Brahms and other poems

Brahms and other poems
Four poems by the co-founder of New York Writers Workshop and a member of Asia Pacific Writers & Translators as part of World Poetry/Prose Portfolio [WPP], curated by Sudeep Sen


I picture him pulling brown suspenders 
over his shoulders in a dingy room 
above a pub, the bump-bump-bump of a 
tuba faint through the floorboards. Behind him, 

a well-compensated Schiele-like nude, 
her sex enlarged, sprawled on the damp sheets, her 
fingers riffling a foliage of gulden 
notes. Brahms turns away from his shadow in

the mirror, a black and white thing that haunts 
him with reminders of Clara Schumann, 
the C-B-A-G-A of her. He pulls 
the door closed behind him and finds his way 

to the dark staircase, laughter and the smells 
of bratwurst clinging oily to paintings 
on the walls. The Ode to Joy does not come 
readily to mind, but he hears it, and 

its spirit drives him through several tankards 
and a half-dozen sheets of music score. 
Tonight he’ll keep his neighbors awake again 
with a lullaby that grows quieter, 

quieter, until he can sleep with his 
belly over the open buttons of his fly. 
His beard needs a trim. It stinks of sauerkraut. 
In the morning, in the same clothes, he’ll walk, 

hands clasped at his back, offer candy 
to children. At the park he’ll hear a weave 
of cello and oboe. C-B-A-G-A, 
C-B-A-G-A, C-B-A-G-A. 

Lines Overheard in a Headstand Workshop, 
Triyoga Studio, London, 2010

The middle is not static. It’s not a 
destination or fixed point, the middle 
is in flux. The midway practitioner 
hits the middle by constant adjustments  
to whatever arises. Develop 
the skill to change. Ongoing things 
accommodate flux. The hair becomes white 
but the mind does not. Everything arises
at once from the eight directions and 
the four realms. How does the mirror reflect 
emptiness? Success is harder to 
overcome than failure. Go and teach 
the gospel, but don't use words. Teach pilates 
to a quadriplegic. Only the ill 
talk to god, you must talk to god when 
you're healthy. People die from the feet up. 
The meaning of life is in the moment 
that arises the moment that arises 
is already gone so ... What? The precious 
droplet appears in each moment. If you 
try to apprehend the Buddha moment, 
it’s already gone. It is. It never 
was. It is again. The present moment 
is where life is found – don't miss your 
appointment. You must be willing to give 
up what you are in order to become 
what you will be. Prepare to be ready 
for the moment that’s already gone. Gather 
from the desk the debris of your work. 
Visit the mall more often. The archer 
pulls back to shoot forward. Pulling in two 
directions, pushing down to go up, 
centering down, rooting down, floating up. 
Fingers on the sacrum, on the heart chakra, 
the third eye, the color is indigo, 
the sound is om shanti om shanti om
“Ah” is the negative prefix, “a-ha” 
the infinite. Contact the undivided, 
otherwise be overwhelmed by distractions 
from the four realms, the world of the ten 
thousand things. All things have division, 
constant differentiation. Embracing 
the differentiation. Training in that 
which doesn't divide. One can get stuck in 
the undivided. Meaning is in 
relationship to all other moments. 
You are a cork on the river of flowing 
moments and you grasp that idea easily, 
but can you embody it in breath, in 
cellular rhythms? Can you form an 
attachment for the undivided? Can 
you rest in the bottom of your mind? 
And I’m like, dude, I want to do all that 
but can you knock the shit off for a second 
and just help me stand on my fucking head? 

Lines Composed While Sharing the Changing Room at  Yoga Shala with Gwyneth Paltrow 


From a Terrace Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, my Brother's Wife Explains to Dinner Guests How She Once Blew Harrison Ford

“He looked so fucking delicious,” she says, 
“all passed out on a staircase somewhere in 
Rome.” The guests spit wine over the rims 
of Chardonnay glasses. Several have heard 
this story before, as have I. They shoot 
glances toward the grill where my brother turns 
filets of Chilean sea bass over 
direct flame. This is his first wife, I don’t 
feel sorry for him, anymore. He wanted 
a well-born woman and he got one, with 
a liver the size of the Frick and a 
mouth filthy as a bus station toilet. 

I lean against the rail and watch dolphins 
breach out past the surf zone—the way they 
surface and drop, surface and drop, you think
you can anticipate exactly where 
they’ll breach next, until the next time, they don’t. 
I’m one month clean and sober, if you can 
call it that. I’d gone beyond and below 
the nonsense of pride and integrity and 
insults to my manhood. I needed help. 
I called my brother. How it hurts to see 
him humiliated. I’m wondering 
why he takes it. Does he think, ah, it’s just 

the rich talking. It’s their world, we’re here to 
serve and applaud, laugh and clean up. Maybe 
she doesn’t mean any disrespect by 
talking about sucking some star’s dick. She 
inflates her cheeks around Harrison Ford’s 
imaginary cock. “The look on his face 
when he came to,” she says, slamming her palm 
on the table. I track the dolphins down 
the coast—specks now, maybe illusions. They 
breach near Laguna Beach and curve west, racing 
for the deep water. How long, I wonder, 
can they hold their breath? Hawaii? Farther?

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