Wednesday, June 25, 2008


They’re just five words that you can rhyme with love,
But one would be unmannerly—that’s _____.
Another is old-fashioned—that one’s _____.
Still, lovers often gaze at “stars _____.”
The second last is that dull cliché, ____.
Just one rhyme’s left: know which I’m thinking __?


They’re just five words that you can rhyme with love,
But one would be unmannerly—that’s shove.
Another is old-fashioned—that one’s glove.
Still, lovers often gaze at “stars above.”
The second last is that dull cliché, dove.
Just one rhyme’s left: know which I’m thinking of?


Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Humanity’s resort to violence
To settle ego’s conflicts makes no sense,
For everything we claim to be humane
Bids us to be compassionate and sane:

To love our neighbors as we love ourselves
And stash our grievances on basement shelves
Once we’ve resolved our conflicts peacefully
With justice, honor, truth and equity.

That’s our ideal, proclaimed by saints and sages
In wisdom texts and scriptures through the ages,
And yet in all this time we’ve still not learned
The arts of peace for which we’ve deeply yearned.

Only a peaceful Spirit saves the day:
“There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.”

* * *


“There is no way to peace; peace is the way,”
Wise Gandhi said, by which I think he meant
We have to be that which we seek, and play
The role we would become with clear intent.

For as I think and act so shall I be,
And so the world around me shall become:
If violently, then war shall vanquish me;
If lovingly, then peace shall still the drum.

It’s in our hands and hearts and minds to choose
The manner we live by, day after day:
Shall it be marching boots or dancing shoes,
Aggression or compassion? Pick the way,

Not where to go, but who and how to be:
To live in anger—or serenity.


Monday, June 23, 2008


Two virtues nowadays are paramount,
For which history will hold us to account:
First wisdom, which discerns mere wants from needs,
Then moral courage from which choice proceeds.

We now must demonstrate our firm resolve
To help Earth’s injured biosphere evolve,
For we’ve become co-evolutionists
Through the intelligence of scientists.

We then must temper knowledge with what’s wise
Since we are wakening to realize
We play a role in the vast cosmic scheme
Foreshadowed in the ancient mythic dream

Of Uroboros who ate his own tail:
If we consume our habitat, we fail.


Sunday, June 22, 2008


Welcome, dear Austin, to your new condition,
Which puts you in a most perplexed position
As elder adolescent/young adult
Still searching for the You who will result.

Now college offers a new world of choice,
A chance to find and practice your own voice,
A cornucopia of novel thought,
New habits for your mind, both taught and caught.

Though some think money is their sole concern
And college elevates their power to earn,
We wish you growing wisdom as you learn
To help improve the world in your own turn.

As you choose carefully what you should do,
Remember that your goal’s becoming You.


Saturday, June 21, 2008


The Shadow World of dreaming baffles me.
It seems an alternate reality
I pass into through sleep, leaving behind
Materiality for merely mind.

The things of day are all transfigured there
In ways that sometimes tickle, sometimes scare
And yet for me they quickly dissipate
Fading no matter how I concentrate.

A better mode of seeing otherwise
Another world of mystery and surprise
Is through poetical imagination,
Which draws upon the same source of creation

And yet preserves itself in its own act
Giving its dreams the permanence of fact.


Friday, June 20, 2008


My walks now with the dogs are better when
I take my pocket camera with me.
Instead of dreaming in my mental den,
I peer about observing all I see:

This mottled leaf, this dew-jewelled spider web,
This egret stalking lizards in the fronds
Till—ZIP!—it nips its prey within its neb.
Such things I notice by our lakes and ponds,

While in the woods: the varied barks of trees,
The oak, the palm, the cypress, and the pine,
Crepe myrtle blossoms visited by bees.
The camera lets such spectacles be mine.

And if I had no photos to review,
I’d still have seen more than I used to do.

(photos below)

See the bee?


Thursday, June 19, 2008


The doldrums of self-pity, lassitude,
Had deepened day by day, dampening his mood,
While leaving him confused and out of tune
In what should be the Merry Month of June.

