Eric Norris – Two Poems


A Minoan Monkey

Before the age of Heraclitus, you
Slept peacefully beside a river. Here,
Time flowed continuously. It never changed—
Fattened in floods or thinned to bones in drought.
Papyrus reeds stood by you like old friends.
Critics eyed them. But nobody dared
To cut them, strip them, and humiliate
These fragile things as lines of poetry.

They stand there still. Like sentinels. They seem
Determined death should not disturb your dreams,
Unless I’m much mistaken. I have been.
A cataclysm woke me in my bed
Last night. A tiny tremor. I saw stars,
Bare-breasted ladies, bulls, fish and fruit,
A dozen dolphins dancing in the surf,
A regular circus. A false alarm.

Most visions that I have turn out to be
False alarms. Small nightmares. Say, I want
To illustrate your delicate, enduring
Colors. I can’t. No matter how I blend
Events, a great lagoon of grief remains:
The shadow of a deep caldera lies
Below the giant cliff of tephra where
You are. For in Atlantis love was made.

Her ships still carry cargo. This has come,
A little late, via Byzantium.
It bears no gold or ivory, just these
Bits of lapis lazuli, just you,
A shade of blue; a painted animal
Guarded by painted reeds; a brook that tip-
Toes past impossible and joins the sea,
The sky, you and I, the whole horizon.

Painting in Japan

After Hokusai
For N.E.D.

This morning I awoke to a shade
Of pink without parallel. A new one.
I lay there studying the shadows made
By cherry trees, elbow on your futon.
Limbs danced on window blinds—my mind—a fan
Hiding a Noh player, a young man,
Performing for his Shogun on a stage—
Not cherry—darker wood. But the image—
Flirtatious as it was—as all art is—
Seemed so substantial! No telephones
Rang, no sirens screamed, no thumps, no groans
Excited curiosity, no his-
Sing radiator ventilated steam;
Nothing—not a whisper—intervened

To disturb our universe. We lay
In Kanagawa. I slid into shoes,
Determined I would spend the rest of the day
Immersed in local colors: Fuji blues,
Pearls of foam, cranes of origami,
The tight red lips of geishas, tan tatami;
I would suspend the world in clouds of pink
So soft that cherry blossoms on the brink
Would close their eyes unable to resist
Repeating, “This is Heaven. Where I land
Is immaterial. I’ll have one hand
In Heaven always.” O, they are persist-
Ant things, these pastel petals, floating there
Perpetually, tumbling through the air!


Author’s Statement on Beauty

Beauty is personal, I think. Beauty is also spiritual. In my world, Beauty is also physical, as all intangible things are. You might think this is a contradiction, but it isn’t: it is beautiful. Beauty is whimsical like that, like Cupid: that impossible putti somersaulting through my subconscious, scattering ideas—daisies and Chaos—in one of those infernally blue skies of the Baroque.

Beauty is a lyrical manifestation of Love, first and foremost. Unless you are looking at Beauty in the rearview mirror—a posteriori, as they say in Philosophy—and Ooo-la-la! as they say in France, an exclamation often accompanied by the tip of a silk top hat and a twinkle, depending on the train of thought and the booty—or beauté—in question. Tastes and times may terrify us, certainly—to amplify on Cicero—but I think we can all agree, as citizens of the Milky Way—sub specie aeternitatis, for the sake of argument—that it is impossible to keep even the most innocent ideals down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree. Beauty is no exception.

That is the problem with Beauty: it gets around. It might be a flash of something forbidden at the gym. A Royal Flush in Monte Carlo. A genetic misprint in your family. An anonymous gift to the Salvation Army. I have even known Beauty to clothe itself in a mushroom cloud. There is no telling where Beauty will turn up in History. My iPhone is a beautiful thing: practical, compact, the product of billions of years of cosmic evolution; however, in terms of Beauty, barely a blink and a wink separates Eve from Steve and those first Apples.

Beauty is that muted buzz in my pocket, perpetually interrupting me, wherever I am, whatever I happen to be doing. Jogging. Scrubbing the toilet. Trying to sleep. Juggling a pumpkin, a carton of milk, a carton of eggs, and a carton of light bulbs at the grocery store. Beauty might find me squatting in a desolate aisle of analgesics at the pharmacy, wondering what is best for my present  headache, and what the point of poetry really is. They are related questions.

If I were Leonardo da Vinci, say—which I am not, just to be clear—I would draw a special Venn Diagram, illustrating that shady area where art and life intersect. I would call that area Beauty. Because Beauty sees to it that the cellphone reception is always terrible where I am, and that the number (Blocked) is normally wrong. Hence, the headache I mentioned above.

Even so, I always drop whatever I am doing and search for a quiet area—a napkin, a notebook, an Arcadian glade—where, if Beauty has left a message—and the wind is right and my spirits light—iam ver egelidos refert tepores, etc.—I can, theoretically, return the call.


Eric Norris lives in Portland, USA. His poems and reviews have appeared in: The Classical Outlook, E-Verse Radio, Singapore Poetry, Soft Blow,and Assaracus.