Meditations Upon Visiting Kerry
Look towards the mountains from Dunloe Bay in June
Clouds are not the cheeks of angels, you know,
They’re only clouds, but where the peat fire is right
And a gray smurdge lies heavily over the country-side
And there’s a strong tart smell of waves in the air,
Why that’s when the time comes I like best about June
With strawberries melting on the vine.
It’s time to rest and not work at nothing else
‘Cept making sense out of the clouds floating by.
There’s an old orchard next door where I’d rather be
‘Cept hobgoblins and boogles and dancing faeries
That seem to bring a magic spell to those lazy, hazy days.
It’s the sort of place where a man can breathe
And when I look up and see Old Johnnie working his way up through the
A finger of each hand curled through the
The ring in the neck of a jug, why I sigh,
Content with the promise of sprawling lengthwise upon the grass
And watching the shadows drop thick and soft
As the covers in the bed back in the tavern
Where I’ve made a temporary house.
"Heard you was looking for company—
The kind that don’t come with a seal on the neck
The "water of life" as free as a sparrow’s flight
And a jenny’s kick in the taking."
"The thought occurred to me," admits I.
He grins and plops down beside me, old shoes tied with baling twine
And his shirt and pants and vest have seen harder days with a washboard
But there’s a twinkle in his eye not put there by the proprieties—
A roguish look that recalls hearing hens squawk
When they’re taken from their nests in the wee small hours
And a familiarity with the sassing of a jay in a bramble thicket
"‘Tis a life a woman canna understand," says he
As his thumb pushes the cork from the jug and
A sharp tang of second run washes the air.
"Mind, I’m not saying there’s not a need for them," says he,
"But June comes and they’re thinking of weddings and such
And a man—well, a man needs to gather his strength for the coming times.
It’s the time for inspecting the clover bloom and the oak mast
And listening to the birds to see if a heavy winter’s a-coming.
Now you listen to that sassy bird—hear?
Uh-huh—try a sip—he’s not sassin’ ‘cause he figures it’s his job
No, he feels something not right with this particular June softness.
It takes a special talent to understand those things
And that talent only comes with experience—have another taste—
So one needs to open up and listen
And to help you understand
Is a few jars of uische-beathe—the water-of-life.
There’s a heap of secrets in that jug
And a man owes it to himself to find them.
"Lazy they call us"—he paused for a healthy knock on his jug—"research,
It is," he said, lowering the jug safely to his lap.
"And a hard job I’d not be giving another."
"There is a nobleness to man’s spirit," I said, following his lead.
He beamed. "There, now, you see?
When June comes, and the wild honey is bursting from the hives
"Why it’s time for the likes of us to find the Tullemore Dew
And watch the shadows spread everywhere.
And I’d be obliged if you wouldn’t dribble so much when you take a sip.
There’s a thousand Chinamen going wantin’—
Least that’s what my mudder used to say
To get me to eat me carrots, bless her soul."
"We should invite them here," I suggest, listening to
The bees buzzing in my head.
"Ah, now, that would be the Christian thing to do."
And we sit back to watch the shadows gather over the Gap
From the peat burning. There are fine thoughts and
Not to be rushed into greatly.
Not in June when the soft dew settles in the morning
And clouds of black and gold and white and blue
Come rolling down through Dunlow
When any moment I shall stir myself and rise
To build that cabin at Innisfree
Where twilight glimmers and a purple glow comes at noon.
I’ve heard the linnets and the crickets sing
And that’s as fine a heaven as I could wish to be
On the fair lake isle of Innisfree.
Meditations While Visiting the Southwest
Sometimes the moon rises before the sun sets
And hangs high in the sky
Like a mirror reflection in which one sees himself
And a ghost peeking over his shoulder,
An ectoplasmic breath of air, fecund in the dry air.
Once on a long drive to see the Marfa Lights—
Spooky dots dancing over the midnight desert blackness
Beneath a canopy of reflecting solar systems—
I found a gypsy lady riding a plodding burro,
Heading north behind me, fully dressed in the noon-day sun,
Iron gray hair frizzled by the day’s rays,
Movement and destination and reason known only to her.
I drove past, then curiosity slowed the car and when I arrived
At the turn-off to the Circle R Ranch, I turned around
And drove back, approaching her slowly so as not to startle her.
