Thursday, January 31, 2013

On Attending a Poetry Reading by the Poet Laureate of the United States of America at the Library of Congress.

This one is still on the cutting board.  But I will share it with you, faithful readers.

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.

The Sonnet Series


Every decision, it seems, is a trade-off,
and each choice,
a rejection of all other options.
We oversimplify
to mask our true feelings.
We generalize
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 Kramerbooks cafe;
chess games and poetry in Duont Circle;
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.

November 1987

High school sonnets

When I was younger than today
(around five years of age, I’d say)
I would recite poetry and bible verses
at Sunday school sponsored talent shows.
The old ladies would say, “Hallelujah!”
“Praise the Lord!”  and Christian things like that.
And when I finished, they would ask me
what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I’d tell them, “I want to be a lawyer or a writer.”
Then the ladies would say, “he’s such a sweet child,”
never knowing that even then I understood
that life would be rough, not smooth
as everybody said.  So I decided
to give my life to the revolution.

Left home

Left home in search of knowledge
In search of that missing link
That connects reality with mysticism
And gives one a foundation
From which to understand
The whole as well as the sum of the parts
Conceived in frustration and hopelessness
Born on the verge of a great eruption
Raised in affluence, then poverty
Bred on religious half-truths
and misguided righteousness
Educated by a cruel enemy
I betrayed my teachers and
accepted my own…


Come Feast Your Eyes...(sonnet)

Come feast your eyes upon this mortal flesh-
This flesh that toiled and suffered on the earth,
And never once backed down from any task;
This frame that housed a spirit and a mind
That dared to live: a spirit that defied the sting of death;
A mind so exalted and sublime,
That it transcends the boundaries of time.

Come feast your eyes upon this mortal flesh-
This earthly form of dirt and dust and clay,
This vessel that once breathed the breath of life.
Look in the eyes and see into the soul:
The virtuous soul, the patient, faithful soul, the soul
At rest; the soul that found contentment in
Its prayer, and thereby freed itself from sin. 

June 1975


Why then should we be blinded
By the skin’s external hue?
Is supremacy of coloring
The sole reward we’re due?

Can this doctrine heal our sores?
Is it refuge for our grief?
Does it rectify injustice?
Can it bring us true relief?

Nay! But quality of intellect and
Purity of heart and uprightness
Of morals will sustain us…
If the goals we set are true.

Let us, thus, go forth, remake
the world, with truth and strong belief.

October 1975

To We, the students (sonnet)

We exist independent of the filth and
Moral corruption that plagues the modern world.
And although it may be stylish to do wrong,
We refuse to conform, we dare not allow ourselves
To be seduced by the appetites and desires
Whose control give us mastery over creation.
Our lifestyle is unique, we have our own
Ideas of freedom, our own motivating power,
Our own value system. Our behavior is not
Defined by modern psychology, our growth
Is not measured in height or weight, our
Mental power is not classified by IQ, SAT, or ACT scores.
We generate the energy we need to move and grow,
We have our own power source in ourselves.

November 1975 

Random notes

No poem can aptly describe
Nor even metaphorically allude to
The satisfaction your smiles (words) bring
No music harmonious and soft,
Though it issue from the chambers of heaven
(alt. being sung by heavenly choirs
alt. when issuing from heavenly chambers)
can fill me with such peace of mind
as the lullabies you sing…
no wine, no weed, no opiate,
though pleasing to the senses,
con so uplift the forlorn soul
and reignite the flame grown cold
as when of you I dream.

August 1976

This morning I'm bubbling over

this morning I’m bubbling over
out of the clear blue
some spark of creativeness, of inspiration
has awakened inside me

thoughts, words, phrases
emerge in rapid succession,
like fireworks in the summer,
or like raindrops in Seattle…

images flashing, reminiscences with
the power to stop me in my tracks
assail me from all corners,
all dimensions: nowhere can I hide…

is it some external stimulus,
or am I just overdue?

