Friday, April 28, 2017


Souls, she said, having read too many of my poems
Are not to be so lightly lost or idly left
Wailing on a river bank, no matter how dark
Its waters run. Her robust and stainless soul
Would throw me into the river should I depict it
Wringing incorporeal hands or fluttering hopelessly
By the Styx or the Acheron or,
For that matter, the Red, the Green,
The Picketwire, the Perdido or the Rio Grande.
Nor would I have it thought my soul and I
Do not get along or that I often go angling
In fulgin  streams. Still, if those mourners
Are not the papery souls of wayward clerists
I cannot think what they are nor why
They seem so tirelessly unhappy.

Thursday, April 27, 2017


My eyes, brown now, were grey when I was a boy
But eyes don't change color, except for infants.
It must be that I've been substituted for myself.
Apart from the eyes, the workmanship is pretty good
So that I very seldom realize I'm not me.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


The  black river's water stores the reflections
Of all the towns that ever stood on its banks
On moonless nights, defrocked members of the clerisy
Lower tiny mirrors on long pieces of string
Hoping to bring back a cup, a spoon,
A long-forgotten toy. Sometimes, they leap
Into the river, leaving their thin souls
Wailing on the shore.

Monday, April 24, 2017


Sometimes the moon
Thinks she's a ship.
She throws a heavy rope
Towards a pier
Since 1943. Sailors
(Why does the moon
Have sailors?) swarm down
To spend their leave
In the arms and the beds
Of transparent girls
With rust-colored eyes.

Friday, April 21, 2017


His ghost found himself in a book
Summed up in seven words in a footnote:
“William Middleton, an engineer who went insane.”
These were not the two facts he’d have chosen.
Why not “Ate a lit candle, flame and all;
Had a blind cat who came when he called?”
Or “His mother’s favorite who rode well?”
Or “Could breathe underwater and very nearly
Was elected King of the Cats?”

Thursday, April 20, 2017


Certain memories I store in the episcopal palace
So its ghosts are used to me, nodding
When I come searching for the box where I keep
The stairway I climbed every day for most of 1975
Or putting away again the Krebs Cycle
Which I memorized in 1969; I've come near
To tossing it a dozen times but somehow
Never have.

In the garden stroll the disgraced bishop
And his highborn but slightly damaged mistress.
Following them at a discreet distance
Servants sweep out their footprints
Or would if ghosts left footprints.
At night, I have reason to believe,
The bishop -- something of a scholar,
Something of a rascal, something of a poet --
Rearranges the boxes I keep in his palace
And hides some of his memories with mine.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


The sixth day of the moon makes travelers
Love each other. It also drives away mice,
Throws people in prison and mistreats them.
The eighth day is a good time to build
Or release prisoners; be careful
To take no purgatives then. If a prisoner
And no one has released you on the eighth day
Know that the twentieth favors escapes.