Tuesday, September 11, 2018



    Night gave way to day
    As we lay here dreaming.
    Raising my head to check
    The time I looked about,
    While all the dogs still
    Slept, and out the window
    At the rising light,

    Trees, the mountains
    And everything else that
    Became visible.  A little
    Later Jessica followed me
    Downstairs.  We went out
    Back to take a closer look
    At what the morning held.

    Why is it on such mornings
    A guileless suggestion
    Will epitomize political
    Deceit, and cringing, faddish
    Twitters?  A mourning dove
    Begins a lament.  A dog in the
    Next yard emits a single bark.



    Counting back, 100, 99, 98,
    My stepfather over-ruled my
    Mother and bought me a Monarch
    Bike; so at 12 I could ride for
    The first time free of
    Her oversight where counting
    Forward was not an option.

    Two years later he
    Encouraged a philosophy
    Student and fellow church
    Member to talk me
    Into a better view of the world.
    Instead I told him the
    Multitudes of my thinking.

    Ninety-five, ninety-four –
    I woke hearing an antagonist
    Daring me to apply this furious
    Energy to mankind’s good.
    So remembering only that from
    My nightmare, I took
    Up the challenge

    Of his presuppositions.  I made
    A point to stop there and
    Wait.  Let whoever keeps
    Track go ahead.  I’m weary
    Of the frenetic nights of turmoil --
    Rewriting the scripts of every
    Remembered word and deed

    As though I’d have a chance
    In another life to do it
    Right, or the courage
    To step out in the sureness
    Of a cadence-count
    Drill instructor who
    Has no double mind.

    For this little while
    My mind still reeks of
    Multivariate forces forming
    Webs too bedraggled
    To break apart and form a simple
    Life; so if that’s all there is it will
    End in peace.  If not, then war



    I sat dreaming
    Till Jessica’s shrill
    Bark brought
    Me awake.
    I’ve never counted
    On the good will of
    Those who drive

    On the 405
    Worth having.
    They hurry ahead;
    So if I hang
    Back in my
    With images of

    Geese flying
    Obliviously past,
    What will it count?
    Or if I
    Busy myself
    With the dictates
    Of these dreams?

The Evangelists

    What of the others
    Left down below?
    We told each other
    We hadn’t power
    To save them all, nor
    Feed a multitude --
    Just these few

    Up here who we
    Could see in deck
    Chairs sunning themselves
    Like us shielded from the
    Push and pull
    Of faulty planning.
    We sighed at the others’

    End and drank the
    Dregs of
    We slept and had
    Nightmares, and
    Let our lives
    Slip away.

Friday, September 7, 2018

The poetry of Giacomo da Lentini

Giacomo da Lentini, The Complete Poetry translation and notes by Richard Lansing, publish by the University of Toronto Press in 2018

I wasn’t impressed with the poetry as translated by Lansing (Professor emeritus from Brandeis).  He has the scholarly qualifications, but his poetry seems pedestrian.  Of course, the original by Giacomo may be to blame, I don’t know.

An introduction was written by Akash Kumar (Assistant professor from University of California at Santa Cruz).

I was well into The Canzoni and Discordo when I learned that the latest scholarship indicates that this is actually a translation made by Giacomo of the Occitan canso ‘A vos, midontc, voill retrair’ en cantan” by Folquet de Marselha.  The translator Lansing implies this is an original poem of Giacomo’s and merely based upon the poem by the Occitan poet Folquet, but Akash Kumar in his introduction writes “We are confronted with an even more explicit moment of translation in the canzone Madonna, dir vo voglio, in which Giacomo translates the entire first two stanzas of Occitan poet Folquet de Marselha’s canzone . . .  But Giacomo does not merely turn one form of vernacular poetry into another; he works to create greater logical coherence in his canzone, transforms Folquet’s recourse to a philosophical principle into a zoological example from the natural world, and moves beyond the bounds of Folquet’s poem by adding three additional stanzas.”  So, I suppose, we are to take this as a case similar to Edward Fitzgerald’s in which he translated the poetry of Omar Khayam, but so improved upon the original that one loses sight of whatever it was that Omar wrote and admires what became of it in the hands of Fitzgerald.  But in the case of Folquet’s canzone, the Giacomo improvement isn’t clear to me and I can only judge by the poetry in English; which isn’t impressive (IMHO).

