YGDRASIL: A Journal of the Poetic Arts

November 2007

VOL XV, Issue 11, Number 175

Editor: Klaus J. Gerken

Production Editor: Heather Ferguson

European Editor: Mois Benarroch

Contributing Editors: Michael Collings; Jack R. Wesdorp; Oswald Le Winter

Previous Associate Editors: Igal Koshevoy; Evan Light; Pedro Sena

ISSN 1480-6401







         1. Time Lapse
         2. Escape From Sirens
         3. The Old Temple
         4. Return, Again
         5. Debussy in Virginia
         6. Myopia's Blue Beaches
         7. ZAUM - Tiagananda's Neutron Forest
         8. Hats On!
         9. Marian (1945-2005)


         Night Music
         Smoking in the Studio
         Mood Indigo 
         Letter to Jack
         Heavy Soul 
         On The Stroll 







I've worked with many jazz musicians in my life, including Art Blakey, Juniah 
Booth, Ron Carter, John D'Earth, Joel Futterman, Burton Greene, Dave Kikoski, 
Stefan Lessard, LeRoi Moore, Hilton Ruiz, Walid Taha El, Omar Wilson, and 
others. I learned more about creative improvisation from Buhaina [Art Blakey] 
than from any writer. He used to say: "You have to give up everything you 
know in every performance." Creative improvisation takes a lifetime of 
preparation and practice. 

New poems are composed in my mind long before I commit words to paper. Writing 
is the gesture of a prepared mind. When I read a poem in performance with jazz 
artists, I improvise on the written text, introducing new phrases, images, 
stanzas - whole strings of ideas that come through me.  Responses arise in 
rhythm and tone as we listen to each other. A parallel consciousness is born 
out of collaboration: not the ordinary working mind, not the subconscious, but 
a third state. I may feel like a deer standing in the road, stunned by the 
headlights, but I'm speaking. 

No poem is simple, though it may appear to be so. Machado says: "Enigmas are 
not man-made exceptions - they are in the world, like mountains and mice." 
It's not what you look at but what you see. Why should poems tell us what we 
already know? Is a poem more simple in its movements than a solar system? 
Less complex than a mosquito drawing your blood? As easy to grasp as the 
action of DNA? 

"An assumed simplicity is worse than a theft," runs the adage.  Conscious 
simplicity is the worst depravity. Are Emily Dickenson's poems simple? The 
great myths of the Bushmen of Angola or Australia? So-called 'primitive' 
cultures, like their languages, are subtle and complex. It is our culture 
that exalts and counterfeits simplicity. We all exist at the same distance 
from our origins. What is actually present in our ersatz simplicity is a 
profound falsehood which starves us and blunts every sense. Only productive 
complexity corresponds to our experience of life. 

It is a mere trick of rhetoric to praise the simple at the expense of the 

Adorno has said: "The vulgar praises itself in a triumph of hollow jargon - 
this vulgar style is not 'of the people', it addresses the people, and with 
ill-concealed contempt." 

The Pymatuning Marsh, on the edge of which I was born in 1941, is no wasteland, 
but a rich web of life. Meadeville, PA, was nicknamed "The Zipper City" after 
the Talon Company's zipper factory. From this town, lost in the meanders of 
French Creek, my family moved to the suburbs of New Jersey - a swamp of a 
different sort. In fleeing tragedy (the death of my older brother, 
Robert) we arrived at emptiness. The honking of geese was replaced by the 
silence of streets, and houses lit by the evil blue light of television. 

I learned the art of printing from my grandfather, who edited and published a 
small newspaper in the Midwest. Roaming the country I worked first as a 
journeyman, then as a master printer. (I was Artist-in-Residence at the 
Charlottesville, Va., Art of the Book Center, in 1996-97.) To get away from 
the presses from time to time I drove a taxi and herded horses (joining the 
IWW in 1964). I have been a freelance editor and the editor of a 
literary/spiritual/satirical magazine (The Moorish Science Monitor, which 
Peter L. Wilson and I founded). 

My poems were first published when I was seventeen. Since then they have 
appeared in such magazines as: The Leaf, The Link, Notes on the Garage Door, 
The Destruction of Philadelphia, Timbuktu, The Home Planet News, etc. 