Sonnet #1

Dear friend, the sonnet seemed to be the best of forms
To test and gage the status of our friendship born
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 those precious
Talents, borrowed from the Muse of song and word and deed;
And if by chance our meeting and our wanting were unfounded,
We owe it to ourselves to search and find the function of that need,

Dear friend, though each has walked his separate path
To glory and to honor, let not the fleeting summer’s wrath
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, FL March 1989

Sonnet #2

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 we
remember other flowers...

Jacksonville, FL November, 1989

Sonnet #3

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.

Mayport, FL February, 1990

Sonnet #4

Your sonnets reached my mailbox today.
I plunged into them like a dog in heat.
Absorbing them, my hardened soul was moved
to tears of passion, blinding, bittersweet.
The symphony of words you now compose,
Resulting from deep inspirations, pure,
You weave, majestically, as from an ancient source,
And share with me and cause me to conjure
New images. Lines that bear the current and
The voltage of the engine of my soul,
Your whispers loosen knots that bind me,
Your words unwind me, make me whole.
And work I must to now retain
These prayers I send up in your name.

Jacksonville, FL March 1990

Sonnet #5

Dear friend my evening well was spent
Engaged in thoughts’ exchange, review,
Revealing my ill soul’s intent
To heal itself, be born anew.
I love your rhythms, rhymes and notes,
They lift my spirits, higher, ever.
You are the perfect antidote
For poisoned darts and hearts that sever.
Tonight I need a stronger brew,
Poured in a mug, steeped with emotion,
Some blend 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.

Mayport, FL March 1990

Sonnet #6

I’m torn between two sinking ships,
Two jealous mistresses who hate.
To choose one is to choose them both:
The choice is clear; I hesitate
Deciding and the moment slips away.
New ships are landing at my pier
From places strange, from shores untold.
They beckon me to come aboard,
I hesitate. Once more events unfold
Revealing feelings that are blue.
My pilot bids me change my course,
Steer clear of danger, shallow shoals.
I navigate the ship through storms
To reach the resting place of souls.

Mayport, FL March 1990

Sonnet #7

Dear faithful friend, the spirit
Of the verses that we write,
Excites us and invites us
To relive that summer’s night.
There are those who do not put stock
In resurrection’s power;
They hem and haw at warnings
Of the coming of the hour.
I too had doubts about beliefs
That dead could come to life,
Then my forgotten love for you
Was resurrected, born anew . . .

A stronger and far deeper love
Is one twice born, sent from above.

Mayport,FL  March 1990

Sonnet #8

Unclothed we come into this world, possession-less, alone,
The odyssey to reach each goal acquaints us with new pain,
Each stumbling block, despite the odds, becomes a stepping stone,
And every loss, a predecessor to a greater gain.

Our meeting was revealed to me when I was but a child:
A revelation of a form, a loveliness, pristine,
Yet planted in my heart was that pure vision, undefiled,
Someday to manifest itself just as it was foreseen.

I found you when I lacked the wherewithal to make you mine,
Distressed, perplexed, I felt compelled to spell my love that June.
That summer’s love was but a glimpse into a world divine,
A harbinger of better days, of times more opportune.

We’ll meet again and then we must decide upon the hour
When we’ll allow our destinies to intertwine and flower.

Mayport, FL March 1990

Sonnet #9

We’ve been delayed from getting underway.
This pause affords me time to write to you
Some thoughtful verse, to contemplate, to pray,
To call my father’s gods, subdue
The passion, pain, excitement of the day.
I read your sonnets, gifts of Spring,
About our love one June.
I miss our chats when I’m away at sea.
Communion with you makes me know I’m blessed.
The poet in me prays you’ll always be
My friend, my lover, object of my quest,
And sonneteer of magic poetry.
March love outlives the summer’s fling,
‘Cause summer ends too soon.

