Tuesday, January 31, 2006

In the Field, Lately

I won't invade the realms of outer space,
Because I have no fleet of ships to cruise
Between the conquered planets. Spread the news:
We've given up all claims to every place
That wonders who we are, and why my face
Should be on all the money. See this bruise?
I earned it. See these markings on my shoes?
It's Greek for "None, I think, do there embrace."

You see what I've been up against, of course:
The horse who thinks he's emperor of France,
The cow, blindsided by vain circumstance,
The Muffin Man, who thinks that he's a horse,
And mad farmers who, in a show force,
Have glared, stared, leered, jeered, looked at me askance.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

One Kind Word

Were I awaiting one kind word from you,
Were our relationship my life's whole aim,
Then should I weep, not hearing my own name
When you were asked to whom you had been true.
I waited for your smile, some sort of clue
That something still existed I could claim –
At least an ember, though I see no flame –
A glimpse of your hands, or a disused shoe.

The days have passed so slowly, nights have been
So dark, each minute clings to what has passed
As if what was first never will be last.
We know things change; that's something we have seen
While waiting for a kind word. Did you mean
The distance now between us is not vast?

Saturday, January 28, 2006


Two dark loaves, with a pound of cheddar cheese,
A cooler filled with pasties from Des Moines
More Cornish than the Cornish, chocolate coins
Imprinted with a mediaeval frieze,
Five packets of Chinese and Assam teas,
A lovely pair of jellied mutton loins
(Including hooves, but not including groins),
Fresh watercress, new tubers, and canned peas.

We open up the baskets, and the ants
Approach with trepidation, since they know
From the last picnic our standards are low.
I tighten up my belt, hitch up my pants,
Stand up for this meal, while my wife recants,
And tells the insects, gently, they should go.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Living by Your Wits

I ended up in trouble with a man
Who framed his question for me in a way
That made me doubt he was sincere. Okay,
It's true I claimed, wrongly, I had a plan,
When I had nothing, but I'm a big fan
Of living by your wits, from day to day,
And really, truly mean it when I say
That I don't care for spinach, sprouts, or bran.

So I won't be elected now, I guess,
And that's a good thing, someone's bound to crow,
Insisting that my empathy is low.
My sympathy is lower, even less
Than my poor understanding. It's a mess,
But I'm still on the ballot here, you know.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Emotional Wreck

I was intending to express my fear,
But quit that thought, as giving things away.
Rethinking my position, pure dismay
Gave me a turn, then sadness. It was clear
That terror could be turned off by a tear,
So I explained that to the men who stay
In my sub-basement, working night and day
To rid me of regret, love, and good cheer.

I was intending to impress my friends
With just how little evidence of soul
I could display, how feelings take their toll,
But I forgot the means, then skipped the ends.
My heart will be something no one defends,
And my emotions all under control.

Friday, January 20, 2006

A Canadian Tradition

It’s a Canadian tradition now:
We gather, celebrate Bunkatsu Day,
Shoving aside the vagrants in our way.
From far and wide they come here: in a scow,
A junk, an ocean liner, or a dhow,
To find safe harbour, though they will not stay.
To Canada they sail, to sing, to pray,
Yet our employers take no note, somehow.

Why can we find no statute on the books
Allowing us some time to mark the date?
Right now! Next year will surely be too late!
Our lawyers are at work, also our cooks,
And our proofreaders, famed for their good looks,
Preparing action plans. Where is the state?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Defending You

I made no effort to explain the joke,
Or help you understand what made us laugh.
I didn't intervene on your behalf,
Stand up for you, or offer you a smoke,
But when you missed the point, two of them spoke,
In whispers, saying you would need a graph
With legends up and down the left-hand staff,
And I suggested calm. Then the dam broke.

They seemed to think I was defending you.
I'd never do that. I don't like you much,
The way you use depression as a crutch –
You're not depressed; it's just an avenue
For self-expression, isn't it? What's new
Is that I'm laughing. Not at you, as such.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


Is everyone as scared as I am? Why
Or why not? How does this despair help me?
I used to make excuses, easily
Make mincemeat of the fear. I'm not that guy,
Now that I'm fifty-two and not so shy
About the way our feelings wriggle free
And cold-cock us. Did everybody see
What happened when those dark clouds filled the sky?

I don't protest so much against the rain,
But I'm helpless and drowning while a thief
Takes every one of my possessions, chief
Of which is your love. Terrified again,
I'm not alone here, am I, scared of pain,
Distressed by thoughts of lonely waves of grief?

Monday, January 16, 2006


Impressive as his attitude must seem
To someone who was never strong enough
For anything more challenging than snuff,
He started quickly, then ran out of steam,
And fell apart. Was it another dream,
Pretending to be someone just as tough
As his old friends? He didn't like it rough,
He simply wanted to be thought supreme.

To me, he sounded like another clown
From the old neighbourhood. That's what I thought,
So when I saw him cornered, and then caught,
My own resistance seems to have left town.
When I was hitting him, while he was down,
It seemed a good idea. Maybe not.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


Has anyone but me caught the despair
Behind the brash exuberance we saw
Last week? That jubilation is the law
Seems undeniable; it's in the air,
But every time I think, just to be fair,
That there might be some incidental flaw
In how I see the matter, some beast's claw
Rakes past, and someone's blood is in my hair.

