Poem-a-Day for 2005
The following poems were sent out by email during 2005. They
are copyright by Dean Blehert.
In my dream, dying, I was reborn,
not in the future, but in the past,
to be the same person all over again,
but with subtle variations--but not
too subtle to be spotted...at first,
and even later, when I'd been persuaded
I was nowhere but where I was,
nor had ever been elsewhere, still
certain things didn't fit:
I met you in the wrong place
or at the wrong time or not at all,
and even when not at all,
I knew you were supposed to be,
Let's be the good guys
and wipe out all the bad guys;
when we run out of bad guys to wipe out,
let's take a closer look at ourselves.
Let's kill everyone, including us.
Then the environment
can worry about the environment.
It will be a relief to be dead
as long as everyone else is too
so that one doesn't feel left out,
as if dragged from a lively party,
by a nagging wife with a headache.
It's easier than facing our failure
to make everyone live
happily ever after.
AND ON A MORE HOPEFUL NOTE (I HOPE), from a longer poem I
wrote not long after John Lennon's death (1980), addressed
For John Lennon:
Dreamer, put us in your dream.
Be the magic man you seem.
With the tickle in your song
Tease the children from their strong
Silent deadly manhood; make
Us giggle, make us sigh and take
A look around and see each other
Stirring in a dream dreamed by our brother;
And, brother dreamer, before you wake,
Give us back our eaten cake:
For when we've chewed and swallowed you,
What's left to be? What's left to do?
Your voice gets drowned in head-line screams--
Quick! Teach us, dreamer, to dream our dreams.
L.A. After Rain
Green silk sky--
through the rainbow creeps
A police helicopter.
I'm glad my passing by
Brings such excitement to
So many dogs' lives.
Exit From The Metro
Out of the underground, up the escalator
moving evenly in variegated verticality,
a ceaseless stream of bodies, as if
on an assembly line--is that
where people come from, Mommy?
Moderation in most things--
as a general rule.
If the planet
Were about to blow up, these trees
Would sway as gently.
Along the sofa,
a sentence of cushions--
for period, this cat.
The time that passes, we are told,
is the only time there is,
all we can have, the tooth-brushing time,
the waiting-in-line time all made
of the same ticking stuff as love-time
and pain-time, all the same leaking away
of all there ever is or can be,
as if we had nothing to do with it,
as if any one idea of anyone's
could be the same as any other,
as if the good time the painted lady
in almost no skirt says she wants to give me,
because it is stamped legal tender
by the Universal Time Bank,
is, second for second, indistinguishable
from the long ski-slopes of each heartbeat
while the gravitic pull of our lips merges
your two eyes and my two eyes
each into one, each filled
with the other, lips touching,
and, as if earth had turned upside down,
the leap into endless glittering night.
Pam is reading Diet For a Small Planet--
just what I need:
I'm becoming one.
[Note: Since writing that, I've lost some of that unhealthy
planetary mass. I'm no more than a half moon these days.
TV: We turn on Pandora's Box,
releasing into the living room
all life's miniseries.
The hypochondriac folksinger:
both before sitting and after standing,
he examines his stool.
"I lay in the arms of my best friend's wife" --
leading to the inevitable folk-song doom.
Too bad you had to die, but, hey,
what're best friends' wives for?
Fear of death is fear of being alone,
but fear, not death, makes us alone,
even in a crowd of cowards.
These are the people, kind, sad, funny,
worried, angry, sour, clever, dense...
these, there are no other; if you wait
for the RIGHT people, you will become
a great waiter, for these are the people
of whose agreement any greatness
you achieve will consist.
The editor demands "poetry of nuance?"
Sorry -- no more prose of old uncles?
THIS...is your mind.
THIS...is a pun.
THIS...is your mind on puns.
Say NO to puns. (Especially
Note: "frying puns" because the "This is your
mind on drugs" showed eggs being broken into a skillet
-- frying pan.
Thoughts on some Art: Colored concentric
squares, solid black canvases, huge,
lots of good big canvases--Pam could
really do something with those...
[Note: My wife, Pam, is a painter. See her work at www.blehert.com.
Above is just a thought that passed through (and got intercepted)
as I looked at huge paintings that consisted mainly of one
or two large colored forms or one solid color.]
Lady inspecting a print:
apples on blue with
shadow of lady's head.
An evil man feels unworthy,
shuns love, afraid he'll waste it,
like an alcoholic trembling too hard
to pour a drink.
Smiling across swirls
of whipped cream:
Our tongues, too,
can walk on clouds.
The Poet In His Office
I was trying to write a poem tonight.
Finally I cleaned the hair
off the bathroom floor instead.
Homely for the Ageing
I stand behind you in the bathroom
as you comb your hair.
I hope I look as much uglier in the mirror than I really am
as you do.
If I must grow fatter,
at least let my wife lose weight,
so that others, seeing us together, will say,
"What could she possibly see in that slob?
He must be a great lover!"
For males, late childhood through early adolescence
is the time between the times
when it's okay to hug someone tight.
"Give up everything and follow me!"
Can't I just give up everything?
There are the bastards who sell out
and the rest of us
who can't find buyers.
Looked up a word, then a word
in the definition, then a word
in one of the definitions
of the word in the definition,
then... Ah, I think I'm on the track of
something: I feel this brick-solid wall
of language, heavy as Webster's Fourth International,
beginning to unravel, become something I can use,
as if this thread of opaque words
were the bright red strip you carefully
unwind to tear open the package.
Hanging onto my anger --
what if I stop being mad
and find I was wrong?
If I did only what I WANT to do,
I wouldn't need to do all the things I
THINK I want to do because they put off
my having to do all the things I think
I HAVE to do that prevent me from doing
the things I want to do.
Arrows of Eros
The V of the legs, the opposite wider Vs
of the inguinals and the intersecting
posterior crescents, the arrowhead
of thatch where the abdomen tapers away:
All these converging arrows
tell the observer: "You Are Here!
This Is The Place!" Our bodies
are trying to tell us something,
as subtly as hungry dogs
rolling their tongues and tugging us
toward their bowls with avid eyes.
Look! Now mine points at yours!
Our maps demand a meeting,
and my heart, too--can you see it?--
is an arrow in a taut bow.
"When everything's perfect--watch out!"
Depending on luck -- strange idea
of perfect! When everything's perfect,
I'm conducting, my slightest gesture
making rich music, creating all the luck
there is, in a world of musicians (each
passing smile, each leaf tremor) who,
for the rise and fall
of my heart's baton, wide-eyed,
To anyone finding me brain-dead
at 3 a.m. in front of my T.V.,
be it known that I do not want
extraordinary measures to be taken
to maintain me in this vegetable
state. Please! Go to the T.V. set
and pull the plug.
How simply and naturally we clap our hands!
Did it seem strange when I first learned how?
Perhaps at Pease Porridge Pot, a giant
taking my wrists and bringing my tiny hands together--
glee! It's not the noise (which my soft
paddy-cake baby hands barely make --
though the laughing giant says,
when they meet: BOOM!!!),
but the willfulness of swinging the hands
toward each other, careless of collision
and violating the body's itch to move
one arm back when the other moves forward.,
and for baby it's a performance:
Good Boy! WHEE!! Later we return,
in exchange for a good performance,
a good performance.
Whole frog species are vanishing.
Please, every young girl, quick!
find a Prince, kiss him,
and hope for a miracle!
Poetry says turn off that TV
and spend some time with me!
I say, look, watching TV
is all I can do with this cat
on my belly, sticking her claws gently
in and out of my beard
like a kid playing with velcro
to remind me I've neglected
to continue to scratch her head.
Poetry says if you cared for me at all,
you'd shoo the cat and turn off the TV.
I say SHHHH!
Clear slow pulse,
but at her swollen belly another --
quick, faint --
teases the touching ear
Reader... Reader?... READER!...
Oh, you're here! Thank you. For a moment
I thought I was alone.
It's hard when you're old like me
and can't see
except with the eyes.
Every body dies.
No one else is affected.
Lightning flash, then click!
(to our tiny ears, thunderous):
Who takes our picture?
Forgive me, but much that you like
I find stupid and boring,
or don't forgive me
(at least, not stupidly or boringly),
just leave me to this punishment,
or if you really want to get even,
catch me at my muttering, and when
I cast a baleful eye your way,
"Let's just cuddle tonight," she says,
bringing out one difference
between sex (which is NOT
like horseshoes) and love.
We lie awhile in each other's arms,
[Note: In horseshoes, as in love, closeness counts. Sex is
more like basketball -- you're either in or out.]
Knowing you at last,
I have always known you,
freed from that folly
of slipping out of knowing, as if,
holding you, I should close my eyes
to know you better, then forget --
fooled by the eyes' twilight oblivion --
forget your presence, slip into a dream
of old and intricate ravelings and
unravelings of data, then wake to find
you still in my arms, still where eyes
can have as much as eyes can have,
the past a dream interposed between
now and now.
I've become the person I wanted to be,
but can't remember who it was for --
was it for you? If so,
can I become someone else now --
Dreaming of applause,
the old politician
eats Rice Krispies,
Endless applause... -- O!
Heavy rain this dark morning.
Rain's dotted lines:
Tear here! No, here! Lightning
We twist in bed, the covers sticking,
winding to one side, then the other,
like a Torah, some Rabbi scrolling us
back and forth, searching for
this week's portion, which he must
have found, placing on it, for marker,
[Note: In the Synagogue, each week a different portion of
the Torah (Five Books of Moses) is read (chanted). The Torah
scroll is turned to that portion. A marker is used to point
to the place.]
"Black man." Funny words.
Blue man when he's sad,
yellow man when he's scared,
green man when he's sick,
grey man when he's old,
red man when he's flayed alive,
blue yellow green grey red
black man, just like a
Facing away, she bends over, legs apart,
pulling weeds, a lovely target--
perhaps the tale is true
that we discovered lust
while tending a garden.
Note: One of the favorite reproaches addressed to the U.S.
is that we have gone to war for oil. Here are two of my poems
(from the FIRST Gulf War) on that subject -- sort of pro and
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 matter of life and death,
almost as important as clean,
Say! When do we go to war
against those who hold hostage
Remember when the South went to war
over oil--or some similar pool
of black energy to whose easy abundance
they'd become addicted?
On the Importance of Knowing How
Beware of those who want to help
but don't know how,
for they will learn to hate
those they fail to help.
