Thursday, December 23, 2021

AngelBug271: A Retrospective in Perspective


The things left out would fill an armory:
snow mattresses made out of fresh-cut spruce,
cross hatched, Air-Wicky, noisy in the night;
the thrum his pulse beat the last hundred yards
of a 440; locust shells on trees,
adhesive, alien, empty; new Keds.

Some themes, though do emerge, and many words.
Seven poems begin with moon & stars;
and "tears" appears in every single one.
The word for Love.  The word for blood.  The word
made ink, but never flesh.  Not even chance
makes miracles.  The moon.  The stars.  The moon.

The grout between the bathroom tiles.  The wind
unrolling the awning.  Look: they are not there.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Pleasure Comes In


     from These Denver Odes

Pleasure comes in short supply,
grace and favor, bit by bit.
Who promises contrariwise
tells innocently blue-eyed lies,
believing she's believing it,
Philpot. Celinda made me cry

that once, but that was yonks ago.
Today I merely miss some sleep.
If this one tells you you are strong,
and she will love both sweet and long,
that little bit of pride you keep?
Kiss it goodbye. I ought to know.

Monday, December 13, 2021

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.

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

The Complete Henriad

This appeared in Angle.

Henry has disappeared, a man who mowed,

Unleaved the gutters, recovered falling trim,

Unturned no stone, and left no hole behind.

Everything takes his place, whose clothes were grit

And grass, and there is sun enough for all.

Hence scant despair.  The Henriad is made

Curtal; the solo myth of sorts is saved

And spent on robins, maybe, and the brown

Spinners who walked out of his new-trimmed bush,

Patient and outraged, made to start again.

The past has passed.  They spin a yarn so fine,

Henry may be inside, in visible

Distress.  He's moved.  Or Henry is just gone.

Thursday, December 02, 2021


This is what I made.
I made it all myself.
And now that it is done,
It’s no good, I’m afraid,
To stick it in a drawer
Or stack it on a shelf.
And there are plenty more,
Dark and all alone.

Why, sure I can attest
And swear by Mars and Jove
That art and bronze are best,
That nothing lives but love:
And make myself a home,
Safe in my metronome.

And worms will not protest.
And grass will not complain.
And some protagonist
Will do it all again,
Good, better, and best,
All washed out by the rain.
So read this if you would.
It may do me some good.

Friday, November 26, 2021

The Company He Keeps


The Irish Tower in LA

Has all the Greats, like Keats and Yeats,

Who sing for all and sing for aye

And stack up rhymes like dinner plates.

And every one is good and true,

Except, as it happens, when they ain’t:

So what’s a simple man to do

When told the truth, but told it slant,

But trust in angels, saints, and Yeats

(And Keats)? For as his recompense,

He wants his high and mighty mates

Pungent and true as frankincense.

So he listens hard, and he takes good notes,

And if in company he is dumb,

Every hundred years—and he quotes—

Some things wonderful this way come.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

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.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

A Watering of Lawns


"What if the stream should rise and overflow?

The setbacks here, our little yard—we're goners,

all just like that."

                                "It's not a stream, you know.

It's just the wet a hose makes in the curb,

a watering of lawns, not quite the brown

rush of current an atlas might pick up.

I wouldn't worry too much about a flood."

"Our tree, you know, it thrusts--what? quite a hundred

feet up, that flood would snap it like a stick

and use it to beat time on Shady Lane.

It's all so vulnerable. We build a hedge

and put in burglar proofing for the night

some guy decides he needs our VCR

to round his little day. We buy a dog

and aerosol the ants out of the driveway.

All that it takes is one efficient storm,

a little wind, a couple clouds, and someone,

gray suits we never voted for, decides

we are disasters in the technical

and economic sense."

                                    "The sprinkler ran

a little long next door. They went away

this weekend and some valve stuck open. That's

not Noah, and the elephants are still

down at the Zoo. You see them on the way,

a pair of them, trying to climb aboard

our station wagon? One, one coffee cup

came floating westward down the curbside towards

the California culvert, and you're checking

the median to see if trees still show

their topmost twiglets mirrored on the sea."

"I worked so hard just training that clematis

to climb where put. I hate to see it wash

"downstream, a meal for some bright-stickled fish

who doesn't know the lubbers in the house

who made the dirt mature enough to bear.

A man moves landwards when he thinks an oar

would make a trellis."

                                    "Look, there comes the truck

of sprinkler repairmen. Look, dear, we are saved."

"You're making fun of me."

                                            "Disaster comes

to every day the sun comes up. Sufficient

unto that day are dishwasher and bath."

"Let's go out back and check the runner beans.

They don't need much to burn. It's all so quick."

Saturday, November 06, 2021

My Grant Application

 Another poem from the pre-Cretaceous era.  This one appeared in Plains Poetry Journal.

They asked me for a line or two, to show

what I could do, poetry-wise.  I gave them:

"Though snow-bound now, I knew the spring before";

"the silver periphrasis of the moon";

"Amo, amat: the pilgrims cry, 'So what?'"

