Monday, November 24, 2008


The jackdaw,
born Kavka
in Prague,
a semiotic
that sounds
not Greek
and festers
like a Chow's

Proper Study

red fox
in winter
rather than Caliban,
and discover
what nature
in an unnatural
to be.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Shipwreck's Dream

The shipwreck dreams of Abraham's sacrifice.
He awakens with a cough and these words:
"Abraham walks on the edge of his knife."
Meanwhile, the monkeys gambol in the palms;
the stream rushes to the sea;
snails flourish under red leaves;
and turtles lay eggs in the sand.
The night passes;
the moon wanes;
the mountain's gray silhouette
casts its shadows over the beach.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Snail Math

A mathematical design:
a line
from Alpha to Zed
to illustrate
the silver thread
that shimmers
at dawn,
and marks
the finitude
of the snail's
between the grass
and the leaf.

Island Dwelling

Within the shipwrecked,
the island dwells.

Below clouds salt
a tremulous sky
and coral embraces
as jungles
mountain roots.

Four-fold divinities
gibber like ghosts
on Pentecost
and flying fish
like ox tongues
on a hot griddle.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Shipwreck's Agenda

Ten years
from the day
of the shipwreck,
the shipwrecked
a glimpse
of a gray sail
on green horizon.
As he cleared
his pale dwelling
of pink shells,
buried bottles,
sour weed
and fetid fish,
he brushed
away the vision
like a fly
near his ear
or an ant
on his leg.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Furnace Talk

To tap
the vein
a pick
and ax,
a shovel
and a crowbar.
as ore
out of the furnace,
before the steam.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Man who Walks on his Head

Even though the year 1967, was dark and disastrous for Paul Celan, it was also a year of doing and creating, of writing and translating; it was a year of poetry that continued and built upon the "breathturn," which he demonstrated in his work produced in 1963 and 1964.

The year began with the publication of the French translation of the presentation he made in Darmstadt in October 1960, upon his receipt of the Georg Buchner Prize. The essay, entitled "The Meridian," is about art generally and poetry specifically. In the essay or speech, Celan writes, inter alia, that "a man who walks on his head, ladies and gentlemen, a man who walks on his head sees the sky below, as an abyss."

I postulate that much of Celan's poetry is about the vision of the abyss seen when we adjust our point of view. This adjustment can be drastic--for instance, when we stand on our head--or minor, when we turn our head and gaze out of the far corner of our eye. The change in perspective alters our view and refreshes our vision. This refreshment may be pleasing or shocking. It doesn't matter; it awakens the mind to the strangeness of the new and the different.

When something is new and different, the reader tends to concentrate. It is the concentration or attention that Celan believes the poem seeks. Quoting Kafka, he says: "attention is the natural prayer of the soul." Consequently, is he saying obliquely that poetry is soul-involving? Isn't it true that when soul is activated it grows, strengthens, and deepens. Poetry that arrests our attention, I postulate, deepens soul.

Celan's concept of arrest is described metaphorically as a "breathturn." He writes: "Who knows, perhaps poetry goes its way--the way of art--for the sake of just such a turn?"

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Paul Celan and Amenta

While re-reading Paul Celan’s book of poetry, Lightduress, I was quite taken with the five line poem-- Die lehmigen Opfergüsse/ the loamy offering downpours. This poem, evocative of fall, seems to turn geography upon its head. From its image cluster I intuited that loam, crawling with snails, formed a ceiling and that a fallen blackberry leaf flies against gravity toward heaven. Consequently, I imagined a world where the earth was above, and heaven was below.

This intriguing and somewhat numinous image seemed familiar. Had I heard it before?

At first, I thought the image came from the I Ching but with a little digging I found it in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. In Amenta, the land of the dead, the earth is above and the sky below. Suddenly, the poem opened up and I had a clue in which to begin my explication of the text.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Toad

The toad
in black ooze
as the Nile
and rotted,
attracting green
the toad speared
with a sticky

Oskar as Athena; Günter as Zeus

The two sipped their aperitifs; one gazed outward, while the other turned inward. Günter noted a tall, thin woman with dyed blonde hair and red lips entering the brasserie with a short rotund man, wearing a black suit, black tie, and a white shirt. His thinning hair was pulled back and shining from pomade and reflected light. She placed a manicured hand on his round shoulders and pouted. Her nails glimmered red against his gray skin and Günter thought of Athena springing forth from Zeus’ head. Her imagined armor gleamed in the light of the Lipp and he sighed, wishing for her attention. He decided to use her in his novel that was percolating to the surface of his conscious mind. He imagined sitting at his typewriter tapping the scene out beneath the single electric light that hung from his dingy ceiling on the Rue d'Italie. He prayed for the gods of modernism to aid him in his creation.

Paul did not notice the woman; instead, he reflected on the phrase “head-birth;” his black eyes glazed over as he turned his vision inward, tracing the roots of the expression, seeking the source of the myth of the birth of the parthenogenic goddess. He immediately thought of Hermes as mid-wife and imagined Athena, as a reincarnation of Neith, the Egyptian goddess of war, who nursed a crocodile at her breast. Paul was a master of slow-reading and metaphors. Already his mind hopped from stone to stone of the mephitic scree of archaic images that lay submerged in his memory. Already, he was cataloging images to produce a poem of disparate associations. He etched crocodiles and ankhs, goddesses and shields, into a fabric of metaphors to express his vision of being. He sank deeper, looking for original images in the ooze of the Nile. He scraped his poem onto papyrus; he employed hieroglyphs to strike the flint. Embers and sparks flew in the summer night and mosquitos buzzed through the marshes.