I have a strange idea of you:
I call it
"Just go away and leave me alone!"
I'll go away, but you won't be alone.
Being alone takes years of practice.
Visit a Food Goddess Tonight!
Hi there! Are you sick of sitting there
on the couch frantic for a snack,
but you know it's not good for you?
Why suffer alone? Just call
Plump friendly maternal ladies
will listen to your confessions
of secret sins against your diet,
passionate midnight snacks, forbidden
desserts; they'll tell you
in tantalizing detail their richest,
most mouth-watering recipes!
Call Now! We're waiting for your call, Dearie!
Such a short skirt!
What are her legs coming to?
Each face a picture
in its frame, each mouth curved
into a unique signature.
"Not worth spit"--unjust expression,
no doubt, soon to be refuted
on Public Television:
"The Marvelous World of Mucous".
Easy to write lots of poems:
I don't throw back the little ones.
What is it people require of poets?
Forgiveness! The poet reads, the world responds:
"I beg your pardon?"
It's easy to accept responsibility,
like the politician who took full
responsibility for snorting cocaine
by acknowledging he couldn't help it,
because he'd been irresponsible because
of alcoholism because of the stress
of public office...
Responsibility is never having to say
for a short,
[Note: Written for the benefit of those too young to recall
that at one time, women wore PAIRS of nylon stockings.]
I dreamed I found freedom,
not that I flew like a bird,
but birds flew through me,
with their soaring and swooping,
until I woke and lay on my pillow
a long time, feeling inside me still
small birds flitting from branch to branch,
preening for longer flight.
I read them a poem from, I guess,
the heart, then sit down in a sweat,
the heart not used to such exercise.
Why must we give this man,
who rejoices only in destruction,
so much joy?
On this dark plain,
sad am who sane.
"Nothing is worth dying for."
we do it for nothing.
War on Iraq--
serves 'em right, using a "q"
without a "u"!
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.
In pro- and anti-war rhetoric
we drown: GLIB GLIB GLIB...
This war is like no other we've fought:
Different people are killing
We are now engaged in a contest
to out-destroy another's destruction --
what first did we fail to create?
We are such a big country
in such a small world.
The shriek of Araby.
Mid-East philosophical argument:
"Is real!" "Is not real!"
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.
They know I'm coming. I hear the whisper
in the grass: "Get ready! The poet is coming!"
I feel the million quaking hearts about me.
This is MY production. I can make
or break them. Tremulous, they audition
for my next poem: "Very good, old tree,
nice toss of leaves, nice patchwork shadow.
I'll call on you when I need you, thank you.
No, sorry, little staring cat, not quite what I need
for this poem. Ah! That soot-speck cloud of starlings!
Get their name!"
Sunset, last rim of rose
around the horizon stretches out
in my heart two arms
for a farewell hug.
More mail from groups who insist
it's time for me to
(Check one, please: $25.00, $50.00...)
"SPEAK, Checkbook!" My checkbook
Is it my fault
if I'm irresponsible?
Written years ago, when the Pope John Paul became Pope]:
Pope John Paul --
half way to Beatledom.
[Alas, I doubt that we'll ever have a Pope George Ringo]
...And The Winner Is...
and here, knowing none of this could be happening,
not to her, left stranded far from that tiny body
glowing there, deserted even by time --
"I just want to thank..." --
each syllable of recorded and video-taped time
lasts forever: "I" "just"
"want" "I just" "I just want
to thank so many people many
so thank to want..." (Is it
the TV that flickers so?)
"...people who..." --
In some other world that
can't be happening the
prepared words, only the
words are prepared, but she,
no script can hold her,
suddenly from syllable
to syllable, dies and is
born anew, must
(so many instants!
Who'd have guessed?
And still enough new selves
for each), a flame
that spreads, fills
the hall, now faces, walls,
chandeliers, silences all
flicker, being born born born,
she must keep
putting them there, no one else
can, put them there,
yes, hold them still,
yes, by sheer act of
will she (the latest) finds
she can hold them, hold
herself and in the world
she's made ("...people who made this
possible...") -- almost totally
still now, a breathless
white flame, so that
she can have what she has made, be
maker ("...all so much!
Each plays Hobbes to the other's Calvin:
If the world were to walk into our bedroom,
instantly the tawny grace and danger
of lithe young lovers would vanish,
replaced by two respectable,
oddly positioned, stuffed
[Note: In case you never saw the Calvin & Hobbes cartoons,
Calvin's a kid whose best friend is a real tiger named Hobbes,
except others, especially adults, can only see a small cloth
If the way to my heart
is through my stomach,
it's getting to be
a long haul.
Photo of me before I grew
this beard and belly, like a mirror
that no longer moves when I move,
a lost reflection. Each instant
I lose new images to the frozen mirror.
Someday this body will not move
when I move, but perhaps these words
will go on moving when you move.
Put my body anywhere;
Box it, burn it--I'm not there.
But shed a tear; I love to see
How tragically you weep for me.
Had I yet eyes, I'd shed tears too:
That poor dead thing, and poor sad you!
Two tiny dolls: To think that I,
now here, now there, now half the sky,
Once thought myself that bit of meat.
(I still look down, expecting feet!)
And yet it's lonely. I must find
a way to put thoughts in your mind:
I'm here! I haven't gone away!
I'm me! Can you come out and play?
Dear Reader, I Presume
There are aliens among us:
Even now, two gleaming balls of jelly,
each with a dark opening in front,
rapidly rotate to scan these lines.
Beware of the Sympathy
In our moments of happiness,
the consolers who, in sadder times,
beg us not to cry, say, "My!
aren't you cheerful today!", meaning:
"There, there, don't smile.
You'll get over it."
He waits for signs from Heaven.
What tells him that a sign is a sign?
He's hiding from himself somewhere,
As you move from room to room,
the dog is glued to your leg
by the tip of his nose, trotting
behind you, settling where you pause,
starting up, QUICK!--not to be left
where you aren't, because you,
who grant him so much life
(so much space in which to become
what you put where that furry thing is
so that you can speak to it
and call it Good Boy) --
you are thus empowered to grant life
His reasons for moving as you move
make as much sense to him
as do yours to you, so that when,
at the front door, at last, you sever
the attachment, leaving him behind
a glass wall, peering out at you
with big wet eyes, he doesn't (every
day he doesn't!) understand.
In the house, we are our dog's
only show in town,
our least gesture closely watched,
his nose invading our laps
before we have said his name.
But outside, sniffing among the weeds,
he must be called twice, THRICE!,
before, reluctantly, he looks our way.
How soon they forget!
For years police have been coping
with acts of domestic poetry reading,
quietly desperate men and women
who inflict their poetry on spouses and children.
Now, amid growing urban violence
emerges the unprovoked
drive-by poetry reading:
Usually young, workshop-hardened poets
screech up to the curb, lower the car window,
and scream out their poetry, tragically
boring innocent bystanders, as well as
To Signify Cant
When is a poem significant?
When I try to get it and yawn as a
Modern man cynical? Hardly!
He has a deep, unquestioning faith
in the permanence of death.
Reincarnation has it's drawbacks.
I like it that we meet again,
but must we be wee meat again?
I'm sorry, I've forgotten your name...
You flourished circa when?
Pleasant thought, reincarnation:
The child abuser can look forward
to his next childhood.
I was abused as a child,
but only by other children
("He hit me first!"),
so it was OK.
Something For Nodding
As she introduces her next poem,
the man sitting in front of me nods,
nods so rapidly it appears he agrees,
not only with each word she speaks,
but each syllable...
I think he just agreed with an "s"!
I'm a promising poet--
I give you my word!
"Home is the hunter..."--
How true! Home hunts for us
even in our dreams.
Losing is Fun, But...
True, it's better to lose the only game
in town than not play at all.
But it was too much losing left us
blind to the abundance of games.
[Recently I wrote a bunch of one-way "collaborations"
-- taking line one (or some famous line) from a classic poem
and adding to it my own line two. Here are three of them:]
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Is out right now. Please call back in one hour.
Milton! Thou shouldst be living at this hour [Wordsworth]
To see Keanu Reeves crush Satan's power.
[Note: Wordsworth addresses John Milton, author of the epic,
PARADISE LOST, in which Satan's minions declare war on Heaven.
Keanu-the-Bland is currently fighting demons in the movie
The woods are lovely, dark and deep...
GET YOUR PAWS OFF MY BOOBS, YOU CREEP!
Autumn sky a blue of dreams, slow glide
of yellow leaves across the sky
touching me with, not only beauty,
but tenderness, a sense of family.
Each wind-tugged leaf, each flight
of starlings detaches, falls, soars
to a rhythm that stirs like memory --
of a friend and lover I never had,
but dreamt of one night, so real
that when I woke, I touched my own face
It is as if the world and I exchange
a look of recognition.
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
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.
At first we adore those who love us
better than we can love ourselves.
At length, overwhelmed by the burden
of their love, we crucify them.
[And here are a few more of those froggy-the-gremlin collaborative
couplets. They are popular in light verse circles these days,
called "tailgaters", "fractured couplets,"
etc. I call them Froggy-the-Gremlin couplets, after an old
radio/TV character (a puppet) who would interrupt pompous
people to finish their sentences for them in unexpected ways.
The point of this form is to take some famous line of poetry
and add your own second line.]
Do not go gentle into that good night!
Wear your clean undies! Don't forget to write!
No longer mourn for me when I am dead
Mother, you mourned enough when I was wed.
Take, O take those lips away
We ordered fish and CHIPS, okay?
"Where do I go from here?"
"What makes you think you're here?"
Puddle, rippled by spring wind--
as if it were going somewhere.
Long eyelashes rise, fall,
1000 tiny sceptors:
CHARGES LAID AGAINST SHRINK
WHO LAID HIS CHARGES
To take me in, you open wide.
My face is in your eyes.
You close your eyes with me inside.
Can that be wise?
You're half my size!
I'm in your eyes--I can't get out,
but I, in mine, hold you.
I close them now, so there's no doubt:
We're one, we're two,
we're something new.
Spring night opening up:
All that squeaking!
Who forgot to oil the woods?
[Note: As a kid I always wondered why, in my war comics and
cowboy comics, the Japs and Indians always died in vowels
(screaming "Aieee!"), while the white guys went
"Ughh" or "Gah" or GACK!, mainly consonants.
