| Poem-a-Day for 2003
The following poems were sent out by email during 2003. They are
copyright by Dean Blehert.
For New Years Day:
After due reflection,
my morning mirror decides
I'm not so bad-looking after all.
I wanted to experiment in time travel,
so in 1942 I hopped into this body,
pushed the FUTURE button, and...
here I am, a bewildered baby
in 2003! The strain of the jump
has prematurely aged my body.
I don't know if it could stand
the return jump...
All roads lead to
all other roads.
There are places no road leads to,
but no road is needed.
Yet every road, leading but to other roads,
is, at setting forth, the promise
and the echo of the place
reached by no road.
Though telegraph wires tease
glimmering threads into distance,
yet sunrise leads to sunrise,
sunset to sunset,
and on every motel pillow
the insides of your eyelids look the same.
Though you set course for the farthest star,
it will shrivel to whatever nearness
you wall yourself into.
The only vastness you can reach
is your own.
We are only visitors here.
The natives are living rooms,
each with its sofa, carpet, chairs, TV,
coffee table, etc., yet each
a unique individual, highly evolved,
able to train us to tend it
and to breed caretakers
for new living rooms.
Now, say the papers
is the best time to have been young
200 years ago.
They're Just Tired
Because thoughts come and go,
must they stick to me?
Worries should be treated
like dearly beloved children:
"Thank you so much! How sweet of you
to figure all that out for me!
Now run along and play."
Mercifully, the murderer
seeks to put others
out of his pain.
That man, walking by, is smiling
at a memory, not at me, but
I'll take it.
Republican or Democrat? --
like determining the gender
of a new-born kitten.
The masks of small children
are still transparent. Later
subtler details develop as masks
grow translucent, then opaque,
but with small children
you can still see
who is pretending to be
what they're being.
Two faces peek around the door,
surprising each other, eye to eye,
spying on each other,
and dart back out of view.
The oldest joke there is,
known to every child:
Set out to see another
and find a silly mirror.
Baby blushes, giggles,
too young to talk, but understanding --
even from a stranger -- peek-a-boo;
for peek-a-boo is a stranger's game,
making fun out of what is otherwise
intolerable: how precious, how
dangerous we are to each other.
How Space Gets Cramped
Loss: A future I go on creating
all by myself -- the one, for example,
where you didn't leave me;
and the pain of trying to cram that future
into the one we all create, as when
you turn to me, frowning, and suddenly
are no longer some other you,
elsewhere, now turning to me.
Dark Room Development
In the dark room where they've sat talking
since bright early afternoon,
they are startled when I turn on the light
(seeing each other emerge
from a deep shadowy well)
to realize that such a talk
could have happened
where time happens.
[Note: Two recent poems got me more questions and befuddlement
than most I've sent out, so I'll commit the unforgivable sin of
explaining (for those who care to read on): Re "Dark Room Development:
No, it's just a dark room, not a photographer's darkroom (the pun
I put in the subject line: "Darkroom Development"). Two
people sit in a room talking. They start early in the day and are
in good enough communication that they don't realize that hours
have passed. Someone comes in, turns on the light, and they are
startled to find that they have been talking in near darkness.
Re "How Space Gets Cramped": The poem defines loss (or
the stress of loss) as the stress of trying to cram two universes
into the same space. Two lovers create a future universe together
(including them together, their hopes, dreams, etc.). One leaves
-- shattered dreams. But the other is still, on some deeper level,
continuing to create that future, which now, is no longer compatible
with everyone else's future (in which the lovers have broken up
-- this is the future "we all create"). In one universe,
perhaps, she is still turning to him smiling -- a universe that
ended one day when she turned to him frowning. Those alternate universes
(the ones we keep creating when the physical universe has taken
another path) can be incredibly vivid and real at times, and the
conflict between the different futures can be very upsetting.
There, unforgivable sins. Explanations. How dramatic to be an unforgivable
sinner! Ah, the sullen scarlet pride of it! I will wear a scarlet
E on my chest for explaining my own poems!]
Little Notebook of Horrors
"Feed me!" grunts my notebook --
"More words! More cleverness!
MORE juicy words! FEED ME!"
Daily I ransack the language
for fresh victims,
lest my ravenous notebook
swallow me whole.
Standing, leaning, looking different ways,
speaking or silent, five or six kids
on the corner by the high school
being a group.
How can I reach my friend
if he is in my dream,
and I cannot fall asleep.
So long as we imagine we cannot survive
apart from our bodies, they are our prisons.
Since our bodies cannot long survive
away from the earth's surface,
the earth is a prison.
Pity the criminal, his prison
locked up in a prison
on a prison.
Button, button, who'll push the button...
I just heated water for tea.
It took two and a half minutes.
I must be that much older. You, too --
all of us. Did we all grow older
the SAME two and a half minutes?
Future! Where Have You Been?
While I slept, the future tiptoed back
into its place, hoping not to have been missed yet.
What happened to last night's despair?
I keep forgetting that the endlessness of a nightmare
is part of the nightmare. The worst things end
when you know they end.
Dogs and Newspapers
It is good to know,
as I trudge along these streets,
that my passing brings excitement
into the lives of so many dogs.
I saw a miracle today: a man standing
on thin air, holding the whole earth
above his head in spread hands.
I showed a scientist. "Just a handstand,"
he scoffed. HE'LL find out
when the man holding up the earth
"I'm My Own Bests Critic
I open my mouth and emit
blue, yellow, red, orange and purple balloons.
Before they can escape out the window,
a little man with a needle pops them,
and out of each, with a faltering rush of air,
falls a word.
A Life in the Day Of
In passing, I exchange a smile
with a friend. Some pigeons,
two kids on bikes, an old woman
with a huge purse, drifting clouds
and the rest of a spring day
float through our smile.
The Bratty Kid Brother
First day of the year, cold, clear
and all mine: This leaf I step on --
mine! the brittle scrunch -- mine!
Sharp sunlight on half of each house front...
What? Oh, all right, you can share
the leaf...yes, and you can have
the scrunch -- but this old bare shabby tree
is MINE -- see! I can lean my hand
against the rough bark, mottling
my palm...What! The tree too? And you want
my hand? All right, all right, take it all.
(Dammit, Muse, ever since I got
a reader, there's nothing I can call
The comedian goes on and on, unfunny.
We try to laugh,
begin to feel embarrassed for him,
then angry -- no wonder:
He must have tormented others
to have needed thus to shut out their feelings,
that he can now go on and on,
When Words Fail
Alone on the beach.
In the sun's last rays
dark surf shatters to gold bits
at his toes. He catches himself
trying not to know this beauty,
because how could he tell her?
He used to be the treasurer
until they checked his records.
Now he's a man with
an exchequered past.
Then there's the programmer
who couldn't get his data into proper sequence --
he was out of sorts.
The morning after,
emerging from abstraction,
he finds himself, piece by piece,
as if done by Picasso
all in sharp-angled bits:
"...and this pain
must be the head..."
A cheerful man creates a cheerful world
and lives in it; an angry man creates
an angry world and lives in it...
I know a man who reads the newspaper
to find out what sort of man he is
and lives in it.
Most of the time I just stare
at the blank page
while my mind wanders.
Each poem is a homecoming celebration.
"Will you JUST SIT STILL!"
Child, you worry your mother,
walking about, touching things.
Why can't you sit still and look bored
like an adult?
Scylla and Charybdis
I Navigate the frail hour I've chosen
for writing poems, veer to avoid
the clutch of undone dishes,
unanswered e-mail...then dodge the sucking vortex
of the TV set, the newspaper on the kitchen table,
Where's the Fourth Pig When You Need Him?
"I'll huff and I'll puff
and I'll BLOOOOOW your house down!"
howled the wolf, and this time
(though it was the very best brick)
What now, Practical Pig?
Can you live, you and your poor brothers
who fled to you from their shattered
stick and straw hovels over the past two centuries --
can you live in houses with 30-foot-thick walls
of concrete and steel, surrounded by guard houses,
barbed-wire wastes, land mines?
May as well take to the caves,
like the wolf you hunt,
for you become lean with desperation,
your snout extending to accommodate
your new set of fangs, and lately --
or do my ears deceive me? -- you seem to be
huffing and puffing.
Take Me! Take Me!
After the poetry reading,
tired listeners stumble to the door,
feet encumbered by poor lost fragments of thought
yipping to follow someone home.
To My Wife
We have little in common,
but a great deal in rare.
In the park, from a distance,
I say hello to a girl, who says
hello back, not that we want
to know each other, but it's
the least we can do while our dogs
sniff each other's behinds.
Memo To The Pentagon:
Somewhere in Baghdad
a woman has just finished cleaning her apartment.
The air conditioning was noisy and ineffective.
It was hot work,
lots of dusting, scrubbing, carpet cleaning.
She plans to make her husband and children
remove their shoes at the door
when they get home. Meanwhile,
she admires the fiery rectangles the setting sun makes
on her white walls, smiles at her reflection
in the slick, smudge-free kitchen counter,
sniffs the lemony scent of the living room.
It took her all day. When you come,
please be careful not to make a mess.
