to the Open Road


Hobo took to the Open Road,
from Minneapolis
to ancient Providence.
Like Mark Baumer, or Johnny Appleseed

or Pippin, off the deck of Pequod
unto lustrous ebony
of kings (their feathery
full fathom five... old sacred wood).

Gray tintype of elder Whitman,
stiff lead butterfly perched
on his hand.  We searched
for you, O monarch soul – your Plan

a prairie zigzag into Mexico.
Across the Rio Grande
to feathered-serpent land
pacing a shadow like raven-arrow

(Narragansett shade).  Crumbs
for Elijah-bird, Joachim-
eagle (from the seraphim).
Who plummets (wings like snare drums

thundering).  A way of traveling back
into deep green earth,
Hobo – measure your worth
for cedar berth (from Hackensack

to heavenly Jerusalem).  Transfiguration
chicken shack – here Hen
gathers his brood again
into the spare refectory (Franciscan


cornerstone) where Piero limned
an emerald almond branch
lit by a thread (match-
fuse flaring) like sun-skimmed

honey-milk.  So Hobo burbles home
downstream.  The Gulf beckons.
Blue radiance of suns
(YHWH, YInMn) out of Pacific foam...

& in RI, in San Francisco Bay
orange arcs of rainbow
(mulitocular O-show)
fan skyward Hagia Sophia spark-display.

A yellow-black viceroy wavers
from Petersburg, southwest.
Grave resurrection, chaste
Akme-vision... dark cherry life-savers

Persephone crane-dances
limping to the spring.
Natasha’s creaky swing
for Julietta 484   rusty romances

when we dead shall rise   ghost-dancing
circling into the cloud
of dust   meek now, not proud
Frank Muleteer   Jennifer Sing-Sing

abracadabra... Alcatraz
rock flung from sky
become canoe   your eye
be dew   pine-sap    river to Paradise



sunset orange


The grey pebble, the unknown soldier
flung like a meteor
or Pippin to the ocean floor
blazes with spiritual authority (chaired

in the adamant of Time).  Quick
fiery arc of Jeanne,
dove-mild, Columbian –
from sweet Itascan spring to thick

Louisiana live-oak grove (along
a serpent’s labyrinthine
swerve).  Dream-scene.
Microcosm in a hobo’s glass, song-

songe awakened on Rose Island.
In your eye, Henry –
in our eye (INRI).
Crossroad of a king’s last stand.

Royal beyond kings, in their halls
of mirrors (drawing near
like Minotaur, a minor
character in Humpty-Dumpty Falls).

Lightning of intellectual fire
with rattling Thunderbird
enclosing Red Wing – Word
for equal brother, sister – Sire

& Siren in candescent colloquy.
Sheba & Solomon
enfolded in one zone
Galla (octagon vault-canopy)


Placidia (ample, enduring crown)
might set like Orpheus
to shepherd sheepish US
to her clay plateau (emerald, ultramarine)

within Ravenna’s salty limestone
tombs (carted away
to Rimini, Ezra)
Franciscans monitor (Dante’s is one).

Henry-Hobo, ascending from the grave
of buried Berryman
under a Minnesota sun
shrives everything (old beggar-knave)

to thread the needle, so narrow
from Providence hillside
through Julian suicide
& Gateway Arch, to San Francisco

Porta Povertà – the Golden Gate
rimmed sunset orange
to rhyme with that strange
Libertà, shining in every heart...

the Jonah-Dove, or Jeanne d’Arc,
or Jenny Littletree
Corn Maiden, in D.C. –
my Pocahontas statue in the park

veiled by the evening radiance
of West Branch, Iowa.
I am the Mystery-Yahweh
of Life, she say – the dew’s sundance.



birthday chords

I died 45 years ago

In about an hour's time I turn 65 years old (May 29th).  Hard to believe.  But I'm relatively OK with getting old... I guess.  In part perhaps because I died 45 years ago.  I was mantled with some kind of mysterious psychic death and rebirth, which I've been trying to come to terms with ever since (in my life, my writing).  Uncanny, unheimlich.  Personal un-hinge, you could say.

