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.

 

Tiny birds. Small boy. Old man.

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.

 

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

 

 

 

 

Frisson

 

As vehicle of God’s good grace

Vested in surplice and stole did arouse

In solemn mood in bride and groom a trace

Of gentle love as lei of wedding vows

With little left of former power to flaunt 

In memory of youthful primal play

As daring can, and indeed will do when filled with want

Faced the pair in loving pose to pray

With soft and sultry voice of earth and sea

As net to fish his wanton words enmesh

With heated lips to open ears he whispered earnestly

To join as three in free and final dance of flesh

Passions stirred awaiting what they lacked

Alas they mingled not, for he was sacked

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

A Question

 

O wise one please enlighten me

On art and artifice

‘Artifice is trying to be

And art, well, art just is’

 

More Numbers At

 

10,000 poems, proudly titled and proofed

500 more still awaiting their name

half of them nervous and bowing in shame.

As ‘Numbers’ was taken

mine’s ‘More Numbers At’.

Rather sharp, like the chic of a well-balanced hat.

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

 

 

 

 

Herr Brahms and Mr. Edison

 

“it’s as though one were living a fairy-tale.”

          - Johannes Brahms in a letter to Clara Schumann

 

I strain to catch the distant sounds

of long dead vibrations,

caught, preserved and brought to life

through Edison’s magic machine.

 

‘Johannes Brahms’ a faint crackling voice confirms

before he plays his Hungarian Dances

bravely battling the onslaught

of relentless clicks and pops.

 

I discovered that the stylus was to blame

for that slow death of his voice over time

as each fatal turn of the drum

further scarred the fragile foil.

 

As I listen I wonder

how a poem resists time’s attack

Can it win if it fights back?

 

Or should it just admit defeat and fade away

As children’s voices wither

after play at end of day

The Snake Charmer

 

So I’m the evil one.

Not you, who sliced my neck,

severed my venom glands

and sewed my mouth shut.

 

If you had just defanged me

I’d be granted my only act of defiance

of tonguing you and your audience

as you ply your trade with your pungi.

 

What a farce your soundless melody!

Even the children know I lack an outer ear

and only respond to the movements

of the gourd and your bony fingers.

 

At night when the low dull vibrations slink

into the soil, granting me my only refuge of silence

I dream of life before this hell in a basket,

how it felt to slither so free through grass and sea

 

to a placid village far from the throngs

of tourists onto the soft laps of the priestesses

to be gently held, coddled and kissed

on the top of my divine and delphic head.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

The Star Gage

 

The tiny inkblot paper thin

Impossibly lets light within

 

Renders real within the brain

All that’s seen in light’s domain

 

As mirrors play their tricks on light

Inverting letters left to right

 

Here the world divides

 

Inverting letters left to right

As mirrors play their tricks on light

 

All that’s seen in light’s domain

Renders real within the brain

 

Impossibly lets light within

The tiny inkblot paper thin

 

 

 

 

Commuting

 

I saw a child today

on the train

 

red glove held firmly 

in grandmother's hands

 

and something in the way

they gazed at the rain 

 

shattered my future

dissolved all my plans

Peitho

 

With eyes like stars in disguise

Through the pallid night light stalks

Steals her men away from their wives

On orphic evening walks

 

 

Two Poems

 

 

For Charlie

Your supersonic cyber savvy art and words

Eyewink light and candid crisp

Soothes my soul and keeps me young and yearning

 

Just write like Charlie speaks and words will flow

I say to myself racking little brain

Battling fear and loathing

 

Trying to write a poem that just manages to float

A few inches off the ground for an instant

Before collapsing under its own weight

 

I vow to lighten tone with tongue firmly held in cheek

Toss “breadth of our domain”

Get up, dry tears and start again

Charlie Worthen’s Shirt

 

has 17 red roses

on the side that I can see

in a kind of floral pattern

that’s a mystery to me.

 

While they seem to know their place

in relation to their neighbors

they’re clearly unaware

of the elegant design,

 

how the pocket seams align

so perfectly, with stem meeting stem

at the base of the hem

then growing to the top of the square

 

and from there cur

ling over

the double stitched rim, so lovingly sewn,

and then in, to the pocket to rest.

 

And you know that Charlie loves them

for they are free to frolic and roam

from pocket to sleeve to collar and back

to the pocket, their composite home.

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

 

 

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