Tag Archives: meaning

Some Sense of Meaning: ballade

The world is what it is, the pundits claim;
and City Hall no pugilists defeat.
No matter where you go, things stay the same;
you either like your bourbon iced, or neat.
A thing is in itself almost complete;
just unifying theory holds it back,
a brave philosophy in which to beat
some sense of meaning when they feel its lack.

The picture is designed to fit the frame;
and even honest men practice deceit.
No matter how its critics might defame,
life runs along, wash, rinse, and then repeat.
As even excess sugar loses sweet,
so kindness turns to malice on the rack;
and gives to those who think best on their feet
some sense of meaning when they feel its lack.

The clever find someone to take the blame:
a scapegoat they will not most likely meet,
some part of their brave psyche soaked in shame –
the heart perhaps – and never miss a beat,
while fools still strive to enter and compete
in one more pointless lap around the track.
Like sheep, they seek for answers, as they bleat,
some sense of meaning when they feel its lack.

The world is what it is, wholly complete;
Each moment marches on, not to come back.
Men write philosophy to give blank sheets
some sense of meaning when they feel its lack.

13 JAN 2017

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The Slightest Remnant

Along the edge, the slightest remnant lingers
before it falls away into the void
and dries like alcohol upon the fingers,
its essence there but nonetheless destroyed,

the merest memory of thought or action
caught only by a sentimental whim
unable to return the satisfaction:
the empty echo of a finished hymn.

And yet, that tiny fragment’s lack of meaning
unlocks what always follows, in the end:
an empty room assaulted by spring cleaning
that only waits to be filled up again.

Before the dawn, the night feels it is endless:
a gaping maw that, in the sun, is friendless.

05 JAN 2015

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Mere Words

Are they still weapons, these mere words
we use to crystallize what thoughts
may form at random in our heads
or like to squeeze out for some end,
a worthy cause we would advance,
a blessing, curse or snare of love,
some cleverness sure to impress
or at least baffle for a time?
How everyone is armed these days!
It takes so little effort now
to build an arsenal behind
a screen of anonymity.

There are more poets, it would seem,
than there are fishes in the sea,
more than the stars out there in space,
more now than ever were before,
and each would wield a sacred sword
to cut away the rotted flesh
and free the suffocating soul
so it may somehow serve the world;
and everyone assumes their blade
will make the most important cut,
remove the cancer, scour the wound
and make the body pure again.

There is no end to such deceit:
that words alone can change the world,
that careless phrases in the void
transform some evil into good
by virtue of their worth alone,
or by some miracle subdue
the brute force that enslaves the world
and makes it blind and deaf;
while everyone pretends they hear,
that they are the sole conduit
by which the universe declares
itself, and by that act, survives.

They may be weapons, but what use
are words in such unthinking hands
that would destroy to somehow build
a world that values their intent.
Just how will some mere phrases turn
the tide of angry sentiment
that grows against the use of thought
and would devour diversity,
while everyone, in pantomime,
acts out some peaceful, loving role
without believing it themselves?
What good can such words do?

30 APR 2013

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Richie Havens

I always felt he sang with such authority,
as if his way was how the song should be,
and let the writer of it know, in no uncertain terms,
that they could use it too, once in a while.

Like John the Baptist, unlike Isaac’s Moses,
I always heard him from the wilderness,
imagining he dined on honeyed locusts
and came in from the desert with his song.

He could employ a rumble or a whisper,
cacaphony or simple silent prayer
in service to a song’s deep, inner meaning;
he sang no song that did not have it there.

At Woodstock, he seemed like a great prophet;
I wonder, just how many lives were changed.
He taught that music could indeed work wonders,
and heal wounds better than it could destroy.

23 APR 2013

for Richard Pierce “Richie” Havens (1941-2013)

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Toward More Colorful Newspeak

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’re aware that I am in the process of organizing my poetry using del.icio.us keyword tags. I’m only about a tenth of the way through all the poems in this journal, and already I’m a bit overwhelmed by the number and variety of tags that I’ve come up with. That’s what comes, I suppose, from letting a poet identify the themes in his own work. However, it started me thinking about the whole tagging process. The goal, I believe, is to create a set of tags by which similarities and common subjects in posts can be identified and grouped — so that if one is looking for entries related to George W. Bush, or blogging, entries with those tags will show up on a search list. However, one thing that I’ve noticed is that there is a great disparity in the way that people tag their entries. My own range of tags shows a level of nuance that probably will escape most people. But as an example, peace and calm are on some levels related, but in other respects, they represent completely different things. By that same token, to infer a level of Newspeak here, peace and war are not necessarily polar extremes. In other words, war is NOT unpeace. Likewise, alternatives are not necessarily choices. One might have an alternative lifestyle, propose alternatives for energy generation, or serve as an alternate juror. You wouldn’t necessarily say, however, that you make an alternative. You make a choice, by choosing an alternative. You see where I’m going with this?

