Sunday, December 27, 2015

Aere Perennius

If they commingle when we die

The dust you make, the dust that I
produce, maybe the dog’s, and that
clump of leafmeal, perhaps a scat
and clippings, in a year or two,
who’s going to know which dust was you?
Most glorious of all who share
the stage tonight, of every stare
the subject and the hope, to claim
more of your birthright than a name,
it cannot be. You are a weed,
a metatarsal, or a seed
on fallow ground. Not more. Unless
they shroud you in the golden dress
that sheathes you now, there is no place
which will preserve your present grace
to an agnostic, future age.
They might, of course, peruse this page.
How cheap is that, and how unfair,
if you are no-, this everywhere?
Patience does not reward the dead.
It pays them off in print instead.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Nothing of the Kine: An Idyll

Horrors, the lazy currents seem to spell

Saxon-ish imprecations on the pond.
Pathetic in their fallacies, the frogs
Croak in distaste; the serried midges form
An arrow pointing at the horrid words,
The word made wet, a stranger in their mist.
If words could kill, we all would die, the cow
Observes beyond her fence. She has been told
All cows eat grass. I don't know if that's true,
She tells her stablemate, but why take chances?
I wager it is so, and so I eat.
Grass is its own reward. The shrieking pond
Is turtle-proud, but in a world of woe,
We keep to beaten ways, as best we can
And distance ourself from the shellfish sort,
The gravitas-less insects, and the fowl;
But, oh, how the amphibious betray
Lack of commitment. Low, she says. We're born,
And no one knows a single thing thereafter.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Permafrost

A foot of snow descended on the house,

All fall at once and we pretended joy
At such a purty fluffiness, and broke
Our backs and shovel blades, and prayed for spring.
Spring would arrive, but not because of us
The snow grows grass and lubricates the bulbs
Stripped from their husks it promised and delivered.
Summer, which disbelieves in snow, will swear
Sweat is the moisture agriculture named;
But summer lies, and winter lasts: within
The master bedroom wall a cache of snow
Waits and concedes no melting, never melts.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

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.

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

The Arc of History

Phoebus in his coat and tie

Caught the barista’s wandering eye,
And all was won, and love was done,
And love produced an errant son,
And all the world was hot and dry.

A shepherd in a foundered field
Found him a maid and made her yield.
A golden age, by golden rule,
Began its rain, and it was cool,
Its prior mystery concealed.

They called it fable, called it lore,
The days of rain, the age of ore.
And all of those who came behind
Said it had been by love designed,
And they were what had been in store.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Geoffrey, P.I

Just moments ago the kings and princes left;

Priors pleading engagements to buy and sell
Indulgence futures, they commanded peals
And hautboys to blow them off. I drank my beer.
Pale enough, sure, but nobody would mistake
Moi for a prince, me for the high command,
The stuffed lark on my mantel for a hawk.
I ate some pretzels. Somebody's dead duke
Had fucked with the wrong archbishop's piece, employed
A crucifix between his jersey legs.
You shouldn't ought to do that on a nave
Made shiny and kept clean by novices.
I missed my lunch, and nobody seemed sure
If dukes were to be solved or disappeared.
My ex had opted for the latter, left
For some deer park outside St Smithereens,
And me and Buster sifted through the clues
In ashpits, huts, and shabby priories.
I could tell tales, but then I'd have to leave you,
Springtime or not or cherry-staining skies.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Talking Pictures

His spurs would jingle when he brushed his teeth

Or dusted. When he bent down to remove
Clean silver from the dishwasher, his hat
Would hit the floor, 10 gallons all at once.

He drilled the Jack of Spades clean through the eye
At 20 paces. Right handed. He left
A slew of weepy dance-hall girls behind,
Their garters disarranged, their fishnets full.

The rustlers swung from greasy cottonwoods
Or, planted upside down in alkali,
Displayed their soleless boots to noon. Though cured,
They went unclaimed, black villains, black and blue.

The Chirikawa called him Brother Love,
Notorious as they were for irony
And tropes of understatement and reserve.
He hailed them from a distance, clad in white

With crimson trim. The dry-goods store in Fort
Pauperis did his dry cleaning for free.
(He'd saved them from the Crippled Kings last fall
At 2:30 on Main St., dentist time.)

Sunday a.m.s he offered himself brunch--
Chicken satay and crepes and papadoms.
He rubbed his boots with neats'-foot oil and planned
Retirement along the Jemez Springs,

Where no one asked for favors, no one died,
Except in winter, firewater brought
Dreams of the schoolmarm larnin' little boys
How Cicero betrayed himself for fear

And sent out letters wetted by a slave.
(Additional Effects, he called them.) Spring
Fell late on Jemez, cutthroats coming home,
Packed to the gills with stories of the snow.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Under Groby Great-Tree

This appeared in Iambs & Trochees.




