THE MEASURE OF MY GAIT (redux)

But for my body’s vibrancy

Lost from age

I feel better and better, now in my tranquil maturity

A tree grows high and wide with time

I know heights, now, placid in age

I never knew in youth, when I was figuring it all out

 

And I’ve got a handle on how things work better, now in my tranquil maturity

Better than in my excited youth

The world and I sync better

Than my fits to plug into a system I wasn’t fit to engage

In my early becoming adult

 

So many questions I faced unaware

When to argue

When to articulate a novel thought to stand out before my teachers

The battle to be self at school or workplace—alienation—enforcing conformity

That moment when my professor said I’d better start thinking about a different profession

provoked by my Marxist critique of Wordsworth’s IDIOT BOY

 

I really don’t know why I don’t fight anymore

Or why I used to

Or why I was never happy no matter where I lived: Ohio, Boston, Charlottesville, Florida

And my contentment, indeed happiness, now in Edmonton

 

And of the things I no longer let bother me:

Other people disagreeing with me

Things I have to get done by yesterday

Whether people like me

Traffic, specifically tailgaters

I haven’t time nor energy nor inclination to disturb

My peace

The breadth of my awareness

Expanded and expands still from youth’s constrictions

 

Knowing largely the way it was always done, then,

At home, hometown, Sunday School

Plain, innocent, not knowing things

I remember questioning the merits of my professor’s USC degree, me knowing only UCLA

 

Making judgments in these facile these days

The young’s flash and intensity of passion

Have calmed, calming me, contenting my present

 

There was that time when it all lay in front of me

So much to master, to conquer

Most of it’s past now

The challenges I’ve conquered, arts mastered to such as one may

I’ve laid my foundation, a good one

Upon which I stand, build, have built, refine, expand

I burst the bonds that have constrained my heart

As my soul breathes free, breaks free

 

The future doesn’t beckon anymore

Though I continue leisurely progress in cognition, will, behavior, refinement

Sensibility, sensitivity, sentiment, solidarity

I read now as much as talk

And today, W. H. Auden moved my sensibility, sense, cognition towards where I wasn’t before

And today I’m closer to the time when I’ll die

I ponder whether I’ll die well,

Studying to live well

 

My measured gait is not due to decrepitude

 

I carry the weight of my awareness,

Thoughts, contentedness, purpose, perceptions

Measuring my stride through life

Looking back, down from olding heights,

From the altitude afforded by maturing,

On who I was, what I was, how I did what I did

The mysterious ascending current flowing toward my future

Inhabiting my present, my pacific contentment my ever-evolving mentation

And I will die well

OKOS

OKOS

 

Okos,” my grandmother used to call me in Hungarian

When I was young and trying to sound profound

“I see what you’re trying to do; you’re trying to sound smart,”

My writing coach told me much later in grad school,

“Sometimes you carry if off brilliantly.”

A couple people even thought me a genius, though I.Q. tests have not validated the presumption

“I think that is a low reading; they have better tests, now,” my psychologist said

And I wondered why make a test if you don’t trust the results

Me, skeptical of the whole notion of genius

I.Q.

And now the degrees I carry certify me smart

And I don’t have to try

 

It’s easy to impress when to go for the intellect

It’s so measurable, quantifiable, easy to see

It’s all so easy

Witness the admiration our social structure bestows upon the smart

You’ll endear yourself to any mother by saying her child is smart

It’s all so easy

I had a hard time explaining to a man deprived of education

That knowing a lot isn’t intelligence; that you can be smart without school

 

Wisdom is a fine acquisition

Deep insights devolve from learning, coupled with reflection

As naturally as an ancient tree grows summer fruit from spring blossoms in due season

And learning can be acquired by anyone through application and motivation

The ambiguous ambition to be okos

Not necessarily smart

 

The wash and impression of intelligence drowns out

The song of simple goodness

What of kind, caring, good-nature, nicety?

What of love?

