Rooftops and Ledges

I sketched these poems long ago traveling, mostly in Europe, along rivers, in subways, near ruins, or hitchhiking, often pondering our transience and the monuments we construct. I sought to express an on-going allegory in which building and dwelling constitute more than a passive reflection of private economy, the shiftings and necessity of ownership or cash. I imagined totems, towers, obelisks, pyramids and skyscrapers could incarnate spirituality or empty power-worship–either project the full draft of an aspiring human self–or mirror our absence. I tried to critique this rush to dominate the sky with glass boxes, shiny edifices and curtain walls–and to affirm our fragile solidarity.
Since 9/11 my challenges to the soulless vanity of post-Corbusier architecture seems both true and troubling. I remain haunted by that day (despite time and subsequent political exploitation) when, through sirens and smoke, I felt the loss of innocent lives in towers, which echoed the kind of architecture (and perhaps, way of life) I critiqued. Yet these brief image-experiments do not concern buildings, nor history, as much as our choice to freely embrace kindness without forfeiting all to money, or to power.
Perhaps poetry can grow from ruins like grass, survive steel, cement and illusion, to modestly defy the silence of the stars.

“A la fin tu es las de ce monde ancien” Apollinaire

TO FABIENNE, WITH FLOWERS

THE ALUMINUM FIELDS

Helicopters clatter in a white, birdless horizon
A yellow suspension crane
rusts against damp construction sand
And through harbor fog
smoke-hinged halos, car-alarms
and recorded church bells
we lay in our sly,
beautiful
emptiness

BOSTON

ATLANTIS

Every mind succumbs to a dream
of a world apart from pain
Though it be covered by Aegean
& volcanic ash
We search through ruins
destroyed by searing rain

Through excavated porcelain
half-mosaics, bronze stolen
from sacred tables
we reach
for a sirocco unconscious
for a Minoan melodist
for a broken necklace
fallen from a young girl’s
neck

We may purify our feet
with rainwater
unearth a shrine
with swastika , cross
and sun-crescent sign
Consider ancient commercial relations
with Egypt
(anything to keep
from caving into legendary
despair)
Or follow Marinatos, the archeologist,
found face down
in his own diggings
and share his fate
buried alive
with dreams
of paradise

Santorini

ACROPOLIS

One can hear them working in the temple
negotiating a crawlspace
with the gods
overlooking a valley of dingy terraces
and postwar housing

Among white washed stone
where hovels are built on a hill
in the shadows
of the cross
Athens lay buried in twilight
with only a hint
of mountain
flower

Athena sleeps in a corroded niche
a silhouette who sighs
in the wake
of a departing
jet

And the rest, ghosts in cellars
of old machinery
squat against the scaffold
of ownership & law
vanish in pale
exhaust

THE SKYTOP TOMB

We comb through the science of lost intimacy
flanked by billboards & slogans
like warriors in the light of day
Yet at night TV pyrelight
plays on our
window
panes

II

Far away, walking past black lakes of silt
and painted phosphorous
lizards dash between the legs
of a rubble goddess …

Far from xeroxed windows
and curtain walls
a skyclad Jain
builds giants with vinecrept legs
sweeps dust then gauzes his mouth
so as not to step nor breathe
to kill

III

When the fuel of our desire burns out
what flame do we see?
no more TV screen, no more skyclad Jain
but the cicada and morning
star …

New York/Santorini/New York

THE WRECKING BALL REALIST

What are words now you’re gone?
White, ruffled waves
harbor fog, an industrial rooftop
from a painter’s loft;
smoking, gray horizon,
wintry factory, refinery blaze …
And what are they
when you call the taxi
as the vents close their mouths
silently and I watch rainpeeling
posters run?

Boston

LATE APRIL

The days are cool now not cold
but misty and permeated
with birds
News filters in through the radio
Rainclouds hang in soft,
ragged folds

Opening your eyes
you pull the curtains
away
You survey glasswalled desks
computer screen readers
then the poorer air of the pavement
where Puerto Rican girls shout
and a madman,
face painted
in garish colors
wields a bone
in his hand

The frayed ends of your blanket waver and toss
Drawing last night’s hair from your pillow
puzzled, in shirtsleeves,
you live in gentle clownery
while a world
struggles on
below …

New York

ARCHANGEL

Why speak of paradise if not to make our exile?
There are as many acts of talented malice
as crimes of innocence
And though light may filter
through our courtrooms
through our robes of woe
we can only sing so long
in our chains

New York

PHILOSOPHER’S STONE

After traveling, what has been lost
– the “glow” of happiness
around which we blew a holy fire
and whispered the names
of our fears
in the
night?

Our friendship ended
long before we built
a monument New York

ABANDONED SKYSCRAPERS

Beyond the East River
barges dent metallic water
smooth as missile’s hide
With a splash of yellow on midflank
The Empire State rises
lonely among white lights,
ankledeep in fog
and breathing …

Helicopters hover, jets blink
as we sway, tier after tier
hauled by construction crews
to the clouds –

Illusions are born
this way
Rattling the amber-windowed U.N.
dominating the dwarflands
beyond
We stand as concrete idols in a Chinese tomb
while hoisted above our heads
cranes lift the fetish
beyond our ken

We each play a stand-in
to destiny
We each play Atlas
shouldering the mirage
of our city-isle
Each an imaginary colossus
wrapped
in cotten
shroud
New York

Boston

THE SPARROWS

We follow sparrows
through narrow alleys
church steeples
to the graves of Virgin Mary’s cemetery
where mint covers our bare feet
past wooden tables in leafy sunlight
spectacled grandscholars,
police with machine guns
‘neath a gray silhouette church dome
into a kneedeep maze
around a pineapple tree
and stop — at the Temple of Cibele,
before her empty throne
as the sparrows
wing over silent waves
at night

Rome

FOR KEATS

Above the Spanish steps
I hear jets and vendor talk
horsehoofs, tourist chatter
& impatient horns
through the shuttered windows
from the room where Keats
died

This deathroom
for his fragile body
This small enclosure
for his last look
A Coke can tumbles down the steps
an overweight tourist
clears his throat

Rome

NIGHTMARE IN BELGRADE

Who can own up to love’s darker honesty?
What leathery face with a long Slavic
shadow under the eye
a look impaled on a stake
and a Tito-pin rusting with the cross?

