Saturday, December 31, 2011


     Before I die I hope to signify
     That how I’ve used my mind was for the best,
     That I’ve asked not just who and how but why,
     And my profound inquiries have been blessed:

     Why are we here, and why have we the power
     Of conscious intellect to comprehend
     The universe and savor every flower,
     Knowing our beginning and our end?

     No other earthly creature has such scope
     Of aptitude and possibility,
     And through our history we’ve learned to grope
     And grasp at meaning in this mystery.

          If I, before my end, could fathom this,
          I’d happily descend in death’s abyss.


Friday, December 30, 2011


for Duane Elgin

Suppose, I say, though don’t believe outright,
What has not yet been proven beyond doubt
But what seems true to mystical insight,
From which, sometimes, the seeds of knowledge

Suppose, then, that the Kosmos is informed
By a mysterious intelligence
From which proceeds the energy that swarmed
Out of a black hole, gradually growing dense.

Thus random accident no longer must
Absurdly seem the cause of everything,
But rather some incentive more robust,
A consciousness of which old sages sing:

     Plotinus, say, who saw all life embraced
     By Mother Universe, thus blessed and graced.*

* “The universe is a single living being embracing all living beings without.” —Plotinus

Thursday, December 29, 2011


for Duane Elgin

     What difference does it make if we decide
     The universe is living after all,
     A thesis that materialists deride
     Who find us insignificantly small?
     If we’re more than a random accident
     That time and chance have blindly stumbled on
     But rather have evolved through an intent,
     We’ve reason to be more than woebegone:
     We’ve cause to think causation comes from mind,
     That intellect pervades the universe,
     And all we see’s implicitly designed,
     Unfolding for the better, not the worse.
          To know all this takes more than mere belief,
          Though gnostic intuition heals our grief.


       What’s wheat is when I keep the beat
       And when my rhyme scheme’s deft and neat,
       When form and matter coincide
       And you find nothing to deride.

       What’s chaff is what provokes a laugh
       But inadvertently—a gaffe
       That makes you wonder if I’m daft
       Or just inept.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011


for Duane Elgin

  The Cosmos is the universe conceived
  As orderly, coherent and alive,
  Which is a concept formerly believed
  That some today are aiming to revive.

  Despite materialists who apprehend
  A world reduced to mass and energy,
  Inspired cosmologists will yet contend
  That Spirit gives it all vivacity,

  That consciousness comes first, intelligence
  Informing all that manifests as real,
  For how could merely matter summon sense
  Or all this vital panoply reveal?

       Though Newton taught us how to calculate,
       There’s more displayed to those who meditate.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011


for Richard Tarnas
     He felt his life should be a holy quest
     Devoted to the highest and the best,
     Though not vicariously through literature
     But deeds of his own doing that endure.
     What inroads could he take that might advance
     Humanity and break the evil trance
     That keeps us blindly spellbound with its curse
     Unapt to understand the universe?
     Could he discover how to apprehend
     The fateful ways that cosmic forces tend,
     Divine the very nature of the schemes
     By which realities emerge from dreams,
          Then he’d achieve the highest human aim
          Deserving of the most enduring fame.


Monday, December 26, 2011


     Were it pronounced I was about to die,
     As someday certainly will be the case
     (And sooner seems more sure than by and by),
     I would not wish to go and leave no trace.
     To leave instead the highest and the best
     Of all it is that I still have to give—
     My whole potentiality expressed—
     Is how I ardently intend to live.
     But since it may be that this very day
     Is destined for my last, then I must make
     The best of all I do, which is to say
     This sonnet’s written for the future’s sake
          Enunciating you as well as I
          Both aim to be immortal though we die.


Sunday, December 25, 2011


     If Spirit is the breath that animates
     Our lives, enthusing us with consciousness,
     Then pray to be inspired, open the gates
     To heavenly winds that purify and bless,

     For otherwise we’re loveless and forlorn,
     Flat, desiccated, hollow, bitter, bleak;
     Seek rather to be salvaged and reborn—
     Ascend to Holiness’ transcendent peak

     For there the winds of grace are ever blowing
     To fill your soul with tenderness and bliss
     And keep the fires of love forever glowing
     Since what is living for, if not for this?

