Friday, January 29, 2016


In Pawling, New York, people accept
That the ghost of Thomas E. Dewey
Will sometimes, after a heavy snow,
Shovel their walks. His mustache
Hasn't lost a bristle. He remains sure
That the next time it is 1948
He'll beat Truman in a walk.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016



No instrument accompanies
Should it falter, the road it spools out
And the universe it creates on each side
Will be as if it never was.
If you were to say "Cello,
Every note you play was born
In the mind and heart of Johann Bach
And other cellos have come this way"
It will rightly put no credit in your words

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Once in a while you would descend
To the library's basement where coffee
Was always available for the nyctambules
And nyctolops who studied or dreamed
Their nights away in the endless stacks.
Being chthonic myself, though not a god,
Gravity would have sometimes drifted me down
From my carrel on the third floor
Between the great steps and
Eng. Lit.
But since you might appear at any time
I was required to go and drink coffee
More frequently.  Red-eyed, I developed
A caffeine twitch. and could only mutter
"Love, see what you have done to me!"

Monday, January 25, 2016


You cannot kill the wind
But there are men who
For a regrettable price
Might erase just one
Of its many names
So when the End of Days
Calls all things back to it
Something nameless
Will be left behind.

Friday, January 22, 2016


If I’d my father’s eye and heart
I would feel the bare branch’s regret
As its last leaf goes dancing away
With a sweet-talking breeze.

Thursday, January 21, 2016


Eugene Atget, a chronicler of lost Paris,
Photographed a secondhand store
A day or two after the owner's cat had died.
In the print the cat's ghost can be seen,
A semi-transparent black shadow,
Standing patiently near a battered table
Where unhappy books lie in heaps.
The cat believes the owner's ghost
Will appear someday in the picture
Coming out of the doorway, perhaps,
Or rising from the mismatched pair of  boots,
Carrying in his torn jacket’s pocket
The memory of a fish head.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


Perhaps if I’d gone out dancing my feet.
Approving of the use I made of them,
Would not decide to make a home for gout.

Had I given thought to great questions
It might be my head would not be inviting
All the birds of the air to make nests in it.

Had I given my heart the freedom it wanted
Who knows but that, after it ran off,
It might have returned when I grew old?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016



When my father was dying he was visited
By Popeye the Sailor who, since they had met
In a Big Little book, had been his good friend.
To my father the true Popeye was a man
Of sensitivity and charm, all masked
By feigned inarticulate simplicity
Olive Oyl was no mere spidery-legged dame
But a muse, while Bluto had the solemn duty
Of challenging Popeye at every turn
Forcing him to exceed himself. I have no idea
What role the Sea Hag played, or if next Tuesday
Will ever come -- the day when Wimpy will repay
His debt for the hamburgers Popeye bought him.

I boarded the Toonerville Trolley,
Which meets all trains, and rode it
To my parents' burial to which I often return.
As always, my father was put in a grave
Far from the folk of Kamianka Strumilowa
Among whom he had thought to rest.
As always, my mother's ashes were with him.
How could I have forgotten that Needlenose Noonan
Had spoken a graveside eulogy, that Andy Gump
Had leaned on Smokey Stover's shoulder and wept
Or that Popeye had chased off the other pallbearers
And carried the coffin by himself?

Monday, January 18, 2016


Divide infinity as many times as you like
Each part is infinite still, so that a saint
Having a portion of God's infinite power
Has herself such power, though perhaps
A somewhat smaller version which she can hide
In her sleeve or a cloisonné pillbox.
To cross the line between real and fictitious
In either direction, is easy as thought
And some saints I know do so frequently
Waking up spurious, dining as real,
And going to bed as the suspect offspring
Of a smalltime god and a scribal error.

Friday, January 15, 2016


Take it that this world is prentice work
Colonised by copies and drafts
And shadows on the run from deceived heiresses.
Gods of such a world might run by clockwork
So that keys from the back of desk drawers
Or rattling in dusty cigar boxes would suffice,
In the proper keyholes, to bring Lord Ba'al or Artemis
Or even the dread Zimbustavo roaring back to life.

