Friday, March 31, 2006

Beneath the Whitened Skin

I'm filled with longing, sadness, and remorse,
Remembering the reading that we did,
Me and my daughter, when she was a kid,
Recalling how I used to end up hoarse
Declaiming hollowly in Ancient Norse,
Sagas of how the northern hominid
Became more civilized, but kept it hid
Beneath the whitened skin, deep at the source.

I'm sorry we tried no Icelandic tales,
Those eddas built on glaciers tall as spires
On cold volcanic plains, pitted by fires.
We should have met with Aztec ghosts, spread sails
With sea sprites, playing unseen by the whales,
And spoken softly of Coptic vampires.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

In the Air

I didn't really think that I could fly,
But I had had about enough to drink
That who knew what I was supposed to think
When I looked down and saw the bloody sky?
(I don't mean there was really blood, do I?)
If I was upside down, or on the brink
Of madness, many gallons of black ink
Might be required to file and classify

What I was thinking when I peered straight down
And saw what might have been a dark abyss,
And might have been darkness itself. What's this?
I can remember thinking. Who's that clown
There in the mirror? Would I break my crown
By tumbling after? Then what would I miss?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Someplace New

Did I disturb you with my happy sounds?
I didn't mean to aggravate your ears
With laughter and contentment, which appears
To have alarmed you. If I prowled the grounds,
Like guard dogs making their nocturnal rounds,
And growled at you, your ordinary fears
Would loosen, as if, after a few beers,
You could let go. Your silent heart rebounds,
Extending into someplace new, a spot
Where things resemble, mostly, what you hope,
Not burning tires and fifteen feet of rope,
Nor tall tales of heroic battles fought
And lost incompetently. You've been caught
Hoping for better, managing to cope.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Full Meal

I ate a hot dog, on a crusty bun,
Some french fries, pudding, and an ice cream cone,
A cup of Devon cream, peach pie, corn pone,
Two slices of a meat loaf, not well done,
More pudding, cotton candy, freshly spun,
Ribs, overcooked and falling off the bone,
A pepperoni pizza, baked on stone,
One hundred shrimps in black sauce, one by one.

I drank one glass each of Scotch whisky, rye,
Bourbon, champagne poured out in pops and spurts,
Three goblets of the tastiest gewürz,
A keg of beer, the best gin I could buy,
Some distilled water from the River Wye,
And prune juice. I'm so cavernous, it hurts.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


What did you mean by saying I was free?
I can't be free until the harvest moon
Falls into this volcano, in a swoon
That's reminiscent of a willow tree
Leaning over a lake despondently,
Covered in lava, with an ancient rune
Etched in the bright moon's mountainsides that soon
Crumble and tumble into a dry sea.

We do not always reap that which we sow,
We will not always slumber on in peace
While drumbeats swell and whistling sounds increase
Until the fire consumes us all. A glow
Burns forth from somewhere up above, below,
Beside, around us, and we crave release.

Friday, March 24, 2006


Were we impressed? Of course we were impressed
By how you undermined the pure good will
Exhibited by others. You kept still
When asked to speak up if you were distressed,
Then interrupted with a comic zest
When that young man, who clearly had his fill,
Exploded in his grief. You made the kill.
You chattered on, and got it off your chest.

All your remarks were like the finest darts,
Aimed keenly, bull's-eyes. What a game you played,
Your poor opponent punctured, beaten, flayed,
Laid open to the air, cut in small parts.
We will remember, while we still have hearts,
The very clear impression that you made.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


A little mystery, a little spice,
Together they make an intriguing start
To puzzles, and to matters of the heart.
Are love and wonders of a piece? Both nice
Or nasty, both may cut like jagged ice
Into the skin, as both may come apart
Or strike their targets with a lucky dart.
A touch in just the right spot may suffice.