That probably inspired the following lines.]
Scream of disem-vowelment:
"AEIOU! and sometimes
Nearsightedness is selective:
From across the room,
I can't see your eyes,
but I can see your seeing.
I'd always try to stick it out,
make it work somehow,
the captain who goes down
with the relation-
You're too grown up
if you bite into a cookie
and aren't disappointed
when the chocolate chip
turns out to be a raisin.
Veggie chili --
like bits of cardboard.
Next time I order Texas-style.
(At least none of them are readers.)
While you read or listen to these words,
people are dying, being born, making
love, making history -- statistics do not lie.
While you read these words, someone is
bribing an official, tormenting a child,
rooting in the garbage for scraps,
saying "O! Don't Stop! GOD!" (or noises
to that effect).
You are reading these words
at a very significant time.
Why are you reading these words?
The angry young poet reads
about fat middle-class women with their
fat spoiled children gorging themselves
at a picnic in the park, while, in Africa,
big-eyed children with toothpick limbs
and swollen stomachs are too weak
to move or even brush away clouds
of flies. This makes me feel sorry
for the fat middle-class women,
because the young poet hates them so.
The romantic imagination feeds not
on common oats, demanding
[Hint for the pun-impaired: Unicorn]
Lost in the convolutions of a brain,
I skulk throught the winding corridors,
stumble upon a control room, and,
overpowering all resistance, take over
the control panel. After a few minutes
of clumsy trial and error, I master
the key controls, the mighty beast
lurches from bed & moves heavily
to the bathroom. I am in undisputed
control. Good morning.
When I Have Nothing Important to Think About...
Walking thru the deserted parting lot,
I half-notice a yellow bulldozer or backhoe
or some such yellow hulk,
walk on, then think, how do I know
what I just saw? Maybe it's an alien
invader hunkered down, about to pounce...
I walk closer, see headlights, metal grill, etc.,
think, see, just grading equipment...
but how do I know it's not
an alien invader disguised as a machine?
I look closer, see a familiar
manufacturer's name on the front in metal letters,
walk on, reassured...
but if they can look like bulldozers,
can't they look like bulldozers with
metal lettering? Aha!--but would an alien
spell the manufacturer's name right?...
As you sat across from my face,
talking right at it
about something or other
making you sick and tired,
I lolled in another solar system,
using my earth body to eavesdrop on you.
Wars are based on a dubious principle:
Do be us; don't be them.
You've made me miserable;
therefore, I must make
myself miserable making
After the date and the "Dear..." and "We're
I can't think of more to say,
so enclose my latest poems.
I feel like the bland ventriloquist,
whose dummies, like my poems,
get to say all the smart things..
Time to run diagnostics:
Pen, working, hand...operational,
wrist, elbow, shoulder...all check out 100%;
head ticking away--but nothing
comes out on paper! Must be
He breathes into his alto recorder,
which transmutes his breath
into these golden sounds.
When he's done,
it must be disappointing
merely to breathe.
The mean justify our end.
The only meanness
mean' you, baby.
Some poems reminds me of weddings:
Unlike things united with a solemnity
that promises lastingness
(though most metaphors
fall apart in the first year),
I, working hard,
meet you, working hard,
and give you something for something,
trying, always, to get more than I give,
for that is profit,
and to give more than I get,
for that is happiness.
Here come the sky's janitors
in yellow bulldozers and backhoes
to erase from the sky
the latest obscene messages
scrawled in twig-zag by a bunch
of raucous trees.
Prowling the Runway
Women drawn taut in high fashion,
their presence a sultry suspense,
as if always on the edge of orgasm,
high gloss being, after all,
a photo finish.
I, too, feel bad
about the world dying.
It's like our dog aging
so much faster
than we do.
Good Good Doggie
My body takes good care of me:
I get shelter & affection & all the
sensations I can eat. Of course, at times
I feel a desire to get out;
if I whine loudly & scratch hard enough,
my body realizes I have to go & if not let out,
I may make a mess in the living room.
Then my body takes me for a walk
on a leash.
Long ago my kind ran free in a
wilderness of stars, but now we are safe
& civilized, & if we run away
& are caught without a body,
we are impounded. The lucky ones
get new masters. Others are used
I am happy with my body.
When I am good & quiet & roll over
& play dead & fetch & shake hands,
my body will let me read a poem
or hear a symphony. If I stay
out of the way while my body makes love,
it lets me play with my friend
in the other body for a moment
before it falls asleep.
I am very good, & my body loves me.
It would not know what to do
without me. I am my body's best friend.
When it dies, the last to leave of the mourners
will be me,
whimpering by the grave.
It makes my blood boil
to think of Government stupidity.
I wonder, would my rage be purer
if I could walk into a police station,
confess my carelessness about speed limits,
and be forgiven?
To all the drivers who've gotten mad at me
when I've made wrong moves in traffic,
I'd like to say, in case you are reading this:
Have you ever done
anything like that yourself?
Words at the Buffet
"Mind if I help myself?" she asked,
and did. "Here comes God," I said.
"God?" "Yes--to help you."
failing to lead the blind.
Cold spring in Reston:
The first buds peep out,
spy a bright yellow bulldozer,
"Not tonight -- I'm tired," she says.
There he lies,
as lost as a dog on the street,
A Poetry-Reading Junkie Ponders Death
Each of us will die. This will be
a significant event in our lives.
I believe we shall live again:
I can't accept never getting to write poems
about so significant an event. I can't
unhear myself at a poetry reading
saying, "I died recently, and my next
poem was inspired by that experience..."
Hark! Here comes the spider!
clip clop clop clop clop clop clop clop
Clip Clop Clop Clop Clop Clop Clop Clop
CLIP CLOP CLOP CLOP CLOP CLOP CLOP CLOP
[Note: Yes, it's silly. The clip-clops increase in size and
boldness from line to line, the gag being, of course, that
if spiders were as audible as the horses in Westerns, you'd
hear a lot more "clops" -- one for each leg (total:
8 per line). I can also visualize this as a new Monte Python
stunt, done with coconut halves. If the Lone Ranger had ridden
on a spider, imagine the beat of the background music -- Rossini's
William Tell Overture just wouldn't have done the trick]
When God tires of crying us,
He'll laugh us.
Funeral: Much adieu about nothing.
Bathos: Over-milking spilt cries.
"Sorry to be so short with you,"
said the haikuist.
Walt Whitman, master of iambic
Asking for who the bell tolls
is just not Donne.
Then there's the dyslexic poet whose
poems were full of the "k" word.
"Hello" he says in a normal voice,
and three library patrons lift their faces
from their books to glare at us.
They must be reading books
What ruins do is let things pass through:
Sunlight through rotted rafters or bleached ribs,
water and snakes through cracked concrete
or skull cavities, wind shrilling
through mossy columns or polished thighbones,
old places wholesome with fresh air,
each wall and roof become an open window
("Window" meaning "eye of the wind").
As my house gets cluttered with curios,
I begin to yearn to let the sunshine in,
let the sunshine out,
go out with it.
To bend over
in this old tight suit
would be unseamly.
Swastika, Stars and Stripes, Hammer
and Sickle, cross and crescent --
too bad our symbols can't slug it out,
letting us get on with getting and begetting
and forgetting --
but that would fail, for we,
unable to create games for ourselves --
for anything less massive than symbols --
would, seeing where the action was, become
our sensational savage symbols.
The cat vanished last Fall.
Bird song everywhere.
That which comes after one:
posterity or posterior --
one must be able to tell the difference,
if one wants to know what one can do
with one's poems.
Posterity, my ass!
a long-sleeved buttonless shirt:
Out of two dark tunnels,
after much groping and writhing,
pop nubs that burst into
fingers. At the top, midway, a hole
to be filled by a stem that swells to a
complicated knob that looks much too big
to fit through the hole, except by some
conjurer's or contortionist's trick,
like putting a ship in a bottle.
At the bottom, ample room for what
obtrudes, from which one deduces
that the thing the shirt is stuffed with
was inserted through the bottom opening,
though how it got through the top
and side holes, God only knows --
one of nature's riddles, like how
we dreamers of universes can squeeze
into tiny heads, probably in a attempt
to prove to others that we aren't dangerous,
in hopes that someone will stop hurting us,
someone no longer there,
but we're still not sure it's safe to come out
or that we could if we wanted to,
a little worried, even,
about coming out of our shirts.
Often, people who say they are
trying to find themselves
do not bathe -- hoping
to follow the scent?
New U. S. Post Office motto suggested
by Separation-of-Church-and-State activists:
IN GUST WE TROD.
We hear of blizzards so bad
that people freeze to death, lost,
a few yards from the house, or, worse,
blizzards of conflicting passions
so dense and thwarted
that men and women freeze, lost,
in a bed, inches
from one another.
Hall of Mirrors
Trying to become what you think someone else
wants you to be--DUMB MOVE! Not only
because it's not what YOU want to be;
but also because what you THINK
someone else wants you to be is probably
not only NOT what they think they want
you to be, but also is DEFINITELY not
what they REALLY want you to be, for
if they want you to be other than YOU,
then they, themselves, are not comfortable
with what THEY are, so that probably
what they THINK they want you to be
is something they think someone ELSE
once thought THEY should be
and so on ad-infinitum. So if you succeed,
you become a phantom
haunting a hall of mirrors.
Daring, she swirls paint into surprises,
each dab at palette
a poke in a pigment.
She experimented for years, at last
achieved a perfect black and,
paintbrush first, was sucked into it,
followed by the rest of the world.
"Inspire": Breathe into, fill one
with breath, which one then exhales.
It's like mouth-to-mouth resuscitation:
Breath of the dead, living, stirs me
rhythmically with such vigor
that it becomes, at last, my own breath,
and I rise, as undead as they, a poet,
a voice, thing of air no mirror can see,
and go forth in search of the dying
to make them live.
The energy that normally shapes the mouth
is embattled, holding back and holding onto
so that the mouth hangs slack or quivers shut
over the numb dumb thumb of tongue,
while unshaped eloquence keens.
Aged by the ticking
of his narrow mattress.
A lady of exceedingly whole-
I'm not afraid to get in trouble.
Sometimes I order two desserts.
"Don't worry. Be happy."
You mean some people
don't enjoy worrying?