What iron statue to genocide
or blue denim peasant
can carry this idol’s
tear?

Belgrade

THE SECOND INNOCENCE

From Pyrenees fruit
from rock and barren tree
where a dry plain meets hot, vaulted road
a fossil moon edges
above a sandy cliff
Dust blows through bridge arches
Children shout in a stream
far from brick chateaux
and terraces in the sun
Here they sink no steel rods into the earth
one hears no clamor to cliff of airborne metal
(only this wreath fallen from crowded pine)
where dusty faces with soft skin
whisper for the touch
of rough
stone

Northern Spain

BROKEN MIRROR

IN THE PLAZA REAL

Drinking gin and tonic
writing on a wooden table
drifting through open markets

It all seems secondary
the gin, the tables, the markets,
a stolen copy of Lowell’s poems
with his reluctant face
on the cover

Even if old age and death
follow inevitably
no one controls
destiny

Choice is possible
The Catalans seem happy
And Franco — long dead

Barcelona

THE CRACKED PALACE

City of the past
concoctor of histories
in framed shadows
of instant underpasses
where explosions once rocked
dead buildings
and rattled black windows,
Now there’s red roofs
rainburdened trees
and this girl’s face I kiss goodbye
in the Tiergarten
peering through her eyes
to Mars

Cracked by war, partition,
eighty million aftermaths
with a few imaginary roses
in my hand
and a golden winged angel
of Prussian victory
on my right –
What ‘s broken in our lives
can never be put back
together
again

Past a cemented series of flats
beneath a rusty watertank
A dog barks at a cellar door
And in this cemetary
where brown coal dust
and electric generators
once suffused the air
the carefully placed cigar
on Brecht’s tomb
is gone

There’s no script in life
There’s no plot,
but there’s no rest either
from your memory
Berlin …

Berlin

THE PROSTITUTE’S WINDOW

Stuck between two locked doors
in my hotel
trapped on a stairwell
my knocks go unheard
in the closed
barroom
And I’m staring out
through a basement
window

Across an alley, a prostitute
leans on her divan
arms folded, a framed neon lampshade
further tints her hair
A garbage barge outside
slams into the canal

I rummage through a laundry closet
to find this tampon wrapper
(this is true …)
on which to write
this very poem
Returning, she’s gone
And now I’m alone
(with you …)

Amsterdam

DUET OF JACKHAMMERS

In a world
wherein the missing cornerstone
houses Another World.
(How many resurrections worthy?)
one can see in this minor courtyard
– an image of destiny chiseled
onto a shabby statue
of Our Lord
Bureaucratic largess grimaces
(A sainted general?)
as if to ease the pain
of its shattered brow
flaking bone of stress
to us
below

New York
THE FIFTH COLUMN

Where law and impersonality
once ruled against invaders
their offspring kick moss away:
Here the birth of an heretic
here a criminal and a virgin,
all scratched into parchment:
a fifth column,
constructed with the sweat
and blood
of slaves

And here are the remains
of the architect
who busied himself
with crude tools
of surveyance

Santorini

THE RADIANT CITY

Along dusty streets
and beige buildings
we see Corbusier’s remedy
for disorderly human dwelling:
daily life stripped
to a spiritless body-obelisk
– to geometry

Now immigrants work here
dust damps late sirens
flesh & bones
& cadavers of stone
squint from pupilless statues
Sleepless, we listen
to the fissures
spread –

Faint skylights
make this pinnacle
our Ivory Tower
Might the Milky Way sprinkle
our sheets
with filings of imploded star?
Comb our underfurrowed brain?
– a riderless train
which pauses
for no
one

II

Though this totem
could be the hypnotic trace
of our walking erect
Yet what credit do we acrue
in the Ministry of Planets
for apologists
of Pentagons?

The Ozymandian
standblasted visage
smiles
while billboarded from birth
a concrete forgery
planted deep into cement
blueprints our fates
as we dissolve
into space

Paris

ROOFTOPS AND LEDGES

Red chimneys rise from the top of the stairs
bells chime above a slanted aluminum roof
vegetable wagons carry peaches
and strawberries
rotten in wooden slats
There’s a sputter of cycles –
blown apricot,
dried geranium
‘neath pink
sky –

As dew drops from this buildingtop
from this cheap sublet,
one can still protest the present
without cipher or smokeless flares
against enshadowed camps
and cypress
And one can write!
without spreading
the illusion
of ecstasy

Yes, tt’s tempting to impress a girl
by lifting a book
of dead genius

It’s all been documented
(with neon Orients
& birds on laminated
cloudscapes …)
Bedraggled fairies,
clown-haunted
bookshops …

There’s always plenty of lotus
to eat

Rather, why not rather scroll the mind’s epic
in live statuary
blueprint its screen
and run down starlit roads
of thought
to wake up on an unknown
rooftop?

Paris

INCIDENTALS

BOXED MEMORY

The sun rises over a Spanish plain,
a peach tree, an empty villa,
a flooded field of onions
an industrial complex
with fading spotlights,
Our train cars line up
like a Berber funeral
hauled from the Atlas mountains
to cook by noon
in sunflower
or pepper

Southern Spain

MY ARABESQUE

From gnarled cactus and desert soil
– this flower –
a girl behind a black mesh veil,
in pink robe
wades up-trail
to drink water from tin
under a cloudless sky

Kenitra

TEARS AND SMOKE (RIVER ELBE)

Long ago
I first saw the River Elbe
wind through East Germany

The other Germans were potting plants,
raking modest gardens
mending canoes
I watched a blonde mom stuff marigolds
in her boy’s pocket

Since border police in green uniforms
once rifled my bags
I see them frozen in a film-still
Vacationing in an open
air prison

But the footprints once pointing
toward the frontier
have vanished

Willows hang as ever
Crabs float to their ears in moss
And come winter, swaying branches
script silent forest floors
like whispering
epitaphs

IN THE ALPS

Purple butterflies dot glowing lichen
on salmon-colored rock
Sheep bleat, shake their bells
grazing near black-ribbed peaks
rubble pyramids, zigzag streams
and an horizon of granite cliffs
before a vast, snowy moraine
where we can glow, my French love,
violet then rose
inside a lone cloud’s
blue shade
THE PLEASURE CAPITALISTS

