Friday, January 31, 2014


 Something is killing starfish up and down the West Coast and no one knows what.  The cause could be a toxins, a virus, bacteria, manmade chemicals, ocean acidification, wastewater discharge or warming oceans. 
 —USA Today

    How can we live in closer harmony
    With other living beings on this Earth
    Than we do now, so disrespectfully,
    As if no one but we has any worth?

    We’ve thought ourselves the lords and masters of
    A global empire in our entitled sway,
    To rule with cruelty, not treat with love,
    Regardless of our waste and Earth’s decay.

    But some great turning now is requisite:
    First in our kind’s collective consciousness,
    Unkind till now, reformed more meet and fit,
    Inclined not to devour but to bless:

         Thankfully to preserve and manage well
         This habitat where precious creatures dwell.


Thursday, January 30, 2014


        How wise you are you will reveal by how
        You choose to use your energy and time,
        For only what’s of value will allow
        Your claim to finding wisdom’s paradigm.

        To know what’s valuable and realize
        In word and deed what is of greatest worth
        Is how you demonstrate that you are wise
        And by your ways improve life on this Earth.

        Yet that’s more easily proclaimed than done,
        For folly always stands in wisdom’s way,
        Temptations to undo what was hard won,
        Leaving our former glories to decay.

             Do always then what is most valuable,
             For only that way can your life be full.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014


    When your last breath you peacefully expire,
    Is that the end your your sole consciousness,
    Or does it escalate to someplace higher
    Beyond this sphere of pleasure and duress?

    Since many theories and scriptures teach
    Conflicting propositions on this point,
    There may be no way now that we can reach
    Conclusions others cannot counterpoint.

    How then, if any way, may you find peace,
    Assured your essence will transcend your death,
    A spirit your still body will release
    When liberated in your final breath?

         For such assurance, you must make a leap
         Of faith—that once again you’ll rise from sleep.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014


   When the sky begins to lighten, other signs
   Of dawn emerge: with several sorts of birds
   Joining a chorus, as song with song aligns,
   Though none but they can comprehend the words.

   At any moment, squirrels will start to bray
   Descending from the oaks in search of nuts
   That I’m about to scatter in their way
   To fill their cheeks and garner in their huts.

   The distant roar of a descending plane,
   Precisely timed to land in dawn’s first light,
   Commingles with the horn of a freight train
   Asserting at each crossing its clear right.

        But most definitive: our dogs declare
        There’ll be no more of sleeping anywhere.


Monday, January 27, 2014


     “Forsooth,” said master Shakespeare on a day,
    “Have done with writing sonnets all the time!
    A greater venture is to pen a play
    With characters and dialogue in rhyme—

    Or without rhyme, in rhythmical blank verse,
    Or even, as occasion calls, in prose,
    And then select my actors and rehearse
    Them in their merriment or woes.

    If I am to give scope to all my powers,
    These ditties must give way to something grand,
    For poesies in the end are merely flowers,
    But drama can an audience command,

         Moving them both to laughter and to tears,
         Ensuring fame that lives in after years.


Sunday, January 26, 2014


      What greater mystery is there than mind,
      Toward which all evolution seems inclined?
      Though some declare that evolution’s blind,
      It seems more evident that it’s designed
      To manifest itself in humankind,
      And if with us, it’s likely that we’ll find
      Some other beings with whom we’re aligned,
      And ultimately we may look behind
      The Mystery—where shines the Cosmic Mind.



    Why must you take such pains to write a verse
    When you could say more easily in prose
    Whatever’s in your mind you would disburse
    In less time than a poem takes to compose?

    The reason that I write is to find out
    What’s hidden in my mind I want to say
    That only metered verse can bring about
    And only finding rhymes can show the way.

    There’s magic in the web a sonnet weaves
    That catches passing thoughts and fixes them
    In patterns that the rhythmic mind conceives
    And no enchanted auditors condemn.

         Besides all that, this motive may explain:
         What’s said in verse stays better in your brain.


Saturday, January 25, 2014


for Nicholas Maxwell

    What is the rightful way to live your life
    To realize the promise of your birth,
    Averting moral perils, ever rife,
    While manifesting your essential worth?

    What is of value to yourself and others
    Is what our lives are meant to realize;
    Respecting all as sisters and as brothers
    While helping life to thrive is to be wise.

    What then are your potentials, your true gifts,
    Natural endowments still to be unfurled?
    Observe where your attention fondly drifts
    And think how that delight might serve the world.

         It’s this: for us to fully realize
         What is of greatest value—that is wise.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014


    Now, let me introduce you to your mind,
    And let’s find out the ways that it’s inclined.
    The best way that I know’s to take a pen
    In hand, sitting in readiness, and then
    Attend to subtle whisperings in your head,
    Transcribing them, then seeing what you’ve said.

