The snails came out to
but sudden death was all they found.
It’s safest to stay where you dwell
and not count too much on your shell.
Yes, sudden death was what
A shoe came crunching from the air.
Do not count too much on your shell
to shield you from what isn’t there,
Then is, from nowhere in
You venture out. You crawl. Then wham!
You can’t detect what isn’t there
before it is. No snail shazam!
Will save you from that
Do not count too
much on your shell
or on some miracle shazam!
Stay put. Don’t crawl, and you’ll do well.
RESIDENT WHO SURVIVED
CONDOMINIUM COLLAPSE WANTS
National Public Radio, June 27, 2021
She grabbed her phone. She
made it out alive.
She’s heartbroken. It’s difficult to hear.
We all do what we have to to survive.
Who knows what we’ll be
driven to by fear?
Our very world collapses, crashing down!
She made it out. It’s difficult to hear.
Impelled by panic,
She acted out of instinct. Who would not,
When all the world around is crashing down?
Yet she repeats now, “I
just want my cat.”
She blames herself. She cannot bear the thought
Of having left her cat there. Who would not?
Her cat named “Mia.” No one
To face such horrors. One is not to blame
When such things happen. No one should be caught
By circumstance like that,
then feel as shame
And selfishness that one got out alive,
And have to bear the guilt of that, the blame.
We all do what we have to
My faithful chair is in
It’s tattered, and it loses height
(though, happily, it rolls all right).
If asked, I say it’s doing fine.
I fix it when it loses
I cannot type when it is low.
But otherwise, it’s doing fine.
It serves its purpose, and I go
On fixing it when it is
Who cares? It’s only in my room,
a sanctum where no others go.
I keep it hidden while on Zoom,
So it hurts no one in my
If there is shame, it’s only mine,
plus, it is never seen on Zoom,
poor faithful chair that’s in decline.
Last night I saw the movie
I happened on it as I watched TV.
I found it sweet. The angst and the romancing.
A film I missed, and never thought I’d see.
But wait. The date was 1987.
We were abroad. We missed things all that year.
I would have seen it, had the chance been given,
but since that wasn’t, I just didn’t, and fear
I felt it wouldn’t be worth it, so dismissed it.
Along with much else, it was just a name.
What does it matter that I somehow missed it?
It does though. What it is is not the same
as what I thought it was. What else have I
misjudged or missed as, blithely, I passed by?
attendee recalled how [Nancy Pelosi] regaled the Democrats about her
trip to Charm City’s National Aquarium, where she learned that dolphins
sleep with half their brain awake and one eye open.
-- Washington Post, March 3, 2023
With half its brain awake
and one eye open
the dolphin sleeps, a useful lesson you
could use, and yet, it isn’t going to happen,
since you’re awake, and that’s already true.
A triolet, or triolet?
I just don’t know. It’s hard to say.
Decide on one, and then you get
not triolet, but triolet.
You’ve got it now? You want to bet?
You’re sure it’s not the other way?
It’s triolet? Not triolet?
You’re still not sure. It’s hard to say!
So go ahead. Choose either
It’s triolet. And
I read something I wrote
which makes no sense at all.
Could I have changed so much?
The chance of that is small.
I can’t go back to then.
Yet how can I ignore
how one whose work I know
wrote something so obscure?
to Poems Menu
It’s everywhere, and yet
it’s not yet here.
It’s nothing, yet it is a thing we fear.
We turn our backs on what we have to face.
We do not love what one day we’ll embrace.
It’s nothing, yet it is a
thing we fear.
We cannot see it, yet it’s always near.
We hate it, yet it’s something we’ll embrace
one day when we confront it face to face.
We cannot see it, yet we
feel it near.
We know it’s something we cannot evade
that one day will confront us, face to face.
We feel it in our bones. We’re in its shade.
We know it stalks us. We
its power. It’s nothing, yet a thing we fear.
We feel it in our bones. We’re in its shade.
It’s everywhere. One day it will be here.
It’s in our bones. It is
the thing we fear.
It’s everywhere. One day it
will be here.
It will not matter, once
what honors or awards we got.
We will not know, we will not care.
Once we are nowhere, we’re not there.
We will not wish we could
what we didn’t do. There will be none
to know or tell us what we missed
once we have ceased. We won’t exist
In any form, in any sense.
We will be gone, departed hence
to nothing, anywhere, and in
a state where no one’s ever been
Because there’s no one.
There’s no they.
They are not elsewhere, though away.
We won’t know what we haven’t got.
But that won’t matter when we’re not.
We say, “Don’t think about
it.” Yet we do.
It’s always there. It whispers in our ear.
I’m here. I’m here. I’ve got my eye on you.
We say, “Don’t think about it,” but we do.
It is the terror that we always knew.
The nightmare ghost. The unrelenting fear.
We say, “Don’t think about it.” But we do.
It’s there. It’s there. It whispers in our ear:
You never will escape
me. I am here.
I’m yours. You’re mine. There’s nothing you can do.
I am your deepest dread. I am your fear.
You never can escape me. I am here.
You may forget, but I am always near.
You are my own. I’ve got my eye on you.
You never will escape me. I am here.
I’m yours. You’re mine. There’s nothing you can do.
We say, “Don’t think about
it,” but we hear
it whisper, whisper, whisper, in our ear:
I’m yours. You’re mine.
I’ve got my eye on you.
nothing, nothing, you can do.
The answer hangs there,
barely out of reach,
yet out of reach. One thinks, I’m almost there,
but it eludes, and taunts. The grasp of speech
Can’t quite encompass it.
One can’t beseech,
command, beg, borrow. Dangling, like a pear,
the answer hangs there, barely out of reach,
And tantalizing. Luscious,
like a peach
one almost touches, mocking like despair,
it teases thought. It thwarts the grasp of speech,
grabs it, failing each
renewed attempt by just a mite, a hair,
yet that’s sufficient. Safe there, out of reach,
It torments and confounds.
