Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Held in a late season
At a shifting of worlds,
In the golden balance of autumn,
Out of love and reason

We made our peace;
Stood still in October
In the failing light and sought,
Each in the other, ease

And release from silence,
From the slow damnation
Of speech that is weak
And falls from silence.

In the October sun
By the green river we spoke,
Late in October, the leaves
Of the water maples had fallen.

But whatever we said
In the bright leaves was lost,
Quick as the leaf-fall,
Brittle and blood red.           





                 For Kenneth Rexroth, 1950
The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat
to live.


The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.
I hope my death is not stolen from me
by a fiery blast of Fahrenheit or Celsius
or another calculatable accuracy.

I will gladly relinquish all the pleasures of daily
bread, the pride and dreams of art—even pulse;
but I hope my death will not be taken from me.

Actually, it is a modest policy;
little there to discuss as to solace
or in the way of privacy.

A valued moment of self-possession? Might it be
something to embrace more than to expulse?
I hope my death will not be pried from me.

My end is not to be just a cause in a public sea
of scientists teaming against a disease,
a private point in a welter of piracy.

After all, won’t it fundamentally and rightly
be mine and no one else’s? I hope my death is
not taken from me; better, it be
an appointment kept in a private sea.
Man burns at a certain degree
but I always burned a little slower.
When I went into school
I left a trail of blackened footprints
to my classroom of spelling words,
never starred. At the end of the earth
we’ll be locked in our own spelling mistakes,
our arms around the legs of our mother
so she won’t leave, our heads filled with beer, the light
receding. What kind of death is reserved for me?
The green plastic soldier has his gun up against everything.
And what does one do with a gun really?
I’ve only held three my entire life.
The third I held was the first I used.
I was with Rebecca and her father, deep in the woods of Vermont
when she was staying with me in the heap.
I shot at a beer can until my hands went numb.
And I loved her the whole time.
With car accidents and barbiturates. The way
she got wasted, knocked her teeth
into her lap and told me
I loved her too much—what was all that?
What man does is build whole universes out of miniscule
disasters and educational degrees.
I have mine in an enormous envelope two feet behind me.
My name looks good in gangster font.
It makes me want to alight
on the thigh of my beloved like a moth
because I know all careful grief
comes out from behind the thigh
and makes a fist at the grey sky above Brooklyn.
The destroyed continue into the snow-filled future, shoveling.
And love is either perpetually filthy
or intermittently lewd.
I’m sweeping the entire apartment because it’s mine forever.
And that’s valid, too: domestic eroticisms. The way
he gets up out of bed before you
and puts on clothes and can’t find his keys.
All of it, without parents, without children, without roommates.
It feels good to get something
back. And the whole feels
detrimental and complicated and forever stimulating.
Which is why we live—and why we send out
balloons into the atmosphere
with notes tied to them that say
Nothing bad can touch this life
I haven’t already imagined.
The moon will shine for God
knows how long.
As if it still matters. As if someone

is trying to recall a dream.
Believe the brain is a cage of light
& rage. When it shuts off,

something else switches on.
There’s no better reason than now
to lock the doors, the windows.

Turn off the sprinklers
& porch light. Save the books
for fire. In darkness,

we learn to read
what moves along the horizon,
across the periphery of a gun scope—

the flicker of shadows,
the rustling of trash in the body
of cities long emptied.

Not a soul lives
in this house &
this house & this

house. Go on, stiffen
the heart, quicken
the blood. To live

in a world of flesh
& teeth, you must
learn to kill

what you love,
& love what can die.
 
