Robert Peters: Breughel's Pig

Copyright 1989 by Robert Peters
All rights reserved

Contact address for permission to reprint and distribute.

Post Office Box 67E07 Los Angeles 90067
Sales 69 Distribution: c/o Small Press Distribution Inc.
1834 San Pablo Street, Berkeley, California

or contact the author at

For having nurtured many of these poems through earlier versions in magazines and books over the years, I owe thanks to Peter Jay of the Anvil Press, Paul Mariah of Manroot Books, John McBride of Red Hill Press, Anselm Parlatore of Granite and Bluefish, Mary Ann Hayden and Jerry Ratch of Sombre Reptiles, Bill Truesdale of New Rivers, and the Wayne State University Press; and, for his help in organizing the present volume, to Paul Vangelisti.

Once again, I dedicate the volume to my friend of nearly twenty years, poet and archivist Paul Trachtenberg, who has accompanied me on many journeys, all of them jubilant and fair.

August 1988
Huntington Beach, California



Blue Eggs On My Table
Coldness Poem
The Garden
Monarch Butterflies
The Drowned Man To The Fish
Towards Gaza
Strain Towards Bleeding
Lines On An English Butcher-Shop Window
Campanella: A Set Of Explosions
    Sea Drift
    Glory To The Father
    Academy Awards
    De Dignitate Hominis
    Present Traceries
Louis Fourteen
The Fix
Missing Poem
Insect Retribution
And Down Their Carved Names
Inventory Poem


Eskimo Haiku
What You've Always Wanted To Come True
Tell It Like It Is
Someone Comes Stalking
A Child In A Burnt House
His Mother's Burial
His Sister
The Inhabited Heart
The Bull
Lesbia's Sparrow
Marlene Dietrich
The Tree
The Poem As Toad
The Chair And The Murdered Poet
The Misanthropist
The Philosopher
A Reply: To W.C. Williams
The Hunter
Friday Morning


Goethe At His Window In Rome
Goethe As Ice-Skater In Frankfurt
Byron Exhumed
    Frontispiece, Without Flowers
    Clare Hackworth
    A Poetaster Victim
    A First-Rate Sensitive Harrovian Schoolboy
    Annabella Milbanke
    The Sexton
Love Poem For Walt Whitman
For Jack Spicer
An Ode . . . For Jonathan Williams
Nathaniel Hawthorne
    Hawthorne As Agriculturist
    Mr. Thoreau
    Hawthorne's Daughter Una
    The Yellow Bird
    Hawthorne And The Chimney Swallows
Connections: In The English Lake District
    Fox Blood
    Domestic Scene
    With Rapture Thrills
    Above Ullswater
    Coniston Water
    In Memory Of Donald Campbell


The world runs
with a knife struck through its hide,
a wedge sliced from its back

Blue Eggs on My Table

Birds in yolk, albumin, and water.
No warmth in a chilled house.

One egg loves
a plaster Mexican Jesus.
Blood bathes the egg.
The foetus quickens.

Egg two is yours,
tumescent, spent, addled, flayed.
Your semen shoots
and no one takes it.

Egg three is a fire.
Tie it to your throat.

In a cypress tree
raucous birds scream all night long.

What's lost may never be found.
What's found will be lost forever.


Coldness Poem

The desert spits lizards tonight.
Lice shrivel
on the bodies of hawks and owls.
A jackal curls
inside the skeleton of an ox.
Tomorrow, I'll plant a red bush
by the corral.
Tonight, I'll lie
until my face burns cold,
and I see you, love,
and we enter the death house


The Garden

A lion roars at a rose
and is calmed. A stork
considers a nest
on the highest rock,
and departs. Deer sleep
in the shadows. A silver heart.
Nude men and women
dance around an orange tree.
The ladies wear chokers,
The men have tied mistletoe
to their balls. There is a stream
for langorous swimming.
There is a wall and a toad
with jewels in its head.

Not a rose droops, not a hyacinth.
The heart sleeps.
He and she are linked.
There is ichor, which they drink.
The dancing stops.
The lion yawns.
Who can prove this false?
Loving creates itself everywhere.


Monarch Butterflies in November: Southern California


Fluttering over the street,
above the trees, in a corridor,
as the fog rubs out the sun --
doors and windows of the sun close.
It's 2 p.m.

From their insanity, what false summer?
Who opens their chrysalids,
miraculous froth or spume
falsifying itself?

They dive and flutter.


They are mating now.
Two float past, attached.
I think they are mating.
Eggs in their bodies,
small jellied ice-drops,
embryo crystals congealing.
What false summer?


They fall
where the red cat, its tongue
hoarfrost, slaps them, and swallows.
He curls at my feet.
Neither do I eat him,
nor do I beat him.
He is winter.
I need him.


The Drowned Man to the Fish

a line of gut
connects you to me.
Fish, your belly
is as taut and green as mine.
Flesh under your tail has drawn away --
bleached vertebrae.
My backbone jells.

Your mouth mirrors mine.
My lips are cartilage
and will not close.
My teeth are falling,
water soaks the roots.
My tongue is a spoon.

We drift:
little variation
in the fathoms we are down.
We approach the Bahamas,
or Florida, or a Key.
Draw closer to me.

How did you drown?
Head down, tail up?
I drowned standing
where I fell, planted.
What was it you wanted?
A better world?

Finless and armless we float.
One finger rubs the flesh off another.
A fin flapped by a current
drops scum and scales.
We shall be final bone,
pelvis to limbs to spine,
a design.


Towards Gaza

this is the same road

winding past
quartz and lignite

starved aspens
crippled by glaciers.

I remember it,
so it is today

to reason about, grunt over

hog-wallowing chestnuts
acorns, seeds.

These trails are the same
even the first time.

I taste acid.
My eye bleeds.

A scrap of life
conquers death, says Gide.

Go passive, weed out
the generals.

Imbed burrs, stroke
the palomino's throat

chop a boar's tongue
slash off a bear's tail.
Clamber towards Gaza.


Strain Towards Bleeding

To see
what you have never been

at least to modify it:

there is honey
on the lips of the young
boys blazing
on their way to thorns
bearing plastic flowers.

Termagent storms
smash one another
The mountain folds triple crevices
out of bleeding canyons.

Let the scrotum swing, swell,
tighten its fibers.
Let's grasp the desert-slaking meats
we wander among.


Lines On An English Butcher-Shop Window (Christmas 1966)

O beautiful severed head of hog,
O skewered lamb-throat, marble eye
    of duck, O meadow-freshened hare suspended
O lovely unplucked pheasant
    ripening in the bloom
O gracious suckling pig upended
O twisted tail erect
    and pinkish gouged-out hole
O graceful nub of sow tit, merry xylophone
    of fractured ribs
O rib-ends smarting where the saw
    has severed you
O pleasant rind of fat and rosy spume
    along the incision sliced
        from genitals to snout
O livers tumbling. O clattering
    jewel of pancreas and
        ligaments of stomach wall
O golden brains emplattered
O calf-groin hacked in two
O carcass spiked, with legs
    encased and tied about
        with paper, hanging on the wall
O sheep form, severed shoulders,
O ham string of ox, O whitening lyre,
O steer loin pierced, O haunch,
O ribcage disembowelled
O glorious trays and juices heaps
    of lambhearts chicken livers
        gizzards claws
I see you all!


