Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Babble of Green Fields

County after county,
green field after green,
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.

Monday, December 22, 2014

I Am A Poem By Armand Crumple

I Am A Poem By Armand Crumple
Is the name of a poem
by Armand Crumple.
I’m Armand Crumple.

Although I have a poet’s heart,
I am not a work of art.
You read my words. I come apart.
I, Crumple.

It’s easy to confuse the two.
I, Armand, do the things I do,
and some of them I write to you,
like this one.

And where I start and where I end,
though I pretend that I pretend,
I know I mean. Since light can bend
or crumple,

the things I mean, I mean to know,
and you can touch the parts I show—
bleak and barren, bare and blue;
exhibiting itself for you,
I am a poem
by Armand Crumple.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Little Elijah Dance


This appeared in Chimaera.


Little Elijah cannot find his pants.
Do you suppose this will forestall the dance
Great joy requires? Not the slightest chance.

He drags his feet through mud. He shakes his head.
He beats his little fists until they’ve bled
Upon the yard he slowly colors red.

The sparrows flee. The boxer pup retreats.
The crows applaud, guffawing from their seats,
As though instructed by his infant feats.

His mother is embarrassed and his pa
Humiliated by the breach of law.
Such misplaced gametes might occlude his craw,

Were he not drunk and god-fearing. This child,
The funk of bees and puddles make a wild
Embouchure: and he blows as though defiled

By thoughts of nap or spinach. But he’s not.
Little Elijah does not feel so hot,
And soon the crows pick up what he forgot.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Manifest Destiny

So difficult, the stones keep changing sides,
And the path gets lost, ambitious, but confused.
Like immigrants in flannel shirts. In Texas.
Once knowing where it was, it was The Way
To Grandma’s House or Candyland or Memphis,
A Middle Kingdom where the blues were born.
It took them to the library; it led
A dick to be a mayor, sometimes birds
In talking trees; and it was Far from Home.
Now, it declares for tessellated mud.


Around each other, kids in pjs, dark
Where light should be, all damp instead of cocoa.
They miss their path. They were supposed to be
Mapquested to a city on the hill,
Where brioche stands and wiener carts and sweet
Ravioli salesmen advertised life.
This is more like the Chiller Double Thriller,
Without the ads for English, She Is Simple.
This is a nightlight, cold, with extra teeth.
Not every little boy can be a prince.
Not every waitress wants to marry up.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Exterminator 20:2

The rodents in the wainscoting
Are singing: Praise to God on high,
By which they mean--I've no idea.
The cat, perhaps, the Man of Pie

And Edam. Or a giant mouse
Who takes no shit and never begs,
His tail contorted by a trap
And dying from his broken legs.

A little song, a little dance,
A little seltzer in the pants:
Not for the pious mice who keep
An eye on life and death. The chance

To be a better mouse is not
High on To-Do. They settle for
An Oysterette, some sour rye.
Their god and appetite are more

Than any mouse can bear. They go
Gently, and they do not return.
Some life, some death, some little guys
For owls to eat. They never learn.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Petronius Arbiter

A blackboard in his living room, a black
Thesaurus on a little, dirty rug,
And he asleep, a Laz-Y-Boy reclined,
Declined, perhaps, as so so many more--
Busts and the battered stragglers of the 10th
Battalion in the wood above Saint-Just,
Horns and the heads who used to wear them out,
Nuns and rabbinic doctors with a plague
Of middlesex intelligence: declined.
Baseball season upon him, though, he stirs,
Changes the channel, sits up straight, and prays
That umpires will be pure, dispassionate,
And equal to the call, the sons of men
Watched by their daughters, much less than they were.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Tales from Sycorax's Wood

Once split, twice shy, the tree
Will not disclose the plight
Of those condemned to be
Embedded out of sight.

They never speak of her.
Whatever once occurred
To make a prisoner,
No one will say a word.

Only the bark is warm,
In places bark is not,
And when lush Carpo’s storm
Shakes the wood, the lot

Of trees exempts such places,
No motion and no sound,
No sense of human faces,
Except the wetted ground.

Friday, November 14, 2014

After the Assumption

This appeared in Ship of Fools. I think of it as my Huck and Tom's Funeral poem.

