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Poems: “Light Fuse And Get Away”

These poems were my way of beginning to be a writer. I wrote them in two batches. The first batch came during 1975-1978 while I was teaching math at the state college of Geneseo, in upstate New York—the five of us: Sylvia, me, and our three kids. I’d read my poems at English department readings.

Then we went to Heidelberg, Germany, for two years, on a math research grant. I didn’t write any poems in Germany. I’d lit the fuse. I wrote SF stories, two SF novels, and part of my nonfiction Infinity and the Mind. On our return, we ended up in Lynchburg, Virginia, where I was again a math professor, and then a fulltime writer after I lost that teaching job. Sylvia was a sign-painter, and then a high-school teacher.

The second batch of poems is from the period, 1980-1982. Encouraged by our Lynchburg poet friends Mary Molyneux Abrans, Cornelius Eady, and the great Anselm Hollo, I self-published my poems as a chapbook Light Fuse And Get Away (Carp Press 1983). Eventually I reprinted the poems in my anthology Transreal (WCS Books, 1991), now long out of print. So here they are again, with some photos from those times.

By the way the “cambridge room” in the first poem was my frigid home office in a nook behind our kitchen in Geneseo. Where it all began.

a cambridge room
electric fires gone burning
and the cord is too short
and the plastic is gone
all this
this in my filthy mind

—April, 1975

President Discharged in Storm

The night Nixon made his resignation speech I was staying at my friend Greg’s place in
Gloucester. Greg’s one appliance was his tiny portable radio which
plugged into the wall. There was
an electrical storm and we heard
Frequency modulated by and large
On a three-day snake-thru, check your local papers,
Mister Presidents piece, though,
All down in yesterday’s paper

—July, 1975

Winter Weekends

The baby crawls after me crying
the others are screaming in the yard, it’s cold and dirty outside, and in,
yellow electric light crumbs broken things, broken things.

I had the last beer my thoughts are a little numb
there’s no money for more
winter weekends

We’ll watch TV straight
tonight, together, the
evil fuzzed images using
us, using our silence

We’re knotted into now
rules and hot anger
in the cold
red knuckles white
winter weekends
it’s the same difference.

Last weekend something happened, though,
I went to the hospital
from eating a mushroom
from the yard’s cracked plastic, paper scraps, yellow light
mushroomed to an echoed memory
from nowhere

All the children are outside the dripping cave
calling to the crumbling, puffy boy inside
crumbs of mushroom sweet on my lips,
the children are calling.

—September, 1975

Bosch’s St. Anthony

I go into the woods
across a road, a fence, a field.
Cow paths, mud, cloven hooves.
I shit in the bushes.
It smokes in the fall air.
There are holes in the ground.
I walk deeper in, get scared.
Guess I’ll climb this oak.
I have no control and fly right up.
The tree runs out in rot at the top.
Leathery leaves cover my face, mouth and eyes—
Why am I here?
Walking silent again, something
catches my eye. A head askew,
Gray face watching me.
Lined, eyes slit. I can’t see that.
So it profiles back in a knothole
and I miss it . . . the goblin
Who chased me up the oak
is in the world for sure, I saw.
But what sees me for real in indifferent thicket?

I find a hollowed tree,
the leaves fall, I sit

Occasionally picking myself out in the haze

—October, 1975

Kurt Gödel

I phoned him up the other day,
And we talked about Set Theory,
He proved all the big theorems during the Depression.

Gave me a shot of the old-time religion,
“You should do real mathematics,
The true scientist must believe in the Absolute.”

“One pushes upwards into an empty city.” ‘s what
The Ching had remarked when
Urging me to call him.

After the call I smoked a reefer and
Wondered what to do in the empty city—
Real mathematics does not apply to the world.

But which is empty?

—November, 1975

At dancing school
My brother would rub his stiff dick
On their legs—
Me, I never got as much as him,
But I got by—
Talking about group theory, say,
On a train to the Seattle World’s fair—
Once there I threw one penny at the paint spots and won, incredibly,
A Space-Needle lighter,
Shiny, a foot tall, worthless—
they had a nice exhibit on General Relativity,
I lied my way into a tit show—
Curved space
Curved space

—December, 1975

Winter Wastes

I’m looser,
We’re back in love
Thick pucker.
Bird blows his ax and it’s
Yellow light here. There’s time.
Last night I dreamed I tripped—
The crowd thinned out around dawn.
The washer’s working, and the sink too,
I’m playing my new 1.99 Charlie Parker record,
It’s a jazz-track movie in here—
My role is still unclear.

