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Poems

Seraphs in Black

“Seraphs in Black” is a villanelle, a type of French form poetry.  My poem is about the coming of the infamous four horsemen of the apocalypse.

800px-Gustave_Dore_-_Death_on_the_Pale_Horse
Gustave Doré – Death on the Pale Horse, 1865.

 

Villanelle – The villanelle has a strict structure.  There are five verses, each with ten syllables.  There are also two end rhyme words, in this case “sun” and “come”.  The rhyme scheme is as follows:

A1 b  A2          - Lines in first tercet.
  a  b  A1          - Lines in second tercet.
  a  b  A2          - Lines in third tercet.
  a  b  A1          - Lines in fourth tercet.
  a  b  A2          - Lines in fifth tercet.
  a  b  A1 A2       - Lines in final quatrain.

 

Seraphs in Black

“Then another angel came out of the temple
and called in a loud voice to him who was
sitting on the cloud, ‘Take your sickle and
reap, because the time to reap has come,
for the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ So he
who was seated on the cloud swung his
sickle over the earth,
and the earth was harvested.”
-Revelation 14: 15 NIV Bible

Against the rising beauty of the sun,
shimmering over an owl’s watchful eyes,
the apocalyptical black dead come.

Lightless labyrinths of deathly ebon
concealing nightmare beasts, dichotomized
against the rising beauty of the sun.

From trees, then across plains, desolate, dun,
thunder sixteen hooves guided by blind eyes
the apocalyptical black dead come.

Who race from four corners, the bloodless ones
taking, by frozen touch, their living prize
against the rising beauty of the sun.

They, in yawning hoods, take every one
judged guilty of slaying, sadism, lies;
the apocalyptical black dead come.

Who, like bright artists dabbing oils upon
canvases of horizons and dawn skies
against the rising beauty of the sun,
the apocalyptical black dead come.

Categories
Poems

Mr. McGraff the Happy Giraffe

Mr. McGraff the happy giraffe encounters four vicious crocodiles, and he takes action.

Mother and Baby Giraffe
Mother and baby giraffe. November 11th, 2014. Crescent Island, Naivasha, Kenya.

There once was a happy giraffe
Whose name was Mr. McGraff
He was brown and yellow
And a very tall fellow
And he had the most wonderful laugh.

Now Mr. McGraff the lovely giraffe
Went down to the mud hole one day
And it was there that he saw in four crocodile’s jaws
The child of a hippo named May.

Now Mr. McGraff was a quiet giraffe,
As it is in a giraffe’s nature to be,
But seeing this calf almost halfway in half
His cries rang from mountain to sea.

Although unable to swim, he charged right on in
And he attacked the grim crocodiles.
After much splishing and splashing
And fighting and thrashing
The giraffe emerged with a smile.

He shouted, You cool crocodiles
With your treacherous smiles
On this sunny day you’ve been beaten!
And my next endeavor
Will be to turn you to leather
For having my hippo friends eaten!

In the course of a while
After much musing on style
The giraffe was seen with a grin.
He took the lousy old brutes
And turned them into four boots
And those crocs were not heard from again.

Categories
Limericks Poems

Sunday Limericks

Sweets
Josefa de Óbidos – Still Life with Sweets, 1676

The Ballerina
There once was a girl from Argentina,
From the city of Magdalena,
She was as slender as a fawn
As graceful as a swan,
And so she became a ballerina.

The Lucky Kentuckian
There once was a child from Kentucky,
One who was bold and brave and quite plucky
He would bet on horse races,
On dice, and on aces,
And he would win because he was lucky.

The Girl from Berlin
There once was a girl from Berlin
Who thought butter and cream were a sin
She said cakes came at too high a cost
But she never knew what she lost—
For there’s a price for staying too thin!

Categories
Poems

The Heat

Gaugain
Paul Gauguin – Spirit of the Dead Keep Watch, 1892.

In this heat,
With the cicadas buzzing
Like chainsaws
And the dogs panting
Like lovers
There is nothing to do
But sweat
And sleep
Sweat
And sleep
Sweat
And sleep
Until you wash yourself
In the warm ocean
Until the rain falls
And turns the land green
Until the moon rises
And the heat
Like a cat
Curls up for a nap.
And then, only then,
Can you breathe.

Categories
Poems

We the Living Tree

“We the Living Tree” is a poem about how we’re a part of the tree of life.

Its rhyme scheme is abab.

lippi-detail_orig
Filippino Lippi – Madonna and Child with SS Jerome and Dominic (detail), c. 1485.

As a world we are a single tree
And each of us are leaves
We try to be strong and free
Still we shake in a breeze
And in a leaf’s November
When the time it comes to fall
Then it is well to remember
That spring will come to call
And although we may not see
The budding of new leaves
We’ll know they’ll come to be
After the passing of the freeze.

Categories
Limericks Poems

Sunday Limericks

Giraffe
Jacopo Ligozzi – Barbary Moor with Giraffe, c. 1580.

 

The Big Hippopotamus
There once was a big hippopotamus
Who nibbled grass from a lake’s bottomus
He once found there a snail
Who looked up and paled
And cried, “Don’t eat me; I taste like your snotimus!”

The Nudist Pair
There once was a nudist pair
Who ran naked in the open air
They loved to run slow
Along a rippling river that flowed
But they ran faster when chased by a bear!

The Laughing Giraffe
There once was a joking giraffe
Who loved nothing better than to have a good laugh
He stuck his long tongue in the ear of his friend
And then he tried to pretend
That he was just giving a bath!

Categories
Poems

The Housefire

“The Housefire” is a short narrative poem written in free verse.  It describes a moment caught in time.

Fire at the Opera House
Hubert Robert – The Fire at the Opera House of the Palais-Royal, ca. 1781.

 

She had skin
As smooth
As a watermelon’s
And eyes
As bright
As butterflies.
She stood,
Frozen for a moment,
With her mouth open,
So that her round white teeth
And the tip of her pretty
Pink tongue
Were just visible.

Her arm was outstretched,
Like a medusa
Under a deep sea.

I could understand her.

I suppose that’s
How
I might stand too
If I came home,
And I, like her,
Found my home
Burning.

Categories
Poems

Once More Into the Void

This poem tells of four seasons, and of how we continue spinning on and on, through outer space.

It is written in free verse.

