Sunday, December 10, 2006

Something He Probably Should Have Seen

Early Epstein. As I've often noted, it can be difficult to look over work from a long time ago. And a bit confusing. Is it the poems which we outgrew, superseded in skill and command, or is it merely that we've changed--not necessarily improved--so that what interested or impressed us once does so no longer? This seems to me to hold up better than most of what I was writing then. It appeared in the British magazine Seam.

It was all there and then all gone.
There must have been a time at which
he didn't see the warning signs--
the drop in temperature in rooms
he entered or the shabby food,
sentimental occasions they
let slip by or slept through. When he
himself awoke and found the house
empty, the children gone, the dogs
gone too, their snapped chains on the ground,
the weeds knee high, the weather changed,
one of the cars absconded with,
the battery of the other dead,
he figured he had overlooked
something he probably should have seen.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Fade as a Leaf

Nevid and Dan must be desperate: it's been a while--days, maybe--since I've given them a falling-leaves poem.

This time of year my life is leaves,
Trees their own compost. So are we.
They can do this indefinitely.
Like us, I guess, though no oak grieves

At loss of oak. They just make more.
Like us, I guess. If seedlings know
The august stock from which they grow,
They do not say. They have in store

Leaves of their own--great oaks, the sound
Thin and bird-high in autumn wind.
Like us, they fall, and, whether sinned
Or sapling, find the common ground.

Leaves are my life, this time of year,
Knowing there will be more, then more.
It doesn't matter. What they're for
Is why I make them disappear.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Dumb runs wild

The poetry boards I read and where I sometimes post seem to have collapsed in a heap of stupidity, meanness, spite, recrimination, and sheer incompetence, as though everyone simultaneously had said, "I can't take it any more! All this trying to be intelligent and artistic, well read, well mannered, and literate--it's just not me, and I give it up! Let the real me flow!"

And flow it has. It turns out everyone has pretty much hated everyone else all along, and they didn't really like poetry all that much either. Many of them actually seem to resent poems, as though poetry were an imposition on their time and a burden on their attention. With some of them, that comes as a surprise. Others? Not so much.

Monday, September 11, 2006

2 More Epigrams

from The Greek Anthology

I lie here waiting, while this small hole mends.
I lie here waiting. Waiting never ends.

And Then There Fell

No she so fair as his,
alarming in the spring.
So fair, such joy in this,
none needs no other thing,
not he. He had her all.
Then summer changed to fall.
How could it have been so?
And then there fell the snow.

Friday, September 08, 2006

2 Epigrams

     from The Greek Anthology

It must be dirt that keeps me quiet.  Weight
     like this no child should have to bear.
     I cannot move.  They do not care,
Who bore me early and have left me late.


I learned to write these epigrams
from reading J. V. Cunningham’s.
I know that I should be too proud
to witness such a debt aloud,
since he has never showed a sign
of learning much from reading mine.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

And Monsters Underneath the Bed

The prince of darkness keeps a nightlight on,
Casper the friendly ghost, Count Chocula
The sweet undead, or Spiderman the lord
Of flies.  It helps him when the shadows grow
A second head or look like Angela,
So white, her bodice and her breasts are one
Insipid sight.  No princess for the prince
Who keeps his favorite souls in coffee cans
Along with his loose change.  They make a sound
Like pinto beans or minute rice.  He thwarts
His nightmares with the songs of nursery school.
Last time he was in hell, he took a snack—
A juicebox and his favorite fruit, handpicked.
Tonight he can smell ashes on his breath
And hear a jewsharp twanging where his chest
Would be if he were more conventional.
A flashlight underneath the blanket helps,
But not that much, too much to know, too soon.

Monday, August 14, 2006

And So to Bed

     This is a really old poem.   It appeared in the Ball State University Forum.

To dinner we had Paul and Sam, my bosses,
and their young blonded wives (acquired lately,
at no small charge of alimony, losses
of stock and children, both lamented greatly).
The trout was awful—thawed a bit and breaded.
Sam said he knew where corporately we’re headed
(to hell, he thinks).  Paul never says too much.
He drank almost two bottles of my best
French white bordeaux; I thought he looked a touch
green towards the end.  His wife was tightly dressed,
skirt slit to the thigh (which, nudging against mine,
made me uncomfortable, what with the wine).
Michelle wore her blue denim suit, of course.
She looks less like a preppie than a horse
after a couple joints.  I thinks she keeps
me back, of which Paul’s drinking is a sign.
Then, much as always, after all departed,
she starts to strip.  And here the poor tears started
(her fists curl up and shudder when she weeps).
I might have been gentler in what I said.
A final cigarette.  And so to bed.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


The stones evince no brogue, the skyline not
A trace of paddy, taters, or the wee
Dear men in funny shoes and buckled hats.
Vikings, you say? A pyre burns the night,
Which helps me read this ATM. I've no
Experience of euros, and I falter.
Never you mind. A lacerated heart,
A kidney grilled for breakfast: these are good
Solid attractions. Phonics stroll the park,
The poteen in them brewing up a storm;
And maybe help will come from God or Spain,
And Pizza Place, just up the street, delivers.
But not from evil, nor from cheesy bits.
These are the incidents of life and faith
From which we cannot flee, though packaged tours
Offer us, all-included, to new homes,
Good homes like these, which never flinch, stood stone
On stone, until they proffer us the bread
Of Liffey. Maybe then this hole will fill,
The betting shops acknowledge their defeat,
The rain-peeled townhomes open colored doors.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Fragment on a Fragment

This, also from Epigrams, also appeared in Lyric.