—December, 1975

Drunken-Hearted Man

She softens
Paved with dizzy pics I drive
Deep into Egypt—
Unca Scrooge & Donald have the
Treasure wing-tucked and we
Fuck again the winter’s ending.

–February, 1976

She Got a Phonograph

In the “classical limit”
Life is lived like books, like movies
We do our funky chicken—flour and wine,
Say that really, all the times anyone is
Is one time.
Do you matter more or less?

It’s winter once or again, here or there,
My weak lungs are going up in smoke and
Sweet green sputum—Zauberberg kind of scene,
Brains and balls all mixed up in the soft heat,
Trying to make it real it gets so weird.

Yeah, written off, still alive,
Hi life extras on the set, star-fucked, we live together, its sunny, Outside the Speed museum in Louisville the Thinker sez slide.
Hey—the ant-farm is open!

—February, 1976


On my thirtieth birthday I got Helen-Keller drunk
In the scaffolding of that tower of Babel
I’d planned to fuck god with my old gang Of mind assassins who did melt (from)

I fell through frozen time to this parched island.

The beach night of eternal star
Sea of possibility and infinite spacetime
Mists on the Earth—What a laugh,
To sell answers in paperback,
When you see god
Only piss to mark the spot.

To continue I wanted to go undersea. Waiting
suicidal and hungover alone in the sun’s blare,
Fuck-ups, fuck-ups—aaaahhh
Watching my watch.

Island time dilates and now
I’m 120 feet down
In the gray blue brown invertebrate kingdom

The sun’s a glint a shot away
My bubbles are like eyes like saucers
Satan’s laughter sounds in my inner ear
The guide swims deeper.

—March, 1976




This poem proclaims the odor of
Are there any smells you like?
Antarctica could melt.


“The universal rain moistens all creatures”
B B B B dddddrrrrrrt ttttt t
This hick burg’s got no train you dig
I’m trapped here with Patty Hearst
We should leave, but
There’s no


I was on the
IND and the
LSD had shot me up with
Brother it was
AOK coming down in my


After the muse left
I kept on
the party got rough
oh . . . it’s a new day
old turds out from under the snow
sing, “We love you.”

—February, 1977



Spring vacation, and rain turning to sleet.
A perfect day to walk down the Court Street hill,
Smoking this three-dimensional day.

At some point, near the dump, I leave the road
and the cars and their drivers and their thoughts,
And splash through the reeking meadow.

Standing under a bare tree I can look up to see
Drops gather on the undersides of high branches
Then follow spacetime geodesics of visual growth.

A rock, a bend in the stream . . . I stand dissolving
More and more merged, less and less there and
I put my finger on the clit, fovea, itch or pain,

The flaw, the source, the singularity,
The lurking fear, the shotgun blast, the mad-house,
The scream, the knot, the egg I never saw.

I push on it and in the afterimage of the pain
find surcease. It feels good.

I walk off in the pouring rain, thirty-one years old.

—April, 1977

The 1976 Circus

The circus was great.
They had 15 elephants and on them was, alternating,
men dressed like clowns and
women dressed like strippers just
bumping along to that elephant gait, hands on hips and
Shufflin’ Sam the elephant loose in his baggy skin hauls ass

For the finale of the Bicentennial Parade
they had a liberty bell hanging down.
And this gorgeous thing in one of those
fantastic gold circus suits all tucked into the
crack of her powerful acrobat’s ass bites
the clapper of the Liberty Bell and
is pulled up to a height of some 30 feet spinning!

While the band plays and sparklers go off and
the midget dressed like Benjamin Franklin does a jig.

Outside, somewhere in the straw,
the Human Caterpillar tosses fitfully.
The girl is still spinning.

April, 1977


White Saturday & Sunday Morning

Its comfortable to be here with
ordinary words
It gives a feeling that there is a way out of me
I can tell you, dreamer,
lonesome dreamer,
Last night on the railroad
In New Brunswick cafeteria
Zooted roast-beef edges
Switch train back switch
the bodies drop
Spirits you can’t see are
Transmuting horribly out of the innocent flesh
A snake that flies
Death is a snake that flies.
But they never quite get me—And if they did?
Is it already over?
Voices in the white
I saw the Stones last week
Voices in the white
I could hear them past the music
whited out
whited out
To go beyond these things, more dead than alive,
To go beyond


I feel pretty good, considering.
It’s warming up and
I threw out the neighbor kids.
Mine are lying on the yard blanket &
Baby’s upstairs for her nap.
I will be there in the morning if I live.

