Monday, December 31, 2012


       Each poem aspires to become a meme,
       Being unforgettable its fondest dream,
       Grappling to some cranny of your brain,
       Indelible as any inky stain
       By virtue of its theme’s veracity
       And rhyme and meter’s sheer tenacity—
       Or so it was in palmier days than these.

       Now poets are afflicted by disease,
       Believing it is better to be freed
       From antique strictures of an outworn creed,
       Declaring that the death of prosody
       Releases them from lockstep tyranny.

       What they forget is how verse locks in minds
       A resonance that only music binds.


Sunday, December 30, 2012


    A poem like a sonnet in set form
    Might seem to keep the poet’s mind constrained;
    Ironically it makes new notions swarm
    As if by supernatural means ordained.

    There’s magic in the web of the son-net:
    The rhythm of the tight iambic line
    Combines with where each line-end rhyme is set
    To weave a spell of mystical design,

    The poet—all the while enthralled, enrapt,
    An instrument of powers beyond his ken
    Revealing how his subject may adapt
    To the exigencies that lead his pen—

        At last is freed from this engaging charm,
        Feeling sweet ecstasy and not alarm.


Nemerov # 8


Saturday, December 29, 2012


"Wisdom is the realization of what is of value to oneself and others."
—Nicholas Maxwell    

    The cosmogenic process has brought us
    Into the Universe so it may see
    Itself benevolent, not ominous,
    And eminently bound for majesty.

    Though eons in the making, we now view
    And with our growing science comprehend
    The origin of mass, the residue
    Of energy toward which all photons tend.

    The greatest revelation yet still lies
    Ahead, and it is ours to manifest,
    Which we may do if only we grow wise
    And realize those values that are best.

         What Mother Universe took pains to nourish
         Our careful tending now must help to flourish.


Friday, December 28, 2012


"Wisdom is the realization of what is of value to oneself and others."
—Nicholas Maxwell    

      What is of value more than being good,
      And what is goodness rightly understood
      Unless it be to treat all others well
      So they may live as they would wish to dwell:

      In health and safety, well provided for,
      Content with quite enough, not craving more,
      Appalled by wasteful superfluity
      But satisfied with just sufficiency.

      Such souls as these are generous and kind,
      Their motives altruistically inclined,
      Knowing that they themselves can never thrive
      If others fail while struggling to survive.

          It’s not just that the fittest ought to win,
          Since justice without mercy is a sin.


Thursday, December 27, 2012


      The human frontier most imperative to cross
      And territory to at last attain
      Is that one which our ancient fabled loss
      Of Paradise requires we now regain.

      Serenity, sufficiency and love,
      What well-nursed babies feel in infant bliss,
      Is what we lose and feel least certain of
      In later years, confronting the abyss.

      Yet death itself, our dreaded, destined fate
      That casts its pall on joy and innocence,
      Can still inspire those able to create
      A surrogate that’s equally intense.

          What came at first unbidden and bestowed
          We may now freely give, because it’s owed.


Sunday, December 23, 2012


to Nicholas Maxwell, philosopher

     If wisdom is discernment as to what
     Is of most value to be realized,
     You, being wise, please say what makes the cut,
     For we, the foolish, need to be advised.

     Please, sir, we pray you be particular
     In all the thorny matters, great and small,
     For we would gladly rather make than mar,
     Yet without counsel shall most likely fall.

     Pray tell us what is best in governance,
     And what economy most serves the world,
     And how to make our hearts and spirits dance
     And other secrets apt to be unfurled.

          We promise we’ll endeavor to grow wise,
          But meanwhile, kindly say what you advise.


Saturday, December 22, 2012


      For me the sonnet’s the epitome
      Of elegance and careful craft in verse,
      Best illustrating what the term concinnity
      Implies: well-joined, harmonious and terse.
      It’s much the same, of course, with other forms
      Of measured poetry in patterned schemes
      Of rhymes, adhering to their metric norms,
      Like artful acrobats on balance beams.
      Yet like those athletes there is something more
      A sonneteer must demonstrate to win
      Acclaim: it’s sprezzatura we adore—
      Doing with ease what we’d not dare begin,
           Making what’s classical appear like jazz—
           Spontaneous, impromptu—with pizzazz.