Ever since (O youth!), at least some fraction of me has been on a spiritual mission - really a stumbling, on-&-off effort to express & explain what happened (as far as I can see).

When you have died 45 years before you turn 65, there are psychological ramifications.  When I was 4 years old I was hospitalized in an iron lung for about a month, with a severe case of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (French polio).  I was immobilized up to my neck.  As a result, I've put a premium on breathing, and also perhaps endured a subliminal sense of paralysis.  & maybe something of this early childhood experience carried over into the later crisis and its aftermath.

I've been a poet for all of those 45 years (and longer).  A longtime member of the Dead Poets Society, I guess.  But my membership has been accompanied by few of the standard benefits.  Somehow I write my poems on a different map from that of the mainstream literary traffic highways.  I have trouble connecting there.   The poems exist & flourish, but on a different planet.

I don't blame the world, or the poetry gatekeepers, etc.  I really believe it all stems from the fact that I died 45 years ago.  I'm engaged in a soul-struggle of some kind.  My poems try to straddle a double dimension, & hence are at cross purposes with the purely literary or the purely political or the purely anything.

Yet I try to maintain the integrity of the poem as sufficient creation, as work of art pure & simple.  I believe in that, because I feel it - every time I experience a work of art myself.

Somehow the soul-struggle, the crisis of faith, has to come to expression - yet without succumbing to the desire for an intellectual resolution (a tendentious, rather than free, expression).

This is starting to sound very pretentious.  I'm like the unprofitable servant in the parable (I forget which one) - stuck between two paths (spiritual & worldly).  Neither here nor there.

That's how it is.  I've written a lot of poetry since 45 years ago - & it seems to be whiling away the years in an ineffectual limbo of disregard.  Not needed by anyone.  I can't explain it.  But that might change.

I'm not really worried.  There are larger issues in life.  And it shall come to pass... that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons & your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions... (Joel 2:28)

old poet geezer


invisible, indivisible

Have been reading a couple books by Borden P. Bowne lately (Metaphysics, and Personalism).  Bowne was a professor of philosophy at Boston University a little over 100 years ago.  Involved (I believe) with the philosophical circle known as "Boston Personalism".  Apparently the group and the school of thought influenced the young Martin Luther King.

Not easy reading for me.  I'm not well-versed in philosophy.  The mind tends to wander.  But Bowne's perspective seems to chime with my own vague hunches about the nature of things.  I've always thought of poetry as a counter-force against positivism, materialism, determinism - the supposedly "objective" dehumanization and disenchantment of reality.

In fact Bowne provides a pretty forceful rational and philosophical defense of theism and "personhood".  I'm a little surprised his writings are not better known today.  He's not merely a Berkeleyan idealist.  Nor is he some kind of American pragmatist.  Rather he finds a middle way between "common sense" pragmatism (ie. all our knowledge ultimately derives from - and involves a rational abstraction from - ordinary experience) and Kantian idealism (ie. human consciousness orders & thereby interprets any and all experience whatsoever - the mind's insight is what we know).

Experience is not merely a phantasm of consciousness (as in Berkeley).  Things are real, things have concrete reality.  But mind is not a "thing" : and mind provides the only continuity, freedom, and truth that we know.  Bowne posits a sharp (a "metaphysical") divide between invisible mind (or soul, or spirit, or personhood) and the phenomenal world of things.  And yet he doesn't presume to define or theorize how "things" came into being.  His Occam's razor shreds (satirically) a lot of pretentious theorizing about "being" and "phenomena" etc.  He posits a strict difference between the finite and the infinite.  And yet he proposes a kinship between limited, finite human mind (consciousness, spirit) and the infinite creative personhood (consciousness, spirit) which must be the creative origin of things.  Nothing else will do.

Bowne is not a tendentious apologist for theism : instead, he slowly explores the origins of determinism, positivism, and materialism in our "common sense" response to the apparent "thickness", the substantiality, of things.  We are sensualists.  We extrapolate from physical, material, bodily experience, and leap to universals and generalizations about how "things must be".  We tend to evade the difficult (and very ancient) question about how anything exists at all - how things happen to be (from nothing).