This is the anodyne. It dogs
The hand that bit you. Reigning frogs
fall upwards, then, and abdicate.
This is the awkward watch, the late
piecemeal of time your father handed
off, before the day demanded
help, before the poison took.
Listen. Babbles. On Groby Brook
the paper boats all have departed:
sodden, sank, too heavy hearted
to arrive. The guests have begun
to wander off, and one by one
they seek release in solitude,
but not in love, nor meat, nor crude
imaginings of quick relief.
There is no pain beyond belief.
In Groby House, on unmade beds,
the servants set down weary heads,
and slowly the predicted dark
begins to cover Groby Park.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Boy in the Iron PJs

Older by seconds, thus the King of France,

A wig so big the star can’t constellate.
(He thus decreed and fears nor scorn nor sneer.)
A lettre there, a duc by title here,
Leave to wear lilies on his velvet pants:
A little one, whose priors are his fate.

Pent in a donjon, eating mexicorn
From a melmac plate, his eyes like metal dust,
His prayers bouncing off the crumbly mortar,
He waits for the interminable porter
To celebrate the day when he was born
And let him dawn the elder, only just.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Othello: Crib Sheet

When they say Moor, they mean a lad
Of color.  Black like pitch or coal,
though multi-colored in his soul.
Polka dots.  Paisley.  Tartan plaid.

His wife is white.  As pale as whey.
She has a hanky bleached with salt.
The dark chap has a Tragic Fault.
(He likes to fight.)  (She likes to play

at wifery.)  His sword is keen.
His adjutant is keener still.
At peace, there's beaucoup time to kill,
and we all know what that can mean:

the blackamoor is dead as dirt.
The pale-faced squaw is stiff as stone.
The villain rules the room alone
and will not speak and will be hurt,

which he minds not.  Oh, what a waste.
The colors of our rainbow run
red everywhere, black as the sun
behind the moon, perversely placed.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

The Age of Heroes

Unrolled, the ball of twine will reach from here

To Sunday next, maybe a little past,
As strong as faith, and supple. Place such string
In hands like yours, you could subvert a world
Of passageways. The monster has to smell
Both us and exit. That’s a lot to ask
Of demi-men and semi-livestock, see?
Somewhere along the way it will sense grass
Or wind on open water, then forget
Its murderous intentions. Clover makes
It sleepy; birdsong, and it drops its guard.
You, with a chunk of rope, a .44,
And proper shoes, could be back home for tea.

And then what? When the monster has been foiled,
The maiden slaked and handed back to dad
To foist her by-blow on a little prince,
The whitecaps braved, the Welcome Home endured,
All speeches, leis, and fatty bullock thighs,
We’ll frame your twine and hang it where Aunt Vi,
The Tutor, and your nubile cousin Daph
Can hardly miss it. What then? There are new
Monsters, of course, but, really, they’re not much
But bags of bone and teeth: blood is a bore,
Philately in person, so to speak.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Levellers

They clobbered the delphiniums and turned

Them underground. They made the sedum pay
For blooming late and changeably--One Plant,
One Hue, they chanted as they beat them up
And down. We named the battered garden Mud,
The sit in by the sundial, whilst the birds
Enjoyed the spoils of spoliation, Worms
For Everyone. And everyone a worm.

They came back in the spring with bitter breath
And threw their rotten carrots at the gnomes,
The real ones, elder statesmen, not ceramic
Cutiepies. They pissed on the fallen leaves.
And they looked hungry, empty hearted, spent,
As if their gods just really hadn't cared.

Monday, October 19, 2015

People, Get Ready

This morning I can taste the air.

It tastes like fall and resin. Spring
Is gooier. No need to share
This news with birds, who already sing
Insistently. The seed is swell,
They say. Bring more. And make it fast.
They sample the air. A guy can tell.
Black Bird is coming home at last.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

In for a Penny

In for a pound, the centaur died.

His rusted cage began to curl
Away from its anchors. Ants fried
On the concrete floor. That's a pearl

That was his eye, whose setting failed.
The better men and calmer bards
Have winkled out, have not been jailed,
Kings of their graven calling cards.

The mistress primps her painted bones.
The Greek is wrong and the Chinese
Opaque as Pocatello. Loans
Sustain the fingers as they freeze.

Off the wet page the hand-set words
Scarper. The night men clank and shift,
Marley in chains. From ill-kept birds
Onto the Thames the adverbs sift.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

This Red Rose

from These Denver Odes


This red rose is perfect today,
Celinda. You, too. Its dewy
petals spread symmetrically
like--anyway, the rose unfolds;
and, at this moment, nothing could be
more like a rose than this rose. You, too.

Twilight soon. The chilly garden
will house a lesser rose, hunching
now, color leaching at its day's end.
You, Celinda, too. Forget-me-nots
last longer, stay neat. Prissy bores.

