Modality of Thought

Modality of Thought

Thundering breaths of light!
A comet rings across the celestial bell!
Venus is born in the sea foam on the shore!

All men are old men,
All children very young,
All women are women and desire’s beginning and end.

All was once one and that one was totipotent,
But only for a moment.
Then it moved
Out in all directions,
Star and atom,
Male and female,
God and galaxies.

Time is the tapping of a wasteful foot
Through rain and intervening snow,
Dew and death upon the passive leaves.

But I would say, “Who is this man, this woman,
This child, this old one who waits to die, sitting?”
Each came from the one,
And although now untouchable in the past,
Unalterable in its descent and its diffusion,
Are they not still akin,
Each a portion of an ancient whole?

The extant and extinct gradually become
Indefinite in academic thoughts.
Words learned become phrases,
Phrases sentences,
Sentences books
And books words again,
As concepts are captured by the general mind.

That a one, all total and beautiful,
Would descend and end in confusion
Is incomprehensible to the neat minds of science.

The fine times we have, assembling nature,
To await the time when one word might say all, be all.

But are not all things mixtures of that one?

In that calm zenith of arrangement,
All would be joy, for there would be just one question.
And for that question there would be just one answer.

The height of mind is the language of one word,
Which, from it, when once uttered, comes one thought.
And that thought might be every thought;
The tidalness of space,
The birth of stars,
The wandering of suns and planets;
Cool clear jets of thought which might rain down,
Smoothly to one thin current of emotion.
Convections in the winds of reasons,
The vortex of meanings and the flow of words
From the mouth of the mind.
Signatures of the wind, the rain, and time upon the rocks,
‘Til they be sands to span the stones and pebbles;
The nature of resistance
In indigestible nuggets.

A comet rang across the bell of sun and planets,
And somewhere quiet, in conspiracy with moon and winds,
The ocean rolled upon the frothy sand and there was Venus,
Born in the swirling sea-foam of the shore.

Confronters of the present and the past;
The questioners,
To scrape to the smallest artery and vein,
Rubbery reds and blues, is but to see,
Holding the fragile lace between the hands,
The true hue and course of circulation.
To wear away so slowly and with such skill
That motion might not be such to be perceived,
The brown, crumbly tissue, lesser and lesser still,
Until the core of organization might lay bare,
And fingered and mouthed by the mind, be understood;
The good, gray matter of the mind,
Ten to the ten cells, coiled and convoluted in the skull.

Words learned become lines,
Lines stanzas,
Stanzas poems,
And poems words again,
As concepts are captured by the general mind.

A sun rose and set as I though this thought;
That I may move and yet I may stand still,
That I may be many,
Or one,
If I will,
That I may travel for always, remaining here,
Tell all to all, yet hold,
Silent and secret, infinitely, my knowledge.

I ate, digested, and then passed the lie,
Quote: “All afternoons are immutable”, unquote.
I grew as the earth progressed, but it turned in a circle,
(As the sun seemed also to move, yet standing still).
These thoughts were perhaps never thought,
My self never spoken.

Ultimately I, although one, did come to be many,
Each of which learned and forgot the same simple truth.

Man has a way of killing gods and plucking angels’ wings;
Laboriously building heavens up,
Only to then move on;
Telling great, beautiful lies to himself,
Only to find them out and call it Truth.
He loves with a force that slows to jealousy
The splendid monuments that he builds up,
Higher, until they reach above his head,
And prick, in his mind, his secret inadequacy.

I touched out and then touch in again
(Granted, the sun rises and sets gradually),
“Beauty”, I called,
And the rain came in reply.
The breeze mouthed the trees and then subsided.

I fell asleep and dreamt of a delicate arc,
Softly curving, my heart thrilled to the curve.
Stopping it, as I caught it, I saw painfully,
The pale, flat moon hung in the void.

