Sunday, April 13, 2014


A sort of summer cabaret
Performed by girls in little more
Than skin, just like the dress they wore
When they dropped in. A small hooray
From men with lawnmowers and shears,
Indrawn disdain from proximate wives,
Both lots of whom resume their lives,
Unaugmented by wishful tears.

Not girls in skin, not now, this late.
Good girls go by. Old ladies pass
This way at noon. They touch the grass
With shadow. They are gnarled of gait;
And yet without their clothes, within,
Concealed consent, they carry skin.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

The Weekend Gardener

You mock the flowers I can raise:
A grown man should find better ways
To sow his seed and harvest praise.

Mutual funds look good, and hiking,
Plumbing repairs, and mountain biking--
Hobbies manly and much more striking.

Adam gardened. Cain, who killed.
Onan bore seed, although it spilled.
John Ball revolted. First he tilled.

Let me manure. I fork. I spread.
Like harlotry, in white and red,
I raise commotion from a bed

For private pleasure, amply paid.
In shadow, color: sun and shade
Where Cain worked hard and Abel played.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Second Thoughts

This is a very old poem. It's the title poem from my second collection, which was accepted, once upon a time, by a publisher who went out of business immediately thereafter and was never heard from again. It appeared in Whiskey Island.

If only I had gone to school in Boston,
flown east instead of west. If only I
had studied medicine instead of English,
dressed for the day in tie and stethoscope,
if only I had let myself be drafted
and seen the bodies stacked up at Pleiku,
if only this, if only that, if I
had let that first pregnancy go to term,

today I should be sitting in a room
like this, my head not clear, my hand alert
to what it holds, and I should hear the cardinal
calling the late June morning to observe
that he's already up, and I'd be thinking

if only I had gone to school in Denver,
flown west instead of east, if only I
had been a novelist and not a doctor,
then I should say, hearing the sparrows chirp,

it would be all the same, even if I
had gone to school at Cambridge, learned to say
"shed-ule," and come to like my lager warm,
till, feeling a sudden numbness in my shoulder,
I'd wonder how it would have been if I
had only gone to school in California.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

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.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Geoffrey, P.I.

Just moments ago the kings and princes left;
Priors pleading engagements to buy and sell
Indulgence futures, they commanded peals
And hautboys to blow them off. I drank my beer.
Pale enough, sure, but nobody would mistake
Moi for a prince, me for the high command,
The stuffed lark on my mantel for a hawk.
I ate some pretzels. Somebody's dead duke
Had fucked with the wrong archbishop's piece, employed
A crucifix between his jersey legs.
You shouldn't ought to do that on a nave
Made shiny and kept clean by novices.
I missed my lunch, and nobody seemed sure
If dukes were to be solved or disappeared.
My ex had opted for the latter, left
For some deer park outside St Smithereens,
And me and Buster sifted through the clues
In ashpits, huts, and shabby priories.
I could tell tales, but then I'd have to leave you,
Springtime or not or cherry-staining skies.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The School of Real Estate

My alma mater was crowing yesterday about its "School of Real Estate & Construction Management." (No, really.) For some reason that made me think of Cardinal Newman, who wrote in The Idea of a University, "There is a knowledge which is desirable, though nothing come of it, as being of itself a treasure, and a sufficient remuneration of years of labor" and "Liberal Education makes not the Christian, not the Catholic, but the gentleman. It is well to be a gentlemen, it is well to have a cultivated intellect, a delicate taste, a candid, equitable, dispassionate mind, a noble and courteous bearing in the conduct of life." Is it fair of me to wonder whether the School of Real Estate will produce such graduates?

Just 3 Hours

Just 3 hours till our barbecue,
the sun defers to the hot coals,
the clouds muster in force, degrees fall
like dry leaves in Vallombrosa.
Phone. "Are you cancelling?" Why, no. Phone.
"Are you cancelling?" No. No. Phone.
Yes, maybe I am cancelling. Phone.
Do what you want. The brew's cold now,
and a first skunked neighbor staggers by.
"Death rides a paper cock," he says,
"and he demands a beer, your firstborn beer."
On the shade the crows glide, watching.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

That Old Black Magic

Ants, they may whisper, but they’re hoping for
Something preposterous, something more the size
Of Cincinnati, something which can catch
A mortgage in mid-air and snap its neck.
They may say shadows, even in the dark,
But what they mean are little men with knives,
Carving their names in the venetian blinds,
Altering light. Dressed up they may exude
The confidence of snipers, but they wear
An amulet of frog hair on each wrist,
Boasting that they walked miles to cure DTs.
Under the bed the suitcase is packed, the tag
Tied with a chain cased in a plastic sleeve,
Directing it To Whom It May Concern.