Friday, December 30, 2005

On His Blind Side

He must have been behind me all the time,
And sharpening his bloody fingertips.
I think they must have stopped him using whips,
Because he seemed unglued. I dropped a dime
And, since the floor was covered in black grime,
It shone. I'm used to making frequent trips,
With all their usual mishaps and slips,
And bent to gather it back up – a crime.

A dime, however bright, is very thin,
And I would have paid something for a winch
Yoked to a magnet then. He grabbed an inch
Of me, perhaps less; one good chunk of skin
Came off. He said, "That's public space you're in."
They also serve who only stand and pinch.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

What I Could Do

Would it impress you if I wet my pants
With some exotic liquid: clam juice, gin,
Crude oil, or ditch water? If these dark rants
Came packaged with four lovely potted plants?
If I had candy canes that made you thin,
Or found a way to build bridges of skin
That spanned the continent? If I made ants
Jump flawlessly, or if I conquered sin?

Where would I get crude oil, or ants that leap?
Embarrassed? Sure I am, but that's not new.
But what if I could go days without sleep,
If there were villanelles that made you weep,
If I could show you that poems were true,
And if I changed the sonnet's rhyme scheme, too?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


If everybody's got a right to eat,
And everybody has a right to choose,
Then what has everybody got to lose
By picking ice cream, sprouts, and chicken feet?
Too many Buffalo wings, too much heat,
Too many steaks that taste like running shoes,
More hamster wheels than anyone can use,
Too many songs, and most of them too sweet.

My life is good because I stopped at last,
Insisting on a hairnet and a snood,
Although the other children called me rude.
No longer am I haunted by the past,
My hunger having ceased to be too vast
To be assuaged by photographs of food.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Phantom Sting

I don't care if I see you in the spring,
And if I see you on a summer's night
Don't be alarmed if I look for some light
To send you on your way. This gathering,
Where you've turned up like some obnoxious thing
From scary movies, hasn't turned out right.
Does this sound spiteful? Sorry. Yes, it's spite,
But I was trying for a phantom sting.

I hoped I could insult you monstrously
Without your noticing the venom there,
Perhaps a cruel remark about your hair,
Or something mean, spoken with childish glee:
Your rank existence is a mystery.
You've understood me? That's my cross to bear.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Anticipate Calamity

Always anticipate calamity.
When churches fall, when rivalries explode,
When ancient friendships die beside the road,
When eagles plummet earthwards helplessly,
When rocks melt, even underneath the sea,
And nothing more is seen of stars that glowed
Above us all these years, you won't be owed
An explanation, leastwise not by me.

What did you think? The smooth ride never ends?
The climate shifts won't happen? The sweet taste
Of love will linger? Bitterness has chased
All sweetness from the scene, and darkness tends
The afternoons. Calamity descends,
As we anticipated, without haste.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

In the North of Spain

I bought a castle in the north of Spain,
Declared myself a dispossessed great prince
Of Catalonia, tried to convince
The people I should rule that I was sane,
And waited for the night. When there was rain,
As there has been almost every night since,
My heart rejoiced to see the dark drops rinse
The dusty grape skins, watering the grain.

The sun shines all day long, the mountains ring
With peasant songs, the pounding of their feet
In proud processions too brave to repeat.
Enjoying my bold leadership, they sing
Like squirrels in the fat time, in the spring
When nuts are plentiful. Now, let us eat.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Lime Rime, Leery Ed

Look at the frosty rim of my shot glass:
It's just a little green, since this old lime
Was sitting there for several hours, and slime
Formed on the edge. I should have let it pass,
But when the barman said, "All flesh is grass,"
I started worrying. Is that a crime?
He's made these cocktails for the longest time,
But now he sounded way too full of sass.

"Don't sweat it," he insisted. "Come on, Ed,
What do you see? There isn't any hair,
Or other crap like that. No germs, I swear."
But then he smiled. Though I heard what he said,
I saw that frosty rim, and I saw red,
And thought about what might be lurking there.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Special Friends

One special friend was just a special friend,
Not wearing taffeta-trimmed boxer shorts
And reading fashion magazine reports
On hatbands and the latest chain-stitched trend.
Our other friends brought money they could spend
On trinkets made for European courts,
And tittered sweetly over winter sports
(Oh, look at how those bobsledders' knees bend!).

The other friends were always six feet tall,
And searched through well-thumbed magazines for clues
About belt loops, and soft, sand-coloured shoes.
They had identical footprints, quite small,
And genuine suede boots, bought just last fall
While that one special friend was snorting booze.

Friday, December 16, 2005

My Whole Life

I spent my whole life looking for a sign;
I was quite sure that someone cared for me,
So I prepared a loaf of bread, and wine.
I spent my whole life looking at the sea,
But never venturing upon the waves,
Dismissing what I never could have guessed.
I spent my whole life knowing that love saves
The fiercest sinner, so I did my best
To be an anchor of true, telling pain.
I spent my whole life calling for the sun,
But not expecting anything but rain,
Expecting nothing much from anyone.
I spent my whole life grasping after love.
Whatever must I have been thinking of?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Proscenium, Arch

The actors gathered to discuss their parts,
The mad director thrilled at how it went,
While their producer thought the money spent
Was tragedy, simple and plain: six tarts
And seven bloody ignorant tin hearts
Would make a hash of any sentiment
In any play worth more than half a cent,
She thought, but that's the way it always starts.