Standing on a slate of a doorway alley
where Catholics first erected
the Pleasure Castle of the Soul
Americans still pretend they prefer God
to money.
(Dead South, Atavists still foresee a 13th century battle)
And local nihilists
sport fright masks for cops and bankers
carry stones to the temple
to get paid in leather
& the wreck’d lights
of factory
solitude

IN OUR EXILE FIRMAMENT

Great things can be lost by small amnesias
or hang on the catastrophe of lost innocence
Some make incest in its shadow
citing an inert material called History
We could carry blades in our hearts
and peer with cat-eyed pupils
at energy & love
Or burn incense then train telescopes
on each other’s horizon
to our candlelit
windows

LATE AUDITIONS

MY BLUE LIGHT

Once, as the sun set over blue hills
on a castle in Alsace,
I spread my clothes to bed down
for a cold night on a stone porch

I dreamt the great finishing line (death)
mirror’d your gentility
& invisible edges

And between the delightful mystery of covers
in the ancient art of letters, paper & ink
Your blue fluttered
through me

Could you, my blue light, again reveal
the kaleidoscope of simultaneity
the suchness of experience?

And come dawn, with birds to melody me
(given the ruffled hair of total sleep)
When all goes robin red & canary yellow
May I will rise to kiss you
‘neath a rain-cooled
horizon?

My blue light,
Scrape this soul of rust and gravel
Scatter all sands of envy
Lift me, like a leaf
like those birds
winging …

THE SONIC PHOTON PARADE

(for Johnny D.)

When will we stop second-cawing the crows?
When strings of amber vibrate the basso fiber of space
When chromatic petals fall like snow …
When skyclad maidens sprinkle acoustic sun-violets!
We could hover with firefly or hummingbird
Inspire horn-tooters of dwarf planets to bruit silver anthems
But when time’s phoenix accelerates our speech
& self-eclipsing doubts dissolve
We jump the genius trampoline!

When the star of our next moment
looks exactly like the sun
within our belovéds eyes
As our minds dance by past meaning
To what we call from experience, love …
We’ll form (“Revolution! Amps! Flowers!”)
The sonic photon parade.

MINDFLOWERS

Are you my mind-gardener
my psychic flower-girl
with the patience to water
my blossoms to outgrow
my weeds?
It takes real earth
to make a rich bed for the life of any love
No one can buy a mindflower
even with the price of a ticket to Io
But with a blue shift to defy dark matter
to traverse inner space
May we telescope each other’s orbit
quit the duality of our bodies
and truly feel
this cross-ocean
– kiss?

WHEN I HEAR MY SIRENS SING

When I hear my sirens sing
without mates to tie me to my mast
I dye my voice blue
while a salmon moon hangs low …
It sounded safe years ago
My disembodied goal
My vision of success
leaping from bronze strings
Now this taut note is bent to breaking
like a blossom in stiff wind –
gives way to the eerie vast of a sky
(like the banjo of a fading clown …)
Yet for all mad tunes in minor keys
which slide from soul to hide
a universe so large and old
You’d think my sirens would stop
But they do
not.

THE NEXT AMNESIA

The wintry rains soak my soul to the bone
My amnesia makes me fly to the wrong country
There are outrages enough in my absence
Without the impotence of erasures to record
How I forget papers, keys, wallet, bathing suit
And while I forget things my mother forgets me
she will forget her own life before long
Her illness may pass into me, though what passes
through me now is her kindness. Her memory.
What of kindness and memory?
Why forget a compliment and remember an insult?
Why ride waves of regret and forget the body of love?
And if it is so easy to forget can there be a soul?
Some act jealous and think even my pain
brags of a different existence. Perhaps it does.
But this too is to brag, to begin forgetting, yet to love –

APPEARANCE & NEED

Deprivation of sunlight
makes one glimmer a gift
Isolated from nature
one flower — a forest
In a desert of lies
one truth — an ocean

INTIMES
WINTERY PARIS

Seagulls wing over slate roofs
Children run, laugh after school
Bells chime from old churches
Twilight ripples on ponds

Now regard the embers of night
beige edifices & bridges
The brief glimmers
Impermanences replete as day’s end

PARIS, WINTER EVE

How violence circles in one’s mind
like crows in a forest
How violence circles …
How to escape these echoes
lose these intrusions and to meditate
on new thoughts, on gratitude, on awe?

TIME AND VISION

When visions go awry
why sprinkle ashes on our heads?
tilt windmills, assault tanks unarmed?
We love the impossible, if well intended
though the intention does not make an act
nor the act one innocent
nor innocence right
nor right true
nor truth good
nor good great
let alone interesting …
And since no one virtue renders another secure
Security renders all suspect …

MEDITATION

If there were no time there’d be no movement of objects in space …
THE PHILOSOPHER’S IMAGE

The intellect is but the edge
of our intuition
But the rest, the greater part
the sea, the sky …
is lost to those who pursue edge-first.
They mimic the pursuit,
They mimic truth-in-pursuit,
and the intellect
is not for the weak …
Those with soul-dilation
who experience,
may we hear from you,
soon
INNOCENCE AND IGNORANCE

Feel ripples in the silence
sending fissures down foreign walls …
Feel the innocence of the fear of death
For this may be beauty itself;
exactly the loveliness
of children, of eros –
that we lose …

REMEMBERING THE FUTURE

As one dis-remembers the past
to reconstruct a story in its place
one echoes rather than expresses
the time-vortex at the origin
of consciousness;
the incept-flame, which is life,
but when one ignores this,
favoring distraction,
color and spectacle
– as history –
even the future
– is remembered.

