Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sonja of the golden rooms

Where she is slides off any earthly map.
Sonja of the far place is almost smiling,
her aura tinted in shades of rare element.

Sonja sighs with music and blinks with irony.
Silks of golden hue hang like whispers of time --
are draped around her chamber of unusual being.
She lives in a room of passing-through phantoms.
Translucent drawings of impossible contraptions
drift through the quiet space of Tesla-tingling air.
A smile will bloom then fade then bloom again,
a curvature of amused lips from her thinking.

Behind her eyes is a world of oceans.
And she wrings dooms from moisture
of nightfall -- she blows it into a bubble,
a secret golden bubble inside which to fly.

I have seen her standing quietly for hours
in a corner of shadows, there without reason,
just there in dark-bouillon shadows, uncannily.

Sonja of the golden rooms is beyond my words,
no narrative will bring or halt her poised arrival.

I think I have seen her standing in aloofness --
but an ambiance of sharing blooms in shadows.
I think she passed through me to convey a riddle
without words – “You are not cured, thank god.”

Souls are beyond all science and metaphysics.
They come through vents of the molten elemental.

in lieu of opium

Some moments appear longer than moments,
and they are taller than any scaffolding of time.
To slip into the creases of such vertical durations
is to move past the present, toward a dark mystic.
In lieu of opium, succor of some kind must be had.

In lieu of opium, music opens the spaces between wondering and hurting.

There is a space of objects, colored in sounding shades
that will open like a liquid door, that will open darkly.
A space of hypnotic tones climbing, swaying, falling.
A moment of objects can open made of a few notes,
a moment drunken on curious rhythm, piquant harmony,
a moment of objects forming an abstract picture of hope...
and in lieu of opium, one can fall into the sighs of music.

Because music is invisible it is bountiful.
Paradise teems and beckons in a measure.
When there is something that can't be spoken,
the sense of it shimmers implicitly in timbres.

In lieu of opium, one can listen to wounds opening and smile with pleasure.

But when music begins to hurt instead of halo,
one may blend words into the narcosis of a poem.

Nafplion (for Regina Bou)

Nafplion, Greece

Today she will drive to the old town,
the beautiful town beside the sea.
Light will fall gracefully into her eyes.
Pomegranate air will breathe into her,
as gods whisper to Pre-Socratic spirits.
And colors will tumble down hillsides.

Today will not be ordinary.

The weight of stone a reassurance.
The feel of fitted stones underfoot
and the slant of orange roof tiles
bright in the afternoon sunshine
will soothe wild forms of mind.

And she comes because this old town
juts like a big thought into the blue bay.
She comes because this town falls back
and onto slopes, in the grammar of a poem.
She has arrived to see Nafplion dreaming
so far above the blue timeless water.

It is far from an ordinary day
when a large-eyed seer stands
amid the alabaster sighs of time,
within an old town beside the sea.

It is a solemn mystery to ponder her
pondering impressions of the Aegean.

She comes because she is living
and the dead will write her a poem.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

an evening in Appalachia

This quaint town does not exist.
How perfect is that? So let's walk
and talk of how it is to be Southern.
I'm a stranger 'round these parts,
so I'm glad you are here with me.
Let's stroll these nightfallen streets,
outside of time and just within reach.
Mountains lean back and bring dark to dark.
The town is lit with eerie lanterns of fireflies.
Hawkers of trinkets and fablers of folk songs
laugh in the rough-sawn Shenandoah bazaar.
I have plenty of crumpled Confederate dollars,
so I'll buy you a piece of West Virginia coal –
consider it a diamond in the purity of potentia.
We speak the same language, a slurred gothic potion,
a twang of piney syllables, drawled out like dog yawns.
I could speak some fine gibberish as half-chortled words.
You would understand the subtext and flavors of wounding.
Let's drink some moonshine made of secrecy and dewfall.
We'll touch our mad fruit jars then walk in drunken circles.
We could dance a slow twist
on the train station platform,
while waiting for the smoke
of a lost gypsy locomotive.
They're smuggling Tom Waits
for a midnight music séance.
We'll present Libra tarot cards
as tickets to the magic table.
Later on, let's not say anything to frighten the owls.
Let's marvel at age gaps and the mystery of kinship
or simply burn time under great aching mountains.

Monday, August 22, 2011

letter to Nabina Das

How could I know the shapes of souls
who peer out from northeastern eyes?
Or touch the fabric of days unfurling
along Brahmaputra River, beyond me?

