Let us now remember
which is dying
amid its streets and buildings,
its glinting glass and broken shadows.
Its lost humanities
are still trying to survive
Let us undo the begetting of walls
and the paranoia of closed doors.
Music still blares where silence cringes.
Faces still glare toward each other.
Sirens still rush to emergencies.
Mannequins break out of store windows
and cars run into each other.
Authority signs still twist everywhere.
Let us now seek
the impoverished of spirit
the ill of mind,
and ask them to give us back
and give them our fear
Let us now have
from the center.
After "Art Cheval (Horse Art)" by Bénédicte Gelé
: a frantic old horse’s head
in this pouring of color—its eye
a desperate pleading to be released
from this pastel swirl from which it
once more emerges—a great wave of blue
pulling it under again,
the rendered skies
a wild cacophony of daubings
roiling together in final effort
to resist the madness of the world
in its throes of dying.
How is it that I am
the only one to see
this meaning past portent—
and to whom do I relate
this image of pity that I feel—
and from what state of being
if everything is already gone,
and I grieve,
over this image
of a trapped horse, innocent of everything,
except the angst that remains after so much devastation . . .
The road ends here
In unkempt fields
Where weeds grow tall.
They twist and wind
About my legs
Until I fall.
Trapped, like the road,
In tangled grass,
I see the sky.
It darkens, night
Is shutting down,
And birds can fly.
(first pub. in Oakland Tribune, 1960)
This is a far sad cry to all sad distance. I do not want
to go there again—to come back to room after empty
room. Did I really live there—anonymous—surreal,
a child trapped in childhood?
This is not about rooms.
This is not about distance.
This is not about childhood.
It is about this passing moment,
already made of forgetfulness.
I saw a woman with tears on her face.
Her face was a mask. It looked at
me, and I could see how
out-of-life she was.
It was the ice in her eyes; it was the gray shadow
of her face, and her voice that was a hollow. It was
the empty mirror that she held. I backed away,
pretending I never saw, I closed the door to her room.
It’s in the under-meanings—not the ones
you must interpret from the careful voice
that covers what is said. Eyes can guard
a secret—or intention—deeper than
the surface—as impassable as a look.
You know the look I mean, the one that probes
right through you like a stare—unreadable
as stone. The easy smile is there, persuasive.
But you know something’s wrong: The hackle at
the neck. The crawl of skin. The way space shrinks
between you. The way you sense a trap and seek
an exit with your mind—that sense that knows
the tone of glib sincerity that fails—
discomfiture that makes you feel like bait.
(first pub. in Poets’ Forum Magazine, 2007)
It is the saddest story,
this ordinary one made of
unattractive lonely people,
made of distorting time
and its theft of energy,
by the lack of care.
Who blunders here,
cry the ones in their traps,
forever at home
in their captured selves…
who makes this up
if not the ordinary and
extraordinary forces . . . ?
THE REVENGE OF LIGHT
How far is it to Sorrow,
I had a dream of light in a windy rain.
I left the doors open for love
and no one came.
I took down Love’s photograph
and hung a skeleton in its stead.
I watched its white bones gleam
against the wall.
I wanted your embrace.
You said your name was Death.
And you laughed. I burned your eyes
with mine, and the light shifted.
You turned into white shadow.
How real you are today,
not knowing what I think.
I will change you into a flower
and trap you in a crystal vase.
I will paint you over and over.
You will turn into plastic for revenge.
This is what love has done to us.
wish gone dry—fallen flat against
a cliff—held by trapped
howling last urge
come true at last
but is less than
enough—this is as far as it gets
Canary Editor and former Grass Valley-ite Gail Entrekin writes: "Fellow poets: Charles and I are very excited that this interview with me about our new book, The Art of Healing, appeared Monday morning at PBS NewsHour. Here is the link, and thanks for perusing: www.pbs.org/newshour/poetry/when-cancer-changed-everything-writing-poems-was-an-act-of-healing/."
It is here—
the hidden trap.
Why go near?
Others have failed
to go safely past.
Their eyes stay veiled.
The innocent map
can’t warn you away,
nor mention the trap.
It’s a choice, not a clue:
to recognize and avoid,
or learn what teaches you.
It is here—
the hidden trap.
Why go near?
Celebrate poetry by exploring the nuances of horses
For more about Gelé, see
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