Beauty is simplicity of motion
Envisioned in the eye or in the mind;
Constant and co-ordinated reflex,
The interplay of matter, force, and time.
Stars in step with stars and galaxies;
Birth, life, death, rebirth in cyclic patterns;
Change and evolution from the ocean,
A multitude, expanding and contracting,
Beginning, metamorphosis, and end.

A bell went forth
To touch the night
And tell of darkness and of sleep.
It pushed into the dreams of all the sleepers,
Made the image of the bell within the well,
And in the blind, disturbed the line
Of audile images within their minds,
Stalked the thoughts of those who lay awake,
And even caused the teeth of deaf to ache,
Through their soft dreams of motion.
And it was in the chapel of the chest,
Suspended from the steeple of the brain,
Sounded by the verger of the loins,
It celebrated joy and mourned for death.

Through the night and on into the day,
The bell was rung and, noticed, when unheard,
Because it was for all and was for always,
It said what must be said, that none should say,
“I live, and I am glad”, no one must say these words.

But then a eunuch came,
For whom where was no ring.
A soldier he was called,
From moment to moment, somber veteran
Of the intimate war;
the state of solitude.

This I hold my starry universe.
To leave and to leave and to leave,
Farther away in the mind
The ancient and familiar habitats
Of questioning the old and comfortable life.

Goodbye, goodbye, but do not hesitate in your retreat.
I cannot help you, once you pass beyond
The warm and scented room of sight and sound.

As I stood at that point
The world was white,
My world of two dimensions;
My blank eyes staring calmly on the line,
My calm eyes staring blankly on the plane,
And I was calm and blank as I stood staring,
Not through air of light but in my mind.
For there I would find peace, blind peace, dumb peace,
And there would be not need for measure, speech, or understanding.

There, as I stood, so still and soft and silent,
Empty, numberless, because I was alone.
Here I stood, I stand, will always stand.

But just for one small moment, so it seemed,
A curious rustle rose within the calm.
Eyes which I had not strained,
Ghost eyebrows raised,
Dream-like eyelids squinted,
And there in that new distance I could see
A silhouette take shape devoid of shadows.
To watch intently meant to not quite see,
To gaze to one side was to be aware.
Side by side, we formed a spatial complex,
Each to give,
Each other to receive,
We stood upon a level of exchange.

Alas, the frothy phalluses come crashing down,
Of men and women, in upon their minds.
The womb at last surrounds and semen finds,
The inmost cell and substitutes for thought
The painless wish of immortality.
Within the timeless death of arms and legs
Is refuge for the spirit from the beat
Of time and questions on philosophy.

It grew to something.

To gain one glowing truth,
The mind must blind itself to all the others.

You, my love, could have been anyone;
The small dark one who shyly bows her head,
Or she so tall and blond and proud and cunning.
You, my love, could have been old or young,
Wise with a tight and furrowed brow,
Or smooth and simple,
Walking, running:
To come in any form, I would have loved you.

Tonic and chromatic of emotions,
Sing me a beginning that I may start.
Form for me the modality of thought,
The turn of time,
The line eternal that will rhyme
With itself and itself again in repetition.
Glisten with your voice the light of death,
Decomposing in a swamp a log, a leaf,
Born, now dying, cyclic and serene.
Tell my why a god’s first word is “green”.

There is a voice too small which calls my name,
And bids me come somewhere from far away
And coming, then to act in this my own
Capacity and quality of action,
Do this for that of which I will never see.
One says to die,
Destroy one’s self,
“And would you not have ended anyway?”
And spending one’s self, to die for an unknown cause.
To end for a vague and hazy common good.
But in this death, to start a chain of action
That would continue on eternally.
How proud and noble one says it would be
To trade one’s puny self and sense of being
For such vast memory and satisfaction.

Together they grew,
Their cycles joined,
Sided by side
Down the spiraled road.
The flowers impressed on their memories.
They passed through the swamp,
The mist filled their ears,
The moss grasped their hearts,
Decay bade them sleep.