MISTS IN BEIGE AND BLUE

Walking to the Île St Louis
to meet my mates & musicians
to rehearse nightly within the abandoned
boat storage room when its cold
or outside, when it’s not, on the Seine
“Le Capitaine” presides, flanked by old sheets
and rugs to isolate the butane stove heat
or outside sitting on chairs scavenged
from local cafés.
Curious bourgeois peak in behind
the improvised black steel door
with heavy chains now dangling
or observe with all but monocles
from the stone observation deck
but, still, the interior
is home for Le Capitaine.
Strange guests drop by: obstreperous madmen,
utopic North Africans, starry-eyed Italians,
bewhiskered Peruvians, banlieu kids adrift
or well-dressed lycée students,
or romantic guitarists
with woeful covers to croon
They peek in, sit, or crouch
and I play … well, songs
Or as I accompany them.
Le Capitaine smiles
mumbling cryptic non sequiturs
benign, secretly noble, absurd, as it is his place …
The waters of the Seine ripple
Boats chug by, sirens haunt the distance
Sometimes it storms and we slip beneath
the bridge sharing cigarettes and wine
While the rain or drizzle dapples the waves
Me with my bad French, all the time
with the ghostly silhouettes of Paris
and, beneath the facades …
There stand your phantoms
Yet no one here knows,
why … I sing
harder … nor shout
at ghosts

MIND WEATHER

We know the signs …
Strange hesitations before mental closets
Sniffing for snowflakes …
It’s like riding past oneself
in a time machine –
But since no witness
need steal these moments to file,
why mistake reality for a replica?
or a mirror for truth?
It’s been a long time
since you shut the wrong door
thinking you had to force open
another …

SNOW IN APRIL

There are limits to patience
– as to sunlight
so we whistle in the dark …
fret solar limits
with personal flares
quick ripostes, iridescent wit
ignite disputes with long matches
reminisce fireworks
even pine for old refineries
And of course, the movies …!
Do clouds shadow our souls
or do we – kneeling,
backs to each other
blowing on our private coals?
ANONYME

As the future blows cloud across my bones …

I blink days away, nights awake

I still mourn the untied lace
on the homestretch
of my almost perfect race
(decades later)

“All rainbows fade …”

No. Regard the sleeping face of your lover…
she’s right there …
The rest? — stammered oaths on the shores
of nothingness …

THE FOURTH SHADOW

The first shadow cast by the will,
reveals a vast oval, an immense garden
a huge blank
since we all must “pay” attention …
as we choose what we perceive
then ignore –
the rest.

A universe – ignored.

Yet noticing this we multiply,
scatter our perceptions
we spread — a second shadow –
over what we do and see
to cast a wider net

Then we notice this
– the third shadow –

Our choice to perceive
oh comrades, is so basic …

Yet fatigued by the first & enabling
two more … in galloping regress
As shadows proliferate
we illumine
– our ignorance.

Here shadows first evaporate,
– with the negation of our negations
call it (for now)
– the fourth shadow

Like the weather vane atop a slate cone
down this lovely street
which harbors within
– a gray bell

Afterlude

So, my tragic relation to my family
cast across a purple twilight
The third shadow comes in sight
But its height is fully out of focus
I am wont to remark its nonexistence.
This perceived shadow you’re invited to ignore,
My light …

SURPRISE

I’m surprised
I am alive
surprised within dreams
surprised to shed my supposed
lack of surprise
– my ironic surmise –

I am surprised
not by birthdays
nor death
But by a gentle breeze
which reminds
me I am conscious

TIME, ENCORE

The cough of my beloved

from the bedroom
Motorcycles buzz
like wasps on the street
Highheels click
on pavement
Odd snatches of speech
Exhortations of triumph
The watchful gaze
of an immigrant minding
his shop
The woman mourning
sobbing, consoled
in the courtyard
The play we see by Beckett
reminding us of absurdity
The muffled announcer
on a news program
through the wall

ALSACE IN THE SUN

Here’s the castle,
sloping hillside, vineyard
the revisited cool house …
There’s a concert this eve
The astronomer’s kids
will arrive and dance
into starlight
But now the sun
seems to reveal … everything!
The light seems almost rude.
I am almost wont
to hide ‘neath a giant — frond
Dissemble with pale mushrooms!

LE CAPITAINE IN JAIL

I see his face, his eyes, behind bars, suffering
I know his homeless mind …
NOT TO FADE …

We could fade from each other:
“Love may fade given the confluence
of time, material obligation
& negotiations between our interests.”
“Love may fade when our ideal
of an other collides with time.
And … since that ideal
springs from a metaphor
destined to self-attenuate
into cliché – love fades.”
Tougher yet: “Love fades because
we must die.” How – real!
Yet notice how “real” here
incarnates fear and death
Only death is … “destined”
No. Let’s – live, comrades — unafraid,
so our love will not
fade …
MEETING

The world is so immense we may never meet
yet occasionally we do.
Then ask: “Why didn’t we ever meet before?”
THE SPIRIT KILLERS

Regard the crawlspaces
of the imagination’s enemies
their scoffs, false laughter
derisive chuckles, malicious smiles, smirks.
Their only wildness
is violating innocence.
They master a technique to replace
intelligence to fit into a system.
Never a note of music in their voice
Notice the death card
as it drops from their psychic
deck …
THE THIRD DEGREE

I often rue not moving here
long after receiving my – third degree.
I re-create a phantom life
in Paris or Berlin,
mind foaming with “what if’s” …
“My music would have thrived here
I’d be fluent …
escaped tainted taxes
to finance American – wars
New York nightmares
cramped apartments
familial humiliation traps
Then I think (rue?), who’s giving whom here
– the third degree?

THE SOUTH

Now the long train
to summer grass
lakes & lilting accents …
There’ll be hot rehearsal rooms
in gravel industrial zones
Grisly unshaven farmer-face to kiss
But, ah, those long, lazy days
river parties at night, blond moons
(sneezing horses, nodding cows!)
Perhaps soup in pewter plates and wine sipping
parades down village streets
Certainly old guys in blue overalls
tossing steel balls in sand
(like silver planets ..?)
The whole rural thang;
But in France
EPILOGUE

O my friends
I wish I recorded your laughter(s)
I could play them
here, in summer fields
And pretend …
(Postlude)

POETRY

There are moments when my mind
feels like angels adrift
in need of a home in words
when another force than ego
whispers new truths to me
The key is transparent, so the lock
So too the door …

THREE PLACES A YEAR

I may circle the world
but it doesn’t me
Nomadic is lonely
New York’s noise – lacks — equipoise
France’s beige – a fluttering page
Oregon’s green – a hermit’s dream

The blue of each sky looks ancient
till Time drops an arrow
between intent and act …

