Saturday, February 26, 2011


Chimes tinkle from the Orient --
pling -- plitter -- glinkle -- dihm.
Glissandos drift on breathing wind,
a sound that carries far on night.

No, that is only being imagined.

Other tones come as phantasms.
Murmurrings bring much meaning.
Sometimes one just has to plant
aural seeds in gourds of silence.

Real words from pensive corners
would sound more like a scolding --
the way furniture solidly mocks
pathetic tangos of one's fancy,
the way a shrugging mirror laughs
when passing by it lost in thought.

Wind is stirring up old stars,
thrumming unseen power lines.
Light bulbs dim and shadows play.
Familiar solids fade to melting.
In that masked hesitating time,
a mummer is in the vestibule
and offers up mute vocalises.

A phantasm's consonantal code
might leak from a gentle tongue.
And silence steps aside to hear
a voice cooing imaginary smiles.

Chimes are playing in my Orient --
ching -- chinkle -- chitter -- chimple.

The night has sent a distant fairy,
spreading glitter on pale moments.

Copyright 2011 -- Tim Buck

Friday, February 25, 2011

poise (for William Crawford)

Always the lake of language
is roiled by some idiot winds.
All I can do is sit on a boulder
and wait for coursing phrases
to blow flopping onto my head.
Yes, I wait and sometimes whistle
dissonant tunes to blank me out.
If I'm stupefied enough, you see,
a thing with magic scales a-flashing
comes because the water gives it.
Though coming a bit goggle-eyed.

Will Crawford is a different angler,
his rod and reel work with poise.
Line unspools to trace his targets,
coaxing up those trophy images,
perfect visions for our reading.
This is not skill or strictly talent.
Something else is working here.
I think he is in secret league
with an unseen nymph below,
daughter of some liquid god,
she brings a phrase for hooking,
rewarding an unstupefied mind.
Language trout brilliant gleaming.

I don't understand how he does it.
He flicks his wrist like a magician,
and no image seems accidental.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

time to deal with it

Robert Schumann, 1810 - 1856

Robert Schumann's Kreisleriana.

I love so much of Schumann's music. The only things that give me pause are his violin concerto, his piano sonatas (a bit formless...hard to grasp ahold), and his Kreisleriana.

I have the Murray Perahia CD of Kreisleriana. It is based on E.T.A. Hoffmann's eponymous stories from his book Phantasiestücke in Callots Manier (Fantasy Pieces in the Style of Callot), published in 1814. I like Hoffmann. But whenever I listen to that CD, my mind soon begins wandering. This will not do. This must change. I must figure out what the hell is wrong with me and set it to rights. It makes no sense that a Hoffmannesque Schumann piece would cause my head to float off in a state of drowsy incomprehension.

Okay. I'm putting the CD in now. I'm going to listen again. I'm going to subdue this sucker. Make it a part of my soul's texture. The way his symphonies, piano concerto, cello concerto, his Carnaval are such a part of me.

* * *

Now. All right. I listened to it. Hmm. Give me a few moments to collect my thoughts......................................

Okay. This time, I read the "program" in the booklet before listening. I tried to pay good attention to the Hoffmann references revealed in the notes. I wanted the background stuff to be given its due respect and regard.

But as I listened, a new way of listening opened up to me. The Hoffmann story references -- which had caused me trouble in earlier sessions -- began to fade from prominence. It came to me that this composition is less about Hoffmann and his Kreisler creation and more about Schumann himself. This is music from a soul who is very sensitive to musical beauties and its transformative how it can complement so well the way things feel and the way things change. Both flight and abyss...transience and equivocal stasis. It's about coming in and out of light, in and out of darkness. This is music about Schumann and music about music.