It is the people who remember,
but when the people are gone
we won’t have anyone to remember.
People go to a lot of trouble
to make things memorable.
I would like to make things enjoyable
by watching everyone,
and wondering what is going on.
Today I am as full of this day
as the air in this apartment
is full of particulate matter that sparkles off
the highway. A sliver of the moon
is still visible at midday.
Reading the news is unbearable,
but necessary. All exits are final
and all that.
O for that warning voice, which he who saw
Th’ Apocalyps, heard cry in Heaven aloud,
Then when the Dragon, put to second rout,
Came furious down to be reveng’d on men,
Wo to the inhabitants on Earth! that now,
While time was, our first Parents had bin warnd
The coming of thir secret foe, and scap’d
Haply so scap’d his mortal snare; for now
Satan, now first inflam’d with rage, came down,
The Tempter ere th’ Accuser of man-kind,
To wreck on innocent frail man his loss
Of that first Battel, and his flight to Hell:
Yet not rejoycing in his speed, though bold,
Far off and fearless, nor with cause to boast,
Begins his dire attempt, which nigh the birth
Now rowling, boiles in his tumultuous brest,
And like a devillish Engine back recoiles
Upon himself; horror and doubt distract
His troubl’d thoughts, and from the bottom stirr
The Hell within him, for within him Hell
He brings, and round about him, nor from Hell
One step no more then from himself can fly
By change of place: Now conscience wakes despair
That slumberd, wakes the bitter memorie
Of what he was, what is, and what must be
Worse; of worse deeds worse sufferings must ensue.
Sometimes towards Eden which now in his view
Lay pleasant, his grievd look he fixes sad,
Sometimes towards Heav’n and the full-blazing Sun,
Which now sat high in his Meridian Towre:
Then much revolving, thus in sighs began.
O thou that with surpassing Glory crownd,
Look’st from thy sole Dominion like the God
Of this new World; at whose sight all the Starrs
Hide thir diminisht heads; to thee I call,
But with no friendly voice, and add thy name
O Sun, to tell thee how I hate thy beams
That bring to my remembrance from what state
I fell, how glorious once above thy Spheare;
Till Pride and worse Ambition threw me down
Warring in Heav’n against Heav’ns matchless King:
Ah wherefore! he deservd no such return
From me, whom he created what I was
In that bright eminence, and with his good
Upbraided none; nor was his service hard.
What could be less then to afford him praise,
The easiest recompence, and pay him thanks,
How due! yet all his good prov’d ill in me,
And wrought but malice; lifted up so high
I sdeind subjection, and thought one step higher
Would set me highest, and in a moment quit
The debt immense of endless gratitude,
So burthensome, still paying, still to ow;
Forgetful what from him I still receivd,
And understood not that a grateful mind
By owing owes not, but still pays, at once
Indebted and dischargd; what burden then?
O had his powerful Destiny ordaind
Me some inferiour Angel, I had stood
Then happie; no unbounded hope had rais’d
Ambition. Yet why not? som other Power
As great might have aspir’d, and me though mean
Drawn to his part; but other Powers as great
Fell not, but stand unshak’n, from within
Or from without, to all temptations arm’d.
Hadst thou the same free Will and Power to stand?
Thou hadst: whom hast thou then or what to accuse,
But Heav’ns free Love dealt equally to all?
Be then his Love accurst, since love or hate,
To me alike, it deals eternal woe.
Nay curs’d be thou; since against his thy will
Chose freely what it now so justly rues.
Me miserable! which way shall I flie
Infinite wrauth, and infinite despaire?
Which way I flie is Hell; my self am Hell;
And in the lowest deep a lower deep
Still threatning to devour me opens wide,
To which the Hell I suffer seems a Heav’n.
O then at last relent: is there no place
Left for Repentance, none for Pardon left?
None left but by submission; and that word
Disdain forbids me, and my dread of shame
Among the spirits beneath, whom I seduc’d
With other promises and other vaunts
Then to submit, boasting I could subdue
Th’ Omnipotent. Ay me, they little know
How dearly I abide that boast so vaine,
Under what torments inwardly I groane;
While they adore me on the Throne of Hell,
With Diadem and Scepter high advanc’d
The lower still I fall, onely Supream
In miserie; such joy Ambition findes.
But say I could repent and could obtaine
By Act of Grace my former state; how soon
Would highth recal high thoughts, how soon unsay
What feign’d submission swore: ease would recant
Vows made in pain, as violent and void.
For never can true reconcilement grow
Where wounds of deadly hate have peirc’d so deep:
Which would but lead me to a worse relapse
And heavier fall: so should I purchase deare
Short intermission bought with double smart.
This knows my punisher; therefore as farr
From granting hee, as I from begging peace:
All hope excluded thus, behold in stead
Of us out-cast, exil’d, his new delight,
Mankind created, and for him this World.
So farwel Hope, and with Hope farwel Fear,
Farwel Remorse: all Good to me is lost;
Evil be thou my Good; by thee at least
Divided Empire with Heav’ns King I hold
By thee, and more then half perhaps will reigne;
As Man ere long, and this new World shall know.
Thus while he spake, each passion dimm’d his face
Thrice chang’d with pale, ire, envie and despair,
Which marrd his borrow’d visage, and betraid
Him counterfet, if any eye beheld.
For heav’nly mindes from such distempers foule
Are ever cleer. Whereof hee soon aware,
Each perturbation smooth’d with outward calme,
Artificer of fraud; and was the first
That practisd falshood under saintly shew,
Deep malice to conceale, couch’t with revenge:
Yet not anough had practisd to deceive
Uriel once warnd; whose eye pursu’d him down
The way he went, and on th’ Assyrian mount
Saw him disfigur’d, more then could befall
Spirit of happie sort: his gestures fierce
He markd and mad demeanour, then alone,
As he suppos’d, all unobserv’d, unseen.
So on he fares, and to the border comes
Of Eden, where delicious Paradise,
Now nearer, Crowns with her enclosure green,
As with a rural mound the champain head
Of a steep wilderness, whose hairie sides
With thicket overgrown, grottesque and wilde,
Access deni’d; and over head up grew
Insuperable highth of loftiest shade,
Cedar, and Pine, and Firr, and branching Palm,
A Silvan Scene, and as the ranks ascend
Shade above shade, a woodie Theatre
Of stateliest view. Yet higher then thir tops
The verdurous wall of Paradise up sprung:
Which to our general Sire gave prospect large
Into his neather Empire neighbouring round.
And higher then that Wall a circling row
Of goodliest Trees loaden with fairest Fruit,
Blossoms and Fruits at once of golden hue
Appeerd, with gay enameld colours mixt:
On which the Sun more glad impress’d his beams
Then in fair Evening Cloud, or humid Bow,
When God hath showrd the earth; so lovely seemd
That Lantskip: And of pure now purer aire
Meets his approach, and to the heart inspires
Vernal delight and joy, able to drive
All sadness but despair: now gentle gales
Fanning thir odoriferous wings dispense
Native perfumes, and whisper whence they stole
Those balmie spoiles. As when to them who saile
Beyond the Cape of Hope, and now are past
Mozambic, off at Sea North-East windes blow
Sabean Odours from the spicie shoare
Of Arabie the blest, with such delay
Well pleas’d they slack thir course, and many a League
Cheard with the grateful smell old Ocean smiles.
So entertaind those odorous sweets the Fiend
Who came thir bane, though with them better pleas’d
Then Asmodeus with the fishie fume,
That drove him, though enamourd, from the Spouse
Of Tobits Son, and with a vengeance sent
From Media post to Ægypt, there fast bound.
Now to th’ ascent of that steep savage Hill
Satan had journied on, pensive and slow;
But further way found none, so thick entwin’d,
As one continu’d brake, the undergrowth
Of shrubs and tangling bushes had perplext
All path of Man or Beast that past that way:
One Gate there onely was, and that look’d East
On th’ other side: which when th’ arch-fellon saw
Due entrance he disdaind, and in contempt,
At one slight bound high overleap’d all bound
Of Hill or highest Wall, and sheer within
Lights on his feet. As when a prowling Wolfe,
Whom hunger drives to seek new haunt for prey,
Watching where Shepherds pen thir Flocks at eeve
In hurdl’d Cotes amid the field secure,
Leaps o’re the fence with ease into the Fould:
Or as a Thief bent to unhoord the cash
Of some rich Burgher, whose substantial dores,
Cross-barrd and bolted fast, fear no assault,
In at the window climbes, or o’re the tiles;
So clomb this first grand Thief into Gods Fould:
So since into his Church lewd Hirelings climbe.
Thence up he flew, and on the Tree of Life,
The middle Tree and highest there that grew,
Sat like a Cormorant; yet not true Life
Thereby regaind, but sat devising Death
To them who liv’d; nor on the vertue thought
Of that life-giving Plant, but only us’d
For prospect, what well us’d had bin the pledge
Of immortalitie. So little knows
Any, but God alone, to value right
The good before him, but perverts best things
To worst abuse, or to thir meanest use.
Beneath him with new wonder now he views
To all delight of human sense expos’d
In narrow room Natures whole wealth, yea more,
A Heaven on Earth, for blissful Paradise
Of God the Garden was, by him in the East
Of Eden planted; Eden stretchd her Line
From Auran Eastward to the Royal Towrs
Of great Seleucia, built by Grecian Kings,
Or where the Sons of Eden long before
Dwelt in Telassar: in this pleasant soile
His farr more pleasant Garden God ordaind;
Out of the fertil ground he caus’d to grow
All Trees of noblest kind for sight, smell, taste;
And all amid them stood the Tree of Life,
High eminent, blooming Ambrosial Fruit
Of vegetable Gold; and next to Life
Our Death the Tree of knowledge grew fast by,
Knowledge of Good bought dear by knowing ill.
Southward through Eden went a River large,
Nor chang’d his course, but through the shaggie hill
Pass’d underneath ingulft, for God had thrown
That Mountain as his Garden mould high rais’d
Upon the rapid current, which through veins
Of porous Earth with kindly thirst up drawn,
Rose a fresh Fountain, and with many a rill
Waterd the Garden; thence united fell
Down the steep glade, and met the neather Flood,
Which from his darksom passage now appeers,
And now divided into four main Streams,
Runs divers, wandring many a famous Realme
And Country whereof here needs no account,
But rather to tell how, if Art could tell,
How from that Saphire Fount the crisped Brooks,
Rowling on Orient Pearl and sands of Gold,
With mazie error under pendant shades
Ran Nectar, visiting each plant, and fed
Flours worthy of Paradise which not nice Art
In Beds and curious Knots, but Nature boon
Powrd forth profuse on Hill and Dale and Plaine,
Both where the morning Sun first warmly smote
The open field, and where the unpierc’t shade
Imbround the noontide Bowrs: Thus was this place,
A happy rural seat of various view;
Groves whose rich Trees wept odorous Gumms and Balme,
Others whose fruit burnisht with Golden Rinde
