I started writing verse sometime around 1999. In the intervening decade I produced a lot of material which shall never see the light of day if I've my druthers, and a few things which I think are tolerable. Here's the latter.
Shitting in the woods
A morning sonnet for U---
Eulogy for Hank Dearman
On a golf course
A winter sonnet
(Charlottesville, VA; May 2005)
Everyone's inside in this April shower
but me, in a loge in the cathedral square,
where the rain veils door and tower and stair,
and goes pat-a-pat, pat-a-pat on the cobbles.
An umbrella bobs around the corner
and --- brown-skirted, tall, and plain ---
my love peers at me through the rain,
and smiles hesitantly --- is she welcome?
She slides onto my lap at my answering smile
and lifts her feet from the rain-runneled tile.
She kisses me, and in my ear,
she murmurs, "'Allo, 'allo, my dear."
I recline on a hilltop one bright summer's day
next to my love, brown and tall,
who gazes down on roof and wall
of a city of brick not far away.
The smell of cyprus, sharp and broad,
the line of her body, the fall of her hair ---
and faintly I catch its scent on the air:
less pungent than cyprus, but sweeter than grass.
I touch it --- and she does not turn ---
but in the way her shoulders lie,
I clearly see her crinkling eye,
and calm, indulgent smile.
Through the doors I can see the sky --
I'll abandon my work and go outside
to autumn's color up the mountainside
and the terraced garden down below.
On the porch I watch my love
laughing at each pull and shove
in mock battle with the dog
over an old and well chewed log.
The dog gains the stick, proud of his win.
My love gives me a sidelong glance and grin:
Silly, why so long within
On this lovely day? Come play!
The mountainside is white with snow,
The limbs of oak trees grey and stark.
The black and silver clouds loom low
and wipe the scene of shape and mark.
As I lie on the couch and gaze into the flames
I can hear the north wind as it beats at the door.
From the kitchen comes rustling, a creak of the floor,
then a clinking beside me, a touch on my arm.
My love, in brown, appears beside me,
And cuddling close, proffers some tea.
She cradles her own and peers through the steam,
and secretly smiles, lost in a dream.
(Oberlin, OH; June 29, 2005)
A blooming linden
scents my nightly walk homeward --
a quiet pleasure.
(New York, NY; 23 July 2006)
To shit in the woods could be hell I suppose.
Impaction, diarrhea, are terrible woes.
And if some right moron mistakes poison ivy --
Oh, how little pleasure that moron now knows!
Eat well, and take your plastic shovel,
Your toilet paper, but leave your troubles...
The golden air at sunset spills upon the ridge
and slowly drowns in molten light the valley spread below.
Here I sit, upon my hole.
The treetops' summer foliage is tossed upon the breeze
and dapples all the ferns below into a sea of green.
Here I crouch, by a log.
Sublimity and silence! Solitude and bliss!
When I return once more to town, it's surely this I'll miss.
(New York, NY; August 10, 2006)
The rain is a curtain,
the lightning flashes above,
the people cower
in shop awnings and subways.
This is New York in the rain.
On sixty first street
a cop is parked and reading
while the rain runs down
all the windows of his car
all the buildings on the street.
On the 1 downtown
I faced a girl hardly mussed:
her shoes, a bit damp;
her hair, a few strands displaced;
her mood, reflecting the rain.
Once again at home
I watch the East River bridge
below my window
vanishing in a distance
of thick, silver rain and mist.
(New York, NY; June 2007)
I've a treasured memory to share:
the sun aglow in your golden hair,
your body curled in quiet repose,
your quiet breathing, your curled toes...
How long I watched, I am not sure.
Some minutes, watching o'er your rest,
until at last it seemed best
to wake you to share the morning pure.
And moaning slightly, languidly,
you stretched, cat-like, lithe, writhing,
then settled with a tiny sigh.
With friendly resentment you regarded me,
reluctant to wake, and yet smiling
as the bustling city passed us by.
(Lausanne, Switzerland; November 2007)
Your quantum mechanic might just say
that ripples on the world are all we'll know
of any man, and all we'll know
of death, we'll know as ripples fading.
But they're enough, and they'll be missed,
As without more we miss the kiss
of sunlight and the veil of mist:
By their ripples, you have known them.
And we knew him among tomato vines,
or gathering wild dandelions
to bake them, toasting campaigns in wine
against some garden pest.
And we knew him pronounce on day-old food,
whereto, wherefore, and just what should
be done with it, and the final word:
"Two peas you toss, three you keep!"
And we knew him, in his kitchen,
sauteeing sole in wine for luncheon
and then, when at table, crying,
"The wine stands by you!"
And so we knew him by these waves
which slap the sides of paniche rafts,
and, when the gentle wind abates,
settle, settle, and are still at last.
(Washington, D.C.; June 2008)
Ye Scots who hae wit' Wallace bled,
What rare revenge upon the head
Of the English ye have ta'en.
The English garden was the pride
of the southern lowlands far and wide.
I think that pride ye've slain.
For in these gardens the world o'er -
America to Palimpur -
a game of golf they're playin'.
(Independence, VA; January 2009)
It's winter. The birds begin to sing.
Dawn's light is weak and wan and pale,
and yet creeps in my window pane.
The frost has touched those wild things:
It traces up the bramble stems;
it crawls down brown and sleeping grapes;
It reached the streambed's rocky hem;
it caught the stream's fantastic shapes.
How pleasant then, to stay in bed,
and pull the covers snug and tight.
I feel beside me where you lay...
The moment's lost: I share my bed
with no one in the morning light.
I rise and start my day.
4 July 2009