How is Poetry different

‘Tangled up in Blue’ – yamabuki
“Black and enduring separation
I share equally with you.
Why weep? Give me your hand,
Promise me you will come again.
You and I are like high mountains 
And we can’t move closer.
Just send me word at midnight 
Sometime through the stars.”
— Anna Akhmatova
What is Poetry
Poetry is creation
Yet Prose is creation too
So what makes Poetry different
Let’s see what Poetry
Says about itself
Poetry speaks to the soul
So does other writing
Poetry speaks with images
So does other writing
Poetry speaks in rhyme
So does other writing
Poetry speaks with rhythm
So does other writing
Poetry speaks with stanzas
So does other writing
Poetry speaks of the unspeakable
So does other writing
On and on goes the list
And still we’re no more the wiser
Poetry can make use of 
Any written form
Used by prose
Any definition of Poetry
Can apply to other forms of writing
So how do we recognize Poetry
When we see it or hear it
How is Poetry different
I’m not sure that there is an answer
A definitive answer to Poetry
Perhaps this is itself an answer
Or perhaps a meta-answer
To the question of 
How is Poetry different
Poetry is different in a way
That cannot be defined with words
Poetry slips through our hands
Like water through a sieve
Like smoke and mirrors
It fools us into thinking
We know what we are seeing
But when we try to pin it down
It disappears
Poetry defies our formulas
Poetry defies our programs
Poetry defies our learning
Poetry, like art is creation
Poetry, like art is dangerous
Poetry, like art can not be pinned down
Why then am I writing about Poetry
A Poem cannot define Poetry
But a Poem can explore
A Poem can reverberate
A Poem can reflect
But not just any reflection
Sometimes when I go swimming
I will stand in the water
With only my head above the water
And watch the watery reflections
I’m tempted to say that
Poetry is like the reflections
There may even be some truth to that
But I’m more inclined to see
That Poetry is much like
The surface of water
That indefinable transition
Where water meets air
The surface of water
May be smooth as glass
Or turbulent as boiling water
Or somewhere in between
But the transition
Is always sustained
Yet no matter how closely we look
We can never fully define
Where the water stops
And the air begins
Or so it seems to me
Imagine that there is a transition
Between Poetry and prose writing
When we look closely
We are hard pressed
To know where one begins
And the other ends.
Perhaps this is a good thing
Perhaps one day
Every word will be a poem
Perhaps one day
Every thought will be a poem
Perhaps one day
Poetry will disappear
And the world will end
Perhaps one day
Poetry will not be different
Jan 2011

How did El Collie Die?

“Her favorite color” – yamabuki
“Although this land is not my own, 
I will remember its inland sea 
and the waters that are so cold 
the sand as white as old bones
the pine trees strangely red
where the sun comes down.
I cannot say if it is our love, 
or the day, that is ending.”
— Anna Akhmatova 
How did El Collie die?
This question continues to crop up
There’s an ongoing curiosity
About how she died that day
Did she die of a broken heart
Did she die from overwork
Did she really die at all
Or is this just a show
Put on display
For your curiosity
Like bloody tracks
In old grey snow
I have answers aplenty in my head
But don’t know which to give
Every answer is filled with pain
Every answer is filled with blood
Every answer is filled with emptiness
And in the end
How she died
Seems beyond words
She simply took the train
And left the world behind
So let me ask you 
Why do you want to know
And who are you to ask
Where were you when she was sick
Where were you when she was crying
Where were you when she was dying
I know where she and I were
Back in early 2002
But where were you
When El Collie died
Facing death one more time
Going through the gates
Where someday
We too must go
Still not good enough for you
Do you want the details
The Facts and Figures
The Autopsy reports
The Medical findings
To be honest
This sounds rather morbid
This sounds rather ghoulish
This sounds like an obsession
Of what possible use
Can the knowledge of her death
Be to you here and now
How will it help you
Why not ask instead
Where is El Collie’s body
Where is El Collie’s soul
Where is El Collie’s spirit
Of course I have no real answers
If you’ve read my poetry
You know that I’m but a fool
With my head in the air
Lost in the clouds
A foolish dog
Playing at my feet
Walking together 
We skirt the edge of the abyss
Waiting for death 
To open the door
Where El Collie surely awaits me
Jan 2011

