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.
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.
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.
Consider them very carefully
for you will have only this chance
and you don’t want to add
those which ought not be included
or be forever burdened by those
you overlooked or misassumed
you wanted to retain.
When you are quite certain
you are finished, that your list
is exactly as you wish it,
that all your dislikes and regrets
are properly delineated, then
walk slowly to the river,
pen at the ready, and write them
with a precise hand upon the water.
It is well past time
I wrote a poem about
the great joys of my childhood,
for memory should bubble up
like lava through the crust of time,
they should rain in flashes
as so much matter dropping
into the atmosphere
in their ultimate light show.
This isn’t going to happen, of course,
whether because memory has
grown dim over time’s distance
or for lack of subject matter.
At 68, the difference hardly matters
for a blank page hardly cares
which pen chooses not to write it.
The history of modern literature,
at least to those who purport to create
it, is inextricably tied up with technology.
The quill and inkwell ceded only
reluctantly to the fountain pen and ballpoint.
Foolscap was affixed to corkboard
by countless pushpins, but one wasn’t
a teal writer until one stuck in the sole
of your foot as you wandered in the dark
in search of a pen in the night while
trying vainly to cling to a thought that only
moments before had dragged you from sleep.
We have progressed far, the pen falling away
beneath the great weight of the keyboard,
paper now a wrapping for electronics
which now serve as both paper and book.
many are no longer writers at all, dictating
words which appear on the screen, the machine
at once editor and publisher and bookstore.
And we know the day is approaching when
voice and hand will cease to be tools, when
mere thought will be the poet’s task, and reading
will be a lost skill, something the ancients did
when they still had poetry and literature.
First appeared in Erothanatos, Vol. 3, No. 3, July 2019 at Pg. 41
My shelves grow heavy
with volumes of words
I wish I had written, neatly
bound up in books
that stare at me, at once
bidding me welcome
and challenging me to enter.
One shelf is set aside
for books of pages,
blank, on which I have written
each day now for three
and a half years, words
I did write which, on rereading,
I often wish I hadn’t.
I could write in pencil
erase later in the face of regret,
but the pen seals failure
and, I am sure, helps build
character, which I have in excess
There is one thing a poet hates
more than a page
that refuses to be filled –
it is coming across words
or are sworn
I had a pen
I truly loved
until it announced
early one morning
it was taking
of iambic celibacy.
Poems once pregnant
As I turned
from Erato’s altar
she called after me,
is out of ink.”
Writing is an art form
that very many never see
but the unseeing of the work
is what elevates it to art.
This is what you often hear
from the unpublished, or even
from the denizens of small
press purgatory, the one
the Vatican will never acknowledge,
for the poets corner of heaven
is so deeply hidden away.
The words on the page
know better, they see the beauty
as they tumble from the pen,
and need no confirmation.
She says she sees
the whole book
in her head
before she kills it
putting pen to paper.
It is there, she says
where it dies
immovable on the page.
I invite the words
onto the page as well
and hope they take a life
of their own
expressing my intentions
if not my thoughts
which evanesce before
they quickly evaporate.