He sought for causes in his maundering heart
For why his sputtering soul refused to start,
Which left him more dispirited and sunk,
Befuddled in the misery of his funk.

But then, in desperation, taking pen
In hand, he stared at his blank pad again
And, as so often in the past, a spurt
Of spirit entered him, he grew alert,

The energy in his slack soul resurged,
And out of chaos shapely forms emerged.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Two types who’ll never mix: the one drinks latte;
The other has a black belt in karate.
Nor will you find mild-mannered Mr. Peeps
This weekend on the sand dunes racing Jeeps.
Who serves tea from a silver samovar
Won’t show up at a Karaoke bar.
The stealthy specialist in break-and-enter
Does not play cribbage at the Senior Center.
Nor will you find that grizzled old galoot
Cavorting with a girl that you’d call “cute.”
Mad Max, as jittery as a jumping bean,
Avoids the Buddhist monk, calm and serene.
All these are ever destined to be twains,
As much as Barbarellas and plain Janes.


Sunday, June 15, 2008


My habit-hobby of the sonnet form,
A daily prompt to ingenuity
(More challenging with the unyielding norm
Of perfect rhymes, not phonic deviancy),

Keeps me attuned to hidden harmonies
And resonances from somewhere Beyond,
Played on this mystic mechanism’s keys
While different cosmic levels correspond.

Supernal music from the sacred spheres,
Transduced by this device, descends to Earth
Remodulated for our human ears
To serve all moods from tragedy to mirth.

Some think the sonnet but an idle trifle;
I know its occult power is archetypal.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

the morning after


I live not for the fickle fate of fame,
In hopes that history will preserve my name,
But, rather, day by day, aim to enjoy
Each fleeting moment like a shiny toy.

An emblem of my blithe philosophy
Lies here at hand, this fading verse you see,
Which blossomed in the joyful light of dawn
Yet will from this night’s memory be gone.

What’s left’s an echo of that former bliss,
No subject for a close analysis,
A shadow merely from a brighter light
That brought me briefly to a keener sight.

To find illumination every day
Transcends my hope that any verse will stay.


Friday, June 13, 2008


Adventuring into the winds of chance
And buffeted by wonder and surprise,
He struggled to make headway and advance
Toward that distant port where wisdom lies.

He’d found no Royal Road across the land
Where pilgrims over centuries had trod;
The state he sought was one that would expand
His consciousness until he looked on God.

The winds of Grace, he knew, were ever blowing,
And he had but to raise his sails and go,
For what he sought was never fixed but flowing,
A way and not a place—a way to know.

That port he sought in fact was just a portal,
A passageway beyond what made him mortal.


Thursday, June 12, 2008


“I’m Gyppie, and this work I do is play.
The Winter Park Athletic League of Squirrels
Has hired me to train them every day,
To keep them on their toes, quicken their whirls

Around tree trunks, perfect the double-back
And other fleet maneuvers of escape
And never let their reflexes go slack.
My job’s to keep these fuzzy rats in shape.

You’ve got to see how I’m cut out for this:
There’s something in me simply can’t resist
The chance to chase a squirrel, although I miss
Them every time, and yet I still persist.

So, Officer, I need to run off lead
To do my job.” The copper said, “Proceed.”


Wednesday, June 11, 2008


If we could pick the lock of every brain
And know the hidden motives of our sins,
We’d see that all offensiveness begins
As recompense for some infernal pain.

All evils are the deeds of the insane
For malady and wickedness are twins;
Salvation is the salve that heals our sins,
Relieves our wound, and then removes its stain.

That heal and health and holiness are one
At root reveals there’s curing to be done.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008


We are the Universe’s interface
Between its outer and its inner space.


Monday, June 9, 2008


Whether or not there’s God, we know what’s good;
Some things we shouldn’t do and some we should:

We know it’s always better to be kind
Than cruel; another rule to keep in mind
Is what we do to others will come back
To recompense our love or haunt its lack.

We know our Earthly purpose is to flourish,
Become our truest selves, and then to nourish
That same self-realization in all others,
Regarding fellow creatures as our brothers.

We know these truths implicitly within
Our souls, encrusted though they be with sin;
Yet mindful mining of that buried gold
Is how we let our godliness unfold.