This poem is bio-degradable: Left
in a landfill, the words soon break down
into syllables, then consonants, vowels,
then faint whispers, hints of sound
and meaning, labials and glottals
mingling with the bottles, maggots,
mashed newsprint, coffee grounds,
inarticulate, uh...uh...uh..., squirming
microbes of meaning, harmless, offending
nothing that lives.
At An Open Poetry Reading:
"I hope this poem won't offend anyone."
Hey, who listens?
Stubbed toe--not the pain of impact,
but the incomplete motion, doomed
to repeat and repeat in muscle memory.
Had the toe burst through the table leg,
bruising the toe, but finishing
the motion, pain would be exultant.
Young poet aglow in polite applause,
being persuaded he's a great lover
by feigned orgasms.
A Dime For Every Grin I Cull
Readers are so finical--
Here I've reached the pinnacle
of genius bold and uniqual,
yet with quibbles quite rabbinical
they're finding that I'm "cynical".
I'm not --that's unequivocal!
Reader, your case is clinical,
your ear for irony tinnical,
to think--to think ME cynical!
There's freedom, or a mockery
of freedom, in watching
people come towards me, move away,
bodies growing, then shrinking,
as if I don't need to be the center
of anyone's universe
other than my own.
fly-paper for flitting thoughts.
When Inspiration Fails
He wants to be a free-soaring radiance
or, like Pegasus, to bear heroic force
or give it wings and be borne aloft
or at least towed along behind,
blinking back tears in the starry wind,
but he ends up thudding down the beach,
tugging at a long string, struggling
to keep the pretty thing off the ground
a few minutes more.
Mountains hung in huge vertical folds
where aeons have compressed them,
urged them upwards:
If we made millennia seconds,
what tidal waves of melody
would roar from the squeezing
of this accordion?
A Wily Question
"It's a worthwhile cause."
Worth how much while?
Making the bed,
I find my pillow,
crowded against hers,
Morning. Has that cricket
been going all night?
Or do they change crickets?
A car being towed away.
Somewhere the owner
doesn't know yet.
L.A. night. Stray dogs
Pant up, sniff, trot off, thinking,
"Where's his car?"
I could never afford
to buy a sunset like that;
I'm just looking.
Morning. My hand
On your thigh, gull asleep
On the breathing tide.
I turn on the sprinkler
to twinkling applause
from a million grass blades.
German Shepherd rages at me from a yard.
(Someone shut the mutt up!) Then
a lady going the other way, peroxided,
preserved, immaculate in tennis whites
(she BELONGS on this street
of wide, sloping lawns), in passing,
glares at me (must be my half-grown
beard). A moment later--hark! I hear
the dog--good boy!--barking at HER!
Tall spiked meadow grass,
a shimmer of green threads: rain
going back up.
I have many plans. None include
car accidents, plane crashes, brain tumors, Alzheimer's Disease,
snakebite, being struck by lightning, heart attacks, homicidal
That's the nice thing about life:
I can just dream my dreams and not worry
about complicated stuff; it will all be
taken care of for me.
A snippet escapes!
Lost in the rug.
The principal squats, safety-pins
a child's torn shoe strap.
"Death is the end, that's all."
Is murder, then,
a victimless crime?
Frozen river. I
can lead the horse to water,
but can't make him drink.
We have cats, dogs and
urine smell in every season
of the haiku.
Perceiving a phenomenon,
I respond with
a certain feeling.
Hanging to five sounds
by one hand, I swing to the
seven line and back.
Four a.m.--wide awake,
I grab for a sonnet
and catch a haiku.
Someone called poetry
"a fine frenzy".
Yes, we make our
fine friends see.
Dogs sweat through their tongues.
I'm being licked on the cheek
by a dog's armpit.
Short and Sweet
At a table in the library,
I lie naked on the bed.
You touch me. The bed acquires
Redwoods tower around us,
stood in this same place
when you & I were talking
in L.A. and before there was L.A.
to talk in, and now, among them,
our talk is quick and shrill,
like a sped up record.
We scurry about,
as quick, to the trees, as gnats,
then disappear to talk elsewhere
and be silent, while redwoods stand
and say little, remembering (as our
childhood drawings remember our dreams)
better than we do how we talked
before there were redwoods
unless we talked them.
The Humble and Inscrutable Spirit of Haiku
My leaves fall better
than your leaves do.
Last night's jalopenos --
afraid to fart
with the stove burning.
You can always tell a city kid:
You say, "Look! You can see the rain
and he looks straight up.
She's the sort of girl
who will make some lucky man
a wonderful ex-wife.
Please bloom, irises!
"Oh, honey, we're too tired--
could we skip this spring?"
Love Thine Enemy
Returning soldiers stammer of a bond
that grows among men who go through hell
so that coming home leaves a void of separation
that even wife and children
How much greater, then, our love for our enemies,
for what greater hell than destroying each other
could we go through
Farewell, Cool World
The world is too much with it.
[Note: Apologies to Wordsworth, who began his sonnet, "The
world is too much with us..".]
How splendidly that bare tree
fails to contain in its branches
A Faint Hope
Me reflected tiny and remote
in the convex opalescent base
of a lamp across the room,
looking far enough away to have
something deep to say.
No child wants
the other side of the mirror
to be a wall.
One is a Crowd
"Well, speaking for myself..."
Right on the windshield--
a cheep shot!
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If only this sheet of paper
could attract poems as easily
as it attracts the cat.
Just Passing Through
"Hello", I say in sign language, "noble
natives of the physical universe!
I come bearing many pretty trinkets:
Happy poems, sad poems, silly poems
to trade with you for your sleek, supple
bodies, glowing planets, shiny stars
and other produce."
Alas, I must return empty-handed;
there ARE no natives here,
just hordes of roaming visitors like me
who refuse or are unable to trade
what they insist they do not own,
and I lost all my poems
at a perilous crossing. Let's see...
Which way did I come in?...
"Wild mountain thyme" --
it refuses to adhere
to Mountain Standard?
If wishes were horses,
beggars would be
When a tool is worn out, it is thrown
away. We are a way of loving. When we
become so clogged with the silt of buy
and sell that nothing can be gotten
or given through us, nothing learned,
nothing clarified in the light
that can no longer pierce our darkening
eyes, then, out of love, we too
are thrown a way.
The way out of hell is paved
with the same good intentions
that led us in.
We are such fools as worlds are made by.
If we can't be magic,
We'll settle for tragic;
That failing, try comic,
'Till quite anatomic.
Jet planes roar over...
Probably they think there's a
good reason for it.
Two small boys--one counts
that way --
all the stop lights
[Note: On some of the major Avenues -- for example, Park Ave.
-- all the lights ahead of you for many blocks go from green
(summer?) to yellow (or orange -- autumn?) at once. On most
of the Avenues, the lights go yellow in a more staggered fashion,
but still kind of autumnal, like the way leaves change first
in the Northern states, then, in the states just to the south,
Two people come up
to say they love my poems. (I
still don't like parties.)
Someone wants to say
so much, but can only go
on that phone.
[Note: Written before answering machines were common. Now
we have time to say, "Hello, this is me and I just want
to say... well, this is hard to say...but..." beep!]
How far must I walk
to get my head out of this
"You didn't kiss me
goodnight!" A shadow turns,
stretched to the bed.
Wall of cricket noise--
is there room to walk
this summer night?
Me, some cars. Perhaps
elsewhere in autumn alone
my friend is walking.
Note in advance: I love haiku. I also love making fun of haiku.
The person to whom the creation of haiku as a form is usually
attributed is a great Japanese poet named Basho. The poem
that is usually thought of as the first haiku consists of
words Basho wrote as an attempt to convey Satori (the Zen
Buddhist word for enlightenment, awakenment, etc.). Apparently
he'd been meditating by a pond when the sound of a frog leaping
into the water set him free from himself in some way. The
poem itself is usually read (and revered) in Japan from some
awareness of that tradition, but also admired for its absence
of anything poetic, its minimalism, its simply pointing to
something specific and, somehow, from that, generating a universe.
But to Westerners, the poem may not seem a poem at all. It's
translated various ways, including:
The ancient pond...
a frog jumps in --
The old pond.
A frog jumps in --
I've read a lot of Basho's work and consider him a great poet,
but I also like to mock the seriousness that often surrounds
discussions of haiku, so have written a number of parodies
of this poem. Here are two of them (the second converting
the haiku to limerick!):
"And now, ladies and gentleman,
the worlds most remarkable frog
will make his time-defying leap
into the old pond! Drum roll...
SPLASH! He's done it!
Good show, Basho!
What a subtle satorist was Basho,
Who, while watching a bullfrog, sneezed "Hasho!"
In frog and pond fashion,
These met with a splashin',
And "Ah So!" said Basho, "My gosh O!"
For many more of my haiku parodies, get my book, PLEASE, LORD,
MAKE ME A FAMOUS POET OR AT LEAST LESS FAT (from me or from
Since haiku is a Japanese (Nipponese) form and since the traditional
haiku alway includes some word alluding to the season of the
year, I conclude that:
The haiku has many seasons,
all of them Nippy.
[Note: Now we move from Japan to China, where, long ago,
Chuang Tse wrote of dreaming he was a butterfly and finding
the dream so real that when he awoke, he wasn't sure if he
had been Chuang Tse dreaming he was a butterfly or if he was
now a butterfly dreaming it was Chuang Tse.]
Chuang Tse flutters across the yard,
dreaming that a poet on a lawnchair
mistakes him for a butterfly.
From Pending to In and Out
Sex arose from a misunderstanding:
Eve sidled up to innocent Adam
in his spanking new nude splendor,
saw the mark stamped on his haunch:
"PAT PENDING" --
People with tiny Sonys,
pouring music into their heads
as if it were air to breathe
while scouting time's lunar landscape.
Once again a Nobel Prize is awarded
to an economist for "Studies",
the decision based, I assume,
on diction and spelling.
[Note: For some reason awards in this field are rarely linked
(in the papers, at any rate) to any clear idea of results.
But what the hell, they gave a Nobel prize to Moniz for discovering
and promoting lobotomy.]
He makes a joke of everything
Wit can be the brevity
[Note that most of you don't need: This alters a line from
Hamlet: "Brevity is the soul of wit."]
I favor freeing the slaves.
Now to get the slaves
Don't weep so!
Close what were my eyes
and count to a hundred while I find
a new place to hide.
