I've landed a few pellets of the new poem (Ravenna Diagram) in various magazines : Poetry, Blackbox Manifold, Journal of Poetics Research, West Branch, Notre Dame Review, Truck, Battersea Review...

This is a step forward for me.  I've probably written more poems, and published less, than any poet in America.

Part of the problem is, I'm not consistent.  I make resolutions & then go the other way.  I resolved a year ago not to post so many poems on this blog, & then I did the opposite.

Not only that - I also alienate potential & previous friends and publishers.  Things go awry.  I've come to the conclusion that there are various subtle patterns shaping these frustrating encounters.  Real books only emerge because they were meant to be.  Or because your deepest affinities have finally borne fruit - by grace, by miracle, you meet the small publisher who's been waiting all this time for you.  Kismet.

My waxing voluble here is due to the fact that I'm unwinding.  I'm celebrating the successful finish of book 9, Ravenna Diagram.  & I'm nearing the halfway point of this hyper-formal poem.  It presently stands, or sits, at about 510 pp.

I know where I'm going (as in the old Isle of Mull film).  The poem has a plan for me.  Sort of a sand mandala, shaping itself up with little voodoo flicks of sandy fingertips.  An hourglass in the form of canoe.

It's a Leaves of Grass kind of mumble-saunter.  It's a mummer's walk around a golden labyrinth - a traditional Crane Dance, performed by a blind man (mesmerized).

That's why the blog has proved so seductive & essential.  It's both immediate and chronological; it walks with me on my planetary seasonal rounds.

The poem is a stone fallen from heaven; no one will judge it.  Osip Mandelstam.

I'm trying to exemplify & prove the truth of this statement.  Of course, there is a social cost involved.  If you try to go around the distinguished cultural authorization channels, you will, most assuredly, be branded an outcast, an interloper.

Someone has probably written a treatise on the mutual co-dependence of High Society and Literature (maybe at the New Yorker?  or Paris Review?  Kenyon?  Harvard?).

On the other hand... please understand... I harbor no animus toward Society.  I am, simply, a poet caught in the net of hyper-formalism.

& what, you may ask, is hyper-formalism?

Hyper-formalism is the emergence of a form out of the necessary logic of a theme.  The theme, you could say, is the fate of the poem - & its fate determines its form.

Fate is, naturally, a dramatic force : a force for drama.  & poetry is the mimesis, the dramatization, of fate.  So poetry has discovered its vocation, finally - it's a mumbling medium for the human theatre.

& what if the fate of the poem - its theme - is to be a kind of local, allegorical embodiment of (universal, elemental) truth?  The poem veers toward prophecy... the poet veers toward seer... toward manifest Logos...

A stone fallen from heaven.  You begin perhaps to comprehend & forgive the orientation toward immediacy, toward "unsponsored" speech.

I've devoted most of my life to these verbal snares, these long-walk dream songs.  It's been a joy & a challenge.  I'm stepping blindfolded around a maze on the floor of Chartres cathedral.  Ariadne is the thread.  The Earth lies underneath.


Hobo's continental centrifuge


Hobo, hunching by the great river
in winter’s clamp, peers
like an Okie Okeanos
through the ice-floes’ ripple-shivers –

through the wavy shimmer, down
through faint diffractions
where the light shines
back... a silver mirror-sun,

layering her limestone shells.
A simple madeleine
(stone crumblevine,
gray rock-dove oval) wells

from the giddy stream in limpid echoes.
Raven in Voronezh,
Cautantowwit knife-edge
grips sun in her beak – light glows

like Pearl Harbor in eclipse.
Her lunar lance shall pierce
the mule’s gray hide.  Ears
perk for Jonah’s salty lips

molded like canoe gunnel
to mime Columbia.
Her dove-insignia
frames Sophie-ship – her funnel

rays its calumet of light
above the pyramid
(violent power-grid
of barbed-wire fraud, not quite


extinguishing that Evening Star
glancing so tender yet
steadfast – a mauve fishnet
looping beneath flame’s Icarus-car).

Hobo is Jonah now, in Ocean River.
The voice beneath the sea
is like a Kievan harmony –
perpetual melody of live-forever;

her flute-throat flickering dusky rings
like rain-drenched iris
round the throne of Isis –
Hagia Sophia in a peacock’s wings.