“Now I’m among dumb, nice people

“Instead of cruel intelligent people,”

A Yale grad told me at a church convention

I don’t know why brilliant academicians want to be so cutting

Why they don’t want to be kind, caring, good-natured, nice guys

What of soul? Of Blues?

And Miles Davis Freddy Freeloader

Lives in the same world as Bach fugues

And people love Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and Fur Elise more

Than his mighty 3rd Symphony

And I love Bist Du Bei Mir,

Written for his wife, as much as

Bach’s Great G-Minor Fantasy and Fugue

 

And what of savage Nietzsche?

What of aristocracy’s progeny and their will to power?

Cutting comments twisted from intellectual cleverness

As if slave morality gives birth to

“sympathy, the kind, helping hand, the warm heart, patience, humility, and friendliness”

As if the good must be

“the safe man: he is good natured, easily deceived, perhaps a little stupid, un bonhomme

Yes, un bonhomme—a good man

No.  It does not all come down to Nietzsche.  and in this Nietzsche is dead wrong

Though he describes so well the desiderata I advocate and so desire to be and become

“Nice guys finish last,” they used to say

And I’ll finish last if that’s the necessary legacy of being

Nice

I don’t know what the Hungarian word is

CHINESE CULTURAL CENTER

The Wu Shu Kung Fu academy with its flash and marketing

Had a name—all its t-shirts, slick, glossy booklets, and mob appeal

 

My Hung Gar Sifu didn’t want too many of his t-shirts out in public

Sifu wouldn’t tell me what all the flags and trophies in the corner said, were for

Not really on the map, not a crowded academy but

Authentic—Sifu could have gone off on his own but for honor to the lineage of  his school

Known among those who know in the community

The dedicated advanced esoteric group—I think all China-born

Pitched in when rent came due

When we two schoolboys brought Sifu to Harvard phys-ed

He filled the gym and the school reporters came around

After warm-ups and ch’i exercises and everybody was practicing their form

A group burst out in applause watching me do lau gar, them on gar one

I guess it all fell apart when I graduated and Sifu kicked out the other schoolboy

 

My mind wanders to Pound sitting at the feet of Yeats

The last to adore the washed up out of vogue poet old

And Frost got a full-time poet-in-residence only

At the end of his legacy life when he wasn’t writing anything memorable

Struggling for money all his heralded life’s fame and no fortune

And Frank Lloyd Wright designed Fallingwater

When everybody fancied him a washed-up has-been

Still, the young architecture student spoke of his disdain for Wright

Admiring a post-modern building so deconstructed out of everything human

That a woman vomited in one of its rooms

Mozart lost his vogue, tossed into a pauper’s grave

Mozart a pauper

 

Our culture has lost the image of Fortuna’s Wheel, so like changing luna

Except as a Merv Griffin Vanna White gameshow

And the neglected superior in the wake and wash of slick mob appeal

After all, it was the mob who assassinated Jesus

The same ecstatic mob welcoming Him into Jerusalem a week earlier

YOU ARE

You are a firm foundation; you are the earth

Grounding the mistic effervescent misting effusions empyreal emanations volcanic endeavors

Cathedralic manifestations in which this life is built

The mists that a meadow flower-field breathes

The flighty clouds that condense in floating skies

Arising from oceanic bedrock by creative days’ energetic fire

Testing the receptiveness of a sea of otherness boundless around me

You receive me always.  Listen, lift up, light up life

When those clouds amass dark and impend disaster

Then you say, “There is no disaster.”

