Friday, December 25, 2009

Winter Tale

May the snow be thick enough to lead you out, but not so thick as to keep you in.
Merry Christmas, dear friends.

Winter Tale

When earth and sky and sweeping air -
a patient buffer, made the fair
and faithful channel of the squall
that spins between the pair -

are each, alike, in ashen-white
pelisse enveloped, ever tight,
and wholly covered by the fall
of flurries, feather-light,

and when the rushing waters still
and stiffen to the icy will,
as sets the rapids at a crawl
and calcifies the chill

that permeates the very bone
beneath the soil and the stone,
that holds the shifting surges thrall
and seals all alone,

and when each ghostly living thing
is hid away in wait of Spring
and bled until an ashen pall
recalls the bitter sting,

to lay in state, as old remains,
when life no longer runs the veins
and great has given way to small
to save the Summer gains,

then, even as the rushing snow
and crushing ice, alive in floe,
and fallen life in fleeting stall
impel the lasting low,

a resurrection will await,
if, first, a birthing bed - ornate
austerity - can send a call
as grandiose and great

as ever touched the ears of men
or granted hope of life, again,
in whispers lifted up to all
that He is born. Amen!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Leaving and Returning

All things come about with time and faith. And 'again', which ends the second line of the third verse, is meant to be pronounced according to the British 'əˈɡeɪn', not the Americanized 'əˈgɛn', so don't do it, please. Oh, and have a wonderful Christmas break.

Leaving and Returning

The sun is not as fast a friend as I;
his rosy brow can barely make a crown
as waking hours hurry briskly by
and bear the days, devoid of renown;

but even fleeting days - this pauper spread -
reduce the spanning sums that separate
a leaving and returning, nearly wed,
but not so nearly that I wish the wait,

for as the secret seeds repose beneath
the rime and long to feel light again,
or as an awful famine grips the teeth
and heightens urgent appetite to pain,

so time can never turn another week
as quickly as my yearning soul would seek.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Rise and Fall

When the weather is this cold, and we're held indoors by a chill wind as impassable as any lock, it seems only fair to dream of the world without. This poem is in memoriam of the majestic Oregon mountains - in fact, all the majestic Oregon landscape - that I shall not meet again, until a balmier climate returns.

Rise and Fall

The earth is endless in expanse;
a land as sprawling as the Eastern sky;
it leaps and rises in advance,
unharnessed as a haring horse, awry,
to pick a pattern out in prance,
a wild whirl of a dance
that none can follow, even as they try.

A windswept pirouette to raise
the valleys up and extrovert their might,
to blunt the mountains, once ablaze
and burnished by the early morning light,
until they rest a lower gaze
of pygmy hills upon the haze
that holds the furrows of their former height.

This weathering wears out the years
that flit along, as leaves upon the air,
unnumbered by the veiled gears,
those slowly spinning rigs of disrepair
that carry change in old careers
of time and tide and other fears
and lay the massifs lower than a prayer.

And yet, the rolling days will come
when ranges rise, again, and crest a brow,
each elder summit to succumb
then holding high a youthful head at how
its crescent slopes are rendered plumb
and subtle runnels are become
fantastic torrents coursing to the slough.

For, nothing new shall see the sun,
when all has come about in ages past,
and ages full have just begun
as even they are realized, amassed
of peaks and valleys, each and one
in shifting stature never done,
and all upon the earth, supremely vast.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Two Alike

Have you ever known a person so fully that he or she seemed like a part of yourself? Life is punctuated by little friendships, but every so often, along comes that one-in-a-million, who is bound closer to you than any person ought to be. For some, this sort of friendship will never develop. For others, it will be a repeated experience. If approached properly, it is one of the most powerful paths to happiness - and to God - that we may walk, and very few people will ever come across greater wealth in this life. What joy, then, that we can hope for such things, and what wonder that humans, though separated by space and existence, may unite themselves, with nothing more than words, in thought and will and love.

