Thursday, July 30, 2009

Gogyohka 7.30.09

I like to watch the bees
dip into the chocolate middle
of a sunflower
Their furred bustle matches
the yellow petals in the wind

With all the disease
science tells us
every US honeybee
will be dead
by 2035

The apples have started
to show pink on the branches
Their blushing says more of summer
has passed
than awaits

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Gogyohka 7.29.09

Everyhing in the City is Ammo

Half empty Coke can
sitting in the sun
He glides past, his eyes scan
Lifts, wheels, and WHAM
A truck window explodes with foam

I rush at the door
I beat at its wood!
I curse its lock
huddle and cry, alone
and start to hear

Monday, July 27, 2009

One More

There are six million people living in Brooklyn
not one
And if he keeps acting like that
he's going to meet them
real quick

Gogyohka 7.27.09

It's just cutting cabbage
but when the knifeblade reaches the end
closer to my thumb, slicing,
that narrow balance
becomes much more

Since her husband died
she holds the mottled hands
until they're still
Buys coffee early Sunday morning
Sits in the shade to see it steam

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Gogyohka 7.26.09

From the phrase "not knowing is very intimate"

I am a student of the world
to awaken is to discover
to discover is to be alive
to breathe is to learn,
intimate with endless ignorance

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bob Dylan Nissa pt. 3

Bob Dylan performed after three other musicians whose performances I did not catch. The sky was just beginning to fade from the deep blue of dusk to the bruise colored, purple-black summer night sky.

The stage was not very crowded, so we—myself, my friend John, and my new friend Lucas—could stand fairly close to the stage. Soon the house lights grew dim and an announcer called Dylan and his band to the stage. He was wearing clothes that made him look like he was from another time—loose dusty gray pants with a broad white stripe down the side, and a massive straw gaucho hat whose top looked like a cake. He looked like a soldier just returned from a battle in the Mexican revolution.

Amid all the costume, however, what struck me most was how physically small he was. He seemed diminutive to me, hollow, drawn into his own faded wrinkled face. This was the first shadow I glimpsed that evening.

Two songs captured me deeply. The first was just past the midway point of the set, called “Workingmen’s Blues #2.” It is a nostalgic song but also an invigorating song, that is sung from the point of view of a laborer who is too old to fight for his rights, as he once did, against the owners of the factory where he works, even though those rights are beginning to become compromised again. He is talking to his son, or grandson, or nephew, and telling him that while he doesn’t have to fight, “you’re best on the front lines, singin a little bit of these workingman’s blues.”

Bob Dylan
played Workingmen’s Blues
and it hit me
My dad’s been out of work
for a year

Next the band played a boisterous number, “Highway 61 Revisited,” but then the lights become tobacco-colored and dim, as though being viewed through the haze of a smoke-filled saloon. The projection of the light came from a low place, and the figures of the band members and Dylan became much smaller than the shadows on the screen behind them. One musician was playing a fiddle, and as he moved the bow he looked like a marionette doll, like a puppet whose strings were being pulled by shadows. The song was “Aint Talkin’.” It is nearly eight minutes long, and the refrain is, “Ain’t Talkin/ Just walkin,” with two more lines he changes throughout the song. My favorite variant is, “Walkin’, with a toothache, in my heel.” For this song Dylan was playing the organ, and his solo sounded like a horse descending a spiral staircase from a deep valley into depths below. I could hear the hooves clank on the wrought iron of the steps, the awkward shuffling of the motion and the clink of the saddle as the horse’s rider struggled to stay mounted.

After the show was over and we had exited the stadium, I ate some cold leftovers ravenously and talked with my friends. We got back onto the highway around 11 PM, with me in the backseat. John was driving a Jeep with no doors (they had been stolen a few days ago) and the top down. My hair once we stopped was very tall on my head! But as the air whipped and tossed me at 70 mph in the dark sky, I thought of how the wind had gathered during that organ solo and riffled at the screen projecting the shadows. I leaned back and remembered how the gusts of Great Lake Erie’s wind made the stage look like a confrontation with natural forces. Dylan’s organ playing somehow seemed to charm it, to tame it into some sort of workable chaos, if only briefly. It felt as though he could hold the rain back by funneling it and everything else in the present moment of the atmosphere into his fingers and soul and the way he played.

And breathing deeply that wild quick air on the highway, I was interrupted by Lucas, who pointed back over my shoulder, and exclaimed, “Look!” There stood, almost at the horizon line, a large orange moon, the color of charcoal embers, burning low in the sky and half occluded by gray clouds, as though wrapped in smoke.