Pieter Brueghel the Younger - The Four Seasons
Pieter Brueghel the Younger – The Four Seasons, 1624.

The Earth revolves, and seasons change.
Foliage turns red, brown, orange, and black.
Horses snort. Their breath rises.
Their hooves crunch through fresh snow.
Now the fawns are born.
They are brown, soft as butter, with white spots.
Their legs tremble.
In comes the sun. High overhead,
Its heat leaves the air shimmering.

At the amphitheater, a musician
Mops the sweat from his eyes,
Folds his cloth, and returns it
To his breast pocket. A crowd
Is sitting in the fresh green grass.
He puts the bow to his cello,
Turns to the band, and he calls,
“One more time around!”

Categories
Poems

Water

Water is my favorite poem of the bunch, along with Mr. McGraff the Happy Giraffe and the limericks.

The poem was written on a winter’s night in early 2018 at about one in the morning in Washington state.  The rain had been coming down, it seemed, for weeks.  Darkness came early.  It was dark when I went to work, and it was dark when I left work.

In the middle of the night, I woke up, and the sound of rain was extraordinarily strong.  I reached over to get my cell phone to check the time, and I started writing this poem in the Notes section of my phone.  Sometimes I jot down ideas there, but I’d never written a poem before.  I wrote the entire thing, saved it, and went back to bed.

The next morning, I got up, read it while I ate breakfast, and I liked it.  I still do.  I love its music.

Agave Magazine, Vol.2 Issue 2 {Fall 2014}
Lamu, Kenya. 2014.  I love this photo.

The pelting pitter patter of precipitation
tick tip tip tap
ppit ppit
on the rain washed window
during the dreary day
sends me, wends me,
bores me, as no sun can gather.
Another rain washed day:
grey and heavy storms,
forms of rain in sheets,
windy wreaths of rain
spin like cyclones in the lane.
The dreary drops go drip drip drip;
the gutter filling rain
makes slipping hours pass, peculating time
on stealthy phantom feet.
The steady clock goes tick tick tock,
Pock pock pick, pick pick pock.
Seconds sound in time to steady drops of rain
clock pock tick tock;
Seconds sound in tune to rain that nurses earth…
A water song, a sing along:
rivulets of rivers run,
languorous lakes will swell.
A water song with wet world words:
moist monsoon, sea storm squall, great ungainly gales;
sails and masts and levies snap in times of wet travails.
Tap tap tap, tip tip tip.
Ships snapped; sailors dead,
sunk in whirling eddies deep, in whirlpools, fish schools,
entombed in worlds of water,
in a never dreaming, seaweed feeding, never ending, sound unceasing sleep.
Such a sad unnecessary slaughter of superstitious sailors,
star-crossed seafarers, unfortunate mariners,
in scenes both past and present has never been succeeded nor never yet surpassed.
What a word is water; what a world is water!
Drip drip drip,
tick tick tock.
Clocks chime ten,
the dusky hour,
and still the rain pours down:
days and nights, nights and days,
months and months of rain.
The endless drip, the dreary dusk,
the weary walks from work
in incessant rain on ho-hum days,
rain interminable as an hour.

Categories
Poems

The Cosmos and Man

“The Cosmos and Man” is written in free verse and uses fireworks as a metaphor for life.

To those in the United States, Happy Fourth of July!

Fireworks
Giovanni Signorini – Fireworks Over the River Arno

It is Independence Day.
All those firecrackers—
Look at them all.
One after another after another.
Each one fascinating to watch,
Each one gone in a flash;
Each one is like a little life.

More are launched.
They are launched
In greater numbers
At ever faster rates.
This is humanity
Approaching its crescendo.

Imagine if we oohed and ahhed,
For every life lived like it was a firework.
Why not?
Folks are gone nearly as quickly, after all.
But we must tell ourselves
That we burn more brightly,
if not brighter, and are far more
important and everlasting.

At last the air is filled with fireworks,
A bright blaze. Thank the stars
That there is something beautiful
Yet to look upon.
The fireworks are captivating.
I don’t say good or bad, but
Certainly enthralling.

As expected, the show ends with a bang.
Some smoke lingers in the atmosphere.
A wind blows.
The stars twinkle high above.
The universe, it turns out,
Never cared that those fireworks
Existed it all.
And that
Is the very definition
Of unrequited love.

Categories
Poems

The Prison

This poem is about the prisons that we make for ourselves.

It’s written in free verse.

800px-Deliveranceofstpeter
Rafael – The Deliverance of St. Peter, 1514.  Fresco in the Apostolic Palace, Vatican City.

It was just a little prison,
But its walls were hard as iron
And its jailers were resolute bastards.
They hung men, day and night,
Hung them even in my dreams
So that as I lay sleeping, fearful,
I watched ghostly rebels
Swinging by their necks,
Dozens of them,
Swinging through the mists,
From nightmare gallows.

It was just a little prison,
But it kept me from being free.
It stopped me from doing
The things that I wanted to do.

It was just a little prison,
But I made it bigger
With bricks of fear
And mortar made of doubt.
The bars were of ignorance,
And I paved the floor
With missed opportunity.
I roofed the ceiling
With a broad sheet of discomposure
That covered up the sky.
Because why the hell not?
I thought I might as well.
I can’t see any distance anyway,
When I lose my temper.

It was just a little prison,
But at least I was my own warden,
And my own jailer too.
I could deny those visitors,
Courage and wisdom.
It was just a little prison,
But I made it
All by myself.

Categories
Poems

June 2020 Poems

Of the poems which I posted this June, my favorites are “A Wildebeest Named Gnu”, “The Rope Fence of the Pastel Houses”, and “The Stars Above”.

The most popular poems, judging by likes, were “The Stars Above,” “The Clouds of Passerines are Brittle,” and “Quick Folk”.

800px-Les_Très_Riches_Heures_du_duc_de_Berry_juin
Paul Limberg – June, a part of The Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry

Contents

The Bird
The Clouds of Passerines are Brittle
Disregard the Stars
Fog’s Soliloquy
Music in Winter
Quick Folk
The River to a Trout
The Rope Fence of the Pastel Houses
Song at the Dawn of the Universe
The Stars Above
What are Islands
A Wildebeest Named Gnu

 

The Bird

“It’s good,” said the little sparrow in my breast,
As if sparrows could talk,
As if sparrows in breasts could talk.
So saying, the sparrow encouraged the egg to grow.

