Thursday, November 27, 2014

Me and Abraham Lincoln at Count Basie’s

I was talking to Abraham Lincoln up in 
Count Basie’s place in Harlem. 
Abe was listening but also watching Basie’s DVD of Amarcord 
out of the corner of his eye because he’d never got 
over the ocean to Italy in his life, but mainly because 
Abe’d heard Fellini was fun and full of life and people, 
all those flaws and triumphs. Basie was somewhere 
out on the road. I said

“I was a thief, often, in Kansas City. 
I was working, of course. But minimum wage is,
you know, minimum.”

Lincoln looked at me with his worn weary wise eyes. 
He was really listening now.

“I was arrested. I have a record, Mr. President.” 

Abe looked all the way into me - that’s how it felt - then 
he looked around Count Basie’s rooms; he was smiling, 
then he was laughing. He said, 

“So does Basie, I’d imagine. A gold one. So don’t you worry.”  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Millions of Midnight Stars 

Tomorrow, always the boring routine 
but always too, the burning 
romantic unexpected 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Hannah Arendt was right 

Believe it or not 
Two grizzly bears are talking 
with full voluptuous vocabularies 
walking in flying snow 
on the northernmost rim of the Yukon
talking about the nature of evil 
and how they don’t believe in it. 

“Hell, it doesn’t even apply to us, we just get hungry.”

Then, reminded, they sit down on a snowy branch
and eat berries. 

“They throw that word around a lot 
down there in those countries and cities. 
It makes it easier, I guess, but I don’t buy it. 
There was a woman ... there was 
a jewish german philosopher woman - I like her!
who didn’t buy it either
calling people evil and cartoon monsters, 
and she was right there in 
the middle of all those Nazis!
How do you like that?

The other bear gnaws some bark off
a branch, chews it a little, and says: 

“So you’re the bear that knows about
jewish german philosophers?”

“Yes, in fact, I am that bear. 
And she wrote in her book that evil is banal. 
Well, that was profound, though some thought
she was being a little casual about it all. 
Do you know what I think?” 

The other bear, mouth full of bark,
nods at him to say.

“Conformity is the problem, not evil. 
Automatically joining in, signing up 
without the powerful private moment of pause,
to chew it with your own jaws
touch it with your own paws
square it with your own laws. 
You get me?”

“Yes, I believe I get you,” says the other bear,
swallowing chewed bark and sticks. 

“What would you do if somebody like Hitler 
- and there’s always somebody like Hitler - 
walked up to you and said: 'Come on!  
Come with us, we’re going to kill jews 
because I want to, and I want us to, and 
I want you to,' what would you say?”

“I’d say: Are you nuts? Are you drunk?
Are you a psychotic jerk? Are you mean, stupid? 
Are you kidding? No, I'd say, beat it, get lost, fuck off! 
Something like that. Get some psychotherapy, maybe.”  

“Would you join his army, or his party, or
go to the meeting? 

“Doubt it,” says the other bear, “but I’m a non-
conformist, like you.” 

“There you go.” 

The wind whistles through the tall pines
blowing out of the golden glowing sunset 
to the west; the bears shake snow off their coats, 
beginning to think of shelter 
for the cold night coming. 

They stand up together 
and walk east into deeper forest
looking behind them,
their eyes gleam yellow and brown 
in the day’s last sunlight. 

Ahead, they see their path splitting 
off into the trees. 

“Uh oh, the road is diverging in the woods ahead.” 

“So you’re also the bear that knows poetry?”

“Well, hell - it is sort of frosty around here.” 

“See you tomorrow, old friend.” 

The bears walk slowly into the trees
waving goodnight to each other,
and disappear in the dark and 
the sound of the wind;
into sleep and