Why should we care about Giacomo of Lentini?  Because, according to Akash Kumar, he is the putative originator of the Sonnet.  Kumar finds a reference in Dante’s Purgatorio in which he credits the notaro [Giacomo was a notary in the court of Frederick II] , Dante himself, and one other with the creation of the new school of Italian poetry.
In the section Tenzoni I thought at first that Giacomo had written both sides of these debates, but not so.  The Abbot of Tivoli really did write the three sonnets that Giacomo responded to with sonnets of his own.  The same is true of sonnets written by Iacopo Mostacci and Pier de la Vigna (who achieved posthumous fame by being placed in the seventh circle of Hell by Dante for having committed suicide).  

I was finally appreciative of a few of the 38 sonnets written by Giacomo.  In sonnet 24, I was surprised to discover Giacomo exasperated:

My lady, your expression raised in me
The hope of gaining love and your good will,
. . .
But now you seem annoyed, so it is strange
That I, not having sinned, should make amends,
While you have seldom put your sail to use,
Just like a skipper who’s incompetent,
I really think it’s ignorance,
A knowledge lacking steadiness
That varies with each new caprice;
So you aren’t master of yourself
Nor of one in whom virtue’s firm,
And you won’t find true happiness.

In poem 30, Giacomo writes,
A love so noble seized my heart
That I despair of its success:
To choose to love a bird of prey . . .

And in poem 32, Giacomo writes
. . . But, Love in you I find the opposite,
Like someone who is full of perfidy,
Since at the start you don’t at all seem rank,
Then down the road you bare your evil hand:
You’re least endeared to those who serve you best,
So I declare you lord of treachery.

Most of the poems are properly admiring, and in accordance with the standards of Courtly Love, but in 36 I wonder if Giacomo doesn’t put himself at risk when he writes,
She has no fault of any kind
Nor any peer, nor ever had,
Nor will, such is her flawlessness;
I think if God had it to do,
He could not so engage his thought
As to create one just like her.

The Abigensian Crusades decimated Occitania between 1209 and 1226 and Giacomo would probably have been alive during at least the latter part of that crusade.  Other Crusades were to follow ending with one against Aragon in 1285.  So I wonder if an inquisitional priest wouldn’t have found fault with Giacomo for saying that creating a woman just like his love was something impossible for God to do.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Latest Dig

    I stretched my hand out
    To where she was and
    Unlike in years before
    She let it hang, thinking
    As she did some long ago
    Thoughts, not seeing me
    As she would have once.

    On the cave floor
    Archaeologists found
    Innumerable bones, mostly
    The very young or old.
    The rest, the fit and healthy,
    Died somewhere else,
    Fighting to save

    The rest for here with
    Whatever serenity we
    Survive to pretend,
    Holding hands out
    To those needing
    To lie down here
    On the cave floor.


    Gunfire in the night has
    Ben Trembling and
    Jessica emitting shrill
    Piercing barks.  Duffy
    Watches me, alarmed.   
    I imagine moving
    Us somewhere else.

    I enlisted July third
    Or fifth in 1952.
    Susan died July
    Fourth, three years
    Ago.  A malaise
    Has me reluctant
    To leave the house --

    As when I throw darts
    And Ben lies down
    Beneath the board.
    My scores decay. I
    Strain to reach these
    Days for which
    I never trained.

Torchlight II


    I paint this glory
    I used to hunt, the
    Fleet of foot, the wise
    In their own defense.
    I prevailed time
    After time with this
    Very arm I paint with.

    Some came here to see,
    (They will not stay away)
    What I do here and say.
    I am bewitched they think.
    Perhaps, but look at
    All I’ve done.  I hold
    My torch up so they

    Can see.   They groan
    Weakly, backing away.
    I’ll not be with them
    Very long, giving as I do
    The remaining strength
    I have to she who
    Blesses my efforts.

