Sunday, November 13, 2016

57th Letter: November Moon

A full moon starts its slow rise
Above the darkening east.
First snow should come soon.

Autumn winds release
Old leaves, and I am aging, too.
My frayed nerves heal in the deep chill.

I think of you, dear poet-friend:
These thoughts, my sanctuary
From the hullaballoo
Of words that make me weary--

And I no longer urge, insist, defend.

Monday, November 7, 2016

56th Letter: After Dylan Thomas

In my neat, ramshackle skill
Practiced in the still kitchen
Where a bland round clock ticks
And the coffee-maker coughs,
I dimly work by sixty watts
To quicken sluggish pulses,
To tickle whimpering nerves,
To delight tear-clouded eyes.

Not for neon notoriety,
Not for common dollar or dime,
Do I ply these deft, daft verses
That roar like a mouse at night
Or lisp like a lion at noon,
Not for news or notice,
Not for print, prize, or plaudit,
Do I wield this quiver of lines
With shy impertinent pen,
But for you, my distant sister,
On your porch in autumn
Taking tea as day dusks,
Or in petalled park in April
Reading bird-biographies,
Or silly in silver winter
Catching fleet-fleeced snowflakes
On the quick tip of your tongue.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

55th Letter: Third Mug of Folgers

I'm drinking the third mug of Folgers
at 3.20 am, and "working on poetry"
by reading it: Dylan Thomas, Marilyn Hacker,

and you. Often I wish you were more prolific
of poems and e-mails, but your silences
make me cherish your words all the more:

words that live, that help one to live,
that gladden and fortify, noble and pure
as candlelight vespers at St Ann's chapel,

wiser than politicians, kinder than a blanket
knitted over long months by a loved one's hands,
calm as a cloister in this loud leap-year.

54th Letter: Subtle Graces

I choose to search for subtle graces,
for sprigs of hope close to the ground,
untouched by the fumes of politics
and other toxic irritants.

And life bestows this blessing:
a friend from Illinois, an able hand
at poems, painting, music (gosh, what else?),
a soul unwarped by noise and news.

How often I've said it: I've learned to expect
the excellence of your unfrantic artistry,
but still, each new poem
is an induplicable joy!

53rd Letter: I'm alive in the dead of night

I'm alive in the dead of night.

Bifocals on the kitchen table
with the left earpiece broken off.
I'm wearing drugstore cheaters--
better for the laptop screen.

Mr Coffee recites
his litany of drip
in black Latin.
Enough for three full mugs.

Air conditioner hums
in the next room.
TV intones
its bland Nunc Dimittis.

Looking ahead:
at 11 this morning,
Emily the therapist
(nearly thirty, gentle-voiced
Korean-American
of the Irish surname).
This afternoon, I'll
clean the apartment.

Coffee's done.

Down sleepy Route 60
a lone truck rumbles:
resolute, industrious,
headed toward sunrise.

52nd Letter: Birds of Mrs Álvarez

Birds of Mrs Álvarez --
sun strong through slats
of venetian blinds.

I get up later than usual:
eight o'clock finds me still
in pajamas, unshaven.

I recall Roethke's line
I'm odd and full of love --
I've got that first part down!

Begin the day's doings,
I urge my old slow self
but linger at the keyboard.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

51st Letter: Certainly

I joked with my friend Edward
that you and I
were the Emily Dickinson
and Walt Whitman
of the 21st century! --
you, sharp-witted hymnodist
of the rarest commonplace;
I, bluster-tongued apostle
of rough-hewn exuberance.

Perhaps we're Marianne Moore
and E. E. Cummings:
you, patient recorder
of luminous taxonomies
in intricate rhyme-shy stanzas;
I, subversive formalist,
quirky playful soundsmith
not minding his p's and q's!

Or maybe I'm Robert Lowell,
electric-nerved and slightly crazed,
and you're Elizabeth Bishop,
summoning my restless soul
to the serenity of particular things,
of details carefully observed
with a deliberate, painterly eye.

But certainly, certainly,
you are Elena
and I am Thomas:
a circumstance I find
most satisfactory!

50th Letter: Dark Colombian Roast

A mug of Folgers dark Colombian roast;
the bright light of the kitchen, half past four.
I start to write to the poet I prize most:

You're nicer than a slice of buttered toast
sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, even more
exciting than a dark Colombian roast!

You're my dear friend. Pardon my humble boast.
(I send handwritten pages by the score
to the wise young poet who's the best! The most!)

You live 900 miles from the coast.
I just might walk the whole way to your door --
after I finish my dark Colombian roast!

Or maybe you'll come here ... and I’ll play host
in my untidy flat on the third floor
to a guest whose gentle voice I'd welcome most!

I'm pestering the gal who brings the post:
"Where is Elena's letter?" Pity poor
me, as I drink my dark Colombian roast.
(Yours are the words that gladden me the most.)

Monday, January 4, 2016

49th Letter: Teach Me

Teach me,
dear friend,
the poetry
of waiting,
the prayer
of patience,
the grace
of silence.

Teach me
the mercy
of listening.

Teach me,
how to live
attentively:
how to notice,
how to breathe,
how to rejoice.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

48th Letter: I Can't Explain Why

When silvery daylight causes
beads of rain to shine
precarious on the tips
of bare December branches,
it makes me think of you.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

47th Letter: I Said

I said to Theodore Roethke,
bumblebee the winter.

I said to Wystan Auden,
martini the doldrums.

I said to Dylan Thomas,
ocean me in holy passion.

I said to Estlin Cummings,
rose me in wisdom,
snow me in yes.

I said to William Shakespeare,
sonnet me immortally.

I said to Emily Dickinson,
bobolink the cloister.

I said to Countee Cullen,
beauty the world
in colour and majesty.

I said to Mary Oliver,
whitman the stones
of the timeless river.

I said to John Keats,
drowse me in delight.

I said to Fr Hopkins,
glory me in grandeur,
grace me in proclaim.

I said to Miss Moore,
fable me to felicity.

I said to Elena Lee,
garden the world
with gratitude!