Many weeks ago I accepted an assignment from Jane and Werner to write a preface for this excitingly good collection of poems of theirs, A Film of Words, then promptly went 98% comatose. I think I may have had some kind of virus. Result: I never got around to the preface, and when Jane e-mailed me she and Werner wouldn't hold it against me if I opted out of my agreement to write it, I took the offer.
A few hours later, I had the main idea for this poem below, which I hope will partially make up for the missing preface. It's one of my long division poems. It asks how many times "Werner" goes into the graphic featuring the words, "UFO," on top of the repeated instances of "renga.” This graphic represents my first impression of what Jane and Werner are doing in this book: i.e., thrusting UFO's into the middle of innocent-seeming renga. According to my long division poem, they are doing this by multiplying each other –collaborating maximally, in other words. Jane times Werner yields the poem-within-the-poem with the line (from Jane) about the well (and a negative image of a part of a graphic by Werner). But there is an important remainder: in order for the poem-within-the-poem to equal the UFO-renga, those reading it have to trip beyond a simple reading experience into full sightedness. Which I claim all the poems in this collection will get them to do –with the greatest of pleasure! Bob Grumman
MESSAGES FROM MARS
Excerpted from the
Santa Rosa Repressed Democrat,
May 30, 2008
Point Arena –
On Sunday night residents six miles south of Point Arena noticed a glowing object in the sky. As they watched it got larger and larger and brighter.
It seemed to be headed for the hills just above Saunders Reef. Suddenly the light fog was completely illuminated with a clear white light. Persons closest to the area reported hearing a humming or buzzing noise – some said it was as if the air was vibrating.
Dogs began to howl, not unusual in this area, but cats and quail all ran into hiding. Some neighbors called each other to confirm what they had seen and others called 911.
By the time the sheriff’s deputy arrived on the scene everything was quiet and he found nothing on the hillside except the Indian ponies, normally there, were standing at attention facing inward in a circle. The lawmen saw no lights or anything unusual and claimed there was no buzzing sound.
You know, being the postmaster at Cape Canaveral; just got the message that we’ll probably soon coming up with new kinds of electromagnetic missile-mail stamps.
What will be the design like – and the price?
It’s all set up in nano-technique. You gotta get to be clear that there will be no more clerks to chatter with. As soon as you put your mail in the box, then it reads the sender’s and addressee’s names and cashes the postage in from your bank account. The “picture” you asked for will become a sort of rudimentary imagination, left over from times when functional art in the US was a truly desired subject.
Well, the price of postage depends on how much you avoid critique on the government. Naturally, the good news is that some mail will be for free, but other messages may coast you both, arms and legs, Love.
So we’ll expect lots of recycled limps for fuel? You certainly are deep into contemporary thinking, Adie. The “recyclomat” could be placed beside the gas station and the new six-cylinder engines will run as clean as perfumed armpits.
By the way, what will be the situation at the Mars or at other planets out to get in contact with us? You know, the name Mars goes back to the well respected god of business –
beyond all doubt
two loved gardens with music
deep stellar years
narrating the island of sirens
the squaredness of a CD
power to take hold where
god surmounts the animals
muts with olives in their blood
we knew light
ripened in eyes glowing
in which down low
holds the surge of the chest
in a twist of loin's blindness
toward the slight
otherwise stone of procreation
glistening fur bursts forth
contours of no place like stars
wind of her brow
unruffled swift beast shapes
a garment of breasts
change fixed on the farthest point
stormed with the nymph-hunting dogs
There are problems, because each message will be censored and arrive with the warning “don’t open, several viruses found in this message,” and sure, the clever god’s organism out there won’t like to go along with such little bugging guys. We’ll work on it; let the Congress investigate the suspicious subjects where there is no answer yet.
Later that night one person reported a change in the sound and then shortly afterwards an oval of small red lights went west over the ocean and away from the land.
By daylight an area of the pasture was found scorched in a circle of about 100 feet in diameter. Downhill from the circle was a scraped place where something heavy had been dragged with enough force to remove the earth down to bedrock.
The military was contacted and they claim they have no evidence of an unidentified object entering or leaving the coastal airspace on that day. Government officials suggest the phenomena occurred due to the abnormality of the slightly foggy conditions on the coast and its residents.
Jane Reichhold as Bring
Werner Reichhold as Expansion
Scene: Fifth Avenue, New York, the office for distribution of hunting guns. Afternoon, inflation 2008, “Fannie May” up for grab, endless spare time, endless?
