George Wallace

samples | conferences


From "Fifty Love Poems"
(La Finestra Editrice, Trento It 2004)











because your hands are a theater and your eyelashes makeup
and your smile is a nightclub where everything always happens
and your ears are minor characters in a silent film overacting in the old fashioned way
and your poems are missing persons looking for a ritual of cold musical waves
and your music is a mystery and the mystery is a wind
and the wind is always crossing my desolate plain
because under the vigil of darkness your feet migrate toward lonesome company
and there is underwater dancing even when you do not glide so gracefully over ice
and your hips sway endlessly through black and white charley chaplin boulevards
because one day we were walking along the crisp edge of tragedy
and the streetlights came on and there were stars jumping
and moonspots and puddles and your heart leaping like trout
and a curtain was going up and down and up
and when you started to laugh your womb contracted
because even though you were living in unbelievable prosperity
your knees still bent with the memory of white hunger
and your face shifting imperceptibly in candleflame and torchlight
and your eyes flickering between promise and suspicion
because the toes on your right foot curl in unison
and i cannot recall the toes on your left foot
but i can imagine while you sleep they ball up "into a nest of prayer"
because when you wake up rain is shivering all along a rocky coastline
and anyhow streetcars race aimlessly and the blood in your arteries is quizzical for days
and when you get angry you swing your notorious arms all over everything
because your flesh is constantly emerging from an ocean or a cocoon
and your skin is trying to forget what your bone marrow knows
and your palms serve gratefully in a willing marriage of saints
because sometimes when you pull back your hair i want to cry
i will love you because the moon's armor falls away in all four directions
and the great eclipse of your shadow crosses my continent
and your sun breaks morning up into dragonfly wings
and the city is a brickyard reassembled block by block in your smile
i will love you because it was always curbs and cobblestones and you
it was always the street rising up wherever we were walking
and you never knew it, you were just walking and i was just with you
because wherever you walked there were always simple pancakes of applause
because wherever you sat there were always haphazard bouquets
because even now you do not know how much you are loved
because no one ever knows

you are three thousand miles away
but rain comes from distant places too
and sometimes i can taste you on my lips
like rain or lost love or the smoke of forests burning
or the surprising bitterness of a cup of coffee after dining alone in new york city
as if there is a message in everything we touch and taste
a warning concerning something terribly important
perhaps it is only the fire in a raindrop
in the heart of a tree that grows in a burning forest when wind flows through it
like wheat or time or pain or memory or an ocean
like the way i could always feel in the motion of your hair
the motion of the sky at the particular moment
when your imagination caught fire
and you began to love me

these days i am always sitting in the raging sunlight near the end of summer
when love trembles out of control in the sky like a fledgling bird
or the head of a statue or a shooting star
and someone new is walking out with someone else new
hand in hand into the city and i am sitting alone
imagining a time when redemption was possible
and i can just remember that there was a time
when i could have stepped in front of a city bus
and gotten hit and survived it
because once you turned in my direction
and your voice was a possible raindrop
in the first heart of the world

it is autumn it is new york city
the fragrant mist of a cooling season is in the air
i watch a stranger playing with a napkin at a corner table
and i realize that even without you, i am possible
the peculiar angle of the sun when colder weather is about to arrive
is your glance at me over cappucino
the first time we looked at each other
and i realized that if i was lost in a forest
i could put my hands to the trunk of a tree
and listen through the gift of my palms
and be able to hear the calm intravenous beating of your blood
and find my way out of the forest

it is autumn it is new york city sometimes in the middle of the night
when i open my eyes and listen without comment or complaint or interruption
i can hear the regular breathing of a single flower in your garden three thousand miles away
i can taste the lithe perfume of your falling raindrops
and touch the stuttering wings of birds in your open field of flight
and taste through an empty patch of sky
your cloud passing through it

it is autumn it is new york city sometimes i look at the compass of the world
and i think the poles of the earth have gone insane
everybody around here is inventing directions
at another table someone is arguing about politics or money
over there a young woman i have seen on stage
is explaining something to a friend a lover a stranger or her father
something terribly important about meaning or art or love or ambition

it is new york it is autumn it is a season it is only a season
nothing is terrible nothing is important
i am finally at rest after many gestures and suicides
after many sweet and not so sweet navigations
on the avenue there are taxis
ambulances puddles criminals politicians
tourists traders cadillacs
and i am finally at rest, seated
at a side street cafe in greenwich village
with a tree growing beside it
i want to touch the trunk of that tree
look! it is a healthy gingko with a solid trunk
and it has leaves and the leaves are paddling at the wind
and there are raindrops everywhere and there is cappucino and people smiling
and everything is everywhere and there is laughter