—May, 1977

This Year

Last week I got off the thruway
at Amsterdam. Postoffice and Cityhall were closed,
I found the graveyard near a wedding.

Benjamin Paul Blood was his name a hundred years ago
he wanted on his headstone

All I found where that crow landed was
a mass grave, pitiful tiny markers clustered,
number 521 . . . if thou hast known.

On the one hand you have the One
On the other hand, the hand & body & other bodies.
Blood studied interface enlightenment.

The secret, “All is One,” is readily expressed.
The Manyness of the world is easily noted.
In between is the interface, seen only in passing.

Me, I was out in those drifts the night of the big storm,
watching the distant ice-dust wrapping Martian curves.
I froze solid except for one electron.
2 days later I was lying in a tree in Wadsworth’s field
seeing at last how the mind is infinite,
Imagining a national examination to test this knowledge.

In the world, the ashes of my neighbor’s house sift by.
The leaves of her charred books are blowing around.
She is not coming back.
I was the first to see the flames that night
when we busted the windows with our ladder the smoke was alive and
she was screaming, covered over and over in black.

I live in Geneseo. I go to church. I have a family.
These things are real. These things are real.

—May, 1978

For Sylvia on Our 11th Anniversary

Yelling and laughing
Onstage at the Yiddische
Vaudeville. It’s mostly
Laughter today, a good
Day to be here—in the
Eleventh row, picking a
Back tooth with the Ticket stub. Those three
Ushers are really short. They
Lean onto the stage reaching
Towards the leading lady,
Voluptuous and comic by turns.
She’s vamping him
You can see her panties’ outline
Clear from the eleventh row.
He’s a shabby professor, his
Head in the clouds and
Slips of paper fall from
his baggy pants billowing
As he walks down the aisle
Past those noisy little ushers
And she lifts her veil—her
Mouth is wide and friendly, a
Strong face, a good face—
His eyes pop and he juggles
Three grapefruits he had in those
Baggy pants—she palms her hair,
Her hip juts—he jerks his
Untidy head and the grapefruits
Disappear into the fourth dimension
Or something—She’s glowing now
And the ushers can see them smooching
As the curtain slowly falls.

June, 1978


They’re all asleep. Father, wife, children . . . I wander
down the stairs. Often they cry out, my father the most,
my first daughter . . . they cry out and I act or not.
Light purple flames, germany, leather, acid, novels,
being cool is for itself,
my father: “I always know what people will say.”

December, 1980

Causes of Blindness

A champagne cork
Exploding marijuana seed
Viewing solar eclipses
Staring at the sun on acid
Breaking coke bottles with rocks
(Oh get it over with)
Sharp sticks
Oral sex with syphilitics
Reading in dim light
Living forever in the dark
“Generation by generation the eyes migrate upwards”
Too much light forever in the dark

December, 1981

The New Office

boxes of books and papers packed
unpacked left alone
she helps me, making it
clean as home, the
changing home we move
across the face of the
Earth scrubbing it With eyes and hands no
place for the Ruckers or
any place at all really,
just so’s I can plug in my
machine, my heart, my
home center that Sylvia
and I pass back and
forth like a glass of
water, carried all over
earth, still full.

—July, 1982

The Aether

It is nice not to feel your body as a heap of rocks
a pile of concrete blocks,
sloan-kettering cancer research snippets,
odds and ends,
radio tubes
as a smooth foamy mass,
a breezy cloud of balloons
(tripping people often feel the wind blow through them)
a ripple on the bosom of Gods sea

September, 1982

new ream
of paper from downtown office supplies,
stepped out again, flaneur, vadroilleuse Marx
Brother in the big city, hully-gee a bank and
Next to is coming down a theater
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – thubbbbbb***
Inertia! The hot sun. On the exposed inner rear wall
Reveals a scene, millimeters thick, fragile utopia
40’s children’s dream-window
oh, fields and people in robes
I guess- – – – – – – – – – – – – – – thubb*
Tomorrow it’s still gonna be there,
There’s time to take pictures yet.

Your letter came today—
Yes, yes, me too.

October, 1982


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