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Wednesday 29 April 2009


The happiness promised in names like Lord's
Valley and Wind Gap recedes like the fading
Of a rainbow, yet hope walks in anyway,
Where there's life she's there--nature's utopian
Possibility remains part of the scheme
As long as there's a breeze to blow the past away.

Study of Sorrel, Cow Parsley and Willow Saplings: Peter De Wint, 1805-1810 (Whitworth Art Gallery)

A Une Jeune Fille

You might fill empty futures with your raging

Power. Everything is possible.

The story has not yet begun yet promises

Much. Having glimpsed the magic ring

On the captive's finger, the bright-eyed heroine

Might turn out to be you, making your way

Up mountains of difficulty to shining

Temples in which is kept alive that flame

Of truth which burns at the heart of the ark

Of the covenant of being you.

You might, in the forest, hear that falling tree.

You're young, you want to be free, but aren't yet.

You might walk the cow, ride the rocket ship.

You might book the flight, then jump out of the plane.

You might meet a boy named X. He might say

You don't know me, nor do I know you.

Portrait of a Young Venetian Woman: Albrecht Dürer, 1505 (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)

Heinrike Dannecker: Christian Gottlieb Shick, 1802 (Nationalgalerie, Berlin)

Tuesday 28 April 2009

Under the Fortune Palms


File:Henri Rousseau - The Flamingoes.jpg

Some people think meanings are hard to find
In the 1980’s decade of great emptiness
Among the bungalows of Samarkand
I stood under the fortune palms
And watched for a sign to blow by
In the throbbing Santa Ana
But all that came my way
Was the remote echo of a woman’s voice
From down around Xanadu Street
Calling for her dog to stay

The Flamingoes: Henri Rousseau, 1907 (private collection)

In the Shadow of the Mission

Santa Barbara Mission

The sun dies into pink smog off Goleta
and over toward Point Conception
the violet reptiles of the night
begin to slide across the sky
like pieces of neon tubing.

The building blocks of a superior logic
seem to slip into place
with a quiet authority. The moon comes up.
There is a small click. It is evening.

It is of course the protected
evening of the very rich
who do not like to lean
into the wind. They stand, the pair
beyond the camphor tree on Laguna Street
bathing in its fragrance. Two old ladies.
Perhaps they are not very rich after all.
It may be just the blue hair that fooled me.

It may have been the failing light.
It may have been the falling rose-colored
flowers of the pink flame tree,
or pieces of their pods,
which are covered with rusty wool,
that fell through the air
and affected my vision.

It may have been the pollen in the air,
the fluffy cotton heads which have
just burst from the floss-silk trees,
or floating strands of the dark
hair-like fibers that are
shed by the fortune palms
whenever the breeze arises.

Santa Barbara Mission: Gilbert Arthur Hill, 1924

Off Goleta

Suddenly on the Mission lawn
A guy tosses a frisbee catching sun glints
Into the vermilion jaws of dusk
While above the frayed palms
A great sherry party takes place in the western sky
With catering by Giambattista Tiepolo
Eternity is in that moment
As if the sun were going down over Venice
And there one stood, maestro di pintore,
Calculating the finishing touches
Instead of only off Goleta

The Wind (detail): Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, 1746-47 (fresco at Palazzo Labia, Venice)

The Class Doesn't Struggle Anymore

Acres of verdant grounds for croquet or leisurely putting

Why is it so unsurprising that
the little man in the white coat
who drives the small motorized cart
across the manicured putting green
that grows like crushed money
between the bungalows of the Biltmore
doesn’t appear to enjoy the acquaintance
of the thin old man in the Italian sweater
who emerges from one of the bungalows
tugged along by a tiny expensive dog?

The acclaimed Spa, perfumed by breezes from the rose garden

Biltmore Hotel, Santa Barbara

Monday 27 April 2009


I saw the busy street you crossed the last time I saw you
As the river of time, carrying you away forever.
Your pale coat swirled like a leaf in the current
In the crowd of anonymous bodies hurrying back to work.

