Categories
Poems

Hope

He’s got nowhere to go
Nothing to live for
Nothing left to show
Nothing in his core

He walks like a ghost
Silent, unseen
Like something from the past
That might never have been.

Now the wind in the alley
Blows paper in the gutter
There’s shadows in the valley
And a dark rumbling mutter.

It’s another cold night
In this evil broken place
With unlit street lights
Over every haggard face.

Now here comes dawn
The dangerous night ends again
We start it with a yawn
Then hurl ourselves in.

And there goes the man
Who somehow lost his way
He’s changed and made a plan.
Each dawn is a new day.

Categories
Poems

The Arrival of Autumn

The Arrival of Autumn is a nature poem with rhymes at the end of every other line. It was written in Washington state on September 7th, 2018.

Autumn Leaf
Autumn leaf, September 16th, 2018

At the end of summer when the honey drips from the comb,
when the tall grasses wave in the warm gentle breeze,
and the orchards that lie north of the farmsteader’s home
are rich with apples that hang heavy from the trees,
then the shadows begin to lengthen in the southern sun
which sets over a heartland of fields and rolling hills.
And folk feel in their bones that autumn has begun,
a time of black and scarlet leaves, brisker winds, and chills.
It is a time of fog. A time of mists among dells and valleys,
when gourds and pumpkins ripen among the pastures,
and streams flow swift, cold, and clear along the rocky alleys.
Then comes the time for hot tea, woolgathering, and a peaceful book.
Then comes the time when the black cat, its eyes like gold sparked jewels,
leaps from the wooden fencepost, and, with penetrating look,
pads across the tufted grass, past the penned up cows and mules,
on to some destination, secret or lazy or otherwise.
The days grow shorter and dimmer,
until the heavens are lit by starry orbs and the lush moonrise,
and all the earth is silvered by their fair shimmer.

Categories
Poems

Terry the Brontosaurus

Terry the brontosaurus saves the life of a triceratops at a great personal cost.

IMG_7481

Terry was a brontosaurus
With dry and pebbly skin
He ate from trees within the forest
And wore a very merry grin

One day a terrible tyrannosaur
Sighted a slow triceratops
And Terry cried, Watch out my friend!
As the T-rex licked its chops

So the triceratops it ran away
And the t-rex missed his brunch
The tyrannosaur felt angry then
And looked at Terry as his lunch!

Terry gave the tyrannosaur
His very best winning smile
And then he turned his tail to him
And sprinted for a mile!

The carnivore bared his sharp teeth
And started in pursuit
And through forests broad and rivers deep
Terry could not shake the brute

Then at last the worst did happen
As the t-rex caught his prey
On a grassy sunlit little field
In the middle of the day

The tyrannosaur held his claw
To the unfortunate victim’s throat
And said, My dear you’re at an end
For this is all she wrote!

But Terry was a kind creature
And he had a warm and cheerful air
That even the tyrannosaurus paused
Before making the final tear.

Terry gave a big old smile
And the tyrannosaur gave a sigh
Then the brontosaurus stood on his feet
As the tyrannosaur stood by

Then it was that Terry was heard
To address the t-rex and ask,
Don’t you think you’d prefer some leaves
Or some very tasty grass?

The t-rex said, I’ll try with you
Perhaps those leaves are fine
And Terry pulled down a clump of green
That was hanging from a vine

The t-rex tried to eat the greens
But his face blackened with dismay
Why this is the worst food, he said,
I’ve eaten in all my days!

Then the tyrannosaur changed his mind
And he pounced on the dinosaur
He ripped Terry from his tail to his heart
In the way of a true carnivore

So it was that the t-rex dined
On the brontosaurus’ frame
With the smacking sounds and cracking sounds
That were befitting of his name

And as the tyrannosaur licked its sharp teeth
Full of blood and raw proteins
He felt that a good brontosaur
Was certainly much more appetizing than his greens.

Categories
Poems

Whiskey in the Jar

You can sing a song any way you want.  And you can make whatever kind of music you want.  The song Whiskey in the Jar is an old Irish folk tune, and I’ve always thought it was too short.  I always wanted more of it.  So, I wrote a few verses of my own.

IMG_6187

As I was crossin over the snow-capp’d Rocky Mountains
I spied an icy stream a rushin like a fountain
and sittin at a fire was wicked Captain Farrell
he was a’clad in bear furs, and sportin rich apparel.

Now Farrel’s name was known well, from Denver to the waters,
and evil deeds went with it, as blood goes with a slaughter;
there was no act of mercy he’d extend or would belabor,
but he cut off happy days with the sharp edge of his saber.

musha riggum durram dah
whack fol the daddy o
whack fol the daddy o
there’s whiskey in the jar

I stepped up out the shadows with my pistol cocked and loaded,
said, “Give me all your money! And yer leathers n yer coat, man!”
He took off all his clothing, and I left him nearly naked
without his hat or wallet, and I marooned him all unaided.

Captain Ferrell swore he’d kill me, no matter what befell him
I told ’im, “I ain’ bound for heaven, so I’ll see you down in Hell man!”
The coins they were a jinglin and a clinkin, as I headed home to Jenny
they were a sight so rare; they were so golden and so many.

musha riggum durram dah
whack fol the daddy o
whack fol the daddy o
there’s whiskey in the jar

I come down off the mountain and entered to our chambers
Where Jenny looked so invitin that I had to go and claim her;
I showed her all the money, and she said she was my darlin,
that we’d dance through all the nights and go drinkin bright n early!

