Sunday, January 30, 2011


As if she understood my every word
And grammar, syntax, intonation, too,
Although to think so’s certainly absurd,
I speak directly to my dog, don’t you?

Don’t you to yours, or to some other pets
You know can’t apprehend our lingo’s sense,
Though they discern our praises from our threats?
Still, we converse as if it weren’t pretense.

Your dog will cock her head and look at you
As if enraptured by the words you say,
As if what you intend she could construe,
As if what you command she would obey.

     The truth, though, is that you’re most in accord
     When she knows in your hand you’ve her reward.


          28 JANUARY 1986

          At just this place on just this date
              A quarter century past
              Occurred that horrid blast
          I saw and now commemorate.

          A crew of astronauts arose
              To challenge gravity
              And taste infinity
          And see what freedom might disclose.

          Beyond the confines of our womb
              These doughty few would fly
              Though little thought they’d die
          And end in such a spacious tomb.

          Now here I stand remembering
              That scraggle on the blue
              We pointed at and knew
          What bold ambitions sometimes bring.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011


My habits now move smoothly in their grooves,
And I’m too old to take another route;
I go as continuity behooves
And for new-fangled ways don’t give a hoot.

Call me conservative, a hide-bound fool,
But innovation just distresses me;
On any issue, know that I’m Old School:
What’s best is always how it used to be.



Often, pre-dawn mornings, when I’d muse
Out from the dim Mysterium came clues,
Most usually in rhyme, that set my pen
Transcribing on my tablet what would then
Develop into iambs on the line,
Pentameters inclined toward a design
That usually assumed a sonnet’s form,
Although sometimes diverging from the norm.

For instance, note the rhyme scheme of this one:
A-B-A-B it’s not, as Shakespeare made,
Nor yet A-B-B-A, as Spenser’s done;
Instead, it’s shaped of couplets on parade,
Marching their steadfast way to where the page
Runs out of lines, and I walk off the stage.


Sunday, January 23, 2011


At seventy-one, I’ve now encroached on old,
And elderhood (such as I’ve seen in others)
I might pass up, if I could have my druthers,
But that means passing on—I’m not that bold.

By way of joy and creativity,
I would not wish to lose what yet might come,
Even if what was song becomes a hum
And dams constrict what used to flow freely.

What way, then, to adapt to age’s ills,
To take as graciously what may befall—
The sickness, weakness, bleakness, doctors, pills—
As I may do, still hearkening to some call?

     Knowing there’s something in me to unfold,
     Some tales of good or evil yet untold.


Saturday, January 22, 2011


A poem is a meme for memory,
A virus built to live inside your brain:
The more cogent and virulent the strain,
The better will it reach posterity.

Thus rhyme and meter must be made to stick
And haunt the halls of echoing resonance,
For like an ancient clock whose tick-tock-tick
Reverberates throughout the house, the sense
And sound of verses should collaborate,
Appearing destined to collude by Fate.



The thing about a verse is that it turns
Right here from one line to the next, reversing
Course to start afresh with new concerns
Or some old notion once again rehearsing.

While prose just rambles on until the margin arbitrarily compels the eye to shift back to the left side, like a car slammed into reverse for another try, reverting to the starting line again, oblivious to where it just has been.

But verse is far more conscious of its moves,
Aligned as metricality behooves,
Happy to glide in pre-established grooves
Attuned to what the ear, not eye, approves.


Thursday, January 20, 2011


As you perform the form a sonnet takes
And watch your lines roll out across the page
Eager to see the moves your mind-muse makes,
You find this form a playground not a cage.

It’s paradoxical that freedom comes
From such confinement and prescribed constraint,
That what’s so arbitrary often plumbs
New depths of mind discerning something faint—

A glimmer of a notion barely thought,
The shadow of an image fleeting past,
An element you didn’t know you sought
That at the start you never might forecast.

     And so you ride this form, this vehicle
     That proves at last a vatic oracle.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Why is there God?  Because we need a God,
Or most of us, who find this world too hard
Or too ingenious to think a clod
Of earth could have evolved without a guard

And guide, if not a great progenitor
To fashion us uniquely out of clay,
Whom we can supplicate in need, adore
With reverence, who’ll keep our fears at bay.

But what if there is not, and all that is
Is happenstance or accident devoid
Of meaningful intention and not His,
As randomly created as destroyed?

     That’s more than we can tolerate who must
     Believe there’s mystery, even in dust.


Monday, January 17, 2011


What keeps my skittering brain going down one track,
Making a train of thought, not just a gust
Of swirling, wordless notions, but a stack,
A rack of solid thinking and not dust?

It’s writing on a line across a page
In measured paces as the thought shapes up,
For only then can mind and form engage
In tandem, marching sensibly—Hup, hup!

