by Dean Blehert
The following poems were sent out daily during 2002 by email. They
are all original by Dean Blehert and are copyright by him.
He put on his pants to look for the bedroom cricket.
It was in his pants leg. They did
a song and dance routine.
CRACK! says the sky.
Eyes seek mine -- two cats, two dogs
just look at me.
If you can prove anything with statistics,
why doesn't someone prove something nice?
Remember the days before panti-hose,
when nylon led somewhere?
Like a boy going off to war,
I promise myself I'll write everyday,
but once again my notebook lies unopened
nearly a week. Meanwhile, back home,
like an anxious mother, I take up trivial tasks
in fits and starts, watch TV, read magazines...
anything to keep me from wondering:
What's happened to me? Why don't I write?
I guess this has been a wasted night,
but I got it cheap to begin with.
The starlight shattered
my open window.
I'm so alone, they said to each other.
I wandered lonely as a crowd.
[Note: refers to start of a Wordsworth poem, "I wandered lonely
as a cloud."]
What's a nice reader like you
doing in a poem like this?
[or HOW TO PICK UP THE SINGLE READER -- that's why poets work so
hard on their lines.]
Nothing like below zero weather
for finding out the shape of smoke.
WAYS TO ALLAY 9-11 ANXIETY (a palindrome)
Tail a terrorist, Sir,
or retaliate fast, e.g.
Ever since we invented time,
it's been just one thing after another.
We meet, we part -- ah, life applauds,
and you and I are its hands.
Day after day passes through me:
Time must have developed Me-travel.
As my wife reads my poem,
I put my arm around her shoulders,
In a yard-goods store
I stroke a roll of soft stuff.
Did you feel touched, love?
Poetry vs. Prose
Why is modern poetry so often depressing?
Because it's often a Prozactively.
Sometimes love reappears unexpectedly
like a casual phone call from an old friend
you'd heard had died in the war.
Sometimes, even on a jammed freeway,
it is suddenly just there,
being your face, which is still
holding its form even though flesh and bone
have vanished, replaced by sunlight.
I write little; I earn little
by writing or by any means. My wife
looks askance. At forty-two
I too find it hard to tell the difference
between a heroic, long-struggling artist
and a man who hasn't made much
A poetry editor is someone who helps a poet
mail his poetry to himself.
Pray for me, reader;
after all, I've been praying
for readers long enough.
"I promise you freedom,"
said the demagogue cagily.
"PROVE to me I've lived before,"
said a man who'd never lived at all.
Having opened the floodgates (or Pandora's Box or Dracula's coffin)
by sending out a "Tom Swiftly" ("said the demagogue
cagily"), and seeing what this can bring back upon me, I must
now try to drive a stake through the monster's heart with a Tom
Swiftly to end all Tom Swiftly (yeah, sure). This bad joke includes
an invented character (Lily Lee) and a cameo by the real Hawaiian
slide guitarist, Don Ho:
"No one plays the ukulele like me,"
said Lily Lee.
"No one plays the slide guitar like me,"
said Don Ho, Holy and also
[Say the last line aloud fast.]
[There, didn't I do that livelily!]
Here's another one, but DO NOT READ ON unless you've read Shakespeare's
HENRY IV, Part I and know who John Lily was and what the euphuistic
style he invented was like and how Shakespeare parodied it in that
play. If you know all that (and are, therefore, as brilliant as
I am), read on:
Shakespeare on John Lily -- a Swift One
"For know ye not how the euphuism,
the more ye crush it underfoot,
the more stickily it clings to your sole...,"
said Shakespeare, Lylyly.
Ho Ho Ho, laughed Santa, Holy Holy Holy.
In the dining room
a child falls, screams
all talk stops...
He wanted her to return his love.
She returned it unused.
The trouble with breaking the envelope is
you have to deal with flaps.
My poetry is very personal --
[And something written after a poet friend told me I should be
more lyrical and make my poems "fly"]:
Now and again a lyrical line enters my thoughts --
[I asked that poet how poetry should fly. Would he prefer an eagle?
a mosquito? perhaps a B-52? a bat? (I'm open to any sort of fly.)]
RIDDLE and Answer:
How does a dachshund get an erection?
[That may seem obscene to some, but it was a genuine concern --
I saw one walking along the sidewalk, noted the relevant distances,
and decided that pooch was in considerable danger if approached
by a canine female in heat. As a child decides the wolf didn't eat
Sonya the duck -- she hid in a tree, so I solved my riddle in a
way that allowed me to feel less uncomfortable about the fate of
dachshunds -- if perpendickular -- on cement sidewalks.]
Tower of Babel
Together we rose up
to touch one another.
Were we presumptuous?
After the tower collapsed,
your tongue was strange to me.
Someday we may become radioactive.
For now we are mostly TV-inactive.
They don't make history like they used to.
I'll write you if you'll sit for a poem.
Nirvana -- isn't that what the Buddhists have
instead of Christmas and Chanukah?
Speck on the bathroom tile
moves -- kill it? Why? Speck,
should I kill you?
I wanted to stop being a victim,
but they wouldn't let me.
Hard to sit on the grass
when the dog is with me.
He tries to lick my face,
and I hate to be always saying
BACK! or DOWN! -- which, in Dog,
means, "NO, Honey, I TOLD you,
I'm just not in the mood tonight."
I'm writing so slowly lately...
would you please read faster!
Nowadays a poet is no one,
so when no one cares about you,
(I'm a safe poet in a storm.)
No, don't thank me, Reader --
It's my job.
My purpose in life is currently living quietly
under an assumed name in a small Midwestern town.
"You again," he snarls when I find him --
"After all these years.... Why can't you just
leave me alone?" "You've GOT to come back,"
I tell him, "We need you." "Go away, GET OUT!"
Turning at the door, seeing his head buried
beneath clenched trembling fists, I say,
"You know where to reach me," and leave.
How can I win:
Each time I kill an enemy,
I lose a neighbor.
The world's last poet
strolls down the world's last corridor of trees,
while behind him (discreetly, not to distract him),
the world's last lumberjacks
hack down the trees to make the pulp
to make the paper for the world's last
book of poetry, which the poet,
inspired by the trees,
is about to write.
We don't ask much of the universe:
We just want to be loved.
But it's a tall, silent universe,
all knotted up in its inability
to express our love for us.
"The life of even a single child
is too great a price to pay!"
sure drive a hard bargain.
They took away his drums --
he beat a barrel.
The barrel grew rotten, burst --
he pounded on his hips.
When hips withered away, perhaps
he became his music, became
that refinement of instruments which is
the spirit -- as the wind uses up
first leaves, then bare boughs,
then boulders, then sweeps the desert sand
it ground them into, seeking music
that is only the wind.
"Pleeeease! Just once! Just to find out
what it's like!" begs the hyperbola
in vain. "NO!" we reply --
"Don't you DARE touch that asymptote!"
How frustrated Hitler must have felt:
So much wrong with the world and
so few Jews.
Monday morning is what happens to
Prufrock's "evening spread out against the sky
like a patient etherized upon a table"
when they run out of ether.
After a long hard voyage,
I discovered my purpose in life,
but was astonished to find it
"That's no fat -- that's muscle!"
"Sure, sure," you laugh, patting my belly
as I'd hoped.
Why does everybody always have to be right?
Can't we just take turns?
Don't dam a give
Once upon a time, long long ago, an equilateral triangle
began multiplying its sides in hopes of one day
becoming a perfect circle. It became a hexagon,
a centagon, megagon, gigogon, googolgon,
myriad-sided beyond saying...but still sided,
not a circle, until, one day, after a frenzy
of infinitesimal flatnesses, it realized that
some things are beyond mere polygons. Then,
in a blinding flash of Grace, easy as pi,
my mind made it a circle.
