Tuesday, February 24, 2015

explorations 13-24

the wise monk
tells us to become
what we are


why we pray
this hunger
for what grace


dare we hope
in a god
who loves us
not in spite of
but because


this raging heart


beneath the jollity
beneath the surface gladness
beneath the affability
beneath the bonhomie
beneath the well-adjusted countenance

gaping burning unhealed wounds
several decades old


we listen to your moral precepts
and our mind approves

but the heart has reasons
which reason knoweth not


who is this god
who would deprive me
of what i most seem to need


can our eyes discern
in love's humiliation
the delicate harbingers
of something called glory


forgive me jesus
or reduce me to naught
wound me with your wounds
assault me with your grace


what good
will come of this anguish
this scarcely endurable sweetness
this seductive desolation


my true love
is not this moralist
who quotes the catechism

my true love
is not this innocent lamb
who has never known sin

my true love
is a beautiful tyrant
exacting my surrender
and subjection

my true love
is furious and pure
blazes like fire
soothes like moonlight

my true love
has conquered me quite
and left me defenseless
and crying for mercy


my lord and my god
you cannot be
that white-bearded cartoon

my lord and my god
are you in fact that love
which religion seems to forbid

my lord and my god
can you restore
all that you have taken away

my lord and my god
do you reside on high in the clouds
or among the bricks and the dust

my lord and my god
who you do think you are
treating me this way

my lord and my god
my heart cannot rest in you
you have given my soul no peace

my lord and my god
you are not the smiling face
you are not the happy ending

my lord and my god
you are the cross
on which i hang

Saturday, February 21, 2015

explorations 1-12

i am mary of bethany
and jesus rides the number 15 bus
in the heartadown dudley

smiling unsmiling
radiant and weary
the brown and black faces
of the sweet lord christ

domine non sum dignus
ut intres sub tectum meum
sed tantum dic verbo
et sanabitur anima mea


i am zacchaeus
fumbling up the husky tree
to catch a glimpse

i am the leper
flinging myself against the rules
onto the feet of the nazarene

i am the woman at the well
parched at high noon
as a dry and barren land
where no water is

i am the psalmist
lamenting that my beauty
is gone for very trouble

i am a prisoner of sin
a mendicant of mercy
begging for blessings
greedy for grace


says a friend
does not wear
a long face

as it is the freedom
to rejoice


for the second time
in three nights
i fall asleep
during chair prayer

meditation makes me
the easy prey of slumber


i am pope francis
washing and kissing
the feet of inmates
on his first holy thursday
as bishop of rome

i am john the baptist
in the year of grace 2015
unworthy to loosen the shoelaces
of my fellow commuters


it is liberating to be abject
it is exaltation to be humble
it is resurrection to be dust


learn to be grateful
for the exhaustion
when being tired
is the only prayer


i choke on the surfeit
of books and of words

the voice of the fool
comes with much chatter


o this agony
of trying to please heaven
when one is wedded to the earth
composed entirely
of lust and pride and hunger


the morning star
works in a bar
in the remnants of boston's west end

she gives light to those in darkness
she gives drink to the thirsty
she gives grace to the graceless


i wait patiently for the lord
who does not incline
to hear my cry


a winter liturgy
in the roxbury convent
three degrees above zero
out in the street
but warm in the modest
oddly handsome chapel

the old-shoe priest
sporting a bandage
from a recent surgery

the nonagenarian nuns
praying over the sound
of the hissing radiator

on a table in the back of the chapel
a beat-up paperback
entitled god and you

there were six or seven people at this mass
and it was years ago

but nothing can unconvince me
that this mass changed the world

Friday, February 20, 2015

Three Poems Before Dawn

One day when we're feeling energetic
(which is not today)
we'll look for the button
that popped off the shirt
and rolled beneath the bed.

We'll have to move stacks of books,
a night-table or two, and several pairs of slippers
just to get close enough to peer under the mattress.

But for now,
we'll let the button gather dust
in the dark limbo
that we dare not explore.


