Friday, April 28, 2017


Souls, she said, having read too many of my poems
Are not to be so lightly lost or idly left
Wailing on a river bank, no matter how dark
Its waters run. Her robust and stainless soul
Would throw me into the river should I depict it
Wringing incorporeal hands or fluttering hopelessly
By the Styx or the Acheron or,
For that matter, the Red, the Green,
The Picketwire, the Perdido or the Rio Grande.
Nor would I have it thought my soul and I
Do not get along or that I often go angling
In fulgin  streams. Still, if those mourners
Are not the papery souls of wayward clerists
I cannot think what they are nor why
They seem so tirelessly unhappy.

Thursday, April 27, 2017


My eyes, brown now, were grey when I was a boy
But eyes don't change color, except for infants.
It must be that I've been substituted for myself.
Apart from the eyes, the workmanship is pretty good
So that I very seldom realize I'm not me.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


The  black river's water stores the reflections
Of all the towns that ever stood on its banks
On moonless nights, defrocked members of the clerisy
Lower tiny mirrors on long pieces of string
Hoping to bring back a cup, a spoon,
A long-forgotten toy. Sometimes, they leap
Into the river, leaving their thin souls
Wailing on the shore.

Monday, April 24, 2017


Sometimes the moon
Thinks she's a ship.
She throws a heavy rope
Towards a pier
Since 1943. Sailors
(Why does the moon
Have sailors?) swarm down
To spend their leave
In the arms and the beds
Of transparent girls
With rust-colored eyes.

Friday, April 21, 2017


His ghost found himself in a book
Summed up in seven words in a footnote:
“William Middleton, an engineer who went insane.”
These were not the two facts he’d have chosen.
Why not “Ate a lit candle, flame and all;
Had a blind cat who came when he called?”
Or “His mother’s favorite who rode well?”
Or “Could breathe underwater and very nearly
Was elected King of the Cats?”

Thursday, April 20, 2017


Certain memories I store in the episcopal palace
So its ghosts are used to me, nodding
When I come searching for the box where I keep
The stairway I climbed every day for most of 1975
Or putting away again the Krebs Cycle
Which I memorized in 1969; I've come near
To tossing it a dozen times but somehow
Never have.

In the garden stroll the disgraced bishop
And his highborn but slightly damaged mistress.
Following them at a discreet distance
Servants sweep out their footprints
Or would if ghosts left footprints.
At night, I have reason to believe,
The bishop -- something of a scholar,
Something of a rascal, something of a poet --
Rearranges the boxes I keep in his palace
And hides some of his memories with mine.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


The sixth day of the moon makes travelers
Love each other. It also drives away mice,
Throws people in prison and mistreats them.
The eighth day is a good time to build
Or release prisoners; be careful
To take no purgatives then. If a prisoner
And no one has released you on the eighth day
Know that the twentieth favors escapes.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


It was considered good practice then
For private offices to have their own demons
(The government hired outside contractors
Who did not get benefits.) At PCRD,
My office was next to that of the telichine
Megalezius – we called her Meg.
She was always the first to arrive
But sometimes took long lunch hours.
Her last job had been to dip out Styx water
To bring to the world of the living
Where it caused misfortune. (She says it tasted
Much like raspberries with a hint of lemon.)
Before that, she’d been a minor goddess
Worshipped – or at least rather liked –
By apprentice smiths and ratcatchers.

Monday, April 17, 2017


Twice today a white cat's crossed my path
The first time disguised as Lady Mary Coke
Whom half the world thought beautiful
Making the other half wonder at them,
Saying "She is so very pale. She has
An appallingly bad temper. She is
Entirely lacking in eyebrows. How, then
Can you consider this white cat fair?"
The second time was in an old Spanish book
The hero, raised in
England, slowly remembers
His early life in Cordova. His family refuses
To come into focus but he suddenly recalls
A white cat with which he used to play.
My mother would have warned me that
A third white cat is surely on its way.

