semantikon feature literature
Aug. 2004
Dan Raphael

Dan raphael lives in Portland, & performs his work throughout Oregon & Washington, usually barefoot.

Of his 15 books, the most recent are When a Flying City Falls (nine muses books), Showing Light a Good Time (jazz police books), and Among My Eyes (

Some current poems appear in Urvox, Shattered Wig, Pemmican, xstream and Raven Chronicles. He’d like to come and read in your town.

About Artist:

dan raphael, poet, poetry, portland, oregon, washington. NRG, bowling green,

some say the year begins with ice

when I feel the fire feels me
an arpeggio of warming windows mildly threatening to shatter or melt:
i think its sleigh bells, the wind murmuring curses of friction, demanding the rough edges break
as this marathon from the north erases holiday warmth
as if each building a saxophone with so many escapes to finger,
each acre a sitar of uncountable strings—some tunable, some droning whenever they speak
like a parrot whos heard many orchestras but no voices
i hear words when water drips from faucet, when rebellious rays of light
bounce against the windows impervious coat

the fire seems fast but each loglet is several years of information and opinions,
compact & monotonous as news with a modulating stream of updates
the earths magnetic pole straws from untranslatable space—we take in from the ends
and release at the imaginary middle, as a bodys thin at skull and feet
but we dont know how to release all the belly has learned—
layering on each other to protect us from our own image,
a beam so thick it can support a roof but not itself

when I feel the wind rings all my doorbells, taps on all my windows,
causes every pipe to chime with temptation to stop flowing & sleep, close my eyes
to the negative heat, to the candescent dark of winters mummery---
from the top of my root-head to the furthest reaches within my bones,
cul-de-sacs long fortified against capillary & nerve frond, dark so thick
it seems a leaden door—only the massively blank can enter here, only the pieces
rejected by recycling and incineration stumble to these valleys
where we conjure up eclipses & blackouts, when all the dancing & chatter stops
we can hear the deeper beat, the measured complex of entropy,
the wobble of balls just barely spinning but never coming to rest
yet light will always break through, as every roof, every stream held back will leak

madrigals of decrystallization remove the heather walls,
throw birds with snow-flaked wings through my homes many mouths--
i could be in the middle of the living room, touching nothing, invisible til probability arrives
viewed from its thinnest edge a pizza box balloons open a tunnel with many windows
dissolving cityscapes in time-elision

i get thicker to stay the same, get darker to maintain my light
held inside everything that herds my dreams between my ear canyons
as a single snowflake entering my brain could coz a variety of spasms absences flares,
my ears single-pane windows clattered with the sleet of mis-packeted language—
the bricks forgot how they connect, the trees plumbing works its way to the outside
where sugars all head toward the sun leaving droves of insects and teenagers
dead from ecstatic acceleration, corpuscles racing toward the abyss of oxygen,
saying everything they’ve ever heard then merging with the void of exhausted phonemes,
as what has gathered on the street will find its own way of dissolving:
the new art form of removing pieces of flesh, notches and holes,
losing weight aerodynamically, giving blood & nerves less live flesh to tend
improves job efficiency and unemployment, fires imagination like hunger and cheap alcohol
I can have all the candles I want but only one match and no windows

vertical water freezing disagreeably
the window holds months of memories between its panes--
windows kept in the dark for years implode with hunger if suddenly exposed to full sun
--we melt slowly, we harden gradual
layers removed as I turn on sleeps lathe, aiming for perspective
as if a flying video camera became our god--we dance for it, offer it drama and color,
times ive slept for decades thinking I’d remember, thinking my brain wouldn’t turn infantile,
old files encrypted in someone else’s dreams where snow is the sky gods seed
& we all run open mouthed, straight necked, for the exact flake
to fall unhindered to the bottom of my lungs, splitting oxygen to make water, splitting water
to make light, splitting light to make shadow, stacking shadows into bones, stacking bones
into skyscraping pyres challenging the gods with smoke and chemistry---
coz they were only interested in variety, not what happened when two or three mixed together,
when mass made pressure, made mountains, made barriers,
enough bubbling in the oldest caldera to feed every decompressing file,
code multiplying at lightspeed to rebuild muscle and will, skin outgrowing itself so many times
we are inches deep in genetic snow hiding all the landmarks we noted
in this panoramic plain pelted with sharp corners & tender surfaces ready to collapse
and meld forgotten flesh with ours still pumping warm, chemical momentum
repeating the past with modern coincidence selecting files in foreign languages
to power this machine whose core password is my name

moon beams on frozen white schoolyard
an ocean with its own light, the dreams of grass long surrendered to the future
driven to press their tongues on the transparent underside
ululating a cacophonous blues celebration I feel in several body zones

ice whiter than the moon can know, flailing like a bucket on a string,
driven through the buckets bottom to a lineless moist horizon
that prays against gravity, prays against evaporative sun-flash:
how some clouds are misers, some clouds simply incontinent,
no place to put a name, no structure to navigate with more than mass and memories—
sometimes the more I let go, the more room I have for repetition--
some clouds give everything they have and fly months later on the underside of petals
bursting like a hibernating worm-sigh planting more air beneath the surface, planting future stars
migrate slowly to the source of their conflagration:
                                                                 ice always thinks its moving