About the site: This blog started as a place to house poems, favorites and original poems. Towards the end of ModPo 1, I added a blogroll of blogs showcasing poetic works by ModPo students and friends. Now, we are entering the 10th year of ModPO, and we continue this tradition. We hope it provides a useful place for repose, reflection and reading. Hope you enjoy your visit here and look forward to seeing you again. New poems, links and blogs are constantly being added and updated.
Sunday, August 28, 2011
The Complete Sonnet Series
Every decision, it seems, is a trade-off,
and each choice,
a rejection of all other options.
to mask our true feelings.
to avert the difficult question.
Our friendship, our love is a complex being,
a life all its own
with wants and needs
that test our resolve.
Is it a mistake, a crime to feed it, to allow
it to blossom and grow?
The things that I've always wanted, I'll always want:
tea for two at bookstore cafes;
chess games and poetry in city parks;
tender kisses at midnight
under summer moonlight;
white wine with honey-roasted almonds...
The things that I've laboriously earned, I'll laboriously keep:
enduring friendships and trusts;
memories of special moments
when love was sweet;
the deep-seated satisfaction of success;
lessons learned from failure.
Dear friend, the sonnet seemed to be the best
To test and gage the status of our friendship
Those years ago, amid the various interludes
of summer’s nights;
Failure to give life to such a sweet creation
would be quite
Disarming, and alarming, and a waste of all
Talents, borrowed from the Muse of song and
word and deed;
And if by chance our meeting and our wanting were
We owe it to ourselves to search and find the
function of that need,
Dear friend, though each has walked his
To glory and to honor, let not the fleeting
Blot out the blessings of the Sun to feed and
nourish all we gained
And earned through work and play and love and
joy and pain.
If reading sonnets opens up your vision,
Send me one to reveal your heart’s position
Jacksonville, March 1989
You try to steer me, gently, on a course
avoiding you, then call my love a butterfly’s,
point it to flowers new. “Take my deep desires
elsewhere” is the song you sing to me.
“Let’s always hold fond memories of the
love that used to be.” Well I’ve been around,
I know this town, I hear all that you say,
you’d rather not get serious, just be
best friends at play. But my soul’s a mighty hunter
that has locked in on its prey. I will stalk
it, like the lion, in a very patient way.
And just when you least expect it, I will
be there for your needs, and we'll smile when
remember other flowers...
Jacksonville, November, 1989
A wounded beast, I stalk the corridors,
the passageways of my hidden, broken soul;
hungering for freedom from the wretched pain
that hems in, that locks up, and that ties in knots
my twisted thoughts, and renders everything
I touch an ill-begotten, uninspired blotch.
The memories of our June embrace
I struggle to preserve. The touch, the taste
of love was sweet and tender, not the salt
and rust my present occupation yields to me.
Yet as we speak, I pace the halls, the
closets of our mind, and searching, I uncover
the one I came to know and grew to love
Yet lives, and writes, inspired from above.
reached my mailbox today.
into them like a dog in heat.
them, my hardened soul was moved
to tears of
passion, blinding, bittersweet.
of words you now compose,
from deep inspirations, pure,
majestically, as from an ancient source,
with me and cause me to conjure
Lines that bear the current and
of the engine of my soul,
whispers loosen knots that bind me,
unwind me, make me whole.
And work I
must to now retain
prayers I send up in your name.
my evening well was spent
thoughts’ exchange, review,
ill soul’s intent
itself, be born anew.
I love your
rhythms, rhymes and notes,
They lift my
spirits, higher, ever.
You are the
darts and hearts that sever.
need a stronger brew,
Poured in a
mug, steeped with emotion,
of herbs my fathers knew,
a wine of
sleep, a witches’ potion.
My thirst is
far from being quenched.
My heart and
soul in pain are drenched.
between two sinking ships,
mistresses who hate.
one is to choose them both:
is clear; I hesitate
the moment slips away.
are landing at my pier
strange, from shores untold.
me to come aboard,
Once more events unfold
feelings that are blue.
bids me change my course,
of danger, shallow shoals.
the ship through storms
To reach the
resting place of souls.
faithful friend, the spirit
verses that we write,
Excites us and
that summer’s night.
those who do not put stock
They hem and
haw at warnings
coming of the hour.
I too had
doubts about beliefs
could come to life,
forgotten love for you
resurrected, born anew . . .
and far deeper love
Is one twice
born, sent from above.
come into this world, possession-less, alone,
to reach each goal acquaints us with new pain,
stumbling block, despite the odds, becomes a stepping stone,
loss, a predecessor to a greater gain.
was revealed to me when I was but a child:
of a form, a loveliness, pristine,
in my heart was that pure vision, undefiled,
manifest itself just as it was foreseen.
I found you
when I lacked the wherewithal to make you mine,
perplexed, I felt compelled to spell my love that June.
summer’s love was but a glimpse into a world divine,
of better days, of times more opportune.
again and then we must decide upon the hour
allow our destinies to intertwine and flower.
delayed from getting underway.
affords me time to write to you
thoughtful verse, to contemplate, to pray,
To call my father’s
pain, excitement of the day.
I read your
sonnets, gifts of Spring,
love one June.
I miss our
chats when I’m away at sea.
with you makes me know I’m blessed.
The poet in
me prays you’ll always be
my lover, object of my quest,
sonneteer of magic poetry.
outlives the summer’s fling,
summer ends too soon.
overburdened with the cares and woes
travail, I take a pause
arrange my thoughts, compose
for you, attempting to disclose
A word, a
clause, the laws that bind our hearts
a single work of art.
cannot be bound by words and notes,
flawed, confined to secrecy, and mute,
stand on a mountaintop, promote
feeling, though it keeps our boat
the sunken wrecks, unmarked,
those who fail to read the charts . . .
I love you,
yes, I can’t ignore the force
me steady on life’s stormy course.
fall asleep each night I read
you’ve sent: they are my prayers, my hope,
prescription for my timeless need.
I read them
twice, I measure every slope
defining and deriving their
despite the doom you recommend
would be if we should ever touch
Our lips to
lips, our flesh to flesh again.
true, my anchor sound, I’ll find
The key to
treasures long forgotten, long
preserved within the mind
Of poets who
still sing the sonnet’s song.
And you, my
friend, write on your sullen dirge.
we’ll survive its sterile purge.
day the crew got underway,
Captain's-gig and hopes and spirits high,
a lark to old St. Aug,
To seek for
LUCE the blessing of the fleet.
shacks, mansions, rich and poor that lined
Along the beach the sand was brown
ebb tide exposed the rotted posts
fishing boats and captain's gigs could land.
LUCE led the
slow procession past the stands
the Bishop, color guard, and friends,
us with water from his hands,
and spoke his blessing for the fleet:
the fleet that shields our shores from harm,
ships that silence war's alarm.
man's life expired on my ship
Today. He walked aboard at dawn, intent
assume) to start his day, his life
Anew. Then suddenly, without consent,
chance to bargain, beg, or plead,
messenger of death unsheathed his sword,
Cut off the
breath, suppressed the beating heart
Of life once
vibrant, cocksure, confident.
A young man
died, was his the first, the last
To reach the
end of dreams, the final breath
When all the storms of life have passed,
jurisdiction over souls
to naught, the truth, once crucified,
Will rise to
save the souls of hopes that died.
