Poems

Birdhouse

 

Boy teetering on tiptoe, head tilted down,

his aquiline nose shadowed by the v-shaped roof.

Just enough height to glimpse them

through the little hole,

their only source of light.

 

Boy to man: ‘They look like little dinosaurs.’

Man to boy: ‘they’re related.’

Boy’s elated.

But to the man, the frantic movements

of the five gaping beaks,

necks strained as if gasping for air,

unsettles.

 

Birds teetering on tips of claws, heads tilted up,

their aquiline beaks shadowed by the v-shaped roof.

Just enough light to glimpse him -

the boy’s glistening eye

almost filling the aperture

through which they will be fed tonight.

 

The sum of their lifespans but a breath of geological time,

connected for an instant

in the dying light of early night.

Man to boy: ‘it’s time for bed.’

 

 

 

Lost voice

Last seen in field far from here.
Chip on shoulder. Spot on ear.
Heart on sleeve. No tag. Quite light.
Responds when called and will not bite.
The early night’s his hiding space.
If seen, approach, but please don’t chase.
Less sensitive to sense than sound.
We miss him so.
Reward if found.

Pirouette

 

How long ago she managed to hold

herself on toe, and twirl, and twirl

with grace and charm, bold

as the little ballerina girl

 

who stares at her tonight,

the sad ceramic leg now chipped

and immobile. ‘Sleep tight’

she says ‘sleep tight my love’ light lipped.

 

The little mirrors have lost their sheen

a cloudy eye confirms,

tracing leg line flecked with tourmaline.

So these are nature’s terms,

 

So these are nature’s terms.

 

Bones

 

Your skin

has finally given in

to your restless bones’ demands.

Even the knuckles are on the attack

whining for a little slack.

 

Bones are stubborn,

will not bend.

They spread about the body, distend

without consulting the soft bits

which puts proportions

out of whack.

 

Clack, crack, clack, your gangly stilts

can barely bear your height.

Balance is off

and your upper half

has yet to catch up to the legs

that just don’t step

right.

 

Obstinate, crafty bones!

You’ve been crawling under his skin

for weeks.

He just can’t keep

still

 

The bones are bulging at the knee

How odd his frame’s

topography

 

My little boy

who’s just turned three.

Titles are enough

 

Scan the articles and nouns,

linger on the sounds

of the sibilants.

 

String the titles together

and revel in the mess

of broken phrases, incongruities –

a siren, a city, the flush of blood

in the arms of lovers

lost to time.

 

Attend to the child who dances and sings

as free as the flutter of butterfly wings

he’ll soon pin to paper.

 

As interloper

hunt for impossible liaisons

of words disturbing common sense.

Then straddle the fence

partitioning the real and imagined.

 

Dig for gold on both sides.

 

If you only hit coal on reaching the end

Ascend and read backwards.

Try once again.

Office Pantoum

 

Answer to the call of duty

With decorum and tact

Bow to your superiors with deference and grace

As corporate law commands

 

With decorum intact

Refine and shape your act

As corporate law commands

Denigrate yourself in serving protocol

 

To refine and shape your act

For rise through rank and file

Denigrate yourself in serving protocol

Never dare to disagree with those in power above

 

There is rise through rank and file

For women who speak in soft and sultry tone

Never daring to disagree with those in power above

Sustaining status quo

 

Women: Speak in soft and sultry tone

Avert your eyes to apologize

To sustain the status quo

With your mastery of fixed form rules

 

Averting eyes to apologize

Men must follow suit

With equal mastery of fixed form rules

Of hierarchy and rank

 

In suit the men must follow their leader

In drunken stupor at bar barely loosening bonds

Of hierarchy and rank

Easier to succeed as man in man’s domain

 

In drunken stupor at bar, with bonds barely loosened

Frankness forcing fixed forms of intimacy

Making it easier to succeed. But as man in man’s domain spending

Half of life on jam-packed train

 

A form of intimacy rather avoided, frankly

Sweating in the stifling summer heat

Half of life on jam-packed train

Thinking of other life

 

Unlived

 

 

 

Aloft

 

I put them on a boat and sent them out to sea

To eradicate from memory

Spouting vitriolic

And bombastic bile embolic

No fathoming these figureheads

We’ve been jib rigged fore and aft

 

The Russian at the stern

The Brazilian at the wheel

The continental cads roped and hooked about the heel

And as ballast or’ the bulkheads

The American I did furl

No fathoming these figureheads

We’ve been jib rigged fore and aft

 

Aloft!