Yes, Kreisler the Kappelmeister is also obsessed with and swept away by music. But his eight psychological "adventures" are mere springboards for a Schumannesque adventure. Much less, I think now, about being grist for musical illustration. This piece, in its unfolding and as a whole, is also about how strange it felt to live inside the Romantic era and milieu. It's about how forms of feeling moved in new shapes and onto shadowed surfaces of imagination and emotion, both of which shaded off toward infinite horizons. Schumann merely "breathed in" the spirit of Kreisler as a primer to stimulate his own, similar spirit. At the keyboard, Schumann exhaled this mutuality of complex consciousness: variously mecurial and melancholy.

So...instead of me trying to listen to and process this work as an aural description, I now experience it as a definite overlay of Schumann onto the vague spiritual shenanigans of Kreisler. That fictional Kappelmeister is not an analog to the music; rather, he represents a formal contour around which Schumann traces his own aesthetic, dreamlike trajectory.

Yet true to Hoffmann, there are moments when an opening onto eeriness occurs. The eeriness of a macabre story element maybe or the eeirness of living per se, which sometimes moves across the octaves of each of our souls.

* * *

Perahia's playing on the CD is dynamic, beautiful, perfect.

And here's Mikhail Pletnev performing selections:
Kreisleriana 7 & 8

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

a question of character

I have fallen into an unknown novel,
into a terra cotta town of pastel light
and tall trees here and there, fronded.
Mint-green buses run from the fifties.

The role is on and so I play it!

To whom shall I unburden my sadness?
Fatima of the Dark Eyes lives close by.

Will she frown or smile if I knock
on the wrought-iron filigreed door?
Something tells me I must glibly shrug
and act as if things are almost natural.

Fatima sighs and her lips are smiling.
She brings me an ivory mug of beer,
shaped like a squat elephant praying,
its hinged lid opens as if in surgery!

Who is writing this damn thing, anyway?
I suppose I must keep on ad-libbing...

Oh no! On this terrace of begonias,
Fatima's deep eyes are now drifting,
as I go nervously into confessions.
I'm under compulsion to burden her,
between drags on our cigarettes.
I must tell about the indignant ghost
I've trapped inside my foolish soul.

Fatima excuses herself with politeness,
and with sardonic wink she glides away.
She goes now somewhere for dancing --
a vague dance to wine-dark mandolins.
Her going splashes me with evidence.
Strong clues about where this is going.

Yes!...this novel is about the impossible.
A story of words that can't be spoken.
About the shape of great foolishness,
how the stolen diamond of my blue love
is so blemished with my character flaw.

Copyright 2011 -- Tim Buck

Sunday, February 20, 2011

note to a friend

Where you stand the trees appear
to have been thinking of philosophy.
Winter trees now almost trembling
on the verge of a new conception.
Collegiate elms branch like nerves
touched by your foreign smile.

Where you stand the snow appears
to be waking up from mumbled dreams.
That snow has fallen deep around you,
and now awake it whispers astonishment.

Look how these natural forms have gained significance!
Even the wise stones of architecture have become naive.
Oh...your presence standing there has brought a mood
to the old atmosphere of scholars -- a new kind of genius!
Old lands trickle culture and beauty through your eyes.
Passersby wonder why they suddenly feel different.

Substances are gaining intensity,
and a moment of time is turning
into what it really wants to be.

This photograph almost brings you to me.
I could shake your hand and say "Hello!"
But then I would suffer the aftershocks
of encounter with a vital living poem.

I am really struggling for words here.
All I want to do is capture something
about the way you change the space,
where tree and snow and stone become
somehow stunned to have you standing.

It's very unusual how you affect the atmosphere.
The very atoms of space around you are tingling.

You are so young, my friend. So much life
waits and so many scenes becoming poems --
stanzas of time to hold your faery presence.

Only a sonnet unwritten by Shakespeare
could express how you enhance this world.

Copyright 2011 -- Tim Buck

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Matt's review of my novel on

Matt Dioguardi reviewed my novel Séance in B Minor. I am honored and grateful. Here's the link to the page, where it appears:

Review of Séance in B Minor

two Germans (a meditation on Kant and Herzog)

How did you feel in Königsberg?
Did the morning Baltic fog hang
then drift its tales of open journey,
its wet echoing flap of sails' mystery?
Did visions disturb your serious steps
toward wooden space for thinking?