Hung amiable, Hesperian Fables true,
If true, here onely, and of delicious taste:
Betwixt them Lawns, or level Downs, and Flocks
Grasing the tender herb, were interpos’d,
Or palmie hilloc, or the flourie lap
Of som irriguous Valley spread her store,
Flours of all hue, and without Thorn the Rose:
Another side, umbrageous Grots and Caves
Of coole recess, o’re which the mantling Vine
Layes forth her purple Grape, and gently creeps
Luxuriant; mean while murmuring waters fall
Down the slope hills, disperst, or in a Lake,
That to the fringed Bank with Myrtle crownd,
Her chrystall mirror holds, unite thir streams.
The Birds thir quire apply; aires, vernal aires,
Breathing the smell of field and grove, attune
The trembling leaves, while Universal Pan
Knit with the Graces and the Hours in dance
Led on th’ Eternal Spring. Not that faire field
Of Enna, where Proserpin gathring flours
Her self a fairer Floure by gloomie Dis
Was gatherd, which cost Ceres all that pain
To seek her through the world; nor that sweet Grove
Of Daphne by Orontes, and th’ inspir’d
Castalian Spring might with this Paradise
Of Eden strive; nor that Nyseian Ile
Girt with the River Triton, where old Cham,
Whom Gentiles Ammon call and Libyan Jove,
Hid Amalthea and her Florid Son
Young Bacchus from his Stepdame Rhea’s eye;
Nor where Abassin Kings thir issue Guard,
Mount Amara, though this by som suppos’d
True Paradise under the Ethiop Line
By Nilus head, enclos’d with shining Rock,
A whole dayes journey high, but wide remote
From this Assyrian Garden, where the Fiend
Saw undelighted all delight, all kind
Of living Creatures new to sight and strange:
Two of far nobler shape erect and tall,
Godlike erect, with native Honour clad
In naked Majestie seemd Lords of all,
And worthie seemd, for in thir looks Divine
The image of thir glorious Maker shon,
Truth, Wisdome, Sanctitude severe and pure,
Severe, but in true filial freedom plac’t;
Whence true autoritie in men; though both
Not equal, as thir sex not equal seemd;
For contemplation hee and valour formd,
For softness shee and sweet attractive Grace,
Hee for God only, shee for God in him:
His fair large Front and Eye sublime declar’d
Absolute rule; and Hyacinthin Locks
Round from his parted forelock manly hung
Clustring, but not beneath his shoulders broad:
Shee as a vail down to the slender waste
Her unadorned golden tresses wore
Dissheveld, but in wanton ringlets wav’d
As the Vine curles her tendrils, which impli’d
Subjection, but requir’d with gentle sway,
And by her yeilded, by him best receivd,
Yeilded with coy submission, modest pride,
And sweet reluctant amorous delay.
Nor those mysterious parts were then conceald,
Then was not guiltie shame, dishonest shame
Of natures works, honor dishonorable,
Sin-bred, how have ye troubl’d all mankind
With shews instead, meer shews of seeming pure,
And banisht from mans life his happiest life,
Simplicitie and spotless innocence.
So passd they naked on, nor shund the sight
Of God or Angel, for they thought no ill:
So hand in hand they passd, the lovliest pair
That ever since in loves imbraces met,
Adam the goodliest man of men since borne
His Sons, the fairest of her Daughters Eve.
Under a tuft of shade that on a green
Stood whispering soft, by a fresh Fountain side
They sat them down, and after no more toil
Of thir sweet Gardning labour then suffic’d
To recommend coole Zephyr, and made ease
More easie, wholsom thirst and appetite
More grateful, to thir Supper Fruits they fell,
Nectarine Fruits which the compliant boughes
Yeilded them, side-long as they sat recline
On the soft downie Bank damaskt with flours:
The savourie pulp they chew, and in the rinde
Still as they thirsted scoop the brimming stream;
Nor gentle purpose, nor endearing smiles
Wanted, nor youthful dalliance as beseems
Fair couple, linkt in happie nuptial League,
Alone as they. About them frisking playd
All Beasts of th’ Earth, since wilde, and of all chase
In Wood or Wilderness, Forrest or Den;
Sporting the Lion rampd, and in his paw
Dandl’d the Kid; Bears, Tygers, Ounces, Pards
Gambold before them, th’ unwieldy Elephant
To make them mirth us’d all his might, and wreathd
His Lithe Proboscis; close the Serpent sly
Insinuating, wove with Gordian twine
His breaded train, and of his fatal guile
Gave proof unheeded; others on the grass
Coucht, and now fild with pasture gazing sat,
Or Bedward ruminating: for the Sun
Declin’d was hasting now with prone carreer
To th’ Ocean Iles, and in th’ ascending Scale
Of Heav’n the Starrs that usher Evening rose:
When Satan still in gaze, as first he stood,
Scarce thus at length faild speech recoverd sad.
O Hell! what doe mine eyes with grief behold,
Into our room of bliss thus high advanc’t
Creatures of other mould, earth-born perhaps,
Not Spirits, yet to heav’nly Spirits bright
Little inferior; whom my thoughts pursue
With wonder, and could love, so lively shines
In them Divine resemblance, and such grace
The hand that formd them on thir shape hath pourd.
Ah gentle pair, yee little think how nigh
Your change approaches, when all these delights
Will vanish and deliver ye to woe,
More woe, the more your taste is now of joy;
Happie, but for so happie ill secur’d
Long to continue, and this high seat your Heav’n
Ill fenc’t for Heav’n to keep out such a foe
As now is enterd; yet no purpos’d foe
To you whom I could pittie thus forlorne
Though I unpittied: League with you I seek,
And mutual amitie so streight, so close,
That I with you must dwell, or you with me
Henceforth; my dwelling haply may not please
Like this fair Paradise, your sense, yet such
Accept your Makers work; he gave it me,
Which I as freely give; Hell shall unfould,
To entertain you two, her widest Gates,
And send forth all her Kings; there will be room,
Not like these narrow limits, to receive
Your numerous ofspring; if no better place,
Thank him who puts me loath to this revenge
On you who wrong me not for him who wrongd.
And should I at your harmless innocence
Melt, as I doe, yet public reason just,
Honour and Empire with revenge enlarg’d,
By conquering this new World, compels me now
To do what else though damnd I should abhorre.
So spake the Fiend, and with necessitie,
The Tyrants plea, excus’d his devilish deeds.
Then from his loftie stand on that high Tree
Down he alights among the sportful Herd
Of those fourfooted kindes, himself now one,
Now other, as thir shape servd best his end
Neerer to view his prey, and unespi’d
To mark what of thir state he more might learn
By word or action markt: about them round
A Lion now he stalkes with fierie glare,
Then as a Tiger, who by chance hath spi’d
In some Purlieu two gentle Fawnes at play,
Strait couches close, then rising changes oft
His couchant watch, as one who chose his ground
Whence rushing he might surest seise them both
Grip’t in each paw: when Adam first of men
To first of women Eve thus moving speech,
Turnd him all eare to heare new utterance flow.
Sole partner and sole part of all these joyes,
Dearer thy self then all; needs must the Power
That made us, and for us this ample World
Be infinitly good, and of his good
As liberal and free as infinite,
That rais’d us from the dust and plac’t us here
In all this happiness, who at his hand
Have nothing merited, nor can performe
Aught whereof hee hath need, hee who requires
From us no other service then to keep
This one, this easie charge, of all the Trees
In Paradise that beare delicious fruit
So various, not to taste that onely Tree
Of knowledge, planted by the Tree of Life,
So neer grows Death to Life, what ere Death is,
Som dreadful thing no doubt; for well thou knowst
God hath pronounc’t it death to taste that Tree,
The only sign of our obedience left
Among so many signes of power and rule
Conferrd upon us, and Dominion giv’n
Over all other Creatures that possesse
Earth, Aire, and Sea. Then let us not think hard
One easie prohibition, who enjoy
Free leave so large to all things else, and choice
Unlimited of manifold delights:
But let us ever praise him, and extoll
His bountie, following our delightful task
To prune these growing Plants, and tend these Flours,
Which were it toilsom, yet with thee were sweet.
To whom thus Eve repli’d. O thou for whom
And from whom I was formd flesh of thy flesh,
And without whom am to no end, my Guide
And Head, what thou hast said is just and right.
For wee to him indeed all praises owe,
And daily thanks, I chiefly who enjoy
So farr the happier Lot, enjoying thee
Præeminent by so much odds, while thou
Like consort to thy self canst no where find.
That day I oft remember, when from sleep
I first awak’t, and found my self repos’d
Under a shade on flours, much wondring where
And what I was, whence thither brought, and how.
Not distant far from thence a murmuring sound
Of waters issu’d from a Cave and spread
Into a liquid Plain, then stood unmov’d
Pure as th’ expanse of Heav’n; I thither went
With unexperienc’t thought, and laid me downe
On the green bank, to look into the cleer
Smooth Lake, that to me seemd another Skie.
As I bent down to look, just opposite,
A Shape within the watry gleam appeerd
Bending to look on me, I started back,
It started back, but pleasd I soon returnd,
Pleas’d it returnd as soon with answering looks
Of sympathie and love, there I had fixt
Mine eyes till now, and pin’d with vain desire,
Had not a voice thus warnd me, What thou seest,
What there thou seest fair Creature is thy self,
With thee it came and goes: but follow me,
And I will bring thee where no shadow staies
Thy coming, and thy soft imbraces, hee
Whose image thou art, him thou shall enjoy
Inseparablie thine, to him shalt beare
Multitudes like thy self, and thence be call’d
Mother of human Race: what could I doe,
But follow strait, invisibly thus led?
Till I espi’d thee, fair indeed and tall,
Under a Platan, yet methought less faire,
Less winning soft, less amiablie milde,
Then that smooth watry image; back I turnd,
Thou following cryd’st aloud, Return fair Eve,
Whom fli’st thou? whom thou fli’st, of him thou art,
His flesh, his bone; to give thee being I lent
Out of my side to thee, neerest my heart
Substantial Life, to have thee by my side
Henceforth an individual solace dear;
Part of my Soul I seek thee, and thee claim
My other half: with that thy gentle hand
Seisd mine, I yeilded, and from that time see
How beauty is excelld by manly grace
And wisdom, which alone is truly fair.
So spake our general Mother, and with eyes
Of conjugal attraction unreprov’d,
And meek surrender, half imbracing leand
On our first Father, half her swelling Breast
Naked met his under the flowing Gold
Of her loose tresses hid: he in delight
Both of her Beauty and submissive Charms
Smil’d with superior Love, as Jupiter
On Juno smiles, when he impregns the Clouds
That shed May Flowers; and press’d her Matron lip
With kisses pure: aside the Devil turnd
For envie, yet with jealous leer maligne
Ey’d them askance, and to himself thus plaind.
Sight hateful, sight tormenting! thus these two
Imparadis’t in one anothers arms
The happier Eden, shall enjoy thir fill
Of bliss on bliss, while I to Hell am thrust,
Where neither joy nor love, but fierce desire,
Among our other torments not the least,