it is your laughter
you are my rain


it is true that in autumn the rain of your laughter
beats like a pink coral necklace on the skin of my umbrella
in this mountain village a shower falls through all the world
but none of this is made of you it is likely to be sunny again by noon
and the cadence of your fists on the pathway
is daylight up the mountain beating like hooves of army horses
dressed in full sunny regalia hauling provisions to the troops all morning
and a human chain of children bound for the orphanage

someone passed my window again where you were staring out
staring at nothing and it is true that once we traveled together
to a mediterranean island it was early autumn
and you rode on a donkey cart and i walked alongside you
with torn bread in my hands and an open jug of wine
spilling our love recklessly on the cobblestones
and a scorpion which had been hiding in a cave
peering into the staring face of the sun
curled its tail and wanted to bite my hand

but none of this is made of you
whenever you looked at me and the streets
and the plazas and the policemen and the cabaret girls
running with the exotic songs you had always promised me
you were good for your word and i was good for a song
and when i cut my palm with a knife
you put the wound of my soul to your mouth
and you comforted me and i allowed that to happen
and it is true that when i blinked my eyes a machine gun
was rattling like torn holes through the white stucco of my resistance
and you paused to reload and the air smelled like a forest with wild creatures in it
with two stars bigger than all creation settling among the firs
and you were teaching them new and extraterrestial colors
and your aunt who was killed on the fourth night of bombing
and your uncle who disappeared into the wooden night
after the long knocking and the stretching out of the unnamed dead
and your entire family who wept in front of the priest
were resurrected in a mattress of holy flames
and the green country of your desire was flattened
and no amount of reparation could replace them

none of this is made of you
but sunlight's equation makes the morning occur in your golden lake
like earth in its only furrow like dark green leaves
like new waters at the window sill when the rainbarrel sings with kisses

sorrow steeps like tealeaves, deepens with planets and honey
there is no harmony in the rags or the moss or the tattered roses
no harmony in the cave that speaks in unholy riddles
no harmony in the sulphur explanations they handed you
or the mathematics of clouds crashing like flying serpents
no harmony in the scattering the beggars the salesmen the prostitutes
the queen bee the honey bee the untidy drone
no harmony in the embers of black sun tonguing through your air

none of this is made of you
but the vapor of your sea sends blue shadows through me
like ten thousand murmuring crosses beating wings in my ribcage
when i walk to the kitchen and listen to the sound of eggs cracking
it is you in the boiling water pan white with vengeance
it is your voice dressed in banners and blooms
it is an indigo field we walked through together at dawn
it is the strange fingerprint of footsteps in my dreams
when i am half asleep but know you are with me

From Burn My Heart In Wet Sand (Troubador, Leicester, UK 2004)


i am a cutout pilgrim boy. you are a cutout pilgrim girl. i am holding a cardboard blunderbuss and wearing a stovepipe hat and a shiny buckle is on it. you are wearing a white apron and have a white bonnet and one loose string is falling from it. i have been out hunting all day. you have been inside cooking all day. the world is orange and brown and black and white. our world has two dimensions. earth is horizon and heaven is height. my eyes are without distance. your eyes are without depth. i am free of doubt. you are beaming with unexamined gratitude. thank you mother. thank you father. thank you husband. thank you wife. thank you children. thank you relatives. thank you indians. thank you england. thank you powhatan and john winthrop. thank you pocahontas and ann hutchinson. thank you beasts of burden. thank you chickens. thank you eggs. thank you boulders thank you tree stumps. thank you mud root soil clod spade becket shovel adze axehandle sledgehead. thank you wooden spoon clay pitcher glass bowl shingled roof. thank you iron shoed hooves and metal sled runners. thank you curtains thank you curtain rods. thank you houseplants thank you pets. thank you housebuilders roadbuilders automobile builders. thank you coal diggers thank you crop dusters. thank you tomato pickers and lettuce loaders. thank you truck drivers shelf stockers checkout register ringers. thank you furniture makers. thank you computer programmers. thank you bank of america. thank you our father who art in washington. thank you jesus. thank you buddha. thank you herman hesse jean paul sartre flann o'brien martin buber. thank you paul bunyan john chapman luther burbank davey crockett. thank you god of eden. thank you god of the lion lying down with the lamb. thank you god of vengeance and forgiveness. thank you god of mutual seduction and pregnant wishes. thank you god of penetrative and non penetrative sex. thank you warner brothers. thank you jesus thank you jesus. thank you horn of plenty shelled autumnal vulva of the earth goddess.


