Friday, April 29, 2016


Round-faced philosopher
stout as a ham,
with eyes that stare
and scrutinize,
tell me what secrets
you have unlocked,
what wealth of wisdom
you have acquired,
from your magisterial perch
in the Graco stroller.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Note to Readers

Hello, all! A brief note of explanation: I've just removed some poems from the blog, and may, in the near future, not be publishing as frequently. There are two reasons for this:

(1) It occurs to me that I have the tendency to publicize work that has not yet fully gestated. I publicize, and then revise. Exactly backwards! But this is the way I've always worked. Still, I do cringe (if the word isn't too strong) at seeing the inchoate quality of much of what I've posted here.

(2) There are poems, of course, that I'm quite proud of, and I might wish to enter them into contests, or make them available for print publication. As many contests and magazines consider online publication to be "publication," I find myself needing to retract some of the poems that I think might be suitable for these other venues.

So, I'll probably still be appearing here at the old Tambourine, but less often. And some of the poems I've already posted have been "reverted to draft." I hope these changes don't startle anyone.

As always, I am grateful to those of you who stop by and leave comments. I am encouraged and fortified by your kind words!

Thank you all. And see you soon!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

I am not a poet

It is quiet in this room
where I drink coffee.
It is four o'clock
and still and dark outside.

I would write a sonnet
in praise of April and apple-blossoms,
in praise of May and music.

I am not a poet,
but my shrivelled heart
recovers greenness
every time I glimpse
her face.

I am not a poet,
but Jesus is, and Hart Crane,
and Dylan Thomas,
and the wild west wind.

The world needs poets
as gardens need rain and sun,
as truck-drivers need sleep,
as children need play.

I am not a poet
but I would describe
the weight of the light
as it leans against
my early-morning coffee-mug.

I would describe
the sound of the light
as it emanates
from the sundry bulbs
about my cozy flat.

I am not a poet
but Shakespeare is,
and Novalis.

and George Herbert
and Emily Dickinson.

Marianne Moore
and Countee Cullen
and Charles Baudelaire.

I am not a poet,
though some happy delusion
prevents me from admitting this fact.

I would like to be a poet.

When do I, where do I, how do I begin?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Pablo Neruda,
champion of the down-to-earth,
bard of the rough-hewn,
singer of the common:
teach me a tenth
of your workmanship!


I would always dream
that the subway platform
at Government Center
was tilted and slick
and that Mom was powerless
to save me from slipping
onto the tracks.


Karma's paws
scratch the floor
above my head:
sleepless as mice
at oh-dark-thirty.


I cringe to remember
how Donald and I
at twelve or thirteen
dropped socks from an overpass
scaring drivers below.


Sour sophomores,
"tolerant" and "sensitive,"
fling verbal refuse at anyone
who dares to disagree.


How is it that joy arrives
reborn in my forties?
It had gone quite underground,
as dear George Herbert says.
Christ, you have made the dead branch bloom!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Two Small Poems

April 6
and the delicate
white petals
emerging from
the snowrooted
beside town hall
I wish I knew
which flower


Janey's in the hallway
chatting with Margaret.
There's tenderness beneath
the tobacco-roughened voice.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

An Easter Poem

(for Elena, whose much-better Easter poem inspired this effort)

A surfeit of lilies
and a large congregation
(not quite madhouse
as it's early in the day)

Music at the 7:
cantor and organ
and the hymns
of Charles Wesley
with their rolling alleluias

Beside me
an elderly woman
reverently clutches
a crystal rosary

I am dressed
for Easter Sunday
but my soul's unready
needing more
than the sprinkling
from the aspergillum

I do not receive
the Blessed Sacrament
but stay in my pew
as virtually everyone
else goes up

my neighbour's example
leads me to the beads
and I go to my pocket
and take out my rosary

Christ is risen
he is risen indeed

And have I
risen with him
or am I still
in the tomb?

I hear the words of Isaiah
in which Divinity
upbraids the doubter
Are my arms too short
to save you?

Sometimes I wonder

but then St Ignatius
chimes in Discouragement
is not from God!

his fellow Jesuit
Fr Hopkins tells us
Nothing is so beautiful
as Spring but warns
that spring can sour
with sinning

let me take my stand
with Papa Francesco
and with St Faustina
who trust that Mercy
(like the truth) is great
and will prevail

Thursday, March 24, 2016

What's in a Name?

I figure it would feel good
To be called Sir John Gielgud
Or in a way
Pleasant to say
I'm the late Lord Olivier

At least I'm not the brother
Of Thomas Cruise Mapother
Who trimmed his name
To further his fame
Can anyone say that they blame

Hollywood's fabled élite
Have names you just can't beat
Stars of the screen
Like Brando and Dean
How can I hope to compete

I'd love to be Hoffman or Newman
With a handle that's manly and human
A Keaton with luster
Like Michael or Buster
A Harry like Potter or Truman

I need a sobriquet
Uncommon but not outré
Like Martin Scorsese
Nothing too messy
Ken Branagh or Sid Poitier

But poor old Tom DeFreitas
Probably won't be famous
He'll spend his time
Making laughable rhyme
As if he were quite nameless