Campanella: A Set of Explosions

The following six poems are adaptations, free improvisations, on sonnets by Tommaso Campanella (1568-1639), theologian, philosopher, poet, Dominican preacher. Campanella was tried for heresy three times under the Inquisition, and spent most of his productive life in dungeons.


If forced to I could hold my brain
encompass the cells of it,
honeycomb, sponge.

I crave those feasts
spread along the street,
beneath the trees, in dim rooms.

Alas! Books pall.
Hunger is my doom.

I move on, craving.
The more I know
the more I learn to need.

I must lose this self
flutter down
s  i  n  k
into that image, God,
past kelp,
past red liquorish pods
wavering on stems, great
fan-like plants as flat
as green starched lace,
to that place
which the church may only indicate
and reason shaft an arrow towards,
but where the Self, alone
floats for Eternity.



In the end a man loves himself alone.
The elements, and the stars
though stronger and more beautiful than he,
rest, blow, quench, burn and glow
for him alone, he thinks.
Strangers, tribes and crowds
he frowns upon, transcends.
The lucency of God floods over them and him,
illuminates his wit, shines dimly
by comparison on theirs.
Out of His tolerance, God lets them be.

His relatives one by one he drops;
and learning he ignores, and art
(for insight twists his heart).

He shrinks, like lead boiling down:
"I shape the universe!" he cries.
Scales over his eyes remove all doubt.

In the end, it is only himself he sees,
loves, thinks about.



The Eternal Sense
has scribbled his thoughts
on every page.

As we run we miss the syllables,
believe we grasp
connecting tissue,
act as though we share
in a Universal Mind.

Were we to stop and read,
or enter a temple to meditate,
our pleasures would crumble.

Stumbling again into the sun
we would curse that Idiot,
despise His arrogance,
His sentences dim,
phrases askew, connections illusion.

To think to slake grief's parched rattle,
rub trouble's nose in joy,
wipe off the wind's spittle,
wring palatable juice from anguish,
drown the human throat in ichor!



God is our director
and Nature is his troupe.
He bellowed through his megaphone,
let his hand droop,
waited for space, a stage, to form
and set each star, creature, entity
in its chalkplace, gave each
his singing, talking role, or screams,
signed on his son as prompter
for the divine comedy, and stuntman.

When the show closes,
aided by various assistant directors:
Buddha, Mahomet, Aimee Semple MacPherson,
He will make academy awards,
reserving for himself
(stagemanager, writer, lighting
technician and director)
gold statuettes -- human forms
to grace the livingroom of the eternal cold.



The beautiful world is truly God's creature
praising God whose image it is.

We are this creature's worms.
Vile families of us sink mouths
into the pink lining of its gut,
sate ourselves, flex elastic tails,
quiver. Why should we know
its intellect or its love?

There is a spastic worm
with a brittle head and pinchers
adrift in my own gut.
He does not know me, heart nor brain,
nor does he care to.
When I think I hear him howl
and wish to comfort him,
he crunches on, wreaking mischief.
He is my brain's thief.
The brain itself, though, he knows
nothing of.

We must be circumspect.
We live on this great body.
Sniff the warm crotch hair,
the malodorous armpits,
settle in, pitch about, suck.

Proud man, pluck up your gown,
look down, learn your part
in this vast scheme of things.
Feel the microscopic mouth attach itself
to your hairy balls.



By my death, by water, fire, or ice,
these anodynes: the world
pinnacles flanked by clouds
strewn with the hair of adolescent angels,

would gain nothing, nothing.

Thus, I do not die!
This cage of misery,
its bars fraught with wrath, age,
slackened muscles, gums and tears,
is so immense

that sloth and sins are overlooked,
the traceries so vast
there is no need for change or flight.
Go where we will, we feel.
All worlds, like this one we founder in,
are sunken in, sunken in.

Who knows his doom?
Who can forget this facile disgrace
this intrusion, this Presence here?
I shall go without underwear,
fix leeches to my chest.


Louis Fourteen


burrow through the fake lintels
I set up as cave dividers.

like Louis the Fourteenth
has entrails
twice the normal length.
He ate nineteen courses today
and won't fatten.


I pile leaves outside the door.
I eviscerate a rabbit,
slap the wet rib-sides to my face,
taste God.


I leave for the valley.
Smoke drifts from cottages.
I make love to the first heifer I see.
Her udder feeds me.
I build a house of her dung.
Her hairs are my mattress.
I hope shell have my calf --
a miscarriage a month!


Shall I tell you more?
The sea rises, waves jostle.

I think of my hair. It's gray.
I think of maggots.

Everything assumes its opposite:
let's rip out pieces of ourselves.
Let's make a ragout and sing.

I do love hummingbird throats,
camellias ready to unfold,
and I do love you. I do love you.


The Fix: Frankfurt, Germany


At the teakwood table
he won't talk to me tonight.

Constructions of fix-phials
painted in blood whirl wings.

Music bursts, and light.
Odors of charred skin, mescaline.

He stabs forktines through his heart.


Where will it end?
Boats slap their prows.

Sails rip, anchors rattle
knuckles and teeth.

Gulls flap over a salt marsh on a red night.
I want to go home!


I know what it means when spoons
are screaming, and fish lick

one another's dorsal fins and lips,
under water. Everything revolves

around driven points falling loose,
and nothing is revealed.

I lack the nerve to jab a needle into meat.


A faked white prescription paper
floats towards an all-night drugstore.
The telephone booth is crammed
with illuminated sharks.

Crocodiles wait their turn.
A baby with a green skull.

I have dialed the wrong number again.
My hand is bleached.

Then, tintinabulation,
agony on the walls.

You, transfixed in snows of blood
turning to milk and sludge
repeated between seaweed and wheel.

Your eyeballs float in glue.
The hail of gold you feel in your veins

is brass. The hollow of your throat freezes.
A candle dies, utter dark.


I take your hand. Cacophonous laughter,
dacking bones. We race to the river,

to the butcher poised with his cleaver.
We kneel. A pact.

I'll keep my death's head silver ring.
You keep your medal, your gold teeth.


Missing Poem

A toad in the sand, blinking.
It does not move. A plant blade

waves from a center, testing
air -- a snake only semi-charmed,

its tail fast in cement. I won't
fake anything. Nothing relates without you

(forgive me for saying it):
the talk the dinner, the beach

to see a house wrecked by tides.
All day, this morning, driving here

before I locked the keys in the car,
I felt there would be an accident.

And now, a child in fever who has been dying,
fed through the nose --

gifts without a conscious receiver.
He lives here.

Each oleander has its place
(the toad has disappeared).
The ashes in the grate will glow tomorrow.


Insect Retribution

This is my damp sagging bed.
This is the sac the spider dropped, an egg.
Here's a pile of fly-wings, here a trundled wasp.
The light's out,
where's the moon?
There's something under my elbow! a bulbous body,
I try to be friendly.
She whomps me. I crush her.
The juice is black with a string of yellow.
I lie back.
Sounds creep up. A phalanx readies itself.
The cracks of the floor are crawling.


