Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Manon

Dear Abbé:

We are pent up in our loft,
Too stippled to sing, too poor to buy new clothes,
Ladies and gentlemen, too sick to beg.
We tell each other stories. I'll be quiet,
She'll be at peace, and when the fairy says,
A plugged sou for your thoughts, then mum's the word.
Orchids could never change our little love.
Once she is dead, I'll be a notary
And practice barratry; when I am dead,
She'll move to customer service for the mob.
Someday, God willing, there will be crème brûlée,
Amoxicillin, and some warmer clothes.
Till then they hum, who do not know the words.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Chains They Forged in Life

The poems no one heard of populate

This verbosphere, invisible and bleak,
Dottering incoherently in dry
And crumby cupboards, turning old bedsheets gray
On sleepovers, making little girls pale,
Afraid that they have accidentally bled.
Elegiac and embarrassed, full of tropes
Disparaged by Seleucian kings, most tell
Stories of unrequited jealousy
Engraved on stone with sponges, vetted by
The underappreciated and the fat
Recipients of Golden Books and schmaltz.
A few are goodbye letters, never signed.
A few are tax returns, unaudited.
Some lisp. Some swoon. Some have these wild ideas
About the immanence of outer space.
They drool. They belch. Complain. Complain. Complain.
They like a mirror, write they backwards verse.

Saturday, May 13, 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.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Burying the Survivors

They buried the survivors in a hole
Just big enough for almost all. Waste not,
The adage of the moment, after years
Of blood extravaganza, seemed all right.
The one left over got a monument,
A roundabout about him, and a sign
Pointing the way to Points of View and All.
Homies broke down there every day, from age
And penury and flats, with rubber bands
Holding their hearts together and their clothes.
Lucky the Caravan sold cups of joe,
Premeditated burgers, cannabis,
And shortbread local mommas wept upon.
Somebody blew him up one summer night.
He fell back to the ground in bits of spud.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Milk of Amnesia

It covered up my recollections, some
Oobleckian, obliterating ooze
Memories couldn't penetrate. It took
Her name, their numbers, all the horses' men,
The time and dates and instruments of debt;
And where it came from, plumbers wouldn't say
And politicians promised not to learn.
Unkempt, unkept, I cried, ringing my bell,
Making my way down North & South, well past
The point where anyone I knew had lived.

Thursday, April 27, 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.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Desk-Waller

When I awoke, you weren’t so great,

Not hell on toast, not fixed as fate,
Less than high sentence, more than fair,
Too cute to cry, too young to care.
You weren’t all that. I saw that some,
Of little fame, were twice as dumb,
Stuck out as far, and rode as fast,
And had no skills, and had no past,
And were both free and kind. They came
Before I called; they knew my name
And were available right now.
I didn’t want them anyhow.
The heart is hard, concealed and stark,
And whores in alleys after dark.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Future of Extinct Birds

Extinct, the birds are full of woe,
Serried like bowling pins. How could
The nevermore be sad, dodo
A shadow in a shadowed wood?

Why do you say that I am real,
But we are not? You have my word,
I am as dumbstruck as you feel,
Singing the song an absent bird,

Succeeded, sang. If what we say
Endures beyond the tumbled trees,
We still would ride, like birds, away
Upon an undocumented breeze.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Jeopardy!

Millard Fillmore

Fame is fleeting. A bubble. A male duck.
What is that green head, shining in the sun,
doing here on this inland parking lot,
carrying on like some deaf alto, crying
as mournfully as Thomas Wolfe in flight
and waddling to boot? Oh, ghost, come back,
be lost again. What is obscurity?

Babe Ruth

The summer you remembered me you ate
candy bars like—like candy, sure. Oh, Henry.
We lay on that bed in that apartment maybe
714 times. When you
came up long on your period, you left
to take a walk. I am not waiting now.
I think that you aren't coming back. Who walked
and struck out more than any other player?

The Venus de Milo

It was a dark and stormy night. We fell
back along the line. We walked. Some wept.
Jesus wept. The tracers lit up the dark.
I thought of you. I thought. I didn’t know
the name of the man on either side or if
they thought of beauty when they wet themselves.
Oak Park, Illinois is extremely distant.
And clean, too. What is A Farewell to Arms?

