Sunday, December 29, 2013

Life is What You Make It, Innit?

With names like Entropy and Bouillabaisse,
What did you hope of them? They hit the books
Until they bruised their knuckles; they despaired
Of willow, horsehide, pigskin, ping; and pong
Trailed after them like clouds of midges. Good
Boys, strong boys--maybe not Peregrine Fred--
Like freckled trout in dappled streams. They fell
Off the backs of lorries, whence they were rescued
And made to peel graffiti from the wall.
"What do it mean?" they asked each other. "Man
Is born in chains and everywhere tattooed."
No one would tell them, so they pinched the wall
And flogged it for a couple tabs of Spax.
"What do it mean?" they asked about the blue
Atomic cloud, languid above their heads,
Ate each an egg for breakfast, went home, died,
And rose next morning to be done again.

Friday, November 22, 2013

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, November 15, 2013

Modus Vivaldi

This may not be the moment you propose
To change the world, to bring it budding on.
I can't remember anyone who chose
A season: this became the house of sun
Without you. It will fall. These are the days
Of rain and roses. There the clover lies,
Bumbling with bees and ready to be mown;
And if now cut, then what? It will come down

Soon enough. Happens, where the lift of birds
Desperate to get it on, is just the place
For acrobats who do not know the words
To set the songs they sing. They interface
And separate and scold. And when the price
Is to be paid, these are their bids, these bards.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tarnish Town

The potentates are marching from St. Paul,
Wearing the hats they stole from desert kings,
More of them stuffed inside a tiny car
Than Billy has Spaghetti-Os. The nurse
Flaunts her prosthetic sword, says Opioids,
And all fall down. In wheezing lungs, shaved heads,
And intubated families they fail
Of faith. The potentates ride in, clean up
The tarnished town, a sink of billyclubs
And graft, and scrub the spangled bedroom doors--
They manage with panache and housemaid’s knees.
The little children smile and pack their bags
And hide under the porch until the bus,
The friendly yellow bus with plastic seats,
Opens its doors and swears it is today.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Fathers & Daughters

1
In Evelyn's father's den the stereo
plays black and white and nothing in between
(we borrowed it from him): Motown, James Brown;
the Beatles. We are trying integration.
The ways I'm pushing for aren't going to happen.
When we accomplish those, we both shall be
in long-off states--the Show-Me State does not
show me. It only hints what I am missing.

2
What I am missing, I am missing still.
Sam & Dave advise me yet. "Hold on,"
they caution, from a parsec or some such.
"I'm coming," they are boasting; and I am,
though where I'm coming from, because of whom,
they are too far away, one dead, to know.

3
One dead, to know which romance was a gift
I couldn't take and wouldn't understand.
Her dad was decent, tethering upstairs,
trusting the daughter, not the male, I'd guess.
A daughter is a difficult bequest
to let devolve upon a world of wanters,
x-rated chromosomers, who can synch
Temptin' Temptations, though at shower time.

4
At shower time we give our gifts away
to classmates' daughters' daughters. Earnestly,
we try not to remember what we were
when we had someone's daughter in our hands.
Our hands have shaped affairs since then. They rock

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Laird and His Manner

The word is out that Laird is back in town,
Or maybe not-—he doesn’t advertise.
Cagey as always, full of little bits
Of wisdom-lit and recipes and still
A handsome highwayman, he’s double belted
With bullets, bone-knobbed pliers, and a compass.
He sings too loudly, talks too loudly, eats
Peculiar combinations. He won’t lodge
With those who need him; he won’t go away,
Not before night. Or autumn. He makes rules
As need requires. Once he wouldn't budge
Until the last pin-oak leaf had detached.
One of us climbed the tree and shook it down,
Unable to face any more of Laird.

Tonight we wait for resurrection men.
We’re told the sod will open in the park,
And frontier mamas, babies dead of croup,
And gambling dudes in rotted vests will rise.
There are agnostics, certainly, but Laird,
He has his ways. Leastways, he keeps things warm.