So long as men shall live      The broken page
said nothing more.  Although the dust

Monday, July 31, 2006


This, from Epigrams, appeared in Lyric.

Although they only gum the piers,
when they have gummed sufficient years,
the waves will melt the wood away.
The shore was once out in the bay.
Remember when you loved me more
than we had time or language for?

Friday, June 23, 2006

I see I reached

7500 hits this morning. (7311 of them probably were mine.) That's a good morning's work, I expect, for some of the Big & Rich Blogs, so thanks to those of you who read here, regularly or once in a while: your hearts must be as pure as Galahad's, for, Lord knows, there's no fringe benefits here, nothing to tempt you but the poetry itself.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Love. With Textual Apparatus.

When I was young, as yet the apple of
Nobody’s eye but Grandma’s, I awaited
The fabled coming of My Own True Love.
I am no apple now; and I am mated
With me and with the man I have created
[Cf. ll. 1-1.5, above].
Unlikely to be wed and wend together
[Var.: to be wed in such wet weather],
I lead the life which fits—one hand, one glove.
[N.B., as source, The World Well Lost for Love.]

Friday, May 19, 2006

We Thought We Saw

Puddytat tiptoes through the rising mint,
Secretive as a sapper, stalking bees
She does not want.  How fey of her.  Such twee
Impulses we impute.  Perhaps she likes
The same sack Puck smelled.  Maybe she is roused
By stingers in her stomach.  Nothing sweet
Is likely to be true, the clerisy
Informs itself from Deuteronomy
To Darwin.  She is twisting in the sun,
Trying to warm both sides at once and failing
Elegantly, fur laid across the lawn,
A preyer’s shawl, a boa on the grass.
There’s honey in the earth.  And someday more.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Answering the mail

Answering the second most often asked question: Yes, many of them, but mostly in small, obscure places, here and in the UK. Denver Quarterly, Colorado Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Wallace Stevens Journal, Descant, Dekalb, Staple, Orbis, all the way down to places so de minimis that they seem to have been printed to entertain the editor's dogs and cats. Don't worry, though, if you're an editor. Just ask: I have more.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Poets' blogs

tell me more than I want to know. When you first read The Jungle Books, were you dying to know what Kipling ate for breakfast* and what color his socks were? Did your discovery of "The Eve of St Agnes" make you think, "Did Keats take Flintstones Chewables?"?

I don't want to know about blogging poets' medications or their troubles on moving day or how the cat produced her hairball. I don't care if the latest boyfriend, so cool that even his dick is dyed black, finished off the Pantene Pro-Vita. Your mom doesn't understand you. Your daughter doesn't understand you. Your editor, your best friend's girl, your supervisor at the Zoo: none of them understands you. I understand you, and I find the experience disappointing. Write a poem instead.

I don't really get blogs, do I?

*Mr Kipling's Cakes, I expect

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Botanic Gardens

Here's another really old one. It was printed in Plainsongs.

King Louie Bonga-Bonga. The flowers have
names so bizarre you'd never think to smell them,
only to wonder what they're doing here
and who knew how they'd come out of their bulbs
in this planned mix of stripe and sepal, thinking
Rainbow Delight on Thursday from the first.

And none of us knows what he's doing here,
except that the Zoo is crowded and too big
in heat like this. How about the Arboretum,
with fewer bugs and orchids on the air?
That's an idea whose time will never come.
No one can stay inside, where there's a bo
tree, but not a soul in contemplation,
unblasted figs and aloes, but no point.
A garden is outside. In hip-high boots
and a funny hat, a man moves very slowly,
making his own waves, walking through the pond,
pruning beneath the water, plant by plant,
naming the names of lilies as he goes.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Odysseus on the Weekend

I think this is the oldest poem I’ve posted here, though I’ve refurbished it a bit.  I wrote it so long ago—or so it feels—that parts of it make me laugh through unfamiliarity, something that’d never happen if I had really been engaged with it recently.  Anyway, it’s an odd feeling, confronting one’s older work.  It’s been suggested that no poet should revise his earlier work, because a different poet wrote it.  I don’t know if I agree with that, but I understand it.

Odysseus observes a crocus.  When
spring has arrived for real, the phone proclaims
non-stop—minor tars, boat-insurance chums,
the odd surviving monster, half a god
(always the father’s half).  “When can we go?”
“Will you be packing?”  “How’d you like a brawl?”
A card from Nausicaa, who can’t forget.
A card from Sy, who doesn’t want to see
no man this season.   But the goats’ fresh grass
must be refreshed with bone, then power raked.
No one is going looting till that’s done.
A circular from Agamemnon’s girl,
one of them, raising prostate money.  Two
appeals for orphanages from the Wee
Survivors, a non-profit building fund.
He calls his dog Achilles for a walk.
Replacement he, willing, but much too young
to know that spring had other names than this.
Paris is dead this time of year; the kids
bleat across a green and unbloodied field.