One cannot breach
that last defense. One must at length declare
inglorious surrender. Thought and speech
Have reached an impasse.
One is like a crea-
ture weighed down by the burden it must bear.
The answer hangs there, barely out of reach,
yet inaccessible, by thought or speech.
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I used to bring them to her
place to meet them.
She loved that, and they seemed to love it too.
I had to warn them. She would always greet them
effusively. I couldn’t tell what she knew
about them, and I couldn’t at times alert her
in time to not say things she’d sometimes say.
It wasn’t that I worried I might hurt her.
It’s just that there was never a good way
to guess what odd or different thing might strike her.
The writer with the bushy beard? “Does food
get caught in it?” That question was just like her.
It didn’t occur to her that could be rude.
Most often she’d exclaim about their looks:
“Why, you’re so handsome!” She didn’t read their books.
My mother called my
colleagues my “assistants.”
It’s true I was their senior and the Chair,
but I would be embarrassed when she said it,
and always looked to see who might be there.
My colleagues rarely were, but there were students
who thought her cute and sweet. She was a “dear,”
they’d say, and they were right, but they were savvy
and asked her questions, so I had to hear
her funny anecdotes about my childhood,
the little things that mothers hoard and treasure.
Her audience was rapt, and she kept going,
pleased to be giving others so much pleasure.
“Mom, Mom,” I’d say, and blush, but she was proud
to hold the floor, and she played to the crowd.
Boobies nest on the ground. Two eggs are often laid, though if both
hatch, only one nestling will be reared. One egg will hatch 5 days
before the second, and the older sibling will drag the other one out of
the nest. The parents do not feed it, and it starves.
– from a birding blog
It isn’t fair! It isn’t
the way my brother treats me!
My mother hates me at first sight.
The horrid world that greets me
Just wants me dead. Well, I
without at least a flurry
of frantic fluttering to show
that I’m not in a hurry!
I started early – took my
She did not – want – to go –
I offered her – a treat – a bone –
She clearly signaled – No!
Well, what was I to do? I
and thought about it – hard –
And then – I put my plans – on hold –
And we played – in the yard –
Dumb squirrel! You are not
I know that trick. I cannot see
you, true. But I am quite aware
of what you’re doing hiding there,
A thing I do myself. That’s
I hide, though I’m not hiding now.
Plus, when I do it, it is true
I’m much more out of sight than you.
Poets are picky.
Yes, why not?
How often does one get a shot
at getting something right for good?
Whether or not it’s understood.
Aging in place shouldn’t
trouble you too much.
You train a little. Try to stay in touch.
Forgetting’s tricky, but you needn’t care.
Things will come back, provided you’re still there.
I talked to him a while, a
and felt I got to know him just a bit,
which struck me then as odd, since this was at
our 65th Reunion. Surely it
could easily have happened while at school
all those decades ago, but such things are.
We keep to our own in-crowd as a rule,
and aren’t inclined to venture out, or far.
Today I got the letter. He
His obit was a paragraph. Not much.
I would have simply read it and gone on.
I had not known him and was used to such.
But talking to him so close
to the end,
it was as if I now had lost a friend.
O Freya, Poor Freya, that
shouldn’t have been done.
Of possible options there must have been one
that didn’t involve murder. Their doing you in
is surely an outrage that borders on sin!
And what was your crime?
That you clambered on boats
or any old platform or surface that floats?
You caused inconvenience to some, it is true,
but others thought, “Great!” and were mad about you.
A creature so huge, so
ungainly, so strange,
was welcome. So what if you weren’t in the range
your kind should inhabit, those far distant seas
where walruses snort and cavort as they please?
And what is the
lesson: Do not ask the State
to solve a hard problem? Or, don’t be too great?
Who knows? For the moment let’s pause and be sad
for Freya, while savoring times that we had.
Let’s savor the joy of a
giant who swam
wherever she chose to, pronouncing “I Am!”
May she never abandon us. Lighter than air,
Free Spirit, Free Freya, may you always be there!
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We’d like to celebrate, but
things are rotten.
There’s war, division, meanness, terror, rage.
The buds are out, and winter’s half forgotten.
We’re more than ready now to turn that page,
but what comes next? We gaze with trepidation
toward what’s ahead, since nothing now seems right.
We used to greet the Springtime with elation.
Now all seems tainted. Everything’s a fight,
dark forces gathered, bent on demolition,
destruction. Nothing’s solid, or secure.
The birds are singing, but we think, Sedition,
Fanaticism. Only one thing’s sure.
Though May will woo us with her scents and bloom,
we’ll still be mired, occupied with Doom!
-- June 11, 2022 A
Shropshire Lad, XXX
Housman greets me on
I think, Is there no better way
To start the morning than with a song
That lists how everything is wrong?
That stresses I will die,
Enumerates the ways I’m cursed?
How I must suffer pain and woe
Along this path I have to go
Until it ends, where else?
I understand I will be hurt
And can’t avoid it. That I must
End up in darkness and as dust.
But please, not yet. When I
In earnest, and have had my cup
Of coffee, then I’ll face my fate.
Though maybe, even then, I’ll wait.
Gnats everywhere, but why
We wanted summer to return.
Well, now the summer’s back again.
Gnats everywhere, but why complain?
Of course, there’s not a drop of rain,
and forest fires burn and burn!
Gnats everywhere, but why complain?
We wanted summer back again.
Detesting cold, we yearned
Invoked warm days that would not end.
Couldn’t wait for winter to retreat.
Detesting cold, we yearned for heat.
“Please, please, more sun!” we would repeat,
convinced that winter would not mend.
Detesting cold, we yearned for heat.
Invoked warm days that would not end.
Well, now full summer’s
here, with gnats!
It’s too damned hot! We wish away
fierce sun that makes us don our hats.
Full summer’s here, and filled with gnats
tormenting like a plague of rats
and heat we cannot keep at bay!
