You gave me the Pacific,
coral atolls with their turquoise lagoons,
slanting cocopalms
and a transcendental dream.
I floated like a cloud
over a thousand miles of ocean,
set the sails for Namara, snorkelled
above the clear blue depths
with their cruising reef sharks.
I watched the stars
become a passionate sky, kissed
the young copper girl
in the quiet of her open fale,
walked the high jungle roads
past banyan tree and tangle,
adopted the lush flowers
as emblems of my heart, caught at
the ineffable as it wafted
on a warm perfumed breeze.

You taught me confidence
in my own five senses, nurtured
in me a desire for the sublime,
taught me to reach my hand
past what could easily be reached,
to pluck the perfect avocado
from its high branch, to savour
the mango newly ripening, to climb
to the summit of the island
in order to inhabit
a green vision of eternity.

You derived
from the streets of the same city,
knew the nineteenth century din
as I have known the twentieth.
You showed me the way
out of the urban labyrinth
of what I was born to,
pointed out the way
that would take me to the world.

You made me laugh
with your terrible jokes
and demented captains,
with those awful depictions
of Pierre at his garretted labours,
with confidence tricks,
with Typee and Omoo
and the island excesses
of Doctor Long Ghost.
Those who find you dour
and New Englandish
miss the better part
of what you have written.

You made me desire
a life in words, simply by writing
so elegantly and reachingly
beyond yourself. You taught me
the power of aspiration,
the true madness of Ahab:
not wanting revenge
but only wanting to touch
the essence, to be lovingly touched
by the kiss and spray
of an infinite ocean.

If I would prefer
not to do anything, it is because
you have showed me
the beautiful power of negation,
the necessity for No
in the face of a mad populous
hellbent on saying Yes
to everything false and trivial and shoddy.

You offered me a dream
of myself, of life,
I could not help but accept.
I now offer you
this slim homage
from the middle of my days.

art by Mike Hansen


Ripped jeans, jagged waves, hovering implacable sky.
It's the music that moves through my heart
with its mordant suffering and difficult celebration,
also the temperate cool jazz of Miles Davis
in the years surrounding my birth, a catalogue
of pleasures folding into ink, into eyes,
often disguised
as peace and tranquility and a pleasant vacant stare.

In fact, it's what
Pearl did to my balls,
what Morocco so mystically revealed to me,
what Muddy Waters crawled
the long way to Chicago to express.

I've set the sails
and moved through the surging blue Pacific,
I've jumped on an airliner
and taken off for the embellished ruins of Europe,
I've looked deep into the soul expressed
by a lover's aquamarine eyes and stolen a treasured photograph.

I've heard it in Bonnie's voice,
in Duane's slide guitar,
saw it sold in the medina of Fes-en-Bali,
smelled it somewhere off of Namara,
tasted it as blue champagne ice
in the summers of a Bronx childhood,
wore it for twenty years and then some,
letting it always touch me.

Sure, call it a boy's color,
the essence of navy, the haunting question.
Call for it as a lighting effect
as the master weaves his way
through all the chords and changes
of "Have You Ever Loved A Woman"
("this is a blue light song").

When I was broken it tore me apart.
When I was whole I emerged out of it.
What it all comes down to is
it's what I know, how I feel.


XXXXfor Zoe

You remind me of me,
age five and desperate to know
everything. I see the little boy
I was, in the little girl
you are, your smile
shattering my heart
into a thousand pieces.

Oh, we are two of a kind,
you and I; I identify
with all of your struggles,
even see my early friendships
reflected in the way
you move among your friends.
Don't play second fiddle
for too long, my one;
don't be glamorized
by bullies; don't take
a kind heart for granted.
Choose wisely, tenderly.

I will always be
the father who loves you,
the man who loved you first.
You are so precious to me;
I would lassoo a rainbow for you
if I could, would walk on water
if I thought it might please you.

