Notes from an Open Channel
Notes from an Open
I. The State of Being Lost
I could have stayed in
Central America, happily ensconced
within its leafy parenthesis,
even though the most one could
seize was some sliver of light
from that magnificent jungle edifice.
These are the gauchos roaming
the pampas and those are the Gauleiters
gliding through a series of Zoom meetings
like those Hollywood squares we loved
as kids with everyone glugging
down jeroboams of Pouilly-Fuissé.
Some early glimmers of fame;
a few islands of camaraderie.
The tempo of August is quiet, even monastic
To be able to communicate
by going through
the correct channels
The interesting coveys
of city poets, their speech acts
bonds between kinsman or kinship,
mutual exile--momentarily acquiescing
the limits of choice--Wayfinding--
In 03 I hit rock bottom
then again, there was no bottom--
or as we say here, Fluffya,
13th and Locust, tops & bottles--
sudden bright eyes--
green otherwise so ordinary.
I was sleepwalking through life
until the act of a blind magician
stopped me in my tracks
Spring birds in flight
orient themselves and correct---
To drift by listening to a chorus
of peepers in a pond far below
and rock lobsters scuttling from
head to tail in tandem conga lines.
The state of being lost
is a kind of vertigo--Not all
who wander are lost.
Think of the enlarged
posterior hippocampus of taxi drivers
in NYC, the 24/7 lure of accessibility
tied to our gadgets as in a spell
Self awareness of distance and direction
like the genetic imprint of an ant--
A cloud mirrored in a painting
by John Constable without even a view
of the silt brown Bristol Channel between
England and Wales. The irrepressible
dialectic of history
( two steps forward and one step back)
is an illusion
despite the turnings of this
400 year gyre there’s little
evidence of an arc bending towards justice.
American democracy has
always reinvented itself.
The Wyoming frontier was once
stitched with Buffalo grass.
To reach the nearest city
just follow the rail line,
our permanent zone of transit--
a train, an ark--a fleeting vantage point,
slow to pass, yet still we rocked
in their wake as boats on the sea.
One wouldn’t be able to cope
without spending at least three consecutive
days in the city, the unintended
complication of having a home
in the suburbs to which one could return.
A sovereign surveyor abruptly
ends his term looming above
a mountain of contending theories
how our institutions came
to be inculcated in the dark
waters of white supremacy.
The polis at the bottom
of our existence, the bottom
of the sea masks all civility,
relieving idlers of all
their convictions. The scapegoat
is dead in their lifetime
of some public darkness.
He may be ugly, but he’s not
stupid. The moon now a tangent,
an opacity on someone else’s
distant horizon, yet one need
not travel to Niagara Falls
to feel the impact of falling water.
They say SCOTUS is the eye
of the storm, the branch of
government least swayed
by partisan politics---Gorsuch,
Kavanaugh, Garland---yet the obscenity
of President Trump belies all our
efforts to write or paint.
A push for a conservative
seat after R.B.G.‘s death as if
Roe v. Wade could be overturned
through some hydraulic pressure.
Already storm bands of rain
and churning wind tear loose from
the roving eye of the hurricane.
Skirts of rain unhook tiles from rooftops.
Lincoln’s hand is clasping
a fasces-a leather thong that
tightly binds all thirteen rods--
one for each of the original colonies--
but there is a twist--
a bald eagle head sits atop the axe,
an American touch,
“E Pluribus Unum”,
or Out of Many, One.
Part II. A Prayer for Judgement
That strangely productive power
of the imagination produces infinite
ways of seeing the world, yet at times
it’s as if we were living under the guise
of democracy----unintelligible object relations.
Friends will confirm that I’ve been
going on about Bernie Sanders
forever without realizing how long
it would take to vote Trump
out of office or that so much would happen
before we did, not to say that work
wasn’t involved or fun wasn’t had mocking
the President on Late Night television
for that matter. We were told that
“a rising tide lifts all boats”. Does it?
Seems like there are a few outsized yachts
& an armada of shopping carts--the days
beetle overhead with glacier-like slowness.
The world had not yet been saved from
itself, nor for that matter was Lumberton, NC,
but even a messianic teacher needed a day off,
if only to come back stronger the next day.