          This Holy Spirit fills the universe—
          Forgetting which incurs a woeful curse.


Saturday, December 24, 2011


Come read with me this term and you shall hear
The marvelous language of old poets who,
Like Chaucer, Sydney, Spenser and Shakespeare,
Have for their genius earned so much ado.

Hear how they’ve mastered the pentameter
And met the challenge of complex rhyme schemes;
Learn not to let their subtleties deter
You from the gold that in their verses gleams.

While rich in diction, subtle in its wit
And eminent in sonorous effect,
Their poetry shows what is requisite
For earning all posterity’s respect.

     Such perfect harmony of sound and sense
     Only eternal Fame can recompense.


Friday, December 23, 2011


for Copthorne Macdonald 

      What is it that inspires and expires,
     That animates what’s otherwise inert,
     The vital spark of all organic fires
     That raises living beings from mere dirt?
     Or is it rather that the dirt’s alive,
     That matter is but spirit’s artifact,
     That spirit matters and imparts the drive
     Toward higher consciousness and force to act?
     That matter’s first is scientism’s view,
     Which Newton’s laws intend to comprehend:
     There is no ghost in this machine, and you
     Are but an accident that time will end.
          Suppose instead that spirit underlies
          All being everywhere and never dies.


Thursday, December 22, 2011


   A sonnet with its fourteen lines reflects
   The fourteen waking hours of one’s day,
   The unexpected ways that life connects
   Events, showing the mind at work and play.

   Who knows, when you awake and day begins,
   How chance may change the course of what you’ve
   How what intention loses, Fortune wins
   In ways that only Fate can understand.

   So is it when you set out on the track
   A sonnet takes, treading iambically,
   But groping, since the way ahead is black,
   For only by proceeding can you see.

        A sonnet simulates the day’s surprises
        By finding more than purpose realizes.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011


   Why not suppose that thought is everywhere,
   Informing all the cosmos vitally,
   An intellect that even atoms share,
   A purposeful, eternal energy?
   We apprehend this vital force not by
   Our instruments or intellects but through
   Our subtler intuition if we try,
   As saints and sages have, and you may, too.
   This sacred science now is nearly lost,
   Scoffed at by secular detractors blind
   To subtle insights, bound at any cost
   To limit the extension of the mind.
        That there might be a cosmic consciousness
        Dogma leaves them powerless to confess.


Monday, December 19, 2011


   How can it be that I know all I know?
   What is this knowing, this strange consciousness
   That apprehends that anything is so?
   About such knowing I can only guess.
   Our consciousness and then self-consciousness—
   That double sapience by which we’re known,
   And know we know, the mark of our success—
   Appears peculiar to ourselves alone.
   But what if, as I’ve heard, such consciousness
   Is underlying everything that is:
   The Ground of Being, that which we must bless,
   A Source that some personify as His?
        I do not know, except to know I know;
        Beyond such ignorance I hope to go.


Sunday, December 18, 2011


        It’s not for balance or for swishing flies
        Or swinging monkey-like high in the trees,
        But rather it’s a sign for others’ eyes
        Of whether they’re excited or at ease.

        It’s how they show emotion, how they feel,
        Which may be joyful, anxious or alert
        Or curious, frustrated, needing a meal
        Or, that they’re sleeping, peaceful and inert.

             Of all the many tales a tail can tell
             The happiest is—your dog is feeling well.


Saturday, December 17, 2011


     A taste of Higher Consciousness was mine
     When I was but nineteen and lacked the terms
     Or concepts then by which I might define
     What is ineffable, though soul confirms.
     I had, it’s true, been touched by Emerson,
     Enraptured by his transcendental themes
     In essays I was reading just for fun
     But found were luminous with mystic gleams.
     Somehow that summer reading before I
     Went off to college must have planted seeds
     That sprouted in the fall and, by and by,
     Produced the crop on which my soul still feeds.
          Though yet uncertain of the mystic route,
          I’ve had that foretaste of the Absolute.


