Formal Verse - Miscellaneous:
Just a bunch of rhymed and metered poems (and perhaps
a few fragments and perhaps a few strict forms that do not
use rhyme and meter) that don't seem to fit under light verse,
though some come close. Note that this batch includes some
of my earliest work (starting about 3 poems down), from the
Here's a Malaysian form, the Pantoum:
Cultivate Your Own
All my neighbors
avid for beauty
and property values
Avid for beauty,
they break up earth
then flex sore shoulders.
They break up earth
that seeds may breathe
then flex sore shoulders
staring at the ground.
That seeds may breathe
I watch them bent over
staring at the ground
framed in my window.
I watch them bent over --
do they know I'm here? --
framed in my window
breaking up words.
Do they know I'm here
out of the sun
breaking up words
loving their light?
Out of the sun
and property values
loving their light
all my neighbors.
The following poem is a form (some would say) called "abecedarian"
-- line one begins with "A", line two begins with
"B", etc. It helps is you read it with a wide screen,
so you can see more easily where the lines begin:
Anchovies, avocados and whatchamacallits like a green pineapple,
you dip the prickly leaves in
Butter -- artichoke, artichoke (now I can breathe again) get
Confused, that is, with each other, melding in my mind, not
in my mouth.
Don't slam the doors of perception on your way out.
Ecclesiastes: All is vanity. The names of things are vanities,
Fanities, the fan I tease with pudgy fingers that can't
Get past the grate -- good! but the gentle rainbowed whirr
Know the hovering invisible jabbering knife-edged lace-aerator
Like the prickly leaves of whatchamacallit, like how I can
taste them when they are but a
Mumble, a moan, an inarticulate "anchovy" for a
No, that's a boneless briny fish, a silver fan-blade glint
Or "avocado," opulent buttery green, only not on
Pizza, please, a party joke -- that's right! Arty choke art
each oak artichoke artichoke,
Quintessential marinated heart of rhymes-with-art-of one quart
of hearty choke,
Right, now I remember, incisors
Scrape off soft meaty green shreds from leaves like lacy wire
frames, grate stuff,
Tossed in a torn heap my caterpillar teeth tattered, tongue
having just touched
Upon the unattainable surface that is motion and only motion
of blade, my
Vocation (not avocado), my vanity, but
Why do I always think "anchovy" first, then fish,
then "What is it?" then
X out "avocado" and have to think "heart of..."
-- aha! X marks the spot!
You're an artichoke artichoke artichoke...yet I yawn as,
Zoom! my bored baby finger is unzapped by the untouchably
zaftig zany zero hovering at the heart.
I give my love my love,
And she too gives me me.
Within each other's eyes
We're tendered ourselves to see.
As images multiply,
So self-possessed are we
That she gives me herself
And freely I give me.
The ceiling's cracked, but I don't care;
I close my eyes, and you are there.
A baby screams across the way,
As ours will scream at us some day.
A dog howls, "I am here" outside;
The radiator croaks: "Hide! Hide!"
A siren wails: "You may be next!"
And on the rasping screen collects
The buzz and flop of bugs, but in
Your eyes am I, and all the din
Out there blows free like cobweb stuff
From the slow, still afterbreath of love.
[Note: The above is one of the earliest poems of mine
that I still hang onto -- written, I think, in 1963 or 1964.]
Go Home, She Said, But...
Go home, she said, but didn't open the door.
I will, I said, but only pulled her close.
You'd better, she said, her lips a touch away.
You're right, I said, and kissed her waiting kiss.
Thus slip the middle hours past with stealth
When drooping eyelids bid a dim goodnight,
But eyes beneath glimmer with sleepless light.
[Note: Even earlier -- I think I wrote it around 1962.]
In self-dissolving forms a dancer whirls.
Do we not marvel, caught in a picture's trance,
When the time-sliced, still-born dancer yet unfurls
The ghost of motion? Think, then, what a dance
Must be the dance that's pictured in a tree:
Coiling caught in the gnarl, twigs fanning free
In arabesques, hard grain of frozen fire...
Make eras seconds: There the moiling cloud
Of earth! With crack and flash erupt the loud
Lightning nerve-nets of horrid oaks, writhe and expire.