Torchlight I

    I painted by torchlight
    In my cave, the
    Creatures I’ve seen in
    My long life.  My left arm,
    Crippled by a boar,
    My right must with my life
    Make these images

    On the cave walls
    Despite the elders who
    Claim a closeness to
    Gods greater than mine.
    What have they but
    Time and grayer beards?
    I have this right arm

    And the dreams given me
    By the goddess who lives
    Here calling as she does
    For me to show her what
    It's like outside, and the
    Creatures I’ve seen,
    As she sings.

Friday, June 15, 2018

On poetry and other abstractions

Anthropologists tell us that the first artifacts that conclusively tell us that the creator or creators were “like us” were the cave paintings, those paintings described in this article for example: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/journey-oldest-cave-paintings-world-180957685/       

It seems unlikely that everyone at the time these cave paintings were created would have seen their value.  I don’t recall any anthropologists commenting on the cave-painter’s contemporaries, but I’m assuming there were such people, people who did not have the ability to think abstractly, to substitute one thing for another.  I wonder what they thought when they looked at him (or her) painting.  Some perhaps were impressed.  Some perhaps were not.

At what point and why did we become us?  Some anthropologists are now theorizing that we owe our ability to speak to the Neanderthal – some genetic material we picked up during some interbreeding – that enhanced our ability to create complex sounds – words which are for the most part abstract (sounds standing for things), but beyond that sentences. 

Anthropologists have no way of knowing when our ancestors began talking to each other in sentences, or even when they developed a fondness for poetry.  But in pre-literate cultures we know that they told stories and sang songs around campfires to rehearse their histories, great battles, famous ancestors, etc. 

The earliest poems that have come down to us are closer to what we imagine to be those camp-fire stories.  They were popular narratives, usually involving rhyme, because rhyme is a memory enhancer as is song. .

A modern-day detractor might at this point say that if poets still did that, did what they did around campfires, told stories that had “clear . . . arguments . . . open to standard assessments of logical validity and soundness” then they would have no objection to poetry.

There is no question about modern poetry being more abstract than early poetic forms.   And yet, when our first ancestor capable of abstract thought first painted in his caves, there should be little doubt that there would have been nay-sayers who would have objected that these paintings were “neither clear nor open to standard assessments of logical validity and soundness” – or whatever equivalent statements these naysayers were capable making back then.  

In regard to modern poetry, most critics are people who cannot themselves write, and one of them, Trilling perhaps, wrote that critics often forget that the poem precedes the criticism.  The critic does not get to say, “this is what a poem ought to do, say, or be.”  The poem, like a painting, or a piece of music is an abstract creation.  To say that any abstract creation is subject to a standard assessment would be like those who stood in the cave watching the first person who was “like us” painting and though they didn’t understand what he was doing, felt free to criticize him anyway.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Bird Songs

    The lantern burned down
    Through the night but was still
    Half lit in the morning.  We yawned
    Together, unzipped our tent
    And stepped out before birds
    Could sing or a breeze could
    Flutter any tree leaves.

    It would be like that for
    Months on end, years even.
    She could live in the moment
    More than I who looked about,
    While she was smiling,
    For any threat coming up
    The mountain or down. 

    An evil I didn’t know and
    Couldn’t see swept by
    And took her away while I
    Sat Listening to her breathing,
    A musical sound that
    A bird might make
    With enough warning.



    They’re angry.  So am I.
    Why don’t they add that
    As well?  I climbed higher
    Than any they’d seen,
    Solo too – no one holding
    My ropes – just me finding
    The random crevice,
    The little indentation
    For fingers and thumb.
    “But you’ve never joined!”
    They’d said.  “It doesn’t
    Matter what you do. 
    And you don’t exist unless
    We say so.  Forget

    Your climbing gear!”  I
    Kept to myself from then on,
    Wrote my poems in places
    They’d never find, but
    The gods were not
    Amused.  One fall
    Was all they’d give me.