Still unfulfill’d with pain of longing pines;
Yet let me not forget what I have gain’d
From thir own mouths; all is not theirs it seems:
One fatal Tree there stands of Knowledge call’d,
Forbidden them to taste: Knowledge forbidd’n?
Suspicious, reasonless. Why should thir Lord
Envie them that? can it be sin to know,
Can it be death? and do they onely stand
By Ignorance, is that thir happie state,
The proof of thir obedience and thir faith?
O fair foundation laid whereon to build
Thir ruine! Hence I will excite thir minds
With more desire to know, and to reject
Envious commands, invented with designe
To keep them low whom knowledge might exalt
Equal with Gods; aspiring to be such,
They taste and die: what likelier can ensue?
But first with narrow search I must walk round
This Garden, and no corner leave unspi’d;
A chance but chance may lead where I may meet
Some wandring Spirit of Heav’n, by Fountain side,
Or in thick shade retir’d, from him to draw
What further would be learnt. Live while ye may,
Yet happie pair; enjoy, till I return,
Short pleasures, for long woes are to succeed.
So saying, his proud step he scornful turn’d,
But with sly circumspection, and began
Through wood, through waste, o’re hil, o’re dale his roam.
Mean while in utmost Longitude, where Heav’n
With Earth and Ocean meets, the setting Sun
Slowly descended, and with right aspect
Against the eastern Gate of Paradise
Leveld his eevning Rayes: it was a Rock
Of Alablaster, pil’d up to the Clouds,
Conspicuous farr, winding with one ascent
Accessible from Earth, one entrance high;
The rest was craggie cliff, that overhung
Still as it rose, impossible to climbe.
Betwixt these rockie Pillars Gabriel sat
Chief of th’ Angelic Guards, awaiting night;
About him exercis’d Heroic Games
Th’ unarmed Youth of Heav’n, but nigh at hand
Celestial Armourie, Shields, Helmes, and Speares
Hung high with Diamond flaming, and with Gold.
Thither came Uriel, gliding through the Eeven
On a Sun beam, swift as a shooting Starr
In Autumn thwarts the night, when vapors fir’d
Impress the Air, and shews the Mariner
From what point of his Compass to beware
Impetuous winds: he thus began in haste.
Gabriel, to thee thy course by Lot hath giv’n
Charge and strict watch that to this happie place
No evil thing approach or enter in;
This day at highth of Noon came to my Spheare
A Spirit, zealous, as he seem’d, to know
More of th’ Almighties works, and chiefly Man
Gods latest Image: I describ’d his way
Bent all on speed, and markt his Aerie Gate;
But in the Mount that lies from Eden North,
Where he first lighted, soon discernd his looks
Alien from Heav’n, with passions foul obscur’d:
Mine eye pursu’d him still, but under shade
Lost sight of him; one of the banisht crew
I fear, hath ventur’d from the deep, to raise
New troubles; him thy care must be to find.
To whom the winged Warriour thus returnd:
Uriel, no wonder if thy perfet sight,
Amid the Suns bright circle where thou sitst,
See farr and wide: in at this Gate none pass
The vigilance here plac’t, but such as come
Well known from Heav’n; and since Meridian hour
No Creature thence: if Spirit of other sort,
So minded, have oreleapt these earthie bounds
On purpose, hard thou knowst it to exclude
Spiritual substance with corporeal barr.
But if within the circuit of these walks
In whatsoever shape he lurk, of whom
Thou telst, by morrow dawning I shall know.
So promis’d hee, and Uriel to his charge
Returnd on that bright beam, whose point now raisd
Bore him slope downward to the Sun now fall’n
Beneath th’ Azores; whither the prime Orb,
Incredible how swift, had thither rowl’d
Diurnal, or this less volubil Earth
By shorter flight to th’ East, had left him there
Arraying with reflected Purple and Gold
The Clouds that on his Western Throne attend:
Now came still Eevning on, and Twilight gray
Had in her sober Liverie all things clad;
Silence accompanied, for Beast and Bird,
They to thir grassie Couch, these to thir Nests
Were slunk, all but the wakeful Nightingale;
She all night long her amorous descant sung;
Silence was pleas’d: now glow’d the Firmament
With living Saphirs: Hesperus that led
The starrie Host, rode brightest, till the Moon
Rising in clouded Majestie, at length
Apparent Queen unvaild her peerless light,
And o’re the dark her Silver Mantle threw.
When Adam thus to Eve: Fair Consort, th’ hour
Of night, and all things now retir’d to rest
Mind us of like repose, since God hath set
Labour and rest, as day and night to men
Successive, and the timely dew of sleep
Now falling with soft slumbrous weight inclines
Our eye-lids; other Creatures all day long
Rove idle unimploid, and less need rest;
Man hath his daily work of body or mind
Appointed, which declares his Dignitie,
And the regard of Heav’n on all his waies;
While other Animals unactive range,
And of thir doings God takes no account.
Tomorrow ere fresh Morning streak the East
With first approach of light, we must be ris’n,
And at our pleasant labour, to reform
Yon flourie Arbors, yonder Allies green,
Our walks at noon, with branches overgrown,
That mock our scant manuring, and require
More hands then ours to lop thir wanton growth:
Those Blossoms also, and those dropping Gumms,
That lie bestrowne unsightly and unsmooth,
Ask riddance, if we mean to tread with ease;
Mean while, as Nature wills, Night bids us rest.
To whom thus Eve with perfet beauty adornd.
My Author and Disposer, what thou bidst
Unargu’d I obey; so God ordains,
God is thy Law, thou mine: to know no more
Is womans happiest knowledge and her praise.
With thee conversing I forget all time,
All seasons and thir change, all please alike.
Sweet is the breath of morn, her rising sweet,
With charm of earliest Birds; pleasant the Sun
When first on this delightful Land he spreads
His orient Beams, on herb, tree, fruit, and flour,
Glistring with dew; fragrant the fertil earth
After soft showers; and sweet the coming on
Of grateful Eevning milde, then silent Night
With this her solemn Bird and this fair Moon,
And these the Gemms of Heav’n, her starrie train:
But neither breath of Morn when she ascends
With charm of earliest Birds, nor rising Sun
On this delightful land, nor herb, fruit, floure,
Glistring with dew, nor fragrance after showers,
Nor grateful Evening mild, nor silent Night
With this her solemn Bird, nor walk by Moon,
Or glittering Starr-light without thee is sweet.
But wherfore all night long shine these, for whom
This glorious sight, when sleep hath shut all eyes?
To whom our general Ancestor repli’d.
Daughter of God and Man, accomplisht Eve,
Those have thir course to finish, round the Earth,
By morrow Eevning, and from Land to Land
In order, though to Nations yet unborn,
Ministring light prepar’d, they set and rise;
Least total darkness should by Night regaine
Her old possession, and extinguish life
In Nature and all things, which these soft fires
Not only enlighten, but with kindly heate
Of various influence foment and warme,
Temper or nourish, or in part shed down
Thir stellar vertue on all kinds that grow
On Earth, made hereby apter to receive
Perfection from the Suns more potent Ray.
These then, though unbeheld in deep of night,
Shine not in vain, nor think, though men were none,
That heav’n would want spectators, God want praise;
Millions of spiritual Creatures walk the Earth
Unseen, both when we wake, and when we sleep:
All these with ceasless praise his works behold
Both day and night: how often from the steep
Of echoing Hill or Thicket have we heard
Celestial voices to the midnight air,
Sole, or responsive each to others note
Singing thir great Creator: oft in bands
While they keep watch, or nightly rounding walk
With Heav’nly touch of instrumental sounds
In full harmonic number joind, thir songs
Divide the night, and lift our thoughts to Heaven.
Thus talking hand in hand alone they pass’d
On to thir blissful Bower; it was a place
Chos’n by the sovran Planter, when he fram’d
All things to mans delightful use; the roofe
Of thickest covert was inwoven shade
Laurel and Mirtle, and what higher grew
Of firm and fragrant leaf; on either side
Acanthus, and each odorous bushie shrub
Fenc’d up the verdant wall; each beauteous flour,
Iris all hues, Roses, and Gessamin
Rear’d high thir flourisht heads between, and wrought
Mosaic; underfoot the Violet,
Crocus, and Hyacinth with rich inlay
Broiderd the ground, more colour’d then with stone
Of costliest Emblem: other Creature here
Beast, Bird, Insect, or Worm durst enter none;
Such was thir awe of man. In shadier Bower
More sacred and sequesterd, though but feignd,
Pan or Silvanus never slept, nor Nymph,
Nor Faunus haunted. Here in close recess
With Flowers, Garlands, and sweet-smelling Herbs
Espoused Eve deckt first her Nuptial Bed,
And heav’nly Quires the Hymenæan sung,
What day the genial Angel to our Sire
Brought her in naked beauty more adorn’d,
More lovely then Pandora, whom the Gods
Endowd with all thir gifts, and O too like
In sad event, when to the unwiser Son
Of Japhet brought by Hermes, she ensnar’d
Mankind with her faire looks, to be aveng’d
On him who had stole Joves authentic fire.
Thus at thir shadie Lodge arriv’d, both stood,
Both turnd, and under op’n Skie ador’d
The God that made both Skie, Air, Earth and Heav’n
Which they beheld, the Moons resplendent Globe
And starrie Pole: Thou also mad’st the Night,
Maker Omnipotent, and thou the Day,
Which we in our appointed work imployd
Have finisht happie in our mutual help
And mutual love, the Crown of all our bliss
Ordain’d by thee, and this delicious place
For us too large, where thy abundance wants
Partakers, and uncropt falls to the ground.
But thou hast promis’d from us two a Race
To fill the Earth, who shall with us extoll
Thy goodness infinite, both when we wake,
And when we seek, as now, thy gift of sleep.
This said unanimous, and other Rites
Observing none, but adoration pure
Which God likes best, into thir inmost bower
Handed they went; and eas’d the putting off
These troublesom disguises which wee wear,
Strait side by side were laid, nor turnd I weene
Adam from his fair Spouse, nor Eve the Rites
Mysterious of connubial Love refus’d:
Whatever Hypocrites austerely talk
Of puritie and place and innocence,
Defaming as impure what God declares
Pure, and commands to som, leaves free to all.
Our Maker bids increase, who bids abstain
But our Destroyer, foe to God and Man?
Haile wedded Love, mysterious Law, true source
Of human ofspring, sole proprietie,
In Paradise of all things common else.
By thee adulterous lust was driv’n from men
Among the bestial herds to raunge, by thee
Founded in Reason, Loyal, Just, and Pure,
Relations dear, and all the Charities
Of Father, Son, and Brother first were known.
Farr be it, that I should write thee sin or blame,
Or think thee unbefitting holiest place,
Perpetual Fountain of Domestic sweets,
Whose Bed is undefil’d and chast pronounc’t,
Present, or past, as Saints and Patriarchs us’d.
Here Love his golden shafts imploies, here lights
His constant Lamp, and waves his purple wings,
Reigns here and revels; not in the bought smile
Of Harlots, loveless, joyless, unindeard,
Casual fruition, nor in Court Amours
Mixt Dance, or wanton Mask, or Midnight Bal,
Or Serenate, which the starv’d Lover sings
