Monday, March 31, 2008


There’s more to me than this I-dentity
I think I am, the one who bears my name,
This isolated ego, “I” or “me,”
A portion of the All locked in a frame.

Though when I’m tranquil and that frame dissolves,
I meld into a wider consciousness,
And something more than ego then evolves
Until the world returns and I regress.

Still, memory of that transcendent view
Remains, reminding me infinity
Is my true medium, and all I do
Will resonate throughout eternity,

Mingling in the cosmic choral song
Where all creation’s entities belong.


Sunday, March 30, 2008


I must enlarge and elevate my mind,
Expand my consciousness and seek to find
A new awareness for humanity
That wakens us at last to sanity.

So long we’ve lived endarkened in a cave
Illusioned by false shadows as we rave
And terrorize the little world we know,
Unable to transcend that state and grow.

I’ve glimpsed and tasted this new way of being,
A higher kind of knowing and of seeing,
But now’s the time to open to that view
Entirely—and bring the sight to you.

Some call this wiser way enlightenment,
While others simply say it’s heaven sent.


Saturday, March 29, 2008


That all the world’s a stage on which are played
Illusionary scenes our egos write
Wise Shakespeare showed with his absurd parade
Of characters, each living out our plight.

We are benighted and bewildered and
Betrayed. We blindly stumble in our daze
At arbitrary impulse’s command,
Blundering witless through this earthly maze.

Those dolts, those dupes, those all but senseless fools
Shakespeare portrayed are mirrors of our lives
Displaying how not wit but passion rules,
Which few transcend becoming truly wise.

As Hindus knew that Maya is our stage
And Lila plays, the Bard was likewise sage.


Friday, March 28, 2008


for Eckhart Tolle

At times like now I feel myself atoned,
Made one with all, attuned to everything
Throughout the universe, as if enthroned
Within my soul beside the heavenly king.

Being still and inwardly serene, I know
The unity of all in consciousness;
I feel the warming transcendental glow
From something deep within that whispers “Yes.”

This voice of my vocation summons me
To leave my ego’s needs and realize
The purpose of the soul I’m born to be
By seeking out my Source and growing wise.

It’s thus I break the curse that clouds my mind
And find the Love by which all souls grow kind.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Your “personal philosophy” is that set or system of convictions you hold regarding what matters most in life. It expresses that which you have deemed the wisest ideals to uphold and wisest courses of action to follow—“the love of wisdom” being the root meaning of philosophy.

The convictions that constitute your personal philosophy may be more or less tacit or explicit, but you possess them nonetheless, as long as you express preferences for this over that, believing the one more important than the other. But while Socrates famously claimed that “the unexamined life is not worth living,” he might have said more precisely that “unexamined convictions are not worth holding.”

An articulated and self-scrutinized system of beliefs is more authentic than hand-me-down convictions picked up from the conditioning of one’s surrounding culture, from family and society.

What we believe to be true motivates us more immediately than what is true, if truth can ever be known absolutely. And this uncertainty seems to be our central dilemma as human beings: while we wish and seek to know the reality of things, that reality seems to lie behind the veil of our conjectures and beliefs, the firmest of which we call our convictions.

Only recently in our species’ history have we developed a method of knowing (the scientific method) that yields greater accuracy and dependability in many areas of our inquiry, taking us closer to presumed truth; however, in questions not of fact but of value, we have philosophy but not science. We have convictions to be examined for how well they serve us, individually and collectively.

And that examination is, I believe, the ultimate aim of human education: discovering how to thrive, finding out what to make of ourselves and the world we live in so that our greatest potentials evolve toward the growing consciousness implicit in our unfolding universe.

And that is my personal philosophy, or the beginning of it.


Sunday, March 23, 2008


One of my career-long obsessions as a college professor is trying to define rightly a “liberal education.”

As May graduation approaches every year, a seasonal urge arises in me to take yet another whack at that nail. Each year I try to be more succinct. So here I go again.

A liberal education is for liberation. It aims to free those who engage in it from many constraints and into many abilities, as many as possible.

To become wholly developed human beings, we need to transcend the confines of ignorance and ineptitude; that is, we must both know and do all we can, as well as we can, to the utter limits of our potentials.

That’s the ideal toward which we strive but can approach only approximately, being inherently imperfect, incomplete, unfinished.

