POEMS FOR A

REMARKABLE WOMAN

BY

ROBERT WALLACE PAOLINELLI

CONTENTS

Preface....................................................i

A Beautiful Woman..........................................I

Sotto Voce................................................II

Fish Story...............................................III

Poems.....................................................IV

A Kiss of Venus............................................V

My Hand Glides............................................VI

Veiled Isis..............................................VII

Pro Vita Vivere.........................................VIII

On the 17th of Athyr......................................IX

Frankenstein...............................................X

I Love Mystery............................................XI

Rose Thorn...............................................XII

I Do Not Write These Words Lightly......................XIII

Sea Madness..............................................IXV

Somewhere in Bavaria......................................XV

Things...................................................XVI

I End This Book........................................ XVII

Preface

A poet does not have a choice.

When the Muse calls, he must go.

Writing a poem for a beautiful

woman is the supreme call of the Muse.

A gift from Heaven must not be refused.

When the Muse leaves,

the poet must stop.

Should there be a word here or there

that is, some how, out of place, the

same way a curl is out of place from

underneath a star-studded hat, worn

on new year's day, then forgive my

poetic shortcomings.

I

A beautiful woman

should wear a ring

with the image of a

beautiful queen:

A silver Nofretete

on your finger.

II

SOTTO VOCE E PARLATO PIANISSIMO

*

Here is the mystery

of my heart. The door

to the treasure

chamber is open.

It is filled with emeralds and rubies; it

is filled with diamonds and precious crystals; gold

earrings-a silver filigreed box full for your ears

and worked marble seashell bowls filled with strands of

pearls to adorn your neck.

It is the poet's hidden chamber. No

one can ever steal it from him, for it is in

his words. Take freely from it; take twice, for this

treasure can never be depleted.

Yet deeper look. Come, with a small

candle I'll lead you down passageways

to times remote, times of archetypes and the

beginning of human traditions, the first

utterance of human speech,

the first voice of love, the first voice

of the appreciation for the universe and

the sanctity of life, the first voice of

angst when the pure vision was lost.

Watch how the candle flickers and casts

shadows on the walls which writhe and

undulate to the pulse of life and the

changing codes of genes and chromosomes dancing

in DNA, linked, chained to the cosmos in cells and

fluids, flowing through our hearts and arteries.

Watch your step as we meander through

the maze to get us back to the treasure chamber,

into the light of glittering things and reflections

of your face on a polished Etruscan mirror.

III

The trout was very fat

and it swam back and

forth in the fish tank

in the Chinatown fish market.

A poet bought the

trout and cooked it

for dinner.

The trout did not give

up its life in vain.

No; for on that very eve the poet wrote

many poems about clouds,

mountain streams

surrounded by pines and

Douglas firs.

The poet's cat got the

leftovers and smacked

its chops and sat

contented in front

of the fireplace.

Th cat in satisfaction was

the topic of a poem; so

the trout was the raison d'etre

of the satisfied cat poem.

The ants, living under the

baseboard by the outside garbage can,

found their way to the

bones and fins and ate

therefrom; and so the

inspiration of this poem is

from the ants and the

last supper I witnessed.

The trout fed all of us:

The man, the cat, the ants.

And it feeds the poet's art,

long after the fact.

IV

Poems,

by their nature,

want to be written,

want to be used.

To have a poem and

use it for something

else is to have missed

the point.

A poem

should be used

for what it is

best suited for.

The poem wants to be

written the way it was

intended; the poet

has no choice, for the poem

causes its own activation.

The nature of a poem and

how it comes to be is

independent of the poet:

it comes in

its own time

the way a baby

is born: when

it's ready.

Free from predestinations, fates,

destinies, karmas and the like,

the poem happens whether

one is prepared for it or not.

Ah, how the poet loves

this mystery and this magic.

V

A KISS OF VENUS

*

Many years ago, when I frequented

museums a lot, I fell in love with a

contemporary likeness of a naked Venus,

cast in bronze and displayed in an alcove

where it stood in isolation from the rest

of the museum's collection.

I took photographs of her from every angle.

I visited her up close, sensuously touching her

ankles and adoring her neck, face, breasts and

the curve of her hips and waist.

It was a foolish love; I knew that; yet I

loved her, statue that she was.

One day, a rainy day, when the museum was

wanting of visitors for the rain, I

visited my naked Venus. For a while

I had her all to myself.

I looked around, making sure no one was looking, then

closing my eyes in rapture, I embraced her knees

and kissed her mount ardently, pressing

my lips and tongue onto her cold metal.