Friday, December 21, 2012


     Whoever thought to call us “humankind”
     Was likely unobservant, dense or blind
     Or was toward absurdity inclined,
     Having an oxymoron in his mind.

     But that’s too harsh, for we were first designed
     For Paradise and with good grace may find
     Our way again and thence be realigned
     To Kindness, where our souls may be enshrined.


Thursday, December 20, 2012


     That World Wide Web of information now
     Available at your own fingertip,
     That even on a pauper can endow
     Such knowledge that the Prince of Serendip

     Would envy him—such knowledge is a boon
     To all humanity within its reach,
     And one might think there’s coming very soon—
     Enlightenment, for all it has to teach.

     But humans will be humans and thus use
     Encyclopedias to prop up broken stools.
     There’s nothing lofty that we won’t abuse—
     The wisdom of the world is lost on fools.

          But not on you, I hope, who in this trove
          Will savor fruits from Academia’s grove.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

21 DECEMBER 2012

      The Mayan calendar predicts the End
      Is nigh, this very week—Apocalypse!
      Two days from now an asteroid may rend
      Our fragile planet with a force that strips
      The atmosphere off from this globe and wakes
      Volcanoes round the world to spew despair,
      While every living organism quakes
      Before its final breath of toxic air.

      Or not.  Another understanding says
      It’s not breakdown we face but a breakthrough,
      The dawning of a higher consciousness,
      The birth of an awakened species who
      Can understand at last how we depend
      On loving one another: that’s our End.


Monday, December 17, 2012


   It’s not how someone dies that’s bad or good,
   But whether one has lived as humans should—
   Humanely, with a care for the well-being
   Of others in their needs, since that is freeing;
   While otherwise—self-centered, clamped and cold—
   Reveals a soul like Faustus’ that’s been sold
   To purchase vain delights and fickle pleasure,
   Imperiling a person’s only treasure:
   Our precious essence of integrity,
   That holy wholeness we are meant to be.
   The end of all our race is to be well,
   Yet failing that high goal, we end in hell.



      Wherever Gypsy finds to plant her pees
      Depends on countless subtle vagaries
      Of scent and sensibility beyond
      My reckoning, to which she may respond
      And do the curtsy she’s gone out to do.

      My job’s to urge her on and to pursue
      Her random amble through the night-lit yard
      Stalking behind her as if keeping guard
      Trying to anticipate just where she’ll squat,
      Never the same place in the whole back lot.

      At last she dips and does her destined chore
      Then plainly pleased she gallops to the door
      Knowing that I’ve in hand her final treat
      For which she has performed this nightly feat.


Sunday, December 16, 2012



        Expanded, elevated consciousness,
        The surest sign of human beings’ success,
        Eludes, so far, all but a favored few,
        The avatars of what may yet ensue—
        Unless our avarice and enmity prevail,
        Causing our misbegotten race to fail.

        Dean Swift predicts calamity is sure
        And wonders how we’ve managed to endure
        As long as this, atrocious as we are,
        Yet knows in his cold heart our end’s not far.

        Ralph Waldo Emerson begs to dissent:
        While recognizing our ferocious bent,
        He sees in us the power to transcend
        Beyond our folly, finding a blissful end.


Saturday, December 15, 2012


for Jean Houston

       What is our task but striving to become
       The best of our potentiality—
       To fly to our grand heights and then to plumb
       The depths of wisdom in our latency.

       The spectrum of humanity is broad,
       Though typically constricted in one’s life
       By failing to acknowledge there’s a god
       Within transcending storm and strife.

       This deity or spirit is a guide
       Intent to lead us to our human goal,
       Urging us to take the longest stride
       Required of us and finally grow whole.

            That wholesomeness we seek essentially
            Is bonding with our inner deity.