 

I’ve gotten along alone a long time

Time and times and half a time

As have you, too—in this our separate lives shared

But as I am alone in my generative doings’ aspirations

Being Self

You are always with the alone self generative

 

Gratitude

I forget sometimes

What all is gifted me, indeed, all I have

And it’s a lot

(Though most would call my circumstances straightened)

The greatest gift a Gracious Creator has endowed me

And you give daily, through the years, in the moment

Of your own volition to me

Carol, I thank you

THE MEASURE OF MY GAIT

But for my body’s vibrancy

Lost from age

I feel time better and better

A tree grows high and wide with time

I know heights, now

I never knew in youth

I understand the way things work better, now in my tranquil maturity

Better than in my excited youth

The world and I sync better

Than my fits to plug into a system I wasn’t fit to engage

In my early becoming adult

So many questions I faced unaware

When to argue

When to articulate a novel thought to stand out before my teachers

The battle to be self at school or workplace seeming enforcing conformity

That moment when my professor said I’d better start thinking about a

different profession

provoked by my Marxist critique of Wordsworth’s IDIOT BOY

I really don’t know why I don’t fight anymore

Or why I used to

Or why I was never happy no matter where I lived: Ohio, Boston, Charlottesville, Florida

And my contentment, indeed happiness, now in Edmonton

And of the things I no longer let bother me:

Other people disagreeing with me

Things I have to get done yesterday

Whether people like me

Traffic, specifically tailgaters

I haven’t time nor energy nor inclination to disturb

Me and my peace

The breadth of my awareness

Expanded and expands still from youth’s constrictions:

Knowing largely the way it was always done

At home, hometown, Sunday School

Plain, innocent, not knowing things

I remember questioning the merits of my professor’s USC degree, me knowing only

UCLA

Making judgments is facile these days

The young’s flash and intensity of passion

Have calmed, calming me, contenting my present

 

There was that time when it all lay in front of me

So much to master, to conquer

Most of it’s past now

The challenges I’ve conquered, arts mastered to such as one may

(Though mastery knows no terminus)

I’ve laid my foundation, a good one

Upon which I stand, build, have built, refine, expand

I burst the bonds that have constrained my heart

As my soul breathes free, breaks free

 

The future doesn’t beckon anymore

Though I leisurely progress in cognition, will, behavior, refinement

Sensibility, sensitivity, sentiment, solidarity

I read now as much as talk

And today, W. H. Auden moved my sensibility, sense, cognition towards where I wasn’t before

And today I’m closer to the time when I’ll die

I ponder whether I’ll die well,

As I study to live well

 

My measured gait is not due to decrepitude

 

I carry the weight of my awareness,

Thoughts, contentedness, purpose, perceptions

Measuring my stride through life

Enraptured looking back, down from olding heights

From the altitude afforded by maturing on constrained behaviors,

On who I was, what I was, how I did what I did

The mysterious ascending current flowing toward my future

In the present’s contented, open mentation

And I will die well

YOUTH, AGE, DEATH

I’m not sure the way to think about death

Is to think about death

Mine will be around 30 years or so, likely

Some do not know 30 lived years yet

And to them, now, as it was to me, then, 30 years is a long time

But when your life is twice thirty plus

And 30 years ago means an ethics class on Charles Taylor at the University of Virginia

Vivid in the aging memory

Death is nearer

I say the young should not think about death

But revel in the animée of youth

Nor should anyone think about death

I believe we all should revel in animée

In age you mine the memory for what matters

Looking back over time, so many lives lived

Parent, child, sibling, friend, partner,

Student, apprentice, employee, employer, creator, maker, volunteer

So many ideologies following

Family values, local customs, blindly following the herd,

Breaking free of local customs, assimilating to new traditions

Ethical options adopted, opted for

Spirituality, religion, evolving principles of justice, righteousness

Age has much to sift through, choose, assent to, reject

Evaluating a life lived long

Choosing how to use life in remaining years

Anticipating life, how to live, live well, time that remains well

In remaining years, in future years

Possible eternity outside time and years and then where is death?

Options

Opting for a good life, life lived well, the good life, optimize

Exorcized ghosts of island martinis and beers past

Cast-off pass-times, past times, distractions, dreams of fame, cheering mobs, irascible passions

How to live, live well, care well

Caring for values that ground being

Ground of Being

And it is enough to be

Animée

Youth, age, death

FACES

“A man is another man’s face”

An observation I first saw in Michael Harper’s poetry 33 years past

I remember

And find time after time T. S. Eliot’s time

“To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.”