I pack my tipi
on my back
and just go
Talk all day
Up listening all night

Friday, July 24, 2009

Gogyohka 7.24.09

careless love
the humility of diving deep
choking on seaweed
to surface, gasping
and give the treasure away

Bob Dylan Nissa pt. 2

In many ways I don’t feel as though I have yet left Cleveland, and thus that I have not yet returned to Brooklyn. I cannot say just where I am, only three days after my flight back into New York. But walking north on Washington Avenue yesterday, in the Brooklyn neighborhood called Prospect Heights, I came down a hill. I had forgotten the view from this hill, how it overlooks just the tops of some of the skyscrapers of Manhattan’s skyline. The most prominent is the Chrysler building. It has a tapering graceful top with bright glints of rainbow-shaped metal (said to be made of chrome and steel from old Chrysler hubcaps!) sharply reflective in the sun. The summer sun was bright that day, so the metal stabbed at my eyes and I had to look away.

I tilted my head downward, to the level of the smaller warehouses and buildings in my sight’s foreground, and just over the drab tarred over cheap shingle, black and absorbing light, I saw a sudden group of pigeons in flight.

A wheel of pigeons
flashing against the blue
quartz flecks in sapphire
wheeling forward
then banking back in the breeze.

My thoughts were not yet still, not yet settled, from my latest airplane trip home. I had distracted myself on the flight with a wonderful conversation with a fellow passenger. But in distracting myself away from the transition between two places it felt as though I had forgotten to get back here to Brooklyn. Maybe it is only natural to have the place where you have been, its experiences, if they were powerful and moving (as mine were), fresh and lively in your mind as you look around and absorb new experiences in the familiar places of one’s home. I cannot say. I grew up a wanderer, my family lived many places, so “home” has always been in flux for me. I think perhaps this makes my home either very big or very small—

“Tell me the best part of New York.”
“The best part? To me?“
“Nobody belongs here.”
“Me too!”

Because my mind wanders in the sun and air and water, spinning forth through time, around and bending, trapezing itself in all directions, and because weather changes quickly, I would like to pause to tell of the amazing specter that is Bob Dylan, before the thunderclouds gather again.


The storm has still not come. Only a little rain. I watch my thoughts and sit outside in the spaced-out droplets. The songbirds belt out screeches and cheeps and swoop over my head, crashing the suspended wave of stillness that is the air. It is nearly feeding time for them—4 PM in Brooklyn; 5 AM the next day in Tokyo—and their song sounds almost peckish, hungry.

Trickling gray and swollen
this afternoon is God’s constipation
I move a leaf
and the snail
retracts in its shell

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bob Dylan Nissa

This is a few pages long, so I'm going to post one page at a time:

Letters from America


I feel as though I am writing a giant postcard with my soul stamped on the corner addressed to a place across an ocean I once lived near, when I lived in California. The Pacific in my memory is light blue-green, violent and crashing and full of awe. I often saw the sea over long concrete piers with massive wooden pylons stretching out nearly to an island thirty miles distant, named Catalina, and in the long orange shadow cast by the sun I would put my hand over my eyes and squint, trying to see farther.
But now I am back on the Atlantic coast of the United States, in its greatest, most confusing, beautiful, and dynamic city, New York. I write to you from Brooklyn, on the southwestern tip of Long Island, surrounded by the deep blue swirling currents of another ocean, filled this time with clams, mussels and stone crabs with dark bluish almost black claws. In the summer we also eat tuna and swordfish, and occasionally mahi-mahi. The greatest delights, though, may be the lobsters that are migrating up to the colder waters of the state of my birth, Maine.

Enta tells me that the English language is a great sea to him, and that English words are planks floating in the sea. He reaches for them as he writes to me, and some are good, sturdy boards, and keep him afloat. Others, unfortunately, are rotten and disintegrate in his clutching fingers, and he’s left with a mouthful of water and misunderstanding.

