BULL 173

The sun had set, it was over.

In the small town, in growing darkness we followed the crowd

down narrow streets to the plaza where it lay.

Black, number 173 burned into its thigh, a bull that we

had seen die to cheers that day.

Now in the light of gas lamps, the butcher stood in his

clean white apron, ready with the knife.

Men tied ropes to the hind legs and 173 rose to

the low limb of a tall tree.

It hung, an unnatural ornament swinging slowly, horns just

above a pallet deck.

The butcher pushed the legs apart and with one down stroke

cut from groin to neck.

He parted the wound, and out from so black a body, it rose

into the now cold air.

A mist, a shimmering white cloud out into the coming

darkness as we stood in silence.

Slowly it rose through the leaves of the limb bent

under its load, upward through branches passing

pale white between the green,

Up above the topmost branch it hovered, then swiftly gone

no longer seen.

At our feet the black body was being cut to blocks of flesh

while above something had risen into the night.

From we rationalists circled round came a nervous laugh

- what had we seen?

What was it, out so unexpectedly from the butcher’s work? -

the essence of the black bull with 173 burnt into its thigh?

There up into the darkness of a Spanish night - what had left

this pile of flesh and blood spread across a palette?

A Spaniard joked, “Yes, to that place where bulls and matadors

live in peace and butchers are early in bed on

bullfight nights.”

We laughed still looking, looking upward, hoping to once more

see what was now out of sight.


Outside my window for all to see

I have a poet hanging from a tree.

His hair is matted, his face is blue

His coat in rags, the winds blow through,

And his left foot?  Gone, eaten by a leaping dog

At my door he came to ask a meal,

A bowl of tears? A taste of heel?

I struck him!  and gouged his eyes,

How sweet to hear a poet's cries.

And between his sobs?  Words!  I held my ears.

In my fire I burnt his art

Those damning lies, that trusting heart.

Dangerous! Dangerous!  a poet's like a rat

That gnaws at greed and tames the cat.

And if they live?  Even one, the real world,

our world, done

So, outside your window for all to see

Have a poet hanging from a tree.

                         REALLY A PLACE

There is that place where bluebirds bite

Where spiders sing all through the night

Furry Teddy bears there rough-up tots

Sharp-eyed rats uncover plots

There is that place where dollys tease

Where Poison Sumac sweet-scents the breeze

Cozy fires singe and burn

Ugly witches to be loved just yearn

There is that place where fun’s called chore

Where the ignorant teach, learning’s a bore

Youth change places with the old

The poor have closets filled with gold

There is that place where kisses kill

Where beating don’t hurt and never will

Apple trees refuse their fruit

Pirates door to door hand out their loot

Ah, what a place for all to dwell

Some call it heaven others hell

But you who read these words are wise

And know that poems are often lies


Short pants, short sleeves, rope-soled shoes, these foundrymen

raised the white hot crucible up out of the oven.

They were about to cast my sculptures into bronze, as I the artist

stood watching.

In the foundry they wear no protective clothing, not in Spain, no

fireproof capes, no hard hats, face masks, gloves, or boots,

None, for year after year nothing has ever happened, the melted

bronze, liquid as water, flowed easily, glowing into the

waiting molds.

But today was different, today would be the day that had never

happened before, as I the artist stood watching.

From the steel gripping tongs, from the grip of the foundrymen

lifting at each end the crucible slipped free, it fell, white hot, down, back down into the yet roaring oven, then silence.

A moment, less than a moment just time for some to quickly

cross themselves and then came the roar,

Up as a volcano squeezed through a cannon’s mouth it rose into

the air above us all,

White hot comets, meteors, glowing, hissing globes each just by

touch to burn through flesh.

The foundry was lit by this brilliant rain that arced above to fall

down, down upon us all, as I the artist stood watching.

Falling streaks of light, heat, the smell of burning, angry buzzing

as liquid bronze fell and ran in fiery puddles across the floor.

I wildly brushed my shoulders and hair while dancing around

the bronze flowing at my feet, hoping nothing had landed

on me.

I saw us all dancing, this wild dance, arms brushing, heads

shaking, leaping high into the air over white running puddles.

As we danced, around us a miracle had happened, no one, no one

had been touched by the white hot rain, it had fallen, every

drop, harmlessly.

By luck? No, not luck, for this was Spain where God is great and

his protection above us over arching.

Safe would be the foolish foundrymen, and safe as well the atheist

artist who just stood watching.


                            NO JOY IN POVERTY

There is no joy in poverty.

To live the poor artist life while uptown millions are

exchanged at auction houses sucked from the

bones of so many sweet young dead.

Their drugs, drink, and despair hang in the corners of

cheap studios,

Where dusty paintings and half done clays crack quietly

recalling ancient dreams unfulfilled for lack of funds.

There is no joy in poverty.

To spend mornings weighing food against art supplies,

counting the months or days to opening a well worn

check book to find a bottom line of zero.

Thinking, why should artists survive at all, what do we do

we who have no market value just the thin belief

that we are pressing eternity like roses between the

pages of the morning’s news.

There is no joy in poverty.

Senselessly bound to this hard task, long after God has rested,

to create by mind’s eye and hand new Edens that would

not exist but for us while serpents whisper - what value

to an Eden that can not be sold.

