He was nondescript, innocuous. He named his dog Dog. His cat was called Cat. He grew daring with his parakeet and named it Wings. He wore beige from head to toe. Even his Sunday best, his “weddings and funerals suit” he called it, was beige. People wondered if his underwear was beige. He swore that it was, but with just enough of a smirk people couldn’t be certain. His house was painted beige as were his roof shingles. His car was beige inside and out. All his furniture was pine or a light oak. When he died, they found a note with instructions on the funeral, the burial, every detail, on beige paper, of course. And they found the beige suit bag in the closet with the rainbow colored suit that he was to be buried in.
I have taken to
folding my poems
into little paper boats
and dropping gently
into the river
where they sail
Many may drown
but some may
reach the lake
or be plucked out
The river is,
in the end,
I wanted to write like Heaney
but of course he got there first
and could do it in two languages,
so that was out of the question.
I tried to write like other
of the greats only to find that
what set them apart from so many
set them rather far apart from me.
So I an left to write as myself,
which I find a bit boring for I
know myself all too well, and anything
I say or write I’ve heard before.
But I suppose you have not
heard it before so unless you are
the one who sneaks into my dreams
before I can capture them,
in which case would you return
the best of them, for in them
I know lies whatever better poems
I have yet to cast to paper.
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?
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.
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.
BANZAN’S A BETTER CUT
At the butcher
be careful what you ask
for if it is a better cut
the wise man with the knife
may slice off your hand
and present it to you
wrapped neatly in paper.
But will it be
or your left?
A reflection onCase 21 of Dogen’s Shobogenzo (The True Dharma Eye)
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.