The back of a man’s head spoke to me
On a metro-bus in Chicago,
A little bald spot with a shine.
Did you know, it said,
That the back of a man’s head is innocent?
No matter what the rest of the man has done,
Is doing, or thinking. . .
The crown comes out first
And is therefore the wisest. . .
(It paused, thoughtfully, as the bus lurched.)
. . .But the back is like the dome
Of a smooth stone pushing up in a field
That knows everything.
It’s a good thing I don’t have lips
Or I would never stop begging the face
To turn around. You see,
I know how the world rushes in,
And how it fills in.
I am the rudder,
The tail of this kite!
There she goes,
Little more than skin and bones
Heading up the drive again.
Twenty years old, kidneys failing. . .
Her body language calls back,
The road is calling.
Crickets are chirping,
Dragonflies zigzagging in the field,
The sun is glinting through the tops of the pines
Like a spun-glass bulls-eye
And little vortices of gnats
Are involved in crazy reunions
In patches of sunlight
Over unmown lawn.
Every morning lately, it’s the same:
She heads off into this ecstatic unknown
More than ready to leave everything behind
For that one final act of disappearance
That old country cats are known for.
And I won’t let her go.
But I will watch her make her way
Right up to the bend
Around which I would never see her again.
Only then will I go after her,
Scoop her up,
Keenly aware of the amazing coherence of her bones,
Cooing admonishments. . .
And thus begins our day.
And thus continues my training
For when I try to leave
And the world keeps calling me back.
See if I don’t purr.
Let us bomb your neighborhood,
Let us target your neighbor
Out of our love and concern –
Not you, not your children.
Drones of love!
Welcome to the Land of No-poetry.
If I succeed in writing this poem
No one will understand me.
It will be like talking backwards.
It will be like autism.
There is no music here,
Except what you buy.
The weather is predictable.
Frogs are two-headed or one-legged
But it doesn’t mean anything.
Up means up, down means down.
Everything makes bitter sense, but what is bitter?
We don’t know anything about that.
Oh, and what is across the street
Has always been across the street.
Where ever you want to go
There is a sidewalk. . .
You have been here forever,
I have been here forever. . .I think. . .
In Zone R
You push a green button and wait for assistance.
In Zone R there are two doors
With combination boxes on the handles –
One for men and one for women.
In Zone R you hear a voice summoning an Associate to Zone R.
You hear this voice every sixty seconds.
In Zone R
A small disheveled man appears
Who tries every combination of numbers in the universe.
(You know that he will fail but you root for him anyway. . .)
In Zone R
You begin to question
If you should wait a little longer
Just because you have already waited so long,
So you wait
Until you don’t think you can wait any longer
But the longer you wait,
The more sense it makes to wait a little longer.
In Zone R
The disheveled man speaks:
I’m waiting in my car for a teacher friend
at the back of her school
all at once,
the kids begin pouring out of the building,
most of them gravitating
to the spots
where the buses will pull up;
in and out
of those clusters
in continuous motion. . .
Mars, oh Mars
how pink you are!
You hang in the east –
a blushing star,
the abandoned quarry,
where I have come
to say, I’m sorry
For confusing you
with the god of war
has always been his whore.
does he stake his claim;
must bear his name!
As you draw near
(How you have missed her!)
see what’s become
of your fair sister. . .
(Illustration by Evan James Lindorff-Ellery)
Yearning for this or that impossible thing,
I started to become indifferent,
Which was for the best. . .
Stubborn as I was proud,
I still wanted them to stop
What they were doing in my name.
I wanted them to listen to my stewing.
All I got was bad dreams.
So I gave my conscience an ultimatum:
I approached him at the party
Because I didn’t know anyone,
Because he looked harmless,
Because he stood alone,
And I introduced myself.
You must know a lot of these people,
And he looked straight ahead and said,
All my friends live underground.
And then I realized that he was almost dead,
And I had the idiotic notion that I could help him.
But then he looked right at me
And it hit me that I too was almost dead,
That nobody knew anybody here,
And that he was the only one who could stand the truth.
So I left,
Passing through rooms full of people,
Through the mudroom,
Out onto the sidewalk.
And I just started walking,
Following the angling streets
Breathing in the sour breath
Of an exhausted planet,
Trying to remember how to live.
Dear friend, timing is everything these days.
But if we wait for the “right moment” we might lose the day.
I have been wondering, of late, what the 60s have in store for me,
as I am done re-inventing myself.
But there is an essence, a honeyed core
that I have always been able to track through all my permutations, without which all is lost.
The night-sea-journey no longer works for me. I am a white beard now. The time for shadow-work is past.
Dumpster diving is for younger folk.
There is nothing in the dumpster for me
And I will be disappointed.
And I will lose much that I love and am attached to.
Pieces of this thousand piece puzzle are missing.
They are just gone!
And people around me will turn to others in conversation,
and I must not wonder why.
The conversation is the bees in the barley.
It is the rain making inaudible circles on the pond.
It is about the future.
The conversation is sub- and super-sonic.
Sometimes I feel I am holding a door open in the middle of a field.
Sometimes I feel I am living in a great steaming dump
that stretches for miles in all directions,
so why bother cleaning my house!
Sometimes I wish I was Saint Francis.
Sometimes I am Saint Francis.
I care so much about this little pocket world, called Earth.
How small it is! How much smaller I!
Maybe time will be good to me.
Maybe I have a friend in time.
Who are my friends?
Are they the ones who leave me alone?
Or are they the ones who hold my finger to the flame?
I care so much about this little pocket Earth.
Just teach me what that looks like.
Now, ring the singing bowl.