Monday, July 24, 2017

Summer Rain

Pluck me a tune on your lyre about the rain!
Let curious minds inquire
of summer rain.

July's skyscape is scurrilous with clouds:
what weird thoughts they inspire
of summer rain!

Unseen forces have driven dull spring roots
to quicken memory, to stir desire
for summer rain.

Have you loosened the bands of Orion?
Who is the snowflake's mother? the sire
of summer rain?

Thunder blasts, lightning flares, floods drench:
streetwalkers adorn their attire
with summer rain.

Sages and masters, teach me the sweet truth
that heaven is someplace higher
than summer rain.

Poets, pursue disreputable muses
into the murk and mire
of summer rain!

Drinkers of gin nursing their martinis
are wishing for something drier
than summer rain.

This morning I hear an impromptu concert
of timeless songbirds: a choir
in summer rain.

During the season of lavish monsoons,
all rivers swell, all straits are dire
with summer rain.

Tommy, old pal, old buddy, go for the gusto!
Sing like a bard on a wire
in summer rain!

Monday, July 17, 2017


Ocean, liquid tinfoil:
woolgray skies.


Among napkins,
pill bottles, silverware,
and unpaid bills
in torn-open envelopes,
observe the miscreancy
of the waking mind.


Silver selah
of summer rain.


Collecting randomalia
into grist for gratitude.


Evening walk
to the café:
sparkling water,
cashier smiling,
glad to receive
payment in quarters.


Build wordshrines
against the glare and shout,
against the ruckus and rush.


Stalled, stilled,
the mind abides
here, how, now.

Monday, July 10, 2017

To My Birthday


Celebration, eighteenth of June! marking four dozen trips 'round the sun!
Who would have thought this muddle-headed oaf could have lived so long?
Life of pitfalls and triumphs, darkness and felicity,
Life whose several calamities have thus far not disabled me,
Life whose misadventures and mistakes do not outweigh the blessings,
Life which inspires gratitude oftener than dismay.

Can I complain about your weather, Birthday? You were much too hot for me!
A torrid toaster of a day which set Massachusetts abroil!
Cambridge wilted beneath the glare of a rude insistent sky,
No cloud balked the sear of the sun, no shade diminished the blaze,
The Common's parched grass groaned beneath the tonnage of summery heat.
Nevertheless, Miss H and I found our way to Epworth Hall
And heard Rebecca Neale read several of her poems.

There was air conditioning and good cheer in the room where Rebecca read,
A carpeted classroom or seminar-room of Harvard University:
Wine and cheese and carrot sticks, crackers and grapes and seltzer,
And forty of the poet's friends
Seated on black swivel chairs, comfortable, wheels on the legs,
All of us listeners eager, attentive, thirsty for lyric refreshment,
Gathered to hear the poems of Rebecca Neale's first book, slender,
Read beautifully by the poet herself,
Her generous dark chevelure streaked with a lovely silver.

Rebecca remembered it was my birthday and gave me a hug;
I was pleasantly surprised as we don't know each other all that well,
Only as fellow poets in a Boston-area workshop.

I lamented the fact that she didn't read my favourite poem of hers,
That lushly orchestrated paean to spring at the end of her newborn volume.
Nonetheless, you were a pleasant day, and I am grateful to you
For the joy of having been with Miss H to hear Rebecca's poetry,
And to celebrate the completion of forty-eight years despite oppressive heat.


Birthday, O Birthday, you deserve a better poem than this:
You deserve the vatic orotundities of Walt Whitman,
Or the wacky exuberance of something by Kenneth Koch,
Maybe a tone serene and reflective, in the manner of Wang Wei,
Or cadences as flat as the Nebraska plains, forthright as Ted Kooser.

I could write about my own advancing age,
Signs of wear and tear, the nugatory debilities,
Improvements in health made with the help of clinicians and support groups,
Twenty pounds and more jettisoned over the past few years,
Measurable reductions in the blood-sugar levels, more frequent morning walks,
I could proclaim my fathomless joy and gratitude for my friends,
Poets and neighbours, churchfolk and gals at the Book Rack,
Recent friends, online friends, friends from back in the day.