Will your intensity mellow,
or will you always be that way,
intent on knowing everything?
Don't lose your childish joy,
don't let the world
take anything away from you
(it gives so little back).
Love your mother
even though I cannot,
keep your allegiances
ever close to your heart.
Bask in the warm rays
of the beams of love,
come and go in peace,
be merciful, show pity,
keep dancing in your radiant way.


For nearly thirty years
I've been walking with you, Poetry,
walking the dusty crooked roads of the world.

A young man,
at first I got my feet tangled
and fell face down
on the dark ground (you laughed),
drowned my eyes in the pool
so that I might see the stars.
It was slapstick,
all pratfalls and shaving cream pies.

Then later you restricted me
to what I could find
with the two arms of a lover,
and you ascended into my blood
like a growing, climbing vine.
I was so easily converted to you
with my first taste of your chaliced wine.

It was wonderful,
to be shattered without being consumed,
to bathe in inexhaustible waters,
to arrive at that last drop
that falls upon a burning heart
and revives it from its ashes.
But then that wasn't quite enough for me,
and I felt bad staggering beside you,
often acting so disrespectful of your beauty.
After a while I stopped
tilting the bottle back,
stopped acting like a steamy naiad.

I sobered up and headed north,
searching out mortal companions,
fellow workers in song.
Joined together, Poetry,
we made quite a cacophony,
raised our voices in a battle cry,
rattling the paintings
where they hung on the walls of the gallery,
storming the buses
where all the city's workers
shuttled between workplace and home.
Then, riding, Poetry,
we were pulled into their misery,
could not help but become
voices of the struggle, of the general strife,
haunting the parades, seen in the harbors,
crowned by the fragrant dust of the mills.

Tired of struggle,
I tried to get back to you, Poetry,
tried to return to the purity of your crinoline
I walked beside calming ocean,
danced beneath island stars.
AFter a time you came to meet me
and we sailed the Pacific
like Micronesian navigators,
tasted papaya, tasting eternity,
and laughed and laughed
at the full goodness of life.

Then you put me out
to work beside the laundress,
to sell books in the bookstore,
to sell bread in the bakery,
to spin with the simple weavers,
to prattle with the professors,
to strike iron in the metallurgy.
And you continued walking the earth with me,
but you were no longer the flowery statue
of my youth.
You spoke now with a ferrous voice,
your hands were hard like rock,
and your heart was an abundant source of bells.

It was then that I foolishly decided
to marry my heart to the world,
to marry a woman, have children
and take up the seeming heavy work.
For six years I labored
in the mines of domesticity, and still
you would not abandon me.
You still whispered to me, told me
where I could locate the unearthly music.
No longer did you and I
sleep out along the open road;
where once we wandered
beneath slanting cocopalms,
now we kept close company
with innocuous neighbors,
rubbing shoulders with the common man.

And when that sentence was commuted,
and I was set free to wander again,
we took to the road,
the ever-beautiful limbo road.
We travelled the world
and you were free to speak openly again,
as you did in my youth,in a proud languorous voice.

And now, Poetry,
thank you.
Wife, sister, mother, lover,
thank you. Shoreline wave,
lemon blossom and banner,
jukebox, long petal of gold,
submerged country, inextinguishable
grain, thank you. Earth
of all my days, celestial mist
and blood of my years.
Because you have accompanied me
from the most rarefied heights
to the simplest mats of the third world poor,
because you have placed in my soul
the taste of iron and cold fire,
because you have pointed out
the stars and fiery constellations along the way,
Poetry, thank you.
As I age
you continue to reveal your firm freshness,
your crystalline impetus,
as if time and the weather
(that, little by little,
are converting me back to dust)
will allow to flow eternally
the rivers of my song.


The first edition of 200 copies was set in Minion and printed on Springhill Bond/Offset at Coach House Printing on bpNichol Lane in June of 1997.
The cover design is by Chris Bolduc.