Two Alike

What happiness a friend, a fellow kind,
whose gentle hands attend a heart entwined,
for, long as loving likens two,
they consummate a life anew,

but none may know the ties, when so profane,
and none, with open eyes, will ascertain
the bond, invisible, but true,
that suffering cannot subdue,
nor strain;

and so, this holy whole, incorporate
and incorporeal, is our oblate,
to lift an everlasting hue
for treasures that we hold and do

Thursday, November 26, 2009


I'm off to warmer climes for the weekend, so my poem arrives a few days early. I hope that all you faithful readers find yourselves in the safe surroundings of home and family for the remainder of the vacation. The work week and the routine life will return all too soon. Enjoy the simple pleasures while they last, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


An arrow cannot find its distant mark,
as in a rush of iron-feathered flight
it intersects the kingdom of the lark,
unless an archer ushers it aright

and sets it off, upon a certain track,
ascending from the taut and furled cord,
with swift release and merciless attack
to lift it over warrior and lord

and take its target with a windy kiss,
though none can tell the closeness of its course,
or whether it is like to win or miss,
except the fool, stricken so by force.

But you, the archer, escort of the sky,
I tell you of the fool: it is I.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Debt

So many rhymes! And here I was just criticizing rhyming. This one is a bit more complex than most, though, and certainly took more work. The continuity, in particular, was troubling, not to mention the structure of the internal rhymes. Now that it's done, however, I find I am relatively pleased. I would even go so far as to say I'm quite happy with the constant mercurial shift between the artificial rhythm of lines and the natural rhythm of sentences. And yes, I know the subject is love, and love has been done to death by poets, but it is a well-known poetical rule that every poet is entitled to an allotment of love poems equal to the number of years he has lived. I'm still working my way up to 27.

The Debt

My heart and hand? A meager fee
and fine to ask, inferior
as common sand or crude debris
when set the task. This pauper, poor,

is so forlorn, for gathered round
and all about my little heart,
full weary-worn, the others bound,
while I, in doubt, still strain to start,

and so maintain a hand to hold -
far less than you could hope to win
from one so plain, and one so bold,
who would pursue immortal skin

as yours, when I could only seize
at purchase on consistent ground,
content to lie and take my ease,
to stay withdrawn. I am unbound

and empty, now. My hand, alone,
holds nothing but a heart to give
to you. Allow, from on your throne,
a gift. Of what? A life to live,

a debt to pay, a rift to fill,
a feeble strength to sacrifice,
and I shall stay your own until
my life, at length, has born the price.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Raptor

I spend a fair amount of time, each week, looking for other modern formalist poets, but my searching often goes unsatisfied. There are countless people out there who rhyme - and even a few who combine rhyme and metre, in a sort of caricature of old nursery rhymes - but are there any who treat it as a serious art? I just don't know, anymore. I make no claim to be a great poet, but I am a meticulous poet, and I created this poem to demonstrate the sort of mechanical thought and effort that, I believe, are essential to any real poetry. For those of you not concerned with the dirty details of writing poetry, please enjoy the poem. For everyone else, I have included a brief and limited analysis of poetic elements after the poem, itself.

The Raptor

The carrion-call, shrill upon the air,
as ragged wings now buffet, two and two,
and beat the ribboned rain in disrepair,
to hold a height no summit ever knew,
precedes the silent plunge, as if a prayer
were yielded to fledglings, unaware,
in steady circlings beneath the blue,

that, here, the sand, descended in the glass,
has reached the end and emptied at a rush,
and cannot count the moments as they pass,
for moments make a closing with a hush
before the storm that plummets in a mass
of surging ruin, ready to harass
and break the vibrant spirit of the thrush,

and so, it bursts upon the heedless back,
as bird and bird spin earth-bound in a grip
of lifeless held in life, of swift attack,
while severed feathers scatter free and slip
to wander downward on a flightless track,
and he who bore them, buoyed up, so slack,
by he who will embody Charon's ship.

Ignoring, for today, the actual content of poetry, I would argue that the poet must be concerned with the words and syntax he uses. Poetry is, at heart, spoken song, and, without the aid of music, the lyric of the poetry is carried solely by the words. Further, unless the poet, himself, is there to read his poems aloud, interpretation is left to the reader, who has little or no idea what the poet intends. Therefore, the words should both make the poem sonorous and guide the reader as he renders the written words as sounds. Good poetry begins with inspiration, but only finds its completion in hours of laborious minutiae. Thus, there is little, if anything, in my poetry that is not intentional, and all word choices are made to maximize the ability of the poem to carry its own cadence and tone. I'll only analyze the first verse of 'The Raptor', and then, only the most important parts, but even that should be sufficient to get my point across. To begin:

The carrion-call, shrill upon the air,
This first line begins with two instances of consonance: first, the alliterative 'ca' and second, 'll'. This is followed by the sonic referencing of 'carrion' by 'upon', and the paralleled soft vowels beginning 'upon' and 'air'. A touch of onomatopoeia is provided by 'shrill'.

as ragged wings now buffet, two and two,
The 'a' of 'air' is recalled, here, in the first two words, followed by the repetition of 'w', between 'wings', 'now', and 'two'. We also have our first instance of epistrophe, with the dual 'two'. 'Ragged' continues the theme of onomatopoeia, and this second line solidifies the structure of the poem as iambic pentameter (or ten syllables to a line, alternating between stressed and unstressed syllables, in pairs known, to scansionists, as feet). You may recognize this line structure from traditional Shakespearean sonnets. It gives the poem a sort of tumbling feeling, which matches the subject of a raptor diving on a helpless bird. Notice how the stress is universally placed on every other syllable, starting with the second. There is almost no variation upon this throughout the entire poem.

and beat the ribboned rain in disrepair,
The 'and' that begins this verse ties it to the penultimate 'and' of the last verse, followed by 'beat', which pairs with 'buffet' and 'ribboned'. This is a consonance we won't see again till the end of the verse. Finally, the doubly alliterative 'ribboned rain' carries the center of the line, only to find closure in 'disrepair'.

to hold a height no summit ever knew,
The consonants of 'to hold' are reversed in 'height', even as the latter reaches forward to 'summit'. Finally, 'no' plays off of 'knew', in both consonance and a slight double entendre.

precedes the silent plunge, as if a prayer
This line has an alternating pattern of contrasted hard 'p' sounds and soft 's' sounds: 'precedes the silent plunge, as if a prayer'. It also ends, for the first time, in the middle of a clause. This is important, because the next line is about to break the rhyming scheme, and end with the same masculine rhyme as the current line. The two lines are, thereby, tied together in both thought and structure.

were yielded to fledglings, unaware,
The unity between this line and the last is further enhanced by 'were', which acts as a subdued connection between the more dominant, but still very similar, sounds of 'prayer' and 'unaware'. There is also a subtle progression from the soft, to the plosive, and back to the soft, in the middle of the line: 'yielded to fledglings'. Notice how the sounds rise from 'y' to 'd', then drop back down to the concealed 'y' of 'ing'. Also, the alternate 'l's provide a natural, rolling transition between the open 'y' sound and the plosive 'd' sound.

in steady circlings beneath the blue,
The rhyming pattern is finally cemented as ABABAAB, mixing the simple four-line form of the beginning with an enclosed rhyme at the end. As a side note about the rhyme scheme, notice that the first two verses use soft rhymes, while the third verse uses hard rhymes, leading to a harsher sound that matches and amplifies its violent content. There is, also, a quick triple repetition of 's' in 'steady circlings', which hearkens back to the similar triplet in 'precedes the silent' of two lines previous. 'Circlings' is not traditionally used as a noun, but it is a very small step from adjective to noun, and the hint of onomatopoeia was too nice to pass up. The line finally ends with 'beneath the blue', an inverted double consonance. The alliteration of 'b' was used extensively in the second and third lines, but then given a rest until this point, while the double 'th' acts to draw the final phrase into one continuous sound.

There it is. If I have scared some of you away from attempting poetry ever again, I apologize. If, on the other hand, I have motivated you to make something more of it than simple lines that share nothing but end-rhymes, I have accomplished more than I could have hoped. Let there be no mistake; this sort of writing is difficult, to say the least. Yet, it also grows easier over time. Techniques which were once awkward and unnatural for me now seem intuitive, and it takes me substantially less time to write a poem now than it once did. As with any skill, practice is the truest path to mastery, and though it may be painful and frustrating at first, you will find, over time, a gradual change taking place, as you go from simply writing poetry to being a poet. Good luck.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Two Homes

California seems an awfully long way from Oregon, these days. Winter is lovely, but I'm far more fickle than the seasons, and I'm ready for a temporary change.

Two Homes

My body has one home, a humble place,
that knows me only by the empty space
I leave behind as lightly as a ghost
whose footsteps tread the floor without a trace.

My heart, too, has a home, so far from here,
but closer, yet, and ever more so clear;
perhaps a dream, or just a wish at most,
but even dreaming can be counted dear.

