Pages

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year's Eve

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 mortal year,
To signal January's birth
As corks pop, souls carouse with mirth,
And pyrotechnics burst and flare.


It would seem fitting now to pray
(With cautious hope and holy fear)
That I be given strength next year
To greet with courage each new day.

May heaven grant to wounded hearts
The healing of their every ill;
May hungry bellies have their fill --
Lord, vouchsafe, 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 the frail child in your hands.

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Paraphrase of Mallarmé

Chaste, vivacious day of beauty:  will it
Stripe with one lash of a drunken wing
Forgotten lakes beneath whose ice we find
Glaciers of glass, flight that could not flee?

A swan of yesteryear remembers.  He
Rescues himself, hopeless, magnificent,
But fails to sing a place where he might live
When dull pain blazes winter's impotence.

His neck will shake this whitest agony
That space inflicts.  He will deny it quite.
Yet to his feathers earthly terrors cling.

Phantom that flares and flashes purity,
He freezes in a cold dream of disdain:
Vain exile's only vestment for the swan.

A Paraphrase of Goethe

(Selige Sehnsucht: "Sagt es niemand, nur den Weisen")


Tell it not but to the wise man,
For the crowd will mock entire:
I will glorify the lively,
That which yearns to die in fire.

You beget where you were gotten,
In the cool of loving night:
Strange sensations overtake you
In the silent candlelight.

Erstwhile captive of the shadows,
You will never be the same,
Taken up by higher rapture,
Drawn toward the holy flame.

Now no distance proves a hindrance;
Some enchantment gives you wings!
Maddened butterfly, you enter:
Finally, the pure flame sings.

And as long as you know not
WE DIE TO BE REBORN
Earth is dark, and you are homeless,
Hapless and forlorn.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

You're Quite a Gal

You're quite a gal, with amplitude and curves:
    You're wicked awesome, devilishly sweet!
It's plain to see you're a woman who deserves
    Dinner each night at Chez Philippe, my treat.

You're my Scotch whiskey, my Glenlivet neat!
     I think of you, my steady driving swerves.
Like perfect rhyme, you make my life complete;
     You're quite a gal, with amplitude and curves.

Your raucous fun, your bawdy streak, unnerves
     And startles me! We walk down Mystic Street;
I laugh out loud, and stumble on the curb:
     You're wicked awesome, devilishly sweet!

You're like an earthly carnal paraclete:
     You're someone whom the good Lord God observes
With mixed emotions -- joy and shock compete!
     It's plain to see you're a woman who deserves

A rave review; a ton of gushing blurbs;
     A Red Line rider who gives you his seat;
A rose; a big bear hug; a waiter who serves
     Dinner each night at Chez Philippe, my treat.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Vocative (from 2000)

Teach me the word
That will conquer the world,
Will plunder, will lay waste,
Dominions of the dull
And kingdoms of the bad.

         Silence is learning
         Submission to heaven,
         Grace's receiving,
         Kenosis and virtue,
         Works of the good.

Teach me the silence
That will conquer false speech,
Will betray, will scatter
Legions of the proud,
The chattering cheaters.

         The holy and honest
         Speak little and wisely,
         Composed of a faith
         That keeps them in concord,
         Silent or singing.

Monday, May 9, 2011

This poem is for the birds

The circumlocutory ornithologist
Transcribes the song of birds
In early morning mist.

Splintery notes of springtime, thinner than twigs,
Than the stems of leaves --

Delicate chips and skips of sound,
Crisp brisk wisps of music.
Wakeful wit!

Stitching whistles. Jittery flits.
Sibilant whispers, riskiest vigilance.

Young things with wings
Peskily gossip in a mixed snit.

Listen quickly. Don't miss.
This. And this. This and this.
How the slender ribbons twist,
Wind-tipped, chill-blessed, light-kissed, swift.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Couplets

Write without coffee. Wake at half-past-two.
Make couplets, since there's nothing else to do.

*

Adventure! Be my damsel, my delight,
And watch me scribble in the dead of night.

*

O southwest breezes, soft, scented of May --
Could you do more to beautify this day?

*

When old Ted Roethke wrote, he made words dance
And sing in every desperate circumstance.

*

Two hundred sixty pounds, robust with meat,
Ample with beer, I more than fill my seat.

*

He walks on air, as nimble as a sprite:
A heavy poet who can keep things light.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Menotomy Moonbat

I am of Arlington,
And of the blessed town
     Of Arlington.
I drink my coffee on the porch;
I walk a half a block to church.
It's lovely here, even in March!
You'll find the peace for which you search
     In Arlington.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Homage to Arthur Rimbaud

The letter A is the River Charles. Dirty water, the Longfellow Bridge, the regatta every October.

The letter E is the clear cool bell ringing for mid-morning prayer at the Trappist abbey in Spencer.

The letter I is the noontime glare of the desert sun on the woman at the well in Samaria.

The letter O is the full moon, magisterial clock without hands, whose face gives light to scientists, to poets, to lunatics.

The letter U is a cornucopia of gratitude and generosity, the fruits of the Spirit, abundant and free.

The letter Y is an agile gymnast, standing on her hands at the balance beam.

Without You

Without you, life's a hole without a sock, A fruitless rind, some coffee-grounds (no brew): Sarcastic stars can only jeer and mock. ...