The blue sky flat against my turned-up face
is as far off as mountain beyond mountain
beyond mountain, but some visions
lead the eyes as some eyes
lead the heart.
The grotesque idea from inner space
addresses the poet:
"Take me to your reader!"
Walking on the beach, searching for the poem
I know should be there (I've never been to an ocean before) --
a voice in me intones: "So this is it -- the ocean!"
(The ocean thinks, "So this is it -- a poet!")
The canned music in this restaurant
just went off. Now take away
the canned food and orange lighting,
and people will realize they're
here with each other.
where desert gets peopled
and people get deserted.
In Manhattan the people used to roam free,
but now only rarely are the tame ones
allowed out on the streets at night
unless led on a leash
by a large dog.
I wonder what I'll die of...
but what do I live of?
The sky -- blinding blue,
trees still snowing, shedding
bright wet pliffs and pluffs.
the dog leaps, eyes me. It wasn't me!
The tree did it!
For every hello, a goodbye,
but now you and I are alive
and together, ahead by one!
Death can hope for no better
than a tie. And then, love,
we'll clobber him in overtime.
Besides, There's Always Tomorrow
After initial shame,
Adam resolved to turn over
a new fig leaf.
Celebrity: Someone who works hard,
unglamorously, to live everyone else's
I prefer to work long hours;
otherwise I have too much spare time
in which to have too much to do
in too little time to do it in.
Unable to love her, nonetheless,
he gave her to his body affectionately,
as one might stroke a tame mouse
before feeding it
to one's pet snake.
He tries to withdraw from her
(to make her reach),
but keeps getting yanked back
by his hands holding on for dear life.
He blames himself, them, looks for reasons,
While women come and go like seasons.
When I was a humanoid,
I thought as a humanoid
and played with the things of a humanoid.
Now I am become a spiritual being,
and the nostalgia value
of eating and lovemaking
Each time I pass the refrigerator,
I check it out -- same souring quart
of milk, old lettuce, cheese,
carrots, peanut butter, eggs...
each time feel disappointed,
I'm not broke. If there's something I want to eat,
there's a store nearby.
It must not be food I want.
Then why do I keep looking for it
in the refrigerator?
Clock Beds (mattress ticking?)
In my dream couples slept
on circular beds and not side by side,
but at 6 O'clock, 3 O'clock and so on
(men marked minutes, women hours) --
you knew how things stood between them
to the minute. A whole family
would sleep as petals of a flower,
heads or feet at the center,
sharing dreams on warm nights,
warming feet on cold nights.
Maybe you CAN fool all the people
all the time. Then you'll be master
of a world of slaves,
not one of them able
to follow a simple order.
There are those who would turn men
into machines, hoping to exploit us,
but the only machine you can turn a man into
is a broken one.
It's not that I can't move through
the walls that surround me,
but that the walls with which I've surrounded myself
won't move through the walls that surround me.
I saw a girl praying today.
She was so intent that I thought
clear as a bell, GRANTED!
I hope I wasn't being
I prune our roses.
They don't submit tamely:
One branch, to replace itself,
touches my fingertip, placing there
a tiny rose-bud.
The crickets sing the same song
for millennia, and with it create
an infinite variety of summer nights;
yet I worry about
The dogs plop down on the floor
against my feet, and, like
obscene phone-callers, do nothing
to show their love except
breathe hard and fast.
Like a shark's fin
among tables, footstools
tip of the cat's tail.
No one's home,
but I make the phone ring in your room:
I jog in place, then feel my pulse,
just like the book says: bublp bublp bublp...
a tiny gentle push against the fingertips,
like an unborn baby's first kicks,
but more regular. I'm over 60 --
still ticking. Another 10 or 20 years?
And then will someone rewind me?
Or will my heart begin to kick more restively,
ready to be born?
What I meant, but didn't say
Sank, a bitter sediment.
Still this distaste... At least I pray
I meant what, since, I've said I meant.
[Note: Just noticed my own unintended pun in "Sank, a bitter
sediment" -- Sanka, bitter sediment.
Note: Hmmm, a poem with lots of adverbs ending in "-ly"
would be sedimental -- full of lees. ]
It's very late. The people on the street
have stopped chanting to themselves:
"It's Saturday night! It's Saturday night!"
and just look tired.
Is life going on as usual
or has someone forged the hands
on my wristwatch?
The toughest form I ever attempted (and maybe invented?) was the
one of which the following poem is an example. Here's a riddle:
See if you can figure out what the form is. No fair answering if
you've already seen it before (in my last book or in my poetry letter).
Hint: It's an extremely tight form -- not one letter could be changed
without destroying it. And it has nothing to do with rhyme, meter,
syllable count or line lengths. Here's the poem; see if you can
spot its governing rule (just one rule, extremely simple once you
see it, but hellish to write):
O not mood nor event;
I, awed, AM;
emit DNA edition...
to no-name me,
[answer: !emordnilap a s'tI]
Said Tom Swiftly
"Milk me!" bawled the cow, with a moo of distaste.
"I'm not sure how," tittered the milkmaid.
"Just give yourself to the motion udderly," said the cow,
"I'm afraid to do it," uddered the milkmaid, cow-ardly.
"DO it, or Elsie," said the cow, lowering.
A Brief Exchange
In my worst moments
I wonder: if I failed to come home, ever,
how long would it take
till you noticed?
I would never notice
that you had failed to come home
ever. I would notice only only only
that you had not come home
Bright blue day --
a butterfly! "HEEL!" my body yells at me,
"Stay with me!"
I walk into the canyon.
On either side mountains rise up,
those in back on tiptoe,
shouldering each other aside
to get a good view. They
can't get over me.
Overheard: "I can't imagine not having children --
all these little people you can go to
and get hugged."
"You be a good boy, or I'll call the POLICE
and they'll put you in JAIL!"
Some people are good
the way other people are in jail.
"It's too late. I don't want to talk about it."
On either side of the bed,
turned toward opposite walls,
a mismatched set of bookends,
holding up between them
volumes of unspoken thoughts.
Tiny spider on my arm --
gentle flick of finger...I look, but can't see him
scurrying over the grass...tiny spider
dangling on a two-inch thread
from my fingertip.
What I don't get about
"They lived happily ever after"
is why it's always in the past tense.
Another day has come and gone --
or gone and come, if you're going
the other way.
Old men and old women
stand at bus stops, shuffle
up and down Fairfax,
looking at the ground, as if to see
where they are going.
In the dark, we are young, heroic.
Afterwards, squinting in the hard light,
washing up, we clown, bump hips,
amused by the middle-aged masqueraders
in the bathroom mirror. As you scrub,
I, proud owner, pat you and leer
over your shoulder at our pale, plump
reflections. Yours smirks back at me.
Love is someone else in the bathroom mirror
making faces at me.
"Once you have found her,
never let her go..." -- wouldn't it be more fun
to keep finding her?
Wanted: God to stand watch
over untended forests and maintain
the actuality of sounds that nobody hears.
No prior experience necessary.
Ability to hear each sparrow feather fall
is a definite plus.
Over its mother's shoulder
a baby smiles, then trades
silly faces with me.
I pass them, look back; mother
stares past me as if I were
a total stranger.
"Oh! OOOOH! Ah! OOEEE! O!"
Sex is a great relief,
like other vowel movements.
Is part aching.
Driving home, regretting dumb things I said...
damn damn damn!
Shaking the head hard doesn't seem to work.
But what I said -- that's in the past.
The past is easy, because there's nothing to be done about it.
Even the part of it that insists on staying with me is easy:
All I have to do is suffer it.
Painfully the wood resists
the passage of the nail,
and so the nail sticks in the wood.
If the wood learned to accept the nail,
our houses would collapse.
The pillow puffs out cheeks, lips, hair --
A slammed door...protest? Do I dare?
You flail at me in brief despair,
Ensconced with book on bathroom chair --
"Up! Up! It's late! Get out of there!"
So cruelly you,
Ah, cruelly you.
Free-spirited artist, yet a square
(Because you glow, you fight, you care).
A grin above me like a flare,
Eyes fierce as falcons...soft as air,
Good things to fondle everywhere,
Angelic now, a smile so rare
I learn new words: "lambent" and "yare"...
A gleam...a tickle? -- oops! Beware!
Caress turns traitor! Imp! Unfair!
Friend, foe, my love, as various bare
As in the other things you wear --
It's truly you,
All newly you.
We're fatter now. You snore. We share
A dread of drooling -- what use prayer?
If drool we must, soil underwear,
I won't regret one stain, I swear!
Who rides this train must pay the fare --
And won't we be a feisty pair!
An, droolly you!
I've found some green hills
north of the San Fernando Valley
that fold and unfold like a woman.
I'm sitting on her belly,
writing these lines.
She felt sorry for slaughtered baby seals
and other dumb helpless creatures.
His mockery soon cured her of that feeling,
which, it turned out, included
her love for him.
Get Yer Programs Right Here!
Good guys and bad guys are corny.
Real life is just a lot of people
caught up in something bigger
than themselves. At least that's what
the bad guys would like the good guys
Daily the robin
speed-reads our front lawn,
pausing to digest the best parts.