Sunday, June 8, 2008


Who knows for sure, but let’s say it’s like this: you actually do have a soul—or, more precisely, you are a soul, a soul who, while here on Earth, has a body.

And you, a soul, are immortal, an eternal droplet of the God-stuff that constitutes the universe, or All That Is.

This is a story you’ll hear going around a lot these days, an ancient notion from the Greeks and the Hindus, growing more popular as “spirituality” encroaches increasingly on doctrinal religions disgraced by narrow-minded teachings and hypocritical preachers.

Life after Earth-life, you have chosen to return here for further adventures and opportunities for spiritual advancement. When you are discarnate, between lives, you return to the “spiritual realm” to join a community of souls possessing far more expanded consciousness than we materialized mortals can enjoy.

There you’ll find ranks of souls, from the less evolved to the most advanced. You stand on a ladder and climb toward greater spiritual illumination, toward ultimate enlightenment.

But just as electrical filaments grow brighter when the current coursing through them meets greater resistance, so spiritual energy evolves and brightens by passing through material existence, through the challenges posed by mortal lifetimes on Earth—or elsewhere in the Cosmos, for all we know.

So, having been here many times and having returned over and again to spirit land (Psychopolis?), you have chosen once more an Earthly life, this one.

But before coming, you have gotten to select the circumstances of your existence, those among your spiritmates with whom you’d recompanion and in what relationships: husband or wife, child or parent, teacher or student, and so on.

You have also chosen, with guidance, the special challenges you’d face this time, which if well met would take you to a higher rung of enlightenment, perhaps even beyond the point where further reincarnations here would advance your spiritual status—at which glorious point, you would have graduated from “Schoolhouse Earth.”

The difficulty we all face here, however, is that we don’t consciously remember anything about our souls, or where we’re supposed to be going. And that’s intentional.

The old myth about our souls having been dipped in Lethe, the River of Oblivion, depicts how, though we descend to Earth “trailing clouds of glory,” our memories of the spirit realm are usually extinguished at birth, at which point we begin playing a kind of spiritual hide-and-seek game, looking for our way back Home, growing as we go.

So your job here and now is to find out who you really are, why you chose to return, what spiritual work you have yet to do, and to get on with it: carrying out your Earthly mission.

Carry on.


Friday, June 6, 2008


Dear Colleagues,

Here’s a project I’d like you to help me accomplish. It will take you only as much time and effort as you care to give it.

I’d like to make a compendium of personal statements from Rollins Arts & Sciences faculty regarding their conceptions of “liberal education.”

I expect to receive varied, even conflicting views, if only because in my nearly forty years here, I have seen my own ideas change considerably.

The upshot that I envision of this research will be an essay or pamphlet I write addressed to the College community, but especially to our students, regarding “The Aims, Means and Values of a Liberal Education.” It may even turn into a small anthology of your statements.

My first step is simply to gather your thoughts and study them. What I then determine is best to do with the collection, I’ll propose to you later on, and I’ll make sure you agree with how I use your writing.

Address yourself, please, to this question: By your reckoning, what defines and constitutes a liberal education? Then explain how you see an A & S college curriculum contributing to that rationale. Say briefly how your own courses work to that purpose.

More simply: What are we fundamentally about, and how do you fit into the program?

Please frame your writing to these prompts:

1. Explain to your students what you understand a collegiate “liberal education” to mean.

2. Explain to your students how what you teach contributes in particular to their liberal education.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


Explain to your students what you understand a “liberal education” to mean.

If you ask me why you should come to a college (like Rollins) that purports to give you a “liberal education,” I can answer that question only personally, since I have found it impossible to discover a consensus definition of that term among my colleagues, even at the level of platitude. So here is my own interpretation of our educational mission, to which I contribute particularly as a teacher of literature and writing. I’ll frame it as a credo.

Enhancing Humanity

I believe that a liberal education aims to improve, enlarge and enhance the humanity of our students. This attitude assumes that though we are born into the human species, our “humanity” is potential in us, as the oak tree is in the acorn. It takes nourishing, cultivating and other beneficial provisions to realize our fullest potential, among which provisions are the various components of a liberal education offered in colleges, but available as well outside of such institutions.