The Bear and the Goat will gather
over our houses after we
vacate them; and the rose knows no
second summer. You, too. Nor I.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Hamlet -- Monarch Notes

Your arras, that's a dicey thing.
It keeps the damp away, the chill
old ghosts convey.  A curtain ring
moves by no wind and then hangs still,
though spirits pass on either hand.
A toast, a toast.  A rheumy dude
is run through unannounced, unplanned,
helped on into his desuetude.

Outside the sky in winkled shades
promises much, delivers few
from evil.  Here be younger blades
who row, who row, the sort of crew
no castle keeper does without.
The Prince himself prefers to doubt.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

The Pastorale

This appeared in Angle. It has been slightly altered since then.


Down by the river the trout are laying bets
Per croquet hoop. They swear like Fielding fish--
Damme this and Bloody that. They're old ones
With cheeks that frogs would eat. Here unafraid,
They list to port and pass it to the left
And praise the neighbors' sheep and curse the day
Electric lights infested county skies.
Crooks, not hooks, still in the adverse flow,
They praise monogamy, but that's a joke
Told when women go the separate way
Appropriate. They do not fear the fly,
A thumb upon their scales, or lemon sauce.
These are the myths told small fry. They are men.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Cherry, Blossoms

Focus, they say, and Bof'us, someone laughs;

But crocus is what they mean, and inching through
A yard like iron, just before the daffs,
They make a spring. The spring remembers you

Under the cherry, blossoms in your hair
And dress too small to make a handkerchief.
It's you, and you are never ever there.
Some jocund flowers beggar all belief.

Let summer burn them down. Let the sweet grass
Give itself up to desiccate and dirt.
All memories decay, and cherries pass.

Bof'us, they say, and laugh until they hurt.
The ice is melting, all that broken glass
A spring in motion and the past inert.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Boston Swans

I vaguely recollect that there are swans
somewhere famous in Boston, somewhere Lowell
might think them his, a bird grant from the Crown.
He might discuss with Dr Holmes at night,
after the port passed by too many times,
how Zeus had managed Leda. This would pass
for smut among the philocrats, I swan.

“Under a spreading chestnut tree,” they’d laugh.
“Beg pardon?” said the emissary from
the Court of St James. “A longfellow joke,” Lowell said.
“Uh-huh,” said Robert, many years away,
trying to fit both skunk and sour cream
into his recollections of a swan
whose loins devolved a war it could not stop.
The Boston pops have brought their kids to hear
Napoleonic cannon foddering.
They hum as they tuck cobs back in their hampers,
decorously wrapped. Here Ted Williams hit
.400, which was nothing, if you count
percentages left lying in the snow
so Bonaparte could win the Triple Crown,
ambitions learned from Alexander, who
differed from Plato as to Homer’s hit.
Home and away, it all came down to swans.

--In memoriam Paula Tatarunis

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

As Numberless as the Stars

Hagar didn’t care for the manchild much,
The one whose dam she wasn’t.  In the star-
Personable nighttime sky she reckoned
The number of descendants he’d been promised,
And every one an uninvited guest.
Me, I try to avoid the sin of counting.
It leads to lust and envy.  I have named
More women than I knew, and they are glad,
Or so they say, when they imagine me.
They think about the child who isn’t there,
The period they never missed, the pain
Promised them, that they passed on, and they smile
And smooth their hair and think about the days
When boys would gasp because they happened by.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

And Beets and Pickled Okra

The pantry is a cool and cedar-lined

Room in the basement where we keep the jars
We do not need right now, but someday might.
(It hasn’t happened yet, but who can tell.)
Preserves, we call them, as if that would keep
Them biohazard-free. I think they wait
For evolution. In the night I hope
To be preserved, but I know better now,
Awake. To be a boy of 17,
A damson plum with paraffin on top
To save me from my nature—-string beans grow
Pale in their darkened room: they will not turn
To tap dancers or unicyclists if
They do not break their seals. Though tubers chant
The virtues of sequestered, reddened roots,
They do not grow, and if they did, they’d drown.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Alone in the Afterlife

At least the leaves are crispy, and they smell

Of cinnamon. Kick them aside, they float
Like butterflies and settle on the trees
Who held them last. There are no promises
Of stars beyond the stars I see. The fox
Rolls on the patio and shakes himself,
A Canis Minor. Everyone I know
Still loves me -- better, loves me now, at last,
At once. The fox trots back into the woods,
His little dance insouciant desire.
My coffee smells like it was made from leaves

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Loaves & Fishes

Abacus to zygote: this is just what

The god has ordered. Feed the multitude
On infinite combinations from a rude
Inception. C begins with Cookie, not
A tiddly crowd, made crummy with the bread
Recently risen. Read what we have read,

And you can bake your own. A dictionary
Portends all saints every witness each,
Erects more ladders than a man can carry,
And will not learn. We accidentally teach.
Mud is in our middle, and right before,
Mattress, the word that you were looking for.