Our spring hands slip over skin silk.
We must do this more often,
before sweaty July makes us sticky,
before skin peels off
and fingers catch in bands of sinew,
before sinew shreds and bare bones lock
like embattled antlers, before bones crumble,
and, freed of the rib cage,
our too-tame hearts flip-flop frantically,
fish out of water. We must make the most
of skin until we have learned, again,
to go naked.
Words, come on, say something,
or I'll run off with a piano!
Why live? Good question. I'm glad
you can ask.
Cheeks, forehead, eyelashes -- softly
over your face
"When there are no more walls,
I'll have nowhere to write,"
said the graffiti-writer.
"When there are no more walls,
I'll have no need to write,"
said the poet.
I'm getting cynical. For example,
I still think I'm someone special,
but now, when someone agrees with me on that,
I get suspicious.
Urgent Message from the Department of Homeland Security:
What to do in case you are NOT attacked
1. Get a life.
In the 1950s, we school kids were drilled,
in case of enemy attack, to "duck and cover."
Now we're told to cover (with a sheet) and duct.
Land races toward the bay,
pauses just short of plunging in,
and there, where the last waves of land
are standing still just long enough,
someone built San Francisco on them.
Such a serious fellow:
If you venture "Hello,"
You may hear a sound
Addressed to the ground.
His movements, facial,
Are grindingly glacial:
Inches a year
Of scowl may appear.
He's lost, but profound
As a grave mound.
If you ask why,
For his reply
You may wait and wait'll
Serious becomes fatal.
If I never move
out of the center of my tiny cell,
so that I never bump into the walls;
if I always keep my eyes closed,
so that I never see the bars --
I can spend my life here
and never know I'm a prisoner.
After I had yelled and you had cried,
we hugged, and, feeling how tightly you held me,
I realized you are afraid of losing
who you thought I was to whom you think
I may turn out to be.
Though far away, you are in my thoughts,
but some mornings, early, my arm reaches
across the bed where you are not,
and my body's alarm wakes me,
its concern touching.
The body is something like 90% liquid.
The rest of my vessel is delicate china
in which I, the tea bag, float,
contributing the flavor.
When we weary of getting flunked for wrong answers,
we easily take to mysteries -- questions to which
no answer is right or wrong, no C-plus, no B-minus,
no F. Hence our infatuation with the unCEEable,
the unBEEable, the inEFFable.
Gray cat eyes me from the grass.
Behind her belly, up prick ears --
two more...two more....
Tense tiny heads turn
slowly to my passing.
After work, all loose ends,
I sit in a restaurant, trying to find myself --
like threading a needle when the end of the thread
As I picked up my new pay check,
the few battle-torn dollars left in my wallet,
like wounded marines coming home
under the Golden Gate, unfolded and cheered.
My words stare you in the face,
but I could be anywhere, perhaps a few feet
in back of your head, looking over your shoulder.
Won't you join me?
You've heard about the man hoeing his garden
who, when told that the world was about to end,
heard and understood, but went on hoeing
his garden with undiminished interest.
It was perhaps not mentioned
that because he did this,
the world did not end.
My notebook lists on its covers "500 words
most frequently misspelled in the business office."
It begins, as do I, with "Absence" and ends,
as would I, "Yours Zealous."
Suppose one day you're reading this,
and suddenly you realize there's no such thing
as poetry, but someone is talking to YOU --
would you answer?
Captured in its circle
wheels a diameter.
He wanted to be a tangent,
but he missed the point. [Also, he didn't get out in the sun enough
to be a tan gent.]
The circle was as equilateral
as it could be.
Across the room she reads my poems;
I say something; she hand-signals "HUSH!"
and reads on. I am jealous of the me
that wrote the poems.
After reading my poems, she says:
"I just want to know, do you have a lover?
And do you talk that way to her?"
"No," I say,
"And yes." [Written long before I married Pam. Now the
answer to both is "yes".]
Jetting to L.A., quietly
farting. (The body must want
to shorten the trip by contributing
to the jet propulsion.)
Have I been discovered? No --
nobody's passing out parachutes.
MATTER, ENERGY, SPACE AND TIME
We sometimes imagine we are each alone
because of the barriers between us
made out of the glue we used
to hold us all together
out of fear of being
Sometimes I want to begin again --
as if I ever began!
Out walking --
from a passing car, kids jeer
some blurred obscenity my way,
because they are a group and
moving fast, in a loud car
where nothing can touch them.
As they speed off, the car bursts
into an orange-black bloom of flame...
forgive the thought.
I'm well into Dean Blehert's 61st year.
I recommend Dean Bleherts heartily.
I've found mine durable and economical.
If you find a Dean Blehert, even if
slightly used, grab him! Just give him
a little understanding, and he'll
My wife is out of town.
Tonight, for intimate adventure,
I sleep on her side of the bed.
I notice my left big toe,
I pay attention to it:
It starts to itch...
Now: I pay attention
to YOUR big toe...
Not only am I not you,
but if I WERE you,
I probably wouldn't be
half as good at it
as you are.
The critics speak of the agony
of finding one's own voice as a poet;
it's easy to find your own voice:
Take the one that makes sense.
But don't forget to listen for sense
with your own ears.
Gradually I become the person
who writes my best poems.
Reunion with old friends,
renewing acquaintance with the person
(left in their safe-keeping)
I used to be.
Find myself? But if I can find myself,
there's the danger someone else can too!
Is She Missing Something
She smiles significantly
at everyone she passes,
making instant enemies of any
who have just (discreetly) passed wind or
(intimately) scratched or even (slyly)
thought about their tax returns.
A perfect night:
I let it flow through me.
I don't even want to try
to say what it's like
on the bay, buoy-lights bobbing,
crickets, breeze-ruffled palms,
just in front of me
the shudder in the air
of a great blue heron taking off...) -
I just want to take it all in,
so that I'll have it to use
to say what other things are like
when they are just right.
Stretched out in her tan skin
and an afterthought of bikini.
Don't let the good people become bastards
by your being gotten down by them.
Someday I'll look back on my life
and discover it's a life style.
For Its Next Act
The beach sifts through my sealed fingers,
once rock and shiny shell, now -- after
how many millennia in the mill of wind
and water? -- a powder too fine to hold,
time showing off.
In the garden, people stroll,
chat, laugh. The flowers just stand there
with bright nervous smiles.
Then there's the submarine captain
who ran his ship into an iceberg --
Waves roll silently past the prow,
hurrying toward distant beaches
where they will loudly report,
Lately I change so fast
that when I ask myself a question,
someone else answers,
and yet another receives the answer.
Worried, I try to compose myself;
Sounds like one of those
dissonant modern pieces.
Don't Thank Me - It's My Job
This brownie is delicious.
It rekindles my sense of purpose.
Sometimes one forgets, scarfing down
mouthful after mouthful of tasteless glop,
the ritual second and third helpings,
the just-a-little-more of bland desserts -
getting fat becomes a ritual, an onerous duty,
and, watching one's body acquire new creases
and overhangs, one's breath shortening,
clothes binding between the bulges,
one almost asks,
"Why? Why must I get fat?" Yes,
one is inclined to drop the whole thing.
And then something wonderful comes along,
like this moist, velvety, dark-chocolaty
implosion of opulence round the tongue,
to remind one of what it's all for,
renew one's determination, justify
the self-sacrifice (for it is not
an easy thing to get fat)
and make it all worthwhile.
I couldn't feel better than I do
(the smile can only stretch so far),
but laughter keeps bubbling up.
If I overflow, let nothing be wasted --
The names come and go,
but You and I remain.
Every proper noun must have
its antecedent pronoun.
Again, tonight, I come upon my wife
in bed with my best friend.
I'm glad they are
the same person.
Hello, you're...is it the
Blue Heron? Just the other day
my friend told me your name,
and already I've forgotten. Is it
Egret? What! You don't know either?
You MUST meet my friend.
These Words Have Only Been Used On Sunday By A Clean Old Woman
I try to return these words
to use. Nothing fancy here:
No new-word smell and you won't
be dazzled blind by polished adjectives.
But these words will carry you somewhere.
There are posh, chrome-blazing words
that break down just beyond
the used-word lot. These words
will get you home.
The madman, like the sane man,
knows he is special,
but only the madman knows
no one else is.
I ordered the milk-fed veal.
Now I'm milk-fed-veal-fed.
Don't eat me unless you're prepared
to digest 4 hyphens.
When you're getting somewhere,
but sloooowly, it's tempting
to get nowhere
Slaves of a fetter flock together.
Fish can be trapped by the net's shadow,
but a shadow slips through real nets.
Worry must hurry;
Anger, grief and pain
Go and come again;
Know yourself --
preferably by heart.
something hairy on my shoulder,
When I was a teen-ager,
I could imagine going to bed
with someone like you, love, but
The dog, who leaves messages in piss,
likes to watch me flush the toilet,
admiring our high-tech: He thinks
I'm making a long-distance call.
"Don't Tread On Me!"
Early version of the American flag,
with rattlesnake; also the motto
of this bed, you stupid horny cat!