Friday, December 16, 2011


     The Mystic Scientist (a paradox
     It seems) is one whose sight and insight
     Complement each other to outfox
     The wily Universe and see it right.

     For neither mode of knowing can reveal
     The whole of what exists exclusively:
     One way’s to calculate, the other feel,
     And both combined disclose Reality.

     While observation gathers all the facts,
     Methodically arranging what it finds,
     Deep intuition spies what rigor lacks:
     The underlying order of designs.

          The Scientist may formulate the whole;
          The Mystic, though, can penetrate its soul.


My dictionary says that “sonneteer”
Implies a poet who is second rate!
Tell that, Pedantic Wretch, to Will Shakespeare,
To Sydney, Spenser, Milton—clearly great—
And later Keats and even Robert Frost,
All eminent sonneteers, from Petrarch to
Dick Wilbur.  Say their venerable form’s exhaust,
Call them mere hacks, and see what will ensue!
The wrath of centuries surely will descend
Upon your head when one the Muse selects
Takes pen in hand to gallantly defend
Against what boorish folly disrespects.
     Though every sonneteer is not a master,
     They’ve all more prowess, Sir, than you can muster.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011


     What Pope and Swift intended as they writ
     Was to display varieties of wit,
     Satirical at least, at best profound,
     To castigate and chasten the unsound.
     The world they knew was rife with sin and folly,
     But wit would make their castigation jolly,
     So, rather than a tirade full of rage,
     They chose satire to rectify their age.
     The pen, they knew, is mightier than the sword
     Yet far more subtly leaves its victims gored,
     And ink is a rebuke that stings and stains
     Immediately, though history retains,
     Making a lesson that in ages hence
     Might warn descendants from the same offense.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011


While some are watching birds when they fly through
Enroute to warmer climes as winter nears,
I’m more intrigued to watch this motley crew
Of gawkers keen to spot what next appears.

Binoculars and telescopes are trained
Skyward, while ears are all alert for songs
Descending from the trees—glee unrestrained
At fleeing winter’s wrath in south-bound throngs.

But what is it that drives this other flock
To tabulate those species who arrive,
Like mercenary merchants taking stock—
I’m baffled and amused by how they strive:

     “Look there!  Hear that?”  Their joy is jubilant,
     As if their feathered friends were heaven sent.


Sunday, December 11, 2011


     One benefit of a bad memory
     Is how it helps imagination thrive:
     I’m forced to use inventive strategy,
     Thus what I can’t remember, I contrive.
     The downside, though, is that I’ve now composed
     The same poem many times in varied versions,
     And if you’ve read a few, you’ve surely dozed,
     Wishing I’d set off on some new excursions.

     Well this, it happens, is just such a verse,
     For never have I plied this theme before
     And happily I’ll hence avert the curse
     Of repetition that we both deplore.
          What I’ve in mind, as you shall shortly see,
          Is all about my faulty memory.


Saturday, December 10, 2011


Though once I would personify the thought,
Directing gratitude and praise to God
Or seeking guidance toward those goals I sought
Or hoping to avert His wrath and rod,

It’s now toward Goodness I direct my soul,
Not toward a person but a quality
That when attained through practice makes one whole
Without base worship in idolatry.

It’s images of people that inspire,
Defining goodness by the deeds they’ve done,
By showing strength and courage, striving higher,
Displaying moral victories well won.

     So saith Bertrand Russell, decades dead,
     Who may now know the truth of what he said.


Friday, December 9, 2011


   “Still climbing and continuing to aspire,
   I am not prone to pulling in my reins
   But rather would urge Pegasus toward higher
   Flights of fancy and more mellifluous strains.”

   So might have sung John Keats or Percy Bysshe
   In their transcendently Romantic mode,
   But to our modern tastes, that’s gibberish;
   We’d rather watch an ad than read an ode.

   What pass today as poems are not songs:
   They may be made for minds, but not for ears.
   So what is one to do now who still longs
   To sing like bygone bards and sonneteers?

