Showing posts from 2017
Human and Humane

in the face of such
evil the only human
is apology,
is listening to the stories
you do not want
to hear or believe
and accepting them
as part of the world
you do not know
and then making
amends--truly setting
things to rights,
truly liberating the captive
who has been so long
languishing through
a sin--
not commission,
not truly omission,
but complete inattention,

It is indifference that robs
us of any trace of humanity--
the willingness to allow
things to be, so long as
they don't affect me or mine.

Indifference tamps down the cobbles
with which hate paves the pathway
to hell for all of us. Indifference
is an invitation to inhumanity.

Poem--The Clock That Opens Time

Standing at the bathroom sink
brushing my teeth
I think about the time
my brother pulled the golden
glass-domed clock
from her desk
and she cried and said
because it wasn't cylindrical
but more oval, the glass couldn't be replaced.
And I felt her pain and said
I'm sorry,
and felt that moment that
I was really talking
to her wherever she might be,
but she was for certain with me
and without her I am not
and then spoke the truth I saw
you had
some share
of the blame--
putting a thirteen year old boy
who wanted nothing
more than to be left alone
in charge of his little brothers."

And I still love you.

A Most ReadJoyceful Bloomsday!

Your annual reminder that Ulysses is for everyone:  Will you read it? “and yes I said yes I will Yes.”
Longer excerpt: “I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”

Joyce was absolutely terrible at formal poetry, because his poetry is in his writing. ReadJoyce!


I I had a sandwich there And read the window and bronze plaque but it was not Gorgonzola.
II I passed the siren's tavern which I did not see and crossed quietly over the placid Liffey.
III You would have laughed to see my thrill at finding old Tommy Moore and his once-urinal.
IV Out past Dun Laoghaire where the chill North Sea meets the Forty Foot--the Martello Tower.
V James Joyce hopscotched every brick in Dublin to celebrate the date of his love.
VI Sirens and Cyclopes and Wandering Rocks all for a beer and some cheese.
VII Breakfast kidneys and chemist and Leopold leaves Molly abed.
VIII he thinks fine day for a funeral even if I flee and find my father.
XI A fine edifice and fancy facade for mothering maters about to bear.
X Ah rejoyce and rejoyce again that we readjoyce for doubling our Dublin.
XI While just inside Stephen proves by algebra he is the ghost of his own father, Leopold loses it for a moment.
XII And a toast to the place In Paris that gave the world Joyce's Dublin.


Did you hear me when
I whispered your name to the dew
that had not yet formed? When I
stirred the clear water of a sticky stream
and found in the eddies and whirls
a language only I could read?

I carried you
like the single breath of an ancient
bird preserved in lithographic limestone,
like all the salt of the sea bound and floating.

I read a poem and set
the book down in front
of the fan that is never
off and I let it turn
a few pages before
I pick it up and read
another poem

May Sarton "Salt Lick"

and it's time to go to work
so I close the book
and write this poem.

Sandhill Cranes

Their majesties--three Sandhill
Cranes, parents and a chick,
step out to survey their domain,
and pause their stately strut
to nod (noblesse oblige) at doting
subjects in their stopped cars.

When you

When you look at the beautiful
things of the world, what do you
see? How do they speak? What
language is whispered in your
ear? How do you know the loveliness
of the turquoise wave, of the pebbled
shore, of a marble in a vacant park
relaxing her robust nakedness against
the manicured green?
Like the dragonfly trapped in my car
I beat against the windshield
uncomprehendingly seeking the light
but barred from it by some barrier
I cannot see. Sometimes flying the length
of the window, sometimes perched
an inch from freedom, ignoring the indraft.
Oh for a Hand to guide me to open air!
How we feel
Is an illusion
we choose
Today I saw
sea eagle piercing
the blue sky silver glinting
from his talons
promises there will be
a tomorrow.
Not first upon the Cross God let Himself be slain,
For see! He lieth dead there at the feet of Cain.

--Angelus Silesius


Goodness this is a powerful reminder and brings forward what it means to be in the image and likeness of God. When we lay violent hands on any person, we lay violent hands on God himself--Matthew 25:40:

"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

Poem: On Looking at the Columns in the Temple of Hathor

On Looking at the Columns in the Temple of Hathor

What dim, flickering, ageless age
you speak to us--an ageless age
that changes in the mind of
the one who sees it. How many
worked for how long to make
these columns and friezes to tell
us what story? How much shadowed
labor in what heat and weather?
How many working here and how
many others to support the work
they did?