And if the early sun broke through,
before you reached swallowing doors,
did the light ruffle your catergories
of routine digestion, starched linen?
Did that gleaming shaft halt your steps
and bring back old sighs and laughter
from days of girls and only feeling?

In the afternoon at your hard desk,
did you ever leave the odorless realms
to glance up into dust particles falling
through that wooden space of thinking?
Were those faint atoms ever hypnotizing,
until you saw beyond the window frame?

Ah...too bad you didn't have a friend
to visit you from tumbling Bavarian towns --
a friend to burst into the musty space
of migraine and folds of Faustian burden.

Had that friend come to you from wrong time,
he would have brought a banjo and a spade --
a banjo strung with absurdly chuckling strings,
a spade for pigments dug in different ground
for colors sighing onto passionate canvas.

Oh, you hear that other German speaking?

He is telling tales through a crack in being.
He critiques your critiquing, your dull pen:

"Your days are plaster on the riddle!
You think your thought is bringing truth.
But thought and life are wrestling angels...

sweating inside Russian eggs,
twisting arms and guffawing,
going all the way to dreams,
until imagination opens...

Ecstatic truth leaps into art,
while buildings always crumble."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

night whirl

I think you should dance
the Greek bossa nova
in a red dress like blood
from a grinning devil's heart.

Swing me, oh baby, shake me!
Knock the breath from my lungs.
Take a bite out of my shoulder.
Then slap me till I'm smiling!

Let's do it on the dance floor.
Slap the jive into my old legs.
Set me moving to some rhythm,
and I'll squeeze you till you shout.

I think you would dance
if I threw some firecrackers
in between your black shoes.
Yes, I think you would move,
until my eyeballs were bulging.

So fling your hair everywhere.
No back talk. Drive me crazy!

Copyright 2011 -- Tim Buck


Every moment splits in two paths:
what happens and what doesn't.
Some say the path not followed
could never have been taken.

I like to dream about that path.
A soul is standing there smiling.
She wears a gown of brilliant blue,
her eyes are living keys of music,
flourished with Scriabin wonder --
eyes that burn darkly, lifting
me to faith in possible time.

Copyright 2011 -- Tim Buck


Forgive me the porcelain hours of hard glaze,
when as a child I became broken by laughter
of children in that summer church basement.
Those others knew jokes of morning's surface,
their hollow, knowing laughter flung like confetti
and falling as sadness into my early black hair.

Forgive me for playing a small Spanish guitar,
caressing its neck, admiring its slow curves.
Young melodies sprang from desirous fingers.
I knew you would come from beneath music.

Forgive me for falling so far into paintings.
Forgive my plunging into melancholy words.
To fall this way is a diving into sin's ripples.
But painters and poets gesture toward you.

Forgive my affection turning blue to dark blue,
going silken into ribbons and wending freely,
curling where they curl, in renegade moments.

How unusual this apology!
You'll never even hear it.

You stand there in symbols.
What happened to me falls
below the curve of your smile.

Copyright 2011 -- Tim Buck

Saturday, February 12, 2011

a shift

I have a mental defect. Yes, indeed. I want confluence and homogeneity. On my terms. I want to drench you with my soul until you are spluttering and the wetness of my mind is dripping through your hair. I want you to think and feel just like me.

Such drunken, naked, unashamed narcissism! Damn! Even my delusions are spectacular and should be interesting to you. Inspire you toward a wish to be similarly deluded about nearly everything. See, I have thought up stuff that is so...marvelous! It doesn't matter if it meets no criteria of correctness or rationality. Whatever I'm wrong about, I'm spectacularly and exotically wrong! People who are right about stuff make my spine itch and twitch. So...don't you wanna be like me? Please? I want to take over your soul and plant my flag on top of your skull!

