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THE INSURANCE SALESMAN

THE INSURANCE SALESMAN


The light seeped up from below, through

the spaces in the cracked floor. Then, the

floor-boards began to rattle, slowly building

in intensity until they began to shake with a

fierce rumble. A sound increasingly

approaching thunder accelerated until the

window shook: and, then, it was there,

right in front of the young eight-year-old

boy’s face as he watched--and was

mesmerized--by the reverberating subway

train, elevated to his third-floor level,

passing before his very face as he sat,

-2-

daily, watching and hearing the upheaval in

front of his wide and innocent eyes.


“Frankie” lived in a gas-lit and cold-water

tenement flat on the corner of 92nd Street

and Third Avenue in the New York City of

1928. He lived with his immigrant parents,

his mother, Carmela Attolino, and her

husband, Giuseppi (“Pepe”) Versace, she

from Naples and he, from Calabria--good,

hard-working Italians, both in their early

forties, having arrived ten years earlier and

having given birth to their only son in 1919.

-3-

They, and the entire country, were on the

edge of the Depression--and they didn’t

know it.


Carmela, known to all her friends as “Zia

Nina”, due to her willing be-friending and

aiding of her Italian community, was a

shortish, stout woman of robust stock

with somewhat frizzy and prematurely

grey hair that she wore up. She worked

at home, taking care of her two men while

always seeking around for a new business

venture, like selling cutlery and scissors

-4-

in at-home pre-1950’s “Tupper-Ware”

parties: anything to get by and to survive.


“Pepe,” as he was known to all his friends,

would do anything to make a buck to keep

his family going. One of Frankie’s

earliest memories was of his father and his

cronies pasting labels onto boot-leg

bottles of whiskey when they weren’t

playing cards around the kitchen table all

night long.


Once and to surprise la Signora of the

house, who was sleeping soundly in the
-5-

next room with her son, Pepe and his

cohorts painted the entire kitchen in one

night. When Zia Nina awoke the next

morning, she was very much surprised--

and pleased.


Frankie remembered taking Saturday-night

baths in the short, raised tub next to the

coal-burning stove. In summer, the coal-

man would climb the three floors to deliver

blocks of ice. At night, the young boy

remembered gas-lit lamps and cold beds.



-6-

Frankie went to a nearby Catholic

grammar school where he was a good

student and, relatively, care-free for an

eight-year-old who never thought that he

was deprived of anything: he was happy

and had two parents who loved him.


One day, Zia Nina got the idea to try to

get her “capo ottuso” husband--a stubborn

Calabrian of the very old school--to buy

some life insurance, just in case anything

happened to him.



-7-

She, first, mentioned it to Pepe, but he

was quick to dismiss her idea out-of-hand,

saying--”Mai tu e pazzo, Moglie mia.

Niente succedere.”


Then--she invited a nice young Jewish

salesman up to her third-floor apartment

one cold January afternoon, unbeknownst

to her husband while the young Frankie

had another front-row seat.


The salesman made his way up the three

flights of shaky old stairs, knocked on the

door, came in, seated himself at the kitchen
-8-

table under the swaying single light-bulb

overhead, and spread his papers out in

front of Zia Nina.


Frankie watched from his perch in the

corner, next to the sink.


After about five minutes, Pepe entered,

unannounced. He stopped short, surveyed

the situation, and asked his wife directly--

“Che e questi?”


“Pepe, this is the life-insurance salesman.

He has come to explain us about buying

-9-

some insurance--just in-case something

happens to you.”


Pepe listened, heard or didn’t hear his wife

and, then, he went over to the young man--

and threw him out.


Zia Nina was incensed and beside herself

with anger, resentment and disrespect for

her husband--”What is wrong with you?

Are you crazy?” she threw his words back

at him. “What if you die, what do me and

Frankie do, then?”


-10-

Pepe brushed the entire matter aside and,

with a fluttering of his upraised hand in a

gesture of lion-hearted disdain, forgot the

whole incident.


Just after Frankie’s ninth birthday in May,

Pepe died of a heart-attack.
____________________________________

My father’s and my grandmother’s story

goes on--to a brownstone rooming house

on the corner of 72nd Street and Lexington

Avenue where I was born and raised for

the first eleven years of my life,

experiencing a better life than my father
-11-

had had--with my mother, Paula, Frankie

and Zia Nina. One of these memories was

when I was nine-years-old and Paula and

Zia Nina gave me a birthday party--while

Frankie was out driving his car and trying

to sell electric motors for a company in

Dayton, Ohio.





