To purchase an insight
you have to pay first,
Sometimes you look up
at a cornice, or sky
or a roof,
when nothing is there because
you think there is.
And once I was walking on a city street
and nobody looked up
at a cornice, a roof,
or the sky,
even though something was there because
they thought there wasn't.
Most words are made-up, constructs
But some few are discovered,
like some previously unknown mineral. A
peculiar patina, just cleaved clean
from a hillside. Casting new reflections
into our eyes, into places that
we'd never been. New
that now we can see.
This sentence does not see itself.
The rising sun is blind
to the glints of brass, flaring below.
The wind does not feel the leaves,
a broom beating dust from a rug
A rowboat, with raised oars
on a still, shadowed pond.
And so, your eyes,
they twist, and then they slip free,
and then they sprint back outside
through the big black back door.
One of Yin / Yang is larger than the other.
A path in the snow on the right of the road,
in the cul de sac,
and now is aimed at you.
It is simple to check that a particular code opens that lock in your palm.
It is difficult to find the code that opens that lock in your palm.
A particular way of thinking, that seems to work.
"How should I think about life?"
The snow cups the path,
in its palm.
A way of thinking is "consistent" if it never contradicts itself.
A way of thinking is "complete" if it can find the answer to every question.
Our way of thinking has explained that our way of thinking
cannot be both.
Our way of thinking suspects, but is not sure, that in our way of thinking,
it is always easier to check an answer than to find it.
Orange sunlight slipping
sideways, between the too few
Tinting just the tips of the snow.
"How should I live my life?"
If you magnify a coastline, you will find
it always looks the same.
If you magnify the snow, you will find
it always looks the same.
If you magnify the cells in you, you will find
the image keeps changing and changing and changing.
The snow melts slowly, in the spring,
opening its palm.
I need to know what is the me that I am
to certain others.
I don’t mean certain other people.
- this is important, and very hard -
it does not matter whether those certain others are correct.
This goal will never be attained.
This too does not matter.
All of that had been etched on a thin white plate.
But turn it over;
the other side is hollow, and wide, and
you cannot see its bottom.
One could fall into it.
A PIECE OF MUSIC
A baton, right after the conductor taps the music stand,
and raises his hand.
A chopstick, just before the patriarch spears down into dumplings,
popping open the family's feeding.
A napkin, just before the mother taps its tip at her baby’s
A booty, plum-sized and baby blue, as it falls from the happily swinging feet
onto the perfectly flat floor.
A perfectly flat mirror, as it shows you people,
emerging from behind your head.
A mirror-flat lake, after the glare off its surface
forced you to turn around.
You, with your back to the lake; after staring into the woods
you finally - finally - take a step toward the trees.
Some decisions are hard to explain.
To get under your topsoil
don't try digging with words;
will just puff from your hands,
if you try to pull them to ground.
To get under your topsoil,
you must dig with
a hole that's about
two feet wide and six feet long
- just like the holes floating behind you
wherever you've been.
Press your hole, down,
deep into the earth.
Then get up, and brush off
the dirt from your pants
puffing, off into the sky.
LEAVE NO TRACE POETRY
How do you sculpt a pot
without touching clay?
How do you compose a painting
without holding a brush?
How do you release your reflection
from the cup of your hands,
without it looking
How do you beam lights
into the darkness behind
that don't reflect back at you?
PARTIALLY ORDERED SETS
On day n,
the tables were arranged as the perimeter of a square,
with a large hole in their middle
like a face with its nose cut out of it,
and with a few empty coffee mugs, askew on the table surfaces,
and the chairs were all angled,
On day n - 1,
the tables were arranged as a square,
with people pushing the perimeter, pressing table tops,
and in the hole in their middle
their words began to lock, and whirlpools pulled,
tightening the faces,
and coffee mugs
On day n + *,
the tables were arranged in rows,
facing the viewing screen in front
with the chairs neatly tucked in, "smartly" as my mother used to say, but
none of it could be seen
in the dark,
the dark, the dark.
In the angled time, n- + n+,
the chairs were in fetters,
stacked as slaves had been, in the dark holds of ships,
with my legs threading the arms
of the ones beneath me.
Sometime in years A, B and C,
they called an ambulance
for me, dying
in the middle, between the tables.
And in the middle of those years
the paramedics watched, exhausted,
as a baby finally coughed, and wailed
It is common for poets (and I am not one),
to grace their nouns with souls
and surround them with baskets full of verbs. Gifts for
nouns to speak, to convince us
So a stone
or cock a quizzical eye,
while a tree might nod,
and raise its face to the sky,
where a cloud might watch, or
whisper in Stone's ear.
Oh if these nouns might speak
so that I too could hear!
If language could explain,
if mere nouns could tell me how.
If we could sit around a table,
Language in one chair,
Conversation in another,
and I might serve fine wine,
might their nouns reveal their souls,
and thereby show me mine?
I didn't "exterminate" my self.
Nothing so intense, so
taut with ambition.
I just abandoned it, maybe a thousand miles
Heaved it off the top of the wagon.
To be fully honest, it hadn't been doing anyone any good.
Way too heavy
to bounce on the baked earth,
it just thudded, once.