And loving one you cannot see
with whom you rarely speak
exiled from touch and sound
from answer, response …

Yet when I leave my fears
– New York — reappears –
Soo too France – Paris!
Then Oregon –
THE ARROW

Nay.
Speak your first mind to me
I will listen …
I WONDER …

Given love’s investiture, absence & embers …
would I love me?
—————————
Perhaps we cannot know till we estrange, what or who it is — that lives … ?
When wished-for wisdom appears from the past, a brief frisson,
It is “there” yet we are “here” …

TRAVELLER’S FRIENDSHIPS

Perfectly resemble mortality …

We oft act like numbers adrift in limbo
Then ask: “Why am I alone?”
MUSIC AND EROS

“De la musique avant toute chose” Verlaine

Imagine the world without music …

The birds melodized before us
Infants delight to intervals
Even plants … “listen” …

– The sole unsatisfying thing about dreams
is their lack of music –

* *
Problem: Some think polka – erotic
but who am I to re-strap, say,
the leiderhausen of a Bavarian?

ACROSS FIELDS OF ABSENCE

Watching flying boats, ferries & tugs
land or drift by night on the East River
uptown New York alit,
charcoal yellows, shadowy salmons
with aluminum glimmers …
I dreamt of you
through mirrors and fog
without mnemonic window frames
burning through silver and oxide
As stars flowered in your pupils like violets
I wanted to breathe your ambrosial-fog
listen to the melody of your mind
And intuit our love before we were born
to salvage stolen innocence
past my death and past yours
without remorse
I wanted to send my modest love
across these fields
of absence …

RADIANT EPISODES

LYRICS AND MUSIC

ALL SONGS COPYWRITTEN BY GEORGE MOORE

FIREFLY ELEGY

When the wind whispers
to scatter my embers
I’ll be your firefly
’till I fade with dawn.
We are all shootings stars or fireflies
To live true, I loved you, now I’m gone

The ancients are waiting
The trees are waving
When we hear cicadas chanting
When we hear space singing, we know
We have a universe inside our minds
So why not live for love this once, ‘for we go?

When we love more than we fear
In love’s shadow, dreams will appear
When our love drums like thunder
we wake to wonder

The clouds are clearing
Dawn is nearing
We are but fireflies in time’s field facing dawn
Let we sweep the shadows from thy brow
And the sand from the mirror
of thy soul, now I’m gone

When we love more than we fear
In love’s shadow, dreams will appear
When our love drums like thunder
we wake to wonder

THE GIRL WHO LOVED THE EARTH

I’ve stammered at the void
I’ve stumbled until dawn
I sifted shadows for a trace
Of what love means ‘fore we’re gone
Feed phantoms to the flames

Toss history into space

Aim our arrows at the sun

Real love confounds everyone

I could paint you a world
From the shadows we leave
But the illusion would show
If not done from love
Nothing will come from all that we know

But if this madness prove wise
From this nothing will rise
This resolve, this rebirth
For the girl who loves the earth

We’ve but a short time to live
There’s no fair way to die
While the earth circles the sun
Love will stun everyone

We cast our lives upon a wave
Then write epitaphs in stone
But if there’s a human in this race
Real love has already won
We all reach for the stars
We wish to illumine what’s forever unknown
But truth must be in love
For to love another’s soul one must risk one’s own

And if love’s risk is our own
Lest love leave us alone
I resolve, this rebirth
For the girl who loves the earth

It’s my inmost resolve
to illumine new love
I live to witness
Your rebirth — you, who risks loves on earth!

O, real love, o, real love …
My shadows to your stars

My silhouette to your sun
My inklings to your dream
Real love confounds everyone

NO TIME TO KILL

It’s not money nor fame
It’s not honor nor shame
But our inmost resolve
To illumine new love

No fate is foreknown
We’re all on our own
There’s no fate to fulfill
just our freedom to will

My fate shot like confetti into space
It began to rain light across your face
I could see your night glow
Through a graphite shadow
Since there’s no end to fulfill
And nothing stands still

Every moment in awe!
From our rise to our fall
There’s no time to kill …
No, nothing stands still

If we could see this life twice
We’d ignore all advice
We’d love just the same
We’d love even the pain

I’d drink your champagne
I’d sing for your heart
I’d beg for your name
I’d sleep in the rain

We rehearse our death with every lie
We can’t change the past; why should we try?
There comes a time when all lives must end
why kill time ’til then?
And since nothing stands still
There’s no time to kill

MADNESS AND LOVE

Starlings scatter from a wire
they scatter with each desire
They flit from scene to scene
like shadows in a dream …
Madness is nothing what it seems

But to be lost in flight and dreams

We fly from fence to fence

From fear or self-defense

It’s more original than the fall /To go mad and lose it all

So be prepared when you can compromise no more
You say this is it – what else am I living for
Mad for money or for power
Mad a million times an hour
Mad for gold, for abstract stone
Mad to lose one’s love & home

We project onto things we love

When it’s soul we’re dreaming of
From bed to work, from work to woe

We can go mad and never know
Some ride winds in tattered cloak
Some worship shadows in the air
Some plead witness to a faith
Fighting mirages everywhere

We each play the scribe
Tell the stories of our lives
But each story is a bribe
Till we rid our soul of lies

Some long for life’s retrial
Some follow the noble road
Some deny the mind’s eclipse
Free of blueprint or a code

So be prepared when you can compromise no more
You say this is it – what else am I living for? Chorus

From the madness of denying life
May we wake to love the light
Rather than rant & rave & wing
Rather to love, to dance, to sing!

DOWN THE ROAD LAY SOLITUDE

You drink to drown your demon
You smoke to wake your shaman
You shout to fright your woman
You die to deny you’re human

The night is flying / But the stars are still / The trees are sighing – Chorus (Now down the road … )

Your hero fell into his mirror
His memory framed in silver
His friends fled him in terror
The Invisible Man of his era

So, why deny? / That on earth / As in the sky? Chorus

You cast your soul without a trace
Into a hole in outer space
Buried your virtue in a vase …
You strayed far afield / From what love first revealed,
my friend …

You drugged yourself with danger
Then lost your soul to a stranger
Everyone else turns the page here
You act without a stage here

Your direction’s gone / You drift like fog / Until dawn Chorus

Your prophet’s without a staff
Doubling your darkened path
Dying to write your epitaph
Your future in a photograph

You stalk yourself / Abuse your health / All in stealth
Chorus …

If you chalk the grass imprint / Where the angel’s halo fell / You will hear the temple bell …

Ring for the truth you seek
The truth of love’s release, my friend …
INSIDE YOUR LOVE

We pretend to hear oceans in a shell

Why not our soul’s first truth to tell?
We foretell the future by the stars
Why not our lives for how short they are?

