Spring Cantata | Stuart Krimko
Two years ago I said I'd write my spring cantata.
Two years like two holes, two vernal stigmata.
The persimmon tangles with the plum.
Around their buds bees and hummingbirds hum.
Who knows how many gophers dig down there,
filling the dirt with rope-like tunnels of wet air,
surfacing to suck up tender shoots we plant.
Forced to choose, do you prefer can or can't?
Chewed up specimens of berry and pea
are allowed to wither while Irrigation Sea
continues to lap at shores of kale and tomato.
Death must be dark matter that suffuses libido
while life is a self-perpetuating cycle that tires
the soul and the mind. The body relentlessly admires
itself until it starts to fall away, and even then
it props itself up like a scarecrow once and again.
Seems like the cantata has wandered into autumn.
Dig like a gopher I might, I canít find the bottom
of this aspirate entity known as seasonal time.
Instead I watch the hardy tomatoes climb
steps of air and moisture toward their master, Sun.
Their production of sweet red globes has begun,
and orange and yellow too, if only in flower.
Each tomato is a teetering, oily tower
troubling itself to break with dirt and breathe
what lies above. Obsessed, I lay another wreath
of syntax on the grave of the pea, the berry,
lost to urbanist rodents who chew then ferry
their remains away to who knows where.
Spring is like a secret friend youíll never share.
What it promises it sometimes delivers:
the right balance of sweat and shivers.
Iím sweating, sweating, itís very hot.
The dandelions distribute their lot.
Plants canít rely on rain anymore.
We water them, let sunlight pour
upon their leaves in drops of burn
to which the greedy leaves all turn,
feeding themselves until they scorch.
I pray for shadows from the porch:
the large oak heeds the call,
canopy wide as trunk is tall.
Spring is immolation;
Hummingbirds hunt for nectar,
each a thirsty, nosy inspector
buzzing by, watching you watch.
Itís amazing how much life I botch!
In my dream a poet in a beautiful house
was joined by her wife while fat grouse
stuttered in the coastal rain outside.
The house was an octagon and their pride
in it was rewarded, if thatís the word,
by visits from tourists. The poet demurred
when I asked her to sign a copy of my book,
for some dream-drenched reason. Look,
thereís John Ashberyís John Hancock
scrawled across it too and a wet flock
of little empty birds also tittered in the rain.
The poet was stately, long-haired, in pain,
it seemed, but not of the physical sort.
Her wife gave a self-satisfied, urgent snort,
as if to usher this dream-drunk fan away.
I searched myself for poetic things to say
while the wife described how some thought
the poet would turn more mannish, caught
by age in the snares of leaping androgyny.
Thus he would become her dying progeny.
I gawked at the sublime proportions
of the house and the harmonious contortions
of glass and wood that groped for joy
with the rain like a beggar in bright employ
as the sun simmered behind the ocean weight
of water wishing it could anticipate
how poetry presses against a human soul,
facetious, elemental, incomplete, yet whole.
How can you help but see
the day for what it is, a tree
of light disregarding all regard,
a crystal replaced by a shard,
a shadow descending on the dark
that blots it out and leaves a mark
that blinds the bee and binds the bird.
Reduce spring to the word
we choose to call it by,
welcome summer dullness nigh.
Whatís the shape of an unknown
satellite spinning like a bone
above the moth-eaten layer
of ultraviolet protection (Earth slayer
and life originator carbon)
got to do with the unholy harbin-
ger of eternal happiness
flying this way in a spinning dress?
That UFO and the world are one;
that black hole? equivalent to the sun;
spring turns itself inside out to reveal
an autumn acorn unleashed, unreal,
containing the seed of ripe death itself,
fine skull of a bird crumbling up on a shelf,
disregarding all the dancing pollen
upon the surface of the self now fallen,
causing allergic reactions nonstop.
UFO, world, seasons, like a top
they spin one into the other.
Our filthy fortress, unmentionable mother.
I went for it unabashedly, like a charmer, a saint, a whale,
I stalled in the hall and stared at the source in a rusted pail.
I patterned myself after the shotgun within, I woke truly uninspired.
I opened myself to immaculate drones. I showed up to work and got fired.
I fit the whole world into a stained paper bag, it ripped.
The sodden house moaned, from the gutters the raindrops dripped.
What could I be if not a barrier, a bloom, an explosion?
Remember to rhyme, seep homeward with emotion,
find in the portals of idiot sound the seeming that was and is.
Illusion, erotic, illuminating, profound; the summer you ardently miss,
the winter you weaken your knees for, the fall you fail on occasion.
Spring: orchestra botulism, blatant forgetting, nude imagination.
Have you met my friend Cťsar Vallejo?
His poetry is like a long layo-
ver in the valley of death. Will you ever
get on another plane? Throw the lever
and you see his eyes squinting in Paris.
Feverish, he died. My Toyota Yaris
is yellow and never breaks down.
Feverish, he died, but he didnít frown,
he froze his heart in his verses for us to see.
It beats there still, not with one rivulet, but three,
trickling through its fjord-like wedges.
A hot breeze tickles the sedges.
Spring wonít last long. Here comes heat.
The dented gong, the too-charred meat,
I walk the Vernal Way.
Spring is my spiritual passion
but the spirit goes out of fashion.