Dreadnought we fear their leeward tack

Windward wake and worried

The five will feature knotted true

Skull as lonely seamen do

No fathoming these figureheads

We’ve been jib rigged fore and aft

 

 

 

 

Salt Breathes Life

 

Gentle sound of clams purging sand

As ice cracks in early spring registered only by tiny attentive ears

Sensitive to sound with time in life to listen

 

No need for extraneous ornamentation

With richness of line, pattern, shade of shell together

Forming mosaic rivaling sand mandalas

 

Salt as balm stirring life

Salt as evil stifling it

Take your pick

 

But either way, as mandalas are brushed away

Something terrifying about last gentle movement

 

Before boiled death

 

 

 

Fall

 

From that impossible height

Taught ropes

Allowing tranquil sweep

Through ancient terraced canyon walls

Eons deep

Youth and yearning soft as liquid light

 

How Odd That Daring Dash

 

Seven of them floating in a five-line poem.

       A little bit fanatical,

         being ungrammatical. 

            By such audacity you engage        

         our curiosity.      

 

Some called it a substitute for the devil –

       Why the period had to die

         is a riddle we can’t solve.

            Nor need we bother. For we do sense

         that cessation serves to

 

arouse our pleasure and imagination

       drawing attention to the life

         you lived through; your caesura,

            retained for posterity in lead,

         traced on paper, the weight

 

of your hand revealing such intimacy.

       One has to wonder what is lost

         in print, dash lengths analyzed

            by the scholars who standardized

         those mysterious marks.

 

How odd that the daring dance of your dashes

       through its cryptic will, moves us still

         teetering and tottering

            robbing time its ebb, and through its flow –

         we hear your spirit sing.

 

The Snare of the Subject

 

Walking alone along a narrow lane in Kyoto

you discover it flickering

among the dimly lit lanterns.

 

As you start to write

you realize it’s less the moth’s yielding

than the lure of the light.

 

You try again

only to hit another wall

for it isn’t something visible

after all.

 

The subject of your poem has become a cipher

you have yet to crack.

 

In the end

you realize it’s a call to others

not unlike your first cry to the world

on breaking into the light.

 

‘listen to me. I’m alive

for I write’

​​

I Learned a Lot from Larkin

 

Simply said with light and limpid touch                               

A finely chiseled phrase works wonders                                

Nudged to the left but not too much                                    

When register is right                                                            

Form and content quit the fight                                

 

Images held for just enough time                              

Jog the soul gently midst dull daily grind                              

While riding on the train                                                       

To help us feel with heart and mind                                     

The shape of glass in rain                                                      

 

Rhyming couplets now might seem a little quaint                

A British thing perhaps, that conservative constraint           

Halcyon and soothing                                                           

Formal play to ponder pain                                                   

How to leave a word alone, alone out in the rain                  

 

Relinquishing the grandiose allows one to convey                

Such depth in lithe and sylphlike forms                                 

One seldom sees today                                                         

Let the little words hold weight                                            

Cut the fat, truncate, truncate!                                              

 

My little ode to you now done I’ll pass it on to everyone

And when my friends come round to chat

I’ll tell them Larkin’s where it’s at

Gone for over thirty years and yet

Fresh images, still now, beget

 

Just Ten Minutes

 

‘Before you leave come look,

I’ve got to level three!’

He pleads with me knowing full well

I’d rather polish a poem

than gawk at a game.

 

Just ten minutes

to run my fingers through his hair

in the little time left to touch

in the little time left to play –

He’s ten today.

 

We savor severed limbs

the grunts of goons trailblazing

rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens,

and shades of death – you won!

What fun!

 

‘Before I leave let me look

at that skyline,

from the mountain to the sea’

I want to fall with you.

Hold on, hold on to me.

 

We’ll sail to Elysium

you in my arms, free

from time, dread, rot, fear, ruin, tear

and shade of death to come –

our bodies bound as one.

