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issue #1234 - Monday, October 21, 2002 - Edited by Jerry
Conversation with Jeanne
Let us not talk philosophy, drop it, Jeanne.
So many words, so much paper, who can stand it.
I told you the truth about my distancing myself.
I've stopped worrying about my misshapen life.
It was no better and no worse than the usual human tragedies.
For over thirty years we have been waging our dispute
As we do now, on the island under the skies of the tropics.
We flee a downpour, in an instant the bright sun again,
And I grow dumb, dazzled by the emerald essence of the leaves.
We submerge in foam at the line of the surf,
We swim far, to where the horizon is a tangle of banana bush,
With little windmills of palms.
And I am under accusation: That I am not up to my oeuvre,
That I do not demand enough from myself,
As I could have learned from Karl Jaspers,
That my scorn for the opinions of this age grows slack.
I roll on a wave and look at white clouds.
You are right, Jeanne, I don't know how to care about the salvation of my soul.
Some are called, others manage as well as they can.
I accept it, what has befallen me is just.
I don't pretend to the dignity of a wise old age.
Untranslatable into words, I chose my home in what is now,
In things of this world, which exist and, for that reason, delight us:
Nakedness of women on the beach, coppery cones of their breasts,
Hibiscus, alamanda, a red lily, devouring
With my eyes, lips, tongue, the guava juice, the juice of la prune de Cythère,
Rum with ice and syrup, lianas-orchids
In a rain forest, where trees stand on the stilts of their roots.
Death, you say, mine and yours, closer and closer,
We suffered and this poor earth was not enough.
The purple-black earth of vegetable gardens
Will be here, either looked at or not.
The sea, as today, will breathe from its depths.
Growing small, I disappear in the immense, more and more free.
From Lightenings (Streaming Audio at
Shifting brilliancies. Then winter light
In a doorway, and on the stone doorstep
A beggar shivering in silhouette.
So the particular judgement might be set:
Bare wallstead and a cold hearth rained into--
Bright puddle where the soul-free cloud-life roams.
And after the commanded journey, what?
Nothing magnificent, nothing unknown.
A gazing out from far away, alone.
And it is not particular at all,
Just old truth dawning: there is no next-time-round.
Unroofed scope. Knowledge-freshening wind.
Blue Light Lounge Sutra for the Performance Poets at Harold Park Hotel
the need gotta be
so deep words can't
answer simple questions
all night long notes
stumble off the tongue
& color the air indigo
so deep fragments of gut
& flesh cling to the song
you gotta get into it
so deep salt crystalizes on eyelashes
the need gotta be
so deep you can vomit up ghosts
& not feel broken
till you are no more
than a half ounce of gold
in painful brightness
you gotta get into it
blow that saxophone
so deep all the sex & dope in this world
can't erase your need
to howl against the sky
the need gotta be
so deep you can't
just wiggle your hips
& rise up out of it
chaos in the cosmos
modern man in the pepperpot
you gotta get hooked
into every hungry groove
so deep the bomb locked
in rust opens like a fist
into it into it so deep
rhythm is pre-memory
the need gotta be basic
animal need to see
& know the terror
we are made of honey
cause if you wanna dance
this boogie be ready
to let the devil use your head
for a drum
(Hear it read at http://www.ibiblio.org/ipa/komunyakaa/bluelight.html)
No matter what I do or where I go
merchants keep giving me
too much change
I give them a twenty
and they give me change
for a fifty
The best one was in the
Mahane Yehuda market
gave him twenty
and he gave me change for a hundred
I told him
I gave you twenty
and he shouted at me
You are in the clouds
you gave me a hundred
I discussed again
until he noticed it was the man near me
who gave him the one hundred bill.
The big chains always make mistakes
and forget to debit for this or that
always in my favor
It's like of the whole world
wants to give me money
and I just don't know what to
do with it.
I made a deal with God
a few years ago
and told him
"This is it!
until the end of this year
I return the money
if they give me too much,
from then on
I feel free to keep it."
The year ended and things got somehwhat better
for a few months
but then it started again.
I divided the world into two camps
the small merchant
and the big sharks
I keep the money of the big ones
but my god I am sorry
I can't live with the money of the small ones.
I go into Zcharya's yemenite restaurant
in Tel Aviv,
One of the best and cheapest restaurants in the world
where you eat a meal for less than 30 sheqels (6 $)
and he keeps giving me too much change
his wife always forgets to count something in my bill
and they are always fighting with their son
and I say to Zcharya
who has come all the way
from Zan'a in Yemen
and should be given the Israel prize:
you are cheaper than anybody else
your food is better than the others
you keep making mistakes in my bills
and always give me 10 sheqels
more change than you should.
I hope you don't do this too often
and it's only with me."
And he says to me:
"You are a saint!
and I feel
a round cloud
above my head.
In the Tuileries we came upon the Great Wheel
rising gargantuan above the trees. Evening
was coming on. An after-dinner stroll, descending
by easy stages toward the river, a bridge of leaves
above us, broken here and there by street lights
coming on. Our time here nearly over, our return
home a shadow hovering. Paris, city of returns,
you said, for the pleasure of it, like the Great Wheel
looming there above us, all steel & light
& music, daredevil daunting, against the evening
sky with the tower in the distance winking. The leaves
still held firmly, the unthinkable descending
of what lay ahead undreamt of still, death descending
inevitably as the Great Wheel in its return,
(a descent first through summer's golden leaves
and then bare ruined branches), the Great Wheel
turning & returning. As then, with the all but evening
over us, our wives laughing by the entrance lights,
we rose above the mansard roofs, the trees, the lights,
lifting in a vertiginous ascent before descending,
as we chattered on against the coming on of evening,
our seat creaking in the rising wind, anxious to return
now to earth's solidities. Instead, the Great Wheel
merely sighed and lifted, stopping at the top, leaving
each of us alone now with our thoughts. The leaves
below, green, graygreen, gray, the dollhouse roofs, lights
like diamonds winking, aloof & distant, the Great Wheel
playing us, two middle-aged men, each descending
toward the Wheel's one appointed end, the Great Return
to earth, as the books all have it, come our evening.
For all our feigned bravado, we could feel the evening
over us, even as we stared down upon the blur of leaves,
our wives, our distant children, on all we would return
to, the way shipwrecked sailors search for lights
along a distant shore, as we began the last descent,
leaving the tents and Garden with its Great Wheel
to return, my dear dead friend, to the winking lights
along the boulevard, leaves lifting & descending,
as now the evening air took mastery, it & the Great Wheel.
From The Great Wheel, published by W. W. Norton &
Company, 1996. Copyright © 1996 by Paul Mariani.
Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights
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