Mayport, FL  March 1990

Sonnet #10

When overburdened with the cares and woes
Of everyday travail, I take a pause
To recollect, arrange my thoughts, compose
Some verse for you, attempting to disclose
A word, a clause, the laws that bind our hearts
Together in a single work of art.
Our love cannot be bound by words and notes,
Though flawed, confined to secrecy, and mute,
We can’t stand on a mountaintop, promote
Abroad this feeling, though it keeps our boat
Afloat amid the sunken wrecks, unmarked,
Unseen by those who fail to read the charts . . .
I love you, yes, I can’t ignore the force
That steers me steady on life’s stormy course.

Mayport, FL March 1990

Sonnet #11

Before I fall asleep each night I read
The poems you’ve sent: they are my prayers, my hope,
My joy, prescription for my timeless need.
I read them twice, I measure every slope
And curve, defining and deriving their
Delights, despite the doom you recommend
Our end would be if we should ever touch
Our lips to lips, our flesh to flesh again.
My compass true, my anchor sound, I’ll find
The key to treasures long forgotten, long
Unrecognized, preserved within the mind
Of poets who still sing the sonnet’s song.
And you, my friend, write on your sullen dirge.
I wager we’ll survive its sterile purge.

Mayport, FL March 1990

Sonnet #12 

One April day the crew got underway,
With Captain's-gig and hopes and spirits high,
Embarking on a lark to old St. Aug,
To seek for LUCE the blessing of the fleet.
We passed shacks, mansions, rich and poor that lined
The shore. Along the beach the sand was brown
Like mud; ebb tide exposed the rotted posts
Where fishing boats and captain's gigs could land.
LUCE led the slow procession past the stands
Where stood the Bishop, color guard, and friends,
He sprinkled us with water from his hands,
And smiled and spoke his blessing for the fleet:
God bless the fleet that shields our shores from harm,
Protect the ships that silence war's alarm.

Mayport, FL April 1990

Sonnet #13

A young man's life expired on my ship
Today.  He walked aboard at dawn, intent
(One must assume) to start his day, his life
Anew.  Then suddenly, without consent,
Without the chance to bargain, beg, or plead,
The 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
To take? When all the storms of life have passed,
And evil's jurisdiction over souls
Is brought to naught, the truth, once crucified,
Will rise to save the souls of hopes that died.

Mayport, FL April 1990 

Sonnet #14

Dear friend, I listen to your poems of late,
And contemplate the dreaded thought of life
Without the prospect of your fond embrace;
I reminisce about that kiss one June:
Too soon, too late to consummate; too true
To be denied, too pure to not be sure
That God intended for our souls to dwell
As one, exclusive, all-embracing love---
No matter what the future holds in store,
I did, I do I’ll always love you more
And more; though distance separate us far,
I’ll search the constellations for that star
That shines in you. And should I die, too soon,
Apart from you, we’ll meet again one June.

Jacksonville, FL April 1990

Sonnet #15

Dear friend, with pen in hand and feelings true
I sing for you this song. Despite my voice,
Too base in places to be understood,
You’ll sense the message: soothing, moving, light,
Disarming, satisfying. Rendezvous
Tonight with me, take flight, delight, rejoice
In that we share this love, exchange this word
That lives past sunsets, through the darkest night.
I can’t contain the energy this thought
Now generates: it makes me want to dance,
Sing, shout, tell all the worlds, turn somersaults;
It makes me grateful, thankful for romance.
When passing passions blue bid me adieu,
I seek safe harbors, true, kind friend, near you.

Mayport, FL April 1990

Sonnet #16

Today I watched the shuttle launched towards space.
A tail of fire plowed the southern morning sky
Until it disappeared. I thought about
The people there, behind the scenes, who made,
It all occur. There's someone there whose life
Is less than free from care, a lonely heart,
Dis-eased, distressed, beset by worries, woes,
Who, overcoming all, finds sweet the reaching
Of the goal. There're happy ones who feel the tinge
Of sadness at the thought of those who've missed
By fate the thrill of launch complete, the charm,
The pure romance of making dreams come true.
The shuttle jets toward heaven, far away
From troubles, closer still to hopes ideal.

