Zumwalt Poems Online

Posts tagged ‘Reflection’

untitled (Sept. 7, 2011)

thick trees engulf the hidden spell;
soft streams collide on risen ground;
so much, so fast, so far we go —
then leave the remnants of the trampled dust.

–Zumwalt (2011)

formaldehydration

formaldehydration

flickering, fluttering inauspicious celestial butterfly
recklessly spatters dribbling drips of darkened burgundy
over overtaken over-conscientious Cal Poly Pomona Green.

diamanté dimensions collide with an autumn-autumn whisper
merging the flap-flap-flap fanlight florescence with a soft gentle tap
shamefully simmering shimmy-round-sizzling shake-down capabilities.

it seems that this high-speed, high-tech, high-result diet
has made me high-strung;

it streams images in passing of over-charged electrons and fairy-tale fancies
faster than the past registers future impressions of near-miss impacts.

I know that time is slow.
It starts off when I do
but finishes long after I am done.

I know truth is slippery.
It hides in the shadows of possibilities
and then comes out for a quick encore before the opening curtain.

imagination weds speed-dating
timed-release capsules
to produce a solid business case
for planetary intimidation
but
when references are required
habitually-blinking, surreptitiously-slinking imagination sneaks away
like
an overwhelmed waiter serving final meals
to a condemned food-critiquing population
devouring
the last bounty of resources one deja-vu moment
before
the impending
never-ever-ever-ending
bright-light-headlight-headache supernova drought.

-zumwalt 2011

The habit of indirection

The habit of indirection

crouched like an audio-animatronic lion
on the destination end of a high hurdle
we find civilius misdirectus
the final evolution of a long chain of
isolated inattentivenesses

it feeds on marathon runners, steeple chasers
and pole vaulters
to fill the intervals
between its favorite meal

off the blocks
directed between lines that narrow into the distance
starts the one
that has carefully measured every step beforehand

no decisions to make on direction, distance or depth
no choices to meet, no chance;
no sudden unexpected moments of chasing the effervescent sparkle
with the distant dream so clearly in the sights

it doesn’t seem like a menace
chips and high tech paper-mâché
waiting patiently at the last of so many carefully counted hurdles
and it doesn’t much move

but civilius midirectus
was designed with one purpose
not to entertain
or even to be the king
but simply
and efficiently
with no remorse
(except where indicated by legal counsel)
to open its volumnous jaws
and direct a glimmer of personal existence
into a very dark stomach of
impersonal
but carefully audited
profit and loss statements

— Zumwalt (04/1998)

Letter from Grad School

Letter from Grad School

By way of prolegomena
Of arms and the man I sing
Of a man with arms
And hands, for that matter
And nothing that matters to do with them
But push gliding yellow felt pens
Across the faceless fees
Of physicians
Dealing the New Deal daily, deftly
To the deaf shipbuilders and jet mechanics
An ocean of OSHA’s owings
To obscure Oshkosh and Oklahoma patients
Politely
With a yellow felt pen
Felt pen is all he’s felt, lately
So come, Muse
(someone should)
And tell of the student-cum-bureaucrat
The man with arms
And hands
With nothing to do
But disburse billings
And perhaps go blind.

In medias res
A caffeine haze
Like the stained smog of the womb city
LA
Swirled, buzzing beneath his 4:00 am skull
Like a Santa Ana locked in a cave
Bleary, blurry, bushed
Home to the ‘burbs
Brimming with the firm breasted wives
Of the prowlers of the power corridors
Brown and nondescript his mentality
Two unkempt letters
On an unkempt bed
From an unkempt friend
A composer schizophrenic
Beethoven of tunes and software
And heterodox harmonies
Keeper of a faith
When all have lost faith
But a faithful foolish few.
Insanity issued from the violated envelope
Rushing, leaping, prancing
Shades, demons, ghosts, apparitions of times past
Dionysian and demented
When loons were lords of the land
(Or at least Orange County)
And rationality relegated to the serfs.
The barons of bats sat lunatic and lecherous
In a Coco’s booth sucking the bean
And contemplating coitus – elusive
And so all the more important—
Jolly jester gestures jump
From penciled pages
And in a laughing gasp at once accusatory and amusing
Howled
“Write!
For the faith is fading, dwindling
Like a soft candle stump
A fleeting flame flickering faintly from
A shriveled wick.
Write!
For I am playing pool with a drunken
Busboy lothario
The two of us—Lear and his Fool—
Leering and fooling around
With a round romp
And her dart-faced female friend.
Write!
For the roundtable is ruptured
With the tennis stud talking Tupperware
And decamping for Texas;
The Great Beard,
Erstwhile Falstaff with a joint,
Presently playing it cool
Hawking high finance
To bag some bills to pay the bills;
And the genius leader of liberated wit
Is doing a Ulysses gig in Asia
Beating knowledge into brown brains
And contracting dysentery
For the white man’s burden.
Write!
For stimulation is scarcer
Than a willing woman
And I’ll settle for a long distance laugh.
Write—Right?”

“Right,”
Murmured the pen pusher pushing off,
Toddling, tottering to sleep.
Waking the afternoon next
A cool spring Sunday
He gripped his pen determined
To pay his debt.

Agon Aristophanic
So the student
Who sings for his supper
With a yellow felt pen
And writes arcane expositions
Of the arabesque antics
Of the politics of Riyadh and Jeddah
Essayed, assessed
Saying sayings not quite sane
What he means is what he said;
Sotos speaks, so to speak.

An auspicious year, the eighty-first of the twentieth
Sophocles stooges—Clotho and her cronies—early
Gave the Greek grief
Tried to hand him brooches
But he’d seen that one before
And they left for Lauderdale lawn chair lounging
But not until his transmission was translated
Eighteen miles from Phoenix
For half a K
Plastic money and smiling despair
Got him off of Saddleback Avenue and on the road
Two days long a longue duree
At the El Rokay Lodge.
Jojo’s has migrated
Like mildew across a map
And Peasant Lunches paid with plastic
Fed the moustache all across the continent.

