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The Journey to the West

Though we journey to the West We pray to the East More or less that's the way Each day begins and ends It’s a tale everyone ...

Monday, April 30, 2012

Encounters With Spring

How many shades of spring
Can there possibly be
By now it seems
I’ve savored almost all
And drunk fully
From the cup
Of the freshest Chablis
Followed by Vino Verde
Not forgetting Rosé

It’s all there
For the taking
Spread across the Rockies
And the hillsides of Vermont
A palette so complex
And intoxicating
At least for those who 
Come of age fully
To see what
I have seen

It’s the chlorophyll
In all of us
For one more chance
To riot in the light
As it grows stronger
Every day

Photo by Susan Saunders

Poetry for Dummies

Last night
Walking home
From the Hi-Line
I crossed paths
With a father scolding
His two young kids
For using the word dummy
When talking to him
Never again did he want
To hear them speak that way
At the risk of getting
An especially long time out

So it begins
Learning what
We’re not permitted to say
The abridgement of our  
Basic freedoms seems to
Make perfect sense
But takes a lifetime
Of hard work and forgetting
Before finally
It may be overcome
When it comes to poetry
We are all of us dummies
Every single one
Poets and readers alike
Straining to find the words
Which long ago were
Forbidden us
By the accident of
Our membership
In the human race

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Why I Prefer Blogging to Writing for Broadway

Striving for success
Can exact a high price
In a very sudden and
Dramatic way

Just ask Jonathan Larson
Who burst a blood vessel
In his heart whether Marfan
Induced or not
In getting ready
For opening  night
Off Broadway

Whereas a poor
Lampoet such as I
Has no such
Need for worry
All a new poem requires
Is two bucks
For a cup of coffee
At Pret and an empty
Page or two in a Staples
Bought notebook
And then soon enough
I'm ready to publish
By clicking save
And pressing send
With adequate permission
Perhaps by email to you

Three Purple Pens

Three purple pens
And three Staples
Bought notebooks
   One pink
       One black
           One brown
A cup of dark roast
Served up by Semoan
To sit in the sun
Once again

29th Street provides
The perfect excuse
On this
The 29th day
Although Rafiqi
Has parked his truck
On Sunday perhaps
He rests or prays
Still I lack for nothing
To say as the music
Of the Spheres spins
In the background

   More toppings
      More flavors
          Same price
Still applies
Just as on any regular
Weekday afternoon

Saturday, April 28, 2012

In Grammar As In Life

Approaching April's end
Spring has begun 
Once again
A perfect time
To settle in Mocha Joe's
Down on Main Street
With a fern drawn
In the foam 
Atop a double

There must be
A Buddha dog
Come somewhere among us
Because suddenly
All the mutts
In the coffee shop
Have given up barking
Content to sniff 
At the news in silence

Today being the 28th day
I wonder what else
I can write or say
That hasn't already
Been done a million
Times better before
About fern design
Or otherwise

Except to bear witness
And render poems
Out of thin air
Whenever they come
Overcoming the urge
To deny what 
I barely understand
In grammar as in life

On Flat Street and Main

Looking down on the intersection
Of Flat Street and Main
You read aloud an item
From yesterday's paper
About an artist you once knew
Who just lost the battle
With his personal demons
In the worst sort of way

The good and the bad
Each commands our attention
The narcissist not so nicely
The Bodhisattva much more politely
I don't mean this abstractly
But as a truth to be re-encountered
Each and every day

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Fourth Shout Out to Spring

posted in the lobby of the Latchis Motel

This weekend
We're going to Vermont
To visit my younger son
Thus giving us
A fourth shot at spring

Just beyond Holyoke
I noticed the dogwoods
Once more in bloom
And the green continued
To fade the further north
We went

So journeys over distance
May overlap with time
Reversing itself as
The clock rewinds
Literally and
Spring is sprung
Once again

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Venus Astride the Crescent Moon

for Marissa

This month
I’ve learned
To pay better heed
To influences deeply felt
But unseen

Like Venus
Hanging astride the
Luminous crescent moon
That I pointed out last night
As we were driving home

And you
Unable to take your
Eyes from the road
Said that too
Could be part
Of a wonderful poem

And now
Our souls waxing
And gibbous
We must get ready
For a most extraordinary
New moon

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ode to Vision Impaired

Sasha and I
Have come
Into the garden
I sit while she
Sniffs around
And tramps through
The bed of wild ramps

We are both of us
Vision impaired
She with her cataracts
Sees everything cloudy
And me likewise today
Occluded in my inner eye