A sixth sense (a strange phenomena among Romanian Gypsies) warned her
And she waited, still sitting on her burro,
Watching my approach suspiciously.
Time hasn’t passed enough since when far across the sea
Strange blonde-haired men in black uniforms, decorated with lightning bolts
And a crooked cross, goose-stepped their Hell Hitlered way
Across the mountains and the deep blue sea
To her land, black boot heels drumming land and people to dust.
She remembered the yells in the German tongue, the feel of their batons
Hard against her flesh, the sound of snapping bones
Reverberating through full moon nights—they always made their raids
On the nights of the full moons—pulling her by her braids
Into brown canvas-covered trucks to take her to camps
With names like a sneeze—the trains chuff-chuffing their way
So long a train of people that I could never believe
That death had undone so many wretched souls,
Ripped them from their lives with disgrace.
In the box cars there was no lamentation
Except sighs which caused the eternal air to tremble
And a candle-flame in Tibet to flicker
Still we moved through woods and by fields
Past a blur of towns and cities that promised romance
And hid in the shadows not to be a part
Of humanity’s shame
Frisch weht der Wind
An old woman carried a greasy pack of Tarot cards
And told her fortune twice upon the long journey,
More to entertain the child’s journey than to speak the future—
"These are very special, my child," she said.
And laid out the cards—cup, lance, sword, and dish—
Life symbols of the Grail legend—but the cards
That are dealt first are The Hanged Man and Death
And the old woman is quick to tell her that the nest card—
The Man with Three Staves—is The Fisher King
And He will rob Death of its sting.
To answer thy best pleasure. Be’t to fly,
To swims, to dive into the fire, to ride
On the curled clouds, to the strong bidding task
Ariel and all his quality
But when the time comes, the sprite does not appear
And instead she smells cooking flesh that sizzles so
And great oily black clouds crawl towards the leaden sky
And she hears the souls of the people shrieking from the clouds
And she holds her hands fiercely over her ears to shut out the loud.
She knows herself to be alone and will no more hear happy words
It sounds no more; and sure it waits upon
Some god o’ the island. Sitting on a bank,
Weeping again the King my father’s wreck—
There is no god—of this she is certain—by the swastika
Flying against a blood-red sky, the lights from the ovens
Throwing a hellish fire against the gray, lowering clouds
Per me si va ne la città dolente,
A then came the man in black with a Meinkampf look
And a love of the rack and the screw
Who loved to dance on the bodies of Gypsies and Jews
And this was the end—bodies hanging from meat hooks
With Death and His Sickle riding a pale horse
Over the cemetery skies and then she knew
The shadows at morning and walking behind her
And the shadows at evening walking behind her.
She learned fear in the faintly falling flakes of ash,
Falling faintly into the ash heaps at the camp’s end.
Apeneck Sweeney spreads his wings
And cackles a laugh from his throat
As he guards the rising of the moon
Blood-red over the hornéd gate.
Bin gar keine Gypsy, stamm’ aus Bavaria, echt deutsch.
So she survived into summer and its surprise
One day in a shower of rain
When Americans drove through the gate
And took down all signs.
Arbeit mach frei
So it had but not the work intended for a Gypsy girl
Whose roots had been destroyed and from whose trunk
No branches would grow thanks to Mengele’s scalpel.
Now she rides where the sun beats strongly among broken images
A world away where even grasshoppers fail
And no almond trees flourish and there is no fear
For fear cannot live in a barren land
Where even rain is an afterthought
And rivers of waters run in dry washes
Only as shadows over great rocks in a weary land.
Fouermillante cité, cité pleìne de rêves,
Où le spectre en plein jour raccroche le passant.
She smiled—or, I think she did—at my frown
And turned the burro’s head toward the north.
"It’s the season to go north," she explained.
And kicked her heels gently against the burro’s sides.
‘Twas only when I came to The Burred that I discovered
What was behind her words—she who had come to believe
That she was Caesar’s where for living among so much dying
Now she traveled back and forth from north to south
In search for the end of the dream that still sat heavily upon her
I was left to wonder what might she have become
If she had been to Aphrodite instead of to the Queen of Gypsies.
