Thursday, April 15, 2021

Poetry Jukebox

Put in a dollar, and after a few minutes, you will receive a glorious sonnet extolling the virtues of your one true love, full of subtle metaphors and exquisite imagery, guaranteed to melt the coldest heart.

For a quarter, you may have your choice of a complex but mediocre sestina, or a simple yet pleasing villanelle, on a subject selected at random.

For a dime, a tragic ballad in which the family member of your choosing is lost at sea.

A nickel will get you a limerick, dirty or not, as you please.

Today, all I have are pennies.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Antipodes

for Patrick

When the world is upside
down around me, I sense
you there on the opposite
side of the sideless globe,
a pinpoint of precisely calibrated
connection, on which the entire
planet is balanced, spinning around
a single plumbline of gravity
connecting your feet to mine,
leaving us rightside up together.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Best Worst Poem

A green cow went Moo—
and Trampled me.
-M.A., 7th grade


Do you really think this poem
—all two lines of it—
is in the style of Emily Dickinson,
per the assignment?

Let’s compare it to our notes.

Emily is fascinated
by the mysteries of nature
—why is that cow green?—
not to mention Death. Check.

Dashes and Capitals—yes and Yes.

A surprisingly elegant
slant rhyme of Moo
and Me, leaning into
absent consonants.

Short and untitled—those are gimmes.

And to top it all off—
the drama! Action!
Mystery (again with the green?)!
Even dialogue!

Could this be, perhaps… a masterpiece?

Monday, April 12, 2021

Life, the Universe, and Everything

When I am 42
then I myself
will be the answer.

But am I the answer
to a question already asked,
or a question yet to come?

And will I be ready
to ask the next question,
and become the next answer?

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Scotch Tape and the Snail


A nearsighted snail exclaimed to his friend,
“You’ll never believe who I’ve seen!
The gem of the garden from here to lawn’s end—
in my eyes she’s truly a queen!

“Her trail of slime has a marvelous shine,
its stickiness has me enthralled!
And her accent’s adorable—Scottish, I think,
though I can’t understand her at all.”

“Do you think this is wise?” the other replied,
with antennae at skeptical tilt.
“I shouldn’t disparage cross-cultural marriage,
but I think you’d look odd in a kilt.”

“Oh, you wouldn’t so frown, could you hear my heart pound
like a passionate, snail-paced drum!
For her I would crawl through the salt flats of Utah—
But quiet now! Look—here she comes!”

Several minutes later… the Envoi:

“Ach! Dinnae ye fash yersel’, bonnie wee snail,
yer een havnae led ye astray,
fer we’ll doon tae the kirk an’ be marrit at once,
an’ I’ll stick tae ye all o’ me days.”

Saturday, April 10, 2021

[The branches that are Cut away]

after Emily Dickinson

The branches that are Cut away –
May seem a heavy Loss –
And roots that – unbelieving – seek –
May chafe within the Pot –

The tree may scorn – to be a shrub –
Nearer Ground than Sky –
May grow only – longing for –
A false Immensity –

The Gardener – He knows –
And shows us through our Scars –
However small this Life may be –
Yet still it may be – Art –

Friday, April 9, 2021

Inheritance

“How many things in your home
are older than you are?” my class asked
when I signed on to Zoom today.
I found four.

From a grandfather,
a “grandson clock,” lovingly restored.
From the opposite set of grandparents,
an antique illuminated music manuscript.

From a great-grandfather,
a banjo-guitar, heavy with suppressed volume.
From an equally great-grandfather,
The Pilgrim Hymnal, “copy for the pastor’s study.”

A ringing chime, a melodic line,
a powerful strum, and a choir become
the family thread that never dies
as generations harmonize.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Do I Have To?

for T.S.

Do I have to do the assignment?
Do I have to do all of the assignment?
Do I have to show an interest in something outside of myself?
Do I have to put out actual effort for my own benefit?
Do I have to develop my inherent talent by improving my skills?
Do I have to expand my awareness and appreciation of the world around me?
Do I have to transcend my self-imposed limitations?
Do I have to achieve true ownership of my body, mind and will?
Do I have to have complete freedom to act for the best in every situation?
Do I have to attain everything my heart truly desires?
Do I have to be a blessing to everyone and everything around me?
Do I have to realize my full potential as a human being in this world?
Do I have to fulfill my ultimate destiny as a soul?
Do I have to?

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Two Poems Unworthy of Emily Dickinson

I: A Double Dactyl

Rickinson, bickinson,
     Emily Dickinson
     hid from the world and
     wore a white dress.

With quatrains and slant rhymes, i-
     ambic septameter,
     Dashes and — Capitals
     she was obsessed!