Mid-East philosophical argument:
"Is NOT real!"
The Shriek of Araby.
[Note: There was an old song, "The Sheik of Araby"]
Let's bomb Iraq --
serves 'em right, using a "Q"
without a "U"!
Why do we blow people up?
Wouldn't it be simpler
not to have babies?
Wanting to do something about the war,
I enjoy the sunset.
I offer myself to poetry,
who shrugs and says "Thanks,"
politely, long used to having heaps
of embarrassing, unexchangeable gifts
gather cobwebs in the attic.
[On the other hand:]
Dreams don't "come true."
It's like any art: You dream it
and you dream it again until
you dream it right.
Life must be valuable:
People kill themselves
to touch it.
Beware of telling people the truth:
THE EARS HAVE WALLS!
Immortality is not "being remembered".
It's being there to remind them.
Babies are exquisitely detailed.
Women, like Japanese,
make such clever miniatures.
"We've lived before...".
"Does that mean I have to have
a used baby?
Your fear that I'll hurt you becomes
my desire to hurt you: It lights on me
like a homing bird, this thought
you flash at me which (since I have it)
I cannot but mistake for my own, but which
(since it is not my own) I cannot wish away.
I can struggle with it, hide from it, join a monastery --
or I can hurt you badly and receive a thought
still weirder (your pain become my glee),
or I can notice that the thought is not mine,
Dusk -- ahead a line
so straight it must be in my mind...
no -- the ocean.
The big hollow oak
giggles as I pass. From its cleft base,
Cats and women:
The voice questioning
when the eyes know all the answers.
A modern doll:
You tip her back and the eyes
So many officials speak on our behalf.
Who will speak on our bewhole?
When I stop writing, I'm dead,
so bury me -- no matter what
NOW PLAYING AT THIS THEATER!....
See now play!
So much broken glass on the path,
yet enough moonlight
to go around.
Neat lattice, like an egg carton
The caption says an electron microscope
was used to photograph these...atoms?
Wow! Atoms! I wonder if I'll ever
meet one in person!
the child isn't fooled by his tiny body:
He knows he is as huge as anybody,
seizing for emblem of his scope
those intimate elephants
of the creaking staircase late at night,
Mommy, Daddy and others too big
to talk back to. So he sets out
to become -- and thus shrinks into being --
I keep getting fatter.
If beauty is skin-deep,
mine becomes profound.
"I want you in me!"
cried the fat lady
to the chocolate cheesecake.
At a certain distance
the sight of a certain proportion of flesh
bare legs and shoulders, long hair) approaching
is exciting, promising...and when the figure
enlarges into a fat fiftyish matron or a pimply long-haired guy,
funny how hard it is to unsee the barely seen girl,
unfeel the slight turn-on. Sometimes
I even turn my head to watch (discreetly,
not wanting to seem rude or queer)
the figure walk away, hoping to catch sight
of the girl again, to see who she would have been --
to stir me so -- had she been.
Death is a useful theory --
that there are rocks and concrete and sidewalks
that don't feel pain when you walk on them.
An alternative theory is that everything
is alive, but some things like
to be stepped on.
REFLECTIONS ON GETTING UP
The hardest part of every day
Is getting out of bed:
One foot, another, stand up...sway --
Where did I leave my head?
Sit down...no, WALK -- the room's so wide...
Now things are getting clearer,
For there's my head, all crusty-eyed,
Where I left it in the mirror.
If you simply MUST speak to a crocodile
Please don't visit, ring the doorbell, knock -- No! Dial,
Dial long distance!
With each peck, her bottom bounces.
Quick! The horny rooster mounts his
Hen: In-out! No pause for necking...
Whew! She really sends him, pecking.
Hollow wooden "plonk!"
Sound of a house with children:
Toilet seat dropped hard.
Good morning! This is your alarm clock speaking,
and I want YOU to try something BETTER
than the DAY! You say the day is sufficient
unto the troubles thereof? But have you tried
the NEW IMPROVED day? That's right,
TODAY, at your nearest local front door or window,
the same reliable firm that brought you
the (TADA) PHYSICAL UNIVERSE
which 99.9 out of 10 psychiatrists recommend)
is proud to introduce to you: the NEW IMPROVED DAY!!!
Try it -- you'll LIKE it!
JOSEPH, HALF ASLEEP, RESPONDS TO MARY'S GOOD NEWS (a palindrome)
(Yawn) Madonna?! Man!
No damn way!
A PRIEST RUES HIS SINS WITH YOUNG GIRLS (a palindrome)
Did I, maiden-mad,
I'm damned, I am! --
There are a few every lifetime.
You meet them, invite them in, and,
like "the man who came to dinner", they occupy
a pronoun ("you" or "she" or "he"
or even "I")
and make themselves at home,
and that pronoun, even years after they've moved on
(leaving stains that won't come out
of the carpet, stale scent of perfumed
or tobacco'd presence, aura of expected smile
or gesture that hovers about distant figures
approaching or sings like an overture
in the ringing phone) that pronoun
is never again the same.
Most people are for sale.
After all, you mustn't give yourself away.
HOW METABOLISM REALLY OCCURS
Chemists explain how the cells bond one chemical
and release another to fuel my body.
I prefer to think that, blessed by the bounty
of my seasons, scourged in time of folly
by antibody tempests, addled by alcoholic plagues and sapped
by sugar famines, all these biochemical denizens of my world
worship me as their whimsical God and make pious offerings
of their oxygen and all their other DNA-garlanded bullocks,
fatted calves, first-born sons and virgin daughters
to propitiate me.
The cat extends a paw, catches it in my blanket,
withdraws (infinitesimal rip), each motion
with its arch and reverse arch,
the curl and uncurl of a wavelet.
That cricket never stops...
I was thinking what to write next
when he stopped.
You have already made your face,
filled the eyes with quick light,
the lips with flutter, the cheeks
with subtle flush, and, overall,
recorded in fine tracery your joys
and sorrows. Yet each morning
you daub paint on the work of
an old master.
The cat's rear rises
to meet my stroke...and is gone!
Was I not worthy?
World War -- what a lot of PEACE goes into it!
To wage war on such a scale,
millions of people on each side
must learn to work together as a team,
rising above all petty differences,
to destroy each other.
He's Found His Nietzsche In Life
Hear that screeching rooster?
He's dawn's greatest booster;
Again he's introduced her
(It SOUNDS like he just goosed her);
HE thinks he's produced her,
with his fanfare (all in "Rooster")
Out of "Thus Spake Zarathooster."
We knew something had happened to him
when his poem ambled home
The phone goes "Ring!...Ring!..."
"Answer the phone!" someone yells.
"Ring! Ring!" I answer.
I just turned off the TV set:
We can be alone now.
It's nearly 1 a.m.
Welcome to The Late Poem.
Door to door. While the customer writes me a check,
his 3-year-old daughter falls in love with me,
perched beside me on the couch, one big
brown-eyed, peek-a-boo-ecstatic smile --
we have so little time...I must leave, goodbye,
thank you, thank you, goodbye (big eyes
lingering, nose pressed to the screen door), goodbye...
I hope she's all right. I hope I am.
That finishes the ice cream.
Dangerous stuff. Glad it's
safely out of the way.
Riddlin' (A Medication)
How did the psychiatrist stop the poet?
A ward to the wise is sufficient.
