A Journal of Contemporary Arts 






     -- after a line by Richard Berengarten

“Come, have a drink. There’s nowhere else to go.”
Now, there’s a line to start a villanelle.
You almost see and feel the wind and snow.

Look out that window. You can see it blow.
I’m glad you’re here, and we’ve this time to kill.
Come. Have a drink. There’s nowhere else to go,

And nothing else to do. Didn’t you just know
that once you came, winter would work its will?
I knew at once there would be wind and snow,

And we’d be trapped here. Well, I now can show
you I did not, and do not, wish you ill.
We’ll have that drink. There’s nowhere else to go,

So let’s just get it settled. You do owe
me that apology, and if you still
won’t say those words, and mean them, well, the snow

Will just keep falling, falling. Yes, that’s so.
That isn’t going to change. And feel that chill?
Best have that drink. There’s nowhere else to go.
Imagine. Trapped here, in this wind and snow.


When auld acquaintance goes awry
we ought to let it. Really why
should we hold on to what’s not there?
Why be the only one to care?

Why be the only one to mourn
a bond once precious that was torn
away by someone without reason?
Friendship, like love, should have its season

And then be laid aside as done.
Why should one be the only one
who tries to save what’s run its course
and can’t be reeled back in by force?

No, let it go, though with regret.
Forgive, but do not quite forget
that you once had, in times gone by,
a friend who let it go awry.


Why write? Nobody reads.
Why make what no one needs?
Why struggle? Why create?
Resign yourself to fate.

Why make what no one needs?
Why plant unfruitful seeds?
Resign yourself to fate.
It always was too late.

Why plant unfruitful seeds?
Why till unyielding ground?
It always was too late.
Why work, then wait around?

Why till unyielding ground?
Why make what no one needs?
Why work, then wait around?
Why write? Nobody reads.

Fate whispers in your ear:

Why write? Nobody’s here.
There is no hope. No light.

You hear. You know. You write.


Oblivion, I face again, again,
the stark reminder of your blank blank slate.
I know you do not deal in If, but When.
I know one has no other choice but wait.
Your triumph is assured, and our defeat
is certain. All the rest is merely dream.
Yours is the Iron Reign we cannot cheat,
however comforting scant hope might seem.

So why do I persist? Why not give in?
Stop laboring? Stop trying to succeed?
I know the loss of everything that’s been.
That nothing I possess will meet this need
I feel to somehow thwart you. Still I try
with foolish acts like this, I don’t know why.




Shakespeare shows how living through
is the most that one can do.
Lear and Gloucester find their way
though they dearly have to pay.

Often, though, it turns out worse.
Think of sad Othello’s curse,
trusting one who wished him ill,
loving one he had to kill.

Hamlet also didn’t survive,
though he managed while alive
to restore his Kingdom and
his good name throughout the land.

What’s the lesson? Go ahead,
though you’ll likely end up dead.
Act, and hope you’ll find your way
worth what you will have to pay.


Some brilliant lines I scrawled last night
don’t seem so brilliant in the light

Of this new day. What did I mean?
They seemed so apposite and keen,

Yet make no sense I can discern.
Not only will I never learn

What I knew then, or thought I knew.
Who knows what they were leading to?

That trail’s now lost. I’ll never find
what once was almost in my mind

spelled out in legible specifics
which now are merely hieroglyphics.


I’m not a hoarder. No, indeed.
All this? All this is stuff I need.
All that? That’s stuff that I need too.
And that. And that. And that is new.


Stuck at 3:38
our ship’s clock tells a lie.
It’s early. Then it’s late.
Stuck at 3:38,
assenting to its fate,
it does not even try.
Stuck at 3:38,
our ship’s clock tells its lie.

We bought it as a lark
and hung it on our wall.
It hangs there, still and stark.
We bought it as a lark.
It’s there through light and dark.
It’s present, and that’s all.
We bought it as a lark
and hung it on our wall.

It’s there through calm and storm,
a constant useless thing.
Like some outmoded form,
it’s there through calm and storm,
and serves us as a norm,
the kind to which we cling,
unchanged through calm and storm.
Our constant, useless thing.

Stuck at 3:38,
assenting to its fate,

our ship’s clock tells its lie.

It need not even try.



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        “If I had known dying would be like this,
          I would have done it sooner.”
                               -- Daniel Ellsberg

It isn’t always, as we know too well.
Still, it is nice to know that can be true.
What happens afterwards, no one can tell,

Though many hold opinions. Some say Hell
Or Heaven. That, of course, is nothing new.
It’s always like that, as we know too well.

Some say the body simply is a shell
For Consciousness, which then goes leaping to –
But who knows what, or where? No one can tell.

In any case, death’s first. There is the knell.
But first, that gathering. If lucky, you
Can have around you those who know you well

And love you best. They cast a kind of spell
And make your leaving bearable. All rue
Can be completely gone, since you can tell

You’ve done the best you could, which can dispel
The sadness of departure. Granted few
May be that lucky. Plus, all may be well.

What happens afterwards, no one can tell.



