Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Morning News

Do I need TV to tell me the morning news?
Should I buy a paper?  Sell me the morning news.

Old Captain Forward and Governor Weathervane
Trade quips, one-liners.  Spare me the morning news.

Harvard professors remake society
To suit their whim.  Scary, the morning news.

Innocence leaps in front of a deadly train
And mourners leave bouquets.  The morning news

Discourages the most hope-filled among us.
CNN replays the morning news.

Romantic poets, dreaming of Arcady,
How can you sweet souls stand the morning news?

Drone strikes, gas prices, church and state, gang rape:
Some twisted devil has planned the morning news.

Celebrity marriages end.  Hurricanes threaten.
Dormant volcanoes cough the morning news.

Coffee and the ticking kitchen clock--
Preserve your peace.  Turn off the morning news.

Atheists believe in Original Sin
After the strife and fright of the morning news.

Stand-up comedians wade in a sea of cash:
Crassly, they make light of the morning news.

The front page of the Globe: bullets and bullshit.
Each paragraph's a threat.  The morning news

Is not a breakfast I find to my taste.
Please teach me to forget the morning news!

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Christmas Triptych: 1988


A song of smoke
      whirls from chimney
snowflakes alighting
      from darkened dome
      of bliss
onto cherishable

the turtle-dove
      seeks haven
      at the lyric
wanderlust of anxious
fiery surprises huddle
masked in red & green
spin yarn in corners
      of childhood reach

an angel whirls
      amid fairy-frail
      fractions of ice
which dance like a
      company of unstringed
heedless of gray gravity

midnight comes
as the jolly candle flickers
warning & warming
the coming of anointed
to every millennium
wise men bring stars
to face the desert chill


Precarious peace
lights vigilant lanterns
awaiting a rainbow's
in the clear holiday

a pleasant shock
enters the nerves
attired for lively

mountaintop prophets
hold gloved hands in
strict silence waiting
for valley-bells
      to wake the
      bustling hills
where elves make their
out of crystal suspense
& magic sand

a silver sound seeks
the entrance of diamond
the palaces of dream
where greed converts
      itself to giving
& anger into loving
& blood flows
      & sisterly through
veins into hope-pumping


      Exuberant frost
limited only by edgeless

candle-bulbs & wreathèd
fleeting carols sung to the
      wind in late salutation

cloud-apparel smoky
      breath wishes for
      new evening warmth
sugar-striped shivers
      white-beard lamppost

long walks through
      seasonable pine-groves
      to greet acquaintances
gathered by a generous
the music of gifts
& the jingle of chatter

sparrow mistletoe
loaves of fish & creels
      of Christmas bread
tinselled memories
handshake & embrace
achievement of December
a solstice of affection
& golden faith

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Golden Beak

I am reading George Herbert for breakfast
I am having chocolate pudding for lunch with a dollop of Barchester Towers
I am pondering the literary value of blueberry pancakes
I am shooting the breeze with old Doc Williams beside the white chickens
I am writing sonnets about riotous blossoms and the loves of Dylan
I am taking life two minutes at a time
Actually more like ninety seconds at a time
I am embracing friends across the telepathic distances
I am editing anthologies of my favorite knock-knock jokes
I am taking anaphora to its uttermost limitations
I am going to Gail Ann’s for a sausage and egg sandwich
I am walking to West Medford across the Mystic Valley Parkway
I am becoming a Christian because of Marianne Moore’s example
I am contemplating proverbs with Thomas Merton in the rusted trailer in

I salute all my friends from my workspace in suburbia
I introduce myself to the pastor of the Unitarian church
I ride the trains in search of enlightenment and loose women
I commit myself to shaving at least seven times a year
I declaim “Kubla Khan” in my best Boston accent
I am sixteen again in Latin class translating Catullus
Odi et amo quare id faciam fortasse requiris
I am fourteen again and sprinting past the librairies of Québec
I am eleven and dreaming dreams of release and liberation
I am twenty-one and lamenting the loss of innocence
You may say that this isn’t a poem but a glorified shopping list
And I tell you it’s the best I can do on a Sunday afternoon
In chilly December when the clouds are great lethargic armies
Invading my scenic precinct that I love so bloody much

Sunday, October 7, 2012


We need poems for the saints and for the sinners.  We need poems that praise what is praiseworthy.  We need poems that praise what is lackluster, what is ordinary, what is all-too-fallibly human.