Things aren't so bad...
that's why sometimes I wish
I were a thing.
Today nothing worked -- I mean
computers, modems, even telephones --
NOTHING worked. Maybe I could still
drive a cab...I used to write poems...
(God is not dead, but is He
Today some things worked, some didn't.
A day to remember, and I was there,
to a degree.
Today everything seemed to be working,
and then it turned out all wrong.
It managed to be a big disappointment
without even being a surprise. The day
wouldn't even give me that.
I decided things would go right today.
Apparently the day was operating on a system
that does not support my decisions.
Things went better today. I didn't TRY
to get anything to work. MAYBE
something would have.
Living is simple:
Just read the instructions first.
The lie I told yesterday
I believed today.
Trust is not blindness,
but the creation of a space
in which it becomes possible
for you not to betray me.
Everybody's wrong but me."
That's what a rock could say if it could talk...
and many do.
I dial a familiar number --
we spoke just yesterday --
and a recording says my friend
is no longer in service.
There must be some mistake...
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH MY FRIEND!
Poor super-market shopping carts -- overturned
in the streets, broken in creek beds,
tiny wheels bent, wire ribs crushed --
delicate lost pets that couldn't
find their way home.
Rainy morning. Cars sniff along the freeway
looking for a dry place
to deposit their eggs.
O Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory,
I lied: I DO want to save the world!
Forgive me -- I was afraid
you wouldn't understand.
Poems in the NEW YORKER --
I seldom finish them. Half way through
I feel the overwhelming magnetic pull
of the cartoon on the next page.
WHERE POETRY WENT WRONG:
Here we are
We oversleep. A cat and two dogs
gather about the bed, sober-eyed, anxious,
like doctors consulting: "Can anything
be done for them?"
Across the park lawn, past spindly, wind-swirled trees,
in a dream, swept round and round on the arms
of a prince at the Emperor's Ball,
floats a cellophane bag.
After kissing the frog into a gorgeous prince,
the princess (who knew nothing of magic,
but had grown up with computers)
quickly kissed the prince
to see if it was a toggle.
Weary of human folly,
daily the Prince roams the marshes,
croaking to every frog he sees,
hoping that one will have the stomach
to kiss him and take him back.
My mouth has gotten me into a lot of trouble.
Now I'm in a Mexican restaurant
At the end of each lifetime
the hero is plainly wiped out,
but at the start of the next installment
we find it was only a flesh wound.
We put our houses here and there --
by the sea, on hill, in valley, in woods --
and settle down to watch TV,
getting a kick, apparently, out of
doing it in odd places.
Corsage in bright-veined cellophane, ill at ease,
Grows old with lettuce, liver, cottage cheese.
Later, perhaps, we'll press it in a book --
The flower, that is -- the liver we will cook.
Lovers moving in tall grass
up to their ankles, hips, shoulders...
Gone! And all this occurred
at the same spot.
After years of living alone, it had been so long
since anyone had been a naked woman
in the same room where I was being a naked man,
that just to undress in a dim room
peopled it with sad white shadows.
This is just poetry:
It won't save you, but perhaps
it will locate you
so that a rescue party can be sent out.
A dream: everything freezes in place
but me, and I stroll about as after
a great battle, bodies flung this way
and that, transfixed on the barbed wire
of their lives.
In L.A., dreaming of Minnesota autumns,
missing the loud leaf crunch underfoot, when,
CRUNCH!...I crushed a snail.
Why is it that the same embrace in which
last night you melted, this morning
reminds you that my arm pits
The Romans invented telephone poles.
Having no current, no wires,
they mounted men on the cross-bars,
lining them up along the highways
to shout the good news
from pole to pole.
Movie makers now, with computerization,
can make ANYTHING real
except their audiences.
The trees gently bend one way, then the other,
like polite Chinamen. Frustrated,
the wind howls even louder,
but the trees only bend gently,
one way, then the other.
The ocean keeps thrashing up waves
to become mountains, falls flat,
tries again, undaunted. Nearby,
the mountains, having made it,
are bored stiff.
How can there be space
for both the birds with twitter
and the trees with young leaves
to fill the air?
Waiting for my ride to the airport,
reading about the Paleozoic Era (nearly
400,000,000 years), then the Mesozoic,
then Cenozoic, then the six months
until I see you again...
Morning. My antenna extends itself
to receive a sleepy signal. Turning over,
I meet your eyes, alight with sending.
In the porno "Shoppe"
nobody looks at anyone else,
each respecting the essential privacy
of the act of looking at
other people having sex.
Like a kid in the Midway, poking his face
through a hole to become a cardboard cowboy
or lion tamer, the moon peeps though a rift
in the clouds to become the heart
of a pearly rose.
The chair is a bed
For my ass-to-knee basis
While the rest of me stands
In two different places.
I click off the Top Forty
in which bare trees across the street
have been posturing stiffly...
and catch them, in the silence
behind the mask of music,
treeing away like mad!
I will climb the highest mountain
for the one,
who can see my mountain.
"YOU COME FIRST AT PACIFIC FEDERAL!"
And withdraw early
with substantial loss of interest?
The pigeons strut back and forth,
hands behind their backs,
making, now and again, a few
authoritative pecks at the grass,
then strutting off, quite
A CLOSE GAME
Two crows wheel and light on a branch above me.
And there a squirrel scampers. The crows
are leading, two to one. In second place
we have a one-to-one tie
between poets and squirrels.
Burnt out, I guess, but a shame
to throw away the glass bubble
with its delicate ruined crystal palace
MOTEL, IN BRIEF
Beneath a naked bulb
that shorts on and off, they lie,
shorts on and off.
Reverently through gold streams of sunlight,
vaulted chamber after chamber,
my tongue admires the rose-windowed cathedral
of an orange.
Eyes getting lost in dark corners of the couch,
then yanked to new continents of carpet,
lost again in patterns: a baby bobbling through
the endless minutes.
Ill-bred dog! I've never met you before,
yet you bound into my lap,
committing forepaw upon forepaw.
Worse at night than the tapping
of a leaky faucet: from beside the bed,
the juicy shploth...shploth...shploth...
of a dog licking himself.
The world is very crowded...
but my poems are very thin.
I'm trying to write articulately.
Does my art tickle you lately?
Sudden washer silence. I peek in.
The clothes lie in a heap like dead fish.
Careful -- this may be a ruse
just before the wildest spin of all.
Commuters, one per seat on the bus,
each facing the back of a head.
What if I started to sing
"Row Row Row your boat..."?
Rarely people on the bus greet each other,
sit together, converse -- they've met before.
I wonder how they managed to meet before?
The sign says TAKE ONE,
but the holder is empty. I'd take one if I could --
FALLING BEHIND AND GETTING AHEAD OF OURSELVES
On the bus, our faces look awake
while we shed our dreams and tastes of toothpaste
and breakfast, trying to catch up
to our bodies. In the cafeteria our mouths sip coffee
while we, on the bus, move inexorably
toward our bodies. Later in the workday
we catch up, surprise ourselves
at a desk,
are appalled, and leap ahead to get home,
watch TV, lie in bed and wait for the body to follow,
I hope the personality doesn't survive death --
I want a new one.
If everyone else were dead,
I would be THE poet!
But do not drive me to such measures, Reader:'
Morning -- she wakes up angry
with the world. I tiptoe about the house,
pretending not to be
You glare at me and turn away.
The bedroom door slams.
When I hope you've had time to cool off,
I go in. Blanket pulled tight to your chin,
you stare at the ceiling,
but when I pretend not to notice...thank God! --
you stick out your tongue at me.