“PAULA’S BIRTHDAY PARTY”

follows ...











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P A U L A’ S B I R T H D A Y P A R T Y

P A U L A’ S B I R T H D A Y P A R T Y


I was a good little Catholic boy filled with wonder at all I saw around
me. I lived with my father, Frank; his mother, my grandmother, Zia Nina; and my mother, Paula. She was elegant, beautiful and caring--tall with long chestnut-brown hair, blue eyes and the smile of peace. I had been anxiously awaiting this birthday because Paula had organized a small party with some of my favorite classmates. We all went to St. Jean the Baptist Catholic School on 75th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues, and we were in the second grade.


Zia Nina ran a rooming house in an old brownstone building on the corner of 72nd Street and Lexington Avenue. We all occupied the basement level with her tenants roaming and running around above us at all hours of the day and night. I had to walk down into a small courtyard and enter my home through an iron gate which led to an even smaller foyer and then, down a long and dimly-lit hallway which opened up into a large living room. A kitchen lay beyond the living room and in a separated small closet-like room off to the left, was an old tub-washing machine topped by a hand-wringer for sopping wet clothes. And finally out the back door of the kitchen, you passed another closeted room, also on your left, where a toilet stood firmly before you exited into our backyard: small, all concrete with a swaying wooden fence separating us from our neighbor--a newly opened French restaurant named Le Boeuf A La Mode. The owner invited Zia Nina and us to eat there once and, as I remember it, the meal was good but different from Zia Nina’s sharp Neopolitan cooking.


Our kitchen always smelled of freshly cooking tomato sauce with aromas of basil and oregano, garlic (lots of garlic), ragued meats (meatballs and sausage), Chianti wines and beer. I took my first sip of beer while I sat on Zia Nina’s lap at the dinner table: she dipped her finger into a glass of beer in front of her and gave me her finger to lick. I liked it and have been an enthusiastic beer-drinker ever since.
-2-


My taste for wine came later—with meals. There was always tasty food to eat and milk to drink (when I wasn’t on Zia Nina’s knee). Paula would always make me breakfast: hot instant Ralston with butter and brown sugar melting slowly down into the hearty brown grains of my morning cereal on cold days; on hot days, she would serve me Cheerios and Wheaties, and I would always save the box tops to send in for my Lone Ranger silver badge and my Dick Tracy spy-ring. I would anxiously await, weeks, for the magic packages to arrive and when they did (which they always did), I could hardly contain my excitement at what new and interesting things would be inside. I ate lots of Cheerios and Wheaties.


Paula would also prepare “egg-in-a-cup” for me almost every morning—a soft-boiled egg cracked open and scooped out, the white squishy flesh and the orange-yellow yolk mixed together with morsels of toast in a small dish. I learned to like them very much. I also was allowed to drink hot coffee with lots of boiling milk. And then, Paula would send me off to school, a three-and-one-half block walk--sometimes in the sun and other times in the New York rain and the New York snow. Then, she would go to work in the garment district, sewing dresses; and soon, I can remember, she was designing gowns for rich Park Avenue ladies, like Mrs. Dowling who was her best customer and who, most of the times, was nice to my mother; other times, Paula would come home tired, cursing and even crying at Mrs. Dowling’s constant demands on her. But all in all, she was good to my mom, and she paid her well.


My father, Frank, was a traveling salesman, and he would usually be gone by the time that I woke up. He drove a 1941 light green Plymouth with a running board: I liked to stand on it, but my dad would never let me stay there when he was driving, even slowly up and down our streets. Frank would always return late at night, in time

-3-


to eat one of Zia Nina’s still-warm dinners. And, then, he would stay up late into the night, writing multi-copies of that day’s itinerary and orders. Only to rise again, early, the next day—and do it all over again. I rarely heard him complain, but he was usually nervous.


My school day was spent with the black-and-white habited Dominican nuns who had pointy headpieces. Their squished and Cabbage Patch-like looking faces were framed in hard starched white masks that pinched and pushed their fat, rosy cheeks in towards their mouths and noses. Some of them were nice, but some of them weren’t. I sat through my Catechism recitations, my English sentence diagramming, and my repeated multiplication tables--all the time expecting and visualizing what my very first birthday party would be like. The day inched by on the slow-moving wall clock until, finally, the bell rang at three o’clock--and we were off.