What was this play about? Damn, who could tell?
Were there some sharp retorts? No – what were those?
If they were lucky, someone's skimpy clothes
Would show off cleavage that the ads could sell,
Or, even better, one fine lass might yell
And slip her panties off. Yes! Standing Os!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Strength, Character, Purpose

I haven't laughed since 1994,
The year my son ran over Sasha's dog.
Since then I feel like nothing but a cog
In Fate's machinery. It's such a bore,
This slogging onward, it's an endless chore
Like Sisyphus's rock, but in a fog,
With some sad joker and his dying hog
Climbing beside you. I can't take much more.

Sometimes I think I may have glimpsed the sun,
And stand up, ready to remain alive,
Although you couldn't hope to see me thrive.
When Sasha sued us, I thought I was done.
Unless you count the court case that we won
I haven't smiled since 1995.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Four A.M.

Right now, I'm feeling just a little tired.
It's not because I'm old; if I were old,
The air in here would seem a trifle cold,
But I'm not cold. Instead, I feel inspired,
As if the life that I've always desired
Is just over the next hill. I was told
This day was coming, beautiful and bold,
By someone I once knew well and admired.

He's dead now. Everybody I once knew
Is dead or dying, tired or cold or wan.
I ask myself sometimes who's here, who's gone,
Who gives a damn, is everything still true
That underpinned our lives? We're still a crew
Of angels, aren't we, watching for the dawn?

Friday, December 09, 2005

When the Arrivistes Slipped Through

We couldn't simply estimate the cost:
So many variables to factor in –
The weight of Samson's hair, the price of tin,
The gold with which the stickers were embossed,
The arrivistes, how many souls were lost,
And just how many forkfuls of shark's fin
Were added to the soup – made our heads spin,
And then we learned that we'd been double-crossed.

Someone put pyrites on instead of gold,
The bauxite market plunged, we were inept
At customs, so the customs that we kept
Had more to do with truth than stories told
Around the campfire. Now we're growing old,
And giving up the fight. How we have wept!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I Adore His Plan

The first thing that he says he wants to do
Is crush the opposition. When that’s done,
And all our enemies are on the run,
One man will stand alone, devout and true
Upon the mountaintop, without his crew
Of backers and defenders, in the sun.
Assassinations follow: steal a gun
And change the universe, and your life, too.

Don’t ask the reason I adore his plan.
I’d have to murder you if I explained,
Or leave you in the basement, bound and chained,
And ­ really ­ I am not that kind of man.
I have my pistol, I’ll do what I can,
Suspecting that his plan will leave him drained.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


When I was twenty-three, and teaching school,
Planning my dissertation, I was smart,
Expecting I would make a life in art
And clamber upwards, out of my gene pool
And into something better, something cool.
I wrote it out in rhymes, prepared a chart,
And stencilled it in blue ink on my heart.
When I was twenty-three, I was a fool.

But I was also smart, just like I said,
And when somebody came and promised me
That none of it would turn out properly
I did take steps, ensuring that, instead
Of what was happening inside my head,
I took some risks. Well, I was twenty-three.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


I know the spelling of a word or two
Expressing understanding – maybe three.
I know the origins of "Yes, I see,"
"Mm-hmm," and also "What is it to you?"
I left my dictionary with the crew,
But I can say, with utter certainty,
That roses should not smell like misery,
As surely as some violets are blue.

There are some things I never claimed to know,
Like when my aunt became the Scourge of Doubt,
Or who among us is the most devout,
And what a palm tree thinks about the snow.
The spelling of a word or two I know,
And how such verse as this might come about.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Advice on Love

I'm not about to tell you how to make
Something of your love life. Just look at mine –
It's no example. But you have no spine,
Your life's a shambles, just a gross mistake.
I guess, considering the way things break,
You must have simply lost control. Don't whine,
I'm only criticizing eight or nine
Of your worst qualities, for heaven's sake.

Don't bother her with all this wiggling,
Like worms. You sometimes have to take a chance
If – and I'm recommending no such thing –
You think you want to gamble on romance:
Ask her to dance. That's all. Ask her to dance,
And – if you have to, then – ask her to sing.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

I'll Take You Home

I'll take you home, if we can see the moon
Through canopies of leaves. If we can stroll
Along the boulevard, if we can roll
Along the highway past a dead raccoon,
I'll take you home. Something will happen soon,
An unforeseen event will rend my soul
And, making me see stars, will make me whole,
But none of that took place this afternoon.

My heart is in the cupboard, and my eyes
Are on the future, underneath the dome
Of dusky clouds, but I will take you home
If we can listen to the wind that sighs
And whistles through those leaves. The sun will rise
Over the wine-dark sea, topped with bright foam.

Friday, December 02, 2005


It isn’t just the way you ate ice cream
That thrilled me, but the way you sipped your tea
While looking over the wide rim at me,
Blowing away the broad billows of steam
Rising up out of your large mug. A gleam
I noticed in your eyes uncannily
Echoed my thoughts, so that the way you see
Your lover matched his own seductive dream.

What could this mean? I didn’t really know,
So I used language that I could disguise,
Bold words made of unfettered compromise,
Terms of endearment meant only for show,
And written smartly in the melting snow.
I noticed something gleaming in your eyes.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Our Own Dooms

I'm not impressed by all this rigmarole,
These dummy books, the shilly-shallyings,
Those lords a-leaping and their golden rings,
That clueless tailor, and the pig you stole,
But I was wondering about the mole
Who built a race car out of coloured strings
And filled it up with spanners, spuds, and springs,
Then popped it in his next-door neighbour's hole.

The rest of us are digging our own dooms,
Discoursing endlessly on what we hope,
The colour of our nicest doilies (taupe),
Who manufactured them and on which looms,
And how they make the best of our best rooms.
I need a hook here, and I'd like some rope.