Mayport, FL April 1990

Sonnet #17

Dear friend I left our poems ashore to gain
A clear and fresh perspective on romance
So new, unfolding through these notes exchanged
By mail. In some respects I'm in a swoon
For words that rhyme: these thoughts, sublime, contain
The elements of hope divine, the chance
That you might share, with me, again, unchanged
Thrills 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,
We've wined 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.

Mayport, FL May 1990

Sonnet #18

The spirit's come and gone. And yet remains
The hull, the shell wherein no true love thrives
Today. The salvaged traces laugh at me,
At us for make-believing fairy-tales
And happy endings where romance is sweet,
Where love runs deep, where passions overflow,
Eclipsing sun and moon and night and day.
The spirit 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 plan, this life so fraught with strife, so full
Of chance and happenstance and foiled romance.
The deed is done, its end is near. Revere
The strength that overcomes a darkened year.

Jacksonville, FL May 1990

Sonnet #19

Two months have passed since last I read from you
A poem, wherein you bid your heart awake,
Return again, transcend that hellish gore
Where life and love are but the vapid glow
Which covers, hides and smothers innocence.
I beg to understand, to know the truth
About that grave whereof you speak, where fools
Like me are brought, at last, to dismal ends.
My love of life is greater than my hope
That we might share again the joy we knew
That June. Another spring is come, and June
Will visit 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.

Jacksonville, FL June 1990

Sonnet #20

Dear friend, take up your pen again, compose
Those works of art that live and breathe and sing
The rhapsody of love and hope. Revive
Anew in you the spirit of the Muse
To guide, to entertain, and to enthuse.
Restore the democratic art, the urge
To write, embraceable, attainable
By all. Take up your pen, today, obey
God’s highest call: express the good, the true,
The beautiful. Articulate in verse
Life’s purest, deepest, noblest sentiments;
Preserve in rhyme and rhythm secrets sent.
Take up your pen again, the times demand
Your words be heard, your dreams rise up and stand.

Jacksonville, FL July 1990

Sonnet #21

Remember years ago when we first met?
You selling books, me browsing, reading books
At Brandon’s store? We were so young, and life
So unrevealed, so full of promises
And boundless hopes and dreams, and guarantees
And opportunities. You went away.
I stayed and made mistakes. We met again,
You east, me west, you school, me ships and seas.
Confused, we erred and severed friendship’s bond,
And all seemed lost between us save a thread,
A laser beam of hope that, over time,
Compressed, distilled and purified, survived
Until today. We meet again. What fate
Awaits is ours to plan, to recommend.

Jacksonville, FL July 1990

Sonnet #22

I look back to the time we shared and smile,
And smile and grin and laugh with joy untapped
Before that smile. Our spirits span the miles
That separate our hearts, that keep us trapped
Apart, detached, disjointed from that source
of strength, of love the gods bequeathed to gods
At birth. We rendezvous beyond, outside
The force of chance and fate. Our senses fuse,
United endlessly in time and space;
The spark of life ignites and multiplies,
Acknowledging a power all its own.
Dear friend I can't ignore the call of June:
In just a few short weeks we'll meet, we'll taste
The chilled sweet wine, fermented, aged and pure.

Greensboro, NC May 1991

Sonnet #23

Dear faithful friend I count each passing day,
I pray for time to instantly elapse,
Events to fill the gaps that separate
And isolate my life from thine. Oh fate,
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 dreams!
I'll smile to see you, touch you, taste your smile,
And all the while my soul has longed to lodge
Near yours will seem like but a brief delay,
A short, short stay away from heaven's bliss.
I fantasize that when we meet we'll kiss,
And cry, and tears will rinse away, dissolve
The walls we've built to hold in check our love.

E. Palo Alto, CA July 1991

Let's plan a picnic

Let's plan a picnic, dear, for Saturday,
Walk hand in hand through woods
until we find our secret place again.
Then spread the lunch we packed
upon the ground and have a feast:
Ummmmm! Barbecued chicken, coleslaw,
string beans and potatoes, deviled eggs,
candied yams; two hearts that share
a secret sentiment of June romance;
please pass the deviled eggs, and let me
hold your hand. I must confess I love you;
my heart and soul have found their match,
their mate in you: I cannot rest from hoping
that this dream will soon come true.

