The Japanese invented
haiku certain that a painting
of great beauty could
be completed with only
a few strokes of the brush.

The Japanese have no word
for what we claim is higher
order poetry, academic and
pedantic are two other English
words which easily apply.
And the Japanese are hard put
to comprehend so much of what
we deem experimental, the result,
a friend named Yoshi said,
of what seems the odd scraps
of a dictionary torn apart
by an unexpected tornado.

In Tokyo every tree knows
that at least four
poems lie within it, each
awaiting the appropriate
season.

NOTING WEATHER

The weather, he announced to no one in particular,
ought to be musical or at least
incorporate some jazz.

Spring is bebop, Trane and Parker,
the sudden clash of Blakey
the downpours of Dizzy

and the hint of what’s to come
on the fingers of Monk, and
Kenny and Milt.

Summer brings the slow easing
as early Miles slides in, and we
sink into Chet and Stan.

Bebop returns as summer fades
but turns harder, with Dexter
Sonny and Benny and we know

that winter approaches, with its
disconcert, the sun an ever
more infrequent visitor,

Ornertte and Pharaoh reminding us
that the dark cold was our share
until Sun Ra appears on the horizon.

SATURDAY MORNING, WINTER

The radio is suddenly blaring
and the clock of the stove says
seven o’clock but the window retorts
it is winter when there is no time.
You pull up your collar
as you prepare to leave.

At the store, pick up
a baguette, it will go well
with a pork tenderloin
with a sauce of Portabello mushrooms
and haricots, if you can find them
or green beans, if not.

The old dog stares at the door
debating the frigid tongue of the wind
or a burdened bladder.
She barely sets paw on the lawn,
squats and returns to her mat
in the front foyer.

Shake the snow from your collar
and leave your boots on the mat
while I warm the coffee left
from this morning and then
we will unpack the groceries.


First published in Potato Eyes Vol. 14, 1997

COUNTING TIME

I was honored to have this recently published in Arena Magazine: A Magazine of Critical Thinking, Issue 162 from Victoria, Australia


This river has
for endless time flowed
from the distant hills
on its winding path
to the waiting sea.
The river has
no need of clocks,
cares little whether
the Sun, Moon or clouds
shimmers on its surface.
The river counts seasons
as passing moments
ever new, ever shifting,
and our lives,
and our dams
are minor diversions.
I sit along the banks
and watch the clouds
flow gently down stream
seeking the solitude
only the ocean will afford.

ADDRESSING THE PROBLEM

It’s the little things,
she says, that bite you,
and while he truly
doesn’t want to believe this,
for it ought to be the big things
that cause the problems,
he knows she is right.
He recalls that a simple thing
like an address everyone
knows is 123 3 X Street is true
for all save the power company
which says it is still 98 Y Street,
although they cannot hope
to explain why this is so.
How many other addresses
for this place are there,
how many things go wrong
because someone wants it
to be this while everyone else assumes that.
So you sit and wait for the power company
to bring light into your world
and warmth into your life
with winter closing in rapidly.

FARE WELL OR FAREWELL

The sun has slipped back
into its familiar failure mode
lighting the sky, seeming
to set the trees aflame, but
offering precious little warmth.
It is just practice for the season
we all know is lurking just beyond
the horizon, beyond our too short sight.
We hope not to be here to greet it,
having fled south, escaped to a place
where the sun maintains purpose,
where it says lakes and ponds ablaze
and we shield our eyes from
its intense, overpowering presence.

POLI SCIENCE

She isn’t used to the cold,
she never will be, and she hates it
with the sort of passion she once reserved
for people of a different
political philosophy than hers.
She grew up here, but she left.
She has never regretted the departure.
She visits only in late spring
or in the heart of summer, or early autumn
and is here now only for a funeral, which she hates
more than the cold this winter.
She wishes that the death could have occurred
in late spring, early autumn, the heart of summer.
She is certain she will die in one of those seasons,
or at least in the deep enough south
that no one attending a funeral
will have to freeze and curse the winter.
She has no intention of dying anytime soon,
for she has a great deal left to do
and some of that clearly involves
cursing winter and hating the cold with a passion.

ENVELOPING

The night wraps us
in the faint light
of the glowing moon.
The snow falls, reflected
in the street light’s glow,
and settles on the snow fields
of recent days that obscure
the earth that suffers beneath.
We will flee tomorrow
and leave the snow in our wake,
hoping that on our return
a week hence, some if not all
of it will have washed
into the lake, and we,
having borne the brunt of the sun,
will remember what summer
will eventually offer us.