Book Business


    I’ve run, dashing along
    The sand, despite the
    Wind’s hindrance.  I’ve
    Struggled, collapsing,
    With mind buzzing
    Feeling the end near
    Even when young.

    And the books: I tried
    To read them all,
    Running thoughts in
    My head along the sand
    And at home struggling
    Through one after
    The other.  I dreamt

    Of the World’s end
    And that learning
    Would be lost unless
    I saved it.  I watch 
    Ben sleeping,
    Legs kicking.  Who 
    Is it watches me?

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Riding II

    I had to learn as I rode
    Back and forth on
    The 405 never to let
    My thoughts interfere
    With my riding.  Those
    Who did not ride this
    Way soon gave it up.

    Close-calls were common
    When a mind is allowed
    To wander.  Mine never did.
    For years I rode never thinking
    Of anything but the road
    Until I got home and put
    My bike away.  Susan was

    There then, drifting in and
    Out between the lanes.  She’d
    Wake with a start as I set a
    Tray of food on her lap.  She
    Smiled her thanks
    But smiles no longer,
    And I no longer ride.

Riding I


    The roses always bloomed
    For her, but not for me --
    But I still feel an obligation
    To Try.  They ration water
    Here and it seldom rains.
    I encountered an Indian
    In the dry river bed

    Who asked for a drink
    And I gave him one.
    He went on ahead 
    With confidence after
    Having said he was
    Never here.  I am
    Here – at least for now.

    I dreamed of office debates
    And conflicts all of which
    Demanded my involvement.
    I dreamed I went outside in
    The rain and covered my bike.
    Later I rode home with
    It stinging my eyes.

Her Hand

    I tried to hold her hand
    A little longer, gripping
    It as firmly as I could;
    Never willingly letting
    It go, and its going
    Was in one sense only.
    I have it still whenever

    I sleep, whenever my mind
    Drifts it is there.  Lights
    Flicker and I’m never sure
    Where I should be.  Other
    People are self-concerned,
    Passing, looking neither
    Right nor left.  Susan

    Unlike them is always near,
    Here some place, saying
    Things she said before --
    The normality I’m left with.
    We never discuss this
    Arrangement.  I simply
    Assumed there would be one.

The Big One

    Not everyone would see the flash
    Or feel the heat of the explosion.
    Night would be the most
    Spectacular time, signs exploding
    One by one.  Sitting at a corner
    With Duffy sleeping, Jessica
    Peering through the windshield

    Watching the cloud forming.
    I had seen it in newsreels,
    Backed into an alley
    And turned around.  I was
    Unclear about surviving
    Which in Cold-War days no
    One was supposed to, but

    Many survived Nagasaki
    And Hiroshima.  It could be
    Done, and we were not near a
    Likely target.  Duffy climbed
    Into my lap.  Jessica continued
    To stare with unflinching gaze
    Through the window.  Ben slept.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Riding Alone


    You imagine what it is like,
    Riding the wind as much as the road,
    A sprinkling rain dappling your visor.
    You are enclosed, cut off,
    Feeling you knew you would be
    If you kept on thinking
    As you did.  You

    Must be brought
    To heal or be ostracized,
    The traditional means of being
    Cut off from the tribe.
    You were not meant to ride
    Alone and surely know
    That through your DNA.

    Riding alone you’ll one day
    Find yourself under a truck
    On the 405.  There is no
    Place, we’ve seen through
    Our lenses, for a being
    Like you – though as old
    As you are it no longer matters.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Straggling on the Beach

    Stragglers on the beach –
    Seaweed the next tide
    Will drag back out.
    The band has come
    And gone – the prizes
    Given.  Those still
    Here have nothing won.

    Undone as we are,
    Shirts and shoes
    Bereft, eyes grit red
    That barely see the
    Passing of gulls, the
    Raucous tribe that
    Battles for the little

    Left.  Here and there
    Sand crabs creep
    Out to look and then
    Slip back. Nothing
    Remains but the crawling
    Over to pass Beyond.  I’ve
    Passed beyond now many times.

