Saturday, June 30, 2007


was what
you might call
well-put, and but
for certain minor
rumored imperfections
could have found a pedestal
in any pantheon that was.
But she was just another
pseudoclassical nude,
blindfolded, aloof,
collecting dust
on her white,

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


God Almighty, Lord of Hosts,
bored with heaven’s azure coast

remarked to Satan, who agreed,
“A camping trip is what I need.”

So though conditions were severe,
He pitched His tent in Georgie’s ear,

and Georgie’s tail began to wag
as God unrolled His sleeping bag;

George was feeling pretty good:
he offered God some firewood,

already cut and stacked nearby,
but God had things to clarify:

“George, you’ve made a proper mess,
as even you can see, I guess.

We’d all be better off if you
could give up sniffing airplane glue.”

George gave his rosy butt a shake,
for he was not the man to take

such criticism lying down.
He frowned his most important frown:

“What you think is not my lookout.
Just enjoy your little cookout;

leave the leadership to me.
It’s for the best, I guarantee:

we’re better off without Saddam,
even if we’re in a jam;

Dick and Wolfie told me so,
and they’re the gentlemen who know.”

The Lord considered this a bit:
George...Wolfowitz is full of it,

and Cheney’s Satan’s favorite son;
they’ll kill us all before they’re done,

Wolfowitz with his computer,
ditto Dick, plus he’s a shooter,

a very special kind of louse
who slays domesticated grouse;

the psychosexual implications
beggar My imagination.

The feeble twats who work your will
you picked for sycophantic skills;

they tell you what you want to hear;
in that at least they have no peer.

We all know where Rummy started:
sucking up what Nixon farted.

Later he embraced Hussein,
helped him build his poison rain.

At least we know why you were certain
what was under Saddam’s curtain.

Poison gas and bombs and guns,
we sent them over by the ton,

and Reagan, with demented zeal
dispatched our Don to cop a feel.

And Condaleeza'll burn in hell
for serving you so very well;

like many other prostitutes
she’s selling lies and sexy boots;

one can only wonder whether
you prefer the lies, or leather.

Gonzales too, that rotten tooth:
the Prince of Torture and Untruth,

the coward’s coward you pretend
was and is your bosom friend,

a fact which, were it really true,
says less of Berto than of you.

All your people, all your picks;
it’s Chinese Death--a thousand pricks.

The only one who’s worse than these
is you, Ace. The Decider? Please...

George, it’s time for you to go.
Go back to Texas. Cop some blow.

Chop some bushes. Be a man.
You’ve done everything you can.

Let us fix the mess you’ve made;
have the decency to fade,

like old soldiers always do,
though that’s a stretch, applied to you.

I mean it, George. I hate to push,
but don’t forget the burning bush.”

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


The graduating seniors stand in place
as Elgar wheezes toward the finish line,
yields with grace to the national anthem, sung
a capella, straight, without a trace
of irony, by a dreadlocked lad with ramrod spine.
We are now invited to sit in the pitiless sun;

behind our tiny programs, we baste and burn.
Now comes forth the iron-throated head
to thank her worthy seniors. She is proud,
recites the forty-seven names who’ve earned
at least a perfect four; those read,
she gives us seventeen more who’ve plowed

the new ground nearer five; we all
ignore the smell of sun-ripened bull.
“It’s all relative, anyway,” someone
whispers. “They can’t all play ball.”
Our valedictorian, spunky, pert, full
of modest pride, reminds us to have fun.

Then the guest speaker, local pup
made good, relates his rise from this
very school to Senior Senate Staff,
how usefulness, compliancy and sucking up
to ignorant, vicious bigots ends in bliss.
When he denies global warming a laugh

erupts, ripples through the gowned assembly,
as a fat, obscenely pink love doll
pirouettes above us. He tries to cope,
but Lulu gets around. Voice trembly,
he finally sits to watch the volleyball.
We leave commencement oddly full of hope.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Florrie's Books

We never really got along,
Flor and I. We didn't fight,
but each of us was always wrong,
and both of us were always right.

When she died she left her books
to me, as if to say there could
still be hope; if I'd but look,
the truth could only do me good.

She had the book-club canon, sets,
abridged if not digested, meant
to grace the shelves of teachers’ pets,
collectors never quite content.

From Sophocles to Vonnegut
the bleached, arthritic covers cracked;
her books had done their duty shut;
reading never broke their backs.

But one refused to rest in peace
at the lip of my donation box,
POEMS: its paper cover creased,
a survey text, an orthodox

enough recital of the basic lore,
the one she gamely lugged to class,
margins dittoing some tenured bore
convinced his elbow was his ass.

Looped carefully in fountain pen,
a young woman's earnest hand,
her pale blue Waterman’s:
“Man has let his body stand

for all of him,” she says of Schwartz’s
Heavy Bear Who Goes With Me.
An arrow to the “Bear” reports his
meaning: “WEIGHT,” and oddly,

“Dr Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.”
Hyde reflects and Jekyll raves?
Interlinearly tied:
“factotum,” glossed as “slave.”