there was this place and it was in san francisco and i was thirty and the world was big and it was getting bigger
and there was all manner of men and women and they were living in all manner of places
and it was the only world around and it was big enough for me
and i walked into it with my eyes wide open and i traveled through it as much as i was able to
and i didn't have much of anything to worry about and i didn't have anything much in my pockets
and that was okay with me and san francisco was a very beautiful place and san francisco was a very wild place
and the ocean and the sagebrush and the fog
and the amazing coastal range bathed in full afternoon sun

and some people were beautiful and some people were not
and some people made promises to each other and some people made no promises at all
and after all is said and done i was just one of them
and we were living that's all and we made some magic and we made some mistakes
and we made some adjustments and it was all really just okay
and we were fine with that and it was so terribly not important and at the same time so terribly important
and usually we were very happy and when we weren't we did something about it
and some people took advantage of that and it really didn't seem to matter if they did
and i was one of the people among all those people and anyhow like i say

i was thirty and i was in san francisco and there were a lot of things
and one time there was this one place and there was smoke in the room and i couldn't see so well
and i remember there was a long bar and some stools and some benches along a wall
and a mirror and some bottles and a bartender and a crowd
and there was this woman and she had this large body and wide shoulders
and she had a big face and i couldn't see her face properly and i had been drinking an awful lot
and that night a lot of things that shouldn't have happened started to happen and something happened to me
and i should have been thinking and i should have kept walking and not gone into that place at all
but i was thirty and i was in san francisco and i didn't say no
and then instead of being big and getting bigger
the world started getting small


give your words a cake today, today is the birthday of words
let all the minutes and seconds of silent contemplation join hands
let us gather mentally around the big-mouth's party table

tell all the nouns and verbs wearing silver bracelets
tell that pair of gutterals in the corner lighting safety matches
time to ante up! here comes the birthday barge

the human race is draped in fresh blue crepe and admiration
tell all the vowels! let all the fricatives in on the news!
mother tongue has hung the hall with plenty of streamers

a raft of presents all wrapped up in pretty purple prose
and everywhere and everyone in the room calling for a speech
speech! speech! speech! praise for the birthday boy!

let us all hear the one horn blowing
let us all stuff his mouth with plenty of cake

From Without Benefit Of Men (Chlemskiya Press, NY 2004)


some words were searching through the book of man
for the right way to express the way they felt
having been separated at birth from god and the angels

how sad it was! that they had to live
here on this big old earth so far from each other
living in the minds and mouths of men instead of with each other

they tried this kind of man they tried that kind of man
they tried many kinds of men until earth was covered with history
until earth was covered with men in their triumph and in their greed

it became obvious - no man the words found suited them
so after a long time they abandoned the idea of men altogether
and they threw the book of man into a fire

and all the words came together then
and they spread their arms out like tiny wings on a great big cross
and they watched the sparks fly to heaven

and they laughed and they sang their own song
without benefit of men
and men were speechless creatures then

and heaven filled up with men's tears

so many tears it began to rain


there is a rock in the center of a man's palm which he throws and throws again
inside the rock there is a woman he desires and possesses and now he must protect
and inside the heart of the woman he desires is the black soul of an unanticipated desert night
and inside the black soul of the unanticipated desert night is a cave no light has ever penetrated
and inside the cave no light has ever penetrated there is a ledge with a shallow bowl carved out of it
and inside the bowl with a shallow bowl carved out of it is a single drop of water no man has ever drunk from
and inside the drop of water no man has ever drunk from is the gleaming eye of a desert lion
and inside the gleaming eye of the desert lion are ten thousand things a desert lion has seen
including death and god and hope and europe and also the ghost of an unsettled nation
and blood and sand and the bones of a people who have been consumed with greed
and a man with a rock in the center of his palm who has wandered into the desert
to satisfy that greed, a man who cannot find his way back out of the desert


this is the year the ecstatic economy of greed takes a day off the year kansas city stockmen go to cody's wild west show the year texas oilmen carrying cones of roasted silkworms in their hands agree to replace the earth's holy fossils

this is the year the gods stand together the year the gods shake hands the year the gods agree to teach america how to stop leaking through its own windy gap this is the year truckers and waitresses take off their caps brush back their hair and look at each other without fear or hunger or resignation

this is the year tomato fields blossom with honest work the year ceiling fans stir envy out of a smoky bar this is the year money as dope takes a holiday this is the year adam smith stands clueless on the side of the highway with his thumb in his eye this is the year optometrists stop measuring everything

this is the year belfast windows spell out a script of reconciliation the year second floor balconies in staten island throw open their arms the year hoboes return and guitar pickers and barges laden with carnations and mayflies the year newark spreads its wings like angel fire