I listen to your poems of late,
contemplate the dreaded thought of life
prospect of your fond embrace;
about that kiss one June:
too late to consummate; too true
denied, too pure to not be sure
intended for our souls to dwell
exclusive, all-embracing love---
what the future holds in store,
I did, I do
I’ll always love you more
though distance separate us far,
the constellations for that star
in you. And should I die, too soon,
you, we’ll meet again one June.
with pen in hand and feelings true
I sing for
you this song. Despite my voice,
Too base in
places to be understood,
the message: soothing, moving, light,
me, take flight, delight, rejoice
In that we
share this love, exchange this word
past sunsets, through the darkest night.
contain the energy this thought
generates: it makes me want to dance,
tell all the worlds, turn somersaults;
It makes me
grateful, thankful for romance.
passions blue bid me adieu,
I seek safe
harbors, true, kind friend, near you.
watched the shuttle launched towards space.
A tail of
fire plowed the southern morning sky
disappeared. I thought about
there, behind the scenes, who made,
occur. There's someone there whose life
Is less than
free from care, a lonely heart,
distressed, beset by worries, woes,
overcoming all, finds sweet the reaching
Of the goal.
There're happy ones who feel the tinge
at the thought of those who've missed
By fate the
thrill of launch complete, the charm,
romance of making dreams come true.
jets toward heaven, far away
troubles, closer still to hopes ideal.
I left our poems ashore to gain
A clear and
fresh perspective on romance
unfolding through these notes exchanged
By mail. In
some respects I'm at a loss
that rhyme: these thoughts, sublime, contain
of hope divine, the chance
might share, with me, again, unchanged
sought and found that star-crossed night in June.
It can't be
as it was. It must be less
Or more. Our
lust for life has aged, matured,
and dined on bittersweets, endured
The loss and
gain of joy's and pain's excess.
And yet I
can't forget that night in June,
When we read
Shelley, kissed, and touched the moon.
come and gone. And yet remains
the shell wherein no true love thrives
salvaged traces laugh at me,
At us for
endings where romance is sweet,
runs deep, where passions overflow,
sun and moon and night and day.
waves good-bye and with a sigh
I lift my
eyes, my chin, my sinking heart
To God, to
plead for strength to understand
this life so fraught with strife, so full
and happenstance and foiled romance.
The deed is
done, its end is near. Revere
that overcomes a darkened year.
have passed since last I read from you
wherein you bid your heart awake,
again, transcend that hellish gore
and love are but the vapid glow
covers, hides and smothers innocence.
I beg to
understand, to know the truth
grave whereof you speak, where fools
Like me are
brought, at last, to dismal ends.
My love of
life is greater than my hope
might share again the joy we knew
Another spring is come, and June
soon enough to cast its spell.
My love for
poems and poets knows no end—
I can’t be
just the object of your pen.
take up your pen again, compose
of art that live and breathe and sing
of love and hope. Revive
Anew in you
the spirit of the Muse
To guide, to
entertain, and to enthuse.
democratic art, the urge
By all. Take
up your pen, today, obey
highest call: express the good, the true,
beautiful. Articulate in verse
purest, deepest, noblest sentiments;
rhyme and rhythm secrets sent.
Take up your
pen again, the times demand
be heard, your dreams rise up and stand.
years ago when we first met?
books, me browsing, reading books
store? We were so young, and life
unrevealed, so full of promises
boundless hopes and dreams, and guarantees
opportunities. You went away.
I stayed and
made mistakes. We met again,
You east, me
west, you school, me ships and seas.
erred and severed friendship’s bond,
seemed lost between us save a thread,
A laser beam
of hope that, over time,
distilled and purified, survived
We meet again. What fate
ours to plan, to recommend.
I look back
to the time we shared and smile,
and grin and laugh with joy untapped
smile. Our spirits span the miles
separate our hearts, that keep us trapped
detached, disjointed from that source
of love the gods bequeathed to gods
At birth. We
rendezvous beyond, outside
The force of
chance and fate. Our senses fuse,
in time and space;
The spark of
life ignites and multiplies,
a power all its own.
I can't ignore the call of June:
In just a
few short weeks we'll meet, we'll taste
sweet wine, fermented, aged and pure.
Dear faithful friend I count each
I pray for time to instantly elapse,
Events to fill the gaps that separate
And isolate my life from thine. Oh
Do draw me nearer, nearer to the heart
That beats in sync, in step with
mine-- to thee,
To thee, sweet angel of my childhood
I'll smile to see you, touch you,
taste your smile,
And all the while my soul has longed
Near yours will seem like but a brief
A short, short stay away from heaven's
I fantasize that when we meet we'll
And cry, and tears will rinse away,
The walls we've built to hold in check
E. Palo Alto, July 1991
Dear friend, perhaps our paths may
Perchance, we’ll meet together at the
Or down below, beneath the crowds,
The underground. Perhaps we’ll be
By a cause, a hope, a dream, a fantasy
. . .
Perhaps we’ll join together out of
Or love for something we perceive to
It matters not my love, the force, the
That consecrates the ground on which
It matters not the season of the year
(Though June is sweet!), nor the place
Prescribes, we’ll meet! The Muses tell
Though circumstance as yet precludes
The gods have planned, I wait, I wait,
E. Palo Alto, August 1991
Sweet peace, spring love was never
meant to last.
But we've been blessed by chance and fate
Its bittersweetness, to feel its
Sweet peace, I tremble at the thought
of touching you,
I stumble, hesitatingly,
As we touch, as our lips meet,
As our heartbeats synchronize.
Our paths may never cross again as in
this random moment, our lips may never
complete, again, and spring, sweet
for you and I, may never reappear ...
This word is all that I possess to
and all is all my fragile soul can
Sweet dreams, sweet peace, I hear your
St. Louis, March 1992
Sweet peace, spring love was never
meant to last:
Its budding branches bear a tempting
Whose taste is bittersweet and
That glows with incandescent subtlety.
Acknowledging spring's temporariness,
I tremble at the thought of touching
I fear your petals may unfold too
And, falling to the ground,
I stumble as our lips approach, then
Our heartstrings and our heartbeats
Spring love intoxicates us: spirits fuse,
Revealing in each other secret worlds.
Sweet dreams, sweet peace, I hear your
My winter-weary soul awaits next
St. Louis, March 1992
Sweet peace, spring love was never
meant to last:
It's just a stint, a pause, a brief
In what is otherwise a boring, gray
Sojourn we call our lives. Today her
And blossoms tantalize our eyes; in
We contemplate the taste of spring
Sweet peace, spring's bittersweetness
gives us cause
To recollect and circumspect love's
And yet, spring love commands her
And moves our thawing thoughts to feel
Spring love intoxicates us: drunkenly
We stumble, stagger, tremble, wild and
Sweet dreams, sweet peace, I hear your
My drifting, weathered soul awaits
St. Louis, March 1992
A lynch mob forms and dissipates each
Conversing and rehearsing how they
To seal the fate of those they've
chose to slay.
The eager group, polite despite, is
To kill, to maim, to burn some flesh,
A body from a tree until it's gasped
Its last. Horrendous though it seems,
And celebrate this morbid mass of
The bulging eyeballs slime through
That were his head, while children
poke with sticks,
Investigate the flesh that's left, the
That didn't burn, that wouldn't yield
to flames . . .
St. Louis, April 1992
I fight with all my waning strength
Distrustfulness and self-suspicious
That seeks free rent within my heart
The night's uncertainty surrounds me
And whispers in my ear: "Take
Resist, cooperate. The will, the faith
To overcome escapes my grasp each
I attempt to make it mine. At times
It seizes me, this fear, engulfing
Like a parasite my source of energy.
I cannot let it win! My soul must hold
Its ground! Though wounded, bloodied,
I must be … justified.
The sword of victory and peace is
The darkest part of night precedes the
St. Louis, December 1991
"This is the Captain, this is a
Battlestations!" rings around my
And rousing me from sleepiness and
Demands that I assume my chosen role.
