Wednesday, August 31, 2016


Libitina, newly anointed Goddess of Corners,
Has sought advice from Alpnu. Some time back
Alpnu transitioned from death goddess
To a goddess of sex (no kidding –
You can go look it up. I’ll wait here).
Her habit of greeting the newly dead
Clad in sandals and a cape and nothing else
Apparently inspired some drunken versifiers
To send her their improper prayers
Written in impeccable dactylic hexameters.
Their lives were no more fortunate
Than those of most poets who drink too much
But they’ve had notably happy deaths.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Libitina, the Roman Goddess of Corpses,
Wishes to announce that, a misprint,
Has made her the Goddess of Corners.
She finds this rather a relief.
For some time, as Titus Livius notes
In his great History of Rome,
She’s been restive; corpses have complained
That their prayers are frequently lost
Or answered inappropriately.
Sacrifices to her may be offered as usual
At her temples. Her priests will still
Sell funeral supplies and pinatas.
She is open to suggestions as to what
A Goddess of Corners should actually do.  

Monday, August 29, 2016


Yellow dog, you're the last I'll have
Who remembers my father.
No reason now for me to rise
When all the world sleeps
Put on my hat and coat
And see what clouds and stars
Have made of the sky.
I suppose I'll get to eat
The last bite of my supper
I’ll pause though, knowing
You've still some claim to it.

Friday, August 26, 2016


The duke’s nephew fits his role so well
That if there’d originally been no duke
One would conjure himself up
And pretend he had always been.

Thursday, August 25, 2016


By the terms of her contract
The last public letter writer
Cannot retire. Nowadays
She often writes for bears
And pigs and angels and those
Who mistrust machines.
When she takes a break --
Going for coffee or ducking
Into the secret bathrooms
Beneath the Plaza hotel --
Her cat uses her quills
To draw pictures of flowers
And horses and cats
Walking upright, with glasses
And dressed as if for golf
Sometime around 1925.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


The New York Times says Michelangelo's David
Has weak ankles; one more thing we have in common!
Perhaps when he was ten years old his friend also
Dared him to jump from a garage roof .
So far, no Florentine authorities have asked
That I be moved to a protected indoor location.
Plans to sell small plastic replicas of me
Have, I gather, been put on hold indefinitely

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


Find a hut with chicken legs;
Set it loose somewhere in Russia
Sooner or later you’ll find
Some baba yaga living there.
When she first wakes up
(She sleeps on top of the stove)
Her horrible black pipe
Will already be alight.

Monday, August 22, 2016


Growing bored with her death, Alice James
Found that by twiddling her fingers just so
She could tie candle flames in knots.
Since a knotted flame cannot go out
Her house was left filled
With small but persistent fires.
A German bomb during the Blitz
Set them free to wander.
One, at least, made it to Milwaukee
Where it has been seen hovering
Over the grave of her brother Garth.

Friday, August 19, 2016


The dust from which I'm made
Had other plans. Sometimes
When I spend the day
Just staring out the window
Or twiddling a length of string
It whispers "You and your refusal
To eat mice! "

Thursday, August 18, 2016


Ordinarily, the duke's nephew
Spends a brief while in his own dream
Before dressing warmly and going off
To inspect those of others. Once he's gone
His dream is thrown open to the public
And light refreshments are served.
I used to go, usually on nights
When I thought there'd be dancing.
The door behind the arras
Always led to a summer Wednesday
Which, given how I was back then,
Suited me to the ground.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


Someday a student of the obscure
May undertake my resurrection
The evidence will be scattered
And resist interpretation
But, with effort, the outlines
Of my early upbringing
May, at least, be made clear
"His father -- ninth child of a girl
Who made cigarettes and a tailor
Who could leap over garages --
Sometimes served as a member
Of God's entourage. His mother –
Daughter of a woman slain
By ice and a watchmaker --
Was short and fierce and funny.
She left him with a tendency
To quote poetry with enthusiasm
And startling inaccuracy.
He had a brother who delighted
In giving strange and useless gifts.
There are rumors of an invisible sister;
She never appears in his poems.
In high school, he lived two lives
Neither of them of much interest."

Monday, August 15, 2016


All those who appear in my poems
Bear my warranty. My brother
Is played by himself when young.
My grandfather's ghost is not
Some spirit for hire on whom
I've slipped rimless glasses
And taught to make watches
But the ghost himself. (Easy enough
To conjure spirits. Harder
To make them leave. Because
I wrote of them, the Addled Parliament
Deem me a member, entitling them
To my protection and, occasionally,
A cold drink on a hot day.)


I cannot without danger
Of losing my shadow forever
Bid God or Satan or Baba Yaga
Appear when I want them
But neither can I shoo them out
When they've a mind to stay.

