Misreading a Line by Holderlin

For weeks I’ve not been well but refuse a doctor.

For weeks I’ve been unhappy but refuse the past.

For weeks I’ve misread a line of poetry

As “the aging of the dead” and not “the aging and the dead.”

For weeks I’ve been depressed

Thinking the dead grow older. One misreading

And I have wasted a thousand years in eternity.




“When I go through the Shade You Throw, Runs A Shudder Over Me”

October reads like a haunted anthology of pages and days. On every page I find the birth of a poet; on every other, the death of a poet. I know the ghost of Dylan Thomas. He’s pissing on my door. Of course that’s Sylvia Plath. She’s a child again. Of course that’s Tennyson. Can’t you see he’s almost blind? At the office party Anne Sexton was so beautiful you could forgive her for dying. These perturbations can be heard in the house or on the street. I pause forever at the foot of the stairs, like Edna St. Vincent Millay. If there’s frost at midnight, it is Coleridge come back to give me a skeletal shiver. If I happen to dream of a haunted palace, it is by the conjuring of Edger Poe. If there’s an urn on a porch it is John Keats flowering again. If there’s a boat on drunk water, it is Arthur Rimbaud. October leaves blow like the cantos of Ezra Pound. Auroras of autumn bring out Wallace Stevens and Wallace Stevens– and after the rain, I’m puddlesure, it is E.E. Cummings standing there. Oh Ted Hughes, you’re back with your crows. And to be sure, John Berryman was born to die. W.H. Auden and T.S. Eliot died late enough in September to be included among the spirits of October. And all say “yea.” I’ll be extra observant for the Man-moth this Halloween. Thank you, Elizabeth Bishop. I’ll look under every mask. I’ll see who’s there and who is not.

Homage to Pablo Neruda

Proprietor of a traveling bazaar
Of potent elixirs strained from jungles,
Vials in which rivers rage, flasks of cloud,
The granite voices of Macchu Picchu;
And impure things: wheel ruts, blood and semen,
The severed heads of dictators,
Letters from kings, propaganda;
An earthflow of love poems; and elemental things:
Lemons, artichokes, melons and salt;
Also magic potions, locks of hair,
Moonlight fossilized in stone, emeralds
From the mines of Columbia; snake skins,
Ports of call, arrivals, departures…
Lastly, Chile, like a child’s model,
Raised by the whale spine of the Andes,
With its copper-colored people,
Their stone flute music of mountain mist,
Their poverty and dignity…
Your human cry of the human market.


A name so light you hear it twice,
Like a wing it flies from having been said,
And is buried in the fall the all…

A sad name long on alacrity,
Life lived as though alated,
Alarmed by my alalia and assassin’s dagger…

Abecedarian of homeroom attendance,
Learning the alphabet of experience
And losing a language in alienation.

Almost suffering from aeriality,
Like twin sisters separated at birth,
Always missing each other by a breath.

Ala: alias Allah, Alaq and Ahala…
Last seen riding a butterfly;
Alas, vanishing à la bonne heure.

Haunted Hearing

                        in memory of Henrietta Epstein

Abruptly Henrietta remembered it was January 7th…,
Synchronicity is a bridge over time,
Talking about John Berryman the day he died.
One minute life’s a dream, the next a song…
Henrietta was such a poetry lover
She plucked a candle from her Hanukkah menorah
To commemorate the Oklahoma-born poet.
She told of John wildly drunk in Michigan
Shouting frenzied needing her naked and now
At a party held by patrons in upscale Birmingham,
Even flinging the glass that was shrieking to marble,
Articulating an imperfect present,
Redemption is at war with time.
If eternity is freedom why suffer for life?
“The Mississippi will have its way.” John jumped in,
“More bourbon please, more Baudelaire.”
“I could use one myself,” said Henry.
“Mr. Bones got a powerful thirst.” Henry laughed.
We shivered to the otherworldly recitations,
Our tribute to a poet turned séance to his voices.

In a Gallery of Birds

                             The mind is brushed by sparrow wings.
                                                           Hart Crane

All shadows of a kind                           cross the atlas of the mind.
Alone or with fledglings                            in realistic settings
The ghosts of those birds                             migrated into words.
The longer we stayed                                     the sound of a glade.
Windows doubled as skies                                for eternity in their eyes.
Even for a feather                                             it is a heavy tether.
In each nest                                                     eggs at rest.
Such stillness grows                                        like flight in repose
Mounted there                                                        in flying air.
What is seeming                                                 if nature is dreaming?
What is death                                                    to a hummingbird’s breath?
In an eagle’s gaze                                         soar endless days.
A glass case sings                                      it breaks with wings.
All field marks fade                                    light goes into shade.