My fear is that by limiting yourself to “popular” tags, or “common” tags, you are by definition limiting the range of your expression. Further, what is one’s perversion may be another’s entertainment or even alternative lifestyle. As my father used to say when working for the Detroit Department of Sanitation, “it may be shit to you, but it’s our bread and butter.”

So don’t let yourself be too duly influenced by the tags that other people assign to their entries. Sure, it would be nice to get a lot of hits based on a shared keyword, but if that keyword doesn’t really describe your zeitgeist, at the very least include additional tags that further define your vision.

Remember, illusion and disillusion may be related terms, but the experience of one is quite different from the other. The use of tags is more than an exercise in sharing common parameters. It should also be an opportunity for expanding the awareness and vocabulary of the community. Because, as George Orwell proposed in 1948, once a word disappears from your vocabulary, the concept it represents has a limited future in your culture. The goal should not be reduction to an “essential” set of tags, no matter how sage and seemingly well-intentioned the creator of that set may be. Because what is essential, to quote St. Exupery, is invisible to the eye. The power of any word, including social tags, lies in the connotations it brings to the table that stretch beyond its mere dictionary definition.

The tags that you use illustrate the breadth and depth of your experience. They represent the range of connotations, mythologies, experiences, tangents, references and frame of reference that makes up who you are. They are a convenience, for sure; but if they force you into a conformity that denies the essence of your variety, that convenience is not worth the price you’re paying.

To coin a phrase: Tag. You’re it.

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Children of the Garden

Rooted from the garden of our innocence
Cut down crosstown, cross time
Casting your petals, careless, wind-borne,
spilt from your cup like wine

Do you, can you, remember it,
locked in those vases on the mantle?
Is there something that can tie you back, speechless,
except time?

We could be orchids in the ocean
We could be lilies on the vine
We could be cast in graven images
without divine intervention.

Stripped down, pared back to nothing,
Left out shivering in the cold;
Is there anything remaining here
That’s not been sold?

Packed up, headed on the highway
Moss-free, like a rolling stone;
What do you do to keep from fading,
from growing old?

We could be tulips at the table
We could be roses in the rain
We could be set free from our dependence
On each others’ pain

Who’s left the garden gate wide open?
Who’s picked the flowers by the way?
Who’s left to say she loves me, loves me not?
Who’s going to replant, come May?

We could be orchids on the oceans
We could be roses in the rain, sometimes
We could wake to find ourselves immaculate,
Divine creations
Misguided applications
of divine intention.

JUL 1991

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Ranting on Poetics

I will not write for other poets.

They exist to ridicule each other,
and failing that, to share inside jokes
on what words are or aren’t clich
on poems written in metered speech
on lines that rhyme, even if well done,
on absurd show instead of tell
(as if a poem could only exist for its own sake,
without serving a greater purpose
than entertaining a few self-important snobs;
perhaps, I offer to such critics,
if you don’t feel a connection with the work
you’re either in the wrong profession,
the piece was beyond your frame of reference,
or just maybe the poem wasn’t all about you).

And those who claim to teach, who write
in back rooms, sneaking off to slams on weekends,
lording it over a gathering of teen angst
and tossing their black pearls of wisdom:

How dare you offer as advice
“For God’s sake, nothing before 1900”
as if what’s new and now and wow
will be remembered even half that long?
Poetry is how culture is transmitted.

It’s not just a mindless TV program designed
to inundate the captive audience
with strings of images.

It’s a story, too. And sometimes a lesson.

And it’s the way poets talk.

About what’s important to them.

And if that happens to also be meaningful to just one other person,
let’s hope that person hears or reads it —
because the other poets also in the room
don’t mean anything without that, either.

28 DEC 2004

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