Three Preludes, poems by Howard Pugh

by Howard Pugh
copyright 2011

I: Rumination on women who live in the sea.

As though filled with her own amniotic fluid she calls the sea home.
Never far from a jump back in, never
commitments to ways of the land,
she resists language with it’s wind-burns,  it’s chisel of old age.
The sea acts like the hand to a yo-yo,
always sending her away and calling her back.
The sea is statuesque,
makes marble out of sinew and bone,
makes solid the naked innocence of warm-milk and
protective caresses. Goddess mother of
day-long basking, going skinny in the summer, jumping
out of trees
into the sultry, deep, slow creek that shouldn’t be there,
but unexpectedly is.

II: The motors of consumption were made when we were young

Overfilling is what defines us:
we are always the beast charging past the barricades,
blood and nerve falling out our overhanging wounds, like vines.
We clamp on hard to diminishing pleasures, doggedly, like
an umbilical cord still pressed into service, long past birth and
What a great burden it becomes: these continuing expectations,
that from out of the jumble  and fathomless circuitry,
from out of every corner of town and country, there must persist a
constant offering –long past infancy and the instincts for nursing–
an obligation, a provisioning: still those warm, nurturing, lactating breasts
staying in play: these were more than mere prototypes.
And when you grew older, you noticed mommy getting stretched,
pulled like taffy across the taut rim of the universe,
Mommy’s held-out bosoms, still on-call,
still waiting to be chafed by your ready-to-clamp-down mouth,
but now in different places,  new places,
their likenesses now appearing in coffee shops, in alleyways,
their reputation for constant generosity holding true:
even mice partake in the hoopla, approach their mother’s belly on
all cylinders of suckling, milk at full throttle in the frantic prayer of life,
closed eyes, religiosity: the close quarters of nipples in sacrament
and holy communion … their mouths are the future. Our mouths, the great
tabernacle for receiving gifts –each day another Christmas– so that we
may grow, develop strong teeth, bite down and tear, become competitive.
—–One can never tell how outdated their car is, if all they do is drive.
And yet who can go too long without rebelling against the excesses
of travel, start to bow inward with rust and disregard?
Why are we not revered, tall and possessing the savvy of smiling gods?
Why can I not dine with friends, one short afternoon in utopia, discuss
what warbles down the streets of paradise, the dancers, naked, in perfect
The answer is not afraid of us. It approaches us in the marshes, trusting,
brushes up against us at the beach, rests its head in our laps, even
slides its fingers under our garments as it becomes our latest meal.
We hide truth by taking it into our body, our body becomes it, we are
truth digested, we are the children of wisdom, and have learned nothing.
Only the dullest routines herniate, finally, out into scrutiny,
turn around, visible, like steamy entrails ripped fresh from our flank,
stare up at us groggy from their long dark swim of slumber,
the anesthetic hums of our appetites cranking, plowing through,
prowling: all the switches still stuck to the on-position.
The pate of the planet harvested down to nubs
like the head of a newly recruited soldier:
it was thought, simply, if everyone were bribed,
things could return to normal, return, opaque,
to those meaty days of our youth.
The beast always crashes through the guardrails and
free-falls towards the sea, like the guy who’s always not
James Dean.
It ends with a click like a gas-nozzle shutoff, full.
It ends with flames that overtake the last crease of
finger-licking and euphoria.
Prelude III: The history of trying to cheat nature
Heidegger says that to salute the gods of Being
pour handmade wine from a vessel of earthenware,
drink in the sky and sun and labors of men, whence
come the ever-scrolling testimonial of the divine.
It isn’t my taking leave of paradise, it’s this confounded
shell game, it’s the ground of perfection that shifts away,
like quick-moving tectonics under the stillness of days:
the man at the science fair asked:
“can you count how many beans are in the jar?”
I find love moving like defiant children; trying to dodge cloud-
shadows as they drift across the plains, find the capacity for happiness
ever-more ephemeral, the growing spool of opinion only tangles
joy in its uncharted circumference. Gathering twine for the return
journey home, the means to innocence: O Theseus, betrayer,
the rebellious unknown was your friend; now slain by your shortcuts,
your gimmicks.
Like a census-taker we test each stone, question if this one
is a suitable outcrop for hanging on, then the next.
Always looking for the same waterfall and lingering pool
pocked by the cloven hoof-marks of summer,
or the childhood memories of the circus coming to town –
the salad days, nesting like Georgian dolls downward
into my tiniest likeness, curling like plant bulbs buried
where the earth first grew wet and sweet in
maternal stillness.
———-bio: Howard Pugh is a San Jose poet and photographer of considerable talent, depth and experience. He is currently working on a new book of poems called PSALMS FOR THE TWENTY FIRST CENTURY.

Categories: poem by Howard Pugh

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1 reply

  1. They are probably around, but I haven’t seen any humorous, gentle poems about the fin d’seicle-zeitgeist we’re in now. The heaviness of our plight bores me; the Wise know its stupid to blame humanity for being stupid because no one ever guaranteed us to be smart!
    “O Theseus, betrayer, the rebellious unknown was your friend, now slain by your shortcuts, your gimmicks.!
    thanks HP


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