Haiku, did you tie
Seventeen knots in my rope
Lest I climb too high?
Breakstone's poetry is a journey through his life experiences. We hear the psychologist in...
Pairs of windows form
Quotation marks for their screams -
Night at the madhouse
...while the ugliness of war is remembered in:
Between us we lugged
The thought of peace like a corpse
Boot-tagged for the morgue
Breakstone was also a master of the aphorism. Just as with his poetry, we see the range of his intellect from the ironic - You can insult two people at the same time by telling them they look alike - to wisdom and tenderness - Loved faces never fade from memory, lending heart, to faces we have yet to love.
Everyone should find something to relate to in Lest I Climb Too High - the struggle between good and evil, love, friendship, family and death.
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Lest I Climb Too HighThe Poetry and Aphorisms of Morris Breakstone
By Morris Breakstone
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Morris Breakstone
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Early Years
Traverse City Shall I live any of this life again And know it if I do, and with a thrill, See flakes of snow embracing drops of rain - Shall I, re-living, feel a warmth or chill? I live the life that never was, so can It come again - the pilgrimage begun Without the praying, and the caravan Of dreams, marauded by each morning sun? These never were, yet tempt me to new life, To chaos for my shaping - evermore -Where matching faces with their hearts of strife, I know I'll do no better than before, Yet grope the voiceless pain of all my kind, To make my deaf and dumb signs to the blind. To Ezra Pound April 30, 1954 I don't know much about you, Ezra Pound - A search through endless skies for the lost art Of a synapse, a vision to confound All instruments, and then a night of swart And swollen dreams bursting the walls with treasons. I see this in your poems: Christ, at a loss, Outstares me, with Orozco's blazing reason. (Where'd He go with His chopping of the Cross?) Was the Stump you stumbled off, perhaps In the swart night of the rebelling skies, In the stars' exodus from a synapse? Others - not I - will trace your search with cries From the high window of your houseless wall Where Dada dwindles to a baby's call. To My Daughter February 25, 1956 You sleep, my daughter, free to pitter-patter Through dreams as through my daily ignorance, Leaving your questions unretrieved - big matter Now that you cannot see my secret glance At answers. Day by day, I watch you rise, Brighter and brighter; forced to squint and see Less of the world as you see more and guise My blindness with a stare of reverie. But now, with you asleep, I could prepare, Save for a care, soft as your breath of dreaming: I see you in a whirl of sunlight - rate, Though, in remembrance of a nightly gleaming - Thus, with your question in their daily heap, I ask: what will you bring me from your sleep? February 26, 1956 All I seek is a word, a nod, a smile, Or even a scowl, dark and disapproving, A gesture even in a shadow's style, Something of humans for my deeper - moving Beast to respect and love; to speak to peoples Of foreign tongues and see the puzzled lean Of a dark head whose search for meaning steeples Him higher than anything I mean. For human life's a listening, not a hearing, A reaching, not a touching - more a feeling That triumphs often in the disappearing And needs no paean for a deed's concealing. I call it through the stillness as I pass Where listening faces press their soundproof glass.
To My Son Harry October 19, 1956 There'll be no talking for a while - just cries, Just warmth and cold, the wet noise and the dry, The light that tinkles to your blinking eyes, And the deep rumble of a hungry sky; No talking - just a coo, a hidden thumb Found on the jumbled key-ring of your fingers (A greater find than if the mild had come, For here the wisdom of the world most lingers) And yet I feed you; and you get the glow O feelings, not the crumbling ash of speech; While memories man's never spoken flow Unbroken through our lives, with the long reach Of stars whose silence on the sill of time Makes of their light the notes of Heaven's chime. A Psychologist Tries to Interpret a Schizophrenic's Drawing The face turns from the world, Egyptian-style, Save for the frontal slash of eyes that slice As deep as the curved sword of his own smile. I cannot show it plainer; cannot splice A man to his own nerves not to the whim Of pelvic oracles; for we have seen Him with his centuries wide, then slim, As turning silhouettes which, falling, lean Upon each other ... Must we disinter The image of his mother that's dug five Pages beneath his drawing, and refer To burial the son who's still alive? To know him in each age as in our own- By reading the inscription on his stone? Published in Michigan College Personnel Association Journal Spring 1966 Catatonics Is this a sculptor's world - illusions, stone For flesh, a pose for life? I wander here In the discarded shadows of my own Life, in the echoes of mute lips, so sheer In form and silence that a man must pause, With eyes all iris, ears of stone, thus mime Himself, the thing he studies.... Image, laws- Laws for the image; for the grave, star-time Or dust of statues, poses no retort. I wander here and doubt my wandering: Shadows and echoes move with me, consort, Embrace and, blending, plead to be a thing- Till even I, with doubt around me