Henry @ 100

Bread has been broken.
All along now fresh twists.
Wired to work all hours,
spin on toes and turntables
(the kind for cakes). I’ll take
my eye for symmetry:
4 roses on an 8 inch cake,
keep my taste in reserve
in 3’s, 5’s & multiples of 9,
Henry Pussycat arise!

5 & 7: the nearly human
and the heavenly. Add both
and you get Henry arched
between the two poles,
cats paw grip on 12,
utterance for every season.
Pain & jubilation for all occasions,
a rose companion in glory & decay,
taking spring & decline with a nod & bow.
Lives to the 9’s between the boards.

More varieties than Heinz,
the hairs in your beard
& general whiskers wink & fly
as the Pärt De Profundis overtook the wind
on that day you waved on the bridge
and set sail: your last poetic act.
And I hate like hell to say that,
it hurts to the bone, Henry,
this life that goes on kicking
without you.

Mr. Efficiency, his arms swing
up and back down without even any balm.
The work takes that, dishes out much more
to make a grown man hungry.
O, I’s hungry. Hungry & tired
old Bones, mixed among the cutlery,
instructions long gone, going on ingenuity
—each task, done countless times, an adventure.
He reels, takes in and reels.
One day it’ll all come undone.

1st there’s flowers, 2nd a speeding truck,
next meteorological exigencies & after that
some shit I can’t remember, 5th cigarette
& 5 too many. Today = 6 minutes shaved
off my life (in addition another dog day
scratch off). I only got 10 in me,
sorry Henry—master of 18, whiplash line.
You’d have gone past the 100’s, I’m sure,
a perfect form, not too fit, pliable
for expansions & many little deaths.

An albino of the soul runs Florida
while a snowbound man scraping by
on crackers & whatnot
googles “goiter” for fun
and gets Ann Coulter (what’s it mean, this life).
How long will we last after looking aslant,
owning a piece of the limestone?
Your secret sinks to the bottom
& what will rise in her place,
what new dreams sing?

In the river’s heart, effort loses
stride, a human life breaks lockstep,
faces heart-truth,
living a dance off the margins
of program.
The heart knows but isn’t telling,
tries to be art but beats too regular
& isn’t believable (as odd charms in 7’s & 9’s).
A head between 2 hands murmurs,
Truth is irregular.

Spring, more a perhaps than a hand.
Though not necessary to dive deep,
it takes more than a toe test,
the whole green bag amongst the blossoms
(after submersion, before collapse)
—not to underestimate empathy—
bring on the groundhog already, anyway,
I understand nothing, forgive no one.
Take me in, you’ll have all of me & history,
thru open eyes, oozing freshness.

If Klee took a line for a walk
what did Pollock do? What do you do
in a room of electric eyes looking for a poet’s truth
before being cast down among the stubs
& it’s buttered toast? What’s needed: a modicum
of cooperation & you go home with dinner.
Before you know it daisies burst
through the oldest cracks, the poet’s eyeholes
open new views on the broad avenue,
accept any invitation to dance.

Dust blown off the old pastel box, I remember
my cell at the YMCA, the injunction to make a drawing
6X6. With nowhere to go, on top of myself, I invoked
The pastel dust fell to the bed as you took form
& I sang you through me.
Tho years drain dry and gray turns to white
your colors still break with a crack words
opening eyes & mouths to speak
dust to dust.



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8 Responses to Henry @ 100

  1. ManicDdaily says:

    Such an interesting, vivid, full poem. I was just reading some Berryman (after reading your other post). I know of him, but never really read very much, and I can see the jump from Cummings, and how compelling he is, especially to a painter. I confess to not following the totality of your poem–my brain is just rather tired after a week of work–but there are many parts that jump out–the goiter/Coulter, the craziness of the world, Albino Florida–the numbering and life expansions at the beginning, and my favorite parts at the end, the Klee and Pollock (I would say wild dance/jitter/I don’t know)–and the very lyrical and personal parts at the YMCA. k.

  2. Susan Scheid says:

    This is colossal, Mark.

  3. angela says:

    Must revisit tomorrow for it seems your cup runneth over as of late… As for this, oh, so wonderful to read your quick wit, yet poetic lines. I shall hold on to that second to the last stanza and reread again for it makes me smile and haunts me with its truth – SO SO good — AND how I wish I had written that line about Klee and Pollock- bah!

  4. Brendan says:

    As Emerson sd., we cut the dread connection with Nyx at our peril — the mad side of genius, the deep end of the pool, the black shift of the blue spectrum, all of it is the torrent of Dionysos immersed in Hades: a vat of chatty skulls. It’s crazy to go there but with a guiding spirit like Berryman one is feathered by a certain protective rhetoric that is both cup and water. I think it was John Hollander who said that Dante survived Hell because Virgil instructed him to stay wrapped (rapt?) in the meters — one gets through Inferno by not stopping, which is what the damned can’t do, immobile in the torment of their eternal sin. Channeling Henry Pussycat is a vitality, a happy bonedance where in Florida there is just too much albino skin on display (how can Rick Scott cover such a skull?). The colors here bleed, no, pour through.

  5. Henry Pussycat sounds like quite the character, and apparently an impressive muse as well. And this poem is certainly a singing tribute to what was obviously a most remarkable time in your young life. These are the things we hang onto Mr. Mark. Keeping Henry alive. I’m without doubt that Mr. Berryman approves. I most certainly do! Fun poem to read, especially with the background.

  6. ManicDdaily says:

    I am thinking of Pollock bogoloogingling –I don’t know. I like both he and Klee so much. As I mentioned before in reading this poem, it is very chockfull. I am sorry that I do not know Berryman better. My favorite lines about in the river’s heart, effort loses stride – I think all this work demands tremendous effort, and yet the boogaloo must also be honored. Thanks. k.

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