And so the egg developed.
It grew in its nest,
One made of thorny vines,
Bent sticks, and poison oak.

“And look, soon it will be hatching.”
First its beak pierced
The shell of my bloody heart,
And then out, through that shell, came a head.

Out came the little chick, Wrath,
Whom I’d been nursing for years.
I fed it on worms and belladonna,
Nurtured it, and taught my hate to fly.

“Go on, dear bird, fly far,” I told it.
But it never did, no.
It stayed, circling my head,
Because I had cared for it well.

And now, now that I am old,
I cannot make it leave.

 

The Clouds of Passerines are Brittle

The clouds of passerines are brittle:
One sharp sound, or just the turn of a thrush,
Breaks them as easily as a forced committal.
But real love bleeds as red as indian paintbrush,
And will even alone wage war against armies
With white flags plied only as tourniquets
And no uncouth tactic too mercenary.
To such cogent arrears each heart is convinced of debt—
When innocent youth is mortgaged to adolescence—
That must be paid in full before death does foreclose.
Therefore each heart puts passion before common sense,
Folly before judiciousness, immodesty before clothes.
Still, ancient wisdom would rather be untruth,
Be forgotten, lost to desert scenes,
Than renege upon the human flower of youth
And the honest love of people’s most hopeful dreams.

 

Disregard the Stars

Imagine if each of the stars was a lady
And the sky shone with their allure every night
Or if each leaf in a tree that is shady
Was a girl who was both lovely and bright
Still I would not look from your eyes
When you smile with your hands clasped in mine.

And think if each flash on the ocean
Was an old romance that sparked into flame
Or if each flicker on a land that lay frozen
Was a call to a new and voluptuous game
Still I’d use every means ever devised
To keep our loving hearts well intertwined
For it’s true that love knows no demise
When devotion and affection align.

 

Fog’s Soliloquy

I walk upon the dank, dark moor
And drift from post to post
My feet are wisps on the damp floor
My step is softer than a ghost’s.

My hair’s like tendrils that always waft
My form is a clammy embrace
My figure’s gentle, light, and soft,
I leave no print or trace.

In fancies frightened I make faces
As I wander through the bog
Making eerie, mystique places—
You know me by my name of Fog.

Music in Winter

In winter, along the grey and green northwestern shore,
the freezing ocean draws its briny waves and bubbling foam
over beach crabs, Nautilus shells, and the crow-combed floor
as the sun sets beyond the sea into her western home.
Then the stars come out. One by one, they start to appear.
They are like lighthouses in the cold, black galaxies of space,
each with a message that says, Here, there are planets here,
circling round and round, far away, revolving round a fiery base.
And then, floating up from the water, comes the crescent moon,
scythe-like, Arabesque, swathed by scudding silver clouds,
and blinking behind a raven who flies, witchlike, through the woven gloom,
through winds whose warp and weft are the cloth of night’s dark shrouds.
In the midst of this a couple wander onto the sands.
They are lit by moonlight. Her hair is long; their feet are bare.
They walk like lovers and intertwine their hands.
They stop at sea’s edge and breathe the salty air.
It is a dark, cold night. A vagrant cloud covers the moon.
Not a light, not a lamp, not a glow can be seen.
The music of the ocean’s combers is an ancient tune.
The rustling of the firs lends woodwinds to the night’s song,
while the girl adds vocals to the primordial, ancient endeavor,
singing into the wind, into the wilderness, into the wild, high and strong,
a song that lasts a moment, with notes that last forever.

 

Quick Folk

We may all be but beings in spheres of glass
Made to march and tumble as hours pass
While some great Being holds us in mighty hand
Or sets us, like a trinket, upon a cabinet stand
Where we exist like strolling shapes in a snow globe,
Or mobile figurines on a topographic lobe
Where the mountains are like grains of rice
And Antarctica is but a trace of ice—
If we are all but tiny beings in these spheres,
Still have we our hopes and loves and dreams and fears
And as we pass through our short years,
We laugh with joy or cry with tears,
For as the hours wind from the mortal clock
With every quick tick and every quick tock
We wonder what lies past the last frontier
And hold our passing lives more dear.

 

The River to a Trout

What a fine and watery home you are!
With currents rippling, cold and clear!
With a sunken gravelly sandbar
To which eggs will easily adhere.

And what a clean, quick sound you make!
As your water burbles over stones—
Aqua drawn from a cold lake,
Where the water’s as silent as bleached bones.

River, you branch and fork and cleft
Beneath the willows and the oak
And entwine with mists of gossamer heft
That mantle your surface with smoke.

 

The Rope Fence of the Pastel Houses

I pass a seashell of no significance
as I follow the curves of a whitewashed fence
and the uneven coastline of the sea.

The fence is jagged, hardly even, somewhat ragged,
with braided rope in place of slats,
stretching further than I can see.

Above my head, squawking shrilly, are hoary seagulls on the wing—
circling, circling, flitting, snatching, snatching at a crust of bread
then aloft again to form a ring.

And in the distance, softly scratching their stemmed backs upon the posts,
are coastal grasses, likely latching their seeds upon white painted posts,
for the wind to blow and foster breeding.

To my left are pastel houses, built on stilts with reading nooks
and oriels for those with books
to put their backs to while they thumb through pages of Of Mice and Men.

While from a cattail, singing sweetly, warbles warmly the gentle wren
Brown and round and barred so drably, yet still considered very fair,
The pleasant wren makes moving music then flies upon a gust of air.

I continue on my road to fortune, whistling with the wandering wind,
Getting there as quick as those folk who have in mind no certain end,
And speaking with an amiable neighbor, I’m kindly told a thing or two
That when traveling over any distance, it’s but common sense to enjoy the view.

 

Song at the Dawn of the Universe

With the universe’s dawn came dance culture
When the meteormen flew and sang,
When the starladies played an overture,
That filled the world with song at the Big Bang.
The nebulas they were humming,
While comets whistled choral tunes,
From the blackness, pulsars started drumming
And manly planets danced with ballerina moons.
The noble gases wound themselves like lovers
A singularity flung its arms in celestial scatter
Sending gossamer, sparkling space dust like covers
To blanket those lovers beneath modest dark matter.
Auroras sang in ethereal soprano, lofty and high,
While black holes came in with cosmic violin
And igniting stars waltzed through the early sky.
Like so, the universe pirouetted and then began to spin.