Yes, now full summer’s here, with gnats
and heat we cannot wish away!
Think, you complainers, of
if Paradise had not been lost.
You’d sit around, aggrieved, bereft,
with not a single grievance left.
Bored, aimless, restless,
to some way, somehow, you were hurt
by something, someone, and proclaim
you’d find the culprit you could blame.
And there, by God! some
would wander by who would deceive
you if she could, or else some man
who’d cheat or thwart you with his plan,
Or, lacking those, there’d
be that snake.
You’d find good reason, no mistake,
to make sure Eden didn’t exist,
while harping on how much it’s missed!
A bird cries out,
Another answers him. A crowd
joins in. It seems they know their kind.
That’s how they talk. They do not mind
What others think. And they
There’s no diminishment of flight
around them. No bird signs a ban.
They can’t be stopped, and no bird can
Conduct a protest. They are
to be the birds they have to be,
and other birds are just the same.
They have their song, they have their name,
And everything works out
We ought to try things Nature’s way.
Forget the anger and the fear.
Chill out. You do not need to hear.
She cocks her head and
glares at me,
as baleful as a bird can be.
She does not trust me. Does
in that way to protect her nest.
I mean no harm, of course,
inform her – if I only could –
That baleful looks form no
I know that from experience.
Bird at my window, window
I hear you pecking against my pane.
It isn’t a branch, and it’s harder than rain,
What I have heard.
Could you be angry? Are you
Is it something that I have said or done?
Of trespasses I’m aware of none.
Yet I forget.
Perhaps it’s that I’m alone
Sitting and thinking, I sulk and brood.
Could it be I’m a victim of solitude?
I’ve heard of such.
Whatever you are, don’t go
Keep pecking, pecking. I love the sound
And knowing there’s somebody else around.
O bird, please stay!
I hear the chime.
I’m out of time.
I am, but wait.
I’m only late.
I am not done
with time. I’m un-
der no illusion.
come, one I
But meantime, no.
I’m here. I’ll go,
which still must wait.
I’m merely late.
I wrote a perfect poem in
I went to sleep. I woke, and it was gone.
Ah well, nothing is perfect. We go on.
We take what comes, so I wrote this instead.
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I’ll write a sonnet to myself. Why not?
That’s what so many do, though they disguise
What they are doing. In discretion lies
Their secret. They may not reveal it, but
It’s plain for anyone to see who knows
How poets think. How always they come first,
No matter what, though they may seem immersed
In other things. It happens too in prose,
But far more subtly. Self’s not to the fore
The way it is in sonnets. So, let’s see.
I’d better start. There’s hardly any more
Space to be filled with something about me.
But does that matter? I have been discreet.
I know what I have done, and it’s a treat!
I clear my desk. Well,
It’s not like anything gets really done.
Things move around. A few get thrown away.
Nothing’s much changed. No battle has been won.
My life’s the same. It’s messy, and ongoing.
And really, truthfully, that is okay.
Life is a river. I enjoy its flowing –
I have no choice, of course – from day to day.
From year to year. I love the things that face me,
though they exasperate. I shift and sort
and don’t make progress. Things put off embrace me
and hold on tight! I try to be a sport.
Yet I will quit, as I have done before.
And when I do this next, there will be more.
Those buzzards busy with a
remind me of what’s always near,
although I will not have to deal,
I hope, with being someone’s meal.
No, in my case a brief,
occasion will most likely greet
the carting off of my remains
with everybody taking pains
To be respectful,
And then, I will be left behind.
I have no quarrel with that way
of dealing. I just wish to say
The obvious. I won’t
Yet better that than in the air
in some bird’s craw, ascending high,
and then descending from the sky
To perch atop some towering
Whatever’s there will not be me.
If what’s not me cannot be found,
I’d rather that be in the ground.
But I digress and make no
I blame the subject. It’s intense,
and makes for muddled thought. Enough!
Screw Death! I’ll deal with other stuff.
“My wife ran away with the
was a rhyme that he liked to recite.
And “A little dog sat on the railroad track.”
They always were silly and light.
And so was his mood when he
He was having a really good time.
It was fun then to just be around him.
We looked forward to times he would rhyme.
We didn’t speak about my
though he helped me in ways that he could.
I could tell he was anxious and worried,
but we knew that wouldn’t do any good.
He would smile when he got
to those punchlines.
It was great to be in on his joke.
“Now every time I hear a car horn blow…”
That old world came alive
as he spoke.
My grandfather would swear
at the TV.
He hated ads, and certain ones stood out.
When it got bad, I’d even hear him shout –
and then repeat – “Look! Look! Chef Boyardee
again, three times this hour.” I don’t know why
some set him off, but watching there alone
he raged, I’m sure. It wasn’t just when I
would visit to bring food. He’d thrash and moan
as if I’d know why he was so upset.
I didn’t, but was respectful. He knew best,
I figured, plus, I knew that I would get
my dollar. Now his age, I couldn’t have guessed
that I would share his outrage as I see
those ads on CNN, on ABC.
I dreaded that first Robin, so,
But what was there – to fear?
It’s freezing still – with Ice and Snow.
The Spring – is nowhere near –
So that awakening – I dread
Is still – so far away –
I need not mind – one Silly Bird –
And can enjoy – the Day!
I tell it first the way it
then tell it differently, because
the way it should have been is how
it should have been, and it is now.
We didn’t relate. I wasn’t
sure I liked him.
He was high-strung. Impetuous. He’d go
on tangents about colleagues, other Fellows,
Professors. I would listen. I didn’t know
if I should nod, or smile, or say something,
especially when his target was a name
I knew, or even one of my own teachers
whom I admired. With books it was the same.
He’d have his set opinions. We didn’t argue,
although I’d stand my ground, and make my case.
He clearly was unhappy, and I sensed that.
We never spoke of that. I knew my place.
He said once, “Excellence keeps me alive.”
