We perform a small service relating to a senior citizen’s 

adjustment in monthly rent for our dear friend and neighbor,

Koho Yamamoto. She shyly rings our doorbell a few days later

bearing one of her masterpieces of sumi-e as a gift.


Space / balance / dark and light.

The untitled painting a pure play of these qualities,

spontaneous / austere / perfect.

Suddenly I feel stupendously rich, privileged, as if all

the difficulties of life had been lifted not only from me,

but from all memories of me back to the anxious ghetto cradle.

It seems to float lightly upward from the rice paper

at the same time as its tethered to the utmost surety of vision.

-- A companion for the rest of my days on this riven earth.

                            -- From a series on Koho Yamamoto

blues legends #1

Some straight-from-the-shoulder advice from the crawling King Snake:
	“Always have plenty of women so no one
of their kind can break your heart,” that
wise reptile of legend expounded to the 
young and real Louis Armstrong.
	To protect one’s heart means not to give it 
and/or to give it only partially for the health & 
safety and the long-term best interests of your 
precious self.

	That’s what I hear & I can’t prove what I 
hear wrong,

	No I can’t

	Then again, I hear lots of things in different 
places; like I keep hearing that white Jews ain’t for
real, ain’t got what it takes and I can’t prove that 
one wrong either,
	not by a longshot

That King Snake of ill-fame whispered deep
in Louis Armstrong’s ear:--

	“Watch out for the blue demons that took
over Buddy Bolden whose loss of self in the great
tide of the blues drove the women wild...that horn
he tried to kill that wound up killing him...watch
out for that young man...”
	Shadows and tropes where the heart once 
dwelt turn into shimmering memories of the blue 
demons of antiquity playing that wall of my pad 
down on broken-glass/junkie Forsyth St. a lifetime 
ago--right before my eyes, and just when I thought 
the trip was over and done--the residue of two 
thousand years of unremembered blues.

--Heavy slow blues of the New Orleans masters 
that got me good/that got me to this day.

	Dirges / concussions / funereal brass bands;
	The colors red and purple;
A black garter on a plump white thigh

                            --from the vol. Alternatives to Silence


At the very edge of that perilous outpost of the sane

Where heaven & earth failed to conjoin, He sat in uneasy

judgment of God’s truth, A billion years of evolutionary doubt

Impressed on his besieged Garlanded brow.

--A twisted father & a twisted son he must have been then,

pacing his north facing study under a hobnailed moon –

A dreadful incubus of a book is what his wife called it.

                        --from Jerusalem talk on Herman Melville

Sakutaro Hagiwara & His Iceland – 5 Poems


Onchi’s Portrait of Hagiwara

   He’s not quite squared around, but there’s enough of him to see

that his face is a veined map of abandonment, dissipation,

exquisite longing. – Of too much alcohol, cocaine, morphine

to too little effect in killing the pain of a soul 

forever homeless.

        What’s the use of these paper scraps,

        I’ve now lost everything

he wrote in a piece included in his short lyric masterpiece

The Iceland. The cast-off husband left to care for two young

daughters is quoted by his translator, Hiroaki Sato, as calling

the spirit that animated the work best summed up in what’s

contained in the word “scream.”

   But the eyes staring at nothing and everything beyond the ken of

portraiture seem to know in and of themselves that at least the

truth of the heart has been written and will stand.

                      White-Faced Woman

   Hagiwara is not yet thirty years old when he writes to fellow

 poet and confidant, Hakusha Kitahara, of what he describes as

nearly his last day on earth. He had been on a bender, had an awful

nervous reaction afterwards and then has “terrible memories of the

lips of a faintly white-faced woman, ”who laughed at him after

intercourse for his drunken language and behavior."

   Humiliated, his nerves shot, he smashes his head repeatedly

against a wooden post and thinks he’s going mad.

   A question as to whether this is memory or hallucination, or

hallucination based on memory, or a ghostly Oedipal dream of mother

nightmare blanco rejecting her lover-son and coldly tearing him

from the arms of Morpheus.

--That son who had written that a married woman could best enjoy

sex with her husband when she was aware of her mother-in-law’s

“mean, watchful eye peering from behind the sliding paper-door.”

– That momma’s boy in the mold of the archetypal poète maudit,

Baudelaire, of whom Sartre wrote “He had such a violent horror of

himself that we can regard his life as a long series of self-

inflicted punishments.”

                     Mystery Trains

Trains deeply affected the soul and imagination of this Japanese poet like the great southern bluesmen to whom he is linked by temperament and the impulses of the heart.

1) “Farewell”

      The train is in the station, snorting, chomping at the bit,

           ready to rumble, ready

           “… to cross the border

           beyond the distant signals and the iron road.”

      The helpless passengers submit to its

           terrifying powers, its rampant enthusiasms.

      A student of Schopenhauer, Hagiwara slingshots that awful

engine of power and will, greater than that which our own poor

struggling selves possess; catapults it through black space and

time, illuminated only by its cyclopean eye.

             Departures                        Separations


      It tramples hearts and souls in its unappeasable

rush to locate the very stations,

of the unknowable

2) “At A Night Train Window”

The train is oh so dark,

The fireflies everywhere,

the moonless night impregnable.

The great terrifying question of his and mankind’s

Futurity grows within him and bursts forth

As the engine thunders down the track:

“where, where, is my night train going?”

3) “Returning To My Hometown”

  Like a stray dog stripped of its shadow

      by the cold-blooded sun

          Is the poor wretch bereft

              of life’s hometown.

                   “The past links to the valley of desolation
                        The future faces the shore of despair”

   His will in the world broken, he is conveyed along

the tracks to the wasteland’s last stop. All his love’s in vain.

   Just like deepest Rob’t Johnson indigo. – The train leaves him in

the station, leaves the stranger, the drifter behind. It recedes

from sight. His love’s gone, all his love…. He’s come from nowhere,

come to nowhere

… It’s all, all in vain

-- As published in the April 2016 issue of Arteidolia


-- After Paul Celan’s “Conversation In The Mountains”:

Jew Klein meets Jew Gross amid the beauty of nature from which

they are chronically veiled.

The poor saps have nothing to call their own in a place where

they won’t ever belong.

Loathe the little Jew!

Loathe the big Jew!

Who don’t belong,

Who have nothing,

Who simply offend!

Pure words green & white,

flow from the glaciers through

the center of the mountains.

Pure speech not reckoned for Klein and Gross. -- A journey in

speech to themselves in the mountains,

a journey to the unloved dead

in speech tried & true.

-- After Rilke’s “Duino Elegies”:

When I had a knife & exhaled,

did the angels tremble?

When I smashed the mirror

of my vanity,

did they vanish in thin air?

                           - From the Forward October 10, 2014


In The Garden Of The Sanitorium

*After a poem by Nelly Sachs

The poet as madwoman / the madwoman as poet

 There to be protected against the vicious radio messaging 

of the Nazi cabal that had hunted her down & penetrated the walls

of her one room refugee apartment in Stockholm with their cunning

& all-knowing antennae & microphones.

 Protected from herself, from the image of the recently captured

Eichmann’s jackbooted, obscene face, the open wound

of her martyred dead.

 She walks alone, guilty in the starlit midnight snow,

clutching the living, stirring buds of the frozen tree branch

she has broken off for her very own.

             Eyes wide open, poor heart failing,

             she begins to compose the music of

             the coming Spring in her beloved high German language.

                        *A Nobel Laureate for Literature in 1966,                                                                                                         
                         the middle of the decade of her frequent         
                         psychiatric hospitalizations.
         -- From the 2016 Yom HaShoah issue of Poetry Super Highwa