But they were not impressed.  The Guggenheims

looked elsewhere for their beneficiaries.

I'd filled out every square on every form;

I even knew my mother's maiden name

and what the book after my next would be

called, if they ever gave me time to write it.

"Sorry," they said.  "The volume of our mail

precludes an individual response."

Sunday, October 31, 2021

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 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, October 26, 2021

When It Was New


This house when it was new

was mine. Now we have aged

past midpoint. When I grew

that elm, I kept it caged

a year or so. It soars

and crowds the house beside,

as if the out of doors

were one great neighbor wide.

I guess we haven’t altered

because I went away,

nor would these roots have faltered

if I had chanced to stay;

and yet it seems it bided

until I turned my face,

like someone then decided

to let it have the place.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Bedtime Stories


Watch out for the ogre, guys. I can hear him

climbing the stone stairs, trailing his nailed club

as he limps up and up. At the wrong door

you all kept vigil. He has got behind you.

He's closer now. His boots scuffle and slide.

The upshot always is, "He's going to get you."

They gasp, if the timing's right, and are content.

Those stupid bears. Those damn fool pigs. Wolves. Mice.

Bears and oatmeal? Perfect. Talking chickens?

Fairies and trolls? Let's have a story called

The Wicked Jogger or Three Billy Goats

and Their Tax Auditor. "Forget it, Dad."

Stick to what's unseen. What never could be

Plunks them the deepest; pulses thrill to beanstalks;

the house of twigs still stands, as green as summer.

Mom's gone. She was enlightened by a genie

who's granted her three wishes and red shoes.

"No, Dad. Come on." Well, then, there was this frog

who kissed this princess who wore golden slippers

and never met a prince she didn't like.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

The Gentle Scansion

 This appeared in Poetry Ink quite a long time ago.

Of all places for me to be, I am

driving into West Virginia. Suddenly

the smell of pickles is everywhere,

ignoring the rolled up windows, pouring

through the twang of heartbreak and divorce

on the AM station, which is all I have.

It's a paper plant, I think. Or chemicals,

maybe. They are about the same,

paper and ink or clot-dissolving solvents.

Somehow the pickle smell of West Virginia

opens the way, foreruns the gentle scansion,

lyrics that tell, pastel, how much I wanted

to open that pale Magdalene's long legs.

Monday, October 11, 2021

The Last of the Elephant Jokes


This appeared in Freefall.

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.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

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.

Friday, October 01, 2021

Big Day In A Small Town


Later the rhino slept on the main street,

And all the cars drove scrupulously around,

Even though no one knew its christian name

Or where it had grown up or gone to school

Or went to church or who its people were.

"Please let me sleep," the sign beside it said,

Which seemed little enough for one so big.

The children liked it best, of course, and made

A kudzu hat with daisies for a brim

To keep its gentle dermis safe and sweet.

Somebody said that we should call the cops,

So we threw rocks at him until he left.

The next day it was gone and took the sign.

A shonda it was, or so the elders said.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

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.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Theseus & Antithesis

Crafty Daedalus died. He was amazed.

One string, and he'd have puzzled his way back

To hearth, a home with labor-saving gadgets,

Self-bashing bulls and wax-free candlelight.

The little ingenuities of less

Do just as well: the patent problem is

A property of all and everyone.

Somebody's master, Theseus was, the crazed,

Plucking his string with singing and a snack

To lull the bull. He loved his cutting widgets

And classy sandals. Daedalus was right

To leave: force made a master of a mess,

Cleverness for the little properties,

A princess coming, and the bull was done.

     This appeared in The Flea.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Critical Updates

 This appeared in Angle.  Such good taste they had.

I’ve changed the voice commands. The poem starts

When anyone says Artemis or swears

By Zeus's thigh.  It finishes when rain

Intervenes, the puddles ex machina

Providing an escape.  Between the prompts

Poetry sleeps.  Hollering Blood-dimmed tide

As your Camaro races by won't work,

Nor liquid-sifting nightingales atop

A satellite dish.  I have allowed for that.

Nor saying Venus when you really mean

The foam-born goddess who made Helen fall

For that blond curly-headed twit, then watched

A local Hector dragged around in dust.

You can't say whale-road, can't pretend that Danes

Are good for more than video games.  You must 

Burn your own child to smithereens to save

Earth from the sun when what it needs is rain.

Friday, September 10, 2021

The Expatriate

For extra credit he remembered much
That wasn’t worth remembering, forgot
The kinship he had promised to except
From discharge, and demurred at growing up.
It made him charming, like a short-term loan,
Lots of interest there, so he changed his name
To Amaryllis-in-the-Shade and wept,
Or said he did, at auld acquaintances.
The Times that try men’s souls, he did not read,
Other than archived, knew that butterflies
Were thinner on the ground than yesteryear,
But worms more frequent. Mr Lowly Worm,
There was a name for next week, if he made
Next week as Amaryllis-in-the-Shade.

Monday, September 06, 2021

Alliteration In My Mother's Milk

This first appeared in Angle.  They had very good taste, those Anglers.

