Thursday, December 14, 2017

Good Cheer & Local Color

There’s been an incident at 5th and 6th
And 73rd and 58th and Elm.
I see dead people everywhere, except
On S. Lipan and Penny Lane and Stout.
I don’t know why. Rellenos on the wind,
The sound of magic flutes, the frail red duff,
Oranges and lemons: still the bones pile up
Just above Congress Park, on Ruby Hill,
And where the Carpet Warehouse has been closed.
Come home tonight. I found some bottles of
Whatever could be bottled up. Not these,
However emptied out the scuffed-up rooms,
Annoyed to be anonymous. Here come
The incidents of Christmas Past passant.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

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 respects 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.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

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.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

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.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

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.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

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, November 16, 2017

A Way, Awhile

When winter came, they were not ready. No
One is. And though they'd seen it all before,
They never thought of winter any more.
That time had gone, and no one heard it go.
What did they have? A leaf or two to show

Succeeding generations, who would smile
And think how quaint the Old Ones were, who never
Took off their clothes or painted something clever
Or died for love or died for peace, whose style
Was okay in its time, away, a while.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Shores of Light

This appeared in Angle.

When on the tepid shore
Of the great and greasy lake,
We greet each other, which
Weapon will you take?

Reproach is never failing,
Forgiveness always new.
I fear the most no light
Dawning between us two,

No pain of recognition,
Nor shock grown frail and old;
But bitter light extinguished,
Unspecified and cold.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Dead Grandpa in Tomorrowland

Dead Grandpa is considering rebirth.
A china pig or Cleopatra’s nose
would do, but all his latest friends are here
and do not want to look like nematodes
in search of a savant, nor weeds and rocks.
He had a date tonight. If she would be
a pagan suckled in Tibetan hills,
maybe he’d go for gold. Or porphyry.
A statue of a statue in the rain,
at least until he’d smartened up a bit.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

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.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Dead Grandpa Chats Up Hosea's Wife in Heaven

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. King 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 26, 2017

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.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

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?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Where has all the prose gone?

 I used to post the occasional prose commentary here.  I don't seem to be doing that any more, perhaps because FB and Twitter have usurped that function.  After all, though I am chockful of poesie, I am only occasionally prosaic.  If you miss it, I can refer you to the appropriate venues.  Or you could read Macaulay's History of England instead.

Riding the Interstate

At night, half in a daze, I drive this plain,
And here the highway lunges through the town
Where you lie sleeping in your husband's bed.
Love and anathema rest on your head.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Word Problems


Let's say you had 2 monkeys and a fox,
7 bananas, and an ATV,
Or maybe a rowboat, and a ski chalet.
How many trips before you fall asleep,
Dreaming of Mr Dinkum’s science test
And the atomic weight of Super String?
Give up? One monkey’s grey, the other locked
In Booneville, where he learned the iron rule.
The fox clears out the tikihut and leaves
Scat on the rec room floor in thorns and thetas.
Then you remembered Mr D was dead,
Shot by his wife in 1983
For messing around in Chem Club Lab. The fox
Is wily, and you never stood a chance.

Friday, October 06, 2017

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.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Googling Myself


I am perhaps the 27th most
Famous Richard Epstein and only the 3rd
Best-known poet with that salubrious
Nom de poesie.  How disheartening, I
Clear on their cantos, they born with a goose
As close at hand as pablum, porpentines
And crows prêt-à-porter.  And some splice genes,
Those better RHEs, the clones with Sir
And MBE and Friend of Man, the rich
And many-Googled.  Some are just mistakes:
Confounded with RHEtoric syllables,
They pass for Baudelaire and silver swans
And anadiplosis—anadiplosis for
The bogus Epsteins, hidden in the stacks
Of South Dakota junior colleges.

