Monday, May 21, 2018

Back in the Day

I believe in 1974,
when I was five years old,
reading the dictionary
in the room where reading got done,
and intent on unlocking
the mysteries of the pantry
where the light always seemed
a tristful tint of brown.

I believe in 1975,
when we moved to Morris Street
and I turned six
and Johnny DiNapoli, twice my age,
taught me the Our Father and the Hail Mary
on a small blackboard in the basement.

I believe in the smell of sauce
(which we called "gravy")
coming from triple-deckers
where Italian grandmothers
laboured over hot stoves
all day every Saturday.
these same grandmothers
could be spotted
sweeping dust and litter
from their sidewalks
on weekday mornings.

I believe in 45s
of old r-&-b music
that Dad got from his friends
who owned bars with jukeboxes.
When the songs weren't getting
played anymore,
I'd inherit the records:
"Everybody Plays the Fool";
"When Will I See You Again?";
"Rock the Boat";
"You Make Me Feel Brand New."

I believe in 1976,
with its Bicentennial Minutes
and my month-long case of pneumonia
and Jimmy Carter beating Gerald Ford
nineteen to one in Mrs Stuart's
second-grader mock election.
That quiet girl, Lisa,
who said three words all year
was the only one to vote against
the Georgia governor.

I believe in sandlot baseball
and 1977
though I was incompetent with the bat,
hapless at catching flies.
Even worse at football,
touch football, no tackling
for eight-year-olders
(though Coach George Smith
did plenty of hollering,
high-strung Vince Lombardi wannabe).

I believe in 1978
with its outlandish heaps of snow
in January and February
and the heartbreaking Red Sox'
loss to the Yankees in October
in the one-game playoff
where Bucky Dent
homered off Mike Torrez.

It was farewell to the Manassah Bradley School
in 1979, and hello to the Joseph H. Barnes:
I'd heard rumours of tough kids
who'd beat up a "brainiac,"
but my trepidation was unwarranted.
No bruises, physical or mental:
but gentle mockery for wearing "high-waters,"
pants whose legs didn't go all the way down:
that was just about it.
The girls, I found, were merciless,
but I liked them anyway.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Notre Dame du Rosaire

To you we sing: a million tongues, one voice;
to you who bore the Giver of all breath:
Queen at whose sight all heavy hearts rejoice,
accept this garland of our ardent faith.

Through careworn fingers pass the circled beads:
an abacus that tabulates our praise,
a lullaby to calm our crying needs,
a remedy upon our sickest days.

Fifty Hail Marys, coolly burning coals,
refresh our speech until, no longer sour
with hate or pride, no longer parched by lust,

we beg you, Nurse and virgin, heal our souls:
minister mercy now and every hour
until we give our bones back to the dust.

Monday, April 30, 2018


Awake all night,
I rearrange
my fixations,
my compulsions,
shuffle my crushes.

Just after five,
I pop the pill
of sunrise.
Dim light
through the blinds
slips me sleepward.

In my last
waking moments,
I pray
the Lord's Prayer,
the Serenity Prayer,
the 5:29 prayer.

I give myself over
to the swerve
and sweep of dreams.
My bed is church,
my lethargy
is liturgy.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Thicket and Thorp

Who blossomed
this frost-branch
out of slumber?

Who's been splashing
noisy colours,
blaring bright music,

the chilly peace
with blithesome burgeonings:

tuft of pink,
pillow of white,
spike of violet!

Sun-bathed earth,
who woke you,
softened you?

insolent stripling,
who gave you leave?

Magnolia, crocus, daffodil!
I could dance
among gravestones!

Southerly wind,
sting me suddenest!
Life me, blood me,

season of spice and song,
pang, pulse, petal,
bane and bliss!

Riot of lilac
beneath the endless
breadth of blue!

Monday, April 16, 2018

My Poem

Coffee! The fuel that helps me start my poem.
Priceless or worthless? A work of art, my poem.

You're Modern English, Soft Cell, ABC,
New-wave romance melting hearts, my poem.

Cupid gets plastered in a downtown pub:
I'm punctured by his beer-flung dart, a poem.

If I were Ted Kooser, if I were Jane Hirshfield,
What would rise to the top of the charts? My poem!

I survey the train-wreck of my college days:
Yes, Fate will sunder us, rip us apart, my poem.

But now I'm forty-nine. Life can't be better!
I sit at the laptop, breathe. I start my poem.

I'm such a buffoon at Harvard Square parties;
I'll pounce on any excuse to blurt my poem.

My rhymes are vested in a suit of armour.
No barb or jibe or sneer can hurt my poem.

It's rarely well-behaved, not often proper:
Loutish, ill-shaven, malapert, my poem.

Sometimes it flies into a mindless rage,
Curses, knocks over the apple-cart, my poem.

Tommy's a silver-tongued devil, a sexy beast:
Gray-haired pot-bellied shameless flirt, my poem.

Monday, April 9, 2018


Let's wander, get lost, go astray in Arlington!
Come on! We'll dally, linger, stay in Arlington.

Strangers here are friendly, friends are strange:
Peace permeates each day in Arlington.

There's no such thing as road rage or bar brawls:
Very few folks get carried away in Arlington!

I go over to St Agnes's to pray my rosary
With Mrs Novena, the Labouré of Arlington.

I say hi to the neighbours, to Spy Pond joggers,
To Mass. Ave. sparrows---cheerful, gay, in Arlington!

Nero's becoming a favourite spot of mine,
And the Kickstand, cool café in Arlington.

We're not too far from bookish, ivied Cambridge:
We lean a little left (our way in Arlington).

Starbucks plays host to ladies who sit and knit.
Heck, I might learn to crochet in Arlington!

Did I spot Roethke at Not Your Average Joe's?
Let seed be grass and grass be hay in Arlington!

Selectmen meet each Tuesday at Town Hall:
Citizens get to have their say in Arlington.

Of course, there are ten thousand parking meters:
If you drive, expect to pay in Arlington!

Tommy, old boy, this poem's for the birds:
Sing it to robin, finch, bluejay in Arlington.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018


~~~ * + * ~~~ * + * ~~~

swift as the wind

and slow as morning
her bare feet kissed

dead earth alive
out of months of snow

and tons of winter

~~~ * + * ~~~ * + * ~~~

young as the sun

and bright as life
earth sang his joy

in daffodils
and hyacinths

in leaves of easter

Back in the Day

I believe in 1974, when I was five years old, reading the dictionary in the room where reading got done, and intent on unlocking the my...