Even the trees have changed since these were laid
In certainty of dark and dank. I shall
Fulfill some promise, Laird says, or I’ll bear
Witness to unfulfillment. There are new
Stones since then, most likely trucked in from Creede.
Do you believe in Everlasting Life?
He asks me. I do not. What I believe
Has not changed much since I was 17,
When I first said that absence was a gift.

There is no sound, except the trucks that leave.
The park is closed. The turf lies still. And Laird
Is nowhere you can find. He’s been and gone,
The cartilage of stories. What a waste,
The scent of pine borne past us on the breeze.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Classical Gas

Diana does not care to know
What makes an apple blossom grow
As long as apples still are sweet
And she has more than one to eat.

Adonis does not mean to learn
What makes Diana blaze and burn.
She looks at him as though he were
An apple peeled, and just for her.

They are, they vow, as they were meant,
As satisfied as ignorant.
Their teeth are good, their fruit is firm.
Whence comes the rot, who made the worm,

And why Adonis looks when he
Sees peaches on Niobe's tree,
They mustn't ask, not till the day
Their frightened fences run away,

Until their blood runs dry, and sun
Does not shine down on everyone.
They haven't that much time to kill,
They say. But, oh, they will. They will.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Mannering

Rain penetrates. You wouldn’t think
a solid shell would fail its past.
Back when they built a house to last,
the generations, link by link,

seasoned the walls with soot and steel.
The rats have come. Thick as a brick,
the door performed its only trick.
Now there is nothing left to feel,

no ambience but topless stairs.
The leaves pile up. Sir Morris Grouse,
beneath a stuffed and fraying mouse,
forgets the lineage he shares

with Puddleman and Bundderlice.
Mildew has come. Port circulates,
sinister towards the broken plates—
blood pudding, kidneys, sheepshead twice

baked. There once was a chandelier.
The rooftree sings. A missing pane,
inscribed in diamond, brags in vain,
The Men Who May inhabit here.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Eppur Si Muove

My fellow Americans, I come rehearsed
with lies. I have prepared a tableful
of whoppers for you; if they are consumed,
the presents of your enemies are yours.

Knowledge is numbing. No one talks about
the right and muscle of the full deception.
I bring you what-you-will: turn it around,
read it upside down. It still will be true.

I've decorated it with cloth rosettes.
I've loaded every rift with anecdotes
for which there is no cure. I'll make you sick
with longing never to be undeceived.

The earth is round. The earth is flat. It swings,
it jitterbugs beneath a smoky heaven.
The angels shimmy to be heard at last.
God is because we say so, and he moves

funky, but we are sutured to the spot
provided, swaying, cervically up.
The world is waltzing very, very slowly:
we are because we say so, but we move.

Monday, September 02, 2013

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.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

2 great losses

Dear Readers, if there are any,

Go read a couple novels by Elmore Leonard and some poems by John Hollander. 2 great losses.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Pluvial Morphology

Someone has painted letters on the walk.
The rain invents a ouija board. It points
LQK ATT, precatory and sibylline,
But soon effaced in promiscuity.
The walk now stands for everything at once,
Like dreams and abstract artifice. The rain,
It raineth only some days here, a treat
Of dissolution. Carry me away,
Its strain, its burden. We must quite forget
We all go somewhere: somewhere in the sea
O REASON NOT THE NEED is spelled in kelp.
The silt holds every sound that can be said.

Friday, August 09, 2013

At Canterbury Gate

Beside the Canterbury Gate
Starbucks offers up caffeine
To pardoners and well-bathed wives
And those who've flown from other lives,
Guilt and pottage on a plate,
To worship where a Lord has been.

My host explains that caramel
And latte make a lovely pair.
And an anti-oxidizing scone
Will help me keep on keeping on.
He patters his tale very well,
Better than Mr Clark can bear:

“My, aren't we posh. Those charabancs
Of spivs and chavs just bought a ton
Of stuff they never read nor will.
So put you sweetener in their swill—
The inhumanity of gangs—
And offer them a Cinnabon.”