My first two books were hand-printed and distributed free: Dynamite, and 
Smallbone. I've also printed and distributed many broadsheets and poster/poems. 
A new book, RENDITIONS, has been published by SU-PRESS (Athens, Greece) and 
is distributed in North America by Autonomedia (New York). Another new 
collection is due out from ODRADEK (Toulouse, France) later this year. 

A poem's commitment to the truth puts it in the realm of ethics. "The poet 
stands at the junction of ethics and the natural world," writes Elytis. Only 
man has ethics and only man needs them. Ethics and aesthetics are rooted in 
the same soil and thrive (or perish) under the same sun. Poetry begins in 
spells, divine chants, and intoxication - it is born in magic, like 

Poetry is a restless resistance to the immense stupidity that surrounds us. 
Since poems strive for truthfulness, how can it be otherwise? When some poet 
is cosseted by the State, watch out! Something is dead somewhere. 

October 2007  



1.	Time Lapse

sky of slate
summer thunder
the river moving backward
under the cloisters

six years away from this pavement
decades since I was a citizen
of this city of traps

walking the labyrinth
time runs backward
like the river
flushed by the lunar mass

I feel like the ghost of the tenements
pulling a carnival of perished friends
down avenues
between the polished storefronts

2.	Escape From Sirens

stepping through the park at night
the smallest hour
lamps lit along the footpath
lawns gleam in moonglow
thickets cropped back from the walkway
a margin of safety

lovers on benches
susurration of girls in leaves
boys passing a joint
from hand to hand in the shadows
of vast branches

seven thousand nights ago
this place was a pit
of rape and robbery
where madness met suicide
I was hunted here
but tonight I stroll
through the easy nocturne of the breeze
toward sleep
free of sirens

3.	The Old Temple

hunched tenor
like a reversed ess
wave rebounding    underpulse
brush touch
bells on cymbals
bass like a gong on a distant tower

music as deepsea singing
wind under wave
under drowned stone
currents off the moon
drums of backlit grotto
like the sound-well in the cave of Karpathos

the return
tides    lightrays showering down
through wrack and kelp rope
slit by shadows
in the old temple

[Fred Anderson, tenor sax; Joseph Jarman, alto sax & bass flute; Tatrsu 
Aoki, bass; Al Fielder, drums. The Old Synagogue, Norfolk St., N.Y., N.Y.]

4.	Return, Again

after a decade in the sea
I'm back in the old city
where so many friends are buried
on every avenue a tablet
of ice and smoke

the streets are stripped of hoboes
and the muttering mad
'safety' is the password
through the locked corners
in the parks nannies and their kith
spread over the bloodless grass

Myopia - the city where money
is fully conscious
and liberty is a new kind
of confinement

pigeons circle like kites
over the Towers of Silence
and citizens look at the sky
with anxious eyes
waiting for abuses

Boeings rocket overhead
an avalanche of light swoops
from the sun and shatters
glittering on the sidewalk

sometime rain sweetens the gutters
the children laugh a little
and the money grows greener
opening its fresh fleshy petals

5.	Debussy in Virginia

a thrush in a cage
the air is green with heat
Cynthia's flute breathes
                with the birds
lush chords from "voile"
                veil or sail
        a carrousel of brass and beads
Bob's hands on the keys -
of the baby grand

                       summer music
      Debussy scales the steps
                to the white-beamed ceiling
      rubato from the left hand
      the flute's tender regret
      for the cloistered singer

6.	Myopia's Blue Beaches

nomad Mars wanders near
     the superior planet
closer than he's been in six hundred years
     but tonight we make
          anti-martian music

to turn theae beaches blue
     smokin' peace-piano
     unfurl the word-world
praise pays
                     but not in cash
unlocks the tongues of things
          under these big oaks
                     scent of oakleaves and lightning
          singing shadows
               mansplash keys
                                          I say please
                           to the soft rustle
                                          finger muscle
walks among the mallets
     cat dances on the harp
new shapes burst the choked throat of the sentence
     beyond speech swim the planets of utterance
                            my friends
                                                the whole earth is in revolt
                                        it's catch up or get off!