                 It beggars the imagination
to think--no outlets, no switches
nothing but the muscled labor of men
and women and beasts. No eight-hour
day and then off to be with family, no unions, no protection from elements
or random anger.  And yet all done
all to glorify a silent goddess--joy and
a mother's abiding love.

                                         What connection
have I now to what this meant to you
when it was new--when ground was
cleared and tamped and set for
the work of long years, when bright
blue skies and sun washed days pounded
harder than the hard hours of long toil.

How can I connect to …
This is the problem with today,
we look to the future and the past,
we're taught to do it from the time we can think,
and here we look to both ways--
To the future that we are building memories
(the past) for, with not so much
as a sidelong glance to the fact
that when we live Romantic nows
the past and the future take care of themselves.
Instead of focusing on the outer cosmos, Socrates focused primarily on human beings and their cosmos within, utilizing his method to open up new realms of self-knowledge while at the same time exposing a great deal of error, superstition, and dogmatic nonsense. The Spanish-born American philosopher and poet George Santayana said that Socrates knew that “the foreground of human life is necessarily moral and practical” and that “it is so even so for artists”—and even for scientists, try as some might to divorce their work from these dimensions of human existence.

With T. S. Eliot on the Beach

"From the moment of inception
a poem must be driven
by the meaning you would give to it"

"Oh Tom, not this again, please--
look at the ocean, the sun just reflecting,
the pelican raising his head to swallow a fish."

"That's it! That's it exactly!
The three persons of the trinity--
the Holy Ghost present to all equally,
the Father Ocean in whom we live and move
and have our being and most of all
the Pelican Christ, who moves
on the surface of the Father and engulfs
sinners to their salvation. "

"Eh," I say, "can't the ocean be the ocean
and the waves just waves? Can't sand
be sand no matter how we sculpt it?"

"Poetry isn't for the faint of heart
or the weak of will, its for men of stout
heart and strong mind who know what they mean
and say it with full force of their words."

"Why can't poetry just be beautiful. . ."

"It must be beautiful but not just,
it must persuade and convince by its…
I just read this poem and fell in love with it. A picture rather than a typescript because you have to see it for it to mean.
I first read it in a Keillor collection where all design was removed and it still entranced me, but now even more properly arrayed.  As set in Keillor's book, the poem is rather like pâté de foie gras, sans pâté, pas de gras.   Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Central Park West.
And when you write, write.
one word in front of another
your meaning, your meaning
their meaning, their meaning
expanding the boundary
to bursting, and who cares?
Because now it is one word one word one word

a pile of words.

To Starbucks

I truly love
your energy efficient
high green grass-covered
hut with fake fireplace
and long bench with chairs
heavy as thrones for
overlooking the lake
some people made to build
things on while watching
the tethered balloon reel
in and out like some giant
fishing rod pulling people
out of the cerulean
dyed blue.

Even more I love
the people who try
to please with smooth
and carefully trained
efficiency who have
to deal with idiots like
me who refuse to conform
to your tone-y café
lingo and who instead
ask for the biggest
or the next size down
or the smallest.

But truth to tell
I'd rather go to
Panera, McDonald's
Dunkin Donuts,
the local sinkhole
or frogpond
to find something
to drink

Despite your colorful
and sometimes
insipidly controversial cups.

The Topologist's Frustration

Can you imagine!
He was looking
for a sphere with one
handle and all he could
find was his hidden wife's
Japanese Tea ceremony set
minus the pot--
cups so delicate and thin
you could breathe through them.

note: while this may seem to be needlessly obscure it helps to know that a sphere with one handle (or even with a hole in it) is topologically identical to a coffee cup. More or less.

Lecture on Poetry

with the
that the poet
is writing about some-
thing, not just playing with
words, note I said "just playing"
because all poets play with
words just like your toddler
plays with food, folds it
up, mashes it down,
stirs it up
makes it


In Case You Were Asking--Coffee

Maybe there would be
a donut there, or perhaps
nothing to make the coffee

better, you could never
tell but you also couldn't lose
counting on bad coffee--

so bitter and burnt your
tongue would feel better
licking the dingy coffee

colored shingles of your
neighbor's unpowerwashed
roof, but still it IS coffee

unstirred by spoon, cuillier
or Prévert and it asks
no easy coffee-

house questions and offers
only the solace of a cup
with a handle. Coffee . . .