He’d smoke, but it is not allowed.
He’d drink, but it is half past eight.
His sallow fingers touch his nose
And Geoff’s his uncle when he goes
To worship in a bumptious crowd
The spivs and chavs who died in state.

The same stone that his father walked
Bears his weight now. The changing chimes
Tell the same time his father heard,
A very parfait gentle bird.
He talks the talk Old Adam talked,
Grimm’s Law excepted, crops and crimes.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Where Am I? Or Better, Where Am I At?

After reviewing the information Blogger shows me about who reads here and how they find their way, I have concluded that most visitors come here by accident, thinking it's somewhere else, or because they clicked on Next Blog, or because they're robots seeking ... what? World domination? A lubricating experience? Exploitation of the commercial potential of those who read unpublished poems by obscure poets?

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Genre Friction

Latex, the private dick opined, but whether
he’d noticed wall paint or the lissome pants
which clung to her like wall paint, I don’t know.
When he said Dames, I guess he didn’t mean
a thespianette once sanctioned with a gong;
but, really, only every second line
he uttered, like a water-damaged page,
registered. He was grousing about hollow
points. Perhaps Quintilian had reentered
his recollection. Sometimes from a dark
outcrop of fiction odd things clamber up,
with strappy shoes, peroxide hair, and net
shielding the violet eyes. Probably not
Quintilian, though. Psyche with a quirk,
trysting the night away, seems far more likely.
He offered rye. Who now drinks rye? The flask
restored him for an exit, nothing more,
and soon the transom, last light left, went black.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Motley Carew

This appeared in Iambs & Trochees.


As far as I know, no one knows,
When August leaves, and leaves the rose,
When leaves turn pale and fall, and fall
Replaces flesh with down, and all
Your fallen friends are raked away,
Who's going to go and who to stay.

Ask me to find where fall bestows,
Week after week, la vie en rose:
Where sun is weak and hope is faint
And even dawn would chill a saint,
It's sacked and set aside and waits,
Before cold comes, till cold abates.

Generations are each the same.
They sport; they sun; they look to blame,
On frosted fence, the smitten vine.
It will be their tale. Now a mine
Is set of seeds: without a sound,
It plots resistance underground.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dead Grandpa Shops at Wal-Mart at 4 a.m.

Nail clippers, maybe, no more aftershave.
No shiny trainers, sextet of latte cups.
A groundcloth sounds quite nice, and wind-up toys
To fill the void with clackety-clacks and beeps;
But who to wind them up? The waitress said--
Next plot but one--Here, let me freshen that.
Disarming, but without real consequence.
Clean underwear, in case of accident,
Would please The Inner Mom, but accidents
Happen to others now, and he has leaked
And spilled his substance on Aisle 17.
His sepsis seeps away, and all his toys.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Lonesome Dove

The Lord of Hosts, less likely than he was,
Has trouble transubstantiating. Age
Diminishes the organs, ties a knot
Where ichor should run freely. There is smoke,
As much as censers will allow, but lungs
Plead less than full capacity. He wants
To walk with Abraham through burnished fields
And play at 4-square in a grove of figs.

When he told Zeus, Get out of town by dark,
This cosmos isn’t big enough for both
Us top dogs, when the 3:10 came on time
And brought the new girls in from Port Royal,
He wore his star with flair, the streets kept clean,
The inns full up, the livery swept free
Of dead wood, and the drinks were on the house
Each holiday. What if Apollo now

Came back with Clantons, Saracens, and Popes?
Boot Hill is full enough. Each rock has served
The faithful for a pillow. Though he knows
The sleep number of every broken back,
He must draw faster if he is to keep
Trying the souls as numberless as stars.
His feet hurt, and his beard is patchier.
He’ll make more girls tonight, perhaps at Belle’s.