the wood is wise
the ivory knows
     reed is a mouthpiece for the sky
     red frog's dying is a song
                                               bullets will not kill
                              so save your breath my friends
                                         you'll need it

this poet brays and hoots
          calling owls to swoop
               and brush off the roof
new forms spill through the hot crust
                                           of old words at this speed
                                           we've hit the skyway, Joel
                                           we're skating on fast ice
                 gravity waves bounce
                   saxophone tones into twelve-dimensional space
          out of the freshwet form
                                                   is born
                                    a new substance
                                          a continent that astonishes the truth

              born to damp the heats of strife
     with her cool ursuline smile

the evilest lie of Mars
that it's no soul and no future

[Recording with Joel Futterman in Virginia Beach, VA]

7.	ZAUM - Tiagananda's Neutron Forest

by the jacobite banks
     a shore peopled by selfish shellfish
Persian mermen shine
     the signs inside the spines
of lumian moongirls

quasar planet's wilderness
     of transrational colors
polycosmic frictionless light
     some pulsar's spectrum
beyond violet deeper than red

massive abstractions of primes
     terraced plantation of glowing mold
absolute motion in relative space
     unterran growth climbs
from mind to no-mind

a distribution of primes
     in an inverted intersection of arc
some representation-relation
     of nonrepresentationalities
shapes in another space
     time running in all directions

[Tiagananda's sculpture garden, Yogaville, VA]

8.	Hats On!

     I see the spirits assembled; they have their hats on.  Swedenborg.

the angel of speech has given you a present
each word unpetals to reveal inner words
which pop like seeds from a pod
blooming in the air like cloud-gardens

as we walk together our interplay
exfoliates into a labyrinth of books
spliced thoughts    twisted ideas
shards of verse     imperial entanglements

'til one of us halts in the traffic, blinking
where are we going?    where are we now?
usually to the movies but we may never reach
that dark oasis of popcorn and violence

another angel hums in your ear like a midge
a gloomy paralyzing dwarf of malice
gnawing migraine    viper    terror at 4:00am
weeping    clinging kelpie of awful solitude

I know that bastard     try to remember the present
unwrap it    pick up a pencil     wet your brush
open the window    go barefoot through the rainy room of elms
pray to the keratocephalus faun    and write me a letter

9.	Marian (1945-2005)

Marian dancer and gatherer
     refreshed her garden
on the wooded hill of Baltimore
     with sweet water
in the saffron-lidded morning and
     left a trail
of florets like yellow buckles 
     on the turf

she lay down with a migraine and
     like Callisto
left us with a star-like smile
     in the purple
coverlet of night

and greater yet a portion
     of her life
breathes and dances
     in the same soft
petal-dappled dawn

we see her present
    in the generous
glory of the day
    and the child's light limbs

[End of MYOPIA]