E. Palo Alto, CA July 1991

Sonnet #24

Dear friend, perhaps our paths may cross again:
Perchance, we’ll meet together at the top,
Or down below, beneath the crowds, inside
The underground. Perhaps we’ll be united
By a cause, a hope, a dream, a fantasy . . .
Perhaps we’ll join together out of fear
Or love for something we perceive to be.
It matters not my love, the force, the source
That consecrates the ground on which we'll meet:
It matters not the season of the year
(Though June is sweet!), nor the place that destiny
Prescribes, we’ll meet! The Muses tell us so!
Though circumstance as yet precludes the fate
The gods have planned, I wait, I wait, I wait...

E. Palo Alto, CA August 1991

Sonnet #25

Sweet peace, spring love was never meant to last.
But we've been blessed by chance and fate to taste
Its bittersweetness, to feel its incandescence...
Sweet peace, I tremble at the thought of touching you,
I stumble, hesitatingly, over-anxiously
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 meet,
complete, again, and spring, sweet peace,
for you and I, may never reappear ...
This word is all that I possess to give,
and all is all my fragile soul can bear.
Sweet dreams, sweet peace, I hear your angels' wings.

St. Louis, MO  March 1992

Sonnet #26

Sweet peace, spring love was never meant to last:
Its budding branches bear a tempting fruit,
Whose taste is bittersweet and innocence
That glows with incandescent subtlety.
Acknowledging spring's temporariness,
I tremble at the thought of touching you:
I fear your petals may unfold too soon,
And, falling to the ground, disintegrate.
I stumble as our lips approach, then meet,
Our heartstrings and our heartbeats synchronized.
Spring love intoxicates us: spirits fuse,
Revealing in each other secret worlds.
Sweet dreams, sweet peace, I hear your angels' wings.
My winter-weary soul awaits next spring.

St. Louis, MO  March 1992

Sonnet #27

Sweet peace, spring love was never meant to last:
It's just a stint, a pause, a brief delay
In what is otherwise a boring, gray
Sojourn we call our lives. Today her buds
And blossoms tantalize our eyes; in haste
We contemplate the taste of spring romance.
Sweet peace, spring's bittersweetness gives us cause
To recollect and circumspect love's laws;
And yet, spring love commands her subtle dues,
And moves our thawing thoughts to feel her views.
Spring love intoxicates us: drunkenly
We stumble, stagger, tremble, wild and free.
Sweet dreams, sweet peace, I hear your angels' wings,
My drifting, weathered soul awaits next spring.

St. Louis, MO  March 1992

Sonnet #28

A lynch mob forms and dissipates each day
Conversing and rehearsing how they plan
To seal the fate of those they've chose to slay.
The eager group, polite despite, is dressed
To kill, to maim, to burn some flesh, to swing
A body from a tree until it's gasped
Its last. Horrendous though it seems, they cheer
And celebrate this morbid mass of death.
The bulging eyeballs slime through charred remains
That were his head, while children poke with sticks,
Investigate the flesh that's left, the parts
That didn't burn, that wouldn't yield to flames . . .

St. Louis, MO April 1992

Sonnet #29

I fight with all my waning strength
distrustfulness and self-suspicious fear
that seeks free rent.  The night's uncertainty
envelops me and whispers in my ear:
"Take arms, retreat; resist, cooperate."
The will, the faith to overcome escapes
my grasp each moment I attempt to make
it mine. At times it seizes me, this fear,
engulfing like a parasite my source.
I cannot let it win! My soul must hold
its ground! Though wounded, bloodied, battered,
I must be…. justified. The sword of victory is drawn.
The darkest part of night precedes the dawn.