Breathless,

I stood back almost guiltily,

casting my eyes about, making

sure I had not been seen. Then

I glanced to her pubis,

just in time to see the

misty impression of my

furtive kiss evaporate

from her metal body.

VI

My hand glides back and forth

dedicating every vowel and consonant

to you; it moves across the paper with

fingers and nib in artful form,

creating visions and sentiments

for you.

These words are a declaration:

Each letter, each word

is written with complete

dedication to you.

A poet has three gifts:

His poems

His heart

His laughter.

I give them all to you

in these pages.

VII

Veiled Isis

*

You are like a veiled Isis

and I don't know whether to

worship you from afar

as one would a living goddess,

or court you in the

traditional ways with unexpected flowers,

a helping hand with a tight coat, and

taking your elbow while helping you

off the curb.

Should I lower my eyes as

would an awe-filled devotee, humble

before the image holding burning

incense and prayer beads, or

should I gaze upon you, not in awe,

but as a poet living in his

treasured world and you, the

jewel of his romantic dream?

What a power you have:

You are, all at once Isis

and a golden bhodisattva's

image on a silk pillowcase, and

the flesh woman whose visage

began to burn in my heart like

a tiny blue flame which made a

lust for you rise up in me so

strong, that it is only poetry

that keeps me from going mad.

O goddess, what now?

VIII

Pro Vita Vivere

*

It is held that to die

for a cause is an

honorable sacrifice; it

is the stuff of heroes

and martyrs.

This poet would not make

a good martyr nor hero.

Yet, I'm no coward, either.

As I see it, to live

for a cause is even

more honorable and there

is no need to sacrifice,

and one might live to

an old age, too.

The cause supreme is life,

the living of it moment to

moment, episode to episode,

exploring the unknown and

experimenting for the future,

and indulging the present,

sucking up life, tasting it,

eating it, creating it with

brush, pen and chisel, carving

it out of bulks of granite

and marble, imitating it in

pungent chiaroscuro hues on

walls and canvas,

or declaiming it in poetry and songs.

The dead are dead for a

long time, but life is short.

So do not quote me

dulcet et decorum est pro patria morire.

I give you a new motto:

DULCET ET DECORUM EST PRO VITA VIVERE.

I affix this to my coat of arms,

I hang it in the armorial hall

of my ancestors, as the new family motto.

I mint my money with these

words stamped thereon, and I consecrate

infants with its words.

IX

On the 17th of Athyr

*

Page by page,

archetype by archetype,

I plowed through the

ancient, translated texts

until I was saturated

with multitudes of gods

and goddesses, created in

human form and with

heads or bodies of

animals or

fabulous beasts.

Surfeited of miraculous

births, deeds and the

planting of the roots

of civilization among

barbarian tribes, giving

them agriculture, music,

decorum and writing,

freeing their brute selves

from the blood lusts and

ritual slaughter of

humans and beasts and

paternalistic slavery and

the chains of crude,

unconscious orthodoxies,

I looked around my technologically

advanced world cut off from

legends and incredible myths

of a god cut up into pieces and

scattered about the land--

recovered by his

good wife, Isis, who through

nurturing and incantations, brought

together the flesh and made

it one, and from that renascent body,

murdered by a jealous brother,

came reborn seed for a son,

Hathor, who grew up to avenge the

murder of his father by the

conspiracy of his uncle.

Yet I see nothing in my jet-age world

that can compare to the resurrection

of a cut up body, by the touch and sound

of a goddess.

All around me, instead,

are dwarfed archetypes,

animated cartoons of

turtle samuraization by

the accidents of deadly

radiation from

purified uranium:--

Before my eyes, robots in

factories, on the screen

at the cinema, semi-human

entities, bionic men and women,

armed to the teeth, ugly with

intention and more dangerous

than a small army:--

Televised characters living

in garbage cans, speaking

perennial, pedagogical stupidity:--

Six-shooter-shooting-tough-

dust-covered cowboy-fast on the draw-hero

astride horse-

ham fists-and not afraid

to use them to make a point:--

Silly, insipid, monotoned comedians

of late night talk shows using

someone else's jokes, the straight

man in a transforming malevolent

electronic eye turning couch

potatoes into mushrooms

that begin to glow in

the dark.

What kind of legacy is that?

Generations raised with pseudo-archetypal

heroes who are nitwitted, ill-mannered

bumpkins, compared to a goddess

who brought her dismembered

husband-brother, Osiris,

back from the dead,

slain on the

17th of Athyr

in the 28th year

of his reign.

X

Frankenstein,

the Victorian monster-archetype,

was created from corrupting

corpses and brought to life

by machines and chemical concoctions.