It is all mysterious and puzzling.

Verandah roses and Palash trees blooming
send essences, oils as keepsakes into houses.
And many-thousand years breathe in dialects.

The rich silken colors that have played
amid your years of singing and dancing
through symbols hiding in folk legends --
even my reveries lack the conjuring,
and I drift on winds of my pale words.

So I have no way of knowing how it is
that you emerged from ancient depths.
Was it the gleam in your father's eyes
that spoke wryly to you of imbalances?

Beyond architecture and sea breezes lie mudflats and the salt of tears.

In some slow communion with the people,
you took them into the temple of language --
a fathomless touching of their hard tales.

Used tools hanging in peasant sheds
teem with energies of earth and rice,
their worn handles elegies of poverty.
Fields and the mists that haunt them
give up their dead tillers, a dawn sigh.

You work them into lines of hard beauty.

You speak them into tribute and apotheosis,
clothe them in the living linens of free verse.

The forgotten people of India move in slow rhythm
against the counterpoint of greed and social injury.
When old ones and wide-eyed children of hot days
are broken under callous yokes, forfeiture, seizure,
young men and women seek communal elevations
to shelter amid red scarves and crossed bullet belts,
may stake blood on a mountain under Hegelian suns.

How could I know the shape of India?
But I have felt poems of human lives.

On the bank of Brahmaputra River at sunset,
your songs hang on the weary and godly air.

Nabina's blog

Saturday, August 20, 2011

openings (for Janet)

Her selection of pigments glistens on a palette,
pigments vibrating in rhythms of probability --
stochastic atoms of colors matching synapses.

The canvas seems infinite, a white ground bass.
And music will complement her morning brushes --
Scriabin or Miles? Chopin or Tom's 3/4 cadence?
Ah...Debussy will spread his elusive prismatics!

What will emerge?

It's not for me to know how she opens the portals of dream and vision.

But phantoms come, and forms of feeling
become masses hanging in strange balance.
Deep fall the eyes into that opening rendered.
Wild is the way that spirits clothe themselves
in chromatic meaning, then aesthetically whisper
into the pensive Moment haunting brushed fabric --
melancholia and suspense, death and wan Eros.

It's not for me to call this magic or miracle of color between now and numinous.

Or...a muted drama of black ink and charcoal
performing metamorphosis in titanium white.

Objects without name are apparitions
made of what this painters is feeling,
in hues wrought from mineral silence
to uncover modes of arcane space.

A slow grinding of intuitions into image opiums.
A grinding of elements into immanent powders,
releasing powers of shaman, seer, oracle.

Sienna, umber, ochre, madder.
Cobalt, chrome, cadmium, copper.
And the blues! -- brilliant or nocturnal.
All for alchemy transmuting incantations
that sigh in violet or simmer in alizarin.

A spellbound mixing of slow ecstatic oils
into inspiration, dark-gleaned discovery,
bringing affective texture to presence.

But sometimes I do wonder...
just what is happening underneath
this paint and these ghostly forms?

If I stared too long, if eyes fell too deeply,
I might see too much, go mad inside layers.







All images the property and copyright of Janet Snell.


the well-tempered translator (for Yael)

This large stillness is not oppressive.
It wraps around her like delicate lace,
with moments holding rich suspense,
as intuition weaves its arabesques.

She has her gleaming wine, her old pen,
and notebook waiting flashes to white pages.
The table is solid, will support new thoughts.
Her laptop is patient for what will happen.

And her silent incantation spreads discipline
onto all the objects in this room of held time --
objects now guarding her ripe mood with auras.

Her temperament is suited to keys of language.
Just like in earlier days she would dance fingers
across the timbred colors of classical piano --
even Bach and his intricate mysteries fathomed!
That characteristic way of speaking variations.

Her poised soul is suited to nuances of Russian.
She has breathed that air of tales and wounding.
Her natural ear sensitive to grammar's music,
as she lived with English for another source.
Into ancient Hebrew she will cast her authors --

the mastered texts of masters will dream through her giftedness.

Opening doors between systems of saying.
That is a mission of work that she loves.
Locating transport for poems in their travel.
That is an art known to one who has ventured.

Bach found a system for compromised tuning,
so the spectrum of keys was even, well-tempered.
The ear would adjust to eccentricities of overtones,
and the ear gain fullness of keyboard expression.

