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Walking the Poem (a birthday poem)

(I swear, I wrote this poem on my birthday, July 2 — but spent so much time tinkering, revising that I could not post it until now — still wonder, is it finished? ever?)

I never had a dog, or wanted one
but I feel like the dog-walker
I see each morning, 3 or 4
even 5 charges on leaches
each morning, in the wind & sun.
I too could follow & love
the peace of a morning stroll
the sadness when my charges
are returned at sunset, night
entering my window like the flies.

Sadness is what I know
what puts me to sleep like drifting
through the streets past flower gardens.

My soul is contented each morning
with the tinkling of the dogs’ tags
knowing they are contented sniffing
peeing on the same tree each morning
tagging along with their companions.

But as for me, I prefer to be alone
I have no ambition or desires
which is why I am a poet
being a poet is not an ambition
it is a way to alone.

‘Though sometimes I wish I were a dog
to be walked each day, not having
to write or think sad thoughts at sunset
or when a cloud passes over the moon.

But when I sit down to write, or
thinking lines when I walk
I think my words are like my charges
on leashes of many colors
that I pull this way or that
that I am really in control.

And I wonder who will read me.
When my reader opens the pages of the journal
it will be like greeting them at my door
with a smile, a handshake, an offer of coffee.
When they sit in their favorite chair
to find my poems quite by chance
will they see the dogs on the leashes
feel the breeze at sunset, or
will they yawn, focusing their tired eyes
on what are, after all, just marks
of ink on empty pages, then
put down the magazine, turn on the TV.

Secret Poem

There are no secret poems
for you – if there were
I wouldn’t write them.
There are no flowers
I wouldn’t bring
or gifts I wouldn’t send
like Winter words
unsaid in feral warmth
of midnight fur.
Your crystal fears
are not formed in glass
nor secret poems
etched in your handmade book.

Poetics: Shhhh! Do you Want to Know a Secret?



Sometimes I enter this apartment not my own
with a spare key not my own, for emergencies
or a bouquet or with the overflow of lilacs, daisies
I don’t stay & what I don’t do is more important
than the flowers or chocolates I leave behind
what I don’t do is look in the bathroom wastebasket
for scarlet reminders or check the levels of booze
or look for stains on the rumpled sheets, I don’t
open the underwear drawer or sniff
panties in the laundry basket, search the cabinet
next to her bed, count condoms, or check the vibrator
I don’t read the grocery list on the counter
the phone numbers clipped on the frig, I don’t
sort thru mail, open notebooks, read the
scribble of poems, to-do lists, rants, random notes
I don’t pick up crumbled tissues, beer bottles
left on the coffee table, socks on the radiator
I don’t interrogate the ghosts for their opinions
don’t ask the fish in the tank for insight, I close
the refrigerator, ignore irrelevant beer
bottles, last night’s doggy bags. I am gone quietly
lock the door. Leave it all behind, not a word out of place.

Perhaps an Answer …

of sorts, from The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis by Jose Saramago —

We never really understood each other, that was inevitable, since each of us was a multitude of different people.

or perhaps this from Carl Jung —

In each of us there is another whom we do not know.

Reflections on Becoming Others

The longer I am alone with books, my favorite poets, with my own writing, visiting strange places, even flirting, online, the more I think I am becoming someone else — or “someones” else.

I return to that great novel of Saramago, or to the poets, & see myself — that it is me the novelist is writing about.  I don’t remember being in Lisbon, let’s say, or Egypt, or the encounters they describes, but I must have been, it seems to real.

& when did I write those poems in those books I pull from my shelf?  They are so familiar, I can almost see my scrawled penmanship, my handwriting in one of the myriad notebooks in my trunk.  But the dates in the book are so many years before I was even born.  Still, they are as real to me as the poems in last year’s notebook, or what I wrote last night before bed.

& whatever happened to those women — Marcenda, or Clea, or Lydia, or Justine…?  I feel the memory of my love for them is more real than the smell of the cheap perfume from last night’s date.

Birthday Poem (of a sort)

the line thru feathers
crosses out
a design less
literary than

‘though feathers
are more script
the tines are lines
the spine crosses

(although not written “on” my birthday,
it was close enough, as nothing else
will do)

Barbarians at the Gate

The Old Poet of the City wrote
“The barbarians are coming…”
imagining the decadent Roman
senators be-jewelled in scarlet togas.
Their artists pictured barbarians with
unkempt hair & beards, wearing
trousers & a long cloak.  To the Romans
the Irish were barbarians.

Tonight when the wind & rain
drive me into this pub I see
that the barbarians are already here —
drinking beer, whisky, uncombed hair
tucked into baseball caps worn backwards
TV-styled beards of an imagined frontier
jeans & rain coats like they had just
crossed the mountains, if not to rape
& pillage at least to drink
as if every day was St. Patrick’s Day.


Birthday Poem, 2017

Of course
there is fog
one lives here
for the fog
in spite of
the morning sun
burning off
the way dreams
as soon as
your eyes open.


The day would have been grey anyway
the old rain in the gutters expected.

After all, the seasons change, the light
changes, repeats itself like the dark

with dreadful regularity, each night
more, or less, hours of darkness

each day less, or more, light at dusk
until the Sun falls into the dark Sea.

Star Maps

The stars in their random shapes
are nothing but burning stones
some gone, some only uncharted
memory of fading light.

I could never figure out
the constellations, & now
this book tells me the Greeks
saw them differently, & if
you lived on another planet
you would have different
myths, or not.

The stars are not our business, &
remembering the pock marks
on the Moon is like naming
trout, or our own self-
inflected spasms & stains.