The Daily Double/The Dead Sea

You can’t sink if you try. You have your own
specific gravity. Padlock and chain
will float like plastic tub toys, but, the smell
will certainly remind you, you are here,
awake and fettered, not because you are
rectitude personified and beloved.
What will occur on Resurrection Day?

Browning

An alary formation, sounds of which
barely achieve us groundlings. Straight due north,
the last person who saw you said you were
headed. He told me, leaning on his rake,
trying to tidy up the harm he’d done
the grass, which only wanted to grow longer.
Point of view is everything. The absent
decline to state theirs. Have them, though. What is
a good idea before you cook your goose?

Final Jeopardy/Julius Caesar

Eppie can be affectionate. Or not.
Tone of voice makes its contribution. Mal
grand, petit; but mal afflicts us all,
the seizure of the mind. The child is old
enough to have its own child now, if child
was there when you reached there and built Dun Roamin’.
The noblest roaming of them all, but we
who drew our cloaks over our heads and died
forever in one morning needed no
umpire to announce if we’d been fair
or brutish. Who, to poets’ betterment,
died at the hands of friends and made a name
synonymous with dynasty? Et tu?

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Not Dissimilar to a Speeding Bullet

At high speed, celerity like forked swifts,
Fast tracked, and scarcely time for banks and breath,
The world does business, busier than you,
Though you can’t find your hat, your heart, your socks
Gone walkabout; and all the bees are bright,
Even as summer hollers like a kid.
Be not afraid.  There’s nothing you can do.
The shadows swarm with life lived off the books,
And you all in the red.  These are attacks,
Happily falling like a falling star.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The Weekend Gardener

You mock the flowers I can raise:
A grown man should find better ways
To sow his seed and harvest praise.

Mutual funds look good, and hiking,
Plumbing repairs, and mountain biking--
Hobbies manly and much more striking.

Adam gardened. Cain, who killed.
Onan bore seed, although it spilled.
John Ball revolted. First he tilled.

Let me manure. I fork. I spread.
Like harlotry, in white and red,
I raise commotion from a bed

For private pleasure, amply paid.
In shadow, color: sun and shade
Where Cain worked hard and Abel played.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Ottoman Empire

I occupy this couch and think about
Decline this fall. For nearly 30 years
It ruled the room, and now its springs have passed
From mountains into gorges, great depressions.
Where are the wales of yesterday? I bought
A book, and all the change clattered away.
I changed a child, and look what that has done.
The subject people wanted to engage
Was war. Well, sometimes love. And never death.
Not on a couch, which framed all matters thus:
When we subside, how can we rise again?

Friday, March 24, 2017

And Then They Died

Ordered to make a narrative,
First you must say “First” and then
“And then.” It is by “then” and “when”
And “at the last” that stories live.

No princess unless “once there was,”
No prince unless “There came a day,”
No end until “They rode away,”
Whatever the red dragon does

Or sorcerer yellowed by spite.
Time takes them in and calls their dance.
Chronology bestirs romance,
Prompts it, promotes it, calls it a night.

Lovers insist the stream stands still,
Leaves never fall, the lion smiles.
Their collars droop, their Golden Isles
Occlude. They lie unchanged until

They can’t. And then. There is no next.
Overleaf, nothing, no pretend.
First there was then. And then, The End,
And then the tale is trapped in text.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Forcing the Spring

The hyacinths break ground, the daffs,
All green, intrude, the tulips force
Themselves upon us, and the snow
Continues intermittently.
Nobody knows the bulbs I've seen--
Nobody knows, but Flora says
Ceres keeps her eye on me,
Calling to get a daughter back,
Hers to bestow. I am the dark,
Damp alternative. They text
Green, she and Flora, sharing the sound
The topsoil makes. Somewhere beneath
Contracts a kill--we mobile few,
We pink extensions of the air,
Rootless and conscienceless and blithe,
The swift disturbers. Give me back
My seedlings, painful Ceres says.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Men Who Would Be Kings

We were a caravan, the score of us,
Camels and dogs and rugs. We infidels,
We passed for what we were, a flea-brained bunch
Determined to be wise, and if we failed,
Experienced at least. We heard that the sands
Turned ruby when they were wet, but they were dry.
Advised that the womenfolk were glorious
Beyond appraisal, we saw only men,
And they saw us and were not over pleased.
Far, far too many stars for urbanites:
We missed our meals and thought that we were brave.