One corner of it impaled
into the greenish-brown crust,
may it rest in peace.
I expect life has worn my self down since then.
Become a target, for the sky's wet riflery.
Or maybe a shelter
for some snarky, honking crows,
or for a nibbling family of nest-building
Terminal G in Munich airport
is a long, long concourse
with a long, thin thread
of snack bars and bathrooms, coffee machines
and a smoking lounge
whose windows are very wide,
slipped all the way through
its long, thin middle.
Terminal A in Denver airport
is a long, long concourse
with a cancer at its center,
a tumor of shops and snack bars, coffee machines
I remember teaching you to drive a truck,
the glee almost splitting your face, its sudden
twist, up, into my chin;
Really? Can I?
There are chairs outside the smoker's lounge.
You can look in the fishbowl,
at humans making
Sucking long ashen sticks
through the hole under eyes.
After the mass shooting,
Level 4 in Denver union station
will be just for the airport express.
The crust of shops, spangled barnacles
will all be sucked below, beneath the trains.
On the ramp to the road
to the train, to the planes
to the hospital
I turned in my seat, to answer your question.
And so didn’t see the truck,
On the trail he is
inside his eyes,
and inside his pole-swing
there are rhymes
Rhymes of thoughts,
rhymes that whisper
about a hiker,
who turns, and stares,
back at him,
at somewhere behind
where I just was. Where
faint rhymes now
in the rhythm
SAMSARA OF A POEM
Every poem has a soul.
Born first as ... a cabbage.
It earns good karma, so its next version
is a cat.
But a sinful feline, alas, full of
So next time it comes, its form is
a tomato, quickly chewed,
and sickly, and even a bit sour.
So next up, going back,
the poem is ... a cabbage.
But now it's a Brassica, with more insight,
self-awareness. And so
the next time
the poem is a monkey,
full of promise. And
so with yet more good deeds,
the poem sets up a cue shot,
to find itself a human
Sleep is a slow swaying
in the bowels of a pond.
Dark and limp
gently loosen, down there,
Surface waters are always different
in the morning.
time for aspens in love.
That one, she won't admit it,
but mention His name,
"oh by the way",
and her eyes peel open
like the sun
grinning in the sky.
TRYING TO CATCH UP WITH MY FUTURE
There is a person -
I think it is always the same person.
I keep thinking I see her.
At a busy cross-street ahead of me, disappearing
around the corner. Or across a crowded concert hall, walking
out the exit.
Or leaving the secure area of a building, as I'm entering
its foyer, through a bored metal detector.
So often, when I'm focused on something completely different (always it's that way),
I'll brush the side of an image, just as it's vanishing.
I think it's her, entering a museum
on the other side of the street.
To be honest, I'm not sure it's always the same person.
It may be someone different each time.
People who just look similar,
when seen from far too far away.
Zeno's paradox. I keeping getting to where she was just a moment ago.
It may all be in my head, I don't know.
Let me make a prediction.
Sometime in the future, someone will make an artpiece that looks like
The piece has a definite order, starting at the left, progressing to
At the beginning of the piece, it's one of those 19th century
stop-action photo-sequences, of a nude, ambling to the right. Many
frames, easily flowing together. Small changes between successive
frames, accumulating with time.
All the images are in severe black and white, as 19th century
photographs were. Very saturated film; almost no grey in the image.
Nearing the middle of the piece, the comfortable gait of the sequence
abruptly ends. The figure turns to the camera - toward the viewer of
the art piece. As though she suddenly notices that she's being
All the frames up to this point were the same size. But the next frame
is far larger. In that next frame, the figure is running, hard, clearly
very upset. Right at the viewer (me).
The next, final frame is huge. It stretches almost from the floor to
well above my head. By itself, it's nearly as big in area as all the
frames up to this point taken together. And this last frame is filled,
to where it seems like it's going to burst. With the figure's taut
face. Nothing but that face, its border pressing against the picture
frame. Screaming, at me (?). I can't even see the figure's neck, or
the top of her writhing hair. Her eyebrows are twisted cords. A
giant, surreal tongue fills the central third of the image. Framed by
glaring, angry teeth.
In this future, I will read the title of the piece, placed beside it
on the wall:
"THE PAST, TRYING TO CATCH UP WITH THE PRESENT"
I stand back, appraising the piece as a whole.
Finished, I walk through the door on the right, into the next gallery.
Nobody is left in the room behind me.
Just a two-dimensional, frozen face.
My shadow blocks
I must twist it,
so I can squeeze past,
complete my hike
move that dark pool
LEARNING TO SEE
The sun rolls over
on its broader
turning its backside
And then the sun pulls
down over its head,
scooping our eyes
And then when our eyes
are both dried,
the sun twists the blinds:
letting us gaze
A spinning top
A whole ballet whirling
They / she / it / you
less even than a half,
part-way, pulled insides
and through the mouth.
Have smoothly pivoted
a steady gaze,
like the long, sure rise
of a long, slow pendulum.
Try doing that
when you're awake.
Rather than where you are now,
dizzy and half draped
over the side of a dream.
When the woods reflect you, well, then
Copyright David Hilton Wolpert, 2013 A PIECE OF MUSIC