Thursday, March 12, 2015


Every woman turned her head
As he passed down the trolley aisle
Carrying a bag full of beauty.
Cut pink and white lilies
Spilled sweet scent
As he edged past our knees,
Blessing our morning commute.

Betsy McKenzie
October, 2015

the image of the bouquet is from Benchmark Bouquets, selling on Amazon.com

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

On the Queen City Approached at Night

What dragon would not covet
This lapful of jewels scattered,
White, red, green,
Winking and shining
Across the dark
Rumpled hills

(for a beautiful image of Cincinnati at night, visit http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeff-schreier/4229381342/in/photostream/lightbox/ )

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Goldfish Ambulance II

The doctors shake their heads,
Faces very grave.
"The patient's dried up
Like a mummy frog inside,"
They say, "She needs
Emergency infusions, stat!"

An ambulance rushes up.
Out jump special EMTs.
They lay the patient on
The gleaming metal stretcher.

Gently, they open the back doors.
Inside the ambulance is filled
With blue-green water.
It sloshes to some subtle tide.

Beneath the surface of the water glide
Dimply seen shapes that
Glimmer golden-orange:
Gold fish swimming in the pool.

The desiccated patient
Slides beneath the surface
Without a ripple or errant bubble.
The fish nibble softly all around.

One doctor leans in
With an eyedropper.
One, two, three drops
Administered beneath the patient's tongue.

"Tincture of belladona,"
The doctor dolefully sighs.
Changing places, reaching in,
Another doctor rubs the patient's forehead.

"Powdered mandrake root in goose grease."
He wipes his hand abstractedly
On his pocket handkerchief,
And walks to the other side.

The third doctor pushes
Tiny candles into the patient's ears.
As she lights them with a match
A murmuring chant is heard.

"Poetry candles!" she assures
Her wondering colleagues.

Aug. 19, 2012
Betsy McKenzie

Goldfish image courtesy of http://hearingelmo.wordpress.com/2008/07/14/a-number-of-firsts/
Hearing Elmo is a blog about living with hearing loss and invisible disability.

Billy Collins' Moth

I dreamed Billy Collins
Whispering haiku into
His white dog's patient ears.
First one long, silky ear,
Then the other hound dog ear
Got the lines about
The moon moth sleeping on the
Gigantic temple bell.

In my dream, as Billy whispered
He whispered the moth and bell into the room.
When the moth flew away,
It made the one-tone bell tip,
And its iron voice
Clanged and clanged.

I thought, how heavy was that moth?
His flying tipped a one-tone iron bell
To wag its metal tongue!

How heavy is a baby
Lying beneath his mother's ribs?
How heavy is the bond
That runs between friend and friend?
How heavy is the raindrop
That breaks granite into sand?

May, 2012

Inspired by Billy Collins' poem "Japan" (1998), which was inspired in turn by Taniguchi Buson's Japanese haiku translated into English by X.J. Kennedy:

On the one-ton temple bell
A moon moth, folded into sleep
sits still.

Image of a luna moth courtesy of South Harrison NRI Wildlife Inventory which must be related to Rutgers University.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Cassandra Song

On my twenty-first birthday,
My father told me,
"The day your epiphyses seal,
You begin to age and die."

Youth cannot believe a
Prophet of death.
I laughed and chalked it up to
His usual doomsday outlook.

But we spend out lives
Clambering against
A slow-motion
Avalanche of death.

Disability, illness and memory loss:
The three horsemen of
Our personal Apocalypses.

And yet, there is a fire
That burns inside.
It will not let us lie down.

With each mounting indignity --
From nagging aches that
lodge like an unwanted weekend guest

Who simply never leaves,
To major injuries and
Diagnoses that pound us down

Like punchdrunk boxers overmatched --
Yet still we rise,
Stagger up each time.

It is not death we fear,
I think, but surrender,
Of our selves.

Betsy McKenzie

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The secret

Sun sparkles on the water
As it pours into the alley
In old Havana; a fountain
From a rusty gutter drainpipe.
The boy is lost in joy,
Dancing under the water.

For so long as he sambas
With the shining water,
Nothing else matters --
Not his sick mother
Nor shoeless sisters,
Nor the father who disappeared.

The boy knows this secret:
Every day the sun pours down
Over all the earth. And rain
Kisses the ground, blessing
All who walk in it.
If we only stop to dance
And look up,
Joy is pouring down
Every day.

Betsy McKenzie
National Geographic image that inspired this poem:

The Jaunty Cap

We thought it was a short visit
For a cranky baby. He was groaning,
Hot, and not himself. Like a
Nightmare, the day unrolled.

The fever spiked high, with no
Symptoms but those groans.
The doctor suspected meningitis.
Awful struggle to make a spinal tap
In a six-week, too-small spine.

And suddenly, we were heading
To the hospital, "for observation."
In a far-off lab's petri dish, our sample
Would germinate for three long days.

My clingy-needy child torn
From my clingy-needy arms
By grim-faced nurses.

Behind closed doors, away
From appalled parental eyes,
They installed the needle for IVs
In that tender scalp,
Protected by an upturned coffee cup.

In self-defense, we named it
Joe's jaunty cap.

Betsy McKenzie 5/24/2012

Demeter at the ICU

Demeter sits in the waiting room of the ICU,
Exiled from her daughter's side.
She came to bring 'Seph back
To the sunlit lands Before dark Pluto could have his way.

But the techs want no family looking on
When they intubate the patient,
So, silent, the goddess sits,
Demoted from Olympus. And yet...

Still she strides down Hades' halls,
To wrestle Death himself for Persephone's soul.

Betsy McKenzie 5/24/2012

Black marks

"Will I have black marks on my soul?"
He spent the day,
Calling them, one after another
To his office.

A reorganization, she calls it.
To be more efficient
And nimble.

But if you do the math,
All the salaries you
Spent the day axing
Might cover three or four
Missing students,
Or perhaps cover two
New development
Back slappers,
Or one fat prof.

Have you been adequately
Compensated for the
Work you did today?

Betsy McKenzie 5/24/2012

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Missing the Forest for the Ducks

"Don't you think," said my neighbor,
While eyeing the ducks on the lake,
"That they show how God means us to live?"
She meant that the white ducks had banded
Together at one end of the lake,
And black ducks in a bunch at the other.

What she failed to see, in her rush
To grind a lesson from glimpsed
Postures of water fowl, was that
the ducks and lake were set in
A wider mosaic, more rich than
We can see, intertwined.

Use a wider lens, draw back yet more,
And see a forest round the lakeshore,
Still more to see the towns and farmsteads
In patchwork pattern, rivers ribboned.
Look through time and see prairies emerge
From coral reefs, shallow inland seas.

So how well I answered my neighbor,
"Oh, my yes! I think they do indeed."

Betsy McKenzie
July-August, 2011

This is the first poem I have felt like writing in quite a long time... Hooray!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Indy and Dover: Surprise! Pictures, not poems

I am posting some pictures here of Indy the Cat and Dover the Dog. Some of my friends and relations have been receiving regular e-mails titled "Greetings from Indy the Cat," since we adopted a cat named Indiana Jones. I started these because I wanted to keep the kind folks who gave us Indy up to date on her life. But I kept thinking of more cat lovers I knew who might enjoy hearing about this very colorful feline and her antics. So the list has grown to quite a number of fans of Indy the Cat. She has her humble servants (yours truly and all our family), and her adoring dog, Dover. Dover did not used to be afraid of lightning and thunder. But Indy was terrified of thunder storms. Shortly after she came, she delegated all that to Dover. It was the most amazing thing I ever saw. She handed the fear off to Dover and then she was able to relax while the poor dog took on the burden of shivering during lightning storms. This the cat we adopted.

Dover appeared in Poyetry once before, as a very young dog, when we were first adopting him from the foster home. He is a rescue sheltie. He has grown into a very handsome and playful 3 year old sheltie. And he does love his cat. He has no idea how she bosses him. But he does his share of treat-stealing. And they are both very jealous of one another getting attention.

