Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Nameless Trees

As Peggy has gone from walker to wheelchair to hospital bed so too have her windows to the world changed. Each has its own small jungle / garden /shrubs for her to ponder. Now the coral tree is out of view. She communes with some palms and a few slender and nameless flower-bearing trees. She has entered the unknown.

In fact most plant-life is unknown to me. Quick, get me a glossary. As a street-kid in the big city I called trees the goal line, second base or the foul pole. Some trees were for climbing if they had enough elbows.

Naming, it is said, confers power or dominance of a kind. Does the sycamore answer to sycamore? I suppose the poet gets creds for knowing the nomenclature. On the other hand, not knowing the names of trees is what got me into writing poetry.

I was an aspiring poet in the late seventies among about one hundred others at Port Townsend, WA. with Gary Snyder, proclaiming that we must first know the names of trees. First I thought I was doomed to prose hell. Instead, I found my own voice as the guy who didn’t know a birch from a beech or a swallow from a sparrow. I would relegate Snyder to the Bear- Shit-On-The-Trail school of poetry while I'm more in the Dog-Poop-On-The-Sidewalk, variety. I am what I am and I ain’t what I ain’t, as John Prine put it.

Peggy is enchanted by the thin-stem pink flowers and hummingbird we have named Old Chum. The tiny bird visits several times a day having found a habitat on a hair of a shoot, fragile as life itself. Between the anonymous tree and Old Chum she has created her own Eden where nothing is forbidden.



Saturday, July 24, 2021

Covering Up

Certain words just roll off the tongue. Too bad diphtheria and syphilis mean what they mean. But eucalyptus is there for the taking. In my next incarnation I want to get dibs on that name. Tall, with a unique bark and not-from around here. That’s me

My first encounter with that smell was inhaling it from the vaporizer and here I am now communing with the bent eucalyptus right outside our kitchen window. You’ve got to love its peeling trunk so striated and weary in its sloughing off. What are you trying to tell me old tree? Or is that just ga dy in fluent Australian from whence you came.

The best thing about eucalyptus is that it is the opposite of apocalyptic. The tree’s name is derived from the Greek meaning good cover. Eu (good) and calyptus (cover) so named by Captain Cook for its well-protected bud.

I’m so tired of apocalypse (no cover) in which life on this planet is left bare, wasted, done. We are, according to Testaments, Old and New, uncovered and subject to the four beasts or horsemen or some such nonsense. Maybe Donald is one of them as pestilence foretold.

If this is a multiple choice, I’ll hug the tree of life with the mellifluous sound. The eucalyptus tree emigrated here from that hemisphere below which may be a portentous messenger. I expect the next hundred years to be an epoch of mass migrations with folks in equatorial or parched regions moving to more moderate zones and everyone thirsty for water.

Let us gather in the eucalyptus grove fully covered and protected by the vaccine singing calypso songs while all the apocalyptic anti-vaxer deniers wait for the next commandment from their puppeteer.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Approaching the Bench

I object, you honor.

On what grounds this time, Levine.

I object to the mendacity of the witness, the venal deceit.

One more outburst from you and I’ll hold you in contempt.

But, your worship, this man is beneath contempt. He is a self-serving, arrogant megalomaniac.

The jury will disregard that statement and one more word like that, counselor, and I’ll clear the courtroom.

But we are being led into sedition.

I’ll decide what is true in this courtroom.

I would like to introduce a new piece of evidence. Give me a few minutes and I’ll think of something.

Listen, Levine, we’ve been indulging your rambles for long enough.

In that case the defense rests.

My advice to you is to approach another bench………the park bench.

Yes, your Nothingness, I shall seek an empty bench, open up my brown bag and have an apple while contemplating the meaning of existence.

Best if you move around a bit or the pigeons might choose you upon which to deposit their waste.

I shall roam and probe, perhaps umpire a softball game at midnight, or listen to the passion flower catch its breath. Maybe I’ll go fly a kite or find my place on this mortal coil playing checkers with men in frayed suits while gazing into a water fountain to discover how it all began.                                                                                                                    

Monday, July 12, 2021

Blizzard of Petals

Before moving in with Peggy, which should have been a no-brainer, I dithered for three years. Three wasted years. We saw each other on trysts, getaways and assignations.