We rise up, like a beast, from ocean’s
The hatches open, doomsday is at hand;
We push the buttons, random pick the
Then send the missiles after our
And afterward the afterword is zero…
There’s no one left to tell us how we
We are survivors, that makes us the
We build the world anew and make
But how can we ignore, erase our
We pay the price; we are the best, the
Bangor Submarine Base, February 1983
My love for
you is like a fire, raging,
and self-sustaining, flaming
burning all my dross away.
How is it
that the flame which burns my flesh
And sears my
senses purifies my soul?
Why must it
be that pain and pleasure, love
co-habitate in hopes and dreams?
and it must be that fear hates love
As much as
hate fears truth, as truth loves light.
and it must be my plight, to seek
to fan the flame I fear the most.
My love for
you is like a fire, raging,
and self-sustaining, flaming.
I tossed the
ball to fall within her range
of view. She thanked me with a friendly smile.
into her somewhat saddened eyes
and found a
friendly home, to my surprise.
showed me to an empty place,
and bid me
have a seat and rest my soul.
asleep, I went into a trance,
again, I touched her eyes, the doors
wide for me (for me alone,
I'd be so
vain to dream ... ).
her pupils dilate from within,
lids that always blink too soon.
I tossed the
ball again to fall within her range
of view. She thanked me with a smile.
Ferry, October 1992
asylum after we were freed.
and refuge was our hope
We recognized that we had been
from the human race, and yet,
We chose to
cast our buckets where we were.
nobleness convinced us that some day
We’d reap in
joy what we had sown before
In blood and
tears: and all the while our fears
otherwise; to wit, we had no right
To earn by
birth what we had been endowed.
retrospect, we should have sought asylum
shores. One hundred thirty years
too many years to resurrect those
hopes and dreams. And now, today,
The time has
come to seize what we are due.
I got your
message and I called you twice…
seconds ‘til your line was free.
spoke with you I couldn't rest
In peace, my
wandering soul a refugee.
spell you cast on me last spring
revived, has come alive again.
it seems my poems have all been blues ...
source has wandered far from joy;
The love we
almost had lives on, and waits
and hopes to
someday see the light of day…
Sonnet #37Return of the Muse - Cairo, Egypt
left me long, long years ago
presence left me longer. I forgot
the rhythms of your loveliness,
and calm you brought me, the silence
loneliness we shared. I lost track,
the way back, through the years, of all
me about words, and songs, and notes,
and meter, and measure…and love.
oh sister, oh spirit, deep,
who sent you
back to me? What force or power
up and breathed into you life?
And why? Why
here and now? And to what end?
not. I worship at your feet.
I hear and I
obey; I write, I write…
Sonnet #38 -
some things you cherish as you pass
life's transitions. Letters you received
survive a flood -- first drafts of poems
get lost in shipments -- coffee mugs
book collections may not stay
divorce or death parts the waves
time. Friendships and associations
would be there in your grayer years
survive a season, or not --
for a friendship come and go
that flood and ebb and flood again.
that last a lifetime, then, are rare
And few, and
even random....so enjoy
now, breathe deeply, smile freely.
Sonnet #39 (without
We mourn the
setting of a brilliant star
Who blazed a
path for many, then burned out
At first he
sang sweet songs of puppy love
sought through song to heal a world
lifted us before his fall
we adored his boyish ways
became adults with his success
As men and
women we thought we knew his pain
overswept us like the dust
melodic voice became a rasp
subconsciousness, his call to heal
out by bills and laws and hate
And so we
mourn a man who paid the price
that lesser lights will now suffice
The three of us returned to the barracks after a late Saturday night dancing to loud reggae at a smoky club in downtown New London called Cool Runnings. The sun was rising - it was almost time for breakfast. I played Mahjong – to kill some time – with the Chinese Wave who spoke with a really deep Bostonian accent - While her roommate, Annie, from Boligee, carefully read my palms and told me my fortune with playing cards - I recall my fortune and Annie was gentle and sweet, but I can’t remember the Chinese Wave's name.
On Attending a Poetry Reading by the Poet Laureate of the United States of America at the Library of Congress.
It was a January day, the heart of winter. Karren arrived early and saved us a place up front. Good seats. It was an unseasonably warm January day, and the room filled quickly, the temperature rising with everyone's excitement to hear the Poet recite her work. A silent spirit entered the room and took a seat in front of us. Was it she? The Poet? And so close I could almost reach out and touch her? "My God," I whispered to Karren. "She is a rock star." The Poet spoke and read her works: some stirring civil war poems, some Whitman. Euclid alone has nothing on me now.
I tried and tried to make it fit within the sonnet's form. But the words resisted, and the thoughts rebelled, and the energy contained inside the thoughts, inside the words sprung forth and said, "Hell no!" So here's the simple truth: When we're apart I cannot sleep. For days on end I'm just a wreck. Dark rings surround my eyes. Edgi- ness. A word added to an adjective that makes it a noun, a name that describes and defines a state of being. My state of being. A person can die from sleep deprivation. You know that already. Don't let me pass another sleepless night.
Words in poetry and notes in music Are sounds, simple wavelengths colliding off Our eardrums and the membranes of our souls. Oft times we transmit sound waves, words or notes, Through positive values, like happiness And tenderness, timbres soft and bright. Sometimes negative: sadness, fear - dull and Sharp, like aches and pains we frequently endure. At times, we just receive: parameters Are the same. But when we meet, ah, when we Meet, our words and notes connect! Our wavelengths Intersect, and intertwine, and synthesize! And we make love – sweet love. External tones And errant thoughts die softly in the deep.
This morning I watched videoed reading The Raven. Great actors like James Earl Jones read the poem’s lines to music, almost as if it were a film script with a musical score. I fear they missed the point, rushing through the inside words to make them fit an outside melody and rhythm. With Poe, the music already lives, inside the words and lines. Poe’s words are to be read slowly, deliberately, intentionally. One word should stumble into the another, like a drunk man walking, like Poe, bobbing and weaving his way through Baltimore. My father would read The Raven as it should be read, slowly, with drunken slurs, and sharps, and flats. “Don’t f-- with Poe! Forgive me son, I didn’t mean to say that word. But Poe is not a joke.” I learned that lesson well.
I was a runner in my hapless youth: two times, four times, eight times around the track; running to things, running from things, always in a haste, never taking time to smell the fragrance of the roses, know the truth. In time, life slowed me down. I changed my tack. I learned to walk, to circumspect, unfazed by every shiny thing my eyes beheld. But then the boundless sea became my Muse: Her hidden wonders and her ways seduced my every thought. Yet she was just a phase, A short poetic phrase and a malaise. This sonnet owns no ending, just a star, To capture our attention from afar.
The poet does not write and read, nonplussed, For mere applause. His rhythms and his notes Might give you pause: for him it’s true relief. Approval is not the cause, nor the end Of his efforts. He writes because he must: An unformed phrase, a clause not spoken Is like an Albatross that gives him grief - Until he edits out its flaws and sends It to a waiting world of laws - and dust. He draws the strength from deep within: a lust That gnaws his soul and never grants respite, Nor takes flight, nor withdraws to sleep at night.
The wicked witch of the East? The old, decrepit, ancient East? She dead. House fell on her ass during the storm. Feet all shriveled up. That witch ain’t going nowhere! Ain’t gon bother nobody!
But the wicked witch of the West? The new, modern, amoral West? She’s alive and kicking. Causing all kinds of trouble. Done signed a deal with the Wizard. The lying Wizard. Dorothy has her hands full with those two. And the lion ain’t got no courage.