She started buyin dresses of silks and tasteful satins;
I left my gold in taverns and I soon began to fatten,
I gave my friends all of my money without ever thinkin twice,
and left my pockets lighter in wild games of cards and dice.

musha riggum durram dah
whack fol the daddy o
whack fol the daddy o
there’s whiskey in the jar

And then it was it happened, that I was sleeping sober,
When Farrell tapped at midnight, and he beckoned Jenny over.
She stole away from bed then, a blanket wrapped around her,
And Farrell did with touch and silver tongue confound her.

So my unfaithful Jenny crept back into the chamber
and, taking up my pistols, she hid them with the liquor.
The two-faced scarlet vixen hid my saber in the dresser
before turnin to the captain to let his hands caress her.

musha riggum durram dah
whack fol the daddy o
whack fol the daddy o
there’s whiskey in the jar

When I woke in mornin, the captain’s men were all around me;
I had no gun nor blade and for that they did well ground me.
They took me to the mountains and stripped me nearly naked
and left me on a peak, boys, marooned and all unaided.

So now I do my walkin with feet well cold and frozen
never lookin back, boys, on the path that I have chosen
though I have thoughts a plenty to keep my merry mind full,
for Jenny took my money and that bastard Captain Farrell!

musha riggum durram dah
whack fol the daddy o
whack fol the daddy o
there’s whiskey in the jar

Oh I’d like to find my brother, he’s the one who’s in the navy,
I don’t know where they’ve shipped him, someplace surely warm and wavy,
Together we’ll go swimming on the beaches of Hawai’i,
Oh I know he’ll treat me better than my darlin sportin Jenny!

Some delight in fishin, and some delight in hiking,
Some take delight in warring like a Viking,
But I take delight in the juice of the barley
and courting pretty fair maids in the morning bright and early!

Musha riggum durram dah
whack fol the daddy o
whack fol the daddy o
there’s whiskey in the jar

Musha riggum durram dah
whack fol the daddy o
whack fol the daddy o
there’s whiskey in the jar!

Luke Kelly’s and The Dubliners “Whiskey in the Jar

 

Categories
Poems

The Hopeful and the Damned

 

IMG_9618

We are some of us moths flying into flame,
Burned and burning yet unable to give a damn,
Propelled by a force we cannot name
To escape, to wander this wondrous land.
We set off, in uneven times, with a strangled cry,
despite a prudent fear of the unknown,
There is sure loss of life for those that will not try
To flee the far, far greater peril of the known.
There’s risk in staying still: yawning to death,
Softening, or miserable suffocation.
Such hope for new life and free breath,
Brings us, panting, to the platform of a station.
And God knows we miss some things left behind:
The work unfinished, the plans unstarted,
Sentimental things, a cherished friend so kind,
The people and the animals, the heavenly departed.
But life is short. It is astoundingly, unflinchingly short.
It is but a blink in the universe, here and then gone,
It flashes by so quickly there is little time to sort
The nursery from the hospice, the sunset from the dawn.

Categories
Poems

From Where the Luminous Arise

“From Where the Luminous Arise” is a poem that talks of how underdogs and people at a disadvantage rise to success and triumph.

IMG_7569
The Moon over Mexico, 2019

And when the streets are soft with confetti,
And cheers run riot through the air,
Remember, remember the place
from where the truly luminous arise.

Not from beneath the glittering chandeliers,
Nor emerging from jade-tiled pools,
Nor rocked in rubied cradles,
Nor rising from feathered beds,
Do grim, hard heros emerge.

Those places boast no forge hot enough
To maintain the internal flame.
They cannot compress folk from blackened, dusty coal
Into coruscating jewels.
Nor are they like the urban abattoirs,
That butcher the strong and the weak,
And leave the lucky to survive.

It is the men who, in burning their bridges,
See better through the night.
It is the women who, in casting off their anchors,
Sail to uncharted shores.
It is the people—broken, bent, and mangled—
Whose pain and suffering and want
Drive them relentlessly
onwards, upwards, onwards, upwards,
Until they reach the stars.

It is the weary, the scarred, the undaunted survivor
Who succeeds—against the common prediction—
Despite the overwhelming odds,
In the face of discrimination,
Pushing back the strong hands of hate.

And when these men and women answer
Their calls to greatness and commence
To building structures that will endure—
The band will stand and the gigues will play,
Trumpets forever after:
A marching tune in days of June
And the blues in the winter bleak.
And when these men and women become
Luminaries like those before,
In the times of cold when
All the coats in Sweden
can’t warm a man,
They burn.
And in times of fear when
All the prayers to heaven
Can’t conjure manna,
They give of themselves,
Until there is nothing left to give,
But bone and heart and blood.

And when they have given all of themselves
To field and friend and foe
Then they die like all men will
And are buried down below.

Categories
Poems

Barcelona

435px-Barcelona_-_Carrer_del_Bisbe

The walls are lined with bougainvillea,
And the streets are paved with cobblestone.
Ahead the Basílica de la Sagrada Família
Rises from the earth of Catalonia.

The day is breezeless, dry as bone,
While parakeets wing from tree to tree.
A suckling babe makes her mother moan
As she nurses on the malecón.

Up on the wharf, along the deep blue sea
Come fishermen with their morning catch:
Skipjack tunas, mahi-mahi—
Scales iridescent, fine as filigree.