Friday, April 14, 2017


I warned God, but would He listen?
Not a chance. He stood there
(Not that there was a there there;
That came later. He stood where
There would have been a there
Had there been one) staring
Into the abyss until you people
Stared back into Him. From this
I date the beginning of all my woes.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


For twenty years no muse visited Macniece;
He became a respected critic whose poems
Were unreadable and unread.
Then his muse returned; he was delighted
She wasn’t sober and had obviously
Been through hard times. Still, he took her in
When she came by at 3 in the morning
Singing and swearing, riding on the back
Of Death's motorbike, her white arms
Locked tight around the driver's waist.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


In time Sparafucile found Rigoletto confining
“An assassin should have more than one victim,”
He would complain. “Granted, I stabbed Gilda
When I meant to kill the Duke, but that
Was entirely her fault – read the libretto!”
He sent  feelers out, looking for other work
Asking Lucia why she would want to stab Arturo
And get all covered in blood when he,
Sparafucile, a professional, could do the job
So much more neatly and at a cost
Surprisingly affordable. Waiting her answer
He has moved in with Rodolfo, Marcello,
Colline and Schaunard. He makes them nervous
But pays more than his share of the rent.
Musetta has grown fond of him.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


Quiet sits on the porch;
Silence fixes the roof.
Quiet has a map;
Silence keeps a diary.
Quiet pours the wine;
Silence drinks it.

Monday, April 10, 2017


At the end of a day, a year, of time itself
God turns out His pockets, wondering
At the stray shells and stones and bits of metal
That have collected there. He does not want
To find shreds of things when He does the laundry
Nor to hear the terrible noise keys make in a dryer
So He checks carefully, and finds in a fob pocket
A blue and green marble, chipped, dusty,
But still rather pretty. He gently rolls it in His fingers;
Feels its satisfying weight in His palm. In a desk drawer
He finds an old star, salvage from a constellation
Which didn't work out, and sets the marble spinning
One more time.

Friday, April 7, 2017


You think you know where you’re going
But some agent of Libitina comes and you find
You’ve turned a corner and are going
Somewhere else entirely. There are three men
In a bar on Third Avenue who this morning
Set out for Muncie to be judges
At a pumpkin fest. (The pumpkins of Muncie
Are relieved they’ll not be judged this year).
Some time around twilight one of them
Will suggest going home. We intend
For him to take the long way round
And visit Hy Brasil along the way.

Thursday, April 6, 2017


Not cat, not surgeon, I
Have not much thought I
Might be God, travelling incognito,
Even to Myself, through the world.
Still, if the Universe proves
Fond of a joke and I
Wake up as Lord of Creation, I
May incarnate for reasons
Other than those of tradition.
Having failed many tests,
Including some I didn’t know
I was taking, I would be loath
To test Mankind (which, by and large
Has done well by Me).
Nor would My first priority.
Be salvation (Not, mind you,
That I’d want to set Myself
Against saving you all; it just
Wouldn't be high on My to-do list.)
No; it would be from wondering
How sawdust smells when it’s fresh
And dancing in a ray of light
Or what it is to hold a child
Or to be a child and be held.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017



Catalonian babies
Wear pompoms this year.
From the balconies
Of medieval fortresses,
Now become apartments,
Laundry has been hung
As well as yellow flags
With red stripes.
A sad woman walked by
Wearing a coat
Of at least seven colors.
She missed you.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


After several thousand years as a corpse goddess
Libitina is now, by a fiat of Google's,
The goddess of corners (You can look it up)
This both pleases and disconcerts her.
Corpses pointedly ignore her; she is uncertain
Of her new duties. Many of the prayers she gets
Were meant for other gods who, being homeless,
Are hard to find, while she's on every street-corner
Her support group includes St. Brigid
(Once a water spirit or perhaps fire incarnate.
Scholars disagree and she's no longer sure herself)
And  Orchil (Death goddess who minors in sorcery;
Also a gourmet cook. Invented by Standish O'Grady
In a fit of Irish patriotism, in 1893).

Monday, April 3, 2017


The day after God made a rock
Too heavy for Him to lift,
Heaven vanished, along with
All who dwelt there except a bent seraph
Two dominions, an addled throne
And a handful of saints. Down the road
A duplicate Heaven, constructed
For just such an emergency,
Flickered to life. A few details were wrong;
There were more cats, to begin with.
Most of the occupants lacked wings
But flew by wildly flapping their arms.
In Peter's absence, St. Brigid
Took over the gate. For form's sake,
The God of this New Heaven maintains
An official residence there but usually
Spends His nights on Earth,
Lying on His Back, looking at the stars
Trying to remember if He'd made them.