Out the window
amid gray noise of drizzle...
just a bird calling.
For an instant I thought it was
It was a disagreeable glass anyway.
It disagreed with my soapy fingers,
preferring the floor, meeting which,
it burst into violent disagreement
with the purely social conventions
that bind ten thousand jagged shards
of glass into an agreeably smooth,
rigid disagreement with the
shapelessness of liquid.
Autumn -- the trees turn colors,
playing tricks with light: Bad manners,
toying with their food.
We crunch autumn leaves underfoot,
squeezing out of them
vintage fermented sunshine.
Late autumn -- all the squirrels are fat.
Must you bark at them? Soon
they'll need that energy.
Cold clear night. No sun for leaves
to feed on. Naked branches
sip a thin gruel of star light.
Einstein said everything is relative.
Freud said everything is relatives.
After rain, worms cling to sidewalk --
"Was it good for you, too?"
"It was INTERESTING," she said,
smiling, never answering his question,
he realizes years later
in bed alone.
"You there, writer! Writer!
There's a poem in my soup!"
"Sorry, sir...there!" (plucking it out
between fingertips, delicately,
shaking off golden droplets),
"Good as new!"
"You imbecile! I can't eat
that soup now! Take it back!"
"Yes sir, sorry sir!"
(And thank you for finding
Visiting brothers and sisters,
rejoicing, but watching for the signs,
subtler than a gray hair,
that tell, not of grief or bitterness,
but that one has lost the knowing
that it all comes out all right.
Playing bridge --
are my pieces of paper
better than yours?
Life is simple.
We sang old songs
out on the lawn under the stars
or above them.
He can't change his mind, poor thing?
I wonder what he CAN change?
Perhaps he could pick up that book
and move it over there... He can?
Good! Now here...excellent!
And there! Good, keep him at it.
Soon he'll be able to change his mind.
Don't be alienated.
To the Beating of Ear Drums
We have to dance every dance:
The music is too loud to bear
unless it goes in my ears
and out my legs.
imagine the world blown up,
me adrift among charred ragged rocks
and swirls of burning gas
with no one I can see to talk to and
no way to say hello and hardly a way
to know who or that I am except
simply to know,
and then what?
But I cannot unhear my telling you
how bad it is and you smiling and saying,
"I know." And when I hear me
putting you there, where I would have
no air to hear in, no tongue to speak with
and no courage to know,
I tremble and begin to know
I am already alone
in this crowd of bodies, voices, tables
and chairs -- as alone as I think
I need them.
Why are we not free?
Because we fear the fear
of those who fear
The New Clear Bomb
I just invented it:
You drop it on a mile-wide, mile-deep crater
in the desert. The cloud will be miles high
and phallic -- but don't look
or you'll be able to see forever.
When the dust clears, the crater
will have become a bustling city
with old women bent nearly double
over garden patches, kids daring each other
to run across the gardeners' lawns and vacant lots
with secret tree houses.
Loss is the life we continue to give
what is no longer able to receive it,
water poured into a leaky bucket.
Now, thanks to modern psychiatry,
there is hope for the
hopeless romantic and a cure
for the incurable optimist!
Pulling up to a "STOP" sign and waiting
for it to change.
I don't pretend to be God;
I pretend NOT to be.
Or rather, I am one of the ways
God pretends not to be He.
My nausea begins to swallow
even my sense of humor: Quick!
Become what I am
before I vomit me.
Many poems I can't write yet --
there are so many words, love,
for which we have no things.
As a child I had long conversations
(in the bathroom) with imaginary friends:
"Hello, Lion. Hello, Whale...".
Now I watch television, where
someone else imagines my friends
for me, and THEY do all the talking.
I've become their imaginary friend.
Some people are really not together:
I know someone who is really
a jig-saw puzzle of hundreds of pieces,
but appears to be all of a piece
because his pieces are glued
side by side, not to each other,
but to his family.
"Underpants," said my wife --
something about underpants, I forget what.
I never remember what anyone says
about underpants, bellybuttons, pussycats...
Such incantations come to me like secrets
from a giggling, blushing little girl,
whispered in my ear, a hissing gibber
of wet, ticklish breath, incomprehensibly
And if I say, "What?" -- she tries to do it again,
laughing so impishly that I wonder
if there really was a secret to begin with -
or any words at all
in the warm, messy, bubble-gum-scented
gobbledygook, or if I've been had
by a child.
Eyes are lethal weapons: A winged insect
hits the outer edge of my eye
and vanishes. I can't finger him
out of the lid. Much blinking
and eyelash picking later,
the crushed fragments drift inward
to the point of tears for collection
without ceremony on my fingertip.
Love, let me never be an insect
in your eye.
Anatomy Lesson - On the Seamy Side
between your smooth simple thighs,
everything gets complicated,
mounds and crevices and wrinkled flaps and folds
as if the seamstress worked upwards
from your feet, and when she got to the crotch,
had lots of extra material left over
to be tucked in any old way.
It's bad luck
to step on an eagle
Looking at you, I let go of you,
thinking: be what you want to be;
and your face melts,
stranger after stranger (or were they
old lost friends?) emerging from troubled darkness,
each to tell me its sad forgotten story,
then...vanish? become you?
When next we speak, we are there
instantly, created to speak the words we speak
as singer is created by song.
We say hello and...part? vanish?
Next I lie alone in bed
or sit at a table, writing.
The night teems with ghostly strangers
each waiting to take form
long enough to remember and tell
a sad story, then change into an old friend
and say hello.
All Together Now
"Now you listen here! I'm SICK AND TIRED...",
her mother said,
her grandmother said....
If you listen across time,
you can hear your favorite solos
Getting ourselves up in awkward masquerade
as men, women, babies, animals --
needing each other's touch and nurture
and response: the anguished farewells,
the battles, the returns --
so much we do out of love,
not only because we love,
but as an excuse to love,
as children play Cowboys and Indians
so they can go BANG! BANG! and sink
in slow twisted agony to the ground.
Human bodies can be so affectionate
and smart! Mine is almost
a real person. It breaks its heart
if I leave it in bed and don't take it with me
on my dreams.
But when it goes (they're so frail)
I don't know if I can stand to get another one --
it's such a heartbreak to get attached to something
you have to put to sleep
after only 70 or 80 years!
"Men" says the shrink "are animals."
They are not. Even animals aren't
animals, not MERE animals. Even
psychiatrists aren't animals. At least,
no dog or cat of my acquaintance
would admit to being
We need a bomb
that harms only psychopaths.
Since news of people getting stronger
and happier terrifies psychopaths,
I suggest we develop
a good-news bomb.
Poor little Mama tree toad,
straining (on Public Television)
to exude her jelly
of 10,000 perfect translucent eggs,
all but a few of which
are gulped down by a smirking snake --
Mama must feel like a poet,
singing his songs (so to speak)
for silence to swallow,
or maybe like the world,
showering this poet
with radiant instants,
all but a few of which
are gobbled up
by my inattention.
I don't like to leave blank lines on a page;
who knows what filth
others may imagine there!
Thoughts have places:
To worry, I move into the facial muscles
where I keep my worries.
To feel rage, I fill my thorax.
It's like the after-burn of a half-digested
hot chili pepper. For sexual thoughts,
for apathy -- for each topic and passion
I have my proper places, and by
striking my attention with the proper idea,
you can stick me where you choose.
That's why I can't escape by thinking
about escape, which only sticks me
in the part of my forehead
where I keep thoughts
On the marble base of his statue,
this gaunt Confederate vice president says
he fears nothing on earth or in Heaven
except to do wrong. I wonder how the sculptor
put up with his model's no-doubt-ceaseless
Someone tells you you're wrong
when you are, and it feels bad,
not because it's true, but because
that doesn't explain how a totally right being
like you could be wrong.
She's crying out in her sleep.
I could wake her up,
but that would leave the battle
hanging fire. Instead I'll fall asleep
beside her and see if I can
slip into her dream, and,
standing by her side,
help her face her demons.
(I hope the leader of her demons
doesn't look like me.)
She smiles so brightly at my poems!...
and at the silly stuff the next guy reads...
and the next.... I feel like giving orders
so that all smiles stop.
[Note: This is my abbreviation of Browning's "My Last Duchess",
where, displeased that his young bride smiles at others the same
way she smiles at him, as if scorning his 1000-year-old name, the
Duke gives orders, and all smiles stop -- that is, has her killed.]
From myself to myself by way of myself
recycling until I stumble against
a creaky old Hello,
it swings open and
I fall out at your feet.
In a few days my body will be 60.
I am brand new.
But I will celebrate my body's birthday:
I respect the traditions of the natives.
I want to be so famous
that in the distant future
all my friends will argue
over which of them was me.
The boy stands in the dark
between the open closet door
and the bedroom window,
hiding from being in bed, listening
for creaking on the stairs, excited
by how late it must be getting,
wondering how much longer
before he'll have stayed up all night
and have found out what happens in between
8 o'clock, when he has to go to bed,
and morning, when everything is different.
He knows if he can just keep himself
awake long enough, he will learn
dark secrets known only to adults,
like the late night shows he has never
been allowed to stay up and watch.