As a thorough-going researcher under the skin of my cat’s neck hair, I’m watching his long look telling me:
I’m a Bengal green eyes at Nirvana and here a tick
Yes man, you’re touching it – now go get it” And breathing in deeply, his lungs and stomach are swelling – well, does he want to signal other troubling experiences, I, a lazy guy, should take care of?
BRING: In a desire to bring care and caring to one being, you are put into the position of bringing death to a life form that wants desperately to live. Not only live, but one that want to nourish her unborn children lying as eggs in her belly.
it understands itself through us if we come back
with discourses on nature during childhood and
early bardo between male and female life and death
surely we would still feel this was the Great Love
North/South, East/West we explored. Now lets look at the virtual net, 3-dimensional plus sound – do you see a forth dimension glowing, begging, seducing, to lead astray? temptress go ahead I listen. . .
BRING: Who knew we would get information through the ends of our fingers? With only the movement of knuckles and wrists the whole world opens before us. And we thought the age of miracles was past.
another transformation of the psyche though
into the fairy tale's view, some call it rapture
would be pleasant of you in my mind to be so
someone who stands by her shut in the heart
The secretary, like always gives her thoughts for numbers wings – right, loaded with imaginations, leaving the sky scrapers’ barely functional air-conditioned prison. Hot, no ladder. Fun or obligation – do we trust the news?
Dadalus do you try again waxed wings
BRING: What brings love to us, you might ask. A pill? That is not love but simple lust. Proximity? How many people near to us do we not even lick or like? Yet what is that definite twist the heart makes when you simply hear the name of one you love? Who put that ability to leap into your body?
The strangeness is really just a stillness where I am
waiting to release the proverbial birds into my body
the clouds were solid like mountains in the dream
I was taken away from the building in a sort of haze
when I first met K and she kept saying satisfy
in a month I had memorized much of both centuries
Night. Dreams come unmasked actively working. A comet passes by. In its ice ball the dust illuminated. Where to go with, why?
BRING: I went on vacation to get away from it all and found I was followed by dangerous steps, dirty windows, and toilets that would not flush away the memories of childhood rewritten into horror stories. Persons I did not know came out of my past to stand in the remote country grocery store and stare at me when I was barefoot in a ragged dress made from feedbags. I am old, as old as a comet, and yet that older geezer ogled me as if I was naked. This is how a comet feels as it speeds over our earth and looks down to see telescopes and ordinary people looking up at it, and even worse, through it.
the doors in the house of gods torn off their planets
ever more developed in the notion of one's self
struggling to comprehend language as only words
walking down the dark corridors of windows lined
with the work clothes you had worn for five days
over by the yellow flowers a stranger had planted
Light-harvesting – that’s what our eyes do. And behind them, into which corner, do the neurons try to drag you?
BRING: Ah I give you wisdom. Without stretching out my hands, I give you instantaneous knowledge of all that you have ever known. All seeing brings us the assurance that what we have always known is shared by others. Again and again we delight in this comfort and then forget what we have experienced this truth so our eyes can bring us new satisfaction in the idea that we are complete.
the waitresses in white, meals al fresco
inspired me to much imitation in the face
of the pool's light like moonlight in water
stores up the energy of backs and fingers
down, across and into a wheat field of sunset’s
late hot ashes wavering salamander glow
Scene: An island where no one goes.
BRING: Do you know who puts the baby birds into eggs?
EXPANSION: Yes, but I refuse to tell you. In your case I'm jealous, your friend doesn't crow to me, except early in the morning when my dreams still are expanding into unpredictable areas.
BRING: What three things should a suicide note contain?
EXPANSION: three virtual addresses: the one in hell, one in heaven, and one at a nest I'll return to soon –(please don't forget to put some left over wool in the tree – I like soft landings.)
BRING: If I said: “as if they sparsely spoke to each other occasionally collapsing we tend to confuse nature with our rages how would you explain this?”
EXPANSION: Sparsely, because I feel uncertain; occasionally, in case I gain surprisingly inside knowledge, confused by the fact that only one out of ten relationships are not collapsing at one time or another. (I am held back by self interest not to experience rage.)
BRING: If I am BRING on an inch of ground, what would you do to me?
EXPANSION: Go on following the path of a seducer, helplessly be its victim, stay irresistible; accept the fates with five or even seven reservations in mind.
BRING: Do you think islands are the children of cliffs?
EXPANSION: Probably. Howling with the wind, keeping my pants wet, making me feel a prisoner and try out only locals, volcanic stone erases the rubber on my tires, sending me arms over legs into a hole to start peeping with sandpipers, dig for silver and find only mothers of pearl, well – an island has its advantages: at least mentally, my continent swims doped like an island and the occupiers act accordingly childish.
