© Klaus J. Gerken 1992
The candle flickers in a non-existent wind..
Not that anyone need notice;
Deliverance, as God would say,
is not a substitution: 't is death itself.
Death's sole positive and terse arrangement,
strange with life: a steaming nostril
bled with each evolving century of love.
The picture's not as I would have it
seen torn. Had I not been born...had I not been born!
Mere speculation...fate's a non sequitur, a non-selective
entity. And I have fled the angle of a birth unshorn...
and give or take an ear or two
have made the universal saviour
I have been so many things, many personages;
many entities, all too many masks. Discussing...
after all, these pages damp with blood, carry a
reality...imaginary blood, none the less
more real than birth is to a child: Birth recalled:
discussing, of all things, the price of clay...
And why the price of clay is nothing
amazes even sometimes God...
You are restless...wish to go...
My rambling has upset you...?
No. Then...Do not leave me...do not go...
Have I been in love?...you ask. The time is ripe
for oranges...pomegranates...and sand. Yes, sand.
A million million million stars
upon the nether world of universes in-between
this taught of you and your reality (vitality). I can't
remember when...is it charm or curse?
But what's it matter anyway
We sigh the clamour of our lives away. While fighting
fighting...the fighting clashes swords so far away.
Do you think that war will touch us now, in a century
of volatile ignition?
Admit it. You are frightened! Let me hold you.
Just a little while. Until the warm wind
blows the truth away...
No, I am not cradled in some mother's arms.
Am far from harm. No doctor clones the healing
of my charms. I drink dark wine; poison blood
from a chalice gods dare not approach. I drink
divine. Death. For death will save the universe.
Or death the universe will purge. Urge
a human entity toward intangibility.
I let myself go wrong. Did the wrong things
purposefully...felt the force of retribution
down at heel...from it. (False alarm?)
You say no...I, simple fool
I sat beneath an ellum tree...
I cut into an ancient oak
a scrap of poem that I wrote
went back there a year ago
to find it faded overgrown
with scales of life's vitality
and not the bleak delusion
I have become a hermit
A hermit not to poison you
with shadows of intransigence
but some to reach out more
by being what I was before
not half the man I am
nor was to be as each year passes
each year masses
I am poisoned...let us make a deal.
Go down to the river near the sparkle of the waterfall
early in the morning when the soft birds sing
and rest upon the eves
of those deserted houses
haunted and so little known
to what is our ideal...
and throw a stone into the splash
of water...count the waves
upon the quantum waves...eternity
upon the unrelenting way to God.
I walked between St. George's church and
gothic university. Spotted sea gulls
screamed a storm. Threw away
a piece of paper,
scrap of poem... scrap of food
for some poor fool, deluded as a poet
thinking he could write, in poverty,
a fable for the innocent, explaining (ultimately nothing)
Go, idle fancy, prepare this rusted soul
to walk a misanthropic mile. The painted desert
is not, know it now and weep...the painted desert
is not loaded with the curse of copse. Instead
the haunted rattle and the scorpion
gloat on our defeat.
I see the mind, Teresias, knowing death
to be of death, spoke death's rattle.
Vast we are to fail, and fast we are to sacrifice
our voices. Knowing dying is not easy (or perhaps,
just knowing that it is) we chose to sacrifice ourselves
to other disparate activities. The hospital of life
is full and, overflowing, is not kind.
And given knowledge, we refuse in kind.
And the shadow of the bell tolls louder
than the bell itself. Which is not, if ever
thicker than the thickest skull.
Yorik begs to be the jester, once again,
he never was or thought so after all.
The dagger dangles. The snowflakes jangle. And
the jungle burns. I was privy to an understanding once
but forget it was an understanding, and
forget it was near anything conclusive...
I forget it was...a word or two...
a child so deeply troubled...doing
nothing wrong...wracked with guilt...defenceless...
anger fear and shame. Was I ever free to be
alone again?...I was never young again...
I shut the poison out. Left alone
I wrote my songs. Alone. Lost to time
I wrote...Show me how to write...
remember...show me how to feel no pain. (Remember.)
I tried so hard...so hard the heart bled deeper
deeper deeper and I thought I felt no pain...
It was a lonely wanderer, who said, 'dead dry tubers
in a rotten land.' But knowing they who die alone
can never say they forced a helping hand.
