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Monday, June 26, 2017

Out for My Walk

Arlington, Massachusetts, 5.15 am,
first morning of summer ---
air cool and dewy:
sprinklers, sparrows, squirrels;
a wide-awake rabbit or two;
the occasional runner, avid and trim;
the odd walker, casual, paunchy.

The same lawn on Bates Street
plays host to two signs:
Sean Garballey for State Senate
and Cindy Friedman
for State Senate.

Just enough scribbles of cirrus
in the sunrise-hour sky:
white hairs streaking the chevelure
of a beautiful woman over fifty.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Discovering

Verses from the Tehillim,
          a song
     in a timeless tongue:
try the language of the hymn ---
    words come out half-wrong.

Erev Shabbat: the temple
          holds kind
    faces all around:
Adonai, Love Eternal,
    meets me where I stand.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Playing Language

Tonight I sit,
boy-clarinetist emeritus,
hunt-and-peck pianist,
guitarist in my dreams,
musician manqué,
and play language instead.

I play consonants and vowels,
stresses and unstresses,
pyrrhics and spondees,
iambs and anapests.

Tonight I'll improvise
a blues tune,
a jazz riff,
a classical concerto,
a power ballad,
new wave,
synth-pop,
arena rock,
glam rock,
hard rock,
alternative,
emo, shoegazing,
industrial,
a post-punk paint-peeler,
a fab remake of the Beatles,
a campy cover of the B-52s.

Tonight I'll perform an aria,
belt out a drinking song,
hum a disco tune,
sing a Christmas carol,
intone cantillations,
chant Gregorian.

Tonight I'll smoke
imaginary cigarettes,
drink real cups of coffee,
replenish myself with water
and sleep and prayer
and poetry.

Tonight I'll think of tomorrow
when I'll play for you
and for you alone.

Monday, June 5, 2017

You

Spice in the chouriço,
five alarms in the red peppers,
fire in the diamond,
ice in the sapphire,
saxophone in “Moondance,”
drums in "We Will Rock You."
August thunderstorms
thrashing the boats of Gloucester,
February blizzards
whipping the shores of Scituate.
Hot wine of Argentina
coursing in the veins
of a tigress.
Coffee of Morocco
jolting me to attention.
Sunbursts and hurricanes,
tidal waves and tantrums.
Hesitant and delicate
as a Pamplona stampede.
Domestic and proper
as the fifth shot of whiskey.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memories

It's the day before midnight
where I sit collecting evidence
of vanished springtimes,
of Aprils long past:
shells, shards, ships,
psalter of strange voyage.

Soda-crackers of an eremite,
box-tops, green stamps, bottle-caps,
World's Fair bookmarks from 1939,
dimestore postcards of La Scala Santa.

*

Cutpurse sonnets,
three for a buck ninety-nine
at the refugees' flea-market.

Bulletin from Belchertown:
dead-heads have havoc'd
the Malbec pioneers
of a corporate Yuletide.

Starveling, December
stutter-steps onto the catwalk
coiffured à la garçonne.

*

Over cups of mud at The Sunny Side,
codgers bicker and cuss.
"You have a fresh mouth, chief:
who died and made you Elvis?"

I leave these testy widowers
and lummox forth into a gust
of winter at her stiffest.

This wind is arctic and Emersonian,
subjunctive and sassy.

I go sowing frost-seeds
in the family snowgarden,
half-past-six o'clock shadow
on my larkish chin.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Monastic Wisdom

Fr Wigram, white-haired Cowley monk,
was chatting with a postulant
who asked him which "method
of contemplative prayer"
he preferred.

The older priest
scratched his head and admitted:
"Well, usually I just kneel down
and hope for the best."

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

I'm Here

I hear the birds
of Lady Primavera,
a noted purveyor of lilacs.

I see daffodils at my laptop,
hyacinths by the recliner,
bumblebees in the coffee-mug,
robins by the iPhone,
sparrows atop the fridge.

Antic, frisky,
April announces,
I'm here! and flings
her hundred thousand flowers,
a laughing Ophelia
whose mind is all light.

Pray you, mark!
this tuft of green
which shines like nature's neon.
And look, this willow
burgeoning aslant
a gaily chattering brook!

All this bright grace
after long months
of cold hope!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Killer Poem

Reader, you've been villanelled to death:
Limericked, coupleted, doggerelled to death.

If I've tolled you once, I've tolled you a thousand times:
No man is an island. Knelled, belled to death.

Your Irish eyes squint at ancient pages
In Celtic lettering. Book-of-Kelled to death?