Thursday, January 14, 2016


Say the Devil's name three times
Or draw his picture on the wall
And he will, perhaps, appear
Correct your pronunciation
Or, with a few quick lines,
Give life to your portrait.
This talent is not his alone
There are people I know,
And some I am, who have been
Roughly conjured into being.
How is it that you wonder
At our habitual bad tempers?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


If you're an emperor you must
Learn to wear your nakedness
Casually, pulling it around you,
Lifting your heels slightly
To avoid tripping on the cuffs.
Loneliness and rags are watching.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Law school taught me the proper form
To address a bench of judges
"If it please the Court," you begin
(They must hear in your voice
That the C is capitalized and, if possible,
That it is in boldface as well),
"My name is  -- whatever it is --
And I represent -- whoever is paying me."
I have recited this often, hoping
Some judge at last would cry out
"It pleases me not at all! Be John Pashlik
Never again! Represent not the plaintiff
Or the defendant but the aggrieved heart
Which mocks from beneath my robe."

Monday, January 11, 2016


Beside the road the moon lay
Almost dead. Sim wanted to leave it
Saying we'd troubles enough already
But Marley shook his head. The corporal
Took the moon's feet and I took a grip
On the shoulders. We put it near the fire,
Gave it some of our terrible soup
Made from weeds and nameless animals.
It woke up addled, with no recall
Of anything before us. It spoke slowly
And expressed doubt that it was the moon.
It was able to speak good Latin,
Or recite pi to several dozen places.
It could also read palms and tell true fortunes
But it held a spoon by the wrong end
And would not lace the boots we gave it.
After a few weeks, just when we’d got used to it,
It climbed a tree one night then kept on climbing.
When we could barely see it, a pair of boots
Fell from the sky, missing Sim by inches.

Friday, January 8, 2016


If Paradise Lost was an old movie
Ralph Bellamy would be Adam
The audience would expect
Lucifer and Eve to share
A kiss before the film
Discretely faded out.

Thursday, January 7, 2016


Immigration checks at the borders of the new year?
I was prepared for this. Most of myself, in barrels and crates
And large shapeless bundles tied with coarse twine,
Had been smuggled across and stored as opportunity offered.
What was left was shadowy and benign; the guards
Asked for my blessing and gave me a few coins.
Some boxes of memories were lost; this always happens.
Other boxes I retrieved turned out not to be mine
So I now miss several people I’ve never met. My name
Lacks a few letters, but remains recognizable.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Matthew Arnold has of late
Been sitting in on my dreams,
Ribbon-bedecked, in the uniform
Of a high ranking officer
In one of the Ignorant Armies.
He rarely speaks; if a player
In that night's dream offers him
A glass of Benedictine or a croissant
He accepts in a quiet voice.
His presence, which he will not explain,
Irks me but I cannot evict him
Since I have made unlicensed use
Of several characters from his poems
And one from his essays. He would do well
Not to press me too far. I too have heard
Confused alarums of struggle and flight.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


Putting on the name I never use
I went to visit Ragg whom a poet
Wrote about when my great grandfather
Was eight and spending his days
Wondering if he should allow his thoughts
Which had been much about frogs and beetles
To stray towards God and girls
Though not necessarily in that order.
Ragg, being in prison, is always at home.
She accepted the chocolate I brought
And read my palm. "Your great grand father
Had red hair. He brought me tears.
Your grandfather had strange eyes.
He was so strong! He might have moved mountains;
He sang for me. Your father knew
The languages of animals and brought me messages
From the King of the Cats. He said if you came
You might tell me a story. Begin!"

Monday, January 4, 2016


The ad says "I am old
And lonely and will
Answer all letters."
Ragg is in custody;
As she has been
For centuries.
Each new year
Thinks it will see
Her release.