In the hustle and the bustle as we go our chosen way; in the winning and the losing keeping score throughout the day -
in the seeking and the striving as our plans oft go astray; in the comings and the goings and the things we do, and say -
in the kicking and the screaming of war’s battles, of the fray; in the plotting and the scheming of our deep naivete -
Our pure love knows no decay: In my arms I pray you’ll stay.
I am feeling the heat of battle and tasting its bittersweetness. Still on track, though other things fall through the cracks of space and time. Poetry is a jealous mistress, after all, a possessive lover without gender who demands every gram of your attention and devotion. “Forget any other dedication, any outside legal or moral obligation,” Poetry warns, “and ignore that silly wench you call your Muse!” Poetry screams, “Be with me alone!” And you accommodate, first haltingly, reluctantly, then eagerly, anxiously, as you become narcotized by, and soon addicted to the sweetness of stolen waters.
Erato said, “Ray, don’t walk along the river this morning. Stay in open, well-lit places. Our poetry is irritating people who have the power and the inclination to do you harm on a dark, deserted river path.” I said, Erato, my dear, isn’t that just a wee bit extreme?” She said, “Do I really have to spell it out? Stay off the river. Open spaces, well-lit at dawn.” I said, “Do I need to conjure up my parents and my grandparents, and have them send help from the Spiritus Mundi?” “No, no,” said Erato. “Let them rest in peace. Filo and I will take care of you. But you must do as I say! I am your Muse!”
the second infusion is always smoother --
can't do that with coffee, a one-trick pony
that gallops quickly to your main vein.
I was once in love with a poetry lady
but her best poems got lost in a flood
and I regret being so self-obsessed
all those years -- all those trying years.
I watched a squirrel and a sparrow play a little game of tag last Thursday in Washington Circle. The squirrel ran a zig-zag pattern across the green, trying to evade the sparrow – but the sparrow compensated for the zig-zag by flying up on the zig and back down on the zag, lightly pecking the squirrel on each descent -- I looked at the lady next to me, waiting for the green light to cross. “Did you see that?" I asked. She smiled. She laughed. “Yes! I saw it! They were having some fun.” We crossed on green and our paths diverged. She zigged. I zagged.
Filomena is on the phone with her sister in Lisbon
I always know because they speak a Portuguese I can’t follow
um crioulo duplo uma lingua de cozinha
it’s tudo bem for me, ‘cause the revolution will not be circumcised
so they can have their kitchen secrets, just as long as they remember to call me -- ‘cause I want to be around for dinner and for the revolution…
High culture and low polished and profaned sanctified and ghettoized - all the decisions we make stem from false dichotomies presented to us – opposing options in a narrative, neither of which makes us better or worse for the wear -- just older and grayer – more wrinkled and cataract’d until our vision is blocked, and our tastebuds deadened by the novocaine they give us - for good behavior.
I wake up with the hiccups, my coffee jones is down on me -
I stumble to the kitchen, still some powder left in the grinder
from yesterday’s yesterdays – I fire up the kettle – twice-boiled
water will do just fine, thank you. My hiccups are getting worse…
The french press is full of sludge. I pour the sludge out - most of it -
what remains will season the new batch, sort of like making yogurt. The whistle
is blowing, the water is boiling again. Won’t be long now. Won’t be long.
another crazy dance with Maria dos Santos Pittsylvania: she loves the Tango, Lambada, Kizomba -
always well-dressed, her steps are technically choreographed, mechanically proficient.
The rhythm, the beat of the music determines each step, each twirl, each bump, each groove:
but the melody stirs the heart, and you want to peek into her eyes, cast a flirtatious glance, at least -
then the beat shifts, requiring a technical adjustment, precision; and attention to the glance you seek
gets diverted to the mechanics of the dance, again – and you know it’s OK, because Maria is an android
in a pretty pink body suit. And you think yourself a knight in shining armor - this is Second Life, silly.
Got my transfer orders the other day, be heading out to my next post
real soon. Brushing off the old dust, washing all those memories
of the process right out of my head. Delivery was a tortuous path,
and labor was unusually lengthy – not like the last time when the path
was smooth and we just slid right out. Oh no, this time was painful,
and slow and unpredictable - but in some ways better, thorough, meaningful,
more comprehensive. Thank God it’s the last transfer point on the Orange Line.
in postcard absence I’m writing about a concert I attended night before last –
El Gusto, playing Chaabi, music of the Casbah in Algiers–
music of the streets, of the village, clubs and bars –
like jazz, and blues, and gospel - and fado I have known –
they played, they sang, they stood up and danced –
they made a joyful noise - old men of the Casbah –
muslim and jewish and other – getting down together with song.
Since I retired my wife insists on making the bed together every day. I guess I was at work when all this excitement happened before. We fluff and straighten the pillows, aligned but not touching. Sheets tight and tucked, folded over at the top. All equally distributed side to side. (She cannot think until the bed is made!) Then she calls me an amateur when I walk away before she has taken the final measurements. “This is not boot camp,” I whisper to myself. But by then the kettle is whistling, the freshly ground coffee requesting submergence.
I miss the rains of Bissau – the soft pitter-patter at dawn – the heavy downpour, like clockwork, in mid-afternoon – as chuvas veem - the lightning and the thunder at sunset, raging against the end of days –
I wish we had some postcards from that magical place – we have a painting of Joao Landing before the Chinese built the bridge – and statuettes from the Bijagos. Manjaco cloth draps the sofa, and music CD’s from the Tabanka are on the shelf – but postcards não ha.
I could listen to Lady Day sing - all night long – those blue minor chords that don’t quite seem to fit except for their perfection; those flat notes that fall so softly from her lips, like manna, to our awaiting souls – like dew, early, early before sunrise… I could listen to those old songs all night long – “Bend your branches down – along the ground – and cover me.”
I heard a tale that made me feel so sad about a friend, abandoned by his art or it by he, his talent to impart some sense of beauty vanished like a fad. But let us tell his story in this verse: his art brought joy and gladness to his friends, and satisfied his soul’s deep urge to mend a broken world. What happened was perverse, expression of his talent overcome by stress of work, career became for him the higher call. The artist’s light soon dimmed, and Tantalus foretold his martyrdom. This cautionary tale includes one plea: one truth, one hope for immortality.
The teacher couldn’t come to class today. They say it was because the government shut down. Let’s call it by its proper name: A high-tech coup d’etat is what occurred – transfer of power from the president of the republic we had, to the thugs, the mob. The ethics of the Fogged Bottom swamp have made their way to Capitol Hill. Don’t you speak French? It was a coup d’etat! The King is dead, long live the King of State. Democracy has fallen, patriots! Like punks we are, we weep and wring our hands: One day we all will answer for this crime – and that is why this sonnet cannot rhyme.
new books arrived in the laundry room (I do laundry more often since I retired) German novels, African American history, Native American languages, British plays - I thumb through all the new additions, while the whites wash and the colors dry. An eclectic collection, well kept (I can tell) and carefully read by a conscientious reader, perhaps a tenant, now departed, her books abandoned, left behind to testify on her (or his) behalf. And launderers like me now benefit from such largesse. I thumb through them all, and wonder will my volumes end up here.