I saw homeless Native American men waiting
at the bus station with eyes like landscapes
that went far back into their heads, stretching
out fifty miles North East of Charleston, SC
where 350,000 acres of former rice plantations
bounded by the Ashepoo, Combhaee and Edisto
it was rumored that the Lumbees were the last
descendants of the lost Roanoke colony, their names
obscured by the mist swaddled cotton fields
of Robeson County. Later, while hitching a ride,
a Native American with long black hair and sandals
pulled over, his eyes rippling
with the same light as the street person’s.
But does he drink his liquor warm
or sip it straight from the morning sail?
And can you smell the wicker,
sleeping cool underneath his bitter nail?
Look how young his eyes once were
collecting shards of wind
drifting through rich days of lavender
Carcass of a dog glistens
breakfast for flies, White Horse Road,
a Prayer for Judgment. Town of Red Springs
Monday morning hits like an air bag in the face
Take the swing away from Swing Low Chariot
and what you have is a suicide note--
Roger Williams sought to make head or tails
of the language spoken by the Narganset,
a brief observation of the costumes, manners
and worship etc, a little key may open
a box wherein lies a bunch of keys
In the farmer’s market cherry tomatoes
are sold-out, but cobs of corn are sold
just before rotting. Half empty tour bus
passes by while I write the Great American
tour bus epic conjuring cities of farmers
markets with fresh bread and sassafras tea
At the metal railing of the bridge I vent
by throwing the peanut shells
on a passing tugboat, the memory
sticking like rough honey.
we understand not one another,
Is there a bridge?
III. Words Made Serviceable,
but at the Edge of Understanding
True hermetic Marxist solitude
meant taking a job on a roofing crew
in late summer of ’98 atop a Baptist church.
A wind hammer demolition job
of surf suit roofs and palms
imported from Florida queue up
Lumina Avenue on Wrightsville Beach
A voice in the hand is worth
two in the sand, said Feel Good Phil,
a voice of the proletariat
whose presence on the crew of roofers
stapled to present punctuality
the forever poised shift between
forced bondage and the stained foot-prints
left behind to mark their passage.
Am I taking the knee on the field?
Now the NFL has managed to create
a ghost-story out of Kaepernick
A chill digs in and thoughts harden
like science, as line backers hunch
over with earnest brutality.
The ref points at the wide receiver,
unbearable! Never this smug; your looped
neck, blunt pencil. Still the perfect
experience of watching the game depends
on the man sitting next to you at the lunch
counter, anonymous as anyone.
To speak of the man from Hope,
Arkansas or the man of hope is to
declare a record of history as Americans
asphalt bubbles black ooze under
the crumbling bridges of California
and the overflowing sewage drains
of Houston and the rusted railroad tracks
of the NE corridor, streets of the capital
lined with parking spaces, haystacks
and a slow opening of sycamores in Metuchen, NJ
toward the end of knot weed season
a red mirage followed by a blue wave
Opposite colors mingle from yellow
to purple like nebula where the welt
by the hot metal’s impact blooms
on the underbelly of America.
To wander was to discover
in the process a love for cappuccino
and Pellegrino water and Poinsettias
everywhere on tables at restaurants.
Everything I saw I drew toward and into myself.
The idea was to crowd out the ambiance,
confining it to Sunday morning,
so that the afternoon would proceed
as a juncture of collapsed routes.
We walked past the Trinità dei Monti
and passed the Spanish Steps, one of the infinite
number of tourist focal points
and then we continued through a deep tangle
of winding backstreets, stands of urban
lemon trees, narrow pedestrian ways
and small spigots from which quiet
streams of water falls into basins.
The whole time in Rome, I’m quaking
with holy awe at the very mention
of Shelley, ( who in the last section
of Adonais gave a trisyllabic trembling,
a shiver of slacks). As in confessionals
and theaters secrets emerged that belonged
to the graves of Shelley and Keats.
Church bells rang along w/ burglar shop alarm,
the fragrance of rain on the paving stones.
The seeds of my undoing had been planted
in my mind right from the beginning with words
made serviceable, but at the edge of understanding.
as if one could whittle a person down
by lingering in the fabric of one’s clothes.