I have one in my pocket, glad and good
Together. What I've spelled, I've understood.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Last of the Elephant Jokes

This appeared in Freefall.


for Dan

I packed the family trunk--and, no, it’s not
Elephantine, it’s mine. Beneath the lid
I hid my tattered grey epistlery,
So I would not forget. (All right, it is.)
A ruff of many colors for the pit,
In case I met my masters, and the hat
They gave me for becoming Little Man.
I’m bigger now. I packed a razor, tunes,
A toy piano, and my ivory bowl.
(It sings when stroked.) I can go anywhere.
By early light I sway, but what I want
Is the imagined graveyard of my kind--
In Tuscaloosa or the floral Keys,
In Agincourt or Lower Slaughter, last
Pacific places, where no one will look.
I am almost extinct, but I have room.
You’ll know me by my footprints in the Jell-O.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

What We'll Always Have

Ah, zut, she said, we'll always have

Paris, where we were poor but brave.
And poor, I said. And sick of head.
You are not Gertrude Stein, she said.

Mais non. Agreed. The leaves were green
That spring. Horse chestnuts fell like rain.
I was not well. I know, she said,
I tried, and you were mostly dead.

Those were the goddamn days of yore,
I wrote. And yet you would not share,
She said. Too bad that we were bred
Gold to the bone, now flayed, now fled.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Worms & I

They do not come to see me in this hole,

My buds and bloods. Perhaps they share the shame
And largesse of disaster. Who would bruit
His kin's confinement in an earthy cone,
Tapered for retribution? All the worms
Are laughing, mind you: they don't see the sense
Of wider welkins; blue just makes them blush.
My Uncle Thad threw rubbish on my head,
The Daily Mirror wrapped around a bun.
Perhaps he meant to plump me. Kindness comes
In kits, to be assembled as you like it.
Aunt Alice led him off, her voice the twin
Of heavy rain on mud. There is no bed,
No sleep, no sanitation, whereat worms
Stand up and cheer for everyone but birds.
I pray for commutation, they for dirt.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Before the Prologue

They rode on palfreys or on mules. He said,

It’s April. When it’s April …showers. None
Impelled, he let them fall asleep, to prompt
Them further, with a look at cherry trees
And battlements and rivers full of geese.
Remember March? he asked. It was so dry–
So how dry was it?
 asked a tubby priest,
Greatly indulged. Not quite the point. He thought
About the robin on a hawthorn branch,
Its breast as red as Christes blood, now dried
And efficacious only by a hymn.
He had no hymns, the diplomat, but stories
Flowed out by art arterial and blessed.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Crossing at night the Straits of El Kabong,

I saw the Pillars of Persephone,
Half the year there and half in Florida,
A moving destination, once two girls
Of 17, turned to obsidian by
A randy god who had eternity
To kill. His name is lost. His victims here
Said, No, and migrate now from sea to sea.
I saw a stormy petrel detour round
The pillars. I saw fish leap between waves.
I drew no closer, though the ship was swift,
The winds complaisant. As the moon declined,
I took her home, towards picture books and bread.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Plus Jell-O with Tiny Marshmallows

Better unnamed: the carnival of dark

Imaginary emperies, the rose
Unpurchased for the girl unasked, the night
You drove poor Dixie to the Greyhound lot
At 19th Street and Larimer, her ghost
A fraction of the spirits she possessed.

Nothing articulate can be recalled.
Faces go fuzzy when you concentrate.
Better to go down in a haze beneath
The Magic 8-Ball’s promises, behind,
Year after year, and only gaining ground,
Mortgages and the Mastercard, as room

Service arrives. It’s better you don’t know
The name of the town, whose Really Super 8
Desk clerk said The Golden Corral was good,
70 kinds of salad, so you can’t say
How your Unfinished Symphony will resolve,
Even if everyone else already guessed.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Their Widened Apertures

Girls in dresses on bicycles with baskets,

Streamers from the handlebars. A wet April
In a dry year, and they pedal warily
To market, to market, to buy like a lamb
Their new décor, more than observers deserve.

Higgledy, they head home here and there, thither,
If that may be permitted, stilled by the eyes,
The boys’ widened apertures, the precursors
And post-. Into the sun with them, pink streamers
Streaming, spring girls the headstones of the winter,
The corpus of the fall, where they wend, ridden.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

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.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Summer Blockbuster

Summer didn’t differ that much from spring,

Not the first day. The sprinklers and the dogs,
The blossoms where the bees crawled, and the night
Which wasn’t quite the day because I saw
Less of myself, which didn’t bother me.

