Pure Black Nothing

From a poem I co-wrote with my best friend in high school and recently found and lost again in an unmarked box like so many others:

Things left undone,
Thoughts left unsaid,
Unfulfilled promises,
Made to the dead.

Black velvet timepiece,
Spinning in space,
Screaming out loud,
With its hands on its face.

I thought of this today after stumbling across a favorite poem on the internet by T.S. Eliot – The Hollow men, which includes such lines as:

We are the hollow men,
We are the stuffed men,


This is the way the world ends,
This is the way the world ends,
This is the way the world ends,
Not with a bang but a whimper.

And this brings to mind a song by Tom Waits that was included in the 12 Monkeys soundtrack: “And the World Died Screaming.” Hell of a song.

When I co-wrote the poem above (entitled “Pure Black Nothing”) it was part of my teenage exploration of the meaning of existence and of life and of death. But though it clearly bears some influence from The Hollow Men, it was never in my mind as I wrote it along with my high school pal, Bill Krasner).

Since that date, I have written several poems that seem similarly influenced, though never consciously, or at least barking at the same darkness that shook Thomas out of his slumber to rail against the coming of the night.

Here are some of them for your reading pleasure:

This one is called “Lulladie”

My emotions are dead
and lack any resistance
to the onslaught of logic’s
relentless persistence.

I’m malleable, moveable,
flexible, still.
I succumb with aplomb,
as I alter my will

to conform to the pressures
that weigh on my soul
without motive, or method,
opinion, or goal.

They reach for the stars,
as they stand on our hearts,
and they sell us off piecemeal,
parcels and parts.

They slice us to mincemeat
and padlock the door,
while our blood runs quite freely
through holes in the floor.

But nothing is wasted,
tho’ everything’s lost.
So our blood is recycled
to offset the cost.

We huddle in darkness
yet shy from the fire
to howl at the moon
with the rest of the choir.

And when the glow wanes,
we stoke it with dreams
in hopes that the crackle
will drown out our screams.

You sleep in your bed
and you doze in your chair.
Your cushions are comfy
and so is your air.

But your heartache grows heavy,
as well as your head,
‘til you nod away, nod away,
nod away, dead.

Here’s another called “The Luminary”

Like moth to flame,
I shade the light,
from fleas below,
who know not flight.

Pigs can’t fly,
and saints are sinners.
So it seems,
to most beginners.

Then they see,
the pigs take wing,
and soon believe,
in everything.

“Life is chilly:
find a fire!”
writes the prophet,
and the liar.

“Don’t dispair,
there is no hope.
So why not dance,
instead of mope?”

“Feed a cold,
and starve a fever,”
chants the faithful,

grasping for,
the mother lode,
to read verbatim,
words in code.

So I sought,
making love,
to conflagration.

“God,” I pleaded,
with the sun,
“don’t let me be,
the only one.”

Then from the sun,
there came a moan,
that sounded like,
“You’re not alone.”

I spiralled in,
with squinted eyes,
to gaze on one,
who was so wise.

The flame I sought,
on wings of cloth,
was just another,
burning moth.

Hear the sizzle,
smell the fry,
when near the sun,
some pig will fly.

Cheer the bacon,
stone the whore,
and never mind,
the crashing boar.

And as it falls,
its dimming light,
is now replaced,
as I ignite.

“My wings!” I cried,
are charred and smoking.”
“No!” they chide,
“you must be joking.”

They watched as I,
went up in glory,
to spin a tale,
weave a story.

“Touch the fabric,
though it pains me.
See the pattern,
that explains me.”

When I finally,
fell to ground,
my ashes did not,
make a sound,

For angst is gone,
when there’s no art,
as pain is gone,
when there’s no heart.

The only light,
that truly shines,
is that which falls,
between the lines.

So read my lips,
don’t read my words:
fleas aren’t moths,
and moths aren’t birds.

Will the last one here,
please turn out the light?

And finally, I call this one “Verbatim”

Have you ever wished
you had something to say
to open the heart
or capture the day.

To dissect the mind
or rally the cause,
but your words come up empty,
like stasis on pause.

So you put up your web site
and type in your Word:
a mouthpiece for Gurus
who want to be herd.

You stamp out a template
and auction your ware
that builds them a stairway
for climbing up air.

You translate their yearnings,
transfigure their Muse,
with a medium message
divine in its use.

Yet a lukewarm reception
devours your spiel,
consumed and digested
by The Zombies of Zeal.

For years you persist
in your nebulous quest
toward a furious sound
of infinite jest.

And you never look back
as your life passes by
to present as reflections
not seen through your eye.

But one day you wake
with a pain in your gut
that your fame is a fake
and your mountain, a rut.

So you fall from the sky
’til your life’s on the level
to lie in your bed
while embracing the Devil.

And you sing with the sirens
a glorious wail,
obscuring the site
of the Visioner’s Grail.

And the auctioneer’s gavel
indentures the Muse
and takes a percentage
of all whom she screws.

But one day She dies,
consumed with the clap,
and Her audience cries
as it lays in your lap.

So you cradle its head,
as it cradles yours,
and you wish you were dead
(save the proceeds from tours.)

But it isn’t the money,
nor is it the fame,
and it never was simply
the name of the game.

And it isn’t the insight
of getting there first,
nor the common law marriage
of better and worst.

You keep scratching your head
’til it coughs up a thought
in the hope it tastes better
than those that you bought.

You savor the flavor
that burns through your tongue,
for Truth leaves you speechless
and breathless and young.

And the answers you sought
with obtuse nomenclature
turn out to be more
of a personal nature.

So the final few words
of the self-focused work
provide answers for me.

Okay, still with me here? My sympathies. But you have been honored. This is the first entry in a new book I am writing about my life.

I am actually planning two series of books – one, a topical autobiography that abandons the tradition of writing about one’s life in chronological order, which is not the way we think of ourselves at all, but to pick a topic such as “dogs” or “camping” or “injuries” and then doing a core dump of everything I can recall in regard to that topic that touch upon my life directly in my experiences. Each such essay will illuminate the sum of influences that have fashioned my thoughts and feelings about that subject and therefore that have fashioned and shaped my self.

The other book series is to be called “Meanderings” and rather than sticking to one topic and exploring it in depth, the essays for this book will shift from one topic to another as we do in conversation until the train of thought peters out under its own weight. This will document my manner of thinking counterpointing the first book series so that one describes the forces at work with me and the other describes how my mind cascades.

I have made several aborted attempts at an autobiography over the years, but was never pleased with the structure, which was also confining and stilted the Muse.

Hopefully these two book series (a new volume whenever I’ve filled up the last one) will be more satisfactory, as one document my life in space (by topic) and the other in time (by progression of consciousness).

So who cares? Probably no one. I am not a celebrity, and though I have accomplished some things and have a knack with words, none of this is particularly noteworthy.

But still, each of us, in our totality is unique and have our own one of a kind voice. So in the end, perhaps, there will be those who find some value here.