Steven's Poetry/Writing: April 2008 Archives

I have, of late, had the sometime pleasure of the company of a young American woman of my acquaintance at luncheon. While the venues, cuisines, and surroundings of our après-midi repast were variable and dependent upon the circumstances and opportunities available to us, they have always been of the greatest pleasure and entertainment to me.

Miss Archer is at once a very determined young lady, but one also tinged with the streak of independence set firmly in the ground of a graceful and enhancing naiveté, which conduces to my enjoyment of our conversational aperitifs.

I've grown somewhat concerned because whereas her talk was mostly of the many men who saw her and implored her favors while she remained on the Touchett family estate, more and more I am hearing of a person of interest who seems to have netted our pretty little bird without her own knowledge. And the more I hear of Osmond, the more concerned I become, because it occurs to me that there is some information circulating about him that does not redound to his credit. While one can never take seriously what circulates on the street or even in the salon, it has been my distinct displeasure to make the acquaintance of another member of the pretty scene that Miss Archer has laid before me.

Miss Archer never fails of speak of Madame Merle in anything but the most glowing terms, expressing only admiration for this widow, who, as Mr. Touchett has observed on occasion lacks any blot whatsoever on her record. One must wonder about such a record--how recent it must be and what must have been, with some great aplomb, expunged from that on-going document. My own sense of Madame Merle is not nearly so flattering to that personage. There is something about her that is, perhaps subtle is the word, but I think wily is closer to the sense. She seems to fashion les tableaux to fit the needs of the moment, and one cannot help but wonder what those needs might be. Mr. Touchett himself has confided to me that she is a woman of great and unrealized ambitions—and perhaps that view has colored my own of her character. For all I know she may be as spotless as she appears to the casual observer.

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Hot off the Presses

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and so, in need of work. But I like the contours.

[cayo hueso]

Deconstruction of the Ant Hill

On the sill a pile of sand as
though the beach had come to visit,
and on it, thousands of golden
lithe-bodied ants fidgeted and
jittered, waving antennae and
pawing the air more forcefully
than any foam-flecked battle horse.
Across the wide expanse of wooden
plank, three golden soldiers dragged one
large black-bodied, full-bellied queen.
And through the brown mill on the stairs
that curled around the central shaft
the mournful hum of servant tykes
who hand one to one buckets
filled with syrup or water up
to some hidden destination.

Here's what happened:
In panic, the heavy bottomed
glass bowl came down on the trekking
four. The fat black ant was smashed flat
as the boards themselves, a mere stain
for future pondering. And with
that motion the mill was freed. The sound
slowed then stopped and though the buckets
went awhile, they too slowed then stopped
and the dazed children turned and stared,
golden eyes filling with hot [fat?] tears
that did not spill. They stood, stock-still
on the stairs that circled the shaft
and waited in the weighty air
of the close summer day, as women
in bonnets last seen a century
ago entered, through a small pane
of light and led them two by two
away. The mournful sound settled
into the brown wood and the stairway
emptied into light.

A mere draft, but vividly seen and felt. Much to be done, but mostly tweaking--it says all it was meant to say, and what that might be, I leave up to you.

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Definitely Cayo Hueso

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While the previous poem certainly fits into the geographical category of Cayo Hueso, there is some question about its thematic link. Not so here.


Learn to see again, open
eyes and let the light vanquish.

It is darkness that trains the eye
to be thankful for the light,
because in the darkness the eye will
see things of its own invention--
spots of yellow light, a greater
darkness crawling across the less,
spidery veins of blue, of milky light
that does not focus. Light shine comes
as relief to the eye straining to make real.

Sometimes, as I lay in bed at night,
I practice seeing through my eyelids.
In that imperfect dark I can make
out every contour of the bed frame,
the dresser, the armoire. No eye
could see better in any light,
dark-sight sees the real contours
of unreal things.

The eye of the giant squid is as large
as a dinner plate. In the deep , cold
waters, even with its massive eye,
the squid becomes calimari for the sperm whale.

An untitled piece, this morning broken apart from the titled piece that follows it.


The perpetually shifting balance
of the egret prowling the hedge-tops
in search of food. What wonders
would be seen if we could see
all at once, but vision is itself
a limit, and we cannot see
all-at-once, often not even

What Lies Beneath

The water strider balances on a skin
of water dimpling the surface
with its six legs. And from
beneath, what does this look like
but a bubbled sky?