Would she then have resented life? Man?
The light that shone on only for her of her family line?
And with these thoughts I recognized
The scope and trajectory of my own watchful nature.
Sadly I watched her ride towards the north,
Pots and pans rattling, bedroll bobbing, on top of the burro’s buttocks.
There was no beauty in her life for what lurked
Behind those secret black eyes had already seen
The wasteland of the human without God
And the abyss into which souls had been confined.
I wondered if she cried who from the order of angels would hear her?
If one heard her, would s/he suddenly clasp to her/his heart
Would The Burro Lady dissolve there, knowing
The angel’s beauty for the beginning of terror?
Would she endure as she endures now?
We are not at home in our interpreted world
Yet we are aware of a solitary tree on an empty plain
And that is the reality of our world.
The night wind consumes our features
And the stars demand that we sense them.
I feel the breath of a million people against my cheek
Yet I know I am as alone as The Burro Lady
Who already knows her loneliness while I live in delusion.
I can only equate her emptiness with the emptiness I feel
When a lover leaves before I am ready for her to leave.
Within me I hear her voice plucking me from the ground
But I know that to be a broken word I hear
Has built itself out of silence.
Listen! Can you hear it? Can you hear it, now,
Rustling, toward me from its youthful death?
It flutters in space before us on bat wings
Dancing upon the midnight air,
Finding my soul with its radar senses
And homing in upon it like a bat upon a night mother,
The bat’s hot, flickering tongue lashing death out of the dark.
Sometimes I am not certain if the angels know
If they move among the living or the dead.
An internal torrent hurls men along in hapless fashion.
How can angels hope to pick one out of a maelstrom?
I do not know where the days of Tauruses have gone
Yet I feel I was there among them
Following the tapping of his blind man’s staff.
I can smell the jasmine of the sultan’s seraglio
And hear the cry of the mezereon calling us to evening prayer.
I can see the concert halls and hear the chant
Of the youth:
Adah! Adah! Adah!
And watch her silky form emerge from its man cocoon and become
Can you hear it? Can you hear it now?
The tintanambulation of the bells as Sally fans
Her way into men’s dreams and hear The Tempest roar
With stiletto heels dancing across the wooden floor.
I hear the bohdron beating, calling the troops of Maeve
To march to face the dreaded boy-warrior to save
The honor of the red-haired queen with lusty thighs.
Somewhere in the sands of time an indolent schoolboy sighs
As he dreams of his blue angel, the Belladonna of the Rocks,
The siren of all dreams whose hypnotic song
Brings men to their death upon her satiny knees.
Here is where Salome dances, her charms hidden
Behind the seventh veil that falls
Only when Baptist’s head enters the hall.
Here Samson’s heavy hands twist into golden locks
Only to be betrayed by tempestuous thighs
That lock themselves around his waist
To tease the secret of his riddle from his lips:
(Delilah was only an after thought, a base dallying)
Here are the goblets cast from a mold of Josephine’s breast
And here are Eva Braun and all the rest.
Was it for this a thousand ships left the Grecian shore
To make their way across wine-dark seas to the Trojan door?
I know the answer to the riddle is written on water
To be deciphered only by Eve’s daughters.
Bathsheba knew it as did Solomon’s Sheba.
Elizabeth dangled it before Essex
But man does not realize that beauty is only
The beginning of terror he can barely endure.
Only angels can endure
As Tarias endured when he met
Raphael on the road to Media.
I hear the haunting song of Orpheus for his Eurydice
And know that no man wishes to be the muse
Yet all wish to be Orpheus despite the dangers
That lurk in the Promethean fire for those
Who dare crowd too close to its eternal flames.
None are left who are willing to peel the apple
To discover the wisdom of its hidden fruit
And none try to break the pomegranate
To find the ruby seeds that condemned Persephone.
All is lost, stomped into the earth by goosestepping jackboots
That destroyed those who could have measured
Caverns measureless to man.
The Burro Lady is a distant speck.
I turn and listen vainly to the desert sounds
But no bird sings and sadly I enter my car
And turn again to the South
And fancy I hear the rough beast begin
To slouch his way towards Bethlehem.