I and my friends ran out of the classroom, now hot with the noisy steam that had knocked and hissed inside the silver-painted radiators on which, sometimes, the Mothers (what we called our nuns: Mother St. Francis, Mother St. Gertrude, and so on and upwards through the eight grades) would pour cheap perfume when the young boys and girls were especially gassy that day.


The city streets flared with cars, taxis, busses and jostled us with lines of people, all fur-bundled with gloves, mittens, and scarves against the bitter February cold. We walked fast between, in-and-out of these crowds of men and women clutching their purses, briefcases, and bundles and walking almost as quickly as we did.




-4-


For a nine-year-old boy, nurtured and warmed at home, New
York City always seemed cold to me—from the sweating heat of August to the bright frigid lights of Christmas. It was an indifferent
place of old stone-faced buildings, guarded over by even colder doormen and inhabited by no one I knew. My New York City of
1949 was not so much a place as it was an old dog, being chased
from one unfriendly location to another by rushing people who had
neither time nor interest in old dogs or little boys. It was a grownups’
town where everyone seemed to be in a hurry about going someplace
important to do something important. But I suspected that all the hustle and bustle was much ado about nothing and a cover-up for all the very plain and boring people who, really, had nothing important to do but who just liked to pretend that they did. New York City was a big city, made up of ordinary and unimportant people who didn’t like who they knew they were. The “Big Apple” was a big fake where only
things moved and where people were unmoved. Or so it seemed to me then.


When we arrived at my house, all was ready for my birthday party. Paula had taken off early that afternoon so that she could be there and, together with Zia Nina, could prepare the large living room for me. They had hung blue and white streamers of crepe-paper, all pinched-out and pulled at the edges to give them a ruffled and crinkly scalloped look. The table was set with multi-colored paper plates, cups and saucers, and clear plastic forks, knives, and spoons. The white napkins said “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” in large black letters and had pictures of green, white and red balloons on them. A hanging string of letters spelled out another “H-A-P-P-Y- B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y” and was suspended in one corner of the room.


Zia Nina brought out small plates of spaghetti with tiny meatballs, all covered in a rich and dark red marinara sauce. One of my friends blurted out, “What kind of birthday food is this?” and, then, proceeded
-5-


to make short work of it. After, we had cake, ice-cream and some soda-pop only because it was my birthday because both Paula and
Zia Nina both disapproved of overly sweet and carbonated drinks:
beer, yes; Pepsi, no. We all ate diligently, not saying much until the food and the drinks were over. Then, Paula tried to organize some games for us. But after one aggressive little boy had “pinned the tail” onto his favorite girl’s chest, the games kind of fizzled out. Now, everyone became quietly attentive, whispering to each other about where my presents were and, perhaps, where their party-favors were.



From inside the kitchen, Paula emerged carrying an armful of colorfully wrapped, ribboned and bowed boxes, all of which were clearly presents--for me. My heart picked-up its beat, my eyes grew larger, and my friends all closed-in around me and the table.
Paula sat down the magical packages on the table in front of me, slowly rose up, kissed me gently on my forehead, and stood beside and behind me, telling me that I could now open my birthday gifts. I had waited patiently and respectfully for my mother’s signal to get ready, get set, and go before I opened each one in turn.


There was an Etch-a-Sketch where I could turn two knobs and magical grainy, black lines would inch-up and curve on its grey screen that I could, then, design into any figures and shapes that I could imagine. There was a real leather baseball glove and a real white leather hardball with red-stiching. And there was even a cowboy set of matched cap-pistols in a tan leather holster-belt.


But the grandest surprise of all was a box of hard and solid plastic letters and numbers, enameled in all colors and with contrasting edges that outlined and emphasized these symbols for words and arithmetic. I was fascinated with the way they looked--all delineated
-6-


and serious-looking--and the way they felt in my hands and between my fingers: hard yet softly slick. They also smelled--a subtle oily smell like stiff rubber. These pieces contained the entire alphabet with
some doubles so that I could make many words, not just a childish few. The numbers were the same. Now, I could not only see my sums but I could also feel them between my fingers.


I started playing with them instantly, spelling-out--“school,” “God,” “sauce,” and “Paula.” She had known what I wanted before I knew myself, even if it was only a chance selection--which my favorite present may or may not have been: a chance to thrill to the feel and sight of words and numbers, my very own words and numbers in my very own hands.


My friends and I ate more birthday cake and had more helpings of birthday ice-cream before everyone went home--happy and full--to try to explain to their parents why they just weren’t hungry for dinner.



I can still see, feel and smell those letters and number-blocks in my hands today, along with the very special warmth of that cold winter’s day—and Paula’s presence, radiating all around me like golden rays of sugar, as she softly fades into memory.










