Clouds and Trees

"Nothing ever goes away enough or arrives enough,/ and I want to cry when I think of my heart,/ muscle pounding in muscle, greedy always for joy." – 'A Warning', Eric Anderson

Category: self-referential

Ars Poetica

The vines by the creek must have been there years
before I noticed them at 12 or 13. Invasive species,
would climb a tree arm upon arm, like tefillin,
until the tree’s back couldn’t bear it, snapped in half
and hung, suspended in the veins of its parasite.
While I was away, the whole woods disappeared —
but left behind such beautiful houses.


Conversation about Perspective

“Manhattan is great, sure, but like anything
you have to get the right perspective.
You have to see it from a distance,
so that it starts to look inanimate.
Like something totally vibrant and virile
that died suddenly. An ant colony calcified,
or someone wearing incredibly tight pants
hit by a car, frozen in mid air.
Like waves on the ocean
which look like clouds from high above.
What I’m trying to say is, with enough activity
and distance, there is stillness. And so the universe
is a photograph developing. That is why
I am climbing this building,”
King Kong said to the fighter pilot.
Though from the pilot’s perspective
it sounded more like,
and thus was lost in translation.


The average New York City
subway rat lives about 80 years
fortified by potato grease
and vigorous exercise.

Because of this, they develop
robust internal culture.

Each withstands a profusion
of menial, violent, and beautiful
daily impulses driven by endless,
repetitive, personal history.

Rats are as often killed by the subway,
as by their jobs, or by disease,
though it can be difficult to tell.

Some are captivated by shallow puddles
in which they drown themselves
whilst staring at the moon and just beginning
to grasp the meaning of a metaphor.

Virginia Woolf


My joints are weak; I almost lose
balance on the cobblestones.
Even this poem-writing I do
to keep my mind from eclipsing
or being eclipsed. You see—
by what, by whom?


I am walking towards the girl and she is walking towards me. I am trying to make her real when she smiles at me like her mouth has been stretched across her face and I thought only I smile that way. She is walking towards me and the tree gets in the way and I think I will never see her again.


I am losing it.
Not my mind, no,
don’t think that.

It’s just, people do
go insane sometimes.
They probably seem

pretty normal.


Oh my friends.
Oh my words,
dead in the mist.
The waves! The waves
of the River Ouse.
Oh my friends
in the mist.
Oh my god, my god
my god.

The Devil Reads Poetry

Full crowd tonight– all of Niobe’s kids,
Eurydice, who’ll be leaving early,
and Persephone’s here. It’s Spring in Hell.

I spent this morning crossing the river
In Charon’s boat; he’s gives the best feedback.
I’m still trying to write this one poem

But it just won’t come. I think it’s about
Filling an empty place up with something,
And how the emptiness grows around it.

Sisyphus takes my shoulders in the wings;
Inside I’m trembling over this line like:
I made my world one endless metaphor.

I almost called my brother yesterday.
I just want to figure out everything.

Reaching Off

“I got it,” the girl says, laughing
at how incompetent I am
because I fumble at the door
as we leave the coffee place.
It is early in the morning.

And I remember this
as I am walking to school.
I regret that I didn’t ask her
to walk with me. Imagining
that could carry me all day.

We would have split here.
That song, “Can’t you see?
Oh, can’t you see…” in my head.
“It’s not that I miss my ex-girlfriend,
it’s that I miss having a girlfriend.”

My marine friend said to me,
“I just want to be back overseas.”
My professor calls it a cycle
of fullness and emptiness and he rolls
life in the air with his hands.

I cannot remember on what end
we write poetry. Does it drain
or fill us? I wonder how a marine
feels when he shoots his gun,
how it feels to truly fuck.

I went to class two stanzas back,
talked to someone, took a shit,
thought about masturbating.
Am I fuller or emptier now?
Maybe I just ruined the poem.

My mom called me.
The only other way it could be:
either you are entirely full
or empty. Like honesty, pregnancy,
you can’t be sort of complete.

I want to call my mom back,
hold her voice in my head.
It pours in and strengthens me.
Poetry is like that—
fullness shooing emptiness away.

The Mirror Used Hands

Dan Levin looks at himself asleep
In that crack under the door.

He wants to let himself through
But only murmurs and turns over.

Dan Levin is his own name
Gone forgotten on the train ride.

He keeps his eyes closed and thinks
He is a cloud that is empty.

Dan Levin gets up and opens the door.
The crack gets big as Dan Levin and

The trees outside
come in.

Reading at Cornelia Street

The Professor always has a cold.
You watch his tufts of facial hair lift
as if to close his skin like cellophane
that won’t fit.

The Professor is made for Brooklyn,
so well designed for it that Upstate
he runs everywhere; finds a building,
gets into it.

Because his nose leaks, he always breathes
through his mouth in between reading lines.
You can hear little gasps — he’s surprised
it’s written.

The Professor is trepidatious.
Some organ near his throat injures him.
When his mouth stumbles over a word
he winces.

You aren’t close to him, he’s sorry.
But listen to him, or read him, and
you know him immediately — just
a poet.

Looking In

I feel disconnected from my writing, looking back on it, the same way I feel disconnected from myself, remembering. It is literally incredible, impossible to believe, impossible to comprehend the working of the mind in the present and the past. Words which describe function of the brain are all not only inadequate but made irrelevant by their redundancy.