In the pause of moments when choices are trembling,
she reaches into language and plays airs on strings.


At 5:30 AM today, the morning had just begun to apricot the sky. I leapt (sort of) into my car and went for a little drive. I rolled down the windows, in a manner of speaking. I went for a drive just because. And also because I wanted to feel the texture of morning air spiraling around my head. My brain was mostly empty. But it quickly filled with a thousand subconscious impressions. And with things beyond the condition of being resolved.

My brain went blank again, as I drove along stupefied at 40 mph. Going nowhere, just going. Then my awareness bent toward poetry. I remembered a poem that I post every three or four months, since two years ago. It was written by Connie Stadler. For me, it is one of the best poems I've encountered. If I could write a poem of this exquisite, time-altering quality, I would purchase champagne and dance in slow motion.

I always want to write a bunch of stuff, to explain why this poem is wonderful. But who cares about me blathering a bunch of stuff? Even if I could decipher its secret code and explicate its affective beauty, what would that even mean? It exists quite well just as it is, in itself, without my embellishments.

I dream, now...

In the forest of blue heron
On the whitest of white nights
The moon clouds pass
As laden caravanserai.
Cedar shadow calligraphy
Communicates what no human can
Cygnets sleep in sepia wash
In fearless surrender.
Darkness and I stroll among these
gardens within myself.
Sip wine, exchange no thoughts.

Copyright © 2009 -- Constance Stadler

tiny opera (in Sprechstimme)

Maria Fatima! Maria Fatima!
I have come on freeing winds
and through the seams of words.
You hold thousands of pieces
of phenomena in thralldom.

It is August but I wander
a Winterreise of cold fogs,
like Schubert's lad singing
his Lindenbaum to vision
for ears that see soundings.

So let us make new songs with intuitive lips,
here where we sit on this tree-shaded bench.
We'll frighten passersby with bending pitches
and strange sayings -- a folk tune staggering
in drunken beats and cross-rhythm carrying
a melody of metaphysics, minor-keening
to suggest odd beauty on atonal richness.

Oh, Maria Fatima!...I sing of great sadness,
just to hear you laugh, unveiling your counsel.
It makes me so happy to fall into darkness.
It makes me so sad to smile at dark flowers.

Silence! Maria Fatima is speaking with her eyes!
She is sighing a golden-throated, implicit language:

"Yes, loved ones die and friends disappear.
And Weltschmerz is made for one pure tear.
But the cuckoo coos with his linden tones,
and texture of wood is much like our bones.
We pause for wonder and that is worth space.
Questions are born to breathe in rain's grace.
Songs of speaking are dreams of curved light
falling through octaves of limbs' painful height.
I see you have brought your old stringless guitar.
So strum me to Portugal on one half-tuned bar."

Oh, Fatima, Maria Fatima...such ease you have given me.
The weight of my years melts in fire between shadows.

"Yes, go to the corner and fetch me pomegranates."

[Sprechstimme -- speech-voice, a cross between speaking and singing. Arnold Schoenberg made use of it, as did Leoš Janáček.]

August 19, 2011

A prison cell door clanging shut
is a sobering sound anywhere.

But here in Arkansas that tone cracks veneers
of time in a distinctive manner. A certain shock
that shakes out all the ghosts hiding in objects
will also quake what others take for granted.
The girls who sing in choirs and then kiss smiling
will fade. And the long afternoons of cool oblivion
will leave you behind, will go to twilight without you.

That door clangs like a crow on the Delta,
cracking the moon in a scream of feathers.

If you are young and different and found guilty,
if gothic shadows hang around your shoulders,
if you are found wanting, chained, forgotten...
infinite moments of the living dream will shatter.
And somethng uncanny will settle on your brow --
an injury that only a Job might discuss with you.

Things will get so real that any god would have gone mad.
The texture of humor and hope will stiffen into a leathering.

So...they now release you. After 18 years. Innocent, even against the law.

The world turns. Yet time is stunned on your quiet voice.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Burckhardt abroad

Florence, Italy

How exquisite the fall and cast of sunlight in late morning!

That glow on these hills is living
also in the quiet gleams of this wine.
Woodsmoke drifts from somewhere.
Warbling thrushes unseen in chestnuts
or from thickets bordering the spring.

Vineyards ripen and orchards of olive trees are still in the haze.

The bottle nearly empty beside me
on a table holding shadows in cypress,
here on a Tuscan terrace some golden miles
from the city, here where the wild is sloping.