To his proud fair, best quitted with disdain.
These lulld by Nightingales imbraceing slept,
And on thir naked limbs the flourie roof
Showrd Roses, which the Morn repair’d. Sleep on,
Blest pair; and O yet happiest if ye seek
No happier state, and know to know no more.
Now had night measur’d with her shaddowie Cone
Half way up Hill this vast Sublunar Vault,
And from thir Ivorie Port the Cherubim
Forth issuing at th’ accustomd hour stood armd
To thir night watches in warlike Parade,
When Gabriel to his next in power thus spake.
Uzziel, half these draw off, and coast the South
With strictest watch; these other wheel the North,
Our circuit meets full West. As flame they part
Half wheeling to the Shield, half to the Spear.
From these, two strong and suttle Spirits he calld
That neer him stood, and gave them thus in charge.
Ithuriel and Zephon, with wingd speed
Search through this Garden, leav unsearcht no nook,
But chiefly where those two fair Creatures Lodge,
Now laid perhaps asleep secure of harme.
This Eevning from the Sun’s decline arriv’d
Who tells of som infernal Spirit seen
Hitherward bent (who could have thought?) escap’d
The barrs of Hell, on errand bad no doubt:
Such where ye find, seise fast, and hither bring.
So saying, on he led his radiant Files,
Daz’ling the Moon; these to the Bower direct
In search of whom they sought: him there they found
Squat like a Toad, close at the eare of Eve;
Assaying by his Devilish art to reach
The Organs of her Fancie, and with them forge
Illusions as he list, Phantasms and Dreams,
Or if, inspiring venom, he might taint
Th’ animal Spirits that from pure blood arise
Like gentle breaths from Rivers pure, thence raise
At least distemperd, discontented thoughts,
Vain hopes, vain aimes, inordinate desires
Blown up with high conceits ingendring pride.
Him thus intent Ithuriel with his Spear
Touch’d lightly; for no falshood can endure
Touch of Celestial temper, but returns
Of force to its own likeness: up he starts
Discoverd and surpriz’d. As when a spark
Lights on a heap of nitrous Powder, laid
Fit for the Tun som Magazin to store
Against a rumord Warr, the Smuttie graine
With sudden blaze diffus’d, inflames the Aire:
So started up in his own shape the Fiend.
Back stept those two fair Angels half amaz’d
So sudden to behold the grieslie King;
Yet thus, unmovd with fear, accost him soon.
Which of those rebell Spirits adjudg’d to Hell
Com’st thou, escap’d thy prison, and transform’d,
Why satst thou like an enemie in waite
Here watching at the head of these that sleep?
Know ye not then said Satan, filld with scorn,
Know ye not me? ye knew me once no mate
For you, there sitting where ye durst not soare;
Not to know mee argues your selves unknown,
The lowest of your throng; or if ye know,
Why ask ye, and superfluous begin
Your message, like to end as much in vain?
To whom thus Zephon, answering scorn with scorn.
Think not, revolted Spirit, thy shape the same,
Or undiminisht brightness, to be known
As when thou stoodst in Heav’n upright and pure;
That Glorie then, when thou no more wast good,
Departed from thee, and thou resembl’st now
Thy sin and place of doom obscure and foule.
But come, for thou, be sure, shalt give account
To him who sent us, whose charge is to keep
This place inviolable, and these from harm.
So spake the Cherube, and his grave rebuke
Severe in youthful beautie, added grace
Invincible: abasht the Devil stood,
And felt how awful goodness is, and saw
Vertue in her shape how lovly, saw, and pin’d
His loss; but chiefly to find here observd
His lustre visibly impar’d; yet seemd
Undaunted. If I must contend, said he,
Best with the best, the Sender not the sent,
Or all at once; more glorie will be wonn,
Or less be lost. Thy fear, said Zephon bold,
Will save us trial what the least can doe
Single against thee wicked, and thence weak.
The Fiend repli’d not, overcome with rage;
But like a proud Steed reind, went hautie on,
Chaumping his iron curb: to strive or flie
He held it vain; awe from above had quelld
His heart, not else dismai’d. Now drew they nigh
The western point, where those half-rounding guards
Just met, and closing stood in squadron joind
Awaiting next command. To whom thir Chief
Gabriel from the Front thus calld aloud.
O friends, I hear the tread of nimble feet
Hasting this way, and now by glimps discerne
Ithuriel and Zephon through the shade,
And with them comes a third of Regal port,
But faded splendor wan; who by his gate
And fierce demeanour seems the Prince of Hell,
Not likely to part hence without contest;
Stand firm, for in his look defiance lours.
He scarce had ended, when those two approachd
And brief related whom they brought, wher found,
How busied, in what form and posture coucht.
To whom with stern regard thus Gabriel spake.
Why hast thou, Satan, broke the bounds prescrib’d
To thy transgressions, and disturbd the charge
Of others, who approve not to transgress
By thy example, but have power and right
To question thy bold entrance on this place;
Imploi’d it seems to violate sleep, and those
Whose dwelling God hath planted here in bliss?
To whom thus Satan with contemptuous brow.
Gabriel, thou hadst in Heav’n th’ esteem of wise,
And such I held thee; but this question askt
Puts me in doubt. Lives ther who loves his pain?
Who would not, finding way, break loose from Hell,
Though thither doomd? Thou wouldst thy self, no doubt,
And boldly venture to whatever place
Farthest from pain, where thou mightst hope to change
Torment with ease, and soonest recompence
Dole with delight, which in this place I sought;
To thee no reason; who knowst only good,
But evil hast not tri’d: and wilt object
His will who bound us? let him surer barr
His Iron Gates, if he intends our stay
In that dark durance: thus much what was askt.
The rest is true, they found me where they say;
But that implies not violence or harme.
Thus hee in scorn. The warlike Angel mov’d,
Disdainfully half smiling thus repli’d.
O loss of one in Heav’n to judge of wise,
Since Satan fell, whom follie overthrew,
And now returns him from his prison scap’t,
Gravely in doubt whether to hold them wise
Or not, who ask what boldness brought him hither
Unlicenc’t from his bounds in Hell prescrib’d;
So wise he judges it to fly from pain
However, and to scape his punishment.
So judge thou still, presumptuous, till the wrauth,
Which thou incurr’st by flying, meet thy flight
Seavenfold, and scourge that wisdom back to Hell,
Which taught thee yet no better, that no pain
Can equal anger infinite provok’t.
But wherefore thou alone? wherefore with thee
Came not all Hell broke loose? is pain to them
Less pain, less to be fled, or thou then they
Less hardie to endure? courageous Chief,
The first in flight from pain, had’st thou alleg’d
To thy deserted host this cause of flight,
Thou surely hadst not come sole fugitive.
To which the Fiend thus answerd frowning stern.
Not that I less endure, or shrink from pain,
Insulting Angel, well thou knowst I stood
Thy fiercest, when in Battel to thy aide
The blasting volied Thunder made all speed
And seconded thy else not dreaded Spear.
But still thy words at random, as before,
Argue thy inexperience what behooves
From hard assaies and ill successes past
A faithful Leader, not to hazard all
Through wayes of danger by himself untri’d.
I therefore, I alone first undertook
To wing the desolate Abyss, and spie
This new created World, whereof in Hell
Fame is not silent, here in hope to find
Better abode, and my afflicted Powers
To settle here on Earth, or in mid Aire;
Though for possession put to try once more
What thou and thy gay Legions dare against;
Whose easier business were to serve thir Lord
High up in Heav’n, with songs to hymne his Throne,
And practis’d distances to cringe, not fight.
To whom the warriour Angel soon repli’d.
To say and strait unsay, pretending first
Wise to flie pain, professing next the Spie,
Argues no Leader, but a lyar trac’t,
Satan, and couldst thou faithful add? O name,
O sacred name of faithfulness profan’d!
Faithful to whom? to thy rebellious crew?
Armie of Fiends, fit body to fit head;
Was this your discipline and faith ingag’d,
Your military obedience, to dissolve
Allegeance to th’ acknowledg’d Power supream?
And thou sly hypocrite, who now wouldst seem
Patron of liberty, who more then thou
Once fawn’d, and cring’d, and servilly ador’d
Heav’ns awful Monarch? wherefore but in hope
To dispossess him, and thy self to reigne?
But mark what I arreede thee now, avant;
Flie thither whence thou fledst: if from this houre
Within these hallowd limits thou appeer,
Back to th’ infernal pit I drag thee chaind,
And Seale thee so, as henceforth not to scorne
The facil gates of hell too slightly barrd.
So threatn’d hee, but Satan to no threats
Gave heed, but waxing more in rage repli’d.
Then when I am thy captive talk of chaines,
Proud limitarie Cherube, but ere then
Farr heavier load thy self expect to feel
From my prevailing arme, though Heavens King
Ride on thy wings, and thou with thy Compeers,
Us’d to the yoak, draw’st his triumphant wheels
In progress through the rode of Heav’n Star-pav’d.
While thus he spake, th’ Angelic Squadron bright
Turnd fierie red, sharpning in mooned hornes
Thir Phalanx, and began to hemm him round
With ported Spears, as thick as when a field
Of Ceres ripe for harvest waving bends
Her bearded Grove of ears, which way the wind
Swayes them; the careful Plowman doubting stands
Least on the threshing floore his hopeful sheaves
Prove chaff. On th’ other side Satan allarm’d
Collecting all his might dilated stood,
Like Teneriff or Atlas unremov’d:
His stature reacht the Skie, and on his Crest
Sat horror Plum’d; nor wanted in his graspe
What seemd both Spear and Shield: now dreadful deeds
Might have ensu’d, nor onely Paradise
In this commotion, but the Starrie Cope
Of Heav’n perhaps, or all the Elements
At least had gon to rack, disturbd and torne
With violence of this conflict, had not soon
Th’ Eternal to prevent such horrid fray
Hung forth in Heav’n his golden Scales, yet seen
Betwixt Astrea and the Scorpion signe,
Wherein all things created first he weighd,
The pendulous round Earth with ballanc’t Aire
In counterpoise, now ponders all events,
Battels and Realms: in these he put two weights
The sequel each of parting and of fight;
The latter quick up flew, and kickt the beam;
Which Gabriel spying, thus bespake the Fiend.
Satan, I know thy strength, and thou knowst mine,
Neither our own but giv’n; what follie then
To boast what Arms can doe, since thine no more
Then Heav’n permits, nor mine, though doubld now
To trample thee as mire: for proof look up,
And read thy Lot in yon celestial Sign
Where thou art weigh’d, and shown how light, how weak,
If thou resist. The Fiend lookt up and knew
His mounted scale aloft: nor more; but fled
Murmuring, and with him fled the shades of night.
I know it's a bad title
but I'm giving it to myself as a gift
on a day nearly canceled by sunlight
when the entire hill is approaching
the ideal of Virginia
brochured with goldenrod and loblolly
and I think "at least I have not woken up
with a bloody knife in my hand"
by then having absently wandered
one hundred yards from the house
while still seated in this chair
with my eyes closed.


