Wednesday, April 25, 2018

66th Letter to a Poet

Maybe I should write you
an actual letter, snail-mailed,
on paper! in paragraphs!
I should answer your email
about the new job!

I should offer the bright gossip
of foredawn sparrows
as a sonic bouquet.

Ice is now elsewhere!
April brightens and warms,
coaxing blossom, urging leaflife.

I walked to my Sunday meeting
last week in sleety cold,
this week in springlike warmth.

No coffee, no San Pellegrino
before the How It Works group.
Barismo closed at five; besides,
I had no cash with me yesterday.

It's two in the morning
as I write to you, dear friend.
The mattress beckons me
to another round of shuteye.

Monday, January 1, 2018

64th Letter to a Poet

Surely, below zero in Spencer,
where monks are gathering for Vigils
in the lavish dark
of the Trappist abbey chapel.

Almost that cold in Arlington
at not quite 4 am.
I make the first coffee
of the brand-new year.

I watch Msgr McFarland,
dead since 2001, say the Rosary
on CatholicTV. Then I switch
to CNN, and glimpse festivities
in New York, Seattle, New Orleans,
Sydney, Hong Kong.

This New Year finds me
gray, tired, bruised,
within hailing distance
and the first colonoscopy.

Lots of things in my life
fill me with distaste,
with trepidation.

But I begin the year
as I begin most days:
with a measure of hope---
snow as yet unblackened
by the world's trudge and traffic.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

61st Letter to a Poet

So yesterday
I found myself awake at five
and thrilling
to the autumn's first reading
below forty degrees.
Grateful coolness in the heat,
solace in the midst of woe!

At nine in the morning
was the living Rosary
in front of St Agnes School.
Highschool kids
from Arlington Catholic
held balloons
in the pattern
of the blessed beads
as an elementary school teacher
led us in the Joyful Mysteries.

Half an hour
in novemberish temperatures.
I was in tears afterwards,
moved by this innocent piety,
this gentle grace.

I had almost forgotten
the inattentive schoolkids
cracking jokes during the Aves,
and fooling around
with the plastic sacramentals,
wearing them as crowns
or spinning them like lariats.

Then I went into town
to 100 Arch Street,
St Anthony's Franciscan Shrine,
where the kindly Fr Hugh,
perhaps eighty years old,
helped put me right
with God,
for the price of one Hail Mary
for peace in Korea.

Then it was off to the Hat
to eat pizza
and have a couple of beers
and shoot the breeze with N-----.

Then it was home
to nap for a couple of hours.

Awake toward evening,
vesperal rosary
(couldn't hurt, could it?),
an e-mail from you,
a note to Tom from Ohio,
a late light meal
of whole wheat toast
and an apple,
and then, as Sam Pepys might say,
to bed.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

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

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

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 gladden and fortify,
pure as vespers at candle-lit St Ann's,
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.

Alive in the Dead of Night

Bifocals lie 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.

At 11 this morning,
Emily the Excellent
(as I've dubbed my therapist).
This afternoon,
I'll clean the apartment.

Coffee's done.

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

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


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 you are Elena and I am Thomas:
a circumstance which makes me very happy!

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.)