There is a picture of Indy's eating area. This is because Indy has recently taken to protesting when her bowl is empty. She tosses all the plastic containers over the side. She will even shove the wooden box over that holds the food containers you see on the side there. She used to have a larger bowl made of heavy stoneware. She had that and a plastic bowl of water up on the higher platform. She tossed the water overboard one day, and we decided the water would be kept on the floor. Then she shoved the empty food bowl down one too many times and it shattered. So, now Indy has a bowl that I think must have metal inside the heavy plastic. It is amazingly heavy, with a non-skid, hollow base. But it's still too easy for Indy to move it. So, we made a square, U-shaped brace to hold the bowl, so it would be harder for Indy to shove it over the edge. We also finally have added a small plastic lid with high "lips" that fit tightly under the edges of the food bowl. We have taped it down, but will probably staple it in place. You now have to twist and lift to pick up the food bowl, but we can still pick it up to wash it. But Indy will probably still find a way to knock it down. She is a very resourceful and determined cat!

Other pictures above show Indy's box bed that was made from a large mens' slippers box. We saved the tissue and added an old lambswool muffler. She seems to like sleeping in the box, and can somehow open and close the hinged lid. Very tricky cat!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Holocaust of a Savage God

Holocaust of a Savage God

Betsy McKenzie Dec. 31, 2005

All those long-lost boys
Who wore their pain
Like trailing clouds
Tinged with blood.
They wandered off
And winked out
Like so many candles
In the first holocaust;
Sad little
Obituaries saying only
Closed casket.
Now the remnant
Feel safe, secure.
They have cocktails
to hold off the virus.
Now comes Tina:
Seductive high priestess
of the savage god.
He takes his next
When they feel most
Insidious, addictive,
Tina takes your
Mind, your money
Your teeth, your house
Your friends, your
Reputation, your job.
And finally, serves you up
To the savage god.
Cry for the waste of it.
We made the god.
We fashioned it from
Hate and fear and beatings and law.
It would have no power without us.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Moon Song

Moon Song

It is the killing time,
Just after the turn of the year.
The new moon hangs like an ivory horn,
Shockingly large, just over the treetops:
Creamy as butter
Yellow as beef tallow;
Memento of some
Beautiful, hieratic white heifer
Destined for a jealous god's altar.

The moon remembers,
The moon reminds us.

We don't recall,
We who dwell with
Electric lights and
Central heat and
Internet ports. And
We believe we are
Divorced from all the
Cruel realities that
Mired our grandcestors
In the mud and the blood of the past.

But my beast-body knows the truth.
It has no words
To speak its hard wisdom,
The bone-deep knowledge,
But it knows beyond all doubting
What that crescent moon is doing
In the dark sky.

Jan. 20-21, 2010
Image of the moon is courtesy of http://www.areavoices.com/astrobob/ from Bob King of Duluth, Minnesota.

Thursday, December 31, 2009


Sketch my life lightly
On the back of the world.
Lay me like a moth or pollen,
Or a shadow on a wall.
I will abide, yet leave no mark.

How long, or how hard
Would you have to live
To grave a mark on granite?
A life like a glacier,
Perhaps to gouge a glyph.

I cannot bear a glacier's
Life. I hang between
Moth and tortoise.
I neither build nor destroy.
I garden. I brood. I shine
My brief day and slide
Away, leaving no mark.

Betsy McKenzie
Dec. 31, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Peace Medal in the Time of War

The words shimmer out
Like dark coins from Norway.
They roll across my floor
With irony,
Thrown like
A handful of silver
At the feet of a sinner.

December 10, 2009
Betsy McKenzie

On the occasion of President Obama's speech receiving the Nobel Peace Prize shortly after his decision to increase American troops in Afghanistan.

Here is a link to a wonderful website with poems by soldiers and other members of the armed services. It includes poems from as far back as WWI, the famous guys like Rupert Brooke, Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, but this link takes you to contemporary poets speaking from Afghanistan.

The image of the Nobel Peace Prize medal is courtesy of http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/medal.html

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Twitter Song

Twitter, flitter,
Tweet my peeps,
Hope it's not too busy;
Fail whale, just bail.
The site comes tumbling after.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Britain names first female poet laureate

England has named its first ever female poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. She is also the first openly gay poet laureate for England.

Here is a charming example of her down-to-earth poetry style,
Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.

Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.
While there are lots of business-like announcements of the fact, my favorite story about Carol Ann Duffy is here, in the Mirror, dated February 5, 2009. Reporter Daisy Goodwin opens her story:
The first time I met Carol Ann Duffy she made me cry. I was meant to be interviewing her but within minutes of meeting her I had told her everything about my broken heart.

I could tell her because I knew she understood about love and loss, passion and pain.

She gets it, and that's what makes her the best poet of her generation and an inspired choice as the next Poet Laureate.

Anyone who has ever known love or heartbreak will find a home in her work. Not that there is anything soppy about Carol Ann Duffy.

She can look quite serious until you say something that she likes and her face cracks open and she laughs her wonderfully dirty laugh.
Duffy's family was blue-collar. Her father was a trade-unionist, like his father before him. Her mother left school at 14, though she regretted it and encouraged her children to get the most out of school they could. Born in Glasgow of a Scottish father and an Irish mother, Duffy's family moved to Staffordshire when she was four. I especially love the fact, mentioned in all the stories about Duffy, that she left the final decision about accepting the laureate up to her 13 year old daughter, Ella.
Carol Ann is single now but lives with the greatest love in her life, her 13-year old daughter Ella, by the novelist Peter Benson. "I let her decide whether I should accept the Laureateship or not.

She was all for it, she said, 'Mum. it's time a woman did it'."

Carol Ann says: "I always wanted a child. Being a mother is the central thing in my life. Having a child takes you back to all those parts of your own childhood that you had hidden away."

May, Carol Ann's mother entranced her daughter with her stories and rhymes. Carol Ann does the same for Ella but she publishes hers. "Since I had Ella, I have written more for children than for adults. I read everything to Ella first."

Ella herself is more interested in music than poetry although her mother says she does "cruelly accurate imitations of me reading my poems". Ten years ago, Carol Ann was quoted as saying she didn't want the Laureateship because "no poet should have to write poems about Edward and Sophie's wedding".

But age and motherhood have tempered that view. "I am a poet of the family, and the symbol of the Royal Family is entwined with the history of Britain. I don't see why that can't make a good poem. On the other hand, no one would thank me for writing bad poems to order." Family is at the heart of Carol Ann's life and work.
This is a pretty cool piece of news. I had to look and see whether the United States had had a woman poet laureate yet. We have. In 1945 - 1946, Louise Bogan, born in Maine, and living in Boston, was the poet laureate. Another woman, Leonie Adams, served in 1948-49, from Brooklyn, NY., and Elizabeth Bishop, 1949 - 1950 (born in Worcester, Massachusetts, but living in Brazil, I think, and fairly close to being openly gay). Josephine Jacobsen, 1971-73, from Baltimore, was another woman laureate (I don't know why 2 years), and Maxine Kumin, in 1981-82, Gwendolyn Brooks, served in 1985-86. Mona Van Duyn was poet laureate in 1992-93 and Rita Dove in 1993-94. Then there was a special deal with "bicentennial consultants" in 1999-2000, with three people named to that title, including Rita Dove again, and Louise Gluck along with a man, W.S. Merwin. Louise Gluck served as laureate in 2003-04. So, the U.S., with a one year laureate term, has had a lot of women laureates, actually. The Brits originally had the laureates serve for life, but the last laureate before Carol Ann Duffy, Andrew Motion, made an agreement with the government that the post should only be filled for 10 years. So, perhaps, they will start running through their poets a bit faster now. Congratulations Carol Ann Duffy and to Britain for an exciting selection!