Sex, like passing whisky to the jailer,
distracts our nervous systems,
leaving us briefly alone together.
Reading of battles, thousands butchered,
I think, "Why can't we just talk?"
Listening to some poets reading poems,
I think the same thing.
Loneliness is no big deal--
you can take it from me.
All relatives are distances.
A siren. Someone
in trouble far away in
space or, in time, me.
If I have no end and no beginning,
how do I differ from God?
I lie about my age.
Beyond the last caress of hills
a shock of mountains.
Was the void perturbed
by horrifying predictions
of the beginning of the world?
[Note: I wrote the following poem after I came across the
word "nostology", meaning "the scientific study
of old age in man and animals; geriatrics." It shares
a root with the word "nostalgia": nostos, a return
Nostalgia: Nostos, a return home, plus
algia, pain: The pain of returning.
"Nostology" is the study of senility
(literally, study of the return home).
Senility and homecoming --
return to childhood, things not being
what they're supposed to be,
lost people, late at night, returning
to the wrong house, the wrong wife
(suddenly alive again), lost children
who should have come home before dark.
Just as I reach out to touch you,
you begin to turn over in bed,
soft orb of hip and ass
in slow rotation against my fingertips
like the passage of some dark continent
beneath the moon.
Put your smile against mine,
follow it, and contribute
to the motion.
"I'm nearly 35 years old and not happy.
Can something be missing from my life?"
mumbled the embryo.
Old newsreels: Wars, depression,
insanity--but that's the past,
when flickering grey-white people
filled the streets with the quick
jerky motion of insects.
"Two Dollars! I remember when
you'd get a scoop for ten cents!"
Inflation, the way we grow old
in the absence of ill-health
Thank God a few kernels of popcorn
always forget to pop and water is served
with lots of ice to crack, or long ago
my teeth would have pierced my brain.
Big bed: room
for both of us or for
one small sleeping cat.
Perched on my belly
she nuzzles my hand
and doesn't budge.
until we solve your riddle
we can't make love.
Easy to make the cat rise:
Just stroke from head
to tip of tail.
She arches up
against my hand, resettles
on my belly.
Lifted off (squawk!)...
You turn to me. She squeezes
Between your breast and my hand
probes a head
to be scratched.
Hard to resist
the tiny taut stroked head,
eyes squinched in "Don't stop!"
Wherever the cat curls up,
she has always been.
I slide my arm around you,
cat stretched out
at our feet.
Though careful with our feet
(Ummm! You feel good!), "Squawk!"
She plipplops to the floor.
Absence of cat:
"I know when I'm not wanted!"
(Ahh! That's nice!)
Somewhere in the room
she licks herself as we make
the fur fly.
The Good Old Names
"Gertrude", says Webster, means "Spear Dear"
like the horny-headed shrill Wagnerian soprano?
What a world was once! To each spearman
his spear dear ("I'm home, Spear Dear;
how was your day?"),
to each knifeman a knifewife,
to each sword lord his sword ward...
Where are they now, the Aunt Gertrudes
and Gertys and Trudys of yore?
You can't lose yourself in a skinny
Kim or a finicky Tiffany. I miss
my meaty, full-throated, peppery
Twinkle twinkle, little professor
At your own humor, quite the lesser
Of two evils, for when serious,
Uncategorically you weary us.
Twinkle twinkle, little prof.
No one laughs; did someone cough?
How I wonder from afar
If it's not unlikely that you are?
Star twinkle is a trick of atmosphere,
I hear: Viewers in space are transfixed
by the stars' unwavering glares.
The twinkle in your eyes,
upon closer scrutiny,
is not in your eyes at all,
can't be perceived in space, suggests
the atmosphere is a trick.
At A Poetry Reading
"Bear with me,"
said the poet, wishing we
could be as bare as he.
Magic Black Shawls
In the Old Country old women
don't need Social Security, Homes,
medical attention. They get to a certain age
and receive, each one,
a magic black shawl like a shroud
in which they peck through alleyways,
bent old crows living on air, smells
of drying clothes, baking bread, distant
coffee, orange peel, the sight
of muddy rain water
running down cobblestones,
no trouble at all, just give them
their magic shawls.
Dead birds have hollow bones.
Live birds fill their bones:
[Interesting how news gets addictive when disaster looms or
when we're wondering how bad it was. The following was written
in 1991, when it seemed the Soviet Union had gone under to
be replaced by a Democracy under Yeltsin, but the news told
us that an Army coup was coming, that tanks were approaching
Moscow, that the parliament buildings were surrounded by an
unarmed crowd of civilians, that a huge bloodbath might be
about to occur. It didn't occur -- these were hopeful times.
What interested me was the way we used the news to feel we
were taking part. We were going coup-coup!]
1991: We listen to the news,
not wanting to hear
of tanks crushing bodies,
listening hard in hopes
of not hearing; not daring
just to not listen, lest
later we hear
what we cannot but hope
the alert edge of our listening
may make not happen.
In the dark room
flicker of light from the TV
animates our faces.
[I wrote the following poem back in the 80s. It's beginning
to sound prophetic, given the number of sub-contractors in
Iraq. For those not in the DC area, I'd better explain that
"Beltway Bandits" is local DC slang for major defense
contractors, whose offices are usually near the Beltway (the
freeway that goes around DC a few miles out, in Maryland and
Virginia). These include the Federal branches of major companies,
headquartered elsewhere. In other words, a major Texas or
NY company that does business with the U. S. Government will
have its Federal office in the DC area. My fantasy below differs
from the actuality in that the current sub-contractors (like
Halliburton) got sweetheart deals that by-passed the complex
contract processes of the government. If you've ever seen
how big contracts are usually done -- how long it takes, often,
to declare a winner, how many appeals from competitors must
be faced, etc., then you'll understand this better. No excuse
-- it's not really much of a poem, but it's kind of interesting,
I think, to see how it has and hasn't come true in Iraq today.]
Flash: Congress now requires
that all wars be subcontracted
to the lowest bidder. "Think of the
savings by putting the contracts out
to competition!" It's exempted
from the Buy America Act so that
Beltway Bandits can offer,
for example, Taiwanese armies
to fight our wars. Each major defense
contractor must maintain (at
ridiculous expense), not just one
weapons system or component, but
an entire army, in order to be able
to provide "a complete solution to meet
your defense needs". And, of course,
by the time the contract, after
years of protests, comes to award,
the proposed war will be over.
Preserved here amid
His great pyramid--
Plays for Keops.
[Note: Cheops, King of Egypt, 2900 BC, built the Great Pyramid
near Gizeh. A confident man, probably because of faith in
Isis, knowing that whatever Isis is is right.... ]
If God had meant for us
to see ourselves as others see us,
He'd have given us eyes
in other people's heads.
A Prayer for Victims of Sorcery
Too oft the muse proves Circe,
Turning poets into swine:
"O! Ink! Oink Oink! Have mercy!"
We cry line after line.
We're penned by our own hand.
Open us up, O pen!
The sty--that is the man:
Be more than man, Ah, men!
[Note: I wrote this one day when I found I'd been reading
poem after poem in which poets bemoaned or cursed their victimhood
(as in "Poor me! Look what the cruel world is doing to
me!"). Circe (enchantress in Homer's ULYSSES) turned
men into swine. (Circe is pronounced, roughly, sir see --
rhymes with mercy.) The line "The sty -- that is the
man" takes off a line by a 19th-Century French critic
(St. Beuve?), who said, "The style -- that is the man"
-- except, of course, he said it in French, and maybe he never
said it, just wrote it down (We aim for accuracy). Confession
time: While I do get tired of self-pitying confessional poems,
I must admit (oh! having to do so drives me to despair!) that
I wrote it for the puns. How marvelous that "oink"
is made up of "O Ink!" and "Open" is "O
pen" and poems, like pigs, are "penned" (surely
some of you recall those pre-computer days when those of us
without typewriters at hand used an impliment called a "pen").
And a pen is a stylus, and the style is the sty (pig sty,
of course) that is the man, and amen is ah men, but you knew
all that. And, of course, when we pen a poem, we write it
in our own hand, and no one pens us up in the terrible conditions
for which, surely, we are to be pitied, but we ourselves,
by our own hand.
Sorry, just wanted to share with you all my admiration for
my poor, under-recognized self.]
Long may satire's lens
Shame those who swell too big:
God help us if the pen's
Not mightier than the pig.
Axes aren't the only kind of power:
We need trees
more than they need us.
The world wants to blow me up
along with it.
What have I ever done to the world?
Funny thing you should ask....
We drive through the West,
discussing if that's a mesa,
what's a butte?
The highway is like nothing it passes
through. If we could come upon it
from where it is not, we would
marvel at it.
Thousands of miles of Interstate,
millions of exactly-spaced white
and yellow markings: America
(A country without will
lets its highways crumble, paralyzed,
Far blue of mountains
barely distinguishable from sky.
If that airplane confused the two,
its distant flare would be barely
distinguishable from the sunglint
of its passage.
Zillions of kinky thorny stunted
desert trees, scruffy brown and grey-
green brush. What if one day they get
organized? At the thought, grand old
oaks, elms and poplars tremble.
Texas is such a literate place!
They even name their capital after
the author of that great novel about
Texas--Pride and Prejudice!
Millions of motorists slaving over
hot highways to burn up poisonous oil,
disperse it to air; the Kuwaitis
have the right idea: Burn it up
at the well, save all that driving.
"Oops! O! Too bad," says the land,
"Poor little car, innocently zipping
along toward home, warm food, sleep,
and now--I didn't mean it!--
I splattered your windshield with a
Piles of dusty whitish boulders,
junk heaps, really, but somehow--
the scale? The magic word
"mountain"?--somehow grand, not junky,
but rugged, grotesque, fascinating.
We think the earth is much bigger
than we are, takes care of us.
We find ourselves moved by even
the odd-shaped warts of our mother.
Yawning, the mountains
scratch themselves and rise
from summer mist.
Crossing America, through woods,
prairies, piney mountains, misty
coastal hills to L. A., where nearly
"Please don't go out there alone!
It's too dangerous!"
"I'm sorry, body, but there are
some things a spirit must do alone."
The spirit: that is, you and I
when we know we are, unless,
like Groucho, we are ashamed to belong
to any club that would have us,
so demand, in addition, mystery.
