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Category: in search of beauty poetry God

“The Story of of Cadmus” – Ovid

Lying Cow, 1883 - Vincent van Gogh

        Lying Cow(1883)


             Vincent van Gogh



            When now Agenor had his daughter lost,


Agenor, king of Tyre, father of

Europahis daughter lost

            He sent his son to search on ev’ry coast;


his son, Agenor’s son, Cadmus,

Europa’s brother

            And sternly bid him to his arms restore
            The darling maid, or see his face no more,
            But live an exile in a foreign clime;
            Thus was the father pious to a crime.


pious to a crime, intent on, devoted to,

having justice restored


            The restless youth search’d all the world around;
            But how can Jove in his amours be found?


amours, loves, trysts, entanglements


            When, tir’d at length with unsuccessful toil,
            To shun his angry sire and native soil,


his angry sire, Agenor, father, sire


            He goes a suppliant to the Delphick dome;


suppliant, supplicant, petitioner,

one in search of a favour


Delphick dome, the Temple of Apollo

at Delphi, where the oracle, Pythia,

proclaimed her cryptic prognostications,

her famously ambiguous prophecies


Delphi, incidentally, was one of several

sacred sites in Greece, sanctuaries,

open to any Greek, or person who

could speak Greek, regardless of

geographical provenance, any

city-statefor instance then, or

kingdom, akin to embassies today,

or places where people can expect

to find similar political haven


Delphi was the destination then also of

pilgrimages, comparable to our own

Santiago de Compostela today, an

ancient path I dearly would’ve, but

never have, unfortunately, undertaken


though I did walk to Mission B.C. some

several years ago, from my home in

Vancouver, to a monastery there, a

place of recuperation when I needed

one, three days there, and a half, three

days and an equal half back, my feet

were blistered, I noticed at one point,

but hadn’t at all registered any pain,

a truth I gathered about the power of

intention, one’s very aim can be a

salve, a balm, a solace, against any



but back to Cadmus


            There asks the God what new appointed home
            Should end his wand’rings, and his toils relieve.


where do I land, asks Cadmus,where

is my appointed home, my final


            The Delphick oracles this answer give.


The Delphick oracles, subordinates

to Pythia, the high priestess at Delphi


            “Behold among the fields a lonely cow,

            Unworn with yokes, unbroken to the plow;

            Mark well the place where first she lays her down,

            There measure out thy walls, and build thy town,

            And from thy guide Boeotia call the land,

            In which the destin’d walls and town shall stand.”


Boeotiaa region still of Greece


            No sooner had he left the dark abode,
            Big with the promise of the Delphick God,


the Delphick God, Apollo, god of

music, dance, truth, prophecy,

healing, the sun, light, poetry,

among many other things

            When in the fields the fatal cow he view’d,
            Nor gall’d with yokes, nor worn with servitude:


fatal, fateful


gall’d, irritated, frustrated

            Her gently at a distance he pursu’d;
            And as he walk’d aloof, in silence pray’d
            To the great Pow’r whose counsels he obey’d.


the great Pow’r, Apollo, by way of his

Delphick oracles,the high priestesses,

through their counsel, their divinations

            Her way thro’ flow’ry Panope she took,


Panope, plural, were sea nymphs, not

places, in Ancient Greece, therefore

Cadmus must’ve been crossing water,

however flow’ry, I’ll have to check my

Latin text for, maybe, inaccuracies in

the translation

            And now, Cephisus, cross’d thy silver brook;


Cephisus, or Cephissus, a river in Boeotia,

a brook, a stream, anthropomorphized here,

which is to say Cephissus, the flow, the

waterway, is being addressed as a rational

being, I have cross’d thy silver brook, he 

says, speaking to the torrent


meanwhile, to brook, to conquer, to

overcome, a wonderful, a shimmering,

literarily speaking, homonym, which is

to say, a word with two faces

            When to the Heav’ns her spacious front she rais’d,
            And bellow’d thrice, then backward turning gaz’d
            On those behind, ’till on the destin’d place
            She stoop’d, and couch’d amid the rising grass.


