[NOTE. Michael McClure and I will be reading together on June 7th (7:00 p.m.) at City Lights Books in San Francisco – an invitation to all who may be in the vicinity. (J.R.)]
FLITE. SOMEWHERE NEAR CRAGGY, WHITE, VAST
MOUNT BAKER, at 29,00O feet,
men dressed in black, fire automatic pistols
from industrial railings at figures
below – and one winks at a cute Asian girl.
IT IS THE UNDERTOW OF SAMSARA
draining into a white candle
waiting to be blown out
by the lips
SESTINA FOR MY LADY
I SLEEP WITH YOU but never enough, LOVER,
for your ever-reshaping body is delight
SOFT WARM PRECIOUS SWEET TENDER
in fragments we awake and laugh
and there are RAVEN’S QUARKS AND TRUCKS
WE ARE ALWAYS by a MOUNTAIN.
WAR-SCREAMS, screened by the tar mountain
can’t stop me being your lover
our spirits have the power of silver trucks
and from this frisson we wring delight
which can fly about like a child’s laugh.
No matter how brutal the dharmadhatu,
IT IS TENDER.
EDGES of forest and moss are tender
and stress and despair will shape a mountain;
there is loveliness in the damage of LAUGHS.
YOU AND I feel the touch of a lover
and each star bank is a synapse of delight,
as rain and flowers are moved by trucks.
REST will never be delivered by trucks
and that cruelty lets us know to be tender.
SEEING HUMMINGBIRDS flash through pain is delight,
they are not blocked by a highway or mountain;
the cloud of dark blue rain is a lover
and the dry time to come is a laugh.
Your heels move in morning with a laugh
when we think about sun and trucks.
The green odor of basil reminds us of a lover
even tire tracks on a worm are tender
when the huge cruelty of a mountain
is a mask for the physique of delight.
WE KNOW the PHYSICS of delight
is dressed with scowls and we laugh
with compassion for universe and mountain,
tiniest capillaries entunnel living trucks.
Even the most hideous background is tender
when I wake for a moment with YOU my LOVER.
DELIGHT is the least costly gift in the truck
and the laugh of the cliff is tender;
this mountain and bouquet reveal that I am your lover.
A brief commentary on Michael McClure (prepared originally as a blurb for McClure’s Of Indigo and Saffron: New and Selected Poems, but later condensed by the publisher).
Electrifying to those of us watching, Michael McClure's work has been a mix throughout of highly charged language (visceral, sexual, what he would later call mammalian) with an often overriding gentleness of tone and gesture. In the measure of his poems – then and now – I hear the voice of someone really speaking, but speaking in – what should we say? – a bard's voice, with a touch, a memory of Blake and Shelley: poets who had moved him deeply in the past. He is – in the best sense – both a latterday Romantic and a sharer in an experimental modernism that has produced our greatest poetry – worldwide – over the last hundred and more years. And beyond the poetry as such, he is a devoted student of a range of knowledge in both the arts and sciences – the biological and anthropological in particular – which feeds the poetry in turn and brings about a genuine and very unique lyricism of bio-particulars (“meat science” as he calls it) and the finest celebration I know of a universe of living forms.