The Last Gypsy of the Brennica

Here, young stranger, a speckled egg
of Carpathian granite, blooming with crystal,
stolen in my youth from the womb
of a Moldavian stream, said the old Gypsy
when he handed the riverstone to me.

Mill it—down to flour.
Fertilize it with this old man’s ash,
carry the meal up to Ram Mountain
and cast it out there. Like the Roma,
let the rain wash it to the Odra and the Wisła,
let that blend of stone and man
leaven the two waters
with the ashes of my love
and the soul of my mountains.

Let it ride the Wisła east, the Odra west,
Down through Silesia, past Krakow’s poet-tomb;
May it seal the wounds of my people,
Prussian and Pole, Czech and Jew—
children of the two veins together;
our dark blood never spill again
even to where the twin rivers spill
upon the northern sea.

© 2015 Kaweah

Jeffers in Big Sur

Some time back, Jean Widaman of the Tor House Foundation was organizing an outdoor event at the Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur, and she invited me—of all people—to contribute, so I committed several topical poems to memory for the May 17 event. I’d already had “Boats in a Fog,” “Night,” and others in my repertoire, but this was my first Big Sur event. Though things ran behind and I ran a bit slow and so wasn’t able to complete my segment, it went very well. I really got into the poems, and I felt as though I was nearly making love to the microphone (orally, of course). Jean had me repeat “Boats in a Fog,” I suppose as a sort of encore? I received a lot of good feedback. I even made a connection with a composer that might somehow score me a gig with the Monterey Symphony (as a narrator?)—welcome flattery for a quivering introvert like yours truly.

(small world)

The universe seems to be
Very big, and who’s to say
  it’s alone.

Somewhere out there,
  someone is just like you.

Somewhere out there,
Someone just like you
  is walking
With someone like me.

Maybe they aren’t that
  far from here.

© 2013–14 Kaweah

 

The Peace-Loving Elements

The cataract grinds away the granite
But water only wants to find a low place
And take the form of its container,
Conform to make its peace.

Earth falls too—
Crashes down on itself
Till the land is level,
At peace.

The wind blows savage over the plain,
Falls from ridge to trough and
The gradient is lost. No high, no low,
No sound but peace.

Fire comes, hungry,
willful, wild;
Thaws frozen seas, steams
Oceans and the rains fall, turns
Air against air and the winds sing;
Heaves continents, piles mountains up,
Sends the peace-loving elements off
to war.

© 2013-14 Kaweah

 

Suffocants

They breathe only what can be inhaled
from others. That is their way.

When you had no more air for them,
their memory of you was a bible.
They buried the book and mourned it
as you lay breathless, solitary,
according to their law.

They encircled their book,
emitting weeping sounds,
embalming it with rose water
and saline solution.

I stepped up secretly, discretely
pushed each one into the hole,
back after back, there not being faces.

The tomb was spacious
(The book was large).
The earth weighed heavily on the spade,
but it rested well upon them.

They have come to no harm, do not cry.
They lie there today,
sipping each other’s air.

© 2013–15 Kaweah

 

Meeting Minutes

A fool question, but a safe one,
he figures.

Wouldn’t want to give her
the wrong idea—or worse yet,
the right one.

“San Paulo,” she answers,
as if he were there, not lost
somewhere between the
eyes and mouth,
where it can be hard
to hear anything.

”That somewhere near
Ipanema?,” he wonders—aloud,
and she laughs, of course, and the heat
rushes to his face, and the colors
drain from the world,
and she smiles and the stars
draw arcs in the lunch-hour sky
‘round her hair, the breeze
blowing all the patio umbrellas
tumbling and laughing
to the sea, o mundo
sorrindo.

© 2013–15 Kaweah

 

