Thursday, April 30, 2015

Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas invented the English language.
At sixteen, finding him, I shouted
Eureka and hosanna! Here was a spirit-blaze
Consuming every lesser poetic idol.
He made me hear my native tongue
As if it were for the first time.

I’m afraid you'd find him obscure,
Coarse or overblown or just plain sloppy.
But I have loved his words
For thirty years and counting!

A working-class lad from the provinces
With a tenth-grade education
Bullying his way to immortality:
A young dog roaring like a druid lion,
A verbal Merlin on a pagan sabbath
Glorying the grass, brooks, nooks, dales, vales,
The oceans above, alive and bright with stars:
Hymnographer of a bellicose century,
Voice of a curly cardigan'd angel
Thundering peace to the coal-black veins of the earth.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


A steep challenge, an uphill climb:
Writing in rhyme.


He spouts a wicked epigram:
The old ham.


Coffee, lots of it, and black:
That's what I lack.


It keeps the brain cozy and warm:
This little form.


Sunday morning in Arlington:
Is winter done?


At St Lucy's, I can conclude my search
For good music in church.


I wish I could write like Merrill and McClatchy:
My things are patchy.


The firefly spark of insight:
Sudden light!


Stacked in closets, on windowsill and floor:
Books by the score.


A poem about alcohol? Dear Lord,
I must be bored.


Inveterate lover of diaries, he keeps
Reading Sam Pepys.


The barmaid never wears a pair of shoes
That shows her toes.


Springtime: the birds exult, the flowers bloom!
I leave my room.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

O Close and Distant Sister

O close and distant
sister in the art,
I have lately prayed for you
by using one of my many
well-thumbed rosaries.

And now I wonder
if you object, dear friend,
to being prayed for
so popishly! After all, were there
rosaries among the Apostles?

But much like an Apostle
at Pentecost, I do keep close
to the Virgin of Nazareth,
St Mary of the Magnificat.
Wasn't it after several days

of praying with the Mother of the Lord
that the Spirit descended
upon the timid Twelve,
blazing their hearts and tongues
to an unwonted boldness?

Your theology and my theology
might look at each other
respectfully askance.
And I have to confess:
I can be bigoted

on matters of religion.
But charity transcends
all differences, and learns,
ideally, to delight in them.
So please pray for me

howsoever you choose,
and I shall commend you
to the Lord of Earth and Heaven,
and to the one whom Wordsworth called
our tainted nature's solitary boast.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Birds and Flowers

Such specificity
in your letters!
Packed with the names
of birds and of flowers!

A city boy,
I'm deprived;
I know pigeons
and sparrows
and starlings
and those nameless
sunrise singers
kept by Mrs Álvarez
down the hall.

For flowers,
I know roses
and tulips and carnations
and daisies and daffodils
and not much else.

Tiger lily.

And I know one more,
thanks to the lupine festival
in Sugar Hill,
New Hampshire.

But you, dear friend,
bring life to life
with your descriptions
of the Windy City
and of memorable

You sing me
to a subtle and
subversive gladness,
to a zest for grace,
for a glory
that no politician
or common thief
can steal.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Let Me Retreat

Let me retreat from social media;
from newspaper headlines,
from two hundred fifty channels;
from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue;
from smartphone and texting,
from Kindle and laptop;
from viral video clips on YouTube.

Let me retreat from the teeming forum,
from the bustling marketplace;
from trivial blather about celebrities;
from friends whose politics are incorrigible!

Let me recharge, renew, refresh,
away from the noises of our century.

Let me be still. Let me listen.
Let me renounce all cares.

Let me retreat into that rural field
where a lone explorer
might stumble across a fieldstone hermitage --

Let me find a kindred spirit
in that small house among the rolling hills,
the softly swaying grasses --

perhaps here I can stop and rest;
perhaps here a kindly soul
will draw from her well
clear water, cold, so cold.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Is That You?

Is that you, barn-swallow,
answering my recent note
with yellow exclamations
of newborn forsythia?

Is that you (I'm sure it is)
brightening this gray morning
with the pure song of April,
as green-and-golden
as Dylan's Fern Hill?

Is that you (it certainly must be!)
shaking up slumbering senses,
stirring a winter-weary soul
from grumbling to gratitude?

Rays of Sun

Rays of sun fan out,
breaking to brilliance from beneath
gray-blue masses of cloud in a sky
like an evangelical photograph
of uplifting intent.

Underneath the nimbus,
one can almost discern
an italicized verse
from the 23rd Psalm!

I drink instant coffee
and wonder if my prayers
(while I stand or sit,
while I kneel or lie down)
are case-sensitive passwords
dependent on my posture
for their acceptability.

No, I suspect that even when they're careless,
sloppily presented,
articulated crudely or in haste,
Someone gets them, hears them,
and approves.

* * * * *

PS: Thank you,
O poet-friend,
for your reply!

Friday, April 17, 2015

You Should Have Been There

You should have been there, barn swallow,
    at the poetry workshop in Cambridge!
You would have been the youngest –
    by five or six years, at least! --
but you would have made the crafty veterans
    sit up and take notice.
You would gentled the April night
    with your subtle, sensitive music.
You would have refreshed parched spirits
    thirsting for sudden grace.

It's early Friday morning,
    before dawn, before bird-mattins.
I sit here writing to you
    over a cup of instant coffee.
Today I have to shop for groceries.
    Today, a dentist's appointment.
I think of you now, as I work on verse.
    And I think of you whenever I see
plucky flowers nudging up
    through stiff New England soil.

Friday, April 10, 2015

When I Was Ten

When I was ten,
it was my family's
first summer in Franconia.
I fell in love with the White Mountains
as Dad navigated the '76 Monte Carlo
over the gentle roller-coaster
of 93 North.

Sometimes, on evening drives
from Franconia to Littleton,
the setting sun would grace the pine-green hills.
In the back seat, as in a womb,
a poet was slowly growing toward birth!