And Down Their Carved Names The Raindrop Ploughs


Here's where the African sat
wearing a panama hat.
There's where the bull broke his knees

Animal St. Stephen and even-tempered slut
of my uncommitted heart,
my hands flap at the wrist,
the limber gristle of my back slaps.
As I walk my leg drags.


I won't be god this time,
or even godly,
will follow the circus to higher ground,
will eat fire, steal the dwarf's barbells,
devour the fat lady's chocolates,
race into the forest on a barebacked stallion.


Inventory Poem

I chose this forest
espaliered with
orchids and lilies

where the self whales
through horny trees
and the back aches
from gyrating sexual positions.

Nothing to the north.
To the south syrup congeals.
A lurid swamp bubbles with fungi.
Here I lie down.
Here I shall murder.



"Go watch a bull, your back is broad!"

- John Skelton, "Mannerly Margery Milk and Ale"

Eskimo Haiku

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Spring has come to my livingroom!


What You've Always Wanted To Come True


He brings his ears on a plate.
He is not Van Gogh.

He brings his balls.
He is not Abelard.

He presents his entire head.
He is not King Charles.

He brings his eyes.
He's not Oedipus in disguise.


The Moon receives these gifts.
"Wise men," she says
and shakes her cheesy sides.

She leads the men inside
to her moon house.
Everything is nice.
An old man is sweeping up.
There are no mice.

The Moon is imperious.
The men are delirious.
Missing parts, they lie supine.
The Moon takes each one in turn
as her Valentine.


Tell It Like It Is


Here, I'll adjust the lawnchair
for you.

Return the car to the garage.

Pour out some gin. I want you to come in.


From what old prop-shop
did you steal those kidneys,
breasts and thigh-bones?


Are you my monster?
Here is flesh to nibble on,
nestle by.


Sniff the air.
There's no gas here.
Nothing that I see putrefies,
unless I climb a chair,
inspect that plateglass mirror
over there.


I'll cut a rose from the drainspout,
a lily from the outdoor commode.


We'll disappear, snuffling,
without cerecloth, requiem or
weeping entourage,


Someone Comes Stalking

I must investigate the livingroom.
There were footsteps yesterday
trailing blood and ambergris.
I hear suspenders snap, and a cough.
A green toad swims past the window.
I jam the window shut, expose the shade,
the sticky tassel.
My youth is in there snivelling.
I wish I were Rabelais,
or Henry IV Part One
seated under a black sun.
Why does it take so long?



I'll return again, said the face.
Oh no, replied the ear
and turned aside.
A finger stood erect, a shadow
rabbit's ear garnering messages
from the wind. The hand's palm
was red and wet.

There is pulp on the sidewalk.
By the water-fountain birdbath
a wren's heart is impaled on a thorn.

Love is gentler than sight.
That is its burden.


A Child In A Burnt House

A child runs through a burnt house.
He finds his father charred, dead
huddled under the stairs.
He recognizes the face and kisses it.
His father's hand falls off.
The child takes the hand to the burnt roof.
The stars are close.
They urge the child to sing
but he can't do anything.



The resuscitation team had little time
for decency: his mother lay on the floor
with her nightie hiked around her neck.
The team seemed indifferent to the exposure:
the shanks, the tiny body like a worm
in a nutshell, the sagging breasts.

He grabbed an afghan from the couch, one
full of strong flower-colors, and covered
her parts.

The team kept thumping on her chest.
They clamped an oxygen cup over her mouth.
Nothing helped, as she sank deeper into the floor,
through the cement slab, lower
than the potatoes.


His Mother's Burial

While the grave-digger
dug his mother's grave
squirrels romped beneath an oak tree.

The old digger cut quilt-exact
squares of turf and piled them
on a tarmac. His shovel
had a square end and cut
through the sand and roots.

His mother would lie beside his dad,
her concrete box containing her blue coffin
touching his gray concrete box
containing his brown coffin.

He had the digger pause while he stroked
his dad's box: dead twelve years -- bones,
shredded clothes, and little black beads
for his eyes. The sand was carrot-red. Would
their juices, in the sense of mush, blend through
into some neutral space?

His mother preferred no coffin or cement --
just the corpse arranged feet down, head up,
in the sand. He had touched her hands
and kissed her forehead and knew how iced-over
death is.

Spiney carrot tops struck him in the face,
across his mouth.


His Sister

His sister hid cucumbers
and shucked-corn under her skirts
rather than giving him any.
She gave their mother squash turned soft,
leathery cobs of corn, and beans
too full of rust to sell.
She was a voracious canner.
When her son brought home
a baby girl with big floppy ears,
a baby that was his wife's, not his,
she grew fangs, and dared
either of her sisters to approach.
The brother she accused of cheating
on their mother's will, and hissed
a steamy nostril-full of green fire,
which did little more than singe his ear
and send him more quickly
back to California.


The Inhabited Heart


A rat in a human heart
gorged on blood.
Opposite the rat lived a cat
kept by muscle and fat
from reaching the rat.

Above the cat near an auricle
dwelt a mouse hysterical
who flung herself all day and night
against the sides of her house.
Through peepholes she could see
her enemy. Opposite was a void
to be inhabited eventually
by a humanoid.

The thumping rhythms of its heart
the mouse echoed with art --
which irritated the cat
as well as the rat.


The cat decided to act.
He began by eating the rat.
Then he said to the mouse
thumping in its little apartment house:
"I'm Romeo Montagu. I'm coming
to get you. Let down a vine, my pet,
and I'll climb up, fair Juliet."


The mouse stopped thumping and bumping
and put on a stomacher,
revealing (and shaping) her boobs.
She didn't know
she was going down the tubes.

The cat perfumed his armpits
powdered his scrotum
and learned his lines
just as the writer wrote 'em.

Cat belched and farted.
He felt lion-hearted.


The rat had grown strange enzymes
in his barrow.
He trained them to destroy
nerves, ligaments, and marrow.
They burst now,
like time exposure flowers.
"Trust nobody" had been his motto.

The enzymes
attacked the cat's whiskers.
They attacked the cat.
They consumed his fat
and then his viscera.
They left his growl for last
and found it no better than
a whimper. "Excelsior!" they cried.

Blackness generated itself
inside the heart.
It had scarcely lost a beat,
in fact, it felt tougher
than it had for years.
It had devoured its fears.



You eat whatever you can.
After a point you give up the search
for fresh red endive, artichokes,
You unearth potatoes again, by hand,
by the same hand that isolates
the self, and removes the fruit,
the plant undisturbed,
the root system kept intact,
white tubers never missed,
white tubers to keep one sane.


The Bull

A bull nibbles a meteorite.
His throat drips juice.
His forelock sweats.
His feet are in cement.
Blocks of saltlick press his cock.
Gigantic muscle dripping hairs
booms forth, back and forth and
back again. Zinc drenches the earth.


Lesbia's Sparrow

She screwed John lying on her side,
Mortimer standing. Robert, so to speak,
by hand. Rachel with her lips transfixed.
She loves Rachel.

But men give her money.
They fur her pelt
for the shenanigans she desires.
Rachel's all gravy.

Fired by a wish to seduce
what the world now offers,
Lesbia has three bank accounts,
a Karmann Ghia she admires,
a pass to a Swiss resort.