 

The Stars Above

And when I to suit my fancy lie
Beneath the tree and darkened sky
And watch with wondering eyes the stars
That glimmer through the night’s short hours
And find there the constellations bright
With Grecian myths of astral light
I wonder if in the twinkling air
There might be other life up there
For while I lay thinking on our great world
One not much larger than an azure pearl
I send my thoughts to a far, empyrean shore
Where no manmade craft has gone before
And stretching out my hand and mind
I hope to greet one of like kind
One whose curiosity about space
Extends beyond the limits of their race
And lets them dream of far-off lands
With quiescent oceans and rocky sands

 

What are Islands

What are islands
but the very branches of the earth
rising up to break the waves?
And what are pits
But little scalloped holes
Where bats may live,
as they do in darkened caves?
What are these features, high and low,
But the merest bumps
Upon a sphere so smooth
That but a small ways up
From its brilliant atmosphere
These ridges and declines
Vanish into a sleek and satiny luster?
I’ll tell you now.
These islands and these pits
They are our home:
The verdant forest,
The yellow plain,
The milky fog
The chilling rain.
They are our home.
We have no other
On which to roam,
We have no other
To explore
From mountaintop
To ocean floor.
And if we throttle
This pretty planet
If its cerulean face turns grey
Still the sun
Will descend at dusk
And still the sun
Will rise at day
But all those things
That make life happen
The birds, the bees
The air, the trees
Will be killed by cement
Or disease.
Where sentient beings far above
Hopefully can think and dream and love.

 

A Wildebeest Named Gnu

There once was a wildebeest named Gnu
The laziest beast that the veldt ever knew
One day a lion poked him and said,
Now either you run or you’re dead
But Gnu couldn’t be bothered to move.
Then the lion scratched the young gnu,
Said, From you I’ll make a gnu stew!
For I have claws that can shred
And I can bite off your head!
But Gnu couldn’t be bothered to move.
Then the lion jumped on Gnu’s back
Saying, I’m going to attack!
You’d better start running my friend!
Now I’ll give you some steps out in front
’Fore I start the hunt,
Then we’ll see what takes place in the end!
But Gnu couldn’t be bothered to move.
So the lion shook his head
He walked away and he said,
Such a riddle the world never knew:
For though the gnu just seems lazy
To be so idle is crazy
He must be some kind of statue!
And Gnu would have smiled
For he thought it worthwhile
But he couldn’t be bothered to move.

Categories
Poems

A Wildebeest Named Gnu

Wildebeests, or gnus, are the deerlike animals in the background of the photo below.  As you can see, they love to eat.  They are types of antelopes, and they are frequently seen on the Mara (a protected area of grasslands) in southern Kenya.

This poem is about a very lazy wildebeest whose name is Gnu.

IMG_9980
November 11th, 2014. Crescent Island, Naivasha, Kenya.

There once was a wildebeest named Gnu
The laziest beast that the veldt ever knew
One day a lion poked him and said,
Now either you run or you’re dead
But Gnu couldn’t be bothered to move.
Then the lion scratched the young gnu,
Said, From you I’ll make a gnu stew!
For I have claws that can shred
And I can bite off your head!
But Gnu couldn’t be bothered to move.
Then the lion jumped on Gnu’s back
Saying, I’m going to attack!
You’d better start running my friend!
Now I’ll give you some steps out in front
’Fore I start the hunt,
Then we’ll see what takes place in the end!
But Gnu couldn’t be bothered to move.
So the lion shook his head
He walked away and he said,
Such a riddle the world never knew:
For though the gnu just seems lazy
To be so idle is crazy
He must be some kind of statue!
And Gnu would have smiled
For he thought it worthwhile
But he couldn’t be bothered to move.

Categories
Limericks Poems

Sunday Limericks

17.9.1
William the Hippo – c. 1961 BC – c. 1878 BC

 

The Big Hippopotamus
There once was a big hippopotamus
Who nibbled grass from a lake’s bottomus
He once found there a snail
Who looked up and paled
And cried, “Please don’t eat me, I will taste like your snotimus!”

The Nudist Pair
There once was a nudist pair
Who ran naked in the open air
They loved to run slow
Along a rippling river that flowed
But they ran faster when chased by a bear!

The Laughing Giraffe
There once was a humorous giraffe
Who loved nothing better than to have a good laugh
He stuck his long tongue in the ear of his friend
And then he tried to pretend
That he was just giving a bath!

Categories
Poems

The Bird

This poem tells of a little bird that grew inside me. The poem is written in free verse.

still-life-with-three-dead-birds-cherries-redcurrants-and-insects-jean-baptiste-oudry-1712-4810f396
Jean-Baptiste Oudry – Still Life with Three Dead Birds, Cherries, Redcurrants, and Insects, 1712.

“It’s good,” said the little sparrow in my breast,
As if sparrows could talk,
As if sparrows in breasts could talk.
So saying, the sparrow encouraged the egg to grow.

And so the egg developed.
It grew in its nest,
One made of thorny vines,
Bent sticks, and poison oak.

“And look, soon it will be hatching.”
First its beak pierced
The shell of my bloody heart,
And then out, through that shell, came a head.

Out came the little chick, Wrath,
Whom I’d been nursing for years.
I fed it on worms and belladonna,
Nurtured it, and taught my hate to fly.

“Go on, dear bird, fly far,” I told it.
But it never did, no.
It stayed, circling my head,
Because I had cared for it well.

And now, now that I am old,
I cannot make it leave.

Categories
Poems

The River to a Trout

This poem presents a trout’s description of home: the river.

The rhyme scheme is abab.

river-landscape-1869.jpg!Large
Gustave Courbet – A River Landscape, 1869.

What a fine and watery home you are!
With currents rippling, cold and clear!
With a sunken gravelly sandbar
To which eggs will easily adhere.

And what a clean, quick sound you make!
As your water burbles over stones—
Aqua drawn from a cold lake,
Where the water’s as silent as bleached bones.

River, you branch and fork and cleft
Beneath the willows and the oak
And entwine with mists of gossamer heft
That mantle your surface with smoke.

Categories
Limericks Poems

Sunday Limericks

After_the_Hunt_LACMA_M.72.103.1
David Neal – After the Hunt, 1870.

 

The Dog and the Cat
There once was a dog and a cat
Who lived in the very same flat
To friendship they were amenable
A relationship that proved tenable
And together they grew happy and fat!

