Tuesday, February 28, 2017


The angels checked their watches
Which they had neglected to wind
Since the Battle of the Crater.
6:43, exactly," God muttered
As he shrugged into His coat;
"Make a note of it." They left
And the small gods whispered
I might want to wake up.

Monday, February 27, 2017


The very old muse keeps trade cards
And shushes me when I try to insist
Printseller Thomas Bakewell, dead since 1749,
Not longer giveth good allowance to those
Who Buy to Sell Again. Though Richard Harper
With his Son's Care and Assistance
Once carefully and decently carted night soil
And emptied Sess-Pools to the Satisfaction
Of all who pleased to employ him,
He does so no longer. The Misses Hogarth
Will not sell me new or used frocks. Gentlemen
Possessing loose Sets of Bones,
Will look in vain for Nath. Longbottom
To mount them or sell them Skeletons
Of different Sizes & both Sexes,
Of good Colour & Accurately Articulated.
"The cards do not know," the muse says.

Friday, February 24, 2017


 When she was 4, her father decided
It was time for her to meet her mother.
They took a trolley to the cemetery. For a while
My mother pictured hers as a polished stone
With my mother's name, Lillian, written on it. At 15,
My mother went back on her own having decided
To let the first Lillian have the name to herself.
It took less than a minute to say. The explanation
Took just over two. It seemed impolite to just leave
So my mother -- now Patricia -- gave a detailed synopsis
Of Random Harvest, in which Ronald Colman,
  An amnesiac veteran, is in love with Greer Garson.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


That elm there and another
Two blocks away and a twisted willow
Beside the duck pond still wait
For my father's walks to resume.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Baba Yaga has refused for days to leave her house
The other gods fear she’s plotting against them.
From a poem they pick Amphinomous,
The most nearly successful of Penelope's suitors,
To go and talk to her. Amphinomous
Wants no part of this. The last time he agreed
To visit a woman he ended up staying years
And being killed by Telemachus, whom he’d liked.
Too, he is not sure these are really gods.
Who is the thin black man with a top hat?
Why is that the woman next to him
Balancing a cup on her nose? Still, he supposes
That he’ll end up going. He almost survived
Ten years courting Penelope; how hard can it be
To have a glass of tea with Baba Yaga?

Monday, February 20, 2017


After he died, Vergil
Became a wizard. Ovid
Racketed around
In an iron-wheeled chariot
Pulled by a gryphon.
Petronius Arbiter's ghost
Was arrested in 1906
For bathing naked
In the Trevi Fountain.
The only trace I can find
Of recent poets enjoying
Post mortem careers
Is Stevie Smith.
Under a quarter moon
Tourists see her
Outside St. Paul's
Making pictures with the smoke
From unlit cigarettes.

Thursday, February 16, 2017


My mother had a heart attack and
The hospital put in a stent which,
With cheap irony, probably killed her
But the thing I want now to remember
Is the young nurse who chatted with her
When first she was there and it looked
Like she'd recover. My mother agreed
To think over the nurse's problems
And offer advice when the nurse
Came back on duty two days later.
By then my mother was in a coma.
Ten and a half years later I wake up
Wondering what the problems were
And whether my mother's words
Would have held a solution.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


The music wants not me, but
Standing where he'd stand I listen
Much the way he would, my head
Tilted, my eyes (wrongcolored
But the same shape) intent,
Unseeing. If I lift my right hand,
If I crook the finger still bent
From being broken long ago,
What answer will I have?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


If you don't want to be written, poem,
Why keep buzzing about my head?
I am not without resources, poem;
Go away or settle here long enough
That I can see you. Work with me
Lest I make you into a limerick
Or summon up the mustached ghost
Of former Governor Thomas E. Dewey
See? The very mention of his name
Has left you frozen in mid-air.

Monday, February 13, 2017


On Mondays and Thursdays Barbry Allen
Died for the love of Young Jemmy Grove.
(Old Jemmy Grove was only 46 but no one
Even caught a chill for the love of him.)
On Tuesdays she did the mending,
Beat rugs, put up preserves,
Wrote letters to her friend Bethanne
Who, dressed in men's clothes,
Was a purser on the ship Rebecca.
Wednesdays and alternate Fridays
She died for the love of Sweet William.
This work was exhausting and some days
The church bells, instead of berating her
For cruelty, urged her to get more sleep.

Friday, February 10, 2017


))outside the parens
important things wait
words reduce them
to see them is
to lose sight of them((

Thursday, February 9, 2017


Walk carefully; there are saints about
Sleeping in doorways or throwing dice
Against an alley wall. The bartender --
Surely her reflection has a halo?
Her shadow's almost right but shifts
Just a second or two before the light.
The glass from which you do not drink
Has bitter drops of redemption in it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


Yellow smoke from a cedarwood fire
Hangs over the men who stand
Under the stars, telling each other
They have known colder nights.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017


The story about Brigid everyone knows
Is of her hanging a cloak on a sunbeam.
Seldom is it remembered she could weave
With cold moonlight. Sometimes in her wrath
She would move three long fingers just so,
And a star guttered in its socket and died.
Before she was a saint she was the goddess
Of standing water. Her shift at the bar ends;
The ice in the machine tries to follow her out.

Monday, February 6, 2017


The central panel has become crowded;
Mary, heavily dressed, has a naked Jesus
Sitting on her lap. Two angels have come by;
One to offer Jesus a pear the other
To quietly strum background music
On a sort of tall and boxy guitar.
Sir John Donne's there, and Lady Donne
And their daughter, all managing to look
Very pious and slightly bored, as if
Hanging out with God and His Mother
Is something they do every day.
St. Barbara, who is lugging a heavy tower,
Envies St. Catherine, who has her sword
Belted to her slender waist. Memling,
The artist, has also given Catherine
A hat much prettier than Barbara's.
Over to the left, Memling peers in
Shyly from behind a pillar.

Friday, February 3, 2017


Buds? Tree, this is
Foolish optimism.
Spring is at least
Four years away.

Thursday, February 2, 2017


I remember when you determined
To create another person. Unfortunately,
She had already been created so you
Had to shoulder God aside, which proved
To require time and resources
Youd allocated for other things. Then,
She didnt fancy being your creation
It turned out shed been all along
Slyly altering you in various ways
And then changing her mind or yours --
Youd go to sleep on the hard ground
Of your monastic cell only to wake up
Your tonsure gone, and with a soul patch
A hangover, tenure at a community college
And several quarrelsome cats. For now,
Both of you are living as best you can.
On the run from crimes youre fairly sure
You didnt commit. For now, both of you
Are welcome to hide here but I expect
Tomorrow morning will find you gone.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


Parmagiano's painting is called
The Vision of
St. Jerome
But it is no such thing.
Take a look at it; (you'll find it
In The National Gallery or
On page 99 of the anthology
Of their hundred best paintings.)
That isn't Jerome at lower right
But just a very old, very tired man
Sleeping quite dreamlessly.
He's plainly crept into the  picture
To get some quiet. St. John the Baptist,
A corkscrew of indignation,
Demands the intruder be expelled
"He's not even painted to scale
His color's off, and there is something
Wrong about his foreshortening!"
"Oh, let the poor man sleep," says Mary.
"If it is Jerome," Baby Jesus asks,
"Do you think he'll let Me pet his lion?"