She knows, moreover,
that the first and last exits
are the same,
bits of truth stuck here and there,
a colored leaf, a scream or two,
a tit in the eye.


Marlene Dietrich

He helped Marlene
snap her beautiful legs in place,
into the greased aluminum sockets.

She pressed a button
which caused her legs to glow
from inside -- hairless, pink plastic.

"They're warm now," she said,
extending the legs from her black
mannish shorts. "I'm ready to go on stage."
The plastic muscles bunched and shook
as sexual as when she was thirty.

She tapped her black cane on the floor.
She had closed her maquillaged eyes.
He was rubbing off against her.
"Erich von Stroheim," she purred. "Eric,'
oh, Eric, Eric."

Offended, he rammed her porgy-platform*
through the window. It fell 13 stories,
losing all its fluff, paint, and ormolu
in a crush of souvenir hunters.

"I'm 85," she cried, "and dying,
and you leave me disastrously, without wheels!"

He threw her legs through the window, too,
leaving her in a heap,
still wearing the top-hat as a memory.

*Porgy's means of locomotion in Porgy and Bess


The Tree

You asked for an evergreen.
I brought you one.
You buried a watch in the pot.
The tree's roots encircled the watch.
You replaced the moss.
The tree leaned towards the light.

The ticking of the watch increased.
The tree outgrew the pot.
Aphids sucked the branches.
You still liked it a lot
but would not move it.
You began injecting it with blood
drawn from your own veins.
You feed it snot.
You taught its roots
to crush meal worms.
You gave it cyanide.
It coughed and shook its needles.
It made soft groanings in the dark.

This Easter, you wrote,
the branches grasped the trunk.
The needles dropped.
The tree made faint screams
when it was touched.
The watch gave up and died.
"The way of the world," you said,
uprooting the pine.

You wrapped it, sent it,
said it was mine.
I washed it, oiled it,
cut out the watch
and buried the tree.
The watch hangs over my bed,
tied by a thread.
If you want another tree,
don't ask me.


The Poem as Toad


You lie there safe in the muck,
your smug mouth full of jewels,
your haunches tight against your sides.
You've stopped playing by the rules,
Come out, poeticule!
or I'll drop rocks on your hinder parts.
I'll excavate your marsh.


I invent a toad-catcher.
It's taken all my skill.
I've stuffed a vitamin pill
with bad lines from other poets.
The pill's a large mosquito.
In its thorax I've stuck a magneto.


Toad eats the mosquito.
I leave the scene
and return with kerosene.
I light a fire.

The flames burn well.
The pond's alive!
Toad-flambeau, toad-suzette!

The fire's burn, alas, is brief.
It sputters.


I burn my manuscripts.
My published poems I slash to pieces.
I flush toad's mealworms down the toilet:
he's the one who's spoiled it!


Night comes. 2 a.m.
A thumping on the floor.
It's toad!
He hops in bed with me.
He snuggles down. He purrs.
He strokes my face with his tongue.
I feel him grow.
He takes me in his arms.
He's a prince!
I turn out the light.
He stays for the night.


The Chair and the Murdered Poet

He is broken over a chair.
"That's what he deserves," says the thief,
taking his time.

The chair begins to walk.
The legs slip in blood.

"Preserving him," says the thief
to no one, "niacin and formaldehyde."

Beliefs run out of the dead man's ears.
His hands, enraged,
push the chair as it dances.
"Stop, Stop," shouts the thief. "I'm tired."

The chair lands on the live man,
after tripping him.
It dumps the dead man
on top of the stomped dead thief.

Teeth form clattering
from the chair's seat.
"I need food," said the chair. "Now, I'm

It snores. Everything has happened before.


The Misanthropist: in Imitation of the Ancient Chinese

I'd like to build a house
of bacon strips
suspended from legbones
wired and needled together.
In hot weather the house
will smell delicious.
In winter the wind
will play strong music
on the bones.
On festival days
I'll hang pig bladders
from the rafters, and beat them.
To visit me
you'll have to stand outside the door
and go oink, oink.


The Philosopher

He's an old man, an old
philosopher: He dies.
We embalm him
and wrap him in flannel.
We put him outside
on a wooden platform
near a limpid river channel.
He's dead for hours,
among the hydrangeas, castor beans,
and other commemorating flowers.
We read his works.
They're full of quirks: too
Kantian, too Platonic, too erotic.
We laugh, go crazy, get it on,
an orgy. The wind plays
with his dead hair.
We show his dead eyes Schopenhauer.

He stirs and yawns.
He undoes his bonds.
He leaves his ankles tied.
He looks a little dried
from the formaldehyde.
He resembles Freud.
Like Socrates he sits among
his acolytes.
One leg dangles over a bed.
"Talk, talk, talk," he says,
"and fuck. That's all you do,
that's all you care about."

"Right on!" we shout, wondering
what the miracle is all about.

He throws off his clothes.
He fingers his groin.
His cock rises like Lazarus from the grave.
He doesn't miss a stroke.
We chant in rhythm with his beat.
He dies and lies back down.

Angels the size of fireflies materialize
from his sperm.
Each angel's face is a famous

The angels flutter in a ring.
They clap their hands and sing.
They drop their angel clothes
and enter the old man's body.

He flies to the sky.


A Reply: to W.C. Williams

When pushed to say
each man declines
to call himself a dog,
or one of a pack of dogs
("Just another dog
among a lot of dogs").

Granted scant imaginations
by the reading of verse,
or by the taste of death,
there will remain,
two or three
             who see themselves as
             rabbits pursued
             tree grubs spied by a flicker
             deer licking wounds.
In any of these
there is no "just another."

at a next remove,
fancies that love difference
will seize upon dream
will freeze
             the hare on the trail
             the bee seeking honey
             the doe the waterfield of lilies.


The Hunter

In the veldt of his mind
a gazelle grazes in
sweet leaves of panic.

The hunter is forced to move.
He feels shame and loses it.
He sheds his skin.
Vultures descend.

The gazelle, virginal and slim,
can't save him.


Friday Morning


Days like wasps
with women's legs
and the heads of dachshunds.
Nights fraught with ghosts.

A black used coffin
bought from the boy
across the street.
A papier mache corpse, under glass.

The air snaps with cicadas.
Nothing moves,
no one walks on water,
no one wears an aureole.
An avocado tree.


Death is a paper face with fixed eyes,
lips painted in acrylics.

Guitars twang reverberate,
over the pelvic floor.
You wish for more.

We've made angels of the sun
and ghosts of the moon.


The coffin collapses.
The avocado smothers the window.
The houseplants shudder.
We cower.


Right now, on the moon,
on Hadley Rille,
the astronauts are riding around
in their little car.
They're saying "Wow," "Oh, Boy,"
"Golly," and "Gee, what a show."
They're looking at moon mountains
and moon valleys,
deciding where to go.

They see a figure on a purple rim.
They bounce up to him.
It's William Blake.
Mrs. Blake is wiping his feet
with her hair. They're naked,
near a moon tree,
near a moon pool of water.

The Blakes pose.
The astronauts snap pictures.

"Bill," says Dave Scott, "Bill?
Move in closer to the missus.
That's fine. Say cheese." Click. Click.