Photograph is from the Mirror story dated 2/5/09.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Home on the Red-Eye

Jet-lagged, droop-looping from a
Nightmare red-eye from
Sun-drenched San-Diego,
I staggered into snowy Boston
Like a drunken sailor
Slapped into awed silence
When he stumbles into the
Silent nave of a cathedral.
I moved in one long day
From sunny palm trees
To snow-silenced roads
Moving nave-like beneath
The snow-draped, arching trees
In Sunday-early stillness.
After the blizzard, the
Roads are still and white,
A purity, an austere beauty;
So sharp contrast to that
Too fecund greenness that I fled.

Winter Street Cathedral

Austere hymns of praise
Snow-draped pines, and rock hillsides
Tree-arched, nave-like streets.


Crowds of crows stitching
Mysterious moving poems
Across evening skies.

Auspice is the Latin practice of divining the future by watching patterns of flying birds. The image of flying crows is from a wonderful blog, Outside My Window, A Birdwatcher's View of the World with Kate St. John, at http://www.wqed.org/birdblog/category/crows/


Dedicated to
Perfecting family pizza
Through a long marriage

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Chamber Music

This is only the second guest poet I have posted here at Poyetry; Jeff Flynn, a colleague of mine, wrote this excellent poem, inspired after reading about cardiomyapathy in Doberman Pinschers.


after reading articles by Nancy Morris, DVM & Dr. Carmen L. Battaglia
in the Doberman Pinscher Magazine

Between diastole and systole worlds exist and lives are lived.
How many rooms and light filled atriums will she pass through
While the measure of her heart is taken?
And what import will she place on her fractional shortening value?

Between premature heart beats, eternity.
Her heart's an edifice of many rooms, and
Between atria and ventricles
Septa resist the assaults of time.

While the aortic whoosh rattles those walls,
And VPC's are tallied,
Singular, couplets, triplets...
And time asserts its claim,

Measure her life not by the number of its beats,
But by the music that echoes between them.

By Jeff Flynn
March, 2009

Image is courtesy of WestminsterKennelClub.org

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Tidal Ice

The ice is cracked and crazed
Though it seems a solid piece.
As the river sank and raised
It when the tide was high or low,
The ice followed the water,
Shaping, reshaping its sheet across
The river, bay and land.

Unlike the smooth ice of placid
Ponds and lakes that keep a steady level,
Tidal ice must reshape itself
Constantly as the supporting water
Flows and shifts beneath it.

So is tidal ice like the surface of
The mind shaped by trauma.
Beneath the surface that seems
A solid piece, the level shifts
And moves in tides. The cracks
And crazes in the surface
Allow the surface to spread
Like a smooth sheet across
The changing levels, whether
High tide, or low, covering
Rocks or water, or sandy shore
Beneath a smooth seeming sheet of ice.

Feb. 4, 2008
Betsy McKenzie

Friday, January 30, 2009

Drat, I'm having to cheat

I had promised myself a post a month. I have not written anything worth posting in the time since the last post. I have scribbled but not anything good (readers might be surprised that there is any filtering going on at all... but I assure you I am filtering at least some). So to get something in to the Poyetry blog in January, I am reduced to adding somebody else's poetry.

When I was introduced to Mary Oliver's poetry, I was amazed. I had never heard of her. She is a modern poet, still alive and writing on Cape Cod. Here is a poem that I love, and that meant a great deal to me when my daughter was very ill in the I.C.U. at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, Egrets, originally I believe, in Mary Oliver's book, New and Selected Poems (1992).

Where the path closed
down and over,
through the scumbled leaves,
fallen branches,
through the knotted catbrier,
I kept going. Finally
I could not
save my arms
from thorns; soon
the mosquitoes
smelled me, hot
and wounded, and came
wheeling and whining.
And that's how I came
to the edge of the pond:
black and empty
except for a spindle
of bleached reeds
at the far shore
which, as I looked,
wrinkled suddenly
into three egrets - - -
a shower
of white fire!
Even half-asleep they had
such faith in the world
that had made them - - -
tilting through the water,
unruffled, sure,
by the laws
of their faith not logic,
they opened their wings
softly and stepped
over every dark thing.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Broken stems

Broken Stems

Across the broad prairie, tall grasses wave;
Bluestems tall as houses, Gramma like the ocean
Rolling to the skies. A hugeness spreading
In all directions, tan and red and brown.
Shimmering bright and living in the sun,
A million million sheaves of grass woven
Together in a mat, densely through the ground.

But here and there, are broken stems;
Divided from the whole. They are not like the others.
Broken stems and broken roots; they cross among the rest.

Perhaps they'll spread to new zones, perhaps they'll
Bring new styles. They are different from the others.
Perhaps they'll find their place, perhaps they'll
Make their mark. They are not like their mothers.

It hurts my heart to see them. It tears me to the core.
But the broken stems don't know it. They grow their own
Patterns, they follow their own directions to the sun.

Dec. 9, 2008

I wrote this poem after reading an essay that made me think about my own experiences with differently-abled children. Follow link here to read a moving post by Jesuit novice Fr.Ryan Duns at his blog, A Jesuit's Journey considering the life an a profoundly autistic child in Christ.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Waiting for News

Waiting for News

My head breaks open
Or is it my heart?
And little white pearls
Come spilling out.

They pour over the
Hard tile floor
Of the ICU waiting room
And roll into dark corners.

The dark corners of my heart
Of my hopes. Of my breaking
My breaking, or broken
My head. Or is it my heart?

Nov. 10 and 29, 2008

Monday, November 03, 2008



Burn off a thousand years of dross;
Flare away my rinds of earthy matter,
Releasing from inside me purest flame.
It flashes out, singing loud the song
Again, the song I nearly had forgotten
That rings inside my bones and hums,
You must die a little to live again.

November 3, 2008
Credit for the awesome graphic goes to a pretty cool blog for a new image editing tool called phoenix, at a.viary.com

Boston Sunset Jam

Boston Sunset Jam

Glory clouds and
Water-sun flash air
And splendor sky
Across the eyes' expanse
Behind high mirror flanks!
Oh all we need is
Camera guy or painter hand --
But, no, that artist's
Dead. So, who is left
To keep the scene
That zammed on
Common's sky
When sunset blasted
Through the storm
And zizzed on
Hancock's side?

Oct. 30, 2008

The image is courtesy of http://flickr.com/photos/51035749109@N01/2079860546/, credit to afagen, taken actually from the Cambridge side, the Residence Inn, in Cambridge, in December, 2007. It's not quite as stunning as what I saw coming from work to the Park Street Station one recent afternoon in a sun shower. The sun was setting through a shower, with storm clouds above, and breaking around the sunset. The Hancock was catching the light, with stunning effect. I wished I had the hand of that master of New England clouds and light, Winslow Homer, or a fabulous camera and great skill. But all I could do was write a jazz style poem about my longing to capture the image.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Oh my gosh! E.O. Wilson has the last word!

What does it mean when all my philosophizing and religious thought is wiped out in one swoop by a "Reflection for the Day?" Geez, that's frightening and humbling at the same time. ON the other hand, it's a quote from entomologist E.O. Wilson, so I guess I don't feel quite so bad.

Narrative is the human way of working through a chaotic and unforgiving world.

Not quite poetry but this doesn't reeally fit into a blog about librarianship, so I thought I'd shove it in here. So there, too. This distinctive photo of E.O. Wilson is courtesy of Eastern Kentucky University people.eku.edu/ritchisong/eowilsonphoto.jpg which appears to lecture notes on behavioral ecology. Cool.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Contemplating the Grecian Urn

Lovely urn, your Grecian scene
Still lingers through long years:
Garlanded cow and laughing youths
Piping in the sun. But under the glaze
Lie unseen cracks, and fault lines filled with tears
Admirers see no farther than vines and flutes,
Your maiden painted fair, whose bland gaze
Never exposed those fractures,
Or parsed out what they mean.

9/14/08 and 10/12/08

This poem is partly inspired by a conversation I had many years ago with a young woman I knew only a bit at college. And it partly keys off the wonderful Keats poem.
Link here to read Keats' great poem Ode on a Grecian Urn, at Bartleby.com.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Nature's pharmacopia,
Tobacco's lovely posy:
Nectar sweet lures the bees
While nicotine repels them.