It is only a few minutes before midnight, but it is already way, way past my bedtime. So, in case I crash before the clock strikes, and am transferred to the world of dreams, of voyages and of possibilities, I want to wish everybody in the known and the unknown Modern Poetry universe a happy, safe, and prosperous 2014! Keep reading poetry, and keep writing it, fearlessly: the bad stuff and the good, the bounded and the unbound, the modern and the post-modern. Keep the faith, keep the fires burning - the hereafter far surpasses the present.
a few notes from my morning walk - Rock Creek Park a man playing a harp on one side of Pegasus, on the other, a man carrying sheathes of wheat over one shoulder with a scythe in his hand, a turtle at the harpist’s foot (percussion, maybe, or just slowly but surely wins the race?) “Music and Harvest” is says at the base a man carrying a large book on the outside of the other Pegasus (it is a gate, after all!) and an archer with a taunt bow on the other, the all-knowing serpent at Pegasus’ rear quarter, “Aspiration and Literature” at the base. the copper of both is green with tarnished disregard but truth shouts out despite the dirt and dust.
after all the parades and football games and shopping sprees and pundit prophecies what does it mean, this changing of the year? Janus has two faces, east and west, alike, or north and south – choices and decisions we must make, obligations, promises to keep. And if the film is one we’ve seen before, we have to change the narrative
or at least switch out the soundtrack change the rhythm and the beat throw some popcorn to the ceiling clap our hands and stomp our feet. January has two full moons this year moon rises at sunrise, and sets at set.
no need for an apology - it was I who over-reacted: obsessed with non-existent privacy – trained with a double fiction: never who I am, never where I am, always hiding the truth – even from myself – and mixing justifications - until I lose the ability to distinguish contrived reason from complex reality - but that phase of life is over: and I need to break away.
It’s a cold night in the bottom: a deep fog has crept up on us from the swamp below – so thick the street lamps look like little moons in the distance –
And my legs are tired, man, my knees are aching so bad: from walking too long – too far – too late – too often – trying to meet too many obligations –
But soon I’ll be home – hot soup simmering on the stove – a pair of loving arms awaits me: to hold me and to listen to my story.
The same Spirit that haunts me, guides me – same dude, although sometimes he shows up in drag, wearing a wig, and lipstick – talking ‘bout “Will you light my cigarette?”
This same Spirit appears infrequently, but just often enough to remind me that he is both my rudder and my anchor.
He often warns me about the Muse and her sisters. “Those women are no good,” he says, “all that flattery and inspiration.”
The same Spirit used to frighten me when I was a young pup. We are old friends now, able to dismiss one another’s excesses. It is, how shall we say, a mutual appreciation?
smooth white snowflakes coat the algae build up inside the glass fishbowl – the crystal ball:
the head of the Beast is drunk with malaria from mechanical mosquitos –
standing water still stinks, festers, breeds ten plagues – green and brown scum stains bleed through winter’s whiteness –
pure as driven snow, sinking deep, deeper – rotted to the core.
to capture the attention of the market, we need something dramatic, something that seizes its imagination:
then enslaves it, then anesthesizes it, putting it in a deep sleep, the deep sleep of brain death, the un-dead. Then they will buy
whatever we sell them. The core product is fear – the actual product is the security they think they prefer to protect themselves from feeling the fear they already bought –
the augmented product is all the images we show them on the TV to make up for the freedoms they lost, the birthright they gave away, the un-born.
Van Gogh’s repetitions: dude must have been stoned – painting that same postman over & over & over again –
like Stein, repeating a phrase repeatedly, each time with teensy weensy alterations, a word portrait of a Napoleon or a Picasso –
I have been known to write a poem twice, three times, each time a little different, four times if I really meant it – so I know where Vince is coming from…
but I always get told to tighten the top of my favorite ink bottle…
I found the Dylan Thomas poem you mentioned in your letter. I read each line aloud, and when I reached your favorite part, I wished that you were here. But it is not to be. You are, I am, afar, apart, in ways precise, diverse. I wrote the poem in long hand, as I said I would, the words traveling from the page, through my eyes, down my arms - muscle memories – to finger that held my favorite pen, and onto the pages of my notebook – and though I’ve never seen your face, nor touched your smile, nor tasted the sound of your approach, I hear your voice across the seas of time.
Daphne is fleeing Apollo and her face is an open book of terror. She’d rather be a laurel tree than live the captive life of an object of once passionate pursuit. Apollo’s hand slips around her waist, her abdomen already transforming to bark, yet through the wood he feels in her gut her beating, throbbing heart, and he, his passion a misdirected vector, could not care less. Look at his face. His focus is the hunt, the game, her fingers leaves, her arms now laurel branches. The transformation is itself a meditation.
“The legends say something happened in Chaneysville.” And legends don’t normally lie, though they may embellish, just a bit. A big city history professor returns to his rural roots when he learns a father-like figure is dying. A transference occurs, a passing of the seat of authority: now is his turn to sit on the leadership stool. Truth knocks at the door, the scales of justice are unbalanced – a historical wrong must be righted. The old man taught him in his youth how to track game through the woods. He used those tools in his new field, a sleuth tracking information through layers of noise. But now his sense of direction must be straight and true. Leave the self-perpetuating baggage in the city: discovery and redemption require a certain resolution.
Measure equal portions each: ground ginger and cinnamon sticks; whole peppercorn and clove buds; cardamom pods; nutmeg; and black cumin seeds. Mix in a grinder until powdery and fine, store in an airtight metal tin. Heat one teaspoon in four cups of water until it forms a shimmering slime on top. Add tea and steep for taste, or brew in coffee, per your choice, in similar proportion. Or sprinkle on ice cream or your favorite dessert. The spice mix will de-stress the mind, soothe digestion and aid regularity.
The universe has no beginning nor end, expanding and unbounded in undefined space and time. Every event is an act on a stage, a plot that continually evolves.
Our paths cross like two distant stars – each a separate solar system – but from afar, from Earth, perhaps, we appear joined, fused, as one.
And sailors use our apparent light to steer their ships by through the darkened night, and stargazers reckon the passage of time by the single light they think that we emit.
Yet all their precise calculations miss the mark, based on a truth that is false.
In one year, or in a thousand years our galaxies resume their chosen paths, and from afar, from Earth perhaps, the truth will be revealed: we are not one star – but two,
or many, diverse, distinct, passing through space like ships in the night. And sailors still reach their destinations, despite the inexactitude, still sleep in loving arms’ embrace the long night
through. So what’s the moral of this story, what’s the sonnet’s point? We seek defined lives in indefinite space. We try to reconcile our every act, our every word, each thought,
but ere the end all bets are off, and all is naught but drifting stardust…
I wandered through a shopping mall looking for a telephone, a land phone with two lines: dying technology, I would soon find out. The mall, normally full of shoppers, was empty, quiet, flat. Where were all the shoppers? A few old men sat at tables in the food court, rustling through papers with young couples, and big, tatooed men passed through, I could tell they were ex-soldiers by their swagger, by the glaze of combat still in their eyes. Looking for jobs. No jobs today, everywhere, stores are closing. In Baghdad, the Marines used to say, “America is not at war, the Marines are at war. America is at the Mall.” Not no more.
A friend from overseas asked me in a card: “Ray, what’s it like to live in a country constantly, always and forever at war?” I didn’t have an answer so I rolled three dice. Drama masks; a ladder; catching butterflies. The masks are for deception when they speak, all actors on a temporary stage. The ladder: an escape; a rescue; a fortuitous disassociation. Catching butterflies: they will try to lure you you back. Stay on your track, ignore their call. So what’s it like? Constant bombardment, spin, propaganda, fake stories, subliminal appeals. Don’t think about the guy behind the curtain.
Everybody’s talking about the one percent: they have all the money, all the connections, the networks to get more money, MOAR money. I say let them have their exclusivity, build those walls higher & higher, thicker and thicker to keep out the unalike, the alien, the dissimilar, the impure. Let their gene pool weaken from incest and lack of variation, let their diseases replicate and multiply inside those walls, walls that enclose but also block out light & love & joy & celebration. Give me life’s richness any day, and color, and let them perish in their cherished purity.