The Stacks

I don’t recall how it began
I was asleep at the time
maybe long ago in a boy’s dream or some
half-remembered adventure
wandering again
through that vast and foreign city of childhood
that never once was the same
in so many days and dreams
maybe this time he’d lost someone
I don’t recall
Hearst Avenue or some such
boulevard    walking downward
a fenced park to his side    an iron gate
concrete path    neoclassic façade    the
pinkness of granite
the cherrywood doors    ajar
Stepping up    cold stone by stone
slipped with the night air    through the entryway
to the dark inside    a broad desk    a bronze reading lamp
too dim to penetrate the dense air and a woman
old white hair skin folded in ribbed shadows
in the green lamplight seated at the desk
stood and turned not seeing me    walked out from behind
the oak battlement    turned his way cocked her head to say
follow me patron and so he did    back to the stacks
the green lamplight remained    fading at our backs
her ancient wiry frame    hung a knee-length dress
black in the green light    vanished here and there
as she passed through the shadows of
the densely packed shelves
the knocking of her heels
echoed off the bindings and the floor
her bunned hair was black now in the dim light
the curve of her hips was complete
each leg in fullness but undressed
seeming to note my hesitation she turned back
she was young she was fruitful she
wore the old woman’s dress
but it embraced her now and her glasses had the same frames
but the glass was dark as the stacks    somehow I knew
I knew her from somewhere she stopped and turned and
she pulled a book off-shelf    handed it to him and
she leaned against the shelving and waited
I looked through the volume all the pages were naked
he looked up to her and showed her    two of the empty sheets
she turned away to the stack and reached up
lifting off her heels to her toes
dangerously drew out another volume
I could hardly make out the black silhouette of her face
her hair    her dress her calves in the crescent light
her bow-like length flush against the mass of bindings
she pulled the book down and I turned timidly as
she handed the book to him and
I handed the empty book back    only to find
the next book was empty    so
she led me down the slot canyon handing him
volume after volume of emptiness
sometimes the pages were fresh
white and glossy sometimes they were
yellowed and cracked with time and
the verdant librarian she led me
though the shadow to where the stacks ended at a wall
the shelves there empty    but for a single book
I could see this clearly    in the light of a naked bulb
that shone from high on the wall    I could see that
the librarian’s dress though black was not opaque
I could see her through it in the white light as she
handed him the lone book that he could not open
because of what I saw under the linen
some kind of writing
the script glowed dimly in the light in the black fabric
he reached for her collar and turned it out
there was writing
in some Latin form    there was another collar
under the collar    white and it too had writing and
he turned it over and I saw the deeper layers
and I licked his fingertips and he peeled back the sheets
back as the pages of her breast opened    a white rose
the petals turned silently    the words
incomprehensible and familiar
he dug through into her pages and I
listened to her breathing    clearly
and deeply
with every new page my hands tingle
to the touch of every silk petal
but the fingers begin to quake and stumble
and the pages slip out of their grasp
and the dreamer slips out of the dream
eyes fixed to the ceiling
we listen to the breathing

© 2013–14 Kaweah

 

Jeffers and Fire

Here’s the presentation that I delivered (in part, having run out of time) at the 20th conference of the Robinson Jeffers Association in Carmel, California on February 16, 2014. It might interest anyone into Robinson Jeffers, the Central Coast of California, fire, Moby-Dick, Heraclitus, Zoroastrianism, etc.

Fire as God in the Poetry of Robinson Jeffers

Several assertions are made:

  1. Jeffers was a fire poet,
  2. Jeffers’s fire-muse was the place that he lived, and
  3. Jeffers’s god was a god of fire.

Cape Horn

Strait_of_Magellan

Ahab found his madness
    pulling ‘round Cape Horn,
Bound down before his sirens—
    howling Odysseus,

There where the seas broke through
Hyper-extended America, twin
    imperialists
Who’d fain stretch themselves thin
    as Panama,
Pole to pole to barricade Magellanic
    man.

But Patagonia stretched too thin, and the waters
    broke the Andean spine,
and the cold blood poured through, pushed
    vertebrae out before it,
Warped Patagonia, Antarctica inward
like pincer-horns—a narrow funnel
For all the polar seas
And the southern gales to ride through;
Storms sliding down the Andes,
And beneath the wave crests:
    prowling icebergs,
    creeping coastal shallows.

Plenty bad with the Roaring Forties,
    Furious Fifties riding your back,
But a watery hell with them whistling
    ‘twixt your nostrils and teeth;

Twice dismasted the Garthwray
Before she finally turned about, sailed
‘round the world to reach Chile
    from Argentina;

And Magellan and Drake snuck through,
    lost half their ships,
But the Spanish, for their part, preferred
To cross the land and build new fleets
Than rip hull and sail
    on the Horn.

© 2014–15 Kaweah

 

Bonefield

Land of the Esselen

Land of the Esselen

Take the bodies of the land and the sea.
Grind them together for thirty million
    summers
and something’s bound to chip off.

Look. Not even the heart is left
    unscathed;
hunks of Sierran granite spilled
up and down the coast;
the continent’s bones scattered
across the exposed sea floor
from Bodega Head and Point Reyes in
    the north,
past the Farallons, Pinos and Lobos
down to that plutonic shard the Spanish
    named
“the South,” where you may have heard
an older people, beyond the cliff,
up the canyon, under the shadows
of the white peak, the red giants; who
spoke in ways foreign to their neighbors.

In that country, all was life,
everything thinking;
rock was memory, and nothing
was too inhuman
to have a name.

© 2014–15 Kaweah