BRING: Could pain come to an island?
EXPANSION: Only day and night, not in between where love reigns borderless (BBC represents a different opinion.)
BRING: Explain what an island is without the mention of water.
smell of fertility
its alphabet of ink blots
in a poem
BRING: Do you think islands are lonely?
EXPANSION: Yo, but they are familiar with quantum leaps and turn loneliness into strength. All by themselves, they have a tendency to split territories wide open, gather far cries, inhale the breath of birds and stones, love and kiss bacteria and virus, light and sperm. By the stink of friends they call in money, drill for diamonds and boy, give me a break: how does that buy female features not yet imagined before?
BRING: What would you do with an island and an orange peel?
EXPANSION: Fertilize the ground. Spit out the orange seeds and watch them sprout with the patience of an owl radiating mice.
BRING: Do you think pieces of land can learn a language?
EXPANSION: Yes, since for a long time, sign language is in use: Black oak trees hanging out function as teachers. The pear says 'you', the tomato plant writes an 'I', a rock stays for ‘Hello,’ the grass for beds and birthplace, the bush for hiding, the red poker lights up for quieting a hummingbird's thirst, a stump in moonshine writes 'never mind'; the bad news is there are double meanings, too, like sand signals love-seat and 'love's labor lost'. Sign language is the art of being at home with one's born-in gestures.
BRING: Maybe rocks are simply words spoken with a stronger tongue?
EXPANSION: I guess there are dialects – Granite embodies an Indian accent; wood pressed for many years has an oil-related flow like the musical Arabian spoken behind a veil, where the deep open throat enriches a meaningful echo to believe in. After sunset, even goddesses shyly appear as disciples eager to be at hand when asked by a strong tongue's softness.
BRING: Is this why buildings are said to have a certain number of stories in them?
EXPANSION: Yes, madam, try to rent one.
BRING: What would happen to a house that faced an island no one went to?
EXPANSION: Two artists are going to stay there. Over night, the island visits them and brings the message ever since expanding. . .
Scene: Spring. Waterfall. Two people, closer than ever before, obviously out to risk getting even closer.
It’s a waterfall, Lovey, swelling up. Bridal-veil they call it. Coming down in a rush, the fog above us waving a rainbow. Can you identify which of the colors contains the message most intimidating first you, and then possibly me, too?
BRING: Surely the purple – growing old. Will you want me when I bring you decaying fruit? Purple with bruises, soft and mushy? Filled with wild ideas that must find release once before I die even if they are no longer age-appropriate as our children would say. And you? I cannot answer for you. I have known you so long that I no longer truly know anything about you.
new games slowly grew as wings form from atoms
smack into the window – do not follow my example
even the abstractions of old age forms faces on the tablecloth
a dew drop quivers on a flower as a tremble of jello
Could this California morning glory we passed earlier stop you from worrying about a little spot when you tried on your white silken wedding dress?
BRING: What? You don’t expect me to be perfect? That’s a relief because my imperfections are the patterns of my character. They won’t wash out no matter how many courses in religion or meditation I take.
as the sun was setting I walked a crooked speech to enter
the stream that has been rusting since you were six
the precise juncture truth comes with stirring wings
floating in their warm skins of verses of sobbing
a god's mouth held shut as you watch my sleeping
displacing water for the boat's fast appearance
We are crying. A few tears fall into the lake from our two-person kayak. Fish come snapping after those drops in the center of a ring expanding.
BRING: I bring you Basho and his haiku about tears in the eyes of fish. And here you are putting our tears into the tummies of fish.
I have learned to lean on pictures to remember activity
the camera has a tiny light leak and the film films
when dipping the camel-hair brush in the polish
in order to leave you I offer my smiling and gasping
to know the next day I would ride the wind as
Thunder, the lightning connects miles of clouds like calling their children home to earth: One supposed to become a diva in astronomy, the other shaped like a centaur returning to Berkeley University, neurons on his mind and what they may will learn to change – hope on the dark horizon?