Collegiate “liberal education” neither begins this process nor concludes it, for such learning is a life-long endeavor, always undone.

What college can do best, however, is to ignite and inflame our motive to become first-rate knowers and doers, urging and guiding us to realize—to make real—our latent capabilities for comprehending the whole range of human experience—our arts and sciences—and for practicing those arts and sciences as capably as we can, as wisely as we can.

A college of liberal arts and sciences should ensure its students’ widest possible exposure to the full range of human learning, typically represented in the “disciplines” on which academic departments are based.

To be ignorant of languages, literature, art, music, religion, philosophy, history, economics, geography, political science, psychology, anthropology, sociology, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, ecology, communication, media, and information technology is to be unfree.

And we’re all unfree to some degree. Our liberation is on going and life enhancing for as long as we can pursue it, which college should incite us and equip us to do.

There. Next year I’ll have even less to say.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

dragonette skeleton

degrees of green


I’ve often heard it observed that people typically name the places they develop for what they have displaced, and where I live I’ve found that true.

A block up my street is a brick-walled residential community called Quail Hollow. Though I’ve frequently walked my dogs along every street and cul-de-sac of Quail Hollow, we’ve never flushed a quail, and the ground is now quite flat.

I live in Orange County, which has lost most of its orange groves to developers. And adjacent Seminole County has its share of McMansions and starter castles, but I’ve seen no chickees.

In our little city of Winter Park, where there’s a commerce-endangered park downtown, it’s late March. The crispy brown leaves of our live oaks and laurel oaks have just finished falling, ejected by the fresh gold-green leaves of spring. We have summer, then fall, then spring, but no winter in Winter Park.


Thursday, March 20, 2008


Which writers have captivated the consciousness of all their readers for the longest measure of time?

If one could calculate that, it would be a good criterion for Fame; even better if one could measure the quality of that captivation—how intense, how pleasurable, how affecting, how transformative, how enlightening.

Then add this factor: over the longest period of time. That would help Homer in his contest with Harry Potter for the status of a literary “classic.”


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

[Here's an old love poem of mine I've just submitted to The Prairie Home Companion's Bed of Roses Love Sonnet Contest. Tune in on April 12 to see who wins.]


With every minute I draw nearer you
I’m further then away; for every mile
I move means that much more we must renew
For having been apart the longer while.

Would we could meet upon the global pole
And end this paradox of time and space,
Since there, where longitudes converge, the shoal
Of space and bank of time present one face.

To stand atop the world is to top time:
For, spin and stop, then step in any way,
You stand in any hour from prime to prime—
You’re lord of place and master of the day.

There at the peak of rule we could renew
Our love and ever love in dawn’s still hue.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008


To make and leave behind a memorandum of my presence as a human being and of my development in mind, heart and soul: Kilroy was here!

I write to work these matters out and play my way to clarity.

My life is an itch and writing is how I scratch it, etching a record on life’s desktop.

I write to answer my own questions, since only when I put them clearly to myself, sit down and stare at them, then loosen my gaze and listen within, do I get inklings of answers to ink on the page.


Monday, March 17, 2008


for Manny

As a poet, I’m a hobbyist, an avid amateur, with pretensions.

What keeps me from the fervid fray of professional competition is my need to spare my ego both over-stimulation and dejection. I’ve been dejected in the past, and I’d rather avoid too much of that.

I write first to please myself, for the fun of saying something delightfully, gratifyingly, by my own lights; yet also with the hope of pleasing others. It’s all about pleasure, especially the pleasure of pulling off something difficult, of fashioning a crafty little box that snaps snugly shut.

I’d rather call my own practice verse than poetry, leaving “Poetry” an honorific term best conferred by others, and thus also avoiding the conundrum of defining poetry. Verse I do, however well, and it’s readily distinct from prose.

I came to writing verse by osmosis since I teach the Old Masters of the English tradition, from Chaucer to Milton in particular. Their ways rubbed off on me. I began to play with iambic pentameters. “I lisped in numbers, for the numbers came.”

But my teaching not only drenched me in the element of verse, it also shaped what I wrote since as a teacher I’m an explainer, an expositor, and what mostly came forth were discursive verses rather than something more lyrical and soulful.