 In fall the flowers fail. The faeries fly

To Boca Raton and the Winter Wings Buffet,

The Bottomless Shrimp Bowl, Boundless Salad Bar,

The Seminal Seminole Margarita +,

And flash floods in your dreams. The flowers pray

To be dismembered in your orisons,

A Home of Unsaved Sepals in the Hills,

A past of pollen all their future now.

No cherry pie. No Anna Baptist Bread,

Dunked in The Living Chocolate Wonderfall.

No Date Night Date Nut Pudding in the spring.

The faeries book their seats for further south.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

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.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Sad Stories/Death of Kings


Let us not decorate the doom of kings

Whose bubbes forecast for them great events.

They mostly whined about the dearth of gold,

Misplaced dominions, and the gaucheries

Of bathrobes. Celebrate the concubines,

Whose cheeks, at least, were pink at either end.

A woman camped outside the coffee shop,

Atop a mountain of her own debris,

Swears she was once the Queen of Shangri-La.

No need to disagree. She crossed her heart,

Whispering to her phone, pennons at dawn

Creased by a zephyr, yaks upon the green

Below the castle wall, some blend of blue.

She's got a swatch she'll show you, the same shade.

Saturday, August 07, 2021

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,
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,

Monday, August 02, 2021

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 knights 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.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Algernon Swinburne Dreams of Going Out

This appeared in Angle.

The king is dead. Oh, no, he's not. He's resting,

What with his busy week, dissolving monks

And roasting papists with a garlic clove

And celery stalk apiece. He raised the tax

On gingham. His monopoly on dust,

More valuable than mail, he auctioned off

to the new Chancellor of the Campanile.

The belles, the belles: they're gathering out front,

Leaning against portcullis rails, in wigs

As high as cotton candy and as pink.

Teased and tormented in the cages above

The gate, the entertainment, curled like shrimp,

Moans, and the would-be guests whistle and stomp.

The ball begins with Taffelmusik. Bits

Of quarter-note-shaped ice bob in the punch

Just long enough to clarify the king's

Intentions: he would dip the band in tar,

The perfect pitch a torch unto the blind,

And all be spared who buy a savings bond.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Another Cup of Tea


The Nazis drove through Paris,

Elvis got fat and died.

Babe Ruth was supplanted by Maris.

The President lied.

    I have survived a number of shocks.

You were young, you were beautiful, you said

My heart is a halo of flame.

I haven't heard if you are still dead,

But no one knows your name.

    Backwards reel the clocks.

Our trees are green again this year.

The drainpipes drain to the sea.

Somebody pops a Mexican beer,

But love was your cup of tea:

Till the stars collapsed and the sun burned out

And everyone learned beyond a doubt

    Love is a plate of cold rocks.

Monday, July 19, 2021

You & Me & Rain on the Roof


When you were young, I was already x.

My son is y, but you are only z.

You glow in tones designed to charm and vex

Our pants off. As mine are. Here. Now. My bed.

What does that make me? One decrepit drooler,

A humbert in his head? You are a bird

Of paradise. Our years, marked like a ruler,

Measure me for subtraction. Word by wordplay

I find me wanting. Wanting you, but wanting

Not to be young again. To have to be

Feathered like you. A tit. I should be planting

Saplings, so someone else can have a tree.

It is raining. It is raining. I'm relieved

In what we are not doing. In the night

Paradise is a roost. I am deceived

Because you are not here. Take heed. Take flight.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Rising Expectations


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

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Astronomy: An Introduction


What if the stars are singing like the bats,

Too high a song to hear, but full of clues,

Like whodunit and why I dream of girls

Too good for me, I never even met?

Maybe it’s all the same, and what they say

Who say such things, one nation, full of bonds

And stock responses, they who never saw,

Though bangled to the max, a stellar bat

Absconding with your name and your address,

Home to a star part gas and all white flame.

Thursday, July 01, 2021

This House No Longer

 This appeared in Poetry Proper.

This is a house without chalcedony

Or Andamooka opals, and it deems

Its seizure insecure. Hawks veer away

To overfly somebody else's house.

This house is what it is, is what it is.

You want to meet us? We share a single bath,

Not privacy. Our calendar misquotes

In scarlet letters Make your life sublime

Use Rapid Sands. We never leave the room

For grave emergencies. Our motto is

A tramp stamp on the lady of the house,

Her fine embroidered sacroiliac,

Hunker Down, which seems not to overstate,

And understatement is a way of life.

Why, there is a bone here after all; a mole

Has left his skull, a warrior's helmet toy,

For Spike to crunch and play with. This is a house

Without a porphyry tub or sisal strings

To anchor it, and someday it will leave.

Saturday, June 26, 2021


 The mulch is ready. Earth contains

All earth requires, the blood and brains

Of trees and flowers, to make with weeds

The soil that terraculture needs

For moly. On the primal tree

Hung harbinger and history,

Both fast asleep in yeoman mud.

The mulch is making bark of blood.