This poem was inspired by a science news brief in the Boston Globe that actually reported that nicotine does, in fact, appear to serve the purpose of limiting the nectar taken by pollinators of the wild tobacco plant. People who have not been around tobacco, wild or domestic may not know that the flowers are exceedingly fragrant.



The tide’s at the full.
All the waters of the sea
In-rushed to fill the river
Brim full. A long pause, then,
As if a breath is taken deep,
And held: and then the turn,
The turn.

Facing toward the wide, deep sea,
Rushing away, the waters
Carry all, all away:
Foul night soil,
Effluvium of a thousand
Thousand heart-sick souls.
Carry away the past,
Leaving moon-shimmer sands behind.


Friday, August 29, 2008

More Haiku, more cowbell

Three Haiku on visiting Boston Common's Frog Pond

Little sparkles dance
Across the water’s surface;
Never reach the deep

Toddlers in the pool
Dragging parents on leashes
So pleased with water

Mounted police horse
Parked at the horsey bike stand
Dozes, nose on rail.

Aug. 29, 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008


Pond's serene surface
Exchanges air and sun for
Sudden death, slow rot.

Image courtesy of http://www.malibuwater.com/OhioPonds.html

Friday, August 22, 2008

Why is Dover in Poyetry?

The first blog to Poyetry since early July is my announcment recently of my new dog, Dover. Why did I put this here? In case anybody wonders why I'm not posting new poetry so often... it's been slowed waaaay down by house training, going back to work and generally trying to balance my life on about 6 hours of sleep a night. sheesh. Good thing Dover is such a good boy. And lucky I like my job...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dover the dog

This is a photo of my new sheltie dog, Dover. The picture was taken when he was 4 or 5 months old. He's about 6 months old now (born 2/12/08). He is a rescue dog. Was a puppy mill graduate, and placed in a pet store. He was not selling, possibly due to "puppy head shakes" (idiopathic head tremors -- meaning they don't know what causes it). The shelty rescue lady came by just as the store was planning to euthanize him as unsalable. He is a lovely little dog, wants to do what is right. Lots of energy, which is a bit of shock after our poor older dog died last September. That dog, Beau, was really sick with kidney disease the last 5 years of his 11 year life. Wish us all luck!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

A Sampler of Haiku

Each dawn’s miracle,
Color comes back to the world.
Life returns again.

Sitting on the stoop,
Glad I’m not in the airplane
Slowly passing by.

Brown bird sits singing
Hollering back at rivals,
“Stay out of my yard!”

I was inspired to write a bunch of Haiku after looking at Richard Wright's Haiku: A World Elsewhere. Image courtesy of student.britannica.com. The picture is wonderful, clearly showing a bird singing, but it turns out to be a grasshopper warbler from Eurasia.

Three Haiku

Rain- and dew-wet grass
Soak through soles of my slippers
Toes greet the morning!

Cool summer sunrise
Holds the seeds of thunderstorms
Like swelling peapods.

Steam rises from the
Pale surface of the still pond
Like day’s first coffee.

Image courtesy of http://www.offenburger.com/digestarchive.asp

Two Haiku

My mind can’t settle.
It dashes after stray thoughts,
Confused by chaos.

Like shining droplets
From stomped mud puddles,
Thoughts spatter my mind.


Three Haiku

Sun pouring through air
So clear it sparkles, just like
That 9/11.

What is this sunlight?
Invisible through the air,
Til it paints the wall.

Brown skipper flitters
Erratically in its search
For the next flower.

Image courtesy of http://flickr.com/photos/virilath/399614379/, actually, a skipper from Maylasia

3 Haiku

Barely visible,
All whirring wings and striped legs,
Streambed insects rise.

What light faded from that
Good dog’s brown eyes as he died?
Same body, but changed.

Life is what we call
That mysterious light that fades,
Changing flesh to clay.


Trio of Haiku

Campion and clover
Spangle my wild jungle yard
Like stars in green skies.

Daintily licking
His white stockings, the dog’s tongue
Smoothes fur, soothes feelings.

The bee intently
Parses out the meanings of
Each clover blossom.

Image courtesy of accipiter.hawk-conservancy.org/images/200708/

3 Haiku

Cottage cheese, so cold
It coats the bowl’s sides with white,
Painting over grief.

The grasses bow down,
Laying down their heads to rest
As their seeds ripen.

Eating from the can
Standing at the kitchen sink –
Oh! Guilty pleasure!

Image courtesy of accipiter.hawk-conservancy.org/images/200708/

3 haiku

Like a sneaky drunk,
I find chocolate tastes better
Eaten in the dark.

Little dog obsessed
with birds – running back and forth:
Won’t he just explode?

In the old tree fort,
Lumber soaked so many years,
Carvable with pens.


Trio of Haiku

How many summer days
Did we watch busy ants rush
Along the rough bark?

Ungainly heron
Flapping across the pond like
A proof of love’s death.

Like sumptuously dressed
Matrons, summer trees sashay,
Swish silks in the breeze.

Image courtesy of http://flickr.com/photos/grizzly_lightning/115594706/, a great blue heron flying at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill.

3 Haiku

Up with the baby
At dark 2 AM, the song
Of the mockingbird.

The warm patch of sun,
Like a blessing on the floor,
Draws the dozy cat.

Content little bird
Nattering softly to his
Partner on the nest.

Image from L.A. Times blog.

Haiku Bouquets

I planted these bulbs
Years ago, and then forgot:
Unlooked-for bounty.


A toddler’s first steps
Are tiny triumphs between
Barely controlled falls.

Like a box of mixed
Chocolates to taste and pass on:
Haikus in bouquets!


Bouquet is a needlework plan from a catalog at http://www.past-impressions.co.uk/acatalog

Friday, June 27, 2008

Sparks in the vast darkness

A little bright flame
In a great lump of clay:
How did it get there?
What started it leaping?
The clay cannot know,
And the flame will not say.
Life’s mystery still speaking.

June 27, 2008

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Adrift on the tides of time
Floating, aimless,
Packages keep arriving
From past selves.

She opens the boxes
and digs through
crumpled, yellow
packing papers.

Briefly, she holds
An image
In her hands.
Then, it drifts away on the tides.

May 27, 2008

Secret Singer

June 21, Day after solstice, in a year of emergence of the eastern brood of periodic cicadas, also known as 17 year locusts

After five decades' hidden life
The secret singer rose,
Magically emerging into astonished life.

enter the city through the narrow gate

Taste and see
How sweet
Life may be

Bastard poet child
Sneaking into bed
After the harsh muse
Calls lights out,
Gather the crumbs from
Beneath the childrens' table.


What is it?

It is a device
To translate
Between the
Language of
Dreams to the
Stolid world
Of everyday.

The goofy symbols
That trail breadcrumbs
Across our
Night minds,
Confusing yet potent

Ground through the
Mill of Logic
And expelled
Forcefully across
The tablecloth
At breakfast.

June 25, 2008

Tuesday, June 03, 2008



She pulls the extra laminae of flesh
As if a shawl around her shoulders,
A thick baffle against the harsh elements
Of emotional storms.

He wraps his tender soul in music
And electronic banter, chattering
Constant through eyes and ears,
A quilt, child’s comfort blanket
Against the night.

With distilled liquids and
Spoon-cooked powders,
We may put off until tomorrow
The reckoning of the
Heart’s equations.

Is it insulation
Or isolation?
June 3, 2008

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Cormorant III

Cormorant III

Cormorant slip-slidily
Swifting through water
Skies, swoop-scooping
Fishilees like mosquitoes
On the wing
Or fin.


Three poems about watching a cormorant fishing today at Turner's Pond.