The Eagle and the Bear
There once was an eagle and bear
Who were an inseparable pair
The bear was a beast in the east
And the eagle would join in the feast
Whenever there was a carcass to share.

The Cat and the Mouse
There once was a cat and a mouse
Who lived in the very same house
They were both unprejudiced
And after much talking they kissed
Now they are each other’s spouse!

 

Categories
Poems

Fog’s Soliloquy

A fog describes itself.

The rhyme scheme is abab.

http://art-monet.com
Claude Monet – Vernon Church in Fog, 1894.

I walk upon the dank, dark moor
And drift from post to post
My feet are wisps on the damp floor
My step is softer than a ghost’s.

My hair’s like tendrils that always waft
My form is a clammy embrace
My figure’s gentle, light, and soft,
I leave no print or trace.

In fancies frightened I make faces
As I wander through the bog
Making eerie, mystique places—
You know me by my name of: Fog.

Categories
Poems

What Are Islands

“What Are Islands” is a poem that warns of the dangers that accompany the continued destruction of the environment.

The_Triumph_of_Death_by_Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder
Pieter Bruegel the Elder – The Triumph of Death, c. 1562

What are islands
but the very branches of the earth
rising up to break the waves?
And what are pits
But little scalloped holes
Where bats may live,
as they do in darkened caves?
What are these features, high and low,
But the merest bumps
Upon a sphere so smooth
That but a small ways up
From its brilliant atmosphere
These ridges and declines
Vanish into a sleek and satiny luster?
I’ll tell you now.
These islands and these pits
They are our home:
The verdant forest,
The yellow plain,
The milky fog
The chilling rain.
They are our home.
We have no other
On which to roam,
We have no other
To explore
From mountaintop
To ocean floor.
And if we throttle
This pretty planet
If its cerulean face turns grey
Still the sun
Will descend at dusk
And still the sun
Will rise at day
But all those things
That make life happen
The birds, the bees
The air, the trees
Will be killed by cement
Or disease.

Categories
Poems

The Rope Fence of the Pastel Houses

The Rope Fence of the Pastel Houses was a poem that I returned to many times over the years.  One draft then another then another then another was discarded.  This poem was probably reworked more than any other poem that I’ve ever written, with the exception of one which is called The Corner of Farm and Lincoln Rds (and which is still not finished).

The poem tells of a young man going on his way along a pretty road where he meets others and sees the sights.  I imagine it to be set in New England, perhaps in an area like Martha’s Vineyard.

The poem rhymes and is written in blank verse.

IMG_8473
The Amalfi coast, Italy.

I pass a seashell of no significance
as I follow the curves of a whitewashed fence
and the uneven coastline of the sea.

The fence is jagged, hardly even, somewhat ragged,
with braided rope in place of slats,
stretching further than I can see.

Above my head, squawking shrilly, are hoary seagulls on the wing—
circling, circling, flitting, snatching, snatching at a crust of bread
then aloft again to form a ring.

And in the distance, softly scratching their stemmed backs upon the posts,
are coastal grasses, likely latching their seeds upon white painted posts,
for the wind to blow and foster breeding.

To my left are pastel houses, built on stilts with reading nooks
and oriels for those with books
to put their backs to while they thumb through pages of Of Mice and Men.

While from a cattail, singing sweetly, warbles warmly the gentle wren
Brown and round and barred so drably, yet still considered very fair,
The pleasant wren makes moving music then flies upon a gust of air.

I continue on my road to fortune, whistling with the wandering wind,
Getting there as quick as those folk who have in mind no certain end,
And speaking with an amiable neighbor, I’m kindly told a thing or two
That when traveling over any distance, it’s but common sense to enjoy the view.

Categories
Limericks Poems

Sunday Limericks

Kneeling Nun
Martin van Meytens – Kneeling Nun, c. 1731.

Fred the Sailor
There once was a sailor named Fred
Who convinced a young nun to wed
She said all this kissin
Was what I was missin
Now I have found Heaven in bed!

The Nun and the Priest
When the sun once rose in the east
It shone over a nun and a priest
They had spent the whole night
In ecstasies of delight
Now he’s defrocked, and he cares not the least.

The Young Man with the Lisp
A young man once developed a lisp
That made his speech a bit less than crisp
Still, when he asked for some wrenches
And they brought him some wenches,
He thought, Now I could get accustomed to this!

The Contagious Stutter
A man had a contagious stutter
Which spread with each word that he’d utter
And when he kissed a girl
It’d make her head whirl
And he’d smile when she’d ask for an-an-another.

Categories
Poems

Song at the Dawn of the Universe

When the universe began…

Kandinsky
Wassily Kandinsky – Composition VII, 1913.

With the universe’s dawn came dance culture
When the meteormen flew and sang,
When the starladies played an overture,
That filled the world with song at the Big Bang.
The nebulas they were humming,
While comets whistled choral tunes,
From the blackness, pulsars started drumming
And manly planets danced with ballerina moons.
The noble gases wound themselves like lovers
A singularity flung its arms in celestial scatter
Sending gossamer, sparkling space dust like covers
To blanket those lovers beneath modest dark matter.
Auroras sang in ethereal soprano, lofty and high,
While black holes came in with cosmic violin
And igniting stars waltzed through the early sky.
Like so, the universe pirouetted and then began to spin.

Categories
Poems

Disregard the Stars

For some people, there is only one true love, no matter who or what else may exist. “Disregard the Stars” describes that feeling of devotion.

The rhyme scheme is ababcdefefcdcd.

Starry_Night_Over_the_Rhone
Vincent van Gogh – Starry Night of the Rhône, 1888.

Imagine if each of the stars was a lady
And the sky shone with their allure every night
Or if each leaf in a tree that is shady
Was a girl who was both lovely and bright
Still I would not look from your eyes
When you smile with your hands clasped in mine.
And think if each flash on the ocean
Was an old romance that sparked into flame
Or if each flicker on a land that lay frozen
Was a call to a new and voluptuous game
Still I’d use every means ever devised
To keep our loving hearts well intertwined
For it’s true that love knows no demise
When devotion and affection align.

Categories
Poems

The Clouds of Passerines are Brittle

“The Clouds of Passerines are Brittle” is a sonnet about the everlasting nature of love and how love conquers all.  It is one of those poems that I wrote straight through, hardly stopping.  I liked the 4th – 8th lines even as I wrote them, and I still like them now.  Those lines became, to me, this poem’s engine.

