Maestro of Solitudeby Robert Bonazzi
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Highlighting work from the 1990s into the new millennium, Robert Bonazzi’s fifth book of poemshis first in 20 yearsdraws upon the slow-gathering wisdom of late middle age. These poems are dialogues between the clockwork of ego and timeless solitude and between earthly intimacy and the death of loved ones; lucid discourses on global politics and besieged communities; and witty takes on poetics and the arts. Often considered one of the unsung heroes of modern American poetry, Bonazzi has elicited praise from such contemporaries as Mark Van Doren, Thomas Merton, Guy Davenport, Robert Peters, and Naomi Shihab Nye.
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Maestro of Solitude
Poems & Poetics
By Robert Bonazzi
Wings PressCopyright © 2007 Robert Bonazzi
All rights reserved.
From A Low Promontory
Human consciousness is in perpetual pursuit of a language and a style. To assume consciousness is at once to assume form. Even at levels far below the zone of definition and clarity, forms, measures and relationships exist. The chief characteristic of the mind is to be constantly describing itself.
— Henri Focillon
Waves of momentary flourish
spew frothy signatures
each new wave erases
Endlessly emptied manuscript
inscribing a vulnerable shore —
We project title and frame
On the Verandah
Astride a ragged rug
it glides on subtle dawn
Central — unlettered — muted
shape between glaring windows
Oak sacrificed to a smooth surface
pine floor upholds this chairless form —
Alas, thou hermetic Solitary mesa
Tutors a parrot in the art of imitation
Cat exposes clumsy
gestures in our wandering
on flight of shadows
Inhabited by echoes
Natives cast green shadows
for the sun god, upraising
delicate needles of blood
No matter how I rearrange
these cheap clay pots
light breaks through
Now to praise the palette
without bringing it
down to earth
Chewed to perfect symmetry
by anonymous insects
Painted clouds glide unnoticed
above our fall from grace
A leaf raises questions
descends with every answer
to a horizon of worms —
Or, must one be above
grace to know?
All her notes were beyond the margin
never on the page — always out of reach
yet legible on clouds and shadows.
However, I had saved no space for angels
since devils draped capes over moonlight
while her breeze scattered liberated letters.
This angel cannot be a muse,
I decided, for she was pure love
without extending circumstances — no organs or lips, just all soul,
which did not fit in neat columns.
Her absolute innocence was touching,
untouchable auras neither white nor pink,
but a fluid transparency.
"My angel, my angel," I pleaded,
"I cannot believe in angels."
"My human, my human," she whispered,
"I cannot doubt."
Reading pictures of the unknowable
over coffee warming a cold cafe
Viewing images from Mars, you saw
them as familiar rather than alien
Walking a fine sight line between light
and shadow, simplicity becomes humility
Lighting a world lost for not seeing
your vision beyond perception —
Lucid now in steam rising over black coffee.
It is written that you were born
on a night of shooting stars
tracing arcs across a clear sky
One was a learning curve
for your journey where
deserts blow away
Yet water lights the way
across oceans to a green
place to plant seeds
From A to Z you were named with
a humble blinking eye dotted
by a precise grain of sand
Upon which was inscribed:
We must go on.
Can't Say Otherwise
Can't say I committed suicide, yet
I can brood over the style of my note.
Or I can write it as religious fantasy —
an invention of former and future lives.
Many lives but only one time-frame.
Peaceful versions of dying versus
dreadful torturous extinctions
yet just one death.
You are a Goddess
who does not know it
I love your beautiful imperfections
textured then erased by
brushes with life
You are a lover on paper
rushing toward publication
lingering between lines
lushly welling forth
in puns to die for
Do not stumble into prose
but allow for spaces that
obscure a plenum
Never listen to declarations of the gods
who are profuse and noisy
yet ungodly in character
Possessed of grace and naturalness
with a devastating bottom lip —
Beauty must be an innocent victim
or devised of a naïve disguise.
Now you see old ethics transformed
once again into a voyeur's aesthetic
yet she's perfectly safe from being
crushed as a passive love object.
There's a series of lines taking on
no new meaning for the reader
except this solitary one's
Abandoned at the bedside of
one who died for Beauty!
You observed a new world
through a magnifying glass
deciphering words glancing off meanings
under a porch light switched on late.
I descended the balcony into sú cochina
to borrow a corkscrew for a vintage label
sharing Haut Meduc and turning slowly
to contemplate such wide-open eyes:
One dark pupil set higher to measure
discretion or doubt obscuring a
curvature while the other
pours forth light.
Loving our graceful falling-away
from youthful beauty I leapt
off this low promontory
into dark angel eyes.
