I was born in 1902
I never once went back to my birthplace
I don't like to turn back
at three I served as a pasha's grandson in Aleppo
at nineteen as a student at Moscow Communist University
at forty-nine I was back in Moscow as the Tcheka Party's guest
and I've been a poet since I was fourteen
some people know all about plants some about fish
I know separation
some people know the names of the stars by heart
I went to see where Jesus
once touched the earth
but the Catholics
had got there before me
and obscured His footprints
with arches, buttresses,
gold and incense.
I went to see where Jesus once touched the earth.
I couldn't see for
it's 1962 March 28th
I'm sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain
I don't like
comparing nightfall to a tired bird
I didn't know I loved the earth
can someone who hasn't worked the earth love it
i cop a squat on a squared-off log,
to watch you ball on the community center court.
butt numb, i shift my weight
and shake mosquitos from my ankles,
but never take my eyes off the game.
yours follow the orange orb, your pupils
twin, brown moons reflecting its light.
your play is wild efficiency,
I carved your name on my watchband
with my fingernail.
Where I am, you know,
I don't have a pearl-handled jackknife
(they won't give me anything sharp)
or a plane tree with its head in the clouds.
Trees may grow in the yard,
but I'm not allowed
to see the sky overhead...
Son put a poser up to me
That made me scratch my head:
"God made the whole wide world," quoth he;
"That's right, my boy," I said.
Said son: "He mad the mountains soar,
And all the plains lie flat;
But Dad, what did he do before
He did all that?
Said I: "Creation was his biz;
They came from the lower levels
Deep down in the Brilliant mine;
From the wastes where the whirlwind revels,
Whirling the leaves of pine.
On the western plains, where the Darling flows,
And the dust storms wheel and shift,
The teamster loosened his yokes and bows,
And turned his team adrift.
On the western stations, far and wide,
Once you told me, "Try to create with words
and sounds and hidden feelings."
You guided my hand on a white, spacious,
immaculate paper....and everything changed
into concrete shapes.
You showed me the way to creativity...and then,
you left me alone.
Poets, come out of your closets,
Open your windows, open your doors,
You have been holed-up too long
in your closed worlds.
Come down, come down
from your Russian Hills and Telegraph Hills,
your Beacon Hills and your Chapel Hills,
your Mount Analogues and Montparnasses,
down from your foothills and mountains,
out of your teepees and domes.
There's a breathless hush on the freeway tonight
Beyond the ledges of concrete
restaurants fall into dreams
with candlelight couples
Lost Alexandria still burns
in a billion lightbulbs
Lives cross lives
idling at stoplights
Beyond the cloverleaf turnoffs
'Souls eat souls in the general emptiness'