Again, Bowne doesn't presume to answer this question.  He just finds a rational way to propose that an infinite creative Mind or Spirit is the only plausible source of what we call reality.

Philosophy can get you thinking, musing.  Perhaps we tend to avoid God because she's actually so close to us.  There's no "space" between the roots of our own personhood (our "soul", let's say) and the infinite person - except that dividing line (and it's a thick one) between finite and infinite.  But the primal analogy is there, the imago Dei.  Bowne demonstrates how what we understand by "personality" or personhood is really invisible, immeasurable - our core identity, our rational, emotional, actively volitional personhood, is an invisible intelligence - a soul, a spirit, a heart & mind.  & then Bowne demonstrates how the most rational description of the source or "world-ground" of reality as a whole is none other than some infinite (immeasurable, unlimited) form of this invisible intelligence (heart & mind).

Think of the eloquent poetry of Martin Luther King's analogies (between the spirit of divine Agape and the troubled spirits of an earthly people).

This text from the Book of Joel (2:28) seems apropos : "And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions..."

We're close here to the fusion of a very archaic vision of reality (eg. we are all children & beneficiaries of Manitou, the "Great Spirit"), with the most contemporary understanding of the same.

Maybe we're at the beginning of a new cultural sense, or common understanding, of reality - which is not that different from a very old sense.

None of this "proves" (philosophically) the specifically Christian declaration (the "good news" of "Father & Son & Spirit").  The Christian declaration is more radical than philosophical argument per se can propound : ie. Jesus is the personal manifestation of God.  This is rather an article of faith.  But Bowne is one of those thinkers and writers who provides a general, philosophical framework or ground for an approach to (or rational evaluation of) the obscure "witness" of religious (theological) expression.

(p.s. I know I'm not being completely fair to George Berkeley here.  This is Bowne's critique and distinction, not mine.  Berkeley, to my mind, seems actually very close to Bowne in his "metaphysics".)


compact Mayflower


Memorial Day.  The little flags
for birthday boys.  A vast
lime hillside park, just
north of Harriet.  My scraps & rags

of memory.  Twilight apartment
in the 50‘s (60 years
ago).  Mahogany.  Grandpa’s
brass shell from France.  The scent

of pipe tobacco.  Suntanned print
of Washington & Lafayette
skipping a minuet
après la Revolution... ancient

icons of a Constitution, hereby
animated (in the flesh).
How to start fresh?
For the remembrance of me...

for 1st Minnesota, Cemetery
Ridge (clumped there
after the last full measure).
Play with your toy soldiers, Henry.

Hawk-wrought republican scriptures
underwritten by compact
Mayflower... covenant
of friendly fellowship (yours,

mine, ours).  Underscored in turn
for soft flute melody
out of forgotten Gypsy
music-box, deep August forest (yearn


for startled stars, green, coppery).
The absinthe reminiscence
of a Peto (Still Decades).
Time’s overrated.  It’s your history

that’s in your making, Liberty.
Out of Itasca spring
a major serpent thing
treads sinuous Welsh-knotty

tanglements, under lightweight bridge
(it’s only gravity) –
your shadow-play, Psyche,
Eurydice.  Reunion.  To the edge

of black-&-yellow double-eagle
eggshell canoe (viceroy
cocoon?) from stony
Petrograd (oscillate, seagull).

Black-orange monarch of your soul.
This little mustard seed
of pilgrimage (Venerable Bead
or Columbaa) will ravel up the whole

into an Okie safety catch of swinging
carousels – Francesca
slanting out of Rimini
(doggèd by Pound) is bringing

Beatrice in her wake – a hurricane
an oriole some-hum bonum
renewing memories (Van Windowpane).



6-way pearlosphere


Water & limestone, flowing water
& flint.  One flinty poet.
Raven (Cautantowwit)
bent southwest... shady potter

evening the light patter
into one plate
(a starfish template).
Love knit into the gray matter –

after Apollo’s leaf-shaken by Laura
& Guillaume flutes his
last letter to Texas
(chère Annie della Santa Povera).