What is sufficient, then? What point will do
To sever feeling from a mystery
Or bring us one moment of ecstasy?
Is there a moment when all dreams come true
Or die? What happened suddenly to you?
What sharp point have I missed, that you can see?

Monday, March 20, 2006


I have no influence with anyone
Who matters, with the power to invest
What's needed, or to bargain. I suggest
That I am just a fellow full of fun,
Contentious, ribald, dark, the kind they shun
In circles where they think they know what's best
For everybody else. They run some test
To separate my kind from theirs; I run.

Not only do I run from influence,
I take it on the lam from anything
That even looks like reaching for the ring.
I might perhaps say, in my own defence,
That living as I do in indigence
Makes hash of all my contact with the king.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

What to Look for

I was a swindler, but I have reformed.
I was an evildoer and a skunk,
A caviller, a haverer, a drunk,
A wicked man who's callous temper stormed
The way a hurricane of hornets swarmed,
But now I am as gentle as a monk
With lovely pieces of fresh bread to dunk
Into a jug of wine that's just been warmed.

You might not see it in me right away,
But now I am so utterly serene
That those who truly know me and have seen
This transformation are prepared to say
It's clear now that I have become okay.
Once I was bad, distressful, even mean.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The End of All Debate

You're thinking it's the end of all debate
When suffering is loaded on a child,
That everyone, like you, is driven wild
To think that only some unholy hate
Could drive omnipotence to contemplate
Babies in gruesome pain, or praise as mild
A god who lets that happen. Keep it filed
Under Distaste, not Deity or Fate.

I heard a woman lost her infant son
To cancer running fast and fancy-free
Through his small body. Anyone could see
How bad it was, and soon the deed was done.
She cried, but then explained to everyone
That her child, too, was saved at Calvary.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


I'm not afraid of those clairvoyant strokes,
Those lightning-strikes of fortune-telling art,
Where everything appears straight from the heart
Of knowing. No, I'm one of those sad folks
Who know already, for whom good sense pokes
Up through the thin floor, tearing it apart
And speeding, like no ordinary dart,
Into the air, all spears and spines and spokes.

Knowing the future is not fortune's way
Of being kind. It's what we'll never know
That leaves us beaming with a hopeful glow,
While knowledge makes our hearts and faces grey.
I'm not afraid of what clairvoyants say;
It's common sense that's making my knees bow.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Endless Rue

Just once, I wish you wouldn't analyze
And spit on everything I try to do
As if it's done, somehow, to poke at you.
Your heart explodes in rough, abandoned cries
When I put on an engineer's disguise
And make things badly, but just think it through:
You claim your heart was sold, with endless rue,
But you reserve the right to criticize.

When I was two-and-fifty, I could stand
The endless aggravation when you rant
And strike at me, with this hard, sour descant
That overtakes the melody, the bland
Expressions of desire, written in sand.
Now I am three-and-fifty, and I can't.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Guilty Soul

I'm pretty sure that everyone was there
When you decided to unbolt the doors
To your subconscious, open up your pores
And sweat until your guilty soul was bare.
Your husband winked at me, and clawed his hair,
Your sister sniffed, my wife muttered, "What bores,"
Your only daughter went about her chores,
And both your sons pretended not to care.

My own reaction wasn't so intense,
Since I had hoped those thoughts would pass unsaid.
It's not that I'm proud of the life I've led,
Or of my own infallible good sense –
I have some words to say in your defence,
But silence is my way; I'm so well bred.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Enter the room with that delighted smile
You're so enamoured of, that dopey grin
That shows what state your lower gums are in,
And make remarks about the makeshift style
Of our apartment. Yes, I have a file
Of all your peccadilloes, every sin
You've tried on, like complaining I'm too thin
Or leaving your dress shirts here in a pile.