Am I speaking to a mystery or a
solution? (I suppose you're wondering
why I've called you all here...)
Independence: Being dense enough
to jump in the deep end.
The urge to walk off the end
of the dock: Pier pressure.
I want to wake from this dream,
not to be awake, but to be able
to choose my dream.
"Boy! I'd sure like a piece of that!"
Yes, a small piece of you would.
Park: An old man eyes an old woman,
seeking elder ado.
You look harmless this
morning, penis. Is this, too,
part of being a man?
[Note: For some reason, the male organ in literature, myth,
etc., is always erect and dangerous, though most of them,
apart from adolescence, spend most of their time being meek,
quiet and polite, as serial killers always are said to have
been before they got found out. Fancy psychobabblish mythologizers
like to associate "masculine" with the aggressive,
abrupt qualities they attribute to the penis. So shouldn't
masculinity also be associated with limpness, shyness, having
a tendency to vanish into the background, protesting vigorous
motion, etc.? Anyway, one morning I asked my penis about all
this. It never answered.]
Is Silence an Option?
"If you can't say something nice,
don't say anything,"
said the doorknob.
[Note (and aren't I note-y lately!): Obviously doorknobs don't
say anything. Nor do stones, tables, chairs, toe nails....
But it would be incorrect to say "Doorknobs can't talk."
Probably they can, but they are too polite, since they have
nothing nice to say. Things have a very dim view of the world.
Personally, if I had nothing nice to say, I'd shout out the
un-nice things rather than be silent. But then I'm not a doorknob.]
"Everybody's wrong but me."
That's what a rock would say
if it talked, and
I lean out over the fire escape, feel
my sweaty face lightly kissed by a
cool country breeze. No one has told it
"This is New York City!"
[Note: When I lived in Manhattan, I occasionally met people
who would justify all sorts of idiocy by saying "This
is New York City" -- usually using it to explain why
you and anything you thought important were unimportant and
beneath notice here in the REAL world. That breeze didn't
seem to belong. Snuck in beneath the radar.]
Secretive people lack secrets;
you can only hold tight to a few,
for secrets are like cats:
They don't like to be held long.
You have to clutch one in both hands,
taking care to keep its claws
away from your face and wrists.
I am willing to tell you anything,
letting my secrets come and go
as they will, so have a wealth
of secrets--perched on my lap
and shoulders, nudging my hand
to be scratched, more secrets
than I can give away if I try.
And Thank YOU For Joining Us Tonight
She's glad to have him here tonight.
He's glad to be here.
They thank each other, she him
for being here with her,
he her for having him here with her.
If they are beginning a talk show,
we suppress yawns. If they are
lovers in bed -- how touching!
[Note: I wrote that after hearing for the hundredth time a
talk show host say, "It's good to have you here tonight,
[name of guest]!" and the guest say, "It's good
to BE here, [name of host]!" I guess this is values education,
teaching us what is good.] [Might be fun to change and transpose
a few words: "I'm here to have you good tonight."
"I'm here to BE good tonight."]
[Note: Since I've lately been adding notes to many of my poems,
this poem seems appropriate: it's about footnotes -- written
in response to people who say that explanations "insult
their intelligence" and in defense of those poor souls
everywhere who can't speak without putting their footnote
in their mouth.]
I'm considering footnoting my poems,
not to make them more accessible,
but to insult the intelligence
of those who already understand them.
But it's hard work writing footnotes.
I confuse op. cit. and loc. cit..
Wouldn't it be simpler just to insult
your intelligence? (Not you, nothing
personal, just your intelligence.)
I'll try it: Your intelligence is a
smart-assed, nit-picking snob! Your
intelligence couldn't tie your shoes or
pick your nose without your fingers!
Your intelligence can't laugh, can't
cry, can't even fart without a body!
Your intelligence doesn't even know
that you are, much less who or what!
Your intelligence's mother wears
CIA boots. Your intelligence -- well,
you get the idea, but if you want,
I'll explain it to your intelligence.
Where Reference is Due
this is me.
Hey, what's happening?
They wink and whisper among themselves
in star talk:
Ahem, Earth, is there any substance
to these allegations?
"See above," she mutters.
Sun, oh sun,
could you please enlighten me?
"Also see," he says.
Moon...Oh never mind,
you'll only reference Sun.
Ocean?...no, you'll reference
the aforementioned Moon.
I'm getting wise to you guys.
I have enough footnotes now.
Wind, have you no text?
And right behind Wind,
full of voice, comes Rain.
Articulate Rain, can you tell me
But where do I* fit in?
It's dangerous to be relentlessly brilliant,
like driving always with high beams on:
You blind others, who can't see past you
and go off the road, or worse,
veer into your path.
No Atheists in Foxholes and...
He claims men are animals that talk,
that "spirit" is a primitive
Hearing his Saharan
reasoning, I can believe in an absence
of spirit. Perhaps there ARE
no folk souls in atheists.
"QUAIL ELECTED PRESIDENT" --
The blond leading the blind?
[Note: This "blond-joke" quip makes me nostalgic
for the days when, with the blond Dan Quail as Bush senior's
VP, I could laugh about the possibility of having a grammar-scrambling
tout for Eli Lilly as president. (The last part of this message
is bi-partisan, since our recent Democratic candidates, though
more articulate folks, have been financed by the same drug
[Note on my note above: A not-much-publicized aspect of recent
decades of politics: The industry that donates most to political
campaigns is NOT the arms companies or the energy/oil companies.
It's the pharmaceutical companies. They also have the hugest
lobbying force in DC, subsidized numerous front groups, including
the American Psychiatric Association, and so on. Gore (whose
wife is or was on Prozac -- from Lilly -- and was a big promoter
of it) wanted more Americans "medicated". Bush,
Sr., had been on the board of Lilly, makers of Prozac. His
son, W, appointed various Lilly and other drug company execs
to high position in his administration. Ros. Carter is another
big promoter of related issues. When Dan Quail was in the
senate, he was known as "The Senator from Eli Lilly"
(a company headquartered in Indiana). John Kerry also professed
to believe that far too few Americans are getting the psych.
drugs they "need" and Ted Kennedy is a fully paid
for pharmaceutical shill. So this poem is quite bi-partisan.
The Congressman who says the sanest and most honest things
about this issue is Ron Paul. Pardon my opinions.]
Do we BELIEVE in God?
I think God is what we KNOW.
What we BELIEVE
is that what we KNOW
is what others call God.
[Note: It's almost insulting to burden such an tiny abstract
poem with so many screaming capital letters. My excuse is
e-mail: Caps seem to survive transmission better than Italics
or underline or even bold.]
Waves tumble toward us
to a familiar beat. Our blood
is of this same briny broth, I'm told,
we agents of ocean,
like these teasing flicks of spray,
spying out the land.
Or Beer Pressure?
Was it pressure to excel
drove my Tee shirts to XL?
The Cat Who Goes With Me
SCAT! tummy, you fat sleek cat!
No more from me. I'll bet the neighbors
are feeding you.
Adieu? Adieu Just Fine, Thanks
O that this too too solid flesh would melt,
resolve into adieu.
[Note: The above lines are from Hamlet, except I've changed
the last word(s) from "a dew" to "adieu",
because I'd love to bid some of my flesh a fond (and fondue)
Bushiness As Usual
The government has found a solution
to all our problems:
Think nothing of it.
Poor president: You can't have
your democracy and edict too.
[Note: The above two poem-quips were written in 1991 (Bush
senior's reign), when the current Bush administration was
not yet even a twinkle in Monica's eye.]
It would be awfully easy to kill
these people. They all have throats,
hearts, soft spots, appetites; need air,
water, untainted food; move recklessly
among steak knives, flames, each other;
can be approached, touched--so easy!
Why do we admire killers, follow them,
think them wise or skilled or daring?
Don't we realize how dangerous we are
to each other?
Are we vicious and cold? Of course!
We are the generation
of GrrrBrrr babies.
[Note: Some of you may be too young to recall that Gerber,
manufacturer of baby food, used to call its clientele "Gerber
Babies" -- Grrr for vicious, Brrr for cold.]
Watch Your Step!
Cat, down the blanket
beyond her sleeping belly,
[Note: if she walks down my belly, she TIP-toes.]
As Momma Bird tenderizes with her beak
each worm before dropping it
into baby bird's maw,
so this meadow chews up
the sun's blaze before feeding me
this tender green.
Today's a feast of sunlight. Each plant,
each object avidly scarfs up
all the sunlight it can eat, politely
rejecting or rudely regurgitating
whatever isn't to its taste.
The lean grass can eat no green,
daintily dribbles it onto the broad bib of earth.
That chrome bumper can't stand sunglare
at all, violently vomits it up
(must have been brought up,
like most metal, in darkness).
And you, little wildflower, my! What a delicate
distaste you have, gobbling up every bit
of light except just that precise flavor
of pinky blue! Mind your manners, you
fat sloppy iris, burping up a bubble
of velvety gold! And you, my eyes,
aren't you ashamed, scrounging
after everyone's leavings!
Two definitions of "perverse":
Not a penny; all my verse is free.
Or: The page of poetry in progress
upon which the cat perches to purr.
Out of the Closet
"Nature red in tooth & claw."
Poetry read in booth and closet.
Fellow poets, let us posit
Poetry read in truth and awe.
I Guess It's No One's Fault...
"He just got in with the wrong crowd."
I wonder how the wrong crowd
got in with the wrong crowd?
Have a Nice Day...Day...Day...
She made a happy face out of clay
and put a bulbous nose on it,
so I inscribed a happy face
on the nose, to which she added
a tiny nose, and so it goes
in this best of all possible warts.
Soft modeling clay:
You can make it into anything.
Then you can tear it apart,
make it into something else
or you can make two things
and proudly show one thing
to the other, poor lonely god.
When Poems Go Bad
Language grows too old to take care of.
We put language in a Home.
We visit faithfully, but it's not the same.
Language begins to confuse us
with our parents, tells us the same stories
over and over. Language is looking
very frail. It won't be long now.
"Things are getting serious here."
That's redundant: Life becomes things
by getting serious.
Florida beach, where southern belles'
unbound plump nether cheeks,
Above surf's hiss can be heard
my belle-bottom pants.
