Thursday, June 29, 2023

We Do Brown


Since you would be in Britain in the spring,

The states must suffer. Here we only have

The toughest daffodils, the snowdrops who,

More thew than delicacy, make a swift

And wan appearance; there, there is the show

Of countless flower, gaudy garden, green

Of glib variety. Here we do brown

In many ways. It does not tempt you, here,

Since you would be in Britain in the spring.

Remember us, who cannot tell the weed

From scrawny flower when we try to pluck

The memory of you. We cannot grow

What will not bloom. We cannot fertilize

The misplaced and misplanted; but we find,

Whatever we may look upon, the face

And color and soft scent of the Welsh rose.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Sow You Shall


I planted carrots; jawbones grew,

fitted with teeth, hinged as if fresh.

I planted onions. Inching up,

electric cord. I cut the plugs

off and saved them in a dark drawer

till fall. Meanwhile the copper wire

exfoliates. I dug a hole,

hoping to find a broken pot

breded and lacquered, lost and found

and lost again, the art of house-

hold detriment. But what I turned

up on the sharp point of my spade—

just anecdote and parsley flakes

and cumin-scented calendars

and rubber bands. I turned them down

to fertilize. The coming storm

will make my bed a slough of mud

and battered silt. These are the grounds

I use to justify my lines—

chile and radish and runner bean.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

The Judgments of Paris


If Aphrodite has the sweetest voice,

Athena’s song is written best. What tunes

The smitten sing teeter towards the silly,

And they don’t care. Athena crams her songs

With polyglottal, multivalent stuff

The other goddesses cannot even spell.

(Hera never sings. She will whoop and gloat

In victory and smirks at fealty,

If other than coerced. Her hawk-like eyes

Half the time fail to see you and don’t ask

Whether you like her song or not. You won’t.)

Towards whom do you extend the golden apple?

Skin buckles, loses elasticity.

The most tyrannical grow old and weak,

Leaving to other brokers all their vassals.

The vessels even of the wise constrict,

And they forget their shoes and Mother's name.

So where do you trust? You ought to know that war

Ensues from every possibility,

Slaughter and carnage, orphanage and rape

And plague and wholesale urban extirpation.

So choose now, if you please. It’s what we do.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

A Southern California Houseguest


A part of the appalling grounds was laid

With pergolas, gazebos, and a brick

Pagoda. He saw statuary, thick

With aureolas, wee-wees, and flamingos.

He saw a plaster herd of rampant dingoes,

A Virgin Mary, and a gold-dust maid,

Who turned out to be real. At least she spoke.

"'The dingoes ate my baby," you were thinking,.

And "Is she live or astral? She's not blinking.'

I know you were." All true, he had to say.

"Oh, and are your breasts real, by the way?'"

That, too. Too true. Her pleasaunce made him choke.

The hurt, which he had put aside, as lent

And oft repaid, was rhythmic as a psalm.

All he had saved, he thought it had been spent.

And there she stood, beneath a plastic palm.

Friday, June 09, 2023

Dead Grandpa, The Fauvist


The elder statesman of the neighborhood
Remembers giant elk and sabertooths
Engaging in the parkway. He recalls
Splashy bonfires from the age of ice,
Thick blue-gray sheets encroaching on the huts
His parents built from fronds and fallen logs,
And, oh, the wolves--foundation of the blues,
He tells the little children, who step back,
Hoping the white-coat men with nets will show.
He notices. He tells them of the times
He drove off fierce triceratops and saved
The vegetables for winter. Where were you,
He queries, when we carved out the first wheel,
When Og and I invented tempera
And wooden teeth and book reviews? And salt.
The kids have heard of black-and-white TV
And know that WWI preceded II.
They do not need a grandfather who laid
Great Caesar's ghost to rest and lent his ears
To Phoenix, over coffee, every time,
Until the bird was old enough for school
And snub-nosed scissors, juice boxes, and gym.
Old and burned and born again and again,
He lives the story of the Ice Age, too,
The story of true love and painted caves,
Of Artemis and pharaoh's swanky graves;
But giant elk are scarce today. Old Og
Has gone to dust, there, blowing down the block,
And Grandfather will follow, given time.

Sunday, June 04, 2023

2 Epigrams


      from The Greek Anthology

It must be dirt that keeps me quiet.  Weight
     like this no child should have to bear.
     I cannot move.  They do not care,
Who bore me early and have left me late.


I learned to write these epigrams
from reading J. V. Cunningham’s.
I know that I should be too proud
to witness such a debt aloud,
since he has never shown a sign
of learning much from reading mine.

Saturday, June 03, 2023

If You Go Out in the Woods


Our bread crumbs didn’t last and did no good,
Except to fatten teeny birds of prey,
Waiting for us. So we just ate the bread,
And berries from whatever bush we passed,
Thinking that every mouthful was our last,
And there we were, Hecate’s Hideaway.

The sign said we should walk right in; the birds
Had fallen back and shut their eyes. A door
Marked Either Push or Pull in steaming words
Was decorated with a rampant bear.
We changed our minds, my little sister said.
There are more pleasant ways we could be dead

Than eating eaves and downspouts and veneer.
The windows showed a shape behind. We spoke
Never of Deadly Stepmother, who broke
Our daddy’s arms and will. We turned the knob,
And every bird of prey began to sob.
Get over it, I said. At least we’re here.

Exercise equipment and jars of pills,
Portraits of cats and pollywogs en croute,
These the nefarious accessories
They feared? These spooked the spotted peccaries
Who trampled children? Home without a doubt,
We hung our sweatshirts in the polished halls

And settled for adulthood and a style
Of limited means. We paid the local tax
And mended squeaky hinges. In the loft
Were comforters and all the clothes we’d left
Behind, outgrown now. From a metal box
We drew a deed written in blood and bile.

It’s all yours, and it always was, we read
On the appended Post-It. We fed the birds
And omnivores who visited in squads
And raised a ruckus when somebody tried
The wooden gate. No lawyers came to call.
Our footprints, first obscured, were gone by fall.