Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Maltese Sonnet

This appeared in Lyric.


Having the frail, the dingus, and the gat,
My standfast scruples and a flask of rye,
I set her up, then I sat down and grat
Like any bairn. I spit in my partner's eye
And took a beating for him. I could draw
Honor from any gunsel gave the lie
Direct. A fat man and a slippery dame
Are markers on the pawnshop of the law.
A man should be remembered for his name;
And yet I drank to think of her forbye.

A character I am. I take no fall.
In black and white down these green streets I pass,
Errant and nicely suited. If you call,
Angel, I'll say you made a bonnie lass.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Orpheus Condescending

Obstacles notwithstanding, I

Have brought back home Eurydice.
She sleeps too much and likes to wear
Aloe vera in her hair,
Cartoon t-shirts, flip-flops. Dis
Does not prepare dead hearts for this
Welter of chores. Feel here. Touch that.
Phantasmagoria’s where she’s at,
A little vague, a little faint.
Death sneezed and then returned a saint.
Restored to life, she feels the lack,
And hides her hands behind her back.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

How Many Going to St Ives?

I left my Muse behind, by accident,

In Fountain, where the air smelled like a sheep
Had sold his birthright for a mess of wool.
Retraced my steps, I did, but someone else
Had knocked her off her pins, her legs a sore
Temptation to a certain sort of man,
And she went with, the trollop, keen to be
A siren singing and a whistle blown.
I am reduced. My songs sounds like the sea
Might sound in Fountain, where the land denies
There is a sea, where shepherds say that guy
Lashed to the mast heard what there never was,
A song in silence, hoping he would win
Her heart, who never had a head for love.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Apollo in a Bowler

Maybe he rolls 297. Maybe

He knows perfection is for men. He breaks
A branch off Daphne, drops it in a pond,
Dammed if he does. He leaves his tie askew
And burns Morocco on the morning drive.
Champagne explodes because he smiles, but she
Is rotting from the inside, laurel leaves
Losing their lustre, borne on Boreas,
One landing on his hat, as though it were
A ribbon for a boulevardier, a trophy
Won at a county fair from mortal rubes.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Doing Oxford

And if we do not know of what we speak,
that is not an impediment: the place
looks wise enough to make us wise.  All souls
turn towards knowledge like a plant to light,
so in the books which have beset this place
must be enough of all we need to know
to make us dons and fellows, odd and solemn.
We need subscribe to none of thirty-nine.
We need not trust to bachelorhood.  The names
are only metaphors: we shan't repent
of what we were, yet still be what we want.
Magdalene is the chapel, not the college.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Homage to a Master

Seventy years of exercise
in prosody and discipline.
A dollar and a quarter buys
Selected Poems, which within
are two lyrics he wrote, we know,
in baffled ignorance and delight,
more than forty years ago
and both in the same night.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Among School Children

I was invited here to speak
About the labyrinth of art,
The darkest places right in here
(I tapped my fist upon my heart),
The places where the adverbs seek
The mortises which disappear.

I haven’t got a thing to say.
(They didn’t look a bit surprised.)
All I can do is write and read
And keep my heartbreak supervised.
That lights, but can’t provide, a way
To where the joists and tendons bleed.

Monks are men as incomplete
As soldiers, chaste of blood or soul.
How long must half a world compete
With half a world? How long the toll
Of promise must deception meet?
We are dying to be whole.


Questions? (But they were all asleep,
Each head upon a floppy stem.)
Someone? You in the back, perhaps.
(But I was not disturbing them.)
I was that public man who’d keep
Impinging on their private naps,

Dreams of the Dairy Queen, the Slut
Of Winter Park or Hollywood.
Dreams of the Motorcycle Man,
With 6-pack abs, and far too good
For others. Every eye had shut.
I say, The heart’s an empty can,

Drained of a dram and pissed upon.
(Somebody heard one word I said
And tittered.) I’ll be going soon.
When all of you are good and dead,
Be grateful for a Denver dawn,
And praise the stars which ring the moon.

Later the secretary sent
A thank-you note they each had signed
(Though printed with the class PC).
Ensconced in my establishment,
I was embarked on sonnetry,
And books brought other books to mind,

And other books. I had not told
The class about the unblent yolk
Or dancing trees. I had not said
That art was not like growing old,
And no one ever got the joke,
And I too late, and likely dead.

Fair play it was, and just as well.
Brave lads who never shed a tear
And girls repining for a glance,
They speak in tongues I cannot hear
The lessons they were made to tell.
I write when I have half a chance.