I know now that’s what helped him to survive.
“Bliss was it… ”
I was a young Professor. It
The students were exciting, wild and free.
All things were new, or changing. I was ready.
Why shouldn’t the same be happening to me?
I went to protests with them. Talked for hours.
Once after class one handed me a joint.
Among the flower children there were flowers
whose bloom bloomed just for me. There came a point
when I thought: Why be stodgy, straight-laced, “moral”?
not give in? What did I have to lose?
I wasn’t writing, but knew well that quarrel
Yeats wrote of. It turned out, I couldn’t choose
to be a part of all that was around me,
though why I couldn’t continued to confound me.
I’m famous for not finding
things. I know
that’s something I’m not good at. I can stare
right at what I am looking for. It’s there,
yet won’t reveal itself. And so I go
around and back, then back again, and Lo!
it’s right there where it always was, and where
it sits there mocking me. And I don’t care.
That’s how I am. That’s how it is. And so,
it doesn’t matter. I can find things soon
enough. They just show up. They’re in plain sight.
Last night was different though. I lost the moon.
I searched and searched. I knew it should be bright.
I found it finally. There was no cost.
Still, that’s the largest thing I’ve ever lost.
An asteroid barely missed earth last week,
and no one knew it was coming...
While UA1 may have been a relative pip-squeak,
other asteroids zooming by Earth on Nov. 2 are
significantly bigger, according to NASA Jet
Propulsion Laboratory's Asteroid Watch…
We weren’t aware of UA1
which took advantage of the sun
to streak on toward us undetected.
Yet, luckily, we weren’t affected.
Plus, UA1 was “dim and
Yet still it ranks as a “close call.”
Suppose this was some little brother?
What if we miss some massive Other?
What if our spaceships
don’t divert it?
What if we fail to stop or hurt it?
What if it comes on roaring through?
Think of it! What are we to do?
How will we cope with NEOs?
We have our plans, but no one knows.
We’re dinosaurs, despite our tech.
Hang on! There’s going to be a wreck!
Hold tight! Some
We’re sitting ducks. There’s something zooming
toward us from somewhere, you can bet.
It simply hasn’t reached us—yet.
“Life threw him a curve ball,
and he swung and hit it out of the park.”
-- from an imagined
Don’t boast about your
luck. It may not last.
Those balls keep coming, and keep coming fast.
Two strikes are fine, and you are still alive.
But there will come a pitch you won’t survive.
Till then, keep swinging.
Balls keep coming fast.
You won’t be out until the last one’s past,
but one will come that you will not survive.
So what? Keep swinging while you’re still alive.
You won’t be out until the
last one’s past.
Don’t cast your bat until it must be cast.
Just keep on swinging while you’re still alive.
Don’t make a deal, drop out. Don’t take a dive.
Don’t cast your bat until
it must be cast.
Swing for those fences while those fences last.
Don’t make a deal, drop out. Don’t take a dive.
Play on, until that pitch
you won’t survive.
Oblivion, that swallows
when faced directly can appall,
yet does not bother us one bit
when we’re oblivious of it.
“Hope” is the thing with
Oh, I’ve said that before –
But now – I really need It –
So I’ll say it once more.
I’ll say it – and I’ll say
It’s okay to repeat
A Charm until it works – for you –
The Repetition’s sweet –
And if you never – see
the Bird –
Well, that too – is okay –
The Words themselves – give Comfort –
And They – don’t fly – away –
The Words Themselves – give
It is as if you’ve heard –
And so – can hold It – close to you –
The Promise – of that Bird –
“Scorn not the sonnet;” you
who think you’re hip.
It’s sturdy still. It’s not a sinking ship.
It’s not for every voyage, yet it serves.
And it should get the honor it deserves.
MY UNWELCOME GUEST
My Failure, when it’s here with me,
Makes me regard myself with scorn.
Disgusted, sorrowful, I see
The other things that I could be.
I sigh, Too late now, and I mourn.
I didn’t try hard enough. I spent
My days pursuing what I chose,
Not what I should have done. I went
My own way only, Heaven knows,
Ignoring this, and that, and those.
But wait, I think. That’s who I am.
I can be proud of that, and who
I have become. Why give a damn
About some other person you
Are not, who does what you can’t do?
And so I tell my Failure: Go!
Be off, and bother whom you please.
I’ll take my self, my poems. I know
What faults could bring me to my knees.
They won’t. I’m fine with this, and these.
HOUSMAN’S EVIL TWIN BROTHER
My parents couldn’t control me.
I got into some stuff.
They thought they would enroll me
Where kids were mean and tough.
My path’s been hard and narrow,
But I get on just swell.
And as for that straight arrow,
Hey! I write just as well!
VILLAINY IN LOMBARDY
after Robert Browning
I left your cremains in Cremona,
But, Dearest, if you had been fair,
I wouldn’t have killed Jeff, James, and Jonah,
And you and I still would be there,
Enjoying that savory Bollito,
Mostardo, that music and song,
If only you’d not stooped to cheat, O
My Darling, and done me that wrong!
Someday I’ll return to Cremona
And that small pensione divine
Where – before there were Jeff, James, and Jonah –
You were solely, ecstatically mine,
And I’ll once again scale the Torrazzo
And exalt in the air and the view,
And forget how you made me a pazzo,
And recall how we once were just two.
Yes, I left your cremains in Cremona.
If only, Dear, you had been fair,
I would not have killed Jeff, James, and Jonah.
O My Love! We could still have been there!
Your vision was as dark as dark could be,
but when you drank you set all that aside.
We toast you now. You met Death merrily,
we trust, since you were drinking when you died.
Another day. Another Zoom.
I’ll skip this one. There isn’t room
In my short day for poets citing
How tired they are of all but writing!
THE LONE RANGER DURING COVID
I cover up my mouth. Now people ask
perplexed, “Who was that masked man in a mask?”