Today’s project task is the writing of a compelling introduction for the project report. It is the final step. Strange practice, one might think, saving for last the introduction, like ending a website construction process with the homepage. Maybe a better analogy is icing on a cake, a cherry in the middle. Dare I deliver them poetry? A sonnet, perhaps, or rubaiyat? Some terza rima or octava? Of course it will be prose, of course: conventional, traditional, paragraphical but purposeful prose, with maybe an occasional hidden rhyme.
It matters that Frost wrote “Stopping By the Woods” in rubaiyat form, a Persian, Farsi quartrain style, imported to the Christian west.
And it matters that the same person who invented TED talks coined the term information architecture. An architect.
I roll the dice: a rising star; an old man’s thoughts, and energy radiating out from the center –
The message is in the grammar – the structure that houses the space – and content – just the vehicle.
The first poem I remember studying in school was The Charge of the Light Brigade. That was poetry. And Thanatopsis – that was poetry too. At A&T I met a girl who could recite them both by heart. It was true love at first sight. But she said her mother told her she should never date a poetry-writing man. I digress. Good poems have charm and personality, like trees, that can shelter you in a storm – and precision, biting multiple times in the same spot to send its venom true. The further we venture from the structure, the less precise our messages become.
I stopped watching the TV news last year: too much propaganda and spin made me dizzy – newspapers too, mere distractions diverting our attention from the truth to empty noise. Today I only trust the story cubes, randomly picked and tossed.
Sunrise, a rainy April morning, a new day dawning – the beginning of the future – a straight arrow, true to its aim, direct to its destination, straight to its goal – and a man climbing a wall, pulling himself up with his arms – getting stronger, stronger.
The future is now, obstacles in our path make us stronger, keep us true to our faith.
21 years in a lockup, 4 black passbooks, cancelled, holes punched in the cover: I never felt bound by its darkness, nor constricted by its strait jacket, but always freed, liberated, emancipated by the song of curiosity in my soul. Let us not disdain the leaders of the instruction manual factory – Jesus said feed all the sheep – but don’t forget that among them are whores who will turn a trick at the drop of a dime, and pimps who’ll sell their own mothers if the price is right.
We need time and space to unpack our lives – condensed, compressed, repressed, concentrated for far too long on trivialities, technicalities, false flag theatrics –
Let’s touch the core of what we call our truth: shall we preserve the status quo, believe objectively this love will conquer all?
Or should we seek to transcend (abolish?) the dead-end that’s approaching for a different, enlightened way?
Or is it only the individual that matters in the end, the beginning? Or maybe just break all the rules, and then, unshackled, unrestrained, renew?
I remember the music and the old men: drinking cheap scotch and soda water, huddled around the record player, heads bobbing softly to the rhythms – second-hand smoke filled the living room, smoke layers lined up with the sound waves, burned my own anxious lungs. I remember first meditations, and giant steps, and blue train, and love supreme. Sometimes the old men would argue about what the sounds, the music really meant, about where it all came from, deep inside. I never fully understood their talk – but the music, the music I remember.
early spring is as colorful as late autumn: the highway flora is putting on new clothes winter’s browns and greys displaced by greens and oranges and reds and purples –
further west, the road gets curvier and trees, more hardwood that evergreen, more long-legged, evergreens shorter, bushier –
the baby mountains start to appear, along with their mothers and fathers – majestic, protective, persevering –
I can feel my brain starting to bend to the mountain curves. I switch the station from talk radio to jazz. A Love Supreme takes me all the way to my mountain home.
I arise early from a restless night – dawn is not yet breaking – all is silent save the occasional mournful tweet of a single bird – same note, same tune and no response – he doesn’t have a mate. The mountain air is cool & crisp & still – the darkest part of night.
I make coffee in the aeropress, sit on the porch and listen to the sad song of the solitary bird – and sip my coffee, slowly, to the end. Soon dawn will break the silence of the night – the dogwoods blooming, the chorus streaming – and the early bird will meet his happy maid.
ghost stories can be very sad when pain and hurt are just beneath the superficial fright and scare –
we all know it ain’t about the storyline – the plot is merely, purely incidental – that the real game being played is that we all got played
but hey, it’s cool – as Mahalia would say, “that’s just the way it is down here.”
you can be a tool in the great game of 2016 – but don’t be no fool, ‘cause poetry will find you out.
every shade of green, it seems, displays itself upon the hills that fill the skies encircling my home – when I arrived December’s days were short, its nights were long – these hills were grey and brown –
and sad, a bit, but I was told that green, in Spring, would overtake, outstrip Winter’s darkness, and the hills would put on green – from the bottom to the top – in stages and layers – like stockings, thick socks for a frosty night.
and so, in streaks and patches to the top, 100 shades of green now fill the skies.
all my verse is about gardening these days, the rains that feed, the weeds that choke (which is their right to do), the late frost that kills the tender shoots from seeds I planted too early.
my sunflowers are quite the ladies, bashful, tender, as they approach their flowering stage, the carrots need more thinning, their tops the brightest green, and the turnip leaves too tough to eat.
but one of the weeds has edible leaves – I’ll think I’ll let it grow.
Fleeting, passing things that invade our quiet space require poetry – if only a word - a note, a line, a formless shapeless tune still finite - words are needed to mark the memory, fix the experience
in time. The infinite – is poetry itself – cycles that appear & recede like waves that kiss the shores of our dreams from opposing sides, across unending expanses of timeless thought and boundless
space. Forms that shape of our finite lives are also poetry – a poetry that endures, that expands beyond enclosing borders, walls – the horizons that beckon us.
Tuck’s Tap and Grill was playing Norah Jones back to back –
don’t know why I didn’t come. I was drinking my favorite –
iced tea, half sweetened, half not, with lemon –
had a Santa Fe burger, medium, with sweet potato fries.
The waitress was very kind and understood my need
for half and half – just finished her associate degree
at Southwestern Community College – be at Western in the fall.
I love your poems’ cuss words: sparse, efficient, precise – though I know Mrs. Coley would never include your work in her black lit anthologies –
English teachers of our youth detested cuss words about as much as today’s teachers hate wikipedia, as much as librarians despise google –
but i encourage students to use whatever works for them, expresses their needs, their dreams, their realities –
I want to read Dark Symphony tonight, and laugh and hide inside the lines.
thickened ventricle walls push the pressure higher creating the condition for extra beats per measure
sometimes that extra beat silences the main bass line stopping the flow of sound juice to the thinking center
loss of thought leads to unconsciousness – out of body experience – collapse – collision with Earth – bones breaking
thin the blood flow – cancel the signal of the errant beat. Sonnet #98
I watched that star on the super bowl show, twisting & twirling & stomping her feet, talking about her DNA like she designed it herself. I’m glad there’s hot sauce in her bag, thrilled she’s calling her ladies to get information. Sad she calls them tricks, hate she drowns on top that police car at the end. Red lobster’s not so special, no cornbread, no collard greens, just coleslaw and cheese biscuits. But that box is chocked full of teeny beeny bean pies – more than just a dreamer – best revenge IS your paper – never cared much for helicopter rides, conspiracy theories, Givenchy dresses.
deep in the belly of the whale a new machinery of governance, an infrastructure is coalescing – out of sight and out of mind –
the promised one might just be in for a surprise by southerners feeling the bern, sly as a fox, ready to go the distance
of the bruising battles to come – grey never fades – the same while the machinery measures its new
strength, deciding once and for all if it wants to be network anesthesia or the herald of a brave new world.
