Friday, November 21, 2014

Poems in French and English

1

veillant
avec café stylo
cahier ouvert

keeping watch
with coffee pen
open notebook

2

qui vive
à cette heure?
l'ascenseur--

who's up
at this hour?
the lift--

3

vent du nord
disparaissant
les feuilles

north wind
disappears
the leaves

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Audenesque Hip-Hop


Stubbly rumpled bumbler,
You think you can rhyme?
Blue-eyed gray-haired mumbler--
That should be a crime!

Doofus, numbskull, goober,
Rap like Ezra Pound,
Hapless as a tuber
Sleeping underground.

Egghead so nerdacious,
Watch you bust a move:
Klutzy but audacious,
So bereft of groove!

Dweebalicious paleface,
With your words so nice,
Disgrace to the male race,
Wet as melted ice,

If you were a poet
You might answer back.
But all the MCs know it:
Swagger’s what you lack.

Egocentric lightweight,
Shallow silly fop --
Your bulb’s not so bright, mate:
Stick to ’60s pop.

Launch your weak invasion,
Stiff pedantic bloke,
Fluent in Caucasian,
Punchline to a joke.

Polishing your grammar,
How much can you know?
Six months in the slammer
Might teach you to flow.

Boy, you couldn’t fill a
Beer-hall in Duluth --
Tragically vanilla:
That’s the simple truth.

Chucklehead so lonely,
Train-wreck, walking gaffe,
Try to rhyme, you’ll only
Make your neighbours laugh.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Three poems

(in rickety Italian
and in slightly less rickety English!)

1.

cantare un' inno
a questi tenebrosi
giorni d' autunno

a hymn of praise
for these dark
November days

2.

Bardo vecchio
chi osa rimare
alla gara di poesia!

Emboldened oldster
daring to rhyme
at the poetry slam!

3.

Arlington! O mio paese
tranquillo,
cortese!

Arlington: my favourite place!
Quiet, courteous in its grace.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Eastie

I praise you, East Boston, and I damn you:
Urban purgatory, trash-mouthed progenitrix
Of my bravest poems, adolescent home,
Stomping ground of mobsters, good cooks, athletes,
Ethnic mélange of triple-deckers, Eastie,
Loud and difficult, next door to the airport,
Under the wings of Logan's jumbo jets.

I remember the Salesian Boys Club
Where priests and brothers and other staff would urge
Uncompetitive me to tentative exertions
On the basketball court.
Jim worked there: age twenty,
Avid for '60s music and Walt Whitman,
Literate, progressive, knowledgeable,
Encouraging my more creative side.
I remember Mass in the chapel with Father Sid,
Who was Italian, belying that first name,
And Brother Pat (Irish) who would play guitar
And sing the Beatles song about Mother Mary
Speaking words of wisdom.

I curse you, Eastie streets, for being populated
With a small number of bullies who'd pounce
On bookish me. I remember epithets
That rhymed with "maggot," and I remember
The gentler mockery of "brainiac, brainiac!"

I spent twelve years on Morris Street
Between Sacred Heart Church and the James Otis School:
My bedroom was a purple-carpeted cube
Large enough (barely!) for a twin bed, a radio,
A twelve-inch black-and-white TV, and not
Much more.  All the remaining space I filled
With novels and with books of poetry.
It was in this room that I memorized
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night
And other poems by the great ones
Who made me want to write and write:
Dylan Thomas, Emily Dickinson,
Seamus Heaney, Edward Estlin Cummings.
I crafted rhyming bombast. I made
Strange surrealist flowers
Spring up from cracks in the sidewalk.

Somehow I survived,
Survived ungainly efforts at small-fry baseball
And glorious ineptitude at touch football
With a coach who thought he was Knute Rockne,
Survived the bullying, the name-calling,
The self-inflicted damage, the drinking binge
On the first day of my fifteenth June
That almost put my lights out once and for all,
Survived the loneliness, the doubt, the foolishness,
The deflated and inflated senses of self-worth,
Survived it all by spending endless hours
Listening to Morrissey and the Smiths.

I cannot glorify you, Eastie.  I'd like to wring your neck
Or whack you over the head until I feel
Some measure of guilt over not forgiving the sins
Of what was and is, for better or worse, my neighborhood.


[2011, rev. 2014]

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Celebration

Blushing tumbler
through amber ages
     stages of the wind's velocity
chapped veins brittle in the year's dusk
     fingers curled        air to grasp
as brisk night balks the staunch tree's force


An ode to your soft leaving
is a modest celebration
     we start to speak a darkening dialect
     plucked from a tenebrous lexicon
sinister swirls of weather breathe our chill
our quest for solemn ecstasies

Ripe in its death the newborn ghost of time
begins to winnow our prolific chaff


[1991]

Hotter than Hades

Is Hades hot? A bad surmise!
The flames are there to tantalize.
The icy soul that fain would melt
Seems close to warmth that is not felt.



[1996?]

A Vulgar Poet

He stuck a knife in the life of wit
And was embarrassed not a bit.
His work is art's true antonym:
I cannot hymn the likes of him.

Il Miglior Fabbro

You ply the English word with prudent hands,
unfailing love, keen wit; you've studied well
the noiseless patient spider, how she spins

innate examples 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.

There is a place for gladness, for a soul
whose wisdom, humour, charity, and grace
all quietly excel the commonplace.

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


[1996]

Plaint

Lovely woman born in June,
Splendid as the summer noon,
Pray for me who thirst for grace
As I seek your absent face
Darker, brighter than the moon,
Disappeared without a trace.
(Twice twelve winters now have passed
Since I saw my lady last.)

Lovely woman born in June,
I shall find your hiding-place
(Chasing you through memories
Till I glimpse your tender eyes)
If it take five dozen years,
Twenty thousand nights of tears
When the only prayer that's said
From the desert of my bed
Is your beatific name.

All your virtues I proclaim
As a holy litany
(When the bedside clock reads three)
To dispel my loneliness:
Come, good angel, come and bless
Him who dies for lack of you:
All my failing powers renew
By your kind and gentle voice;
Then, this poor soul will rejoice
To have regained paradise
Lost once through malicious pride.
(Heaven won't be squandered twice.)

When I find your missing face
In the place where saints abide,
Welcome me to your embrace
And absolve me from disgrace;
Bring about my restoration
With your healing salutation--
Be that day remote or soon,
Lovely woman born in June.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Centennial Ode

27 October 2014


If Dylan Thomas
Were still alive,
He'd cringe to see
My jittery jive.

I do not aim
To vex his ghost.
He is the poet
I love most.

I love him more
Than bacon and eggs;
Yes, more than Tina
Turner's legs.

I love him like
The cognac neat
That I imbibe
At Grafton Street.

I love his voice
Brazen and sure
More than the Smiths,
More than the Cure.

I crave his rave
Like chocolate cake,
Like chunks of fudge.
Make no mistake:

I love him more
Than pizza pie,
Than Branagh's Hamlet
Or ham on rye.

This randy rhymer,
Roly-poly:
I love him more
Than ravioli!

My rising moon,
My setting sun,
My bardic ocean,
He's the one.

I think he's nifty,
I think he's fine,
Forever young
At thirty-nine.

Brief was his life,
But mighty his metre!
He must have sneaked past
Old Saint Peter.

(Nuns and nurses
Hail-mary'd him home
To the tear-drying vale
Where angels roam.)

Somewhere in Heaven,
In a bar, pub, or joint,
He's laughing a laugh
And lifting a pint

Or maybe he's thundering
Sonnets and psalms
To herons and pipers,
To Wales in his arms.