November 2009

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Vespers for New York


I was taken to a place where
I could stand inside the sky
and watch the lights at evening
assemble in atonement
over Gotham,
and they came in tiny billions
through the heavens
- from the north and from the
west and from the east -
points of lustre sparkling
in their multitudes,
bearing signs and
bearing wisdom for the feast,
and they flashed as fish in water,
tinged with grace and
touched with power,
and fell in shimmering currents
upon a billion hands below.
There was sound
within the silence
and heat within the void
and light - so bright it was
unbroken - poured like lava
through Manhattan to the sea.

© 2009

Ice-cream for St. Augustine


Is there a God? I wouldn’t know,
unlike so many who have
no doubt and march with
such assurance to their fate.
Religion comes and religion goes
but the saved are always with us.
I am rarely sure of anything,
and rarely pine to be.
My guess is that all religions
contain some degree of error
- how could they not, being
made by men, and passed down
through the centuries? - and that
flaws may in fact be necessary
to allow the sinners through.
Is there a God? I wouldn’t know.
But I am wary of deities that
require harsh austerities and
stress children in their dreams.
I saw a man with fire in his eyes
at the crossroad of the night
and the wise who passed
declared him crazy and
ate their white ice-cream.
I saw a man with fire in his eyes
at the altar of the sun.
They held their arms
across their eyes and
hailed him St. Augustine.
The wisdom of the desert
is amiable and kind,
silent in the arm of time,
alive with emptiness.
I hear rivers in the sky
I sense a golden shore.
Holy men with baskets
come to barter. They offer
alms and adoration,
and therein lies their
rapture and their folly.
Is there a God? I wouldn’t know.
I see horses in the moonlight
and wolves upon the ridge,
white bones to eternity
and travellers passing through.
My heart brims 
with infinite nothingness.
I touch the glimmering stars.
There is no fear, the abyss
holds out its hand.
Give me this desert, if it be thy will,
and this koan I need not solve,
a refuge from the apocalypse and
the indelicate conceit of the saved.

© 2009

The comrade


There was a woman
who was insincere
and covered her lies with
lipstick and fine clothes
and slogans for the masses
who followed along the way;
and when her words wore thin
and they grew hungry
at the harvest,
murmurs arose and
disquiet came to pass;
and when her laugh at last
fell brittle upon their ears,
and the mascara dried on
her final velvet tricks,
she called a great assembly
and spoke with great regret
about their failings,
and wept a final time,
and turned in epic sorrow
and took her leave,
and snakes with honey eyes
crawled through the
buttons of her garments
to the floor.

© 2009

November’s song


The American hunters
came from Boston when
the skies were gray and
the leaves were gone
from the maples,
jolly men in red hats
and plaid shirts who
drove new ‘cahs,’
smoked Camel cigarettes
and threw strange
bottles into the ditches.
They shot deer with rifles
that rang from the hills and
reverberated over the corn fields.
We stood in our tracks
and counted the blasts
until the last trace
of the last echo
died in the darkened spruces.
We never saw, we only heard.
Then followed the ceremony
of rum and ropes at the camps,
and the strapping of carcasses
to the hoods of
Buicks and Fairlanes
for the pilgrimage
home to New England.
We counted the points
on the antlers
when they stopped for gas
at the corner store,
praising the bucks
and praising the does,
sharing the happy laughter.
The fur was rough, close up,
no longer sleek.
We stared at eyes
that stared back at us,
and the blood already hard
on the shining fenders.

© 2009