Better angels, with flight lost to that skyward ruin
and tossed to Earth, where they will surely do in
time, as mortal souls, a dance of celebration
for the humanity of Icarus and his determination
to fly, as they themselves become more luminous beings
having left behind the wry conspiracy of angels wings.
With a great hush of orthodoxy
this sacrament on a cliff face
sits groaning beneath the weight
of its own romantic mythology.
Wide-eyed guests wander the grounds,
zealously guarding their human potential,
and staff struts, self-absorbed,
quixotically exploring their absence
from the world and blindly suffering
the accretions of an insular life.
Stuck for a spell to this loadstone
of the West Coast, this asylum of need,
some imagine deliverance, and some
even transcendence—the next step—
but while their proximity to paradise
promotes the notion of movement
it depletes the ability to move,
and most are left wanting more
of Esalen and its opaque perfections.
It’s the symbolic mystique of the place
and the thread of life that clings to the edge there.
It’s the quiet Zion of a Redwood stand
and the spiny leaves of thistle glistening
with morning dew on a canyon trail.
It’s the aching Buddhism
and the cliff-side alchemy of Esalen.
It’s the still-raw synthesis of land and sea,
the cadence of the waves
and the primordial ministrations of the tide.
It’s the home of gurus and goddesses,
the shrine of canyons and cliffs,
where Nymphs might nestle in wildflowers
and Sprites might caper in rocky streams.
It’s the mathematic perfection of Monarchs wings
and the clean scent of eucalyptus on the salty air.
It’s the coded message of a million stars
in the clear black night,
telling of travels through time and space
to twinkle a silent requiem for sunset.
It’s Highway 1, the black serpent,
winding its way along the California coast,
bringing a new perspective to Paradise.
It’s the Beat poets pilgrimage to Bixby Bridge
and the cathedral of arches
that calls the bards of sage and chaparral,
of sunset and starlight, of time and tides,
of butterflies and morning fog,
to reveal in humble words the nimbus glory
and inexplicable splendor of Big Sur.
Salty men stand huddled on the wharf
with shoulders hunched against the morning chill
and hands plunged deep in sandy pockets.
The zip and click of casting reels, icy puffs of breath,
and the shuffle of restless feet set the rhythm
of a fisherman’s lament, of sardines and shrimp,
of prostitutes and unpaid bills–a quiet song
of life exceeding ambition, an anthem of escape.
After Spicer, After Lorca
In the rooms of Henry’s gabled house, the drift of years is endless
snow and salt shaken down.
He lost his way, this spirit seasoned by the color white. He walks
on a frozen carpet made of memories,
numb to the chill, blinded and frostbitten. Without eyes or thumbs
he suffers nothing in those empty rooms,
but the wind’s lonely quiver. How deep a wound those walls concealed,
how old a scar they left.
The snow, it only drifts now; the salt, it only stings.
In the rooms of Henry’s gabled house, the drift of years is endless.
She steps the practiced step of a princess,
not by birth, but trained, with thoughts
contained in viscous mists of hairspray
and fragrances, leaving the depth
and breadth of other orbits unplumbed.
Ornamental and well-ornamented,
her arms swing fine arcs,
finishing with the supple swish of elbows
festooning her image for glances fetched.
Coifed short and neat, her yellow hair falls,
according to fashion’s trend,
and lips though thin are penciled full,
as with every line or pock found unpleasant,
all is secreted with a touch.
Hers is a face and figure in a state
of endless flux. And so laced in the trappings
of custom and class is she, one wonders
what she does with her naked frame
once alone and undone. Does she diffuse
into some shapeless mass by night,
quietly rebuilding herself each day
to meet a world of expectations?
Or, relieved of the weight
of such immense construction,
does she dance a loud and primitive dance
with private men unmentioned?
Unaware of the masks she wears,
or the bruises left by the rough assault
of history on her sex and her humanity,
her fretted fingers clutch
at all the little secrets,
kept like orphans in a home,
where the truth of her desire is untold
and the beauty of her blemishes
where, until she’s free to live and breath
and be her natural self,
no laugh too loud, no smile too wide
can ever stretch her face with joy.
The burka precludes a woman’s dominion—
She never discovers her power.
Her beauty, concealed by pious opinion,
Is never allowed to flower.