Iím drinking another Negroni.
Another name for rabbit is coney.
I see rabbits when I run in the canyon.
I wrote a poem about the huge banyan
tree at Edisonís winter home.
Itís in Florida. A gnome
inhabits its grotesque above-ground roots,
scavenging the silence for leather boots
that can replace the ones heís worn out.
His hermitís existence has been borne out,
proven to be a source of solace
to himself, and thatís what the goal is:
to make himself happy in that garden.
The light bulb begs his pardon:
itís burning despite the fact that Edison
co-opted the work of others. ďLet us in!Ē
these nameless inventors exclaim,
unifying under the mantle of No-Name,
not one that I know about anyway.
The gnome was a teenage runaway
who broke free of his childhood system.
Spring joys, shall I list them?
Dandelions, mosquitoes, moles,
eaten vegetables, tunneled holes.
I visited Edisonís place with my father
in 1986 or 87. He died this year. Do I bother
to send him these sounds, these verses?
Does Mattel make Matchbox hearses?
I imagine the final day of spring,
a bald, incessant, lonely thing,
bright like the lights in the emergency ward,
where flesh is first and foremost scarred.
The weeds hold fast to clumps of dirt,
sweat soaks through a linen shirt,
shoulders shedding like a falls
while a misanthropic bluebird calls,
conspiring with the world, and life,
while tooting on its beaky fife
a song that only the desperate know
as they fight the need to join the flow.
A feather falls on the dew-sapped lawn
as a hungover gardener plants a yawn
in the asymptotic youth of space,
which time and light hope to erase
in a blinding burst of filth and speed:
even black holes develop from seed,
from stars collapsing, celebrating the void.
As for the weeds, donít be annoyed,
they come to frustrate your expectations.
Frustration is life, and death negotiations
with the high, unstoppable need to yearn
as seasons and solar systems turn.
On the icy shores of Artichoke Bay
I pondered the person I was, in the clay:
a body of beings whoíd bought up the store
of sensations, emotions, deceptions, and more:
the moon huddled close to a star like a key
to the gate at the center of our dust galaxy:
a green vision shimmered on the waterís surface:
was it natureís noose revealing its purpose,
to strangle the logic Iíd lived to nail down,
to open the folds of my soulís sequin gown?
I sat there in wonder, caving in to my eye,
which focused and unfocused its void on the sky,
looking for a singular, variable vision
that could match what I saw on the bay with precision.
But clouds scurried over and muddled the view,
they fogged up the lens of awareness a few
clicks at a time, til the sky was the color of whale.
I deserted the shore and jotted down this drab tale.
When I woke up this morning the bay was a-shimmer:
my head hummed like beehives, my body was slimmer.
Artichoke crystals climbed the clouds all elated:
itís afternoon now and my confusion hasnít abated.
I think Iíll go out to the shores again tonight
with the aim of perfecting my death and delight.
The day McCoy Tyner died
I walked the soon-emptying, wide
avenues of Manhattan.
Here comes COVID! Batten
down the hatches.
Got smokes? Got matches?
No, but Iím happy to share
this day pass to Scarborough Fair.
The herb-growing competition
is a fine-scented vision
of edible leaves growing verdant in pots.
When winter dies, it rots
into a sprouting mess of spring.
The equinox balances everything,
splicing half a day to half a night.
McCoy Tyner tickles the blacks and whites
in arcing blooms and blissful lights,
there in the gallery of astral sights,
where no one sees unless theyíre dead
and no one hears unless theyíre fed
on memories and pills they swallow
to undo the void, that verdant hollow.
I listen to him play as I drink
a Negroni and type and stare and think.
Then I shut my mind and open my ears,
instigating the release of two tough tears,
one from each eye.
I raise my glass to the sky
and toast the young Mr. Tyner.
Nights of Ballads and Blues, nothing finer.
When someone dies theyíre a youth again;
donít ask me how, or why, or when.
Time doesnít exist and neither do you.
Time is a ballad, eternityís blue.
Along the scenic route to Avalanche Springs
I divested myself of the ten thousand things:
of thoughts, emotions, dreams, obsessions,
vices, regrets, virtues, obsessions.
Raindrops pelted the windshield before me
as a fine spring day turned violent and stormy.
The mountains were covered with plenty of snow
but patches of green melted up from below.
All of us were scared, we blurted out names.
Slander that smiles is slander that maims.
On a moss-stubbled hilltop overlooking the salt
I concluded that everything was surely my fault.
Noises rang out, seagulls and waves;
have you ever watched as a hilltop shaves,
using the dew to sand down its gneiss
and trimming its flora with puddles of ice?
The guilty were freed with a cheer from the gallery;
the judge was judged and jailed in his salary;
a sailor swam up and threw his hat in the air;
a tired old singer draped her braids on her chair
choosing to whistle her briny song again;
while her crooked teeth sparkled she picked up a pen
and jotted down words on a piece of pink coral:
ďThe sun has escaped and the moon is immoral;
at dusk let us dump our troubles away
and at dawn let us dream a hole through the day.Ē
Then she lay on the hilltop, her bones in a heap,
accusing us all of disrupting her sleep.
DEATH-SPIRAL 6, 1
PASADENA CA 2020