Coffee at two fifteen in the morning
is a boon companion,
a steady date,
a celibate man's lover,
a brainy brunette with glasses
and sharp elbows muffled by a pine-green sweater.

She's quick on the uptake,
she's athletic, sarcastic,
she's alert and reliable,
she reads Molière for fun.

Coffee in the wee hours
when the world outside is asleep
is a light against the encroaching gloom,
a haven safe
from the gathering storm.

Coffee brewed three hours
before the sun rises,
before Gail Ann's opens,
before commuters bustle and grumble toward work,
coffee is a blessing and a grace.


I watch the YouTube
of the handsomely seasoned woman,
an Episcopal priest in San Francisco,
pray her Anglican chaplet
while chanting
and singing.

Then I listen to music from Taizé:
Misericordias Domini
in aeternum cantabo

Then, because I need a laugh,
I watch the Butt Drugs commercial
from Corydon, Indiana.

It is a Friday of Lent,
a day of penitence,

But I tell you, folks, I'll go batty
if I don't do at least one thing today
that gives me delight.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

When Will We See Spring Again?

(to the tune of "When Will I See You Again?"
a 1974 hit performed by The Three Degrees

When will we see spring again?
When will the trees start to blossom?
Will we have to wait forever?
Will we have to suffer (suffer)
With arctic windchills?

When will we see spring again?
When will the bees start to bumble?
Will it get warm
Or stay cold?
Let me tell you, winter
Can get really old!
When will we see spring again?

When will we see bright blue skies?
Will the grass ever turn greener?
Will the snow melt
Or stay froze?
Will we regain feeling
In fingers and toes?
When will we see bright blue skies?

Come to us, April and May!
Bring us your showers and your flowers!
Bring us the birds
With sweet song!
Why DOES February
Seem seven weeks long?
Come to us, April and May!

Sunday, February 15, 2015


Boston, I live removed from you these days --
close enough to your bookstores, chapels, shrines;
but far enough away from your shots and shouts,
your clamour and your crunch, your fretful craze.

This is all too vague. I'm trying for rhymes
when I should scoop the trash from unswept gutters
and plop it onto the unsuspecting page.
I need the spare-change folks, the drunk that mutters

obscenities to fiends we cannot see.
I need the violence, the guns, the rage,
the petty crimes, the reasonable doubts.

And yes: the Arch Street friars, Registry lines,
the North End restaurants, the South End gays,
the glorious face of glad diversity.


Boston I love you like a migraine
I love you like whiskey breath and a torn sock
I love you like a gangster's bank account
I love you like the F-bomb in rush-hour traffic

Boston I hate you like a dozen red roses
Angelic metropolis O sexy with skyscrapers
I hate you like my best friend's pretty sister
I hate you like happy hour at the old Stopped Clock

O beautiful bijou Boston O gem of New England
I kiss you with the rotten kiss of peace
I praise your agony I damn your bliss

Home of the mendicant and the mandarin
You've weathered every storm you've bested every foe
I venerate your tenements I toast your brownstones


Boston, you kill me, with your belly laugh,
your cockeyed wink and your off-kilter grin:
My idol! Can I have your autograph?

O dazzle me, you wicked social gaffe!
You mid-sized city steeped in secret sin!
Boston, you kill me, with your dirty laugh.

In my hot coffee you're the Half & Half;
in my martini, you're the hundred-proof gin.
You're awesome! Can I have your autograph?

You interrupt me with your hacking cough;
you're the lethal germ that soon will do me in!
Boston, you kill me, with your raucous laugh.

I love you even though you treat me rough;
I hate you even though we're kith and kin.
You rock-star! Please! Give me your autograph.

You're no pantywaist. You're no powder-puff.
You're a brawling bruiser who won't let me win!
Boston, you kill me, with your mocking laugh --
and you can keep your lousy autograph.

Second Letter to a Poet

Friend, sage,
splendour, light --
I would give you
at atmosphere

in which all
your tenderly living
have breathing room:

yes, have space
to grow
and flourish
and sing --

of the votive flame,
of the firefly,

silent hymn
of rural winter starlight,
the mystical unmistakable note
of melting mid-March ice.