        What one might do is what I do each day:
        Tune up my lute, invoke my Muse, and play.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011


     “Throw me a line!” I called to the Abyss,
     From out of which all inspiration came;
     “Just get me started on the path of bliss,
     And from thereon I’ll find out my own aim,”
     For once a sonnet sets out on its course,
     It gathers its momentum as it goes:
     The form itself is its most fruitful source,
     Its beat and rhyme defining where it flows—
     Until the turn, which takes a different tack,
     Perhaps to say there’s no Abyss at all
     And what just seems a Void, silent and black,
     Is memory, that fund on which I call,
          Or memory and imagination intertwined,
          The magical recesses of the mind.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011


for Copthorne Macdonald

Should I have lived a better life than this?
Some say we always do the best we can,
And therefore in the last analysis
I couldn’t hope to be a better man.

Though this may seem a cowardly excuse
For failing to try harder to do good,
Perhaps no other choices would produce
A better outcome, rightly understood.

If I had known better and could do it,
Believing it the best way I might go,
I would have had the motive to pursue it
And had no inclination to say no.

     Therefore I think I rightly may conclude
     I’ve sowed and reaped and won what I’ve pursued.


Monday, December 5, 2011


for Huston Smith

There’s something more than meets the eye and all
The other senses, entering the Beyond:
It’s something to amaze you or appall,
Depending on the nature of your bond.

If you are bound upon this flight for love,
The ecstasy you find will nourish you;
But if you shun the elements above
And covet power, then misery will ensue.

At first, though sweet, the fruit of willful lust,
The knowledge of what proves to be infernal,
Turns bitter and, when swallowed, tastes like dust,
A mockery of the manna that’s eternal.

     What lies beyond this world our senses know
     Is somewhere only bless├ęd ones should go.


Sunday, December 4, 2011


        May life be good to you, and you to life,
       As full of blessedness as free from strife.

       How you decide your talents to employ
       And what you’ll do to bring relief and joy
       To those in need determine how you’ll fare:
       The better as you practice love and care.

       To aim your life at being thought well off,
       Afraid to hear the Joneses sneer and scoff
       Because they are more opulent than you
       Ensures that merely misery will ensue.

       Let wellness be the wealth you aim to find,
       The health and wholesomeness of being kind:
       For well, wealth, health and whole alike derive
       From holiness, without which none may thrive.


Saturday, December 3, 2011


                    Though I know all the crap’ll
                          Befall from this apple,
                    Though it doom us to rue here,
                          I’ll eat it for you, dear.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Two thousand miles, it wafts its weary way
From Canada to Mexico then breeds
To make a grub that’s discontent to stay
A caterpillar but has loftier needs.

That caterpillar makes a chrysalis
Depending from a twig and ripening
Until completing its new synthesis
Then bursts to show a new-made Monarch’s wing.

At last, with all its million mates, it waits
Until the winds are right for their return
Then leaps the gulf to the United States
Then back to Canada for which they yearn.

     And thus their wondrous cycle of rebirth
     Reveals the miracle of life on Earth.


Thursday, December 1, 2011


How quaint and, even more, grandmotherly
It’s now become to start a letter: “Dear . . .”:
Dear Sir, Dear Madam, Dear Penelope,
Such salutations rarely now appear.

Instead, a breezy, casual “Hi” begins
A missive that’s no longer even penned
But typed and emailed, one of many sins
Against civility we can’t defend.

Though now it’s feeling awkward and outmoded,
I’ll still continue in that antique vein
Than take yet more from what’s too much eroded,
The manners that a good man must maintain.

     Though you may think me moldy, old and loony,
     I’m still less crotchety than Andy Rooney.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011


for Jeffrey D. Wilhelm and Bruce Novak

How wise am I?  How good has my life been?
These are the questions I may ask at last
When at the sill of death and staring in,
Reviewing the events of my whole past.

Were it not better, though, to ask them now—
How wise?  How good?—when there may yet be time
To rectify my ways and disavow
What’s silly and seek after what’s sublime?