“It’s just dark matter having its way,” Dr. Tully said.
Beyond the Milky Way, a Galactic Wall
-- New York Times, July 7, 2020
“It’s just dark matter having its way…”
Well, what is a scientist going to say?
The upshot is clear, and it’s not profound.
We have to accept being pushed around.
It’s gotten so no one can bear to read
another essay about the speed
of our coming apart, of our lack of ground
in a universe where we are pushed around!
Dark matter this, dark energy that.
Neutrinos bombarding. Schrodinger’s cat.
Can anyone doubt that we are bound
to oblivion after we’re pushed around?
You just won’t have it? This has to stop?
You’re going to pray? You will call a cop?
Good luck! Pretty soon there will be no sound.
Just silence. No us, to be pushed around.
SELF TO SELF
That way madness lies? And that? And that?
Just sit. Stay calm. Keep cool. Let’s have a chat.
ONE MORE TREE IN THE FOREST
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
Took neither. I thought, By and by
I’ll wish I had. Now it’s been years,
And I’ve grown moss around my ears.
Batman can’t have a little fun with Catwoman, if Superman and Lois Lane
don’t get to have a kid, if Captain America is at risk of dying a
then why not let the Joker, General Zod and Thanos win?
- Alyssa Rosenberg, Washington Post,
Catwoman, Lois Lane with kids
By heroes flying high
Or tooling round in Batmobiles?
Is there some reason why
This hasn’t happened?
A virgin, not a dad?
Is something wrong with leading lives
As full as can be had?
One sees the reason right
These heroes can’t be bound
By household duties. When they’re called
They must at once be found
To stop the villains in
They can’t change diapers, cook.
Can’t say to wives: “I’m sorry, Dear.
I’m off to nail a crook.”
However patient spouses
Not one of them would say,
“Don’t keep your boyfriend waiting,”
Or, “It’s time. Up, up, away!”
Those wives would make their own demands
And not have any pity
On boys who’d save Metropolis
Or bail out Gotham City.
They’d keep their husbands
safe at home
And not be in cahoots.
And, if it came to that, say, “No!
You may not wear those suits.”
“There is no Frigate like a Book” –
That’s what I used to say.
But now it only takes a click
And I am far away.
I never have to leave my
The hummingbird is here.
Fantastic creatures seek me out
And magically appear!
Those I have loved and lost
And make their presence known.
We spend long hours deep in talk
And I am not alone.
And someday God Himself
And Everything will mean.
Till then, I’ll watch and wait like this
and never leave my screen.
My twelfth grade teacher told me Yeats was “cheesecake.”
I think that was his word. He didn’t approve
of all that apparatus: Gyres and Cycles.
Those didn’t matter to me. I could love
the poetry. Its meaning was no problem.
Something was coming through that caught my ear
and gripped me, in some deep part of my being.
No point in telling me it wasn’t clear.
I often would recite "The
just to myself. Transported by its power
I would be some place other. There was magic
in phrases, rhythm. If it took a Tower –
though I didn’t know that then – to find a way
to get to poems like that, that was okay.
“A good poet is someone who
manages, in a
lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, to be
struck by lightning five or six times.”
-- Randall Jarrell
I stood out in a storm
hoping I might be hit
by lightning, and the poem
I’d write then would be IT:
My Raison d'Ítre,
Salvation, Source of Bliss.
But only rain came down,
and what I wrote was this.
Those aeons long before I
The world was doing what it does.
I came; I strove; all came to nil.
I’m gone. It does the same things still.
My mother was a fan of
She watched him faithfully. One time she said—
I was in high school; I could not believe it!—
“That man could put his shoes under my bed
anytime.” My proper, straight-laced mother,
who never swore, who never mentioned sex.
And Arthur Godfrey? Not some handsome other
man? If she had wanted to perplex
me, she succeeded. I just stared in wonder.
Could she not see how he was such a jerk?
She could not, and that spell that she was under
lasted until he died. Nothing would work.
I tried, and failed. It stayed that same old tune.
He’d strum his ukulele, and she’d swoon.
You pegged me early on as a
I didn’t know why you said that. You were wise
in many ways, and knew me. Yet the humor
of that was all that struck me. In your eyes
I was some kind of flower on some hillside?
We both knew Dickinson. Would it take “frost” –
old age, a lifetime – before I could flourish?
I couldn’t – and didn’t – accept that. You were lost
to me long, long before I came to see that
as eerily prophetic. How you knew
eludes me still, yet I am proud to be that
“late bloomer.” Now I only wish that you
could see that I have come into my prime,
and all it took was loads and loads of time!
“That time of year thou
mayst in me behold”
When leaves no longer yellow, red, and gold,
Flaunting their brilliance high above, now lie
In soggy, sullen heaps as I slog by.
Another classmate dead and
We’re dropping off like flies.
Where’s Charlie? Where are Dick and Shawn?
They’re where the cut grass lies
And flowers brightly chant
Enjoy the sun at noon,
Since nothing lasts and nothing saves,
And you will be here soon.
The Art of Dying Well
Register here for Zoom link
“The Art of Dying Well”: Well, shall I join it?
It’s not the subject matter I would choose,
yet it is something I do not take lightly.
I ask myself, What do you have to lose?
I’d learn what one day may come in quite handy,
although, of course, I hope that won’t be soon.
Today, I think, no way! But then tomorrow –
who knows? – I well may sing a different tune.
But truly, no, not now. I
am not tempted.
I trust that when that time comes, I will rise
to the occasion. No one is exempted,
and I wouldn’t want to fail in others’ eyes.
Nor in my own. Yet then, I will not care.
For once, that will be neither here nor there.
I read the dates of someone
who has died.
Not long enough, I think. The time cut short.
I move among reminders of this sort
and view the evidence on every side.
Of course, I try to take it in my stride.
It does no good at all to be morose.
Plus, one need not assume one’s time is close.
The readiness is all. We must abide
our going hence even as our coming hither.