St. Louis, MO December 1991

Sonnet #30 

"This is the Captain, this is a strategic launch!
Battlestations!" rings around my soul,
And rousing me from sleepiness and slumber,
Demands that I assume my chosen role.
We rise up, like a beast, from ocean’s bottom,
The hatches open, doomsday is at hand;
We push the buttons, random pick the numbers,
Then send the missiles after our command.

And afterward the afterword is zero…
There’s no one left to tell us how we sinned;
We are survivors, that makes us the hero,
We build the world anew and make amends.
But how can we ignore, erase our wrong?
We pay the price; we are the best, the strong?

Bangor Submarine Base, WA February 1983

Sonnet #31

"This is the Captain, this is a strategic launch!
Man Battlestations!" rings around my soul,
And rousing me from sleepiness and slumber,
Demands that I assume my chosen role.
We rise up, like a beast, from ocean’s bottom,
The hatches open, doomsday is at hand;
We push the buttons, random pick the numbers,
Then send the missiles after our command.

And afterward the afterword is zero…
There’s no one left to tell us how we sinned;
We are survivors, that makes us the hero,
We build the world anew and make amends.
But how can we ignore, erase our wrong?
We pay the price; are we the best, the strong?

Sonnet #32

My love for you is like a fire, raging,
Self-contained and self-sustaining, flaming
Brightly, all-consuming, all-embracing,
Separating, 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
And hate co-habitate in hopes and dreams?

It seems, and it must be that fear hates love
As much as hate fears truth, as truth loves light.
It seems, and it must be my plight, to seek
Your soul, to fan the flame I fear the most.
My love for you is like a fire, raging,
Self-contained and self-sustaining, flaming.

Washington, DC August 1992

Sonnet #33

I tossed the ball to fall within her range
of view.  She thanked me with a friendly smile.
I looked into her somewhat saddened eyes
and found a friendly home, to my surprise.
Inside she showed me to an empty place,
and bid me have a seat and rest my soul.
I fell asleep, I went into a trance,
She smiled again, I touched her eyes, the doors
That opened wide for me (for me alone,
I'd be so vain to dream ... ).
I watched her pupils dilate from within,
Behind the lids that always blink too soon.
I tossed the ball again to fall within her range
of view.  She thanked me with a smile.

Harper's Ferry, WV October 1992

Sonnet #34

We sought asylum after we were freed.
Resettlement and refuge was our hope
And dream. We recognized that we had been
Excluded from the human race, and yet,
We chose to cast our buckets where we were.
Our 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
Suggested otherwise; to wit, we had no right
To earn by birth what we had been endowed.
In retrospect, we should have sought asylum
Off these shores. One hundred thirty years
Have passed, too many years to resurrect those
Pristine hopes and dreams. And now, today,
The time has come to seize what we are due.

Washington, DC February 1993


Beloved, be loved by me. Is it a thought
So strange, so ill-conceived, so far removed
From what we sense and feel and know to be?
You stir in me strange new passions,
Passions unexperienced, untested.
I am simultaneously frightened
and enraptured, charmed and bewitched,
fearful and anxious. An arrow has pierced
my jugular vein, and entered the
inner chamber of my heart, my soul.
I am blinded for a moment by the light,
unsteadied yet emboldened by your love.
How long can we ignore the forces that
Conspired to bring us to this time and place?
Be loved.

London, 1997

Sonnet #37  Return of the Muse - Cairo, Egypt

your spirit left me long, long years ago
your presence left me longer. I forgot
the forms, the rhythms of your loveliness,
the peace and calm you brought me, the silence
and the loneliness we shared. I lost track,
misplaced the way back, through the years, of all
you taught me about words, and songs, and notes,
and rhymes, and meter, and measure…and love.
Oh daughter, oh sister, oh spirit, deep,
who sent you back to me? What force or power
conjured you up and breathed into you life?
And why? Why here and now? And to what end?
It matters not. I worship at your feet.
I hear and I obey; I write, I write…

Cairo, Egypt August 2006

Sonnet #38 - Damascene Sonnet

You lose some things you cherish as you pass
Through life's transitions.  Letters you received
May not survive a flood -- first drafts of poems
You wrote get lost in shipments -- coffee mugs
Disappear, book collections may not stay
Intact when divorce or death part the waves
Of time.  Friendships and associations
You thought would be there in your grayer years
May only survive a season, or not --
And reasons for a friendship come and go
Like tides that flood and ebb and flood again.
The things that last a lifetime, then, are rare
And few, and even enjoy
The fleeting now, breathe deeply, smile freely.