The river chimes in Hobo’s ears
of many waters, laughing,
crying.  Wingèd seraph,
sister-sibyl, swirl his tears

& yours into the continental
centrifuge (in Center,
North Dakota).  There
the massive gravity of all

Columbia hums into monarch flight –
a raven-transmutation
of infernal nation
to green cedar habitation (night

Pacific voyage of your soul).
Hobo watched the fluttering
lift-off, slowly muttering –
milkweed seed, sail; Ocean, roll.



beneath gray Bruegel sky


Crows ink beneath gray Bruegel sky.
A line from A to B
zigzags spacetime – see?
So raven vanishes in Noah’s eye.

Between two points, a yawning Ocean.
Infinite intensity
of black-hole density
draws yesterday into its spin.

What is your personal specific gravity?
The poem is gray pebble,
obscure soldat (trouble
for no one).  Ordinary Smitty

whose greatcoat pocket holds an agate.
Lodestone of a jay
tracing King’s Highway
into the calyx of a ruse (checkmate).

It is Path P, the chi-rho
branch – diamond
mandala of almond;
Black Elk milk road (ey yo).

Love is the tread between twin pillars 
only a glance of weightless
spiderweb.  Inverness
of vernal tenderness... wind, stars...

when the bow sways in its wave-cradle
& Ithaca, Iona, Eire
lift like green fire
Skye-perpendicular – familiar grail-dreidel.



shade of fig trees


I remember the tall shade of fig trees
on Observatory Hill
in Sydney, their colossal
spread feet lifting leafy memories.

The diamond hologram glinting
upstairs – the Southern Cross
a silver doubleness,
a micro-mirror (winking, hinting).

Dante in Ravenna, on the coast
of swamps & tamaracks
the scars of Whites & Blacks
scorching his palm (a sulfur-host)

felt a light flute-breeze ruffle
his conch-shell ear
whispering draw near
beheld Matilda waltz the Buffalo

(an aboriginal design
painted on granite
for Woodpecker-flight
framing two Thunder-twins benign)

& plumbed the gravity of clay
that wheels so slowly
through mortality
toward candescent kiln-fired Day

of Jubilee   the metamorphoses
of starfish realms to stars
the green & gold pillars
of corn & wheat   Georgina’s

laughter in the new-mown fields.
So her green-almond eyes
drew Alighieri to Vitale’s
arc of Paradise (welds

souls into an infant baptistery,
a fan of everlasting
life).  Interesting,
murmurs iconoclast Henry

Hobo   but I would bend the lens
slightly   enfold the ray
into a Bay of Biscay
alphabet soup   Beguine begin-agains

based on an anchored oaken ark
of milky bread & wine
the whole human communion
in the sun of mnWmn (spark

from a Galilean jewel of light).
Inside the delicate crystal
gently circling... still
potter’s whirl from infinite night

around the whisper gallery
Twine Monastery
pregnant humble glory
of Francesca (Piero’s poverty)

leaves mutter in the sea-breeze
just beyond the orange
bridge   Georgina’s Grange
the dusty gardeners   Maria sees



poem in memory of Mark Baumer

                             i.m. Mark Baumer

The poem’s wobbly orrery
of airy ore is self-
correcting, like an elf
inside a gyroscope.  Unwary

cheerful troubadour, he walked
barefoot across these states
joking at potentates
to heal a hurt planet – balked

by Mammon, Moloch (vanity,
acedia).  The white van,
an indifference machine
in seething Florida... such petty

wreckage snaps a sapling tree.
The jungle broods, silent.
Her gentle ape’s extinct.
Minotaur mutters his poetry.

We have not learned the lesson of
the golden bowl.  We tread
the fractures on a head
of Incan stone (grey mourning dove).

Coatlicue is raging at
her funeral.  Splinters
of daylight almost pierce
the warped crossweave – chariot-

spokes of angry Manitou.
Thunder comes soon.
The light’s deep green.
The land is ripe for tornado


when Francis ambles right past you.
A river of pink peonies
surges through cities...
salty labyrinth in Dallas blue.

Her pillbox hat, his scattered bran.
Unnatural shocks (that flesh
is air, too).  Gold mesh
of tangled fleece... your Ariadne-

champion.  All-suffering rabbi
who declares : the violent
bear it away   rent
robes of kind Melchizedek   mild

eye of Isis   throned in adamant
warm heart of Magdalen
at almond gate   Open...
Joseph’s weathered rainbow-garment.