she, the fatal cow, see abovehas led

Cadmus to his famed, his mythic,

destination, destin’d place, destiny


stay tuned



R ! chard

this is a love poem

from the lip of Diamond Head we’d be able
to see right down to Jevon’s pier, Greg said,
in a moment that seemed to him inspired
when he grasped it right out of the corner
of the room right in front of me, as I sat 
there on the bed pondering options
a trip around Oahu, our first and only other
choice, would’ve been expensive, even
excessive, and I’d already been around the
island before, which rendered moot the idea
that he’d offered with great gallantry, that for
me it would be a novelty, something I’d never
done, to add texture to our mission
instead of Rome at the last minute that trip
had seemed too impracticable, presenting
too many daunting obstacles  
I’d asked for an alternative, and right there,
again like an inspiration, he said Hawaii,
this time across from me on my sofa
Hawaii had seemed completely improbable
to me, and somewhat disrespectful at first,
but then Greg spoke of Jevon’s pier, Jevon,
his nephew, had died ten years earlier,
tragically, and way too young, and his
parents had scattered his ashes there,
a place Jevon loved, and to which his
folks returned every fall to winter
the death of Jevon had been Greg’s first
experience of death, its impact had not
receded, like love the experience of
death is indelible, and, of course,
Jevon’s mother had demurred at the
idea of superimposing even her own
parents’ ashes, when Greg inquired,
needing a form of absolution for what
he would have be a solemn act, over
the place where she’d thrust to heaven
her only son’s
her husband seems to have borne the
burden much more stoically, eschewing,
apparently, the need for metaphor
and rituals 
to Greg and I, the would-be pilgrims, her
wishes, their wishes, would be paramount
and any consecration cannot be blurred
by imprecision, or slight 
the first day we went to Jevon’s pier, at the
far end of Waikiki, beneath Diamond Head,
where the beach front becomes more
residential, Greg found the very spot where
he’d sat, cried, remembered with his sister
and the two of us facing east dipped our
feet in the ocean that spread to the distant
blue horizon, and beyond there to what we
could no longer imagine 
but we imagined nevertheless, and believed, 
that Jevon was there 
Greg had brought a couple of white
symbolic feathers, one for each of us,
to cast upon the waves in commemoration,
we read poems, we watched the feathers
drift to where we could no longer spot
them, the froth of lazy waves lapped at
our toes like kisses, I thought, from, of
course, God
Diamond Head might seem ovious now,
but there it wasn’t, though the elements
might’ve seemed to be all crying out for 
Greg heard
I thought the idea resplendent
from Diamond Head these ashes, his
grandparents’, would look upon Jevon’s 
pier, like elders forever watching over
their child, Jevon would play, swim,
cavort, under their watchful gaze
forever and ever      
Diamond Head is apparently the remains
of an extinct volcano that created the
island of at least Oahu, other volcanos, I
suppose, created the several surrounding
others, the mouth of the crater is now a
tourist attraction, the front lip, the one
facing Honolulu and its beach, Waikiki,
is the highest part of the mountain, we
would be climbing there, reaching the
base by bus, then walking all the way
I am not wont to climb mountains, though
Greg averred that when he lived there he’d
climbed it several times, though we were
both much younger then
he sprang up the rocks like a billy goat, I
puffed, paused a lot, and panted, but would
not have not continued the trek though my
life depended on it, there are some things I
will not not
some showers softened our journey up,
like kisses again, I thought, a respite from
the teeming sun, and here and there a
playful and welcome and soothing breeze 
the tip was astounding, with a view of the
entire island, and the entire blue Pacific
lying before us 
any place of consecration must be sacred,
unhurried, private if not unpeopled, and
reasonably quiet, though thunder and
lightning, natural occurrences, don’t
there’d been showers, nothing at all
threatening, and Greg had needed time
to unseal both urns, small decorative
pots that had sat patient on his mantel,
lit by candlelight, until this journey
I’d staked out a position at the very
edge of the mountain, a railing kept
us from straying dangerously too far 
I poured his mother’s ashes into his
cupped hands when he asked, held
on to the warm still, though empty
now, urn, he closed his hands upon 
this dust with the trust that this was
indeed his mother 
noises about, people too close for
undisturbed comfort, held his palms
shut, savouring, I thought, opportunely,
her remaining parts, but discreetly, for
it had to be done, letting drift some of
their powder through fingers that
sensed surely their embedded
then all was gone  
he’d had to smash his father’s urn to
get it open, it cracked into two parts
like a broken egg, some ash had fallen
to the ground, he dusted it up, picked
some up that could be returned to the
broken vessel  
I thought, it is all dust, it will all go
nevertheless to the earth
I held the broken bits while Greg prepared
his father’s ashes
but I couldn’t any longer properly see, the
shower had become no longer kisses but
drops that confounded my glasses, a mist
clouding further what I could see, God was
speaking to Moses on the mountain 
Greg cast his fist in the direction of the gust,
opened his palm, and let the rush of charged
particles furl into a darker knot, like swallows
during murmuration, then dispel like a vision 
into the indiscriminate other
later he cast the urns to a similar fate, and
a little plaster angel with a picture of his
mom on the back, the date, and probably
something endearing 
as we scuttled down the mountain jauntily,
cleansed, a mission faithfully and reverently
accomplished, the sun returned
on the way back I even looked for shade
psst: you might’ve wondered, how was I there,
        I am a friend, he’d asked 