Too Pooped To Pope
Heroic couplets, what have you to say
To an unheroic age which is the day
That every dog must have, and so they do;
Dog is backward God, and that's a clue:
In time of need, men turned back to their gods.
We've turned our backs to ours; we say He nods,
He sleeps, He's dead. (He hasn't said a word.)
So we've gone to the dogs. We know THEY'VE heard
Our prayers to fetch and beg and play dead. Hark!
In vaulted rooms of state the dogs do bark!
And as dogs couple, so my dogged rhymes
Mismate my lines to these, our mongrel times.
Tell me, big blue dumb
Sky beneath my thumb,
How big am I?
Tell me, sky.
Atom, can you think a thought
As small as naught
At all? In a wink
The swarm of thoughts I think
Runs out of stars to count
On, and the fastest wind I mount
Finds me where I thought to go.
World, can you help me know
Myself? "Can you show me the way,"
The sun begged the candle, "from night to day?"
I know more than the sea can say.
World, can you come out and play?
Some kid tossed that beer can down
As casually as spittle.
The field still wears its soft green gown,
But litter kills a little.
It caught my eye, that metal gleam,
It told me dreams are brittle.
For I had given this field a dream
That litter killed a little.
In the fall in the city
Beneath subway din,
Stripped clean of pity,
A dead Indian's grin.
I'm free to move; a tree's fixed to the earth,
But from its roots in twisted reach out-flowers
A wealth of form and motion that o'erpowers
Dance to teach my muse the fixed form's worth.
Were you and I what we should be,
There'd be no raven blackness in the sea.
Were you and I but you and I,
We would not stoop to touch the sky.
We'd see the sea and be the bee
And whee the we if we were we.
Long ago I made a thought:
"Here all by myself am I."
A lovely thought, so I got caught,
And here am I, a silly lie.
Our lies were all begun in fun,
And when we've lost, we've won! We've won...
"Why can't I have...," the spoiled child screams.
He's right: Who froze us in our dreams?
I'm tired of rhymes. Were you and I
What we should be, no word could lie.
Voices In Search Of A Speaker
Clear stream at last, free of the splash of words;
I hear them clash and babble far away;
A few swim near; pale fish, they gape absurd
And then breath meaning back, as does a gay
Expression frozen too long in a mirror,
Or a puzzle picture, a chaos of branch and leaf--
No, a chaos of ordered faces...clearer...clearer--
Then squint, and bushes return with blank relief.
But now words clamor to be understood,
Claim to be me, or, subtler, not to be,
Flatter me: "This silence is so good,"
They say; "How good it is to be free
of the splash of words." And others say,
"That too is only words; you can't fool me!"
And more reply, but I am far away,
Free of the words that claim that I am free,
Nor will they lure me with this poem's leer:
I am not I. You are the speaker here.
The Sleep of Nations
My friends are taking sides: which candidate?
I join in, make good points, go blank...it's late.
I'll think this through tomorrow. Now I'll sleep...
In shallow currents tossed, can't reach that deep
Dark empty reassurance; no, this blankness
Spawns dreams as slipp'ry as the studied frankness
Of politicians; endless arguments
That shrink and stretch and twist to fit events --
Events that, clothed in logic, melt away
(Each witness sees a different crime; each day
Dies with its headlines' din), leaving a pile
Of logic, proving either choice too vile
To contemplate: A pile of rumpled thought,
And in the mazes of our hearing, caught,
The echo of the last shriek of events:
"O! What a wicked world!" We start to sense
We're not in Kansas anymore. Each claim
Is linked to sticky web-sites, each the same
As every other in its certainty,
Insider scoops, dismissive punditry,
Its pack of subtle facts that others miss --
But you and I are now elite, they hiss:
We know the Truth. WHICH truth? Do all sides lie?
Where nations roll in sleep, their children die.
We, Godlike, will determine with one vote
Who lives? Lard logic with authoritative quote...
I cannot dream this dream -- if I awake,
Will morning still be there? Will songbirds break
Dream logic into shards of colored glass? --
The daily news sunk, dew-sopped, in the grass?
I fall asleep in the back seat.