The poem’s just an ornery gray stone.
The slash of Cain that clouds
its brow irks human crowds –
has not been stitched til now.  Atone,

Adams.  Icons through unworthy
lips break into clay
rivulets & melt away –
your only balm is Charity,

sole antidote to Jealousy.
Spring comes on mild
dove’s feet... her wild
breeze from the open sea.



on the verso


There were verses on the verso of 
the parchment, leaching through
like spidery veins (blue
robin’s-egg hen-scratches... mazel tov).

Imprimature of sovereignty.
Blood-red wax of Charles
sealing the 6-foot chart
of Little Rhody liberty;

beehive of ancient freedoms
rooted in that right
Coke labored to indite –
of persons to their own kingdoms

of thought, & conscience, & truth.
For Roger Williams,
riveting I AM
rhaptor soul Nazirim, forsooth.

Because that bird circling the oak
is like a thread that knots
the agate to the plot’s
ripe dénouement.  The thunder spoke

& stone rose   like a double-ax
out of the mountain-wave
laddering Jacob’s cave
a grail-casket   for sweet St. Max

whose dream became   a vernal tomb
across the womb of Magdalen
& made of Joshua   a wren
& Henry Sol   a hawthorn bloom



love & reason


Chris the carpenter, who came
to work on the kitchen today
grew up in Kentucky
(Louisville).  Stabled in the same

horse-town as cousin Julie, Uncle
Jim.  Heard the JFK
Inaugural, just yesterday.
Born in ’63.  Like a carbuncle

burst on history, his red hair
oscillated in
the wind (a Bruegel vine
for allegorical enmity).  Who there?

The difference between love & reason.
Conversion of the Jews
(persecution blues).
Crusaders, conjuring their notion

of Coulombe.  It’s about love
of the idea of love.
Been there, dove
that (through bronze dry ice dove).

Stone stumble on itself.
Luminous millwheel
like a cloudy meal...
ornery small emerald elf

in limelight (grey pebble,
desolate Black Sea).
No one care, see.
Is only poetry (silly rebel).



fault-line tattoo


Step by shaky step, lame Hobo
spirals the lead-grey hump,
an awkward salience – dump
or agate-hold?  He doesn’t know.

Like Doc Woodpecker, peppering
the old birchbark, testing
the ribs for air – a ring
of hollow knock-knock, worm-hurling.

The sap running... a red thread
of civet.  Venison
oozing from the cauldron.
There’s no going back to the dead.

In the splendor of the west window
a minute glass tear
bisects its mirror –
eggshell splinter twixt Église & you.

My almond diamond, mutters Hobo.
Ring around the rosy,
let’s all go see
Thunderbird (hear the wind blow).

Notes of a flute, along the river.
Ocarina in the woods.
Hums through stray moods
of autumn... Black Elk (Indian giver).

You trace the zigzag coral coil –
a Queequeg scar, knifed
into casket-crown.  Life-
line for Jonah.  Rachel’s whorl-oueil.



in the whisper gallery


My mater’s feet, that spun the heavy
wheel of Red Wing clay
dancing with gravity
to shape a starfish gaiety

for these galactic lunch plates, pink
& blue & white... her Ravlin
hands (out of that Iowan
earth Quaker Negus trunk)

were muddy with the garden soil
of Minneapolis-
St. Paul... O this
most plain midwestern gopher hole!

The soul stages a circus act
of spacy time, perchance –
her gyroscopic balance
tops an unknown Planet X, in fact

& dream.  Mary’s crafty fingers
rhymed those blue-&-white
starbeams with one fleet
bathtub tug... her name lingers

in flame & memory (Sophie).
Like Firebird in the Russian
symphony, my swan-
boat swallowed up Eternity

consumed by cigarette-smoke blaze
in Petersburg poet’s
birdnest (Elena Shvarts) –
pipestoned into a purple haze.


I pace your clay circumference
in sleep.  My blind alley
or whisper gallery
is domed – an acorn’s happiness

or Okie’s California – inward
mother-of-pearl, bent
parallactic as a mint
wrapper... green mirror-bird

soaring from rusty copper frame
into the theatre of sky.
Your crossroad, ply on ply
flexed on sine-wave of Ever-Same

& in the dust of the Ecclesiast
of human brokenness
inherited faiblesse
& all the suffering, from East to West

one mighty spindly tree, one pine
of cloudy poetry
swirls, fiddlehead – sea?
Transmodulation of the sign,

en face!  To pivot on the least
of these... gray wing
of Jonah, mutely lifting
from the broken shells... the Beast

stung by remorse (Guillem d’Orange)
– stick figure of the Son of Man
familiar, somehow – someone
you must have met, somewhere... étrange!



elephant burials


Snowflakes crystallize, unique
& elegant.  Mandala-
knots (of ice).  Then follow
the sun, like dew in a raven’s beak.

