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.