Meditations On Time Passed
He’ll no more hear the milch-cow lowing
With milk bag full near to bursting
Or feel the warmth of a welcome fire on a cold rainy night.
There in the dark woods beside the sylvan lake
Where the ferns gather to quietly drop their tears
We found the leaving of the body’s colored pride.
Not a ripple marred the pale gray sheen of the lake.
We could not see where he fought last against the old guard,
His war-weary arms wielding his undefeated blade.
His worn-out heart lingers still faintly beating, beating faintly in the gray
Not forgotten since the time when Mother Eire
Grudgingly gave over her young to Cromwell’s funeral byre.
Here, the sun and moon and wood work their magic ways,
And the ancient gods raise again their haunting hunting horns
To sound the alarm in the grey twilight.
Slanderous tongues bury hope
With words spoken that first were formed
In the mystical ritual of an ancient brotherhood behind closed doors
Guarded by a Tyler armed with his sword of office.
The grave shadow of Fergus gathers quietly in the gloaming
Where scarce a raven’s feather lingers on battleground.
Old Druids fumblearchachi acacia branches and hazel wands
And mutter incantations into the stale air.
This is not the time for Solomon but the witch of Endor
Whose rumpled bridal bed brings forth despair.
The same blessed moon that gave Solomon to Sheba
Still rises above the dark tide and in the sacred oaken grove.
Faeries dance their timeless dances waiting patiently
For the rising of the Red Branch and the fearful howling
Of the Hound of Ulster to bring long-awaited judgment to English law.
Those who are bent and bald and blind,
Those who are sick from years under the rowan yoke,
Begin to scuffle ancient feet in martial march,
Moving stubbornly and steadily towards the fray,
Past the porter’s gate and the small chamber
Where he dreams heavily under birch beer with Druid heaviness the dreams
Of long-spent youth who spoke treasonous words
In the ale-houses while waiting for the chink in worn armor
To widen and allow a regiment or two to slip through
And challenge the undauntable pride of a nation
Upon whose glory the sun never sat ‘til now.
And now with fresh widow’s weeds trailing eloquently
From her rounded shoulders she waits bewildered by
The shouting and clanging of unhooked arms
For the headman’s ax to chop off her head.
The orange bower smells badly of rotting fruit
In the dank air of the cruellest month.
Memory and desire stir like lumpy oatmeal
As life begins to lift from the dried tubers.
The dead tree can no longer shelter the eager saplings
Rashly planted by the would-be Fisher King
Who thought to be a fisher-of-men.
"Fourmillante cité, cité pleine de rêves,
Oò le spectre en plein jour raccroche le passant."
Death has undone so many, yet so many remain
Who have not realized the sighs and exhalations
Of William’s children where is heard the shuffling
Of stubborn men making their way once again
Along the cobblestoned streets leading over the swollen river.
"Si lunga tratta
di gente, ch’ io non aurei mai creduto
Che morte tanta n’avesse disfatta. "
In depraved May I find the flowering judas and
Remember the cunning passing of time and
See the movement of an old man in the mirror
In an ancient house in an ancient wood
And remember the passing of Pippa
On her journey through the town to
The ancient house where the ancient man
Now waits remembering past time
In the present and in the present
No hope for future memories.
In the company of hollow men
Fergus shouts his challenge and demands
Who will follow him to the sea?
Under a tree in the cool of the day I sit
And contemplate the thoughts
Of a dry brain in a drought.
Meditations Upon the Fallacy of Man
Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.
I am crudely made for success.
Inside. I feel the moving of words
But when I try to recall the words
They stubbornly refuse to come forward
From the darkness within me to the waiting light.
They seem content to float on their own inner seas,
As salty and dark as any child in the womb
Waiting to come forward to the waiting light.
A simple little couplet but filled with a childlike cruelty
For children do not know the reason for their games.
They laugh at what makes others cry and scream with fright
At what seems pure innocence to others and delight.
Perhaps the world would have been a better place
Without the invention of gunpowder and moveable type.
Gunpowder was meant to light up the sky
With bright balls of color—red, green, purple, orange----
And the moveable type was meant to heighten man’s glory
And not be a form for pride, envy, wrath, and lust.
And the balloon was meant for a Sunday outing
And not a way of dropping bombs on the cheerful innocent.
