Thursday, February 13, 2014


To all to whom these presents come: Greetings! The world here is filled with snow and allegedly soon to be filled also with sleet, rain, darkness, vermin, cattle-disease and hot and cold running frogs. I assume by now you have settled the question of whether you exist; whatever you decided, you are welcome.

Two poems:


The book is aged but not old as books go,
Four years my junior, but it has lived hard.
A librarian cut the dust jacket in pieces,
Put plastic over them and rebuilt it. 
The glue has brittled, forgetting to be glue.
Another librarian made repairs with tape
Which has turned pale brown but tries,
In a few spots, to do its job still.
A book once my father’s, now become mine;
Filled with urgent messages.
Tu Fu is not happy. He pawns his clothes
And buys wine. Chu Hsi has gone
On the Day of Cold Food to watch flowers
On the river bank.  Ou Yang Hsiu misses
His friend, the poet Tsu Mei, who died young;
Lu Yu asks if I know the tousled old man
Who, on days when he is not too drunk,
Sells wildflowers by the South Gate.



“His [Henry James’] skin was dark, his face very clear cut, his brow domed and bare. His eyes were singularly penetrating, dark and a little prominent. On their account he was regarded by the neighborhood poor as having the qualities of a Wise Man – a sorcerer.”
Ford Madox Ford, Return to Yesterday

Shortly after he’d moved in the rumor spread
That the American author was a wizard.
“Such a start it gave me, opening the door
And him standing there, staring through me
Like he was used to seeing cleaner souls than mine.”
Whenever he reached into his pocket Mr. James
Always found a match or just the change he needed
He kept a set of keys for the look of things
Since doors unlocked themselves when he approached.

It was a principal with him never to use magic
For anything important. Arthritis made his hands
Impotent to write more than a paragraph at a time;
He hired a stenographer. His elderly cat, though,
Bounded about lithely; when it died at last
It weighed almost nothing; its soul gone
The corpse gently bobbed against the ceiling.

One evening in 1916 the ghost of his sister Alice
Dropped by to say she had startled a banshee
In the woods at the edge of town. William, she said,
Could not break his promise to haunt a Harvard classroom;
He sent his love. Garth and Wilkie – a little scorched, perhaps
But sober now, were making haste towards him
And should be with him when he died.

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