And I? I do not mind this double fate,
for as my heart is stamping at the gate,
my flesh consents to play the patient host
and so the two, in bondage, bear the wait.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Autumn Shift

The leaves are finally falling from the trees. It is that lovely, indefinable point between life and decay, when the plants have died and dropped, but have not yet faded into the damp, dreary layer of compost that marks the beginnings of Winter. The leaves lie so thick on the sidewalks, that even the leather soles of my dress shoes make no noise in passing. What joy Autumn is.

Autumn Shift

A heavy west wind heaves to main from the coast
and spills over mountain and lake,
to work its way inland - a zephyral ghost,
unburdened of shower and flake -

through forest and field, through valley and vale,
spread fallow and fertile alike,
in eddies and rushes ahead of the gale,
across the long overland hike,

until it arrives at the foot of our door,
unbidden, but not unforeseen,
and strips the trees bare with a wintery roar
that leaves their bones crooked and clean,

to carpet the earth with a brilliant hue
and blush-heady happiness long overdue.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


I think Autumn is the proper time of year to write about dreaming. Early evenings and dark mornings incline one to delay the inevitably chilly rising for a few spare minutes beneath a down comforter or heavy woolen blanket. Those minutes invariably stretch on in dreams and half-dreams, until one awakens, surprised by the dim, foggy light and insistently-beeping alarm clock, and rises to begin a new - if not entirely desired - day.


Old Morpheus has swallowed up the sky,
to walk the ways above our shadow-flush
and flit from bed to bed, where bodies lie,
in shifting shades that ride the drowsy rush.

Two escorts lead the lonely monarch on -
slack lethargy and windless weariness -
who prime the gears that turn until the dawn
and set them spinning with a deft finesse,

and all the souls that they have sunk in sleep
recline in readiness. An airy breath
slides off the brow and under tallied sheep,
to settle in the eyes, as dark as death.

Then shall we drift, unhanded by his dreams,
in torpid tow, for nothing's as it seems.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Room and Door

I'm working on my sonnet form, again, this time with fractured sentences. I generally dislike poems that break sentences between lines and verses, but I'm sure it has its value. I just need to discover it. Also, despite the despondent content of this poem, life is quite good. Dark poems often come from the most cheerful days, I find.

Room and Door

If every doorway opened on a room
as bare as this, then what would be the shame
of shutting it again? This is a tomb,
and here, the candle was not worth the game;

a sputtering flame splaying finger-light
upon the pale shades of pictures-hung,
when solitude has followed on the night
and dismal sleep, subduing one last sung

and sorry lullaby. So speak of lush,
abundant furnishings if it will please,
but speak of these illusions with a hush;
my weary mind can hold no more unease.

This room may, one day, want a bright decor,
but until then, maintains a bolted door.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


100 poems. It only took me two years to get here. As accomplishments go, it is not a grand one, but it is an accomplishment, nonetheless. So, a toast to the Quiet Cartesian; happy centennial, and here's to many more poems to come!


A century within a word;
each syllable, an age
that echoes on, though never heard
nor penciled on a page.

Unspoken, though the speaking be
the measure and the meat
that satisfies in small degree
and gives the burden feet,

while shoots and flowers bend to frost,
to stand erect, again,
and sunlight waxes on the ghost
of winter, fitful friend,

and time unwinds against the clock
that counts the hours down,
until the grave and grief unlock
a legacy and crown.

For whom? The asking is not mine.
This duty, set astride
such feeble shoulders, frail spine,
is simply to provide

my rendering, a meager one -
inheritance of time -
that wills the wanting, once begun,
to rest within a rhyme.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Offering

Is it true? Tea time is upon us, at last! It was finally cold enough, a couple evenings ago, to have a cup of tea. Not just any tea, of course. Not for the first cup of the season. An old-growth pu-er, aged and fermented, and simply exuding the damp, mossy smell of a dark forest in the rain. The tea describes itself as such: "Deep, earthy flavor, dark red-gold color, and a rich, velvety texture. Woody, earthy, vegetal aroma, like an old-growth forest." I think that sounds absolutely lovely. Don't you?

The Offering

A soul was offered me,
and offered only once,
though once, eternity,
had I but seen the glance.

So many more, and fair,
as stars upon the sheet,
how could a one compare,
or equally compete?

