Saturday, March 12, 2005

Custodian of a Star

For Philip Lamantia

An arm swept while words leapt

the pile of books spells the story

of a hole in the wall speaking its mind

A grain of star for the love

of a relic’s word

the habit made from eiderdown

and covered in smoke

from a “burnt-out moon”

The gulf that formed

was followed

whenever the sentences

lost their center

whenever mist became a page

We’d undo these words

pulled into their shell

in the sanctuary

and yours on a hill

in a cell receiving light

as a possible sail

A narcotic opening graying

as we speak, strewn pages,

antlers and smokestacks

a watercolor from New York

keeping books in place

From birds to saunas

Mexico to floating plasma

Moroccan clay soldiers

From the pope to no pope

Wound to wound

From inhabiting lives

to vanishing though

it’s all traceable

There you are in your place

and the air keeps that impression


Philip with his beloved St. Francis

Nan and Maya toast Philip


Philip and Me at Garrett's house.

Philip Lamantia (1927-2005)

Philip Lamantia

Philip died on March 10, 2005.

He was an incredible man, poet, and friend. I'll always recollect the times I spent in his presence listening to his fascinating stories spinning around the room. Philip, myself, Andrew Joron, Garrett Caples, and Jeff Clark (and sometimes a host of others!) spent many many hours talking, reading poems, drinking Philip's beloved pear cider--often not getting home until the wee hours. I think Garrett would often attend early morning mass with Philip, while the rest of us unbelievers would go home. The last time I saw him, on the corner of 24th and Fair Oaks Street in San Francisco, he hugged me goodbye (I was on the way to Thailand) and palmed me $50. "Here, I think you'll need this..." And I did! Sometime after I left Philip sunk back into one of his depressions and rarely left home, or spoke to anyone. The silent mystic with his books, poems, and cigarettes in his North Beach apartment. He was a poet-seer, the one on a quest for the marvelous, writing his poems in Tangier, Mexico, hiking about Europe; publishing here and there, avoiding the spotlight.

Last night Nan and I read several of his works and drank a bottle of Italian red wine in his memory.

Jeff has made a memorial to Philip here:

Saturday, March 05, 2005

from Circles Matter

Nigh Road

The walk across a perfect furrow revealed its hidden slant as the valley now subsides into microtones.

A thicket housing skyline that promises to implode its particulars waited for our approach.

Even particles have no say as we pace, take up space, string a wondering through hell’s finest vowels― prone to shift without error.

How can I stretch this moment disintegrating; it hardly resembles itself in its transparency and is buttressed by a tuneless regard.

Ebb from splendor, this submission.