Barcelona, 1970

Juanito strolls the Rambla.
it’s summer,
it’s long since,
it’s time immovable.

Off to the side
in the Plaza Real
there is music,
a guitar, a saxophone;

along the wide avenue,
some chairs, guarded
by pensioners,
lest a pittance slip by.

A dry sun bleaches dreams
caught in the haze
in the gaze of a young man
newly arrived,

spent of purpose.
A fly, suspended on a mote
of sunlight, hovers and
retreats half-heartedly.

Juanito strolls the Rambla,
the wide boulevard
depleted also, for 30 years,
of purpose.

And at the end,
in the Plaza de Cataluña,
only the pigeons remember the war
unless you count the people,

who remember only that
they stood staring,
the anarchists and the Guardia,
unwilling to fire the first shot

for hours.


We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.  ~ W. B. Yeats

This mirror is no help at all,
such a sludge of regret.

I used to think I was either divine
or pointless, cringed at the
occasional glimpse of ordinary,
that hint of sameness
lurking in the corner of my reflection.

This, God’s apple, was punishment enough
for the transgression of being.


A few weeks ago, I learned of the death of an old friend and colleague. He was a tumultuous man, difficult and contradictory, both principled and unscrupulous, brilliant and thick-headed, generous and vindictive in equal measures. In the end, he drove us all away, friend and foe alike, though some feelings for him remained. I wrote an obituary, then threw it away. They say dreams are for words unsaid and deeds undone. In such a dream last night, this elegy came to me.

Rest in peace? They must be joking.
When did you ever crave the thick, sweet
whine of peace?
I still see you, in the field,
booming, incredulous, lashing the storm
for its impudence.

Sail well, my friend.
Stay in the rain.
Stay in the wind.
Steer your fragile barque
into the beckoning wild.

Autumn falling

In abrupt autumn
one sees much of expectation
wither and dissipate
as if never taken seriously,

as if intentions of good will
and promises of productive labor,
— all leaving of self in favor of virtue —
gone like a good but tardy
glacier, dim and dry,
parsed to the death.

What remains is that wispy thread,
barely traceable, but more real and reliable
than all the will gathered in all the
small rooms and resolutions of change,

the thread that runs umbilical,
winding though good or ill,
tying together all the disparate selves
pasted together in the course of a life.

In this suddenly strange autumn,
in this fall, it is the unreality
that glows, beacon-like,
though, in the end, what you remember
is that carnal you,
that piece of protoplasmic geometry.

And you ask yourself, is that me?
And yet, there is memory, inconstant,
but persistently convincing.

I understand the consciousness of others,
the subjectivity of their being,
but not my own,
not my own.