You were with me when the towers fell
You loved me when I lived in hell
Now we survived, I live to tell, how you were true
How I love you, and live inside your love

We pray for gold at a rainbow’s end
Then pour our radiance into sand
But I hear you whisper through the rain
Through veils of blue, I call your name

If I could write the poem of freedom across your sky
If sound can reveal the love inside one’s mind
I’d wake the star of your soul to let it shine,
then traverse space
and pass like fate, to wake inside your love

Inside your love, I don’t need to dream
Inside your love, even my shadows sing
One can dream of anything, but the star of one’s soul is one’s first truth

If we can risk our lives to retrieve a pearl
Why not our love in this mortal world?
The sun is rising. The moon fades to bone
With waves as my witness, I sing alone …
SPEAKING WITH ANOTHER’S VOICE

Solitude differs from loneliness
only by one’s choice
except when one’s by oneself
speaking with another’s voice

When the words last died in your mouth
when you turned away
I remember what you said
and what you could not say

I heard your voice when the birds sang
through the orange and Cypress trees
when the Aegean lapped the grass,
volcanic ash and cactus (twice)
In these foggy and rainy streets

three days North in Germany
Hey, what am I doing here?
when you’re South in Thessaloniki

Didn’t you say you love me when
The waves clattered on the stone
Didn’t you say you need me when
we were all alone?

I heard the wind kick up down the coast
I heard the wailing whip of sand
but now I hear in a shell the words you once ran to tell me
I hear in a shell the words you once ran to tell me

TIME’S ARROW (A PASTORALE)

In the morning dove meadow

Come ‘morrow I’ll follow — you
to the river together at last

From the shadow of a willow
Time’s arrow will guide us past
Old sorrow – together — at last

It’s just one more mirage away

Forget the narrow
They’re chiaroscuro’d
Draw time’s arrow — Let it go!

Forget mirrors for what matters
It’s your laughter in the breeze
Past eclipses to real kisses, ‘neath real trees!

May your hair smell of violet
and love live inside your eyes

It takes a moment’s surrender
to be wise … to be wise to be wise!

Past illusions All chimera Froth ephemera

Like a star wrung from the void, my love
We create not to be destroyed, my love
By sorrows & illusions past
Life’s an arrow and it flies so fast

From night’s blue to dawn’s beige
let the fog fade into the waves
of time’s river, flowing ever our way

With a peach blossom pillow
through yellow fields of spring
We’ll be dancing, we’ll take wing, at last

It’s just one more mirage … away

Forget the narrow
They’re chiaroscuro’d
Draw time’s arrow — Let it go!

Let us go! Away.

REVOLUTION OF RIGHTS

I’ve wronged and been wronged
Loved and died
I know life without freedom
Is spiritual suicide

In dark cells, alone, prisoners wake dreaming in cold, starless nights of a revolution of rights

When love gives birth a revolution of rights!
When poetry dawns a revolution of rights!
When dreams illumine a revolution of rights!
When love is all we know
When our mind is all we own
We feel awe, just to live …

For all exiles and outcasts, for all who keep earth’s future in their sights

It’s the courage to be
That cannot be bought
One must stay free
One must not be caught
By the monster of envy
Nor the lies we were taught

To live, create, breathe, love, work, play, die free — we resist, we rescue, we rise

When chained cities wake a revolution of rights
When cop states quake a revolution of rights
When tyrannies shake a revolution of rights
We speak to our comrade’s ear
Not to trade our love for fear

Rather it’s time to rise, to cheer

For new truths, to triumph
we need protest all violence
We need to sing, to cry, to shout — from new heights (for a revolution of rights)

NIOBE

I’ve loved you so long
and secretly, Niobe
I’ve composed you a song
‘cause you’re lovely Niobe

Your skin is black
and your eyes are dark as night
Your soul’s deep as the sea
and your words like waves return to me

Please my mother is ill
And she’s old and has no one but me
If I leave her, she’ll surely die
And she won’t allow you seeing me

I’ve loved you so long
and secretly, Niobe
So what could be wrong
for you, to keep seeing me?

Consider the flowers
their beauty dies in a day
Consider our love!
It comes from a mystery
that cannot be named

I know that’s all true she said
But understand the problem here
To be gone from this earth
Is not something the young learn to fear

When she’s gone I’ll write for you
Until till then you must be strong
Then I’ll dress in fine silk
And you’ll have your chance to love me long

Consider the flowers
Their beauty dies in a day
Consider our love
It comes from a mystery
that cannot be named
THE ROOFTOPS OF TANGIERS

From the rooftops of Tangier
I can follow the coast for a mile
Smoke rises over the piers
as I live out my exile

And as dawn makes its fragrant step
across my eyes and through my breath

The gulls circles overhead
I count fading stars for awhile
The sun crawls across my bed
as I live out my exile

They say god came down from the sky
After all this I half know why

Everyday I see you everywhere
But when I turn around you not there

First verse — And as dusk sweeps the day aside
I watch my life go out with the tide

BLACKBIRDS AND DOVES

Hush young Anna
don’t you worry
it’s time to bury
all monsters and fairies
lay thy head on thy pillow
let your hair flow like a willow
low your lovely eyelids, sleep ….

There once lived a girl who danced in the moonlight
among the fields, frescoes and fountains of Sicily
She danced to divine her future in the river
dividing her town from a world she just had to see

And village boys would shout
As they gathered ’bout:
You’re beautiful but you’re used to it!
(are you confused by it? …bruised by it ? .. amused by it?)