When I assume the godhead, and the Church
Of Me convenes in outlets nationwide,
I shall expect to find your name. One day,
When your town comes up Now Appearing Here!
On My itinerary, I shall look
Down from my My eyrie, noting if you wear
A deferential cloche or picturebook
Chapeau; I shall observe your hemline, check
Whether the exposed thighs suggest a feigned
Passion for kneeling and a lure to stop
Your neighbor's vagrant eye. You'll bob your head,
But will you praise Me? Even as I drive
To heartland towns and franchisees who camp
On plains the wind godfathered, as I drop in
On rustbelt exiles flattering the days
They ordered sausage in their native tongues,
I shall reflect. What shall I think of you,
Singing with lips you kept all to yourself,
Who came to worship what you cast away?

Monday, November 10, 2014

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.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

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.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

The Sparrows' Fall

from These Denver Odes


At this week's yard sale
sparrows swap husks and hulls,
dry, but not amusing,
and they soon move on.

Next door's seed is new,
the last word in millet.
They beat each other up,
first doing no harm.

They will return. Ice
will dam their best bedrooms;
the cold will not comfort
their minuscule down:

and I'll fill their bath
regularly with hot
water, regularly
frozen in seconds.

A hard little life,
sparrows'. Precarious
hearts, what can they recall?
Listen how they sing.

Dumb little bastards.
Dry seed, cold empty beds,
taut untutored lifelines.
Listen to them sing.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Dead Grandpa Chats Up Hosea's Wife in Heaven

I haven't posted any Dead Grandpa poems in a while, and I know you all are feeling the omission.


Sabbath in Heaven. Again. Unlike Old Nick,
Grandpa may not walk up and down the earth,
smelling a harvest ergot has betrayed
or breathing the salt spray off an inland street.
He look for Hosea's wife for old time's sake.

"'Harlot,' I hate. Kings James's idea. A strumpet
Is what I was. You'd never know it now,
all sackcloth bustier and Eau d'Ash. No, I wasn't
no Pen-e-lope, stuck in the Spindle room,
fending off suitors for a minor profit."

Under the Tree of Life Old Nick unwinds,
his coils gone drab by sinful repetition.
Vice palls, as Virtue, novelty the need
of fallen natures. God says, "Nihilo,"
when asked, "What's new?" He took you back, says Gramps.

Hosea's wife is sure that she was wronged,
round heels in a square bed. It isn't fair.
"I know," she says. "I'd show you what I know,
but will has been redeemed and cannot form
the wish to sell you half-and-half." "I wish,"
says Grandpa. Old Nick, thinking fruit, recalls
how badly people do theology.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Memorial Park

Many have risen. Not all oaks
are nymphs converted. Other folks,
their bite exhausted, left with bark,
arose again, to point a park:
not as a plant, but through a bole,
not as they were, yet as a whole.

They bear their branches. Who believes
that green is all there is to leaves,
both food and feeder? In their arms
they cloud first, then support the swarms
who fancy live apartments. Birds
pay their respects, in other words.

They die, and some are seen again.
Some fall in cords, and some in pain.
These find no end, no fine full stop.
Dead at the root, dead from the top,
bent double as in desolation,
somehow some last. Some consolation.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Kindergarten In Hell

That's the mess. When the brass bell rings,
You find a seat. There's prayers and things,
And then you eat. It tastes like crap.
And then there's prayers. And then you nap.
And then comes story time. You hear
Isaac and Ishmael. The mere
Mention of Lucifer gets you spanked.
You do some chores, for which you're thanked
In homilies--Elisha's bears,
Perhaps. Confession. And then prayers.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

U Before I

To you a letter. How about q,
Always followed by u, as I
Follow the mark for hay and Hensa?

Too oblique, I know. I know it
Follows, no p to o, but where
We all align, in tidied rows,
Where there are diphthongs we can share,

On monuments a line or less.
O, I say, O. But no one gapes.
They keep, instead, their final shapes.

12 lines. Or several hundred more.
And never again what came before.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Plots and Sods

Older than all of us, they say,
The little blades of grass. They'll wait.
Concrete may spall and roots expand
And fire hydrants blow away.
Smaller wins out. And ain't it great,
They say, that they are quite unmanned

By frost and promises? They brown.
Or they're lopped off, sometimes refaced
By maisonettes, by diamond shops,
And yet they farm. They go to town.
They have seen cenotaphs replaced
By plots and sods. Time never stops.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Where Autumn Succeeds

Alder by day, by night the sort of wood
Rubs up against the awning in your sleep,
Good for nothing, except to take up space
Otherwise occupied by fungal gnomes
And fey minutiae sharing golden worms,
It has its dignity. Comets announce
A change of almanacs, a column more
For bloggers who keep track. While children sleep,
Meteors fall on empty fields, supplant
The local germs and breed a race of clear
Benign progenitors of etiquette.
This drops a couple leaves and calls it quits.