Are my lids falling down into a revery
or am I seeing ghosts in the landscape?

Far down there, a Roman bridge of stone
and dark poplars standing – silent centurions.
Young women laughing, clothed so strangely --
broad-sleeved garments of moss color and lavender.
As they stroll languidly one's lips are reciting verses.
Poems of subtle satire or ribald country romance?

Emerging from trees men pass them mid-bridge,
rougher appareled – wanderers from Abruzzi?
The lively girls curtsey and the youths are abashed,
heads bowed in shame at meeting such wonders.

These must be legends of air and strong wine,
for they quiver and lose their solid resolution.
Leaving now the bridge of arches they disappear
into seams of grottoes and the lattices of trees.

Wide this city seen from surrounding hills,
as if a basin of forms dreamed up from earth!
Now walking the Via de Corso, I seek knowledge
between architecture of cathedrals and commerce.

Again this Italian light!...
glancing from wall to wall,
as if a series of mirrors reflecting.
Until I am almost lost or hallucinating
a new world that is also deeper in time.

Angles and planes hold memorial penumbrae implicitly.

The afternoon is warm and the people are moving.
Serious monks, gentlemen, and dark-browed donne.
But the texture of buildings is what I am hearing.
Sacred shapes murmur their myths of provenance.
And rumors of genius hang on symbolic façades.

I listen until I am lost in allegories of rebirth
that play upon this stage for an audience of one.

The citizens of Florence are dissolving!
A feint of this light or a symptom of mind?
Other folk come, at home on cobblestones --
in rhythms of gesture and alien demeanor.

Yes, I must be sun-stricken and feverish...
the antique finery of their genteel couture...
eyelashes fluttering, coy smiles, and rouge...
the gallant ones moving with a roguish stride...

I gaze into strange eyes and see the birth of irony.
An awareness of self burst from chains of convention.

They speak!...the undertones of consciousness are unjaded and revelatory!

My footsteps echo in the Uffizi Gallery,
the grand rooms in awe of their wonders.

Botticelli's Birth of Venus – audacity of beauty!
And no longer heavy pigments of a sunken age.
The movement of fabrics and the moving of beings –
an unlocking of forces pushing blood through living.

In all of these chambers of the masters,
a paradox of sensations is perplexing me.
Rhythms of form and dynamical expressions
and hues of brilliance and blooming of planes...
they all share dimension with uncanny depth,
a womb-like quiet of soul mirroring soul.

I leave this magnificence
and enter again the street.
Now the conjured free folk
have gone back to centuries.
And I move among my own –
contemporaries of a duller day.

How brief that spark of opening
to world as spellbound inspiration!
How fallen into a moribund trudging
our present pulsing and eyes of coin!

As I move among these contemporaries,
a haunting absence lies between the figures.
From paintings of new-dawning psychologies,
I retrieve certain things that are missing now.
Life for life's sake and damn all the Devils!

An urbane gentility and graceful wit
and a noble bow to things of the mind.
A glancing into ideals of old Greek visions
and a fascination with the enigma of Woman.

As I walk onto the Ponte Vecchio,
the evening ripples on into night.
Boatmen ply the quiet River Arno.
A vagrant call is answered with ennui.
Soon lights are lit along the shore banks.
I stand listlessly, and a low fog is forming.

Surely there was no scheduled celebration!
The river must now be giving up its spirits!

Unnaturally come strange barges aglow,
emerging within this false moonless spell –
a festival of floats, a naval Carnivale!

This file of blossom-decked boats
holds all manner of posing creatures –
silver masques and plumed wide hats
and laughter on the torch-lit water.

A procession of colorful tableaux.
A series of aquatic phantasmagoria.
Allegories acted out in pantomimes
and all manner of histories confused!

A great argument has sprung on the air –
Herod is losing his will to lovely Salomé,
who stands with her hands on hips
amid a pooling of seven pastel silks.

Another barque is filled with musicians --
lutes, drums, and flutes are delirious
with modal tunes, as a Fool sings forth.

Another is garlanded and eerie with gods.
Genii comport with damsels and nymphs!
Incense flutters from hieroglyph banners
that catch a sudden-rising nocturnal wind.

Another conveys a tower of scaffolds --
an uncanny Machine of new philosophy.
Its gears and other workings not visible,
and braced atop is a sphere of glass plates.
It turns gyroscopically as a Franciscan inside
is drunken and pleased by the phases of Saturn!