Into the rain, the river, Ocean.
Heart’s slow dilation.
Sunken beams of pain,
of petrified love... beyond reason.

Light tracks of salt, the tears
of trees.  Sacrament
of speechless element –
elephant burials.  Fallow years.

Inarticulate, dumbfounded soul.
The knowledge of the end
in each soft riverbend –
her fingerprint, on clay bowl.

Dreams gather, so.  The dream.
A curly wave of sheep
threading from the deep
time-meadows.  Trim trireme,

bearing a casket wrapped in fleece –
matrix of Paradise,
lifting each Jonah to release.

The air murmurs immortal Spring;
your friend is limping sweetly
by your side.  The tree
of Galilee is blossoming.



with malice toward none, with charity for all

                  i.m. MLK

We walk together on a zigzag path
tracing the death of kings
miming crow’s wings
of trickster history – wrath

bursting yellow-orange (balloon
for Apollinaire,
strange signal-flare
scripted for carrier pigeon)

like scars of Mars across an unknown
martyr-soldat (Eeyore-
Verman, smoked as of yore
in mustard-bowl of Bosch-demon)...

Glassed like a pair of broken bifocals
the earth’s blind O
& heaven’s diving zero
mesh in the crosshairs (personals

coulombe).  Shepherd’s last calendar
(yours, mine, ours).
Beyond blank stares
of slate, in Arctic Cimetière

beneath Jonah’s anchor, tattooed
by Minotaur... one homing
turtledove draws OMO
in red chalk.  Graphite étude

of pensive Milky Way... orant
abysmal honey-beard’s
raven-rose word
lifting light birch-bee ark (aslant).



rowing to Kiev


The human family of human
families – clay
honeycomb array
in earth-colors – aims for a zone

of radiant plenitude – sustained
chord from a horn of plenty,
hived in community –
a milk-&-honey land, ingrained

along a cedar path of goodness
clear as winter air
warm as Apollinaire
chanting his biplane with finesse

Parisienne.  A Spirit of St. Louis
circling the blazing crown
of Liberté floats down
into the eagle-nest of Chartres

whose rose rim complements that Gate
of soaring human freedom
anchored to the thrum
of one great river’s beating heart.

So pictures flicker in the stream
of Mississippi dream
for one forlorn sunbeam
or hazel-mote, her gypsy scheme...

one footloose soul, one rambler
who would be gone from jail
before the frozen hail
of Hitler-Stalin-Xi-Putin (& gambler

Kim Jong-un) congeals into one
mammoth concrete hulk
of tearful despot-sulk –
one massive Man of Unknown

Snowjobs – Don the Golden Duck-
&-Coverling, the Beast
who gives offense the most
& smears the human face with muck.

So honchos of the earth lift up
their horns, a little while;
they cannot reconcile
their pride with that ineffable fop

who spins the elegant galaxies
here to infinity


right from eternity
& lifts the heart to ecstasies

of fellowship & harmony –
the sparkling of justice
mercy   righteousness
high paths of gentle charity

Saturnian rings of human union
knotting the universe
within one Paradise
plainsong (trompette marine).

The turbid tumult of the beaten-down
rattles the reeds, troubles
the swarming crows – bubbles
explode – all the high-flown

rhetoric disintegrates under
the trampling of grass
by panicked herds (alas).
& yet there is another thunder

gathering in clouds above the oaks,
beneath the sea – low hum
of some beehive continuum –
sun-wheel, whose fiery spokes

feather to wings of Thunderbird –
enormous golden shade
whose raptor-beak’s a blade
of dragon-prow – Norsemen’s weird

serpent-egg on river-tree
sailing to Kiev, now –
St. George’s silver plow
upturning soil to poetry

salting the roots of tyranny
to shrivel them at last
beneath a trumpet-blast
of global human sovereignty –

the almond salience of a union-dome
bright coins of humanism
ringing a cataclysm
for every fraudulent kingdom

& every despot on the earth.
This eagle’s razor beak
has just begun to speak –
a tender rain, wisdom & truth.



in the conning tower


Sophie sketching a choo-choo train
in blue crayon, & a trio
of engines in bright yellow-
black (Union Pacific) planing

across a dented overpass
share the light matrix-
argot of a peacock’s
fan-continuum (sea-surface).

