God in the Vulgate

— Jerry Dyer

I make my way to the evening window,
where moonlight beaches itself upon the glass.
She always claimed I was begotten of the moon.

When we were young, we’d watch
the Perseids fall together,
life in the sky so brilliant and brief.

We’d lay our beach towels on the dewy grass,
and watch heaven rain down fire,
etching its vastness before our eyes.

She lived her whole life listening to god
in the vulgate.  Then she would translate,
in that voice that sometimes made the dishes jump.

The Perseids are falling again tonight.
I’d swear that I can feel their heat
drifting down to me through years of sky.

I’m old enough, she began saying late last fall,
where I just might be brave enough
to close my eyes and sleep.

I can hear crickets in the windless calm.
Their chirping tells us, quite exactly,
the temperature of the air.


How to be Saved

— Jerry Dyer


Light a candle in the alto clef.
Listen as it burns its way to the bass.
Blow gently on the flame.

Frame every instant of what you see:
align your head and heart
before you blink your eyes.

Believe just half of what you hear,
and even less of what you say.

Spin simple cotton khadi
for half an hour each day.
Don’t expect the mahdi to arrive.

Pull that middle-aged woodshed into shards.
Hammer out and straighten all the nails.
Build, rung by rung, a ladder to the moon.

On Watching Arthur Rhodes Dust Off the Tigers, August 9th, 1993

— Jerry Dyer

the million motions
honed to a stylus,
the pitcher’s stencil–

the head nodding
like a car-dashboard bobble-dummy,
holding the runner on second–

owling the head homeward,
hurling with a snap of sinew and bone,
the whole game contained,
concentrated in the tips
of the fingers–
and the instant of release,
the ball like a seed
pumped into the center
of attentiveness
and rapt receptivity.

And all of it done
over and over and
over again, the loom of evening
weaving win or loss.

And the baseball moon
lofts inexorably
over the bullpen,
into the left field of heaven.


Sowbelly and Moonlight

— Jerry Dyer

Life is Janus-faced,
all sowbelly and moonlight.

I don’t want too much,
but the right much: so rare.

My voice: like a horse
running in rip rap,
sparks from the hooves,
and a bell-like sound.

Always the same,
the feel of the stone
on my palms, the hill’s
canting steepness,
the inevitable
roll-down to the plain.
At the bottom of the slope,
the stone is fragrant
with the flowers it has crushed.

Should I trouble heaven
with a prayer?
Death, Naomi explains:
being unable to make a fist.

The wind: last night
it sounded like a train.
It delivered cirrus,
pale feathers touched with flame.


Pantheon, Rome

— Jerry Dyer

Light pours through the oculus
of the Pantheon, a waterfall,
a stream, or maybe a stylus
of God, sanctifying the hall
that the world’s turning
offers to its touch.

From below, we fill the dome
with our tongues. Whispers caress
the air, murmurs, moans,
all the tributaries of breath
merging into an endlessly
ebbing and rising tone.

Light and voices percolate
against the stones, wearing
them gently, just as our weight
wears grooves upon the stairs.
How many souls led us this way?
How many will follow in our wake?



Status Update

— Jerry Dyer

I’ve had so much coffee
I can’t even tie my shoes.

There’s nowhere to go, anyway,
no fog to walk into,
no road or highway to bend.

The birds seethe in the trees
but nobody hears–grackles,
or blue-jays, or wrens–?

And nobody knows (I ask them)
if the moon is waning or full.
I’m stuck in the months without r’s,

oysterless days without rain or art,
where dawns promise God-awful heat,
and nights yield humid caves
full of desolate lonely sheets.

My dream-logs continue blank.

I have become an old man,
untethered to any longing
that could lift my eyes,
or pencil, or prick.

The waiter pushes the dessert cart
past my seat, but I know,
even without looking,
there’s nothing here
I haven’t already tried.




— Jerry Dyer

My finger, curved
like a baby banana,
hits the ‘add to cart’ button
over and over again.
You know, Amazon
doesn’t mean rain forest anymore.

I have a monkey mind.
I only play
disappointment games.
I never beat the clock,
never find the treasure.

I am not morose,
just unmoored.
I wait for the FedEx guy
to clear my porch,
then get the packages
piled upon the floor.

I simply won’t
answer the door anymore.
I let the machines
pick up all those pings,
and drag unopened messages
to the trash.

I refuse to talk
to my neighbor.
I can hear the color
in his voice, and his breath
leaves clouds of saffron
in the air.

What’s the frequency Kenneth?
I’m not tuned in.
Did you know that sloths
spend their whole lives
in a circle whose radius
can be fifty yards?

I fear I’m missing out
on missing out.
You know, Facebook has a group
for people afraid
to clear their screens.