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Will It Never End?


Well, we're all mortal, but I hope until then not.

What You See When You Close Your Eyes

Depends upon the day.
__Sometimes it is the darkness of eyelids
__Sometimes it is the orange brightness
____of eyelids, or the red-heat glow
____of tired eyes.
But sometimes
it is the cobalt-verdigris sea, shifting
as you look.
___________Or the span of space
in the broken road crashing out
into the deep-blue air, deafening
in the difference.
________________Or the chain
of clouds that is the sky's
reflection of the crescent
curve of the tropical chain.

[cayo hueso?]

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More Cayo Hueso, I'm Afraid


Things That Don't Travel Well

Glass balls and
unwrapped geegaws
and cut paper
pictures and
in boxes and
most mysteriously
of all

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Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher



Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

In sun-spotted shadow worn wood railing
half hidden, so at first I did not know
what I saw--a shadow that fluttered and limped
and then I saw the small wounded bird, wing
broken, it flopped pitifully, drawing
me closer, calling me for help, but not
really. Clever mother bird leads me far
from the nest of her precious young. I hear
a cry for help, she presents a meal
for the taking. All so her children, those
small peeps might live to one day
face their own monsters.

[cayo hueso]

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More (Not Less) of Cayo Hueso


Fragments toward an End

shard of beach bleached bone
shredding the shore sand
raised ribs breathing water
femur forming a bone bridge
tibia fibula phalanges
mandibula scapulum no scapula
vertebrae (amazing though they do not
know it hyoid bone)
radius ulna ilium ischium
a catalog of catastrophe
an abundance an overflowing of death
all applies a name


Breathing as through some horrible
dream, mist thick and magic
he sees without seeing.

Breathing a thick mist dream
a laboring, long shuddering
intake that seeks to calm the inner
trembling that threatens to shake
all apart, he seeks to not see
what is plainly before him.

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Cayo Hueso the Poem

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I know you're tired of seeing the words and probably don't much care what they are about. However, this is the first try after about thirty drafts of making sense of the title poem.

Cayo Hueso

white, shards not sand
that stick up seaside
a primordial picket fence
or cage, clearly
visible even from the uneven
burnt blue ocean.

I cannot know how I am loved, I
do not know how I love. The word
means as much as "cloud" and has
all the substance--cotton puff
pushing across blue springtime's face.

"Call me an ambulance."The wind
rushing over the grey water's wash
drowns sound so I must say,
"Excuse me."
____________"I don't feel so good,"
and indeed on this very coldest
of days, the coldest seen here
in forty years, his face is as
grey as the sky and sea.
And so I call.
____________It's a small
island, a speck in the sea
and in no time measured from a
city-dweller's point of view,
the flashing lights pull up the narrow
way. "What's up, old man?" the beard speaks
almost before the ambulance has stopped.

And I remember it started life
as Cayo Hueso, and bones,
even if shrouded in a little flesh
still stud the shores on windy days.

I wanted to go winter sailing
even though the sea upset
me. But I didn't
even get to see the sea I had
come to love.

But consolation is a restaurant
on the marina that serves
steaming bowls of tomatoey
conch chowder. And so I rest
content in grey.

The bones are still here,
they hire small children
to walk the beaches before
dawn and collect them
in baskets, so the tourists
will not be upset and call
for help.
________Sometimes they fail.

Named then for the strand washed
reminders of our interiority--
what is not seen lies below
and upholds what is.
For this there is no help
on cold grey days. Or,
it is indeed its own help.

It's rough, I admit--an still isn't quite there. It is, perhaps, at times too blunt and too much. And yet, it hints at what I'm trying to get at. It serves well as a draft to move forward with, perhaps adding parts, certainly reworking some lines and sections. It is, in sum, a very interior poem that really resisted ever becoming exterior.

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Poem in a confessional vein


I have to admit that it scares me a little to bring this one to light because it may be one of the more raw and for that one of the more true poems that I have ever written. Not true in the sense of portraying objective reality, but true rather in the grasping at a sense of the interior reality that sometimes becomes known to us.

So, as the audience is so tiny, and consists mostly of the sympathetic, I garner the courage to place this among the poems of the recent past.


They say a season of light
but this light comes from fuel
of the human heart and thus becomes
a season of ash and dust
a season of endless lament
as we wait for a joyless birth
as we wait for the disappointing
consummation of all.