“Another World”, Robert Mazzocco

here’s a poem that stirred me from my own “slough of despond”, resurrected me from a period of sluggish stasis, I was finding neither the time nor the inclination to even share poetry, this one is, I’m sure controversial, perhaps even offensive to some but, I think, strong, striking, and utterly honest and human, reflective of a ubiquitous existential reality                    

                                                                                                                                                                 Another World

I am a married male and a young exec,
a country-club, racquet-playing sort of jock,
I guess, who is now deep in a slough of despond.

What I am looking for, though, is a similar type,
and yet dissimilar as well, to chill with,
and, maybe, who can tell, open me up, if possible…

Must be virile and caring and muscular and bi.
I need to relax, you see, I cannot even crack
the Wall Street Journal anymore. I am willing

to learn and eager to please. Help me unite…
I love my wife, but feel she is in another world.
And I, too, of course, dream of another world. Or bro.

Be patient and try and understand. Show me the way.
Or the ropes. Or the map. I am a tyro, I know,
and a stranger, really, to my own self or any other soul…

And yet I do not want to be anonymous. Or still less only
to party. No, what I’ll want, as soon as it is night, is to count
the stars on our path as, side by side, whatever the future to share                                                                                                                                                                         we let our steps follow one another on through the dawn.

                                                                                                                                                             Robert Mazzocco



Still Life with Two Lemons, Pieter Claesz

 The Cleveland Museum of Art

                           Still Life with Two Lemons


                           Pieter Claesz, c. 1597-1661


                                                                                                                                                          especially crystal clear is the fallen goblet

otherwise the lemons glow in a warm golden light enfolding everything

                                                                                                                                                                    like maybe grace





a souvenir of Vienna

these earlier “back tracks”, of which the following is one example, are pieces I consider still to be worth your while

please enjoy                                                                                                           


                                                                                                                                    April 9, 2004

this is for Alice, who has only recently lost her only son, and for also her husband, who must be also equally profoundly aggrieved, it is about maintaining faith

                                                                                                                                          a souvenir of Vienna: 

a friend came over yesterday for the first time, I had my usual concerns about my apartment, it’s modest, I call it my thimble, but I also call it my aerie cause of its unobstructed view of the mountains, and the sea from the bedroom on the other side

I soon enough began to display its features, the walls painted each a different colour, a gift from an artful partner, who also appended a fleur-de-lys of a contrasting shade in each their upper right hand corner as a tribute to my heritage, upon the walls many of the photographs are mine from when I used to enjoy photography and they hold up remarkably well after some over twenty years, of London, Athens, Copenhagen, places I’ve been

I tried to sit her down with a porfolio of other pictures there but the conversation was lively and she followed me to where I fidgeted and fussed, and  as I flew to one spot or another, the kitchen to get a glass, the washroom for a tissue, I pointed out some article and its associations

“That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall”, I quoted from Robert Browning and told the story of my own wall-hanging, a menu that many years ago I’d brought back from Vienna when I used to fly there with my work, I’d of course told the story of the restaurant where I’d found it to my mother, my father, family, friends, who’d admired it when I put it up

because the restaurant goes back to the fifteenth century it’s entertained Viennese celebrities going back through history, Mozart, Beethoven, probably Freud, the like, and had at the time of my earliest visits a scroll you’d unfurl to read their offerings, which were printed in High German and in a medieval-like script with a lot of ornamentation and curlicues, and seemed ideal for framing, black print with some red illumination on artfully tarnished parchment

when my parents returned from a visit there the following year my mom brought back one for herself but hadn’t for my sister who’d also wanted one, she was upset and I, because I love her and could carry the experience in my heart, gave her my own

many years later I would return to Vienna to take lessons in German this time to follow up on some that I’d taken earlier in Germany proper, Berlin for a couple of months and also a little hamlet south of Munich called Murnau nestling at the foot of the Alps 

in Vienna I would not only study at the prestigious university there but stroll the elegant streets, visit the opulent museums, revel in the art and magnificence that still hold court there like an ever benevolent grand duchess who  despite the times cannot forego the manners of an earlier age for a more modern and more democratic way of seeing things, and remains dutifully dusty and magnificent

my mom had proposed to meet me at the end of my stay, we’d amble the elegant streets, revisit the opulent avenues of the stately city this time together, and we’d devised to of course forage out our fabled restaurant

