drawing by Mark Kerstetter after Masson's Kleist

drawing by Mark Kerstetter after Masson’s Kleist

Masson saw skulls spilled in Champagne,
tried to box the damage in canvas.
In a new year pomegranates are lucky, they say.
If one is offered with bowed head
take it—take four, like Persephone.
Antioxidant or IED is not for you to say.
Hold your knife in one hand, heart in the other.
And whatever you do, don’t think.

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The Age in Agency

The phrase “time bomb”
is as course and indelicate
as a fire-breathing dragon
and shall make no headway here
tho its head
or ass
is already in the door.
Hit it with Webster.
Hit it with Roget.
Hit it with a 10 lb. bottle of aspirin,
with a wagonload of organic produce,
with your best intentions
in your best suit
with your best foot.
And then hit it again with whatever
is left lying on the floor.
One can’t prescribe
the number of rounds.
Only you
can put a Frostian spin
or no
on your strength
or lack thereof.

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The Day I Met Leroy Jenkins

I am gratified to Jonathan Penton of Unlikely Stories Mark V for welcoming three of my noisier more biting poems. Is It Too Soon? is most recent, written shortly after and in response to our infamous November 8th election. I wondered, in 11 stanzas, if it was too soon to write this poem. But now, just a month later, I wonder if the clock is chiming 12 and that chime is OUTRAGE. Not so much that people are numb but addicted. Addicted to outrage after outrage and Trump serves that purpose. The Birthing is, I feel, one of my best. And A Chaos of Lust, a Pawned Guitar (Remembering Lee Teich) is the most personal poem I’ve published.

I feel that A Chaos of Lust sings on its own, but because the poem is about real people, I’d like to say a bit more about them. Continue reading

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Poetry and Communication

From a time in my late teens when I couldn’t yet write poetry I’ve salvaged this fragment:

perennial movement
tumescent adolescence
caught by webs of clotheslines
on a ladder of muscle and bone
into the womb.

perfumed shadows
secrets beating tiny fists
from a bloody plunge
to a spring back
up with flowers.

It’s from a confused and very bad poem that stays with me because of its subject: an inability to communicate with those who should be closest to us. It seemed to me then that nothing was more heartbreaking. Today I still can’t think of anything worse. But it takes more than feeling to produce a poem that works. A couple of recent efforts have been published in Watershed Review. I’m glad the two are together because they go back in theme or flavor to my first serious attempts to write poems.

One needn’t look far to see the devastating consequences of communication failure. What does the shock and awe of the U.S. presidential election result signify, above all, but a series of communication failures, not simply in the media or between Republicans and Democrats but, more seriously, within the parties amongst those who purport to have the same ideals? When I was a teenager communication began to break down with my mother who was a fundamentalist Christian. Fundamentalists do not or cannot recognize worldviews other than their own as valid. My mother gave me a book by one of the founders of the Christian Right entitled, How Should We Then Live? Today I like to ask the question: ‘How should we then communicate?’ Sometimes it seems hopeless.

And sometimes it seems to me as if we are all inside a dream, dreaming this life we live as a society. We don’t know, as a group, that we are dreaming. But those who suspect it are trying to create messages within the dream to alert the others. We don’t know if it’s possible to wake up, much less dream another dream. But we have to hope, if logic holds, that it is possible. Meanwhile, neither life nor death wait. As one creature breathes his last all points rush furiously outward.

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Two Roads

after Robert Frost

I don’t have to wait
for the ages and ages hence.
One will do, it’s been enough.

Though the lights were yellow
I thought were green
when I told you I knew what awaited,

I went, we go, it’s what we do.
We’re not made as sentries stand,
but split the flame in every word,

Take two for every one,
the first in every last,
in every waving hand.

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The Beauty of the Book

The universe (which others call the Library)….

I take a profoundly Borgesian pleasure in the book. Continue reading

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The Letters of Samuel Beckett, Volume II

…. being in [the world] discourages you from talking about it and not being in it disqualifies you from talking about it.
—Samuel Beckett to Georges Duthuit, March 2, 1949 (p 131)

I am no longer capable of writing in any sustained way about…. anything. I am no longer capable of writing about. (p 141)

Volume II purports to cover the period 1941 to 1956 but the first letter is from 1945. There are no letters from 1941 to 1945, the period during which Beckett lived in hiding from the Nazis and wrote his first masterpiece, the novel Watt. By 1947 Beckett had begun writing directly in French and within a few years produced the works that would make him famous: the great trio of novels, Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable, and the play Waiting for Godot. Continue reading

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