I use verse as a vehicle for discourse and discovery, for pedagogical monologues or reveries meant to teach myself first, then others, with the rational attitude prevailing over the affective.

Sticking with traditional meter and rhyme, rather than encumbering my thought, provokes it and shapes it, taking me in unexpected directions.

Think of a racehorse galloping in a lane on an oval track, describing a complete circuit, crossing a finish line. Compare that with a free-ranging mustang careening across a plain in a herd. The first is a sonnet, the second a riot. Like a jockey, the meter and rhyme keep nudging and prodding my racing mind on a course to a conclusion.


after reading “The Trouble with Poetry”
by Billy Collins

This isn’t just for anyone, you know,
and certainly not for everybody,
so who are you, then, friend,
looking in to this out-of-the-way place—
the kindred spirit I’ve always written for?

If so, would I recognize you on the street?
Would I have known you in another life,
a soul mate separated all these years
mystically linked, my other half?

Well then, you know my mind already,
and here you see an image of your own;
or is it you who’s been dictating everything,
and all my poetry is yours? Okay,
then dedicate it back to me, old pal.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Discursive verses such as these
Mean to inform as well as please,

Although their very clarity
Keeps them from being Poetry,

Where nowadays Good Sense is scant
And Truth, like Emily’s, comes slant.


Friday, March 14, 2008


Like a stutterer who only when he sings
Can be articulate and smooth in speech,
My mind while writing verse more easily strings
New thoughts together, binding each to each.

To write free verse, bereft of beat and rhyme,
Not knowing where to turn a line or stop,
Is random data with no paradigm,
A field unfurrowed, land without a crop.

I don’t sit here to write what I now know,
But to turn up by happy accident
The formulations random sounds bestow,
Which paradoxically seem heaven sent.

The attitude that finds such providence
Is faith in a Sublime Intelligence.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008


It’s not to make me rich
Or fit into a niche;
I simply like to stitch
My lines together.

For when I make them hitch
And do it with no glitch
(The better to bewitch),
You’re on my tether.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008


I’ve grown in time addicted to this line
That trips across the page iambically,
Which, coupled with a rhyme, shapes a design
Where function follows form mysteriously.

For what I find to say depends upon
Contingencies of meter and of sound;
These elements from which my thoughts are drawn
Come first, and not the other way around.

There’s no way I can know before I write
And watch thought grow with every line that comes
What I might find of insight and delight
While rhymes plumb unseen depths and meter strums.

Then as the scheme demands, a couplet ends
This formal frame on which my mind depends.


Monday, March 10, 2008


Assuming I am free and may pursue
Whatever course I choose, and have the means
To realize my dreams, what should I do?
Which is the way my native genius leans?

That inner wisdom from my innate guide
Reveals itself when I serenely pray,
And what I seek it’s ready to provide,
Though not a mandate that I must obey.

I’m always free to exercise my will
And follow wayward impulse into night,
Yet wisdom ever beckons when I’m still
And shows me how to reckon things aright.

Be still, be still, be still, be still—and know,
For in that lighted clearing truth will show.



We’re here to make the best sense that we can
Of our diverse experience as man.
Each one of us is given the chance to add
One cubit to the view our forebears had,
Extending both our sight and our insight
To comprehend the universe aright.

Some peer around and outward to collect
The data of our worldly intellect,
While others introspectively opine
Upon what metaphysical design
May appertain and finally explain
The meaning of it all—our joy and pain.

The first part of our mission we’ve done well;
The second’s yet to do: averting hell.


Sunday, March 9, 2008


One thing I’ve learned on my sabbatical
Is, having lots of time to read and mull,
To search and probe, reflect and cogitate,
I have an appetite that life can’t sate.

There’s no end to my curiosity,
Nor were there two or even ten of me
They were too few to study all I would,
Much less to learn and master all I should.

So since I’m bound to die thus incomplete,
How may I reckon this as not defeat
But victory of a sort I can enjoy,
Leaving a legacy time won’t destroy?

Perhaps it’s this, a verse that may endure
Not for its truth but what it shows obscure.



Distractions and diversions sheer me from
The steady centeredness of pure aplomb,
Which, in the quiet middle of the night,
While sitting placidly in this dim light,
I may regain and take a truer way
Leading me from the onslaught of the day.