Cormorant II

Cormorant II

Black cormorant slides
Serene, low in the water:
Dark avatar,
Death of fishes.
He weaves his head,
Sharp-beaked striking snake
Pursuing panicked fingerlings
As they dart into water weeds.
Pale observers dry-footed
On shore see only the dusky
Sinuous neck lifted into air
Between dives to peer regally
For bearings on the sun-silvered pond.
Sated at last, the bird blackly
Clambers onto the rocks
And hulking, spreads his wings to dry
Beneath the indifferent sky.


Cormorant I

Cormorant I

The cormorant pops up,
Bursts the smooth surface.
He wags his dark head
Back and forth, scanning
The pond – compares the
Dry with the watery.
A moment in the air, and
He slips beneath again.

From the dry shore, it seems
Serene: blue sky smiling
Back at its face in the pond.

Beneath that refractive film,
The cormorant flies,
Weaving his dark head on his
Neck like a striking snake.
Little fish dart into the weeds,
Seeking frantic for safety
From that sharp beak.

As much at home
Flying in water as
Paddling the air,
The black bird
Sits low.
He glides smooth and fast,
Braiding his two worlds.

At last he climbs out
Onto the broken tree
And spreads his arms wide
Indifferent to the smiling sky.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

Spring Again

Wesron wind, when wilt thou blow
That the small rain down can rain?
Christ, that my love were in my arms,
And I in my bed again!

Anonymous, 16th C.

Whan that April with his showres soote
The droughte of March hath perced to the roote

Geoffrey Chaucer, Prologue to
Canterbury Tales.

Spring Again

Whan that April, and all small rain
Showres soote again
Sifting softly down
Like fine dust of generations gone.

May 17, 2008

Friday, May 16, 2008

The blue umbrella

Two treatments of the same event:

The Blue Umbrella

Beneath the blue umbrella,
They are alone, together.
As if the blue-tinted shadow
Created thick walls around them,
Enclosed, and private,
On the busy street corner.
She leans back to receive
His kiss.

May 16, 2008


The blue umbrella casts its shadow
Like transparent walls around the two:
She leans back
To receive
His kisses.
Alone, together, in shades of blue,
A rock in the passing strangers’ flow.

May 16, 2008

Friday, March 28, 2008

Angel Redouble

Another rondeau redouble, and another revision of the Angel of the Odd. I still am not completely happy with this poem.

Angel Redouble

The angel of the odd reaches down.
He cradles the forlorn and the lost,
Holding them tightly, and with a frown
Wipes away tears of the storm-tossed.

He started with socks, then at great cost,
Expanded his mission, searched ten towns.
He cherished losers, all those star-crossed;
The angel of the odd reaches down.

Girls at the prom in hand-me-down gowns,
Dreamers and nerds and all kinds of dross,
Little lost lambs and little dogs drowned,
He cradles the forlorn and the lost.

Never forgetting, and never quashed,
The angel loves and numbers his own.
Year upon year, poor, ragged or posh,
He holds them tightly, wearing a frown.

He sings in their hearts, tales of renown,
You are not losers, need not be bossed!
You each are a jewel, part of a crown!
He wipes the tears of all the storm-tossed.

The angel of the odd reaches down.
He cradles the forlorn and the lost,
Holding them tightly, and with a frown
Wipes away tears of the storm-tossed.

Banked Fire

This is a rondeau redouble, a French form poem that I am exploring. These poems start and end with a 4 line refrain rhymed in ABAB form. Then you do 4 verses, each of 3 lines, with a final line using one of the lines of the refrain, in order. Ideally, you should also be able to play with the words of the refrain line a bit in order to illuminate or expand on meaning. The verses also follow a strict form: babA, abaB, babA, abaB.

Banked Fire

The heart is a secret fire burning bright
Deep-banked in ashes of fears and old sighs.
Wisdom consists of our keeping in sight
The fire of that love, fresh, full of surprise.

Girl puts down her school work, raises tired eyes:
Time to tuck in her brother, say sleep tight.
She told him she loved him, just a white lie.
Two hearts made of secret fire burned so bright.

She mouthed empty words to lighten his fright -
Believed it was just to stop all his cries.
And turning, she paused to put out the light
Debunked in rushes of tears to her eyes.

Searing through all of her self-serving lies,
Truth, blazing forth in her heart all despite
Those ashy deposits piled deep and high:
Wisdom consists of such steeping insight.

Her heart cracked open that singular night
She found love’s hot tears in her pale, dry eyes.
Love gushing geyserly, rising in height,
Red rush of her love, pressed out in surprise.

Deep-banked in ashes of fears and old sighs.
Wisdom consists of our keeping in sight
The fire of that love, fresh, full of surprise.
The heart is a secret fire burning bright.

revised 4/3/2008

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Angel of the Odd - Revis

He started out just gathering up
All the lost socks, orphaned
In the laundries of the world.
Then, his solicitude expanded.
Gently, he cradles
Wounded souls
Broken hearts
He whispers,
“In some other
Time and place
You would have been
They king, or queen.
You are not odd-lots,
You are jewels,
Lost from matching sets
In the tumblers of
The world.”


Don’t take shit
Offa nobody
Attitude, man
They gaze coldly
Down those long snoots
Slowly chewing up
The cud
They fixin’ to
Spit in your face
They grunt,
Back in they throat
Like fixin’ to hawk
A wad of phlegm
Look out, dude!
Put ‘em out
With your average
Flock of sheep
and retire your
Worries about wolves.
Kick they ribs in
While the wooly fools
Run in circles.


I've been taking an online workshop that is helping me get better at revising my poems. I hope these look improved:

Secret Heart (Fourth draft)

She stoops over the sink,
Weeping silent tears,
Swishing towels
Through bleachy suds.

Why should she cry
Rinsing out dish towels?
There is no reason
There is no god-damned rhyme,
The mystery of tears
Dripping salty,
Into disinfectant suds.

She sealed her heart so long ago.
Shutting away secrets too fierce
Too dangerous to know.
Now, she receives faint telegraphs
From that too secret part

Her heart,
Rust-sealed locket
Beneath her shirt,
A secret not even she can open.

The steam from the bucket
This night eased open hinges,
Just enough

For tears,
but not
No not for anything so large as

And so she wonders
Why, and why
She weeps.
The tears squeezed out of love,
as she wrings each towel.


Long Distance (second draft)

In the dim kitchen
She bends and bows,
Rinsing towels

Tears drip from
That stubby nose
He can’t help
But notice

That secret face
Bent low and closed
Invites no inquiries,
Seems too far to reach

As if his
Hand hesitates in
Picking up the phone
To call, to ask

But then
She looks so risky -
A ticking briefcase
Left in his kitchen

Better to call
The bomb squad
And hand off the problem

Than put his own hand
On the latch
And open
An explosion

He tucks his hands
Safely in his
Backs away.

As if his
Hand hesitates,
Lifting the receiver,
But hangs up
Without dialing

He turns away:
Be safe,
Don’t ask.

But, considering,
He pauses...
Could she
Be thinking
Of him?


New Life (second draft)

What an electric thrill!
Tender green tendril
Questing blind
Up from the soil
Of the milk carton.
The shell of the bean
Cracked open at last,
Spilling hidden new
Life, out from its secret

How hallowed –
Beyond holy:
New life push
Into the world:
Chicks fighting their
Way out of shells,
Exhausted, bedraggled,
Look dead afterward.
Blind, questing kittens,
Soft ears drooping, more like
Hamsters than cats.
Horses with hooves so
Soft you can press them still,
All wet from the secret world within.
It is not easy to cross into life!

You did not want to cross into life –
Or perhaps did not know the way.
So they came to get you;
Forced opened the doors!
Slicing across skin and muscles, neatly
Pinning back maternal layers to reach you.
When they dragged you out,
Green meconium creased around your outraged eyes
You cried, fists balled,
Against the light!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sunrise at the Hummock (revised)

Moswetuset Hummock:

This wooded area located at the intersection of East Squantum St. and Quincy Shore Dr. was the seat of the Indian chief Chickatabot, who was visited by Captain Myles Standish and the Indian guide Squanto in 1621. The hummock's name - Moswetuset, or "hill shaped like an arrowhead" - is believed to be the origin of the commonwealth's name, "Massachusetts." The site is free and open to the public.