What’s wisdom but to realize what is
Of value to oneself and everyone,
Which does not take the genius of a whiz,
Nor need a lengthy lifetime to be done.

     Of all things we might value, one above
     The rest is true, and that of course is love.



A sonnet is “a moment’s monument”
That celebrates, encapsulates and keeps
The living memory of some grand event
Or just a wayside flower that fancy reaps.
Its purpose is to capture and preserve
What otherwise would vanish in the shade,
Honoring with dexterity and verve
Whatever earns a lasting accolade.
Yet underneath this lyric’s bright veneer,
A further motive prompts the sonnet’s birth:
To celebrate the very sonneteer
When long descended in forgetful earth.
     In ages hence, this flicker may still shine,
     And you may know its radiance was mine.


Monday, November 28, 2011


To read a Shakespeare play takes more than eyes;
To read aright requires you use your voice,
For it’s a script, not text, and you must vocalize
The character, and only then rejoice
For then you’ve brought to life a breathing soul,
Provoked, it’s true, by merely printed signs
But now inhabited and made a role
With which your inner animus aligns.


Sunday, November 27, 2011


Addicted to the pattern of this form,
Its fourteen lines of five iambic feet,
With subtle variations from that norm,
He finds how thought develops to that beat
Making its way as rhyme leads on to rhyme
While something new unfurls along the page,
Sometimes predictable, sometimes sublime,
A kind of freedom bound in this tight cage.
It’s just this paradox, the liberty
Of mind that such confinement brings to him,
That captivates him while it sets him free
And makes an hour an infinite interim.
     While soaring through imagination’s skies,
     He simply sits until right words arise.


Saturday, November 26, 2011


The missing virtue in most men, he knew,
Is temperance, midway betwixt extremes
Of hot and cold, a lack that causes rue
Yet generates the best dramatic themes:
Thus Romeo and Juliet, inflamed
By passion’s torch, prepare for their escape
From violent Verona and its maimed
Inhabitants—yet find their tomb agape.
And likewise Hamlet, proving passion’s slave,
In rashness stabs the foolish counselor,
Thus sealing his own journey to the grave,
A fate that flights of angels would deplore.
     But Shakespeare’s stock and trade depended on
     Intemperance that leaves us woe-begone.


Friday, November 25, 2011


If dogs are counted as a population,
And they exhibit personalities,
Then they deserve a higher class or station:
For dogs are people, too, despite species.

They live with us like children and as friends,
Each one expressing its own character
And giving that on which our joy depends:
Bright eyes, excited yips, and gorgeous fur.

But if you say they have no language skills,
Thus cannot count as people properly,
Then you’ve not seen how they express their wills
And make us do their bidding when they plea.

     Of course, we haven’t asked for their opinions;
     They may prefer to think that we’re their minions.


Thursday, November 24, 2011



To think that we shall live beyond our lives,
That something after corporal death survives
Perhaps to reincarnate and return
Because it has more lessons left to learn,
May be the most pernicious folderol
Since prophets long ago proclaimed our Fall:
False hope, false fear—we need no such delusions
Dissuading us from sensible conclusions.

We have but this one, precious life to live,
Which will be lovely if we learn to give
And share reciprocally what thriving needs
And not to cram the casket of base greeds.
Those merely looking out for Number One
Will find they’ve died before their lives are done.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011


The “wisest man in Athens,” Socrates,
Said: “Know thyself,” for just such insight frees
Us also to be wise and realize
What we must shun and what most truly prize:

To know what is of value for our lives
And others’, too, and then how one contrives
To live accordingly best demonstrates
What wisdom is and how it shapes our fates.



To wonder, ponder, speculate, suppose
As if one thus might mysteries disclose
Was how ancient philosophers proceeded,
But modern scientists brought what was needed
To make significant discoveries:
A method that employed hypotheses,
Empiric tests and proof beyond a doubt.

Still Archimedes was the one to shout
“Eureka!” when he stepped into his tub
And watched the water rise.  His great hubbub
While running naked through Athenian streets
Announced the first of many noble feats
That science would achieve through patient study,
Clarifying mysteries dark and muddy.