What cold heart could Barri Gòtic not snatch—
What wounded heart could it not patch—
When lovers go to seek their match?
What locked imagination could it not unlatch?

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
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
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
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
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
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
Poems

Death and the Safe Man

“Death and the Safe Man” comments on the risk of security.

Hans Holbein the Younger - Death and the Rich Man
Hans Holbein the Younger – Death and the Rich Man, c. 1526.

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.”

Categories
Poems

English & Cyrillic

English & Cyrillic is a poem that describes the way I felt about the dissolution of the Soviet state and the confusion and inhospitable relations that existed at the end of the Cold War.  To me, the years from 1989 – 1993 feel very different than today’s times. It felt to me as if there was a great divide between the USA and the USSR, and even the alphabets, English and Cyrillic, were incompatible.  In the poem, loneliness, separation, and feelings of coldness, separation, and a forbidding future are portrayed.

Kamni - Mantra Music
Kamni – Mantra Music album cover

I. 101 Dalmatians

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.

 

Categories
Poems

The Monster, Malgremir

In this Gothic, fairy tale poem, a monster, Malgremir, wakes from an enchanted slumber and begins slaying children one snowy Christmas eve.  Over the years, the monster ruins the small town.

The church organist, Horace Anderson, attempts to stop the monster, and his journeys lead him to a desert labyrinth where he is met with a burning brazier and a strange surprise.

The rhyme scheme is abab.

IMG_9330 (1)
This is a brazier I made from rebar, steel, and expanded metal that I cut up then welded back together.  It works very well, puts out a lot of heat and light, and was very popular with friends and neighbors.  In “The Monster, Malgremir”, Horace Anderson finds a brazier that was inspired by this one.  I built the brazier during the last week of November in 2018.  Photo: December 6th, 2018.  The poem was written in a single day, my first day of writing in Mexico, December 17th, 2018.


The Old Railroad Track

An old railroad track arches over a dark, cold river
Whose banks are enveloped in glittering white snow.
A rumbling, screeching train barrels forth; the tracks shiver;
The falling flakes are illuminated in the headlight’s brash glow,
Sparkling, glistering for an instant, then moonlit and dim again.
The light catches the river, whose eddies spangle in yellow light,
Then the water, too, is cast back into darkness.
The locomotive plows on, its cattleguard hurling snow in its flight,
Leaving the old, arching track quiet once more, muffled and sparkless.
And still the river ripples unflaggingly on, rounding stones, carving banks.
The creaking pines stand still and portentous.
There then stirs a creature with ram’s horns and silvered flanks,
With scarlet eyes lambent in ursine skull, white and horrendous,
With muscular arms ’neath its glossy pelt,
And a long fleecéd tail finishing in the form of a spade.
That creature lugs itself from where it dwelt,
Long dreaming and woolgathering and artfully stayed,
Thrall to a woven spell, one gathered and cast in times forgotten and past,
By a profound sorcerer who fathomed that creature’s dark power.
And through seasons beginning and seasons last,
Age to age, plot to plot, sifting sands, hour upon hour,
The evil lay dormant. Time destroyed the mage.
But the spell remained, growing weaker as mountains grew,
Lessening in strength as the earth did age,
While the restful creature struggled with dreamy thews
And cloudy powers ’gainst that dwindling charm,
Until on the night before Christmas, when the town was aslumber,
The ancient abomination stirred and raised its arm.
Then its lucent, igneous eyes blazed, and it stood in wonder
To look about the snow-swept forest and peaceful star-washed night.

A Christmas Surprise

In the valley, white smoke billows sleepily from chimneys;
Snow lies pleasantly banked on quiet street corners.
Streetlamps cast their lemony glow on leafless, slim trees.
The quiet churchyard with its stones is absent mourners.
And as pearly clouds scud across the crescent mooned sky,
All is calm, all is bright.
Atop a hill stands a home in whose yard a quivering, lone leaf
Trembles in the cold night’s breeze, fixed by its thin stem
To an icy branch. Blustered and gusted in autumn’s withering fief,
And, having borne with silent fortitude the rain and wind,
The dead brown leaf at last releases its clinging grip.
The leaf floats past a lightless window, shaded by heavy sash,
On whose far side sleeps a child, fair of hair, soft of lip,
With dreams of peppermint, gifts, and seasonal Christmas hash.
A cloud sails away from the moon’s sickle shape;
Soft moonbeams filter onto the glittering snow,
As the hellish creature, prowling like some eerie ape,
Steals across the snowy lawn to the lulled child’s window.
And there, with its incandescent eyes shining redly,
It raises the unfastened glass, creeps into the room,
And with movements soft, practiced, and deadly,
Metes out to the sleeping child his untimely doom.
This ancient evil leaves only bones and blood
From its foul feast: pelvis and femur, ribs and skull.
That child, that dream-full spark, is permuted to an eternity of mud:
Far too calm, far too constant, far too distant, far too dull.
Then as the monster entered, so the monster leaves.
Thus it is that on the morning of gleeful anticipation,
The soul that is happy becomes the soul that grieves,
As Mother and Father scream for their lost creation.