Luminous date on the calendar, midway through the year!
Despite my gawky voice, my gracelessness of gait, I make bold to salute you
With this rumple-trousered ode, this five-o'clock-shadowed cadenza,
This carol of awkward effusion, this hymn of glad-hearted gusto.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Muses of the Wee Hours

Muses of the wee hours,
ghosts of the immortal dead, ghosts of the great,
Dylan of Laugharne, Estlin of Patchin Place,
Marianne the Presbyterian Confucius,
Wystan of old York, of New York and Kirchstetten,
Theodore of Saginaw, Emily of Amherst, Wallace of Hartford,
Hart Crane whose lyre was the cabled Bridge,
Mr Longfellow of Harvard Square,
Walt of Camden and Mannahatta,
Will of Stratford, Dante of Florence,
Catullus of barbed epigram and tender elegy,
angel-muses who inspire the living,
Mary of Provincetown, Ted of Nebraska,
Donald of Wilmot and Danbury,
wittiest Wendy across the pond,
muses of the Bee Hive Table here at home,
muses of the New England Poetry Club,
muses who give dear Elena her luminous genius,
muses of the kitchen and the nightlight,
muses of Folgers Instant nuked in the microwave,
muses of the Sylvania AC
blasting drafts of cool into the bedroom,
muses of the venetian blinds that Uncle Dan put in,
muses of the notebook where I scrawl and jot
with noggin propped on the pillow,
muses of the 1369, muses of the Kickstand,
muses of San Benedetto sparkling water,
muses of pentameter, muses of anaphora,
muses of the medial inversion,
muses of my mischievous vernacular,
muses of the Arlington Farmers Market,
muses of the bike path, muses of Webcowet Road
and its Little Free Library,
muses of the early morning walk,
muses of exercise, muses of contemplation,
muses against the heated shout of talk shows,
muses aloof from TV and its noises,
muses disdaining the vulgar in high places,
muses of ardor, muses of love, amusing muses,
muses of the alternating solstices,
muses of the changing face of earth,
muses whose words bethrong my shelves
in metric tons of un-Kindled text,
boon companions, drinking buddies,
saints and sages, sinners and fools,
be with me as I try to shape
the sounds that rattle about
my less-than-quiet mind.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Out for My Walk

Arlington, Massachusetts, 5.15 am,
first morning of summer ---
air cool and dewy:
sprinklers, sparrows, squirrels;
a wide-awake rabbit or two;
the dedicated runners, avid and trim;
the odd walker, casual, paunchy.

The same lawn on Bates Road
plays host to two signs:
Sean Garballey for State Senate
and Cindy Friedman
for State Senate.

Just enough scribbles of cirrus
in the sunrise-hour sky:
white hairs streaking the chevelure
of a beautiful woman over fifty.

Monday, June 19, 2017


Verses from the Tehillim,
          a song
     in a timeless tongue:
try the language of the hymn ---
    words come out half-wrong.

Erev Shabbat: the temple
          holds kind
    faces all around:
Adonai, Love Eternal,
    meets me where I stand.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Playing Language

Tonight I sit,
boy-clarinetist emeritus,
hunt-and-peck pianist,
guitarist in my dreams,
musician manqué,
and play language instead.

I play consonants and vowels,
stresses and unstresses,
pyrrhics and spondees,
iambs and anapests.

Tonight I'll improvise
a blues tune,
a jazz riff,
a classical concerto,
a power ballad,
new wave,
arena rock,
glam rock,
hard rock,
emo, shoegazing,
a post-punk paint-peeler,
a fab remake of the Beatles,
a campy cover of the B-52s.

Tonight I'll perform an aria,
belt out a drinking song,
hum a disco tune,
sing a Christmas carol,
intone cantillations,
chant Gregorian.

Tonight I'll smoke
imaginary cigarettes,
drink real cups of coffee,
replenish myself with water
and sleep and prayer
and poetry.

Tonight I'll think of tomorrow
when I'll play for you
and for you alone.

Summer Rain

Pluck me a tune on your lyre about the rain! Let curious minds inquire of summer rain. July's skyscape is scurrilous with clouds: w...