I turned around and started to walk in the other direction
But because of the tears in my eyes I failed to see a dentist
Standing outside the entrance to his office and collided with him
Knocking him down.

Man ejected from Rooftop Club: Sam Cobean, The New Yorker, Feb. 11, 1950

Man ejected from bar
: Sam Cobean, The New Yorker, Oct. 8, 1949


File:Angelica archangelica spring.jpg

for Angelica

Old clichés finally speaking untold volumes,
“Getting on in years,” that comedy without laughter,
Drifting through the fitful intervals in
Which insomnia presages a dull oblivion,
Half dozing, I am awakened suddenly
By the sharpness of the aromatic root
In your name, which has your fragrance in it,
Like a flower pressed between the pages
Of a book put aside long ago, and reopened
At the beginning of the unread final chapter.

File:Angelica archangelica - Jardin des Plantes de Paris.JPG

Angelica archangelica, spring (Western Slovakia): photo by Doronenko, 2007

Angelica archangelica (Jardin des Plantes de Paris): photo by Daderot, 2008



As a child, I had a running commentary in my head when I was playing. It wasn't really my voice... When you step on the field, you can hear the presence of the crowd. There is sound--the sound of noise. When you are immersed in the game you don't really hear the crowd. You can almost decide for yourself what you want to hear. You are never alone. I can hear someone shift around in their chair. I can hear someone coughing. I can hear someone whispering in the ear of someone next to them. I can imagine that I hear the ticking of a watch.

File:Zinedine zidane wcf 2006-edit.jpg

ext: from Zidane: A Twenty-First Century Portrait, 2006
Zidane and Cannavaro
: Tom Clark, 2000
Zinedine Zidane, World Cup final, July 9, 2006: photo by David Ruddell, 2006



File:Schiele - Sonnenblumen 2.jpg

A clear night sky steeped in blue and green starlight
Hollow and deep as a huge sea shell flushed from within
And reddening as the rising god once again commands
The drowsy sunflowers to lift their heads and open their black eyes

Teaches us how the world begins all over the earth
How to greet one another in language beyond words
To depart unconcerned with any idea of return and perhaps
To at last begin to speak without not thinking

File:Schiele - Sonnenblumen - 1911.jpg

Sonnenblumen: Egon Schiele, 1911

Saturday 25 April 2009

Les Etoiles


Orion Nebula (M42 / NGC 1976)
: image made in 2006 from Hubble Space Telescope observations taken between 2004 and 2005 (NASA / ESA / M. Robberto and the Hubble Space Telescope Orion Treasury Project Team)

These globes of gold, islands of light,
sought by the eye in dreams,
flash up from fugitive shadow
glittering dust on the roads of night,

and the breath of evening dying

blows them away

Heliosheath in Orion Nebula: Hubble Telescope image, 2006 (NASA / ESA)

The Lyric


The Hay-Wain: John Constable, 1821 (National Gallery of Art)

lament, sorrow and wild
joy commingle in

the lyric -– a collective
sigh of relief comes cascading
out of the blue –-

a yearning to submerge
in life like the swimmer
in the pool forgetful

immersed and quenched –-
as though in the same stroke
everyone alive were speaking through you –-

a promissory blessing -- might come true --

from Breakfast Comix 1: Tom Raworth


As the Human Village Prepares for Its Fate


While everything external
dies away in the far off
echo of the soul
still there’s a mill wheel turning
it is like a good
kind of tiredness in
the moment before sleep
by some distant stream

a note of peace
in a life which
will never be peaceful
as the daylight fades
the dream disintegrates
but the shadow holds
no power
over what’s about to happen

Flatford Mill: John Constable, 1817 (Tate Gallery)

"The sound of water escaping from mill dams, willows, old rotten planks, slimy posts and brickwork, I love such things."



from Breakfast Comix 1: Tom Raworth

Of this house I know the backwindow
lodges six housesparrows in the bricks

Under the sill, and they are the birds
scour these roofs all winter for warmth

Or whatever. Two are arguing now
for a few inches of position on a cornice.