It is a certain hill
the one I imagine when I hear the word "hill"
and if the apocalypse turns out
to be a world-wide nervous breakdown
if our five billion minds collapse at once
well I'd call that a surprise ending
and this hill would still be beautiful
a place I wouldn't mind dying
alone or with you.


I am trying to get at something
and I want to talk very plainly to you
so that we are both comforted by the honesty.

You see there is a window by my desk
I stare out when I am stuck
though the outdoors has rarely inspired me to write
and I don't know why I keep staring at it.


My childhood hasn't made good material either
mostly being a mulch of white minutes
with a few stand out moments,
popping tar bubbles on the driveway in the summer
a certain amount of pride at school
everytime they called it "our sun"
and playing football when the only play
was "go out long" are what stand out now.


If squeezed for more information
I can remember old clock radios
with flipping metal numbers
and an entree called Surf and Turf.


As a way of getting in touch with my origins
every night I set the alarm clock
for the time I was born so that waking up
becomes a historical reenactment and the first thing I do
is take a reading of the day and try to flow with it like
when you're riding a mechanical bull and you strain to learn
the pattern quickly so you don't inadverantly resist it.


II two

I can't remember being born
and no one else can remember it either
even the doctor who I met years later
at a cocktail party.

It's one of the little disappointments
that makes you think about getting away
going to Holly Springs or Coral Gables
and taking a room on the square
with a landlady whose hands are scored
by disinfectant, telling the people you meet
that you are from Alaska, and listen
to what they have to say about Alaska
until you have learned much more about Alaska
than you ever will about Holly Springs or Coral Gables.


Sometimes I am buying a newspaper
in a strange city and think
"I am about to learn what it's like to live here.
"
Oftentimes there is a news item
about the complaints of homeowners
who live beside the airport
and I realize that I read an article
on this subject nearly once a year
and always receive the same image.



I am in bed late at night
in my house near the airport
listening to the jets fly overhead
a strange wife sleeping beside me.

In my mind, the bedroom is an amalgamation
of various cold medicine commercial sets
(there is always a box of tissue on the nightstand).


I know these recurring news articles are clues,
flaws in the design though I haven't figured out
how to string them together yet,
but I've begun to notice that the same people
are dying over and over again,
for instance Minnie Pearl
who died this year
for the fourth time in four years.


III three

Today is the first day of Lent
and once again I'm not really sure what it is.

How many more years will I let pass
before I take the trouble to ask someone?


It reminds of this morning
when you were getting ready for work.