this is the year clowns juggle spoons and silver balloons on the lawn in front of the white house this is the year the press corps finally notices

this is the year ben franklin calls in sick the year pedro pietri calls in well this is the year beat musicians paint the hamptons blue the year symbolists dig up the bones of the future this is the year walt whitman takes off his shirt and walks through the forest with all the bearded men the year sappho unveils her heart and dances in the arms of all the unchained women

this is the year eight track tapes descend from santa clara mountains to reclaim the valley of highways the year wild asparagus reclaims omaha the year computer programmers expose the secret breastmilk of binary language the year the superbowl halftime show will not hand over its microphone

this is the year hollywood refuses to hand out awards the year luther burbank takes his ring finger out of his left ear and his big fat thumb out of the dike this is the year the pacific wearing silver skates and bracelets carrying a multitude of tulips falls into los angeles

this is the year that joy is considered a personal option the year bullets are oysters the year soldiers are farmers this is the year the merrimac saves new hampshire this is the year the ford motor company shifts into reverse and drives ass-backwards into the lake this is the year all the tailpipes of the world are silenced in murky bebop green

this is the year pistachio ozone becomes a possible flavor the year lenny bruce discovers the beneficial properties of zen this is the year everyone in america speaks america's second language the year all the caterers in baghdad join the united states navy the year nixon speaks zulu or catches the asian flu

this is the year that marijuana seeds are found in the pockets of the president's top advisers and nobody notices the year woodstock appears in every sock drawer in heaven the year mtv falls asleep in the grass in washington square park with mayakovsky and a bottle of heineken beer the year everybody walks on tiptoes to avoid waking them

this is the year everyone is glad this is the year gray men on madison avenue believe they have discovered the origins of jazz the year bluesmen in the delta let them believe it

this is the year puerto rico is sacred cuba is sacred korea is sacred zamboanga city is sacred this is the year a crossroads in yemasee is sacred a stucco apartment in miami beach is sacred this is the year a busted up hotel room in barstow is sacred and so is a lived-in basement in detroit or a woodshed in kansas city

this is the year south carolina puts away its carving knife the year ohio takes out its roadmap this is the year ozark women date baudelaire and like it this is the year that ants dance at an american legion picnic this is the year 3000 voices sing folk music in unison in innocent vientiane

this is the year the rhine flows like applejuice down europe's chin this is the year a worm under a mexican moon has something to say this is the year nuns get to ride on the egyptian bus

this is the year the near east goes out for a long one this is the year the far east falls off the face of planet america this is the year nirvana is on the tip of every human being's tongue this is the year mosques are blameless this is the year churches embrace the fallen this is the year the god of self righteousness in his temple is discredited

this is the year a dacca poet is not silenced this is the year a university lecturer in central europe walks without fear this is the year lorenzo homar goes walking the year enid dame goes walking the year dan propper goes walking this is the year the souls of all good poets alive dead or unborn go walking

this is the year rain turns opalescent the year free speech actually matters this is the year all the roots and branches of the world's first tree crawl with holy caterpillars this is the year the mystic song everyone has been waiting for arrives the year neruda's oak tree climbs back into the earth the year cormorants sleep in tequila noon

this is the year the filter tip on the butt end of desire becomes unnecessary this is the year old bookkeepers tell boyish jokes this is the year moths tell their own story this is the year of candlelight and illumination the year summer cots have impossible visions this is the year peace bursts like flame from every subway car that passes through the bronx

this is the year native americans return to the vortex the year grapes grow in napa concrete this is the year traffic cops pull themselves over the year bank tellers pull themselves together this is the year twilight has nothing to hide this is the year dust speaks mandarin the year friendship takes a ride on an urubamba railway

this is the year peaches are enchanted the year crates of walnuts are enchanted this is the year childhood lives in an imaginary box car in oklahoma city and it is enchanted too

this is the year accordions magically appear among goatherds the year madmen ship out for south america and are suffused with hope the year banana plantations shrug off the sun this is the year capitalism with its airplane glue stops sniffing at the world the year moriarty chasing his heavenly sundial stops a star in its tracks

this is the year a man singing sweet sex dreams without despair meets a woman who does not have to remind herself that she is whole and has always been whole the year that all things being equal buddha's dog chases butterflies this is the year pindar gets loaded the year rumi is in his deepest sleep this is the year blaise cendrars dreams of nothing more than an ocean which dreams of kite tails in tibet which dream of him

this is the year nothing has to be proved no one has to be saved and everywhere is incredibly happening




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