The car travels, I travel
Different ways. I wake and meet
Where I am with where I travel.
It's like applause,
A billion one-handed claps,
The cracking at the flaws
Of the universe's collapse.
Quicksilver mind can stroke cloud wisps or smell
The jagged flaming yellow of a yell,
Sip moonlight, slake on ripples from a bell
Its thirst, each toll fetched up from a deep cool well.
Flies of Paradox
Of words I wove a long fly swatter,
All the bugs of faith to slaughter,
But flies of paradox would squat
On my swatter. I could not
Destroy them with bare-handed slaps:
A new one's born when one hand claps.
They circle round my head abuzz
With all that will be, is, and was.
Savings and Alone
Save us from Russia, China, Iran--
Must we have places too far to walk to?
Save us from governments, unions, the Klan.
Save us from anything too big to talk to.
Save us from saviours who want to be killed.
The tyrant we'll crush, but spare us the slave.
O! Save us from all of the systems we build
To save us from ourselves, who alone can save.
Are You There?
I used to be a poet;
Now I am a poem.
You used to be a stranger,
Now my only home.
Time is done with verbs:
I was, you are, we'll be;
And we're a trick of pronouns:
I'm you and you are me.
Now I touch my forehead.
(I used to have a face.)
Can you feel my finger?
Can words create a space?
If you reach out and touch me,
I'll feel it...felt it--how?
If we think my words together,
Who's listening to us now?
If you're free to take,
am I free to give?
If you're free to kill,
am I free to live?
Dean and Pam grow gray and fat,
live in the suburbs with a dog and a cat.
Wind blows, rain falls, pit-a-pat;
Pam paints, Dean writes; that is that.
Seek and Hide
The body is a beast I ride.
When it falls, I slip aside.
Do not seek me in this hide;
I am not it; the tag was wide.
Some follow flesh where it can lead 'em
'till ghost is out & in come freedom.
The Song That Got Away
Had a song--it got away.
Look for it another day.
Had to do with trees & stars,
lost it in the noise of cars.
Probably corny anyway.
Look for it another day.
Oh, Well, One Always Has One's Reasons
He blames them, blames himself,
And looks for reasons,
While women come and go away
Dull chatter is the way
We rattle in the chains
Of what we dare not say
Till deathly silence reigns.
Jingle - mechanical,
Jaunty refrain -
Circles my brain.
In school today I learned a word
That one must never say,
A paradox by which I'm stirred
In a most delightful way,
For what is criminal to say
Is spoken all the time:
My secret thoughts fill up the day
Till silence is a crime.
Woman Reading a Letter at the Window
By yon fair mirror, deft,
My window is bereft
Of light and air - a theft
From Who made light, Himself!
Tis all my mirror's pelf -
Tis Jan Vermeer of Delft.
We fall apart,
Our single heart
Your dying cuts us off, old dog
who caught our eyes.
Now they burn, eyes but stumps hot tears
Who touches the stuff of life enough
May stir the buried life of stuff.
Autumn on Empty
October, and the sky is high on birds -
They take all day to pass from rim to rim;
I too an emptiness - filled up with words,
Endlessly empty, endlessly filled to the brim.
(As empty as I'm filled up to the brim.)
A Colorized Rainbow
If through stained glass
A rainbow pass? -
Words That Go With Us
Life after life - now left behind -
Of "Come back! Go away! Nevermind!"
Ovens of the Third Reich
Ring around encloses;
Man poses and disposes -
I'd rather write, but I must sleep.
Unwritten poems in dreams will keep.
Above the blue, we're told, it's black,
But we've been there and we come back.
A Finger Fings?
What May shower shows,
Late summer sums:
A flower flows;
A number numbs.
A Dreamer's Life
Dreaming, I sit down to write
And pray that someone else will fight
Off cold and famine for my sake
So I can die before I wake.
Buddha, Baby, You Weren't Born Yesterday
How can an ancient being cry
And burble "dada" and "byebye"?
Old one, you have an impish eye!
A baby is a lovely lie.
My Dog Is Dead! Long Live My Dog!
My dog is dead - he doesn't romp
Or creep or sprawl or nip or chomp -
But all that ended weeks before
I carried him through that last door -
And as I did, he licked my face.