As she jogs down the beach,
she jiggles fore and aft
to a jolly jazzy beat,
orbs rising and falling
with, in my mind, a
[Note: Since I wanted to bring out the jazziness of all the
parts (boobs, buns) bobbing to their separate rhythms, and
since these parts are someone like melons (melonious), the
poem ends with the spoonerized name of a jazz legend, Thelonious
Monk. ("Spoonerized": Initial sounds of two words
Once More Into the Beach, My Friends
Life's a beach
and then you fry.
[Note: The title above refers to a famous line that any literate
person should know, but dammit, I can't recall where it's
from. The original is, I believe, "Once more into the
breach, dear friends". Who said that (before me, I mean)?
(I once said, "Once more into her breeches..." but
that's not quite right...). Ah yes, King Henry's speech before
battle in Shakespeare's Henry V.]
Non-Skid, or the Attraction of Traction
We give our girlfriends lacy frippery,
Stuff to get a grip on, richly knit.
It's only fair, with girls so slippery:
A lacy bra is merely tat for tit.
[Note: To tat is to make tatting -- a kind of lace.]
Auditorium full of people,
some imagining they share an experience,
others imagining themselves alone,
each devouring more of being there
than there is.
It used to be "Rock 'n roll",
two VERBS (not a stone and a Danish):
To rock, as does a rocking chair
or a boat on choppy seas; to roll,
like a wheel or smooth waves.
Then it was shortened to "rock",
getting choppier. Then it began to be
mistaken for a noun, something solid,
a boulder, something that could be
acid, heavy, metal, punk--an object
to be flung at something impervious
to any gentler touch, a solid blast
directed at, evidently, a rock.
One who takes do-re-mi
[Note: I thought I would omit the explanatory note this time,
because everyone knows that do-re-mi is slang for money, but
a search through about ten slang dictionaries on the web located
not a single one that included "do-re-mi" or "do
re mi". Even googling the phrase itself brought up slim
pickings, page after page of websites about musical scales,
before I came to one about a Woody Guthrie song that says
it's hard to make it in life if you ain't got the do re mi.
"Do re mi" means a la ti do! (a lot of dough, a
very fa-sol pun). I guess this bit of slang is dying out.
So my quip is probably on it's last legs.]
"Bach will grow on you...",
yes, in intertwining branches:
you will become
The cheater cheats us only once.
But we can prolong that fine pang no end
with simple magic charms:
"IT'S NOT THE MONEY--
IT'S THE PRINCIPLE,"
"I JUST HATE TO HAVE THEM
GET AWAY WITH IT!"
[Note: Ideally, the two magic charms should be chanted, all
on one note, except the last syllable two notes lower, something
like the opening of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, but with a
lot of extra beats before the drop.]
Coming Back to Life
Unexpected hopes tear
at my autumn limbs.
The pain is lost in bright music
as dead things are stripped from me.
We live in the universe of opportunity,
where every good boy can grow up to be
exactly what he wants to
We demand the right to kill
what would become a child.
What good are children
if we have no future,
clinging to the present,
but not the gift?
[Note: This poem created some misunderstanding. I won't try
to explain it (after all, a poem is supposed to work) except
to say that some people thought it argued that abortion should
be illegal. It did not. It took no stand on that.]
Yours is the loveliest face on earth.
Why isn't that great poetry?
It's true, isn't it? Yes! And truth
is beauty, right? You bet your ass!
Speaking of which...
but you wouldn't think THAT
was poetry either. That's all
YOU know on earth.
We lie in and of each other,
an intricately entwined fruit
on the wet grass fallen
where a curious child squats
to admire, holds us up
to the sunlight delicately
with glowing fingertips
disentangles us: "O! Look!
It comes apart in two pieces!
Love's like a great and awful pun:
Doubled in tenderness, we moan.
[Note: "Doubled in tenderness" is a double entendre.]
Only babies and lovers
lie back, laughing, and
kick their feet in the air.
The more you say,
the more I may misunderstand.
Too little said
and I may misunderstand.
It would be simplest had we never met,
but if you try to say so,
I may misunderstand.
Getting in under the blankets,
touching a full sleek cloven
warmth so perfect that,
like the aroma of fresh coffee,
it cannot but disappoint
when taken as the promise
of something else.
Like children with dolls,
we tip each other
to make the eyes open and close,
to make each other moan
[Note: In these Barbie-rous days, I don't know if the dolls
to which I allude above, are still familiar to people. If
you tilted them backwards, the eyes would close. If you tilted
them back to vertical, the eyes opened. Sometimes tilting
them made them make noises -- a babyish voice saying "Mama!"
We stroke and tickle and explain--
even argue, just to interject
a gap for love's spark to jump,
lest we forget one another
as my face forgets
its own eyes.
Just for a second, he looked
so natural there, the dog
curled up on the good couch
where he's not permitted,
but as my gaze brushed past him,
he lowered his,
and I remembered.
She said something to my back,
and I replied to the space
where she'd been.
Mauve-mottled by cloud,
Gold-dimpled from rain --
Bringer-down of the proud,
Do you fancy the plain?
[Note: Written after enjoying the play of cloud and sun rippling
over the Great Plains.]
New studies reveal that awareness,
though a possible adverse
side effect of life, is not a
serious threat, occurring in only
an insignificant percentage of the
"Love is the answer to everything."
Is there, then, a dialog:
Maybe it's more like a war, as in,
"Fire?" "Water." or "Tank?"
But everything keeps uttering itself,
suggesting the game is 3-sided,
each answer leading to another question,
like scissor-stone-paper --
Maybe LOVE dissolves EVERYTHING,
EVERYTHING overwhelms US and
WE forget to LOVE.
She has the kids draw--
keeps them quiet. If one becomes
a Van Gogh or Picasso,
how will we keep him quiet?
If you can't make the Van Gogh,
add Degas (if you have enough Monet)
and it will Gauguin.
Manet Glad Tidings
And They're All Made Out Of Ticky-TOCK...
Is it Alzheimer's disease that's increasing
or the number of nameless people
who live in indistinguishable houses?
Long-winded guest, when wilt thou blow?
The small talk out is talked.
Christ! if my smile were off my face,
And thou out my door had walked...
The above poem is a take-off on a great 15th century (anonymous)
O Western wind, when wilt thou blow?
The small rain down can rain.
Christ! if my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again.
[The exact wording, punctuation and spelling varies from one
publication to another. I've seen it "when wilt thou
blow,/ That the smalle rain..." -- or something like
Snotty Sinatra's Not a Sonata But
Frankly, Cesar Don't Seize Her
Blue-haired Velma thought she'd got a
Brand new hit of Frank Sinatra,
Snoozed half through a Franck Sonata,
Then exclaimed, "This Crank is not our
Frank at all! Well thanks a lot! A
Lot of noise, so blank, so nada!
Cheats! I want my Frank Sinatra!"
Pardon, Cesar, ces Yanks de notre:
Ils veulent avoir le Frank sans autre.
[Note: The probably bad French at the end translates: Pardon,
Cesar, these Yanks of ours: They want to have just the one
Frank. "Sans autre" (literally "without other")
would be pronounced, not quite "Sinatra", but close
enough for government work or silly poetry work. Cesar Franck's
music doesn't sound much like Frank Sinatra's.]
Solving the Blame Problem
This is a wretched world.
Some blame the Jews for everything.
Others blame God. To make peace
between these groups, others assert
that God is Jewish.
The Silent Majority
"Dead men don't talk."
Is THAT what's wrong with us?
All right, all right, I'll get a new
suit, but you've got to come with me,
and STOP TRYING TO CHEER ME UP!
(I don't want to find out what numbers
my waist can no longer squeeze into.
I don't want to spend money to coat
with cloth my body. I don't want to see
myself as salesclerks and three-sided
mirrors see me. I don't want to decide
pleated or not, with or without cuffs,
navy blue or brown.
I don't want to care about what I don't
care about. I don't want to spend
350 dollars on something I don't want
to care about. I don't want to know
that I care that much about 350 dollars.
I don't want to live in a place
where to survive you must decorate with
fabrics a pink bulky bag of water and
other fluids that sometimes leaks and
always wants attention. I don't want
to be here and I don't want to be
here, buttoning myself into the uniform
of daily not-being-here. Aaagh...)
Let's get it over with. You decide,
(I don't want to see, in multiple angles
of glass, my desperate half-smile,
silly paunch and heavy hams that have
nothing to do with me, the false worship
of a kneeling tailor, years of failed
Fine! We'll take that one!
Fine! Yes, I'm sure.
It's fine, damnit! Let's go somewhere
A Head Dangling Off The Couch
Each time I look at the dog
in a new position.
Norse Snores (Nor Sleet...) [Wagner for Dummies]
O, Norse maiden glamorous
In armor most amorous
With bulges so mammarous,
How heartily you hammer us
With screams Gotterdammerous--
O forgive, maid most clamorous,
My snoring pajammerous.
Or: Hark! Hark! The Dogs
Now what's that dog chewing?
Surely something he shouldn't.
From a can or a cat box,
Whether bone or soft puddin' it,
This Pollyannish dog
Always finds something good in it.
He gobbles it down,
Then plays dumb--Hollywoodn't
Do it better -- as if saying
"Is something wrong? Whodoneit?"
I'll find out what he scarfed
When, tomorrow, all chewed-on, it
is barfed on our carpet
And I put my foot in it.
Will Prozac kill ye
"Don't be silly!
It's a dilly!
Whatever ill ye
Have, it will ye
Salve says Lilly--
Maker of the pill he,
Which will earn billi-
Ons! So let's rely
On Eli, shall we?
To say "Eli,
We say you lie!"
Would be really
Guilting the Lilly.
It's even sadder than you think:
They were ALL good people.
[Note on "sadder than you think": This little poem
is supposed to reach around and bite itself in the ass, since
the stress on "ALL" suggests that even the most
evil among us are basically good people, which is very sad
-- that not only the victims suffer, but also the abusers,
but that thought is also the opposite of sad, since it leads
Knowing your lady
Wears no under-
Wear, does it stir you?
Where? No wonder!
"Who knows but you,
Sir?" "No one, Dear!"
Hark! A Lark!
Though poetry readings aren't exactly a lark --
And in poetry even larks aren't larks,
being blithe spirits that never
birds wert, anymore than of yore
you could hear the Nicean bark--
Yet seldom to the announcement of a reading do I fail to hark,
For where else is there always lots and lots of room to park?