In case you were asking.

Query: Re Blogger

I'm back after long absence and have a question for anyone who pays attention (there are only a few).  It used to be fairly easy to follow a blog.  Now I seem to have to cut and past the URL of the blog I wish to follow into the edit area of a reading list to be able to follow.  Is there an easier way?
Oh you splendid light that shines from within all things,
do not hide from us who look,
perhaps only time to time.
It is true we spend more time
looking at our own feet,
listening to the dog or cat fight,
running away and laughing
like children who have just lit a paper bag on your porch.

it is good for us that you are a song,
the sun in the morning,
a rainbow, a pair of Sandhill cranes and their young,
the scent of jasmine, magnolia, vanilla, the ocean.
In all things and being all things,
you fly to us at the slightest nod
at the smallest gesture
you invite us to feast.

And even when
we pay no attention,
You shine out
of all things
and sing the song of longing presence.


Don't look at me,
there's nothing here to see--
look at Who loves me.
Today is a day for hearing.
though I've set myself under
the huge iron bell of the carillon
on a festival day, still its clamor
cannot drown out the whisper of Your love.

No matter how I flee it,
it rings in my head
and my body takes
Your sound and transforms
it into light that
though I try to trap it
escapes me and blinds the world
into new sight.
There are times,
indeed most times,
when I feel like a fake,
an impostor,
not entitled to the gifts you send,
to the caresses you extend
in return for my playing in the mud.

I am a liar, a cheat, a false lover,
a pretender--oh, I am every falseness
all in one, from Trojan horse
to human skeleton on the moon.

And mysteriously, you seem to love me
all the more for it,
and throw out snares that draw me in
again and again,
and though I rip and turn away
from your gossamer nets,
still I long for their soft touch
and come again to be ensnared.

Stop playing!
Take me because I cannot give myself.

Bookstore Temptations


Some Haiku and Short Form

It crossed my mind
to buy yet another book until
I stopped to count the ones I have.


Have you thought how you
litter Earth with poems like leaves
from shaky fall trees


I fall into these words time and time again


In falling I fall
in walking I walk.


Options are very
limited--so be
who you are.


Did you ask me
because you wanted to know or because
you needed to fill the empty air


Your wounds are already
healed if you would just stop re-
opening them.


Just listen with your other ear
to what you say and hear
it for the poison it is.


Patience, kindness
compassion, humility, I seem
to run out of everything but words.


I tore it open
and started to stuff
it full of stories and string
and whatever came to hand
as I was casting about for yet
more to fill its sucking
unsoothable emptiness--
tales tragic and trivial,
endless facts and recipes
for foods no one would ever eat,
murders and weddings and the vast
silence the underlay the thunder
of the pounding surf. And still
there was no help for it--
each thing I stuffed in only
made it emptier. Who knew
that emptiness could grow bigger
could consume everything?
And yet the more I stuffed
inside the less it contained worthy of note. Should I cease and sew it up? Should I cast it into the sea to see if it should be swallowed or more likely swallow the bitter salty sea and still be craving in its emptiness.


All the people that cannot
be, but admire
give pleasure to being me.

Judgment--a pre- or postlude

You judge the oyster
ugly and so do not discover
the pearl within.

Poem--"So long. . . "

So long as I
insist upon my own way
everything is broken

But then evening comes

Creating a Sacred Space

We should start by understanding
that this is impossible.
We cannot create a sacred space
because all spaces are already sacred.
In their being they reflect their making
and their maker.
So now we understand our goal
is different, what should we say?

Living our sacred space.
We choose to see that everything around us
is a gift. Every person we meet
is a gift, is a hammer to knock off
the harsh corners,
the uneven contours,
to shape us to our mission.
There is no such thing as an intrusion,
as an obstruction. Every person
is a lesson, is a challenge,
is present to strengthen our ability to love,
to transform us from potential to kinetic.
Until we see this, we miss some of the sacred
brought to us each day.
In our hurry to accomplish we push
aside possibility to pursue our own ephemeral agenda.