I had to leave him in that place.
But in my head - or somewhere close -
He's with me yet: I feel his nose
Against my hand - he wants a pat,
And then another after that,
He wants my popcorn, begs for more,
Leaps up to join me at the door.
I've said goodbye, goodbye, my dear,
A thousand times - and still this tear!
But if you say to darkness, "light",
What can the darkness say but "night",
And in reply, light simply glows,
The only answer that it knows,
Like you, old dog - you stubborn fellow,
Made of pure unalloyed hello.
Time Reopens The Wounds It Heels
His work is quite the rage...and then it's not,
As themes and humors, irony and plot
And character and poetry and passion,
like bows and bangs go in and out of fashion.
The poet, recognized, has barely time
to say, "I told you so!" (in stately rhyme -
Alas, who but the meanest or the rashest
Now dare to write in forms so foully fascist!),
And he who dreams of gloating from his grave,
Reveling in a universal rave,
Must know that on the farther side of glory -
however distant - starts another story.
Dutch Elm Disease
The elms won't give the wind another dance -
They're leaving! Elms, give us another chance!
Against the Grain
I write and live against the grain
To be who I am when I'm sane.
Each in the Cell of Himself
Cell by cell, we buy and sell,
Till, by and by, a solemn bell
Don't Mind Me
Return of the Day
Roses are dead,
Violets are thru -
Make us new.
[Note: Mettreya (variously spelled in English) refers
to a Buddhist tradition in which Buddha returns and brings
vital truths and, thus, salvation.]
How Did The Player Become A Piece
I, of galaxies
Spinner and spun,
Spawner and spawn,
Spanner and pawn.
Getting Over Someone
No room for love in this washing machine.
Round and round goes dirty Dean.
Love will wear me when I'm clean.
When a body meets a body,
Where the hell are we?
When a body meets a body...
Peek-a-boo, it's me!
Who most mocks heroes must be deemed most wise:
We kill the Gods for sport as boys kill flies.
We chart our pasts and make the maps agree
With where we want to go. What we will be
Creates anew our virgin history.
I don't need readers;
I'm fine by myself;
If no one reads me,
I'm safe on the shelf:
Cobwebbed and dusty,
But pages uncut;
No thumbsmears, no tears,
No dog ears - clean shut.
Too Much Truth
Thank you; please - no more truth...
Wisdom is indeed a tooth.
We're flesh, than sod -
No muss; why all the fuss?
We gravely nod
In chorus, "Dust to dust".
Yes, bod to clod -
But US? In God we trust.
There is no God -
He lives in each of us.
Hey, I'm Trying
Such a sad world. Everyone dies.
We grow old and stew in our lies.
Sad sad poet with pen
Makes it rhyme and...what then?
You're Just Playing!
What's more real than playing?
May's unreal in maying.
What might or may's but possible,
There may be days in June,
But naught's so rare: blue moon
Nor purple cow nor prophecy.
(This poet's showing off, is he?)
Sibyl replies, "A seer
Should prophesy the possible.
I foresee May this year
And June. That's all." Your loss, Sibyl.
The TV is on
In the next room,
A small gray window
In a big black gloom.
A noise. We rise, investigate,
Climb stairs, you first. It's very late.
I'm just behind your nakedness
(We didn't take the time to dress):
It is no dream! I tread wide waking,
Soft-globed fruit mine for the taking.
Teach me a new song.
New makes the old wrong.
Wrong's brittle, dead,
Something to shed.
New songs are soft, moist,
Shiny when first voiced.
I'll shed my old wrongs
If you'll teach me new songs.
New Years -- we toast tomorrow
Old fears, the ghosts of sorrow
And real pain.
The things we laugh at now are merely glee --
A desperate conspiring not to see.
Put your hands against the ocean
And contribute to the motion.
Gets Into Everything
Scurrying to dangle from the rafter
By silver monkey's tail, her laughter.
God seems the strong and silent type,
More like John Wayne than Phyllis Diller,
Probably smokes, maybe a pipe? --
Cool as a fast-draw stone killer.
Even stars grow old and die --
See them shiver in the sky?
Stars, why dread your dark demise?
You'll be reborn in her eyes.