Eliot even put pale green make-up on his own

Public face

Mask, theatre

The laugh that guy put on in the blues bar

Which signified a laugh more than was one

Signifier, signifiée, semiotics

To my mind

A sign of distance from the center

Signifying

Too much bar

Too much beer

In the sound signifying a laugh that he put on

I was there that night in the blues bar, as so often

Remembering an intense, intensive week for me, year after year

Together face to face all day and into the night

And there’s no putting on of anything

Paulhaven Children’s Camp Pastor, Rec Staff, Cooks, Teens

Campfire, sacred flame, circle, singing

Sacred space, sacred time

They will always remember

Year after year until adulthood when youth and camp end, community yet remains

They remember

I will always remember

I remember

3AM conversations with a few staff around the campfire

When it all comes out

And there’s just us, talking, looking at the fire

And 3AM

But now it’s 3 AM in the blues bar, drinks done

Remembering the laugh that guy put on

The face I put on to meet the faces I meet when they compel a face from me

And the campfire burns only inside me

Behind the faces I now wear

A RAKE’S PROGRESS: A COMEDY IN TWO ACTS (redux)

(I have radically revised a poem of a few days ago, and wanted to post the finished version.)

 

Prologue:

When you are the tempest

You don’t notice the gale

Swirling tumult menace

 

In the calming after the threat

You shudder at what could have been

Destruction skirting rash choices, obnoxious, noxious

Act I:

For this life it was long life in schools,

For others it could be other—say, family, workplace, working the land, art

My academic life so much this life, persistent

How I absorbed—no—consumed knowledge, consumer of knowledge

A student indebted to the luxury of lux, illumination

Guided and goaded through many books, no one could count how many books

No one could count how many names and footnotes,

Greater and lesser luminaries in the skies of every age—

Rishis, Lao Tzu, Homer, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammed

Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, William Blake, Percy Bysshe Shelley, T. S. Eliot

Adi Shankaracharya, Plato and all his footnotes: Thomas Hobbes, Descartes, Immanuel Kant,

Soren Kierkegaard, Auguste Comte, Jacques Derrida, Richard Rorty, Charles Taylor

Reasoning, disputing, inquiring, assimilating, dissipating in pubs after class

Academic identity, subjects discussed, discussing how to discuss

Utilitarianism and Deontological ethics, epistemology the great, narrative, and the favored child

Deconstruction

 

Learning to learn to continue to learn

Living to learn at leisure and pleasure

Learning to grow trying on life, lives

Trying a Hemingwayesque character (to become a man), or The Artist as a Young Man, evolving into self

Yet it wasn’t the schools, the books, the names, that academic style, for this, my life

Nor would it be family, workplace, working the land, art alone for others

In a critical life worth living, not unexamined—passing time unaware

 

To see in a single vision the course of a life

While karma is lived out of developmental stages

Surrounded, bounded, encased within

The facts, that academic style, the collegial camaraderie

Do not make the personality’s lasting completion

Make person, mark lasting brain synapses firmware

Within the encounter with environment, the contours of self are carved

Not necessarily unchanged but the self, persistent

 

Act II:

 

A seed, a stem, a blossom, growth—becoming

The single flower—but is it?

From raging adolescence into combative adulthood

Through economic cooperation vocation teamwork

Emergence: genuine caring, community, the other

The shell that was learning and environment

Husking through what becomes self-development

In fact, new self, though persisting

 

The process of my formal education was

But a shell in which I formed.

The facts, forms of knowing, interlocutor interactions

Outside, the self incubating within the process

How ill-suited I was for a serious academic career

Working through the karma of a developing self,

Headstrong, too sure of a developing self

Indifferent to social norms—“What have I to do with thee?”