Somebody found me yesterday who meant
Me and no other me: he wanted my
Personal appearance at his most grave
Conclusion.  I was one of 49
CCd, but I was all the RHE.
This John Smith will be carried to his last
By 6 John Smiths, strong men on either side,
And none a pasta critic for The Mail
But he: he gets a plot all to himself.
The squirrels will celebrate: see, they will say,
We never needed any special name.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Moon We've Got

We have none.  What you want, what you are seeking

In books and from that cave inside the pit,
We don’t have that.  What you have not pursued
Over the river and through the woods, we stock,
And we can locate what you’d rather not.
We do not stock elixirs, though.  Heart’s-ease
Is unavailable this time of year.
The talking mirror set, with comic brush,
We just ran out, whenever you came in.
Riches that do not callous the heart, those beans
That everybody wants?  Nobody has.
A second chance?  A second second chance?
You could ask for the moon.  The moon we’ve got.
It comes in sizes—young and growing old.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Lid & Latch

Inside the damp, torn box a bit of fluff--

Bright hair by Donne. Might be a web. Or lint.
We won't find out today. All lost, grave stuff
Waits for last things. This box, though, packs a hint
Of all the rest: we lie against the grain.
We take up too much time and too much rain

For bone to carry breath. His new, clean shape
Will grieve the man who lived for gasp and catch,
Who free of taint, not bent to bare his nape,
Will climb back in, pull down both lid and latch,
And while his thoughts last, think of sweat. In pain
He saw the light and left it. Bring the rain.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

In Adam's Autumn

Where we first sinned was probably upstairs
And not for long; but now the color changes,
The detriment of summer. I shall miss
All of the sounds that naturally make
Our natures sweet. And bitter were the days
Succeeding, red and orange, perhaps, but not
How we had planned our progeny. We went
Our solitary way, best by ourselves.

We’d hoped for Nod or Canaan, but we found
Naked trees and a furred rapacity
Of gathering and storing, and a scent
Like Nuits d’Hiver was everywhere at once.
What did we have? What did we have to lose?
Those were our final steppes. We took them all.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

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.

Friday, September 08, 2017

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.

Monday, September 04, 2017

When Nighthood Was in Flotsam

The staff has snapped; the flag has been misplaced.
The Coconino County Bar & Grill
Breaks both its windows, locks the doors, and posts,
Send me a kiss by wire.  Bourbon flows
Through the arroyos.  Canteens burst with beer.
The news does not report.  Tequila leaks
Upstream.  The fish are dying for a drink.
No, sir, my realism is not an art,
Says Jenny Wren, the brickbat in my pie,
The neon in her undies, my patootie.
She shines from both sides now.  The Bar & Grill
Has set cane chairs out on the promenade
And pointed them with seashell, which it sells
By the seashore, if only it were there.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Late Romances

Have you no toys about your person

Fit to pass the end of life,
Making the darkness tolerable--
Little colored lights and chimes
And woofs and Squeaks A Toot. The zing
Companionable? Maybe a tale,
So often told it coughs at times
And smoothes all blankets. Cup-o-soup
And grown-up nursery rhymes, which start
With Ickle Bob and Happy Sven.
These are the late romances, last
After the marriage comedies,
The tragedies of pith and pride,
Chronicled kings and ginger maids.
Bears turn to brothers, sweep the skulls
Into the pit, the old oak breathes,
Remembering when he was schooled
In naughty songbirds. Stuffed plush toys
With little lights inside their tums,
Though powered up by batteries,
Send harbor signals through the night.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Dowager Biddy

The dowager biddy of our neighborhood
Uncovers evil everywhere: she mews
To voices lost in the wainscoting; she teems
With fled and ancient cats; she says the pith
Of the neighbors next door is spoiled, like fallen serfs
Exhausted by disaster. Debutantes
Are not what once they were: it’s in their eyes
And their tiaras. She sleeps in her car,
Parked out in front, to trick the foes and fiends
Who offer their casseroles in covered bowls
Shaped like the skulls of mayors she has known,
Domos and seneschals, now making light
Of all their troubles, there at Fairlawn, done with
The scene at Holy Family. She was there.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Nighthood in the Neighborhood

The chickens came back, the beetles and the bears,
The pigs and the pronghorns, ready for the spring
That hopes eternal life is just a fad,
That fruit must be explained by leaves,  and buds
Will never fill their ponds in dustbowl days.
Some of the chickens felt bedraggled wings
Would not make them an asset; but the wolf,
Famous for fairness, said that wings were meant
For wagon trains and truck stops.  They all bunked
By Union River, watched the sky, and said
How pleasant it was that stars came out at night.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

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.