The Monster in the Cathedral

It is a cold, sunny morning, remarkable for its shining snow.
Parishioners pass the church’s crooked wrought-iron fence,
Past the gravestones which a child, yesterday, dipped below,
And through the heavy, wooden double-doors of the entrance.
Sunlight filters through the cathedral’s stained glass,
Tinting pews and aisle in colored light thick with dust.
A polished family of four, dressed smartly for mass,
Amble down the aisle in pacific, heavenly trust.
There is a brown-haired boy and a brunette girl,
And it is the boy, who, peering amongst the rafters and eaves,
Sees hanging, its arms ’round its chest in batlike curl
And warily alert of the oppugnant congregation it perceives,
That self-same creature whose dark deeds blasted the town,
And threw its calm citizens into fiery, disconsolate animosity.
“There!” cries the boy, “Look there! Hanging upside-down!
There’s a beast! It’s some kind of monstrosity!”
And his sister, looking upward, screams at the sight,
For there is the creature, tense at being seen,
Now suddenly scuttling in furious, fearful flight
Across the nave’s ceiling, as, in one voice, the two children scream.
Strange it is to see, however, that the confused parents
See nothing of the fell creature that climbs on the ceiling
And so they hush their children with hisses and unfair comments,
Til other children take up the cry. They also see the monster.
The children all gesture, point, and howl,
But the parents see an empty nave, rafters, eaves, balusters,
Nothing that skitters, scuttles, or moves. Not a thing that prowls.
And, looking at the curious scene, of many children screaming,
And of many blank-faced parents searching with their eyes and ears,
The church’s organist, his hands full of sheet music, wonders what he’s seeing.
This man, Mr. Horace Anderson, a bespectacled, retiring gentleman far gone in years,
Considers a moment the strange spectacle, watching with some inkling,
And looks in vain toward the ceiling to find a creature there.
But, like other adults, he sees nothing, yet he sets himself to thinking,
As the creature passes out the nave, towards its belfry lair.

An Ancient Tome

Mr. Anderson, driving home, takes a bridge over a cold dark river,
Whose banks are enveloped in glittering white snow.
Plunged in deep consideration of an antique scrivener,
Mr. Anderson circles up an icy mountain to his home on a windswept, wet plateau,
While the details of an elusive passage frustrate Mr. Anderson’s recall.
Thus it is with furrowed brow that he pulls into his drive
enters his house, and makes for the books near the wall.
Fingering each spine, he mutters and feels his mind revive
As he pulls a book off the shelf and sweeps cobwebs from its cover.
He blows dust off its pale and tattered binding,
turns its brittle yellow pages, and there discovers
the fell description of a child-eating thing,
cast into somnolence by an itinerant wizard
then left to rot in a solemn forest uncolonized by man,
through seasons of sweltering sun and gelid blizzards.
This arcane chronicle details how the child-eating thing
Was invisible to adults but well-seen by children.
The text tells how the evil slept inverted in lofty places, wherever it could cling,
And how, when it devoured a child, it left but bones and patches of skin.
Mr. Anderson read on into the bitter night,
His brow furrowed, and his lips drawn tight and severe.
Behind the twisted yellow moon, stars lay spangled with dull, cold light.
Then Mr. Anderson starts suddenly as he learns the monster’s hateful name, Malgremir.

Seven Years Later

Seven years later, the quaint town lies abandoned.
Centipedes crawl fearlessly on homes’ stairs; mice inhabit dining rooms.
The cathedral, and particularly the belfry, is well shunned.
In the churchyard, in the cracks of the headstones, are dandelion blooms.
The cemetery gates swing creakily; a gentle wind rustles peeling paint;
The church door’s hinges are broken; the great Gothic door lies ajar and crooked.
Inside, mold grows behind a dusty portraiture of a haloed saint,
While the nave appears washed in hues of rose and blood and red,
For of the stained glass panes only the red remain unbroken.
The pews are covered in a thick layer of dust,
In which an occasional, devilish footprint is imprinted as a token
Of Malgremir, who remains in the belfry as still and as silent as a bust.
Only his brilliant eyes, vivid crimson, are visible in the darkness.
Malgremir hangs batlike from a rafter in the darkest, most shadowed corner.
His mind is as patient as a serpent’s, his behavior as indefatigable as a shark’s address.
Since that first Christmas night, he has made many more mourners
From the families of the staid and respectable parishioners.
He brought the strongest men limitless grief as their children were devoured,
And he bore comfortless heartbreak to loving mothers who fell, as wailing petitioners,
To their knees, beseeching mercy from that almighty heavenly power.
Searches for the monster were inaugurated, but they proved fruitless.
Children were consulted, and they pointed, quavering, at the ghastly thing.
Men fired guns at the points the children marked, their efforts bootless.
Malgremir could not be harmed by steel, lead, or matter made for firing.
Prayers were said against the creature, but they were ineffectual.
A Voodoo priestess was brought from the bayous south of New Orleans.
She brought garlic and woundwort, conducted exorcisms oral and textual.
Her incantations were for naught. That night, during her dreams,
A girl with a kind nature and gentle hand was consumed by Malgremir.
The townspeople sent the priestess away. The church was abandoned; still the wrongs kept on.
Children saw the monster in the night; street jokes grew black with fear.
More children were devoured; men mourned; women wept on.
School classes were cancelled, and the city council voted to desert.
Malgremir, placidly vicious, made a last raid, drinking drop by drop,
The lifeblood of sons and daughters, cracking and sucking their bones, savoring their hurt,
Until the townspeople vacated, and the demon-storm did stop.