We cannot complain about our ignorance
For Locksley Hall was built for our sanctuary
Where men could rest and take heed of the world
He was creating by bending atoms to his will
In whimsical fashion with childlike wonder
At what emerged from his work bench.
The little toy dog is covered with dust
Little remains untouched by these architects of fate
Whose builders wrought with greatest care
For the gods who claim to see everywhere
To assess the massive deeds before time breaks
The barren walls once sealed with logic and science.
The homes where hermit souls live withdrawn
From the highway of life are brightly lit within
Waiting for the advent of the new age after the blight
Of the old has passed into time, oblivion’s sea.
They wait for one man’s plain truth not forged from moldy parchments
But from the meadow, grove, and stream and sea
That have resisted and will resist the past’s blood-rusted key.
And the little toy soldier is red with rust
A pocket full of posies
Per me si va ne l‘etterno dolore,
Per me si va tra la perduta gente.
Giusti zia mosse il mio alto fattore;
Feceni la divina podestate,
La somma sap ‘i enza e’l primo amore.
Divanzi a me non fuor cose create
Se non etterne, e io etterno duro.
Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’ intrate.
Der Heimat zu
Mein Gypsy kind
Wo weilest du?
Oed’ und leer das Meer.
Meditations on a Symphony
from a performance by Alfredo Rolando Ortiz
South American Suite for Harp and Orchestra
September 23, 2000
Opening strains of fluid notes brings
Mountain ranges and green pastures
Within I discover flowing sylvan streams.
I step from the automobile upon the dusty road,
Flask in hand and bend to let cool water run
Into the mouth of the flask.
I think of how tired I am as a man
And straighten from my task,
My eyes centered upon the cloud-covered mountains
And wonder if this is only a passage from one day to another
Like a single bluebottle fly moving across the sea of air
From one secluded pool to yet another and another
Flitting over mud and death, dragging the earth and its roots
With it, silent, ever memory upon the roses
That live only in abandoned rooms in empty houses.
I know the earth from these trickling notes
And I am sad.
I stretch out upon the golden sands
Next to the golden body of a young woman
From whose skin radiates heat
From the golden sun.
In front of us lies a blue ocean
And for a fine flicker of time
Her gaze falls upon me
And I fall into the hot mystery of her black eyes
Like light upon dry water
Turning and turning in transparent circles
Aware of her brown breasts like twin volcanoes
Promising fire, lava racing the diurnal length of her body
With hidden fruits awaiting my touch, my plucking.
Then, a weariness falls over the heat of her eyes
And she sinks once again into the golden sand
Leaving me alone, a fragmented, frail husk
Upon the barren sands of dreams and memory.
Between shadow and space I feel the movement
Of youth endowed with a single heart beating
Rhythmically in joyous celebration of the day
While I, a furious widower, mourning the passing
Of each day of my life, wish fervently
That I could drink once more, somnolently,
Assuaging the thirst that burns like cold fever
Within me, hearing with a nascent ear
The tinkling laughter of their gaiety
And I feel like a thief in the night
Slipping through their shadows, stealing
Their youth in surreptitious sips
As they dance in a ceaseless movement
Through the warmth of the sun
Around me, a bewildered man
Who cannot remember his youth
And lives now in the absence of flowers
From day to melancholy day
Aware of the music, unable to dance.
I remember the thirst of the day
As the sun pressed shadows against jasmines
And a great dampness surrounded us
As we lay contentedly close to each other,
Our hands caressing each other’s flesh
Feeling the great dampness surrounding us
From the heavy air among the great trees
And above the sun far away
That spies upon us like a thief
And my startled soul asks you desperately
What will make the poppies on your brow
Bloom forever in the verdant fields.
Time complete as the ocean
Fills the wound of our new being,
Anchoring the stubborn roots of our souls
Withing the heavy throbbing heartbeats
That swell like the wave of waves
Crashing upon the burning sands,
Transcending time and flesh.
How pure you are by sunlight
And in the black ink of fallen night
And how boundless I fall
Into the deep dark of your eyes
And rise towards the moist stars
With the taste of your mouth upon mine,
Smelling the perfume of your hair,
Jasmine washed, spread like a black fan
Over the green grass, blessing it by day
As we become twin martyrs to the night.