Science Tells Us...
"It's all biochem and electro-mechanical."
The mythos of science: Maniacal manacle.
War's a killer by explosion.
A joyless peace kills by erosion --
Peace like that's war in slow motion.
The meeting came to order, but not I,
Though no one knew, because I held my tongue.
While all the cheers are cheered and songs are sung,
In silences the good intentions die.
Still a Child
I was 15 when he kissed me,
Still immortal, still a child.
Something odd went through me, missed me,
Something sweet and hot and wild.
Pain and pleasure, hook and bait
Touched me, tickled, barely missed me,
Then he finished. Now I wait:
I'm still me, right? Can this twist me?
Shyer, bolder, hotter, colder,
Still fifteen, but much much older.
Now, like misers, we begin to ration
pleasure, bones too brittle for our passion.
Life, assuage us
As you age us.
I'm not in tune to sing of wind and star.
A chair or table is about as far
As I go -- if they're not particular.
The Specific Ocean
If you hold a sea shell to your ear,
What ocean in you does the sea shell hear?
A Work of Hack Art
I was a beggar, sick and wretched,
Despair upon my features etched,
Drunk, cadaverous and lost,
Then herded, ill-fed and enslaved,
then skilled, promoted and embossed,
Then dead, encoffined and engraved.
Much Laden and More Grief
Oh some have been maddened.
Oh some have been laden with grief.
Worse, some have been gladdened
(It's beyond belief),
Osama Bin Laden.
Because They Cannot Stop?
There is no dick in Dickinson,
Though dicks are grist for Millay's Mill.
A snake gives Emily a chill,
While Edna licks a prick in fun.
Her wicked thing at both ends burns.
In darkness Emmy twists and turns.
Where the Bad Thoughts Go
Certain things should not be said;
Hold them captive in your head.
Perhaps they'll roam free when you're dead
As bugaboos that bad boys dread.
Now you'd better
Get there quickly --
I'm all prickly
With this waiting,
Time and postage
Hold me hostage.
Out of tricks.
We wake and wobble, wondering where we are:
Am I a planet or am I a star?
No, no -- all that was over long ago....
Yeah? Where's that dream...? Dream, say it isn't so!
The Collar, Revised
I struck the board
And cried, "No more!"
"My child --" "My Lord?"
And cried no more.
[Note: Refers to "The Collar" by George Herbert
and revises its conclusion, not for the better dramatically,
but with a possibly interesting verbal twist.]
Justifying a One-Night Stand
It's not what I'd call a good match,
But she stroked it; it's already lit,
So I may as well use it to catch
A glimpse of my life -- and then split.
An Animated Amation
The Eighth -
His false faith
In amation -
In Memory of the Immemorial
My home town, hard hit by Dutch Elm Disease,
Has fallen arches. Hence these flat feet please
Me, bare, like shade-stripped streets, as ill at ease
To flaunt the poor pent Iamb without trees.
For All Of Us
It's hard to accept a truth so trite,
But everything's coming out all right.
Echoes make the sky a cave;
Ripples long for every wave;
The bird now turning in the sky
Will leave behind his turning cry.
I hide my head in empty air,
But what is there is there is there.
[As if most of these short poems aren't fragments?]
Do not aspire beyond your human state,
Said Pope, while polishing like silver plate
His couplets to reflect a brilliant light,
An angel preening for impossible flight.
Last night you had the moon,
As did the tuna sea;
You had the moonlit room,
But not my lunacy.
The path that led me home
Was gray with blear-eyed sun.
Elsewhere moon glittered foam.
Your sleep was nearly done,
But mine not yet begun.
To un-pinion my pinions,
I'll change my opinions.
Dance, atoms! Spin, ions!
Open, space! Open, aeons!
I'm not a sage,
A mage, heart's gauge.
I'm just a page,
Your glance my wage.
Dipping Into the Milk
I saw a puppy staring down a well.
He barked as if he had a thing to tell.
I went and looked and saw things inside out,
Myself a budding tree, the earth my sprout.
I almost sank into the milky way,
But the pup fished me out and saved the day,
Though he dropped the dipper as I scrambled up,
Losing part of the night, you silly moon-eyed pup!