Sonnets have fourteen lines, and mine rhymes abab.

IMG_5872
David Murphy – Girl on a Beach.  Zihuatanejo, Mexico, 2012.

 

The clouds of passerines are brittle:
One sharp sound, or just the turn of a thrush,
Breaks them as easily as a forced committal.
But real love bleeds as red as indian paintbrush,
And will even alone wage war against armies
With white flags plied only as tourniquets
And no uncouth tactic too mercenary.
To such cogent arrears each heart is convinced of debt—
When innocent youth is mortgaged to adolescence—
That must be paid in full before death does foreclose.
Therefore each heart puts passion before common sense,
Folly before judiciousness, immodesty before clothes.
Still, ancient wisdom would rather be untruth,
Be forgotten, lost to desert scenes,
Than renege upon the human flower of youth
And the honest love of people’s most hopeful dreams.

Categories
Limericks Poems

Sunday Limericks

Carina Nebula
Photograph of the Carina Nebula, 7,500 light years away in the Carina Constellation.  Photo by NASA’s Hubble Wide Field Camera 3, 24 – 30 July, 2009.

 

The Death of George Floyd
There once was a man on the ground
On whom others did nothing but pound
He died on that day
In an unpleasant way
Now there are riots spreading around.
May 25th, 2020 George Floyd is killed in Minneapolis, MN.

SpaceX Astronauts Fly to the ISS
There once were two pioneers
Who orbited beyond Earth’s atmosphere
They rode a private company’s ship
For their groundbreaking trip
And furthered the human frontier.
May 30th, 2020, SpaceX’s Dragon capsule aboard the Falcon 9 lifts off for the International Space Station.

The Marvelous World
There once was a marvelous world
On which many plots and plans were unfurled
There were emperors and kings
And young children with dreams
And from a distance it seemed as small as a pearl.

Categories
Poems

Quick Folk

“Quick Folk,” imagines the world as quite small when measured against the size of the universe or when held in the hand of a divine being.   And it says that, although we sometimes contemplate what happens after death, when we hear the ticking of that mortal clock, still we must laugh and love and live our lives well.

The rhyme scheme is aabb.

Adriaen_van_Utrecht-_Vanitas_-_Still_Life_with_Bouquet_and_Skull
Adriaen van Utrecht – Still Life with Bouquet and Skull, c. 1642.

We may all be but beings in spheres of glass
Made to march and tumble as hours pass
While some great Being holds us in mighty hand
Or sets us, like a trinket, upon a cabinet stand
Where we exist like strolling shapes in a snow globe,
Or mobile figurines on a topographic lobe
Where the mountains are like grains of rice
And Antarctica is but a trace of ice—
If we are all but tiny beings in these spheres,
Still have we our hopes and loves and dreams and fears
And as we pass through our short years,
We laugh with joy or cry with tears,
For as the hours wind from the mortal clock
With every quick tick and every quick tock
We wonder what lies past the last frontier
And hold our passing lives more dear.

Categories
Poems

The Stars Above

“The Stars Above” is a poem about those nights when you lie on your back, looking at the stars, wondering whether there is life out there, and whether that life can hope and love and dream of other life too.
Its rhyme scheme is aabb.

starry_night_full
Vincent van Gogh – The Starry Night, 1889.

 

And when I to suit my fancy lie
Beneath the tree and darkened sky
And watch with wondering eyes the stars
That glimmer through the night’s short hours
And find there the constellations bright
With Grecian myths of astral light
I wonder if in the twinkling air
There might be other life up there
For while I lay thinking on our great world
One not much larger than an azure pearl
I send my thoughts to a far, empyrean shore
Where no manmade craft has gone before
And stretching out my hand and mind
I hope to greet one of like kind
One whose curiosity about space
Extends beyond the limits of their race
And lets them dream of far-off lands
With quiescent oceans and rocky sands
Where sentient beings far above
Hopefully can think and dream and love.

Categories
Poems

Poems May 2020

Of the poems which I posted this May, my favorites are “Death and the Safe Man” and–quite strangely, I feel–the poem “English & Cyrillic.” The latter is a poem that’s very different from what I usually write. I’m not quite sure where it came from, nor am I sure whether I could write another like it again.

The most popular poems, judging by likes, were “Coming Home,” “The Grandmaster,” and “Sea Haikus”.

I’ve put the limericks, as usual, into the limericks section of the site. I’ve given the long poem, “The Monster, Malgremir,” its own page since it’s so big.

May
Paul Limberg – May, a part of The Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry 

Contents

Between the Wines and War
Bouquet
Coming Home
Death and the Safe Man
English & Cyrillic
The Grandmaster
The Luthier Alone in His Workshop
Old Green Bottle
Passion
The Riddler in the Labyrinth
Sea Haikus
The Stone Man, the Fire Woman, the Flower Man, and the Bird-Hearted Woman

 

Between the Wines and War

What have we here—here between the fine wines and war?
Love. Passion. The sensual and the visceral,
The red drip of the pomegranate, the sweet taste of gold honey.
You touch your slim hand to your angular face once more,
Touching where your red lips are closed and commissural.
We have health, youth, life, tobacco, and wine, but no money.
We have enough. The breeze blows the transparent white curtain
Bringing in the scent of the sea, the jungle’s animals’ cries,
And the faint beams of moonlight, which band the wooden floor.
The outcome of the fight, the approaching war, remains uncertain.
The soldier fights for his country, then his friends, then dies,
As the wine reeks, and our lips meet, and the ocean breaks ashore.

 

Bouquet

There’re engines roaring in the street
loud and angry as a fire;
I am drunk, and I am thirsty,
and I’m feeling tight as wire
cause one spirit’s got me woozy,
and the other makes me pray,
but neither makes me holy
in any elemental way,
but they leave me lacking, thirsty,
with the dawn of each new day.
I have already begun to wonder
what price I have to pay
for an experience so vital
that I’ll never lose my way,
for I’m lost and I am hopeless,
and I always feel astray,
so I shut my ears to street sounds
and I let the liquor say,
Is this a comedy or a tragedy,
this inscrutable human play?
What of life does really matter:
Wealth… or appreciation of a day?
And which will make me stronger:
Affection… or a nuclear array?
I ain’t askin anybody particular
cause I don’t want to be betrayed,
but with every drink I swallow
I feel a little more afraid,
and with every hour that passes by
I feel my understanding further stray
as I draw closer to a cold truth
that – no matter how much I pay,
and despite which side I take –
there will always be this fray
between the open-hearted folk
and citizens who recite clichés.
So I guess I must do something
cause I don’t think we’re all okay,
and it don’t seem to help much
to keep drinkin or to pray:
one spirit’s in the bottle
the other’s too far away…
It’s like knowing you can’t catch
but still hoping for the bouquet.

