The music we call classical,
I learned as a child playing piano,
symphonic and chamber music
with broad rectangular sound,
bound in a green bookseller.
Symphonic music was music
that could live because it was full
of loneliness and secret handiwork,
stories we are drawn to on a Sunday afternoon.
I would sit hard at work on my symphony,
in order to acquire it into my soul.
I was allowed to in the same way
I was allowed to mark up my score,
or to modify the tempo and dynamics at will.

Posted in My poetry, Poem Form, Poem of the day

Reading Philosophy At Night



Now I read philosophy in the morning.
When I was younger and lived in the city,
it was always at night. That’s how
you’ll ruin your eyes, my mother
kept saying to me. I sat and read
late into the night. The quieter
it got, the more clearheaded
I became — or so it seemed to me.
In a sparsely furnished room
above a store, I would be struggling
with some intricate, philosophical argument
that promised a magnificent insight
or conclusion. I could sense it
with my whole being. I couldn’t
put the book away. I had to be at work
in the morning. Even if I had tried to sleep,
my head would be full of Kant
or can. So I wouldn’t sleep.
At some point, I’d make that decision.
I’d be sitting there with the open book,
my face reflected dimly in the windowpane,
the great city all around grown quiet.
I was watching myself watch myself.
A very strange experience.


The first time I stayed up all night reading,
I was twenty. It was six o’clock in the morning.
It was winter. It was dark and very cold.
I was in Chicago riding the subway into work,
seated in between two heavy, bundled-up old women.
The train was overhead, but each time the door opened
at one of the elevated platforms, a blast of cold air
sent shivers through us. The lights, too, kept flickering.
As the train changed tracks, the lights would go out
for a moment, and I would stop reading the history
of philosophy. Why is there something, rather than nothing,
the book asked. It was as if my eyes were opened.
I kept looking at my fellow passengers. How incredible
all of us exist here together.

Posted in My poetry, Poem of the day, Weird Poetry


It would be strange,
knowing it can’t last forever,
a certain voice telling us
nothing will change.

And remembering too —
because by then there will be no doorway,
and how we wasted time
will come through.

The weather turns,
and the air becomes unbearably heavy,
and unbearably heavy
we turn to stone.

How strange
that we are never suspected,
it is something like summer, that the nights are warmer
and that clouds sometimes glow.

When we will not change,
something comes along to change us,
and who is left to finish,
I do not know.

Something is trying,
to know just what it is
in my life
would not go wrong.

Posted in Art, Biography, My poetry, Personal, Poem Form, Poem of the day

Memory Piano

Memory Piano

The year is 1932. I’m thirteen years old
and sitting in a nearby movie theater.
Preparations are being made outside
for the parade. Huge picture faces
of the movie stars are flashing
on the screen. I’ve skipped school
and anxious I might run into someone
who will tell my mother. The theater
is an old one smelling of stale
tobacco smoke. It has wooden seats
that creak at the slightest change
of position. I’ve seen a rat there
once run across the stage. I know
nothing about the movie except
that is has an intriguing title.
I don’t recognize the names
of the actors or the director.
But as everyone knows,
we sometimes fall in love
with a movie from the first image.

The Image Hunter

It’s early morning in some American city,
over the low rooftops of a row of commercial
buildings I can see a bridge, and in the distance
a blurred dog. The camera angle is very odd.
It’s as if someone is holding it up.
A car passes the dog with its radio
blasting. Next we see a tall man
with a hat on and the brim pulled
over his eyes. The camera follows
him into a luncheonette. A hunchback
is seated at the counter. He’s reading
the newspaper and looking like a tough
stranger. At that moment, another hunchback
walks in and asks what time it is.

The Mystery Of Presence

I have seen American movies before —
westerns, musicals, costume dramas,
comedies, even a few tearjerkers
with Joan Crawford and Bette Davis,
but I never wanted one of them to end
as much as I wanted this one too. What gripped me
wasn’t so much the film but the desolate streets
with their elongated shadows, the windows
with their slatted blinds, the cracked
pavements, the stained walls, and the feel
of danger everywhere. All cities overlap.
American movies about rural small town life
scare me more than Frankenstein films.
I prefer trash-strewn subways, tenements
with fire escapes, children
playing baseball in the street,
tough guys in nightclubs,
and downtown walks on a Saturday night.

You Can’t Keep A Good Sonnet Down

This movie was lost on me because of the subtitles,
but I remember a woman saying to me once
that the night sounded like a soul in hell.
I usually hurried off after I saw a movie
to tell my friends about it. But I found myself
at a loss for words about this one. I had no
vocabulary to explain how people who had been
so photographed in the most ordinary moments
could be so real, how the camera framed their faces
and seemed so close they were alive. When I tried
to describe that, people had no idea what
I was talking about, or why. And neither
did I. I was trying to explain how the film
viewed the characters. These ordinary folks
trying to make a living. I was confronted
by the movie’s underlying message:
there is no getting around bad luck.
After we run out of money for the jukebox,
we drop a handful of coins on the table
and watch the pretty girl walk away.

Divine, Superfluous Beauty

Going over the scene in my mind,
America becomes a real place for me.
When I arrive in New York three years later
on a hot afternoon in August, not only the skyline
but the city with its traffic and crowds
seems so familiar to me. Once the night falls,
and we take a walk in the emptying midtown streets,
the movie I saw comes back to me. And what happened
to me at the end. The moment I left midtown and drifted
a few blocks east or west. One found crowded
tenements where old people took out their chairs,
and children played on the streets. Right before
my eyes was that intangible thing I could not name,
divine, superfluous beauty. When it came to big truths,
that part of my life had been settled for me.
But the little truths I was still struggling with.

Posted in My poetry, Poem of the day, Weird Poetry

Unattainable Earth

I’d like to see lost objects —
avalanches of gloves,
coats, suitcases, umbrellas
return again. The garage
I took all summer
to clean out become on opera
of odd combs and safety pins.
Some string I missed having
that still climbs Jacob’s ladder —
and says at last, I missed you.
Downpours of instruction manuals
rain down on my lost watch,
and two toy balloons
once kidnapped by the wind.

Posted in Poem of the day, Weird Poetry

Where It Sounds Like It’s Raining

It isn’t the body
that’s a stranger,
it’s someone else.

We poke the same
ugly mug
at the world.
When I scratch,
he searches too.

There are women
who claim to have held him.
A dog follows him about,
that claims to be his.

If they are quiet,
he is quieter.
If they forget him,
he forgets too.
If he ties his shoelace,
they always notice.

I’d like to say,
“He was in the beginning,
he’ll be there in the end.”
And have it be true.

At night,
as I sit
shuffling the cards,
I say to him,

“Though you listen
to every one of my words,
you are a stranger,
to each person I speak.”

Posted in Poem of the day, Weird Poetry

Miss Drake Proceeds To Supper

No novice
in these elaborate rituals
of knotted table and crooked chair,
the new woman in the ward
wears purple, steps carefully
among her secret combination of eggshells,
and white china wood doves,
practicing her art.

With bird-eye quickness,
she can see in the nick of time
how perilous needles grain the floorboards
and try to outwit her plans.

Posted in My poetry, Poem of the day, Weird Poetry