I was sitting by the space heater
numbly watching you dress
and when you asked why I never wear a robe
I had so many good reasons
I didn't know where to begin.



If you were cool in high school
you didn't ask too many questions.

You could tell who'd been to last night's
big metal concert by the new t-shirts in the hallway.

You didn't have to ask
and that's what cool was:
the ability to deduct
to know without asking.

And the pressure to simulate coolness
means not asking when you don't know,
which is why kids grow ever more stupid.



A yearbook's endpages, filled with promises
to stay in touch, stand as proof of the uselessness
of a teenager's promise.
Not like I'm dying
for a letter from the class stoner
ten years on but.
.
.


Do you remember the way the girls
would call out "love you!"
conveniently leaving out the "I"
as if they didn't want to commit
to their own declarations.


I agree that the "I" is a pretty heavy concept
and hope you won't get uncomfortable
if I should go into some deeper stuff here.


IV four

There are things I've given up on
like recording funny answering machine messages.

It's part of growing older
and the human race as a group
has matured along the same lines.

It seems our comedy dates the quickest.

If you laugh out loud at Shakespeare's jokes
I hope you won't be insulted
if I say you're trying too hard.

Even sketches from the original Saturday Night Live
seem slow-witted and obvious now.


It's just that our advances are irrepressible.

Nowadays little kids can't even set up lemonade stands.

It makes people too self-conscious about the past,
though try explaining that to a kid.


I'm not saying it should be this way.


All this new technology
will eventually give us new feelings
that will never completely displace the old ones
leaving everyone feeling quite nervous
and split in two.


We will travel to Mars
even as folks on Earth
are still ripping open potato chip
bags with their teeth.


Why? I don't have the time or intelligence
to make all the connections
like my friend Gordon
(this is a true story)
who grew up in Braintree Massachusetts
and had never pictured a brain snagged in a tree
until I brought it up.

He'd never broken the name down to its parts.

By then it was too late.

He had moved to Coral Gables.


V five

The hill out my window is still looking beautiful
suffused in a kind of gold national park light
and it seems to say,
I'm sorry the world could not possibly
use another poem about Orpheus
but I'm available if you're not working
on a self-portrait or anything.


I'm watching my dog have nightmares,
twitching and whining on the office floor
and I try to imagine what beast
has cornered him in the meadow
where his dreams are set.


I'm just letting the day be what it is:
a place for a large number of things
to gather and interact --
not even a place but an occasion
a reality for real things.


Friends warned me not to get too psychedelic
or religious with this piece:
"They won't accept it if it's too psychedelic
or religious," but these are valid topics
and I'm the one with the dog twitching on the floor
possibly dreaming of me
that part of me that would beat a dog
for no good reason
no reason that a dog could see.



I am trying to get at something so simple
that I have to talk plainly
so the words don't disfigure it
and if it turns out that what I say is untrue
then at least let it be harmless
like a leaky boat in the reeds
that is bothering no one.


VI six

I can't trust the accuracy of my own memories,
many of them having blended with sentimental
telephone and margarine commercials
plainly ruined by Madison Avenue
though no one seems to call the advertising world
"Madison Avenue" anymore.
Have they moved?
Let's get an update on this.


But first I have some business to take care of.


I walked out to the hill behind our house
which looks positively Alaskan today
and it would be easier to explain this
if I had a picture to show you
but I was with our young dog
and he was running through the tall grass
like running through the tall grass
is all of life together
until a bird calls or he finds a beer can
and that thing fills all the space in his head.


You see,
his mind can only hold one thought at a time
and when he finally hears me call his name
he looks up and cocks his head
and for a single moment
my voice is everything:

Self-portrait at 28.
Once warring factions agreed upon the date  
and final form the apocalypse would take,  
and whether dogs and cats and certain trees
deserved to sail, and if the dead would come or be left  
a forwarding address, then opposing soldiers  
met on ravaged plains to shake hands  
and postulate the exact shade
of the astral self—some said lavender,  
others gray. And physicists rocketed
copies of the decree to paradise
in case God had anything to say,
the silence that followed being taken  
for consent, and so citizens
readied for celestial ascent.

Those who hated the idea stayed indoors  
till the appointed day. When the moon  
clicked over the sun like a black lens  
over a white eye, they stepped out  
onto porches and balconies to see  
the human shapes twist and rise  
through violet sky and hear trees uproot  
with a sound like enormous zippers  
unfastening. And when the last grassblades  
filled the air, the lonely vigilants fell  
in empty fields to press their bodies  
hard into dirt, hugging their own outlines.

Then the creator peered down from his perch,  
as the wind of departing souls tore the hair  
of those remaining into wild coronas,  
and he mourned for them as a father  
for defiant children, and he knew that each  
small skull held, if not some vision
of his garden, then its aroma of basil
and tangerine washed over by the rotting sea.  
They alone sensed what he’d wanted
as he first stuck his shovel into clay
and flung the planets over his shoulder,
or used his thumbnail to cut smiles and frowns  
on the first blank faces. Even as the saints  
arrived to line before his throne singing
and a wisteria poked its lank blossoms
through the cloudbank at his feet,
he trained his gaze on the deflating globe
where the last spreadeagled Xs clung like insects,  
then vanished in puffs of luminous smoke,

which traveled a long way to sting his nostrils,  
the journey lasting more than ten lifetimes.  
A mauve vine corkscrewed up from the deep  
oblivion, carrying the singed fume
of things beautiful, noble, and wrong.
I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguished, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy Earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went - and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chilled into a selfish prayer for light:
And they did live by watchfires - and the thrones,
The palaces of crownéd kings - the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consumed,
And men were gathered round their blazing homes
To look once more into each other's face;
Happy were those who dwelt within the eye
Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch:
A fearful hope was all the World contained;
Forests were set on fire - but hour by hour
They fell and faded - and the crackling trunks
Extinguished with a crash - and all was black.
The brows of men by the despairing light
Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
The flashes fell upon them; some lay down
And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest
Their chins upon their clenchéd hands, and smiled;
And others hurried to and fro, and fed
Their funeral piles with fuel, and looked up
With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
The pall of a past World; and then again
With curses cast them down upon the dust,
And gnashed their teeth and howled: the wild birds shrieked,
And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes
Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawled
And twined themselves among the multitude,
Hissing, but stingless - they were slain for food:
And War, which for a moment was no more,
Did glut himself again: - a meal was bought
With blood, and each sate sullenly apart
Gorging himself in gloom: no Love was left;
All earth was but one thought - and that was Death,
Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
Of famine fed upon all entrails - men
Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;
The meagre by the meagre were devoured,
Even dogs assailed their masters, all save one,
And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
The birds and beasts and famished men at bay,
Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead
Lured their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,
But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
Which answered not with a caress - he died.
The crowd was famished by degrees; but two
Of an enormous city did survive,
And they were enemies: they met beside
The dying embers of an altar-place
Where had been heaped a mass of holy things
For an unholy usage; they raked up,
And shivering scraped with their cold skeleton hands
The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath
Blew for a little life, and made a flame
Which was a mockery; then they lifted up
Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld
Each other's aspects - saw, and shrieked, and died -
Even of their mutual hideousness they died,
Unknowing who he was upon whose brow
Famine had written Fiend. The World was void,
The populous and the powerful was a lump,
Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless -
A lump of death - a chaos of hard clay.
The rivers, lakes, and ocean all stood still,
And nothing stirred within their silent depths;
Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropped
They slept on the abyss without a surge -
The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
The Moon, their mistress, had expired before;
The winds were withered in the stagnant air,
And the clouds perished; Darkness had no need
Of aid from them - She was the Universe.

Diodati, , 1816.

            [First published, , etc., 1816.]
I haven’t been sleeping
I stay awake at night for hours. I breathe the way I was taught to breathe in labor. Inhale for four counts, exhale for eight. I press the bottoms of my feet together.
I read. I try to let thoughts come and go.
I was on the couch the other day and I closed my eyes and felt sure there were people, beings, ghosts, spirits, on the other side of a darkness, a bubble, and they were guiding me, moving me, pushing and pulling me.
But they weren’t angels.

We have words for things—angel, ghost, god, but they don’t mean any one thing.

When we fall to sleep it is never all at once. It is slow or fast. A retreat. When I can’t sleep it is a backwards dance that is interrupted, I am pulled up, over and over again.