Trailblaziing

 

I slowly traced the great network of interlacing trails

You made with your hands through the sand

On your knees in the park

 

Your last kingdom

This raw play of imagination

Moving your body through endless space

 

Now that the screens have claimed your attention

I miss cleaning the dirt from your knees

Smelling the fresh grass stains

 

And wonder what is lost in this forging of new trails

Through vast electronic fields

With you, immobile, staring into flat space

 

I've heard the cyber prophets say

Bodily play is falling away

With ever more to explore far from where we are

 

I’ll remember your face, utterly absorbed

Fulfilling innate earthly desire

Trailblazing

 

My garden creatures

 

hobble

tipsy towards heat ripened fruit

to copulate.

 

Their limber legged couplings

at dusk

dazzle the children

 

who arrogate

dominion over this compost kingdom

like little Roman emperors

 

decreeing to each and every bug

its pleasure

its fate.

 

 

 

 

C'est Mon Plaisir

 

Some

Give people their kids

When they feel that parenting’s

Not really their thing

 

This is sad

And makes caregivers mad

But on days

When the children are terribly bad

They too, wish they were free

 

To frolic

And sing and dance

And eat olives sans kids

In a garden in France

Grand Gran

 

A visit with you then

Was like lunch with the queen

British and lavender clean

A twinkle in your eye, cig in hand

Everything regal and grand

 

I’d listen to your stories

Of Shanghai shops and of the war

Of British ships and glories

Of the colonies and all that fell before 

The lovely liners brought you

 

To this gentle western shore

Where you could scan the sea

Driving scooter on the quay

Through sand salt woven windswept land

Shopping list in wrinkled hand

 

To buy the dainty doilies

For Royal Albert cups of tea

We’d drink with scones and butter tarts

Or Yorkshire puds and pie

Before I’d say goodbye

 

And kiss you on the cheek

In reddening room of crimson sky

At end of dying day

And wave to you from the road outside

Where they say you passed away

 

 

Who has time

 

to follow the gentle sway

of my pedicles and umbellets

but the children,

their birdy eyes and fragile fingers

delighting in my decay

 

in the breeze that tilts

these fourteen crests of seed,

my progenies survival

held in these handsome stilts

soon to be tossed as weed

 

or set in suspended animation

preserved in liquid amber jars

for my limonene and manganese

my seedling's tiny stars

my fronds a sheer chemise 

 

my last and lonely sexy dance,

a little strip and tease.

 

Butterfly

 

I catch a glimpse of you at dusk

joggling the bamboo fronds

bumping bravely

into things that are not there,

 

drunken, free and unaware

riding on the currents

of the early evening air.

 

Reminds me of the fate

of the poor words in my poems!

 

Netted, pressed and pinned

in end rhyme for display,

Hoodwinked by the rules

I forced them to obey.

Circles and Stones

(for Len)

 

Only one left

You at Lake Louise

Faded black and white

Your rugged face

Tufts of white hair answering

The bite of glacial air

Those bony fingers

Cradling binoculars

The hand I shook long ago

Before your mind ebbed away

 

No photo of the skipping stone circles

Before their untroubled return

To the surface.

On the Edge of Stravinski’s Cup

 

The old fly

has a spot on his tie.

His wings are crooked and frail.

 

He waits pensively

for morning tea

and erudite camaraderie.

 

‘I’m just here for the cream’

his smile seems to say.

And without a farewell greeting –

 

He ups and flies away.

On the tip of Schoenberg’s pen.

 

The old fly

peruses the score pensively

from the tip of Schoenberg’s pen.

 

Twelve seconds pass

before the hint of foie gras

draws him to the plate.

 

Alas, the music

is impenetrable, arcane.

But the pate, recherché –

 

I shall visit here again.

Home

 

How nice of you to come today, anyways

You must be busy with the kids

Just put it over there

Next to the flowers from Jenny

 

You must be busy with the kids

Yes, I think I still have some

Next to the flowers from Jenny

No, I’ve no need of that anymore

 

Yes, I think I still have some

Oh look! you can see the little bird from here

No, I’ve no need of that anymore

Did the kids pass their exams?

 

Oh look! you can see the little bird from here

They raise the blinds at 8:00

Did the kids pass their exams?

It’s Jen and David, right?

 

They raise the blinds at 8:00

I can see the children playing in the park

It’s Dave and Jenny, right?

When can I come home?

 

I can see the children playing in the park

Cindy here takes good care of me

When can I come home?

You look like my son

 

Cindy here takes good care of me

She brings me water when I ring

You look like my son

Who are you?

 

She brings me water when I ring

Just put it over there

Who are you?

How nice of you to come today, anyways