Orpheus mining for Eurydice
or Hobo for a spare soul
bear witness to the whole
arcade of an elliptical theodicy –

the love that filters through the frame
of selfishness, into the wheel
of goodness nonpareil –
along a zigzag trail (from shame

to limpid sunshine, fear to hope).
This labyrinth of green
copper, spring’s has-been
graven into will-be – mighty trope

of Lincoln profile, lifting from
rust-brown decades
(gilded cage, parades...)
– an infinitesimal infant hum


like flute-call of a one-stringed
gusle, or trompette
marine – sweet lure set
looping gracefully from stringent

steel twin pillars – fleet trimaster
launched on azure wave-
arc from the knave-
matrix of simian disaster –

Noah’s rhombus of acacia,
world-gathering lantern-
ship of ringèd Saturn
bowed with figurehead (Columbia)

of grey rain   hummin being
or bee hummin   human


bird   shade   Galilean
Nazir   nightingale   circling

like adamant flint iamond
or polyalmond eye
within the 6-way
pearlosphere   Warlpiri-monde

or center of Center, N.D.
where Black Elk springs
his sundance rings
of omnipresent dove-activity

so dive in   dive to the divine
drive-in   twine-chariot
of agate Agape   knot-
spun to lift   into ascension-heaven


Franklin Bridge repair is almost done.
The river flows midéwé way
toward Memorial Day.
We spiral back where we’ve begun.

That granite portal of an Ocean State
where Roger steps from his
canoe – old Prospect Terrace,
over Providence – rêve-songs originate

there, looking west (toward St. Louis
& Frisco).  Late May
brings Rhody Statehood Day,
centenary of JFK (his Newport, ours) –

& in Paris (1913) Apollinaire
beheld the Rite of Spring
before Great War (engulfing
Earth in violence... pity... despair).

A tiny hummingbird speeds blossomward.
Grey sound-waves buzz
like microscopic doves
or bees around oak honey-hoard.

They’re everywhere.  The hollow tock
of woodpecker foretells
a carillon (death-knells,
birth-pangs) – oak droning, Knock.

It shall be opened.  The shady grove
teems into restoration.
Cup-bearing dome-creation.
Wine-stained Milky Way (Manitou-trove).



O more than moon


90 years ago today
Papa was 5 weeks old.
Lindbergh took off, bold
Icarus... Spirit of St. Louee.

Daedalus built his labyrinth
to keep the Minotaur
at bay.  OK so far.
Only minor casualties – 8 millionth

civilian, 1913 (unknown
poilù).  Our engineers
built expensive tears
into delicate ships, Apollonian

on combers like phosphorus, behind
the shining cranium
(a sort of No-See-Um
mosquito zone).  Dear blind

(icky) Eddy posed this question
to himself : Who’s my father?
Phoebus compiled a rather
complex artifice (Olympic Stadion

to be Demolished Tomorrow)
in order to swim again
beneath Shoshone moon –
just 8 light-years away (somehow

we’ll get there, Apollinaire).
She’ll do her zephyr flute-
dance (Bonfire En Route)
as lithe fiery planetary star


Stravinsky set for 8 août
– he had to settle for
the 4th (Madame Bouvier
demand) – juillet, or thereaboot.

Guillaume bowed to the plumèd crowd.
Jesus on autopilot
rose... began to float
over la Tour Eiffel (meek, not proud).

Lindy surrendered all his clothes,
like Francis (to his father
dead) – rose further
in mondaine esteem – only to close

that gap between our earth & moon.
Bright mother of reflection,
pearl of intellection
(pupil Christ within your black hole zone)

my jottos ink into Francescan gloom,
your caved-in grotto
on my kitchen plot.
Light tenders mercy in that little room.

O moon, your melancholy face
reminds me of my lost race
to perimeter of grace.
Mayflower, constant Falcon-Ace...

paternal covenant of trust.
O arrogance of youth!
To jettison the truth
like so much ballast (bursting dust).



leaves of the cottonwood


The leaves of the cottonwood are silver-green,
the river flows green-bronze.
That old green man’s
gone home to his fathers now.  He’s left the scene.

