Wednesday, November 30, 2016


(These postings, of course, mostly add up to an autobiography. It's a bit surprising, I admit, t find out how big a role a variety of things including demons, saints, Baba Yaga. kings who can fly and ancient parliaments seem to have played. I should have paid closer attention.)

Though rain was expected the Addled Parliament
Had gone out lightly clad and came back
Feverish and delusional. The Useless Parliament
Ran off for a doctor but got hopelessly lost.
The Merciless Parliament and the Blessed Parliament
Were dancing and could not be disturbed.
The Good, the Bad, the Long, the Short, the Black,
And the Parliaments of Dunces and of Birds all refused
To reconstitute themselves. Only the Parliament of Bats
And the Mad Parliament were there at the end.
Later, the Rump came into the death chamber
To weep and steal one of the pennies the Mad
Had left upon the Addled's eyes.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Towards the end of her life
Dame Edith had doubts
That she was still real.
On days she wasn't careful
She'd pass through walls
Or surprise her reflection
Looking somewhere else.
She wrote a friend
That the poems didn't care
So long as she wrote them down.

Monday, November 28, 2016


I knew an angel so old
He remembered the universe that God
Did not make. He worked, as I did,
At the Tourist Bureau in Ghent
Answering the questions of people
Who’d meant to be in Antwerp
And ghosts seeking Bruges.
When the front office needed,
Or thought they did, a miracle
I would be sent to find him,

Angels can bilocate so he was often
In two places. During office hours
He might be off drinking with demons –
There are an awful lot of them in Ghent --
While also in the supply room
Playing cards with the shadows
Of clerks who died centuries ago.
They cheated, but so did he
Which may be why he was in Ghent
And not hanging about in Heaven.

Friday, November 25, 2016


I am grateful that bears
(Or was it smugglers? Memory
Never agrees twice running)
Gave me in a dream new papers
Proving beyond doubt
That I exist. But I am uneasy.
When I sleep my shadow
Arrives late and disheveled.
If a cat walks by my shadow
Abandons me and follows it.
Days later Franz Kafka
Or Elinor Glynn or both
Send me insistent visions
That my shadow -- again!--
Needs to post bail.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


A side effect of discovering the elixir of immortality
used to be
That tigers would obey you. (Scholars still debate
What position jaguars, cheetahs and ocelots would take.
Lions, it is known, would just look worried
As if you spoke some language they'd long forgotten.)
In these sad days, though, the most to be expected
Is that cats will sometimes bid you good day.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Occasionally I call up a sheet
From the 1940 census. There my father
Is thirteen, the youngest of nine people
Living in his parents house. Doris,
His sister, is still Dora and Jack,
His sister Annes husband, lives there too.
All but one of the surviving children
Live together; Harry is elsewhere.
They werent much for black sheep
But if they had been Harry
Would have applied for the position.
In a later world where I existed
Harry was a sort of irate spirit
Spoken of but seldom seen
But he lived somewhere and did
Something, perhaps many things.
My inventory of facts on him is small.
Like my grandfather, he could perform
Lightning calculations. He went west
To work for a New Deal project
He had a mean streak; money
Never stayed long with him. Sometimes
When my father sang hed remember
That the song was one Harry taught him.

Monday, November 21, 2016


The sun shone when you were born
For 12.39 hours. The high temperature
Was 87 degrees. That night the low
Was 71. There was a gibbous moon
Waning towards its vanishment.
Three macaques whod escaped
From the Parque Zoological Lofling
Had made it across the border
And decided to chance their luck
In the city called The Avila's Odalisque
(Macaques are all romantics)
They were moving in the shadows
On the Avenida el Rosario
Just when you gave your first cry
And, wishing you well, disappeared
Into a dim-lit bar. In those days
Anyone with a few pesos
Could buy all the drinks he wanted.
(Ice, though, would cost you extra.)