Seriously though, I have always felt deeply that there is a Form to the world. It bothered me to think that form was shattered into six billion pieces of idiosyncracy. Naturally, I felt that my idiosyncracy must be a most poetic and exemplary one.

But last night, there was a kind of shift. Last night, my opinion changed. I read this from War & Peace:

This was the recognition of the freedom of every man to think, to feel, and to look at things in his own way; the recognition of the impossibility of altering a man's conviction by words. This legitimate individuality of every man's views, which had in old days troubled and irritated Pierre, now formed the basis of the sympathetic interest he felt in people.

Yes, convictions about things come through stretched-out time and the tumble of thought-marbles in our heads. I am now going to celebrate the different realities of others. Instead of fretting because they aren't jumping deliriously into my mind. Like Pierre, I'm gonna be open to contraries. Even allow pieces of my own soul to dissolve into others.

(By the way -- as much as I like the War stuff and the Peace stuff in War & Peace, I adore Tolstoy's counterintuitive analysis of historical contemporary commentators and later historians are mistaken in attributing much significance of effect to the decisions of "great men" inside the flow of events.)

haunted house

Every time a child stares into a mirror,
she is making a deposit. A piece of spirit
gets hung on the silvered plane to wait.
It coils into itself going deeper into glass.
It is a dangerous thing in childhood
to leave a shard to hang and twist
into a dreaming on the surface.

Something similar happens when shadows roam.
Those shrugs from light can move into young eyes,
when objects cast their dark, unnameable affects.

No one knows why light is real.
No child should stare into a shadow.
Those sighs of forms can intoxicate
with opium moods of consequence.

No! Instead she should touch her toys, her dolls
and by touching make a solid contract with life,
allow mimesis and the taffy flavors pulled of time
to take her into the slow carnival of proper days.

She must early on shake off spirits,
which glide amid cascading dust motes
or recline full of morning significance
in the dull gleams of polished furniture.

She must move cautiously past the grandfather clock,
and even the mirror's frame requires a cross-fingered hex.

Vagrant aromas are mixed with other substances
not of Earth, not of anything with a name or sign.
The child when she breathes must exhale bravely
or toxins will brood into many dreams of the night.
And she will wake up one day a half-mad poet.

If you wish your child to be woven into strong threads,
don't leave her alone with mirrors, shadows, and aromas.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


[This is a one-act play I wrote in 2009. It was published in Outsider Writers. I also posted it here, but it's somehow disappeared from here. So I'm posting it again. Maybe it will stick this time.]

Sure, pal, it does get weird, but what else am I cut out for? I'm an observer by nature, and I like serving. Call it my calling.

Get a load of this...last night...guy, real melancholy fellow, slips in here like a fugitive, like he's loving the shadows...took that bar stool at the very end where the light ain't frisky.

He's looking shriveled, sort of famished.

I ask him: “Yep?”

He sez: “Gimme something new.”

I sez: “You mean invent it, on the spot?”

He sez: “Sure, surprise me."

I scratch my head and get to work. Guy seemed okay for a freak. Or maybe that's a bit harsh. Just...he ain't my ordinary fare.

I like a challenge, sometimes...when I'm in my element. So I start from scratch, taking my time.

Joe – I'll him “Joe” – gets real quiet while I'm creating. Then he makes this strange sound, like a ghost is chokin' down in his larynx. No...more like an oyster moaning up a pearl. Hey! How about that? I'm a poet!

Anyways, I'm thinking, I'm mixing, glancing over at him time to time. Then he looks up and smiles, grin looks more like a grimace.

And he says, right out loud, as if he was on the stage or something, “Why must I tell a truth I don't know myself?”

Sez me: “What's that?”

“Why must I tell a truth I don't know myself?”

'Course I heard him the first time. ButI figured he wanted to repeat it. After all, I'm an observer. You get the hang of this stuff. Psychology. Tricks of the trade.