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Books of the Dead

for Stuart James

Jesus, Stuart, look
What we have come to, thick
And tired, brought to book,
Brought to ground, and sick
With authors. I had read
Every single one—
Recited them in bed
And taught them to my son.
Now they look away.
It’s just as they had said,
They never meant to stay.
Jesus, they’re all dead.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Girl in Blue Leathers

O great, God, promise more, deliver less.
Sunrise, cool. Snow on the car-snarled commute,
gnarly. But the death of soi-distant stars
rippling the love affairs of unmade species?
Non-phat. The power of a lightning zot,
scrambling the synapses of nuts and gel,
raising the dead a dollar, and then calling
the bluff the fish made, walking home for tea,
what kind of dude does that? I heard a wife,
flipping her hair as though she were unwed,
telling her husband he did best when he
did as instructed. He was praising Jesus
for having built the girl in the blue leathers,
knocking back Stolis, smoking Kools, and swaying.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Best way somebody got here today

By searching for "a poem for my mom about a fern." And by the way, one of the largest sources of traffic for this blog is something called "filmhill." What is that?

Monday, April 01, 2013

Rising Expectations

Given some rope, they've torn the statues down
To piss on legendary heads, the groins
Bedecked in amaryllis and ablaze.
(Who would have guessed that amaryllis burns,
And colorfully?) The shoppers fill their carts
With freebies. (Who'd have guessed they wanted phones
Far more than sandwiches?) The songs they sing
Are short on lyric wordplay, long on scat.
We made no plans to emigrate, but have
Our havens in the hinterlands, where treats
Are plastic shoes on Sundays, where delight
Is puddings made of pigs and doughty men
Pray to the forest just because it's there.
(Who knew that gods had green cards or that wolves
Wanted our wives for bon-bons in the smoke?)

Friday, March 08, 2013

Song

When thin recruits come pushing up
    And sun spreads through the soil
And puddles in the footprints gleam
   And shake like hopkins-foil
And dreams of leaving lift the hands
   Of boys with homespun hope,
Then boundless scope and fluid shape
   Of green and possible escape
   Make the blossoms boil;

And color is the consequence,
   The road a second sky.
The tethered and the tedious,
   Exasperated by
Their dun and tan and beige and sand,
   Begin to feel obscurely hurt.
   Spring thrives by root and dirt.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

The Melting Pit

The population colors history.
I have to know so much to know them all--
The blight rights, the Ugh & How, the 3-ball-
And-guilt-trip chain. Uhuru on the bridge,
Open as sin her hailing frequency.
The nuts who fire dumdums from the ridge.

A man told me all skeletons were white.
He whispered it, tequila-style. It proved
That God uncolored whom He truly loved.
His Son, he said, was white down to the bone.
All coal, I said, is black and only white
Dead. Pure, he murmured. All alone, alone.

God gave Noah the rainbow sign. For Sale
By Owner, said the sign. His light was frail.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Against the Wall

All that remains, the beasts having declined,
Is chum and chow, the wrinkles on one's feet
Smoothed by contraction, the lively little girls
Gone blonde from red, then white from blonde, at last
Telling lies of yore and splendiferous
Kindergarten snacks. It was a bad time.
We ate our ration cards. We had for sex
A kind of contempt. I saw a skeleton
Banging another up against the wall
And was not tempted. When our hetman sought
My vote for alderman, I told him, Once
I rode a horse across an undulate
And singing field, which he wrote down as Yes.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Poet's Biography

Q: What is a poet's biography for?

A: It motivates the poet.

Q: No, I mean for readers. Why do they read poets' biographies?

A: To satisfy their prurient curiosity.

Q: But you read them.

A: I also eat Chili Cheese Fritos. I know they're not good for me, but I do it anyway.

Q: Dr Johnson said that the biographical part of literature was the part he loved most.

A: Then he burned his letters and his autobiographical account of his early life.
"Biographies of writers are always superfluous and usually in bad taste," said Auden, who read and reviewed them with gusto. It may surprise you to hear this, but people are complicated and not always consistent.

Q: So how do you feel about the prospect of your own biography?

A: I fear it to about the same degree as I fear hitting my head on the rim while dunking a basketball. I'm more worried about next month's utility bill. That's going to arrive, irrespective of my opinions.