Sunday, November 15, 2009

Ode to a Professor of Electrical Engineering

This video and poem are from about 3 1/2 years ago, and were just discovered in the bowels of the internet!

This is the infamous poetry booth that my dear friend Miriam Hall and I ran for three years at the Willy Street Fair in Madison Wisconsin (kudos to Natalie Goldberg for the idea), and that Miriam now continues with the help of her writing students.

The poetry booth operated in the following manner: folks would give us a topic (any topic, as this poem illustrates), pay us $1, we'd write a poem on the spot, as fast as we could, then read it aloud to them and give it away. It was a powerful practice in dealing with creative resistance, stage fright, and generosity.

I've been contacted by several people over the years who I'd written poems for, including a radio producer who invited Miriam and I to read on his show, a friend who paid me (a lot more than $1 this time) to write him another spontaneous poem, and others - but never anything like this! I have no idea who the man is that took this video and crowned me poet laureate of the Willy Street Fair, but thank you for making my day!

Sunday, November 8, 2009



White music before
I was born.

I never see the sun
go down.

Once it slips below
the thin line of horizon

it settles within my body -
glowing, empty.


To know the moon
you must learn the taste
of your own tongue.

To know the ocean
you must give birth
a thousand times, and still
admit you know nothing.

To know the wind
you must embrace all
your cycles - going, going, going...



You're quick and barefoot
don't have the patience
for sunrise

haul yourself up
the steep legs of mountains

compete for the slender green
accomplishment of grass.


In June, you are
a gravestone

the breeze goes
right through your heart.

For everyone
you hold the solemnity
of all things.


Ripped sleeve on the tight
edge you walk
toes pointed to touch

You taught yourself
how to dance despite
the hut you grew up in

taught yourself to sing
in a bowl that held tears.


I am running through
multitudes of goodness
grass higher than Tokyo
insects my playmates

giving me the music
that flashes green
after the sun has hidden itself
behind the hills.



Shh - the moth is kissing
the screen
with its whole body.

The candle touches the curves
of my bare shoulders
with its light.

I ease music from
the aching piano
the whole warm night
to each breath.


Your tongue
is the tongue of the irises -
licking, purple, shallow.

Your hands curve
to cup the places where
our stems grew once
out of the rich, salty earth

shaking with joy.


Rumor has it you'll
burn me, you'll burn
bright as a pack of firecrackers

set off all at once
on the slick wetness of blacktop
after the rain has passed.

In the deafness of explosion
the space that lies between us
is too thick and red
to touch.


Rust came off in
my hands, the pushed gate
opening the valley.

The grass grew over
my sneakers, the truths
of childhood buried
in the low red heartbreak
of afternoon.



Mother - your soup hands
all day making

your bread hands all
night undoing

Your morning hands
opening space I could
fly into -
a cloud or a kiss.


Don't try to find me
in the field of childhood.
After dark, the butterfly
will come for me
gliding on the light
of its yellow wings,
gently touching the place
I am lost.


In the dark of heaven
we lay together breathing
pine smells, grass smells.
The easy dark after sunset
like many hands
opening us
showing us where
we belonged.


Oh the village
where I was always busy
as an orange

beyond the sweetness
of bread and twilight

after forgetfulness,
before death.



After you finish telling me
what I feel
my heart is locked.
My mouth tastes lemons.

Under the equanimity
of the moon's soft face
my garden continues
to grow.


I must be clear as dawn
clear as throat
clear as ice
to be a mirror for you,
shadowing the lake.
I must be something dark enough
to keep unfolding.


My fingers frost
at the cold's first

your message lost
in the heat of my breath.

Earth is where I could
be sane
if I felt my heart.


No - the snowfall is black.
The park where I thought I was
is gone.
The blanket of defense
is smothering.