“Take”, he said,
“The smallest part of me,
And nurture it within your memory,
And add to it each day,
Slowly to be precise,
A thought you come to feel
Or object that you meet.
And giving as much of yourself,
Let it then go on its way,
Fold inward and involute,
Become a separate entity of thought.”

They entered into trust.
They grew together.
Together they grew,
Up from ignorance,
Building themselves up, part by part,
Each saw and each became.

Each motion is a line in time,
Footprint in space.
The present is darkened black with the past.
The air is opaque with every uttered sound.
Every sentence composed.
All thoughts framed and forgotten;
The earth is a void
And the mind is at peace.

To be born is the thaw
Of a leaf frozen in time,
The clear lattice of ice crumbling.
And the leaf which falls is Now.
It is the fall of each leaf that ever fell.
And it is the fall of all leaves yet to fall.
The future quivering in expectation.
Loneliness is the thought that I am myself.
Thundering breaths of light on the sea of sight!
The drone of fingers tracing out desire!
An eyebrow posing a question.
The hungry animal, Curiosity, stalking.

Perhaps to me for piety will be
An afterlife of science, understanding;
Fishing for simple out from complex,
Measuring, fingering, tasting, naming,
Stating and restating,
Writing and erasing,
Drawing pictures,
Sculpting out ideas.
But is “to know” enough?
Is life not but rather to find out?
Death might be to know,
Dying finding out,
Death not afterlife, but afterdeath of knowing.
Forgetting might be birth.
Afterlife a gradual remembering,
Only to forget all once again.
Is not learning life?
Is not life so glorious a game
That one might be content to play it over?

Sun, red sun,
Dewy gem, emerging from the clouds.

The year was a room in the muffled house.
Time railed the stairs
And the stairs had steps.
The windows were curtained.
The light filtered through.
Outside was Now.
Inside was Past.

The living-room has died.
The bedrooms are empty.
The walls are muted.
The halls bear no shouts.
The parlor is clean.
The kitchen is hungry.
Each closet is neat.
The attic holds no secrets.

Through rooms old dreams diffuse on wrinkled carpets.
The chimney smokes with reminiscence.
The rafters inhale the hope of the day.
Old children hang suspended from the ceilings
As crystal chandeliers.
They glitter in the shrinking candle-light.
Dead dogs’ barks are buried in the garden.
Open flowers hold like mothers’ hands
The blinded stars of noon.
The trees are monuments of every rain,
Of every ray of sun and breath of wind.
The leaves are prophecies of seed,
The shrines which hold withing the flame of life,
A faith which lasts the longest winter day,
That in the Spring a man might come and say,
“Make me a rake to gather all their prayers.”

In grains of soil, sustenance is lodged.
Cool in the earth at day they laugh with rain.
They bear the rocks.
They lay in wait for life.

A stone is dropped; the ripples reach the shore.
The sound is heard; the ripples reach my ear.
I turn; my inner ear resounds with bubbles.
My inner eye perceives an inner beauty;
My inner heart is moved.

Let my limbs depict what my soul envisions.
Let my words express what my spirit learns.
Let me not only sense but stimulate.
Let me be an artist.
Let my work be art.

The roots of the grass creep into sleeper’s dreams.
The roots of the trees incase the sleeper’s hearts.
In darkened chambers, Tenderness arrives.
A ray of pity beams in smiling words.

When did the hush of beauty fill my ears?
The rush of love my throat and tears my eyes?
When the yellow strands of sun first filled my skies
(The kiss of that globe dwells always in my heart).
Tell me when these words first touched my mind,
When I first came to see by the sun
And I thought the sun was mine.
The sun is colors and the hand is light.
The hand of the sun on mine caused me to see,
The darkness of an open book,
How cold a pen can be.
The sun taught me to look,
Now I am blind.
Find me the passage back to work,
The cellar of the written word,
Cool, content, but mine when I desire.
Find me a stone which lies within the earth,
That clasping to my chest I may forget
The sun, the day, the hopes of the afternoon.