Oh, I’ve got quotes enough to see me through.
That’s when I think about it. When I bother
to ask myself, Okay, what can you do?
I can do nothing, and that gives me pause.
Still, I don’t ever say, No cause, no cause.
I heard a Fly buzz – when I
I thought – It’s bad enough
When you can swat – or move – away –
But now – it’s really tough! –
The Fool is wise and sad.
Malaise afflicts them all.
Malvolio is mad.
His love is off the wall!
Sir Toby’s drunk and bad.
Their voices rise and fall.
Who’s female and who’s
Relied-on safeguards fail.
There’s chaos all around!
A room becomes a jail.
There is no solid ground.
What ends a lover’s plight
When everything goes wrong?
When night is day, day night,
And no one stays sane long?
Fear not! It comes out right.
It all ends in a song.
It all ends in a song.
All foes are reconciled.
All made sense all along,
Once no one was beguiled.
This world, where we belong,
Returns, no longer wild.
Returns, no longer wild,
And we are what we were.
Yet, are foes reconciled?
Is he him? Is she her?
Or are we still beguiled?
All things begin to blur.
It’s true. I’m a Romantic.
I admit it.
“The Lass of Aughrim” gets me every time.
I’m ripe for that emotion, and they hit it,
those words, those notes. They “pluck my heartstrings.” I’m
entranced and spellbound, gathered up, transported
to times and places I have never been.
I am the girl who’s wronged, the Lord who courted
that low-born maid, then will not let her in,
which makes me think of you, a girl I yearned for,
who paid no mind and blithely turned away,
whom I became obsessed with and concerned for,
who barely gave me once the time of day.
O, I am a Romantic, as I said.
And I’m not even mentioning “The Dead.”
This chair I sit in every
is getting torn and worn away.
What really strikes me, though, is how
I didn’t notice that till now.
Which makes me wonder: what
is growing tatty? Objects near
escape my notice as I gaze
far past them. And in other ways
I recognize I miss and lose
what’s going on around me; choose
to focus on, seek out, insist
on things far off that don’t exist,
And never may. Yet now,
I’m doing what I would deplore,
if I did not believe I’m bound
to what has been, or may be, found.
And if I’m negligent,
so be it: I may be of use,
absolved, if I am not aware,
yet use, my faithful tatty chair.
When Doctor Johnson kicked that stone
to demonstrate how sturdy
the world of matter is, those prone
to be abstruse and wordy
Pooh-poohed the Doctor’s
to undermine sage Berkeley.
I feel like him when you and I
begin to argue starkly
About the merits of some
that should be clear as day.
What would it take to make you face
the simple truth, and say,
“I see it now. You are
Instead, it’s I alone
who have to interrupt our fight
to kick some goddam stone!
I know a man obsessed with
It doesn’t matter what, or when, or where,
So long as he can post some new creation
Of his in print, online. He doesn’t care,
Even if no one else will ever see it.
And no one ever does. But What the Hell!
He thinks. I am a writer, and so be it,
Hell or High Water. And the way to tell
Is filling up some space with my words in it,
So I can prove I lived and did my thing!
Were there some prize for
volume, he would win it,
We comment, adding how it’s sad he’ll cling
To that, whereas we’re quite content instead
With our own ways of never being read.
Rise and shine, lad. Do not
Long. Today’s your day to die.
If it’s not today, tomorrow
Will cut short your term of sorrow.
If tomorrow you’re still
Soon enough we’ll bear your bier.
Soon enough we all will mourn,
As you do now, that you were born.
So arise, crawl out of bed.
Act as though you’re not yet dead.
Feel the sunlight, taste the breeze—
Though you’re shorter-lived than these.
Though you may not last the
none can tell for sure. You may.
You might even pen a line,
Or maybe two, lad. Rise and shine!
Two roads diverged, and I
thought hard, twice,
Then took the one not covered with ice.
following poems are from a manuscript in progress: Love Can
Make You Crazy
-Yeats, “The Sorrow Of Love”
It’s true I
rose and had red mournful lips,
And true I made your heart beat like a drum,
But it was you who brought up all those ships,
And made it seem like I was Kingdom Come.
sake! Priam, Troy, that horrid war.
What in the world had I to do with those?
Yes, Love. I know. True Love, and what it’s for.
To make a poet write. So I arose
To make your
misery a cause for song.
You had it your way. Done! So I chose mine.
But please, now, don’t harangue how I was wrong.
You have your poems. Don’t sit around and whine!
What lips my
lips have kissed, and where, and why,
is no concern of yours at all. Goodbye.
The world is too much with me, late and soon,
and you’re a cause of that. Be out, by noon.
no help, come, let us kiss, and split.
On second thought, no kiss this time. That’s it!
Put out the
light. Make sure to lock the door.
And leave that key you won’t need anymore.
-- on a line by Housman
“Oh, when I
was in love with you,”
I was a new man, brave and true!
Alas, that did
not last because
I also was the man I was.
A sucker for a
Drear courted heartbreak and disgrace,
resigned that he would always choose
heartless Rejection for his muse.
Unrequited lies. His words remain.
Pure longing and desire, mixed with pain.
Lovers, whose hearts are broken, yet not faint,
Come, gather here. Pay homage to your Saint.
“My darling! O
my darling!” Chaste will moan
while making love. Too bad he is alone.
and Death of Nigel, the World’s Loneliest Seabird
LONDON — The story of a lonely seabird named Nigel who
tried to woo a mate that had a heart of stone and died on an uninhabited
island off New Zealand has captivated many on social media. Footage of
the bird preening and cooing as he fruitlessly courted a decoy made of
concrete has been watched obsessively online…
Nigel quickly took a liking to one of the concrete
replicas… Month after month, the bird cozied up to his chosen mate, but
“she” remained aloof. “He nested alongside her… He was seen wooing her
by preening her. Nigel was also seen trying to mate with her….”