In the vast meaningless
emptiness of what we see and do
Advent is the hardest darkness
because the heart that has been
indurated cannot bear nor even see
the light.

For some joy, for others an endless
tunnel and this hand is dealt out
blindly. God allows what He allows
and there is no stinting on it.
For some the love of God is made
manifest in this bitterness
in the taste of ash.
I can pretend no longer
His absence cracks my heart
and releases nothing
chained as I am to dust.

Somewhat more bleak (rueful grin) than some of the others--but a glimpse of the landscape. For those who have seen it, think of the Anthony Hopkins version of Titus Andronicus and the finding of the sister and you have a sense of it. It comes and it goes and it does not torment even as it does and I can't explain it any more than that--chained as I am to dust.

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Another for Cayo Hueso

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The True Disciple

God's holy hate sanctifies my own
for hear these words He has uttered
Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated
so simply He blesses me when I blast
those who do not know Him and many that do
the people who have abandoned Him and those
who lyingly stayed nearby

He blesses every thought that passes through my head
they all are holy as He is holy
placed there by the Lord who is the God
who made me as I am
Holy in my lust
Holy in my hate
all my desires are sanctified by His will
all my spite righteous through His might and love

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Cayo Hueso, Cont.


The Friction of Trees

In this grey, loud noise
who would think that
it is the friction of trees,
bushes, grass, rocks, roads
that weeds the winds of the storm?
What seems a sandpiper's hop
from the shore, and yet
when the wind winds through,
combed and pulled by
leafy limbs, clawed by sawgrass
and palmettos, threaded and
braided by bush, brush, and grass
it is thinned from roar to shriek.

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Today's Cayo Hueso again

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From a recent trip:

Boston Cobblestones

The narrow way between
the Oyster House and the Bell-in-Hand
is paved with cobbles that knew
and shaped the first streets here.

I step on the same stones that bore
the weight of independence; that
carried those who planned
to tan the sea with British tea.

And in the misty too cool
evening it is easy to see that
they walk here still--that what we are
and what we have was given to us
from the hands of ghosts
who linger here to remind us
of the meaning that is beyond us.

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Continuing Cayo Hueso



I carry this decay in my body
a sign of its destruction and the source
of my uneasy delight.
As I chart its progress
I see how what is outside
reflects what's within. No sign that this
may be a sickness unto death,
a small discomfort, a little pain
a swelling, a redness, the sweet
throbbing--almost bliss--that is the warning
not all is well. And I have within
my power, the ability to change
this, at least postpone what will be
awhile. And yet, frozen, I do nothing.

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Cloud of Unknowing


The first part of this poem appeared earlier:


And so I move from knowing
to unknowing--not merely ignorance
but undoing the knowing I have
untying the knots and staring underneath
at what cannot be known once it is known.

When you choose to unknow
you cannot. It comes upon you
as a gift,the promise of bliss
that unmakes what you have known--
makes holes in what is
through which light might shine.

But the gift is two-edged
and what is unknown
breaks the links between things
known. Knowledge leaks out
mystery seeps in.

Our broken knowledge
is the gift of humility,
it isn't forgetting--a loss,
and absence. It is a secret
unraveling, a complete undoing.

Not passive, not receding
prominent and pointed
as the needle that breaches
the fabric, making holes
that let us know what is real.

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Untitled Poem [Cayo Hueso]


These clouds move with this wind
and their motion moves and
changes all the changes
they have made. What are they
that their change can make what
we see different? We
see in a new way, see
as we are meant to, as
we must if we wish to
know what cannot be known.
All changed by lax clouds, all
that we known is unknown
even by us, even
by those so near us, by
those who would love us, those
who would hate us, all who
touch us, whom we all touch.

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Fort Jefferson

The world changed that day when the white rock shifted
and became the small shell of a turbaned
snail, harsh in sunlight against the red brick.

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More Cayo Hueso


Bahia Honda

When I try to see,
to match that blue that
eludes me, that sea
melting into sky--
when I try to see
it, become lost in
it, wear it ribbon-
like on my clothes. I
hear then the sound of
it, smell the smell it
makes. I see the sun
the clouds, the loose strife
of it broken on
the beach bench, stranding
the red-brown algae.
And wonder at seas
that hold so much brown
being, alone so

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Steven's Poetry/Writing category from April 2008.

Steven's Poetry/Writing: March 2008 is the previous archive.

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