William thumbs his nose,
recites a poem about a cankered rose.
Mrs. Blake believes the astronauts are ghosts.
The astronauts drop their cameras.
They won't waste time on such ephemeras.


The other night, stoned,
you said you saw God.
He said "Be love's instrument,
giving and receiving, here and now."

You took your place.
Devils were no problem:
you said you'd exorcise paradise.

A blue rock floats over a cloud.
Breaths of oranges and hibiscus.
Blue wings smother the house.


You are out past the far breakers,
in troughs of water.
You return, drenched.
I take your face in my hands.
I kiss salt from your lips.
The avocado blazes.



The Poet As Ice Skater

He skates along
where the ice is red or green,
thick or thin.
The ice will crack,
dump him in.

Goethe At His Window In Rome

After the drawing by Goethe's friend Tischbein


Calm fresh mozzarella light
guides Tischbein's hand
guides drawing pencil
down the high window frame
   over the hunched shoulders
      down to the lanky rear,
          the lay of Goethe's fawn trousers.


Why are you at the window?
Your unslippered foot
wears a blue light, a haze.
The other foot is warm in its slipper.
Is it a wing -- mercurial trapping
    essential romantic poet visual aid?
Snappings in the air.
Brittle wrist bones broken.


Are you thinking at the window?
Ganymede asleep in flowers? Clothes
for the king's flea? Werther
grabbing his pistols? The son dead
in his father's arms? Walpurgis creatures?
Faust's sea reclamation project
entirely concluded? Marguerite?
   You are shutting out the view,
       I want to see too.


Are you sick at the window?
Is your heart crammed with bees?
Why don't you jump?
Smash the window with an axe.


Something's in the view!
A horseman, Erlking, in the campagna.
His head touches a cloud.
Sun shreds his bones.
His teeth blaze
and a red scythe swings over his shoulder,
igniting sparks. Behind him
eagles grasp serpents.
Spike-helmeted uniforms,
green gasmasks shedding tears,
ammunition dumps spears.


And the death carts,
infinite continents crammed in,
choked to overflowing
drawn along
   by frothing dogs
       on their way
           to the hot showers
              to the tar pools
                 to the napalm blaze.


Goethe As Ice-Skater in Frankfurt

After the sentimental picture by W. von Konebach, c. 1850


He whizzes onto the scene
and stops there
   ice-lover dichter Johann
in his cloak
his curls, his velvet face,
eyes as hot as a prince's unsheathed stallion's.

Evening smoke from medieval chimneys.
Ich bin dichter.


Someone lies on his (or her) face
sprawled bawling on the ice
some non-poetry lover in disgrace
teeth smashed in --
   local color
       genre piece
contrast with the imperious stance
of the fawn-eyed writer
symbol perhaps
   of the fallen half
   of man's standing state,
nineteenth or thirty-sixth bowge.

Was habe ich hier verloren
in diesem land?


And those thick
   creambutter ladies (three),
smothered in furs and mantles,
clutch frosted tippets,
blow little streams
of marzipan, ice-strudel
schlagsahne exclamation
warm porkfat solicitations
warm lanterns
   for Johann
       their darling


who is silent
who does not say no
to the scrivener
of his picture (Halt
doch den Mund, Tod!)

delineators of cupcake poets,
of rotogravure valentines,
for the fat-buttocked corridors
of bourgeois hotels, as well:
Goethe golfing Goethe shooting
or sailing, Goethe breasting
the waves, fishing, Goethe
flying his kite . . .

Ich füle mich wirklich besser.


It's not his fault.
Poets are anybody's property.
They skate along
where the ice is red or green,
thick or thin.
Stuffed admirers provide an illusion
of protection, hope the ice
will crack, dump him in.


Byron Exhumed: Six Poems


So, let's open his tomb.
Let's assume
he's here (or was)
panoplied, in a dusty room,
drawn here by hearse
up from London, brought
to Hucknall-Torkard, grieved over
in prose and verse, preached to
by plum-toned vicars, wept over
by velvet ladies, by schoolboys
turning in their beds . . .

They loved him lame.
They loved him wild.
They loved him tame.
His sister Augusta was lucky.
She had his child.



O spare me, gracious tears
that fall athwart my cheek,
so pale, so wan.
I've lost my beautiful dream
to dream upon.
                        He is dead!

I have youth, wealth,
can carry a tune, embroider well,
can ride side-saddle
to a pack of hounds.
But, oh woe, now he sings in Heaven,
my departed thrush.
                        Byron is dead!

In my secret hours, at night,
in my flannel shift and socks,
who will caress me,
devour my nubile beauty,
and like a star visit me from afar
in Pluto's resplendent car?
                        He is dead!

But, O, the timid lord
that I must wed!
At twenty he is bald,
has icicles in his head.

"But, angel, he has property
and will be squire within the year."
Say it: Lady Clare. Lady Clare. Lady Clare.

                       O, Byron, thou art dead!



I've been his goat
his whipping boy.
I've a patched coat
so was fair game.
I'm not a scribbler
(it's not the same).
I've been a dabbler
in verse and prose.
But you can't live well
on pickings from your nose.
A writer's life's precarious,
he needn't have been so nefarious.

As for my skill, I count
upon my will. My Genghis Khan
was praised by numerous vicars,
and by that critic with blue whiskers.

It's true, my friend, if Fame
won't sing for you, who's to blame?
I try to ram her, or direct her,
with a stalwart, fine and ready pecker.
Any strategem's a bore, unless
you tell yourself there's more.

And now he's lying in his coffin
waiting for his bones to soften.
I knew he'd come to this,
a pile of sinew, blood, and rancid piss.
You can't live hit or miss
and thumb your arse at syphilis
or, worse, offend sweet country ladies
with your verse. I've sought
to bring the blush of youth
to cheeks made dour
by reading of his Giaour.
Too little power
in his parent's sperm, I say,
the crippled worm!

Oh, well, I must be Christian
I suppose, and toss him
a violet or a rose . . . but, God,
I hated him for being wellbred,
I hated the hyacinthine curls
about his head, I hated
his satiric bite. I counterattacked
(in print) with all my might.
And now he's gone I must admit
I hate him dead,
and that's the truth of it.



Byron's dead.
I never saw him.
But I've visited the hill
by the church, and plucked a leaf
from the elm he sat beneath --
Byron's elm.

I've sat on the old tomb
he sat on, sick of the school,
staring for hours down the valley
over Harrow.

No ruffian-student I,
I try to be a model boy,
please the masters,
swink them when they choose,
am buggered by the upperform,
am punctual at chapel,
am a passable chorister.

I want to be a poet!
I'm sick of being everybody's fag!
I'm Childe Harold.
I'm Arabian.
I'm Don Juan.
I've been a white stallion,
the bride of Abydos.
I'm ancient Greece's lover,
hater of the Turks.
I want to restore the Elgin Marbles
to the Parthenon.
I want to die at Missolonghi too.

I'm in a fever.
I speak his lines, in his voice.
I don't know who I am.
My head aches.
I've wept all I can.
I dress in my finest clothes,
silk ruffled shirt, tight
velvet breeches, white silk hose,
silverbuckle shoes.
I set a fire but do not light it.
I arrange my works (unpublished odes
to athletes, to exotic women)
on the floor beside my bed.