Hobo will join him, by & by.
Leaves only a memory.
Childhood in Mendelssohn, Heidi...
where we drew the plow from the slough of Bye.

Home is the place we’re hailing from
forever & ever, to infinite
space – echo of minute
alien birds, mingling in one b-flat hum.

& home is familiar Elsinore
where haunted Prince Hamlet
spins the wheel – to forfeit
Ophelia, at heart’s grim core.

Time is inexorable, yet life
is sweet.  Violets fade
while a slow parade
carries the king to the tomb of his wife

down the path of a labyrinth
dark gold & green.
Where a trompette marine
strings one tone (teal-absinthe)

Ariadne hums too, as she spins
the silk safety net
round orange parapet
knotting a quipu where Time begins


& Hobo apprends l’alphabet
blu.  He’s buried in summer
like acorn mummer,
coddled in hay, enfant Hamlet –

like Ionas from London (graybeard
or grey bird) cross-
dressed for her Highness
to pluck from the crowd, to be cured

(so they heard).  She’s singing there yet.
In a grey ermine robe
in the heart of the Globe
her voice, claire-voie, will penetrate

your ear.  O incommensurate
ineffable Spirit
one with your Incarnate
One, who sent Me as advocate

to make a waltzing Tree of Love
out of the union of
the twainClay molten Dove
from Kiln-no-Day, soaring above

sky-wells of Ocean Stream, I AM
your mandorla of light
& joyyour mirror-bright
bee’s honey-eyemultiocular OM

circumferencing the whisper-dome
breathing Hagia Sophia
through most-human sigh
urging love’s coracle to kingdom come.



a line in the road


Sarah found a baby turtle
this morning, inching along
a line in the road.  My song-
salience, or green volcano-yurt

on slow horizontal too... toward
her thorny rose-matrix;
my scrambled pick-up-sticks,
snarled with gold poncho thread

in limpid greys of dawn twilight.
This mutter-dome of whisper-
leaves, of zephyr-vespers
veils an agate lamp (magnet

for Blue Morpho & monarch flight)
pendant amid cedars –
like black-yellow flickers
gathered into marigold (O milky knight).

My abstract worming through its raving
scribble-babble, cartoon
peacock incarnation...
a myriad glancing-whorl becoming

the figure for your beaming face.
O the clear air of this
metaphysical silence!
Whose pause released one Finnish race

to lift her soaring steel mandorla
into lofty grace
planted in pivot-place
of riverine & prairie space – ah,

Psyche!  Sister Persephone!
I feel your sunny smile
now – lifting lilacs mile
on mile into an octave-harmony


of active commonality –
Joy’s hero-trial!
Path P – Indian file –
thread-thin tattoo to Liberty!

So the little tree of J
is ever-living.  So
Jonah bee surfacing
tuned to your buzzing play,

high Sophie – through the fallen timbers
west of gray Verdun,
the world’s war-passion
settled in destruction.  Embers

from a wraith of spring, the sack of Prince
Henry’s royal oak...
one ashen acorn spoke
welded to purple wheel of Providence.

The crayon trembles in my hand.
The palm curves green
circumference – Iona
ray, from Ocean State (to every land);

the grey bird murmurs through the surf;
the Camelot of JFK
& blessedness of MLK
merge in the spray, resolve to turf.

So Thunderbird ruffles the stream.
The turtle is a Phoenix
swelling at the matrix –
agate child skipping (on waves of dream).



your whiskey mule


The bulb in a wild Chinese lantern
is a bright orange berry,
edible, tart (very).
Little octagon amid the fern-

pine forest, summer Halloween
memento mori; lamp
in Thanksgiving pumpkin,
blood-orange earring for a queen.

My cedar gazebo in the rain
magnifies your painted
facets.  I’m your slanted
saint, beaming gray Bretagne

matière, like old Guillaume d’Orange
in his gelato-cool
Gellone prayer cell –
the armored ape (‘tis passing strange)

grown peaceable & rocky-mild.
Repentant berry-man
in shady homespun
camouflage (as orange span stilled

leaping crag to crag – a frisky
beggar-stag in Frisco
Bay).  My Lady, O
high-hearted votary!  Your whiskey

mule I’ll be – show stigmatized
tattoos you needled through
cliff-jagged river-scars to
radiant Pacific blue... baptized


in Minnehaha Falls – by Manitou!
Her figurehead (surmised
miraculous surprise)
bobs like green fiddlehead, unfurling You!

