[ by Charles Cameron ]
As I’ve said on rare occasions before, Madhu, a wonderful friend of this blog, encouraged me some while back to post some of my poems here. I don’t do it often, and I hope you will at least tolerate it when I do.
Staring at a gravestone
Staring at a gravestone as though the dead might —
contrary to science, in line with hope – break through death,
through death writ in stone, to speak, loom
grey under the sun like a hard silk ghost emerging
from granite, half nowhere half here, speak
out of beyond the thoughts of ever and one and no-one,
chant, perhaps, in some dead tongue, language
of the dead, of death, of one’s own family, intimate,
vast and impersonal.. staring with hope, grief,
a touch of rage perhaps, melded in incomprehension,
listening without hearing, seeing, though
dumb, by doubt and shroud clouded, deluded:
and all this observed from that all-knowing other place, by
the all-giving nothing to which galaxies are specks, lives speak.
Of, by and for itself: the poem
Let me write a poem that has music to it, that conjures
images out of ink, that echoes into silence,
let it flow from me as the mind waves in the wind,
here and there, yet tethered, tethered, yet hither and yon,
veering away from and towards rhymes, swaying
itself, myself and the reader – your self, yourselves –
my son was pillowing his head on a weight-bar
a few minutes ago – drifting off topic and weaving
back in, let me write in such a way you will wonder,
will wander into wonder, whither wonder yonder hither,
torn, and suddenly so, asunder – may the poem
wrench me, wrench itself, wrench syntax, yourself, selves,
in the sheer mind play of itself on self, in the sheer
wind play, grass on grass, of itselves on our all selves..
There is such ghastly blood spurting at home and abroad
I must get back to Pasadena, walk again down Marengo, take joy
in the living shoots breaking up the concrete paving.
There are such foolish beheadings, blood spurting, abroad
I must close my eyelids like rose petals, discern petal from thorn.
There is so much hatred spurting blood lost to kin flesh and blood
in the passing down of abuse across generations here at home
I must get to the pool in mind where breath moves, motion is still.
I must get clear past understanding to peace, wherein the face
of understanding is seen in the beloved face, mirror, love, lake:
and what if yours is the divine face, and yourself at war, in grief,
broken in broken marriage, fragmented by frag-grenade, lost
in self-esteem high or low, in alcohol, lost in lust or unloved,
if it should be your broken face i see, in the unbreakable mirror?
On the Thursday before All and Everything
How sad can that woman be, painted, whose son’s eyes
know and convey that those creatures with bird wings and
Botticelli features who once told her “Fear Not”
arrived from a court or realm in which a higher octave
of fear named awe is the only octave ever sung,
came visiting a realm where the mother’s torn flesh
is the only sacrifice sufficient for the birth of the young,
how sad, seeing those eyes, can a woman be, her son next
to crucifixion, next to resurrection, next to literary
criticism, next to demythologization, next to indifference
by all but Bach, El Greco, Hopkins, Grunewald, how
lanced with grief can that mother be to see her son broken
and spilled, bones and blood, flesh and spirit, wine
and unleavened bread that is nonetheless risen, risen, risen?
One frail voice in a whirlwind
Okay I am joyed to overflowing that enough dust gathers
and swirls here to formulate a momentary dervish,
crying “for love’s sake, love” against the world’s maelstrom,
one frail voice in a whirlwind, one small silence
amidst such shouting, shooting, eardrum-piercing sound.
I will love you before and after I am gone, I will echo
love on the drumbeat of your heart, I will dance to Bach’s
bacchanalian orgy of the divine love crucified, seated
in lotus, absolute, incarnate, flexible to each soul’s need,
tireless, fatigued unto death, l will dance my dust
into full-throated voice for you, quiver or quaver my wings
faster than birds hum, stretch like the night, warm
your heart at my hearth, I am none and gone, I am here
only to toll and tell you, you are beyond boundlessly dear.
How best to crumple your face
Aging offers no guarantee of the desired effect
so clearly displayed in that photo of Jim Harrison — a poet
I’m told, and now I’ve seen that image a poet
I shall seek out and read – half blind, half drunk?
Withered as an old oak stump? Gnarly? A grump?
Attack through the voice, it strikes me, would be
the fast, best strategy – dumbfound but not dumb down
or out, soak voice in whiskies, wreathe it in smoke —
sing it — above all, doubtless and doubting — SHOUT!!
Zen it. Turn your head into the headwinds, face whatever
sandblasts you back to your original face. You, I
are forever baby-faced, mirror-faced, and wizened.
How best to crumple your face? How dare you even ask?
You think that life’s a whaddayacallit goddam task?
Rough me up, chisel, throw me down, rampart, cliff,
brine me in and dry me out, season me, in and out and about
in all seasons, snow me under, bake, broil me, boil,
blister, shell-shock, shake, shellac me, chain, drain on me,
break, bust me, cake me in excremental blood, curse,
catcall me, caterwaul, blame, shame me, if I protest, bluster,
I am naked, spare, your slings and arrows wound me, you
have nothing on me, I am but better for your battering, bruising.
Brush me, wash, bathe, comb, coax me, clean me, I
shall remain pliant to your pleasing, soap, soft soap, sponge
me up and down, inside and within, I will respond
in response, loathe me — but clothe me, rob me
but robe me, foist your delusions on me, I am hoist
on my own penis, pride, flagpole, priesthood, petard.
Of Diotima and Beatrice
Who spawned Diotima of Mantinea? For Socrates
drank wisdom at her teats, Plato from Socrates, Aristotle
from Plato, Alexander from Aristotle, so who
was Diotima, what her thoughts, and who spawned
the thoughts which taught her? I have asked Siri,
I have interrogated Wolfram’s Alpha, have challenged
Googles AI to fight Wittgenstein’s PI to the death —
yet for me it suffices that she, Diotima was no he but a
she, female, a woman. To say more would be to
slather it on, mansplain, overtell, sell, hence overkill,
to say less would leave Aristotle with the boys,
and what could be worse? Think you on this: peace
outshines war by far; Venus is brighter than Mars.
Love’s gravity it is, spins hearts, the sun, all other stars.
I was writing these over Holy Week, four of them on Maundy Thursday, and the most recent one came through yesterday. Jim Morrison’s death was the occasion for th poem in which he is named.
Your comments are welcome.