POEMS FOR YGDRAZIL Night Music ~~~~~~~~~~~ Inside your body I discover the most preposterous mathematics. Textures multiply, nerves and rough substances weave noises. Noses select particular odors: trumpets, oil and spit, uncarded wool, hot grease and burnt brass, a lingering stink of decis- ions postponed, a possible future postponed. Blood and sex, wet reeds, rich sounds of the mouth, hum and buzz, the body's hope of song. Squish and slap like seals or sea otters. Submarine songbirds. Metal feathers sweep the seafloor. Starfish surface in the tide inside us. Moon swimming in the seed of heaven. Sensations we have in infinite series: Let's squander our riches my love!
Smoking in the Studio ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ proximate fatherhood daughterdom our four hands on a piano of water the hunger of 4:00am sobs on the step leaves of talk a voice from the sky cigarette arbors avenues gesturing posing supposing breathe three times and dip your eye for a joke wave your brush at your broken foot smile pressing your iron on copper over and over in the midnight beyond midnight texts of loss impressions of lonely each a melancholy memory of love each leaf fingered touched traced not one stroke too many for inscription that trails from a heart torn in the infancy of your skin to the companion of accomplished days put your firm thumb on the keys draw the metal slides smoothly in its grooves and smells like tomorrow-by-the-sea your unloved body burnt from the inside by acids you scratch a mirror on a copper sheet it's a pathway you push toward a meadow of sunlight a lamp glows in the shadows of a room over there bread cools on the shelf like a promise one day quite soon this school of sadness will close for you and you will wake up to brighter appetites your strong legs will propel you where your cool hands guide you like herons to the clearest water
Skeezix ~~~~~~~ this girl her aura of black agate queen of needles regnant and outcast of Brooklyn's gelid lilac night bleeding from the armpit whorled soles of her feet cold and broke bitter and brittle hard as glass frozen and lunar as money bones like pith or foam birdlike or a crisp exoskeleton hollow as a locust's ghost she slips along the punctate avenue sweat like a January tide clings to the smooth curve of her spine a frosty swamp beneath her breasts she flies the heat and speeds along the concrete glancing anxiously at taxis stuffed with johns and dollars she craves the pillowy puff of smack in belly and legs as her cold toes turn leading her toward that smokewhite haven a warm room giddy with shit smiling like a rope choking her frail vein that solace that friendly whispering slow snow clutch that loving deathly love so certain so always true so full so freely filling and light it drifts in all those bleak hugh places fills in all the empty spaces and she floats away
Giraldus ~~~~~~~~ Giraldus loops heavy coils of chain around his thoracic bell and hauls his clacked manubrium up out of the fire. He wills a crack in the blocked wall of the heart. He strives against the corruptors of tongues. He breaks the sticks of these sneaks. Wax he applies to the tips of his fingers with light precision. It's all part of his plan to rescue the homunculus. He'll sift the waves of starlight through the gaps in the barn roof onto the curling lines of dust - smokey silent encrypted script - leading to the hay wain. Under this ancient truck a passage drills stone steps down into the dark rich blackness of the capital. Beneath the city is another city: Thanatopolis - the tombs, the catacombs, the inverted tower. Bells boom through the webbed maze. Black rat, river and sewer offal, cloacal stench - yes, crawl this pit sacred to death under the town into a bell-sodden dawn brain illuminated - palm to palm and lip to lip with junky and leather girl pressing the heart, crushing the heart - give without hope, break the last law: love without reservation. What does the light say now, when you wake on the barn floor drunk as the king of cups with a storm of swords slitting the air above your pink and bleeding gut? Giraldus, companion of the campanile, seal your scar with waxy fingers - it's an adornment to the fascia of Camper. (No shield at all - it's the punched ticket of your convictions.) Sure you've been there and you don't have to go back, but you know the way and now you'll never be lost - and if you drag your chains behind you and a track of bloody footprints, remember you flow through the goddam cracks in your heart and you'll never stop flowing.
Mood Indigo ~~~~~~~~~~~ hope is to sow fields of color and form on the empty steppe do you still have memories you painters of a place without volume I have tried to recall the shapes which were born without substance sometimes I think I remember vast expanses of emptiness uncontained by geometry unstained by pigment when I open my eyes the blank of day is right here like a plain without forests or rivers and desire rises to people the distant deep horizon with bodies I can love the mind moves and the grasses tremble in xanthous light flax shocks the air and the mouth a glass of scalding tea drunk on the slope of a blue mound and to reach the hand out to apply paint with the fingertips indigo for example which thrusts a cool catheter deep as sleep into the heaving aorta of Niobe this is the plasma the painter strews when she thrashes her brush in the spacious air over the frontier on her side of the membrane around us the noise the brutal squawk but here before this paradox a torus contained on a flat surface pressed in a palm smeared with indigo and a map to the core of a paradise a shield of indigo feathers and songs too beautiful to be entirely grief
