A Journal of Contemporary Arts 






The begonia in the corner of the room
was given in your memory. A forced bloom
made it erupt in winter, but now
it grows, is green, but will not flower any more.
Must it accede to its past, bow
to remembrance of petals scattered on the floor,
your heavy-footed ghost dragging down the corridor?


Everett Simpson, bitter geezer,
angry father, household Caesar,
hater of blacks, Catholics, Jews,
rager through the nightly news,
what God created you as rage,
your life a tiger in its cage?

Mother, sister, killed by the train,
boxer brother by the gin;
bitter brother who remained
stomped off, not to be seen again.
Everett watched as anger gained
access to thought and wore his skin.

And he grew very old and set
his face against the world he knew
and one he didn’t. Widowed twice
(His first wife’s name he would forget),
he died when the world was deep in snow,
ground frozen with a coat of ice.

Everett Simpson, forgotten soul,
such fierce fire from such dead coal.




“He never even turned the TV down,”
she used to say, shake her head and frown;
she’d gone to show her brand-new baby off,
almost a trophy, or some kind of proof
that family mattered still. But all in vain.
She sighed and left, did not see him again.
Perhaps she wondered why she ever came?
Or why she had awarded me his name?


My Aunt Matilda weighed five hundred pounds
on her good days. She always kept around
a pack of yelping Yorkshire Terriers
who every night would share the bed with her.
One night she rolled on them, and that was that.
(Funny how they seemed taller now they’re flat.)
Then she began to entertain lost men
as she indulged her urge equestrienne.
Some came in fat, but all emerged quite thin—
we’d find them next day in her garbage bin.
And then to flatten West Virginia’s hills
was her next scheme: she’d roll and roll until
the place was flat and stretched to Kansas City.
But then the cops stopped by: they showed no pity
for governments decree and courts have found
only the rich can throw their weight around.

            Anonymous note: EPO is assured that the above is a real Aunt.




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When what we feared has come to pass
and all the bullfrogs cease their croaking,
the drinks drop from the thirsty hands
and prophets claim they were just joking,

and all the orators are bemused
into a silence not their own,
and all the constant hangers-on
are much relieved to be alone,

then some will sense the game is up
and turn to home as to a dream
they have not dreamt for many years
to find its tarnished symbols mean

quite other things in this stilled world
where now not even dreams abide,
where emptiness stalks city streets
and seeps through stunted countryside.


These timbers, broad-planked floors, and sturdy beams
withstood the weathers and the yearly fashions;
a tavern where the stages stopped, and dancers
frolicked to fiddles as the swirling seasons
spun out their plantings, harvests, debts, and dreams.

Then a mortician’s, post office, and a grange
for forty years, and next a B & B.
Then drifting down the years it came to me.
Too many lives passed in and out these doors
whose names have faded, whose faces have grown strange,

for it to feign much interest meeting mine.
So much that happened here is buried deep
within these walls that I shall never know
the dreams dreamt here, or who, then out of time,
died in this room where now I take my sleep.



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See beyond shadows:
Wheelbarrow of wheelbarrows!
No imperfections

of the grossly here,
the weighed-down, tied-to-the-earth,
burdened beast of work.

Made of steel and wood,
and not a natural form
(no happenstance here),

smoothed on lathe, and cast,
its final cause first in mind
(as is always true).

A chance atomic
coincidence, soon dispersed
as we shall all be.

As it is something
it is good; imperfection
is sin, absence where

presence should be, like
a hole in its bed through which
evil’s No! enters.

Not a thinking thing,
known only as extension;
unknowing itself,

it can’t think or feel
or doubt and thus cannot know
it is (or isn’t).

A wheelbarrow’s life,
brutish and nasty at best
depends upon so

much beyond itself:
builders, contractors, farmers,
the strong bonds of state.

Wheelbarrows aren’t red:
molecules are colorless.
A wheelbarrow has

texture, dimension—
secondary qualities
come through perception.

Comes through perception?
To be is to be perceived.
Since perception nods

existence itself
(wheelbarrows, philosophers)
is God’s wakefulness.

A priori truths
that are synthetic lead to
the transcendental,

sustain the moral;
the Ding an sich unknown as
the bland wheelbarrow.

Movement and stasis:
the set-in-placeness of things,
the need for
this there

joins wheel to barrow
but disconnects bonds between
labor and profit.

The Ubermensch will
not bend to menial tasks
carting stones for walls

of cowering men:
men too weak to lift the stones
are best beneath them.

Art for art’s sake? Oui.
The birth of America
is the death of art.

Still miners, farmers
were pleased by his performance,
their wheelbarrows paused.

Such heavy theories!
Yet he added to the load,
wheeled in Oedipus

reborn for Mother’s
Day, and—oh!—how burdensome
those barrows of id!

(Cornered by his tomes,
sometimes, he’d say, wheelbarrows
are just wheelbarrows.)



Beyond the campfire’s gathered light
the arbitrary looms and sees
the huddled shapes that hunker down,
too certain of contingency.
The darkness drifts down from the sky
and fills the forms of dying things
while scattered tinder seeks the spark
defiance of the darkness brings.
And all this is as always was
to the obsessive mind which thinks
it too can tame the elements
(or can at least when godhead blinks).
But all this is as nothing to
those huddled round the campfire’s glow;
who once had thought the world was theirs
now only want the night to go.