He begins to itch where the cold radiator
nudges his thigh, hopes Mom won't find out
he's not in bed, but wishes she or someone
knew how late he's staying up, later
than grown-ups, later than anyone!
He yawns, getting stiff, wonders if it isn't
very late now and how much longer
he'll have to stand here; maybe
it would be better to be caught, to say,
"Look how late I'm up!"
(Sounds from downstairs, muffled,
but no one comes), thinks, maybe THIS
is late enough, ALMOST all night;
feels cold, thinks, "This is really it,
I'm staying up all night!", thinks,
"So this is it?", thinks, "I could say,
'Look! Mom! Dad! You thought I went to bed,
but I've been up all this time!'" Light
from a passing car washes over the room,
gone. He thinks, nothing is happening...
this must be late enough. At last,
after being up ALMOST all night,
at 10 p.m. he goes back to bed.
I walk to the door.
From the drowsing arm chairs,
a double eruption of dogs...
Quickly I close the door
behind just me.
How can I explain
that I must hurry over a blur of concrete,
deaf to the lively yarns spun
by a billion unsniffed scents.
It is not a choice
between dream and reality.
Live in your own dream
or someone else's nightmare.
We spoke on the phone, long distance,
more than two hours.
I held the conversation in gentle suspension
and, next day, took it for a walk
to decorate it with budding trees,
kids at play, sunlight, sunning cats, hilltops
and horizons. By the time I strolled back home,
floating on our words,
I could have been mistaken
for the Rose Bowl Parade.
Heads, I love you,
tails I love you,
If it stands on end,
I love you, and
if it floats
When I knew you were dying,
I said goodbye many times
in many places. At last
one morning when I awoke from dreams
of faces that fall off and shatter
to find my own whole in a beam
of early light --
that I'd said all the good-byes
I needed to say. What was you
would always be you.
What life I'd loaned you
was repaid in the sunlight
resting on my face, repaid
You were with me all that day,
and since them, whenever I've shaped
a smile or gesture to fit you,
you've filled it.
But that was weeks before
the heart in the distant hospital room
stopped making regular blips on screens
and peaks and valleys on diligent charts.
When the phone rang, I had to listen
to the news as if it were new, as if
I cared about the leveled landscapes
I guess you left before you left.
Better than leaving (as many do),
never having arrived.
Her grief was a soft gray bulk,
crushing her shoulders, bound to her
by an open lattice-work of stainless steal reasons.
I took hold of a steel strap
and tried to pry it back.
It would bend a bit,
then SNAP back in place.
I tried until my fingernails broke,
my arms felt unstrung,, and, at last,
she cried out, "Please! Stop
REASONING with me! I can't bear
And so nobly did she fling
a pale, Pre-Raphaelite hand
to her Heaven-bent brow
that I laughed
a pointed laugh.
Surprising us both,
it darted between steel bands
and popped the gray bag of grief,
letting all the tears run out between the bars.
Silence. Weakly she smiled.
The empty cage of reasons stood there,
impervious as ever, but so light now,
unballasted, that with one hand, I lifted it
from her shoulders.
She rapped her knuckles lightly
across the bars (ready as ever
to make their discordant clangor)
Later we donated the cage
to the Hystorical Society,
where it stands, still stainless,
explaining itself with impeccable logic
to the empty air,
next to a rusty armor shell
from the Dark Ages.
Eating fried rice with chopsticks on 14th Street --
the bowl of rice and beansprouts cupping my mouth,
safe and vivid; watching the bits of food,
I eat, and feel
wild geese arrowing south
past the shore out over gray sea
and an old man with a wispy gray beard
who watches his rice disappear,
knowing he doesn't have to look at the geese
and time is a lie.
Someone tells you you're wrong
when you are,
and it feels bad,
not because it's true,
but because it doesn't explain
how a totally right being like you
could be wrong.
"Down, Tolstoy! Down!" --
at the poetry reading, a lady
with a Russian Wolfhound.
"You're pretty," he says
from the bed.
She turns to the mirror,
One a.m. Roar, screech
of burning rubber, bruised silence.
Is the cat in?
On a bench by the bay
I decide to write a long poem.
Nothing comes. The heron
reposed on one stick-leg atop that pier
loses patience with me
and puts the other foot down.
The old pier is gone,
but the posts make pedestals
I flex and stretch my fingers,
making the knuckles
make faces at me.
Those hunched-up little men
who slouch about the underground --
they keep the trains on schedule,
the Metro gnomes.
Re Member, These Words
MEMBERS ARE FREE"
Good! I hate jock straps.
Two join as one, all their strangeness forsaking,
Yet double in tenderness too,
A mystery I cloak in word play, lest making
A pair one amaze you -- so who
Might I be? What's both single and two?
[Note: I imagine you caught the sound of "double entendre"
in "double in tenderness", but did you catch the $100
word for "punning" in line 4: Paronomasia (pair one amaze
you) means punning? The riddle, a sex-teaser, describes what it
seems to describe (love-making), but is also a description of the
lowly pun -- or double entendre (double in tenderness), word play,
making a pair one, paronomasia (pair one amaze you), etc. And, just
to keep it honest, the sex here includes hints of love.
It's a bunch of pun puns, with the possibly broader implication
that love-making is a lot like "the lowest form of humor."
The difference between sex and puns is, perhaps, the difference
between "moan" and "groan."]
It's time to sleep.
"I don't WANT to go to sleep!"
whines my body, the child
who stays with me.
"I wanna go with YOU!"
(It's okay -- he's just tired.)
She says he smothers her.
Of course -- she creates such an absence
of herself about him,
that he evaporates into the vacuum
until the steam of him blankets her chill skin
In this spring wind
the clenched fists that hold me
flower into open hands
that give me away
"I love you," he said,
moving against her hand.
"If this thing works
on the Pinocchio principle,"
she said, "you just lied."
"Do you want the truth?"
"No -- one more lie should do it."
The park pigeons gobble bread crumbs
and convert them to mottled feathers,
mottled car tops and mottled ledges
where they strut, mottling the air
A man walks past my park bench
carrying a box full of noise.
Poor street-corner drug dealer,
hauled away handcuffed in the back
of a police car -- why didn't he
go to school and get a degree
and rent an office and write
The bumper sticker says:
"Water -- Our Most Precious Resource
No -- next to each other, what most
we must not waste is words. Even now
it is harder for me to tell you
you are precious.
My shoes are falling apart,
two new ink spots on my pants,
the last clean pair ripped at the crotch
two days ago: I shed cocoon after cocoon.
When do I grow wings?
my back hurts...
from trying to grow wings?
The Wrong Signal
Smack of cupboard door --
mad?...no, hands full of wet plates,
she used her elbow.
How do you make a universe?
Well, you put some space and particles there
and combine particles to make atoms
and combine these into molecules and proteins
and cells and bunch these into rocks and bricks
and trees and evolving living forms and you
chop down trees to make paper and houses and...
No, no -- that's how you LOSE
the ability to make a universe.
To make a universe, you just make
"Goodbye" is not
such a sad word.
Far sadder are
At night we lie heavy on the bed,
quickly stir each other,
then slowly through the night
and the next day, settle,
like dancing snowflakes in the crystal dome
of a shaken paperweight.
I reach for a glass...
then repeat the motion twice
to be sure that what teased
the corner of my eye
from along the wall behind the sink
was the shadow of my hand moving,
not a cockroach.
Home late. Three cats
nuzzle and meow me to the kitchen:
Call of the Tame.
Three generals meet,
their uniforms all the same --
are they embarrassed?
dot dot dot
Don't you hate waiting...in a line?
[Note: Rumor has it that some readers don't get the above one-liner.
One of the tasks of ellipsis (omission of a word, indicated by the
three dots: "...") is to suggest a pregnant pause, which
is what the 3 dots try to do in the line above: cause the reader
to wait in a line -- that is, the written line. A cheap trick, my
Tall grass bent this way
and that, arguing about
the good old winds.
She walked away
one by one.
[Note: An example of grace in a bun dance (or grace a bounding).]
In the movie, people were kicked,
slashed and shot. I didn't feel
Each of us famous for 15 minutes?
I am famous already. Daily I get letters
from strangers who know my name:
"Dear Dean Blehert, you may already
have won 1,000,000 dollars!!!"
"Dear Mr. Blehert, don't read this
if you can't use another $2000 a month."
Even my congressman knows my name.
I wear dark glasses when I go out,
lest someone at the next table recognize me
and I be surrounded by shrieking
admirers: "Aren't you THE Dean Blehert,
the one whose excellent credit rating
entitles him to receive all those
SPECIAL OFFERS?!" And the autograph
hunters ("Just sign here!")...I vant
to be alone.
Comfortably famous -- that's if I could
pick my nose in public, and people would notice
and say, "Oh that Dean!"
Embarrassingly famous is when the next day
a million fans pick their noses in public.
As I get older (or younger --
I forget which, keeping my body and
my friends on hand to remind me),
I have more to say, but fewer words,
only a threadbare few, my meaning
A man and woman kissing
in a car in the privacy of me
being a passing stranger.
Soldiers falling down in a field.