Moswetuset Hummock
Corner of East Squantum St. and Quincy Shore Dr.
Quincy, MA 02171
(from Discover Quincy

Sunrise at the Hummock (revised)

The wide sky fills
With lambent light
As I lead you round,
Around the stony hummock.

Like a silent beast,
It crouches at the
Edge where
The wide salt marsh
Meets the soft-ruffling

Blue, clear sky still softly lighting
As we watch the far horizon.
We chat of how we heard
That tribes had used to fish, and tread
The mud flats, feeling with their feet for clams
As we watch for the edge of the sun to tip above the edge
Of the world. You joked that the world would
Roll to show the sun, then,
Sudden, rock back again.

But all our jokes
And tittle-tattle
When we saw the
Sky begin to gild,
Gold shining on the

When I was a child, I had the
Job of polishing up the silver:
Wet rag, dip into the gray, soft, grainy polish.
I wiped the silver and let it dry,
Gray polish dimming silver and tarnish alike.

But, oh! when I rubbed,
A window appeared
In the filmy coating.
I looked through the
Film and met light
And truth,
Though wavy and

The sky at dawn,
On far horizon
Looked as though
Some giant hand
Were rubbing away
That blue, blue film.
And just for a moment,
Light struck through,
And truth,
Though perhaps distorted.
That shining gilt
Across the sky,
A window through the
Film, cast across our
World, perhaps to
Polish, to rub the tarnish

And the sun that rose
Cast its shining path,
Across the ruffled sea,
A shining road
Across the rippled mud,
Up the hill to me.
It struck in my heart,
And I, transfixed,
Gazed through the
Window of gold.
What broken hopes
And withered faith
May be rubbed clean,
Tarnish on the silver?

Oct. 24, 2007
Revised 2/13/08

Friday, February 01, 2008

Long Distance

In the dim kitchen
She bends over
Rinsing towels

Tears drip from
That stubby nose
He can’t help
But see

That secret face
Closed and silent
Too far to reach
As if his

Hand hesitates
Lifting the phone
To call, to ask

But he sees
Hunched shoulders
Lips pressed thin,
She looks like

A ticking suitcase
Abandoned in a terminal

Better call
The bomb squad
Than put his hand
On the latch
And open
An explosion

He puts his hands
Safely in his
Back pockets
And backs away.

As if his
Hand hesitated
Lifting the receiver,
But hangs up
Without dialing

He turns away
Better not to ask
Better not to dial
At all

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Secret Heart

She leans over the bucket, breathing bleach, and weeps.
Why should a girl cry rinsing out the dish towels?
Unfair, unkind task? No, who could complain?
The mystery of tears dripping salty,
Into the pool-scented suds.

She closed her heart, long ago.
Putting away secrets too large,
Too dangerous to know.
Now, she receives faint telegraphs
From that too secret part.

Her heart is closed, a locket around her neck.
A secret inside not even she can open.
The steam from the bucket eased the hinges,
Just enough for tears, but not
No not for anything so large as

And so she wonders
Why, and why
She weeps.

The tears wrung out of love, as she wrings each towel.

Jan. 29, 2008 & Feb. 2, 2008

Thursday, January 17, 2008


The snow began so softly,
Sifting into our hearts.
Yet, still, we warmed ourselves
At the little flame of faith.
We believed, both truly believed,
You were some one else.

The campfire embers flickered
In the embattled hearts...
The snow did not reach the sills
Or drift into the corners
Until the final revelations.
How different the real from the dream.

The storm battered in, then--
O, sore hearts --
Drifted over and buried deep.
They froze, near to death,
That year, under a
Deep blanket of snow.
Of grief, rather,
Stunned to silence.
Two hearts mourned the man
The man we thought we knew.

Iced over, the hearts never stirred,
Silent until that spring,
At the spoken words of power, long
Frozen heart cracks wide open.
Under the warming sun, the hard shell
Splintered into rainbow shards,
And life began again.

Jan. 17, 2008

Sunday, January 06, 2008


Snow falls softly, so white
And if it melts soon,
The mind recalls only
The whiteness, the softness
Like a blessing on the branches.

But when the cold keeps
Snow beyond its youth,
We begin to see the dirt–
Black hydrocarbons
Staining the pure crystals.

The impurity is there,
All year round.
But on the grass,
On the pavement,
It won’t show its taint.
Only when the white snow
Lasts beyond its birthday
Do we know our own darkness.

Or, is the airy stuff of sky,
The water droplets,
Frozen in crystal flakes,
Airily drifted on the ground,
Taking the stuff of earth,
Incarnating, and dwelling among us?
And, loitering beyond its day,
Too, too solid flesh,
Displays the wages of all life.

Jan. 6 and 11 and 30, 2008

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Daemon from Golden Compass

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Not a poem: Bourbon balls!

One of the strangely wonderful perks of living in Lexington, KY, was that you were exposed to, and encouraged to make, all kinds of recipes featuring bourbon whiskey. Even church ladies would proudly present bourbon balls at holiday parties. Then, there was the egg nog – more than a dozen eggs, separated, a quart of heavy cream and a fifth of bourbon, plus enough sugar to keep you dancing for quite a while.

Here is the bourbon ball recipe given me by my mother. This year, I made it with dark rum, and it was goood, that way, too.

Kentucky Bourbon Balls

2 cups Vanilla Wafer crumbs (you can throw a boxful in a food processor, or do it the way we did at home: put 10 or so wafers in a plastic zip lock bag and crush with a rolling pin. Either way, you want nice, fine crumbs)
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa
3 Tbs corn syrup
(I used the very dark this year & it was really good. I also ended up adding about another tablespoon to keep the balls forming at the end of the bowl)
1 cup finely chopped pecans
2 jiggers bourbon or dark rum
(1 jigger = 3 Tbs, or 1.5 oz, so you need 6 Tbs or 3 oz.)

Mix the ingredients together, mashing the crumbs into the syrup as evenly as you can. Shape into small balls. Dip the balls into

Vanilla extract (Or imitation vanilla works well, too! You run through it!)

And then, roll each ball into

Powdered sugar

Set the finished balls on waxed paper in a container you can cover tightly til serving time

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Sing, dark muse

the branches are bare, all life leached away
on a thin wind, tiny flakes fly across the bay
the far shore is hidden, far off in the fog
i cannot remember what is there, hidden in the gray
directionless, snow swirls
comfortless, wind keens and cuts
as bereft of hope as the branches without leaves,
i can no longer see or recall the distant shore
no lighthouse to mark dangerous shoals
no candle to call me home
a dark bird sings alone on the wire
sing, dark muse, balancing in the thriftless wind

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Boomer Sonnet

Taking off from Shakespeare's beautiful sonnet LXXIII (click on the title to this post to link to a website offering sonnets LXXI-LXXX, and see the original), I tried a humorous take on our modern refusal to recognize creeping age. As a boomer myself, I see these tendencies in myself and my fellows.

That time of year, thou may’st in me behold
When few leaves, or none at all still hang,
Upon the branches black and wet and cold.
Those bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang –
I cannot bear to see portents, and so I don’t.
I close my mind to achey joints and wheezy hoots.
I play pick up games with younger guys who won’t
Push too hard, or crowd me when I shoot.
I die my hair, use wrinkle cream.
I dress too hip for a gal my age.
I ride a bike and never dream
I’ll ever reach that wheelchair stage.

That time of year, thou dost in me behold
When stridently I deny I ever will get old.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Tiny snow falling
Straight from the foggy sky;
Buildings loom,
Tops lost in the lowering clouds.
The flakes, like
Mysterious messages,
Whisper down, dissolving with a
Sigh, into the damp, cold ground.

In the dark November morning,
Late maples shine golden,
Beacons of some ancient
Alert: mysterious messages,
Leaves whisper down, piling in heaps
Unread, to be shredded by the diligent worms.

