Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Main Event

The main event has disappointed you:
Confined to bickering, nostalgia, phlegm,
And kleptomania, it was no gem.
And what would happen after they were through?
We watched, but no one seemed to have a clue.
She left without her orb and diadem,
And he insisted, when she mentioned them,
That her whole rig was made of spit and glue.

Still, on the other hand, did you expect
That he would chop her into little bits,
Or she would crumple? Yes, she does have fits,
And we were hoping she would genuflect
When he derided money. You suspect
Some preparation. These two aren’t wits.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Quite independently of angiograms,
I know your chest. It makes a hollow sound:
Electrocardiograms can't be found
Elsewhere that match that noise. It's like two trams
That pass each other slowly, or three rams
Pawing at footholds on some frozen ground
Where they expect to butt heads, to be crowned
King of the Mountain, Ruler of the Lambs.

Your chest emits a grumbling, grinding thump,
And blood flows, somewhere deep inside; your veins
Sound like the passing of commuter trains,
Scraping along the track, feeling each bump.
Your heart is like an overflowing dump,
Replete with rats, old filthy clothes, and chains.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Phidias, in Something Past Neon

Comparisons are not invidious,
If we reserve our precious odium
To aim intently at the podium,
Comparing something made by Phidias
To – what's that made of? That's just hideous.
Add all the elements, from sodium
Until you get as far as rhodium:
Not quite alarming, but insidious.

Who made this statue of a long-lost Greek,
Whose own great long-lost statues stood so tall?
Enormous Zeus, destined one day to fall,
The Parthenon Athena, now oblique,
Now gone. If history won't learn to speak,
Let's all be silent, still in beauty's thrall.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

A Whisper

I speculate that one or more
Distressing episodes occurred
When someone spoke, or something stirred
Beneath the downstairs bathroom floor
That may have lived above, before,
Perhaps the nestlings of some bird,
But I was told we were insured
For these events. Please shut the door.

A whisper in my best friend’s ear
Discloses secrets, days that pass
With murmurs from the upper class
About their reasons, and their fear;
While they complain they cannot hear,
I glue together shards of glass.

Saturday, August 27, 2005


This is a rat-trap of a world. What's this?
A circus ticket – garbage in the street –
One castanet – the people that I meet,
Clicking their fuzzy tongues – Give us a kiss,
That's a good boy! This is a dark abyss,
A carnival of bathos – O my sweet! –
Great stews of anguish – fields of golden wheat –
And if I left, there's nothing I would miss.

You don't suppose that's all it's ever been,
Do you? I wonder if this brilliant horn
Of plenty could be worth such thorough scorn.
You don't suppose that all I've ever seen
In these dark days and months since I was born
Is just a joke, do you? It's dim, and mean.

Friday, August 26, 2005

A Dark Strand

I know you think you listened carefully
When I explained my feelings, but you heard
Just part of what I said: maybe a third,
Maybe a little more. Don't yell at me;
Don't bother. Let's just say we disagree
And let it pass for now. The line is blurred
Between the raw thought and the spoken word,
A problem I was hoping you could see.

I never claimed you represent the night,
I did not ever say you were not fair,
I said nothing about my black despair.
You stood against the window, and the light
Shone through the shadowed strands of your dark hair,
And I don't think you understood me right.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Discovery of Fire

You wake up when the coffee starts to perk,
And make up (stories, and your face as well),
Glibly explaining why King Henry fell,
And take up causes: you love social work,
New books, old movies, Kemal Atatürk;
You hate to rake up leaves (because they smell),
Stake up tomato plants – your fingers swell –
And mowing is another job you shirk.

Raw nature is so – well, it's just so raw.
Erect steel buildings, take an airplane ride,
Toast marshmallows, go looking far and wide
For tools more useful than an ass's jaw,
And think about great art, and civil law.
You don't mind housework: you can stay inside.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Randolph's Future

"Hey, fellas!" Randolph called, as we all tried
To make ourselves as scarce as possible,
"What's happening?" It made you want to pull
His teeth out, one by one, then roughly slide
A rat-tail file down most of his left side
While groaning like a wounded animal.
Our lives, however, were already full,
So all we did was jeer, grumble, and hide.

In later life, would Randolph somehow change
And find his way to something strong and good?
Such things do happen, and maybe they should,
To turn the tables on us, rearrange
Our attitude, instruct us. But it's strange:
It didn't – and we didn't think it would.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Advice to My Friends

I bargain for a balanced view of time,
I wrestle for position with the clock,
We jostle, and remorselessly we mock
Each other's efforts as we try to climb
Towards a lesser horror than this slime,
And fight for footholds in a filthy rock,
Like wolves among an unprotected flock
Who find themselves too busy for the crime.