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HIGH NOTES--4 NEW PROSE PIECES



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SIR

S I R

“Now, just shut the fuck up, Sir, and let
me speak and you just listen--as I’ve been
listening to you ever since I met ya.
Now, that’s a while, nine years,
give ‘er take a few days, here and there--
so, I figure, it’s my turn to speak, just a wee
bit, if ya don’t be mindin’, SIR?

Now, SIR, you’re an intelligent man, almost as intelligent as I am and yer a learned man,
more learned than I am, right now--but SIR,
ya don’t remember things the way I do and ya can’t use those things the way I do and that’s why you ere you and I am I. And yer a good man, SIR, as I am a good man and yer a kind man, as I am a kind man and yer a gentle man, as I am a gentle man and yer a generous man, as I am a generous man--but yer also one fuckin’ self-absorbed s.o.b.
as I am a fuckin’ self-absorbed bastard and that’s why I love you, SIR.



-2-

So, please, SIR, don’t go and die on me, SIR, my genie and my friend, don’t go n’die
on me, please, because I don’t know what I’d do without you, SIR. I’m a good boy, too, SIR. You ought to know: you made me.

Feel better now, gone--to--confession. I can sleep now. Good night, SIR.
You’re a damn find SIR.”



>top of page>

D I Z I O N A R I O

D I Z I O N A R I O

de


VERSACE






N E W W O R D S

6/27/2007

1. a “one-off”=a mostly British colloquial term meaning
one degree “off-the-mark,” askew the
center, as in “He’s a bit of a one-off chap.”

2. unique=one of a kind
paradigm=a set of forms with a particular element’s
controlling, as in the conjugation of a verb
or the declension of a noun; also, the ideal,
paragon, touchstone of something, as in
WILLIAM SAFIRE’S: “unique=the paradigm
of absolute solitude(s)”

3. putative=alleged

4. solecism=any corrupted form of language

5. solipsistic=”preoccupation with the exercise of one’s
function,” WILLIAM FERRET of NEEDHAM
HIGH SCHOOL where I practice-taught
during my second semester in HGSE,
1963: he was the CHAIRMAN of the
English Department, and he was a growl-
ing bear-of-a-man with shocking white-
white hair who used to reach across the
faculty lunchroom table and, with his
pocket-knife, cut off a piece of my ITALIAN
submarine sandwich that I brought with
me every day. Finally, I said to him,
“Would you like me to bring you one, too?”
He laughed, his silver hair winnowing in
-2-

lunchroom breeze, only to look away and
grit a smile and mumble, “No, never
mind”: a 23 year-old, I was easily intimi-
dated, especially by burly educational
authority figures. The last day of school,
TOMMY and I killed his two dobermans.

6. lexicographer=as dictionary-maker, a word-smith,
a wordophile, a linguaphile (a “lover of
tongue,” as in “The BASSET HOUND
gave good tongue”)

7. bathos=sentimentality, an exess of “soft” feeling as
opposed to “hard” feeling where there are
also tears but of the intense realization of
a reality, as in “The clown shed black tears,
and the fat lady gushed yellow maudlin ones”;
“sentimentality” has a bad reputation among
those who profess to be “too strong” to cry at
trite and silly expressions of sorrow or joy;
whereas, the opposite is often true, that is,
the soppiest and most mawkish neanderthal
who cries at the “fall of a sparrow” is exhib-
iting a sensitivity too refined for the macho-
rabble to even notice. Take FELLINI’S
GELSOMINA in his LA STRADA: she is a
“one-off” mute, a “cretino,” an “idiot, una
“[shemia]” which, when compared to the
ITALIAN word for “a memory”=”una retentive,”
that is, “one who retains”; “che ritiene,” there
appears a magical resemblance in spelling
and in sound between--------------------------------
“cretino” and “che ritiene,” which
is more than an aleatory (accidental) similarity:
-3-

to my middling-mind, and, most likely, no,
definitely, for FELLINI’S; there IS a strong bond
between “cretinos” and “che ritiene” (those who remember and “retain” all hurts and injustices) and “tears,” and that is WHY GELSOMINA is always crying, shedding her inner hurt feelings for ALL god’s creatures (no pun meant)--from the FOOL who is cruelly killed to a poor fallen bird: for
the pure-hearted GELSOMINA, the world is a place of
infinite sorrow and truncated and transient joy.