Friday, November 18, 2016


Take a lower cabin with a porthole?
You'll half-suffocate in rough weather
When it is shut fast. Upper cabins
Have skuttles which can remain open
But, if there's a fight, the sailors
Will knock down your cabin
To make room for the cannon.
Really, this decision of yours
To go to
India via the year 1810
Increasingly seems ill-advised.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Very late on cold nights certain stars --
Visible only two hours after
And only from the Midway --
Would take me on long looping walks.
I'd pass your house and wind up
Strolling along
59th Street.
Then, crossing a field, I'd exchange shrugs
With the tall and lonely memorial
To Tomas Garrigue Masaryk.
(Winds off
Lake Erie enforced our privacy.)
He'd tell me that unsuccess in love
Was bad but having your son
Thrown from a high window
On Stalin's orders was worse.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Sometimes when I know there is no hope of reaching some destination in my dream my friend's car pulls up, opens its door, and we set off. My friend, alas, is dead even in dreams so there’s no one behind the wheel, but the car is used to driving itself. Even when I first knew it, decades ago, it was more the idea of a car than the thing itself, as if the pieces of many old machines -- only some of them cars -- had found themselves in proximity to each other and decided to pretend to be a car. It has bumpers meant for a bigger vehicle and its rear windows cannot be lowered. To keep things in balance, the front windows cannot be raised. It knows I am not its master but remembers me as someone who always needed a ride.

Monday, November 14, 2016


The urgent need to write arrives
Before the poem since the poem
Is in no hurry to be written
And has its doubts that I
Am really suited to its needs.

Friday, November 11, 2016


Rumor spread through the school
That Mary Dimmish, once a kirkgrim
Who haunted a church and now
English mistress, was keeping
A provost in her cupboard.
(Whether his will kept him there
Or if he was a sort of trophy
Or a souvenir of days at the beach
Rumor would not say, smiling faintly
When pressed by the senior girls).
At last Anne -- an American and so
Not subject to ordinary rules --
Interrupted a session on unsprung rhythm
To ask "Miss Dimmish, everyone says
You have a provost. Do you?"
Miss Dimmish raised her left eyebrow
Then lowered it. Raised the right one
Then blinked twice and sighed.
"Perhaps. But only a very small one."

Thursday, November 10, 2016


John Aubrey kept his dreams in a box
Which wound up in the Ashmolean
Along with his manuscripts, letters,
Drawings, compasses, sea shells
Odd-shaped stones, plans,
Keys, a lute owned by Thomas Hobbes
And a large number of worn boots
Most meant for the right foot.
The dreams in the box now
Are not Aubrey's but belonged
To a nineteenth century curator
Who never threw anything away.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


Because I’ve written of them both
The last Ming emperor and St Jerome
Use my dreams as a meeting place.
They seem to enjoy themselves
But time drags for me -- Jerome
Has no words and the emperor
Usually speaks Chinese. Someone
Convinced him that Nid oes ofn
Is how one says thank you
For the use of your dream.
It is not. (I asked Joseph Hucks)
It is Welsh for Have no fear.

Monday, November 7, 2016


It is the fate of some poems to be dismembered, there lines having then to find new homes as best they can. Occasionally, though, it is possible to rejoin them and send the resurrected poem off through the world again, lurching and rejoicing. As here:


The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And mama in her kerchief and I in my cap
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,--
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer
With a little old driver, so lively and quick
I thought for a moment it must be Saint Nick.
Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset was seen;
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn had blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.

For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers wax'd deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved and for ever grew still!
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all and to all a Good Night!"

Friday, November 4, 2016


Hubris says these dreams are mine
But sense looks skeptical
"Show me some proof of ownership --
A sales receipt, a deed, a will
Naming you residual heir
To your great grandfather's dreams
And his ceremonial spoon collection.
Or just show me the tools
With which you crafted them
And I'll call them yours. No; it's a trick
Language has played on you.
Examine one; is it not older, craftier,
Sturdier than you? Your  soul,
Finding an hour's shelter in a place
Vast and changing, whistles a tune,
Puts beer in the refrigerator,
Says 'this is mine.' "

Thursday, November 3, 2016


In those days we would
Turn our hand to anything.
I still have the work orders
Demanding a ship
Made from dead men's nails
A resistless spear,
A woman made from flowers
And a gallows
Suitable for hanging mice.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Do the angels of Bread Street have jobs?
I have never seen them working.
They sleep in doorways
Their great wings furled about them.
They breakfast together unspeaking,
Passing around sacks of stale rolls.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


An absurdly small shadow
Trots at the golem's heels.
It looks something like a cat
Who's lost an ear.
It trips over itself
And occasionally stoops
To examine bugs
Or pebbles or its own feet.
My offers to buy her
A new shadow
Have been refused.