Blue-green pine haze of Tian Shan,
whose snow-cone peaks
harbor bright lightning streaks
& pure transparency of oxygen...

be like her molten meteoric smile
my natal cog upon
whose wheel of rose spun
hurtling through light’s peristyle

into galactic congregations
sharing pain et vin
Melchizedek’s Come in,
my wounded daughtersprodigal sons!

The berry, man, the berry lives,
though crypted in the cradle
of an origami grail –
sun of Manitou, sum of beehives!

That copper moss-green Lady
in the harbor lifts her torch
as an intelligible iris-arch,
so read the sign : her rainy-shady

smoke-signal, pine-scented candle
of a little tree – her fiery
omnipresent Amor, mirrory
agate Agape, all blumen (mandel).



a little air


A little air, a melody
out of Mendelssohn, maybe –
like a wisp of smoke you see
afloat above Red Wing one day.

Like pipes out of Apollinaire,
trompette marine – sole
zigzag rigmarole
of an enigma (serpent’s lair).

You walk the blank maze, Oedipus.
With ghost of Ariadne
by your side.  Keen
pal, forsaken thesis – surplus

collateral, original
betrayal.  Henry Adam’s
dusky twilight madam’s
mad, quiet... a virgin owl

nested in stone Columbia.
Only her bird’s eye
as the crow flies
correlates phantasmagoria

out of the desperate heart of Cain
into clay valves
where muddy stars revolve;
through the dawn labyrinth again

from light, toward light, with light
blazing mild power –
like some firefly bower
mowers glimpse of a summer night


beneath remote aurora-shower
bearing fathomless delight
miraculous & right
to chastened human hearts in flower.

So I behold Dante & Job,
David the King,
hedged by ironic ring
of instinctual violence – the mob

of envious, avaricious rivals
circling their prey
to make King for a Day
once more.  Florentine hovels

I see transposed to Catlin prairie,
vertiginous Beatrice
mingled with Platte clay.
To the horizon’s elegant Bluejay

molts saturnine Cawtantowwit
with amorous Jenny-
Jonah; they buried be
only to soar in monarch-flight

O harbingers of Milky Way
whose kingdom is an Ocean
Stream – salty communion,
sea-green flock of Liberté!

Out from the massive turning of the wheel,
where Miriam churns the cream
of every starfish dream
into her almond meal (Messiah-seal).


sealed by kiss


This May light by the Mississippi.
Evening radiance
of ripeness – deep silence.
Nature can’t be explained, you see –

just felt.  The invisible sustains
the visible.  The unspoken
bee-silk tread, unbroken
dangling between a line of cranes

(fixed image from a coasting film
of tears, pooling in swamps
outside Ravenna dumps).
The retina, the iris-realm –

trim silence of almond canoe
hung up in dim garage
of old Ferrara (green
mirage).  She’s looking for you.

Calling you.  Her light curves round.
Curves round a pyx
hexagonal (X marks
her).  Regal Em, par exemple   bound

for glory in an Amherst cell
her russet star flames
golden dome   her name’s
a plunging eagle’s parallel

O gram of wheat  slanting to water
where the match strikes fire
in Mary’s   mirror-empire
as   furiously spinning   mutter-potter


echoes one   light-blazing choir
fluke-blinded hearth-power
of black earth-heart   your
milky diamond   from trench-cold mire

The universe is made of this.
A new world beckons now
from almond soil.  Plow
of the old world, sealed by kiss –

recycling topsoil of time
from Raven-Wife to salt
Ravenna – vernal vault
of Juliet to St. Louis sublime.

Moses – padre of Cleopatra,
stepfather of Jessie O.,
veteran of Shiloh...
he might know.  The river mantra

for the quick & dead (a strong drown-
gong) is fugal drone –
peepers in a mud-cone
warbling (like robins in a round).