8. bombastic=pretentious and over-inflated speech,
occasionally confused with “VERBOSE
grandiosity,” which may be “overly
inflated and pontificating speech” in
a long-tongue (going on and on) or in
short shouts of aphorisitc nonsense, as
in “sure as shit,” “rainin’ cats and dogs,”
or “that’ll be a cold day in hell,” that is,
the cliche is short-handed bombast

9. frangible=fragile

10. depredate=to plunder, pillage, ravage, rape, roil
‘n rile, burn, wipe-out loudly

11.* eidetic=capable of vivid mental imaging and
those brilliant memories and images are
also capable of being accurately and easily
reproduced--via SIGHT-images, usually, but
not always: there are also IMAGES of
hearing (AUDITORY), of smell (OLFACTO-
RY), of taste (GUSTATORY) and of touch
-4-

(TACTILE) which can all be precisely repro-
duced if apprehended and perceived intently

12. crepusclar=twi (between two) lights, that is,
dawn and night and, therefore, dim
and indistinct in the shimmering glow


13. internecine=of a struggle within a group, as in “the
internecine rebellion of the gods”

14. quotidian=usual and customary, ordinary and
commonplace, daily recurring, as in
“paroxysms of misogyny” over HILLARY
CLINTON’s ascendency to the
presidency

15. coeval=contemporaneous, occurring at the same
time

16. otoise=idling and lazy, malingering and shirking,
ineffective and superfluous,
useless and futile

17. aleatory=accidental and chancey; contingent and
dependent upon

18. orotund=rich and full-; pompous and bombastic-
VOICED, as in “PAVAROTI, rotund, bellowed in orotund
and thunderous phrases”



-5-

19. polemical=controversially argumentative (adjective)
polemic=a formal and controversial argument (noun)

20. [ch]thonian= of the gods and spirits under the earth
versus those gods above IN the ether
and those ON the earth, we mere
mortals with our “gins,” our “good”
and “bad” genies inside of us who
give us a fighting chance in those epic
battles that often ensue on this
trembling earth




>top of page>

ON BEETHOVEN






ON BEETHOVEN


I WAS LISTENING TO BEETHOVEN'S 7TH THIS AFTERNOON-EVENING OUT ON OUR BALCONY AND I
TRIED TO UNDERSTAND AND "DISCOVER" WHAT MADE HIM "BEETHOVEN." WHAT I CAME UP
WITH, AS I LISTENED CAREFULLY AND TAKING AS MUCH CARE AS I COULD not TO WANDER,
DISTRACT MYSELF FROM HIS MUSIC--SINCE IT IS NEVER HE WHO LOSES HIS LISTENER; THE FLAW IS
IN HIS LISTENER, NEVER, EVER IN HIM: HE EXHAUSTS ALMOST ALL OF US WITH HIS PURE AND FREE
"FREUDE/JOY" OF HIS "GENIEs-for-US"/HIS GENIUS THAT HE LETS ESCAPE FROM HIS DEPTHLESS AND INFINITELY VARIED MAGIC BOTTLES THAT HE KEEPS LOCKED IN HIS MIND. AND THAT IS HIS--AND ALL TRULY
GREAT ARTISTS-- GIFTS TO US--EVERY TIME WE LISTEN, REALLY LISTEN TO WHAT HE HAS TO SAY.
AND THE way HE SAYS IT IS SOME WONDROUS THING TO BEHOLD AND TO LISTEN TO.

WRIGHTING/WORKING WORDS-ON-PAPER THE WAY THAT HE WORKS HIS NOTES-ON-PAPER, FIRST AND, THEN INTO SOUNDS. GRANTED, THE TWO MEDIUMS ARE TOTALLY DIFFERENT: WHERE HE HAS THE EPIC
EXPANSE OF NOT ONLY HIS NOTATIONS BUT THEIR TRANSFORMATIONS VIA THE RICHLY VARIED
AND VARIEGATED COLORS AND TONES OF A HOST OF EXOTIC MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS--
ANY WRITER (even a JAMES JOYCE) HAS ONLY THE VERY LIMITED "MUSICAL SOUNDS OF
'WOODNOTES WILD.'"




AS I SEE HIS MUSIC--AND HIM (THE TWO ARE ABSOLUTELY INSEPARA BLE)--WHAT BEETHOVEN DOES

IS--
1. WRITE WITH A WORLDWIND-LIKE PASSION ("A RECKLESS HEADLONG RUSH INTO ECSTASY,"
AS ONE CONTEMPORARY CIRITIC DESCRIBED HIS 7TH SYMPHONY).