On Getting Down

    Catching myself dreaming I can
    At least credit those fanciful
    Scenes for the leaden moods
    Of my mornings – but absent
    Recollections, the heavy world
    Is like scraps of paper
    Jessica leaves strewn

    On my study floor.  I grope
    About for whatever’s
    There, raise my head and
    With faulty ears listen
    For something in the trees
    Outside – birds perhaps
    Or just the wind ending

    This unsuccessful introspection.
    I lift some weights, dash
    About the house doing
    Chores, see outside that
    The heavy clouds have yet to
    Lift.  Without meaning to
    I feel better in an hour or two.

Chances taken and refused


    He hated to miss work
    So he lay his head on the
    Track knowing the train
    would wake him.  If it
    Did the coroner
    Wouldn’t say -- if
    He knew, but how could

    He know (a grisly pausing
    In the reminiscence)?  Those
    Dangerous tracks when young
    Come crowding back – I could
    Have fallen from a balcony
    Or an oil derrick while standing
    On my hands.  My friends

    Took no chances and shied
    Away from all I did though
    Gone now from cancer and
    Large quantities of booze. 
    My close calls lifted my head
    From the track and drew me
    Down from my high places.


    Creeping up, he never heard
    My thoughts.  Writhing while
    I watched, he didn’t care.  His 
    Face contorted as the last of
    His memories slipped away.  I
    Stepped aside to let them pass,
    Marking, as I did, the place

    With a turned-down page.
    They won’t need us to fly
    Or drive cars.  They can
    Rebuild our arms and legs.
    Time was I climbed several
    Peaks near here and could
    See the activity below.

    Time was I cared and said
    So to the faces which would
    Go blank as their thoughts
    Went black and their
    Tongues clogged, stopping
    Whatever words they
    Would say if they could.



    I spilled a fruit-drink
    Over my desk and down
    The back.  “Oh no!” I
    Shouted as I always do.
    Jessica barked, “What
    Now?”  She watched me
    Intently as I rushed about

    Wiping it up
    With a towel, using
    A cleaner, not getting
    It clean enough.  She
    Sat still watching as
    I raised my hands
    In apology.  “Sorry.

    I shouldn’t have yelled.
    Susan wouldn’t have,
    But we don’t have her
    Any more,” I said, going
    On thinking Jessica
    Came later. Susan
    Was already gone.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Body in the Backyard

    I woke part-way, my mind spinning
    With worry – Susan said it was not
    Her fault, but sometimes it was,
    And she wouldn’t remember; so
    I tried to let it go.  She said she’d
    Take care of this one, but when
    I sat up and looked out, the

    Body was still there – in plain
    Site – at least one leg was. 
    She had thrown a tarp over
    The upper part.  She descended
    Further it would seem – this had
    To be on me this time, but I
    Knew nothing of concealing

    Something like this.  I imagined
    Dragging him to the end of the dock,
    Pulling him down into the West-
    Wight Potter, down into the hold,
    And sailing out, but how far
    To go prevent his drifting
    Back in?  I kept drifting

    Back into sleep despite needing I
    Knew to get up.  Get him into the
    Potter would be very slow work.
    I’d need to stock it for several days,
    And who would manage Susan while
    I was gone?  Maybe if I hid him
    Some place else, maybe cutting

    Him up.  I shuddered at the thought
    of cleaning the mess, tip-toed
    Down the hall to see if she knew
    Who he was, shook her gently,
    “What?” She groaned.  “Do you
    Know who he was?”  “Who?”
    She groaned again.  “The man
    You killed.”  “What?” She said
    Again, trying to rise. “There’s a
    Dead man in our back yard.  You
    Killed him on the way home.”
    “What?” She said again, eyes wide.
    “Never mind,” I said in a calming
    Voice.  “I’ll take care of things.”