Friday, December 14, 2012


         It used to be the salutation “Dear”
         Began a letter penned to anyone.
         Its complimentary close bid a sincere
         “Farewell” when all your courtesy was done.
         But now a brusque “Hi there” is all you’ll see,
         While “See ya” ends an email breezily.



   My grand breakthrough to Cosmic Consciousness,
   My mystical debut, came long ago
   When I was just eighteen.  It came to bless
   Me with a sense of how I ought to grow,

   And ever since, my memories of that light
   And warmth, that purple glow, remain,
   And when I’ve strayed, they help to set me right:
   May that illumination never wane.

   I heard no angel’s voice, nor saw a scene
   Of heavenly beatitude and grace,
   As stories tell; I simply felt serene
   And keen at once, suspended in that space—

          Until that glorious evening was through,
          Though even now I feel its residue.


Thursday, December 13, 2012


    That we are here is miracle enough
    To prove the universe is more than stuff,
    More than just matter, mass and energy,
    But some informing consciousness that’s free
    From physicality, the ghost behind
    Appearances, the soul of matter: Mind.

    That metaphysics should return today,
    Though long repressed by Mechanism’s sway,
    Owes to the power of Einstein’s quantum views
    Which put uncertainty back in the news
    And hinted that intention underlies
    The evolutionary enterprise.

         The Cosmos has a purpose of its own.
         And we’re the knower by whom that is known.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012


     At first, God clapped and angels sang,
     Then: Mother Universe—the whole Shebang!


Monday, December 10, 2012


    The world-wide web of knowledge being spun
    Around the globe, connecting every node
    To every other, joining us as one,
    Exalts our species to another mode.

    A global brain awakens here on Earth,
    Collective consciousness that can transcend
    Our ignorant antipathies and birth
    A being who’ll avert a tragic end.

    Homo noeticus, deep in our genes,
    Is being evoked by some Akashic beam
    Providing us the necessary means
    To realize an ancient mythic dream:

         A starseed was once planted in Earth’s ground
         That only after eons would be found.


Sunday, December 9, 2012


We human beings are marvelously malleable and cultivatable, by virtue of our distinctive intelligence, compared with any other animal.  Our evolution as a species is not only natural but cultural, as we are molded and remolded by the urgings and constraints of our societal values, norms and institutions.

Just now appears to be a time when a major cultural transformation is necessary to reshape human behaviors worldwide, lest our current materialistic motives further overwhelm the Earth’s carrying capacity and disrupt vital natural systems.  From one perspective, humanity, with its burgeoning and ravenous population, is a blight on the planet, a cancerous growth within the Gaian ecosystem.  Can that threat be changed intentionally?  If so, how?

My observation above is the premise of my inquiry into the topic of “Human Frontiers.”  Think of a frontier as both a border and a gateway, a perimeter that either encloses and protects a territory or that opens onto new lands and opportunities for advancement.  This second interpretation is distinctively American, given our history of westward expansion toward the Pacific Ocean.  That same perspective also informs the Star Trek motto: “Space—The Final Frontier,” implying that outer space is to be explored, conquered and colonized as a natural next chapter of the human adventure of quest and conquest.

What’s imperative now, though, is not conquest but making do: recognizing the limits of our Earthbound species’ growth and expansion, and learning to be as frugal as astronauts living in a space ship must be, lest our whole enterprise come to catastrophe.


Saturday, December 8, 2012


     Homo noeticus will be our name
     Once we’ve grown more illumined, and evolved
     To realize that sapience is our aim
     And of our foolishness we’ve been absolved.

     Such gnosis has lain latent in our genes
     Although made manifest in harbingers
     Wiser than we (who still remain as teens):
     What’s evident in them, within us stirs.

          The only hope for earth’s futurity
          Is man’s advancing toward maturity.


Friday, December 7, 2012

"Every last kibble, I told you!"


Monday, December 3, 2012


There are many ways for human beings to be—as many ways as there are human beings.  That’s the special thing about our species: we each get to make our self up uniquely, with far more latitude for expressing individuality than any other species owns.