Beauty is in words, but never words
as these, used in retribution, anger, fear...
resentment that will cry a child to sleep.
There is poison in these words. And there is poison
in a shadowed land. The window is a wall and
does not understand
the world. The curtain rises...is withdrawn... is just the mind
And neither do I mourn the sun
in hand. The sun that rots good flesh and love
turned ugly, into hate and warms the lover's
ultimate refusal to believe. 'This
refuses what was once so warm. And now is overwarm...
and now, for God's sake! only harms...'
There is neither shadow, light nor substitute.
On my way to work, rested, hand against rough wall;
felt faint: with little sleep, and rested wearily
in dreams where strangers do not hesitate, and lovers argue,
still denying what was left.
Paint rots canvas
(this is what the poet said)
Eyes of blue
We gather you
(emotionally I think
but am not sure)
This oak is poison is
The mirror that reflects
The killer minotaur
Those who would
Deny him life
Lest we glance
a shadow of our death
(I won't debate
what is now aged
and still so fresh to
lost to innocence...lost truth...)
O these four rotten walls! These shards of evidence!
Torn sheets, splintered pain. So much like
the mind created it.
Rusty sailor and
After all was said and done:
the wedding guest
It is a murderous wind
bodes ill tonight. I am alone, but do not venture forth...
speak to walls, Hamlet and Ophelia.
I speak to Oedipus, Lazarus, confused, confessed
and risen from the living hell to death.
I speak: to Yoric
living, not as God, but as a shrunken jester's head.
Know that once the world was clean. Now is shattered
with explosive heat. The id the psyche and the horoscope
premeditate defeat. And fear the ultimate solution is
a broken confused mind that heals too slowly, and the wound
is all that's left to heal the lie.
I do not suffer. Do not ever think I suffer. No.
The curtain stirs. The breezes tremble
autumn leaves murmur...trembling... children sleep
with heavy lids a-dream...
those who think
they run away from life, experience or pain,
run away from nothing. Run only from the childhood magic
and from poetry, toward a desperation
in the heart of darkness. Who is there? Do I hear...
I think there's someone at the door...but...well
the wind is always much too friendly here...
Speaking in soft whispers, as of death,
they feel themselves life's madness
life's desperation, love's dance,
And witness this, a ridge of cirrus catches
just a ridge of sun. The evening places heavy stones
upon a heavy wind.
I should try to work some more.
Perhaps just go away. But
frightened I am here to stay. Beneath the blanket
in a cave, old, and yes... King Lear was brave.
The blind old bugger knew his place.
They said, 'he shouldn't be alone' and
'why does he not eat?' and yes I was alone, and yes
I didn't eat 'at table' with the others.
Like a monk I ate the fragments of a rich
debate...and cast off scraps of bone too bare to eat.
I have bad teeth.
A prisoner, more myself than of the others.
They said, 'how strange his eyes! see how he looks
upon the world.' They would not walk with me.
Sent me home from school. 'He is not like the
others'. 'Muss balt zu erholung.' They tried hard
to take me, but I would not go. Frightened I just
stayed at home. Could not, did not want to
know (but knew eternity) the world.
The world of murderous activity.
The years rolled on, as years would go.
There were joys and heartaches and the pangs of love.
O once so young! behind the revelry
a caution hid. Smouldering beneath the surface
diseasing every atom (The breath of its decay!).
I studied this geometry, it said the world
composed a symmetry. A perfect structure mortals
could not emulate. It wasn't so at all.
I studied this cosmology, and saw the chaos
and the beauty and above it all
the loneliness we claim our own.
This thinking, I would query others, this and...
what is thought? what's it do?
how are we the cognisant? why should this sensation
be so real? Why should we be we? Why should they be
they. Why can't one be of a total? Among others?
Why are we alone?
Midnight. Cat screams. Dogs bark.
The circle is a coded hell. Seven ages dark.
And somewhere in the distance...in another land,
a monk agitates himself
'Living's such a duty thing,
without it...why the lie...?.'
I don't know what to say to those
who would not clutch the vine
and gather to the dregs.
After all, are not, how say?
'the living dead'.
'Living's such a duty thing...
a duty, duty...lie..'All a pack of lies!
Listen. Do you hear it? far beyond the wind,
the ocean and the shoal...far beyond the universe
no bells toll...