Try to comprehend your own mind — with what? Try to see the world as it truly is — think about what this means — to shed the filter of the mind. The best we can do is to achieve something we call mental clarity. It has been a long path for me to understand what this means. We are fooled about clarity by the very obscurity we are trying to clear away. It is not mere mud on the windows, it is living swamp that will embalm you living in your own brain fluid. Memory is one of the keys with which I became, have been, am obsessed. I say, “It is as if my ‘memory’ is a scroll of incidents described to me by another person.” I have a strong feeling that my memory used to work in a different way than this.

To draw another line towards the center, it is also interesting how many aspects of a person, defining aspects, can be traced back to common time periods in their lives. There are two things which I think define me creatively – poetry and paper folding — origami, to the point where if I do not think about it, I would say I have done these things for my whole life — my whole remembered life — that is to say, what is a life? It blew my mind, and I think in a way, changed me forever (again) when I realized that I began playing both these creative instruments around the age of 13, 6th grade, the same time I started liking girls, puberty. My mind says to me — there must have been some defining moment. Because the most significant thing is — this is also where my memory begins, truly. Or in the way that it now exists. Before that point, there is almost nothing. Snippets, pictures in a scrapbook, I can’t say that quite literally enough, images I have seen, not experienced, this is how it feels. After 13, I can more easily imagine myself in these historical accounts, I relate to them more closely. I can see myself sitting at that cafeteria table, those blue curtains behind the stage where I later played a salesman on a train, behind those concrete walls where Logan Shanney, beautiful, blonde, freckled, hid behind a corner on one of the three days we dated and never spoke, across the hall, the round math teacher’s classroom who would solve rubix cubes in under 6 seconds, through the door to science class, 6th grade again being where I began to fail in science classes, my memory expands down those hallways, relates, connects brick to doorway down x and y and also z, the time line represented by the smallness of hallways, the brightness of walls, the size of classrooms, somehow seeming larger, teachers, larger, I reach back, back, and the names fade, and the faces are no longer real, and again I am telling myself what happened.

It is incredible what the mind can hide from us – because we are inside the rooms it designs. It was an important moment when I read that line – “You are not your mind.” It began a significant line of thinking. I also note that I have always described my memory as a story being told to me. Who is telling the story to me? I have, for awhile, thought of the mind as an obscurer, a shadowy figure blocking the exits. But of what? of who? I have just begun to refine my thought of — the “self” and the “mind” — or the “id” and the “ego” — all these theories of duality — I am not something battling against something else, I am, and it may seem obvious, we all are, two people, two things, we are both these things, and when we experience this discord, when things are lost and only half-found, when things remain unexplained — such as endless distress and unhappiness and hopelessness in the face of utter, unabashed hopeful circumstances, it is not because there is some rebel in the head, it is because the two sides of the self are out of sync.

Something significant happens to a person. I do not fully understand how this works because I have not come to terms with my own experience. But this thing happens, and it is at an impressionable moment, and somehow it causes a break between the two sides of the self. It seems that it usually has something to do with a young child being convinced they don’t actually matter very much. You have not been able to figure out why you do not feel whole, because you cannot remember and will not accept that something happened, occurred in your life, which made you that way.

Let me break from the path again here — like I said, there are many theories about duality of the self. I learned of an interesting one recently, which I think is ironic because it comes out of a theorist who I think may be suffering from the problem I am talking about, thus leading to a failed theory trapped within a paradigm, or something like that. The theory says that when we first recognize ourselves in a mirror, we create an impression of an ideal self which can never be achieved, and from that moment on we always have this empty, perfect mold-hole which we can never fill, and we will always feel imperfect and unhappy because of this. No, this is not an irreconcilable position, and it is not necessarily innate to the human condition, and it does not have to do with looking in the mirror, for the most part. But people do feel sadness and incompleteness and unfulfillment and they don’t know why and they want to make a theory about it.

So like I said, something happens in your life, and that schism is created, and that experience will never be perfectly remembered again until the two sides are reconciled, because it was experienced when the two sides of your self were in sync, and that state of experience can never truly be related to again until you are once again whole. From the moment that break occurs, all experience must be fed through the person’s false understanding of reality based on that one experience and the schism it created, the successive structuring of false assumptions and understanding based on that foundation stone, the first truly wrong data which diverts us from reality. This is where confusion comes from, the feeling of not being in “the real”, the endless seeking, the drug use to find some “truth” beneath the grass, but all that is needed is truth within the self, mental clarity, wholeness.

What is to come, where I do not know enough to write about it, is how to get there, because I have not done it myself. But I have seen it done, partially and wholly. We all know there is happiness. We have the feeling of a ghost passing through us that has never left — happiness — it is the word we become obsessed with then stop using because it is “cliche”, no, it is terrifying because, what if it never comes? This is suicide — when we abandon the ghost within us who says you cannot know dissatisfaction without satisfaction, that even the most unbalanced are still on the scale, something accessible on the other side. You have felt it, and at some point something snapped and at some point, around the age of 13, life became an endless journey to get it back. We become obsessed with the golden age of what we’ve always had, but have lost the clarity we need to see it, to be with it– that balance we call happiness.

Swallowing the City Again

The train rides past cement arms,
arches under bridges under cars
like empty door-frames.
Floating landscapes roll
through stone hands
as if time is tearing
canvas from paint.

Then empty boxes–
trucks jut from one-eyed warehouses,
windows broken or shaded in dirt
making stained glass
the way rubble makes a mosaic.

The meadowlands are still
grass and winding rivers shrunken.
Boots sink, knees, toes–
the familiar fear of mud.

Imagine, quicksand or something like it
so close to New York–
a city of always wet cement,
names and fingerprints
lined-up stones
leaving slow ripples, solid bubbles,
the choke-in-throat of words forgotten
as they melt into cement.