Just as our fingerprints are unique, so are the characters we craft, ever more definitively throughout our lives.  Some patterns and proclivities seem to be innate, as functions of our singular neuronal constitutions, but even more individuating are the unique shaping forces of each person’s environment and the formative events befalling him or her.

Creative self-individuation, however, is our implicit goal as human beings, growing into who we might become or, some would say, becoming who we are essentially, realizing the Self or soul enfolded in us at our birth, which time and cultivation can unfold.


Saturday, December 1, 2012


    Concerning governance and sovereign rule,
    The question is not mainly how but who’ll:
    Which spans from king to corporatocracy
    Throughout the course of modern history.
    Despite our dream of democratic sway,
    It’s still the plutocrats who rule the day.
    The wealthy and the powerful command
    From ornate offices and mansions grand
    The world’s resources for their corporate schemes,
    Leaving in tatters democratic dreams.
    Their theory is that wealth will trickle down,
    A few gauds falling from a gorgeous gown,
    To elevate the hopes of underlings,
    While magnates garner all the precious things.

       I cannot wholly miss our little Dear
       Because I feel her presence still is here.
       It’s something more than wishful memory
       Imagining the ways she used to be,
       Although those images are lingering,
       For what I feel is more inspiring:
       Her spirit still infuses both our lives
       And in our hurting hearts she yet survives
       And will live with us always through the years
       Along with all our other cherished Dears.


Monday, November 26, 2012


By writing’s how I come to terms
With all that comes to pass,
 Whatever fates befall for good or ill.
It’s how I can compose myself,
Joy celebrate and sadness close.
 Sometimes it’s harder though to realign
My heart and soul with fate’s design.


Sunday, November 25, 2012


     Though “Homo sapiens” is still a reach
     (Implying wisdom should define our kind),
     More modest Homo faber is our niche
     Declaring it’s for making we’re designed.

     As we ourselves are Maker made somehow,
     We emulate that same creative power,
     And in our turn seek also to allow
     Some generation of our own to flower.

     Perhaps in time we shall grow sapient
     And our inventions prove supremely wise,
     Though now it’s folly that’s most evident
     In most of the contraptions we devise.

          If we can make less trouble, that’s a start;
         Though wisdom is a stretch, we may grow smart.


Saturday, November 24, 2012


to Keena

If there’s no heaven, then there ought to be,
If not for people, then for precious pets
Whose innocence has earned posterity,
Whose love no grieving human being forgets.
Our dogs and cats are teachers of our souls:
Like children, they have needs we must attend
Inclining us to assume caretaking roles
And as we do, we cultivate a friend
Whose loyalty exceeds the human kind,
So often fickle, selfish and untrue;
Their steadfast hearts are otherwise designed,
For once you’ve earned their love, they’re true to you.
     I say there is a heaven for such friends
     Where their love’s radiance shines and never ends.



from Keena

   The love you gave to me, now give to Kim,
   The one who brought me to you years ago.
   I send this message by a Seraphim
   Who’s now adopted me and flown below
   To whisper in your ear while you’re asleep
   The lesson you most keenly need to learn.

   It’s nothing esoteric, nothing deep,
   And yet it is your ultimate concern:
   The love I eagerly bestowed on you
   With frisky yips and joyful, wagging tail,
   By cuddling close and gazing on you two,
   Is now the remedy that shall avail.

     Though you miss me below, know I’m above
     Reminding you what I taught you of love.



Thursday, November 22, 2012


    for HHH

    Some days before he died, my ancient friend
    Apparently was musing on his end:
    “What bothers me,” he said, “is I don’t know
    My destiny.”  “You mean, how long you’ll live?”
    He did not say, so I’m not positive.
    At any rate, the question now is moot:
    He’s gone and I’ve no notion on what route
    His wafting ashes fly.  If he survives
    This world, and somewhere else his spirit thrives,
    He’s given me no sign I’ve recognized—
    Unless this verse’s course is supervised
    And prompted by his presence in my mind,
    A ghost with which I’m mystically aligned.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012


The other day the news reported Martin Luther King, III (the eldest son of Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King, Jr.) as advocating that we need “to create a culture of non-violence.”