'Living's such a duty thing...'
And Basho wrote this poem:
Leaves of autumn
I remember sitting in a restaurant
alone one afternoon
winter snow on rotted boots too thick
hair down to my shoulders
Debbie (not a lover but) a friend
came by. Talked awhile, like any youthful
indiscretion talks. Had an 'empathy'
meaning 'we were young'...
anyway...she asked about this poetry
and how it 'conquered' life...
I said: it doesn't 'conquer life'
She frowned. She was pretty, but not beautiful
tried to be a friend. I just wanted solitude.
I guess, a fool alone...
She wished me well in my pursuit
kissed me on the mouth
and left to find another 'friend'.
conquers life, I guess. The end...
I guess. Even these solutions are not real.
Offer only bandages too temporal...
'My love is fire, and the sun
shining bright and beautiful...
my love is dark and dangerous
no one wants to stay for long..."
Too late, I guess, too late...
grown tired of the old debate
no solutions...I am just too old...
my mind too cold...
It's hot in here (Herod's bold redress?)
I leave the curtains drawn
windows closed (There has to be no death).
I no longer want
to view the world up close.
The fear is on me and I shiver at the sound
of others in the hall.
I burn a candle for the fall
alarmed I have not slammed this lead
upon the page for nothing. Have not
smashed these words, stinking in their
solitude, for nothing. Have not lost
an age to sleep for nothing. Have not scanned
the texts of age... and, nothing.
Of late have studied this cosmology
drawing circles and appending notes
to cast a doubt upon the sanctity
of all that went before (and
all, of course, that will come after).
No doubt we can't know all: are much deluded...
think the end is near?
The end is no solution. The end is just a...shall
I say it? figment? The end, for God's sake, well
may well be just another tear!
How well we think we know it all! The bitterness
and the recall of the offense.
The needless killing of a future hope
or even just an idle dream!
Sometimes I just want to scream!
Tell me? Do we the "modern living",
not prepare for death? History confirms the lie.
We have hidden death away. A lie.
Tried to void the realm of life.
Dante knew it otherwise.
The modern church has much in common
with a modern lie, the broken temples; shards of empire,
they destroyed. Rome's a Modern Vatican. This modern
Vatican is Rome. All regains survival (as it's cause).
The splendour and the decadence.
Take the all in life, for life's not permanent,
eternity is for the soul, pleasure, body.
But eternity remains the body (supposition? soul?)
It is precisely part of that reality
the quantum set denies. The body is
reality, and does not yet conflict infinity.
Rather it's the mind that holds the shadow
by the ear. It's the mind we compromise.
The mind we so restrict to this conformity
humanity requires for subsistence.
The mind, not the body, requires the reality
of what is magically denied by those chose to flood
conception with a static form. It means...
well it means...
why do I return no hope
to those who would require to explain?
Why do I return no hope?...Life requires all that
isn't there, but is. From the micro to the macro.
From a super string to...
I forget the rest. Or maybe I just choose to
not remain the same... nor to play the game...
I am tired of this thinking...everything tonight
tires me...is there no reprieve?
There has been no going out tonight.
No sense of pleasure. No fine argument. For?
Against? No soft persuasion to 'come home'.
No night of love. No fairness. No sweet voice
to comfort me...
It seems that I have been alone
so long. I can't remember when
I last set foot upon the earth. I have always been
an alien; but lately this reclusiveness
has made me force a sacrifice too many.
Too often I have wanted an 'aloneness', but always
found companionship, sweet voice of love and sex,
to be a bond available... I have found those bars
and friendly warm have catered to my needs.
But that can never force the dread despair away.
The mind implodes. And this emptiness refuses to
reveal a home.
No shred of evidence for hope.
I chose to live alone. The sequence of my life has been
even among friends...alone. Even among lovers
(yes there have been many) such a desperate feeling...
O this tires me. And the poem is not finished.
(The poem's never finished). It craves an audience,
and yet there's none around. I remember:
'T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound
Fighting in an captain's tower'
'Einstein playing the electric violin
on Desolation Row...'.
Years ago I used to listen; years ago
I used to know...the truth...
Let me tell you how I felt. I was young and searching
for the 'truth', never more defined than how I
heard that song. The voice was like a mission
in a desperate jungle waiting for a God.