The Labyrinth

Mr. Anderson left town in the fifth year of Malgremir’s ascendancy.
The erudite man left not for evasion, but to learn the solution to this fey riddle,
Searching far for a missive that would, for Malgremir, signal death’s embassy.
Long studied Anderson the lore housed in the fabled Alexandrian Library and the Bam Citadel,
But therein he found only hints and clues, trifling gestures as to the secret’s key.
Traveled he thence to the Beineke library of rare books and singular scripts.
Discovering there, at most, vague descriptions and veiled references to the monstrosity—
Yet also mention of a secret library whose doors open only during a total lunar eclipse.
A weathered volume, whose yellow parchment was delicate and cracking,
Told of doors in a Badakshan mountain that were fastened by a genius of the Dark Age
And which led a doughty traveler into an antique wasteland beyond all mapping.
The library, called Maktaba Ghazni al-Khan, lay at a desert’s edge,
And held within its labyrinthine shelves the scrolls of necromancy and power
That did at one time summon djinni, influence sprites, and banish Shayṭān.
And in the center of the Maktaba’s labyrinth was a glass for counting the hour;
Through its glass globes poured the very measurement of Time, in form of falling sand.
Deep study takes time. Seven years had passed since the monster’s ascendancy,
And again Mr. Anderson set out, now from Yale, now to Afghanistan,
For the matter that would snuff the fell creature’s lambency,
And restore fairness and order to the bedeviled land.
From Kabul he traveled the Hindu Kush road through cracking Soviet tunnels;
Thence from Fayzabad, Mr. Anderson set out by donkey,
With a guide promising to take him but halfway, to where the river funnels
Out past the old capital of Wakhan, Qila-e Panj, deep in the Wakhan Valley.
When the guide left Mr. Anderson, he had been traveling for a week.
He was tired, but he felt that his journey had barely begun.
He looked out of his spectacles, down his long nose, and he rubbed his cheek,
Taking in his surroundings. Tall, craggy mountains blotted out the sun.
The gorge that he was left in held nothing but sparse vegetation,
And the way forward appeared both trackless and treacherous.
He found himself longing for his music, his pleasant church, his former station,
And he had no desire to continue upon a path so adventurous.
Mr. Anderson made a few notes in his daily diary, then he laid out his bedroll and slept.
The stars wheeled magnificently above him; a snow leopard peered down on him,
While through the jagged peaks, the Persian wind galloped and swept,
And Mr. Anderson dreamt of caravanserai and carpets, shorn and silken.
In the morning, the sun illuminated the valley, and Mr. Anderson set forth.
He traveled for four nights through chancy mountain passes,
His faith in the book oft-times wavering, his compass steering him further north,
Until in the midst of his dangerous isolation, he came upon weirdly formed crevasses,
Whose lines of cleavage seemed symbolic or runic in nature,
As if fashioned by man rather than nature, and Mr. Anderson, studying the stone,
Noted how the shape of an arcade appeared within the granite architecture,
And that in the stony portal’s area there was a nearly seamless fault, thin as a crack in bone.
Here Mr. Anderson consulted his almanac, reassured himself of the upcoming syzygy,
And did then encamp before the fractured crag. There he remained for six nights.
On the seventh night, the lunar eclipse induced the nearby mountain creek to froth fizzily
And queer characters to luminesce in the adamant stone in tints of radiant blueish-white.
The fracture in the cloven stone did shine with that same color,
While strange shapes as of astrolabes, sextants, gnomonic sundials, and stars appeared.
Mr. Anderson—caught between exhilaration, hope, and dolor—
Observed the glow strengthen into an aura. And the night grew weird.
A flash of light. A purple fire. All at once, a door materialized.
Taking his water and his pack, Mr. Anderson stepped through the door,
And he found himself, quite suddenly, with the sun blinding his eyes,
For he was on reddish desert stone, swept as flat and clean as a palace floor.
Around him, in all directions, was a labyrinth of pathlessness.
There were no mountains to guide his way, no points of any kind.
The place was bleak and flat, dry and severe, wrathful and boundless.
Yet the learning from the Beineke manuscript sprang to his mind,
For its contents directed the traveler due west, two hundred-seventy degrees,
Until, it said, one meets “the fire in the desert”.
Ancient texts being mistily allusive by nature, Mr. Anderson had not fretted,
But now he wondered if greater consideration would have been wise.
But, he thought, it was not a mistake to be greatly regretted,
There being no other texts, to his knowledge, on the subject anyway.
So to the place where there was fire in the desert he bound himself,
Adjusting his pack’s straps, tightening his belt, setting out on his way,
And wondering, with black humor, of the feasibility of diagnosing insanity in oneself.
The thought preoccupied him as the miles turned to leagues under his feet,
And there was no change to the dullish red landscape
And only the compass’ needle to guide him as he crossed this desert sheet,
For he felt that certainly no other explorer could have survived this barren land, this plane shape,
For had another explorer gone but a degree astray in any direction,
Then assuredly death would have risen to meet them.
The wayward traveler would have, step-by-step, separated further from the connection
Until in the name of starvation or thirst, Death would greet them.
Yet Mr. Anderson found himself wondering if the desert were also a labyrinth for the mind,
Whether he truly was insane, for who had heard of such travelers, such places?
And he wondered how to test his insanity, for if the mind were cracked and brined,
How then to know the sanest of its many faces?
Doggedly, and by dint, Mr. Anderson continued onward.
The desert floor remained as flat as a chessboard, and he was its only wanderer.
The sky above was as blue as the sea, and the land as red as dried blood upon a sword.
For three days did Mr. Anderson continue on this path, as worried a ponderer
As ever there has been, nearly freezing in the desert night, doubting his sanity by day,
Until, at last, on that flat and featureless horizon that ringed ’round him,
There appeared to be a spark flickering in the distance.
Another day passed, and Mr. Anderson kept onwards, hopes now slim,
For his water had been used, and of more there was not a trace.
But the spark in the distance grew in size as he drew near,
Until he found himself standing before a hanging fire basket made of steel.
The fire basket hung from a chain that was supported by three legs welded to a sphere.
Inside the basket were logs that burned but did not diminish, crack, or peel.
Mr. Anderson, reaching out to warm his hand upon the flame,
And looking around the desert in some confusion and no little concern,
Then saw the sand beneath the brazier suddenly shape itself into a sandy lane.
On either side of this new path and at regular intervals torches did burn,
And so, ducking his head beneath the fire in the desert, Mr. Anderson descended.
The path was narrow, soft, and mellow, and it soon gave away to a spiral staircase made of sand.
The recessed sconces lit the vertical passage with soft, flickering light, and, as he wended,
he saw that, at the foot of the stairs, the shaft did expand.
When he reached the bottom of the sand-stair, Mr. Anderson found himself in a chamber.
The walls, ceiling, and floor were constructed entirely of sand,
And the room appeared to be round like a wheel laid upon its side.
A single shelf, stocked with ancient books, circled the room like a band,
And, at the center of the room stood another hanging fire basket, six feet tall, two feet wide.
Of the fabled hourglass of time there was no trace,
So Mr. Anderson wondered if there were yet more secrets within the labyrinth,
And whether those secrets held the hourglass in a hidden space.
There was, too, in the room, a kind of plinth,
And upon that plinth stood an unmelting block of ice.
The place held the mysterious air of an enigma;
Thus Mr. Anderson, feeling strange forces at work, was at the books in a trice,
Finding one leathery tome with the inscription, Mælgrymyr, beneath a lunate sigma—
Or perhaps a crescent moon—and, opening the book,
The learned scholar saw an illustration of that thing the children had limned.
As Mr. Anderson took a steady and careful look,
A grain of sand, then another, fell from the ceiling onto the open volume.
Rapidly then did he scan that venerable text for clues on how to slay the beast,
As his mind, able in reckoning, leapt at once to the affairs as they had come to pass:
That, surrounded by fire and ice and texts, he himself was in Time’s frothy yeast,
The room was but a chamber, a globe in Time’s hourglass,
And as the hidden library slowly disintegrated,
Mr. Anderson felt his reasoning fragment,
And the ice, dripping water, did at that time ablate
While the fire did flicker, sputter, and stagnate.
As Mr. Anderson gained more knowledge, the labyrinth crumbled.
Sand poured from the ceiling, onto the book, as Mr. Anderson lifted it vertically to read,
And, reading still, he made for the sandy staircase, reading as he stumbled.
Until at last, at the start of a paragraph, he saw the Latin lead,