When the world ends it won’t be all at once. When our world ends, it won’t be all at once. Whether it is ocean levels rising, floods or fire, wind or a colliding planet, a hail of stone, the sun swelling, the universe rewinding, contracting, a slow starvation, asphyxiation, a gun shot, cancer, a blockage in our brain, old age, a lonely heart.

We can be erased by swells of hate and, also, swells of love.

When I was young, my father and I agreed, if there were ever a nuclear attack, we would go on the roof to watch the light encompass the city and flash over us.

I feel haunted that I won’t, don’t appreciate what I have. I can’t sink into moments or gratefulness enough. I think about my grandmother making me an ice cream cake for my birthday. I was six or seven. She liked to make things so we wouldn’t have to buy them. I worry I didn’t thank her enough. I worry I wasn’t grateful enough. I worry she will die and she won’t know what I’ve felt, what I remember. I want to tell everyone what they mean to me, how I love them, but I can’t. Sometimes it’s not appropriate. It will drive people away, all this I feel. I’ve spent my life trying to make my feelings smaller, more compact,

When I die I can feel what I want. I can love how I want. How much. How little.

We can forgive each other all at once, in a wave, for not being enough. Right now we forgive like sleep, we accept each other and then we retreat, we take it back, we pull away.

I just want you to know how I’ve loved you, everyone and everything, after the hard shells and dirt and pain and lies and all we must do to live is stripped away.

I have a daughter. Ten months old. She squirms away from me. She wants the world. To face it. To taste it. To watch. To touch.

But the other day she leaned her head against me. I curled my body around her.
I closed my eyes because I was tired. I am tired all the time. When I opened them again her eyes had that far away look, like sleep is coming. She was half way there. So was I.

I closed my eyes again and she closed hers. I prayed, please, when I die, let me live in this moment forever.

We drifted on that magic carpet to sleep and no one pulled it from under us.
i drop the sesame oil stained chopsticks
to use my hand, half hidden in a black brace,
to stop them
from dying
but my father turns his face to mom
his mouth full of spinach
and tells her
that she is again wrong

*

she sent me a photo from connecticut
of a tumbler full of ice and whiskey

this is not a shot glass, she writes
to explain how her night is going

there are four days in the palm of her hands
and we are both wishing that they will not rot

i am tired, she says

i am tired too, i say

*

we are looking for a place for fire
but all we find are the bones
we used to frame that life we’d wanted:

house
baby
influence

we are only aware it’s winter
because we are standing in the middle of it
an unlit match between us

so many things that we can’t say like

i am hurting

*

the dog is asleep next to my bed
i tore the sheet in my sleep last night
outside the neighbors are drinking
beer, i think, or that’s what they said

i am staring at my toes above and past the horizon
of this computer screen
each day i worry that i will lose my legs

i don’t know what i’m supposed to do right now
there is loneliness, i think, but whatever

i yelled at my father tonight over dinner
because he is getting old and i don’t know what to do
so i do what he’s taught me over the years
yell at people, at things, until something happens

now it’s past 8pm
tomorrow is friday
in a little bit it will be June and we’ll all wonder
where the year has gone

i want to remember something important
but all i can think of is riding in george’s camaro
top down
somewhere in torrance

it was around 1am
there was nowhere we were trying to get to

we were just waiting
for our skin
to burn.
i take off my hearing aid
so i can hear
the maybe poem
that sputters on the inside
of a world
that’s coughing up its heart
in slow motion

i’ve been watching
six feet under ten years later
i’ve been taking it from behind
and i’m not ready
to talk about
how everything is over
but there are only
three episodes left
and the faces are starting
to evaporate and what
am i going to do
but fill the vanishing
with anger

even when nate
slips into a coma
even when he wakes up
long enough to break
brenda’s heart and promptly
die i just can’t
stand him all he wants
is peace
and quiet a woman
to keep
her mouth shut
until the voice of god
or some other manchild
makes of her his marionette

even in his death
all he wants is one last toke
a bro to share the moment with
a bro he makes
in his own image
and not his actual brother
who takes it from behind
while his mother
takes aim
at every man
she’s ever tried to love

his coma’s ringing off the hook
but she’s not home
she’s busy
hacking her way out
of all that peace and quiet
that grows
in the absence
of voices like her own
and how he blames her
for feeling
more than she ought to
more than he’d like to
and like so many sons
who fear their own
intensities
i’m guilty of the same

when i left home
i became an apprentice
in the factory of faces
all these years i’ve been so scared
of getting it wrong
and losing everything
but i’ve been
luckier than most
i make a more than decent living
but when our faces
start to fall apart
what are we going to do

i never wanted
to make anyone
in my own image
least of all my brother
who won’t even talk to me
at least i know he’s out there
his cursor
swimming laps across the screen
until the screen gets old
or sold for parts
like everything that makes us
mortal

and maybe someday
he will or won’t
get sober and our particles
will touch without us even knowing
like everything
that makes us

like the osario general
the common grave in the chacarita cemetery
the kind of place
i’d maybe like to be buried
after the very last episode
so when they come
to visit me
they’ll also have to visit you
and you and you and you
and tie our names
around the tree
haphazardly
a few wilting flowers
tucked between
the twine and peeling
bark my bones
dissolving next to yours
and yours and yours

my syllables
keep crashing into
our impermanence
the only thing
we can call our own
i’m not saying
this is poetry i’m just saying
i want to stop
being so resentful so
afraid of you
and all of us
and all there is to feel
before i stop being entirely
i just want to do my best
to love you
before we fall back
through the sieve
But I’m sorry I didn’t listen sooner.

I’m sorry that whatever is happening to this space I exist in
can’t stop long enough for me to absorb what I hear.

But I still listen.

Outside of my window I hear the crying in the morning, laughing on weekends,
and their footsteps while walking their dogs in the afternoon,
as soon as they get home from school.
Those small footsteps attached to their small bodies.
They have no idea what tomorrow brings. Thank God. Neither do we.
But we forget that.

Sometimes
from the window, when I decide to let the sun in, I can accidentally see them laughing.
I should make these kinds of decisions more often. To let the sun and its laughing in.

Most of the time
I just wish I could absorb their anger and their arguments.
Every single one of them.

I’m sorry that sometimes I can’t stop the sun from collapsing inside of me.
The aftermath from the few times I let it in.
Those few times become the whole. The whole becomes heavy.
I’m not sorry for letting the sun destroy me sometimes.
But still I’m sorry, for the collapse.

I’m sorry that I never created a place for us to make a vanishing act
of those strange noises outside of our window, a place where we could have
turned those noises into familiar ones. The last place you’d want to build a nest in
is that singular broken branch, the one falling from the oak tree.
My every morning is a reminder that this branch is breaking. I’m sorry.

This loud and maladjusted haunt that creeps through the open spaces of me,
is grateful to know that even the sun doesn’t last forever.

But I still listen. Still.
And the universe tells me that
what’s left of you and me will have absorbed what we’ve heard,
leaving behind the sounds of our sun, embers and ash.

It never ends.
So I’ll continue listening, until I’m no longer sorry.
the wick is broken in the candle and I’m pissed
because there’s still candle in the candle

so I’m lighting matches one by one
and dropping them into the glass votive holder

the burnt matches drink the wax
and then a small flame turns large

I worry the flame will shatter glass in my face.

In the next room the cat meows in his senile state
and outside the fat squirrel shoves loquats into his good natured cheeks.
That fucking squirrel, who doesn’t love him?

The birds sing and chirp.

Once I registered those chirps as beauty
but now I know how birds signal warning.

I love denial like an opiate
flesh dissolving off the bones

I love a meatball sub and a crazy brunette and the intellect of artists
and the hordes of people who’ve walked this earth brave brave brave
setting their good selves on fire to let a greater good emerge.

This plane – this snow globe I’ve skated around
while wearing a perfect red sweater

it will explode
and I will incinerate

and then perhaps, I’ll have to look at all the faces
I did not help save.

- May 2015 Los Angeles
the glacier gods slough off hunks of ice
and throw it into the sea at an unprecedented rate

in Greenland, babies wait outside the general store
snug in plastic-bundled strollers
taking peace in the fact that civilization has ended before

the giant foreheads of past worriers crackle under my boot
as I trek across their faces, not remembering the name of their gods

yes, the meteor hurtles toward us, with it’s own god watching over
yes, even the godless space trash has a god

the man cuts across five lanes of traffic
and accidentally introduces his god to the motorcyclist’s god

yes, god in this poem even when we’re weary