Instead of lightning bolting from the sky,
The energy of thought runs through a wire,
Makes heat and light for all to profit by,
Letting aspiring intellect reach higher.

     Though talking also clarifies the mind,
     It’s writing by which thought is best designed.


Sunday, January 16, 2011


So many of us write in minor leagues—
We’re less than Beethovens, and more like Griegs.
We’re learnĂ©d and adept in mastery
Of form, but something short of sorcery,
That magic only genius can attain,
Without which our best efforts rank as plain—
Amusing maybe, quite agreeable
Perhaps, but not dynamic, wonderful,
Or soul expanding in their heavenly reach,
Lacking what’s found in quintessential speech.
The highest modes of poetry transcend
Mere mortal breath and seem to comprehend
A spirit of a greater magnitude
That makes a song a holy interlude.


Saturday, January 15, 2011


It’s three weeks since Bell’s Palsy froze my face,
One side of it, leaving that half shut down,
Expressionless, the right side yet with grace
And happiness, the left locked in a frown.

By now mobility’s mostly returned
To the afflicted side: I raise my brow,
Its wrinkles now restored; my eye’s relearned
Its wink, not sunk in a despondent slough;

And happily my whistle’s back in gear—
How strange it was I could not shape my lips
To make that customary sound appear,
Having a mouth that dribbles when it sips.

     I’ll know I’m fully cured when both ears wiggle
     And I recall this trauma with a giggle.


Among a flock of geese (we call a gaggle),
A few strut out ahead while others straggle.

They’re nowhere near so regal as the eagle
Nor fly so blithely as a soaring sea gull.

To spy them in the sky will make you giggle
Until they shrink into a distant squiggle,

Which you may see while skiing to a mogul
On top of which you perch and lurch and ogle.

They won’t return, not though you blow your bugle,
Unless you’re on the Net and search with Google.


Thursday, January 13, 2011


The first prerequisite for writing is
A taste for solitude, a loneliness
Not lonesome, but replete with images
That fantasy supplies and Muses bless.

For if your hours are filled with busyness
And you’ve no inclination to sit still
Pondering like a person playing chess
Or someone calmly fishing by the mill,

Then words won’t come, like salmon, to your hook;
Ideas won’t infiltrate that vacancy,
Notions to fill a poem or a book,
The gifts of sedentary ecstasy.

     This sitting by the board or by the pond
     Transports you to a higher realm Beyond.


Sunday, January 9, 2011


Imagination is my recompense
For my poor memory, a leaky cup,
Or hoary mental matter grown dense:
What I cannot remember, I make up.

Yet, would I trade with those who don’t forget,
Who can repeat verbatim all their past,
Whose brains are perfect catalogs just set
For recitation from the facts amassed?

As much as I admire these prodigies
And praise their disposition to recall
Events from their respective histories,
Such memory is less a gate than wall.

     Of all the talents you or I might mention,
     I’d rather have invention than retention.


Thursday, January 6, 2011


     for Thomas Blackburn

My mind has gone adrift with musing on
The vagaries of thought that shape a verse;
Whatever pass of pate it takes to spawn
A line that rhymes entails as well a curse.

Meandering so long in fields of sound
And fleeting images to find what fits,
I rack my memory until I’ve found
Apt words, yet at what cost to my poor wits?

The focus and the memory it takes
To carry on a rational discourse
I’ve jettisoned to find whatever makes
My rhyme and meter meet—a sad divorce.

     An ancient curse I heard may well apply:
     A masterpiece will cost the poet’s eye.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011


The only thing you have to fear is, well,
Many things—I grant you there is cause
For apprehension everywhere we dwell,
And Nature’s beasts are red in teeth and claws;

So, yes, there’s real danger to avoid,
And careful caution is a prudent course
Lest what you love and value be destroyed,
And your improvidence cause you remorse.

But yet almost as bad is paranoid
Delusion that in every bush detects
A bear, takes firefly for asteroid,
And in a whispered comment hears a hex.

     The saddest thing you have to fear may be
     The consequence of your anxiety.


Monday, January 3, 2011


     for Paul Kajornboonsook

Since all we only have is now—
This present moment—to endow
According to our attitude,
Why spoil it with a sour mood?
The one to choose is gratitude:
The way the Buddha would allow.


Saturday, January 1, 2011


It’s January and I’m Janus-faced,
Or nearly so—not one half looking back
And one ahead; one tardy, one in haste—
But one that’s over-eager, one that’s slack.

Half of my mug is frozen in a droup.
The other half still upwardly aspires.
The left side dourly pouts and dribbles soup.
The right expresses more elate desires.

Looking at me you doubtless feel confused,
Finding my attitude ambiguous,
Schizoid—“Is he despondent or enthused?”
I’m neither, though I seem incongruous.

     What most of us keep inward shows in me:
     I manifest your own duality.