And yet, that offer pressed
a jewel from the coal,
as alchemies arrest
away a single soul

and hold it high above
the simple stars about,
to let the offer prove,
no more the other doubt.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

In Between

Though not the 'in between' of today's poem, this newly-minted Autumn weather has taken on an in-between life of its own. Mornings begin with overcast skies and brisk winds, which seem to hint that rain could burst upon our sorry heads at any moment. As the hours wear on, however, the clouds pull away, and the warm, cornflower sun spreads its light over everything, drying the dew and sending a tingling warmth through bare arms and legs. It's a delightful time of year - perhaps my favorite time of all - and it makes me long to live in a place where the buildings are as old as the stones that brick their walls and the people speak not from economy, but from pleasure.

In Between

As high as I can reach
shall never number high enough
to proffer, for the beech,
a tidy bow upon the cuff,

and low as I can lay
shall never sink me so far down
in clover leaves, to play
an eye upon each idle gown,

as I am all to low
for heaven, all too high for earth;
my mid'ling self, just so,
to tender suffering and mirth.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Summer Touch

Two more days of Summer left, and then begins our glorious and abundant Autumn, although, in spirit and school-year, it started several weeks ago. I thought that I would offer a parting bow and eulogy in the form of a poem, written some time ago for the then-long-awaited conquest of Summer over Spring.

Summer Touch

Everything is wick and well
and hopefulness of heart,
when Summer works an elder spell
upon the icy art

that spent its silver in a rush
of riven frost and snow
to lay in sleep the rosy blush
of budding life, below,

but now, the glorious and green
awaken at the touch
of wild-spoken light, unseen,
as are the winds, and such,

that carelessly caress the hair
and set the grass at play
upon the loam, no longer bare,
no longer laid away.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Early to Rise

I'm getting used to early mornings, once again. I love them, but they are a hard habit to keep up, unless compelled. It has been a wonderful Summer, in every sense of the word, but it feels good to be bringing some imperturbable order back into my scattered life.

Early to Rise

I fear no trepidation
upon a sudden morn,
nor reckon on creation
to loose its herald-horn,

when all is barely painted,
a canvas brightly spread
and virginal, untainted,
by early hand or head,

then I, alone, awaken,
but only in my heart,
to reap the earth, retaken,
my solitary art.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


As of Tuesday, my long Summer is officially over. I embark on the most absurdly complicated tutoring schedule, but it keeps me out of a real job (i.e., one that involves anything resembling an office, desk, co-workers, or a 40-hour work week), so three cheers for that. On the other hand, this means my late nights are fast coming to an end, which I regret quite a bit.


What is a day without a sun?
No more a day than night -
a book adjourned when just begun;
a laugh without delight;

a lyric song that holds no words;
a shoe, but not a sole;
an aerie all bereft of birds;
a term without parole;

a house that does not have a door;
a map deprived of key;
a roof above, and yet no floor;
a shore that lacks a sea;

a monarchy devoid of king;
a poem minus verse;
a wedding vow without a ring;
a witch in want of curse;

a cloister cleared of every nun;
a left, and not a right;
but even we, who are undone,
can find a spindle fully spun
when stars enkindle light.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Victor for a Day

Another installment in The Further Chronicles of the Tomato Garden! It appears that the seventh plague has fallen upon the house of Israel, and God has punished the unbelievers with blossom-end rot. This cancer begins as an innocuously off-colour spot on the bottom of the green tomato, but, as the tomato matures, spreads out, leprous-like, until the entire lower half of the ripe tomato is a festering, black cesspit of evil. Fortunately, this is not caused by any parasite or disease, but simply by a lack of calcium in the soil. Unfortunately, the only immediate solution is to amputate the affected fruit to prevent the leeching of nutrients from healthy tomatoes, then saturate the soil with a calcium supplement and pray that the angel of death passes over. So far, about a third to half of our present ripening crop has been affected, but forecasts for the future are good, thanks to the quick response of the ministering angel known as Quiet Cartesian. Up, up, and away!

Victor for a Day

I came upon a little friend,
a monument of care,
who found it fit to condescend
a smile on me, there.

I lifted her and laid her by,
as pardon for my plea,
upon a bower bed, to lie
in limpid reverie,

and stole her dowry from the store
that she had set aside;
no guard was set upon the door,
no bulwark for the bride.

A smile, and a dowry paid,
and so I slipped away,
to tell the treasure, and the raid -
a victor for a day.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Flower

And so the school year begins. I send you on your way with a poem and a thought, and a day early, at that!