[And yet another note: The poems referred to in line 2 are
Shelley's "Ode to a Skylark", which begins "Hail
to thee, blithe spirit! Bird thou never wert" or something
like that, and Poes "To Helen", which refers to
those "Nicean barks of yore" -- the boat sort of
bark, I guess -- hmmm, canoes are made of bark...but I think
I'm barking up the wrong tree.]
[Note: Here's another one of my "Nashian" endeavors.
Since the occasional very long lines:are part of the flavor,
it helps to read these with a wide window. The sometimes strained
rhymes with spellings that drive software spell-checkers into
convulsions of self-righteous dismay are also part of the
Youse Choose What Chews Youse
Why can't the madman realize he's other
Than his mother?
You crooks all claim poverty or too much wealth or too many
candy bars or something NOT you launched you,
The world has fired you into your catastrophic trajectory,
Just a tragec story,
Obsessions and compulsions and fixations--you never picked
You're just a vickedem.
You all chant in unison the arid ditty
Of environment and hariditty
Of how you were as a child abused and ill-used and contused
And almost never amused.
O how I wish ill-used youse'd find out that besides being
what youse eat and what eats youse,
Youse're what youse choose.
Please find you're not your millieu,
Note: I wrote the following silly things back when (not unlike
now?) our nation was hemmorhaging dying airlines:
RECESSION STRIKES HAIRLINE,
America suffers from receding hairlines,
such as Pan Ham and Heastern.
If Peace Talks fail,
we can have War Screams,
then Dead Silence.
Off With the Leaf, Eve...Unless You'd Lief As Not
Ecological irresponsibility begins
with Adam & Eve tasting that apple,
after which, innocence lost,
each wore a fig leaf, so that
the next sin had to begin
Fig leaves are
Were Adam and Eve modest
We are too big to live, nakedly,
in the woods, where branches
and thorns are tight-knit mazes,
havens for tiny quivering things.
We keep getting bigger,
as do our clearings. There remains
less and less mesh of intricate
passages into which a squirrel or fox
could disappear, or a child.
For Men Only
[Note: Just a variation on the classic cozy guest toilet corn,
such as: "We aim to please, so will you please aim too?"]
The following might say it better:
Besides, Who Can Afford Cabs These Days?
There are advantages to each mode
of travel. I prefer to ride
on a planet.
Where's That Tech. Support Number?
The sun is burning out.
Can we log onto
a remote sun?
When you hold your eyes steady
and notice things entering and
leaving your visual field,
with what organs do you view
If you can't stand emotional demands,
but aren't afraid of a long commitment,
[Note: I fear many do, though mostly the dead are living dead.]
With a Cellular Phone
You'll Never Walk Alone
How can I not be envious,
Out for a walk alone,
When each young man I see is
Out with his telephone?
Dogs hunt in packs, noisily stirring up
game, scaring it out of hiding into
ambush. They are clumsy stalkers,
loud sneaks, lousy liars. Hence
their wagging, thrashing, thumping
joyfully idiotic tails, full of sound
A cat's tail is a stalker's antenna,
slow serpentine, always controlled,
silently essing and caressing in passing
each tall blade of meadow grass.
Someday science will learn to say
from the thrust or waddle or wiggle
of our hips, from nerve traffic
at the tips of our spines--to tell,
had we tails, whether they'd catlike
coil or ardently wag or if some of us
would be of one sort, some another,
some using their tails as heavy clubs,
others to swing from branches, others
to rattle warnings, to swat flies,
to lean back upon and rest.
Or do our telltale eyes and tongues
say clearly what our tails would say?
If we had tails, would we wear them
in plain view? Would they protrude
from fashionable orifices in pants
and skirts? Naked? Or ringed, laced,
festooned according to sex, fad,
and occasion? Or would they be sleeved
in wood, leather, or silk? Or utterly
concealed, tucked down a generously
tailored trouser leg or among the struts
of a hoop skirt?
And if so, would one blush
if the hidden tail were stirred
to indecorous muffled motion?
Would children be taught to still
their tails, to drape them in a limp
stylized arch unknown elsewhere
in nature, trained to unleash them only
in most intimate settings, perhaps when
greeting lovers, parents, closest family
and friends? Or would they learn
a special tail flourish for an older
brother, another for a younger,
yet another for a sister...?
Would we adults enjoy the little ones
running on the beach, still wagging
their untutored tails?
What would we do with revolving doors,
elevator doors, chairs, toilets,
quick-handed mashers on bus or metro?
What would medical insurance pay
for a lost or maimed tail?
Would we be able to teach our tails
Would we envisage our spirits as tailed?
angels with feathered tails? Tailed
constellations? Gods? Would we find
Greek goddesses, armless and tailless?
Would women among themselves speculate
on whether the long or short of a man's
tail really signifies nothing? And men
wonder if it's really better with a
curly-tailed woman? Would we dream
of sex partners able to do exotic
unspeakable things with kinky tails?
During public processions, would we
cross ourselves before or after touching
the Pope's tail?
Would Paris dictate the angle and style?
Would tails be "in" one season, "out"
the next? Would teen-agers get
tail-jobs? Bobs? At a glance
would we know rich from poor,
blueblood from nouveau, sophisticate
from boor by carriage of tails?
Would caudal therapy be all the rage?
"Release your repressions by learning
to thwhack your tail against the floor!"
("What an odd cult!" "Quite harmless.")
Would caudal come after oral and anal?
("Junior! Don't play with your tail!")
Would analysts argue our tails more
symbolic than real?
Would muscle men find ways to make
their sleek shaven greased tails bulge
like the gnarly boles of infected oaks?
Would sedentary tails draped over arms
of office chairs grow flabby, cellulite-
pocked? Would matrons do aerobic
tail-wags and tail-lifts to sprightly
tunes to regain the courage to show
their tails on a public beach? Would
spray-on undertail deodorant enlarge
the hole in the ozone? Would a business
pay you to walk down the street with a
banner hung from your tail to advertise
Joe's Bar or Call Monique! Or to
announce the advent of the world's end?
Would warriors of primitive peoples
collect the tails of slain enemies?
Of ancestors? Would we flock to museums
to see the preserved tails of Atilla,
Napoleon, and Queen Victoria? (And
which tail would be huge and shaggy,
which as nude as a rat's, which trim
How would tails and their twitches
transform our poetry? How many years
would Marvell set aside for adoring
his coy mistress' tail? If teeth
are pearls, lips cherries, eyes deep
pools, to what shall I compare thy tail?
To a firm, spicy sausage? A hairy
tongue? A stout treelimb? A vine?
A worm, eel, snake? (But these are no
comparisons, worms, eels and snakes
being mostly tail.) To a slinky?
A stream? A whale's spume? A sinewy
smile? A banana? A pimple? A geyser?
(Haven't some of these been usurped
by our frontal tail?)
And what things shall find their
likenesses in our tails: "The meadows
swaying in the breeze like the tails
of a ballroom full of debutantes not yet
asked to dance". "Her smile, as formal
as a traffic cop's tail...". "...just
two shakes of a school marm's tail."
But tails perhaps receive as well as
send. The cat's delicate crooking
may be fine-tuning an antenna to carry
a signal from the grass or from
incubi and succubi drifting up and down
the spiral staircase of an old house.
Perhaps, had we our proper tails,
our spines would find their proper
length to feed our brains signals
hitherto denied us by our abridged
antennae. Perhaps alien genetic
engineers, millennia ago, carved up
our DNA to trim the tails off our
genetic stock, lest we receive signals
from the stars to teach us how to leave
this planet, leave this galaxy, signals
to guide us home?
Or perhaps to spare us the horror
of knowing what is in each other's
minds. Or perhaps to enslave us
to our distrust of one another by hiding
from each other our noble hearts.
Or perhaps, when mammals stood erect,
the heavy-spirited among us slipped
out of our bodies and down our tails,
off the tips and away, leaving--like
empty shells strewn along the beach--
slumped bodies propped among trees
and boulders, until our alien doctors
helpfully slammed the trapdoors shut.
Perhaps it wasn't slipping: We habitual
haunters of heads would tiptoe down
the spiral staircases of our spines and
(disguised as bright pulses of energy)
escape out the tail. The DNA meddlers,
after shortening our tails, perhaps
bent under slightly each coccyx stub
so that any escape attempt would trigger
genital tingling, causing us to mistake
our yearning to be free of the body
for the urge to merge with another's,
conveniently producing more tailless
traps to tame more headstrong spirits.
Perhaps these same aliens planted ideas
in Darwin's mind to teach us that tails
were brute appendages we'd cast off
(and good riddance!) in our slouching
toward angelic erectitude. Perhaps...
No! No perhapses about it!
I'm sure that's the way it is!
Arise! Arise! You stubbed,
snubbed, jammed, less-than-human, maimed
tailless pieces! FIGHT the conspiracy
to deprive us of our hairy posterior
heritage. DEMAND TAILS NOW!
Bang Bang! You're dead!
Kiss Kiss! You're alive!
First walk of spring -- always
I walk too far.
The first walk of spring
is like ordering pizza when I haven't eaten it
in years. I over-estimate
What a lovely twisty, groping, wind-winnowing thing!
If the word "tree" could mean this,
none of us could afford the privilege
of using language.
War of the Gloves
One glove torments the other,
twitching at finger after finger,
extending each until it droops --
at last the whole glove hangs empty.
But victory is short-lived
as the naked hand avenges
its lost glove, and victor joins loser
in a damp crumpled heap.
[Note: In case you missed it, this poem describes the act
of removing gloves.]
Early spring. Trees
lick at the sun
with tiny pink tongues.
[Note: Many of the buds in this area (Maryland and VA) are
red. At the tops of trees where the twigs fan out into a fine
network, the buds and twigs combine into a gauzy pink cloud.
I'd tell you the names of these trees, but the trees have
never told me their names.]
Hail to Thee, Blithe Spirits
We yearn to fly,
but not to fill our bellies
with beetles and worms.
[Note: The title refers to Shelley's "Ode to a Skylark",
which begins "Hail to thee, blithe spirit; bird thou
never wert" that is, you are a spirit, not a bird.
It amuses me how much of what it means to be a bird one must
not confront in order to be a romantic.]
All these years...
still, my hand on your knee
is an emblem of hope.
Trunk to branches to tiny twigs,
and each twig dreams of branching.