Wondering now
That I have finally
Found time to plunk
Myself down here
In the tenuous warmth
Of the April sun 
About the scent I sense
That has my mind
Edgy and uncalm

Gan Yu - 24

A perfect antidote
To all this talk
About the Floating World
To spend the afternoon
Here in the garden

As the world turns
So do the worm and I
Working through the soil
From end to end
A journey bracketed
By dirt

Of our best intent
Much work remains
To be done
Leaving food for thought
But for the birds
Barely none

Monday, April 23, 2012

Spring Harvest

On April 23rd
We dined
On spring greens
With crisp asparagus
From the garden
Ramps from the swampy
Part of the back lot and
Broccoli di rape from a bed
That seeded on its own
Without the slightest prompting

I am aghast
At the plenitude
Of the Earth
So early in the year
Only a month or so
Since the last frost
And here we are
Enjoying a first harvest

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Why I Write

It must pay to write
For some reason
About which I’m not entirely clear
If not for the income
I ask myself over
And over again
Why keep banging it out
Whether long form or short
These poems that no one
Cares to buy
Much less read
And then
As I was thinking this
And waiting
In line for
My chicken sandwich
I noticed this handsome
Couple sitting at a counter
Nearby and the man was
Reading Why I Write
By the late great
George Orwell

And it’s quite
Don’t you think
Or so it seems
To me
The QED of
We encounter
Every day in
These midtown streets
And the answers
Chooses to provide
And it turns out
The only reason to write
As I learned from Akhil
Who learned it directly
From George himself
Is so that other people
May learn

Which is pure poetry
My friends
The way it comes
At you so unexpectedly
Sitting at Fresh or Pret
With a cup of coffee and
Sandwich in hand

So now I know
Why I write
The dharma of it
Right here and now
And for the next
Nine days at least
An answer 
Has been given
And received

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The World's 40 Richest Now Combined

The World’s 40 Richest

Now Combined and Worth

More Than a Trillion

Screams today’s Yahoo! News headline

At least as tabulated by the

Bloomberg Billionaire Index

And believe me

Mike ought to know

He’s very good

At keeping track of

Such things

And I’m further sure

You’ll be happy to hear

That Prince Alwaleed

Has just joined the Index

There’s no secret to success

The Prince is quoted

As saying in an email sent

From his Arabian tent

Or perhaps from his chalet

High atop the Alps

It is based on a sound investment strategy

Commitment and long-term vision

The very principles

I should note

On which

I have based this

Hugely successful

Collection of free verse

* * * * * * * * *

Click here if you care to read the original news story on which this poem is based, written shortly after the story was published by Yahoo! News on April 19th.

Gan Yu - 20

Here in the Floating World

Reality maintains itself

In a highly volatile state

To a Nobel gas

Quite dissimilar

Ever ready to make

A phase change

Of one kind or another

Whether that means

Coming home drunk

Prepared to admit

To many mistakes

Or else quickly

Picking up stakes

And packing the

Calistoga wagon

In every case

To an uncertain future

We in the Floating World

Are forever bound

Come Whatever in May

If long term unemployment

Unfolds in five stages

Just like the Kubler-Ross

Model of dying and death

Then I must still be stuck

In the first stage of denial

Comforting myself with

The happy notion

That I haven’t yet

Started looking for work

So there’s no cause for worry

Not in the least

Call me idle

Or lazy

But to my

Present way of thinking

We humans all need

A moment or two

Of true respite

In the middle

Of life’s passage

Or else by racing through

Too far and fast

Our Infernos may never

Get written for want of

So much else to do

And sure

A sinecure

Sounds sexy

And even a job as

Barista if not barrister

Would help defray

Next month’s rent

But right now

I’m preoccupied

With a much more

Important task at hand

Namely dedicating

The entire month

Of April 2012 to writing

At least thirty poems

In just as many days

Tomorrow be damned and

Come whatever in May

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

An Aesthetic Experience in Philly

for Marissa


Yesterday we rode
The bus to Philly
Seven dollars one way
Down the Jersey Turnpike
To see a Van Gogh show
That’s on display
In the Fine Art Museum

Dropped off behind
The 30th Street Station
We crossed the Schuykill
And walked alongside heavy traffic
Down the broad green expanse
Of the Ben Franklin Expressway
Towards the Museum’s
Massive eastern entrance

An approach
Not quite as grand
As we’d enjoy
In Paris or even DC
But grand enough
To create a sense of scale
And the importance
Of the occasion

And prompting our realization
That long before reaching Rome
All roads lead to Van Gogh
At least for us moderns

* * * * *

We entered and paid
And waited on line
For twenty minutes or so
Before elbow to elbow
With tourists and matrons
We pushed our way into
The main gallery
To re-experience Van Gogh