Rhymes assault your ears from the nursery:
Little-lambed and farmer-in-the-delled to death.

On Cupid's bow, how are my heart-strings bent:
O Stella! I've been Astrophelled to death.

This impecunious oenophile, poor wino,
Drinks on the cheap. He's muscatelled to death!

Starting earlier every year -- Halloween? Really? --
The Christmas season. Joyeux Noël'd to death.

Her mind was a victim of glossy magazines:
Cosmo'd, Vogued, and Mademoiselled to death.

Talk-radio addicts binge on bluster:
Bickered, shrilled, harangued, and yelled to death.

The sheets grow heavy as a lecher's kiss.
Sylvia Plath's line. Arielled to death.

If I were a rich man, I'd biddy-biddy-bum ...
You'd find yourselves Zero Mostel'd to death!

Like Terence Trent D'Arby in 1988,
The weary world's been Wishing-Well'd to death.

Ground Control to Major (or Minor) Tom:
Where's the Rocket Man? Jet-propelled to death.

A Rootin-tootin' Ghazal

This poem has no GMO's! It's gluten-free!
It even defies gravity! Isaac-Newton-free!

The night owl's eyes prevent the morning watch,
But I would have the wee hours hootin'-free.

My calculator's batteries are drained:
No abacus for back-up. Computin'-free.

I gave away all my Jethro Tull albums:
My classic-rock collection's flutin'-free.

Rare is the corner on my side of the tracks
That's drinkin'-, druggin'-, prostitutin'-free.

Knotheads and Leftpapas trade barbs:
I'll switch the channel to stay disputin'-free.

In my home office, it's always casual Friday:
I don't dress up. I'm three-piece-suitin'-free.

Buy me a seat on the Amtrak to Chicago;
I'll leave South Station on the 2:10, free!

Where have you gone, Boris Nikolayevich?
I liked Mother Russia when it was Putin-free.

Missing his target by miles, Thomas engages
In a round of not-so-straight shootin', free.

Friday, February 24, 2017

After Blake

A squirrel on the cold brown grass
Defeats the loutish and the crass.

A sparrow on the bare black tree
Makes boor and braggart bend the knee.

A cardinal darting through the hedge
Sends solemn hearts over the edge.

A puppy on a supple tether
Brings bright flowers in winter weather.

A kitten at its playful frisk
Leads timid souls to take a risk.

An eagle on the tall lamppost
Silences every blustering boast.

A crow that pecks in a lonely field
Compels the pushy oaf to yield.

A pigeon waddling in a puddle
Dispels all doubt, clears up the muddle.

A snail inside its wee shell curled
Brings light to a self-darkened world.

A duckling bathing in the brook
Asks hasty eyes to stop and look.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Prayer

A chilly January night.
Fingering a wooden rosary,
I sit on the third-floor balcony
In a darkness here and there
Dotted and streaked with light.
I'm dressed in winter pajamas.
No one save Heaven can see me
As I look up at the Hunter's belt,
Down at asphalt and grass.
The light traffic of Route 60
Hums within sight and hearing
Just past the hundred-yard path
In front of my apartment building.

It's thirty, thirty-five degrees.
I wrap this cold around me
And my sluggish senses waken.
I drink darkness like water
And listen for whispers of mercy
In the endless star-sparked sky.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Clean Sheet

Winter morning. Sunrise, moonset.
Spidery branches of bare trees.
Lucent blue skies. Eighteen degrees.
Clean sheet of morning light
on which I dare to write the word
in tentative penmanship: joy.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Sustenance

We go crazy for honey and syrup,
for sugar and sweet chocolate,
for rich pastries and sumptuous
desserts. But we are nourished
by humble roots and plants,
by common fruit, by daily bread,
by pure familiar water.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Two in the Morning

It's Wednesday, two in the morning:
instant coffee and an English muffin.
Chilly in the kitchen. Forty degrees
and a cold black rain outside.
                                                I complain
to the four walls of my apartment. I complain:
There is beauty that I cannot dance with.
There are songs to which I don't know
and will never learn the words, poems
which my voice is too dusty to render.

I wish I were young. I wish I could sleep
eight hours each night. I wish I lived in
Montana. I want to visit holy ground.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

January 1

The birds of Mrs Álvarez
make an intermittent song
that sweetens this mellow morning.
It is Sunday, New Year's Day,
and a World Day of Peace.
My Christmas stuff is still up.
I send you this poem as shalom.

Out for My Walk

Arlington, Massachusetts, 5.15 am, first morning of summer --- air cool and dewy: sprinklers, sparrows, squirrels; a wide-awake rabbit o...