With all this driftwood
floating in the Pacific
it seems only natural
to assemble a bridge
with wet tools

I want to write of my experience of July 11th, 2009. On that Saturday the American musician Bob Dylan performed in Eastlake, Ohio, outside of Cleveland, at Classic Ball Park, a stadium for a minor league baseball team. That morning the clouds rolled in off the tree-lined shores of the Great Lake Erie, bringing magnificent buckets of rain suddenly and irrevocably. I was marooned under the canopy of a restaurant with my friends Liz and John for two hours as we waited for the downpour to let up. The sky was thick and gray. Just across from where I was standing a farmer’s market had been interrupted. Most of the stands packed up and left at first sight of rain, but one, an Amish family, stayed:

The wind whips at the white tent
turning land’s shelter
into a soaking ship’s sail
A bonneted woman
fusses her potato baskets

There was only a little thunder, but all the dogs I saw were crouched huddled low in fear of storms. I was afraid the rain would not stop, and the concert that evening would not happen. But, as now, in Brooklyn, looking out the window of my first floor apartment on St. John’s Place, the sky quickly shone blue and sun streamed in great sheeting rays to dry up the grass again. Today the weatherman told us that Brooklyn would get thunderstorms all afternoon, and gusts of wind. But we live on an island, and weather changes quickly. Just as the thunder never came full force in Cleveland, it has not quite arrived here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Nissa 7.21.09

Hello--please find below an excerpt from my nissa (diary of a poet). This is a coda portion, a piece Enta will not be considering for potential publication. If you like it I will continue to post these, with the next one being a memory of my experience seeing Bob Dylan in concert in Eastlake, Ohio, at Classic Ball Park.


Last night Hideki Matsui hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, NY, NY, USA to defeat the Detroit Tigers. He came up with two outs, and with the score tied, so his home run was considered a “walk-off.” The players all swarmed around him and one, a pitcher, smeared a cream pie in his face, so that Matsui had to give an interview with the radio broadcaster covered in custard and whipped cream. The radio broadcaster yelled when he hit the home run, and called it “another Thrilla from Godzilla!!” He said Matsui hit the ball halfway to Japan.

This morning I woke up full of doubts, to an air full of rain. I decided to walk to the Botanic Garden, just as I did, with Olivia in my arm, in early May for sakura matsuri and, ultimately, to hear Enta Kusakabe speak. On the way to the garden on my walk I saw a gingko tree, on New York Avenue, one block from where I live. For the first time this year there were berries on it. I smiled and thought of Matsui’s home run, and thought, “the American baseball from his Mizuna bat has returned.”

I kept on walking, and arrived at the Brooklyn Botanic Graden, which is free admission every Tuesday. Usually Tuesdays are very crowded as a result, but the rain kept everyone away, and I was free to wander the garden alone. In the deep wet green leaves I was drawn to a path I nearly never follow: it is the “native flora” section. On this path I was struck by many beautiful huge trees—hickory, elm, oak, a beech tree whose enormous shining smooth gray bark looked like the skin of a hippopotamus—but what arrested me in my strolling was a small, shrubby tree. It had small prickly bulbs hanging from its branches, and it looked familiar. I saw the sign identifying it. It read: “Ohio Buckeye.” It is a special tree native to Ohio, USA. It is related to the chestnut, which is what those hanging prickly bulbs are a form of. I smiled and thought again of Matsui’s hit baseball. I thought of the currents on the Pacific Ocean blowing it back from Japan.

As I was leaving the Garden I saw a lace-cap hydrangea. The past month and a half has seen Brooklyn have its own version of a rainy season, though much cooler than what I imagine it is like in Japan during the real rainy season there. All the moisture has led the hydrangeas to thrive, and some species in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden which formerly have not bloomed are in full force. I had never seen a lace-cap hydrangea before. It was wide and a soft blue color, and it, too, arrested my exit from the garden. I smiled and thought, how like a baseball glove it looks. And I realized it would be good for catching the Matsui’s homerun baseball that has come boomeranging back this morning after being struck last night, in the form of new gingko berries and Ohio buckeyes.

It doesn’t matter
what’s inside the package
or what form it takes
(berry, buckeye, or baseball)
as long as it is wrapped well.

So I present to you, wrapped in my doubtful, stumbling English words, Japan’s poetic gift of Gogyohka back to those who created and write it.

Gogyohka 7.22.09

If we
do not
pick up
the trash
Who will?

Everything is perfect
Everything is horrid
But what about empty?
New moon nights have fireflies
and noon suns still cast shadows

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Gogyohka 7.21.09

I scrounged a couple scraggles out of my notebook. For now please enjoy these. Tomorrow I will share portions from my nissa.

Matsuo Basho!
William Shakespeare!
Robert Frost!