Across there, from Monk’s Mound.
The planetary plate
is studded with jagged fate –
but we will make a joyful sound,

O froggy clown.  King Charles 3rd
awaits his guilty crown...
Henry is plastering his own.
His throne’s Columbian (a golden bird).



from Agate Rock


A pink drift of crabapple petals
lights the rust-brown bricks.
Hobo sniffs lilacs
through your gazebo’s flimsy walls

of ragged cedar.  Transparent air
& Saturday quiet;
a tiny spider’s lucid net
shines like platinum from here to there.

His soul’s invisible as God.
His heart beats slowly.
Time in the Family
of Man sways over Land of Nod.

His hammock is a green hummock
where hummingbirds & robins
warble, strum... Someone’s
calling you, Hobo (from Agate Rock).

You loved the looming sweep of limbs,
the creaky oaks in autumn
storms... quick, winter’s come.
The columbarium of paper hymns,

a windy wasp’s nest in your heart,
the melancholia
of sentimental sigh,
chilly memorial... you play the part,

poet.  These lilacs will not last.
Odysseus, in the Sirens’
grip, resists – sharpens
his ears – clings to the swaying mast


shuts eyes against his blinded sense.
Light tiptoes through, at last.
The shrouded cosmos (vast,
remote) circles a pilot’s evidence;

the pole star of his meditation
lifts into incarnation
(ark of a nation
anchored to her own grave station).

So Hobo’s apple petals scatter
in a spring chaos.
The Minotaur lurks close.
Greed splits matter from anti-matter,

rigid red from angry blue.
These violet bowers
dangling sweet flowers
bend over you in vain, Hobo.

Your dark twin leans from Golden Gate.
Her black hair beckons toward
the deep.  Only my Word
is closer to your heart, shipmate

your heart, & hers.  A violent order
is a knot of pain, a riddle
of ingratitude.  They fiddle
while my planet burns, smolder

in contemptuous hate (for neighbors
not their enemies).
Mauve Whitman breeze...
salt loveliness of tide’s martyrs.


the definitive quid

"I seemed to be living under a bell jar, and yet I felt I was close to something essential.  A subtle veil, a thread, barely separated me from the definitive quid."    - Eugenio Montale

Once in a while, in the midst of your bibliophiliac meanderings, you happen upon a book like Ezra Pound's would-be "ball of light in one's hands" - the true intellectual manna, the book you've been searching for half-consciously.

Not long ago I tripped over such a book : a work in philosophy by one Borden Parker Bowne, published in Boston (by Houghton Mifflin) in 1908, titled simply Personalism.

This book (and the Cambridge academic group loosely associated with it - now called "Boston Personalism") played a role in Martin Luther King's early thinking.  I suppose I was drawn to it for that reason, and due to my own prior interest in "the person", the personal (in an abstract, quasi-philosophical sense).  I suppose it was the same focus which had motivated my enthusiasm (7 years or so ago) for the philosophical writings of Michael Polanyi - another advocate for the "person".

I'm not in the mood for strenuous, inadequate paraphrasing tonight.  You'll just have to read Bowne's Wikipedia entry, maybe look further yourself.  Prof. Wiki calls Bowne "an acute critic of mechanistic determinism, positivism, and naturalism."  He was also an acute critic of abstraction, idealism, and totalizing systematics.  Nor he was one of those run-of-the-James American pragmatists.

Bowne seems to be located somewhere in that dawn twilight between late-Victorian disenchantment, on the one hand (the Brown Decades), and early 20th-century dynamic physics (relativity, uncertainty, quanta) plus mid-20th-century Existential neo-Medieval (Eliot) suprematism/despair, on the other.  He's a very sharp knife... a very free-thinking kind of Methodist minister, if you can imagine that.

What I mean to say : Bowne seems to offer a logical, informed, & convincing philosophical ground for my own more cloudy poetical conceptions.  He makes a rational argument for the plausibility of a "metaphysical" universe - originating in a living creative benevolent ineffable divine Person, and manifested (or progressively accomplished) in an experiential reality of free spiritual persons ("souls", you might say - human beings) joined in fellowship.  A reality of Persons.

