“If we choose, we can live in a world of comforting illusion.”
The fantastic plankton
slumbers under three miles of rock,
cooked to a hydrocarbon gumbo,
with methane, butane, propane.
The copepod longs
to bask in the sun
of 180 million years past,
graze the phytoplankton pastures.
Ancient sea critters
transmuted to black gold,
awakened by the poke
of a straw
seeking our daily energy fix.
To feed our 280 horses,
to step on the gas,
to feel the
the thrill, the freedom!
Carboniferous krill awakens,
senses the power of
per square inch,
against the feeble devices of men.
The algae awakens,
and joins the mob
from the wellhead,
at six greasy gallons per second.
The plankton belches diesel,
gasoline, naptha, benzene,
asphalt, paraffin & jet fuel for
your holiday on the oil soaked beaches.
Petroleum slaves we are,
to these crushing depths
by our craving for this toxic gumbo,
to spoon the fertility of the ancient
“I didn't fear failure. I expected failure.”
Wesley Watson d. Christmas 1992
Wesley Watson put a bullet in
Christmas 1992 he could no longer stand the pain,
The web of Parkinsons pulling him slowly down,
man alone in a lonely house at the edge of town.
A crusty old curmudgeon on chilly Cape Cod,
Of friends he
had few, for his opinions were odd,
He could not live with or without his wife,
And so determined to end his sad
A brilliant neurologist in the eyes of some,
There were others who found him quite dumb,
a philosopher of the first rank,
But only a contrary-minded old crank.
His feelings ran wild, he stormed
and he cried,
To express his emotions he certainly tried,
But anger only drives loved ones away,
When the demon
of rage is given free play.
We'll remember him as a man of vigor,
It takes courage to pull that trigger,
To know when it's time to give up the fight,
Say farewell to the body and turn out the light.
Poem About "Straits" by Kenneth Koch
I began to read the poem because I am often in straits.
Magellan searching for a shortcut back to Europe -- a strait.
But in poems and life the way home is not a straight
It is too profound a poem to read all at once
And too long a poem...so
I take Kenneth's poem
into the bathroom and leave it by the toilet.
I will read a bit more of the poem when I’m in there.
I do not read the poem but only pee.
Sometimes I have forgotten to bring my glasses into the toilet.
when I bring in my glasses I pick up the poem but only daydream.
I finished the first page of the poem and am at the
top of the second.
But have forgotten what is on the first page of the poem.
Sometimes I start again on the first
page of the poem.
Sometimes I think the poem is brilliant.
Sometimes I think the poem is stupid.
I think I’m too stupid to understand such a brilliant poem.
Eventually the poem will become yellow with age
And I will be an old man reading a yellowed paper on the toilet, understanding nothing about the straits...
we sail on, with Magellan,
But the salt spray is in our eyes,
The setting sun is in our eyes,
Our eyes become
milky with age, and we are
Swaddled in the billowing sails of our illusions,
Always passing the straits, the calm
A Note On Kenneth Koch’s Poem “Straits”
“Straits” is the title poem in Kenneth Koch’s
book of that name (Straits, Alfred A. Knopf 1998). But the copy I am reading in my poem was in American Poetry Review, which
was printed on cheap paper that soon yellowed. "Straits" is a nine pager with long lines. It is not a quick read.
Magellan is looking for a strait that would be a shortcut around the world. He goes up many rivers and estuaries but they
all soon become fresh water, which tells him that they do not lead to another ocean. But the poem is not really about Magellan,
it’s about Mayakovsky, the brilliant Russian poet who committed suicide from despair as the Russian Revolution was sliding
into a bleak despotism. So my poem is a poem about a poem about a poet. As Magellan did not find his strait, nor even
survive the journey, so Mayakovsky did not realize his revolutionary dream, and the conceit is that I will not finish the
poem. But that is a lie -- eventually I did finish the poem. But it is also true, because neither have I found my strait,
my shortcut to whatever it is that I am looking for in this life.
Carrot tops are often homely, comic faces,
but she flashes perfect
teeth in a smile that
Into a puddle of lost words at her
little feet in their strappy platforms.
Zigs and zags, "You were awkward on our last date"
she says, I say love turned my
Into circus luggage, holding seven clowns,
Each clown stumbling staggering out of
As I prattled my prolix patter, Imposter!
fool that I was, am, needy, importunate,
The carrot was cool and I was hot, this
is not a complicated tale, there was no tail,
I just turned tail, and licked my wounds
hoping for a bone, but then came the breakup,
and the last days:
We should talk.
It's not working.
This is goodbye.
Hard words, the acceptance of the finality,
the calls to friends with tender shoulders.
and weeks passed,
And I'm over it and she is little thought
men have an unmindful way of moving on,
the scar tissue
Forms quickly around the wound.
then, she calls, the carrot is thinking of me,
A pleasant small talk, but then from her,
we ever see each other again?"
Would you like me to take the knife
out of my heart so
you can stick it back in again?
I don't say.
So here she is again, but where am I? And now
Ms. A and pretty Ms. D, and anytime Ms. J,
await my call,
As women do, as men dream on, and we
are alone together with others, and
Get it, and never will, because it takes a lifetime,
then the life is over, just as you begin
to see and wish
You'd dialed thirty years ago, and still replay
you didn't (fool!) and wonder what ever (fool!)
happened to her?
Start again? resuscitate this
the one that required talking about things
that couldn't be said?
The carrot turns
the handles of our love shower,
she goes HOT, cold, SCALDED, freezing!, LUKEWARM,
I'm sucked into drain whirlpool....
"Sure, I'd love to see you, anytime."
thinking of the innocent bystanders
falling in love
With me, incompetent captain of my weak,
rudderless hulk, the only cargo my wandering,
My tenant is two months behind on her rent
me in a trickle of dollars and cents
With tales of misfortunes and plenty bad luck
The woman is lost when it comes
to the buck.
I'd like to kick her right out on her ass
I'm sick of this tearful, melancholy lass
She's middle-aged, single, of a spiritual bent
But the path that she follows leads not to the rent.
sorry her life is so rocky and hard
But just let us suppose she's the landlord
And I am the tenant that's
two months behind
How much compassion for me would she find?
"Do onto others," is the Bible's
But placed as we are on this brutal terrain
Where the dollar almighty is by God ordained
From our birth
to our burying the rent must be paid.
You must scrabble your way through this money world
Or into the street
you too will be hurled
"All my life I've been swindled!" in the street you may shout
But it echoes
"Nobody loves you when you down and out."