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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Audenesque Hip-Hop

(in which a slam poet takes down a formalist)


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.
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.

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 whiskey neat
That I knock back 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.

Right now in a heavenly 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.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

1991

The first year of my post-collegiate life,
resiliency impaired but not dead yet:
the aftermath of being "asked to leave."

Worked as a guard in Brookline. Sought relief
in poetry. Devoured Auden's Complete
that first year of my post-collegiate life.

Boston Book Annex, now gone to its grave.
Judge Thomas. The Gulf War. I'd read and write.
Write about pains no medicine could relieve.

The BU Bookstore, Kenmore: poets' trove!
Ploughshares. Mudfish. Boulevard. Grand Street.
The first year of my post-collegiate life.

Confession (which I'd shunned since '85)
to an Oblate of the Virgin. In defeat,
I turned to the Church that I was rash to leave!

Dame Edith Sitwell's Atlantic Book of
British and American Verse. Scotch, neat.
The first year of my post-collegiate life.

New Seeds of Contemplation. Is God love?
Marsh Chapel Mass, late on a Sunday night.
(Quite late! Close to eleven when I'd leave.)

No more joking with Will or George or Dave.
No more long talks with Leah, heart's delight.
The first year of my post-collegiate life,
the aftermath of being "asked to leave."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

1988

Tracy Chapman's music was everywhere.
Life at nineteen! Electric with poetry!
I worked at David's Cookies in Harvard Square

with Becca, Melvin, Mark, Jodi, and Claire.
I read Hart Crane's great paeans to the sea.
Tracy Chapman's music was everywhere.

Women, from east and west, both dark and fair,
were much too lovely for the likes of me
working at David's Cookies in Harvard Square.

William J. Barnum, with his long white hair,
carol'd the cockatoo most mellifluously!
Tracy Chapman's music was everywhere.

Of Spencer and Katharine I became aware
through sleepless nights in front of the TV
after ice-cream and cookies in Harvard Square.

Morrissey began his solo career.
I drove Dad's Cadillac quite cautiously.
Tracy Chapman's music was everywhere.

September came. I breathed the warm dry air
of California. Oh, what joy to be
far from David's Cookies and Harvard Square!

Not yet in college, working for a year,
I earned six bucks an hour, gratefully,
and Tracy Chapman's music was everywhere
from Santa Monica to Harvard Square.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

1980

The year of President Carter's malaise
and of the hostage crisis.

The year of the "Ayatollah Assahollah" t-shirt.

The year I spent at the Joseph H. Barnes Middle School,
waiting to get into Boston Latin.

The year of Mrs Watkins,
my first black teacher in white, unwelcoming East Boston.

The year of Common sense is the knack
of seeing things as they are and doing things
as they ought to be done.

The year of Mr Stein in Social Studies,
teaching us all the nations and capitals of Europe
(not forgetting Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania).

The year that Mom and Dad and I
visited Québec City,
saw the River Hudson, the Chateau Frontenac,
found cobblestoned thoroughfares
with art and restaurants and culture
and Francophonic charm.

The year that Eddie P and I
produced "Commie Comics"
after Mr Stein taught us about the Warsaw Pact.

The year of racial strife at Eastie High
(and not the only year, if truth be told).

The year that hooligans from the high school
capsized Mrs Watkins' car,
turning it onto its roof.

The year I saw Mrs Watkins
in uncontrollable tears.

The year that shot John Lennon dead.

The year of the Salesian Boys Club.
The year of Father Sid, of Masses in the chapel
where Brother Pat would croon "Let It Be"
while strumming a guitar.
The year of Jim and Dave and Wally.

The year of Zenyatta Mondatta
and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love."
The year of dark sarcasm.
The year of Blondie.

The year of Bobby Sands and his hunger strike
for Northern Ireland.

The year I dreamed of kissing
the feet of Mrs Watkins.
The year I turned eleven.

The year of designer jeans.
Sisley, Sasson, Jordache, Calvin Klein.

The year I wore rainbow suspenders
in emulation of Robin Williams' Mork.

The year that disco spent in intensive care.

The year that Mr Benedetto, the music teacher,
taught us the words to "Come Together,"
to "I Got a Name."

The year I finished second in the citywide spelling bee
and burst into sobs at the unexpected loss.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

English 101

Bob Broadcast speaks People Magazine's English;
I bless Washington in a gruff Marine's English.

You're in America now, says Uncle Jumbo,
José, can you see? Amigo, that means English!

Struggling sophomores stumped by thees and thous
Strain their brains over Hamlet (the ghost scene's English).

Dame Helen Mirren converses in thirty dialects,
Especially skilled, of course, at the Queen's English.

We're going to Oklahoma! South Carolina! Michigan!
All the way--yeeeaargh! Oh, Howard Dean's English!

Sweet Mrs Novena, a pious Christian soul,
Deplores the tenor of her flip teen's English.

Drastic blasts of chatter fueled by Maxwell House!
Jittery jolts of wit, my caffeine's English!

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof? The Iceman Cometh?
Do you prefer Tennessee's or Eugene's English?

Madmen, drummers, bummers, saints in the city:
In Asbury Park they know Springsteen's English.

Mr Bleeper, an eager network censor,
Scrubs out the smut and thoroughly cleans English.

Life is worth living! proclaims the smiling bishop.
Millions of homes hear Fulton J. Sheen's English!

Brought up among the lyric hills of Eire,
The cantatrice Eithne Ní Bhraonáin keens English.

Diversity changes Cambridge's sights and sounds;
The language demographic still leans English.

Eye-gore prepares the monster's "sedagive":
Nothing Wilder than Young Fronkensteen's English!