And he's a pretty incisive critic of rival theories : scientific positivism, materialism, determinism - any kind of "objectivity" which reduces human beings to pawns, cannon-fodder, statistics - chips in a cosmic-mechanical system.  He shows them to be unthinking extrapolations from both common sense (ordinary experience) and science (the useful application of observation & measurement to ordinary experience) - neither of which give access to meaning in the philosophical sense.  The final cause(s) & purpose(s) of existence - beyond both common-sense utility and scientific measurement - have yet to be comprehended.

Bowne provides, I guess, a firm & bright "phenomenology" (probably wrong term) of the Person : not just the physical, embodied individual, but the thinking, feeling, invisible "subject" - the living, breathing personality/soul/spirit - the invisible Me and You beyond physical cycles & change - and related to (stemming from) the original, originary, creative Act of the perfect invisible ineffable universal Spirit-Person in the hidden heart of our own beings, and at the center of the Real.  Thus the individual human person exists as an imperfect, partial, limited image or "child" of the Spirit from whom he or she is created (& thus, also, "we hold these truths to be self-evident..." etc.).

Imagine how such a particular philosophical firmness or intellectual integrity might fortify the confessional faith/confidence of someone like Martin Luther King.  And to what heights (& depths) that might lead him.

I'm nowhere near being a philosopher.  I'm just a poet - but maybe a poet with philosophical tendencies.  I've always had an interest - since childhood, I daresay - in the "big picture".  My conception of poetry has always harbored a polemical aspect : I'm against the abstract objectification of the human person - the various philosophies, dogmas, pseudo-scientific theories, & ideologies aligned against the human being as a free spiritual-material entity with a future.  I think of poetry as a force of expression - a bearing-witness to this living, breathing, personal, metaphysical dimension of the human soul, persisting in relation to that benevolent over-arching Love-Plenitude-Origin-Being we call God.

Many inured cultural habits of the modern mind militate against the patterns of such a viewpoint.  But like Eugenio Montale, I feel myself on the edge, walking along a wall topped with broken glass - so near that definitive whatness, just beyond this thin veil of worn threads...

I feel we are on the cusp of a new cultural Aeon or Era.  The heavy meteoric Stone (Mandelstam's akme-kamen) of divine Presence hovers near again... the Ghost of Manitou, the leader of the Ghost Dance... the human incarnation, the global human per se, arises at the crossroads of time & reality.

The human soul is integral, invisible, personal... & stands under judgement, in relation (to the horizontal-vertical, the neighbor and the Spirit).  Nothing in the universe is either objectified or determined.  Your soul is alive as it revolves, turning toward its own intelligible Origin.

Of course, this could all be phony mumbo-jumbo.  But poetry stands as a criterion for dialogue, simply because poetry is undetermined by anything but dialogue. It emerges out of the living encounter between speakers & listeners, listeners & speakers.  Poetry is the opposite of discourse, lecture, prose - because it recognizes (intuitively) that it bears witness to a creative force both proportional to and incommensurable with itself : the mysterious origin of life, love, beauty, truth (& poetry itself).

I'm not suggesting that poetry per se has some special role in advancing this new Aeon.  This is only my own personal application of poetic resources toward a particular polemical end.  Poetry & State, in general, should both keep a courteous distance from Religion.

But we have had enough of Man the cipher, Man the factor in an abstract design.  We live in a dense world of love & sleep, of conscious & unconscious motive... moving in a dance of form & feeling.  Man the spiritual Person abides at the center, amid vast fields of other ineffable Persons (invisible heights & depths).

I believe in the ever-living Spirit, shaping the cosmos toward miraculous reconciliations & renewals.  I believe that Beauty is the signature of a creative Mind as Source; & that moral beauty - the beauty of compassionate & selfless love for all Creation - has been imprinted upon human history, like the trace of a smile across the ravaged face of suffering & grief.   Mary, Francis... John... the women at the Cross, the Tomb.

The tomb, the crossroad, dead end, turning-point.... anonymous blind alley, where the unknown soldier (Everywoman, Everyman) turns toward the hills.  Walk on up there...

Borden Parker Bowne