BRING: Recently I read a poem that was fairly ordinary until the last line which was: “leaning into the thunder.” I have learned to lean into pain until its knees bend and it crawls away, but I still need to learn to lean into all the things that frighten me – all the things I fence off with words and bales of brownies.
the waist band of shorts
a book of love poems
we have come to the shores
of the River of Heaven
IN A WHISPER
through her legs wave upon wave
fingers slide over glistening curls
beneath the moon a taste of salt
brushing across my swollen lips
the sting of her jellyfish breasts
pink silk drops to the floor
her calla lily curves half in shadow
fuck me in a whisper
my tongue in your sighs
thrusting harder toward the ache
that lustrous pearl of pain
barely touching sunrise
venus keeps shining
butterfly wings close slowly
DREAM OF A STRANGER
between the full moons a wild orchid sways
alone the wind and i rock in the hammock
her reflection swirls at the end of each glass
lips and tongue stained a rich grapey purple
moonflowers slowly blossom as i pass
only the sound of my steps on stone
outside her window dropping the lit cigarillo
plumes of smoke in my dream of a stranger
a hint of tuberose & fig linger on the pillow
her silhouette moving closer to the bed
between damp sheets the rapid beating of our hearts
wounds wrapped layer by layer in nacre turn to pearls
pink peaks find each other in the dark
lost in you i can't help feeling myself slip away
Sunrise in August
sunrise in August
orange fingers reaching out
to caress the land
a row of sleepy workers
waiting for the express bus
which began so quietly
has everyone yelling
burst of colors in the vase
reflecting in the mirror
raking the leaves
into great big mountains
on the lawn
the moon rides with charging clouds
as skies descend on the plains
absorbed in their world
the lovers are deaf to even
the loudest sounds
winter comes with heavy snow
burying ashes of love lost
not even the wind,
shaking the pine boughs, disturbs
the needle carpet
the moment of truth arrives
she faces it with calmness
the frog chorus
chanting their eternal song
throughout the night
when I open my eyes
the blossoms will be gone
FROM A DUSTY ATTIC
in a printed cotton dress –
petals on the pavement SD
on an unvarnished toe
a ladybird DW
from a dusty attic
old brown shoes
thrown out WB
'Gone with the Wind'
the poster flutters SD
under the tree
a patch of moonlight
fills with wing-borne seeds DW
lime green ambulance tears
through misty morning WB
kiss of life
breathed in from the heart
prayers in the lap of God SD
for the fortieth Christmas
in her stocking - a lipstick DW
The Holy Grail –
burning the toast WB
words & woes, wounds & tombs
scarred pages of history SD
lodged in ridges
of the old stone trough DW
clear a bubbling stream
her sweet voice echoes WB
Composed by e-mail, Summer 2008
Alexis K. Rotella
perfumed envelope missing from my letter to you
among the Christmas cards next year's tax return
worst month of my life lasts an extra day
Mary he calls from the sickbed play another polka
numbered footprints one peels up
chipping chipping away the ice all of us in the neighborhood
spider dangling from the chandelier
bungee jumper his spandex suit still attached
parachuters a Calder mobile
chocolate silk pie and a margarita St. Patrick's Day
green her face when she reads my new poem
shepherd girl the sonnet that failed to break her heart
sheep's head mushroom spotted on the way to work
cold and windy among the azalea gardens Good Friday
memorial service I forgot to brush my teeth
reading of the will every childhood slight revisited
finding flaws in everyone the old widow
Arkansas diamond mine a shriek of "Eureka"
spring cleaning I sift the contents of a vacuum cleaner bag
hauled off to auction the carousel horse
guns drawn tiny fingers around a blue-steel Crayon
elderly poet a sponge for praise
radio audience burnt-out bulb on the applause sign
abandoned liquor store gone
quick trip to Dallas for a case of Coors
OJ for breakfast again not the juice
eleven counts cable newscasters party like it's 1994*
Muse wants to write I want to sleep
triple the return on my investment seven deadly sins
a superstar pastor who doesn't ask for money **
no words to describe these clouds crepuscular
Latin class over declenchin' my teeth
syanoradiosholom I say in one breath to the man who left***
TIA an embrace from a favorite aunt
she buys the same valentine for all the nieces
mudcake Barbie her cherry blossom eyelids
* Las Vegas indictment of O.J. Simpson;
** Joel Osteen;
**(Transient Ischemic Attack –a warning stroke)
December 13, 2006 - March 29, 2008
emptying its young passengers – a tourist bus
beside your haiku boulder pukeko prints
visible from the path, calligraphy covers the rock
massive slip – ferns trying to anchor it
hillside – a pile of sawn logs about to tumble
ducks splayed feet splash landing
reading his mum’s haiku paver – the young boy
from under the footbridge sudden flight of a bird
jumping from the jetty, the sound of boots in mud
water scoured – the track to town
in the florist shop carnations of every hue