The beef-liver dog food ingredients feature
(low on the list) beef, but higher up, "Meat by-products."
Ah! Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, why didn't you tell me
that someday I'd have to feed my horsie
to my doggy?
[Note: The following poem was written about 20 years ago, published
in 1985. About 5 years later it -- or something amazingly close
to it -- showed up as a scene in the movie, "Bull Durham".]
"Have you ever tried bondage?"
"No," she giggled -- "It might be fun!"
When I had her tied snugly to the bed,
naked, spread-eagled, barely able to squirm,
I took out my... -- "No!" she screamed,
"Not that! There's too much of it! Please! NO!" --
but, unrelenting, I took out my
poems and began to read aloud.
Cat curled on the lawn,
tail stabbing down like the dagger
from a comic-strip balloon, containing
what the grass is saying.
I tore the poem apart. Inside was a small
naked creature twisted up in tight, sullen silence.
I stroked it, apologized, but it wouldn't speak'
only shivered. For modesty's sake,
I pulled the tatters of poem back about it,
smoothed them back in place
as best I could -- almost like new -- and said,
"There -- please tell me again," but the poem
wouldn't speak to me.
A tree talks
Today it wasn't supposed to rain,
but it did; in these soft times,
no one has been executed for the error,
maybe because of all the things that are
supposed to happen that we hope
A cup is a captive hole:
The air may have holes in it,
but they are very hard to find
and will not hold tea. Hence we make
out of clay or glass the sides and bottom
of a hole. Instantly, as these take shape,
some alert hole makes them its own.
Having lured a hole into our grasp,
we can fill it with tea, which we empty
into other holes.
"Who in hell do you think you are!"
It's hard to greet the people I meet:
I say hello to someone's nose -- too low?
I try the lower forehead -- no one there either.
The eyes? Which one? Are you in the left?
The right? Or neither? Hello?...Hello...?
In front of me in line, two men, side by side,
turn to each other, exchange remarks, turn aside,
are silent, turn to each other, make remarks,
silence. When they are silent and facing away,
I see (in their eyes darting, in their throats
coiling as if to pounce, in their poised lips)
that they continue to make remarks,
or rather, remarks audition, one by one,
for a chance to star in conversation.
Toddler rolls on the floor,
hangs on Mama's calf, jigs
across the carpet,
waving both hands, inventing
new ways to be a body.
The children spin down from the sky
like snow or soft sift of thistle down;
apple-cheeked girls hold out their skirts
to catch them, take them in, swell up with them,
as seeds of the sky extend
soft shoots inside them,
dreams of horizons.
"Oh man, I was like..." "Yeah, and I REALLY..."
Kids talking. That is, one talks excitedly
while three poise to interrupt.
No one notices that anyone has been interrupted.
Interruptions are like repeated blows of stick
against hoop to keep it rolling along.
No single one is heard or completes a thought,
but the conversation, the group swells to bursting
with the pent exuberance of cut-off gushes.
The suicidal cavalry officer
fed his horse beans,
then locked himself in the stable
with his horse running.
Down the stairs bumps the stuffed bear
on his one-eyed, button-eyed head,
one black paw in the clutch of a child
who so loves the bear that he has granted it
the gift to feel no pain.
He held it in his hands,
but it died. As they push dirt
over his baby bird's shoebox,
he thinks maybe it hurts things
to touch them.
The clouds have vanished,
and the sunlight is getting
all over everything.
"100 per cent silk" -- I knot about my throat
the spinning of 10,000 worms, regurgitations of
(how many?) mulberry leaves that, perhaps sing:
"Here we go round the human throat, the human throat,
the human throat...".
That jerk honks at me for stopping
for a pedestrian. I'm not really angry,
but, like a child yelling his first "SHUDDUP!",
I give him the finger, just to see
who I'll become.
The world finally came to an end.
Everything went on as usual,
houses, trees, bustle of bodies
in streets, bars and bedrooms,
baseball games and minor wars, but
we weren't there -- we'd all gone home.
If we must have an ultimate weapon,
if we must destroy the planet,
I suggest we construct in deep space,
where no hostile missile can reach it,
an earth-sized banana cream pie; then,
when the earth isn't looking,
LET HER HAVE IT!
(Note: no planet has ever survived
being splooshed by a planet-sized banana cream pie.)
[Next one was written when wars were "colder" and DOS
was state of the art]
I hope when the man underground in thick concrete
presses the red button,
he gets a message on his screen:
WARNING: Valuable people may be erased.
Do you wish to continue (Y/N)?" And I hope
if he presses "Y", he gets another message, like:
"Insufficient Memory. Abort? Retry? Ignore?"
And if he tries again, each time I hope his screen
locks up so he has to reboot. And I hope
when he calls the software people, they tell him
it's a hardware problem, and when he calls the hardware people,
they tell him it's a software problem, and I hope the other side
bought from the same manufacturers.
Don't agree with what doesn't agree
with your dream. Don't even wonder
if maybe they don't have a point there.
Don't even bother to disagree. Just
put your dream there, not a disagreement
with a disagreement with your dream,
just the dream: Put it there and put it
there and when it has been proven
impossible, put it there, and there,
where you keep putting it, it is.
On Resisting Evil
Because the evil have made the trains run on time,
we are wary of efficiency and accomplish nothing.
Because the evil have misused force,
we hesitate, hoping for miracles.
Because fools have thrown away their lives for madmen,
we imagine there is nothing worth dying for
and, dying anyway, live in fear.
Because the evil have created formidable organizations,
we dream of standing alone, swallowing that swindle
(dreamed up by the weak to subdue the strong)
that organization must be abhorred.
Because the evil seem driven by destructive purpose,
we are wishy-washy, lost, as it were, in qualifications,
lest we be tainted by zeal.
Because the evil rely on solid stuffy citizens
(who can best be governed by fear of loss of status)
and call them sane,
we think we must be crazy to be creative,
so create only self-destruction.
Because madmen have equated love of our own country
with hatred of all other countries,
we try to love mankind by despising our country,
as if love of neighbors could grow
from hatred of self.
Nothing is left to us if we try to be good
only by being what evil is not,
nothing but evil itself,
which is, perhaps, a violent effort
not to be evil.
I sit in the bathroom,
noticing how precisely the planes
of floor, walls and ceiling
angle away from me, making
just this very space. Suddenly
my body is a tiny doll
in a tiny box-within-a-box;
I feel, not constricted, but poised
on the tip of freedom,
as if I can be the doll
or the room or the sunshaft
that detaches each shape from the other,
can move my finely articulated little doll
through its miraculously detailed doll house
where each chair, each painting,
each graven coin on the tiny dresser
is real, one can touch it, move it about,
as charmed as a child who,
wishing a toy house real, makes a wish
and is all the way inside, looking out,
charmed more to find on the bed,
looking at me from a tiny doll -- yes!
looking at ME! -- one who knows, as if,
leaping the gap from eyes to eyes,
joining me in this unlimited place
from which we admire the distance
between our dolls as if viewing together
a Vermeer and marveling at the tricks
of sunlight and airy space,
as if we can exchange bodies as easily
as children trade dolls, but with less upset,
as if, now touching you, the touching
is not in these vivid tactile ticklings,
but in our agreement to experience
this contact of dolls as "me touching you",
as when one child points a finger and shouts:
"Bang Bang! You're dead!" and the other child
convulses, groans, and topples to the floor,
yes, the me and you, or our partaking
in this finger-thing called touching
or this eye-twinkle-thing called looking
is an agreement as purely playful
as the bang of bullets shot from fingers,
or, for that matter, from guns,
tiny dolls crumpling up each other,
compelled by agreements and pretenses
as constrictive as these eggshell-thin,
almost transparent doll-house walls
that, around us as we notice each other,
accidentally slipping out of
our half-asleep dolls, keep vanishing.