Back to the marble city
With minds missing marbles
And the pater patriae has a phallic
Monument mocking
The felt pen scribe scraping by
With his social life on display at the Smithsonian
Said to be extinct.

Well, can’t complain
One supposes—Eros escapes
My grasp but platonic pleasures placate.
Lots of late night nonsense with Eve’s daughters
Watching omelets cater to a Charybdis appetite
And catching two-dollar talkies at the Circle.
Taystee Diner bean brew and juke box jokes
While Hall and Oates
Simon and Garfunkel
And Queen
Eat my quarters;
A couple of babes—a lanky blonde
And a petite brunette who claims she’s a blonde—
So let’s just say he’s reveled past midnight
With two blondes.
Fun ladies and dynamite looks
Knockouts but not for knocking.
When it comes to romance his social life
Is in formaldehyde waiting for someone
To identify it.

Between hubris and hamartia
Thrice has the world whirled
Complete circuits encompassing the sun
Since the Greek marched east like Alexander
To conquer Persepolis.
Most that started the march have finished their anabasis
Dared dementia and cut the cord
With Alma Mater
But Alexander pushes on
Pushing the yellow felt pen
And checking the views at the Strait of Hormuz
Holding court, he’s
Doing okay for a tortoise.
Just a hundred pages or so to go
But if feels like walking the wastes of Gedrosia.
Let’s look to emerge a year from now…
Meantime he makes time and money green enough
With the yellow felt pen
Streaking beige bills
At Fran Perkins’ Annex.

It all adds up to the bottom line:
Amassing a Master’s stretches time and taffy
Like some Einstein joke
The faster you work,
The more tenuous and ephemeral
The whole pandering postgraduate program seems.

Anagnorisis of a sort
Beckoning from beyond an unborn year
Are the vegetables on display, evergreen and plastic,
In the kitchen appliances at Sears
Waiting to be consumed.
Legitimacy and actuality and parental approval
At some point you have to face forward
And take it like a Man.

Rustling from behind
In the grottos of your mind
Are the petrified relics mined
Memories of a golden age
(Or maybe just brass)
Pulling you back.
Is this metamorphosis imperative?

Balancing the abyss between
Plastic peas and petrified pasts
He hangs on the words, hard shells of
Thoughts
That span from the solid past
To the faceless, featureless future
An unraveling chaos with a Camarillo laugh.
He doesn’t know where he’s headed, but he’s got a
Handle on where’s he been.

By way of epilogue
The song is done
Evaporated, evanescent
As the balance in his checkbook.
The yellow felt pen pusher
Pushes on
Staining audiologists’ invoices
And the lives of those around him.
The Greek still seeks his telos
But not without some longing looks back.

 — Zumwalt (3 May 1981)

Afternoon Off

Afternoon Off

Muscling for the right of way
With horn-blast exclamations
Traffic mutters its scat song score

The sun today
Like most days
Doesn’t shine postcard gold and honeyed
It glares
Through the inversion layer
A klieg light in a smoky cabaret
But
Just the same it warms
The square

Sprawled on the grass
Midtown midday characters in
Pershing’s street show
Young Chicanos scout for chicks
And advertise adolescence
Studied, casual, tough

Some shirtsleeve transient
Sporting scrimshaw arms
Scans a racing form
His shoe leather face focused more
On Santa Anita
Than the saints
Shouted, proclaimed
By an antique black
Whose white wisps of whiskers
Cling to his accusing chin
Clouds about a crag
That trembles with every thundered damnation
As the old man makes the park
His pulpit

Basking in my own insouciance
I consider
How best to consume the remainder of the day

Perhaps a saunter to the Biltmore
To grab a joe and watch for ghosts
Or a march upcountry to Bunker Hill
To glimpse the glass castles
Mercantile and magnificent
Then again
I might, like a rookie on the bench,
Sit attentive, listening
To the traffic
And the sermon
And see what happens
Next

— Zumwalt (ca. 1977)

what soul is not besieged

what soul is not besieged

what soul is not besieged by rotten eggs and soft tomatoes
by answers unreturned and questions unsent
by minutes that make up hours and hours
           that tear down the day

what mind is not put upon and
           once put upon
                           cast off into a corner
what body is not battered and
                   beaten by the blows it shields
itself from

what soul is not bombarded
         by twenty-two gauge shot and mortar fire
by unresolved cadential patterns
         that whine around the head

by invalidation of beliefs and
         of what one has seen and sensed

there is reason to suspect that one can grow
if only the rainy season didn’t last
                                                       the entire year.

—  Zumwalt (1991)

a single word

a single word

words, words, words
static over static
drilling deeply thru the dentine
scraping invasively against skull and skin

your line of supply is inexhaustible
arguments, propositions, explanations
predications, exclamations, excuses
all unecessary barking and bow-wowing
at hidden celestial objects

I am here
don’t chase me away
unless you want me
to be chased away

I am yours
don’t bombard
your own firmly secured posessions with
ammo best saved for those territories still unconquered

give me short compact sentences
phrases and single words
ideas as consumable as quarter pounders

don’t shove a hose down my throat
filling me with mashed escargot and foie gras

words, words, words
I can’t sustain a relationship with them
pelting me from every angle at every moment that
we’re together

take your finger off the trigger
I surrender
make me a prisoner
not a confirmed casualty

words, words, words
they all sound the same
they don’t mean anything
they just demean, meander
and make me end up thinking
that when all is said
I haven’t heard
a single word.

— Zumwalt (1990)

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