 

Coming Home

She is a woman, auburn haired,
With eyes of green and careful mind.
She looks through windows onto snow,
To mountain ranges, crisp and clear.
She’s as tough as stone, as rough as cordage,
Supple as a rope or birch.
And in that cold Wyoming evening
Where the mountains meet the sky,
The clouds are forming, an airy meadow,
Like fields of mushrooms or beds of scallops
That grow up and white in course of time.

And coming down from that mountain,
With broken shoulder and riding slow,
Is a tall man of her age
One she’s bound herself to love.
And like Penelope she’s been watching
That rocky chine for hopeful sign,
And now at last her man’s come riding
Down the slope, back into life
To make again the old ranch whole.

So the woman, standing slowly,
Slips out through the cabin door
Into the air that’s crisp with autumn,
Chill and fair, suggesting snow.
She saddles up and rides to meet him;
She finds him ’neath a lodgepole pine,
And there the two dismount and embrace
Relieved to learn their hearts will mend.
For above the firs the birds are flying
Vultures, condors: the carrion pair,
And how they’d love a crippled cowpoke
Lost amidst the mountains there.
Now she and he are hugging fiercely
As the sun sinks behind the stone
And though Death is hungry
And impatient it must find another time
For tonight these two are coming home.

 

Death and the Safe Man

A man took no chances, and he kept his life quite dear.
He guarded himself more closely with every passing year.
Till one day while he was waiting,
He found Death grinning from ear to ear,
And Death said, “I hope you won’t my mind stating,
But it’s cost you your life to live in fear.”

 

English & Cyrillic

A… B… C… begins the lonely alphabet
and progresses, like digits in a limited set,
to a close decidedly sure and finite,
like the extent of clouds in weather systems.
Phonics and pronunciation mark lucidly
how we’ve arrived at our political geology:
by burning so many lightbulbs nobody can see the sky,
calling it poetry and lionizing warts—
There’s how we’ve arrived…
but what are we here for?
It doesn’t take a mathematician
to know two plus two makes four.

II. Gepetto & Pinocchio

Liquids, solids, gases /=/ steel machinery
amongst the Eastern European wheat fields,
the Ukrainian granary, the formaldehyde,
the slow, slow, Latvian lathe. People, terrified,
build boats to escape across the cold sea
from tall television sets, satellites, & the Rhine,
from the iron hand that broke in 1989.
A lone man wishes vainly on the stars.
коммунистические звезды

Wheat fields in the dusk, east of the Baltic sea bed.
There.
For once, we spoke plainly enough, she said.
Acknowledging alchemy can’t create gold from lead,
acknowledging there’s little blood left
that hasn’t been bled.
A naked Estonian boy takes a cold bath.
His mother shapes clay upon a lathe.
Across the grain fields, past the swather,
from the west, speeds a new gasoline car—
a lone man’s wish cracks on a communist star.

 

The Grandmaster

The old man was paralyzed from the waist down,
But from there up, he was perfectly spry.
His words flowed like water;
his thoughts were as pure as bees’ honey.
And what kind of a man was he?
He was insubordinate, obstinate,
Clever, and polite. They said he was a kind man,
A kind and gentle man, even if
He didn’t follow orders.
He was dominant at chess,
Where he sat at the table in his wheelchair,
While a longcase clock ticked behind him,
And he studied the pawns, the knights, and bishops,
As if he were looking out over a playing field of life.
His old friend, the doctor, would call on him
And bring him suits of charcoal grey,
Shirts of ivory white with soft collars,
And red roses for the boutonnieres.
These the old man would wear,
Dressing up every day, as if for his own wedding,
With a fresh flower pinned in the button hole
And a golden ring upon his finger.
In such dress, he would paint with oils.
He made great canvases of genre scenes:
Men and women at weddings, in funerals,
Sitting by lakes, and along beaches
With a range of magnificent mountains behind.
“I expect more from art than I do from life,”
He would say. “And I am apt to be more
Critical of a fine painting than of a life poorly lived.
For there is but one thing that the artist should focus on,
And in his pursuit of perfection, he must neglect all else.
While in life, a man must focus on many things,
And neglect nothing. Such is the paradox of the grandmasters,
That they must neglect life to reproduce faithfully
Its finest imitations.”

 

The Luthier Alone in His Workshop

Amid vacuousness,
vagueness, silence

ear to horsehair strings
(pluck, pluck, twing)

The luthier: polar, hoary hair
rivuleted, waxen face

planes, calipers, chisels
ebony bench

Sigggggghhhhhhh…..
stands, nestles, adjusts, lifts

bow strikes strings
(saw, pling, pling)

tattoo of sound
exequy of hush

a roaring, a splendor!
a workshop suffused.

(pling, saw saw, rush, whine orble, fade, seern, seeOyurn)
(pluck, pluck) hearken (saw) hearken (pluck, pluck) tune
(saw, neeor, seeor, zhhhh)

inhale
exhale
inhale
exhale

J.S. Bach
Partita No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1006: VII.
Gigue.

Resonance, reverberation decamp
ultimate echo.

 

Old Green Bottle

An old olive green bottle with its label faded and worn
Is shaken by its neck. Its contents churn and whisk.
Its settlings rise up and whirl in the heaving swirl.
There’s a sharp pop as its cork is unstoppered,
Then an eddying flow as the amber liquid is poured.
From out its mouth comes a dear beverage
That fills the glasses which are toasted
To fireworks in the night sky and which set to riot
The lakeside revelers who dance beneath
Moonsilvered racks of billowing clouds.
Up above them, a good spirit is fishing.
He’s dropped his line from the sky to earth.
His beard is of curled cloud, and his eyes are twinkling stars.
His body is made of mist.
From time to time he catches, from the people below,
What he’s fishing for:
A kind word, a bit of hope,
Something to lead another
Through dark days.
He reels up such a catch, this kind spirit, and he
Observes what he’s got, there on the end of the line.
It glimmers, gleams, and shines.
When he laughs, he laughs with joy,
And all go running to get out the coming rain,
For they can hear the thunder rumbling
High above.