    “I don’t know what I think until I see
    What I have said” is no absurdity,
    For suddenly what was unconscious rises
    Into words revealing its surprises:
    The very act of verbalizing shows
    What otherwise your mind might not disclose.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014


       The marvel and the mystery and awe
       Of all that consciousness reveals to us
       Must indicate that there’s a higher law
       Which somehow governs all that’s marvelous.
       That energy and particles alone,
       Exploded from some fierce anomaly,
       Should ultimately fashion blood and bone
       And breath seems an impossibility—
       Unless one presupposes cosmic mind,
       Some governing intelligence at play
       Throughout the universe that has designed,
       Like any artisan we know today
       Who builds a bridge or writes a lyric poem,
       A cosmos where our consciousness can roam.


Monday, January 20, 2014


A premise of this “Composition and Rhetoric” course is that you want and need to become a skillful writer of essays, both academic essays and those for non-academic readers, such as newspaper opinion pieces or business communications or magazine articles that you may be moved to compose.

But beyond these serviceable public purposes for learning to write well—in fact, above these purposes—I would urge that good writing skills serve primarily your own curiosity by being a necessary tool for discovery, an invaluable implement for thinking and extrapolating thoughts into cogent and communicative discourse, far better than extemporaneous speech can accomplish.

Simply, you write to discover.  You write to find out and articulate what you have to say, which you would not discover or formulate clearly without generating sentences and paragraphs in written compositions.  To compose an essay is to compose your mind, to gather scattered notions and glimpses into articulated ideas assembled cogently to illuminate first yourself and then others.


Sunday, January 19, 2014


       The first step is to train abilities
       Inculcating essential human skills,
       The many kinds of useful literacies
       Our earliest curriculum instills.

       The second step is knowing what’s to know
       Surveying the wide range of study’s ken,
       Deciding in this field what rows you’ll hoe
       Of Who, of How, of What, of Where, of When.

       The third step is at last to realize
       The value of this whole noble pursuit,
       Which aims above all else at growing wise,
       Since Wisdom is the highest human fruit:

            To know what is of value and to make
            It real is what we do for wisdom’s sake.


Saturday, January 18, 2014


          Sometimes he’d sit, eyes closed, and mull,
          Which some would think was rather dull,
          But in his mind on words he’d harp
          Until he’d made his phrasing sharp:

          Out of the vast Mysterium,
          The proper words at last would come
          And into proper places fit
          So sound and sense were apposite.


Friday, January 17, 2014


   There must be life somewhere beyond this Earth
   Within the Cosmos’ exponential girth,
   For life’s potential having manifested here
   Is bound in that wide vastness to appear.

   What’s once proved possible won’t be unique
   And therefore justifies our urge to seek
   In fantasy and then by science’ means
   Whatever evidence such research gleans.

   Besides such logic that propels our search
   To find where other living beings may perch
   Across the reaches of the cosmic ocean,
   We’re urged more ardently by an emotion,

        A loneliness compelling us to find
        Some fellow creatures manifesting mind.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014


      The Cosmic Mystery has brought us here,
      A mystery we fathom more and more
      As science makes its operations clear
      Exposing views we’ve never seen before:

      Through microscopes and telescopes we see
      Into the farther reaches of it all,
      While mind-expanding theories reveal
      Those things that used to puzzle and appall.

      But even with such wondrous enterprise
      And all of science’ prowess, can we know
      What source has ultimately given rise
      To this fantastic, marvelous cosmic show?

           Perhaps not science but the mystic mode
           May transport us down revelation’s road.



  The couplet has a couple lines that rhyme,
  Explaining what at times can be sublime,
  But here is merely expositional
  And consequently fated to be dull;
  Whereas the best of couplets truly sing
  And long in many memories will ring:

  “If this be error and upon me proved,
  I never writ, nor no man ever loved.”

  “For thy sweet love rememb’red such wealth brings
  That then I scorn to change my state with kings.”

  “And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
  As any she belied with false compare.”

  “So shalt thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,
  And Death once dead, there’s no more dying then.”


Monday, January 13, 2014


        What is it that we may evolve to be
        Once we have reached the Singularity
        And artificial intellect has soared—
        Will we attain compassion and accord?

        If not, what good is mere intelligence,
        Which calculates but does not cogitate,
        In matters ultimate remaining dense,
        Not wise?  Yet wisdom is our highest state.

        Somehow our sciences must learn to serve
        A higher motive than just what and when,
        How much and where, but ultimately swerve
        Our history to where it’s never been:

             Toward wisdom as we fully realize
             What’s most of value to our enterprise.


