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Monday, January 15, 2018

Workshop Jottings: Snow

1.

What makes these wrinkles
in the pristine snowscape,
creases like those in aged skin,
inert arctic rivulets,
veins of grey amid the white?

2.

Underneath the streetlight,
fresh-fallen snow
is sequined
with blue vitality!

3.

Outside the Mexican restaurant,
a two-foot snowman
atop a three-foot snowdune:
olive-green stocking-cap,
burgundy-and-rust-coloured scarf,
and thin black twigs for arms
one of which holds
the restaurant's take-out menu.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Il Miglior Fabbro

i. m. Victor Howes 1923-2018


You shape and play the language with skilled hands,
unfailing love, keen wit; you've studied well
the diligence of spiders, how they spin

instinctive models of geometry:
a rhetoric of gossamer and silence
that stays composed in the brunt of battering gusts.

The stentor is the desperate counterfeit:
but your lines walk in steadiness and poise;
your poems speak; they do not rant or blare.

You gladden us who hear and read your words;
your humor, charity, and native grace
all quietly excel the commonplace.

Imperishable joy! Yes, art's the thing--
and we are lucky to be listening.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

65th Letter to a Poet

Winter. I wish
I could write about it
like a Midwesterner,
like a dweller
of the northern plains.

Black bones of trees,
nerves of lively death.
The bite of wind,
the zero shock.
January brushed
ruthlessly flat.

Winter. Its name
breaks across the mind
like a chilled twig
snapped for kindling.

There is haven,
warmth, in the voice
of a poem. Yours.

Monday, January 1, 2018

64th Letter to a Poet

Surely, below zero in Spencer,
where monks are gathering for Vigils
in the lavish dark
of the Trappist abbey chapel.

Almost that cold in Arlington
at not quite 4 am.
I make the first coffee
of the brand-new year.

I just watched Fr McFarland,
dead sixteen years, say the Rosary
on CatholicTV. Then I switched
to CNN, and glimpsed festivities
in New York, Seattle, New Orleans,
Sydney, Hong Kong.

This New Year finds me
gray, tired, bruised,
within hailing distance
of AARP
and the first colonoscopy.

Lots of things in my life
piss me off, fill me with
distaste or trepidation.

But I begin the year
as I begin most days:
with a measure of hope
as yet unblackened
by the world's trudge and traffic.

Friday, December 29, 2017

New Year's Eve (2017 Revision)

I can't compete with Tennyson's
Ring out the old (that rhyming psalm
He wrote for "In Memoriam"),
The best of year-end benisons.

But here I shall enumerate
My wishes, hopes, prayers, and concerns:
I'll tip my hat to Robert Burns;
And yes, I just might stay up late,

Taking a drop to ward off thirst!
And so, before Times Square goes mad,
Here are some of the thoughts I've had
Upon December thirty-first.


I shun the louts, the mouths that shout,
The vandalizing gusts of wind
Thrashing the trees with fury blind --
I'd rather be inside than out.

Give me a friendly gathering:
A cup of kindness, "Auld Lang Syne,"
Some evanescent quarts of wine --
A festive warmth as glad hearts sing.

Or bless me with the joys of home,
Companionable solitude
Away from rowdies brash and rude:
I need not travel, need not roam.

Give me surroundings safe and sweet:
A bed, some books, a cup of tea --
Grace, peace, and domesticity
As midnight bells ring to complete

Obsequies of the twelvemonth past,
To signal January's birth
As corks pop, souls carouse with mirth,
And pyrotechnics burst and blast.


Could some God grant to wounded hearts
The healing of their every ill,
Grant that the hungry have their fill,
And grace us, as this year departs,

To hear the cry of strife-torn lands,
To lift the poor man from his heap,
To dress the dead in restful sleep,
To hold a frail child in safe hands --

No, blameworthy is any plea
For heavenly help unless our hands
Work to fulfill the great commands
Of love and solidarity.

So let us greet the sequent year
Raising our good deeds as a hymn,
Steadying those of tottering limb,
Strengthening those who live in fear.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Psalm 1

I praise God for lunch with the Latin School Gang,
for the three-hour vesperal nap,
for the chanukiyah on Cambridge Common.

I praise God for tomorrow's freezing rain,
for yesterday's arctic sun,
for bone-tiredness and for belly-joy.

I praise God for friends who make my heart smile,
for poems that resound immortally,
for coffee at eight-thirty at night.

For cold weather --- I wait for it all summer! ---
for sleep, though interrupted by bad breathing,
for this keyboard, this kitchen light, this laptop,
I praise God.

Monday, December 18, 2017

A Tuesday in December

A day of laziness,
of coffee in the afternoon,
of hiding from the elements,
dull-witted, in my apartment.

Tonight, poets will read
at the Armory in Somerville.
I'd like to see and hear them.
Some of them are friends.

But I can't seem to unglue myself
from this damp sluggishness,
this cloud-thick lassitude.
Maybe toward evening.

Rain pocks and blotches
the snow of three days ago.
You'd think that the rain
was a poet himself,
marking up a white page
with disorderly doodles.

Workshop Jottings: Snow

1. What makes these wrinkles in the pristine snowscape, creases like those in aged skin, inert arctic rivulets, veins of grey amid the...