    “Okay,” she sighed and lay back
    Down.  I tip-toed out, brewed
    A cup of espresso, thought, and
    Needed more.  Who he was
    Couldn’t be allowed to count.
    I needed once again to think --
    One final time to get it right.

    Note: The West Wight Potter is a small sail boat designed for the rough north seas.  I owned a Potter in the 70s and 80s.  It was the first sail boat I took Susan out in and she loved it.  Here are the Potter’s specifications:  http://sailboatdata.com/viewrecord.asp?class_ID=5153

In Declining Years

    Lightning flashed in the west.
    A black cloud-like dragon
    Enveloped our world.  “Sing out,”
    A brave voice sounded – cut short
    By a hacking cough, followed by
    Clouds of smoke as he lit another
    Cigarillo.  “Oh ye doubters

    In piles, from one end of my
    Hall to the other.” He raised
    His other fist and shook it.
    The rafters rattled as
    The dark cloud settled around
    Us.  Night in its most extreme
    Manifestation trades away

    Our sun for four planets, a
    Meteor and a hand-full of
    Asteroids.  I thought there
    Would be more of a conflagration:
    Wars, fire and brimstone. But
    We have aged and become too
    Feeble to raise our hands in rage.

Friday, April 27, 2018

On poetry criticism

Perhaps modern discussions on criticism aren’t ever going to go anywhere.  The July 1994  issue of the The Times Literary Supplement was devoted to critical theory, but I read only the essay, Doing Things with Words, Criticism and the attack on the subject" by Denis Donoghue all the way through.  The other articles and essays dealt with the modern (and I guess it is still modern) critical argument that literature and art ought to be political.  A poet arguing for revolution in a Latin American country is good.  A poet like Wordsworth who wrote whimsical unpolitical poems for the most part is bad.  The TLS reviewers were uncomfortable with the need to politicize literature, but did not (as far as I could tell by skimming the articles) actually defend poets who didn’t have political goals in mind when then wrote. 

Arguing against the consensus of that TLS issue, as Denis Donoghue summarized, criticism has to be ancillary and subsequent to literature.  Years ago I read a lot of poetry that adhered to the Communist Party Line.  It was awful stuff.  I think Harold Bloom would argue that any poetry adhering to any party line must of necessity be awful stuff.  It can’t have been inspired by the poet.  It must have been inspired by the Party Line with the poet doing his or her best to do something good with it.

Of course there is always the poet who says, in effect, “I really do believe in the Party Line (of whatever) and so my poems are inspired by me (however a poet is inspired) and not the Party Line.   I’m not convinced by that argument, but one can’t really argue with the poet who is.

The critic I am most impressed with in these later modern times is Helen Vendler.  Unlike I. A. Richards she does close readings, and she is very good.  She has no grand system or philosophy of literature that I’ve read her arguing thus far, but she will argue that a particular poem of Wallace Stevens is excellent, and proceed with a close reading that will probably convince you that she is right.  I appreciate her sort of criticism.

I have read a number of critics in the past who take a different approach, who do promote systems and philosophies (i.e., party lines) of poetry, and while I can’t be sure that none of that sort of thing (especially the ideas of T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound) isn’t stuck in my psyche some place, I can’t at this moment bring a single bit of it to mind.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Running Still

    I’ve been running half
    The night,  never finding
    Her here.  I saw the
    Evidence of past hours
    And now she’s missing.
    They say this is normal
    For this stage of things.

    I don’t believe what
    They say.  I’ve heard and
    Seen too much.  They’ve
    Been wrong at every
    Turn.  I can’t accept
    This turning a page
    In our album, seeing her

    Thirty-one looking eighteen,
    Her skin shining as she dived
    Into a pool and when I took
    Her sailing that first time
    She smiled her delight.
    A flock of pigeons took
    To flight as I ran by.