Sez he: “It's all gluttinous, man.”

“Gluttinous? What's that mean?”

“It's all slimy and sticky -- glutenous. And all so hungry -- gluttonous. Put em together, ya got 'gluttinous,' well close enough, I think. It's all simply a crime, merely grime smeared on a tiara. Everyone's talking at me, but I can't hear a damn word they're saying.”

“ okay, buddy?” (See I was beginning to think this freak was a lunatic.)

His eyebrows got darker and pinched down toward his nose. I lost his eyes in the shadows, or it was more like his eyes turned inside know, looking at something inside and giving him a hollow expression. Finally he laughed.

“Yeah...I'll be all right. Just need to unwind. Need a new drink. Need a new key. Everybody thinks I think in simple majors. But it's more elliptical, more pungent, ain't whole or an accent vibrating in the superstrings. Call it F#. Yep. It's just an orange rind or a banana peel getting just a tad aromatic...Ha! Or – ditto -- desperation turning into Aramaic! And I'm sick of receiving sugar-coated messages. Call it a 'confectionery disdain.'”

His look turned sarcastic, but he kept smiling.

“Well, here you go. Give this a try. If it don't kill you, I'll take out a patent on the recipe...heh.”

“This looks evil, whatdaya call it?”

“ about this: 'To Be Used At Least Twice.'”

“That'll work. 'To Be Used At Least Twice.''re a dandy barkeep.”

“You staying around here close?”

“Two blocks. The Palace. Ironic, ain't it? Decrepit. Looks more like Hell now than in the old photo
behind the desk. But at least they got hot water and a clawfoot bath tub. That's means a lot, means the world to a guy coming hard off stress.”

“Say...what's your name, bub? I mean...if you're gonna be a regular customer....”

“Bub? I like that. I like slang down here, like words slung over the shoulder. Bub...yeah, call me 'Beelzebub.'”

I felt a chill running up my spine because the whole thing didn't feel right from the beginning. But he wuz just kidding.

“So, what's your line of work?”

“I have two jobs. One, being a loner. Two, trying to track her down.”

“Femme fatale, I bet. Seems everybody's got one stirring things up. Giving no peace.”

“You got that fucking right.”

I think my new invention was beginning to have the intended effect. He was almost finished with the second one.

“'s like this. She don't even exist. I was just there and compelled to make everything up. But I couldn't make her up. You people don't know how lucky you got it. So, I've been chasing a dream, and she's so ephemeral that no proper name will stick.”

By now, he was officially soused, and I hoped he would stop at two drinks. But he ordered another, going past the “At Least.” His words were slurring, and I thought I saw a tear running down his gaunt cheek.

“Yes, she's my dream. She keeps me going now, keeps me moving one step ahead of Nietzsche's assertion. And since I can't hold her with a simple name, I had to beg Yeats for suggestions. He came up with a doozy.”

“Yeats...ain't he the guy runs The Palace?”

“Nah...that's Bates. Yeats...well, it's a long story. But he nailed it. Captured her in just a few lines. And now my dream has grown more tangible. At least I can now put an image to feelings, a form to needs. She dances inside my dreams now, a gypsy made of fog and furtive glances. Here's what Yeats wrote for me...

"In the mirrors she moves, a phantom
of pure holy feeling. And those mirrors
move, shift with myriad facets of a face. I Am
her silent troubadour, walking beside
the wandering minstrels of her own dark eyes."

Things got real quiet for a while after that. But he finally came to his senses.

"So...ya shovin' off? It ain't closing time yet. And look, it's starting to rain."

"Don't matter. I gotta go. Here......does this square us?"

"Sure thing pal. You take it easy, okay?"

He gives me this peculiar smile, then turns and walks unsteady. Out the door, into the rain.

I gotta tell ya. Whole thing was creepy...actually weird mixed up with a whole lotta sad. Fellar needed a dame real bad...and seemed like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.