I lie down, feel my hot wrists,
slash them, assume the pose
of an effigy on a tomb,
hold a white rose, and wait.
Byron is kissing me!



I knew, as certain as I live
he never never pronged his sister.
Yes, in a drinking pique
he may have pushed Augusta to the moment,
but never, I believe, did he push her through it.

I won't accuse him of that sin,
despite the golden wheel rolling through London,
Paris, Rome, and the sea resorts.
He himself told the wigged tongues
and the red eyes of dowager confidantes
salacious bits. My duty, my only duty
was to love him!

And on our wedding night
when he woke screaming
that he was in Hell,
and would not sleep with me,
saying he didn't care
what women slept with him
as long as she wasn't plain --
I could share his bed if I chose!
O, my poor, dear heart!
a fearful bride with such a groom!
and the candle burning always beside the bed!

By diligent, cogent speech
I sought to rationalize his fears,
cradled his head the way his mother did,
stroked his groin,
saying I loved him,
meaning it, was indispensable
in a woman's way. Oh,
but his glooms were deep.
He was always craving for Augusta!

His knack of whacking off
the heads of wine bottles
was a symbolic decapitation
of his head, and mine.
Often, I felt my throat
surprised to find it was not bleeding.
I heard him lumber to bed,
and felt the press of his fingers.
How can a wife create
if her husband's smoke
is drenched with hate and pain?

And then the foot!
Oh, always the foot!
A ghost between us in the sheets,
at dinner, whilst playing backgammon and chess.

I'm glad he drained his sperm
among the Greeks and Turks.
He should have written novels!
But a fever? Felled by a fever?
Better a heart attack in bed
with a trollope lisping bad Italian.
He never loved women.
He loved men more than women.

Hobhouse, Cam, who knows
the string of others nameless
from the towns and streets?
Buggery is close to leprosy.
It softens the grain
while it softens the rectum.
Women he washed with fire:
love, contempt, and rage.
Men he adored, thrived upon.

And now he's dead!
Pickled in brine, interred
near his mouldering ancestors.
I fear, of course,
since our daughter has his blood in her veins.
I wish I'd spawned with a noisome thatcher in
    the fens!



At last, he rests beneath the stones
of Hucknall-Torkard Church,
with his mother and that other Lord,
the mad one, the Third.
His heart, brain, and lungs
are in an urn, within a casket,
all sealed and draped in velvet,
adorned with a coronet.

Rain fell hard during the interment.
Elm branches beat the leaded panes.
The Norman font shook.
The altar railing near the choir
had the glare of ice.
The bell tower whistled,
shivered through the apse
and down the aisle.
A burst of sun shot through.

Is he truly in his coffin?
No official in the government
has cared to look.
A man of legend soon.
Suspicion lurks in this church.
Some day perhaps
that thought will nag the world.
He does lie there beneath those stones. I know it!

So goes the news.
One must trust the dead,
or what's life for?
To molest a corpse is to earn a curse.
Yes, yes, he's safe down there,
for centuries.


Love Poem for Walt Whitman


Old haymaker
rushing to take in the hay
before the storm
pulps your barley and rye to mash
and ruins your alfalfa crop.

You calmed two oceans at once:
time-urchins tearing off
scraps of land
to stuff their craws.

You fashioned keen machines,
produced transcendental steam
from body cotter-pins and gears,
swung the tongue on a pivot,
hung the phallus on a spring,
the eyes on silver bearings
the breasts and thighs on swivels.

The udder of your heart
withheld its drip
when it was threatened.


Your perpetual high --
did you drink emeralds?
dandelion wine?
Who washed your groin with liquor
brewed from cedar boughs?
your lips with honey?
What incense stunned your system?
What lost healthfood nurtured you?

I think of pickle brine,
of ambrosia sipped from divine dixiecups,
of cheese pressed from unicorn milk, of
grape juice spiked with cream of tarter.


And your fantasies:
the throat freed of its collar,
the clothed arm undressed,
the belt unhooked and dropped,
the foot made lovingly shoeless . . .

A hundred bodies clamber laughing
onto the Souls's ship,
onto the ship of the body!
O ship aboard the ship!
They speed gayly away,
leave the two of us on shore, Walt,
on fire-sand with briars and cinders.


The one we love
moves continually inside us,
sits, lies down, lusts, sleeps,
is sometimes satisfied.

He is a beautiful Adam,
she a serene Eve.
They gather us in, stroke us,
bring toes and fingers erect.
Seminal waters rise in the root.


The gay ship glimmers --
flamingo in the dark.
I no longer hear
its perfumed gears and pistons
creating Cytherean music.

I leave the beach
and take up a stone
softened, shaped
by the sea's pounding currents.

I press the stone to my throat,
the hot small breast of a moulting wren.

With speech
we flood the miniature worlds
we seek to decipher,
flood them with acid and brine.
Perhaps, as you said,
we are flecks of light.

But look!
Over that hill
shaped like the warm back
of a lion
             he walks
             he is walking
                    towards the sea!




I see the lateen sail
spread above the dahabiah*
if that's what it was
you sailed upon
sick with gangrene
your heart choking,
knocking delirious
against the infected fern
of your lung --
as flies swollen
scattered over the awning,
black in a benzedrine sun.


You lay, lost to the arrogance
that could once melt fetor with a ray,
sank all ordinary rules of art
and drove the hot pin in
towards Apollo's golden ass,
thighs of velvet, swallowing
the tarnish, the patina
savored by Verlaine.


I would take you in,
poet, iconoclast;
for you made
the supreme ignoble gesture
of the fig, told the ancient tart
to go and fuck herself with a stick,
repudiated art
and showed thereby
your insanity for it.


Green flesh suppurates
shines with the glow
of a dungbeetle scarab in a tomb
enraged by the linen wrappings,
by the pennies on the eyes,
the medicinal cotton
stuffed up all the apertures.


I'll walk on water to your boat,
still its fever,
secure its haulers,
tell the muse of your whereabouts,
bring syringes, oil and salve,
poultices for your throat.


Eagle River, Wis. is Paris.
Eagle River is the Seine.
The old Lutheran church is Notre Dame.


I feel that I have sailed there,
and do sail
propelled by breeze
my flag the bra of a whore
whose fancy bleeds,
drops rancid metaphors,
stinks for this latter day,
her jewels radiospastic pearls.


A leech sucks at the back of my neck,
a fat one sucks right up in my armpit.
I feel the rubbery mouth and hear belching.
One leech is the size of a mole on a cheek,
another of a pumpkin seed.
I cough up rusty albumin.
May it infect them!
This blood is human!
*A large boat on the Nile, eguipped with lateen sails.


For Jack Spicer

do you know now
how clouds tumble
how fish attack the blue shapes
of humpbacked mountains
how a girl bleeds beside a well,
or how a brown boy
grinds glass in his blanket?

And have you seen Lorca
wandering, telling
what really happened in Granada,
grabbing any ghost willing to listen?

Blue creatures keep passing us here.
Our eyes have fallen.
We reach out
but our hands do not touch.
Our hearts are buried in sand.

