Friday, July 20, 2018

Mr. Jarrell's Fairy Tale

Mr Jarrell's fairy tale will begin

With German, where he found Gemütlichkeit
And Heimat, but which makes you think of Stürm
And Kindertotenlieder, not the Nacht
Where wolves leave calling cards, like furry salesmen.

And then come maidens--no, not little girls,
But maidens, singing Schubert, braids and busts:
Like bodyguards, they ripple, and their eyes
Are blue as glass. Their fingers smell of milk.

And next march files of small misshapen men,
Named many things; they all are phallus-shaped
With hoes and picks and axes. They are chanting
Bass songs of conquest over Mutter Earth.
They clear the ground and build transparent coffins.

And here at last comes Goethe. Rise for this
Interminable harbinger of Höch--
High everything, immer and eloquent,
So sound and sane our longhorn cattle flee
Their frontier spreads, the coyotes disavow
All knowledge of their German kin, whilst he--
Randall, not Johann--broiders in the dusk
A tale so full of Old World charm, you think
You'd die, just die, to have the chance to bleed
In märchen woods, watched over by black trees,
A coverlet of ash, made from good Völk
And rosy children, still before their time,
To warm you as you snuggle down to bones.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

With These Beans

With these beans I could plant an empire,

The conqueror of conquerors, the suave
Rapier, the diligent seabee, fat
Alcades, and persnickety CFOs.
I lack downtrodden populace, but those
Are everywhere, a litter at the curb,
Ripe for the patting. Grow No Paving Stones
Will be the motto of my beans. If tanks
Are what I offer, they can chant, You're Welcome
Between siestas and the native pulque,
A cardinal in each town to lead the cheers.

My fighter planes write Phantom on the sky,
While street urchins must reason out the weeds.
Salt beans, they'll grow with tears. A few will do.
A palace and a harp, a grand vizier,
A minstrel and a harem of the few,
The proud, the pink, the hopelessly obliged.
Let them grow pancakes out there in the sticks,
Aged fathers trying to tell the tales
Which make young people strong. They won't regret:
There never was a time to call Before.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018


Across the bay there must be people washing
And cleaning bathroom grout and drinking tea.
There must be pastors painstakingly crushing
Hormonal eloquence; but I can't see
Through all that fog and curvature. Despite
Long reading in patristic poetry,
I'd rather they were stomping on their fate
Than knitting bills and purling dirt. Like me.

Let them smash windows. Let them all eat cake
And fart like camels. Let them swive like heroes.
I've had as much of me as I can take,
The careful serrying of ones and zeros.
Let them dance jigs. Let them curvette and break
Upon their shores like Abelards. And Neros.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Tales Out of School

Happily ever after, says the wolf,
Picking his teeth with Granny’s rib; the Prince
Is thinking he should let the zygal float
Against the oobal, now a muttonchop
Graces the front of his pink currency.

From hard-boiled eggs and crumbly cheese and pears
A girl can make a picnic, but a myth
Requires meat, not osiers; the bird
Who doles elusive clues is never served
Fajita-style. Granny works best for that,
Digesting in her aged, sinewy way,
Her juices turned to lupine sentience
And thigh muscle and slaver. When we grow
Old ourselves and have grandchildren to tell
The soothing psalms of bedtime, we shall lie
And say, The woodsman split the wolf in twain,
And Granny tumbled out and smoothed her dress
And baked a cake and spread the counterpane.
The child will sleep. We too shall check the yard
For prints. And listen for the wolf. Aha.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

This one appeared in the British magazine Candelabrum.

I started a list of what you never saw,
dead before Epsteins lived, dying while yours
wore roundheads, dead a long time, dead so well
your stones look more like sponge. I gave it up.
Who wants a list of cars and compact discs?
Who could explain epinephrine to the dead

and chronically short of breath? Still in their spheres,
the stars were not impeded by your lights;
but lacking National Geographic, you
never pinned up the Horsecrab Nebula.
It says here you’re not lost, but G N B RE.
Someone has trimmed this turf 300 years,

and still it wants to grow. The River Wye
asks no eponymous questions, flows while green
returns to grass, which is the epitaph
other grass grew. That they’d be picturesque
in increments of centuries would make
the dead rise, if they could. I wait. They can’t.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Missouri Shores

Of all my poems, this probably is my favorite. It's not the best--I can see that--it's just the one I like the most. It appeared in Hidden Oak.

Looking out over the land of retired bison,
where Indians haven’t been seen a hundred years,
the farmers shift their chaw and think of changes.
Maybe the tractor threw another rod.
Maybe the banker’s wife had a bad night.

Someday, they say, the sea will reach Missouri.
But they don’t know. They’re tired of alfalfa
and soybeans and corn. They think they’ll sit
up in their lofts on rockers, watching the tides.
It’s all in plate tectonics, is what they say.

Me, I think that grasses and sycamores
are safer to be predicted here than tuna.
Somehow I can’t imagine Mom and Dad
parking their dory in the new garage
or rowing bagels to Grandma every Sunday.

I’d like to see the moon reflected back in spume
over the vanished town of Moberly.
I hear them wish that everything that stales
washes away and grows a coral shell.
I like to dream, but hopefulness has its limits.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Commencement Exercise

The world at once congratulates
You thus and shines your shoes of clay.
If you had thought adults would stay,
Now you were one of them, no way.
They have their fine and private fates.

The mail is waiting for you now,
The bills for what you sort of learned
Come due. The boy next door has turned
Into the B.Sc. he earned.
He is somebody’s coming cow.

Under the spreading money tree
A place is laid, a bowl is set.
Next to a replica Corvette
The wineglass is already wet,
The truth, they said, thrown in for free,

But not quite yet. Maybe next year,
When Milton is a funny name,
Like Shelley, and a sense of shame
Attaches to the rhyming game.
The aging profs are staying here, 

As out of life as buggy whips. 
The cars depart. The swans take wing.
The ugly ducklings stay and sing
A dirge to Intro Everything,
But offer no investment tips.

May you grow stout and just and long
Of patience. May your muscles ache
From all the sanctioned loot you take
Off citizens whose contracts break.
Now disremember every song.

Speak only prose, and cadence that
With small affect. Here comes the sun.
It shines on you, and everyone
Believes your day has just begun.
They know the world, your world, is flat.