Friday, July 28, 2017


In that neighborhood you could pass a virgin
Sweeping the streets, nod to a virgin
Directing traffic, on your way
To drink coffee next to a table
Where three virgins were discussing
The best way to make origami cranes;
Really, how could one more vestal hurt?

Thursday, July 27, 2017


The Emperor Rudolph had his wizards
Summon great Achilles to attend him;
But every Achilles thinks that he
Is the great Achilles -- even Zeno's
Who spends a dull eternity
Not reaching a smug tortoise.
Getting lost in the palace corridors
They roistered into a dream
Belonging to Bette, the new kitchen girl.
Achilles the first -- the Greek one --
Rode on a large yellow horse
Who introduced himself as Xanthos
"Achilles speaks only Greek; I will translate
For him and the others. Achilles you know;
These gentlemen are the Achilles of
The Achilles of
France, the Achilles of Sicily,
The Achilles of
Lombardy, and the two
Achilleses of
England. (Since one of them –
The first Duke of Wellington--
Won't be born for almost two centuries
We have represented him with a handsome rag doll.)
How can we serve you? Please note that all these men
Are brave beyond measure but have bad tempers
Except for Achilles of
Lombardy, who is kindly
But something of a coward."

Wednesday, July 26, 2017


The man who thinks "I'm sauntering"
Is fooling himself. Odds are he's ambling,
Or, more rarely these days, moseying

The money in my wallet whispers
Thinking I do not hear. Someday,
I will learn its language.

Monday, July 24, 2017


The last public letter writer has no mirror.
Every morning, she rises from the ground
And models herself on a faded photo
From 1910. She wills herself into focus,
Dabs on a touch or two of color,
Waits for customers. There are always some.

Thursday, July 20, 2017


After Cavafy died that part of his soul
Responsible for the rejected poems
Didn't leave with the rest of him.
Some mornings bleak-eyed tourists
See it, dressed in impeccable evening clothes,
Drilling alongside soldiers who fell
During the Siege of
Evenings it spends quietly with the ghost
Of Ptolemy Auletes, whose equerry it’s become.
Occasionally it picks up a stick,
Dips it in water and writes a new poem.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


My favorite thing about being a pharaoh?
Not the occasional ride in the Boat of the Sun.
The view is unparalleled but even pharaohs
Are expected to take turns pulling an oar
Rowing through the deadland while Atum sleeps.
Nor is it sharing beer with Hathor under a tamarisk
The beer is good but Hathor talks endlessly
About being both Ra's mother and daughter
Which she considers infinitely amusing.
Some pharaohs revel in smiting their enemies
But I’d no taste for war and somehow
All my enemies smote back.
No; the best part was having a second shadow
And a decorated box in which the shadow slept.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Many a ghost in Pawling thinks he is the revenant
Of former governor Thomas E. Dewey.
You'll see them crowding the streets after snowstorms
Each with a shovel and a disciplined mustache,
Digging out cars, clearing sidewalks, soliciting votes.
At high school games Pawlonians are used
To massed Thomas E. Deweys taking the field
To perform at half-time. In time, they grow weary
Shunning the light, their mustaches gone ragged.

Monday, July 17, 2017


That I was stiff from sleeping in my chair
Was Daniel Defoe's fault; his account of
Had not kept me awake. My soul, restless,
Was typing clumsily at the computer, its lips tight.
Frankly, I am rather scared of it these days
Though not because of its torn ear or missing eye --
The predictable results of age and the life it lives.
When it returned from its long absence
It wrapped itself in all it was wearing --
A rough-woven blanket -- and slept for three days
When it woke, it didn't know me or itself
And scoffed at the notion that a soul
Could sleep, could talk, could bide its time
Until the moment for escape came round again.

Friday, July 14, 2017


Because my brother no longer speaks to him
His imaginary friend Gucko calls me with news
In the hope that I'll pass it on. I don't tell him
That E. isn't talking to me either. I rely
On Foofoo, E.'s other imaginary friend,
For what little I know of him these days.
How fortunate to have had two phantom playmates
So there’s always one to not talk to
And one for company while growing old.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


First, you must learn to answer when you sleep
To names not quite your own. Keep your face
Slightly out of focus at all times. If coins
Drop into your palm, hide them quickly.
If saluted as the Lost Dauphin, nod regally.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


Sleep and I weren't speaking that year
So I was not wholly awake when Terpsichore
Wandered across the Midway and possessed
My Trusts and Estates professor, a small, squat man
Made uncomfortable by this sudden access of grace.
His lecture went on -- he was talking, I think,
About entails and the Statutes of Mortmain --
Though his every move had become a dance.
How that man could shimmy! His will was cast iron
His eyes like angry marbles. His closing words
Carried him down the aisle so that, at the bell,
He flung wide the door and tap danced away.

Monday, July 10, 2017


In a 4 to 3 vote, the committee ruled
That God would no longer exist
But would still comfort the afflicted,
Mete out justice and inspire
Love and wonder, confusion and hatred.

Friday, July 7, 2017


Among the unplanned consequences of repairs
To the
Joralemon Street subway tunnel
Was the sudden appearance of Walt Whitman
In the laundromat on Middagh where he now lives.
He appears to be about forty and, while reticent
About the exact circumstances of his return,
Talks endlessly about himself and his dismay
Brooklyn living under Manhattan's thumb.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


Nights when God remembers being young
Lying awake for hours, forgetting that He
Is the Lord of Sleep, troubled and restless,
Michael hurries off to fetch Satan home
To tell the old stories and to sing
In a voice just this side of silence until
God's burning eyes fall shut at last.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017


Do you bring news then?
What hand scrabbled in the dirt
And then was still? Whose eyes
Glittered through the smoke?
Was there a moon that night?
Did an unlooked-for child
Walk through the fire?