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Up fast the Eastern coast,

On the backs of white-horse waves,

Rides the wind.

A wind that still does not know that Lycidas is dead.

A wind that stirred in passing

The river in Siddhartha’s reflection.

A monomaniacal wind,

Whose only concern is spring,

And not the arrangement of stars.

 

 

MONARCHS

 

The monk’s robes were ochre and saffron,

Like the markings of the monarch butterfly.

He traveled from his monastery to teach us

Of our Buddha nature to be happy,

That we are designed to travel through this world without worry,

Like every fourth generation of monarchs born on the vast migration south;

The generation that winters in Mexico, and then flies north,

With just enough strength to lay their eggs

Before the ravens eat them.

What we have to acknowledge, smiled the monk,

Is that it is the butterfly’s nature to continue its line,

Just as it is the raven’s to turn that chip of beauty into its squawk.

Remember, he said, the raven is the world’s largest songbird.

The trick is to think of its ‘cras’ as a beautiful song,

Even if you are the butterfly.

 

This I understand perfectly.

It’s like finding the perfect term for the level of despair

Which stories like this engender.

There’s a kind of joy in that.

 

WOODSTOCK NATION

 

I find myself nostalgic for the revolution,

For those heady days,

When we sacrificed ourselves by singing nasal songs of fraternity and liberty,

With the same intensity we sang of a Mojo hand,

And with the same level of understanding;

When we sat on the steps of the university’s science hall,

Preventing janitors from washing our graffiti off the men’s room walls.

We were high on the idea of distributing other people’s wealth.

We passed around the water pipe

With the hash that we couldn’t keep lit,

I, with my three chords on a cheap guitar,

And you on your tambourine.

Each night believing that the right words in the right order

Could wipe out war and poverty.

 

Now I know that it wasn’t our fault that the revolution succeeded.

Our singing was insipid and flat.

Smoking dope never saved the world.

 

But still we won.

As proof, see how well-fed we are.

How fat, how lazy.

We’re so tired we couldn’t wave a flag,

Even if we could find a reason to.

Yes, we’re all brothers now, free to twaddle off to Wal-Mart,

Where the aisles are extra wide for our fat asses.

We watch movies that go from scenes of violence to awkward sex,

As if we handle our weapons with more assurance

Than our genitals.

 

Yes, the Revolution was a grand success.

We protested for the education of children

Who now choose not to read.

We petitioned for a living wage,

So that our grandchildren could buy a tivo for each room of their mobile homes.

 

We planted gardens of flowers to place in the barrels of rifles,

But the manufacturers of those rifles now subsidize our retirements.

So, instead, we tend those beds to attract butterflies,

Reassuring ourselves that we changed the world,

As the tunes from our youth,

Downloaded now on our i-pods,

Promised we would so long ago.

 

MOONRISE OVER HERNANDEZ

 

Once the lie of love is confessed

To be as imaginary as the weight of the soul,

Only art is left.

 

This beautiful January moonrise

Extends me to Ansel Adams

And his print of New Mexico.

For this instant, 
I stand within him,

Seeing what he saw of that night.

The little repeating crosses, the only signs of men,

The angles of houses mimicking the distant mountains,

And beyond them, the twilit clouds,

All in tide to the moon.

Like him, I disregard the other millions of moments

Of failed light and intrusive folk,

That weren’t worth the keeping.

 

With a poor ear and indifference to counting syllables,

Because perfect scansion is like the repeating barbs in barbed wire,

And rhyme the posts they’re nailed to,

I cobble my poems together with patterns,

Like tiny crosses, adobe churches, and wells of shadows.

My poems are meant to be read silently,

So that even a lisp or a stutter won’t matter.

I confess they are little more than prose passing itself off as poetry.

A pose, if you will.

But they are the best I can do with this ordinary night in 1941,

As seen from my darkened upstairs window on the right.