2. AND HE MANAGES THIS GRAND FORCE OF NATURE WITH THE UTMOST C-O-N-T-R-O-L.

3. AND HERE IS WHAT I BELIEVE IS THE INTERESTING PART AND THE KEY TO HIS STYLE
AND THAT IS HIS, LITERALLY infinite variation-- FROM
RUNS, PAUSES, BUILDS, CLIMAXED CRESCENDOS, FALLING DENOUMENTS
OF SOUND TO HIS SIGNATURE " 'TRYING' TO FIND HIS 'ENDING'" (AN ACT
OF PURE LEGERDEMAIN IN THAT HE IS not "TRYING" at all; HE IS DOING
IT ON PURPOSE; AND AS FAR AS FINDING HIS "ENDING," HE DOESN'T want
TO ever HAVE IT "end." WHY SHOULD HE? HE IS FLYING WITH THE GODS
AT THAT POINT IN HIS PIECE: WOULD YOU WANT TO HAVE IT "END"?

SO, WHAT DOES HE do? HE TEASES HIS LISTENER TO THE BREAKING POINT BY
INTRODUCING MOTIFS THAT HE, THEN AND IN MANY TWISTS, TURNS AND
CIRCUMLOCUTIONS, varies (HIS SECRET GENIE) AND BUILDS THOSE MOTIFS
INTO A RECOGNIZABLE THEME THAT COMES THROUGH IN HIS REPETITION OF IT,
SAY THE "HAPPY COUNTRY-FOLK BY THE BROOK" REFRAIN IN HIS 6th SYMPHONY,
"THE PASTORAL." THEN, HE WITHDRAWS HIS THEMES, ONLY TO LET THEM
COME BACK IN, NEW AND EVER-ALIVE forms, DIFFERENT YET SIMILAR AND
ALWAYS, ALWAYS STRONGER, i.e., MORE ENTICING TO HIS LISTENERS' EARS
UNTIL, UNTIL...HE LETS THESE MODULATED THEMES FREE TO SOAR ON THEIR NOW
LIFE-OF-THEIR-OWN (WHAT I KNOW, FOR A FACT, THAT "WORDS," SOMETIMES AND, OFTEN, DO: I HAVE SEEN AND HEARD THEM "CARRY ON BY THEMSELVES" AS IF NO ONE ELSE WERE IN THE ROOM, ESPECIALLY THEIR "CREATOR") UNTIL he--NOT YOU, IT OR ANYTHING
ELSE--ALLOWS HIS SYMPHONY "END IT, " EVEDR SO RELUCTANTLY.

WHAT that METHOD AND ITS FORMS DO ARE TO IMPEL AND COMPEL HIS
LISTENER--A MERE PUPPET AT THIS POINT IN HIS COMPOSITION IN THAT
HE/HIS LISTENER HAS BECOME POSSESSED AND UNCONSCIOUSY OBSESSED WITH AND BY
IL MAESTRO--ALONG HIS/B'S SCALES UNTIL B IS READY TO LET HIS LISTENER
FALL UP INTO his NIRVANC BLISS--AND NOT A MOMENT SOONER THAN, HE,
THE CREATOR, DEEMS--"ENOUGH."

AND SO, CAN--IS IT POSSIBLE--FOR ANY MERELY MORTAL LISTENER TO EVER
BECOME "TIRED"/OVER-WROUGHT/WORKED-OVER WITH THIS KIND OF
WRITING/MUSICAL COMPOSTION? YES, OF COURSE, IT IS POSSIB LE SINCE ONE CAN BECOME "TIRED" AND "BORED" WITH ANYTHING, EVEN WITH WATCHING CHRIST WALK ON WATER. BUT YOU MUST ADMIT, IT IS DIFFICULT--THAT IS, IF YOU HAVE A BRAIN AND A SOUL IN YOUR BODY.


NOW, LET ME DEMONSTRATE WITH BEETHOVEN'S MOST FAMOUS AND WELL-KNOWN
SYMPHONY --the "DA-DA-DA--DA" NO.5 WITH ITS ALMOST ENDLESS ENDING, UNTIL
BEETHOVEN finally TIRES OF HIS FLIGHT WITH HIS GODS AND, MERCIFULLY, DECIDES TO
"END IT"--and HE DOES. EVERYTHING IS CONTAINED IN THE LAST MOVEMENT/PART 4:
FINALE-ALLEGRO ("in a brisk, lively manner")--his musical runs, pauses, builds, climaxed
crescendos (swellings in volume of sounds), falling denouments (the unravellings, the workings- out of a complex sequence of musical lines, arcs and patterns into a final outcome: the conclusion
or, here, his ENDING).