I would give you
the unbuyable
music of stillness,

by the tentative
of an eager,

loving world.

A Prayer

(with several borrowed phrases)

For the sake
of his Sorrowful
Passion, have
mercy on us:

on the ranters,
the ravers,
the subway lunatics,

on the hookers,
the lookers,
the lechers,
the lushes;

have mercy on the
repressed, the
depressed, the
obsessed, the

take pity on the
pitiable, crying into their
coffee on a cold day
in the city.

Gather unto yourself
your poor sore tired children
scattered throughout the world.

Be pleased to confirm
in faith and charity
your errant daughters,
your wayward sons.

Tend the sick, Lord Christ,
of mind and of body and of heart.
Give rest to the weary,
those weary of toil,
those weary of self.

Bless the dying,
dying for lack of water,
dying for lack of love.

Soothe the suffering,
the witnesses to Thy Cross,
pity the afflicted,
pity those who afflict the afflicted,
shield the joyous,
console the doubtful,
strengthen the timid,
fortify the wavering,
surprise those stuck in a rut.

Enkindle in us all
the fire of Thy Love.

And when the evening comes
and the busy world is hushed,
grant to us the fullness of Thy Peace.

Let us know the sweetness of silence
when speech is asleep.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Untitled, For Now

My muse is dark as the dawn
and named Maxwell House or Folgers
my muse has the smile of a nun
and the boots of a dominatrix
my muse drops the F-bomb and smokes Lucky Strikes
my muse's joie de vivre has a deathwish
my muse's savoir faire has in the shop for repairs
my muse is hotter than Tabasco sauce
my muse is five below zero in February
my muse is the unkempt curl of Walt Whitman's beard
my muse is the bare toes of Tracy Chapman
my muse is New Mexico sky is Arizona desert
my muse is the bullied lesbian teen
is the kid picked last in gym class
my muse is sexy like a silver ankle bracelet
my muse is as chaste as newfallen snow
my muse is Uncle Willie in The Philadelphia Story

your muse is a politician a salesman a sloganeer
I do not like your muse
I do not trust his new-and-improved personality
I'm not a fan of his synthetic smile
your muse is the Proud Pharisee mine is the publican
your muse is the glossy magazines
mine is a bootleg recording of the Replacements circa 1985
your muse walks the red carpet in Vera Wang
my muse sleeps on a grate behind the Boston Public Library
your muse knows all the answers to all the important questions
my muse is a drunken knuckleballer bouncing from club to club
your muse is the straight-A student the homecoming queen
your muse is a prayer warrior
your muse is a model for Abercrombie & Fitch
my muse is incorrigible a bad example
my muse is maladjusted
my muse is a mendicant of mercy on the outskirts of grace
your muse has a snappy comeback at the book-release party
my muse frankly doesn't know which way is up

Sunday, January 18, 2015


Restless specters in the dark lane of Memory
Turn happy days into the bane of Memory.

The stained attire, the vestments of yesteryear --
Out, out, damned spot! exclaims the thane of Memory.

In care and worry, I have lost my mirth,
A kindred soul to the royal Dane of Memory.

A quarter-century ago we taped our windows
Against fierce Gilbert, hurricane of Memory.

Now sweet with joy, now bitter with calamities,
O winds that batter the weathervane of Memory!

Captive and thrall to Daphne's raven tresses,
Behold, the lovesick Niles Crane of Memory.

Where did I, what did I, who was I going to -- aargh!
One more bit of info down the drain of Memory.

The nagging truth-ache of Embarrassment
Doesn't respond to the Novocain of Memory.

Limbs of trees march forth from Birnam Wood,
Converging upon the Dunsinane of Memory.

Our maculate past, defaced by many regrets ...
Will it vanish in the acid rain of Memory?

It is, the sage avers, deeds left undone
Exacerbating most the pain of Memory.

While Thomas breathes, he hopes. The soft gray dawn
Rises above the spacious plain of Memory.