I did not live until I heard your music
Brought with your limber fingers upon harp strings
That sang vibrantly of your love for all things:
The wind that shakes the months,
The hot sun upon naked brown bodies,
The rhythm of souls in concordant dance,
The opaque shadows of white orchids,
The dusty passing of bellowing cows,
The horses racing with the wind,
The trembling of lips upon lips,
The whistle of a passing train,
The salty smell of the sea,
The perfume of sharp fruits,
The sound of locusts singing in the night,
The somnolent movement of day,
The fervent movement of night,
The taste of rich, red wine,
The trembling dance of butterflies,
The song of God in your trembling instrument,
Vibrating from the strings, soaring to the sun-drenched heavens.
Then and only then did I become alive
And the dusty years fell from my shoulders
And I felt again the youth I thought I remembered
In the song coming impulsively from your soul.
Now the hour bows down and my sense tremble
And I prize the moment as my soul releases itself
And soars into the warm night to be reborn
Again and again, measure by measure.
La elipse de un grito
I travel through the silences between the notes of your song.
People bring oil lamps out of their houses to light the night.
A brown girl dances like a dark butterfly in the wavering light.
Tierra de luz, cielo de tierra.
I am chained to the tremor of a rhythm that spirals through
The jasmine-scented air and I walk on an unsilvered mirror
That in the desiccated twilight echo becomes flesh.
En los ojos se abren
As my heart is, so are you, in the mirror of the garden
Where my love is waiting, sleeping easily, awaiting
The first kiss of the morning to awaken
Before the kiss dies against her lips.
Aquella estrella romántica para las magnolias, para las rosas.
The flowers of the lemon tree scent the heavy night air.
¿Quién soy yo?
The round silence of the night is one note on the staff of the infinite.
I walk among the dancers in the streets, ripe with the memory of poems
As your music springs from the souls of birds in harmonious flight.
The notes sear my soul as if the eyes of God have looked upon me.
The sound of crickets riddle the blackness, awakening the
Raphael is singing a musical light perceived by the spirit.
Once, I would have scrolled up the night long before this and
Confined to the dark the phantom notes lost among the stars.
Now, I laugh at Dante who spent his time polishing the stars
Instead of living in the cool shadows of the night
In the corners of the breeze that warps the light
And chills the water and moves, uncovered and wild
Across the country like a domesticated archangel
Dancing in the rich night fragrant with cologne from distant flowers.
El mar baila por la playa.
Now I know that all life is meant to be lived
And not to sleep like an unplayed harp.
I feel as if I own the sun and the moon,
No longer a silly charlatan moving aimlessly
Through his wasted years, blindly groping,
Like Lazarus still asleep in his tomb.
You are not meant to be the muse
But to be Orpheus or the spirit of Orpheus
To bring others out of deflected narcissism
To the openness of the deepest human wish:
Dido singing softly over shimmering waters to Aneas
Penelope singing softly in the night for Odysseus.
Love weeps this way so lovers may come and weep as well
As Dante wept for Beatrice and Iseult wept for Tristram.
I smell the orange blossoms blowing over Paraquay
And hear the bells of St. Raphael ringing in the breeze
And in the distance the mournful cry of a train.
San Raphael se estaba quieto en la alcoba de su torre
Y en la tarde caída querí ser mi voz: Ruiseñor
All too soon the song is ended and with the last murmur of notes
Speeds away the smell of lemon flowers, the breath of jasmine,
The waving grass over the plains, the shimmering sunlight on the river,
The majesty of snow-capped mountains reaching high to the sky,
The dance of the gypsies in the pale moonlight,
The taste of wine, the caress of a dark woman’s voice,
The scent of the earth, the salty taste of the sea,
The sound of the locusts singing at night.
Perhaps this day was never intended for me.
But I have seized it, nevertheless, selfishly holding it close
Like a metaphysical blanket of lilacs and poppies.
Os voy a contar todo lo que me pasa.
From the resonance of the dying notes
I retake my life like the fresh salt wave
Crashing cleanly over the sands.
Las orillas de la luna pierden juncos, ganan voces.
Oh noche de mi amor, cuando estaba la pájara pinta.
Va de monte a monte.