Hushed and expectant
Upon entering this temple
I lingered before
The first few canvases
A little bit dazed
By a sunflower study
And a muddy
Pair of boots
Wide eyed
In the presence of
These incredible relics

Then in the gallery ahead
I found you my dear wife standing
In front of another painting
Vase with Cornflowers and Poppies
Painted in Paris in 1887
And you turned to me and said
The funniest thing

I guess everyone
Has a bad day

And I looked again
And saw it was perfectly true
For the first time in my life
I was looking at
An ugly Van Gogh
Not an easy thing to do
After the bus ride and the walk
And coming all this way
But there it was
Plain as day
Kitschy as the flower
Prints that used to hang
In my grandmother’s kitchen

Not to denigrate
The roses and irises
And dandelions that
Enlivened the walls just ahead
But we can only do justice
To such great art
By seeing things
Including Van Gogh paintings
As they truly are
And not as we have been told
Or expect them to be

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Second Go At It

I wrote this poem a few days ago and then I wrote it again last night from scratch. Hence the title.

And so
Like many a
Middle-aged man
Before me
I have fallen into
The bad habit
Of comparing
My life to my father's
In various ways

Such as the ratio
Of opportunities lost
To regrets encountered
Along the way

How at the same
Stage in life
He too found himself
Unmoored and unsure
What to do with
Whatever years

But if the world
Is a sea upon
Which each of us
My father relished
The part of Magellan
So many times he circled
The globe but to what end
I wonder other than
To expand his passport
Accordion style

I'm much more
At home here
In the garden
By the lattice fence
And privet hedge

The earth's hold on me
Is undiminished
Grubworms and all
Immersed in the study
Of all these befores
And I can only hope
A few more

Friday, April 13, 2012

Spring Three Times Sprung

Spring this year
Has come much
Like every other
Except this time
As I’ve newly joined
The ranks of the
Unrushed I’ve been able
To savor its blessings
On three separate

First in Denver
With my brother
At the very edge
Of the Great Plains
Where we biked along the Platte
I saw the Aspin bark quiver
A quickening of the spirit
At the mere thought
Of sap beginning to rise

And then walking
With Marissa on Easter Sunday
We beheld the rapture of
The Viburnum wood
Coming again to the Hi-Line
With thick pink clusters that ran
The full length of each tree’s spine
Extending to its outermost limbs
The very living and
Visual proof of the
Virulence of life

And now this evening
On a slow sunset ramble
I’ve traced spring’s lineaments
Along Fourth Neck where
Forsythia and cherry blossoms
Adorn every other front yard

To the early evening bird belongs
This most wonderful of scenes
As the stalks of asparagus
Make their first upthrust and glimmering
And the Star Magnolia blossoms are
Splayed across my neighbor’s front lawn

With Summer may come
Long dry spells and assorted
Other disorders but
So far this is shaping up
To be one hell of a great
Growing season
April has but barely begun
And already this Spring
Three times has sprung

* * * * * * * * *

This is a picture Marissa took with her iPhone while we were walking on the Hi-Line. I think it's a viburnum tree, or so I refer to it in the third stanza.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Ralph Waldo Moment, Please

And what of my own
Ralph Waldo Emerson
As Jason had advised
Every aspiring Whitman
Should pursue

I'd like to know this
For myself
It being the subject
Of a long-running
Where and when
May come the moment
Of discovery
Or will it be a moment
Forever adjourned

So today it seems
First by Gene and then Vikram
Once again spurned
Making me zero for how many
Hundreds of times at bat

And now as this game
Heads into the mid-late innings
It's increasingly hard
Not to come off as over-eager
Swinging for the fences
Ever chance I get

And even worse
I'm afraid of
Losing the timing
Of my natural swing

The Producer Credit

Today at lunch

Michel and I debated

Who deserves credit

As producer for

The Life and Times

Of Richard Musto

And I say it’s got to be

Richard himself

Because that’s the very meaning

Of life being fully lived

At the same time

Michel and I

Have drawn the assignment

To tell his life’s story

In pictures and words

But that’s the subject

Of a much more

Elaborate verse

The Rhyme Forsaken

It's all about
The rhyme forsaken
The syncopation
The back beat

If you want
To be a jazz poet
You've got to step lively
Stand high on your heels
And stay loose
In your knees

Monday, April 9, 2012

On Detachment

Sometimes I wonder

If you can get too

Detached like a retina

So it fucks up your vision

Ending in blindness

But usually

And thankfully

It seems to work

The other way around

Detachment leads

To greater clarity

No matter if your vision

Is completely unsound