"Here, kid, catch"--the Pittsburgh tackle's jersey!
A cool souvenir of Mean Joe Greene's English!

The palindrome of Bolton would be Notlob:
Let's memorize the Python routine's English!

Dexys Midnight Runners sing of a lass
Who toorah-loorahs in a pert colleen's English.

At the Shattuck Hospital in Jamaica Plain,
Patients are pacified by Olanzapine's English.

Thomas, with your accent waiting to happen,
Gaelic and garlic season your baked beans' English.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Letter to a Poet

Your poems are windows
through which we can see
life in its common splendor,
its ramshackle oddity.

Your poems are photographs
of daily grace, of moments
when the things of earth
become sacraments of joy.

Your poems make music
in their austere silences,
in their monastic simplicity--
heart's health; soul's hope.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Lunch in the Square

The waitress at Uno's Chicago Grill
on JFK in Cambridge: twenty-five?
funny and smart and smiling and alive!
We didn't forget her when we paid our bill.

She let us linger while we chatted sipping
black coffee as we customarily do
after French onion soup and pizza for two.
O blest receiver of our lavish tipping!

Wit and glad banter, lots of scrumptious food!
Friday the 13th bringing the best of luck!
We’ll head home on the bus toward four o’clock
carrying books and thoughts of gratitude.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Nepsis

Listen in hope for the music of definite starlight

Listen in charity to the cry of a wounded brother

Listen in joy to the dreams of a distant sister

Listen in faith to the silent song of the cloister

Listen in patience to the voice of a single leaf

Listen in humility to the scriptures of the river

Listen in awe to the deep expanse of the desert

Listen in sorrow to the agonies of the city

Listen in reverence to the dust of a country road

Listen in grace to the pulse within the stone

Listen in peace to the dance of the spinning planets

Listen in poverty to the rush of sudden rain

Listen in kindness to the holy slope of this mountain

Listen in purity to the consolation of the moon

Listen in mercy to the miracle of the sun

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Birds (after Poe)

1

Hear the singing of the birds--
Early birds!
Such a paradisal chanting without benefit of words!
How they twitter, twitter, twitter
In the minutes before dawn
Under setting stars that glitter--
How they preen and boast and flitter
From the treetops! On the lawn!
Spreading joy, joy, joy
To each girl and every boy--
Such a dulcet cantilation my sweet ears have never heard!
Of the bird, bird, bird, bird,
Bird, bird, bird--
The rejoicing in the voicing of the bird!

2

Hear the keening of the bird,
Mournful bird!
We imagine that with tiny tears its waking eyes are blurred.
With a lamentation tristful
To the gray and sombre day
As if pining, ever wistful,
For a mate so far away--
O, from out the restless leaves,
How it moans,
How it groans,
For the remembered past it grieves--
O, the crying and the sighing
Of the bird, bird, bird, bird,
Bird, bird, bird--
Yes, the weeping (never sleeping) of the bird!

3

Hear the cawing of the bird,
Raucous bird!
Compared to this great bird, all other birds are just absurd!
Not a sparrow, not a grackle,
Can compete with his brave cackle;
And the dour and dreadful raven
Is a puny squeaking craven
When confronted with the bluster
Of this heavyweight branch-buster,
Putting all the woodland creatures and their offspring on alert,
If you tangle with this wrangler of a bird, it's gonna hurt!
With a shriek, shriek, shriek,
He's a superbeak! Superbeak!
He can make you quake and quiver
In the forest, in the park,
After dark, dark, dark--
O, what angel can deliver
The unwary
From this scary
Bird, bird, bird,
Bird, bird, bird, bird--
From this frightful undelightful type of bird?

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Need You Tonight

An ardent, plaintive cry: I need you tonight ...
The hot south wind has bansheed you tonight.

Champion of the musha'irah, bravest Shahid,
What lyric young Turk will supersede you tonight?

Haranguer I can overtake, claimed Emily:
Mad demagogues bully and screed you tonight.

Insatiable yen for old-school poesy,
With stately sonnets I shall feed you tonight.

Money changes everything. Can it buy Love?
Demoiselle rich and single, I greed you tonight.

Intolerant tutors counseling tolerance,
Do you expect anyone to heed you tonight?

The voice of Conscience, virtuous seductress,
Says, "Follow me wherever I lead you tonight."

Vespers in Rome. At Santa Maria Maggiore,
Lord of heaven, they glory and creed you tonight.

O Canada, large land of rowdy ridings,
I'll visit Calgary and stampede you tonight.

Our hearts pulsate in passion's turgid ocean:
Poisson d'avril, I've deep-sea'd you tonight!

Illegible bachelor, pitiable wit,
Defeated laureate--who'll read you tonight?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Tatterdemalion

Tatterdemalion daughter of mayhem, arise:
Saintly Magdalen, misprized gem, arise!

Above the law, above the teeming fray,
Above the voices that condemn: arise!

From dark alley, from city blight, behold,
These orient stars--your diadem! Arise,

Flee from censorious lips and groping clutches:
You're too dear for the likes of them. Arise!

Why should you knuckle under or pay heed
To the churlish critic's apothegm? Arise:

Bring the gift of your bruised and battered heart
To the bed of the Babe in Bethlehem. Arise!

Suffering soul, the dust whereon you tread,
Sings pride's farewell, wrath's requiem: arise.

Thomas, sing praise full-throated to this rose;
Bless every thorn upon her stem. Arise!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Winter Tanka

Sleeved in recent snow,
branches of the trees and shrubs
now seem transfigured,
shining like Taboric light
in the January gray.

In the Silverware Drawer After Dark

The steak knives are playing the Ramones at full blast. The salad forks are dancing with the teaspoons to the tune of "Come On, Ei...