How the mind moves out and lights on things
when the I is only a glass for seeing:

I stand at the window

Setting down each bird, roof, chimney
as the boundaries of the neighborhood they make.

I have on an old blue jersey.
Every two hours I wipe off my glasses.


Day Detail--Low Light of Afternoon


Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) monarch-butterfly_2 by mikebaird.

Pleasant northeast wind, two monarch
butterflies being idly blown
through the ivy -- airplane sounds,
traffic sounds, sounds of someone
hammering. Being, idly blown
from star to star on a spore
makes it across all that nothing
just to have a home, like the boll
weevil in the Leadbelly song,
just to keep from lying down alone.

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) 2: photo by Mike Baird, 2007


Thursday 23 April 2009

Last Chance


The Falling Man
: photo by Richard Drew for Associated Press, Sept. 11, 2001

How fine things were in the morning of the world,
Said the jumper from the tall building, halfway down,
To himself. You must change your life. Then he woke
Into the cold dark morning that is,
Shocked by the familiar impact
Of reality, that joke that is always
On the one who attempts to tell it,
Once more having failed to change his life.

So Long


File:Bellows George Dempsey and Firpo 1924.jpg
Dempsey and Firpo: George Bellows, 1924

Life with its heart down on its hands and knees
Has wasted so much time and lost
90% of the big ones for so long it’s not
Worth it, no, I don’t care what you say
Said the champion

File:Taking the count thomas eakins.jpeg

Taking the Count: Thomas Eakins, 1898


Little Bang



The night was hot and heavy and a hazed arc
Flared from the dark rising lamp city
The way a star might ignite above the banks
Of some unlit river, wasting on objects
More revelation than they are worth
To those who dwell and toil amid the ruins

At the witching hour, now, there’s little bang
Left to shrink from, nothing much, just these same blank
Vistas, all lost, receding, much as the man
On the Jupiter mission got littler
And littler, so too we, older, grow closer
To other spheres than to that earth we recall

File:Mel 111.jpg

Big Bang: NASA animation conceptualizing the beginnings of the universe
Mel 111, open cluster in Coma Berenices: astronomical simulation by Roberto Mura


Little Hymn to Athene


Pallas Athene: Parmigianino, c. 1539 (Royal Collection, Windsor)

This morning
post storm sky
the world got a good wash
now the sea green
depths conceal a cold
and clean heaven
that by remaining
(thus hidden) mimics
your austerity flags
coming out of the bath
before your epheboi
me a dim votary
(burnt out bulb)
standing under
the cold shower of
your cosmic aspect

File:Douriscup 83d40m Athene aegisWingedLionessOwl pythonVomitsJason fleeceInTree Vatican.jpg

Athene Winged Lioness Owl with Python Regurgitating Jason: Etrurian red-figured cup, c. 480-470 BC (Vatican Museum)

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Friedrich's Dream


File:Caspar David Friedrich 007.jpg

Das grosse Gehege (Ostra-Gehege) (The large enclosure)
: Caspar David Friedrich, 1832 (Gemäldegalerie, Dresden)

Caspar David Friedrich's
technique of gathering
empty pastures of light
saturated with a kind
of melancholy radiation
on the middle of his canvases
came to him in a dream

When he worked
at painting a sky
no one was permitted
to enter his studio
because he believed
God was present

Eternity Time Share Rebus


He is reclining like a river god on a rock
She is plucking a sweet olive branch from the moon palace
There is none of that sharp outline we think of as reality
A breeze drives wisps of fog across the pale moon
Like a thin wash of gray water color bleeding
Down into flat-topped fortune-telling plane trees
The joyous body chemistry bubble of youth
Breaks and we free-fall through the leaves
And when we land he is still reclining like a river god
And she is still waiting on the moon palace stairs

Yangtzi River (provenance unknown)
Poem Written in a Boat on the Wu River
: Northern Song Dynasty, China (1592-1652)