I love you more than God’s most precious thought,
More than the greatest poem I could write,
More than comfort, more than knowledge, almost more than life,
If life could be lived without you
or you could be loved without life.
These words are all of me
They are as if my soul were loose
And set to running free,
or if my blood could fill a cloud
And rain in random patterns on the earth.
Read them gently with a measured voice
And if they thrill you, you are thrilled by me
If you love them, then you love me too,
In some small part.
But if they do not please you,
Put them down,
or hurt me in a way no other can.
For we are intimate in this affair,
I for writing down to you
And, helpless, being read.
I open up myself,
Now I lay bare.
Love or spare me,
Or, to be unkind,
Mock me and destroy me in your mind.

Circle, spiral, cube,
Square, cylinder,
Tetrahedron, parallelogram,
The shape of shapes,
The artist’s ordered space,
The mathematician’s tidy mind,
A greedy architect who tries to steal from length
The infant blocks which find the hands of youth.
Build a world!
Construct a domicile!
Form a refuge, hiding then within.
Withdraw, retreat from night’s designless void.
Erect a pillar or a monument
To stand upon, defying the askew.
Preach each small degree of angle’s truth.
In equations lies security.
Precision breaths an arbitrary flame
Burning in a blaze amorphous paper caves
To clear the way for order’s number line.
Strip the limbs of trees,
Compress the hills,
Dissolve the asymmetric with design.
The clouds which are not framed,
Amorphous skies.
Cherish geometrically
The numbered measures which express
The blades of grass
The summer winds
The cotyledons of a seed.

The sea is a plane,
Though inexact.
A man’s form hints of symmetry.
The evening sky a dome,
The stars coordinates,
The sun and moon describe an arc.
A fall is a parabola.
The smallest particle defines a point.

Now I feel that I could hear a glance,
If in this room you should now glance at me.
If you but notice,
I will be aware.
We are closest now.
To touch your lips is but to taste your voice.
In your hand the cry of hidden wants resides,
And placing it in mine communicates
The secret which we share that we are one
Divided now and only whole when joined.
The labor of embrace,
A person born!

“Is it male or female?” seekers ask.
“Look between the legs and you shall see!”
A gland, a roll of fat, a lump of skin.
Behold! This gangling creature which I love!

Tell me how it is that children come to men,
That mothers and fathers let them grow up
That crying infants come to live alone?
Is it the growing that changes all these things,
Aging or expanding of the mind?

The day eventually comes,
The day I was born,
My birthday.
The only day I know how old I am.
For what is a year and a day?
It can be counted, measured, and expressed,
But it means nothing.
Only the years are significant.
They come and they pass.
Then years, twenty years, thirty years:
They are a pause, the tolling of a bell.
They days come and pass unnoticed.
They do not accumulate.
But this day is the day of a year.
This year is a day.
These days are a life.

I am a poet.
There are two of us.
“A poet is a man conscientiously alone.”
I have often said it.
I say it now.
He says it also.
He too claims that he has often said it.
Was it I who wrote it then, or he?
Did he say it first, for me to hear.
Did I tell him that he should forget?
Did we speak at once and not take notice?
It does not matter.
We say it and to say it we take pleasure.
It says well, it sounds well, it is good.
Do not ask it’s meaning.
If it could be expressed in any other way,
It would be prose, what good would be in that?

Alone both he and I sit in our rooms.
“Come,” sometimes I say, “and sit with me”.
And he has said it too, but we reply
Sitting in our rooms, “How I have tried to be your friend
But you can only talk about yourself, about your words.”
We sit and talk, but talk into ourselves,
Or at each other utter deeper lines.
What god has willed that poets cannot love or like,
But only write?

(written circa 1966)


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