I’m sniffing round my mind and memories
Like Gyp, our dog, out on her daily rambles
With no predestined route, moved by the breeze-
Blown scents that prompt her romps and spur her

Then, once I’ve caught a whiff of what I might
Pursue, like her, I set out on its track,
But unlike her I then begin to write,
Nosing out sense, disclosing rhymes I lack.


Sunday, November 20, 2011


     When memory morphs into imagination
     It undergoes deletion and conflation
     While faithful rendering becomes depiction:
     Then what was meant as history turns to fiction.


Saturday, November 19, 2011


          What started as a swarm that order lacked
          Has here become a formal artifact.



     It matters not what doctrine you believe,
     But how your credo leads you to behave;
     What counts are deeds of goodness you achieve
     That save you from the terror of the grave.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011


All undefined by pathways or straight streets,
A walk for Gyppie has no destination~
She prowls along her customary beats
On routes determined by pure nosegation,

Which leads her to hop curbs and walls to scour
Beneath dense bushes where the scent of cat
Allures her, heedless of the threatening glower
She gets confronting one, the impending spat.

Where we align our lives for rectitude,
The ways of dogs defy geometry;
Their rambles are a shapeless interlude
Of wanderlust and sensuality.

     Which may be why we love and envy them:
     They get away with what our rules condemn.



“Do unto others as they’ve done to you”:
That Leaden Rule prevails in every land
Where reciprocity is always due,
Which keeps the wrathful fires of vengeance fanned.


Monday, November 14, 2011


Whoever wrote the plays in Shakespeare’s name,
If not the glover’s son from Stratford town,
Some nobleman whom popular acclaim
Would sully and prompt priggish peers to frown
(So goes the speculation of detractors),
That man remains mysterious today
Because of the conspiracy of actors
Colluding to disguise the truth for pay.
Why not assume a humble country lad,
A genius, let’s allow, and strictly schooled
In grammar, logic, rhetoric and bade
To study classics might in time have fooled
     The supercilious arbiters of fame
     That in a man there’s more than in a name.


Saturday, November 12, 2011


What are we but an evanescent breath?
And when at last our spirit has expired,
Leaving this clod where we reside enmired,
We then rejoin the universe of death.
Or is there more to spirit than mere breath?
Is it an animus divinely fired,
Whose flame grows brighter as it is inspired
By a vitality transcending death?
We cannot know.  This is a mystery.
And we can only speculate and guess
What may transpire when we have breathed our last.
Still, we may hope, and that may help us be
A mortal with few evils to confess
With spirit calm as our last breath is passed.


Thursday, November 10, 2011


There comes a time when Judgment must let go
Its vise-like grip, demanding rectitude
And, though unmerited, let Pity flow
To evil ones, however cruel and rude.

Though Justice be not served, yet Mercy is,
That higher calling of humanity,
Which Jesus on the cross revealed as his,
The only route to health and sanity.

     Without solicitude and pardon’s cure,
     Our evils would eternally endure.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Three men I know are very near their ends:
A fool, a menace, and a kindly soul.

The first’s oblivious which way he tends,
Dementia having taken its sad toll,
Yet he and prudence always were at odds
While appetite and pleasure drove him on.

The second one hung out with brutes and clods,
An artful dodger and a practiced con,
Cruel to his family and all his kin,
While solely looking out for Number One.

The third, a gentleman who’s clear of sin,
Can happily gaze back on all he’s done
For others’ sakes, glowing with modest pride—
Only in him does charity reside.


Saturday, November 5, 2011


My poetry comes from my head, not heart,
And thus do I prefer to call it “verse”:
If I could put the horse before the cart,
It might be more affecting, if less terse.

So tightly bound by rhythm and by rhyme,
So measured out by merely rational schemes,
It never can ascend to the Sublime
Or hearken to grand elevated dreams.

O, let me summon Pegasus to fly
On “viewless wings of poesy” with me
Upon his back beyond the azure sky
And enter cordial realms of ecstasy.

     My heart exalted thus, my eyes then clear,
     My pen might write a line men can revere.