How do you feel? How fateful was the fight
Between your joy and – underneath the smile –
The aching and the clarity no guile
Will split from seeming unalloyed delight?
Do we do anything the way we might
If we forgot our hearts for just a while?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

This Sonnet Is

This sonnet is the sonnet that I write
When I have only fifteen minutes left,
Aware my readership will be bereft
If no new verses show up on this site.
I manage this, and much to their delight
It turns out great, with literary heft
And likely to be subject to grand theft
By plagiarists not yet too tired to fight.

So here you are, stuck in the middle of
A poem that's about composing verse
At once expansive, genuine, and terse,
Replete with wonderful yet bookish love
For prosody, and working hand in glove
With language as unbiased as a curse.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Some Queries

What did you eat? What did you wear today?
Who saw you? Was the clock fixed properly?
When did you tell your mother you'd be free
To weed the yard? What did your mother say?
Did anyone explain their tears away
When you were telling your sad history
Of marches and skinned elbows? Is it me,
Or does this weather keep the wolves at bay?

Have you pretended you're a monkey yet?
Is this the time, before the flying snow
Folds over us, to change the status quo
Because you can now? Did you take that bet
And swallow pills your cat got from the vet?
Am I the only one who wants to know?

Thursday, January 12, 2006


one matchstick has indelibly dreamed
of fire as two somehow create a joint
where they have burned together to a point
of ash and smoke – two columns, seamed
and joined and wholly unredeemed
by usefulness but something will anoint
their foreign boldness: “wir sind freund mit freund”
and water that was once flowing now steamed

so if I check my feelings at the door
and enter into this dark, smoky room,
expecting something to rise from the gloom,
intending to extol it and ignore
the wreck of our ambitions, nothing more
will come of it but ashes on the broom

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Am I the only man who understands
That men and women really are the same?
Do women mean it when they speak my name,
While men are fooling? Is it merely glands
That underlie the way a diver lands,
Or how a counsellor expresses shame
And heads serenely out, the way he came?
Who listens to those rhythm-and-blues bands?

Some women tell me I'm the perfect guy,
As cool and tall as any conifer,
As pure as any complete amateur,
And with a look of longing in my eye
That only deepens as the years go by.
I love my wife, but don't really know her.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Dog's Breakfast

I was in-vitro fertilizing eggs
When I was interrupted by my friend,
Who asked if I had any cash to lend,
And when I queried him, he said the kegs
Were empty. "Grace and I just drained the dregs
Of those once-heavy barrels. What you spend
Will come back to you: one distinguished blend
And endless beer, plus two unsteady legs."

After I thanked him for his care of me,
I lost my train of thought, so I'm afriad
I may have cloned a dog. She has been spayed,
Her fangs were all removed summarily,
But she seems to have nipped a VIP,
And my superiors have been dismayed.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


I drank a few more milk shakes and cold beers
Than mother would have let me, I admit,
But I was weak. It wasn't courage, wit,
Or sheer insensibility. My fears
Were not under control. I shed some tears,
I begged a little, and I left some spit
On some guy's neck. I'm not ashamed of it,
But when I face a jury of my peers . . .

Who are we kidding? My peers are a group
Much smarter, and much better looking, too,
Than this crowd. I expect to hear them moo
At any moment, like a circus troop
Fed up with meals of nothing but cold soup.
They want milk shakes and cold beers, just like you.

Friday, January 06, 2006

That I Believed

You'll find the imposition of my will
On everything that everybody does
Is rather like a modicum of fuzz
On peaches: necessary, yes, but still –
People object. They ask what homemade swill
Must I be drinking, to have such a buzz
That I believed whatever crap it was
That I believed. Yes, I have drunk my fill.

But I believe that you have drunk as well,
And everyone else had a snootful, too,
Which helps explain this immature, frank zoo
We live in. You know, even where the smell
Was overwhelming, you watched how they fell
When no one paid attention to me. True?

Thursday, January 05, 2006


I haven't got just one more thing to add,
I have a dozen. First, what's on your head?
An otter's not a hat. And when you said
You loved the theatre – well, that was sad:
You only love the actors when they're bad.
Asleep, you sound like lions being fed,
And you snore everywhere, not just in bed.
I have eight more things written on this pad:

You're sullen, puzzled, impious, insane,
Devoted to your mother noxiously,
Bad luck occurs in your vicinity,
You have no heart, and very little brain.
I trust this checklist causes you no pain,
And has no impact on your thoughts of me.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Perfect Song

It was the perfect evening, everything
Was right: the wind was warm, the sky deep blue,
And even the waiter, dainty and true,
Knowing how much we were in love, would bring
Each new course as a swallow on the wing
Brings song. You gazed at me and I at you,
The lovely waiter passed us and he knew,
Although, quite certainly, he couldn't stay.

Do you remember how the moonlight shone
As we stood up to leave? Each man devotes
Himself to what he's staked his dreams upon,
And as the waiter handed us our coats
I thought: how soon this season will be gone,
And how the waiter sings all the wrong notes.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

On Monday I Will Go to the Hospital

On Monday's visit to the hospital
I enter gingerly. The children's ward
Is full of papers. On a small blackboard
Are pictures of a Latin gavial
And Grecian urns. This is inimical
To progress. I must not fail to record
How loudly all the startled nurses roared
When told to find a silver crucible.

On Tuesday's visit everything will change;
On Wednesday I bring pencils, fans, and trout;
On Thursday's visit, everything seems strange;
On Friday's visit, all the children shout;
On Saturday, with nothing to arrange
But waiting, I am waiting winter out.