In what may have been our first such time together I asked if she’d remembered Last Year at Marienbad. Well, said I, How about next weekend at Carlsbad? And so we ran off to that sleepy little town to see the ranunculus and each other.

We never got around to the flowers. As I have come to realize since, anywhere I am with Peggy is a destination. As the poet said, Pebbles underfoot / the polishing of years / made jewels of. She doesn’t even require years to polish them. Everything becomes a nugget.

Since that first time in Carlsbad, we have visited those fifty acres of ranunculus on several occasions. A most amazing flower with colors blazing yellow as summer, orange as autumn, cobalt as a bluesy sax and red as the sanguinity I have been blessed with which Peggy radiates.

The petals of the flower unfold as our days have concentrically, centered and ever expanding, as if some sort of explosion of life has burst out of a dark hole.

Peggy has an alchemical way of converting the base metal of ho-hum to an album of unforgotten a-ha. She has antennae for the overheard and overlooked as well as for people, transformed by her open embrace.

Out of a window pane she saw the caves of Dordogne, white horses and possibly a blizzard of petals from those fields of ranunculus having seeded them by her unaccountable wand.



Thursday, July 8, 2021

Order Versus Disarray


There comes a time in life when one must throw out their stack of selected articles from New Yorker magazines saved from 2009 to 2019 along with half-read New York Review of Books and assorted must-read articles. The pile has been growing the way bacteria multiply. Organisms may be nesting between the pages.

I’m sure if I had read every one, I’d have long forgotten the content by now anyway. So, liquidation becomes easily justified.

When I was growing up my neighbor, Johnny K., had a hall closet filled with National Geographics. I thought the continent might tilt. Now I expect New Yorkers are balanced between the two coasts.

Hard to say what we retain over the years. A mere fraction, I suspect. I’ve been telling the same jokes for decades. It’s a good thing my friends weren’t listening to begin with.

As for political persuasion I can’t remember changing my stripes a whole lot since I wore my FDR buttons. I would hope my quasi-philosophical impulses have become more nuanced, less strident and more forgiving but I can also feel myself growing grumpy, impatient and despairing of the collective stupidity with anti-vaxers, climate-change deniers, and mesmerized Trumpers in our midst.

2009 feels like yesterday to me yet has become history for my grandchildren, another thread in the grand tapestry, if they think in such terms which I doubt.

Now I’m looking at the spot where those old magazines used to call their habitat. It had grown into its own sequestered space, an appendage of furniture, now gone. I yielded to the voice of my betters who rank order and propriety over that scrupulously calculated mess I’d grown accustomed to. There’s nothing so tidy as absence. But life isn’t tidy. I prefer a fair measure of disarray. All rooms are living rooms; not for House Beautiful, a magazine I would have thrown out immediately.





Thursday, July 1, 2021

As It Is

Poets lie a lot, so I’ve read somewhere. Not the monstrous, malignant deceit of Republicans but more like benign fabrications. So when a poet says she writes at midnight over a bottle of wine she really writes at noon over a glass of milk.

The fabrications, in Peggy’s hands, are wondrous imaginings, visions of incandescence and poems to sing the sun down.

Peggy is not heeding Dylan Thomas’ villanelle to rage against the dying of the light. She is going gentle aligned with what she has always held in affirmation. She is now under hospice care. Matters are perhaps not as dire as that word suggests but…

Her breath is intermittently short even as she invites the unknown, the vividly unseen. She looks out the window, sees orchards and hears clarinets. Recently she has been marveling at the plumage of tropical birds as if Fauve painters adorned her inscape.

She is the poet who lies in order to tell the truth, tangentially. She shares her prodigious imagination. As life meanders she might perceive a pattern or hear a rhythm in its randomness.

Love and beauty are the operative words. There is love in her reception of care, in enduring friendships and in her gratitude for these years. Peggy finds what is overlooked. Stumps and pods. An ashtray. A pitcher. Decaled edge of a paper. The magnificent moment of coming into consciousness. Perceiving life as collage. Disparate objects or acts creating sparks and joining them. How we are stumbling our way along as pilgrims passing through.

The end of the journey might be the beginning of Gershwin’s Rhapsody, seeds scattering, the grace of a branch, the flow of a gown in a Japanese print, the neck of a swan before dawn, or an elongated a-ha.