 

Passion

Passion, amid that fair skulduggery that is Time,
Teach me no more hard lessons;
I need no more legions of tormenting lesions.
Leave me only love—soft as a pheasant,
Enduring as space—until my passing.

 

The Riddler in the Labyrinth

There once was a man with the head of a crow
He had the feet of an ostrich and a lion’s torso
He had snakes for his arms that ended in fangs
He wore a torturous yoke like the Medieval cangues
In which a chain ran from an eyebolt to a brick wall
And kept the man from moving too far at all.
He was chained like a dragon or a king to his throne
In the heart of a labyrinth made of wood and of stone.
The labyrinth was a spiral; it was weathered, antique—
It began at the foot of a mountain and wound to its peak.
And there at the top, amidst the ice and the snow
Was this man with the snake arms and the head of a crow.
And to the weary traveler who reaches this labyrinthine lair
This man gives a riddle, at once puzzling yet fair:

What is fairly yellow but can be fairly black—
It shows its face with artful grace and then it turns its back?

The wily traveler laughs and says, I can answer this one soon,
The answer that you seek, strange friend, is the orbiting moon.
So the man with the crow’s head puts another question forth
To test the mettle of the one who is establishing her worth.

What is hard to swallow but impossible to choke—
It makes us, dear, each lend an ear with the feelings it evokes?
It can feel as captivating as the heaviest chain may be,
Yet it is at once so liberating that it can set us free!

The clever traveler laughs and says, I can answer this one too!
The thing you see, that we all seek, is everything that’s true.
The Truth! It is the answer, nods the strange and riddling man,
Now listen again to what I say and answer if you can.

What seems fairly simple, yet is always so complex
That no one’s yet succeeded in predicting its effects?
It’s not glowing like a rainbow, nor shining like the stars,
And yet it lights our lives and makes humanity be ours?

There’s just one peerless answer to this mystery thereof,
Says the savvy traveler, What you’re talking of is Love!

And at that very moment, the strange and patchwork man,
Turned into a handsome prince at the top of that mountain.
And the weary traveler, she cried out with delight,
At the quick reshaping, at the splendid sight.
For this, at last, was her prince, whom she long had sought to see
And traveled over many land leagues, and across stormy seas.
For a witch had cast her spell upon this handsome prince
And chained him in the labyrinth where he’s been waiting ever since.
And it took his true love who had journeyed all this time,
To free him with her courage, and her answers to each rhyme.

 

Sea Haikus

Pearl Morning of Mist
Pearl morning of mist
Clipper ships in the harbor:
Undressing lover.

The Harbor Air
Rough, coarse, salty air,
A fragrance smelled from far-off.
Hot stew in kitchens.

Under the Sea
Undersea lie ships,
Sunken and decomposing:
A bottle’s settlings.

 

The Stone Man, the Fire Woman, the Flower Man, and the Bird-Hearted Woman

I see this man he’s made of stone
His mind’s a steel trap, his heart’s of bone,
His eyes are granite, grey and deep,
He works without end, he does not sleep.

I’ve seen this woman, she’s made of fire,
With a mind as brilliant as a pyre,
Her memory is perfect, like licking flames,
She forgets nothing, no one’s names.

I’ve seen them both: the stone, the blaze;
They both impress me, they both amaze.
We celebrate them and set them high
On plinths to be watched by every eye.

I see this man he’s all alone
His heart’s of flowers, his mind’s of brome,
His eyes are blue, his hands are weak,
There’s a voice in his heart that cannot speak.

I see this woman, she’s huddled there,
Her clothes are tatters, her feet are bare
In her heart are larks that sing
While outside her is a cold that stings.

I’ve seen them both: the bloom, the bird;
They hide their minds, conceal the word,
Their eyes they seem to have lost their gleam,
But in their hearts beats the human dream.

Categories
Poems

Music in Winter

Music in Winter is a rhyming poem that was written just after The Arrival of Autumn.

It’s written about a young couple who are in love and who are walking on a cold, dark beach.  The stars are out.  The clouds are scudding in front of the moon.  The couple’s feet are bare.  The rhyme scheme is abab.

IMG_4693
Outside Marmul, Afghanistan.  2010.

In winter, along the grey and green northwestern shore,
the freezing ocean draws its briny waves and bubbling foam
over beach crabs, Nautilus shells, and the crow-combed floor
as the sun sets beyond the sea into her western home.
Then the stars come out. One by one, they start to appear.
They are like lighthouses in the cold, black galaxies of space,
each with a message that says, Here, there are planets here,
circling round and round, far away, revolving round a fiery base.
And then, floating up from the water, comes the crescent moon,
scythe-like, Arabesque, swathed by scudding silver clouds,
and blinking behind a raven who flies, witchlike, through the woven gloom,
through winds whose warp and weft are the cloth of night’s dark shrouds.
In the midst of this a couple wander onto the sands.
They are lit by moonlight. Her hair is long; their feet are bare.
They walk like lovers and intertwine their hands.
They stop at sea’s edge and breathe the salty air.
It is a dark, cold night. A vagrant cloud covers the moon.
Not a light, not a lamp, not a glow can be seen.
The music of the ocean’s combers is an ancient tune.
The rustling of the firs lends woodwinds to the night’s song,
while the girl adds vocals to the primordial, ancient endeavor,
singing into the wind, into the wilderness, into the wild, high and strong,
a song that lasts a moment, with notes that last forever.

Categories
Limericks Poems

Sunday Limericks

Mark Tansey - The Innocent Eye Test
Mark Tansey – The Innocent Eye Test, 1981.

The Lazy Artist
There once was an artist from Chartres
Who loved but one thing more than fine art
And that was to be as lazy as hell
And for that he slept long and well
So his magnum opus he never did start.

The Chillin’ Brazilian
There once was a girl from Brazil
Who loved to do nothing but chill
She’s get as high as a kite
And stay awake through the night
And by day she’d sleep for her fill.

The Marvelous Child
There once was a marvelous child
Who drew pictures that were unusually wild
For the pictures that he drew with his pen
Were ones that you and I could step in
And we could live amongst the landscapes he styled.