Friday, April 18, 2014

Seagram Building (Mies van der Rohe), Sonnet #173

What meant more to a strict thinker like Mies,
The building looked at or the looked out of?
The Seagram is what is, less what one sees,
A thing you might move through, but never love.
Was a man ever more ruled by the slide rule,
The right angle, and entrapped empty space?
Less may be more, but it's extremely cool,
Humorless, with a stern, unblinking face.
He's often pictured with a fat cigar,
A roundness, perhaps a form of penance
For abjuring the curvilinear,
Though for genius there is no repentance.
The Seagram is simple on a grand scale.
Sterile, and like dry ice, it can't go stale.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Yei Be Chei Dancers (Julia Guerin), Sonnet #172

From six to six the Yei Be Chei dancers,
Blessing herbs, heads in white and turquoise masks,
Shout and chant and stomp to summon answers
To ageless questions the Navaho asks.
Comic relief, the Coyote capers,
Makes faces, mocks the gullible gapers.
A Yei Be Chei also, he's serious
About making laughter delirious.
Only through disorientation
Will blessings descend upon the nation.
They are true spirits while the dancing lasts,
And as night becomes morning the sun casts
Shadows on faces in the audience --
At that moment the universe makes sense.

Please click the image to see a larger version.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Central Star (Mike Taylor), Sonnet #171

At the heart of the Milky Way the Central Star
Increases in mass as every black hole channels
The detritus of space into its empty core.
Replacing our sun, it would extend to Rigel.
As other stars burn away, grow cold, and dwindle,
The Central Star perpetually rekindles.
It has enveloped a trillion planets and suns,
And burns so intensely it glows with neither light
Or color, but with a visible intention,
The ultimate assertion of natural right.
We swing on a spiral away from its hunger,
Though, in its way, it makes the galaxy younger.
Someday black holes will all dry up: the Central Star
Will be the Milky Way, invisible from afar.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Minogame (Edo Period Scroll)

Minogame live in ponds for ten thousand years,
Grow long, hairy tails, actually seaweed they wear
Like a straw raincoat to deceive the eyes of men.
To find one is believed a propitious omen.
They stand on nothing, and nothing hold up.
They just swim, on and on, in eternity's cup.
Minds are all turtles who long ago lost their shells,
Scratching for moisture in the deepest driest wells.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Holy Blood (Alice Guerin), Sonnet #170

The raven plucked Man's pupil and holds it steady
So Limbo is still visible through its black lens.
Blind and po-faced angels live in holes, ready
To fly away the moment eternity ends.
Here is Purgatory too: vines and flowers
Extend from a woman's neck, but her legs wander
Away beneath a shower of black holy blood.
A chemo spirit struts, though she's lost her powers
To console or restore the faith others squander,
Lost all but her rage to escape the coming flood.
Little live hands reach through the clouds yearning to touch
What they can't comprehend, like the Klein-bottle-brained
Devil with the tied shoestring eyes, who knows too much.
He is no god, this clown, though he has often reigned.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Jikininki (Heian Period Scroll), Sonnet #169

The hungry ghosts of Japan eat rotting man's flesh
In penance for a life of greed and selfishness.
At night, all skeletal limbs and bloated bellies,
They see only what the rat or the maggot sees.
In sunlight, each takes on its once human disguise
And wanders its former haunts under clouds of flies.

They say the Jikininki don't want what they eat,
That demon guardians won't permit them to starve.
Some try, but their torturers dismember and beat
And shriek at them: "Now eat what our flaming swords carve!"

These sad, sympathetic souls can only be freed
By prayers of a human free of vice or greed.
Thus the ranks of the Jikininki grow; they feed
On what we leave behind, until we share their need.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Kraken Tree, Sonnet #168

My daughters called it the Kraken Tree
And said it had dived from deep space
To make a new home of rich earth
Being fed up with the bottom of the sea.
Its tentacles, both thick and frail as lace,
Were thrust aloft by its mantle's girth.
They claimed it snapped at voles and moles
With its beak and had plenty to see
Peering into burrowing animals' holes.
In summer the beast is covered in leaves
And becomes a home to nesting birds.
I ask if either daughter still believes
In the Kraken. "Dad! It's not just words!"

So, I find the Kraken Tree on my daily walk.
Sometimes the naked trees around it look like shrieks;
In frigid cold the rubbing of the branches creaks.
A rookery at dusk, here a hundred crows squawk.
The tree stands next to a frozen river that floods.
When it recedes it leaves shelf ice around the trunk.
It's March and the tentacles begin to grow buds.
Suckers sprout just above where the squid's eyes are sunk
Into grassy, leaf-scattered dirt, blinking and blind.
The swaying of its appendages stirs the breeze,
Playfully: the sea creature has some game in mind.
He'd have me believe he's just one of many trees.
I walk on, unconvinced, for I have touched his skin,
His living bark, and sensed the consciousness within.