April 3, 2016
it may all be lost in a masquerade - that's what Benson used to say in the song that criss-crossed between jazz and rhythm & blues -
maybe the universe is a giant hologram - two dimensions projected over a 3d space, and we all live in a simulated lab of our own making - or our enemy's -
which would explain the gaps and limitations that often present themselves in our silent hopes and daydreams -
and all the chit-chat we engage in about race and sex and intersectionality. Stop, the love you save may be your own.
I am black and semi-retired. Though a country boy, I live in a city that is not my home or hometown. I hate its noises and the smell of machinery on subway platforms that live deep in the bowels of the underground. So I ride the bus. Because I found my voice years ago I am not invisible, notwithstanding my own delusions of invisibility. In a divisive political year I vote both ways (maybe three ways, maybe four) and dare anybody to tell me I am wrong. I took a long walk today, south to Georgetown and west to Dupont Circle and there is plenty of ink left in my fountain pen. This might be stream of consciousness, and if I don't run out of gas, it might make it to a 14-line poem, or it might shape shift itself into a short story.
April 5, 2016
Sonnet #102 - Let the good times roll
a soft breeze floats in tune with the music of the viola and flute. The dancers, the couples are so happy and carefree – there is food and drink enough to sustain them all. But how long will the music last? Caged birds look sadder than the musicians who continue to sing. The music plays on, but the bubbles being blown may soon burst. When the minstrels stop & the food runs out and the candles burn down to a flicker, will the music die softly in the breeze? Pay the musicians! All drinks on the house! Will the barrels stay empty or be still?
Sonnet #103 - Unfinished
“We must be ‘in love’ before we can understand the mysteries of vision.” -HD
Words are not many, not enough to say, to write, to speak, to paint on cloth the thoughts, intense and magnified, of loss. Sudden, irreparable. Loss. The pain, our newest journey, is our present need. Reconciliation with the absence, now acute, now chronic, is a far road, a distant path unmarked, perhaps un-walked before. But we begin. Baby steps. One by one. Our choices constricted, our motion chained, the path is poorly illuminated. Show us a sign! Lead us to the new light! Let’s hold each other, gently, through the storm.
April 9, 2016
Sonnet #104 - Reminiscences on my parents’ 61st anniversary
We eat Chinese food on Fridays, mostly, fish makes it sort of Catholic, partly, and having it on Fridays is Islamic and Jewish, maybe. Truth is we are not religious at all. We have made peace with our choices and our burial preferences are listed in our wills. I do regret my youthful indiscretions, the time I snuck off my boat on a duty day, the night I spent with a girl who turned out to be a drug dealer could have been my last, not for drugs, mind you, let’s be clear. A cute, sweet girl, a Georgia peach, a country girl my mother would have loved.
April 10, 2016
Sonnet #105 - Still life
my ideal still life painting would contain a non-microwave safe cup and saucer, a piece of ripened fruit, a wind up watch with a leather band, and a book, hardbound, with several bookmarks and tabs. On a desk. And maybe reading glasses, depending on the reader's (and the painter's) needs. I'd stare at that canvas, and wonder if he (or she) drank tea or coffee, hot or lukewarm like I like it. I'd wonder does the book have poetry inside it, the bookmarks and tabs for his (her) favorite passages. I'd hang it beside my wife's painting of the river ferry crossing.
April 11, 2016
Sonnet #106 - April 12, 2016 - The Judgment Day (1/8)
It’s more than just a painting or a poem – or even a sonnet for a painting (we’d be so vain to suggest!). The story is far greater than the sum of its parts.
The judgment day is what we seek, and fear. In no hurry to pay for our misdeeds, give us reparations now for insults, moral crimes against us, past and present.
There is a discrimination – between the sinners and the saved, darkness dwellers, those who see the light. Salvation’s shining ray uplifts the soul; lightning bolts reveal the lumps of lead the wicked thought were pots of earthly gold. And time shall be no more.
#107 - April 13, 2016 - Let My People Go
Of earthly gold. And time shall be no more. I ride the steeds of war, my spear sharpened to kill my brother at Pharaoh's command. But there's a light that pierces all the waves, the rage of hate, and separates our thoughts from the darkened state of eternal war.
Go up, Moses, tell old Pharaoh to go. We no longer need his tricks and trinkets, his crutches enabled our servitude. Tell Pharaoh he needs us - we don't need him. Without us, he, his army cease to be. Give old Pharaoh the 4-1-1. We're done. No more blues, no more weeping over me. The groans of my people have filled my ears.
#108 - April 14, 2016 - The Crucifixion
The groans of my people have filled my ears. A line of folks awaits the lynching tree behind our dear, sweet Jesus. Simon bears the cross for him, climbs up the rugged road. Sweet Jesus. Nails go through his hands, his feet – the soldier’s spear pierces him. Mary weeps, we weep when we think about how he died.
I tremble. My turn’s next. The rope is loose around my neck. The crowd screams, “Crucify!” We bear the cross. We die on Calvary. The soldiers stare, do nothing. The thorny crown, the purple robe mock. Sweet Jesus. Betrayed. The traitor’s bitter kiss, its passion lost – the sweat like drops of blood upon his brow.
#109 - April 15, 2016 - Noah Built the Ark
The sweat like drops of blood upon his brow. "He is working so hard to build that boat, He's gonna give himself a heart attack!" His wife would say. Year after passing year he worked on the Ark, rain or shine, hot, cold, through periods of ridicule, self doubt - building, preaching. Legend says he gathered two of every living creature before he sealed the hatch. Then the raining began. Forty days. The rising waters lifted the Ark off its blocks - sent it underway. For one year they sailed. Sea without a shore. Then God gave Noah a sign - a Rainbow - it won't be water, but fire - next time.
#110 - April 16, 2016 - Go Down Death – A Funeral Sermon
It won’t be water, but fire – next time. The universe was expanding faster than we thought, the distance the death angel had to travel, longer, his flight angle trajectory, steeper, than allowed for in previous calculations. A bright star steered him to the house of Caroline, our sister, to commence her journey home.
Death didn’t say a word. She saw Death come like a falling star, our Caroline. No fear was in her heart. Death took her in his arms like a baby, comforted her, placed her on his horse securely for the ride. And she whispered to us: I’m going home.
#111 - April 17, 2016 - The Prodigal Son
And she whispered to us: I’m going home. The young man traveled down the easy road to Babylon. New clothes, new dancing friends, new drinking dens and gambling games to play, and women – flowery scents intoxicate the mind. Oh the women of Babylon!
But his luck ran out – good times disappeared and he found himself stripped of everything good fortune gave him. Soon he cast his lot among the beasts, the scavengers, the swine who thrived on leftovers, things tossed aside – with beggars in the mire of Babylon. Then, in disgust, he made the journey home. Young man — your arms too short to box with God.
#112 - April 18, 2016 - The Creation
Young man - your arms too short to box with God. Invisible hand traversed time's flow and made a world to cure his loneliness. A thousand worlds. But that was not enough. There was a need to correspond, to speak, to apprehend what thoughts the space contained his hands had wrought. So God created man.
From dust and clay he shaped the human form, then breathed into his mouth the breath of life. And man became what God intended him to be, a maker of his own image. Then plants grew near him, symbiotically, providing food and warmth - to each - in turn. And man became a living soul. Amen.