Write on. Write on. Let nothing stem the flow.
It’s that that makes you happy, though you know
It leads to nothing, nowhere. It is now
That matters. Seize the moment! Then let go.

But wait. Let go? Of what? There’s nothing there
But words, mere words, that no one else will share.
Yet words, mere words, are something. They will stand
A moment. They will show you are, you care.

But show to whom? To what? They’ll disappear.
Gone like the dew, that was, then is not here.
Gone like that bird, that sang, then left thin air,
Poof! like those fabled snows of yesteryear.

Yet look! You’ve done it. Done it, once again.
You’ve written words and let them stand. So then,
Stop your complaining for yet one more day.
Be thankful. Go be happy now. Amen.


He writes for no one, no one, but himself,
his books on some imaginary shelf
where they will have no readers or acclaim,
but prove that he once lived and had a name.

He dreams of that imaginary shelf:
How rich it is. How full of what life was.
He needs no other reader than himself.
He wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote because

Because that’s what he did and who he was.
What other point to living? Quite content,
he wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote because
he loved to write, and that was what life meant

To him. And so, alone and quite content,
he kept on writing books that filled that shelf
because he loved to write. That’s what life meant:
To write for no one, no one but oneself.




        -- after Housman’s "Epitaph On An Army Of Mercenaries"

These, in the days when Russia was failing,
And all around sought Putin’s head,
Instead of gnashing, whining, flailing,
Changed their attack plan, and were led

On, on toward Moscow, and toward Glory,
As righteous anger fueled their way,
Until – and it’s a familiar story –
They called rebellion off for pay.

   (The Washington Post)

You’re all caught up the paper tells me.
Not by a long shot, but enough.
Any more news would drive me crazy!
Time to move on to other stuff.

The War news is the same. Enough.
Mass shootings also. There were two.
Time to move on to other stuff.
Really, can’t there be something new

That’s not depressing? There are two
items about AI’s new features,
so, I suppose, they’re something new.
Also, more disappearing creatures

That are the subject of long Features.
Time to move on. I’ve had enough.
Ice caps? Gone! Disappearing creatures!

I’m done with the paper. I’m all caught up.


“I can’t wait to get up and face the day.”

My mother used to say that. She was full
of “pep” (that’s what she called it). Nothing dull
or dark could pull her down. That was her way
of coping, living through. Oh, she was sad
at times, but she’d find energy to spare
to find, and live, the positive, until
age got to her at last, and then her will
flagged just a bit, since she learned that she had
grave doubts and reservations. These she’d bear
bravely enough, but anyone could see
her disillusionment. She would recite,
“Old age is not for sissies,” look to me—
or anyone—to tell her she was right.


Let’s hear it for Bobi, who’s turned thirty-one,
a dog for the ages, and he isn’t done.
They’re throwing a party. They’ll shout and they’ll cheer
“the oldest dog ever,”* and he is still here!

True, he’s a bit lame and his sight isn’t great,
but so far he’s made it just fine, and his fate
has not yet been sealed. He can smell and enjoy,
and, presumably, hear when he’s called “a good boy.”

His prime days of guarding are long in the past,
but he has a secret that’s helped him to last:
a “calm, peaceful” place where there’s love and no stress.
What else has preserved him we just have to guess.

But one thing is certain: he’s set a high bar
for dogs, and for people. How many folks are
just half of his age? You can bet they aren’t plenty.
And who do you know who’s two hundred and twenty?

*according to the Guinness Book Of World Records


AI wrote a Shakespeare play.
AI critics blithely say,
though it seemed to meet the test,
it was clearly not his best.



Suck it up.
Let it go.
Drain the cup.
Stem the flow.

Turn your head.
Fail to see.
Laugh instead.
Let it be.


Our gardens. Yes, our gardens. That’s the way
to live in this unruly world and stay
as sane as if we lived where all is well.
Not Paradise, perhaps, but far from Hell.



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The snails came out to crawl around,
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 they found.
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 the air.
You venture out. You crawl. Then wham!
You can’t detect what isn’t there
before it is. No snail

Will save you from that instant wham!
Do not count too much on your shell
or on some miracle shazam!
Stay put. Don’t crawl, and you’ll do well.


                            -- 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, desperate, alone,
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 ever ought
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 to survive.


My faithful chair is in decline.
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 height.
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 low.
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 room.
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 Dirty Dancing;
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?


One 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 way.

It’s triolet. And triolet.


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?




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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 cannot evade
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 we’re not,
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 have done
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.

There’s nothing, 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,

Which, almost 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.


Nazca 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 right
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 won’t go
without at least a flurry
of frantic fluttering to show
that I’m not in a hurry!




I started early – took my dog –
She did not – want – to go –
I offered her – a treat – a bone –
She clearly signaled – No!

Well, what was I to do? I thought –
and thought about it – hard –
And then – I put my plans – on hold –
And we played – in the yard –




Dumb squirrel! You are not fooling me.
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 how
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 pleasant chat,
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 was gone.
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.



Norway Kills Freya,
1,300-Pound Walrus
Who Delighted Onlookers

   -- https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/14/world/europe/freya-walrus-dead.html

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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   Bruce Bennett EPO Poems Prior to 2023