For David by raworth.
Heron 3: photo by Tom Raworth, 2008

Drowsiness, identity drifting,
some kind of white

flower seen through isinglass,
stupor, bliss,

the moment before sleep
as the foretaste of the moment

before death -– experience
of space receding, forgetfulness,

fate a self held mesh
in time like dust in a net

through which breath sifts with
the same kind of wet thin

cloth to skin feeling
as of gauze or muslin



Dancing cloud guy by johnstodder.

distrusts all pasts
conditionals and perfects
future continuous too

fallibility of memory, senses
history is compound
of minute particles, questions
whether event exists
if unrecorded, hears noise

of one small plane
passing over rather high up
gradually diminishing into nothing,



Lucky dancing guy: Anza Borrego: photo by John Stoddard, 2004


Talk Gets Old


We have to do the best we can
That is our sacred human responsibility
Said Einstein to the gorilla
Who yawned and smiled patiently once again

File:Male silverback Gorilla.JPG

Sunday 19 April 2009

Paper People


Polite people of the future
I see you wearing paper dresses
Living in paper houses
And flying on paper planes

I hope you know how to read this

Doodles from Breakfast Comix 5: Breakfast with Millie: Tom Raworth

The Nelsons in San Roque


San Roque hub: photo by John Wiley, 28 May 2010

Those bungalows of San Roque
so perfect yet oddly sad
(“a little wood & stucco
to keep the sun out”)
always remind me of
where the Nelson family lived
way back in the days of Hi Oz
Hi Pop Hi Rick Hi David.

Everybody in that family was Okay
every day for a whole decade.
And when Ricky turned out to be
a low rider, it was still okay.
And that’s the way it is today
among the petticoat palms
of Calle Noguera
and Puesta del Sol.

You can’t rain on the parade
of the petit bourgeois
because it doesn’t have one
except at Fiesta
when rain’s against the law.

Ricky, Harriet, David and Ozzie Nelson
: photographer unknown, n.d.
via lost in transmission

Dave, Rick and Harriet

David, Ricky and Harriet Nelson
: photographer unknown, n.d.

Lauro Canyon Reservoir and upper San Roque
: photo by John Wiley, 18 April 2011

The Muses' Exodus


Tholos, base of Mt. Parnassus, Delphi

Out of the fading morning fog, in
A powdery blue day
The soft forms moving in the dream
Deep, there, out of the rocks, by the spring
Where the oracle waits with pressed lips
Under the boughs of the oak

Out of the fading morning fog, in a powdery blue day
Under the bays of the oak and the laurel
One can almost imagine the soft forms moving
Through the obscurity of the dream
To a hype that insinuates like music from a zither
Deep there, out of the rocks, by the spring
Where the oracle waits with lips pressed
Almost as tight as the drawer of the cashbox

The swishing of the garments of the departing
Muses, through the receding fog

File:Delphi tempel.JPG

Temple of Apollo, Delphi

Light Sleeper


As all the ballast of familiar life
Floated away from the hot air balloon
That was taking me in far-travelling mood
Over vast still mountains once glimpsed in dreams
I felt my foolishness in the domain
Of the air like a kind of punctuation
Applied to a page before a word’s written
By that great Friend who, scattered everywhere
In the universe, seems to piece together
The floorplans of the endarkened rooms
Of this great city by negative design
Until the shapes before my eyes became
Obscure as all those lost relationships,
As all the ballast of familiar life

Doodles from Breakfast Comix 11: Breakfast with Jared: Tom Raworth

The Big Cigars


The Death of Socrates: Jacques-Louis David, 1787 (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

It’s both never and always a work day for me
I work every day and never get paid
This and putting my pants on one leg at a time
Are two things I have in common with the great geniuses
Nikola Tesla, Socrates, Rimbaud
The real heavies of the universe, the big cigars

File:Carjat Arthur Rimbaud 1872 n2.jpg

Nikola Tesla, 1896
Arthur Rimbaud, 1872