I lay my doll back on its pillow
beside yours, close its eyes,
and say, "I seem to be in a woods
somewhere, gliding down a stream
full of eddies and ripples,
branches sweep past overhead, very
vivid," and you say, "I'm not sure
where this is, but it's high
over an ocean, and it's snowing,"
and we lie there, stretching out
the early morning, waking up
in different places, different universes,
When we came in, one agreed
to stand near the door and keep it open
just a crack (We feared it might slam shut)
in case, wearied of walls, clocks,
and family albums, we decided to leave.
The door grows heavier, requiring
more effort and attention.
The one at the door would like to leave it,
join the party, but can't let it slam shut.
Some try to lure or taunt or force
the doorman away from the door. Some
are merely playful, but others
(deeply attached to the furniture)
hope to see the door lock shut,
so that the rest of us can never leave
and abandon them here.
As the party grows duller, the door
presses harder. The doorman wishes
some of us would waken from our stupor
and help hold open the door.
The doorman can't get our attention,
can't keep the door from snapping shut --
O! Wake up! Hurry! The doorman
The child marvels that Daddy can
make the car move so fast
with only one hand.
The child sits on the steps
in front of the house.
Whenever a big person walks by,
the child says "Hello"
to make the big person smile
and say "hello" back.
"How dare you talk to me that way!"
say the adults to the child
when he talks to them the way
they talk to each other.
The coin is so small, the Popsicle so big --
the coin must be magic.
Dad, angry, chases the child
round and round the dining room table...
then gives up. Relief --
but so sad.
If the child standing at the window
watching cars go by in the rain
(actually owning them, thinking "That's
my car and that's my car...") -- if he were
suddenly to know everything he'll know
in 70 years, would his body instantly
shoot up and hunch over, his expression
grow fixed, his remaining hairs whiten?
How can we call naked
these winter trees,
so finely woven,
so richly laced.
Heavy snow, street light reeling
with bright commotion, but
not a sound.
Cold. Cheeks and ears sting,
pricked by the sharp points
Up you go in a rocket, up, up, up...
then suddenly it's no longer up.
If you dig a deep enough hole, down, too,
gets lost. How deeply can I love you
before I find myself in free fall?
Making love, your head thrown back,
I wonder, why TWO nostrils?
Why not one?
He compared her to a flute:
"I fingered all her stops."
My first date was like that:
Whenever I tried to touch an opening,
she said "STOP!"
So much concern for the world our children
will live in, yet so pitiless toward our ancestors?
If only we cared, we could remake the past
to give our grandparents a wonderful world
to have lived in. We could decide that Hitler,
in his fondness for Jewish children,
invited them to his palace for ice cream
and cookies and puppet shows; that the
Russian nobles said to Lenin, "I know what!
Let's play everyone-owns-everything! All this wealth
is SUCH a bore!" We can decide anything we want --
and make it so. Let's decide something nice.
We owe it to our parents. Perhaps someday
our children will give us an even better world
to have lived in.
I'm not sure what life is all about,
but it's certainly all about.
This is Western Civilization, and
YOU are THERE!
The shrink is a broker:
He helps you trade away your guilt.
You get to find out that what you
thought was wrong with you is not
an illness (how CAN it be, when
the shrink can't cure it?), but
just another way to be. For this service,
you pay the price of believing
you can never change.
[Note: Written before psychiatry changed directions and decided
that it's all illness: You lose your guilt, but must accept a label
(you're ill) and become permanently medicated. Remember when the
fad was, "Serial killers aren't psychotic; they've simply chosen
an alternate life style." ]
"Hello" is the most dangerous word:
What if I say it and
I'm thinking of incorporating.
Would you read a poem
by a corporation?
I walk past where the dog
is stretched out on the couch --
THUMP! THUMP! THUMP!
The Case of the Telltale Tail.
I've walked the dog too far on a hot day.
He's not even marking the path any more --
out of ink.
He presented his proof. We were persuaded.
Was it Truth? Were we set free?
The atomic blast,
while shortening the body's life,
can make its shadow permanent.
There comes a time in a man's life
when he has to choose. I can't decide
if this is that time or not.
More than half the day is gone.
How can a guy get anything done
while clinging to the face of a spinning rock?
Don't blame me --
I didn't make the world.
I was only responsible for
elms and octopi, plus I sat in on the
Feline Committee, and some of my
suggestions for earthworms were
The night is in the middle of planning me,
redesigning me, unscrambling me from dreams
(so that what awakens bears some resemblance
to what entered sleep, lest suspicion
be aroused) -- when the alarm goes off,
and I am dropped into the day
Snap goes the shoelace.
The short part hangs from my hand
In life the great man was very like his statue --
noble from afar, but if you come close, you find yourself
looking up into a horse's ass.
Gettysburg -- these fat old cannons look healthy,
though they haven't been fed for 140 years.
They sun themselves on the ridge, digesting,
still, their feast.
A Black neighborhood: The houses are
red-brick, yellow, green, white. The people
are tan, chocolate, blue-mahogany,
even pink, but the agreement --
ah, the agreement is Black.
When you go past a word you've misunderstood,
you live in a universe that is no longer
what it seems.
What daffodils do with sunshine,
your eyes do with my admiration.
I am enclosed in the matched sets
of your arms, your legs -- and our two bodies
are also matched: Two heads, two rhythmic torsos --
all surround in symmetry
this blessed lapse
Here comes a pokey little car,
closely followed by a long, seething line
Get in people's way and slow things down long enough
and you may be mistaken
for a leader.
grimacing fans --
on all sides the grinding
of hope against fact.
Death Respects No Latinate Distinctions (a palindrome)
Rot is rot.
The tiny computer chip only SEEMS to make
billions of decisions every second.
Actually it's a link to a universe
perpendicular to ours where generations of clerks
with quill pens scratch away furiously
to feed answers back to us
Mysterious are the ways of the Lord:
Of all the mammals, only man, who, alone
of mammals, if he could would abuse the privilege,
can't lick his own crotch.
[Note: Someone told me elephants can't do it either. Any others?
I'm sure I'll hear all the exceptions from crotchety readers.]
It's a vicious falsehood that nothing stops you
from doing whatever you want to do.
You are stymied by the most potent, irresistible,
unreasoning force in the universe:
I know someday I'll be remembered.
I remember me already.
"It's coming! It's coming!" creak the branches,
who've been through it before.
Steeling themselves, they shiver.
But to the leaves it's a new game.
"Whee!" Swarms of them plunge and whirl
in their new bright colors. "Look at me!
I'm a snowflake!"
The hardness of this fine autumn day,
showing me picture after yellowing picture
of long-ago moments, in crisp detail,
things I'd forgotten, thought lost...
But I am as hard; I will not yield.
"And these?" says the day with a cold sunset smirk --
"Do you remember THESE?"
(Tears blur vision.)
"Fiend! All right, you win -- put away the past.
I'll pay whatever you ask."
All these leaves pretending to be snowflakes.
I've read that the children in concentration camps
played "Concentration Camp": "OK, I'm the guard,
you're the Commandant, you're an inmate...".
They became like this leaf litter, raked into piles.
(Into THESE piles children leap. "Don't do that!
They're filthy!" nags, in vain, a mother).