Gogyohka's inner eyes
look out
to see what
those looking back at me
are seeing

Monday, July 20, 2009

Gogyohka 7.20.09

I may also post my first Cleveland nissa (poetic diary) soon. I've sent it off to Enta for consideration in his magazine, but I dunno what that means for the English version w/r/t copyright. Hafta ask first. In the menatime:

his inside growth
follows the example
of the crab, snake, or pigeon
(a beard, new shoes, bowtie, or bald)
change by molting

and maybe
I will disappear
bobble my juggled life
pick up someplace invisible

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Gogyohka 7.18.09

I am not
like others
Because I want
to be others
Branch, trunk, and root

The moon is low
The windows open
The air wet and cold
blowing over my legs on the couch
Billie's still there singing

Friday, July 17, 2009

Gogyohka 7.17.09

With much love to Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone...

I need some sugar
in my bowl (ain't foolin)
Gimme a little sugar
in my bowl--shake mama
to the other side

With no love to Anderson Cooper, Sean Hannity, Keith Olbermann, Tucker Carlson, Brian Williams, Wolf in tailored gray suits Blitzer, Ground Chuck Gibson, Katie Couric, Bill O'Reilly, Jon Stewart, and the rest of the flat-faced escape artists...

On the street
black and white
don't look at each other
At home Obama's on TV
and each see themselves

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Some Edits

I'm not a real good reviser, but I'm working on it. Please tell me what you think.

Man on First taking Third on a Single to Right

Helmet down and pumping
he slides head first.
The wet dirt skittles
and smells like horses racing--
his eyes squint for the call.

His talk spins in tornadoes
picking up the Taj Mahal
scraps of metal
and junk from dumpsters
Anything but stop signs

I carry the scars
from reaching for stars
that turned into bars.
In front of me over my shoulder
the robin fidgets on a wire.

are often uncertain
but never wrong.
Even spiders sometimes hunt
dangled past their webs.

Goyohka 7.16.09

Across from me
her pinky curls
around a penstroke
looping scribbles on a pad.
I hope it's about me.

She will help him
love himself
He will help her
love herself
Peanut butter and Jelly

And maybe wealth
pricks itself
on the needles of desire
Maybe to feel rich
is to feel needless

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Gogyohka 7.15.09

I wonder
if being an insomniac
and not being a morning person
are the same thing--
dark from light out of dark.

A moutain
of numbers
crunch crunch
climb climb

I pack my tipi
on my back
and just go
talk all day
up listening all night

The further
you go
the more
you see
the similarities

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Gogyohka 7.14.09

His bathtub
is full of dirt
He'd rather grow
than clean,
dark green ferns

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Gogyohka 7.11.09

bright warm sun
makes me dance
cool gray rain
lets me nap
in clouds I write

my socks
who cares?

I love
a fresh donut
that warm pillow
sprinkled with sugar
so it powders the air.

His bathtub
is full of dirt
He'd rather grow
than clean,
dark green ferns

And then one borrowed, with adjusted line breaks, from TS Eliot's "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

In a minute
there is time
For decisions and revisions
which a minute
will reverse.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Gogyohka 7.9.09

are often uncertain
but never wrong.
Even spiders sometimes hunt
dangled past their webs.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Gogyohka 7.8.09

On a bike, on a road

Whizzing past children's squeals
driveway wife on the phone
cut grass, skunks--
dog walker nods good morning.
Full summer bloom.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Gogyohka 7.7.09

Man on First taking Third on a Single to Right

He slides in head first--
the wet gravel skittles
and smells like horses racing;
his head up, the glove clutches,
the ump's straight arms--Safe!

Gogyohka 7.6.09

Two people I have always known, with the first one in two versions (you pick the best):

His talk spins in tornadoes
picking up the Taj Mahal
scraps of metal
and junk from dumpsters
Anything but stop signs

I strain to listen
over his deep well
not knowing
if my shouts are heard
or just echoes come back.

Gogyohka 7.4.09

Looking in a bathroom mirror:

I carry the scars
from reaching for stars
that turned into bars.
In front of me over my shoulder
the robin fidgets on a wire.

Gogyohka 7.5.09

Fireworks burst and pound my ears
and Sousa's marches ring out,
all colors at once in the night.
Smoke rises to the stadium lights
and the huge scoreboard reads: INDIANS.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Gogyohka 7.3.09

The ocean wave of goodbye:

Her arm hooks tight
around his neck
under the exit sign,
her eyes pinched shut past his face--
her shoulders unflex.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Gogoyhka 7.2.09

we cry
once the leaves fall
that's when we see best
through the branches