I cup my hand to a not yet missing ear and hear Van Gogh

calling as the sea.

The ship frail, the rudder bent, I bend again to the oars and

that siren song.

             MYSELF  AND  I

We said good bye, myself and I

To bed until the morning

Another night to spend apart

Wouldn’t meet again ‘til dawning

I went my way, you to went yours

Laid out as still as death

While I rode wild upon the waves

Across the ocean’s breath

Your body lying weak and limp

While I in dreams awake

Fought pirates, freed a maiden

For right and justice sake

You, your head numb upon the pillow

Ignored a fallen hero brave

Tranquil, though I be bound in chains

And sold to be a slave

A sleeper’s sigh escaped your lips

Mine in grimace tightly bound

I broke my chains, cried out, “revolt”

And my comrades rallied ‘round

Cold and limp hung your hand

Mine hot picked up the sword

And cut a path to freedom

Through a vicious swarming hoard

Your eyelids faintly flickered

My eyes wide all aflame

As I in triumphant they carried home

Through throngs that called our name

You deaf but to the clock’s alarm

While I to valor did not shirk

And so exhausted climbed in bed

As you awoke for work.

                  SONG OF THE TERRORIST

Up, and up rising against another painful dawn.

Mad is our manner, hard is our method,

Knowing without doubt that God will shine

in our glory.

Out, and out to remake a mottled world

Soft in its indulgence, lead-foot to paradise,

Snake-like in its whispers of the wonders

of worldly wisdom.

Over, and over again, the innocent must tremble, fearful

Of our just revenge, they who mock our Lord

All such must be destroyed, as death and destiny

are by him decided.

Never, and never the cup of compassion or a tear

Of tenderness.  What we do is but his will.

Spilt blood purifies as fire and flame cauterize

the invading canker.

Wrap, and wrapped tight around the hidden waist

The swift avenging blast.  The sacrifice that surely

Turns time back as buzzing nails and whirring bolts

spring from my martyr’s body.

                                                    MORE ELEGANT

More elegant than done, the remnants of what

  was left undone.

They hang like comfortable old clothing, faded, worn, in the dark

  corners of a far back back-closet.

I rummage where old cartons long ago taped shut lie on the floor

  next to bits of brown leaves once stuck in the soles of those

  hiking-boots that took me far from home.

Above, stained shirts with crusted paint from a distant art school

  where I dreamt of grand designs as I stood next to her, a

  true work of art, and would have never said a word.

Beside, the jeans with knees scuffed and torn from touch football

  when distracted, as I knew she was watching, I dropped the

  catch that would have won the game and

  she smiled sympathetically.

On a hook, the hat faded from the sun that I waved as the ship

  left port and my parents and she, looking very sad,

  waved back from the pier below.

In a cardboard box the scarf with the crest of some obscure

  European football club. She was wearing it around her

  neck when, by chance, we met again in Rome.

And in the far far back, smelling of mothballs and distant pine

  leaves, my old wool sweater that she would wear to bed

  on those cold nights high up on the hills in the borrowed

  camper where we would live together forever.

Why don't you throw it all out? I am asked. They are of no use

  and you will never wear any of them again.

Standing in that back-closet, in my mind I wear them all again and

  wonder. Where is she now?  Married with grown children

  perhaps? Does she ever think of me? Do I in memory hang

  like old clothes in some dark corner of her life?

Memories, old clothing, long ago replaced by more substantial

  stuff, hang forever elegant by their being never fully worn.

                              WHAT A PLACE

What a place,

Put but a toe into its waters and

the whole body is clean.

Fruit abundant, the ripe, the green, the

apple and the pear, just the

barren fig tree banned.

Here the lame walk, no hunger, heat or chill.

In this watered garden, in unstained robes, all sing

and dance so joyously that there is only

sweetness in their movement and song.

Above stands the city on a hill and there

off its golden streets a house.

Upon its door a gentle knock.

I open it and see my father, young, tanned

and fit in a faded bathing suit

returning from sunning himself

on a bleached-out beach.

He smiles, embraces me as he had never

done before. In his eye a tear of

joy at seeing me.

And there my mother, a teenager, so happy in

her fine dress for graduation.

She hands me a rose from her black and white

bouquet and it is bright red.

Though I am older than she, she puts her hand

to my forehead to see if I am well

How she worried about me but here she smiles

for she can see that I have arrived

safe and sound.

There beyond the windows are my friends, all of

them, anxious, smiling, waiting for me to

come out to play. I can hardly wait.

My wife in a tight college sweatshirt puts down her

books, and placing her long arms tight

around me asks, “Do you like it here so far?”

For a moment, but just for a moment, those

lustful thoughts return, she nods and says,

“You will, you will like it here.”

Yes, it is wonderful, all so wonderful. I am so happy.

“Now rest, you should rest after your so long a journey,”

she says, “Lie down in your bedroom and


She kisses me gently on the cheek and I know

that here I am truly loved.

“Yes, I shall rest but only for a moment,” I say and

open the bedroom door.

Inside it is dark and cold. Great roots hang down from the


Worms and beetles crawl among a tight tangle of

branches and there in a far corner I see my bed.

Simple, wooden, no soft pillow, no warm blanket,

hard not made for comfort only eternity.

I turn to return but know and knew that there never

        was a door.