The genealogy of accidents
Is difficult: we trace a tangled tree
Back past a pleasant baron, out for larks,
Who never gave a by-blow any name,
And what do we know, who only wedlock know?
The leaf exchanges its petiole for dirt
And is what fed its fruit, itself its self.
Meanwhile, the awning, all percussionist,
Sends a princess her pizzicato dreams
Of ponies, pirates, chaste droits du seigneur,
Exploding firebirds, and the unborn.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

October Roses

It’s cold at night, or didn’t you know
This isn’t when the roses grow?
Under the hawthorns, in the shade,
The birds have gone, but you have stayed,
Underdesigned for taking flight.
Color cannot put all things right.
And now it snows, at which the frost
Declares that delicacy is lost.
And still you bloom, and for today
Keep ice and emptiness away.
So Keats, who failed, and failed in youth,
Let Beauty claim that it was Truth.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Archival Studies

The cherubs in the margins smile and wink,
All rosy incunabula; the winds
Blow puffy cheeked from four directions, there
To warn you off the edge, whence you could slip
Into oblivion, no name, no scribe.

One of the i-dots seems a smiley face.
Nature is natural and carries on,
Despite instruction. “Conjunx” is misspelled
And might mean anything, though nothing good.
The ink is mixed with blood. By DNA

We know he was related to a Name
Still snippety by Domesday Book. Some fee
Installed him here. It wasn’t all the smarts
He evidenced: one comment we translate,
CALL GWENTY FOR A GOOD TIME. Great. Woo-woo.

Over the page the scent of sanctity
Still hovers. Must be subject-matter, all
Those humble dragons, saintly beasts with scales
Who found no virgin wanting. It is not
The ideal cursive hand. Those drips. That smudge.

Survival comes in packages too strange
To be secure. So say the sheep who died
For the appointment faintly on the verge.
A lunch, perhaps, or matins. By strong light
We can discern that something lies beneath.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Sonnet

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.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Goön Folk

Their pilgrimage began before the light,
Before the squabbles of the little birds
Pilgrims forswore. And they were going where?
To where the road concluded. Since this was
Their latter days, that just might mean the sea,
The culmination, surely, of strange strands,
Pounding a plainsong once, twice, dot, dot, dot.
They’d rather it would end against a wall
Invisible to those of little faith,
Studded with jasper, joined without a joint,
And crowned with fire or with Dagon’s roc
In chains, something spectacular, without
Curios at the exit, something none
Knew substantives sufficient for. They brought
A change of shirt, a charger for the phone,
And water double-filtered to remove
Impurities. They sang car tunes without
The words, not all the words. They thought they’d left
The word behind, the first rest stop enclosed
By plastic fence. The map said, You Aren’t There.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Dead on Arrival

The number of the dead in Pasadena
Exceeds the grasp of man. Who would believe
You couldn't fit another body in
Another hole, the green so green, a sponge
Extended to its fullest? And the dead
Continued to arrive. From Ypsilanti,
Louisa, Chillicothe, and Gig Harbor,
The dead, the poor, the affluent, the dead
Came rolling in like breakers, but the shore
Declined their cold attentions. Thank you, no,
The living said, and didn't say much more,
The declinations, courteous, ignored.
So many, light, and losing heft, their last
Ride a return. Where was that ticket home?

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Girl in the Red Honda

Knights fell a lot. And there they lay,
Lumps on the grass or in the mud,
Their armor like a suit of clay,
Rescuing maidens, giving blood.
The dragons chuckled, and the maidens
Planted cherries in their gardens.

Cherries ripe, but very wrong
For knights encased. Whenas they ride,
They sing, but every note of song
Is lost to echoes deep inside.
The ladies listen, if they can
Desist from planting pits for man.