If the old Gods let us down... the new ones
fizzled out. They gave us sanction
and they let us down. Remember of them fondly.
Play them on the radio...a grand nostalgia trip.
They say the 'good old days'...
But memories are more than good.
We are never that again. As youth explores.
The elders seek security.
It has always been like that.
It will always be that way.
The large arena of society
doesn't read much history
that is all.
I try cull the classics to familiarity.
Their sensibilities and how too few there are
comparing disability trough righteousness...
Celine commanded eloquence, but only through elastic verbs
denied to others. We hold the songs in awe, and precisely
won't create. Others own our thoughts and blood.
It's easier accepting when committed
to a TV screen. Death's not part of life...it seems...
Death's out somewhere...there....
This crisis should have made us realise
different societies. Some who deem
our lives absurd. Some we might call enemies.
Some tyrants. They might think of us the same.
We who make, like those, commitment
to their own.
The crusades...mostly turned against
our own society...(the child says: mother
why can't all us live in peace? Why fight
and kill? destroy the world? so, don't we like
ourselves? the home we have?)..why turn against ourselves
with vengeful insecurities?...perhaps it's only part of
Gaia's cycle. Perhaps we can't control the violence
Perhaps we're just too clean...
part of something that controls the earth, the galaxy the universe,
and even God (if she exists) beyond the
Perhaps. If we exist at all, that is.
If we exist at all and Rama does not look too serious.
Ah! The light of morning. Second day!
And I have not confused myself the more.
Have drank of the waters of the Lethe.
And forced myself this ruddy air to breathe.
Which coats the windows with a foggy film.
Obscuring cancerous sun and acid rain.
How will we ever th'Elysian fields regain?
This is the Borderland. A step across the desert
to oblivion. A mirage in the distance.
A thirst for knowledge that is never there.
We falter and express a deep concern. We
stand upon the edge to learn! We blink,
and somehow it's another something over there!
another path to take, thought to ponder,
rage to rage. Another war to preach.
Just think of it! Eternity!
Forever and forever. Each
our soul to keep...
Are we the ones to populate the universe?
Are we the only ones alive?
Sometimes astronomers look at the midnight sky
with trembling in their eyes.
Sometimes we just have to be inventive
with our own philosophy.
Come gaze into the crystal ball.
She met me in the hall.
She said 'I came'. I mumbled
'There is justice after all'.
She wondered why my poetry
was too much too difficult.
She wondered why I read so much.
Asked so many questions
that I had no answers to.
She asked me about the olden songs.
And how the sixties were, and how
I changed from what I was and then...
I said 'We all get older'. She was yet so
young. First year university. Studied art.
(Or so she said) Made some comment on my canvasses.
Said ' Why not have a show...?'
My art is private. I said that.
My art is private. I don't compromise.
'We all do'. And she pulled me down
upon the sofa and was warm and comforting
and soothed the savage fever on my brow.
She was something of a 'beauty queen'.
Knew too much of 'love', I deem
It wasn't right for me to be with her.
But then...she never came again.
And I forgot her just as fast.
I said I cannot compromise. But then I live alone.
Paint shadows - this imaginary brush says all.
I light a candle burning and I gather up my trash.
And hum the tunes the radio ignored, ignored too long.
Sometimes Sundays are a mess. And sometimes
I refuse to divulge my address
to those who would become my friends.
And sometimes I refuse the mirror image
of myself. And sometimes I refuse to see at all.
Sometimes I can't see at all.
Bright ears in the jungle of my thoughts.
I ponder shadows. I ponder sounds I cannot separate.
I ponder the expressions of the trees.
Motionless, yet bending in the breeze.
Waves of the savannah. Waves of sound and
waves of light. Waves of everything denied.
On the beach a woman waits
for the raft of the Medusa.
On the telephone another waits
for the answer...
and somewhere one more poet sings
who isn't heard at all
and all the women come and go
I guess it's not what it might seem
The matrix of the universe
A forest burns.
(The bones rattle
but the skeleton is pure).
Shackled, shackled, shackled to a wall.
The poem's dead.
The poet sings. I guess
he's still alive.
Somewhere singling the afflicted
out. Dogs bark. Humans shout.
Where's the difference...?
Blow the candle out.
Return to Poetry Life & Times August '99