Eleven Conversations— Stages of the Page



Small child,
in a family,
finds the familiar
(years later)
in a city—

towering shoulders,
heads to the ceiling,
vanishing points in the sky,
conversations out of reach,
too loud or too aloof,

bold early wish
to be included
in whatever it is
that brings laughter,
exclamations and drama—

prompting a climb
onto granite knee and lap,
a nuzzling at the ear,
where, even then,
remaining but a listener—

at city’s beat,
taxi’s back seat,
notebook’s retreat,
sketching and writing—
in conversations self-initiated,
sketching and writing—
grown-ups his height,
high rises he can climb
taxis he can drive.

Then, satisfied to go unnoticed,
drawing notice—
a shared a mark on the page—
a voice that knows his name—
a face at eye-level,
eyes that wait for his—
comments that wait for his—

a city that comes down to size
and lets him rise,
drawing proportion
and connection.


Pencils get lost—
bring back a dozen—
there’ll be only one left
when you look for them.

Sketchbooks fill up
with ideas as good as lost—
when heaped together
or scattered—
in boxes, pockets and drawers.

Notebooks take on weight
of graphite and ink.
Ideas weightless,
off the page.
Weightless, too,
when forgotten.


Unofficial memory
held like coded myth—
pixelated hieroglyphs,
on archived evening news.

Roof top’s plates at
buffet of signals,
finding what’s said,
but not why.

It’s a wonder
where’s the wondering?
What’s in the yammering over dinner—
unquestioned feeding—
at troughs of satellite dishes.


What is talk? What’s it for?
Argument and rumor,
rung and spun,
twisted until
steel-cable strong
for what it may do—
hold up bridges,
or reinforce barricades.


Before language. Before.
When one was a child?
Gestures, tones, temperature, faces,
rearranged chairs and barometric pressure

willing explorer,
pantomiming to engage,
drawing lines in the air,
lines upon lines,
on both sides of the page.

Pencil, pen, crayon, brush—
on any surface—
paper, sidewalk, roadway, rock—
try speaking in chalk:
leave broken bits aside
for others
to reply.


Meaning calls on words
to explain meaning.

Words invoke meanings,
more meanings—
that call for words,
more words.

Seeking begets
begets misunderstanding—

that calls on words—
that weary—

at last
at last.


Picture-gram thoughts—
how to transcribe them?

prodded to engage,
then cut off at a pause,
passed on a curve,
maneuvered with a swerve—
I gear-shift to a laugh,
or better yet, an exit—
to drawing at an easel—
better conversation
between drawn lines—
things not spoken—
of remembered,


Years later,
with confidence in
notebook’s armory,
an entourage
of handwritten lyrics,
table drumming,
string-guided thinking,
tuning and strumming,
I dare to step forward,
exposed on the page,
pausing at door’s arch,
its halo of shadow,
a shy aura
around title
or first line.


What makes me hesitate?
I dare to think it’s love—

its overwhelming floodlight,
8.0 shaking and aftershock,
and whatever else, devised
to test its authenticity.
Its authenticity tests mine.


the language we are born with,
we hear, but don’t quite understand—
requires patience to learn and comprehend.
Its readiness tests mine.

I calculate my position,
my arms,
my argument,
my defense—
Its composure tests mine.

Trial by trial—
Its resistance (to breaking) breaks mine.

I am disarmed—
armed only with self—

a karate kata
moving through space,
encountering no enemy,
a string of words
finding no opposition.


language learning another—
with silent e, g, h,
oh—and wait—wait—
all letters go silent
from A to Z

in a speechless time
when heart does all the talking,
while uncertain protestation of the mind
muddles its arguments
and relents.

Thus, an early alphabet—
one letter at a time,
notched in clay
becomes a tablet of notches—
the heart—
of clay that never hardens,
as long as one keeps writing.


How do we return again and again
to hardening ways
and hindering chisel—
that cuts and scores—
and keeps no score—

but zero.

Where is the stylus
that styles a gentle word?
Has the mind taken hold,
wielding it with pride,
just because it knows how to write
and sound out the words?

The literate heart
regrets with
If only, if only
a pang, pang, pang—
pummeling its hardened casing,
until Alchemy’s mercy
carries it to cauldron,
melts it back to essential clay,
remembered origin,
ready tablet,
ready stylus,
ready heart.



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