Growing Minds

What is most distinctive in human beings, among all other species on Earth, is our intelligence, and a liberal academic education aims to develop students’ intelligence—to grow their minds.

For the sake of a full argument, both intelligence and mind are terms to define as precisely as possible; but more vaguely for the moment, I am referring to our higher faculties of thinking that distinguish us as human beings: especially our capacity for using symbolic languages—literal, visual and auditory.

We human beings are born with latent mental potentials that are cultivated by the cultures in which we are reared. The richer and more sophisticated our enculturation, the more our intellectual potential is liberated and expressed into the world.

The job of colleges of liberal education is to liberate higher levels of human intelligence by cultivating the higher reaches of students’ minds, exposing them to and training them in the best expressions of human intellect emergent throughout history and urging them toward the mental frontiers of the present.

The practical, pragmatic benefit of such liberal learning is not its immediate concern, as it would be for vocational and technical institutions of learning. Rather, the general cultivation of intellect, the growth of mind for its own sake and for the realization of our full humanity, is its aim.

As Howard Gardner, Daniel Goleman, John Fowler and others have indicated, human intelligence is complex and multifaceted, encompassing linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, spatial, bodily-kinetic, relational, intra-personal, emotional, and spiritual dimensions, at least.

You should therefore ask of any course or discipline what aspects of intelligence it works to develop, and expect the whole curriculum to cultivate and integrate as many modes of mind as possible.

The exploration and expansion of all of these aspects of intellect are the aims of a higher, liberating education, an education that does not end with a diploma and largely commences with Commencement.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Explain to your students how what you teach contributes to the cultivation of human intelligence, to the growth of minds.

My field of English is easy to justify as a vital contributor to the growth of students’ minds, since dexterity in language is a fundamental power of human mentality, and an instrument for teaching all other disciplines of intellectual development, even music, art and mathematics.

The ability to speak and write English (or any other language) is our principal method to formulate, process and convey to others our thoughts and feelings. The more refined and subtle our linguistic powers, the better we can compose, articulate and share our comprehension of life’s experiences. Once the historic leap occurred from oral to scribal language, human beings became infinitely more capable of careful and complex verbal composition, which could be preserved and studied thereafter. Two-dimensional speech then added three-dimensional literature, breaking the time barrier.

Writing is tantamount to possessing another language than speech. With only speech by which to express yourself and communicate with others, what you would be able to convey would be halting, erratic, fractured and imperfect, never able to rise to elaborate development and extended coherence, always unpolished.

Thus, gaining mastery in written composition is fundamental to cultivating intellect, and the obvious way to learn to write well is to study the best writing, to assimilate into yourself the means and modes of effective and artful literary language, not only by osmosis but by analysis and conscious imitation.

First you learn to read, and then you learn to read better and better. From that point your own writing improves to the extent that your mimetic memory supplies you with grammatical, syntactical and rhetorical templates on which to pattern your own thoughts.

Furthermore, the study of literature can not only enrich your writing but confront you with the minds and sensibilities of variously cultivated intellects from whom you can draw both knowledge and inspiration.

Who you become and how you engage in this world derives chiefly from the powers and resources you develop through your mastery of written language, the best of which we call “literature.”


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

(Thinking about Abu Ghraib and “cruel and unusual punishment)

Usage Note

PUNISHMENT: any act taken toward another sentient being or upon oneself intended to inflict pain or deny pleasure, for the sake of justice or retribution for willful offense, sometimes with the motive of correcting offensive to inoffensive behaviors.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Sunday, June 1, 2008


How Reason and Emotion might collude
And then collaborate for our own good
Is just that philosophic attitude
The ancients advocated, as we should.

Emotion is an energetic horse
That, wild and rampant, brings us all to grief
And Reason must constrain to keep on course,
Establishing command and being its chief.

Yet Reason by itself is hard and cold,
Lacking Emotion’s fires to inflame
That passion and affection which draw gold
From cruder ore, which is our human aim.

If we would be perfected in our lives,
We must then reconcile contrary drives.