We need a poem for the sixty-something widow in the supermarket who is wondering if she has enough eggs.

We need a poem for the angst-ridden teenager with the pierced nose, the one who underlines her copy of Ariel.

We need a poem for the street tough in whose cold eyes the world is a punk-ass bitch.

We need a poem for the politicians, the ones with the photogenic families, the ones who send other folks' sons and daughters to war.

We need a poem for the businessman on his fourth vodka-and-tonic.

We need a poem for the bicyclist who likes going up steep hills.

We need a poem for the addict of cyberspace, lost in dreams of fleshly decadence.

We need a poem for the shy bisexual poet who fills his notebooks with imitations of Walt Whitman praising the love of boisterous cameradoes.

We need a poem for the prisoner who made the newspapers for all the wrong reasons.

We need a poem for the therapist who has grown too tired for compassion in her practice.

We need a poem for those nameless birds outside the tenement window which almost beautify the grim surroundings.

We need a poem for the middle-aged athlete whose career is long since over, a casualty of pizza, beer, bad knees.

We need a poem for the crying child.

We need a poem for those who love immoderately.

We need a poem for those who mourn, for those who revolt against the reading of the beatitude.

We need a poem for those whose pain-racked bodies are twisted and yet somehow beautiful beyond the bland blond glossy magazines.

We need a poem for the renegade monk who turns to bourbon and women and activism.

We need a poem for the protesters who are ardent, righteous, inflexibly convinced.

We need a poem for the Judases--disloyal, dejected, cowardly, despairing.

We need a poem for the bad thief who wants his suffering to end, who thinks first of himself, who mocks the God he feels is mocking him.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ghazal of Light

Vespers in winter.  A certain slant of light.
Cloistered brothers begin their chant of Light.

Van Gogh's sunflowers blaze from the canvas:
Ardent and large, they follow the bent of light.

Fingers of sun break through the settled clouds,
And all self-wounded souls, they pant for light.

Fireflies at night, jazzy constellations,
Brighten the northern woods with a stunt of light.

Enthroned in splendour, the soul's lost love
Shines in the memory, life-source, font of light.

An acolyte of Eastern mysteries,
He probes the skies, this hierophant of light.

Planets dance around coldly blazing stars,
Participants in the cosmic jaunt of light.

View the eclipse not with the naked eye,
But through a sheet pierced with a point of light.

The red low-wattage lightbulb Heather gave me
Fills my bedroom with a strange tint of light.

Decaf tea and a book of ghazals on a rainy day.
Retreat, O Thomas, to your haunt of light.

Monday, October 1, 2012

On the Radio

In '79, Donna Summer's "On the Radio"
Appears -- and reappears! -- on the radio.

At ten years old, one can be affected by
The happy tunes one hears on the radio.

At twenty, we're all trying to be cool --
We're wise beyond our years. Oh, the radio!

At thirty and beyond, we grow nostalgic:
Remember Tears for Fears on the radio?

It's now 2012. I listen to jazz
Or neo-soul, switching gears on the radio.

Away with Justin Bieber and Rihanna!
Enough of these young dears on the radio!

Can't we have a channel for Gregorian chant?
Let's hear monastic choirs on the radio!

Enthusiasts for punk rock might prefer
The Buzzcocks or the Queers on the radio.

Hip-hop aficionados blast those rhymes
And hurt their neighbors' ears with the radio.

The bloviating buffoons of talk shows
Make lucrative careers on the radio

Eviscerating prominent politicians,
And shouting the crudest jeers on the radio.

It's better, perhaps, to listen to NPR:
No ads for K-Mart or Sears on the radio.

Oh, for the days of Shakespeare on the air,
Of Gielgud and his peers on the radio!

I'd stop, put everything down, call up my friends:
"Hey, did you know King Lear's on the radio?"

In the Venice of canals and cardinals,
They put operatic gondoliers on the radio!

Dance to the new day's music! Sing your heart out.
Let's hear it, Tommy: Three cheers for the radio!

68th Letter to a Poet

Awake till three, I tried reading Allen Ginsberg but overdosed on his naughty-boy language: baldpate sophomore. I nodded off to TV jaz...