Damascus, Syria July 2009

Sonnet #39 (without punctuation)

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
He later sought through song to heal a world
His passions lifted us before his fall
As children we adored his boyish ways
We grew, became adults with his success
As men and women we thought we knew his pain
His stardom overswept us like the dust
That sweet melodic voice became a rasp
On our subconsciousness, his call to heal
Was crowded out by bills and laws and hate
And so we mourn a man who paid the price
And hope that lesser lights will now suffice

Damascus, Syria July 2009

Sonnet #40

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.

Washington, DC  January 2013

Sonnet #41

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.   

Washington, DC  February 2013

Sonnet #42

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.

Washington, DC  February 2013

Sonnet #43

This morning I watched video readings of Poe’s The Raven.
Great actors like James Earl Jones and Christopher Walken
read the poem’s lines with music in the background,
almost as if it were a film script with a musical score.
I fear they missed the point, rushing through the words
to make them fit an external melody and rhythm.
With Poe, the music is inside the words and lines, not outside.
Poe’s words should be read slowly, deliberately, intentionally.
One word should stumble into another, like a drunk man walking,
like a drugged Poe, bobbing and weaving and writing his poetry.
My father, self-medicated as he often was, would read The Raven
as it should be read, slowly, with 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.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013   

Sonnet #44

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.

April 13, 2013
Sonnet #45

The poet does not write and read, non-plussed,
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.  

April 14, 2013

Sonnet #46  -  the Wizard of Oz

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.

April 15, 2013

Sonnet #47

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.

April 16, 2013 –

Sonnet #48  – Feeling the heat of battle

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 ounce 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, anxious
as you become narcotized by, then addicted
to the sweetness of stolen waters.

April 16, 2013

Another conversation with Erato, my Muse

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!” 


Sonnet #50

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.


Sonnet #51

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. 


Sonnet #52

Dinner and the Revolution

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...


Sonnet #53 Writing and poems

When I study a poem
I write it out in long hand,
unless it is too long to write,
in which case, it is too long to study –

when I compose poetry
I write it out in long hand,
on a yellow legal pad,
with a green-inked fountain pen –

but I move it to Word
for editing,
then cut and paste into Excel
for analysis,
then frame it in pdf
for decoration.


Sonnet #54

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.

August 2, 2013
Sonnet #55  Introducing Maria

another crazy dance with Maria dos Santos Pittsylvania:
she loves to 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. 


Sonnet #55 – Transfer orders

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.  

Sonnet #56 - Flashbacks to Pike Place

Yesterday I received a poem on
a postcard about a city I used to know
and a street market I often visited
to buy seafood and books and frankincense.
The poem even featured a recent emigrant
from North Carolina: me, time-traveling
again. I quickly flashed back to the early ‘80’s,
and long, lonely submarine deployments,
and the Cold War.  And rainy rides to Seattle
via the Bainbridge Island Ferry, to shop
for books in the U district and
at Pike Place Market, always anticipating
the next voyage to the bottom of the sea. 

August 8, 2013

August 10, 2013 – El Gusto!

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.

August 15, 2013  -  Making the bed

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.

August 21, 2013 – Lady Day

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.”

Sonnet for a rainy Sunday morning

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.



  1. Loved this post, Ray. That last line sends the whole thing into orbit. Though these days, I'm not at my computer proper very often, and blogger seems not to like to let me sign in to leave comments when I'm on the ipad, I want you to know I visit here often and always like seeing what you're up to. ModPo is definitely the gift that keeps on giving, isn't it?

  2. Thanks for the comment, Susan. ModPo definitely keeps on giving. Lucky us!