No, I don't want your hand-me-down dress shirts,
With plackets and stiff collars, blue and black,
And lectures about wearing off-the-rack.
It isn't that your kindness comes in spurts,
Or that it isn't kindness when it hurts;
Those are some ugly rags, boy. Take them back.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Standard Stink

"It isn't as unseemly as you think,"
He said, attempting to persuade the crowd
That gathered, when at last he was allowed
To speak to them about the latest drink
He had invented, called the Standard Stink.
He wouldn't say what's in it, but he bowed
And told them gently he was pleased and proud
Not to be pouring it right down the sink.

"I won't be party to such utter waste,"
He said, "Discarding it is out of bounds,
Beyond the pale, like pouring coffee grounds
Into a toilet; that's gross and debased.
It tastes the way love is supposed to taste."
It tastes exactly like the way it sounds.

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Owl

The owl was swinging from the rafter beam,
Stale and oppressive air shut down our throats
While we were watching the dingy dust motes
Drift through the shafts of light like a bad dream,
And while our attitude was gaining steam
(We looked so good in our stylish trench coats,
And rattled off those Humphrey Bogart quotes),
We drank another coffee, double cream.

The owl's soft, silent feathers had been cropped,
So closely that, although it might still thrive
In zoos, or cages, it would not arrive
In style. We started singing, then we stopped;
I wasn't watching closely when it dropped,
But none of us could tell: was it alive?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Regeneration must begin somewhere.
For some, it's how the sun rises each day,
For others, watching little children play,
Or peonies rise. Some may even swear
They feel life surging through each strand of hair,
Although those people should be put away.
In springtime, all that people seem to say
Rings with this nonsense. It's a sad affair.

For me, regeneration starts right here.
I use the same materials once more –
The same iambic metre, and this store
Of images: a beer, a bear, a bier,
A baby, flower pots, a severed ear –
And look! A sonnet heading out the door.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Disaster! We were settling in to see
The program we recorded Sunday night,
But something went wrong, and the eerie sight
Of snow, with crackling sounds, on our TV
Assaulted our tame senses, senselessly.
We stare forlornly, and, bereft of light,
I blame the Fates for this unseemly slight,
And curse them ceaselessly. My wife blames me.

How did we get here? Television shows
Run twenty-four hours daily, mostly junk,
Detritus, falsehood, emptiness, and bunk,
The end of culture, and, so TV goes,
It played again, as everybody knows,
This afternoon. We watched it then. It stunk.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Protective Gear

I'm clad this week in my protective gear:
I have a bulletproof and lightweight vest,
Stitched up with fishing line, fifty-pound test,
A helmet covering my crown and ear,
A no-spill cup for my imported beer,
And two old friends prepared to pound my chest
In case of fire, or cardiac arrest,
Whatever I have greatest cause to fear.

I'm not afraid now, as I was before,
Because I have protection I can see
From all the dangers now confronting me,
And when I wonder what fate has in store
I wrap myself in tinfoil; it's a chore,
But I'm as well insured as I can be.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


And severed his grey head from his poor neck,
A paltry neck, a scrawny, wrinkled thing,
With sinews like old, frayed pieces of string
And mottled skin, each cautionary speck
Either a mole triumphant or a fleck
That demonstrated time is hurrying
Towards a bruised demise. Pauper or king,
We're all aimed at the same disturbing wreck.

Dress her tonight in taffeta and lace,
Gracing her features most appealingly;
Beg her pardon and carry her to me.
Below his chin, beneath the ravaged face,
She sees, or thinks she sees, appalling space,
Where nothing has been left for her to see.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Inamorata, you have succoured me
When all the world betrayed me, when the fight
Unfolded as a storybook, in light
Too lush to have shone accidentally,
The sun in transit, stars in ecstasy,
Illuminating the spare, moonless night.
You did not falter, as another might,
Nor, when they called me rogue, would you agree.

So when I give you up now, as I must,
Exposing you to harm and ridicule,
Remember that I know you are a jewel
Beyond all price, that I am made of dust.
Perhaps I was distracted, and concussed,
Or maybe I'm no better than a mule.