We leave our dragons in their caves.
We watch the maidens drive away.
The knight are cool, but agile thieves
Thrive in the distance. Dawns the day,
And knights are bold and old and gone,
Cherries ripe in the subtle dawn.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Casual Labor

Later they claimed they hadn't known the truth.
It might have been a train, a didgeridoo,
A kid bleating across a bottleneck,
And not a woman trying to break free.
Gods are capricious. When he let her go,
He hollered Boo! and farmers in their fields
Puckered up tight and drew their flocks in close.
The woman cried herself into a daze,
Humming and shaking, giving prescient birth
In 24 hours to a superstar
Who grew to his full self in a couple weeks,
Released the hounds, throttled a blatant beast,
Then took to the road, a casual laborer,
Beating up bachelors, just for fun, at night.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Regime Change

Grandmothers throw themselves into the street,
Caterwauling, burning their ancient caches
Of diaries and grosgrain lingerie.
No more to hope for, now that loss has come,
Unpacked in the great room, fixed itself a snack,
And cut the landline. Tell the tailor no:
Alteration belongs to yesterday.

The authorized watchers do not want to watch.
Where younger pain explodes, this just hangs on,
Nor all that long. The actuarials
Identify themselves and confiscate
Running shoes of the stationary kind,
The keening widows and the flattened fraus
Not vigorous enough for knitted sleeves.

The grandmothers grow smaller, they retreat,
Much larger women on their wedding days.
Their children now have dewlaps. Here come vans
As big as percherons. The women grip
Their sorrow and will not be dragged away.
By morning they will be a little field
Of husk and hull, a compost now assoiled.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Our Little Furry Monsters

Well, yes, there could be little furry monsters
In local garbage cans. They might be trying
Cumbersome alphabets with broken twigs.
They could be adding 1 plus none plus none.
Primary colors, cunning speech defects,
And shaggy. You would think that they would stink--
Eggshells and tea leaves, vacuum cleaner bags
Filled with hair, dust, grit, gravel, ash, and pebbles.
Leaves, butts, dead flowers, Kleenex wads, and shredded
Stuff. Stuff is the word, the bland adhesive
Which binds us bone to bone, passionate motes,
A minyan for a landfill. Where was I?
Ah, yes, the monster with its glass of milk
And cookie, with endearing mustache crumbs,
Though where the mustache ends and cheek begins
Is mere surmise. He has no bottom half.
Bones, hair, teeth, dolls, eyeglasses, wedding rings.
You wonder that there are so many monsters.
"Mingle," their mothers told them. "Go on, blend."
Monsters among us. Who'd have ever guessed.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

They Flee from Me

And the small birds flee. Me, I lurch
Down the brick path, as though the fence
Were a destination, low church
Of last resort. Sing in past tense,
I warn the high birds on high branches.
They can feel light. I can feel dense
Bricks and palings, boundary chances
To stand firm. And the small birds sing
Inexplicably. See, they search
For song, they say, in everything.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Move along, please. No vampires here.

I hope "The Strain" is a massive failure, no matter how well done it is. I have no animus towards anyone involved, but I'd like to see the whole vampiric enterprise die for at least a generation. Obviously it plucks some sympathetic chord and endlessly fascinates millions; but between the Twilight utes and those walking dead chaps, I'm quite drained. Why are vampires so popular? Why now? It can't all be a metaphor for hedge fund managers.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

What, This City Park?

Potpourri printed this one.

Here is God’s plenty
--Dryden

I watch the garden mythologically,
predator swans beneath the victim trees
whose limbs still twist, the Zoo a generation
of sweat transforming semen. It may be
the tail of the tapir holds statistical
significance, as flexible as a god.

Look at the fountain, all carved heads and mouths
smiling in blindness, O-O’d in stone terror,
or blank, as though anomie were their defense.
The flowers soil themselves with seed: they once
cried to be changed, and now they are, they are.
The coral snake remembers better days

when he swam double-breasted in a rain
of terror. There are peacocks in my path.
Two antelopes who can’t elope because
Jove pinned them in begetting to the sand
until they begged in heat for hooves, they made
story. A bullfinch twitters. From my first

fable up to the present, who has been
transformed by hormones, given plumes, and sent
to brood odd young in armor? Who’s been paid
for charm in stars? Who started school but came
back home a tale of fantasy in feet
some free verse mortal thought too cute to count?

