Wednesday, December 31, 2014


More often than not when I’m on 7th Avenue
I see St. Jerome. There’s no mistaking him
He still looks very like the portrait
El Greco made in 1610 though his beard
Is a bit shorter and he no longer wears
The red robes of a cardinal.

                             When I first lived in the City
It was Woody Allen I saw. We weren’t friends
Or even acquaintances but somehow, every week or two,
He'd be walking ahead of me or waiting at a light.
The woman I married once sat behind him at a movie.
Times change. I haven’t seen Woody Allen in years;
Now I see a dejected saint, sitting in doorways.

On impulse, I approached him yesterday – a cold day
And the sky without color as it gets sometime in winter –
“The Vulgate!” I said, feeling a little foolish, “What a book!
Even Wikipedia, while denying it has much textual authority,
Admits it has great literary value.” He shook his head,
Not meeting my eyes.

                                      A few blocks away
Around 23rd, his lion caught up with me. “Forgive him
He rarely speaks. Thank you for your words. If ever
You have need of a small miracle – especially one
Involving translations, skulls or trumpets –
You will generally find us on 7th Avenue;
It is cold north of 40th Street; seek us below.”

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Do you think the abyss
Has nothing better to do
Than to look back into you?
Nietzsche – a philosopher.
A philologist and a madman,
Could improvise on the piano.
If not for a furious mustache
Women might have called him handsome.
The abyss deemed him a worthy foe.
Nowadays, when you peer at it
It will call out “Friedrich?
Is that you?” Have some pity
And turn your eyes elsewhere.

Abyss, I've heard, is the only English word directly traceable to a Sumerian root. With that taken care of, why has no in Canada ever read this blog?

Monday, December 29, 2014


A little while before Robert Yeats died
The Pollexfen banshee set up her props
Three bloody sheets and a washing board.
She sighed; the rules were so rigid!
Just once she'd like to wail for a death
While standing on her head, or juggling.
There was an American spirit, she'd read
Who played the banjo. She had never heard one
But was sure she could master it. Ah well;
The boy's time drew near. She drew breath to wail
And saw that the oldest boy, Willie, had caught sight of her
She blew a kiss, winked at him, and began her lament.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


A delegation of Minor Georgian Poets
Were, the message said, trying to contact me
I yield to no man in my fondness for Lascelles Abercrombie
Nor am I without regard for Sir John Squire who must
Stagger towards eternity bearing the heavy weight
Of Virginia Woolf's disdain. Still, a tryst with them
Would, I knew, leave me writing wistfully for a month after.
Reluctantly, I arranged to meet them at the ghost of a Needicks
Which, until it was razed, had operated in the shadow
Of the
Third Avenue El. Rupert Brooke spoke most;
Old Robert Graves refused to be seen with Eddie Marsh
So had sent his younger self who ate three hamburgers
Two of them with cheese and one with extra onions.
None of them had American money, so I paid
Not forgetting to tip the semi-transparent waiter.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


My mother’s father Joe and I didn’t suit each other
He was small and neat and had clever hands
As well as a suspicious mind. A watchmaker,
He thought the world did not keep accurate time;
Something wrong with the gears perhaps
Or – he deemed this likely – the Great Maker
Had put something into the works backwards

He took precautions; his own watch was always
Set fast so that he knew to never trust it
His brothers and sisters had been born
At European ports as his family slowly felt its was
Towards America. The eldest was Russian
There were Germans too, and one from Liverpool
Before my Grandfather, the New Yorker.

When Joe’s young wife died Ase, his brother,
Der Englisscher, took him in. Ase played poker
But for Joe he learned to play chess. Mabel,
Ase’s smart and stringy wife, did added cooking
And cleaning for two years until Joe could manage
Crookedly to survive. I am not sure
He ever managed to forgive them for this.

On his deathbed – my father was a witness –
Joe woke for a moment and muttered
“What a wonderful, wonderful world!”

Monday, December 22, 2014


Feeling unwell Verlaine was advised
To find somewhere the winter sun.
One of his five unborn brothers –
Scholars disagree which one it was --
Agreed to take his place for a while
Springing from the bottle their mother
Had put him in after her miscarriage.
Over five frenzied weeks he wrote
Thirty three poems and a masque.
When Verlaine returned his brother
Apologized for having shot Rimbaud
Verlaine shrugged and the two
Drank absinthe and drew lots
As to which would go to jail.

Friday, December 19, 2014


          They lost the King towards dusk on the third day. Talking it over later, they agreed that it wasn’t their fault. They had, to be sure, agreed with him when he had suggested that it might be amusing to walk over the Bridge No Broader than the Width of a Moderately-Sharp Razor backwards and blindfolded, with butter on his feet, but none – they were certain – had sounded enthusiastic about it. Pranyabattishur, with the fine-grained obsequiousness which had won him the title of “Royal Servant Most Likely to be Pushed into the Crocodile Pond” three years running, had, to be sure, volunteered to tie the blindfold, but that was just his being Pranyabattishur. “Besides,” as the King had pointed out, “what’s the worst that could happen? We’re already dead.”