#113 - April 19, 2016 - Listen Lord - A Prayer
And man became a living soul. Amen. We lift our prayers, our noble thoughts to Thee, our source of strength and creativity. These words, these phrases - our meditation, we presently petition at your throne. But listen, Lord, just between you and me, things ain't so right down here. The folks you left in charge have gone astray - the golden calf is all they seek, an idol that they made with their own hands. Keep us in your light, Lord, on the righteous path. Forgive the sinners, languishing in Babylon. Take pity on the poets and artists who fall short. It's more than just a painting or a poem.
#114 - April 23, 2016
When I heard the learn’d oceanographer (it was Earth Day, and our shining Prince had fallen), When the volume, velocity and variability of data-rich information overwhelmed the deep, When I examined the core skills of data management (data is just an artifact, a document, an antelope), When I listened to it, the oceanographer’s lecture excited our minds, with much applause from the librarians; After the talk we walked to Brookland, the full moon overhead brightly illuminating a city in mourning, darkened by uncertainty (our Prince had fallen like the rain), And approaching Foggy Bottom, I caught a faint whiff of the swamp beneath us, the sound of the river beyond slowly turning, emptying into the sea.
They say Prince enjoyed a good fado and even traveled to Lisbon to bathe in its mysterious, noble sound: a music of sailors on long voyages to unknown, distant places far from their home country - of women selling fish down the winding streets of Mouraria and Alfama, singing prayer songs for their lovers' safe returns, wailing blues songs for a love forever lost.
Fado's essence is its poetry - the music follows, sets the stage, and Prince was ok with that, at least he played his guitar like he was. From the words, the sounds emit, and from the sounds, the music soon escapes - a fleeting moment, pure, distilled. And Prince slipped Earth's surly bonds and just as quickly scaled eternity.
#116 - April 28, 2016
And everybody lived happily ever after after the plants started sprouting again – after the birds started singing again – after all the poisoned debris was cleared & destroyed buildings were repurposed – after the hospital overcrowding was relieved and the population cured of radioactive exposure – after the clouded skies were cleared of floating ash & the rivers & streams, of trails of chemical wastes – after pandemonium & chaos ruled the streets – after stores & shops were looted for food & supplies, & drinking water – after the politicians made the decisions & dropped the atom bombs as they promised in their campaigns – once upon a time.
May 15, 2016
#117 - Thresher
I just learned the minimum time required for human perception of an event: fifty milliseconds for retinal integration; 100 milliseconds for cognitive integration. On board, it all occurred too fast for awareness, too quickly for human apprehension - a tragedy befell us - a collapse of moral order - it hit us so fast we couldn’t integrate it with our eyes, with streaming thoughts about our empty thoughts. A poem, perhaps, condensed, distilled the track of every hope - and woe - that passed too soon for our perception - slow-motioned, closely read.
#118 - Weekly Report Sonnet
Something still smells a little bit funky about how that whole thing went down last week in Orlando. Seems a lot for one guy to pull off. Now they want to gay-shame the “lone” shooter and vilify his wife.
And politics is all gone down the tube. Election fraud in both the primaries, media bought for peanuts, computers and emails hacked at home and overseas.
Some diplomats want strikes against Assad, because killing Hussein and Qaddafi worked out so well. And to top it all off, how the hell did the En Bee Aye finals go to 7 games? Must be rigged. Must be.
#119 - June 20, 2016
A migration, a journey by moonlight, from one holy state to a different one – move fast though, ‘cause the night, well-lit, is short, which means no time for reading signs and prayers for good fortune on the road. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line – or a tesseract for time travelers among us. Another year won’t kill them, and the cotton crop demands their presence. But this particular convergence comes once a generation, so their next chance will be less fortuitous – as will ours. A long day, a bright moon, and a lost year. And a journey to bridge a gap in space.
#120 - Who am I this month?
Same as last month, I suppose. My day starts with a glass of lemon juice I squeeze, and water, with a bit of bitter zest thrown in for good measure. I turn on the radio and the internet router to catch up on the morning news – the good, the bad. We make the bed together – the master and her disciple. I have oatmeal with raisins and cinnamon. On Sundays & Tuesdays I go to the community garden – okra, collards and peppers are waiting to be watered and weeded. On Wednesdays & Saturdays I work at the library. And in between, I tweet more than I Facebook status update, I suppose.
#121 - Bus stop
I neither wanted nor needed freedom in my youth. My brain, on fire, needed a container with lots of oxygen to cool and feed its insatiable thirst for truth. Older now with vision clouded by smoke & smog, I seek that same freedom I once disdained, forsook, refused, denied. Older now with knees that ache at the thought of bridging the divides that hide inside my conversations - wait! My bus arrives at its destination at last! One more shuttle to catch, one more chapter to read, one more sonnet of love or fate to extract. And one more thirst, across the years, to quench.
#122 - Laundry day poem
I renewed my subscription to Poetry because it was half price, But I still haven't read the volumes from two years ago.
Some issues are still in their wrappers - it's hard to write poetry and read it at the same time. Think my next project will be a novel. Of course, nothing
is more fun to write than poetry in twitter. Well, maybe Periscope might be interesting - real time, live, in color, and direct
to the reader. Can you feel my pulse between the lines? Does the flow of words make any sense at all?
#124 - for my classmate, Christina - 12/15/2016
When I’m surrounded by obligations, by debts calling my name and haunting me, I pull away and read good poetry. This week I’m reading Bernadette Mayer’s
Midwinter Day - the solstice is upon us, the year’s shortest day, its longest night, & I need protection from the evil that lurks between, within those lines, those notes,
those moments of waking, paralyzing thoughts. There is always something overdue, some rhyme that’s needed near the end of it all. It’s freezing cold outside – my eyes weep
tears that lubricate their pain, overflow the walls, fall like icicles to the ground.
#125 - On Jean Toomer's Birthday
My copy of Cane is yellowed, edges brittle from age and wear. Words used to stream through like molten lava, now they percolate slowly like coffee in Mama's kitchen. "Delete all spam messages now." Don't think twice about it - don't look back to see if anything is worth saving - it's all spam - click bait to trick you into opening your inbox to viruses you don't need. Words used to spill from his lips like diamonds and fully formed pearls - now they remain in his head and heart awaiting new birth and inspiration. Cane is yellow-edged and brittle. Oracular. Deep-rooted.
#126 - Year end thoughts - 2016
Granddaddy raised tobacco in red clay his whole life long – row by row – until he got too old to continue – life must have been tough – year end, year out, hoping for good weather and fair prices.
Grandma cleaned the white folks house, did their laundry, raised their children. That couldn’t have been much fun – she had her own children at home to care for. Pop had long red hair as a child, he told me, and thought it was a celebration when the house burned down one cold winter morning.
12/31/2016 #127 - For Maria M. Your eyes – so steely dark and determined – a bit too young for the roads you’ve travelled. You asked me about your lips, about my notice of their curvature – and those curly locks that frame, adorn such perfect symmetry. Our conversation could last forever, or at least three more years inside a chat box – and yes, I could write you a poem – a couple of Rondeaux or a sonnet on my own terms? Yet all my bad poetry – encouraged and inspired by exclamations of puppy love, your puppy love and mine – spilling off the stage of our distant lives like waves of lava from volcanic eruptions – fails to satisfy. 01/02/2017
#128 - Conclusions are my weakness Thumbing slowly through the pages and pages of my various attempts at poetic expression, it’s patently clear why you might question if I am on and off my modern medications. But the vitamins and various supplements I take don’t really count as medicine. So my highs & lows and euphoric states must require a different explanation.
Conclusions, you see, are my weakness (superpower) – I’ll come right out and own it and admit it – and this poem’s end will demonstrate it. Let me just drop you off at the corner – I’ll watch you to your door from afar, shielding me from the consequences of your goodnight kiss.