Perhaps we were. A little foolishness
Is necessary for the gentle born.
Four of us returned, we four who returned,
We held our tongues and spent a year or two
Deciding what was dream and what was not.
It all was dream, the four of us conclude
And watch TV and nod our grizzled heads,
And some of them were probably attached.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

The Exclusionary Rule

"Newton's apocryphal apple"

I swear it wasn't. When the core decayed
on Eden's floor, the seeds took hold. The bole
blossomed and stained the air with pink, a whole
spectrum effect inferred from sin. It made
an atmosphere of perfume. And more trees.
They propagated emigres, and these

pinked England, and the apples fell and fell.
They rolled. They bounced. They made it into verse.
The bobby bowed and handed one to Nurse.
At all times they claimed sweetness led to Hell,
but emblematically. It was a nap
in symbol as he sat there. And his lap

bore stains which he could show you, because all,
at fruited feet per second squared, must fall.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Farmer Brown's Village Play Set

This appeared in No. 1.


The world is not constructed as it might be.
A clever set of brightly colored blocks
could fix a lot; given a Providence--
a child's bad temper, adult salary,
carpet enough and time--the houses would
show smoking chimneys in July, a fence
a cow could lean against, and portable
tulips, which would display themselves where put.

And when the circus tumbled into town,
the teachers would be clowns, down at the Bank,
old Mr. Wheeze be wearing saffron robes,
have shaved his head and changed his name to Harry.
The cutglass parking meters could dispense
one shining nickel per velocipede.
The ringmaster and his lion would walk by,
talking of spangled tights and tenderloins.
A bigtop makes a 3-ring barn. The ewes
can pile pyramidally for the careful.

Our insufficient, firmly rooted world
needs pigs and saxifrage in every closet--
hang the expense. The roofbeam would be fine.
Poppies are just as good as coffee tables,
and better dyed, if tea-time is pretend.
The elephants, like schools, have principles:
give them an office, let them read announcements.
Take them apart to be put away at night.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Elder Than Springtime

He was the elder. So he had been told.
He felt it, too. So much to take on faith,
But this, not this. He grizzled as he stared
Into the mirror recollecting zilch
Of what made him the elder. And of age,
A twist of this, a week of that, whole years
He called to mind in no detail, except
The colors of the calendars and shapes
There for memorializing the months, like May
Bedecked with buds and always breasts, but none
With heft or veins. A birthday cake of shrubs
And columbines like candles, and the wind
Which did not quite extinguish them, but made
Counting unlikely. In the dark he saw
The eyes of March, a fall of fallen leaves,
But no one younger, elder though he was.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Besame Mucho

I slept, but that did not improve
My circumstance.  Mostly the stars
And ceiling fan had stayed in place;
And Ursa Mejor barely moved.
I dreamed of you.  Sometimes you made
A different moue or sprayed your hair.
Sometimes you ran away.  Or cooked,
Patisserie or oxtail soup.
But I knew what I knew and woke
To bracelets tossed on your pillowcase,
An amulet on the ceiling fan,
And Draco Mejor roaring by.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Jenny Kissed Me

What of that? I'm not alone,
Tasting rose and bubble gum.
Years and boys, there must be some.
Some I hate, some unknown,
Time has made them dry and dumb.

Under clocks and amber trees,
What they think of in their years,
Ever Jenny, never nears.
All who did their best to please,
Kissed and captured, cold and tears,

Distant smiling, fresh and close,
These are flushed as any flower.
Real and given to the hour,
Jenny kissed me. No one knows
Jenny distant. All that power.