Mark Entered a Monastery by El Collie

‘Fig tree in Winter’ – yamabuki
Mark entered the monastery
By way of polio 
At the age of six 
By way of polio
The dark gate opened
And where once stood a little child
A journey to stillness began…
Mark entered the monastery
Of an iron lung
Polio, the guillotine had fallen
With a violent thud
The gate slammed shut
The child was gone
Banished to a frozen place
Of no return…
Three decades later, 
I entered a room in the monastery
Where a human face 
Looked up at me
From a soul entombed
In a machine
That terrible gift
Of the guillotine
Which left behind
A strong mind
Soft eyes and a voice
At the mercy
Of a mechanized pump.
In strangely viable, suspended tones
I was bid welcome to the monastery
Where things are very different
Than in the world outside
Where people distract themselves
From themselves
Doing a thousand busy things
Mark, master of the monastery said:
“I need someone to cook for me on weekends
And feed me.”
I answered “Yes”
Yes, I came two nights a week
To the monastery
To cook and perform the sacrament
Of placing forks-full of food
Into the mouth
That led to a frail
Immobile, mysterious
And invisible body
Which would never do
The busy things of the world
For a few short, eternal hours each week
I went to Mark in the monastery
To feed and be fed
The great blessings of all the things
Which I have yet to lose
I went to Mark in the monastery
To teach my heart
The truth of human need
And human sharings.
I went to Mark, master of the monastery
Hoping to find him enlightened, transcendent,
Rising somehow triumphant
Above the stark indignity of fate
I wanted to discover in him a sage, a saint
To comfort myself by discerning some hint
Of familiar justice in this sad, special place
Where the most ordinary notions of the world
Were rendered alien and empty
I went to Mark in the monastery
To find the secret of the human spirit
To learn the way of the will to endure all things
Mark smiled
Opening to me the depth of his solitude
He smiled
And I who had come searching
For traces of angels in residence, found none.
He smiled as the angels stayed hidden
And I left for the night
Carrying with me
The amazing sorrows of men.
— El Collie 1985
From Wikipedia
“Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien is a 1996 shortdocumentary film directed by Jessica Yu. It won an Academy Award in 1997for Documentary Short Subject.
Mark O’Brien was a journalist and poet who lived in Berkeley, California. The documentary explored his spiritual struggle coping with his disability; he had to use an iron lung much of the time due to childhood polio.
Mark died on July 4, 1999, from post-polio syndrome

The Freedom and Chaos of Cities

“The Thump Thumpin” – @anjkan
When I was researching the life span of corporations
(Which I found to be on average around 50 years)
I ran across an analysis comparing
Corporations, Governments, and Cities
The first two, Corporations and Governments
Tended toward bureaucratic stagnation as they grew
Cities, on the other hand, were the opposite
As Cities grow larger, they grow more unmanageable
This seems to be a good thing for creativity
Although the chaos of the unmanaged is scary
It also allows a freedom to experiment
That is normally stifled in the more structured
and controlled conditions of rigid organizations.
Since a large amount of creativity comes from young people
It only makes sense that uncontrolled environments
Are ideal for such things as love-ins and raves
Or Poetry slams, or Hip Hop or Swing, or Rock & Rolll
If the establishment media is scandalized and upset
You know that you are probably on to something good
Where creativity and joy can come into being
Yes, there are always dangers
Life is that way
To really grow and be creative
You have to take chances
But the alternative is stagnation
And yes San Francisco still has a hot scene
So I’ve heard from my daughter
Who often feels frustrated that she
Can’t get there more often.
Long live the freedom and chaos of cities!
Jan 2011

Not even a poem is up to your purr

Hello Dottie
I’ve never had a Burmese
Just your cousins, 
Those sassy Siamese

You remind me of a Blue Point
Sasha was her name
She was with me in Idaho
The sweetest cat I ever had

Of all the cats I’ve been with
I still miss her the most
Thinking of her gone from my life
Still brings tears to my eyes

— yamabuki

Hello again Dotty
I must apologize to you
I misspelled your name
Bad yamabuki…
But I’m only a foolish guy
So what do you expect
If you like, I’ll write you a poem
To make it up to you.

— yamabuki

Poem for Dotty

She says you are:
And xenophobic
And still she rubs your belly

Who can know a cat’s mind
Who can know a cat’s heart
I was born in a dog year
But even I know this
All cats are inscrutable

Impulsive, surely means creative
Clumsy, well we all have our off days
Forgetful, more like you can’t be bothered
Stubborn, pretty much defines all cats
Xenophobic, maybe, but then again who isn’t

Beautiful eyes, gold & black gems
Silver blue fur, impossibly soft
Your sensitive whiskers so knowing and true
The whole of your being a sensual miracle

Words can not capture your essence
Not even a poem is up to your purr
Your soft calling voice echoes your soul
Gracing our lives with your presence

Thank you Dotty
I hope you like this poem
I bow to you in deep gratitude
Without your presence 
This world would be a poorer place

— yamabuki
Jan 2011

How do I measure my life

‘Full moon after eclipse’ – yamabuki
Reading another poets words
Brings this question to my mind
Sending me backwards
To the many pasts
Connected to mine
Who are these people
I know and have known
Their stories seem far apart and distant
Their lives like stories from a book
With many of the pages missing
Looking back at my own life
I hardly remember anything
Did I really live so little
Hold on to so little
That I would forget so much
I remember my mother telling me
That as a baby I cried and cried
I even remember how that struck a chord
I knew immediately why I had cried
Or so it seemed anyway
Did I cry myself out as a baby
Choosing instead to suck my thumb
That surrogate nipple I missed
Replaced in turn by a radio
A bribe to turn my life again
As a boy they called me Chocolate
I like to think Chocolate consoled me
Sweetened my sorrow so to speak
I could, and still can lose myself
In Chocolate’s dark dreams
Coffee entered my life early too
At the local supermarket it was
They had a coffee grinder in the back
I often found unground coffee beans
That I would chew and suck on
They were bitter, those coffee beans
I want to say my life was bitter too
But really it was mostly easy
But underneath the softness of my life
I have felt a deep sadness and longing
Sometimes as a young boy
I would go out at night to look at the stars
Laying on my back in the dark
I would drift out into the starry night
Like I was returning to my true self
The darkness of those nights pulled me
But even more than those starry visions
I was pulled by the moon
I wholly lost myself in her light
When I fell into her vision I was home
Now, as an old man
She is the measure of my life
Ever changing, 
Ever the same
My love the Moon
1 Jan 2011