Repetition of silences when
hunger counterpoints fugue
yet sounds no reprise
Eye reinvents form
as tongue caresses taste
Scent's sensation a wordless wonder
awash in Mediterranean spices
Because her deep wounds are fragile
my love shall always be beautiful
To be a gadfly on your wall
Who sees hope sail
wooden wings as fan
in flight to nowhere
Subtlest intimacies loved
face to face who desired
to recapture beauty
Observing a smeared line
an old ladder painted with words
Without a step to suggest
pursuit of scale
at this height
Spirit a calcium deposit
that lost the way of
Counting Grains of Sand
Everyone loves beginnings even
those who savor goodbyes
individuals itching to
experience it as one
to hide coarse
hairs in secret slit
aging hourglass emptied
conceals self-contained fragment
now with a one percent margin for
error when turning sands beyond time
Complacent cat knows his name
wails and warbles to get outside
Bookmark tail extends from the door
of his seven syllable book.
Alley tom scratches to get in —
short black grunt counter
points long white purr
of street thesaurus
Left eye slightly damaged
set firmly in a stare.
From this low promontory
silent felinity on the prowl
a steep flight of stairs.
Clockwork of Ego
Who shall say I am not the happy genius of my household?
— William Carlos Williams from "Danse Russe"
The Cruising Ego
Perhaps I made the mistake of misreading
the face floating among other naked faces
as I shaved off today's dead skin
I know who I am
have been or
will be yet I
Unfortunately in the same body!
Ego will not love
the body anymore
Hopes intellect has ripened
while emotions ran
wild or sat silently
Goads me to imagine new
forms for this aging body.
Cantos of Particles and Waves
Only the ego is lonely
because it has no body or place.
— Paul Christensen
in perpetual thesis
anti-thesis expanding endlessly outside parentheses marking past
horizon eternally afloat
in a circular wordplay
inscribed on a page or merely functional
speech bled silently
grand gated prison
circles around itself
center piece of void
herded round scenery
fallen on deaf
Being illuminates becoming
why time ticks art
curves wave shapes change
mind over matter
infinite source eternal
within spirit essence
cycle of spring flowering
swarming insects take wing
over orange grove on
palette of shifting
colors seen as
true solitude pure
exists not except as
mother of pity
self-pity father of ego
imperfection of non-
violence renders violence
facing murderous rapist
lost in contemplating
stars orbit word
foreplay no hands
Tao was then — Zen is now!
milk or sugar
in the tea)
A misnomer to be
corrected as ego-pity
since Ego blames the Other
for its despair
When we reach the conscious threshold:
Ego denies the Self, fearing
Ego despite holding every key
to its own imprisonment
cries out to be free
(yet its ultimate concept
we pass through
the light that dances
under every prisoner's door.
Questions of Critical Mass
Charm once the weapon of choice —
Ego now dons a primal disguise, sticking
its little prick outside columns and boxes
as the last cell of survival in a society
bent on destruction never expects
individuals of consumption
to choose austerity.
Does fundamentalism speak
the last word of avenging gods
or were all these deities
No way to enlightenment with
plunder plotting the path.
Weapons of mass destruction shaped
by contractors on a victory hotline
to demand all embrace their theory
of trickle-down equality.
A teenage suicide bomber explodes her life
in the service of whom or what?
And where to hide all those pesky
Inclusion attempted to remove
the Other from academia and art —
never from reality.
How do we forget those unwashed hordes
scaling the Great Wall or those blood-
thirsty barbarians at the gates of Rome?
Have the Philistines moved
from the Middle East to the Mid-West?
Please may we have fresh stereotypes next time?
Zero tolerance means no tolerance at all.
Fear created prejudice but prejudice got bored
without Others to torture.
Slip under the radar of this extinct
whitewashed species killing a colorful world
making all accomplices in apocalypse.
I pray for a critical Mass to serve
by waking up in time
Without these stereotypes
we can begin to live.
A Lucid Truthfulness
Begin with every word chiseled
to our obsessive limitations
Patriotic bravado hauled from the closet
madly waves a tattered flag
The middle range bears no truth
only consequences ravaged
by occupational hazards
We stand for not knowing which way
to avoid land mines or slimy puddles
We never listen to the voices saying
No to torture or yes to survival
Swear no one to these state secrets while
every official lie offers a press conference
— Exit with a carnival strategy —
Something I remember from a night of anger —
When Jesus wept and I used a period
to seek my own closure.
Are such full stops a balance of attention
or an absolutism of dead things?
We are surrounded by sensitive creatures
except those who give rats a bad name
Prowling these ruins — squealing
about their inarticulate empire!
Every tribe demands a hero,
a voluntary victim and at least one trickster —
though not always in the same person.
Someday a prince or princess will come —
or you might decide that the king and queen
are not too feeble for your humble attentions.
All cherish our fictions, tracing new
trajectories on mood stabilizers.
Not I, says the court jester, being
neither an immortal hero nor
a user of legal drugs.
The voyeur shall always be a joker,
observing his follies so often
he cannot miss yours.
Ego recognizes itself —
but too late.
Excerpted from Maestro of Solitude by Robert Bonazzi. Copyright © 2007 Robert Bonazzi. Excerpted by permission of Wings Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Robert Bonazzi is a columnist for the San Antonio-Express News. He is the author of Fictive Music, Living the Borrowed Life, and the critically acclaimed biography of author John Howard Griffin, Man in the Mirror. He lives in San Antonio, Texas.
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