Astrologers mingle significantly with vagabonds.
Jealousy argues with Irony while Fate sits brooding.
Fear is hounded by Hope, Spectacle slays Tragedy.
Midgets dance as Bacchus stomps Misery into juices.
A masquerade of comedians goose a great Caesar.

Finally the last boat and somber it sails.
Black of hull and moaning its passengers.
Ostensible ambulance of the plague-doomed,
and Death at the stern cracking jokes aplenty.

Silence settles over the now-calm river.
The fog has misted off to a returned moon.
Those creatures of night drift away into mind.
I go with perhaps wisdom, phantom-gleaned.

* * *

Away homeward with my satchel of impressions.
This carriage is rocking, my thoughts are dubious.

The countryside also jostles, with luminous shadows.
Oaks and hedge and the summer grasses emblematic
of mysterious mood – a dappling of being onto forms,
somehow yearning, forthing, an energy unceasing.

Every object seems now suffused
with message and gleam of meaning.
I attend them with a new way of sensing –
with a new science of temporal space!

But I am also shaken...

My well-thumbed Schopenhauer always with me,
the effect of it appalling with coloration of truth.


Is it perhaps a better madness to plunge
from dark abyss into affirmational abyss?

There!...amid thick tangles of light and brambles –
a numinous wink from transient, renascent shapes.

He said time is a form of being inside my head.
Then I have indeed laughed on a Stygian boat!

Jacob Burckhardt (1818 -- 1897)

Burckhardt was an art and cultural historian, with an original approach: instead of focusing on political and military historiography, he delved into the social fabric of an era. His most famous work is The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1860).

"This meant arriving -- through an interaction with materials, since this is the only way in which any knowledge of the past can be arrived at -- at an understanding of how things looked and felt to the people of the time: the possibilities of a situation, the mood of an assembly, the flavour of a place, and in aggregate a view of the world, a whole vision of life....Because of the indispensibility of intuition, imagination, empathy and psychological insight to the historian, plus the ability to make artistic use of given materials, Burckhardt insisted that his task could not be systematized into any so-called 'philosophy of history.'" -- Bryan Magee

This poem is an imagining of how Burckhardt might have imagined.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Lake (a ghost story)

My friend Annie Biondi Stevenson took my song "The Lake" and came up with images to go with it. She made a slide-show video. How nice of her to do that! And what a cool thing she made. Thanks, Annie!

Here's the YouTube

The Lake

I float in my boat about one hundred yards from the shore.
I drift on the lake, drinkin' ten beers or more.
Summer sun cooks me up a serving of dreams,
and I drowse like that lazy faun by Claude Debussy.

Daydreams get stirred up with a relish of recall,
and I think about that time before the dam was installed.
All the homesteads were abandoned, the coffins disinterred.
Rites were performed so no curses would stir

stir the big water,
stir the big water,
stir the big water of Greer's Ferry Lake.

But sometimes the schemes of sincere mere men
get waylaid by unforeseen consequence.
I do believe that all of those cautions did fail.
I've seen things in the depths make a sober man quail.

Some of us folk got minds that are slightly free.
We don't mock our spirits, we don't chop down willow trees.
So what of those apparitions reported back then?
Has a liquid mausoleum sealed obsessions in

beneath big water,
beneath big water,
beneath the big water of Greer's Ferry Lake?

Sometimes when I peer down in the watery vast,
I see her mad spirit amid the crappie and the bass.
Not a-swimmin', she's a-swirlin', she's a-searchin' for God.
Gonna confront him for killin' her with diphtheria's blood rot.

Well, I ain't like those who have lost their inner eye.
My peripheral sight sees through what shadows glide.
Once as a boy jumpin' headstones, a spectre gave a fright.
Momma said that was a goat with long hair silken white.

So I am primed to see what lies beyond the pale.
Yes, I have a hoard of uncanny tales I could tell.
And I'll float upon this reservoir from end to blue end
until I can speak solace to my little restless friend.

Sometimes when I peer down in the watery vast,
I see her mad spirit amid the crappie and the bass.
Not a-swimmin', she's a-swirlin', she's a-searchin' for God.
Gonna confront him for killin' her with diphtheria's blood rot.

The waves of this lake lap incessantly.
Once into a lonesome cove at dusk I did drift.
The water transmogrified to mist eerily,
in the shape of a child, up through the pines she did lift.