Moon Set

—Jerry Dyer

The moon has set, and the Pleiades.–Sappho

The wan moon is setting behind the white wave,
And Time is setting with me, oh!–Robert Burns

Gibbous or crescent,
what does it matter,
you’re the same old moon,
always a cold shoulder,
spilling milk or no—

Well-traveled cipher,
sky-hoarded silence!
You’re an everlasting tuck
of the brimming sea.
You fret our sleep as well,
dragging eyes skyward,
tugging werewolves and tom-cats
from their beds.

Mere mirror, really,
for the sun, a cosmic foil,
galaxial spittoon,
you show a face as
cankered as forsworn.

But you never turn away,
I’ll grant you that:
You saw Sappho
close her eyes, and you’ll
watch me mine, and how many
in-between? Time sets
for us all, while you
just glide on by, making
for Athens or Bombay.

A Wake

Jerry Dyer

                 — with a line stolen from, and for, Gary Snyder

I come to the wake
with a rake,
a bag for fruitfall,
and prop my ladder
the mottled trunks of trees.

I will pick crabapples
until it grows dark,
and then will hope
that fireflies
brighten the air
enough for me to see.

At midnight,
stars will glow,
making trails for our eyes:
Cobble of milky way,
riprap, ghostly path,
a game of Go for the sky.

With This Heart

— Jerry Dyer

I’ve reached the age where I have
but one sharp ear,
and one good side to talk to.
Still, birds’ songs, angels’ sighs,
the mumbling on the street
of bums as I pass by,
all fill my head as sweetly
as when I was young.
At my age, there is never
a second dawn
buffing morning’s plate-glass
platinum or pink,
until a dream falls
in between. Around midnight,
my carriage turns into a pumpkin,
and the fiddle comes unstrung.

Ah, but my heart!
Its ventricles are just as brazen
as when the world began.
With this heart, I can live
on the eighth floor
of friendship. With this heart,
love lets a room just below
the steeple, where breezes start,
where church bells find their tongue.


— Jerry Dyer

Let’s posit that the number of grains of sand
visible from the Santa Monica Pier
is equal to the number of stars in the Milky Way.
Hypothesis: star-births equal grinding-births of sand,
just as inhalations match our breathings out.

Take every ant in the world, and let each
carry a drop of water on its back.
How many aquifers could be re-charged?
Train them to march into fire,
and the very flames of Hell could be doused.

Add up the miles you pedaled your bike,
playing-cards taped to the spokes,
all the pacings of rooms, plus the number
of times you’ve circled the globe in your car.
Sum all that, and divide it by
the inches your soul has grown.

Sublimities are all that matter.
All the seconds of inning-changes,
of the tyings of shoes, all the hours of eyes
gazing toward the horizon of always,
all that time is heavenly ballast,
the necessary wait for the touch
that will turn us inside out.

The Key

— Jerry Dyer

                           — For Naomi Ginsberg

The key is in the window,
Naomi says. What looks like
the sun going down is the earth, spinning.

But the sun never does set,
I say, on the empire of the cats,
as far as birds are concerned.
And observe the sea lit up
by the moon: oh, it’s a mirror, sure,
that spans all the seams of Pangaea,
yet cannot choose but follow that lunar face.
So for the sea, no calm, no dawn
of freedom or night unbound.

Time is the grace of space, Naomi replies;
each flower a moment of color,
on the bough or standing in a vase.

My brush, I say, drips scarlet
or blue, but for all that brilliance,
on my palette so many colors, drying out.

The key, Naomi repeats, is in the window,
the key is in the sunlight in the window,
swelling the house with its plenty.
Why, then, do you chide your eyes?
They can hold in their depths the ocean, whole,
and all the constellations in the sky.


— Jerry Dyer

–“The reason I prefer autumn to spring is that
in the spring one looks at the earth—in the autumn
at heaven” –Søren Kierkegaard

Winter is being born in beauty,
though it’s devilishly dry.
No rain at all this Fall to knock
the yellowing or browning or
reddening leaves from the boughs.

Our eyes are drawn into the sky.
Look: among the cat-tails by the river,
dragonflies catch the morning light,
their wings seining gold from the rising sun.

And observe the departing moon:
one day shy of full, at just
the right height in heaven
to be communion-wafer sized.

So Much Falls From the Sky

— Jerry Dyer

So much falls from the sky
that we can’t catch:
That baby bird, blown from its nest,
its heart a purple seed
beneath the skin—
Radio waves from all the stations
we don’t tune in—
Moonlight, so richly sown
on the surface of the sea.

I do catch my breath
from the sky,
my lungs pulling buckets
from a well in the wind—
And I only drink water neat,
rain-drops that have not yet reached
the ground. Fog, that finds its dew-point
in my open mouth.

Spitting at the Stars

— Jerry Dyer

For Jack Kerouac (and the Jack in all of us)

The sky has been stepping down all day,
and the leaves ping like a ticking clock—

I have been drinking holes in the future.