In sharp, cold nights,
Frost clear stars twinkle,
Flashing their mysterious messages
Across time and space
Nobody here knows how to read
The code.

Friday, November 09, 2007


Little rock split open
So the root and blossom
Can come forth.

Little egg cracked open
So the little bird
Creeps out.

Man's heart is like a
Rock or an egg:
We have an egg tooth
On the soul.

Nov. 9, 2007

Windhover meditation

My heart in hiding,
surging, cheering
for the tiny master of the air --

How quickly then
Changed my meditation:
How beauty, courage, life
Must find the fearful
Grace to let go,
To fold and bow
To crumple the pride
And the mastery.
Then, born again past life
Into Beyond,
The fire that breaks from thee then,
My Lord, more lovely, more dangerous...

Than what?
From what is my heart hiding?
From the painful truth,
Of Christ’s dying into life,
And calling us to follow,

As the drudge of plowing
Polishes the share to shine,
And embers must break themselve
Open to reveal the fire
Beneath the ash,

So life’s own grit
Grinds away our tarnish,
And death itself
Breaks open the shell
That hides the glory within.

Let me learn to bow
With grace,
To diminish that
I might show forth
More fully.


Meditation Nov. 9, 2007
Based on Gerard Manley Hopkins' The Windhover at www.bartleby.com

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Sunrise at the Hummock

The wide sky fills
With lambent light
As I lead you round,
Around the stony hummock.
Like a silent beast,
It crouches at the
Edge where
The wide salt marsh
Meets the soft-ruffling

Blue, clear sky still
Softly lighting
As we watch the far
We chat of how we heard
That tribes had used
To fish, and tread
The mud flats, feeling
With their feet for clams
As we watch for the
Edge of the sun to
Tip above the edge
Of the world.
You joked that the
World would roll to
Show the sun, then,
Sudden, rock back

But all our jokes
And tittle-tattle
When we saw the
Sky begin to gild,
Gold shining on the

When I was a child,
I had the job of
Polishing up the silver.
Wet rag, dip into the
Gray, soft, grainy
I wiped the silver
And let it dry,
Gray polish dimming
Silver and tarnish alike.
But, oh! when I rubbed,
A window appeared
In the filmy coating.
I looked through the
Film and met light
And truth,
Though wavy and

The sky at dawn,
On far horizon
Looked as though
Some giant hand
Were rubbing away
That blue, blue film.
And just for a moment,
Light struck through,
And truth,
Though perhaps distorted.
That shining gilt
Across the sky,
A window through the
Film, cast across our
World, perhaps to
Polish, to rub the tarnish

And the sun that rose
Cast its shining path,
Across the ruffled sea,
A shining road
Across the rippled mud,
Up the hill to me.
It struck in my heart,
And I, transfixed,
Gazed through the
Window of gold.
What broken hopes
And withered faith
May be rubbed clean,
Tarnish on the silver?

Oct. 24, 2007

Night Walking

She'll rise in the night,
And wander to the toilet
In the blackness,
Groping in the dark,
Feeling for the outlines
And edges –
The chair, the bedside table.
Her fingers build the room
In her mind.

So grope we all in darkness
For the contours
Of what is
We fumblingly
To build up
an image
Of our faith.

Oct. 24, 2007


A baby feels no shame,
But how quickly we learn
How intimately wound
Into our very selves
Shame soon becomes.

Is it like baby teeth?
Waiting unerupted
In the gums
Of our souls?
Everybody’s shame
Is different.
We could never make
Sets of false shame
For elders who lost theirs.

Perhaps shame is like
Learning to talk.
Maybe we are
To learn shame
As soon as our
Surrounding loved ones
Teach us.

A scientist could
Shame. Learn the
Deep Whorfian structure
Recognize the
Universal underlying
Of shame:
Dr. Chaime Nomsky,
The eminent shamist.

Oct. 24, 2007

Friday, November 02, 2007

Open Hearted

We say, Open your heart!--
But the heart does not open,
Though it feels clenched,
Yes, clenched tight
Armoring us
Against grief, against anger,
Against pain,
Against life.
We open,
Open to the heart.
The heart is there,
All, all the time,
Shining in the darkness,
For us to turn our eyes
And open,
Sighing gently,
To the heart,
Which has been open all the time.

Sunday, October 14, 2007



My grandpa Harris
Was sick so long
So long before he died.
But as he left,
He reached right out
And touched all those
He loved.

The night he died,
My mother dreamed
From far in another state,
That he stood at the
Foot of her bed.
Nothing he said,
But clear she knew,
He was happy and well
Once again.

And in his own house,
The night that he died,
The clock began to tick.
He’d meant to fix it
For many long years
And never quite got it done.
The dead clock lived
The night he died
And so I know that he tried
To leave a kind message
For those that he loved
And had to leave behind.

Oct. 13, 2007

Great Grandma VonPein

Great Grandma VonPein

A crazy quilt
Of misery and rage
Stomping up
And stamping down
The porch, a broomstick
Across her elder shoulders
To improve posture
Ramrod, fierce and
Gimlet eye
A tongue all
Fire and acid
Waiting for
The smallest fault
To pounce and
Still shudder
At her memory.

Yet, hearing her life story
I feel a
Sneaking sympathy
And perhaps
A hint of pride.
Abandoned by
Her mother,
Who ran away
With a passing
Indian tribe -: Comanche.
Left as a baby with her
angry sisters
And bitter father,
Nothing but a beaded bag
From her mother.
Tormented all her
Life by a dark suspicion
That her father really
Was a red man.

Yet, she married
Off into Indiana
Following her
Feckless husband, perhaps a drunk,
Bore him twelve children.
Then that husband
Abandoned her
In his turn,
by hanging himself
With a rough rope
In the family barn.

Still, indomitable,
She raised the Boys and girls.
Sent them to a bit of
College, even,
And all but the last turned away.
All she left
Her granddaughters
Are bitter memories
And beautiful patchwork
Quilts sewn fine
Hand stitched and
Finished the day
She died.

Oct. 13, 2007

Taken by surprise

She was taken by surprise --
Thought women were immune.
We read of men who only feel
These two emotional ranges,
Happiness and rage.
All that they have
to feel all of life’s big changes.

They miss out on grief --
Men of steel,
Deaf to
All other tunes
Human hearts can sing.

But when the dog died,
She shut up inside
All the sorrow and
Tears were dammed.
Her grief
Only showed
In an explosion:
Rage was
Only outlet.

October 9, 2007


Not that we can prove it
Through logic or clever


The body believes
In every gland
That juices fear or flight.

The brain cannot
Make up its mind.
All logic and experience
Argue God’s a myth.

But in the dentist’s chair
Our belief shines bright.

Oct. 9, 2007

Poetry Survey

Poetry Survey

Elizabethan poets
All seem to sing
Of seizing love
And pleasure
Before brief life is o’er.

The puritans, all stern
and dry, could
Write of nothing bu
God and angels
and punishment,
Looking for happiness
Beyond the grave.

Strangely enough,
The modern poet
seems to have given up
All hope of joy.
No pleasures shine
In poets’ lines
After the War to end all War.
To be taken as serious
Wordsmiths now can only
Deal with death
and life’s worst bitterness.

October 9, 2007

Friday, October 12, 2007

Sine Wave II

Sinuous, even the name
Undulates ~~~
Patterns on the page,
Expressing some Mathematical Proof,
Pattern revealing some
Algebraic Reality.

Daughter, tell me
The usages you make:
Does it test the
Do you find
When the pattern
Falls correctly into place?

Me, I see only
The even sighing of tides,
Or breathing
Of the universe ~~
Blind to the
Mathematical Revelation.

How marvelous,
What a miracle to see
If your number sine
And my picture sign
Both explain that
Universal breath,
Slowly moving in and out.

Originally written & posted 6/27/07; rewritten Oct. 12, 2007

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Dover Beach/Bethlehem Experiment #3

Getting there, but this seems awfully PC

Oh, cry for Matthew Arnold,
As he wanders Dover Beach.
And weep for the poet Yeats,
While he wanders the desert
With his rough beast,
Slouching toward Bethlehem.

