from the Poetry Cycle In the Floodplane of the Volcano


          What is it?

It is a toddler on daddy's lap

allowed to sip his coffee?

It is the silver thread of a bomber's curve

across the sky?

It is a girl touching her lover's nose

as he begins to snore?

It is an old man putting a pill on his tongue

when his chest hurts?

It is all these things and all things.

All things small yet infinite.



[To be sung at the December Solstice supper]

Poets all! I salute our Human MUSE

with a song of a table made holy

by the drinking together of friends!

Like pig hide to the palm, this table is

not green like hey, nor dry like straw,

not dragged in from the market today

to scuff your sleeve with dust of dung

- its boards with age return to timber.

Between the curtain to the kitchen

and latrine alley door

to the right, this table is a welcome guest

- served prompt.

It sits the same place every night.

This table knows the ceiling beams

like an old wife knows her husband's kiss.

Each setting in this inn-house

seats well liked fellows just like this.

Your corner, my friend, has been

rounded by a wench’s hips

each time she rounds the corner

from the kitchen to finish jokes,

to swab the table with her rag

and flaunt her tits for handsome tips.

Raise some spit, then

lick your finger on the tip, then

rub the wood below your hand and

raise your finger to your lips.

Taste that salt? That is the taste

of a Captain’s table, the island route,

sailed by father, sailed by son, sailed

as that route has always been done

[all of equal station],

friend toasts friend since


as were mentioned by Homer, and by

this port’s garrison sung

embracing plump rural girls

for annual rites -

the excited stamp and choof

of man and beast out in the street!

If this House is like a father, then

this table indeed is also like his Son.

Knowing all the same old prayers, the

two men falling for the same color of hair

and size of bosom!

And as well - the maids and cooks here

sing the songs as sung, the same

famous and infamous poems.

The gravy served at Winter Solstice

was was invented here.

If you mention either

Strangers on the road will know

whence you have come.

This table seats a pride

of young and graybeard lions.

They know they are a tribe

and know they here belong.

The Sabian stars and the constellation

below the horizon

both have heard the famous fame

of this table and the men who

for a while at least

sat there under the eaves

and over the stones

and at the table where

all faces warm with celebration!


Some blue white-hot days the red desert

floor of Alta California would

hum along the chopped lips of the arroyos

with an ancient and Mexican

Santa Ana wind blowing north

hard with passion.

And the tinder and kindling

of the cop beat downs of the Pachucos

lay in the background like the San Gabriel

mountains on the eastern horizon

- full of echoes and scorpions.

And the collapse of Negro hopes

for a Middle Class of black workers in Watts

in the wake of World War II

lay like a landscape of closed supermarkets

surrounded a ghost-town of suburbs

with peeling paint and dead yellow lawns

bringing to mind a circle of wagons,

pale faces shooting out into the rife-smoke

where Ghost Dancers fire arrows back at them.

It was like this in the smog filled LA Basin

all the way from Hollywood Boulevard

down Western to the ocean -

an American dream that looked like our version

of the life lived by a Post-War East German.

I grew up to inherit a white American ‘American Dream’

rattling like the front page of a crispy newspaper

caught by a tumble weed ready for conflagration.

I was a boy and I was a man

with his first car - boy, oh boy!

I was watching the señoritas wading like mermaid Madonnas

out into the ocean in black, one piece, bathing suits

wearing wet white T-shirts to restrain their mighty bosoms.

I was standing barefoot in the spray off the pier.

I was watching bronze skinned white girls in orange bikinis

hopping barefoot through the scalding sand

from the Surf-shop and the beach-walk

to huge beach blankets with picnic baskets.

And I smiled with my brave young body

at the old gray ladies in twos and threes

retired from Ohio and New Jersey

with their hair bleached blue, up in curlers, and

lugging handbags the size dragged by middle European refugees.

And I smiled at young mothers, so pregnant they scared me,

leading small bands of young 'uns

tramping after Mommy devouring hotdogs and cotton-candy.

I stood smiling, facing an ocean

Pacific and as endless as the sky.

I stood, both a boy and a man, in 1967

in Southern California, in a young man's Eden.

And I knew at 17 I was standing

on the beach, at the end of the road

of the great Western migration.

And I knew all those there with me

knew the restlessness of my soul in their soul too…

…the retired cops fishing off the pier,

the winos drinking out of paper bags

who had the thousand-yard stare of a Veteran,

the Japs who had their homesteads taken from them,

the blooming girls in their twos and threes, in their

windblown dresses, who knew they were blossoms,

who knew they were pretty,

all of us knew this same restlessness,

this uneasiness with life's brief beauty.

My heart swelled like the mushroom cloud

over a Pacific atoll over all of them

showering them with the radioactive ashes

of my futile love for them.

For those who dwelled along the 7 and 11

from San Gabriel down to Long Beach,

from El Toro up to Malibu,

I spread the wings

I knew life would

tear from my shoulders.

And as I smiled

I felt like an angel, just knowing them,

all my fellow orphans.

I was a boy, I was a man, I was standing both

at the end of the road and the beginning of freedom.

My eyes opened, aching to have wings enough

to reach out to touch that blue and far horizon.

Most of us have hence flown there.

I know I soon will join them.

Seeing Heaven (for Mark Twain)

the first thing I noticed

was there was a 

very few white people in Heaven,

and most of them

were either trimming the hedges

or serving the other folks


the next thing I noticed

was that there were more trees than people in Heaven,

and no one

wore shoes as they wandered about

but shoes would have looked silly

on the naked.

The next thing I noticed

was that no animal lowered its eyes to man

and every man

stepped aside to let the deer pass by

just as fast as he would have

a lion.

And the last thing I noticed

was as I stepped in

an Angel apologized and explained

part of my Damnation 

was to see the Reward of Persecuted Innocents

before joining the kings and rich 

in Hell.