In the Sea

    I was diving back then,
    Out beyond the surf
    Or in it, whatever the weather,
    Whether the water was murky
    Or clear.  I didn’t care.
    It was the search I
    Loved -- up the coast

    And down, my energy
    Upheld me.  Looking back
    Like old people do, I
    I think I valued the
    Process – what it
    Was like to be there
    Seeing fish of every hue,

    Of every purpose
    Look me in the eye
    And wait for what
    I next might do. Back
    In those days everything
    I said to the shore was lost
    In eddies of misunderstanding.

Mountain Music


    We liked the soft Mexican music
    Wafting our way from a garage
    Across the street.  We used to
    Stop at a restaurant in Banning
    After having one of her
    Medical examinations up
    Over the mountain in Loma Linda
    Where the best were said
    To work; so it was strange to
     See them fail again and again.
    The music though was nice. 
    We knew the nurses and
    Waitresses.  Susan would
    Forget but I’d remind her,

    Standing at the side porch
    Listening.  Looking up at
    How the sky had turned a
    Pale shade of blue.  She was
    My great passion.  I often
    Wondered as she paused to
    Listen, what I was to her.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Death March

    “I’ll not give them the satisfaction,” I thought
    In a quavering voice – so many had fallen --
    I could hear the shots from where they did –
    Feeling no fear of their consequence yet
    Needing to be the good Marine – an example
    To the long row ahead, seeing their necks
    Craning to look back at me to see if I

    Still stood, thinking if I did at my age
    They too being younger might as well –
    Those who fell, we knew, hadn’t the
    Strength or resolve – fluttering
    Hands, thoughts, vacant looks when
    They thought no one was looking –
    Someone like me though, used to
    Long treks would put one foot in
    Front of the rest – losing track perhaps
    Of the steps: where they leave off and
    Another’s began – where I began if
    Memory hasn’t fatally fallen behind.
    One of them opted out after breaking
    Both hands in fights saying if one

    Unflinchingly endures the pain, these
    Miles upon menacing miles are mere
    Grunt work – whereas the enduring of
    Pain is the ultimate demonstration.
    They watched our steps for the ones
    Who stumbled, pulled them out and
    Shot them in the head – where is the

    Sacrifice in that?  Where the bravery
    In a false step?  The implications, the
    Conclusions contingent upon whatever
    Flew off with our steps, step after
    Step – there were once paved roads, but
    We were now on a rugged Jeep trail --
    Even at night, marching route-step,
    Staggering at thoughts of dropping
    Out, perhaps rolling down a slope
    When attention flagged, but best
    That I keep on.  The stars might
    Find me out.  I heard a shot far
    Back where the strength to keep
    On for those watching came from.

The Dance

    Never touching, they danced
    In an isolation gleaned
    From others they had seen --
    Arms and legs
    Flailing, flaring into an
    effervescent devotion.
    Dranni with the flaxen

    Hair sits on her porch
    Braiding, brooding all
    She has seen and felt
    From the night before
    Which weighs her down.
    Should she be ashamed?   
    Why should anyone judge?

    And she thought that no
    One would, or if they did
    It would be in a language no
    One would understand.  I
    Was in the woods back then,
    Covered in shadow, hiking
    Rhythmically in my notion
    Of how it came to be and
    Would end, given its
    Trajectory.  Democracy had
    Failed.  Adams was right to
    Fear the aristocracy which
    When formalized became
    A bureaucracy sponsored

    By judges who used words
    Only they could understand.
    Ted Kaczynski thought he
    Understood and wrote his
    Letters which no one could
    Dance to or feel his madness       
    Despite his careful phraseology.

    They may be closing in for all I
    Know – more come each week
    Seeking a darkness of their own --
    Tents pulled tight each night – Dogs
    Heard to whimper, coyotes howl. 
    Eventually there is only the sound of
    Heavy breathing and the smell of sweat.