Then it grew hot. And windy just the same.
The tree of knowledge only bore dried fruit;
The columbine flourished, and the chiles made
Mad bombers of the wasps. A chickadee
Drank all the water in the collie’s bowl
And fluttered like a wiffleball. I mailed
My manuscript To Whom It May Concern,
No one yet having been; but this had heat,
A love triangle, scalene, sweat and skin.

Monday, July 13, 2015

How Green

In valley towns the elder ways
hang on like dad’s chums; they struggle
to pass their habits on, their genes
long since committed, best they can.

And if the kids, and the kids’ kids,
break out into docklands and loft
flats and little gated enclaves,
the valleys shut up.  Keep mum mum,

keep dad, too, ligature thin, hope
he doesn’t speak, he’d only cough,
a lucky strike, a lost best hope.
The kids spread, their new jeans low slung,

vaunting how they quite disavow
vernaculars, forget the terms
for tucking in.  The valley mouth
shrinks.  There are runes hidden inside

cereal boxes, bottles filled
with elderflowers.  The kids come
for funerals; haply they praise

famous men, the powerful wind.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Decomposition

Scraping away their dirt, you find--

The time-intoxicated dirt,
Rich in polysyllabic orts
And nutrients, like red roe deer
And tallow chandlers--roots and bones.
We have those here. Around a shrew's
Skull you can see the withy threads
Of something growing somewhere else.
Our soil is fed by little songs
Of composition: Here lies one
Whose name was never writ at all,
Genius and species, gone to seed.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Final Exam

The fractious verbs, the adverbs soppily
Lagging behind, explaining as they weep—
What good are they to those like you and me,
Schooled by an inkhorn buried by the sea,
A preposition long since put to sleep?

Announcing that you are a proper noun,
A little rusty from a lack of use,
The adjectival nature of the town
Laying its nosy hands on Cinder’s gown,
An oxymoron cooking its own goose,

You are the part of speech making a speech
Superfluous, a body proving rest
Is myth and metaphor: the teachers teach,
And back behind the church, the preachers preach.
The final sentence is the final test.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

What Was In My Pockets Last Night When I Undressed

My keys, a pocketknife, the Pietà,
A handkerchief, a poopkit, and a friend
Of Héloïse, who said that Abelard
Was boring, but intense—no mix for men.
And 32¢.  Too little to apprise
A grateful nation of my whereabouts,
A paltriness made for a piggybank;
But I was out of pigs, apparently,
And when I dropped my pants, nobody cared
Enough to hang them up, preserve the crease
For sales meetings, in case there was a need
For Pietàs or handkerchiefs or knives.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Raising 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?)

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Midnight Train

A lantern on a lanyard on the last
Train out of town to Anywhere at All,
Which happens to be east of Little Jugs,
Gives more illumination than you’d think.
A carrot and a stick and several shoes
Piled on the platform where the caboose becomes
Thin air; and you, you weren’t expecting that.
The elegance of emptiness does not
Include a carrot or a pair of heels,
But Anywhere at All will be amused.
A milliner’s, a pool hall, and a new
Patisserie, in case the gentry come.
A Church of Holy Holiness, a cow
Walking the streets, and then, of course, a bank.
Life can be fruitful, Anywhere at All
Instructs its children, who are dreaming of
A better world, offered in Somewhere Else,
To those catching the midnight train, which leaves
Tomorrow afternoon at 6:15.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Ballad for Willie

My name is William Butler Yeats.

When young, I spoke to faeries
and sang of ponds and leprechauns
and lips red-ripe as cherries.

Now my glass is cold and cracked,
my verse a fine steel wire.
The faeries all have been served with writs
and flung out in the mire,

shot down at the Post Office door,
blown up by the IRA:
a city man in a country house,
I'll make myself a play;

taut for my Maud and statesmanlike,
I perne me in a gyre.
I'll bear it all for drama's sake
and set this house on fire.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Traditional

It’s late.  The birds have tucked away
Their worms.  The spiders fold their silk.
Monuments tell stone dogs to stay.
The galaxy pours out its milk.
And you, you lie there just as still
As prayer.  On the other hand,
No ring.  The stars, though falling, will
Not change our course, nor ever land;
But day will break, and, broken, leave
Us petrified.  And first the lark
And then the sparrows will receive
A vacant and a timeless park.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Travelling Exhibition

appeared in The Shit Creek Review


Room by room they packed up the museum.
They filled the armored suits with porcelain,
The urns with lesser urns. They wrapped the busts
In bubble paper, squeezing now and then
Mini-explosions, just for fun, like Queen
Victoria's little wars. The paintings posed
A problem. Smaller ones in plastic sacks,
That would just do; but 19th-century
Gigantists--lacking room enough and twine,
Necessity made them inverts, hauled them out,
Hoping for fair and fine. It took a while.
The Judgement of Solomon, a red and gold
Simeon Smythe, took 12 old men to tote,
Curators with post-docs and 3 rosettes
Amongst them. When they propped the painting back
Against the mini-van to rest, it glowed.
A minion in the right foreground held out
A scimitar, prepared to bisect babes
On the command. One of the old men said,
Where is a minion where you really need one?
They left a head of Nero on the roof.
It sneered and skittered as they took the turn.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Evening Soap