Like moths drawn to her flame
they played their flitting game
but her dreams drew violet light
from all memory and night

Hush young Anna
let it snow into the smokestacks
let it rain on the train tracks
let it fog over your damp street
I know life can be rough
but there’s time to slough off
with starlight and feathers, sleep

There once lived a girl born in Manhattan
grandchild and angel of the city’s wild night
She shewed ghosts from her bed, pulled an iris though her mirror
to see her beauty better, reflected in blue starlight

The sage who sits in your shade
And the flower who spoke your name, sing:
You’re beautiful, but are you used to it?
amused by it , confused by it?

There will be paint for yr palette
taste for your talent
arrows for yr bow
if you’ll only them go ….

Hush young Anna
lay lovely ‘neath your white sheet
with these kisses you can keep
I send this song like a halo
to glow in earth’s shadow
as I rest this rainbow
softly, at thy feet …

OLD SIR

Old sir, do you know
where I can go
I’ve come a long way
to hear what your teaching
Is it true what they say
That’s it’s neither high nor low
That’s it nowhere where we’re reaching?
It it nowhere at all?
Is it true that those who say do not know?
Is it true that those who know do not say?
Old Sir, please reply
Old Sir why are you laughing?
May I laugh too
“Yes, please do.”

—————————-

BERLIN

A little Turkish girl with a scarf around her head
carried an oversized piece of bread.
A train whistle blew,
they were smoking in the park
Two hundred yards from the wall
we whispered in the dark.
Dizzy, passing out, shivering outside
In this black street with the red stoplights.
I came to Berlin, you brought me in.

When the dust had settled,
on the pillow your head
Form beneath the cover, sunlight on the bed
Shadows on the window, purple smoke in the air
Red flags on the lamp post, I loved you anywhere!
I’m willing to take the suffering,
I’m willing to stand the trials
Why should we give up love just because the number of miles?
I came to Berlin, you brought me in

From binoculars, from a turret, guards watched us as we waved
I read the graffiti in the mirror backwards as I shaved

Some say distance matters but I don’t give a damn
It’s not money or convenience unites a woman and a man I came to Berlin, you brought me in!

WHO EVER KNEW?

Who ever knew, when the nuns humiliated you?
Who ever knew,
when the naughty boys chased after you?
Who ever knew,
in your little town with its little lies?
that you’d escape and find refuge in my eyes?
And that you, only you would become
who you are?

Why, O, why, are the noble meant to cry?
Why O, why, must envy target what’s best in us?
Where was I,
when you nearly drowned in that pool?
Ten thousand miles away,
nailed to a desk in school!
And yet you, and only you became who you are

(Repeat thrice) You don’t have to wait for an afterlife
– to swim beyond the ken
of those who must live again!

Who ever knew,
the cool night-breath on your back?
Who ever laid dead dragons at your feet?
Who ever knew, what they all must lack,
when loving you pulled from the street?

TUNISIA

Just in from Tunisia
with a memoir of a voyage South
twenty minutes of crystal, clear prose
rolling softly from your red mouth
Tunisia

Went to Algiers to forget you
In the markets I heard birds sing
And in the mosque I felt your soul wing
lifting me beyond this dream,
Tunisia

The dove that flies over my feverish body at night calls your name
And I’ve been screaming aloud in my room for the last three days
I would scream it out loud enough if your could hear it over the waves Tunisia

The city lights shine through the night
Yellow through the summer haze
Rolling tires haunt Avenue A
You seem to so very far away

There’s a story in the summer rain
I read it on dark maps of wind
On which neither life nor death may write
It held your name but rolled back again, Tunisia

LYING FOR LOVE

I saw your there, leaning over
a tuft of hair
sprouting from your underwear
stopping short, saying no, stopping short
lying, for my love

Your blouse undone
You knelt to sip
the drink you set between my knees
What’s it for? Why the tease?
Why lie, for my love?

LYING FOR LOVE (CHORUS)

Weren’t you a wonder’n while lying in wait
How long it’d take
before lying sealed your fate?

I felt your shoulders in the heat
but your eyes say nothing
even in your sleep
never letting-on, never letting-go
lying, for my love (chorus)

I left you there, you made a joke
but no one could tell
whose truth you finally spoke
What’s the point? Why the sham
why lie for my love? (chorus)
POSTCARD FROM AFRICA

I’ve seen you in despair
when a stony weariness grips my tongue
Without houses or clocks
in the hot, dusty air

You were always the first to act
ever the last to blame
You rested only after you lent a hand
wherever human rights
were put to shame

POST CARD FROM AFRICA SHOULD I COME HOME?

You slept in the mud
while soldiers walked by the in the mud
Your friend from the hospital called
even your signature’s changed

There is always someone
with you, waiting …
Is it a mysterious presence
or a hungry passenger?

POST CARD FROM AFRICA SHOULD I COME HOME?

You slept in the mud
While soldiers walked by in the mud
Your friend from the hospital called
Even your signature’s changed

MARIE CLAIRE

When love is a shadow
and night is a window
You can look your whole life
and not see your own soul

Curtains drawn
Stare’n at the ceiling
Now he’s gone
you don’t know what you’re feel’n

You’re gonna know loneliness
You’re gonna find your old photographs
You’re gonna to pass your old hiding place
But Marie Claire! — There’s a whole human race!

Marie Claire, go find your love
and be the better for it
Your next lover stares at the same stars above
ready to discover, you
my dear sister, Marie Claire

Where are the wise men
When you need ‘em
Do they too flock
to whomever feeds ‘em?

When love is a shadow
Night is a window
You can live your whole life
And not see your own soul

You can leave your old loneliness
Burn your old photographs!
Forget your old hiding place!
’cause Marie-Claire
There’s a whole human race!

Marie Claire, go find your love

and be the better for it
If freedom is a right
we may die for
You’re free to love life more

Who knows how many lives it may cost
when the will to see one’s own life is lost?
Marie Claire, you got it

RIDING HOME

Unconscious and sweaty on an August night
in this black tunnel under phosphorescent light

The night is old and my brain is jump’n
and the late A-train greets me at 42 nd

Riding Home (four times)

Old winos squatting near the trash
I wonder if they’ll still be here when I get back?