- New York Times, Feb 4th, 2018
Let’s hear it
for Nigel, who died all alone.
He wooed a hard seabird, her heart made of stone.
The rest of her too, but he was not persuaded
his suit was in vain, and his love never faded.
It just grew
more ardent. He knew to persist.
She’d feel it! She’d learn it! The loving she missed.
The faith of his heart that would never withdraw.
For whom Love was the Breath of his Life, and its Law!
Ah, Nigel, sad
Nigel. But maybe it’s fine?
You died still a lover. You still toed that line.
Devotion was total. We know how you feel.
She may have proved false, but your ardor was real!
She may have
proved stone, but your gannet heart knew
what’s noble and steadfast, what’s patient and true.
You lived out your dream, then expired on its nest,
like a Keats, like a Shelley. Romantic Love’s best!
are examples from Bennett's continuing "lover's quarrel with the
and are part of the new manuscript Coming Back to Light.
Sometimes I have this itch
to simply write it:
a sonnet itch. It starts out fairly strong.
I know that it will do no good to fight it.
I’ve thought I could, and found out I was wrong.
It just persists until I am persuaded;
it’s easiest to let it have its way,
assert itself and write itself, unaided.
I have no choice, and not that much to say.
So what? I think, and so I give it leeway.
It forges on, and straightway does its thing.
I let it be in charge and feel that the way
is its way. I’m its servant, it’s the King.
And then, it’s done. The itch is scratched. I let it
think it has won. I leave it and forget it.
I’ve had a lover’s quarrel
with the sonnet.
Don’t get me wrong. It is a form I use
quite happily. I’ve been relying on it
for decades, and not only to accuse
false lovers and abhorrent politicians,
but to explore God’s nature and my soul.
Succinctly, one can occupy positions,
and argue them, and then exchange that role
for others. What is wrong then? Why not take it
for what it is: a clean and comely way
to make a point? Because I cannot make it
much more than that. It’s true I have my say,
like this, but then, I’m where I was before.
It’s not the sonnet’s fault, but I want more!
He wrote one perfect
sonnet. Then he stopped.
He wasn't going to duplicate that feat.
He knew that what he'd done could not be topped.
He saw no point in trying to repeat
a triumph that brought glory in its wake.
What could he do but fail? Why take a chance
and show himself not perfect for the sake
of further accolades that wouldn't enhance
the stature he'd achieved by that one coup?
No, no. He knew that he was wise to quit.
One's shots at Immortality are few.
He'd gotten lucky once, and that was it.
He'd gaze with admiration at his rhyme,
then wonder what he'd now do with his time.
Nobody’s perfect. Now and then, my pet,
You’re almost human. You
could make it yet.
from Wendy Cope’s sonnet, “Faint Praise”
In Wendy Cope’s “Faint
Praise,” she makes the case
Her current lover’s not quite up to snuff.
It’s clear she thinks that faint praise is enough,
And doesn’t even say it to his face.
Let’s hear it for faint praise. It’s not that bad,
And often is the most that one can get.
Consider this. Would you be less upset
With no praise? Surely not. One should be glad
To have one’s love give any praise at all,
even if it is scant and insincere.
Or, say there is no praise, you still can hear
That praise that could have been, which will forestall
That moment when it will be clear as day
That she’d prefer that you just go away.
are part of a new manuscript Coming Back to Light, currently
going the rounds.
indignities can others heap
Upon a work that no one wants to keep?
Come, little book, and find your home with me.
We’ll weather this together. Then, they’ll see!
words, and all in vain,
I tell myself, since it is plain
no one will read them. I deplore
the waste of it, then write some more.
Poetry is its
Ask any bard.
At times one scales the Heights of Heaven.
The rest is hard.
(After Stevie Smith)
him, the poet,
But still he kept writing:
I have much more to say than you think
And I’m going to keep fighting!
he was always a loser
And always unread.
He’ll have to quit soon he won’t have any choice they nattered
Because he’ll be dead.
They said it
and said it but no no no they were wrong
He never quit fighting.
He had much more to say than they thought,
And still he kept writing.
exile to the remotest margins
of the Roman empire revoked
council overturns banishment of ‘one of the greatest
poets’ more than 2,000 years after Augustus forced him to leave…
-- The Guardian, December 16, 2017
longer banished. What a joy!
He’s been exonerated. That’s our boy!
However long it takes Paris or Rome
or New York City, poets can come home.
No longer must
they rot on foreign turf,
or stare in anguish at a pounding surf.
Once more they’re citizens where they belong,
and can indulge in city life and song.
they’re welcome home, although they’re dead.
So what? This time they will not face the dread
of banishment. They could write what they please—
if it were not too late, by centuries!
everywhere, have heart and hope.
Though trials are many, you must learn to cope.
Wherever you’ve been exiled, just stay true.
At last your country may come home to you.
*(previously published in Light, “Poems of the Week”)
I list the
names, the times when I was there,
and what I did, in order, up till now.
A few things I leave out, but who will care?
As if the whole thing matters, anyhow.
The gist is that I lived, did what I could
with what I had. What more can someone say?
And yes, it’s true, that most of it was good.
But who will do the reckoning anyway?
Not me, nor those I knew. Those not yet here
don’t matter, and besides, what will they know?
So while I still can speak, I’ll make this clear
in no uncertain terms before I go.
I loved my time, and strove to do my best.
And that does matter, more than all the rest.
following poems are from the “Coffee? Pencils?” section of Bruce
Bennett’s new poetry manuscript that looks at writing and the writing
Drink lots and lots of coffee.
Like, gallons. Let it flow!
Then you might write like Balzac.
You might. You never know.
Or sharpen lots of pencils.
That worked for Hemingway.
Some ritual could do it.
It might work. Who can say?
And then there’s Dylan Thomas.
A boathouse filled his need.
He crumpled lots of paper,
but he wrote poems, indeed!