I don't know which comes first,
the playfulness or the seriousness,
but let's pretend play wins in the end (meaning,
in the end, it wasn't the end). Now let's pretend
we're terribly serious, terminally tearful,
finally frozen, sad as snow (but your eyes
Why must we give this man,
who rejoices only in destruction,
so much joy.
War on Iraq --
serves 'em right, using a "q"
without a "u"!
This war is like no other we've fought:
Different people are killing
A madman, Saddam? Who's sane? Us?
Not Saddam, who's heinous;
For Saddam Hussein is
A sodomous anus.
On this dark plain,
Sad am who's sane.
War is evil, we say, for those we kill
could be our own parents, children,
brothers, sisters, lovers. No wonder
we have wars: A legal way to kill off
all our nearest, dearest enemies.
We are such a big country
in such a small world.
Why NOT go to war for oil?
Absence of oil kills. Old folks freeze
in New England winters, children starve
if milk and fruit can't be driven to market.
Production isn't just dollars. It's food, shelter,
clothes, your reading lamp.
Fuel is a matter of life and death,
almost as important as clean, breathable air...
Say! When do we go to war against
those who hold hostage our air?
Remember when the South went to war over oil --
or some similar pool of black energy
to whose easy abundance
they'd become addicted?
"Nothing is worth dying for."
That's right, we do it for nothing.
The shriek of Araby.
We have no alternative. We're stuck
between Iraq and a hard place.
A war with Iran would be more dramatic --
that famous dramatic Irani.
Little Miss Saddam
Sat on his Bottom
Gassing his Kurds awhey....
Neither Pro nor Con, but perhaps relevant:
Mid-East philosophical argument: "IS real!" "Is
In pro and anti-war rhetoric we drown:
GLIB GLIB GLIB...
Thousands march to protest the war.
Millions march in uniforms --
to protest the peace?
We may soon be engaged in a contest
to out-destroy another's destructiveness...
What first did we fail to create?
Why do we blow people up?
Wouldn't it be simpler
not to have babies?
All this positive leadership -- I begin to feel nostalgic
for the old "leadership crisis."
Wanting to do something about war,
I enjoy the sunset.
ROCK OF AGES
Perhaps this rock
stands still for millennia,
not because it lacks a will of its own,
but because it doesn't want to move.
Or perhaps it has, not one will,
but trillions of tiny deathless impulses,
each trying to move the rock
its own way, each too obsessed
to communicate, to come to an agreement,
so that the rock is stymied,
a frozen explosion of random impulses,
When we become too fixed
in our old decisions to reach out,
find each other and create
new agreements, we have wars.
After we have crushed each other down
in too many wars, we become small,
more fixated than ever, but very small.
What becomes of us then, I cannot say.
This rock stands still for millennia.
The bent man with frozen eyes
who lives in his clothes on the sidewalk
is not quite part of the wall
on which he leans. Over and over
his voice asks for change,
but he does not think
change can happen.
Only I understand the cow,
says the meat-grinder.
Don't tamper with the human mind,
says the psychiatrist.
We pause for station identification:
This is planet earth. You are here
because there is no place else
you could possibly be.
At the sound of Pavlov's Bell,
the time will be the only time there is.
Stay tuned for further instructions.
ESCAPING THE EYE
I keep meeting myself in mirrors,
puddles, store windows, your eyes.
My image twinkles over the surface of things,
recurring, developing like a metaphor.
No wonder life always seems about to make sense,
to find a way to express me.
Then, one day, the mirrors go blank,
the body's eyes empty,
something fills up all eyes, fills up
with brief rippling reflection
the distorting mirrors that drip from eyes,
then slips away.
Is this the culmination -- that the poem be freed
of the image's tyranny, the twinkle
escape the cell of the eye?
Yet all reflective things stand ready, gleaming
in the morning light. And I,
sans eyes, sans voice, sans fingertips,
am here -- I see all ways at once,
can twinkle now in any eye,
pure promise, quintessence
A sword kills so well because it is almost humane.
A blunt instrument is an outrage: Instantly
flesh rebels. Sharpen it to a point,
and it gains easy entry. Hone it
to a fine edge, and flesh welcomes it:
In and out before one realizes
death has been done. Sharpen the sword further
until nothing is left but the
deadly swift essence of penetration
that comes and goes and one never knows
why everything has changed --
and you have, not a sword,
but a poem.
Wwhen there is nothing left to say,
we make something to say;
when there is no language left to say it in,
we make a language;
when none will listen,
we make them listen;
when there are none left to listen,
we make listeners.
These are letters and words, my children;
long ago they meant something.
You stare, wondering what sort of thing
is this? A diagram? Scribbling? Part of
some ancient ritual? You leave the museum.
Perhaps you'll never know
I was talking to you.
Some want to make the world
a better place to live.
I want to make it
a better place to visit.
A sniper is shooting people
on the news. Everything interesting happens
on the news...one hopes.
"If you keep moving and zig-zagging, the sniper
will probably choose an easier target."
And so I dart from my car and make a run
for the super-market, hoping the sniper will ignore me
and take out that snailish old woman or the lady
schlepping two kids and three shopping bags...
News of the sniper makes me notice,
when the car ahead of me goes so slow
that I miss the green light, what
(for just an instant) I aim, mentally,
at the driver.
"We've caught the sniper." No,
he is not yet involved in humanity.
Connected to us only by a terror
he cannot feel, he imagines himself
an island, undiminished by other's pain.
He still doesn't know
for whom the bell tolls.
The sniper who called himself "God"
demanded $10,000,000 to stop killing people.
That's viable: It served our ancestors well,
paying off murderous gods
with sacrifices, much as now
we pay taxes. We could have had
an annual "Sniper Day", a festive occasion
with dancing in the parking lots
and gifts to propitiate a new god,
as good as any.
Two snipers down. Now we can look forward
to Valentine's Day and Cupid. His bolts, too,
can shatter lives, and like 223s, leave bigger wounds
leaving than entering: Love's entrance is almost
invisible. Leaving, it creates a huge hole
in one's life.
An Odd Thing I Do With My PEN, SIR
A man gets an idea -- PRE-SIN.
The idea RIPENS.
He becomes a SNIPER.
The media spin and RE-SPIN it.
Friends of the slain become PINERS.
Perhaps the killer collects articles about himself, with snip and
We wish he were in PRISEN.
If fear gives us a headache, will ESPRIN help?
Many want to catch him and torture him IN REPS
until he becomes a non-PERSIN.
You catch me staring hungrily at you...
I was just mentally stripping off your
opinions, wondering if you'd be
any good in
Strong wind, branches creaking...creaking...
"All right! All right! We're leaving already!"
cry the yellow leaves, hastily
Autumn (Among Other Things) Leaves
Swaying, moaning in savage paint,
stirred by deep-throated gusts of song,
at last they fall upon us, severe shapes:
spearhead, rapiers, scythes;
barbed, jagged and serrated edges
assail us, but, as in a dream of death,
drift gently down upon us --
surely we are ghosts and
they will pass right through us...but no,
they patter against us as lightly
as Grandpa's kisses, then crunch underfoot.
The air is keen with a danger
too ancient to touch us,
a loss almost our own,
feathers and fierce chants for tourists,
an old dance by old men on a reservation.
The kitten's on my lap,
poised to swat at whatever moves.
I can write as long as I don't
move the pen.
Early morning -- I'm up and about...
Fat soft men in suits being bloodthirsty -- NOT a pretty picture.
Caught, the sniper turns out to be
two persons (named John and Lee)
whom we-the-public can maybe get to...KILL!