Ah, there’s nothing so beautiful as the underground
when the conductor’s voice calls over the intercom

Riding Home

I’m tattered, I’m tired, I’m hungry but wired
crawling up to the platform through Harlem home

Riding Home

The night is old but my brain is jump’n
The late A-train greets me at 42nd

YOU MUST SUFFER

With every contact they implicate you
further, further …

With every lie you must give in
further, further…
And when you love those who don’t love you
You must suffer

When the slings and arrows
got you down
your must suffer, you must suffer
When it’s all for none and none for all
you must suffer …
And when you love those who don’t love you
You must suffer

(Bridge)
Thirty years ago
born in a room
across from where they load trucks with soda ash
the full-grown decades-old oak shade, vanished
The sky like hay touched by the match
vanished — vanished
(instrumental)

And when you love those who don’t love you
You must suffer
CHEMICAL PARK

Watching the furnaces light up the sky in the night
I’d walk to the carp-heavy Ecourse River
Petroleum tanks rounded with barbed wire
my wife works at the Chemical Park

Ambling back and forth between
dusty streets and shredded rooms
Oftentimes I think I’ve seen
everything in ruins (Chorus)

Where the gulls would soar then slide down an icy gust
picking at a rusty fence nail
The criss-crossed and patterned snow
from heavy chemical freights Ah, ah.

Where the wires would sway high overhead
I was already at their elbows disbelieving
When I was young —-

REACH YOUR LOVE

What can I say, when I hear an echo
What must I know, to wring beauty from terror
and accept fate honestly?

Where rust red domes encamp
and Cypress trees are filled with birds
a graying silhouette lifts a dish
once held by a vanished little girl
(Where did she go? She’s gone)

Here in Nero’s garden ….
Smoke pours from behind a clay wall
Nigerians near a fountain chant
and I can hear them call
They call your name

When the fuel of desire burns out
what flame do we see?
Who can carry the desert sand?
Who can outlive fate’s honesty? (Not me/ Not yet)

And I’m not that far away
And you’re not that far away
Your white bones in a bed of mint

Your ghost sings to me in the rain
Now pass your hands across my eyes
so I may call your name
I call your name O, MY LOVE

And I’m not that far away
And you’re not that far away

You visit me like a phantom
I awake to pyrelight
If we can experience Eternity
why must it end tonight?

WATERTOWER GIRL

The poor inherit the earth, so they say.
But they worship the famous like slaves, anyway.
Anja don’t care. She climbs the fire escape stair
and watches the sun sink through the silver air.
She watches the first stars poke through the smog, and city lights.
Ready with her mattress to endure another crazy night –
She’s a watertower girl/In her watertower world (chorus)
Dawn or dusk, like birth or death, we sprint through Time
till there’s no one left
Anja dropped out. Let the supers all scream!
Let them kneel before their TV screens
For the shadows confess to her aerial solitude
Let the sirens protest, if she dances naked on the moon!
She’s a watertower girl
In her waterower world
She’s a watertower girl (outré)

Chorus / fini

AMSTERDAM DAWN

Bells ring from the churches of Amsterdam,
the same squares, same mild faces, are carrying on
Hands busily arranging, habitually working,
I’ve seen it all before
My heart beats at the break of every dawn
But the mystery of your love is never gone (chorus)

The light breaks finally through Holland’s clouds,
I wander narrow streets and alleys to my room
Young girls ride bikes in leather jackets
I hang out my window watching them all, disappear …
Chorus

Sweating in the darkness, back in London,
renting fleas, it is easy, to imagine that I’m happy
Afterall the English speak my language
laughing & carrying on, & on & on …
Chorus

Bells ring from the churches of Amsterdam
the same squares, same mild faces, are carrying on
Young girls ride bikes in leather jackets
I hang out my window, watching them all, disappear …

FABIENNE

Fabienne, Fabienne

we’re apart again
when will it ever end? (chorus)

When we first met in Paris
You were a young girl from the South of France
Well you lifted my bones from the streets of pain
and now I cry out your lovely name,
Fabienne

Off to school to Birmingham
You write New York ask how I am

Well, you lifted my bones from the streets of pain
And now I cry out your lovely name,
Fabienne

When the winter snow covers the New York skyline
And I rise alone among my cold bedsheets
I’ll run out to meet you in the crowded streets
And bring this loneliness to an end,
Fabienne.

DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL

Well, it takes great faith to fathom this sea
the depths here flow from all that be
And if I get lost and stray from the center
I’ll cry like a child for the mother in me

Now the violence of the sea has taken its toll
Of men who tried to make themselves whole
Like Jonah they’re captured, caught up and swallowed
By the screaming paranoia, the dark night of the soul

Beware, beware, beware
Lest that monster you kill over there
Is yourself, squirming & writhing in doubt
gnashing his teeth, pulling out his hair

You’re in pain I know it well
It’s the feeling that Icarus had as he fell
It took more than half a Bible to call it Hell
You in pain, I know it well

Now as this wave of fear across you rolls
You’ll lose all your concepts of self-control
The intellectuals amongst you will be the first to go
to the screaming paranoia, the dark night of the soul

EARLY SONGS

THE LAMP

Over the country, while it’s asleep
an outcast is singing, in the lonely streets
“I lent you my lamp but you loosened your grip
it fell to the ground, but it hasn’t died yet.”

A numbness and cold
from the toes to the skull, rose like a plague
and made everyone dull
Sleepwalkers took to the stage
Actors in blinders, they say it’s the rage, nowadays.

“Where is that lamp?” The young schoolboys ask
The outcast he wonders, “Is it lost in the past?”
They say “no” we’ll go out together
and keep open our eyes
it’s bound to turn up, before the morning will rise.

The outcast he smiled, said, “No doubt someday,
they’ll want to know what it was to live in this age
We’ll say at least we were looking for another way out
We were on the watch, we could still scream and shout
“Yes, we are alive!”

I lent you my lamp, but you loosened your grip
it fell to the ground, but it hasn’t died yet.

THE HAG

I know my face is like a prison
for the words I fear to say
For it truth unfolds unhidden
I may scare the whole world away.

A wilted hag, waits and whispers
behind the tree and beyond the gate.
She is truth and I am frightened
that I may hear her far too late.

I give to you a gift unasking
A first love with no design
I give my question marked unanswered
This is all the certainly I can find.

And yet you too start and shiver
At my gift and my empty hand
Am I still a friend and simple giver
When I am both abyss and man?