Friday, August 12, 2016


One Christmas Eve my brother
Turned up at my tiny apartment
With the biggest desk I ever saw
Strapped to the top of his VW bug.
(There must have been a contest;
If the car had won, the desk
Would have carried the car
To West 74th Street
And parked it in my living room
Which was also my dining room,
My kitchen, my library
And where the maid would sleep
If I ever hired a maid.)
The apartment door came off its hinges
And, bending the laws of physics,
We barely got the desk inside
We put the table where I ate on top
And a chair. And a floor lamp.
And the marble chess board --
Enormous and impractical -- my brother
Gave me for my birthday that year
Although I don't play chess.
I became known as an eccentric
Who ate on a desk beneath the shade
Of a fair-sized dining room table.

Thursday, August 11, 2016


Now that they're both dead
Do my mother and her father
Still fight or are there days
She is eleven and, at twilight,
Waits for him by the lake
Knowing he'll come for her
Knowing he'll let her stand
On the running board
Almost all the way home?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


He seemed to feel it was enough
To say “I am the Duke’s nephew”
And sit in on my dreams last night.
I admit he sat quietly
Even when Baba Yaga lit her pipe
By striking a match on him.
Baba Yaga was not supposed
To appear in last night’s dream
But one of the flower fairies
In the dance sequence
Had developed peritonitis
And fallen in love. I am not sure
These two things are related.
In any event, she was unavailable
And – it’d be better without the pipe –
Baba Yaga can do a very credible
Battement fondu avec sauce de cerise.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


The angels assume God will return
When He is good and ready
Meanwhile, they've grown used
To obeying a synod of cats.

Monday, August 8, 2016


"The trouble with your old immune system," she said,
Is that it never asserted itself, never asked
For money or demanded a name. I intend
To make different, gaudier mistakes.
I suppose I'll defend you from diseases --
It's in the contract -- but also from imposts, provosts
Pot roasts, lamp posts, most ghosts and crab grass
My name will be Furiosa Pendragon and I
Will accompany you, wearing a sword
And blowing a small trumpet. Invisibility
Is not my aim. I will take it kindly
If your dress from now on does not clash
With maroon and gold, which are my colors."

Friday, August 5, 2016


Shultz and me found the corpse the first time
Lying with coins on its eyes in a mostly burnt house
Decently wrapped in an unbleached shroud. The Corporal
Spoke a few words and we buried it beneath a yew.
We found the same corpse – well, it looked the same –
In a field. It looked less peaceful than the first
Its fingers clutched tight around its scythe-handle.
We were being pursued so simply threw some sand on it.
The third corpse was shuffling cards at a crossroads
Grains of sand were caught in its hair. We didn’t speak
But it gave me a shrewd glance as we passed.
Time is a left-handed relation of mine and that night
Dropped by to visit in my dreams, not as an man
But as a kid, with a bag of marbles and some bent nails
Which he seemed to feel were valuable.
“Unchancy,” he said, “finding the same corpse
More than once. If you find it again, ask it
Why it had my scythe. Perhaps it’s kin.”

Thursday, August 4, 2016


So few now call for her services
That Linith, when she visits Hell
Must show her i.d. "Copyeditor,"
It says, "Ghostwriter; agent;
Etruscan goddess of death.
Height: variable but usually tall
Eyes: fathomless pools of darkness
Or cerulean, depending on her mood."
She rarely visits her own realm.
Which is now a shadow republic.
Occasionally a bottle of black wine
Appears outside her door.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


I held out no hand;
You did not take it.
To the song I didn't sing
You offered no harmony.
On the path that wasn't there
I set no foot. How, then,
Have I found myself here?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


At the farmer’s market a juggler,
Stands behind his upturned hat.
Three balls at first, yellow, white, green;
Then a fourth, light blue with red speckles.
A fifth, a sixth, a twelfth – too many.
Your damnation, whom you are to meet
Near the cart with the suspect tomatoes
Tries to get your attention.
A ball suddenly bounces off your nose
Then back into the unending circle.
Some one laughs. You buy an apple.

Monday, August 1, 2016


When you pray in Etruscan nowadays
Usually Fufluns or Selvans will answer
The others have mostly sloped off.
Lenith, a skilled death goddess,
Writes unhappy romance novels;
Turan drinks; Achuvzr went home
To Samothrace where at least
They can pronounce his name.
Culsans works as a carpenter,
Calu as a wolf. Knives sharpened by Culso
Never break, never dull, never darken
(They can also speak. From its drawer,
I can hear mine complaining
That I used it to pry open a jar.)
Fufluns takes being a wine god
Far too seriously. His name used to be
Something long and sonorous
But drunks, who needed him most,
Couldn’t get it out. Selvans
Read on Wikipedia that he is
“A civil god.” Since then he has been
Extremely polite, though he knows
“Civil” just means he was a god
Who hung around city limits.
He is the only deity I know who,
Before entering a dream, knocks;
The others just barge right in.