And is it not the sorriest sorrow,
Anguish of anguish,
That though they saw the end of time
The end of faith and beauty,
That all the famous faith
That bounded their world
Like a bright sea, girdling and

Now shows itself as lies?
As ashes in our mouths
And turning stones beneath our
Bruisèd feet?

Never was there one great faith
Nor one single bright light
That gleamed and suddenly was gone.

No ceremonies of innocence
Dimmed, no best with convictions
Agreed, no sea of faith
Burgeoning round the world.

Those who laid the fires,
And cleaned the grates,
Who raised and brought the produce
To English market
And those who chafed in
Empire or languished
In defeat, their story all untold
Never signed the Magna Carta
Or learned their Latin and their Greek.
The great histories
Of Patroclus or Livy
Skipped over Trojans and Etruscans,
And Gibbon missed the Roman wives.

So does our poetry and art betray
Those overlooked and unspoken.
Cry for those who have no mouth,
And weep for those whose eyes
Were blinded by history and art.

Dover Beach Experiment #2

Still not very happy, but it's coming along:

Sighing in, and sighing out
The sea lies under the moon.

The calm, the beauty
Sung for centuries
Has become a lie, a sham.

The light of the West has failed,
The hope of the World is fallen.

The tide grinds the land,
Shattering slowly
Our certitudes, our faith.
Culture, learning and faith
Crumble, eroded
By the tide we thought so fair.

Beloved, my only constant
In a world of lies and pain
Keep my heart tenderly;
You hold it in your mouth.

We are at the mercy
Of the grinding tide,
Our wisdom availeth not
Nor any hope of cheer.

Experiment #1 With Dover Beach

Here is an effort at simply translating Dover Beach into synonyms. I am not very happy, but think I want to memorialize the process of the experiment:

Once, long ago, in a Garden,
The world seemed bright and fair.
Easy it was to tell virtue from sin
And the message of faith quite clear.
Oh, long years of toil,
Long years of tears.
And yet it seemed a great mantle
Lay over the world
Smoothing the valleys and mountains
Making straight the way of the Lord.
Oh, long years of toil,
Long years of tears:
One faith alone, one vision,
One wisdom from old
Handed down from father to son.
It seemed the same story was told.
Oh, long years of toil,
Long years of tears.
But the one sword lies shattered,
The one book is burned.
The faith that united is fettered.
And long years of learning are spurned.
Oh, long years of toil,
Long years of tears.
Then what is left now
When hero and cause are fallen?
Cling to your vows
Make true love your only calling.

Experimenting with famous poems

I am experimenting with two favorite and very famous poems, Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold and Slouching Toward Bethlehem by W.B. Yeats. Here are the original poems:

Dover Beach
By Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Slouching Toward Bethlehem

By W..B. Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert.

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

The Elevator

The Elevator

The elevator door
With awful finality
Shuts me on one side
You on the other
And takes you away
Despair, yes and
Panic in our eyes

At six, you were too young,
I was terrified at
The thought of you riding
Away, away,
To be met by strangers
On other floors,
Perhaps to panic and run out
At the next stop,
Never to be found again!

Now grown, you use
The elevator doors
To shut me out, and
Ride to other floors.
Elevators of the years are
Taking you away
And into strangers’ lives.
And still, the panic lives,
Muffled, in my mother heart.
But stern convention
And you, too,
Forbid the panicked grab,
The tears and clinging hugs.

I posted this first in July, 2007, and have rewritten the ending. I like it better now, than with the abstract images of awfulness. This is based on an incident when my daughter was six, and hopped on an elevator going the wrong way. The doors closed before we could grab her or get on with her. Oh, the panic!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Earth’s Left Hand

Forever fumbling clumsy outcast
Watch the golden right hand crowd
Filled with shame, it must be their fault
They never fit the mold
Told enough times, they believe it
Bad and wrong and clumsy oaf!
Yet discernment charily renders
Shining heart in cloak of clay

Sept. 30, 2007


And there is a door in her heart
It changes its position
Sometimes it’s on the ceiling
Where she cannot reach it
Sometimes its in the walls
And she can creep through
But sometimes its on the floor
And she drops - Oh! Right through

And when she goes through the door–
Or falls with a sudden drop
Sometimes she finds forgotten rooms
Filled with forgotten pets
Glancing up across sun-dusty space
So glad to see her
Just fine after all these years
Forgotten in the attic of her mind

But sometimes the rooms are filled
With a nameless formless dread
Emotions she had put away
In the attic of her mind

And some bad times there are no rooms
Just pitiless darksome bleakness
Grim rock with nothing growing
Dark forests without path or hope

And she wanders lost and frightened
Knowing someone’s searching for her
Dreading that they’ll catch her
Only knowing that they mustnt

Oh pray for all the children
Trapped without possibility of rescue
Send them a vision a kindness
A gift of hope – a future

And may she find in that dark place
A glowing ball like a moon in her hands
And remember a sweet face
Kind hands calm heart

Who gave her the ball of light
And find a gleaming thread
Like a spider spinning moonlight
Winding from the ball

Leading her through darkness
Hard and stony life
To some day in the future
To dwell in safety, free and whole

Thread of light
Glimmer in that wilderness
Reminder of another way
A green and smiling land

Sept. 30, 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Autumn Changes

After a full career in hum-drum green,
Working day after day,
Chlorophyll alchemy turning
Sun, rain and air into sugary sap,
Leaves must be so pleasantly astonished
To find scarlet and vivid yello poems
In their secret souls.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Windhover variation 4

Translation #4 of
Windhover by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Little Master of the Air
Shining dark against the sun,
Daring the big wind,
Skating up the gust,
Carving the curve of your

Mysteries of light and dark,
Of will and bending –
Crumple, Master,
Travel through negation
To Glory.

We pedestrians
Must reach our Glory
Through quotidian slog.

But break my heart:
Inside, the
Shining, fierce heart
Of a falcon.

Windhover, Translation 2: Bird of my Heart

Translation 2: Sense, not patterns
Bird of my Heart

Flesh, feathers, air
Courage and grace,
Spinning, swooping,

If such beauty,
Speed and power
Gracefilled, fold,
Giving in to Death,

What perilous light!
What glorious shine!
Flash out, flash out again.

Slow plodding, quotidian slog
Polish our souls,
Bright shining inside the ashes.

Translation attempt

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89). Poems. 1918.

The Windhover

I CAUGHT this morning morning’s minion, king-
..dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon,
in his riding
..Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
.. As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend:
the hurl and gliding
.. Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!

Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
.. Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!

.. No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
.. Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

Translation attempt Betsy McKenzie 9/14/07


TRANSFIXED, at dawn by dawn’s own servant, prince-
.. dom of sunshine’s son-heir, sun-spattered Tiercel,
at his gliding
.. Over lumpsome highway, roadway made of air holding him,
and flying
Sky high; saw him spin along the axis of a folding pinion
In his rapture! then out, out, away he swoopt,
.. Like a skier slipping moguls, slalom:
the speed and swooping
.. Scorned to fear the gale. My soul, fast asleep,
Leaped for that life – the fulfill of, the lordship of the act!

Courage and grace and deed, oh, bend, break, bow you
.. Proud neck! AND you will shine brighter then, flame forth
More risky and full of grace, O Lord of my heart!

.. Of course its true: dull toil daily polishes the tools
In hand, and sad gray coals, as they fall,
.. Break open and show glowing hearts.

Note: I cannot find a way to get Blogger to allow spaces at the heginning of a line. So, with apologies to Fr. Hopkins, I have added periods to force the lines in as they should display.



Seduced by sun and a soft breeze,
Errant office workers stroll, smiling,
Picking their way among the bums and beggars,
The tourists and the students. Suddenly
Effervescent city, usually so blasé,
Manhandles its life into the streets:
Burbling residents, lives inside out,
Expansive despite themselves, just the
Reverse of every day life.