Living by the Numbers

12 - 10+14 - 77 - two spinning tops - Night Flight

12

Pity the twelve year-old boy.

It’s sad to see how out-gunned he is: a village idiot

showing his kung-fu moves to the hidden dragon in the clouds.

His thin arms fail to impress whereas her long bones do;

his quivering voice emits distress amid her smooth meow.

And when it comes to strategy his plans get blurted out somehow

while in the upward roll of her eyes

she shows she knows what he’s all about.

 

10 + 14

The shock of a girl's beauty hits the hormones

and the mind never recovers.

I remember sitting in a classroom when I was ten staring for minutes without end

into the eyes of a blue-eyed girl in the next row.

We just sat there and stared at each other.

I also remember at the lake when I was fourteen

a girl called Angela, an angel called a girl

with her blue Italian eyes and her skin smooth as arbutus,  

scented like cedar on a dock by the lake

as she dangled her golden summer toes

like a fourteen-year-old Jezebel in an ocean of myrrh.

 

Just as a boy will struggle to believe in God

after the cruel joke of Santa (And now you expect me

to believe that he walked on water and came back from the dead? )

so his mind will struggle to believe in the virtue of logic

and in the magic of hockey

once the deeper imprint of Beauty has erased all baser matter

from the book and volume of his brain. *

----------

* In Act I, scene v, Hamlet swears to remember the ghost of his father: I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records, / All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past / That youth and observation copied there, / And thy commandment all alone shall live / Within the book and volume of my brain, / Unmixed with baser matter. 

 

77

It'll take years to understand the way the world works
who does what to whom, and why.
It'll take years to understand what you want from love
and its relationship to commitment, beauty, and sex.
It'll take years to appreciate the meaning
of a world without Meaning or Grand Plan
but with meanings uncountable
built into the very act of being alive.
You'll learn this in the course of seventy-odd years
and arrive at last at a point where the mere touch of a finger
is greater than all the philosophies and Art that you imagined in your youth.
Then, one day, around the age of 77
you'll have Whitman's question — To be in any form,
what is that? — on the tip of your tongue
as you imagine the simplest touch
and the first time your finger strayed across her soft skin
made luminous by the summer sun. And then you'll die.

 

two spinning tops

1

in youth, come dreams of Truth

which later years dissolve, when you find out

that there’s no way to find The Answer;

there's no capital after the article

and the article's not definite,

and there's no longer

a subject, let alone

a predicate, only

hopefully a

comma

2

life flows from the red tricycle in the driveway

to the full-throated roar of a crimson Maserati on the autostrada;

from the simplest pleasures to the most complex theorems

which in time dissolve into simple perceptions

until at last you see (but not too clearly)

that there’s no longer any need for

an overwhelming Meaning

 or Call over the waters

where waves drift

and the self is

a mere dot

on the

open

sea

.

 

Night Flight

 

Life flies like a beam of light

sent from this whirling earth

to the farthest spectre of a gleam

in the transubstantial vortex of an alien's eye

 

Life opens like the wings of a bird

to the million visions of Truth

and Beauty yet to be born

 

Life opens like a wide waterway

to a thousand worlds —

until, that is, we die

 

Star Trek

30

When the end is far 

the need for Now is clear:

At thirty we see the clouds 

and write poems to their beauty;

We ascend on shots of tequila 

to the Blessed Rose.

We care about all tonight's parties

and the cut of our clothes.

60

When the middle is everywhere 

the circumference is in the air:

At sixty we write of science 

and the geometry of poetry,

Constructing outlandish models

of independent flow.

Unsure of mortality or immortality

we order our thoughts row on row.

90

As the end gets close

the need for More gets near:

At ninety we start to see

the parting of the rosy cloud; 

Red shifts to ultra violet;

forms reform and un-converge.

We think we're walking through a door

when we're crawling on the floor.

Deep in Sunday-school memories

we re-cognize the old apple:

Crisp outer shell and inner pulp 

rotten to the core. 

120

Fed on by the spongy worm

but not, perchance, as it once seemed:

Rather, a seed of galaxies 

and a wormhole to somewhere else:

Drifting fluxed in amber visions

of our human dreamed.

 

——-

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