THINGS TO COME

One morning last week I decided
to plant myself at a busy intersection
and begin reading poetry, mostly
my own, I have to admit.

I was generally ignored, my usual
state, and that sadly of most poets,
when a scruffy, bearded young man
set up easel and paint next to me.

The morning seemed to relish
the stillness of this urban way station,
and we were easily ignored by the odd
pedestrian on her way to please not here.

As lunch hour approached, the streets
filled, and we were ready, this was
our moment, our world, until the
asylum escapee joined our duality

and preached loudly to those who
dared not avoid us, that the end
was nigh, and that we, artist and poet
were the living promise of heaven and hell.

IN SEARCH

En route to Buddhism, I must admit
I stopped at numerous philosophical
way-stations, none quite as equipped as I
would desire and so I moved on.

Buddhism was my solution, no demands
other than I be present, knowing
I had no real choice but to do so,
all in the recognition of that fact.

I did consider other faiths and -isms,
and each but one had something
to beckon me, but each was incomplete
and I was looking for a full solution.

The easiest to reject was nihilism,
for while it was the simplest to adopt,
asking, no demanding, nothing from me,
assuring me all was nothing in the end,

I knew it would fail me in the most
essential way, for I discovered there
were no great nihilist poets, how do you
write when there is nothing real to say?


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ELEGY FOR A POET

(for Allen Ginsburg)
You died quietly in your bed
friends gathered around
the cars and buses of the city
clattering out a Kaddish
to a God you had long ago
dismissed as irrelevant.
We would have expected
your to howl, to decry
the unfairness of it all,
but you merely said
it is time, and slipped away.
Who gave you the right
to depart without leaving us
one last remonstration
against the insanity
that surrounds us, one last
censure of the fools
who we have so blindly chosen
to lead a generation
into a hell of our creation.
You had your peace
but what of us
left behind, what can we
look forward to
in your absence
save the words we know
so well, can recite by heart
that no longer beats
in your breast.


First appeared in Living Poets Vol. 2, No. 1, (U.K) 2001 and reprinted in Legal Studies Forum vol .30, Nos 1-2,  2006

NAME THAT TUNE

He says, “I write songs
without music, my head
Is a libretto warehouse.”
She says, “You string words
like random beads, no
two strands the same.”
He says, “Symmetry is
for those with linear minds
who can’t see out of the tunnel.”
She says, “Dysentery, verbal,
is a disease to be avoided
particularly by poets.”
He says, “I’ll sing a song
for you if I can only
find the right notes.”
She says, “Fine, but know
it is the silent space between
the notes were the music truly lives.”

FUTURE HISTORY

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

NEXT QUESTION

It was a short questionnaire,
and he wasn’t sure why they
had chosen him to answer, or
for that matter, who they were.

He was one to follow rules, so
he sat down to complete it,
they, whoever they were, said
it would only take fifteen minutes.

“Who is the one poet you would
want to be forced to spend
an entire day with, and why
did you select that person?

In true High School fashion
I skipped it, went on to the next:
“who is the real person you would
gladly spend a day with and why?”

As a poet myself, it was easy now,
and I filled out the answer
and wondered why I paused, then
froze: did I know any real people?

PLATFORM

They said it was essential
for a writer to have a substantial platform,
one built high enough to be easily seen
by those passersby who might just give
a passing glance, even if it was a typo
landed them here, updated, regularly
changing with time, tide, and fashion
always ready, always accommodating.
It must be a composite, the better
to handle storms, ill winds lacking
the ennui of winter, curse of summer.
It was no small task to build,
everyone offered plans, templates,
none ever quite right, but he built it,
and when the time came, like most
writers he knew, it would suffice
where they put the noose around his neck
and hung him by his words, his
truth that they came to hate.

EPISTLES

In dreams
I write letters
to dead heroes
beginning each Dear __________:
I apologize for the intrusion
but in your next life
will you do the same,
give up the desk
in the patent office
for dreams of brothers
twins, one moving
one fixed, stand
before a jury, no testament
to the Lower East Side.
I carefully fold each letter
and put on proper postage
but delivery across
the curtain of mortality
is slow and your
responses have not
been forthcoming
but I will
continue to write
for there are always
more with whom
to correspond.

CACOPHONY OF SILENCE

There is one thing a poet hates
more than a page
that refuses to be filled –
it is coming across words
that profess
or are sworn
to silence.
I had a pen
I truly loved
until it announced
early one morning
it was taking
a vow
of iambic celibacy.
Poems once pregnant
with possibility
grew cloistered
and habitual.
As I turned
from Erato’s altar
she called after me,
“Your pen
is out of ink.”

WORDS

“Suppose,” he says
“words may be used
only once, after that
they disappear.”
“You mean in a poem”
she replies, “or life itself?”
Even four stanzas
can challenge most
except perhaps Basho.
Haiku would replace sonnets,
villanelles, sestinas
suddenly gone,
anaphora is self-contradiction.
“Imagine,” the young girl mused
“sloganless politicians,
talking heads struck mute,
hushed generals
fighting silent wars,
all poets condemned
to write blank verse.”