Let’s assume, as do Paul H. Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson in their book Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million Americans are Changing the World, that people can indeed re-cultivate the cultures that grow them into who they become.

Grant that our cultures shape us to a great degree via the language, customs, beliefs, mores and laws of our respective societies, to which we subscribe, often uncritically and unconsciously.  But to MLK III’s point, sometimes we may wake up from those cultural spells that bind us and may recognize that some of the behavioral patterns molding us do not serve the world wisely, or even serve us well ourselves.  The glorification of violence to achieve dominance over others is the example to which King speaks.

In a civil society, civility rules: respect and not coercion prevail, to the greatest possible extent.  Because citizens participate in creating the rules and laws by which they are to govern their own behaviors, there should be little reason to feel coerced to do what is acknowledged to be reasonable and wise.  This it the essence of participatory democracy.

A key distinction must be made between force and violence within a culture.  While in any group of people there will be contending motives and intention—forces for this, and forces for that; such urgent opinions and causes must be judiciously arbitrated and wisely reckoned, lest chaos overwhelm civility and violence erupt.

Therefore, “to create a culture of nonviolence,” though no easy feat, seems not only reasonable but imperative, not just locally but globally.  A Global Wisdom Culture (a term to Google) is premised upon such a principle, the same principle enshrined in MLK. Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech: “Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force” and “to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.”

A culture of non-violence would not tolerate the use of aggressive and harmful force, nor countenance the hatred and wrath that foment violence.  As Mohandas Gandhi famously said: “There is no way to peace; peace is the way.”


Saturday, November 17, 2012


for Parker Palmer

        Who is your true essential self—True You,
        Who by an older language is called soul,
        That innate destiny you must pursue
        If you would realize your fated goal?

        By such a reckoning we all are bound
        Upon a lifelong journey to find out
        The special purpose of our earthly round
        So often hidden in a mist of doubt.

        You might deny this all as poppycock,
        The superstitious musings of a fool
        Deserving to be made a laughingstock,
        Yet maybe common sense is not the rule:

             A higher law than reason may ordain
             The way lost souls can Paradise regain.



     To write an essay on the subject “Of . . .”
     As Francis Bacon taught us how to do—
     Of Studies, Of Adversity, Of Love—
     Is an attempt that’s worthwhile to pursue.
     What better way to seek and then to find
     In memories, dreams, reflections as you sit
     And ruminate the matter in your mind
     Those terms and phrases that are meet and fit
     To capture your emerging thought and frame
     Perceptions and ideas unconceived
     Till then, yet worthy of the world’s acclaim
     And ever after honored and believed?
          To essay, then, is more than just to try;
          It shows not only What and How, but Why.



     A dog to a dyslexic is a god,
     But most of us who have one think so, too,
     And if you think our reasoning is flawed:
     We wonder what the matter is with you.

     Do you not see who really rules the home,
     Who shepherds all the family about,
     Who has evoked from poets many a poem?
     It’s dogs who master us; there’s little doubt.

         So what’s to do but honor and obey
         The rulers of our hearts and cede them sway.



     Lost in the ether of my aging brain
     Are names that once came readily on command.
     Some places, too, are slipping down the drain,
     Locations that lay mentally at hand.

     Call it a creeping fog that may obscure
     More details day by day now sharp and clear,
     Until at last, benighted, nothing sure,
     I’ll be enshrouded in a cloak of fear.

     The only way to spare myself that fate
     Is not to talk as I am doing now,
     Scaring myself until I then create
     What I fear most.  It’s that I can’t allow.

          The only way to clear my brain is to
          Relax.  Then names and places come on cue.


Monday, November 5, 2012


for HHH, 
gone but not forgotten   

     Your spirit is your breath, your animus,
     A vital force that lasts until you die
     And then expires, as all that’s living does—
     No need to wonder about where or why.