curled, Feel less a painting in a sculptor's world. His curtain was the last map of the world Stirred by his breath of lands he'd never seen, Hiding a blighted view of vanished green. Tundras and veldts of Arctic snows unfurled His longing for the tang of new winds pearled And spiced with old love songs from igloos, leantos, wigwams open to the night to wean Lovers from moons to meaning - selves-uncurled. He shaded ghost lands on that map as more, Still more, he shrouded in the world's despair, With his dead poets weeping in the gore That piled them high as prophets, cursed to stare With skull-eyes at the skulls they'd mourned before, Whose breath on maps had poisoned all the air. Remember well, America, the cold Nights and the sentries frozen to their passwords - Valley Forge - then the rats gorged and bold As wolverines in the drowned trenches, bastards bloated on the gassed flesh of the Meuse-Argonne, with the charred stumps and the barbed wire Festooned for Christas with new guts. The Truce Piled Belsen's ashes, Nagasaki's pyre. Whose child wept in the ruins of the city Propped for the shot by a dead mother's hand? Don't cameras and gunsights rim the same pity When a child's weeping serves a contraband Of love, and pilots with no child below Can let their rockets like their semen go? Published in Michigan College Personnel Association Journal Spring 1966 March 10, 1965 Some senators and experts spoke on television of the war in Vietnam. They wanted us to splash it with a Big Bam And a loud Boffo and a bomb and shell or two in the rice paddies of the Delta. Viet Cong would eat burned Crispies; ham and eggs for the Americans. Uncle Sam would wash his white beard stained with Commies, bellicose peace-makers, and dead children, who'd no parents anymore and would have been delinquent voters anyway, if wooed from burning Buddhism to cool Christian sin. A billion Reds would oo as we yalooed Our million heirs - to win - at least, begin.
Haiku, did you tie Seventeen knots in my rope Lest I climb too high?
You're young, I too old Will their eyes flash question marks Or exclamations?
They shared the same space As only two lovers could - Till she sneezed him out.
You sleep on my arm - Awake, I hardly feel it. Who is more asleep? A Q with no U Makes only the strangest words Like me without you
Two never apart Virtue doubling into vice Linked by their halos Won't dance with no Jew, She says. Tell her to view me As a genital
Sitting beside you With a sack of fresh-baked bread Gives me a warm lap
She prefers it cold He hot. And that's what She makes it for him
I hear them giggling Outside the john. Do they hear Me pissing inside? Homo erectus Means the whole man's standing up Not just part of him Your moods - my weather? Swimming trunks and overcoats - Must I wear them both? Toys strewn near the tree Roof festooned with reindeer turds Christmas - for the birds
He spent too much time Seeking a key to his life's Combination lock
You leave such deep tracks - Are you that heavy, Big Foot? Does God ride your back? My newspaper drops Between me and the bending Waitress. What headlines!
A man too patient Must have delusions Of immortality Retirement party - A wake with the corpse lacking The grace to keep still I forget the film And - wide-screened, her thigh rubs mine - Coming attractions A phone badly placed With its view of the bathroom And malicious When's intimacy? Sex now through, we've Time to love To reduce friction They live in a house with more Mirrors than windows Somebody bores me How does he do it so well? Intriguing person! "Pissed?" she asked, "You dressed With your back turned." "Just to hide A hard-on," he said. So many writers Squeezed together on my shelves Room for one more - me Most Americans Still think of cremation as A dairy process Haiku, did you forge Seventeen links of the chain Wrapped around my brain? The scorpion's head Keeps flinching from its stinger Has it stung his face? Goodbye to Europe August 26, 1974 To air interminals Short flights and long waits Transfers incomprehensible London to New York Via Amsterdam They couldn't work it Through Hong Kong Not yet Give them time Rodin sculpture Kiss Man gently touches girl's thigh Lest he reach too high In Old Mass, they kill Themselves falling down manholes Call it "Sewercide." Glasses off, he squints At the girl whose eyes widen Better to be seen In Ol' Miss. they guard Museums, lest fiends commit Statuary rape Hit-and-run driver Must leave victim in the lurch - Or be late for church! An insomniac I'm good for Astronomy Or a night watchman Faces met in dreams Wear the masks of Halloween All dropped together In New York they have A new treatment for Jews called Psychosemetic I pull a loose thread From the zipper of my fly - OUCH - A pubic hair! Choose from the menu Don't request the recipe Enjoy this meal Car's a crocodile Hood a gaping jaw to gulp Fixers and money Humanoids on Mars? Great! Sell them Coca Cola Three heights in police Line-up - three musical notes State charge - SoDoMy Girl's menstruating Doctor can't do pelvic; says He'll wait thirty days "Eye doesn't see light," Said the doctor, unaware It was made of glass. Love in an igloo Does it melt ice from the wall Or just the entrance? Older, thus ignored? But perhaps I've always been And never noticed Motel "treats you in a friendly spirited way" Good and spooky They think you've called them Fine car-lovers when you've said, "Auto-erotic." They tried to kill time Blind to stone-worn epitaphs - Time retaliates "Don't pull off my pants." But she lay back as he said, "Only off one leg." For her they're half-on For him half-off. Either way Someone's compromised Grammar's the conflict Between his dotting colon And her period