But which? We bow to mystery,
move to stanza’s end, to “mad
destruction, death, debauchery.”
No need to bring in Mom and Dad,

it's only Schwartz on city life.
Another stanza left alone,
then: “Fear of death--and wife’s--
bothers body (belly & bone)

part of him (creature of a day,
always with him--no relief--
sorrow--pain.) Like Brother J.”
I close the book to read my grief.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Ecce Homo

Sapiens sapiens, anthropologensis,
his fleeing, dying wildebeest corralled
in brushed aluminum and frosted glass,
sits in the changeless blue fluorescent weather
of his polylingual cave of books,
Outside his share of pane the sun
fires the west; the first nocturnal prey
begins to patter to the lecture halls
with vague unease, in attitudes of thirst.
He shifts in his flint litter, thinks of home,
food, but can’t accept the evidence
misshapen in his hand, vows to starve
until he’s managed one usable blade.
Fractured scallops leap across the room
as three million years of learning clack
the witless stone. Soon he draws blood,
before long a few learned tears;
he drives the hammerstone down as much
to shatter as to shape the gritty carnage.
But then, as though the stone were teaching him,
the taut, perfected form appears in his hand,
is simply there, realized, whole,
edged for sacrifice, keen for game.
He thumbs the point with quiet, lethal glee.
Later, over ribs of beef and candles,
his wife is not quite sure if she can trust
the ancient creature dancing in his eyes.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

War - What It's Good For

War creates the ambience
that ratifies the noble pose,
the patriot’s granitic stance,

reliably enriches those
whose business is to arm the nation,
men whose faces no one knows.

Periodic devastation
gives us something to restore;
it checks the excess population,

occupies the idle poor,
makes them useful citizens,
better than they were before.

But war is chiefly useful when
the routine horrors fail to stop
the women laughing at the men.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


From the Shaker entry table by the door,
the sabertooth skull in the glass case
keeps a dusty vigil, as if to ensure
that nothing shifts from its usual place.
Between the windows a bronze Laocoon
in static frenzy prays as Apollo’s snakes
leap from the sea to bear away his sons;
no answer from above, an angel out of Blake.
Spread on the modest Steinway, frayed but sound,
Ellington’s Fantasy in Black and Tan,
a penciled manuscript called Messing Around,
then Porter, Joplin, Beethoven, Bach, Chopin.
Two black leather swivel chairs
are kept from the gray sofa by a slab of burl,
on which, as though only pausing there,
a porcelain barn owl with eyes of pearl
surveys the leather memory of Proust.
In stillness only sculpture could maintain
it clings unblinking to its driftwood roost,
omits the blank, pronomial refrain.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Zoo Poem

We escape
our bright balloons
like helium:
molecule by
molecule the
tug bowed
to our fingers fades,
the strings drawing
ever more
until we’re left
in a litter of peanut
shells and caramel
all the grownups
saying it’s either
the anthill or
the monkey house,
make up your mind.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Other

We find the lady at her vanity,
suspicion curling through her like smoke
fingering a field of burning straw.
Beyond her silked shoulder she can see
the rough delineation of the joke
life’s become: a man with wood to saw.

He was seeing someone else, she knew.
The visage in her mirror proved the case,
not perfume or foreign lingerie;
her own reflection whispered it was true:
the evidence was written in her face.
One could only look, and look away.

But one was not defenseless, not at all.
One was not without some wherewithal;
in ranked amphorae full of tincts and scents
were charms to philtre time’s impertinence.
“Coming, Hon?” he yawns, patting the duvet.
“A sec,” she hears the other woman say.

Friday, June 08, 2007


The wan instructor holds his palm
above the candle, smiles as it licks him
like the family dog. “See?
It doesn’t hurt me! I’ve refuted
its spurious claim to existence! Look!”
He holds up the blackened, smoking thing,
a bleeding butt of cigaretteness,
takes it over to the window,
regards it in the light of reason,
the burnt skin of illusion peeling
from the boneness underneath. Then
quite suddenly he leaps to faith
in the insubstantial universe
of hard ideas, passes through
in a wreath of shards, plunging toward
the idea of earth, a blur of truth.
His lizard-lidded section sits
in disbelieving silence, wary,
unwilling to be taken in.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Wait

flew through air
where window was
when it was closed, clung
frantic to the molding
near the ceiling, eyes insane,
lit in the dull glint of a black
Sunday morning suit. Out in the sun
bells rang, counterpoint to claw and feather
raking glass as he battered himself
between window and mirror, air
suddenly structure, until,
at last, he stunned himself.
Licked clean again, cat
curled herself on
the sunny
sill and

Friday, June 01, 2007


He never knew the time of day.
The hours came and went, as hours
will, spangled with emphatic light
or schemes of indigo and gray;
the sober clocks in civic towers
rationed out Westminster bytes

at all the common intervals,
but virtual bronze became a riff
he barely heard, a blank tattoo.
Digital clocks? Hieroglyphic
ciphers, broken numerals
he didn’t bother to construe.

Yet Harry made his necessary
rounds without undue mischance.
Early, if ever off the stroke,
he treated all the arbitrary
skirmishes of happenstance
as some demented cosmic joke,

that is to say he chuckled at
the time-obsessed, dyspeptic souls
who hared around him in the street,
routinely late for this or that
unceasingly receding goal,
watches faster than their feet.

And so it went. Until his wife,
eyeing her anniversary watch,
decided it was time to go,
leaving him a fractured life,
dumb surprise, rocky scotch,
and time, time, vast and slow.

Pitiable creature, man,
in middle years, alone at last,
bewildered by his pots and pans,
the weight of his prolapsing past
all but crushing any thought
of why he needed what he bought:

clocks. Tall clocks, wall
clocks, antiques in wormy cases,
walnut, oak, escapements stuck,
he lovingly restored them all;
the moon’s phases lit their faces,
pigeons startled when they struck.

They stood in rows on every floor,
hung in every empty space,
the tick alone enough to drive
persistent clergy to the door;
none could summon up the grace
to hear the saved hymning five.

The old ones take a comfy tack,
relative, approximate;
they test the future, fully wound,
give us history when they’re slack.
Harry left the time unset;
he let the leather hammers sound

their music through the hours, full
meridians, all his minutes sweet
until the day he felt the pull,
knew his life to be complete.
Bells were ending. Bells began.
Harry died a happy man.