-t h e e n d-



>top of page>

HIGH NOTES--18 NEW POEMS


T W I N T O W E R S

Two gargantuan
HALF-CYLINDERS--

Rise slowly up
Into the night-starred sky
Silently flanked by
Two matching sides of
CIRCULAR
CURVING
FLOORS
Lit with eleven
Paralleled polka-dotted hall-lights--

FRAME
a
yellow
FULL-MOON
Suspended between them
Like KONG’S MOON.

A roaring motor-car
Passes under
on the black-asphalted
parking lot.

Pounding fire-like
DRUM-BEATS
from that
Past and Faraway Island.

The new ANN DARROW lounges on her balcony
Stroking the fur of her cunt
Like the old whore she is.









THE RECLUSE OF AMHERST

Arose from EMILY’s DESK

A cataclysmic
whirring of

L E A V E S--

Snippets from a

Formal life--

Narrow fellows in the grass
Noiseless, oh, so patient HOPES
That spoke
Only when she died.

And THAT

carriage ride--

For, finally,
He knew no haste:

He HAD returned for his beloved
To hold in his embrace.









P A R A D I S E R E G A I N E D

What flies up high in crepuscular air
Mingles aloft awhile with evening shade
Shines back in resonating eidetic stares.

The orotund alarum fills the everywhere
As the gods gather, thundr’ously on parade
Their coeval mights assembling in their lairs.

The armies depredate, rape, roild and tear
As the sounds of internicine war do fade
Sines back in resonating eidetic stares.

The polemic resounds, proclaiming the dare,
An aleatory demand down to be laid
Their coeval mights assembling in their lairs.

Otoise and quotidian prove the cherubimfair
So that the battle mighty resemebles a raid
Sines back in resonating eidetic stares.

All the chthonian forces arrayed and rare
‘Gainst the frangible host of heaven do strain
Their coeval mights assembling in their lairs
Shines back in resounding eidetic stares.














B U T C H E R I N G

“To the butcher’s, we will go,

To the butcher’s, we will go,

Hi-ho, I dare you-o,

To the LYNCHMAN, I will go.”


Our sorriest lines
Shall furnish forth
The meagerest of feasts.







I N S T R U M E N T S

Colored pens--black
blue
green and
red--

L I E

Precisely placed
On a white slab--

Together with
three number-two pencils
one white-tipped eraser pen
a pair of white-out markers--

R E A D Y

for the
Surgeon’s inscribed cuts
Sculpted from the
Marble of his mind.






T E R R E M O T O

Unleashed energy
Held tightly in his mother’s arms

LET LOOSE

As tremors in motion

He erupted up four flights

Of his grandmother’s brownstone

ROOMING HOUSE

Reaching the top--

Where he
settled
once
again--

And , looking down,

SMILED.






R I C O R D I

They came
Flashing forward--

a four-year-old
sitting at his
Easter present,
a miniature mahogany desk-and-chair

a six-year-old
astride his shiny
Schwinn”Roadmaster de Luxe”
shakily wobbling
down the street,
mother running after him

an eight-year-old
holding and aiming
Daisy Red Ryder
gleaming black-barrelled
in unsteady hands,
father teaching him how to shoot




-2-

But the strangest and most fearful
was the night
he remembers
writhing and screaming
in his mother’s arms
as doctors
shot him with
one needle after another,
endlessly terrifying,
when he was two.


Souvenirs from his past
Etched in his brain.





B I R T H
Light silvers cold air
Limbs tremble
Steel clicks white trays
Face masks--
Bend
Twist
Rubber hands
Reach
Probe
Grope--
A N G U I S H
Violence
Force
Blood
E R U P T S
expulsion.

Exhale, Relent, Relax--

REJOICE.

A new voice cries out.





D Y I N G

“Put out the light and,
Then, put out the light...”

The Moor smothers his wife--

Reaches for his dagger
Pauses apace
Feels the death rattle
The snake in his heart
Hissing the quick away.

He strikes.

Blood refluxing up,
Swallows hard,
Chokes, gasps,
Sputtering up
His last black breath.

ECCE HOMO--

“Who loved
Not wisely
But too well.”







IN
THE WAITING ROOM
AT
UCLA HOSPITAL

A goateed man sits, stilled,
In the open Lobby.

He sees into distance--
no foucus
no time
no relief.