Chapter ThreeLove, Family, and Friendship March 29, 1978
Beneath the Chupah The cup of wine's doubly sweet - Two mouths at one brim She took her image From the mirrors in the room Left him more alone. I lost the poem Off the tip of myself. Look For it in your soul I reach through the dark Across not-me and not-you Till our touch forms both You lie beside me Night divides us from the world Sleep from each other Waiting at my home Mom's letter had crossed my flight To her burial To be more with each Other, be more when apart - As tide leaves the beach Closed but with no lock The door may still swing open. I hope you'll come in. Two parents bent toward Each other hold their children In parentheses Backs to each other Bookends for unopened books Till we turn around Nice - August 11, 1979 Ensemble encore Les yeux plus vieux se donnent Les visages des jeunes Together again Older eyes give each other Faces of their youth. For Jack's Birthday November 23, 1976 Time, Brother, for thanks You've given as my brother Chosen as my friend For Marlene's birthday Birthday cards in stores Verse and pictures sold for all The wrong time for slights Poet-friend, your lines Shall form bright meridians Around a dark globe My friend's left his wife His children sit in his chair When not out at night. Kissing your eyes closed I see your unseeing self While lidding my own Groping through your words Thrown at me, I seek myself Among the missing A book with your name Inscribed for me recalls words When we still were friends For Carole's birthday March 25, 1978, remembered late. A birthday recalled A covered bridge between us Sunlight at each end For Alan's birthday May 7, 1978 Seagull on a rock More on far cliffs, voices shrill - Hear the hidden ones How many last days Have we left to make the first And the others last? Netted in your hair Above me, I see a star - No, a firefly In our love we two See the world - not each other - Eyes of the same face If I drop my mask Will you scan its inner side And ignore my face? Shall I wash your tears With mine - rain upon the dew - Or wait for the sun? She seeks dead kinfolk But shuns her living daughter Tombstones lid her eyes Love's a gentle grip Till you try to get away - As loose as a noose With your car missing From the parking lot it rains On all the others A place we shall not Share again - a picture frame With your face removed I must be coming Out of my depression: I'm Slipping into yours February 14, 1986 Darkness hides the earth Revealing the distant stars As dreams light our love Waiting for someone In the emergency room Each of us alone You're with me now Others have already gone Soon I'll be alone Your breasts entice me Converting my touch to twin Cups of memory Will love give splendor To twilight and caress stars To stay at morning? I see the country Rushing by your face as you, Driving, watch the road Your birthday's a sky For stars and our love to shine For one another Gaps between my words Abyss between sentences Nothing between us Closed but with no lock The door may still swing open But first you must knock October 21, 1985 Deep water, dark woods And high mountains - hints of life We have yet to share. Our hands touch above The table, our feet beneath While I pour hot tea Let's love with no words As clouds kiss the quiet sky And stars the still night For me a day late Is nearly a year before You're my ever-lasting date Always there, never too late. Shun the edge of other life Keep to our center Let Angie, my love, enter With our other two. The Return November 23, 1980 New American Poetry Anthology, 1988 Nobody saw her coming home As though in the long nights of her leaving She'd gone no farther than the edge Of their hushed voices Sinking between the syllables of her name Her absence merely the steps Between two chores December 4, 2007 Our hands and smile above Our feet beneath the table Complete The serendipitous Circuit of our love December 27, 2007 You came to me at Nob Hill With our first of five My once empty life With love you now fill With you as my wife I could not ask more.
Chapter FourLife's Lessons
May 10, 1974 Your passing Slants my fire Toward a new star Or wound to the sky Where something awesome Seeks entrance Or return Having lost the way
What is it to be wise? It is not just knowing But knowing how to let go. What's it to be wise? It's not just knowing But knowing what not to know January 29, 2008 Wisdom's not just in knowing But knowing what not to know How to let all go. Wisdom's not just in knowing But knowing what not to know How to let wrongs go! Crooked grown-up smiles Dig commas in children's speech Periods for eyes With each friend share one Secret known to no other - Save the one that's you As you stand alone Where once we stood together Spend what's left of us Black man - white woman Dining, near as fork to knife Spaced by watchers' eyes (Continues...)
Excerpted from Lest I Climb Too High by Morris Breakstone Copyright © 2010 by Morris Breakstone. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
ContentsThe Early Years....................1
Love, Family, and Friendship....................31
Nature and Observations....................63
Politics and History....................91
Index of Poem Titles and First Lines....................113