Did cutting that person off in traffic really save that much time?
Did letting the door slam behind us in the face of another
really get us to where we were going faster?
Can you even remember w…


Silence the clatter of judgment
in your own head.
Judgment is the noise you make
at night to scare away
the burglar who is downstairs
before you go down
to find that everything is all right.
Judgment is our own
self-doubt crying out, saying,
"Make sure I'm still important.
Make sure I still matter. "
By judging we claim control,
power, certainty.
But what we get when we judge
is a certain fixity of viewpoint,
a certain hardening of the lines
of who and what we are,
a certain diminishment of joy.
Because when we judge and exclude
harmless and beautiful things,
we close off access to the treasures
they contain.
Treasures countless others have tasted
and known, but which we find
"beneath us."
When we judge a person,
we set up a barrier,
a line neither can fully communicate across.
We gaze into a mirror
and exaggerate and demonize
what we do not like about ourselves.

So what instead?
Instead, let us, each one
accept what comes to us
as a gift.
If we do not understa…
Yesterday, the last of April, and my mother's birthday, a race on the beach.  Ten K up and down the sand, with the clouds of sunrise reflecting, first gray, before the sun has a chance with them, and then the broad strokes of pink and yellow and orange and purple and gray.  And people gathering there on the hard flat surface of the beach near the ocean.  Watching the wind whip up the waves and drive the crest fast upwind.  Race time and more people and rain and the possibility that Space X will launch something from nearby Cape Canaveral, so the first two miles or more during rests, turning around and glancing back over my shoulder to see if it happened.  And it doesn't, so I watch the people on the beach with their phones and cameras aimed toward the cape and if I see someone point or lift their camera or stand up and look, I'll turn around, but I don't.  And I'm running so hard and the wind is blowing back at me that I am surprised when I turn around and suddenly…


As through some distorting lens my eye cannot see what is there but only what sits heavy in my chest--dark pluton of ancient choices, thoughts formed in the furnace and through time warped and bent and changed and turned and now looking new--but so so old--the ore of the idol that called Moses down from Sinai to cast the new law to the ground. If only I could open up to devour this excess--like earth consumed Aaron's handiwork. That this core of mine would vanish, resolve, change itself-- the crooked lines made
straight and my darkness light.

William Howard Taft

He spreads 
his hands to any
who will take him 
and his face is 
wreathed in smiles
at the slightest

Slight paraphase of a description by Louise (Taft's mother)of WHT as a baby-- quoted in Doris Kearns Goodwin, The Bully Pulpit)

Rein de Rein

Not the days, not the nights,
not the ocean, not the waves
not the sky, not the clouds in it

New Poem (Old)

You haunt me--you fill
my head with snapshots of you I
should not see--they boil and seethe
within the limitless confused 
molten furnace. You
say things that cannot be unheard
and like obscene petroglyphs
they litter the landscape
on either side of the molten
frenzy that is the core of who
I am--its banks and curves
unknown and too dangerous
to explore on my own--
and there you stand,
naked and grinning
and poised for the dive
into oblivion I am powerless
to stop--you haunt me.

Haiku sort of

Good Wace tells us that
Constantine to Totnes came
and thereby hangs the tale.

What would the world be
if not for the Duke
of Tintagel's wife?

Response to Ted Kooser's "Selecting a Reader"

Sorry bud
but what you got
is a dude
older than he thought
he'd ever live to be
who doesn't wear
a raincoat because
in Florida's tropical
downpour raincoat
paper bag about
the same thing,
and if he did
would never consider
cleaning it because hell
didn't the rainwater
just do that who
walks into a bookstore
sees your name on
the cover and plunks
down an obscene amount
of cash to be able
to open the book
with his morning coffee. Sorry man,
better luck next time. My writingPoetryDrafts

Quaker Reflecttions

If simplicity of living is a valid principle, there is one important precaution and condition of its application. I can explain it best by something which Mahatma Gandhi said to me. We were talking about simple living, and I said that it was easy for me to give up most things but that I had a greedy mind and wanted to keep my many books. He said, 'Then don't give them up. As long as you derive inner help and comfort from anything, you should keep it. If you were to give it up in a mood of self-sacrifice or out of a stern sense of duty, you would continue to want it back, and that unsatisfied want would make trouble for you. Only give up a thing when you want some other condition so much that the thing no longer has any attraction for you, or when it seems to interfere with that which is more greatly desired.