“Ab extra, ab initio, ad astra.  The Monster, Mælgrymyr, having been called thusly, is not, in fact, named Mælgrymyr, and has only been so denominated by monks of the Apostolic order who follow His footsteps in the heavenly name of the Divine, and by servants of the Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him, and by those laypeople who speak of the Monster and know It by Its fiendish work. The true name of Mælgrymyr is a closely guarded secret, and it is thanks to anonymous, esoteric scholars—whose sedulous work and whose study of the arcane glyphs and ciphers found carved into long-buried ruins—that we of the Brotherhood at last learnt the true name of the Beast.

As Mr. Anderson read on, the sandy chamber, already deteriorating,
Gave way faster and faster, ’til he wondered how much time had elapsed.

Scholars now know the true name of the Beast, which, by saying its name, will spell the end of the Beast, and bring about Its sudden and immediate end. The Beast’s name is ‘Horace Anderson’.  Ab extra, ab initio, ad astra.”

“Horace Anderson!” he said, aghast, his frisson of horror accelerating,
Then the ice evaporated, the fire extinguished, and the chamber of sand collapsed.

Fin.

Categories
Poems

The Riddler in the Labyrinth

“The Riddler in the Labyrinth” tells the tale of a strange man with the head of a crow who is chained to a wall at the top of a mountain in the center of a spiraling labyrinth. One day, a woman, a weary traveler, reaches the mountain peak, and the strange man asks her three riddles.

The style is like that of an old fairy tale, and the rhyme scheme is abab.

Arthur Rackham - The Old Woman in the Wood
Arthur Rackham – The Old Woman in the Wood, 1917.

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.

Categories
Poems

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

This poem is written for those shy people who have a great deal of thought and a great deal of talent and imagination, but who do not express what is beautiful that is inside them.

Darger 3
Henry Darger – Untitled work from The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What Is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion.  c. 1940s

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

Bouquet

The Bouquet is written as a tippler’s lament.  It’s a poem imagined from the perspective of a man caught between earthly drink and the heavenly Holy Spirit.

The poem gives his thoughts as he looks out onto the world and wonders and marvels at all that goes on.

IMG_8693
David Murphy – St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Rome.

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.

Categories
Limericks Poems

Sunday Limericks

lossy-page1-800px-Vertumnus_årstidernas_gud_målad_av_Giuseppe_Arcimboldo_1591_-_Skoklosters_slott_-_91503.tiff
Giuseppe Arcimboldo – Vertumnus, c. 1590 – 1591.

The Man Made of Fruits
There once was a man made of fruits
And his feet were bananas in boots
He had a raspberry nose
And blackberry toes
And his hair was an apple tree’s roots!