Do they turn back into men
just before they hit the earth?
We sit in our living room
feeling safe, though our house
is out on the street after dark.
As we argue,
I drive carefully,
not to make you right.
Walking past, I sneeze:
From the lawn explode
"The incident," says the newscaster,
"was almost a repetition of the
terrorist attack earlier this year
when four people were killed." But
they killed different people this time.
Clothing, skin, muscle, bone, blood,
organs, etc., especially, my love,
The following poems, early in my infatuation with haiku, were written
shortly after a numbing divorce. We'd been in grad school together.
I accepted a teaching job at Cornell in Ithaca, NY (in the middle
of picturesque nowhere), expecting to go there with my wife. In
fact, I took the job there because it was a place my then wife wanted
to work. Then we divorced (she, deciding to remain in California),
and a few months later I found myself trying to find myself in a
small room in Ithaca -- and in the hot-house cleverness of academia.
These poems were part of that.
Autumn, 1967 (a Haiku Series)
Can't get back to sleep.
Will I say the right things
this wet day?
A dog barks.
Nearby an answer; far off
another; miles away...
In the country,
learning to drive a stick-shift;
gears grind; autumn hills.
Slow downward drift of leaves,
even as I watch,
Out of warm rooms
where I made clever points--
cold clear night.
These leaves crunched louder
when my feet were small.
rain on the roof...dawn.
I must have slept.
Red maples, yellow elms,
green pines, and nameless colors
of nameless trees.
I stop typing.
A clear night. I wonder
who my neighbor is?
in bare trees outside
the shower-steamed window.
a drive-in movie's flicker...
I've cried in movies.
Snagged on the wiper,
back and forth across the windshield,
a dead leaf.
swish of wipers,
poor smiling billboard people.
Here two months. Fall storm.
The last tenant's ugly print
still on the wall.
Alone this autumn,
my youth on my student's faces
like a rash.
The alarm set for six,
I wake at five afraid
I slept through it.
Writing. Fall rain
makes me listen,
rain that isn't you.
Trying to write.
In the wet window,
a man with a pen.
Rain. Walls creak,
a man writes, a fly buzzing
The light left on
in the room where I wrote
In the park a jogger stops,
seeing me with my notebook:
"What're you doing? Surveying trees?"
No -- I'm not that kind of a poet.
"The universe began 20 billion years ago
in a big bang." That's not how they tell it
on the porch of a summer's night,
the old-timers who remember.
A long walk with the dog --
a three-pile walk.
ALL THINGS BELABORED
Poet, John Keats, announced in London yesterday
that beauty is truth and truth beauty. That,
said Mr. Keats, to reporters at the annual
Grecian Urn Gala, is all ye need to know and,
in fact, all ye need to know, at least,
As of this morning
there has been no official response from either
Moscow or Washington, but spokespersons
for the Administration confirm an atmosphere
of cautious optimism.
How is this announcement
likely to impact the English language? We have
with us in the studio Professor Quincy Wimpus
of Rhomboid University to discuss the latest
developments. Professor Wimpus,
is this just more rhetorical posturing,
or does Keats really mean it this time,
and if he does, will the critics
stand for it?
"Well, Bill, it's hard to say. Keats is young,
but he does have a certain following..."
Over the years, a map has appeared
on her face. Each day there are new details.
Each morning she studies it -- hoping to find
a clue to buried treasure?
The waitresses' short skirts bare almost
more than all their plump thighs.
I would be tempted if I knew
a nice way to ask for one.
Saved by my manners.
The lady at the next table is served
a billowy Himalayan range of banana split.
She dips spoon into whipped cream streaked
with hot fudge. I, too, have five dollars.
Nothing can save me.
[Note: The above poem has been revised twice. When I wrote it,
the amount I needed to have was $1.50. When I printed it in Deanotations
in 1987, I changed it to $3.00. And now I just hope $5.00 is enough
-- haven't ordered one lately - trying to fight inflation of my
YOUR WHOLE WORLD
This is your daily newspaper -- your whole world
is here. Here are the places where you can't go
because they are dangerous. Here are the people
who hate you because you are an American.
Here are the things that will run out for ever
or cost too much for you to have in the near future.
(The DISTANT future has already run out,
and you and probably your children -- if any of them
survive our drug-and-gang-ridden schools --
can't have it.)
Here are the things you can get in trouble for.
Here are all the things going wrong with the world
that you can't do anything about. Probably
no one can do anything about them. Experts
and reliable sources agree that there are
no simple solutions and that only time
In any case, it is certain that YOU can't do anything
about these matters. But never the less, beyond
the call of duty, we keep you well-informed ("We
are now dropping the cyanide into your cell...").
Meanwhile, if you can afford to drive your car,
there's a good chance you too will be killed,
maimed or sued, but there's a good chance of it
even if you walk. Or you can just stay at home
and wait for someone to steal your identity.
That's the sort of world you live in,
but fortunately for you, your best friend,
the daily news, is looking out for you:
On the inside pages, our columnists
tell you how to deal with STRESS,
per pharmaceutical company flacks
and shrinks with CIA contracts,
and our funny pages bring out the
humorous aspects of the Decline and Fall
of Practically Everything. We present all
reliably authorized sides of every issue
from our viewpoint. We let you get
a very inside look at what goes on
all over the world.
When you are done reading us, you can
extrovert by inspecting your breasts
or rectum for cancerous growths.
[Note: The above poem expresses POST traumatic stress syndrome:
I get depressed after
an excess of Washington Post. The phrase, "YOUR WHOLE WORLD
IS HERE" comes from an old advertising slogan for the L.A.
Times -- late 70s, I think. Big signs on all the city buses.
There'd be these rumpled gray newspapers on benches, etc., and passing
proclaiming that my whole world was in them.]
Would you trust your daughter
with a reliable source?
Speak up, poets!
The ears have walls.
Heard on "All Things Considered,"
Oct. 1, 1987, no kidding: "We can
help make AIDs a part of
every American's life regardless
of degree of risk."
Each with a white fluff of poodle
tugging on a leash,
they spot each other
at 100 yards.
Each lifts her poodle
into her arms, and, warily,
they approach each other
with poodles holstered.
"Now," said I to the world,
"is the time for poetry!"
"Not now," said the world,
"I have a headache."
I'm going to eat the cat! I am! I am!
(The fat cat on the dining room table
doesn't budge, doesn't twitch a whisker,
doesn't believe a word of it.)
I am not my brother's keeper;
only his finder
Election year approaches.
The news puts me to sleep,
drugged by too many
All the summer night long: Cicada
and Fugue in EEEEE...
PLEASE go to sleep! she says,
half-awake herself. Reluctantly
I close my book, turn off
the bed light.
Four hours left to sleep.
I need eight. forty-five years
has not taught me --
WILL not teach me --
that night is other than a
magician's black top-hat,
from which wonders (handkerchiefs,
flowers, rabbits, doves and hours
of good reading) inexhaustibly
can be conjured.
"Lonely? Call Monica
and discuss your sexual fantasies."
Or you could call a priest
and discuss your spiritual fantasies.
Or call a talk show and discuss
your political fantasies.
Or read New Yorker ads to cultivate
your consumer fantasies.
Or you could find a way to make up
the damage you have done to others
that makes you withdraw from them.
A stone: jillions of invisible particles
running back and forth,
waving their hands in the air and screaming:
"It MUST NOT BE!"
"It MUST BE!"
"It MUST NOT BE!"
It MUST BE!"...
Do you hear them?
I can't hear a thing.
ABBOTT & COSTELLO REVISITED
"What is truth?"
"No, no, Pontius -- what
is a lie! WHO
Early Autumn Wind
A million blades stir
as the wind bugles "CHARGE!"
A Reasonable Question
Swarming the sidewalk -- ants.
Do any of them ever
die of old age?
An Opposition Voice
What went down
must go up.
Can It Be Licit?
Fullness of Folds
"Explicit," "Implicit" --
music of petals brushing over
folding outward, folding inward:
applying (folding on) himself to her,
touching one another, implicitly,
explicitly: "Ummmmm!" he implies.
"I love you too," she explies,
fold in orchid fold, supplely (sub plus
plicare, to fold under, flex) supplying
(Supplicit? No: sub plus pliere, to
fill up from underneath) each other.
We comply (fold with) and complete
(fill up with) each other, complicate
(complicit, complex: fold together,
intertwine), return to the fold of
O! how we complicate each other,
comply with each other, bend
to each other's will,
im-, ex-, sup-, com- and
(in our interplay) inter-
how amply we each the other O like
The cats and dogs know
it is Man's world: they go
On either side of me rise up rows of houses.
If I walk calmly down the street,
as if unafraid,
they will not attack me.
The scale this morning shows
that more of the physical universe than ever before
bears my name. Do I care? No!
MORE pounds! MORE lumpy pounds!
[Mad evil laughter]
Today, Dean Blehert's body --
tomorrow THE WORLD!
Green stuff on a dish --
lo cal color.
Tower of Babel
A metal tower,
tapering to a point, yet
just a steel skeleton.
Man raised it to keep in touch.
