PAPER CUTS

Paper is at once both
the cruelest invention a writer
may have stumbled across
and also her salvation.

The blank page invites,
often demands the pen
and is unjudging, yet the poet
may change or delete
but the paper retains the original
and throws it back in his face.

The computer, many say,
changed all of that, backspace
or highlight and delete and
that mistake, misuse, misadventure
is gone forever, but
with a wrong keystroke
all you may have is a blank screen
and your words so well shaped,
thoughts perfectly expressed
can be lost in the ether.

Where did I put that pen?

HOME?

The news, online and on paper,
is replete with stories
about adult children moving
back in with their parents,
whether because of the pandemic,
or other circumstances, always
expecting they will
have a room at the ready.

Perhaps it is why we
chose to have no spare rooms,
sort of a preemptive strike
against an ill-conceived return.

But as my cohort ages,
I wonder if all too soon
those news sources online,
since papers will likely
be gone, will feature stories
about older parents
moving in with their children,
rooms available or not.

INSTRUCTIONS TO MY ENGLISH LIT CLASS

First, read the syllabus
and buy the books we will read.
Note that I have carefully selected
works for which there are no Cliff Notes
or their equivalent, so if you were
counting on that consider yourself screwed.

When you write an essay, do not ever,
let me emphasize EVER, begin by saying
in my opinion, for if I wanted
an opinion on a great writer’s work
I would as soon stop and ask
my multigrain bagel what it thought,
although I admit its Everything cousin
did have some amazing insights into Hamlet.

Do not bother plagarizing quotes
from things you find on the internet,
for they will either be wrong or
you will have found them by using
Google or another search engine
and I discovered those when you
were still in diapers. And finally
if you ask for more time to write
a paper, I will give you a strong
recommendation to take my friend’s
Intermediate Composition class,
the one you tried to duck
by taking my class instead.

AMERICAN IDOL

He was well on his way
to achieving his dream
of being a musical idol.

He had long since mastered
the air guitar, could shred
with the best, Hendrix,
Clapton, and he had conquered
the piano fingerings of most
of the Billy Joel Songbook,
his paper keyboard worn flat.

Clarence Clemons was proving
a serious challenge, the air sax
was by reputation the most
difficult of all the instruments.

He could taste success, and all
he now needed to do was
convince his parents to buy
an instrument and pay for lessons.

IN HIS IMAGE

He said the assignment is
an easy one for this class,
write a piece, poem or story,
your choice, but focused 
on a single metaphor. Oh,
and to make it interesting,
that metaphor should be
the last pet you owned or
currently own, and if you’ve
never been blessed with a pet,
use an ocelot or a lynx.

How hard could it be, I thought,
I have a cat, she will be 
my metaphor, and so I sat,
picked up pen and paper
and absolutely nothing came.

The cat watched me, heard me
mutter under, I thought, 
my breath, then gently mewed:
“Cats cannot be metaphors,
you should know that, for we
are unique in nature, unless
of course you wish to write
about God, for we know that we
were created in his image.

OLD SCHOOL

How much better off would we be
if every poet and wanna be were
compelled to write using only paper
and a quill pen dipped regularly
into a small glass inkwell?

You must wonder if we would see
more elegance, villanelles, sonnets,
and the other forms now lying jumbled
in the great literary waste bin.

What would we discover if left
to our own hand, words born
or twisted by coincidence or error,
no autocorrect function save
the endless manual revisions?

Perhaps this is the failure of much
of today’s poetry, but neither of us
is likely to find out, for this, like
so many others, was cast to pixels
on a device far smarter than I.

FOR NOW

Tomorrow this poem will
most assuredly no longer be here,
though when during the night
it will slip away, never again
to be seen, I don’t know or perhaps it
will return in a form I would not recognize,
recrafted by the hand of an unseen editor.

It may take on a meaning unfamiliar,
or translate itself into a tongue
that I can neither speak nor read,
or perhaps, most dreadedly, assume
the shape of prose, accreting words
until the embedded thought is bloated
and wholly unrecognizable.

Even if I tried to stop it, watched
carefully, it would no doubt
remind me that poems have a life
of their own once cast to paper
or pixels, and I am at best only
another editor or reader, and it
takes kindly on most days to neither.

PAYING HOMAGE

No one thinks it all that strange
that novels featuring James Bond
appeared well after Ian Fleming
again made acquaintance with the soil.

Nor are we shocked that Conan Doyle
has seemingly taken up pen again
and brought Holmes back to life,
although many find those efforts regrettable.

And yet when I take pen to paper
and cast line upon line of verse
upon the page, weaving intricate rhymes
and couplets of fine iambic pentameter,

I am called a fool or a charlatan for claiming
my work is merely a continuation of
Milton, Eliot and old William Butler Yeats
but homage is a tough game and I’m up to it,

and I toil away wondering just who
will strive to continue my tales when,
as draws ever closer to my chagrin,
I join the masters as further food for worms.

WRITTEN ON WATER

Tomorrow this poem will
most assuredly no lnger be here,
though when during the night
it will slip away, never again
to be seen, I don’t know or perhaps it
will return in a form I would not recognize,
re-crafted by the hand of an unseen editor.

It may take on a meaning unfamiliar,
or translate itself into a tongue
that I can neither speak nor read,
or perhaps, most dreadedly, assume
the shape of prose, accreting words
until the embedded thought is bloated
and wholly unrecognizable.

Even if I tried to stop it, watched
carefully, it would no doubt
remind me that poems have a life
of their own once cast to paper
or pixels, and I am at best only
another editor or reader, and it
takes kindly on most days to neither.