Thursday, December 31, 2015


I believe I have come downstairs
To bring order out of chaos
And to copy things my father wrote
The cat believes that God
Has decided to provide him a lap.
Who would have thought
That God listens to my cat?

Wednesday, December 30, 2015


To get the atmosphere right, John Glassco,
Distinguished Canadian poet and pornographer,
Travelled from 1966 to 1935 to write his memoirs.
He took a room a few blocks away
From  the hospital where his younger self
Was convinced he was dying. He visited himself
One afternoon and made terrible prophecies:
"You will be mayor of a small town in
East Quebec;
You will win the Governor General's Award for poetry."
"Tell me," young John gasped, "tell me that I will still
Write highly stylized fetish poems and novels!"
"You will; they will be published under many pseudonyms."
"All right then; I suppose I will have to live."

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Waiting for the late ferry from Cythaera
The drowsy nymphs congregate
Collecting memories until they can afford
A reputable second-tier dream.
Once on board, they sit together
Gossiping about Great Chthulu, whom they knew
When he was poor and glad to run errands
For noctambules and their pale keepers.
One by one the nymphs fall silent and the steward
Wraps their dream around them.

Monday, December 28, 2015


When his wife died in childbirth
On February 25, 1927 my grandfather Joe
Felt his heart stop and then contract
Until it was small and hard and round
And cold as a marble. Ase, his brother,
Brought him home and sat with him.
Joe's deft fingers shook. For three days
He sat in the dark. On the fourth,
My great aunts Jenny and Lena
Brought his chess set from the apartment
Joe never visited again. Jenny opened the blinds
While Lena set up the board. She won
Fifteen games in a row.
She thought she was winning game sixteen
When Joe's eyes narrowed. "Mate in five," he said.
"So you remember how to talk?" said his sister.

Thursday, December 24, 2015


I tried to send my humble respects
To an empress I know
But my computer feels
Etiquette is its younger brother.
"You mean 'hair mumbles' " it says.
Perhaps I do. At any event,
Whatever hair mumbles are
The empress shall have some.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


Books I might have written
Haunt me, their well-bound ghosts
Glaring at me from lengthy footnotes
Where I'm not cited or forcing a few words
Into the middle of a quote in some language
I never learned. To quiet them,
I conjured down Jorge Luis Borges
Begging him to write a review
He agreed, after warning me
That it might not be favorable.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015


St. Marina, patron of exiles and peasants,
Is irate that Gelasius called her apocryphal
"So what if I was once a sea goddess?
Next to no one worshipped me.
I admit I was eaten by a dragon; but that
Was such a long time ago. I was young and looked
Delicious. It could have happened to anyone."

Monday, December 21, 2015


The trees across the street
Are frozen in gestures of denial
And indignation. They reach up
Demanding Heaven witness
Their entire innocence
Or point downwards
Swearing by the Earth itself.
One spreads its branches wide
Shocked that a tree of its age,
Its importance, must defend itself
Against the accusing leaves.

Thursday, December 17, 2015


Returning triumphantly to her draft
The Countess discovered her characters
Had decamped while she was out
Leaving behind an old nursemaid
Too feeble to survive the long trek
To a more lurid manuscript.
Originally meant to add some local color
The nursemaid was scheduled to die
Movingly, towards the end of Chapter 6.
Still, necessity knows no law;
A grumbling miracle was performed;
The nursemaid, risen from her deathbed,
(Her disease turning out to be misdiagnosed
Dutch Elm Tree Blight), did her best
As heroine. The hired ghost of Warren Oates
Did yeoman service as the hero, the villain,
The villain's much-betrayed wife,
And a variety of more minor roles
Sales were surprisingly strong.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


After a while Schrödinger could no longer bear the suspense
And opened the box to see if his cat, which had been
Neither dead nor not dead, neither alive
Nor not alive, had made up her mind. The box was empty
Save for a note in Sanskrit. Translated it said
"You forgot the other set of alternatives -- in the box
Or out of the box. I am now both in and not in your closet
Where I am and am not taking my revenge
On your best pair of shoes."

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Before I could begin to write
The poem flickered away
Gone, I suppose, to see
If Li Po has returned.

Monday, December 14, 2015


Partly in jest, my father once
Described my mother as a beautiful spy
Fluent in many languages; if we found out
Where they were spoken she would prove
Invaluable. It seems to me that the baby
Who has taken to hanging around here
Might have understood her perfectly;
Almost five months old, she orates at length
And then pauses. If I had my mother's gift
I would nod and eloquently reply.

Thursday, December 10, 2015


One day Verlaine's mother saw
That a ringer had slipped in
Among the bottles where she kept
Her four unborn sons.
The bottles all looked the same
Their inhabitants staring as usual.
When Verlaine reeled home
He confessed he'd pawned one of his brothers
But, finding himself in funds again,
Had returned to redeem him
Only to find the pawnshop clerk
Offering him two labelless bottles;
He brought both of them home.
"But surely you noticed one was a girl?"
"I am the drunken glory of French poetry
And, as such, need not pay taxes
Or concern myself with infant genitalia."

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


The Lvoviner dreamed sometimes
Of trolleys running to Ebbets Field
When he woke up he would ask
The Prince of Fire, who'd come by
From God knows where to smoke,
What a trolley might be,
Who Ebbet was and what sort of things
Might be found in his field.
The Prince would light his short pipe,
Take between one and four puffs
And explain. "Trolleys are female trolls
Big and very strong but kindly
In the future they will make a living
By charging a small coin
To carry children long distances.
Ebbet is not a man but a sort of tree
Which bears four different fruits.
Someday the trolleys will carry children
To a field filled with leafy ebbets
Early on summer mornings and watch them
As they run around all day or climb the trees
It late afternoon, the trolleys
Will  take the sleepy children home in their arms."
His pipe finished, the Prince of Fire
Would say good night and go off
To God knows where. The Lvoviner's cat,
Stretching, might say "Do you believe him?"
"Not a word," the Lvoviner would answer,
"But to be the Prince of Fire is hard
And sometimes he needs to talk."

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


The other cat said to my dying father
"There is a trolley now which starts
From near your house in 1938
And stops at Kamianka Strumilowa around 1893
You will find coins in the left pocket
Of the suit in which they bury you;
Pay three fares; I and another
Will be travelling with you."

Monday, December 7, 2015


Since they generally had only one at a time
The cats in my father’s family weren’t named
But simply called the cat. When one wandered off
Or found religion or hopped into Death’s satchel
Another turned up, sent, from some agency
Which keeps track of such things. Once, the agency
Made an error and two cats came together.
They were called the cat and the other cat
And both made a point of meeting my father,
As if by chance, when he came home from school.

Thursday, December 3, 2015


Being possessed of great style
As well as being a chthonic god
The Baron does not show surprise
When I introduce the baby to him
Though he shakes his pale head
"If I were in dire straits," he says
"It is just possible that I might wear
An orange striped stretchy
Stippled with pumpkins. But never --
No, never! -- would I also have on
Fuzzy pink socks."

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


Reports that a baby girl
Has been hanging around my house
Are true. The public is urged
To stay calm. My crack team of advisers
Believe she is, at for the moment,
Using her formidable powers
To learn how to sit upright
And presents no immediate danger.