The Thief

     I saw him run across
    My yard.  I stepped out
    As he struggled over my
    Fence and paused at the top to
    Give me an insolent smirk.
    I followed him to the
    Mall where he joined

    Eight boys more and their
    Leader who brashly
    Watched – wary that I might
    Be a  challenge.  “Good
    Morning,” I said thrusting
    Forth my hand.  He smiled
    Guilelessly.  I went on to

    The boy who smirked with
    A start-something-and-you’ll
    Regret-it smile.  “Do you plan
    To run through my yard again,”
    I asked?  “What if I do?  You
    Can’t stop me.”  I grinned, “nothing
    Back there I’ll miss if you want
    It.” His brow creased. The
    Smirk disappeared.  “You called
    Her beautiful, but she’s not.”  He
    Was puzzled – wanting an answer.
    “Ah, but she was,” I entered onto
    A more familiar path.  What you saw
    Through my window was her at seventy,

    But look at me.  I’m eighty three
    And I remember all those years when
    She turned heads.  When men of all
    Ages admired her.  You are what, twelve?”
    “Thirteen,” he lied.  “You run in your little
    Gang with your little friends never thinking
    Until you look through someone’s window

    That you’ll age – unless you are cut short
    For your effrontery.”  “You?”  “No, not me.
    “Are you a thief or a Peeping Tom?”  “I’m
    No Peeping Tom,” he growled.  “I was
    Just looking for something to take.”  “Time
    Will steal your years as it did hers.  We liked
    To hike through mountains on windy days.
    Dust kicking up, watering our eyes.  When we
    Got to the top and stared back down it seemed
    We would never die.  I turned her gently
    And looked in her beautiful eyes which
    Twinkled as she looked back.”  You’ve never
    Known a look like that, and you never
    Will, thieves are such short-lived

    Creatures here .  “I’m doing just
    Fine,” he snapped.  “So you say,
    But there is no path up there
    For you.  You will never be as
    Old as she nor see what age
    Does to the face one day you might
    Have shaved.”  “You don’t know that,”

    He said, wishing I would go away.
    “Not many change – you in your
    Small band steal small things
    From houses and yards.  You’ll be
    In prison in six years and dead before
    Your forty-five.”  “Don’t talk like that!  I’m
    Sorry I saw the picture.  Sorry she was

    Old.”  I smiled wryly, “seemed time
    Someone told you what it's like if
    You stay in school, learn what’s
    Worthwhile and what is not. 
    You can’t see the mountains from
    Here – too many years must pass.
    You can’t imagine the beauty that

    Will be there if you last. You’ll walk
    With her on trails through rain and
    Wind that creases the corners of her
    Eyes. You’ll squint at what you see
    If you can look back at the
    Way you’ve come -- and if
    No one steals her away.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


    I often wonder if I’m mad,
    Or if now and then in the past
    I was, for was I not love-struck
    Such that living without her was
    Something I couldn’t bear to do?
    But three years later I am perhaps
    Living still as though a will

    Divorced itself from the downward
    Thrust of death which of course
    Isn’t the same as bearing to live --
    Listing here as though a boat whose
    Hull was breached and was left at
    High tide far up the beach, far
    From the sea it used to sail.

The last leaf


    The last leaf leaned
    Into the wind, clinging
    To its branch – not for
    Any imposing reason
    I suppose – watching
    The wind whip it this
    Way and that

    I sat with my back
    Against it, drifting my
    Thoughts whichever way
    It blew.  I felt something
    And tried to recall but
    As I did I saw the
    Branch stripped bare.

Susan at her window


    She stopped paying attention
    To her responsibilities;
    Her thoughts wandered,
    Sitting by her window.
    Her coffee grew cold
    In the cup upon her desk.
    Her hand absently brushed
    The wrinkles in her neck
    Which he’d never acknowledged
    Nor perhaps even seen
    Being unequal to seeing
    Her as she was.  What was
    She, she often wondered while
    Fleeing the days when her beauty

    Drew men in a consequent flood?
    She needed to find a place to settle
    And grow old with just one
    Of them, someone strong enough
    To remain but mild to be with  –
    Someone she wouldn’t need
    To run from.  Her eyes caught

    The change in light – the rain
    Fell gently – drops slid down
    The glass.  She raised her cup
    And with her lips noticed the
    Coffee had cooled – leaning
    Back then smiling she heard
    Each drop calling the time.