Zeitgeist

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Zeitgeist

Zeitgeist is a concept from 18th- to 19th-century German philosophy, translated as “spirit of the age” or “spirit of the times”. It refers to an invisible agent or force dominating the characteristics of a given epoch.
Wikipedia 

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”

Poems for troubled times.

My current poems are deliberately cryptic. Each one is a mind game I am playing with you. I do not underestimate you. I have placed clues throughout each poem and if you follow the clues you will arrive at many of the poem’s hidden meanings. Some poems are more difficult than others, their meaning more recondite. Others seem very straightforward, yet still contain secrets.

This style of poetry has a long history going back to Anglo-Saxon riddles and way beyond, back into the mists of time. Luis de Góngora (1561-1627) and Francisco de Quevedo (1580-1645) specialized in similar forms of recondite poetry, often based on metaphor and the juego alusivo-elusivo, the game of alluding to something while eluding the act of saying what it is. Jorge Guillén (1893-1984) and Federico García Lorca (1898-1936) also played this game, as did Octavio Paz (1914-1998) and many of the surrealist writers. In the works of all of these poets, the clues may rest in the poem or they may be found in a generic knowledge of the mythology of the poem’s exterior world.

Our world finds itself in an incredible mess right now. Somehow, we have to sort it out. We must pick our ways through the difficulties of these troubled times, as you must pick your way through the intricacies of these poems. Many of you will give up. Some of you, the chosen few, will make your way to the heart of each poem. Remember that images and metaphors tie past, present, and future together. Each word, each image offers a picture that reflects some of the shared realities with which we live.

Remember, as I said above: “those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it” (George Santayana). Otherwise expressed, in the words of T. S. Eliot: “Time present and time past / are both perhaps present in time future / and time future contained in time past” (Burnt Norton). The seeming anachronisms in my recent poems suggest that perhaps all time is ever-present and always one.

Obisidian’s Edge 1

At the Edge of Obsidian

“everything burns, the universe flames,
nothingness burns itself into nothing
but a thought in flames: nothing but smoke”

Piedra de sol
Octavio Paz

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“todo se quema, el universo es llama,
arde la misma nada que no es nada
sino un pensar en llamas, al fin humo:”

At the Edge of Obsidian is the second book in The Oaxacan Trilogy. It was published in 2005 and outlines the events of a single day in the City of Oaxaca (Mexico). I have always loved the Medieval Books of Hours and wondered if they would transfer themselves into a book of hours based on a day in a place with which I was familiar. This is my effort to do just that. I will publish regularly from this book, beginning at the beginning with the church bells and the early morning light that waken the sleeper from his dreams.

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6:00 am
church bells

1

The alarm clock shuffles
its pack of sleeping hours:

a clicking of claws,
needles knitting outwards
towards dawn’s guillotine;

a knife edge
sharpened on this keening wind
sets my blood tingling in my toes.

Bright jungle parrot,
its querulous caged voice glimpsed
darkly through dawn’s looking glass.

2

Tochtli was caught by the ears
then thrown against the second sun
sizzling in the sky.
His sharp teeth burrowed,
burying themselves deep in the fire’s red light.
The second sun turned into the moon;
now we can see Tochtli’s face,
simmering in its dwindling pool.

Old myths, like languages,
grow legs and wander away.
They gather in quiet corners,
in village squares
where the night wind weaves
dry leaves in endless figures of eight.

 An old man now,
I dream of white rabbits,
running down tunnels,
escaping the hunter’s hands.

 3

When my dreams break up,
they back themselves into a cul-de-sac:
a wilderness of harsh black scars.

Dream words:
scalpels carving
red slashes on white-washed walls,
trenchant shadows, twisted dancers,
old warrior kings
bent into pipe wire shapes.

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 Suddenly, beneath my balcony,
the handy man
tumble-dries a tv ad
in the washing machine
of his song sparrow throat.