          The Minister of Religion had long been a patronage post, but the recently-deceased holder had been driven, out of sheer boredom, to read some of the vast archives which had accumulated over the centuries. “There’s a lot of dispute about that, Sire. Some say that the abyss beneath the Bridge No Broader than the Width of a Moderately-Sharp Razor is bottomless, and that the soul which falls off should be provided with a mandolin and a large fund of interesting things to think about, since he will fall forever and may find time lying heavy on his hands. Others say that abyss cannot be bottomless, as the Universe is finite, and therefore the soul, having plunged off, can look forward to a refreshing dip in the River of Extraordinarily Hot Fire. Artureshnan, though a heretic a most learned man, suggested that the abyss was a metaphor for the soul of man, which can never be fully comprehended, and that to fall into it was to fall into oneself; he recommended taking a shawl as the nights can be cold.”

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Until she grew weary of it Abetha Gill
Would explain that her employer,
While not fictional, was at least dead
Which comes to much the same thing.

The universe said
"I am not to be bullied;
For Stephen Crane
I have maintained always
An affectionate concern."

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


One god alone – a small one, old and canny –
Remained behind, hiding behind a barrel.
Because he never asked them the cats
Of Bread Street would bring him gifts:
Pieces of string, parts of mice, prayers
Too slow to escape their claws. To pass the time
He’d answer the prayers with constructs
Of delicate bones knotted together.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


When the gods departed Alexandria
Music played. In
Bread Street, a flute-girl
Held onto six notes; a rhythm was preserved
In the dreams of an old priest whose wife
Remembered a shadow of silence between the notes.
Call the flute-girl's name -- song will company your days;
Dream of the priest  - you will rise up
The servant of grace. What the priest's wife brings
Are not for words of mine to say.

Monday, December 15, 2014


All those years she remembered the cat --
Royal, his name was, and how he,
Not content with his native tongue,
Had mastered an authoritative bark.

Though she never met him she'd heard tell
Of her grandfather's dog Bill
Who went on errands, returning from stores
Carrying a parcel, neatly tied, though not by him.

Towards the last, though, it wasn't Royal
Who visited her, nor Bill, but her own dog,
Kerry, his tail wagging, his claws clickaclat
On the scrubbed tile floors.

Friday, December 12, 2014


When they moved into the Facility
The wife put a picture in the hall
Just to the left of the door
An ink painting of two Chinese men,
Obviously friends, chatting among trees
They are barefoot; laborers, perhaps
The sun is low in the sky so one man
Has put his broad hat on the ground
Plainly they'd be content to spend
An eternal afternoon together
Occasionally one will wonder
"The old people who lived here --
What ever happened to them?"

Thursday, December 11, 2014


Sometimes in Hell Satan would amuse his friends
By imitating God. Wearing infinity
Loose-draped upon his shoulders
He would gestures and stars
Would conjure themselves in a sky
Which itself would have appeared
Just in time for them to have a place
In which to be. Planets would shudder into being;
Plants and beasts and men would rush on
Half-dressed, trying to remember their lines.
Until Satan grew interested in other things
Some of his creations lingered on, eon after eon;
A few are here still, a bit run-down perhaps
But sought after by discerning travellers
Of limited means. I lived in one my junior year
And still in dreams find myself praying
For things I cannot afterwards recall.

Friday, December 5, 2014


Over the years they’ve spent in that interminable wood
Death has picked up some chivalry from the Knight
While the Devil has become almost fearless
The Knight, however, remains impervious
And, despite their efforts, does not improve

I'll be offline for a bit; talk among yourselves. If anyone can figure why 150 Frenchmen and/or Frenchwomen have logged on to this (or perhaps just one Frenchperson 150 times) let me know. Also, why no Australians?

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Listen; there is no violin
But the same clarinet is there
As in a klezmer song
Ecstatic, miserable, screaming;
But for history's accidents
The tango might have been ours
When other folk heard it
They would think of passion
As they do now, to be sure,
But also of rabbis. "The Lvoviner Rav,"
We'd read, "was a pious man and wise
And when he tangoed furious angels
Put aside for a moment their wrath."

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


Saint Margaret of Antioch, patron of exiles,
Peasants, the dying and the falsely accused,
Is recognized by her attribute: a dragon,
Either on a leash or draped over her shoulder.
When they are not posing for pictures –
Which they have not done now for years –
The dragon often wanders on his own.
Pope Gelasius called Margaret apocryphal
But it didn't stick. In his cups, the dragon
Insists Gelasius is apocryphal.
He has told Anthony's pig that, sometimes,
He thinks of Margaret as his attribute;
Occasionally he eats one of her peasants.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


The story is well known: on a hot day
St. Brigid unfastened her cloak
And hung it on a sunbeam.
The beam was astonished; "I have crossed
96,260,000 miles,
(Give or take the odd foot or three),
Through trackless space at unthinkable speed
Only to find myself at last a coathook?"
"Don't blame me," said the cloak;"I had every intent
Of falling in a heap to the ground, perhaps
Picking up some dirt and leaves while there
But who has it in them to say no to Brigid?"

Monday, December 1, 2014


When they meet for softball games
St. Margaret of
Antioch fields a team
Of exiles, the dying, and peasants
Against Margaret of Cortona's
Hobos, the insane and third children.
Cortona's retired prostitutes sit on the sidelines
Chatting with the falsely accused of
Cortona has lost six times in a row
But this year has an insane southpaw
Who is master of the screwball pitch.