If the soul works in one-eyed fixity,
with one hand you can burn up tomorrow,
and the past can be drowned
like a puppy in a sack.

The present is the hard part.

Time—I know this from Einstein—
is the breathing of space,
so what is there to do, but drink
wine spodiodi, and spit at the stars?

Maybe now can only be buried
if I find the right bar stool,
learn the proper sequence of gestures
to make over the glass, practice
the platitudes to repeat, endlessly,
until my tongue is not my own.

So then one day, I will simply vanish
from the world. My mouth will be the last thing
to fade away, holding as it will
that final heartbreaking taste of God.


— Jerry Dyer

My bed was once a tree.
But whose hands planed the headboard
I don’t know.
I can’t name the kind of wood
that hammocks my blind breathing,
have no clue
what soil once fed its roots,
no inkling of the vistas
the squirrels enjoyed,
no memory of the rains
that plumped the bole so fat with life
that it can hold me
while I dream.

Night after night I sleep,
bolstered by lumbered branches.
In my lifetime, how much cotton
will my restlessness consume?
How many geese will fall from the sky,
to soften my head’s slow journey


— Jerry Dyer

He drove a coca-cola truck
for 30 years, and into
the living room every night.
He sat in the circle of the TV’s light,
and rubbed fat knuckles
over “Stan” stenciled in red thread
in an oval on his chest. The chair
enfolded his heavy hams, and warmed up
as the light drained away from his eyes.

The wife often interrupted wrestling
to put food on the table.
She asked: How was your day?
He chewed and swallowed,
but gave nothing back.
Her days went unasked,
draining one by one,
thick, translucent, unredeemed
containers of unopened life.

Let Us Imagine Our White Russian

— Jerry Dyer

so cold that first day in New York,
his breath gessoed the air
and froze silver on his eyebrows.
That was practically all the coin
he had, his only assets being
bright brushes, a filbert or two,
fans and flats, and the palette
forever moistening his mind.

Alphabet City took over
for Nevsky Prospect, but he remains
a part-time bohemian,
the commissar of knaves, a little wig,
a lack of all trades. Capitalism,
he claims, came into the world
humming English; it is
for him an acquiring tongue.
He even whistles with an accent.

He likes to say that men carry the future
buttoned up in their pants.
Got married, once, but then discovered
that they had only become a part
of one another’s loneliness.
Now, he swears by all the ponytails
in China, though at his age, it’s true,
husbandry is only in heaven;
his candle no longer carries flame.

At the pub, he drinks vodka, cream,
kahlua, and regales us with tales
of his romantic conquests, mixed
with descriptions of the Hermitage,
its works of art. The connection,
if anyone asks, lies in the weakness
of our eyes, which can hold
at the pinnacle of sharpness
just a cheek, or lips, or the nape
of a neck, but never the whole face,
so the vision of our lovers becomes,
necessarily, a composite sketch.

Everything beautiful comes to us,
he swears, in rapid shifts of focus,
through sequence, in a syntax
learnt somehow by our eyes.
Our heart is buoyed above a different anchor
every moment. Just long enough,
he believes, for the paint to be applied.

Books Will Burn

— Jerry Dyer

I sit at a computer (curmudgeon),
trying to pull an idea out
of the ether, trying
to kindle a fire inside my head.
But what could be more useless
than imagining warmth
emanating from this screen?
Pixels are sparks, yes,
but they are like aurora borealis,
a rainbow’s life removed from us,
burning and sputtering out again
in a cold and silent void.
Those words have never been kissed,
nor lain in languor
on a dreamy lover’s chest.

Books, though, will burn to embers,
and our thoughts will fall in ashes
between the pages that we turn.
Books will make a bonfire,
it is sure, from the bindings
that thread our present to the past,
from penciled marginalia,
typeface that has a texture,
scent of history, and a name.

That fire will burn of substance,
because of dogs’-ears, because
of spines, and fed, in the end,
by all the oil from all the fingers
that have traced, in joy and longing,
words already aglow with flame.


— Jerry Dyer

There was too much wind!
And so the plane gave a wave,
bade hello again to the dust
it had just left behind flipped,
almost as if in play,
and took everyone to that heaven
hidden by its shadow on the ground.

There was a knot of turbulence,
and so Nothingness was fulfilled,
in one hundred and thirty-seven lives.
A Void assumed command, indifferent
to all the lonely planet guides,
indifferent to orthodontia,
to stuffed animals, to shiny wedding bands.

There was a sudden shear of wind—
(seemingly out of nowhere!)-
and maybe, that’s where everybody went.
The fire-ball rode the same current of air,
blossoming for a few seconds,
beautifully, then floating high—
torn sepals in a reddening sky.