Flywheels click and choreograph the ancient
power rained on earth in the light of heaven.
Clockwork shadows circle about the windcracked
Slung below a blanketing carbon filter,
crystals spike our gambit at resurrection.
Fast in darkness. Stereoluminescent
range in columns, filling the space we’ve cratered
off the grid and under the meadow skyway.
We advance our emerald swords in sheathing
Here the sun for centuries lit cathedrals,
warmed a population in dying cycles—
still a hidden sepia process, broken
down to its fibers,
clawing gravel railroad embankments, choking
through the burning vale of a summer morning.
Scratching nails unbury the corpus vitae.
Oil on canvas, 30″ x 24″. Here it is step by step, or session by session. The sketch is from a notebook I took on a trip to Amsterdam. The last two sessions–most of the painting–was done in one day.
I was inclined to make some changes–adjust the perspective of the door, add a little leg (human) under the table. But I left it, thinking it was finished. Ha! I came back a week later and made those changes and really dug into the Moon Pie face of the man, picking up the green contours from the yellow globes. This resulted in the penultimate state. Too jaundiced. Still not candle lit. Another two hours first thing in the morning. Now, I’m calling it finished.
The cinema. A stage. Extraneous light
in artificial space. But what have we done
with our defining grace and gift of light?
Our longing for a circle of delight?
What brave new world is shining in our face
from cherubed angles narrowing our light
and measuring the music? Holy light
is foiled as a replacement for the whole
of heaven–the reflection for the whole.
In darkened rows a Mass beholds the light
and chokes on dusty particles of time
that glisten in the blush of curtain time.
“I’m late!” the rabbit cries, believing time
runs parallel, if second place, to light
across some dreaded finish line. This time,
he’s right. I see it’s medication time
as watches slide through fur on chains and dun
the audience with open-ended time
demands. Let’s get on line. In space. On time.
Let’s imitate the sweeping hand-on-face
routine. Wake up! Sit straight! And listen!–face
the stage. It’s late. That ticking is the time
you wasted. Wait! The rabbit’s in a hole
and *tock*, already… Fire in the hole!
at Circle in the Square. Well, that’s the whole
magilla/enchilada, Ellis. Time
for tea. Let’s say we join the jack-a-hole
who’s hawking hats in sizes half and whole.
“How do you take it, Sugar, dark or light?
Or something in between?” He dumps the whole
Krups percolator somewhere near the hole
that spins with starlight in your cup, “You’re done,”
he snarls between the cakes. His dishes done
in staggered stacks, the Hatman eyes the hole
a mouse cut in the cheese. “He would deface
the provolone.” What fury’s in a face!
But wait a minute, there’s another face
revolving in the precious java hole
of china white. I wouldn’t have you face
the facts, considering the floating face
of Dr. Katz keeps smiling all the time
in holographic green. His northern face
is hung with moss. There’s fungus on the face.
“Forget the facts,” a grin of feisty light
and cracking teeth imparts and fades to light.
A problem: Close your eyes–you’ll see the face
of Dr. Katz. So this is how its done.
Forget the facts …forget the facts? It’s done.
A queen in red. A queen in black. I done
forgot my axe! But one dissolving face
or head is quite enough. And it’s been done.
Still, catty compliments are never done–
“I like your dress.” “You look divine”. The whole
charade and shuffled deck (the deal) is done.
With everything on her “To Do” list done,
the red one starts to get undressed. In time,
her rival takes it off. They take their time
on Tangos Palatine. And when they’re done
you close your eyes. The Doctor’s in, the light
comes up. There are mouse tracks and your wallet’s light.
But what have we done with our defining light?
What did we drink that shrinks us all the time?
Who was the worm that smoked and talked the whole
time we endeavored to enquire, his face
a pasty galaxy? What have we done?
Putting aside the obvious concerns about gun control laws in the wake of Sandy Hook, I am thinking about the mental healthcare arguments. And I’m thinking this—never in history have we put so much science and so many government resources into caring for the mentally ill. Mental illness is far less stigmatized now than it was as recently as the 1980s. This is not to say that there isn’t great need for improvement. Look at the U.S. incarceration system for one (very big) thing. We have real problems. But to see violence ramp up as we make improvements hints that mass violence is not, fundamentally , a “mental health” issue.
There is a bigger societal force at the root of it. And we distract ourselves from what we should be most concerned with. I think there is a dangerous compulsion in society, when something like Sandy Hook occurs, to diagnose the killer as quickly as possible, to sequester him and label him, to feel we have him figured out and to exonerate ourselves from actually dealing with the real problem. We convince ourselves that he is clinically “the other.” [Talk about stigmatizing the mentally ill!]
But we hear very little about alienation in our public discourse. Alienation. Something we all suffer from in our increasingly technocratic world. Social, economic, political…many kinds. Eisenhower warned us about it on his way out, Ginsberg on his way in. The technocracy. Alienation is, of course, nearly synonymous with isolation, extreme forms of which can lead to megalomania and violence—yes, mental illness. But the problem we face is, basically, one of a lack of love and a surfeit of hate, isn’t it?
Yes, the shooter in Connecticut lived in a house with a lot of guns and, we read, a mother who was a gun enthusiast. Who knows how that affected this individual? Well, we can safely assume. We need to pass strict gun laws. We need to disarm. And we need to make great progress in caring for the mentally ill. We need to better understand mental illness. But, more importantly, we need to recognize that with all the progress of the 20th century, we’ve lost something in human society, something that can’t be reestablished with tough laws and increased funding for clinical research.
What to do?
[The painting is Chaim Soutine’s Mother and Child]
My Mini-Epic Chapbook
THE STONES JONES CANZONES
is available now from Finishing Line Press
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the iconic rock ‘n’ roll band, The Stones Jones Canzones follows our lads from Morocco into Exile, setting their Golden Age to the form of Dante’s canzone. Need a little Sympathy? A little Shelter? A little Circus? This may be the chapbook for you!
Here’s what the kids are saying:
As a Stones tragic and as a lover of finely-crafted formal poetry, I immensely enjoyed this exhilarating mini-epic, composed by a master-poet at the peak of his very considerable powers.~Paul Christian Stevens, proprieter of The Flea
These poems are vivid and exuberant, a romp that leaves the reader dazzled and just a little sad.~Christine Potter, managing editor of The Alsop Review, DJ and Den Mother at Area 24 Radio
Rick Mullin is unfailingly faithful to the rocky lives and licks of the princes of blues-based rock.~David Yezzi, executive editor of The New Criterion
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