but when nearly thirty years later we couldn’t remember of course its name she went directly to the menu that still hangs on her wall, made out among the items on its fare a few that were prepared according to apparently the house in that “à la” was always followed by the same set of letters, which she then spelled out over the phone, the “G” had become a “B” to her, the “s” an “f”, unfamiliarity with a not only foreign but also ancient script and text, but enough for me to decipher “Griechenbeisl”, which in German stands for Greek inn

and there it was in the phone book with a telephone number and location

                                                                                                                                                                         I didn’t go there till my mother showed up, but when she did we were there several times cause it was not only reminiscent but delicious, the food was hearty fare, savoury and succulent with an atmosphere to match, the service matchless
we had the good fortune, I believe an angel was sent, to have wait at our table always the same young man

                                                                                                                                                                         my father died several years ago, that same year also my beloved, and to deal with the grief we each my mother and I after having leant an ear to heaven had our own channels of communication, “adagios always remind me of John” I’d read at his memorial from a text I’d composed for him, the slow, deliberate pace of this sonata extract advanced always in his step, and lo and behold I’d found that afterwards he would descend in spirit when fortuitously one was on, like a key I’d found, invented, to a transcendental visitation, my mother had found an esoteric tune by an obscure composer, something not quite baroque with birds twittering for maximum kitschness but which spoke to her in spades, she would rush to her player to crank the volume up whenever the music came on, still does, and was, is, then, imbued with the spirit of my father

I sit  in silence then rapt in the mystical moment until the moment and the miracle has come and gone, evaporated

                                                                                                                                                                     but meanwhile back in Vienna where we were contemplating this other gift from heaven, the golden waiter who stood before us to take our orders, he had the height from our sitting positions and therefore the authority, and of course he was at home in this environment

his German was fluent, more fluent than mine, but he was discreet about my inaccuracies and hesitations, for my mom he spoke a perfect English brushed slightly and beguilingly with the exoticism of an accent, a deep, resonant voice inspired confidence, even mystery and enchantment, as did his imagined but resplendent wings

“I’d eat him all up”, I said to my mom

“so would I”, she retorted

                                                                                                                                                                      we sat then enjoying our Austrian fare, good wine, in our historic surroundings, imbibing the centuries and traditions that graced the walls, the tables, the chairs, the very air of the place, we would’ve been savouring venison or quail in a deep, rich probably wine sauce, something particular to the region, and trying to anchor a memory to the experience

but suddenly my mom pointed up for me to heed the music, there had been a few musicians who’d presented a jovial set, full of sometimes lively, sometimes plangent good cheer, to get us all in the mood and they’d done so, conversation bristled through the several rooms in the house, and the cutlery and dishware clattered, but now there only sounded from the system above, sweet and simple but unmistakable to us, the voice of my father, the little esoteric tune which in the fifteen years since he’d died I’ve only heard at my mother’s, speaking to us

I love you, Dad, I said
I love you, Dad, said my mother, as we both looked up to where he was

and then he sat beside us making us three one

we had never been there together of course, but we’d all individually at least been there, and now we were together reunited, and we all knew we were reunited and always would be, it gave us all great strength

                                                                                                                                                                          later the waiter would ask us about our stay, when we were planning on leaving

“tomorrow”, we replied

“because I leave as well tomorrow”,  he informed, to return to Poland where he would continue studying law towards his career, and I knew that here again God had spoken, had sent this messenger just for us

and that finally God, or love, in all Its infinite variety of manifestations, is everywhere

                                                                                                                                                                       later I talked to my mother about the menu that still hanged at my sister’s, surely nearly thirty years since I’d first handed it over, and how it would be nice to have it in my own home, now that it would speak so eloquently to me of my adventure but also of my beliefs, the voice of my father, God, she might merely bring it up to my sister that I might want one, but they’d been no longer available, without indeed outright asking for it, I knew my sister would hear even so indirect a request with the ear she also cocks towards heaven, for she listens also with her heart, but I didn’t want to press her if perhaps she did not, might not want to let go of an item she had once ardently coveted

but she knew as well that my father had spoken and she had it with her the next time she came around

                                                                                                                                                                    and there it hangs upon the wall
                                                                                                                                                                          I could choose to call this my imagination, to consider these juxtapositions merely coincidence, perhaps they are, then perhaps again they are not, but I’ve found that to believe in merely coincidences, the mere association of fortuitously conjoined incidents, leaves me dry, arid, empty, on the verge too often of existential despair whereas believing in the voice of my father has brought me miracles and poetry, which is to say faith, grace and boundless love

and all there is to do is listen