Friday, December 30, 2016


Grey water on a cold day.
Frozen ground that rings
Beneath my feet. A gull
Hangs in the air, unmoving.
Unblessed hour, why
Should I remember you?

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


Hell endures but its patience
Does not. Wearied of Dante
And his poking about, some
Of the more creative devils
Ran up a good imitation
Of Purgatory for him to see
And then outdid themselves, making
A Paradise rather like the one
They remembered in the hope
That he'd be satisfied and
Go back to Florence. Alas,
The demon playing Beatrice
Fell in love with Ba'al, whose God
Won raves from all the critics
In Hell (insert here joke
Referencing number of critics
In Hell). Both of them at last
Had to be exiled to Heaven.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


Dogs he understood, and cats would nod to him
As one well fit to give counsel in perplexity
But of the language of birds he had little
Enough to ask for directions, perhaps,
Or to know a joke was being told. Just as well,
He said, to hear birdsong as music. Winter geese,
If you let them, could break your heart.

Monday, December 26, 2016


Years ago my morning self
Bitterly insulted my evening self
Apparently there was a duel
Of which I only heard
After my morning self
Had been gravely wounded
And carried home on a shutter.
My evening self spent some years
In Ostend, to avoid arrest.
The world spins; when now we meet
We discuss indifferent things.

Friday, December 23, 2016


What if the sea should fall in love
Thinking of you until it grew
Sick with longing and the kraken
Asleep in the deepmost waters
Grew uneasy because the sea
Was leaving its work undone?
What if the Moon wrote poems
Remembering that it saw you first
In some southern latitude
And its heart is troubled still?
What if the Prince of Fools
Grew wise with wanting you
And sought counsel from the Moon
And sought comfort from the sea?

Thursday, December 22, 2016


Thanks to a Google misread
Of an old book, Libitina,
Formerly a corpse goddess
Is now Goddess of Corners
The saints, not to be outdone,
Are holding interviews
For a patron saint of corners.
If you think you may qualify
Please appear simultaneously
(Since saints can bilocate)
At our offices in
Tierra del Fuego.
Applicants should bring
Photo i.d. or miraculous icon
And proof of access
To the illimitable power of God.
Also, if you are one of Ursula's
Eleven thousand virgins
Please remember that
We remain uncertain whether
Any of you are free-standing saints
Or just attributes who can talk.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


The very first crocodile began a thought
But could not finish it because
Cold blood slows the synapses.
His sons and daughters went on
With that thought and even now
Each crocodile contributes what he can.
Some argue that the world continues
Because angels, leaning on their spears,
Are waiting to see how the thought
Looks when finally it is complete.

Monday, December 19, 2016


If the spider in his web
Over the chipped basin
Chooses to wear mourning
What is it to me? His hat
Has a band around it;
His coat is some color
Much darker than black.
Every one of his eyes
Is filled with compassion.
I draw away; his sympathy
Might be infectious

Friday, December 16, 2016


In ancient Rome when the time came
For the dead of the house to leave
A living man would stand by the door
And spit beans into the street. It may be
That this only works for Roman ghosts
Or perhaps I use the wrong sort of beans
But my dead just shake their heads,
Mulling over who among them
Should most be blamed for me.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


There are days when death is not one
But a wrangling committee
Including three gods, a dog,
A backtracking algorithm that squints
And something that looks like an abacus
With an indefinite number of legs.
Libitina, once the Goddess of Corpses
But now of Corners, due to a misprint,
Is a non-voting member. Of them all
She is only one who, if I asked,
Might give me a lift back home.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


After he died, my grandfather Joe
Got a job in a good copy
Of an Edward Hopper painting --
The famous one, Nighthawks.
I visit sometimes. He hangs
In my doctor's waiting room
Sitting on the corner stool
In the center left of the picture.
The pay, he says, is not much
But the coffee is good
And the refills unlimited.

Monday, December 12, 2016


Of a sudden, one of my eyes
Is farsighted while the other
Remains myopic as ever.
If some poem of mine now
Seems particularly unfocused
Try looking from across the room
Or squinting at it closely.
If these don't work
You might pretend to walk away
And then whip your head round
To see what it gets up to
When no one's watching.

Friday, December 9, 2016


Emperor Rudolf had a bell
To summon the dead
One night he rang it.
First came old Fritz
His former servant
Who died of typhus;
He asked if Rudolf wanted wine.
No, said Rudolf, nor beer
Nor kirsch nor even
A nice warm negus
With nutmeg sprinkled on.
"Tell me, good Fritz,
The secrets of the dead!"
"Sire, I know none. I could
Tell you how to make negus?
First, heat  but don't boil
A fair measure of port
(It needn't be very good port)
Stir in some lemon juice
And a lump of sugar. Cinnamon,
If you have it, and then nutmeg;
A bit of clover honey
(Clover, mind you, or the negus
Will be ordinary)
Half a measure of boiling water
And drink it right down.”

Next, the ghost of a sentry
Drowned three winters ago
From falling in the Vlatava.
The only secret he could impart
Concerned a grouchy barmaid
Who knew how to cure
Even the worst of hangovers.
The Emperor wrote down her name
In his Kunstcammer catalogue, beneath
A drawing of an ape holding a mirror
For a perplexed-looking mermaid.
That note has caused much confusion
To modern students of his reign.

Last came Rudolf’s own ghost
Looking very thin and parched.
He would not speak but was willing
To play chess. He won two games
And drew the third.

Monday, December 5, 2016


I will probably be away from this blog for a little bit for medical-type stuff. The six or eight of you should talk among yourselves for the next week or so, read the old posts, or put up arcane coments.
Also, rejoice! Rejoicing is important.

Li Po called on the Moon
And his shadow to drink
And to dance with him.
Who knows but if you call
They will answer you?

Sin and Death built a road
Where no road could be
Perhaps your morning bus
Travels that road.
Examine the other riders!

Friday, December 2, 2016


When I first met the white horse
He had Napoleon on his back;
They were crossing the
This was in a magazine ad -
For Courvoisier, I think -- the Emperor
Flourished his sword and pretended
He was off to conquer
You could tell he felt embarassed
To be shilling for a liquor company.
I haven't seen the ad in years
But yesterday I saw the horse
In a Rubens painting. Napoleon
Does not appear there. Perhaps
He told his agent "If Rubens calls
Tell him I'm not born yet."
Instead, the rider is an Arab hunter
Who's being bitten by a tiger. The tiger
Looks angry; the hunter looks surprised.
The horse looks as he always does
Rearing, tossing his handsome head,
His eyes large and intelligent,
Pretending to be barely under control
But inwardly poised, waiting
For the painter to put away his paints
His tiger, his hunter, his emperor,
And pull out a nice apple.

Thursday, December 1, 2016


Two old people are talking on film
For all the world as if they were living still.
Siegmar reads poetry, his fine voice
Grown reedy with age. Lois listens, then says
That in China, where poetry is chanted. you see
People walking by, chanting to themselves.
The camera pans around the room –
Wall hangings, a lamp, some pictures
A blue teapot; mismatched salt and pepper shakers
(The salt tall and tapering, the pepper short and fluted,
Their tops dented from many years of use.)
Lois gently runs a finger over the teapot
Whose shape calls for just such treatment.
Who would think I could so miss a salt shaker
Or need to bid a teapot a long farewell?