Every evening and afternoon
a boy dies, girls die. Poets,
pheasants, and dogs plunge forever
into violet shadows. We reach out
but our hands do not touch.
We climb into cold beds, lie there
for hours, in foetal positions.
We reach out, but our hands do not touch.

Who reads your poems?
My current lover leaves After Lorca
by the tire factory pool
where miraculous fishes are skeletons.

Thirst-lovers locate it
copy it out, drink it in
believing they have found paradise.

Yes, the wind deceived says darling.
Lightning belches.
The toads we kick aside
in search of water
leap off distraught, betrayed.
The young wield hatchets in the forest
diviners after bitter sex.

The needles are crumbling now,
as massive, water-soaked cacti tumble over.
Boys and girls swim up
out of heavenly luminous pools
where they drowned.
Can you see any of this, Jack?
or are your eyes
still crammed too full of paper?


An Ode (with Oboe and Smitten Tabor), for Jonathan Williams, Commemorating Our Failure to Locate Jelly Roll Morton's Grave, Los Angeles, December 1977

"The picturesque is found whenever the ground is uneven"
- Roland Baffhes





More towns

Mahler/tones    / Morton-tones

"Mort, there's too much jazz."

Catsup (simon)y

Moo-town (Heifer City)

More (S)ton(es)

No Tro(w)m(ah), mens sana, etc. Nicht Wurms.
No Mort


Your liver slams in its niche:
kin to a spotted ray plummeting
off Santa Monica cove -- its
last sting-tail flick
lashing a nude swimmer.


Greasy spots on his cerecloth.
He's lost all his fat, Babe.
Acids have shredded his broadcloth shorts.
The fat under his arms
is rendered into death-soap (yeah, he lye-eth
there amidst his meat-flake ashes)
sanitizes the stench, combustion worms.
Anal bacteria swim merrily
up sewage canals, for home:
colon, intensive, valve,
brittle-headed, copper pincer-worms.
His tie's intact:
scat-knotted, liver-spotted,
wound around his vertebrae.


"roll the apple away from the tomb, put an apple in the mouth of stinking J.R. Morton."
- Lines adapted from Jonathan Williams' "Emblems for the Little Dells, and Nooks, and Corners of Paradise."

The apple's not much of a Southern California fruit.
It won't suit.
Bring a fig for Jelly Roll, a quince.
Drip guava juice on his eyes,
wet his gonads with kum-quat water.
An apple's not
a Southern California fruit.

5. Stumbling over Uneven Ground


Every step through drizzle, at dusk,

Ladled out the wrong stew. A



Rancid death-kum shot

Our, furring our tongues, and our watery



Maybe, metaphorically, we can go to bed with anybody.

Oxmoron churns this soaked pauper cemetery.

Rung bells and a Mormon choir chungs in the
    eucalyptus trees.

Tuba Mirum. Dies Irae. Ubi Sunt?

O the forlorn grasses of graves!

Now, Morton's churned his worms. Is he here? We
    were told he was? Where is he?


Nathaniel Hawthorne



My first lesson in agriculture:
I went to see our cows foddered.

We have eight cows,
and the number is increased by a transcendental heifer
belonging to Miss Margaret Fuller.
She is very fractious, I believe,
and is apt to kick over the milk-pail.

I intend to convert myself into a milkmaid.
I shall perform my duty with fear and trembling.


I did not milk the cows last night.


Miss Fuller's cow
hooks the other cows
and rules the herd.

The original Adam revives within me.


I have milked a cow!

I would send you milk
it is mingled
with milk drawn forth
by the rest of the Brethren.


The herd rebels against Miss Fuller's
heifer, who takes refuge under our protection.

She is not an amiable cow
but has an intelligent face,
of a reflective character.


After breakfast
Mr. Ripley
put a four-pronged instrument
into my hands
which he said
was a pitchfork.

We commenced a gallant attack
upon a pile of manure.

This office being concluded
and I having purified myself
I sit down to finish this letter.

Brook Farm: 1841



He is as ugly as sin,
long-nosed, queer-mouthed, and with
uncouth and somewhat rustic, although
courteous manners. His ugliness,
of an honest and agreeable fashion,
becomes him much better than beauty.

He has repudiated all regular modes
of getting a living, and is inclined
to lead a sort of Indian life
among civilized men -- an Indian life, I mean,
as respects the absence of
any systematic effort for a livelihood.

He is familiar with beast, fish, fowl
and reptile, and has tales of friendly passages
with these lower brethren of mortality.

Herb and flower, likewise, are his friends.
He is on intimate terms with the clouds.
He has more than a tincture of literature.

On the whole I find Mr. Thoreau
a healthy and wholesome man to know.



She runs about the room
in her chemise -- which does not
come down far enough
to serve as a fig-leaf.

Never were such contortions
and attitudinizings seen --
prostrating herself on all fours
and thrusting up her little bum,
as a spectacle to men and angels
being among the least grotesque.

Both Una and Julian have been the death
of many caterpillars.
But if they loved them less
they would have killed fewer.



Come, come, I said
as it flung its yellow self
against a window.

I urged it towards a door.
But it persisted
flying low across the floor.

It thumped against a glass
and stunned itself.
It flopped against the ceiling.
I chased it reeling

down a hallway. I opened doors.
He sensed the air but flew
against the circular light
above the door, clung
to the casement, clung to
hanging glass lamps
and cried affrighted
as I neared, flapping my handkerchief.

At last he sank
throbbing on the carpet.

I sought to grab him,
but up he flew, low, then through
the door, into the sunshine.

I was ludicrous, standing there.

Yes, a dull pain in my chest,
flutters now,
and moves and flaps
through my heart's chambers.



I am sitting near the window.
A sudden twittering in the fireplace.

Three chimney swallows
have washed down, nest and all,
in the storm. Three young ones
cling against a jamb.
They clamor widemouthed,
short and eager frightened sounds.

I look around.

Our cat has eaten the parents,
feathers and heads on the carpet.

With cotton wool
I arrange a basket,
soak bread in milk
and force their mouths ajar.

I hang the basket out the window.
Two birds fly away.
I feed the weak bird.
He gulps each third piece of bread.
The rest crumbles into the nest.
He shuts his eyes.

I crush his head
between my thumb and forefinger.


Connections: In The English Lake District; A Suite Of Poems For Douglas Oliver


It is / the light
that astounds us
that creates the valleys
jewels, the green plush
mountain cataracts and streams,
that transforms bracken
into shades of heather,
as streaming clouds rush
through the dales
and weep, weep
upon these lakes.



"The best place to be during a thunderstorm is in a large metal or metal-frame building ... Flying a kite in a thunderstorm is an invitation to getting electrocuted."
- National Geographical School Bulletin (May 1, 1967), p. 453.



We race up the mountain,
huddle against
the green slate-slab fence
as rain
whistles into snow
as lightning
flails brash connections,
thunder disjoints the bones,
synovial fluids fall
into whitish treacle
icing the sheep fields,
soaking thighs and knees
congealing in our shoes.

"What's here?"
Ducats of sheep's dung.
"And there?"
Marsh slugs; hornless, black
white and slime and suet.
"And there?"
Seedling firs.
(The high fence
we can't climb over
protects them).
Shiver and wait.
Separate! A bolt. A flash.