The Blinking Boulder
There once was a stone that could blink
It was a boulder that was as sable as ink
It had a white eye
As white as the clouds in the sky
And if you watched it closely it’d wink.

The Walking Dune
There once was a desert dune
That was shaped by the searing simoom
It took on the shape of a Sphinx
When by day it lay like a lynx
Then by night it walked by the light of the moon.

Categories
Poems

What Happened by the Half-Light

This poem tells of a woman in her doorway at sunset, watching the field workers come in from an autumn day’s work.
The rhyme scheme is abcabcdefdefghgh.

Van Gogh - The Sower
Vincent Van Gogh – The Sower.  Arles, June 1888

For but a short while has she lingered in the gloaming
Standing careless by the blooming hyacinths
Whose delicate petals sway in the easy wind by the door.
The filtered air and haze of autumn twilight
Send warm zephyrs to churn the crinkling leaves
And rustle the golden wheat in the harvest store
While her soul rests easy in the faltering marbled light
And the men and women make their labored ways slowly home
Through clusters of fragrant lilacs and fields of ocher brome.

Categories
Poems

Aphorism Poem

My Oxford New American Dictionary defines an aphorism as, “A pithy observation that contains a general truth, such as, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’” This is a poem comprised of aphorisms, some of which already exist but have been reworded, and others which are of my own invention.

St Jerome
Caravaggio – Saint Jerome, 1605-1606

There’s truth in every aphorism
And poetry in those gnomic things:
Like, Time may mend the greatest schism.
And, Chaotic are the ways of kings.

In every mishap, there’s blame to share.
In each home, there’s room to care.
Knowledge is an unquenchable flame.
And, Sarcasm is the crutch of the lame.

Anything can go from bad to worse.
Addiction leaves a lightweight purse.
Every age is made of strange times.
Some men aren’t guilty of their crimes.

Unproveable is faith in the divine.
We oil the wheel that does whine.
All men go inevitably unto death.
Sweetest is the liberated breath.

All those who are poets must be true.
Politicians are wont to misconstrue.
Though in severalty we unite in league.
The true spy makes his own intrigue.

Each maxim among these and many more
Help comprise man’s expressive score.
And although often spoken like a catechism
There’s yet some truth in the aphorism.

Categories
Poems

The Candle from the Cathedral

The Candle from the Cathedral has a rhyme scheme of ABCAABBCBCCA, and the poem tells the story of a young man coping with the death of a loved one.

IMG_5922

In his memory he saw the old woman sucking her hankerchief in the pew.
The widow wore a funereal black bowler, a starched jib collar,
oval glasses with smoky plastic frames, and her hair spun white and curly.
She held a candle like all the others among the ranks of grievers, not a few,
stretching back to the entrance of the dark, arching cathedral sanctuary under whose
vaulted ceilings the sputtering flames flicked like constellations of stars.
He stood out in the cold and windfilled and trashfilled street filled with cars
and he saw through unfinished iron girders and steel transoms the dreadnought sky.
He saw the low, threatening clouds elbow the skyscraper bazaar.
He put his hand above his eyes and he squinted then he spit deliberately.
There was a punk nearby whom he once saw animaleyed with a switchblade in the alley
and the punk leaned against a building looking at him like a window to be looked through.

In his memory he saw the bell glass half full of the white willow and ethanol tincture,
the color of motor oil, that the old man swallowed as medicine in his last weeks.
The old man had kept the bell glass in his office in a cherry cabinet stained
dark red. It had lain behind handcut glass doors on a pad of velvety fur.
He turned and trotted down the subway tunnel steps into the city under
the city and he boarded the first train that came and stood and heard the car creak.
There were not many people in the car, just a seated woman with an antique
face whose nose was high and pinched and a man who looked insane.
He rode the car until the end of the line then stepped off and stood on the brick
platform waiting for the train to come back again.
A bag lady came up on the platform near him, nodding, chanting a weird refrain.
The train was a long time in coming. As he rode he felt nothing, no hurt or pleasure.

When he arrived back at his apartment he put the key in the lock and let himself in.
He had brought back his candle from the cathedral and he lit it and left it to gutter.
There was only one window in the apartment and rain began to patter against it.
When the flame goes out, he said to the candle, I’ll start to stop grievin.
He went into the bathroom and stripped off his clothes and stood thinking
under the hot shower as the bathroom filled with steam from the water
and he soaked until his fingertips looked like sundried fruit and fog coated the mirror
then he stepped out of the shower and dried and dressed himself and looked to see if the candle was still lit.
He laughed when he saw the flame creeping along the drapes and towards the furniture
and he kept laughing as the fire slowly crawled towards a black cabinet.
He debated awhile whether to let the fire burn, but chuckled and smothered it.
The candle he blew out, and it let off a silver stream of smoke snakelike and thin.

Categories
Limericks Poems

Sunday Limericks

basket_with_wild_st
Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin – Basket with Wild Strawberries, c. 1761

Strawberry Rinds
There once was a strawberry field
Which had a surreal yield
For in summer and spring
It would blossom and bring
Strawberries that had to be peeled.

Blueberry Bushes by Night
There once was a blueberry bush
With twigs, like hands, that could push
Against a man’s face in the night
To give his heart a great fright
And turn his knees to nothing but mush.

The Cranberry Bog Ghost
There once was a cranberry bog
In sap country in the midst of a fog
From off the bog came a smoke,
That wreathed ’round a maple and oak
Then took the form of a devilish dog.