Your eye that opens like a morning
glory forged into fusion
stronger than the sun
this amorous union, splendoring

a plume – your planet, raveled into
one.  Its gyroscopic
spin is geodesic
liftruweight – a feathery canoe

scaled up the hoary Nile to be
fair, kind & true
(peacock’s mosaic view
breathing accordion transparency).

Who then can be my enemy?
Why do the ogres rage
& tinpots ruse to stage
mock war upon me?  Jealousy?

from lambent arboreal North
snow slants softly down
a rose meridian
to blanket aboriginal South


radiant in sibylline East
as tawny dogwood leaf
light welds a choral reef
to Liberty’s gull-dappled West

A shady chess piece in the tower
angles shark advantage
with a flanking edge –
the twisted blade, the bribe’s power;

on prison railroads to the pole
pecking iron grain
by long division
sowing lizard’s teeth (drum roll)

all for a subterfuge of thieves
who plant not (neither
shall they hive)... where
then their homing in the sheaves?

Like a black hole torn through
ice-gilded armor, light
gravity sets right
your kayak’s calm ellipse (true

almond eye, beaming beyond
all scheming pyramids).
Whose birchbark lids
one cosmic hexagon – fond

snowflake angel-star – salt
pattern at the end
of Everychild’s roadbend –
bright rainbow out of Ocean vault.



traveling Walter Whitman


A luminosity of grays
above the winter river.
Bands of peach, & silver.
A quiet surge past Pig’s Eye,

which became St. Paul.  John
Berryman sleeps on a bluff
nearby.  Once is enough
for everyone (a long time gone).

One casket will suffice.  Paul
was Saul once; an orange
angel flared so strange
his blade curved into burial.

He felt the change upon his skin.
So Queequeg tingled
where the needle angled
in.  The tattoo (Ecuadorian

gold) blood-red – indelible
(via serpentine
Cain-crozier) of Abe-Ape’s edible

ancestry (just incredible).
The primate history
of human mystery
incarnate in a star (blind, Oedipal)


who fell to earth, not far from here.
& like Walt Whitman, wandered
swamp-deltas... milk-&-honeyed
Hobo meadows... (poplar, cedar)...

all the way to San Francisco.
Golden Gate grandeur
sparkling orange-azure
not one whit less marvelo

than Solomon’s Templo.  Yet neither
will surpass one friar wight
who flutes across deep night
his piccolo arpeggios (Breather-

Bro to Sister Sigh-Nature)
lifting his humble sign’s
Venetian-blind design
beneath that glory-span – sheer

delicatesse of silver threads
raveling safety net
for one slight violet
(shorn, scarred by callous crowds).

She is your Imogen, who keeps
weight balanced on a wire;
fleet-footed candlefire,
light houseboat over frosty deeps,

your witty Sophie – at the wheel
of supernatural law –
sailing toward Awe
full-smile (lips compassing her almond-seal).



one common wheel


Snow mantles the outstretched granite hand
of Roger Williams, floating
with benevolent feeling
over Providence.  Understand

this pioneer of liberty –
a spark from Edward Coke
whose Temple accent spoke
one common wheel of dignity

the lawful root of sovereignty
beyond despotic whim
in a vibrant realm
of transparent equality.

Within the wigwam of Canonicus
wings of Cautantowwit
Whitsun tide-light
new sign from lofty Okeanos

Manitou beyond the earth.
Life of Miantonomi
lost on Path P
Christos   locked on Golgotha

the bread cast on the salt waters
returns as octahedral
diamond   of every soul
the living ground.  These gray matters

of galaxies   our origins
in chaste velocities
of Raven-sighs
are reconciled where Time begins


in mid-most mind (O Adonai)
where gyroscopic spins
of corny gold Whitmans
drift from mosaic cupolae

Ravennas of ecstatic joy.
O lift the everlasting
Gates!  The iron spring
gives way – unleashes yellow toy

across the planetary warp –
Ariadne’s shuttle flies
arranging swift surprise
in Chartres maze, her fleecy harp

sounds rustic harmony
(rose choral wreath
of unison, beneath
mild luminous clerestory).

The ancient pattern of the whole
reflects an irrepressible
adoring Psyche – able
to melt each calcified soul

& mend the fractured skeleton
all shattered out of reason
to dehumanizing treason
(haughty deflections of half-men

swept up into strange self-defeat
by heart’s amnesia)...
Help them, Columbia!
Mercy makes Providence complete.