And who would find us here
claws burned to the fencewire,
jaws frozen open
smoked-salmon hued.



"But is a picture of spring the essential creation, the expressive form itself, or do [Swinburne's] references to grass and flowers and rain and birdsong serve a different semblance? What is the motif?"
- Susanne K. Langer, in Problems of Art: Ten Philosophical Lectures (New York, 1957), p. 158.



The keepers
lead the hounds to the van,
and urge them in,
the dispirited hounds.

The fox has escaped again,
flicked his heart,
has eluded them --

in the gelatinous dark
panting his eyes as black
as mouse eyes
immediately after
the trap springs
stunning, bulging them.
The hunt rides on.



Even in inclement weather Wordsworth would compose poems, writing them down on crag faces with scraps of shale. His sister Dorothy, or his wife Mary, followed after, copying them off on to foolscap, or into notebooks. Wordsworth's attachment to the district, to its hills, rocks, crags, flowers, fishes, leaves and sheep was curiously feminine.
- Author's journal walking tour (May 6,1967, with Douglas Oliver).



Dorothy shells peas
hangs out the washing
gives coins
to beggars at her door
elicits stories
before she permits them more,
suffers headaches; works hard
in the garden in the sun
observes William fishing
wonders what form his new poem will take --
a simple annal of the poor?
or, better, scraps of his past life,
wild strawberries in a bowl,
before windiness crumbles perceptions
into philosophy:

"William stayed behind me.
I threw him the cloak out of the window
The moon overcast.
He came in sleepy and hurried to bed.
I carried him his bread and butter."



These lakes are for the mind.
One leaps towards them
from eminences above them --
Winderemere, Coniston,
Thirlmere, Derwent Water.

Sheep, small urine-colored yaks,
feed, nibble and romp,
spots of anchorage
for the enamored eye.

savoring these lakes
one ignores
the daffodils, the fritillaries,
the finches skittering past.
One neglects the churchyard
where great and small lie . . .

the heart leaps up.



From Dorothy's entries on the woodgathering excursions of her brother and the servants one concludes that the astonishing neatness of the Lake District, even the remotest reaches, dates from their industriousness.



These are the most
despite the christenings.
Old Man is not old man to me.
He is slate and granite.
And Skiddaw there, can you
equate him with a face,
or a titan, a broken angel?
Frightened, in a stolen boat
Wordsworth met his conscience here,
in these rocks, an abstract doom, human.

The pathetic fallacy rarely works.
These mountains are sheer grit
congealed, adorned with trees
and rock, eons of rain,
drizzle, patter, patter,



"Coniston Lake a fine mixture of the aweful & the pleasing Simple ... it is beyond all the other lakes perfectly intelligible -- Conceive a crescent of Hills, or rather a crescent hill, enfolding the first mile of water / this hill of various height & various outline, but no where high / above this hill at the head of the Lake, but chiefly somewhat to the Left of it (as you ascend the lake) high mountains of a remarkable sternness & simplicity, one-colored, as seen at a distance, & darkcolored / its boldest parts are first, the Bell and the Scrow, two black Peaks, perfectly breast-shaped & lying abreast of each other, the whole Bosom of a Brobdignag Negress."
- Coleridge's Notebooks, August 1802.




I had caught
a piece of Donald Campbell's jaw
in Coniston Water.

The lake, calm, seemed firm enough
for walking upon,
weighted and still.
Skeletal fingers in the silt
had drawn the surface water taut.

But on retrieving it with a stick
I saw that it was part of a ram.
Touched with bracken
mountains rise like camels
about to be broken
over Coniston Water.

The rain is icy,
shoots channels
forming streams and waterfalls.
The lake is cinders fallen.

I imagined the spray
as Bluebird III burst aloft
that January day,
jet engine propelling her away
3000 miles per hour
             over the lake.

And I saw his kodakpicture ('34)
standing with his father
facing Windermere,
fantastic speed dream already there
irritating the gum line
of a forward tooth.
Career. Father to blond son.
Record to be broken.
Son to father.


citizens declare
that divers found his helmet
with his head intact.
British newsmen joke:
"Can the water, Campbell soup!"
The search goes on,
transpires in smoke.
The press is dumb
silent on skull
jawbone, femur, thumb.

Stunned by the rocketing
fish quiver (the lake is deep)
their throats brush leaves
decaying, turning infinitesimally
to mulch. Fish hover,
may never ascend again,
may never spawn.

That morning
when his helmet clicked shut,
he knew, they say,

that he had struck his fatal hour
(fine trial run), felt
in his spine, the earlier chill
of hearing that his father was dead,
in his own boat.

Is daring suicide?
Is it degree that matters,
swaggering before the skeletons
of others pushing
while doing the same?
To live is to stand with ankles bare
and tendons bare.

The skull guards the brain,
the ribcage the lungs and wheezing heart.

Enter a street,
drop hand to lake water,
cast a stone, collect the mail,
lift fork or knife to mouth,
press tongue to incisor --
rehearse for suicide!

A diamond has its price, its fire.
A witch squeezes a toad to her dug,
begs it suck -- as dogs chew
on one another, calves gouge
other calves, and women naturally
abuse their children.

The fact of wanting to live
assumes a desire to die.

O, Campbell,
drifting, wavering
where there are no plants
lice, scum,
where tinted scraps
of Bluebird shake, grate
soundless, roll, turn, and roll . . .
wait, wait.



s o f t l y
through the elms
concealed shapes of
boulders, rooks in the trees,
as we (seen from the back)
pause to learn
to speak again
from the depths
shot with haze drifting in, bounding stream,
animal scream.



One is nearly restored here:
"O Beautiful Place!"
all of the clanking
of spoons on tables,
"Dear Mary, William.
The horse is come . . .
so I must give over."
rattle of exhaust pipe,
civilian air-raid screams
"William is eating his broth.
I must prepare to go."
Snorts and needlings,
broken thermos bottles.
"The swallows, I must
leave them, the well,
the garden, the roses, all."
-- these and more,
like butter under jam,
appear then disappear.
"Dear Creatures!!"
Bread scraps float on calm water
are siphoned off by swans.

"Well, I must go. Farewell."


The work in this collection has appeared in The Wormwood Review, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, Poetry Australia, Electrum, Samisdat, Tam Tam, Invisible City, California State Poetry Quarterly, Pulpsmith, Oink, Home Planet News and in the following books: The Sow's Head and Other Poems (Wayne State University Press, 1968); Connections: in the English Lake District (Anvil Press, 1972); Byron Exhumed (1973); Holy Cow: Parable Poems (Red Hill Press, 1974); The Poet as Ice Skater (Manroot, 1976); and Celebrities: In Memory of Margaret Dumont (Sombre Reptiles, 1981); and in the anthology Light Year '87

ISBN: 0-89807-139-9

[text from back cover]

The long-awaited gathering in book form of Robert Peters' more experimental work, including the entire text of Byron Exhumed, a precursor of his later monologue and persona pieces. Breughel's Pig overflows with Peters' overriding concern: to make our victimizations -- our life in the raw -- more endurable, and to find a way of transmuting one's rage at an outrageous universe into an unsentimental murmur of song.
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