Sunday, January 12, 2014


       How likely is it there will come a day
       When we resign from predator and prey,
       Retiring that unseemly meme from our
       Vocabulary, giving up on power?

       The power of love, however, shall endure
       Not as a weapon, though, but as a cure
       For what has made us adversarial,
       Releasing us from that demonic spell.

       “Not likely,” you’ll unhesitantly say,
       “For conflict is the universal way,
       Contending forces seeking dominance,
       Each with its agenda to advance.”

            Yet I’ll reply: cooperation will
            Prevail as peace and love all conflicts still.


Saturday, January 11, 2014


    Now Paragonia, like Utopia,
    Is nowhere to be found, but just supposed:
    A model of a new America
    Or world, when former options have been closed.

    Since we’ve now seen the folly of our ways
    Of reckless wastefulness and disrespect
    For nature’s providence these waning days,
    We need to act before our world is wrecked.

    A turnabout of consciousness must come
    Before we can envision what might be
    In depths of wisdom that we need to plumb
    To fabricate a new reality.

         Supposing Paragonia will provide
         A stone to sharpen visions to be tried.


Friday, January 10, 2014


        It’s legend, fable, superstition or
        It’s fact: the allegation by some sect
        That this or that godhead we must adore
        Or we’ll be punished for being incorrect.

        And yet for most of history, we’ve cowed
        And bowed obediently before some story
        Of beings supernaturally endowed,
        Bidden to bask remotely in their glory.

        Why not, instead, proclaim our own prowess
        And own the innate powers of our kind
        With which our evolution has endowed us,
        Bestowing not just instinct but a mind?

             We’re evolution’s foremost agents now,
             No longer bound to cower or kowtow.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Stained glass by Jim Piercey


                  Past tense:  FEAR

                  Present tense:  ANGER

                  Future tense:  HATRED

                  Future perfect tense:  REVENGE



Is it loving?
Is it honest?
Is it fair?
Is it life-enhancing?
Is it uplifting?


            Some things we know but do not realize; 
            It’s only knowledge acted on that’s wise.       

                 If wisdom’s how you are inclined,  
                 Then know the way is being kind.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014


            “The world of my belief is what I see,
            For it’s my mind that makes reality,
            Or that which I have come to apprehend
            Because to that I’ve chosen to attend.”

            But Truth is wider than you’ve whittled it,
            Trying to make your speculation fit;
            What you leave out of your reality
            Is all the rest that I and others see.


Monday, January 6, 2014


   The wind is from the west this morning and
   It blows, before the birds awake, the sound
   Of traffic on the Interstate over land
   And lakes, because no barriers can confound
   This noise we humans make in our pursuit
   Of industry and pelf, and not the wealth
   Of contemplating matters absolute:
   Our route to holy wholeness, our true health.

   But now, as the winds subside, the birds’ aubade
   Begins, their joyful tribute to the sun,
   The source of warmth and sustenance, their god,
   And will not cease till due oblation’s done.
        I take my lesson from these pious birds
        And fashion my own hymn in tuneful words.


Sunday, January 5, 2014


           What’s more imperative for us than awe,
           Feeling astonished at our being here,
           Seeing a universe of natural law,
           Acknowledging all living beings as dear?

           The wonder of this view inspires praise
           In those who recognize the miracle
           That underlies a universe which plays
           A vital role that’s anything but dull.

           This living universe has given birth
           To us and everything the cosmos wide,
           A treasure of incalculable worth,
           A truth to be acknowledged, not denied.

                Discovering how to live accordingly—
                In awe—is our responsibility.


Saturday, January 4, 2014


   I start a poem to scratch some mental itch;
   Some nagging subject yearns to be explored,
   Though at the first I have no notion which
   New destination I am heading toward.

   It’s an adventure with no certain goal,
   Only the hope of some discovery
   That somehow versifying may cajole
   From hiding, toward captivity.

   By this point in the hunt, I’ve scanned the field
   And settled on some major metaphor,
   A trope I hope that finally will yield
   A verse to be compared with those of yore,

        For even Petrarch hunted for a deer,
        Then Spenser followed—now I pull up the rear.


Thursday, January 2, 2014


        My yearly crop of poetry is in,
        All girded up in sheaves and neatly bound,
        And now another cycle’s to begin
        With verse to range from silly to profound.

        It matters not what comes, so long as I
        Arise before the dawn and sit me down
        In readiness, pad on my lap, to try
        Whatever comes to mind, a verb or noun,

        A clause or phrase, the first hint of a notion
        That then begins to form and run a course
        That’s unpredictable once set in motion,
        Arising from some dark, unfathomed source.

             It matters not if what I make is great
             Or small, so long as I participate.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014


     A passionate musician is this fellow,
     When Yo-Yo Ma makes whoopee with his cello.