II: A Clerihew

Emily Dickinson
thought Nature was magnificent,

except for that dang fly
that went all Kanye West on her when she died.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Fully Named

“Real names tell you the story of the things they belong to.”
—J.R.R. Tolkien


My name is written on pages and pages, turning and turning, being read as they are written
My name is a secret that I tell to everyone I meet
My name is a temporary permanence, always the same and ever-changing
My name is brother, son, uncle, friend, lover, student, teacher, gurubhai
My name is artist, writer, musician, dancer, singer, yogi
My name is monk, and not a monk, and perhaps both, or neither
My name is inscribed on the side of a mysterious tollbooth
My name is the drips and blooms and splashes of a watercolor in D major
My name is a jig with brown hair and blue eyes
My name is a mandolin calling to a fiddle singing to a guitar
My name is a G9 suspended chord, capo three
My name is the ubiquitous underlying hum of a harmonium
My name is a silly saga of sibling Christmas letters
My name is I don’t dance becoming May I have the next waltz?
My name is I love you, and As you wish, and Don’t panic
My name is the sound of Muppets dancing the Big Apple on Erin’s Shore
My name is the sound of Shiva’s footfalls pirouetting across galaxies
My name is Anachoron, Nataraja, Lord of the Dance
My name is two miles long in waltz time, 160 beats per minute
My name is Expecto Patronum and Felix Felicis
My name is employee number eight hundred and thirty one
My name is scattered across nine translations of Cyrano de Bergerac
My name is the complete works of Shakespeare as adapted by Gilbert & Sullivan
My name is the steps of a clandestine polka ringing through an empty church
My name is a serious parody of a silly song
My name is chocolate chip cookies and chai ice cream
My name is a rhyme for silver, ninth, purple, month, and wolf
My name is alternating feasts and famines of poetry
My name is Aum Namo Bhagavate and Aum Namah Shivaya
My name is Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me
My name is a pilgrimage through holy lands, within and without
My name is a tiny bubble of laughter joining the sea of mirth
My name is an inhalation, and an exhalation
My name is a mantra repeated exactly once, forever

Monday, April 5, 2021

A Year and Change

Thirteen months ago we went indoors,
imagining a kind of stasis,
a quick nap from which we would awake
to find the madness over
and the world ready for us to step back into it,
not knowing how long it would take
for our lives to dissolve around us
and reform into a new creation.

Some of us weren’t ready to grow wings yet,
still preferred the known comfort of crawling.
Some of us thought we already had all the wings we needed,
and were eager to keep flying.
Some of us were expecting something else entirely.

All of us will be surprised
when we finally emerge from our cocoons
to find out what we—and the world—have become.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Easter Every Morning

Ask a linguist,
or a yogi,
and they will tell you
that the root of Easter 
is not in ease,
but in aurora,
a deceptively easy
daily miracle 
of quotidian splendor,
of transforming flames,
from which we hide,
behind our alarm clocks,
imagining how easy 
life would be
if we could simply 
stay here,
in our old
familiar
darkness.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

I Am Not

My name was Simon—“listen” in Hebrew—
and so I did, but listened with my heart.
I heard the subtle voice of Truth within,
upon which rock I became Peter.
And on that rock, perhaps, I let myself
recline too easily, that when it shook,
when I was told I would not—could not—follow,
I fell instead. I could not hear the Truth,
but now only my own, my outer, voice
felling that church as if it were mere stone.
“Are you that man’s disciple?” I am not.
Three times, and with every repetition,
I undo myself. Another piece of rock,
of my reality, crumbles away,
as I hear myself declaring I am not
the only thing I ever truly was.
Three times denying, withering, and dying,
three times, before the crowing of the cock,
recalling His words, breaks into my despair
to save me from myself, and all I find
that’s left of me is tears. But now how long,
how long must I remain what I am not
before I hear again, and know, I am?
Three lifetimes, even, must be insufficient
to rebuild from nonexistence. And yet, Three days,
He said. Destroy this temple, and in three days
I will raise it up again.
What temple?
What temple is there left to be restored
but that within my heart? Where are the stones
that I can gather, that I can give to show
that Builder that, yes, I am still Peter,
when—as He must—when—oh, at last!—He comes?


Friday, April 2, 2021

Fascinated

Withdrawn from the world,
I can almost forget
that I long for it,
a gray window
of self-preservation
showing only a haze
of weeks and months,
a monotonous blur
of separation.
Raising my sleeve,
I find my heart hiding,
not on it, but under,
and when I see it,
I remember.
I welcome the sharp pain,
accept the threat,
invite it in,
and make it part of myself.
And in my surrender,
the world, too, opens,
and shines with the colors
of hope and possibility.
I gaze around me
with new eyes of wonder.
I am fascinated.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

The Mashed Potato Song

for Natalie and Eric to sing to Eli [video]

Mashed potatoes make me smile,
Mashed potatoes make me grin,
Mashed potatoes by the mile,
Mashed potatoes for the win!

Bring… some… 
mashed pota-
toes, mashed po-
tatoes, mashed
potatoes,
mashed pota-
toes, mashed po-
tatoes for me!

[repeat until hungry for, or sick of, potatoes]