Friday, July 04, 2014

The Desuetude of Mr James

Wry Mr James commits enormities
Of style with style. This late in life he knows
Embonpoint is a structural device,
The close that makes the man--his buttons need
Jumbo's dexterity to finish off.
He calls his flowers flowers: that's enough
For floribundant similarity;
But caution comes in shades, like purple light
Climbing a red-brick garden wall at dusk;
And he sees every tint, Adamic man
Mounting a stair which knows no period,
Only a pause, a lamp lit at each landing.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Not Far Behind

Spring on the horizon, the nightbird says.
I’m here, you know, not going anywhere.
It’s in the offing, spring is. Blackwing says,
We’re here for the duration. Longtemps is
Our middle name.
Now bring the car around.
We’ll soon fill it with primroses and peepers.
We feed when you’re asleep, the jetblack says,
And never seem to get enough to eat.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Growing My Own

I'm growing heroes this year, each with vim
And rectitude. Too proud to wear their masks
Or call themselves The Spanielled Cavaliers,
They will be known by what they do: The Lute,
My Sugar Beet, The Man from Polymath.
Muscles are nothing, candyland. Their feats
Are vitamins and tiny nebulae
And comfort for the shopworn. And the seeds,
Like starfish in a cup of broth, their shapes
Superfluous to what they will become,
Wait till it rains. Wait till the worms have made
Them room to move. Once they have sprung their shoots,
Who knows if you can bear to watch them work
Or how many widows lay an extra place.

Monday, June 02, 2014

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.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Quiet Flows the Don

They hid the old professors in the sub-
Scriptorium, in carrels made of wood
And chickenwire, gave them wi-fi, let
Them roam the stacks, as long as they were late.
They were, they always were. Was found: puns bent
To fit into the pretty bursar's door.
The bursar's gown was torn and gluey, stained;
Her person was a vacancy in time
And apprehension. Dr Rathbone wrote,
The Oxford comma marks the gentleman.
We cannot find a one about her person.
Condemned, he was, for pronomial pride,
Then built a stand behind Collected Works,
Blue and maroon, with peeling paper labels,
Accessible to none and dead to all.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Well, I never

Something called Webwiki.com says of RHE poems, "The website doesn't contain questionable content. It can be used by kids and is safe for work." I gather that "safe for work" doesn't mean "won't cause industrial accidents," but something more like, "You won't get fired just for clicking on it." I don't know how it would be "used by kids," but I am quite sure that it does contain questionable content, else what's a poem for?

Friday, May 09, 2014

It Takes a Villeinage

This appeared in Plainsongs.


In high dudgeon, as horsehair crests exude
Manliness and confidence and ye olde
Tyme-iness, the warriors each produce speeches,
Spontaneous and metrical and crammed
With tropes, the bridge across Antiquity
To Meriwether Lewis Junior High.
It doesn't span it, quite. Into the cleft
Fall sleeping children, doomed to curse and rail
Like Thersites and feofor-princes. Better
To be a live shoe salesman in the Loop
Than eloquent in school libraries, pent
On clammy shelves in dusty inglenooks
Where Edie strips and Bobby Millstone waits.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

A Theory of Composition

Poems who sing emerge
To unexpected light.
Like morning, they are caught
By those expecting night,
With shreds of dream attached
And dripping from the sea,
Their private parts worn bare,
Anadyomene.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Spread Sheets

The cash alone was not enough.
It made the flagstone terrace slick
And all the shutters red and bright;
But consciences are black at night,
And cash does not afford a light
When even sheets and spreads are rough.
The dead are still, and eke the quick.

Gelt not so much. The dead forgot,
The live forsworn: but in the dark,
Where they go on, but you would not,
You can't buy room. There is a lot
Of that in Zion Perfect Park,
Home to the absent. They were all
Live on the margins. Came the call.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Inspiration

The spirits circled high above the house
And dropped surprising words like fennel seed.
Never before, he thought, and could not write
Fast enough to keep up. There slipped away
An observation on the rites of men
With women and a pun on Little John,
And still the spirits strewed the house with verbs
He did not know he knew, until, at last,
He called it finished, although it couldn’t be;
And then the tutelary angels left
For Calgary, by typo drawn away.
Not one agreed to read a word he wrote.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sonnetina

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.

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.

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.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Anything Goes

Some of the souvenirs began to squirm
As hibernating gods shook off their sleep.
Their naps had been profound, their dreams so vague,
They didn't know where parts of them had gone;
But shelves in Indonesia and Brazil
Let down their severed heads; and in Duluth
And Lower Slaughter little shiny coins
Twirled. It was more than mildly disconcerting.