We battle senselessly, for sheer desire,
Pet theories of the origins of fire,
Or useless formulas for vanishing,
While time slips by and leaves us wondering
How night has fallen. We should form a choir
To teach our swamp-rat neighbours how to sing.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Why Sonnets?

Why sonnets? Why not give them villanelles,
Sestinas, all those forms the people crave?
Our poor deprived verse lovers, who will save
Their souls from formlessness, the empty shells
Of image piled on image? Nothing sells,
These days, like excess: nonets, brash and brave,
Quick quatrains, envelope rhymes, wave on wave
Of terza rima – how the bosom swells!

The crucial facet of The Sonnet Page
Is not to idiotically insist
On sonnets only, with an upraised fist
And sad accoutrements of misplaced rage
Against the age. This is like any age:
Good work survives. Bad work will not be missed.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Digging Wombat

The difficulty is, the wombat said,
That no one understands the way I dig.
The holes that I create, although not big,
Are lovely, showing what a quadriped
Can do if only he applies thought, dread,
And lots of time and love. This special rig
I’ve set up here allows even a pig
To make a hollow spot, large as his head.

Nocturnal creatures don’t need extra light,
So we dig deeper, and more thoroughly,
Exploring farther in, and down, and see
More deeply – in so many ways – our sight
Distinguishing between the left, and right,
And wrong, the costly, the enslaved, the free.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Speak Now

Speak now, boys, or forever hold your peace.
Do you remember how the baker spoke
When you complained about his stupid joke
And said the bagels weren’t fresh? The police
Came, right? You cried, he yelled you were obese,
You said his hands were filthy, he should soak
In brine, he offered you a gentle poke;
You all got a conditional release.

What profit that a gentleman should gain
The world but lose the one girl of his dreams?
So even if you have to work in teams
Speak now, boys: argue, beg, cajole, explain,
Expostulate, orate, expound on pain,
And loss, and love; there’s no shortage of themes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Issue

If safety is the only issue here
Then let’s be safe. Don’t let yourself be cowed
By people who think, just by being loud,
They can persuade you into thinking fear
Could be the issue, or that death is near –
Or victory (we’re bloody, yet unbowed).
The issue isn’t pride, since we’re not proud.
Safety is what you want. That much is clear.

But be precise. Don’t pause, and drift away
Like rudderless boats on an empty sea,
Or elephants who’ve lost their dignity,
Ashamed and desperate. Strength? Love? Display?
If safety is the issue, let me say
It isn’t safe to wander aimlessly.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Not a Hat

It’s called a cap because it’s not a hat.
I know a hat when I see one. Baseball
Is famous for its caps (and in the fall
Football has helmets). When you hold a bat,
You wear a cap, with visor, and that’s that.
You think that I’m a pedant, what we call
Our headgear doesn’t signify at all,
But right’s right, fair’s fair, true’s true, and flat’s flat.

All right, resorting to tautologies
Makes any case, even good ones, look weak,
But I say you should think before you speak;
You can’t call something anything you please.
Words carry meaning, chump, and Hell will freeze
Before a hat has logos and a beak.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Ducks Will Fly

Yes, I could speculate about the past,
But I would rather dream of what's to come,
The moment when my love throws me a crumb
Or when my son goes on an eight-day fast
Protesting art sales on a scale so vast
That everybody suffers, mute and numb,
My second cousin calls his mother Scum,
And she says in return, "The boy's half-assed."

Yes, let us think about the future's shape:
We'll ponder why albinos love to skate
And bake cupcakes, and, when the hour grows late,
Show up with presents, in a cowl and cape.
I don't know how the duck plans to escape
The bonds of earth, but I could speculate.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Over the Fields

So you think you're so clever that your brain
Shines like the North Star. I count forty ways
You darken every morning: there's a haze
Over the fields, the wheat, the rye, the cane,
The rapeseed, darkness like a stab of pain
Over the fields, the sunflowers, the maize,
The eglantine, as if the end of days
Were coming now, accompanied by rain.

Watch closely: what you thought was light
Is nothing but a spark of fear, a flash
Of doom, looming, three dragonflies that dash
Themselves against the window, in their flight
Towards an empty death. But you were right:
You're clever, like a last, lost, floating ash.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Opening Salvo

I'm told that almost all great poets write
A sonnet sequence now and then, so you
Can now experience a sequence, too,
Of sonnets never yet exposed to light.
There are some readers who, I'm sure, for spite,
Will say I shouldn't bother, and it's true
That one must not hope for too much ado,
Although I hope for it, with all my might.

I want the world to notice and to cry,
"Oh, here is what we wanted all along!"
An educated and discerning throng
Will line the streets as I'm parading by,
Exclaiming, "Sonnets, sonnets, till we die!"
The whole world has been waiting for my song.