Saturday, November 28, 2020

The Disappointing Dead


Shall I tell you about the dead,

Who have no alibis,

Who do not care what’s said,

Bald truth or naked lies,

Who have no sense of loss,

Who do not groan in grief,

Nor grouse beneath their cross,

But won’t confess belief?

See for yourself? No fear

(But you won’t miss your eyes);

And though you disappear,

We shall feel no surprise.

Monday, November 23, 2020

A Babble of Green Fields

County after county,
green field after rain,
land of good and plenty,
filling in the rain--

who knows what the people,
blessed by county airs,
do to keep them simple?
Up the wooden stairs,

they are what they should be,
common-like and poor.
Of the woodlands woody,
moorish of the moor.

We of course admire
simple little lives.
Bless us, if we spare
a glance for graves and wives,

prior to our mansion
flats and massage showers.
Older than our fashion,
these the little hours

and ceremonies lost,
like counties in the rain.
Green fields like a ghost,
passed and passed again.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Wednesday: Theme and Variations

 This first appeared in The Chimaera.


Among these sparrows, frogs, and chickadees,

Finally warmed by sun instead of steam,

Too early for the shift to certainties,

Pentameter to prose, maybe I dream

Of sex and violets. Perhaps I know

What scientists on salary forecast:

This Thursday, patchy fog and early snow.

Their spring comes early, but it does not last

Forever. So I’m told. No season does

Which lies beneath the dirt today. Tomorrow

The violets will be the spring that was.

They lend me verse. Whatever else I borrow,

I offer back, as though I had a choice.

First day of spring, this is my winter voice.


Dr Dee and his chicks, that brood who read

Fire and numbers, every comet signed,

What good are they? Their sun is not a head

Of state. Mere shape lives only in the mind,

In digs where violence dwells, sex of a kind,

Like ringing changes on these lilybells.

He knew his time, he told his time. And then?

I heard the answer. Like the heart, it tells

The count. It told the weather, but not when.

I take my time. It will be small and soon.

He only heard the pitch of notes that men

Are built to hear. I think I heard that tune3

Performing here. The feeder and the grass

Bear the refrain: “A lass, my love, a lass.”


Nobody claims that flowers are untrue

Because they claim their pollen from the wind.

Imagine being proffered that you--

It was the zephyr did it. I’m unskinned,

I’m virgin as a stone.” Of course you are.

The hyacinths immaculately flower.

They took their color from a passing star

While you were sleeping: some ungodly hour

When spring believed that nobody was watching.

Tulips push through. The grass begins to sweat.

Troo-loo the song the songbirds have been hatching:

Tra-la the song they urge us to forget.

Trust is a cycle. If we do the same,

We get it back. And no one knows its name.


A pilgrimage, spring having sprung, we go

The places we go every day, to see

What sun has done to change the world we know:

It starts from scratch, except for me and thee.

We are no what we have been, more and less,

Parts shed, augmented, by and large forgotten.

We can still flower—there is that, God bless--

So fertile we, so much to work with, rotten

Right to the corps. They call these zephyrs. Feel

Commotion in the ground? No? I don’t either.

From this point forward, nothing much is real--

No pilgrims, Aprille, smalle foweles neither.

Spring forward. Fall back. Either way we stand

Right where we are, not sky, not wholly land.

Friday, November 13, 2020



There at the Federal Courthouse they love Shakespeare.

They quote him often, and they quote him wrong.

“The quality of mercy is not stained,”

A PD said. “This kingdom is no horse,”

A prosecutor pled. “In every hamlet

they know the great clich├ęs.” I have an itch

To stand and rectify, but I do not,

Suspecting that the local lockup holds

No friends to friends of bards. The judge looks down,

His lifetime tenure harbored in his gut,

And quotes, “Victims have died. Why, even worms

May have their day and turn. But not for love.”

It’s hard to argue with a thought like that.

I don’t know any worms who disagree.

Monday, November 09, 2020

John Ransom's Garden

Kicking the leaves aside, I find a garden
Waiting, pale and helio-thwarted, seeds
Gone wild, which hasn’t henceforth proved a guerdon
Sufficient to combat saracen weeds.

Oh, till us, quoth they, fork and petty plow
A weaponry that fallen earth believes.
With pail and can they may be good enow.
When weeds are yanked and die, sir, no one grieves.

Unto a flower root and stem aspire,
Which then will seed to make a root a stem.
To probe so low, they needs must hie them higher.
I like the parts best, still unseen of them.

Thus is it often, paladins unknowing,
Consequence witnessed. What inaction forces
Lies, time in earth. O lovely flower showing
Benighted us, the dim tree light immerses.

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Exercise: Patience & the Monument


A choice to be alone is good,

Although you haven't practiced much.
Don't walk. Don't hurt. Don't cook. Don't touch.
Pretend your legs are made of wood,

Pinocchian your heart and head.
Remembering is quite all right,
But try to reach beyond tonight.
Concentrate on your ancient dead--

I don't mean Agamemnon's brood
Or Marshall Ney's aunt's brother's wife.
Someone on whom you bet your life
And lost. Back when the world was lewd

And you in touch. All right. Enough.
Now you can make your mac and cheese
And sing what every little breeze
Whispers. And feel your legs. And stuff.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Tracking the Engineers

Engineers, and they make and drive the train,

Design the clacking parts and with them move

Through unlit fields of soy, past pinhead towns,

Into garages where they draw up specs,

To prove that motion is perpetual,

If expertly believed. They know that rods

Connect the wheels. They’ve seen how the harvest moon

In North Dakota polishes empty track,

Their iPods left at home, loaded with funk,

Earth, Wind & Fire, Little Anthony,

And Mantovani’s Permanent Regret.

A can of Sterno for a souvenir,

A pen so fine you cannot see the point--

No layman can—those they carry around

To dim sum hangouts on the frozen plains.

And when they fade, and when they are defrocked,

They live in rathskellers and rumpus rooms,

Where late at night, baffled by bells and horns,

They learn the trick that makes their whole wash white.