(Be still my heart!)
Now, each night on TV news legal vultures argue,
"Let US try them first, because we'll be sure
to give them the maximum penalty allowed."
"No, let US do it! We're almost as good as Texas.
We'd be GLAD to execute a 17-year-old. Hell,
we'll execute a retarded TWO-year-old
if it will get me re-elected and, maybe, someday,
nominated for Governor." (On our license plates,
"Virginia is for Lovers" will be changed to
"Virginia is for executioners.")
"No, wait, give them to US. We're the only state
where it's allowed to torture them
with whips and lit cigarette tips,
make them eat their own excrement,
yank out their nails, attach electrodes
to their most sensitive parts and
watch them twitch, then have them
hanged and quartered and strung up overhead
with their genitals stuffed in their mouths --
AND we are expert at prolonging their agony!
Our motto is: 'No prisoner dies before his time.'
AND we invite all friends and relatives
of the victims, not only to watch, but also
to participate in stomping on fingers,
pissing on faces and even throwing
a few switches! So for the fullest satisfaction possible,
bring these bad boys back to Sweet Home Alabama!
Come ON DOWN, y'all!"
"...there was right on both sides."
That's the trouble with right:
It stands on opposite sides and
glares at itself.
wheeling in great swirling scarves,
squawking, filling trees,
making up a mind.
The morning milk cartons
show pictures of children
who have disappeared -- dead?
I was once a child -- I wonder
when I disappeared?
So little in the news
about the fathers and mothers
who, each night, return home,
open the front door, and
FIND their children.
Here comes the wind --
one tall grassblade bends too soon...
My old age is well taken care of:
I've entrusted it to the
unimaginably distant future.
I'm about to eat a meal.
I hope it works. Several acquaintances
have had excellent results from eating meals,
but you never can tell.
I'm waiting while my car is fixed.
Car repair, I'm told, is very promising --
has fantastic potential. Some do it
again and again with undiminished
response. But of course, I am not everyone.
Will car repair be for me?
Only time will tell.
I do grow wise with age:
Now I always check for
unrinsed soapy arm pits
BEFORE I leave the shower.
It was a great party.
I was on my third martini when I saw
the haggard, wild-eyed man staring
in the doorway and thought "Not another one!"
But, as I feared, he cried out (the music
faltering, ceasing), "Is there a poet in the house? Please,
a poet? There's a man out here
who BADLY needs a poet...!" I was tempted
to slip away into the pantry with my drink,
but after all, I AM a poet and duty is duty...
The envelope is sealed, the mailbox clangs shut:
It's out of my hands now -- why worry?
Who's worrying? Posting letters is like bowling:
After the ball leaves your fingers,
you twist your hips, kick one leg sideways,
wring your hands and squint down the alley
to make the ball go right. So with letters:
the follow-through is everything.
My last letter
said goodbye forever...
maybe today an answer...
Asking for WHO
the bell tolls
is just not Donne.
If no man is an island,
we're all in the same boat.
No man is a standalone workstation.
Is the physical universe
a true multi-user system?
I could just walk away from it all
and never come back,
and I would, too, if I knew
which way was
A short poem should be an event,
like a flamingo lifting one leg
and putting it down.
Every street light finds
1000 things to gleam in.
I wanted to be one of the gang
when I wasn't even one of ME yet.
"You can't kill an idea."
You can't even make it sit in the corner
facing the wall. Men die and die, but
you can't kill an idea. The air is gray
with our old futile ideas, hanging around,
wondering if we can hear their muttering,
begging to die.
My ability to love is diminished
by all my crimes against love:
On days when wind-swept skies
nuzzled me and begged to be hugged,
I have preferred to be entirely upset
with the driver ahead of me
for not turning on the orange light.
I have insulted people for doing their jobs.
I have swatted dogs for not understanding
my anger with them. I have been angry
with women who loved me
for losing trifles or simply liking
the wrong music. It is a crime,
at least against myself,
to make myself blind, deaf and untouchable
in order to be right.
I admire a tree -- it sways and dips its branches,
stroking my hair. The dog licks my hand --
I scratch under his ear. I slow for kids
playing football in the street, give and catch
a smile in passing. The cat and I
meow at each other. My wife and I
raise our voices, then make the argument
too silly to go on. I banter with the sour waitress
until she smiles; play peek-a-boo with the child
until he explodes in giggles. Perhaps
I'm not so bad.
For going there's coming,
for stopping, starting,
for leaving, arriving,
A fool and his money are soon
You have to think fast to be a husband --
one slip, and your cover's blown.
As it is, nervously you watch her,
pretend admiration, and submit
your reports: Is she getting fatter?
More wrinkled? Any gray hairs?
You miss nothing, every observation going
instantly to the enemy.
You don't serve him gladly,
but because his spies are everywhere,
and because of what he holds
over your own head.
A DRUG ON THE MARKET
Does poetry work? In recent FDA tests
whose subjects included editors, readers
and poetry reading audiences, over 90%
were found to be responding to placebos
(whose ingredients included attitudes,
ideas, feelings, buzz words,
vocabulary, intonations, allusions and
other elements to suggest what poetry
is broadly supposed to be, but
included no detectable traces
of actual poetry) at least as enthusiastically
as to the real thing, and 45% of users
actually preferred the placebos
(found them less disturbing, easier to grasp,
more user-friendly). Consequently the FDA
has suspended all sale of poetry,
based on insufficient proof of effectiveness.
Poetry users may still obtain poetry
in the form of song lyrics, stylish
detective and romance fiction and
the things children and old people occasionally
say, but no products labeled "Poetry"
may be marketed at this time. Furthermore,
journalists, advertisers and others who refer to
the "poetry" of a skater's motion or of
a symphony or a bird's flight or panti-hose
will be required to add the following:
"Please note that the word 'poetry' must not
be construed to imply any actual insight,
beauty, tenderness, spiritual expansion or
fun" and must also include a list
of the dangerous side effects likely to be induced
by any ACTUAL poetry that may be present,
especially if poetry is mixed with other
In the words of a famous poet:
of, the, and and if.
Some men are richer, handsomer, stronger,
even smarter than I am.
Cut off God's Federal funding!
Warm breathing bodies on the bed,
suspended for the long journey
through the night at speed of
Nearly all societies coin change,
so that civilized people can't sneak up
on each other without their jingly pockets
Therefore we fear the poor and distrust
those who choose to do without. And therefore
we hate the very rich, who carry only
large paper bills and plastic cards and say,
"Keep the change."
The rich and the poor
can surround us
Enough To Send One Reeling!
Hollywood, realm of the most really real people
(and their really real estates)
in the world: Movie stars! And also
of the richest shrinks in the world,
who, when the stars want to be as real
to themselves as they are to others --
their 30-foot-high, brilliantly lit personalities
agreed upon by millions --
help the stars adjust
to a reality
(the one the audiences go home to)
that is so unreal
that it finds that which the star
finds unreal in himself
more real than it finds itself.
Self-adjustment: a failure to live up to
what one has created.
The music ends...
Silence made of little rustlings,
hum of the stereo,
our breathing, the refrigerator
clearing its throat --
all the noises of the night
bequeathed to us by the music.
It's up to us now.
What shall we do with them?
When music stops, one listening notices,
for the first time, all the little noises
we call silence.
When the poem one is reading ends,
one notices...what? Thoughts? Voices?
(Whatever in our minds passes for silence.)
O crazy universe,
made crazy and alien
by our unknowing,
do not hurt us
until we have remembered how much
we care for one another. And then
nothing can hurt us.
JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE PARTY
I stand, smile (is my
face smiling?), and wait for the
Party to happen.
I can pick out individual words
spoken near me. If I focus on one word,
all the others blur. Blehert's
This room's air is full
of intricately molded holes
filled with people.
I sit on a beanbag in the corner,
feeling more like the air in the room
than the holes in the room
filled with people.
Maybe I'm one of the holes,
but they never filled me
with a people.
Everywhere, stalactite people
hanging from the floor.
Sorry -- I forgot your name...
and we haven't even met yet.
Among the last to leave,
dawdling in the front hall, still
hoping for something.
The air escaped out the window,
turned blue, and could not
Though day after day we tread on it
and curse it,
it refuses to concede
a single ounce --
the bathroom scale.
The bigness of the sky at any time
is determined by how big,
when you fill it,
And the Dude of the Ray Rued the Day
...and at the end of the sixth day,
God paused to read some overdue
Environmental Impact Studies...
The chocolate chip ice cream
emerged from the freezer,
found a child, and
The child examines the variegated wallpaper
flower by flower, at last works out
the pattern of repetition,
pleased to have seen through it,
but disappointed, too, in the hope
that each blossom would be unlike
I went for a walk in L.A.
Everyone I met was wearing
In the bar,
buying his drink
Paralyzed bird, legs crumpled,
feathers torn. The shooed cat hunkers down
nearby. I should have let her finish it.
Mourning dove, black-bead eyes,
head twisted back...neck broken?
No, fast breathing. Now I have to
help it. Its shocked eyes,
the cat's covetous eyes hold me.
Nothing I can do is right.
After two days caged on the back porch,
the bruised bird is well enough to fly away.
No thanks from the bird, nor from the cat.
But I'd do it again. Last night,
chicken dinner -- good, but
Saved another ravaged bird, a young starling,
from the cat, put it in a cage
to recover. Last night it was scared
and hopping mad: "Don't you DARE touch me --
Cheep! CHEEEEEP!" This morning
dead. Such rage and fear
could not but have outlasted
the night. Do birds, too,
outlive their bodies?
Or am I inside the heart
of a small bird.
"I couldn't help myself!"
You could at least send yourself
Star of the Late Night Movie,
I don't recognize you, but you're
somebody when she was younger.
Synthetics have gone too far
when the Rum & Raisin ice cream
is without rum or raisin.
If we all knew we were not victims,
the Lord would be without a Job.
I dreamed I had something important to say.
The crickets chirping woke me.
I fell asleep again and dreamed
humanity desperately needed to hear
what I had to say. In the morning
birds broke the surface of my dream
with their twitter, like pebbles
tossed in a pond. Wide awake,
I can think of nothing to say,
but it seems important that I have
something to say. There must be more
to the dream.
Two wrongs don't make a right,
but two rights make
all the wrongs there are.
No matter how carefully I empty
the laundromat washer, I lose socks.
The house takes a cut.
Groping out of the dark restaurant,
eyes trip on the sun,
fall hard to the sidewalk.
To find our mutual enemy,
spot the one who says
we are enemies.
A jet plane passes overhead,
then its roar,
then some rumble and
now nothing but a low hum --
left over rumble? Or has it been here
People in houses
knick-knacked and new
fear the burglar
who takes things,
who breaks things
and the artist
who makes things that mock things
less lovingly made.
Walking, I stop before a house
to jot down a poem, and some fool dog
starts barking, realizing I am about to
pilfer everything of value.
If I hold my head high and straight
as I walk, thinking of poems, the poems
try to come out noble.
It's time to sleep.
"I don't WANT to sleep!"
whines my body,
the child who stays with me;
"I wanna go with YOU!"
My dreams, waiting for me,
are tapping their fingers.
"It's OK," I tell them --
"he's just tired."
Your mother and I hear you've joined
one of those weird cults --
what's the matter?
Isn't your family
weird enough for you anymore?"
Though God has been imprisoned within us
and subjected to drugs, shock, isolation
and all the other therapies, ancient and modern,
he still suffers under the illusion
that he is God.
On the beach, wind lets
bright-colored frisbees feel his
sleek arching biceps.
Having a radio is more sporting
than having a CD player.
This way I can hunt across the dial,
hoping, one day, to stumble across
Bach's B-Minor Mass. If I owned the CD,
the B-Minor Mass would be a sitting duck.
I flick the tuning knob from jazz
to classics to pop...nothing
is suitable. Suitable for what?
For me being filled up with time:
If I'm going to eat time, I want it to
not because our hearts attack us,
but because we attack
Panda Merry Christmas To All
'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the zoo
Not a creature was stirring except Ling Ling, who
Was the last female panda on earth - and this night
Was about to give birth! O it had to go right!
All the scientists gathered with care round her pen
In hopes of a new chance for pandas and men...
"Here she comes! Here's the head!" cried a watcher with
Like a child's at the sight of his first Christmas toy,
And then - sweet reprieve from Darwinian Laws -
"Here's the shoulders! And look now! Here comes panda claws!"
I am in favor of goodwill to men or even
to persons. People were cute babies.
It's not nice to be mean to them
just because they grew up, or failed to.
I wish us all well, and I wish all of us
vision enough to see the goodness
of others that others, themselves,
rarely surprise in the mirror;
to feel their needs as we feel our own,
so that the well we wish them
is truly theirs. And I wish us
the strength to do what we know
we ought, or when we don't, to say so
and make it right, lest vision
be clouded over by our need not to see
what we have become, so that we cannot
see others at all,
much less that they
deserve our good will--or even that WE
deserve our good will. And I wish
all of us the well that comes only
Christmas - the disappointment and having to pretend
not to be disappointed: Beneath the tinsel
a dying tree; beneath shiny paper and ribbon
hearty best wishes with a towel, toy or tie,
and tomorrow the same arguments about
who gets what, and soon Monday morning.
It's the same front yard with colored lights.
It's still winter.
But it took nervous preparation
to dress up the day for this masquerade,
ready the home for a hohoing ruddy cherub
who brings us our hearts' desires,
teach children to awaken to listen and glisten;
weeks of work before, children all,
bubbling over with expectancy of pleasing,
we come home from school to present to Mom
our crudely cut, roughly daubed gift,
and Mom (again, each of us),
truly gifted fellow-maker of specialness,
says, Oh! It's lovely! - meaning
the child's excitement, but letting that
enlighten the gift, the eggshell tatters
of colored paper on the floor from which
a new day is hatched.
"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" -
Thus glib December: Dissembling ad naus!
But what harm adding warmth to cold December?
Do not our dying fire quite dis-ember.
As skiers must climb the slope
to soar down again, each morning
we make our bed.
It takes exquisite machining and timing
to make of a sequence of staggered explosions
the famous Rolls-Royce purr.
Silly to think that without equal art,
love can run smoothly on the shocks
A man stands on the beach,
extends himself faster than thought
to touch the far side and know
the ocean's breadth, withdraws
back into his head, thinks,
"That's a long way to swim,"
and feels small.
I ran too far. Now my knee
won't stop hurting. All right, already,
knee -- I get the message! Damned knee,
like an excited watch dog, doing his job,
who, no matter how loudly you shush him,
keeps yipping at the mail man.
Daily the toll grows.
How many now are missing
I walk into a living room with
three kids, two dogs, furniture and a TV
that is on. Hard not to fix my eyes and ears
on the TV, as if the rest of the room
is not on.
I'm waiting for a bus.
Many cars pass. Hello, car.
Hello hello hello hello hello hello
"Some are born great...",
the rest waiting to be born.