It touches the sky and babbles
in every language known to man
bad news and lies.
Royally asprawl our bed:
Pretty cat, am I your subject?
[Note to those educated since grammar exited the curriculum: Royalty
(like a cat) has subjects. So does a predicate (pretty cat), and
the act of analyzing a sentence to find its subject, predicate,
object, etc., is called "parsing." But current education,
I hear, has moved parsecs from parsing in order to increase the
number of students said to be passing.]
Nobody wants me.
How can one not feel hopeful about the
future of mankind when one reads the
"Personals" and finds a world full of
successful, professional, trim, clever,
athletic, artistic, sincere, caring,
handsome, imaginative, fun, secure
S/M/D WMs who enjoy sports, music,
reading, sailing, tennis, boating,
gardening, travel, movies, long walks
and flying and who want in-depth
relationships and who don't smoke
(and have only mild herpes) and
attractive, cute, professional, sexy,
independent, romantic, mature, open and
direct, intelligent, gracious, warm,
fun-loving, elegant, athletic,
compassionate, vivacious, cosmopolitan
S/M/D W/JFs who like horses, kids,
classical music, commitment, travel,
philosophy, hiking, jazz, dancing,
old movies, and who don't smoke--
all ISO each other. I foresee
a Golden Age, perfect Helenic figures,
supple men & lithesome women, strolling
from concert to barbeque with the
relaxed, stately pace of a Grecian urn,
a world chock full of fun couples with
two copies of Roget in each household.
Fat, arguably funny, if not crude, 61-
Year-old MWP (married white poet), non-
smoker, enjoys verbs, nouns and
occasional adjectives, relishes
pronouns, likes to twist syntax
and prepositions with respect to
has a real thing about, ISO several
million S/M/D W/B/Y/R M/F Rs (single/
Male/Female Readers) who share his
exotic tastes; for long-term commitment
only. Send picture, preferably Lincoln,
Hamilton, Jackson or Franklin, but
Washington will be considered.
"Tic...tic...tic..." (The dog by our bed
scratches.) "Quiet!" I yell. Silence...
"tic...tic...tic..." (He can't help
ticking--he's a watch dog.)
Huge golden butterfly flitters about
my legs. No net, so I use
You could tell she was an illiterate Prostitute
by the scarlet H on her chest.
[Note: Following poem written in pre-historic days of DOS; hence
the error messages referenced are comprehensible.]
Monday morning should be more user-friendly.
We should wake to a Main Menu:
The date and all the options (1. Go back
To sleep, 2. Take a piss, 3. Caress
Wife...), Context sensitive help screens
readily available ("If you choose
'Return to sleep' at this point, you
should first set the 10-min. snooze
alarm..."), lucid error messages
(Cannot return to sleep--bladder too
full. Abort? Retry? Ignore?" or "Are you
sure you want to communicate with wife
before she's had her coffee? (Y/N)
Press any key to return to your side of
the bed.") Nights, too, should have menus,
each touchable part of you having
its own sub-menu. And always there should be
option 0 to cancel without saving changes,
E to Exit, Q to Quit.
How well thought out that little things
go pop & perish while big things creak
inches a year into eminence. If a
bacterium took a year to mitose, our
digestion would suffer. If acorns took
seed & sprouted like jagged lightning
bolts from the earth--instant oaks,
where would we hide? We would have to
release herds of instant elephants (Pop!
Pop!), bubbling up, a seething grey
broth to bully the trees flat. Or we
could be born & perish--pop!--between
fall of seed & full reach (ZAP!) of oak.
Busy season. Snow fills up
the yard, my in-basket, where I
hadn't even gotten to the leaves.
Take your medicine!"
says the jogger. His body
A dog and a stick...
the dog wins!
Cat on the couch,
still as any cushion,
except, hanging from the edge,
the tail, almost still, just the tip
On the carpet, watching,
A dog trots by, like all dogs,
knowing, somehow, to look at
I pass, on the level path,
an old man climbing a steep slope.
Tired old legs.
Leaves still go crunch.
Falling leaf darts
this way and that,
but its shadow catches it.
That leaf and I,
"What a beautiful fall day,"
we say, meaning this light,
this air, this brightness,
meaning so much that is hard
to say, meaning it would be good
to stand quietly, arms around
each other's waists, and not
have come on this walk with
unpleasant things to talk about.
"Yes," we say, "It is."
Let's go to bed," she said,
as if it were a place.
"...No! No No NO! And that's IT,
PERIOD!", she said, but he never was
good with punctuation.
Who let the sun
get in among those daffodils!
The sun has been out collecting
Autumn leaves all day. "Come along
Now," says night. "Wait! Just a few
More!" cries the setting sun, moving
Sooo slowly away, picking out a few
Last tips of fire from the tops
Of tallest trees before vanishing
Behind distant houses.
everyone, put on a mask
and pretend to be
yourself pretending to be
And Bring Some Poems
You were tired, so I went alone,
sat in a chair facing chairs,
touching with each word crisp layers
of attitudes that responded with
multi-layered crackles of
hand-me-down opinion that
long ago had been someone's
best grief and pain.
Sitting, standing, chatting,
milling about a table of cheeses,
cookies, mixed nuts, red wine,
bumping into ancient taut farthingales
of hilarity; clanking, armor-plated expanses
of oft-repeated narratives...
Bruised by an evening of bouncing
off barriers, I crawl into bed,
curl up against you, touch
with hand and heart -- cannot touch
enough -- your simple, O so
The tapestry shows armed men
on armed horses plunging hither &
thither, the air full of flying arrows--
weapons, or perhaps confused signs
from anxious gods, hastening
to unravel the confusion:
"Go this way!" "No, this way!" "You
are here!" "No, HERE!" (One sign
cannot be denied: It transfixes
the eye of the Saxon king:
YOU ARE HERE!
He's been located.)
Old friend, I hear
One of my years is seven of yours.
I'd slow for you if I could.
Old couples walk past my park bench,
chatting or silent,
but even silent ones seem to chat,
one face's arrangement
addressed to the other's.
Going off down the path,
their heavy shoulders, hanging arms,
heads moving slowly side to side
speak to each other.
For many years their bodies
have exchanged intimacies while they slept,
old friends, these bodies,
closer to each other now that minds
have begun to roam,
bodies like two dogs on leashes
who tug and whimper after each other
as masters go their separate ways.
Punishment Suiting the Crime
She was even fatter than me.
In class I made jokes about her fatness
so they'd laugh at her, not me.
They did. I mean, EVERYBODY
made jokes about her, not just me,
Besides, she was mean. She'd
beat you up.
Later she wasn't so fat,
just big. I heard she let boys
feel her. She got good grades and
sang soprano solos in choir. Probably
when I last saw her, in college, she was
pretty, but I always think of her as "FATSO!"
nor, no matter how much weight I lose,
do I ever believe people who tell me
I'm not fat.
These last leaves may as well fall --
they're too brittle to chew on anything as
solid as sunlight.
Note the Only Pebble
A pebble on the path,
casting a tiny shadow.
"I can't think, I can't talk,
I can't love, but I can
stop the sun."
A child's bike spits the pebble
to the edge of the path,
where it rocks to a halt,
its shadow intact.
A bike passes
in a flash of spokes,
its shadow all a-flicker
trying to keep up with the details.
Her microphone isn't working.
I hear only sporadic words
(sitting in back, as usual,
so I can write, unnoticed):
Probably I've heard enough.
Shhh! Don't Tell Them!
Someday psychiatry will discover
the spirit and realize the need
to design subtler traps.
[Note on next poem: Langley is the location of CIA headquarters
in VA. From the main roads, it's all woods. The pun "neighbor
hoods" in the poem may be unfair, but the rest seems hard to
dispute. At best (at it's most ethical), spying and other covert
activities are hard on the spies and on the nations that rely on
When First and Last We Practice to Deceive
Stopping by Langley on an Autumn Day
Whose woods these are I think I know.
"The sign says "U.S. Government,"
(Both Central and Intelligent)
"NO TRESPASSING". But I must go...
I hope no watcher thinks it strange
To see me pause in spy-glass range
To watch these woods fill up with leaves
Behind which, covertly, who weaves
What woeful webs? My little car
Starts with a jerk. I can't go far
Enough from here, to where the woods
Do not conceal our neighbor hoods,
Where we make promises we keep
And at day's end serenely sleep,
Miles from these men who cannot sleep.
Long dresses--time-honored solution
To a woman's ending merely in feet.
[Note: Except for Genie with the light brown hair. Genies end in
a curl of smoke.]
[Perhaps the difference between a good lover and a great lover is
that the great lover admires, not only her feet, but her toes, even
if they are crooked and corned and the toe nails have been bitten.
(Takes a certain flexibility to bite the toe nails, of course.)]
"Living Is Easy With Your Eyes Closed..." (John Lennon,
I kiss a lady, who doesn't slap me,
since I am male and her husband.
I step out into a sun that is crisp
and gentle, if I keep my distance.
The cat sidles up to rub against my leg
and not eat me, because I am too big.