His creation was not life

but anti-life, yet it is

an appropriate archetypal

metaphor for the narrow,

queen-named age that

stands out like a clockworks,

all wound up tightly,

gears and springs choking

the human spirit while

it so meticulously dug

up the past to show

it in museums and wrote footnotes about

ancient superstitions

smug Victorians claimed they

didn't have.

XI

I love mystery and I love

looking into your eyes; they

elate me and frighten me and

stir up in me passion--

all at the same time.

Eyes of mystery which tell me everything

and, simultaneously, tell me nothing, and

the enigma of you deepens.

I take heart in my poetry to

keep my head from spinning

as I ponder the memory

of your eyes gazing at

me at the new year's table,

at the Caffe Puccini,

where I fell in love with

your eyes, and the gracious

way you leaned toward me

asking me to light

your cigarette.

ROSE THORN

XII

In my poet's heart

there is a rose garden.

And from one of its stems

I tore a thorn and dipped

it in my ink. It is so tiny

and hard to hold. Yet with this

triangular nib, I form the words

of this poem.

XIII

SEA MADNESS

In my youth I was a seaman.

I spent some time before the

smoke stack--the mast, by my day had long

since vanished and diesel engines pushed

me across the Pacific and over the cold

Irish Sea and the bitter gray north

Atlantic of a winter's day.

I am an old salt of typhoons and squalls

and green walls of waves smashing

against the deck and turning the

wheel house into a sculpture of

rushing white water, smacking our iron ship

as if for our arrogance of daring

the winds, tides and swift currents

trying to turn our head and we saved

by the power and ingenuity of the

gyrocompass guiding us true through

the storm.

The sea is a struggle of a

giant consciousness of water

and the mechanical responses

of mariners schooled in the

whims and dangers of the sea

and all its colorful, enticing poetry.

Oh, in the vilest of weather I

was aft, roped to a stanchion--

lest I be pulled overboard where

I faced the storm and sang to

it as only a sailor-poet can sing,

taken with a sudden madness during a

typhoon, in the Sea of Japan,

a long time ago.

IXV

SOMEWHERE IN BAVARIA

I once had a sergeant, a

tough infantry veteran of

two wars who was hard

and commanding and showed

no fear.

One night we got drunk

and took off our stripes

and he told me, man to man, that

he was so afraid in Korea that he'd

shat his pants and was

so ashamed of it out

there on the battlefield

that he cried out loud with shame.

His comrades hearing his

wails thought he'd cracked because

of the incessant shelling

and two days of only cat naps

and daring night time probes

by the enemy and subsisting

on half frozen C-rations.

A medic tried to console him;

a buddy called for a chaplain.

When the chaplain arrived he

asked my sergeant if he wanted

to confess himself.

He wanted to curse chaplain; but being

a good Roman Catholic, he

fell on his knees, and, crossing himself,

confessed through his tears his

bowel movement and his

shit-shamed pants.

The chaplain, upon hearing this

mad insult to the sacrament,

slapped my sergeant and

went back to his own foxhole.

Chinese mortar rounds began

to fall; flares burst and dangling

on small parachutes, slowly fell, casting

an eerie, green light across the

barren ground of frozen Chosen.

He didn't remember how long the

human wave assault lasted; but

what did it matter: The next thing

he knew, he woke up in a ward in secure

Japan, wounded, bandaged, clean and

between spotless hospital sheets.

And each time a doctor or nurse or an

orderly ministered to him, his

only though was:

"Did they know I'd shit in my p[ants?"

That's what this tough veteran,

this decorated old soldier told me

one night while in our cognac

cups on a summer's eve during

a break from maneuvers,

somewhere in Bavaria.

XV

THINGS

Things, by their nature,

want to be used.

To have something and use

it for something else is

to have missed the

whole point.

A thing should be used

for what it is suited

best.

The thing wants to be

used the way it was

intended; the user

has no choice in the

matter, for the thing,

its nature and its use

will cause its own

activation.

Let's not confuse this

with predestination,

fate, destiny and all

that; the nature of

a thing and what it was

intended for, will self-activate--

independent of the user and any

so-called controls one may have

happend to have created.

Don't kid yourself.

A thing happend whether you've

planned for it or not.

That's the mystery of

life and isn't it

great?

A poem is.

XVI

I end this book.

The muse tugs at

my sleeve;

it is time to go.

Reluctantly, I slow down

my pen--yet the empty page

lures me to inscribe

one last sentiment

with my aching hand,

one last image which

will melt your heart

and blend it

with mine.

**********

January 9th, 1995

San Francisco