The clock on the wall ticks
As light clicks down
From day to night.

Now,
to come,
yet it will be--


The MOMENT is all.








AGE CAN WITHER

Between the hand-hairs

Flecked brown spots rise

In ruin rampant

Crackling skin

Cracking time.









L I K E T H E R A I N

Renato’s cry
Fills the air.

Miss Quinn hears
Him yell--
Broken, shuddering sobs
Shake out
Trembling, shaking.

The boy is lost.

The woman,
Small, and intent on
His pain,
Comes over to him.


Gentle
Like drops of rain
Upon trees,
She pads
Like worms
On his cheek,
Carefully, skillfully--until
Tears rise away.



A child is an open
Hurt thing

Until she kisses
And makes him sing.









O D E T 0 A P A P E R C L I P


Oh, thou silver-winged

Split spirit of union

Do join us together

As one mind

And pledge our intertwined

Bodies as pages from on-high


We pray, Thee, O LORD--

Heed our need.







D E N T A L A R T S
for
ARNIE LOEL


You’d take him for a quiet and deliberate artisan
Commanding his kingdom of drills and clamps
This extraordinary dendritic prober-of-teeth
Restoring his daily practices in ethers and gases
Until the endodontic moment supreme
When he pierced enamel, grey and grieving--
Technically perfect at his craft and healing art.

With startched white-linen igniting his patient rooms
And following wall-paintings down halogen-lit halls,
I would mount, with legs astride, his low and
elongated leather chair
Before his lamp buzzed its incandescence
And nurse-chatter reverberated in undertones--
As the office manager scurried about with ledger
and calculator.

Every day on the edges of his colorectal cancer
This doctor, reckless and vulnerable,
Positioned himself on either side of his bargaining
brain and
While vased lillies exhumed airy scents
And incarcerated nitrous-oxide laughed out breaths
of easy air--
His burning bowels howled at him from darkness
deep within.





-2-


I remember once, a bespeckled and masked man
Bent over me, back achingly, for fragments of an
hour
To curette a pulp of decay:
Maybe he came down for a closer look
But I think it was to be better seen by me--
He who reigned supremely over his dominion
of teeth and death.

What was it about this professional, this artist,
this mensch
Who was so intent yet so softly gentle and
controlled that,
When he laid his needle’s steely tip
Up under my lip against inflamed gums
To rest there for what seemed an afternoon,
Then, oh, so slowly and oh, so calmly, he let
its silver point
Elide into bleeding pulp until it disappeared
Painlessly into pink, now folded around--
One with flushed flesh.

Who and what was this mortal man?
A talented dentist, a faithful husband, a loving father,
a loyal friend
A man with a gift who, through flagrant neglect--
Lived, suffered and died.






-3-


But who, with magic tools and cunning arts,
Rejected the rigors of doctor-patient protocol
And, after what was a long-time, for me,
I, too, was able to call him quite comfortably and
With respect due and admiration for our lives
Intertwined over forty memory-filled years
Simply--

“ARNIE.”








VAN GOGH

Swirling in Arles
Enchromed in yellow
Bathed in cobalt blue

He painted his pain
Onto whorling sunlit discs
Inside twirling star-shined halos

ABOVE

An ocean of feathering wheat fields
Alive with pulsating breaths of his being--
Into one last gasp.

And, then, his sun set.







T U R N E R

Liquid-light
Sparkling swaths
of
Whites, yellows, oranges and reds--
Half-formed figures dazzle,
Encrusted and gouged
Onto
Canvasses of apocalyptic visions--
Gasping, drowning
Shackled slaves--
Dreams of hell
Run aground and breaking-up.

And death on a pale horse.






B E R N I N I


Marble molts into living flesh

Radiates with alabaster heat

Rises

Enfolds in liquid ripples

Creases, curves of flowing gowns

SUPPORTING

Saints, nymphs

Fleeing from carnal dross

Of earthly ecstasy--

Into divine blisss.






TOWER OF DEATH

Bowing down to their dark god, Youth painted
Mammon’s erection
In the Name of Hope--

THIS OIL-DERRICKED TOWER
On the KILLING FIELDS of BHHS

Strikes down its impish worshippers
With spectral wisps
Of benzene and chromium-plated
Smells
That slowly, oh, so slowly,
Deliberately and deadly,
Breed inside cells
(Hidden and caustic)
To plumb not black gold
But suffering untold.

“Suffer the little children
To come unto me...”
That I may slay them.


Beyond damages
Beyond amorality--
Beyond comprehension.











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