Letter to Jack ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ in the murky hollows of the night through the clank and almighty drumroll of the drags the groans and thunders the vasty lightnings of the plains with pencil and pocket notebook in the withering moonlight dreaming of death and shimmery heavens 'slow dusts of soft' you always come back to the bleak loneliness of river loneliness of cities under snow and dreams of coldmilk supper loneliness of wrecked and moody Lowell shadow Third Street your childhood was a long dream of death and tinsel paradise incense and soup steamy kitchen smells and a boy saint the gilded coffin handles kindle the tired eyes and grey tenement houses lean on each others shoulders crackling radios through papered windows and the snap and punch of football games you could push your way out ten yards at a time breakthrough into the backfield of the library but death went to your head Jack so you sang the sorrow of life hunched in the Automat on a rainy afternoon bip-boop-uh-de-ou-bop in your ear digging the whole clattery scene the slouch hat hands-in pockets guys the dope weary whores tottering under the trafficlights the smeary bums and snappy cabbies delivery boys in uniforms office girls in shapely frocks and flocks pincil scoots across the damp page and your chair rocks to a beat nobody noticed but you though we all hear it now and you were scatting Jack the simple griefs of the American night all that freedom is a big empty space and every day is open until the night closes in on the grimey hobo holymen bent over a barrel-fire their hard hands passing a pint of tokay back and forth yes there are visions here too behind those red eyes the fellaheen crouch in the great dark thats where the blues is under those hats in the Cameo Hotel in the jails on the heartbreak farms under the broken windows of ruined factories and doesnt that shattered glass glitter like jazz in the darkling bars in the benzedrine haze the notes ripple out just like everyday life and the shouts and the laughs come down in the easy kind of madness its the jazz of work or hunger and hangover in the early bright and Bop City at night boplicity boperation epistrophes of crazed and happy gloom and girls voices and girls glances and their sad sweetness its love love in the lofts among the squashed pigments then they go dont they Jack or we do in a dash to lonesome freedom so long Jack you're deep in the dream of death now out there in the golden eternity with the Virgin of Unemployment in the empty light crashing on the dread shores of California in the silent margins of the city in the ride cymbal of the night in the intoxiction yes and exhaltation of each solitary woman and child and man driven mad and wise by beginningless anguish I mean the particular ones the ones you saw and heard and told of the ones we remember now the ones we call by name
Bags* ~~~~ willow dogs whisper in the slant green rain cool ivory rings link solitary stars in coils of snow and the wind laughs like a girl in an empty room moonlight in snowy pools bends like a willow in the black wind coils of rain on a december evening wet streets empty as white rooms silent hours snow and a barking dog quiet slope of avenue between rows of willows buds dust each branch with a breath of green on a march morning heaven as blue as liquid metal wrinkled by swift thrusts of chill spring wind young gusts spread roses like a knife as yellow cat tops garden wall of brick and blind windows wink blue avenues azure days ambush a city transfigured by solitude into an ivory ring on a smooth brown finger linked to a system of dreams in a quiet room and canine light on a white house cuts through a pink shutter like a shank between the ribs of an old man whose junes have stained his blue veined muscles and ambushed his final flesh *For Milt Jackson, "Bags".
Heavy Soul ~~~~~~~~~~ I live on a rough ridged rock set like a loaf of bread in a blue dish every brilliant morning the sun wets his moustache in the sea and I rise from dreams of the City of Spikes laughter of ghost junkies graces of spectral whores smiling through cigarette smoke brown skin in the xanthous eternal twilight of the tenements
On The Stroll ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ memory fills the morning light off the cold silver sea won't drive it away in the loft on 35th Street I felt her close the fist of her heart she looked like junk and smelt like ether O the lemniscate tracks in the dust this is the month when cats die
Wasted ~~~~~~ in the lightless depths of the sea there is a trembling candles in the dismal room make points in your blue eyes the grinning monkey is caged in the corner slumped in the couch your blond hair a sad banneret cigarette smoke twirls like mist in a grey wind Aphrodite Eitymbria




I see the wind in a dream
raveling and unraveling
the white yarn of the sea
a row of gulls guards the spit
dark water-rocks
quivering black and amber
in hot slanting light

the shingle winks along the shore
wet as a cheek
the footpath tapestried with catches
scratches    arches
diademed with thorns
even the smallest of bright things
will soon fill up with night

out there    between islands
the flukes of a sinking secret

peace seems as faint and far away
as magellanic clouds


All poems copyright 2007 Greg Foster


All poems copyrighted by their respective authors. Any reproduction of
these poems, without the express written permission of the authors, is

YGDRASIL: A Journal of the Poetic Arts - Copyright (c) 1993 - 2007 by 
Klaus J. Gerken.

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