She wasn't even pregnant when she bore

Her brother's child (step-only, thus genteel).
What she had concealed, though, never was made clear.
She named him Topsy, he the ickle heir
To Gallantyme, the biggest ranch around.
(They hired their own weatherman and sent
Over to Ft. Lupino for their boots.)
Paterfamilias, he pitched a fit
And sent her out into a thunderstorm,
Where Little Escobar saved her and hers
And made them warm in simple peasant ways.
It took three days to track them to his hut.
Never was quite the same, some people said,
What with his herky-jerky gait. Not once
Did she look at PF. He took to drink
And fisticuffs. And that was the premiere.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Vulgar from the Streets

for HC


Such hieroglyphs are easy. This one says,
CATES IN THE MORNING and that swirly one,
NO PAIN, NO PAIN, today the practical
Feast-day of St Bartokomous, who wrote
God is most perfect, this His indigence,
And gaped in satisfaction, doubtlessly.
Over the air conditioner man hath sprayed,
HARM TO A WISE MAN IN HIS BROTHER’S FIELD.
Prefects prefer straight-shooters, schooled in plain
Annunciation, all lean and clean in tone.
The pink one pricked above the mansard reads,
DRAGONS FORGET THEIR EGGS. Who claims they don’t?
They disbelieve in swords, even in dark
And ribald festivals of patriots.
St Evelyn said, This ghetto is my stage
And squashed his inner pupa. He was mad,
This wight who wrote beside the padlocked door,
THE WORLD IS COMING TO THIS STAGE. STAY TUNED.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

My Unravished Bride

Medusa’s head above the door

Has stoned the crows and salesmen, too;
But no one ever rocked me more
Than igneous, impassive you,
Though permanent now as headstones cut
With mottoes, there beside my walk,
So poets can imagine what
Art would sound like if it could talk.
Medusa once was fair herself
And drove the bright boys wild with lust.
Like you now, from her warden shelf,
She flakes in petrifying dust.

Friday, May 01, 2015

A Little Learning

Only a woman's hair, he kept repeating,
Proving that erudition didn't work.
Precedent wasn't a cure; it wasn't then,
And repetition didn't make it so.
And anyway, the dresses weren't.  The shoes,
The winter coats.  Or little socks.  A hair,
Now that was synecdoche, which, it was known,
Couldn't be traded on the heart's exchange
For love or money, blood or Latin verse.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Village

In that kingdom, it is written,

birds do not sing: they hum, show tunes
mostly, though records and radios
are unknown. Overseas travel
is a bird’s hobby. They have seen
mermen; they’ve been to the far side.

In that kingdom, whose king does not
touch the ground, birth to death, for soil
that knew him would have to be burnt
(and who, of that thin stratum, spares
any centimeter gladly?),

the yaks dance in their fields at night,
shaking their horns, and the stars faint.
The marmots whistle in the aisles
between rows of quaking blue pines.
In the skin dormitories sleep comes

when light fails. Mountain Edison
won’t string lines here. The yaks strike sparks
when hooves tap stone, on cloudy nights
looking like mountain glow worms.
Dreamless, love is an act of sleep.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

On the Border

The river flowed with blood and sparkling water,
side by side and travelling fast, unmixed.
On the far bank, lilies and pink petunias;

on mine, roses the size and hue of mothballs.
Hot here, cool showed off there.  Grasses waist high
bobbed and rebounded under a light breeze.

There, a sign the Unforgiven could read:
IF YOU'D BEEN GOOD, YOU'D ALREADY BE HERE.
I read; like my compatriots, I laughed.

The dust administered a shock.  I bled
and laughed no more.  Heaven constructs its own
retaliatory tools.  Nobody asked

me to repent, too late, too late.  I tried
to break my fast, but could not prise apart
the breadfruit package issued me.  When Might

combines with Milk, the bad, the weak, the blamed
had better fast.  Unhoped.  All Hell is still.
Nowhere, we are not going Anywhere.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Greek Tragedy

Chorus announces: See how all is made

Proper and tidy-like. The gods abhor
Disorder. It's at tit-for-tat they stand
Up, and the stars are symbols on a vest
Of justice. Be amazed and be content.

The Elderly Man protests: It isn't so.
The baby rabbits die before they blink,
And fatty deposits in the blood of queens,
Glamorous, doomed, gone to the mattresses,
Knock them as dead as crones. Don't talk to me.

Chorus replies: All righty, then. We won't.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Why me? Why here?