Old Boney was the final straw:
  Jacques-Louis had to go.
  Brussels was close, and so
David moved on. There he would draw

portraits of the nouveau riche:
  the banker, financier
  all smiled into their beards.
David, as always, found his niche.

And so he flattered them and fed
  their egos and his purse,
  those frauds he once had cursed
to face the mob shorn of their heads.

He got off lightly, after all,
  unlike poor Robespierre
  who blubbered in his terror
to his disgrace before blade-fall.

But it was his Marat, whose death
  he made a sacrifice
  for an earthly Paradise
and a baptismal of his bath,

that even his skill could not atone.
  Is genius thus misspent
  its own impoverishment?
Or does it come into its own?

His line was firm and his resolve
  was steel, his hand was cold.
  Such coldness never could
blunt Justice to a kind of love.



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What a holiday! I can’t begin
to count the scattered bottles or
the butts in ashtrays strewn most everywhere.
(God knows what that is on the floor.)

But it was fun. And while it lasted we
were kings and queens of crapulence
and we enjoyed ourselves, as you can see—
we’ve left behind the evidence.

So, boys, pack up, it’s time that we were gone,
all things must end, don’t make a fuss.
ve made amusement our accomplishment.
Someone will clean up after us.

















         after a painting by Paul Bond,
         “Ascending Cows aka The Great Bovine Rapture”

Rise up, cream of the herd, ye holy cows!
If the cows heard, few paid it any mind.
Swallow that cud! Lift up your bovine brows!

Then Bessie rose, awakened from her browse,
and dropped a plop on a group of the left-behind.
Rise up, cream of the herd, ye holy cows!

They were surprised what gravity allows
though Myrtle thought the sight most unrefined.
Swallow that cud! Lift up your bovine brows!

Some stayed behind, held down like mud-bound sows,
perhaps not quite the elevating kind.
Rise up, cream of the herd, ye holy cows!

You pasture-prophets who would daily browse,
who were to daily rituals confined,
swallow that cud! Lift up your bovine brows!

What if they’re headed to God’s slaughterhouse?
That would be different from the daily grind.
Rise up, cream of the herd, ye holy cows!
Swallow that cud! Lift up your bovine brows!






The Kirk

A few convenient deaths
and Scotland is reborn,
its god and weather both
clenched, Presbyterian.

Knox’s ardor, Beaton’s
mozetta a deeper red,
the galleys and Geneva,
Henry, the Marys dead—

surely the Hand of God
these deaths, surely God’s Will
to move a nation toward
the Inconceivable

but two brief years before.
The sword obeys the Word.
Jacob I love, Esau
I hate. I am the LORD.


A melancholy chore, the search for Truth
will shrivel skin, give pallor to the cheek;
that many-petalled rose defied the Greek
quest for certainty, withheld the proof.
My Treatise sapped the vigour of my youth

and after years fell deadborn from the press.
Unnatural birth. Far better time is spent
in conversation where words are kindly meant
for jocund company and friendly jest,
banishing the abstract to the wilderness.

The Deist god is false as any other:
The ball is struck. It strikes another ball.
Which moves. “Cause and effect,” we say. But all
we’ve seen are chance collisions and we infer
what always happened must always reoccur.

And what’s behind the intricate machine?
Always the stupid mechanic who fixes what
he little understands and never wrought.
Be humble: don’t expect the world has meaning...
Let’s drink one more—Truth will not intervene.
















Most of the newly-dead have just

accomplished the great event of their

  entirely forgettable lives,

leaving behind eventless days

and their unspeaking husbands or

  entirely forgettable wives,

and now a slab of stone remarks

on the unremarkable years that lead

  to this tiny plot of land

where the chance dates and empty words

seem less encomia of praise

  and more a reprimand.


And so, another funeral.

No tolling bell that I can hear.

  A prefab sermonette.

But we all loved old-what’s-his-name

and treasured most his (YOUR WORD HERE).

  Amen. Requiescat.









What is a country for old men?

A place where song is banished, lust

abstracted, joy not to come again?

Drab, drafty rooms furnished with dust

where only numbness softens pain

and any act leads to disgust?

A fog-obscured and restless sea?

A monumental apathy?



No one escapes from time in time;

no one can drop time's heavy burden

and not be crushed. The guilty dream

awakens, what cannot be pardoned

repeats in some chance face or rhyme:

a misbehavior in a garden,

a word, a love one kiss unmade,

a truth forsworn, three times afraid.




It is the self that is undone,

unravelling throughout its acts,

displaced by deed, the nightmare son

who's guilt's cartographer, whose maps

chart failure's coast, the corpse once drowned

revisits as a living fact.

The mirror reminds: the face must learn

the emptiness of all return.



Were there a pure province of art,

a realm composed of timeless joys

far from the sewer where ladders start,

it would be airless. Time breaks its toys

and easy rhymes betray the heart.

But still the dream seduces days

to the false voyage whose lead star

but brings us back to where we are.




Ceilhidh, 15, Robert Darling's dearly departed librarian cat -- here photographed while pulling out Gail White's Catechism, a cleverly concocted collection of cat poems, passed away on Dr. Bob's birthday