The wisdom I acquired was not in the books—

The many books, no one could count how many books, the names and footnotes

But in the crucible the walls of which were the process of my education

 

Epilogue:

 

In the calming after the threat

You shudder at what could have been

Destruction skirting rash choices, obnoxious, noxious

 

A narrow escape from who I was

 

The wisdom I have acquired am becoming, balance in choices affirm

And decorum, more or less, contours of cooperation—no—eco-operation

In sync.  Sympatico I become at peace, bright affection alone with together

A RAKE’S PROGRESS: A COMEDY IN TWO ACTS

Prologue:

When you are the tempest

You don’t notice the gale

Swirling tumult menace

 

In the calming after the threat

You shudder at what could have been

Destruction skirting rash choices, obnoxious, noxious

Act I:

For this life it was long life in schools,

For others it could be other—say, family, workplace, working the land, art

My academic life so much this life, persistent

How I absorbed—no—consumed knowledge

Guided and goaded through many books, no one could count how many books

Reasoning, disputing, inquiring, assimilating, dissipating in pubs after class

Academic identity, subjects discussed, discussing how to discuss

 

Learning to learn to continue to learn

Living to learn at leisure and pleasure

Learning to grow trying on life, lives

Trying a Hemingwayesque character (to become a man), or The Artist as a Young Man,

evolving into self

Yet it wasn’t the schools, the books, for this, my life

Nor would it be family, workplace, working the land, art alone for others

In a critical life worth living, not unexamined—passing time unaware

 

To see in a single vision the course of a life

While karma is lived out of developmental stages

Surrounded, bounded, encased within

The facts, the academic style, the collegial camaraderie

Do not make the personality’s lasting completion

Make person, mark lasting brain synapses firmware

Within the encounter with environment, the contours of self are carved

Not necessarily unchanged but the self, persistent

Act II:

A seed, a stem, a blossom, growth—becoming

The single flower—but is it?

From raging adolescence into combative adulthood

Through economic cooperation vocation teamwork

Emergence: genuine caring, community, the other

The shell that was learning and environment

Husking through what becomes self-development

In fact, new self, though persisting

 

The process of my formal education was

But a shell in which I formed.

The facts, forms of knowing, interlocutor interactions

Outside, the self incubating within the process

How ill-suited I was for a serious academic career

Working through the karma of a developing self,

Headstrong, too sure of a developing self

Indifferent to social norms—“What have I to do with thee?”

The wisdom I acquired was not in the books—the many books, no one could count the books

But in the crucible the walls of which were the process of my education

Epilogue:

In the calming after the threat

You shudder at what could have been

Destruction skirting rash choices, noxious, obnoxious

 

A narrow escape from who I was

 

The wisdom I acquired, and did become and am becoming,

And decorum, more or less, contours of cooperation—no—eco-operation

In sync.  Sympatico become peaceful and am becoming peaceful, become peace

AMBITION’S AMBIGUITY IN AGE

I’m not sure I know

 

How to about whether I can

Assert this point’s possible ambiguity

 

Things upon aging looking back

 

Ambitions to attain a name

Good job be important get ahead all the way to the top

 

Mystical experiences recast matters

 

I recall the litany I told the cabbie

Of failed attainments I felt entitled to by cheated life

 

Myself a failure disappointment and life half done things undone

 

Is it mysticism?  Workplace satisfaction?  Found love?

Olding?  That fuels my contentment

 

The whole question of ambition

 

Where’d that come from?!  How widespread in humanity

Nascent?  Acquired?  Self-imposed?  My grandmother?

 

My recasting of what I thought were failed attainments

 

In my age I realize that Swedenborg’s values were inscribed in maturity

For maturity?  And where would the world be without ambition in the younger

 

In my mind I distill a modicum of peak importances

 

And my failed ambitions fade into a fractured joke

And in my age I now understand Swedenborg’s values as mine

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