Every day at least a couple readers arrive here via something called claritywritingexperts.com, the exceptionally dull website of a UK-based service, which, for a fee, will teach you how to be a ghostwriter, copywriter, etc.  (Picture mock frisson of horror.)  Although I can find on it no hint as to how people are referred from there to here, I guess I ought to say thanks.

Thanks.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

In Time of Plague

This appeared in Lyric.


This morning there were microbes on my walk,
Said Alex, and I swept, then scrubbed. I smell
Invasion, which is not repelled by talk.
He power-washed his porch. I wished him well.

Affliction has no limits. In the trees
Bats plot the overthrow of priest and peasant.
The grass is crowded with bug-born disease:
Ants march, and they will not make conquest pleasant.

I wash my hands of this. And that. The soap
Is dirty now, though Alex claims a cure:
One quart ammonia, sublimated hope,
A heart that’s tainted, latex gloves too pure

For dirt’s adhesion. Listen to the song
Of angry grackles: armies in the sky
Will drop their worms upon us before long,
Then move into the rumpus room and die.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Light Verse

Yes, it is dark, he said. At night

This often happens. In the day
I have observed you get more light.

He moved to touch his red toupee,
And I surmised he might prefer
Less light upon his pumice fur.

The night, he said, is caused by black,
The day by white. When there is blue,
It indicates a spiritual lack.
Of green I can say nothing true.

He cleared his throat. He leaned to me:
In summer I prefer iced tea.

His eyes were clear. His soul was fried.
Each hand embraced the other wrist.
When I was young, I often lied.
I found it helped me to get kissed.

Once I was young. And he was right.
I often found it dark at night.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

You Can't Change the Past Because It's Already Happened

This plank is now a plank for good, no, not

A tree. This wormhole is a parasite
Egressing, not a door through sap and time.
I never kissed her. I can’t climb a tree
Parquet out at 13 Hibiscus Drive,
Hidden Valley RanchoLand, 2nd Stage.
I never jumped her bones. This little chip,
Ready to cast a splinter, will not burst
Into untidy nests this spring. Its roots
Have been recalled. No reset for her touch
Or faith in promises. The bark cannot
Be squeezed from sarsaparilla. In my time
A tree fell, and I heard it. I was there.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

ABC

In Sumer love kept lovers warm;

And from a distance cuneiform
Sufficed to substitute for flesh.
It was the same in Marrakech,
Where swirls and loops conveyed the sense
Of sworn and forsworn innocence.
It was the same where love idyllic
Begged to change in Old Cyrillic
Blush for a satiated sigh.
Even in rebus, with this eye
I name what I hope soon to see,
Writ in a language new to me,
The legend of the Holy Grail,
Spelled out for touch, composed in braille.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Orpheus Condescending

Obstacles notwithstanding, I

Have brought back home Eurydice.
She sleeps too much and likes to wear
Aloe vera in her hair,
Cartoon t-shirts, flip-flops. Dis
Does not prepare dead hearts for this
Welter of chores. Feel here. Touch that.
Phantasmagoria’s where she’s at,
A little vague, a little faint.
Death sneezed and then returned a saint.
Restored to life, she feels the lack,
And hides her hands behind her back.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Graved for Me

Around the corner, where I cannot see,
I see you waiting, haute couture in verse,
Lines I cannot remember on your face,
Deep, but not embellished, and a bright
Hyperbole of allusion in your eyes.
Around the corner.   Where I cannot see.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

An Affection for Battered Objects

More duct tape. In his Weimar he cries out 

For his repair. The rents reach for the sky;
Mere tatters are not held by paperclips.
I had this elephant when I was young.
Look at him now.
 The light is sicklied o’er
With blinds, the last Venetian charity
This man performs in darkness. He knows if
You ask, but in between he is a boy,
The brightest of his class, a lower form
Than he has yet acknowledged. I had these pants—
Envy me, envy me.
 I think I heard
That this had happened once or twice before,
To Adam and Erasmus and a Doge
Desperate to recall flesh on demand.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Readership

Reposted from 2009.  Not much has changed.  FB has helped a bit because I can point people here --  ☞ This way to the Egress.    But if you look for comments, you still won't find them.  It remains true that most of my visitors are accidentals: they Googled "What is Dead Wabbit," and were offered this.


I: But people not named Epstein do too read here, at least occasionally.


Other: They don't, you know. Well, there are a couple regular nutters, I admit that, but only a very few, and they're all elderly shut-ins who talk  energetically to their cats and their hand-tinted portraits of the Queen Mum.

I: There are others, I'm almost certain. You can tell by looking at the map of the most recent "visitors."

Other: Oh, yes--you mean the folks who arrive here by Googling "poems about friction," "poems about recently deceased grandfather," "manifest destiny poem," "short blank verse poem," and "what does elegy in country churchyard mean." They are accidentals; they don't mean to be here, and they don't stay. Have you noticed that when Katy and Rebecca and Trish put up posts, they are pounded by replies? And where are your equivalents then?