What’s that? This isn’t helpful?
You need some master plan?
You want some firm instruction?
I’ve done the best I can.
There is no simple answer.
At least, not one in sight—
except, just face that paper
or screen, and start to write.
I have seen you in time.
You had best keep away
since my fingers are dancing. You’d better not stay.
You are small and in danger. I don’t plan to halt
in the heat of composing. It won’t be my fault.
No, it won’t be my fault, though I mean you no harm,
so I’m telling you now as I sound this alarm
which I pray you will heed, and at once disappear:
You’re in imminent danger. You must not be here.
So please, don’t take refuge on some random key.
You can never be safe there. It’s not up to me.
When the words rush and tumble, and my fingers fly,
if you’re on the wrong letter, you’re just going to die!
And though, yes, I’ll be sorry, I swear I won’t quit
till my poem is done. Once I’m finished with it,
I may view your small corpse with a trace of dismay,
but I’ll make it my moral: Don’t get in my way!
Poetry is its own reward.
You’ve heard that said.
It possibly could lead to Fame.
When you are dead.
It’s hard work and it doesn’t pay.
I know, in spite
of this – which you do not believe –
you’ll go, and write.
I know, because I took that road
one day myself.
And look, I have a pile of books
high on that shelf.
Someday you may be just like me.
Ah, well, Godspeed.
But don’t think I will wish you well,
should you succeed.
I was mad. I made a joke.
T'was a slashing truth I spoke.
My friend was outraged; shook his head.
“You cannot make such jokes,” he said.
He told another friend, and they
told others. And there came a day
I’d lost the only friends I’d had.
A toxic joke had made them mad.
Well, screw’em! Who needs friends like that?
I speak now to my dog and cat,
Who listen, and are glad I tell
My jokes to them. I feed them well,
And they are happy and content.
Though unaware of what is meant,
They hear me out with great delight
As I tell jokes, both day and night!
If there were Poetry Oscars,
he knew just where he’d sit
and scowl at the glittering pageant,
not being a part of it.
He’d watch the Big Names beaming,
clutching their Golden Prize,
thanking their First Grade teachers
for early assessing their size.
He’d watch the parade of extras
exult in their minute of Fame
and gloat in the glowing spotlight
that shed luster on their name.
If there were Poetry Oscars,
he’d hunch in his nosebleed seat
and murmur small imprecations,
which he would repeat and repeat.
Yet he would not be discouraged
as he sat up high in the dark,
because he’d be sure as the dickens
that he still would make his mark.
Because he knew – somehow, someday –
his hour at last would arrive,
and that worshipful throngs would marvel
that it didn’t come while he was alive!
Thomas Hardy, Thomas Hardy,
Is it just that I am old,
And have learned that Fame is tardy,
Fate is cruel, and Life is cold?
Is it just that I am tired
Of a World that turns its back,
And if anything’s admired,
I’m too conscious of its lack?
Is it that I’ve been defeated
In my cherished youthful aim?
That my energy’s depleted?
That I feel I’ve lost the game?
Thomas Hardy, Thomas Hardy,
Stand beside me. Make me strong.
May your dour spirit guide me.
Please, persuade me I am wrong!
following four poems (and five sonnets) are from Bruce Bennett's current
poetry manuscript, Coming Back To Light.
I took a book of poems off the shelf—
my choice was Yeats—and I began to read.
I was a college freshman, by myself,
alone and lost, and desperately in need
of guidance. How does one become a poet?
What does one need to do? I didn’t know.
Was there a secret? Who or what would show it?
There wasn’t anywhere I wouldn’t go
to learn. And there, in silence, for an hour
I read and read. The answer had come clear.
One had to train oneself to get such power.
This was no accident. It all was here.
I’d do what was required. The die was cast.
I’d found what I was looking for, at last!
My Freshman year. We just had read Camus.
The question was: What if the world should end
tomorrow morning? How would we choose to spend
our final hours? What would each one do?
Some took it as a joke. I’d drink… I’d screw…
I’d kill that bastard who messed up my friend!....
Others would pray. One said he’d seek to mend
ties with his family. Silent, I knew
exactly how I’d pass that final night.
I’d take a pen, and go somewhere alone
where I could be completely on my own
and where, immersed in silence, I would write.
How long ago. How much has happened. How
little has changed. I’d say the same thing now.
I tendered him the poem I had submitted.
He read it quickly. Judgment too was quick.
“You have no sense of rhythm.” I’d committed
the error of creating. He was sick
of students thinking they could write like Masters,
those Greats he taught and hectored them to learn.
It was his mission to stave off disasters.
To be a poet one must duly earn
the right to don that Mantle. I slunk sullen
back to my room. I hid my poem away.
But in my heart I knew I was no felon;
knew he was wrong, yet didn’t know what to say.
A lifetime later I would tell him this:
“The young are young. There’s much that you might miss.”
I thought I had to leave to be a writer;
to go to some place “special” and be free.
I’d cut my ties. My burden would be lighter.
I’d live alone, and it would just be me,
devoted, spending every waking hour
pursuing – and accomplishing – my dream.
I knew that I would come into my power.
My confidence was boundless! It didn’t seem
like I could fail. Once there, in isolation,
I spent long hours reading in my room.
The poems didn’t come. I felt the slow damnation
of those imprisoned, shackled to their gloom.
I’d hear the bustle in the streets below,
and ask myself, Why would I want to go?
I’d ask myself, Why would I
want to go?
Just one more way to ask, Why am I here?
A question I couldn’t answer. I didn’t know
how I would ever make it through the year.
I did, though. I made friends. I took excursions.
I read a lot. I got myself in line.
I loved the City and its bright diversions.
By Spring that year my attitude was fine.
But writing stayed a bust. I was mistaken
to think I needed Exile, Somewhere Far,
The Myth of Other Writers. It has taken
my life till now to recognize: We are
somehow—however much we might be wrong—
en route to where we should be all along.