I open the car door, which does not
blow up the car, because I am not
in Iraq, have no Mafia links,
and am, anyway, going to live
to write these lines. I will go
to work. Nothing really bad
will happen. Wisps of cloud
lark about the heavens. All's right
with the world. Someday I will
die, but not just now, and by then,
surely, they'll have come up
[Note: Perhaps I am alone in feeling there's something wrong with
me if my comfort depends on keeping 93,000,000 miles between me
and a ball of fire in the sky. Have any of you ever felt that picky
Distance and Cold
As we walk away,
his barks become fewer,
Like cricket chirps as the night cools.
On Being Too Relentlessly Witty
"Stop!" cried the puddle to the sun--
"You're dazzling me! I can't
stand it any more!"--and
flew into the sky
to hide in a cloud.
Nose running, eyes tearing for days on end.
Only 90% liquid? He knows it's a lie!
Soon, like the Wicked Witch of the West,
he knows there'll be nothing left of him
(Sniff! Sniffle!) but a pile of pajamas
and a sopping wet hanky.
My love, this sleek, solid flesh is
illusion: We are mostly liquid --
but good to the last drop!
Christmas is coming
because we all agree it is.
Time is a
beings give by keeping:
We keep time for each other.
And what is a being?
It is the thought
Invention of the Automobile
One Winter Morning
I invented the automobile this morning.
First I shaped it, inspired, I admit,
by a mound of snow with streamlined
contours in front of my house. I chipped
and dug at the mound, developing in icy
detail the outer semblance of a car.
Next I gave it an inside, scraping veils
of ice from windows, discovering
Next the creation of an engine
from what was only a cold lump
of metal. Long I labored with key and
foot to generate that spark and throb
Of life! Now I lacked only motion,
for the wheels spun noisily in icy ruts.
Friction looked feasible. This, with
shovel & shove, after several attempts
that died on the drawing board, I achieved.
Yes, I discovered, conceptualized,
Created, I alone, early this glittering
Winter dawn, I invented the car!
An Expression of Sympathy
You feel that no one knows
who you really are?
I understand: I myself
have no idea who you really are.
A poem should be intimate, like a kiss.
How awkward, then, if it makes you
A Hippie Dance
I pry my eyelids up,
Not to miss the dance,
as you hula --
into your jeans.
I put my ear to your belly.
As usual, it's grumbling away
to itself incoherently, like the
How I Wonder What We Are
Some say life is but a guise of chemistry,
a twinkling infused into dust,
that, like Cinderella at the stroke
of midnight, returns in a twinkling
Others add that we shine anew
when the Prince seeks us out
and finds us fit.
I say that all along
we've been the twinkling.
You make a face.
The mirror repeats you.
The copy cat
Persists, defeats you.
It's what you think
You are that eats you.
The eye is busy even before I wake up:
"Here--here's the ceiling, the lamp,
the dresser, the clock, that hair, here,
take this...that..." -- helpful eye,
collecting things, hoping I can find
some use for them.
Sometimes I can't believe my own eyes.
They tell me things all day:
"You are here." "This is where
you are." "This is who you are."
This is what you are." "Here,
take some of this--It's good for you!
have some branches, a gold glint
of window pane, just a taste of sky,
just try this nice strip of shadow
on the wall. C'mon, look! look!
It will help you survive!"
"More chairs? More doors? More
walls? A cobweb? Can I help you
to some newspaper? Just a smidgeon
of gleam on your plate?" Ah,
my eyes, you do it all for me,
I know, but someday I'll have to
leave you; I'll need to know who
and where I am all by myself.
Are you ready for that, my eyes?
I don't want you to be hurt.
My shoes by the dresser
look too much like me.
I'd know them anywhere,
sooner than I'd know my feet.
The shirts hanging in the closet
know my attitudes better
than I do. This bedroom is
full of me. I'm not needed
here. Read me from my half-read
books. Even the lint balls
on the carpet whisper my secrets
in lint language. This is
a kind of oblivion: to star
in my things, to know
that my tale can be told
by an idiot. I'd like to
slip away, be someone this bedroom
has never dreamed of. But as soon
as I move my body from the bed,
shoes, shirt, pants, socks, billfold
gather round to button me up
in the old decisions while my
digital watch flickers my time--
I am surrounded. Behind me, the bed
knows exactly what to expect. Here,
in my notebook: a blank page,
a strangeness--perhaps you--and
this place where we can be alone
together, even surprise each other
without our shoes.
New and Used People
"Lots of new faces here tonight."
Yes--there's that crisp
He insists you die and that's the end.
If he's wrong, he'll never hear
The end of it.
"We ARE our brains!"
O yeah! Step outside
And say that!
The spirit: Man's fine-fettered friend.
Posthumously Yours (But NOT, I hope, Posthumorously):
I used to be a poet;
Now I am a poem.
You used to be a stranger,
Now my only home.
Time is done with verbs:
I was, you are, we'll be;
And we're a trick of pronouns:
I'm you and you are me.
Now I touch my forehead.
(I used to have a face.)
Can you feel my finger?
Can words create a space?
If you can understand me,
I'll feel it...felt it -- how?
If we think these words together,
Who's listening to us now?
THE WHATNOT SHELF
All the things we had, we've got
On dusty shelves: Waste not, whatnot.
When I was a child, they taught me
To tell time, but they never
Taught time to listen.
My hand tip-toes over the minefield
Of a child--at each touch
An explosion of laughter!
Acts of Magic
There's an unbridgeable gap
between night, when one goes to sleep,
and the new day, when one goes to breakfast.
When I stand in a meadow in Minnesota,
the fields and woods roll out from me
forever in any direction in a universe
that does not include New York or L.A.
But if I stay up all night
and watch the graying into day
or if I drive from Minnesota to L.A.
(or walk to a place I'd always driven to or add up
the number of years I've spent brushing my teeth),
the physical universe harangues me with
its continuity: there is but one universe,
it nags, and you are in it, and
any infinity YOU can grasp is an Illusion.
Of course, for the physical universe IS
that universe where we have agreed
that the way from one universe to another
is by way of finite gradients of time
But in my universe there are boundless Minnesotas,
cool summer evenings that linger and
linger yet, touches that have forgotten time, and, yes,
endless ragged canyons of Manhattan,
and a Los Angeles that dwindles hazily off
to the end of the flat world and falls over the edge --
and an infinitude of other endlessnesses,
Not paralyzed like separate exhibits
in a wax museum, but being created now,
fluid as music. And how does one go
from here to there, from now to then,
in my universe, in yours? We are
Where we choose to be:
Now I talk to you;
now print sits silent on the page.
There IS a magic that must intervene
while you sleep to take you from night
to day. This, my voice, is ceaseless,
and it is an act of magic
to open a book or any door.
POWER OF CHOICE
The child wants to know
if I want to see something.
I can say either yes or no
before he shows me.
Note: Since I wrote the above poem, many years ago, my wife never
fails to use it against me. I say, "Pam, can I read you this
new poem," and she says, "I can say either yes or no before
you read it to me, right?"]
Walking down Hollywood Blvd.,
observing the Unidentified
Though foolish myself,
I have no patience with the folly of others.
It's hard to be patient. I'll have to become
Out Walking, Worrying About the World
"Stop explaining and explaining,"
says the earth, running its wind
through its leaves--"Just hold me tight,
you fool, and tell me you love me!"
Here and there bombs and bullets
make abrupt changes in people's plans,
but overall the main things happening
are still the weather and a few good
Fear those who love their neighbors
As themselves and hate
I hear there's pro-life legislation
in the works. Does that mean
my poems will be published?
Lately there's a resurgence of anti-Semitism
around the world. Maybe I'll get to be a
[Note: The above poem -- a child's voice: "This time I get
to be the cowboy; you be the Indian" -- reflects the fact that
in assimilated days, someone like me, born Jewish, but not observant,
is often surprised, when anti-Semitism "rears its ugly head",
to discover that he has a new role to play in life. I hope, if that
happens, that I can find my motivation. (We method actors are so
[Note: It must be awfully hard on the neck to rear one's head. I
wonder if anyone ever rears a pretty head.]
DANGER: Second-Hand Breathing
Smokers: The Surgeon General of the
United States has determined that
coughers (who spread germs) may be
injurious to your health, especially
with your smoker's weakened immune system.
Call your Congressman TODAY
and DEMAND legislation
requiring Non-Cougher sections in
public buildings and restaurants.
Meanwhile, if someone is coughing
at YOU while you smoke, don't be
shy: Ask him to stop coughing
or leave the premises.
Solipsism is ok,
But keep it to yourself.
The cat wants to be scratched
More than the poem wants to be written.
But it's so awkward with my clothes on!
[Note to the pun-deaf: "underestimate"/undress to mate.]
I begin to forget names. They say, "Hi, Dean,"
and I say "Hi," as if I knew them.
It feels like senility--or fame,
which is lots of people you don't know
feeling they know you. If you can't
get yourself known by lots of people,
you can get the same thrill by
forgetting those who already know you.
TO ALLOW US (to Get all the Girls)
O would some cable network the giftie gie us
To see ourselves as five gay men can see us!
[With apologies to Robert Burns, from whose "To a Louse"
these lines are partly borrowed.]