I: But they're all...well, they aren't like me in some critical respects.

Other: You were going to say, "They're girls," weren't you?

I: No. Not me. Not ever. They're bright and talented and interesting writers.

Other: Oh, so that's how they differ from you.

I: Never mind. You win. I lose. It's all true. This is the blogging equivalent of vanity pressing your books, the Blogspot version of the Vantage Press. But it's a harmless outlet for my excess energies. Who knows what I might be doing, were it not for this.

Other: Spraying funereal distiches on the underpass, standing on the corner with a hand-lettered sign, "Villanelles for food. God Bless." That sort of thing?

I: No doubt. No doubt at all.

Other: And the last time you had any "excess energies," The Temptations and The Four Tops were in the Top 10.

I: Dayenu. I concede. Let me get back to being obscure.

Other: Who?

Monday, February 16, 2015

And the Last Lost Adit

Conceivable the bitter parts, the twa'

Derbies you never brought back home nor wore,
The spats unpurchased, only acted out
With objects made affectional by law.
The piles in which the birds Arabian
Nested during the months of cinnamon--
Them you never saw, the pellucid pools
Wherein begins the mighty Zamazon,
Crocodile-worshipped, head-huntered, and blue
Beyond the sapphires of Mozambique.
(Well, to be fair, you read about the last
In Newsweek, and the children made to serve
Dark lords with hand grenades and empty guns
On pain of death, both fort and dure. They're dead
And nothing like the poster of Seville
You bought in the Rive Right, as faded now
As that brocaded vest you used to wear
To absinthe parties, fond of spongy hearts.)
Still, you have read, the absent elephants
Of Pukkastan--they sparkle like the dew
And trumpet like a glee club in the heat
Of frond-oscura sun--may have been traced
To Adam's Lair, tickets for sale, online.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Unidentified Fallen Object

That light from underneath the wendy house?
Aliens praying for our human souls,
Which they use to recover old upholstery,
To plug the cracks in alien patios,
Through which they plunge for hundreds of alien miles,
And end up salting mines.  They keep a light
On day and night, hoping they will be saved
From alien fates by spiritual human stuff.
I don’t know if that ever happens, though.
Our lawn is littered with the crinkled husks
Of something other, something not like us
In flannel shirts and wool sweat socks, and hats
Stamped Alma Mater, Stabat Mater.  Pray,
You aliens.  I wish you all the best.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Speckled Stuff

appeared in Lyre, Lyre.


God likes speckled stuff, says the manly man.
He must have since he made so much. The straight
And simple are pulverized by the weight
Of odd and complex. There must be a plan,
And not a manly plan--something divine
Or outré, which means both. A freckled chick,
Violets wrapped around a mossy stick,
Villages built where earthquakes draw the line:
The quirky and the deadly and the spotted.
Whole romans fleuves have dammed themselves upon
Civilizations where the men are gone,
The dogs abducted, and the bookstores rotted.
He loves it all, the hoorah where the gleaming
Stipples on the bright stainless steel are steaming.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Winter Leaves

This appeared in Poetry Proper 3.


Look, have I mentioned how the winter leaves
Resemble bronze? That statue of a tree,
It is a tree. The art of standing still,
Of keeping still till everyone forgets
The name you had when swords were haute couture,
When bronze was for an age, and dryads slept
With bark for blankets, that you still possess.
Have I not watered you when it was dry
And promised that the birds would love you, too?
Some day a god will build his nest from hair
He took as a trophy. Some day he will kiss
Confusion into legs and roots, some day;
And men will cut themselves on winter leaves
And swear eternal love, day after day.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Safe

The first snowdrops are showing.
Carol loved them dearly,
Under all that snowing.
Carol marked them yearly,
Said when they'd appear,
"Through another season, safe another year."

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Daisies Mown

from These Denver Odes



The daisies mown will blow again.
The moon pines not, nor is dismayed,
rejuvenating without pain;
once man into his grave is laid,

he is no more a man. His dust
may someday form some form instead.
It won't be he. The new moon must
return; but man, when dead, is dead.

So you, figured like Helen, bright
of eye, Celinda, will not see
how good you look, made up for night,
to be illumed like Semele.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

An Advent Calendar

The austere plain is only my front yard

At 2 a.m., and me without my glasses.
These are not angels, drifting in the wind,
Browning and brittle skeletons, the shape
Of feathers, strings of light, and Christmas stars;
But they will do. The lawn is edified
And passes on its wisdom. In the genes
Of adjectives the flexible is made
Customary, a quiff of clothes for skin
Which cannot bear the touch of falling leaves,
Of fallen princesses, of yellow bones
Made into grass, made into trees, remade,
Remade with no trick ending while it sleeps.