Poseidon had a charley-horse and Dis,
Occluded vision. Iris saw her dress
Change colors, as the label, Roy G. Biv,
Turned inside out and backwards. Down below,
A village suffered instant disrepute
When all the hausfraus ran away with birds.
In Rome the statues changed their legal names,
And some converted. Venus wept real tears,

The tiny tears of dolldom, small and briny.
Green, like the eyes which they obscured, they fell,
But raised no fruit. It was her elder name
Which founded Paris, where the horses reared,
And no one knew what anything meant or cost.
The souvenirs dissolved, and mighty Zeus
Stroked his oiled beard, but did not wake. The heads
Of headless torsos speechified from dust.

Friday, March 14, 2014

On the Lam

Less, as he travelled down the broken map
To where the creases made the names a mess,
Than he remembered, still some fun, the dogs
A decorative nuisance, shifty signs
Ambiguous in all respect save mileage,
And roadside stands with contraband for sale.
He bought a stolen hat made in the Bronx
By emigrants and wore it for the wolves
Who counted campers, praying for the lame.

Where he would go from here, his dapper car,
Less suitable in every state, would say.
He hoped for string bikinis and the tang
Of salted sand. Tonight he'd settle for
A hero high on rye and pay-per-view,
A six pack of a beer nobody drinks,
Still in its plastic semiotic sling,
And wind that made the cheap storm windows creak.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Point of the Entire Universe

This appeared in Fox Cry.

The most important thing is, get a job,
my uncle said. But since my aunt was talking,
only I heard, and I was not about
to get a anything. I was still reading
whatever could be found on any subject,
hermit of bathrooms, anchorite of closets,
convinced that authors knew, and printers printed,
the point of the entire universe.
My uncle was still talking. He extinguished
his Dutch Master smack in his mashed potatoes,
which proved, since that was never done in books,
the important thing was not to get a job.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Cardiac Arrest

When we were young, when we were less,
When you were poised and I a mess,
We were as we are now, apart,
Unequal portions of a heart
Broken for decoration, cute
As flowers trimmed above the root.
And one of us flourished. One did not.
But which was which, and which forgot,
I do not say. You do not know.
The flowers dried, the roots still grow.

Friday, January 17, 2014

To Robert, at the Vernal Equinox

Here is a tale. Despite what we were told,
There are a number. This is one. It’s not
The one about the holy fool who saved
Others, if they had golden hair and spoke
Like cello music in a sitting-room.
Nor is it How the Great King Came to Grief
By Trusting to His Strength, though I have heard
That is a tale for little men to tell.
This is the one about true love, made hard
By hands of flint and counselors of pain,
By those who preached renunciation, those
Who’d nothing to renounce, the tallymen.
He loved from here. She heard from there. They sent
Their messages by email or by dove
Or friendly friar: messages mistook,
And blood ensued, and loneliness, and smug
Denunciations from fat senators.
This is that tale. We all know it by heart,
Which tells you why we tell it every day.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Lullaby in Slumberland City

While birdies slept and earthworms snored
And owlets stooped to swoopy flights,
You the Teen Queen Max restored,
With endless make-up, endless nights.

Our tygers pad the jasmined path
And cherries fall from green green trees
And all our dead lay down their wrath
As I awake through slow degrees

In shadowed rooms to unfilled beds.
The clock, the clock. Across the lawn,
In fact, the sparrows shield their heads
Till, chime by chime, they rouse to dawn.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Odysseus Leaves the 7-11

Odysseus stopped, turned to the monitor
The clerk was watching. “Odysseus,” she cried,
The black Calypso, as she wrapped her legs
Around the Italian claiming he was he.
“Damn all these pronouns!” said the wily hero.
“Say what?” the clerk enquired, with what passed
For courtesy amongst a swordless breed.

His shipmates looked to have been coifed by nymphs,
Or Ganymede, maybe. A talking pig appeared.
“Some pig,” said Circe. “All you guys are swine,”
The wired clerk said. Odysseus believed
The gods who sent him here did not make change,
Except for sport. He thought Penelope
Entitled to a break from his attentions.
“Some pig,” she told him, just the other day.

Some rosy-fingered Dawn was fingering
The donuts filled with wine-dark jelly, hoping
He’d speak to her. She was prepared to boil
His clothes and give him shelter. No man looked
Past her like that; crafty Odysseus,
Accustomed to being No-man, took his change,
His Lotto ticket, and his Diet Fresca,
And thrust into the night, seeking a storm.