Categories
Poems

Slumberjack

For those people who still lie awake after counting sheep, a visit from the make-believe slumberjack may put you to sleep.

Harry Hoffman - James
Harry Hoffman – James

Counting trees is like counting sheep:
Each will make you fall asleep.
One-by-one as you count the sheep
You wait and wait till you drift to sleep.
But if by chance you cannot sleep
You must forbear from counting sheep.
Bring in your mind the felling of trees
By a man with a saw like the buzzing of bees.
He dwells deep in a forest of spruce trees and snow
For the taiga’s the biome where dreams like to go.
He is a slumberjack, and with every tree that he fells
Down you shall go down sleep’s bottomless wells.
Falling and falling you’ll have no bird’s wings,
Deeper and deeper you’ll sink in your dreams.
Drop and drop into the black
In the dark frosty forest of the sleep slumberjack.

Categories
Poems

Jack Frost Endeavors to Keep Winter

Jack Frost, the personification of winter, speeds forth in an icicle train to the north pole to stop spring from coming. To stop spring, Frost must keep winter’s candle lit.

Frederic Edward Church - Red and Green Northern Lights Over Seascape
Frederick Edwin Church – Aurora Borealis, 1865

Through the snowy passes
Hurtles an old and hoary train.
It dashes past crevasses
Along the cold moraines.

Its transit is annuary—
Only once in ice and snow—
Only deep in January
Is the Icicle Train prepared to go.

And how extraordinary
This Icicle Train is to see
It seems imaginary
As it curves ’round glaciers and the scree.

Its locomotive is wrought of iron,
Embellished with curls and coils
With raveled figurines of wire on
Its smokestack, which blows and boils.

Its cars are made of stained glass
Each are as vitreous as the sea
The glass is mullioned in fine brass
With designs of spruce and cedar trees.

The conductor is an old man
Jack Frost is his true name
For longer than mankind’s lifespan
He has steered this venerable train.

He wears a jester’s cap of black and white
With five points that have five bells
And he wears a cloak that’s black as night
With gloves and shoes as white as shells.

He drives the train into the north
Where the bears and walrus live
Into dark lands where few rove forth,
Where the cold does not forgive.

What does the conductor seek there?
It’s a secret you should know.
He is searching with intent care
For a faint and feeble glow.

He seeks the flame of winter
Which gutters night by night,
The flame lies furthest hinter
Beneath dancing aurora light.

The flame of winter shudders
With each approaching spring
And when at last it gutters
The earth begins to green.

But Frost wants winter eternal—
A world of snow and ice—
So he strives to cease the vernal
Tidings by this particular device.

For if he can keep that cold flame
Burning in the north
Then he will meet his own aim
And spring shall not come forth.

So the Icicle Train speeds onwards
Through the snow and ice and frost
To thwart the coming season
And to render summer lost.

Frost stokes the boiler’s fire
He throws in wood and coal
So the flames in it lick higher
As he steams on toward his goal.

But the winter’s flame has dwindled so far
Even as he comes
The fire flickers beneath a bell jar
As the locomotive hums.

Jack Frost speeds across a prairie
Of flat ice and winter’s snow
Across dazzling ice that’s glary
Toward the paltry distant glow.

Now he’s very near it
And Frost will fan its flame
But the candle is but half-lit,
Or half-dead to say the same.

And then the fire does choke
And a tragedy strikes for him
The fire becomes a feathered smoke
The flame dies within the glim.

And although no word is spoken
There comes a thundering crack of ice
As winter’s spell is broken
And spring is taken from its glacial vise.

The Icicle Train must go back
For another long, green year
And Jack Frost with his coat black
Must take his bow and disappear.

But this is not forever—
Every year he tries his worth—
And in eras when Frost was quick and clever
We’ve had a snowball earth.

But this year he’s been frustrated
And the north sounds with his rage
For Frost will never be placated
Till we live in a perpetual ice age.

Categories
Poems

And the Leopards Leap

“And the Leopards Leap” is a poem about an indigenous family passing their day while living in a tropical jungle along the shore of the sea.

Henri Rousseau - The Dream
Henri Rousseau – The Dream

The waves come in, and the palm trees wave,
The water laps inside a cave,
From which bats fly each night at dusk,
While coconuts grow ripe inside their husks,
In tropical air laden with musk.
Down the mountain falls a tributary
To greet the ocean in an estuary
Where flamingos dwell and kingbirds sing
And motmots flaunt their coloring.
Houses lie along the coast
With thatched roofs and bamboo posts,
And children playing in the yard
Near a smoking bonfire with embers charred,
Children bright-eyed as young deer,
Who romp with laughs and boundless cheer,
Nowhere here can clocks be found,
Nor men and women cement-bound,
But here we see the lives of men
Lives lived amongst livestock: pigs and hens,
Amongst the pets: the cats and dogs,
Amongst the creatures: jaguars and frogs.
The hot day passes, the cool night comes,
The stars come out, cicadas thrum,
The moon lies brilliant, full and bright,
And brushes the jungle with pearly light.
The kinkajou and tarsier then awake,
As does the eyelash viper, a venomous snake.
Then man and woman and children fair,
Sweep out the scorpions and say their prayers,
Then settle down in their home of reeds
Thankful for the jungle that fills their needs,
And they lie down for a short sleep,
As, without, the tide ebbs and flows,
And the leopards leap.