HACKBERRY on BASALT (Celtis reticulata)  in April sagebrush steppe

HACKBERRY on BASALT (Celtis reticulata)
in April sagebrush steppe
[ click photo for next ]
Northeast Oregon . . .

When I think of form in poetry, I think primarily of rhythmic movement.
In a general way, the rhythm of poetry—whether in a sonnet, a haiku or
a longer, more complex contemporary work—can be thought of as a series
of steps, much like a dance, which cuts a pattern in time.

I find that one of the remarkable things about our experience of this process
is the relationship between time and space. Whereas the poem as we say or
hear it dances its way from beginning to end, sometimes as fast as a rabbit
darting across a path, or as slow as a drop falling from a tightly closed faucet,
form has a more spatial, object-like quality about it. We think of rocks or of trees.
But unlike the water and rocks of the physical world, with our perception, the
boundaries between time in space are mysteriously much more fluid, both
easily flowing into and merging with one another.

The poem Guru plays with this idea. Unlike many of the texts featured
in Picture/Poems, I have not brought Guru together with any particular
photograph. For me, the beauty of the image-text form is that the picture
creates a context in which the poem might flower. It's limitation, however, is
that the image can be too specific, thereby constraining the movement of meaning
in the poem in a misleading or even arbitrary way. This would have been the case
with Guru, so I've presented it here in text-only form.

What is really primary here is a quality of large-scale musical space.The poem is
as heard about 4 1/2 minutes long. In music, this is about the duration of a short,
yet substantial, piece, but in verse—at least as I conceive of it—more like a journey
of an entire day. Without going into any detail here, just let me mention that the form
of Guru emerges out of a new approach to syllabic verse, where the steps made by
each sound are counted and various larger patterns are repeated. These patterns are
both regular and irregular at the same time, the most important of which is an eight-
line stanza which appears six times altogether. Here's an example:

"The berries of the mountain ash
are almost too big
for the tiny winter wrens. He
stops, amazed, counts seven or more,
all on the same tree;
they show no fear;
ecstatic with fall, they are gone.
The limbs of the bare..."

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
_ _ _ _ _

(In contrast to the static form of the printed page, you can watch the rhythmic flow
of the piece, from beginning to end, by scrolling through the (unbroken) computer
display-page quickly, from top to bottom.)

The central theme of Guru—our attempts to observe consciousness as a whole—seems
to fit this movement, with its highly surreal, disjoint continuity, quite naturally.

On the road in the Northwest of America.


emerges out of movement;

It is the outward envelope

of the rhythmic pulse

of change.


As the door closes, a jingle
of bells -- raining, cold,
the shop is warm but not crowded.
She looks out the display window
onto the narrow,
busy street -- small cars,
pedestrians, a woman with
a child on the

back of her
bike navigates the

She sees this,
amazed, the so determined look
of the young mother,
an envelope of
protection from somewhere. Thoughts cross
her mind this way -- cars, traffic, noise --
which she can't quite get
hold of...

The berries of the mountain ash
are almost too big
for the tiny winter wrens. He
stops, amazed, counts seven or more
all on the same tree;
they show no fear;
ecstatic with fall, they are gone.
The limbs of the bare

tree shiver,
his camera, covered
with wet snow...

She sees this
as the book slowly opens upon
a face, an image

of a man,
seated, eyes closed, with

a triangulated silence,
a projected calm,
the sound of words she repeats by
heart -- mantra, yantra, tantra, like
fingers ticking off
overtones on a
little drum. The face horrifies her,
yet fills the shop with

an intense
aura of longing.
"Go away!" she closes the book,

("go away "...)

Sitting, hands folded,
they have been there all morning long,
s i t t i n g, snap goes the stick,  s i t t i n g.
a faint temple bell
rings; it is over...

"Thought," she
thinks, ("Thought "....)

The blackbird begins his practice
once day equals night,
snow mixed with mist, just barely light,
he tests the silence with a few
notes, listening, then
glides swiftly down the
mountain, low, wings closed, just above
the surface of the

ice --
wings opening on

his look-
out rock, a fluent flourish of
chirping metallic figures and

he is

(She thought,
perhaps she should get... a

she does have a tendency to


But the rose quartz -- little candies

from the tummy of
the Earth, she thinks, looking down at
the face again -- "Meditation,
that is what they say,


("thought " ...)

He stops, abruptly, ramming in-
to a patch of hard,
crusted snow, then sits back and lets
go, traversing swiftly, resting
his uphill ski, "there,

perfect"...leaps out on his right foot,
then left, finding the rhythm, breath,
down the mountain, fast.....

wood is best,"
she thinks and closes

the book --
outside, rain, "Freedom, from the known...?"

...very fast,
"Too fast," he thinks, as the snow turns
to slush.....She opens her eyes - turns, and

clicks the door
shut on the image.
With a muted tinkling, she thinks,

"thought..." "Freedom, from..."

a faint
jingling of...


(Aubou du Monde, Bookshop,
De Singel, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)


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