     The spark that lit when you were first conceived
     And lasts until expiring blows it out
     Is gone for good, though many have believed
     It still continues in the air about,

     Or passes into an etheric sphere
     Imagined as a hedge against despair
     Where nothing’s ever lost that’s loved and dear
     But cherished there with kind celestial care.

          Not so, for all that anybody knows:
          It’s only out of fear this myth arose.


Friday, November 2, 2012

for/from David


     The root of all our woe is that we want
     And thus pursue whatever we may crave,
     If only for a token we can flaunt,
     Becoming soon our greedy ego’s slave.

     Though this is how most human beings behave,
     No differently than creatures in the wild
     Whose fierceness leads them to an early grave,
     Another path’s revealed, a way more mild.

     We come to see that craving has defiled
     Our souls, and only that by letting go
     Of lack, by which our ego is beguiled,
     Can we be filled and lifted up, though low.

          Assume then there’s a Providence that gives
          What every faithful creature needs who lives.


Monday, October 29, 2012


       Respice finem means to heed your end,
       An ancient admonition to regard
       Your wandering from the rightful way and mend
       Your errancy on courses so ill-starred.


Sunday, October 28, 2012


         To know: to apprehend, to understand,
         To hold a thing or thought with certainty,
         Is different from believing on command,
         Taking on faith, as with a deity.
         The first, by fact or logic’s evident;
         The other, one may hope, is heaven sent.



Cats are curious, sometimes perilously.  Dogs are curious, mainly about scents and intruders.  All creatures are searchers, if only for food, shelter and mates. 

But human beings might better be nominated Homo questor than Homo sapiens, since sapience is more our aspiration than a generic trait.  Homo questor is the perennially seeking species, curious and inquisitive about all things great and small, deep and shallow. 

That intelligence which affords us the power to develop languages thereby gives us the means to inquire, to articulate questions and develop answers to communicate to others. 

So avid is our curiosity that we sometimes pose and ponder questions so perplexing that they have been dubbed enduring questions or perennial questions, to be revisited generation after generation, era after era: What is the meaning of life?  Is there life after death?  Does evolution have a goal?  What is the Good Life? 

One might even ask, “Why do we ask questions?”  One answer is that we do so because we can, and we might assume that the universe has made us so that it can be conscious of itself. 

Now who put us up to that?



“Why this is hell, nor am I out of it.” 
            —Marlowe’s Mephastophilis

      No, hell is not hereafter—hell is here,
      And heaven, too, for those who merit it.
      There is no afterlife you need to fear
      To which your severed soul will finally flit:
      This Earth, this present life, is all there is,
      One opportunity to make the best
      And prove yourself a loser or a whiz:
      To live well here and now is mankind’s quest.
      Yet if that ancient fable helps you fare
      More righteously, expecting a reward,
      Or when calamity befalls, to bear
      Your pain and find emotional accord,
           Then put your fancy to its highest use
           And let your blissfulness be your excuse.



for H. Hayward Hirsch
A Good Man

  It’s not how someone dies that’s bad or good,
  But whether one has lived as humans should—
  Humanely, with a care for the well-being
  Of others in their needs, since that is freeing;
  While otherwise—self-centered, clamped and cold—
  Reveals a soul like Faustus’ that’s been sold
  To purchase vain delight and fickle pleasure,
  Imperiling a human’s only treasure:
  Our precious essence of integrity,
  That holy wholeness we are meant to be.
       The end of all our race is to be well,
       Yet failing that high goal, we end in hell.



          Although our race seems naturally insane,
          We have it in our hearts to grow humane.


Thursday, October 18, 2012


      Perhaps it’s true that Heaven above is real,
      As even now one neuroscientist
      Attests, making a rational appeal
      Against what other scientists insist.
      Although his neo-cortex was shut down,
      And he was thus incapable of thought,
      He yet could see a world beyond renown,
      A glorious realm of light where he was taught
      By grand seraphic beings’ wordless speech
      That all the Universe is filled with love
      Eternally and, just as pastors preach,
      This world will be surpassed by that above.
           Yet even this won’t quell the skeptics’ doubt
           Who’d rather wait to see what he found out.