But only when melodious accord
In verse arrives have I my best reward,
For then I own an emblem of this time
When measure rules and lines conclude in rhyme
And tongues no longer clash equivocally
In dissonance, but sing in harmony.

Yet all too soon the dazzling day begins
To frazzle me with discords and distractions.


Saturday, March 8, 2008


Why are we here, what is our aim?
I figure life’s a kind of game
That if we win, to loud acclaim,
We’re guaranteed eternal fame,

But if we lose, it’s to our shame,
We were a spark, but not a flame—
“And what became of what’s-his-name?”

Yet others more enlightened claim
That fame or shame, it’s all the same,
Or what you picture’s what you frame.


Friday, March 7, 2008


The earliest sonnets that I wove at ten
Were stretched upon a little metal frame
Held in my lap, and not with pad and pen,
But colorful elastic loops—a game.
My sonnet writing now is much the same:
The verticals are alternate iambs,
Since pattern and not chaos is my aim;
The laterals end in zingers and shazams,
A parti-colored flock of ewes and rams.
Once lifted from the frame with edges laced,
More epigrams than In Memoriams,
They frequently reveal more haste than taste.
These latter ones I’ve woven out of thoughts;
The early ones I made to handle pots.


Thursday, March 6, 2008


To write this verse is quite like giving birth:
The seed is an idea from outside;
The egg is in my mind, of little worth
Until its walls are breeched and occupied.

Till then there’s only latency in wait
That lacks the stirring of some potency
To urge it toward conception of its fate,
Its consummation in integrity.

But who am “I” who hears and writes these lines,
Marveling and observing all the while?
A midwife with no part in their designs
Except to, now and then, redress their style.

So I stand by assisting where I can
A process far beyond the power of man.


Wednesday, March 5, 2008


To contemplate is to move out of time
Adventuring in the realms of the sublime,

While merely sitting in a mood of calm
Summoning to troubled souls its balm,

Returning to the Cosmos’ sacred womb,
Rehearsing of what lies beyond the tomb,

An opening of the mind, a coming home,
Conversion of life’s prose into a poem.


Tuesday, March 4, 2008


When others suffer and no prayers appease,
How can I justify my life of ease?
I sit here peacefully to read and write
Aiming to find both insight and delight.

Is it enough to seek my further reaches
Through what philosophy or science teaches
And to enjoy the work and play of mind
While those less fortunate are left behind?

I'd like to say what's right is to excel
In that which I'm most suited to do well,
That talents are a gift to be employed
And doing well may justly be enjoyed.

But still, another verse or work of art
Should lift a sinking soul or heal a heart.


I am an atheist in that I can’t
Allow myself to be a sycophant
To some mysterious “deity” who rules
Presumably a universe of fools.

That concept of a god is dead to me;
I’d rather focus on humanity,
The grandest species yet to have evolved,
Whose aim is that all mysteries be resolved.

And yet, though godly fables we’ve all heard
Appear to rationality absurd,
There’s something inexplicable I feel
Persuading me that something more is real.

How is it that I can transcend my mind
And find solutions to which reason’s blind?


Monday, March 3, 2008


“Where are you going on your sabbatical?”
I’m often asked, by those who think it dull
To stay at home and walk the neighborhood.
The need I feel is not well understood.

Sometimes I claim I’m like Thoreau, who said,
“I’ve traveled far in Concord.” In my head
I journey wide with book or pad in hand:
It’s leisure that I need and nothing planned.

The world I range lies in my blissful mind
Where wit and bright imagination find
New vistas of ideas and fantasies
With prospects of unviewed realities.

They see me here, as if in this dimension,
Though I’m somewhere beyond their comprehension.


Sunday, March 2, 2008


For all my talk of wisdom and of hope,
Don’t take me, please, for just a credulous dope,
A cockeyed optimist naïve to sin
Or to pathology, its natural twin.

I read the news, I study history,
I look into my own heart constantly,
And everywhere I see the harm we do:
Inanity, insanity to rue.

We’re insecure and easily offended,
Like those from whom our species is descended,
And we lash back whenever we’re attacked,
Preferring sweet revenge to peaceful pact.

But still, we can know love and harmony,
The heart of wisdom, hope and charity.


Saturday, March 1, 2008