Richard Gregg, 1936

Eugene Onegin

I saw a five star Met Opera cast and staging presenting what seemed to be little more than a two star opera. Some of the music was wonderful, but most of the characters were nitwits, hotheads, or amoral monsters.
Reading through "Agamemnon," which I'm certain I read in college and I'm a little surprised by my reaction. I have a lasting impression of Clytemnestra as the villain of the piece along with her lover Aegisthus. This reading I understand much more clearly Clytemnestra and can even summon up a little bit of sympathy for Aegisthus--at least so far as their crime against Agamemnon. The sacrifice of Iphigenia tore out a mother's heart--destroyed her completely. And what happened to Thyestes (Aegisthus father)--being fed his own children by Atreus (Agamemnon's father), certainly explains some things, even if I am not into the generational vengeance thing.  I used to think them the villains of the piece but this speech by Clytemnestra pretty much sums it up:

So now you sentence me to banishment,
allot me hatred, rumbling civic curses.
Back then you offered him no opposition
when he, as casual as at one death
among the crowding and luxuriant flocks,
sacrificed his o…


You treat
love like a
rare earth element
infinitely precious,
Incredibly valuable,
in so many ways powerful,
and rare,
to be dolloped out
in micro- and nanograms,
to be used only here
and there to coordinate
functions and link
however temporarily
things that are apart. What will it take to convince
you that love is
like the atmosphere–
infinitely precious
and in the universe–rare
enough. But oh my it’s everywhere–in and on
and around all living things
It is our home and our life
and without it–a barren
rock is all there’d be. Just try to hoard the atmosphere,
stuff it in a bag,
dollop it out in nanograms it goes where it goes
and it stays there despite
all you can do to drive it out.
If your house is on fire, the most urgent thing to do is to go back and try to put out the fire, not to run after the person you believe to be the arsonist. If you run after the person you suspect has burned your house, your house will burn down while you are chasing him or her. That is not wise. You must go back and put out the fire. So when you are angry, if you continue to interact with or argue with the other person, if you try to punish her, you are acting exactly like someone who runs after the arsonist while everything goes up in flames.

Thich Nhat Hanh

"They mounted and set off for the house. Ordering the servant to ride on before with the lantern, Leila brought her horse close in so that they might ride knee-to-knee, solaced by the touch of each other’s bodies. They had not been lovers for very long —barely ten days —though to the youthful Mountolive it seemed a century, an eternity of despair and delight. He had been formally educated in England, educated not to wish to feel. All the other valuable lessons he had already mastered, despite his youth —to confront the problems of the drawing-room and the street with sang-froid; but towards personal emotions he could only oppose the nervous silence of a national sensibility almost anaesthetized into clumsy taciturnity: an education in selected reticences and shames."

In Mountolive by Lawrence Durrell, and describing him (Mountolive)
Suffering is
contagious in a way
that joy is not--we are
by the passion but
the transfiguration trundles
by ignored.
Jammin' with Basquiat Art
decore888888888 sp
and Muse-sich
decar8888888888 t-I me but po et
tree descar888888888 theme eind.

The Shape of the World as I See It

For all the problems
I see around me,
I prefer no time
to my time(really,
they were all the same
but now you can see
both light and dark. No
longer do we sit
in complete ignorance
while others tell us
how great we are);
no age to my
present age(though
sometimes in the aches
and pains, it sounds nice
to be a younger self--the pain
of the fire that burns
too intensely and forgets
more frequently that life is
the only real gift far
outweighs these signs
that I've come far enough
to delight in what the world
offers);  no place but my
place(the spirit
of wandering sings
loud and the lure of having
ever more and more
persuades, until I think
of the hours and days and weeks and years
expended in keeping
all fine and catch a glimpse
of me as servant to all
that owns me,
and know that however
far I go, I long still
for a place of retreat).

In short, I can be
content if I settle
down to be.
I'd like for my
biggest problem
to be
"What shade of blue
do I wear today."


Seeing It was like He said
Let's put a black box
around your head
and cut a small ragged
circular hole in it
right in the center
just above the bridge
of your nose and cover
the hole with a million
year old, scratched up
gray filter. Then let's
light the room with dim
red bulbs accented with
a silver bright flashing
strobe light. And let's fill
the room with fog like
sublimating dry ice and
then send you in to pick up
a thousand black pins from
the deep pile dark green
carpet. If it doesn't seem
right just keep at it until
it does. And not knowing
any better you do. poetryDraftsMy writing