A Flower

A flower you are not,
and flower never be,
in Autumn fault forgot,
till Summer guarantee.

You do not spread your brow
beneath the beryl sky,
but flowers bear no vow
and flowers surely die.

Your floret and perfume
shall not disperse with frost.
My love, you are a bloom
that time cannot exhaust.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

One Shall Remain

If you measure Summer by the school year, then it is fast coming to a close, but in truth, it is barely half-over. A sure sign of this is our vegetable garden, which is, in actuality, more of a tomato garden. For a week or two, now, we've had a small trickle of ripe fruit, but I can sense that trickle is about to become a torrent. I wait for few things like I do the ripening of the tomatoes. Perhaps it's the Italian in me - or the hippie - but I honestly believe almost every dish is made better by fresh, home-grown tomatoes. In fact, they hardly need accompaniment. Their flavor, alone, is enough to make them tastier than the ripest apple or pear. Your whole self is awakened in the experience of a tomato garden - nose full of the ripe, earthy scent of the wet leaves, hands stained green from the stalks, shoes heavy with damp earth...
Did I mention we also have chili peppers?

One Shall Remain

A word or two, I took no more,
and lingered on them all the less -
though they revealed a fair rapport
of days undrawn in loveliness,
soft-spoken, as before -

and thought that I might metre on,
against the turning of the vein -
a grand and burnished paragon
that owns a pearl to be plain,
as even it, withdrawn -

but what a lunacy to bleed
the vessel of its liberty -
my seeming wealth could not exceed
such light and bantam poverty,
when I, alone, make need -

for, if I could allow embrace,
then I might bear a wider yoke -
no words of mine can clear a place,
nor sound escape the closing choke,
unless by other grace -

but, as it is, a heart is mine,
and, somehow, whispered over all -
when I have missed the siren sign
of words that I cannot recall,
one shall remain, and shine,
however small.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

King and Slave and I

It has been such an odd couple weeks. First, day after day of blazing, sunburnt heat - the sort that turns bedrooms into midnight saunas and makes even a drive with the windows down a blistering chore - and now, Autumn-like clouds and chill, and I couldn't be happier for the change. It does bring a melancholy feel to these downhill days of Summer, but it is a soft, gentle decline, and, anyways, I'm quite sure we haven't seen the last of the sun.

King and Slave and I

The days are wide and windy as the sea,
as waves and hours roll in steady swell
to delegate our duties. Slaved and free
the two compel.

A king can drop his knee to genuflect,
and, yet, the flux will draw him further down,
till he is, equally, a base subject,
of no renown.

The slave, alike, is made a slave again,
when cast into the fierce and fathomed tide,
where fluid bonds supplant a sturdy chain
and breaths subside.

And I, though neither king nor slave I be,
am subjugated strictly, as the two,
for hours set their ocean-weight on me
and so subdue.

Then I am yoked by time, in spring and neap,
and king and slave and I are spiraled low,
to rest our common heads in common sleep,
as hours flow.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Two Trees

I was walking though the woods, near my family's home in Southwest Washington, when I discovered a beautiful, old tree. I have no idea what type it was, nor quite how old, but it was almost entirely bare of leaves, and there was hardly a straight line to be seen on it. It was bent over at a sharp angle, and beneath it, growing through its thick branches, was a much younger tree, which is probably the only reason it was still standing at all.

Two Trees

There is a tree, not far from here;
its stature, lower press,
is labored by a long career
of weary wilderness.

No stately back nor seasoned crown,
no callow consecrate
establishes its bearing down,
when burdened by the weight

of limbs divested, twist they so
that liveliness, alone,
declines the scattered buddings grow
and proves a weaker bone.

Its final strength, upon the eve
of fell majority,
is taken from the buttress heave
of this, a younger tree,

that holds the old man up, aloft,
and supplements the might
the other lost, as age is oft;
but here, the two have height.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


I picked up one of my volumes of Emily Dickinson the other day; it was the first time in months that I'd touched it. I'd forgotten how stunning her poetry is. Her name has, unfortunately, been connected with saccharine poems about bees and flowers. This could not be further from the truth. Open a book of her poetry at random, and the chances of finding something fit for 'Mother Goose's Nursery Rhymes' are minimal, at best. You are far more likely to find yourself enfolded in delicate and complicated word-play, with hints of Hopkins and Eliot, and subjects too serious for any child to fully appreciate. So for those of you who have never read Dickinson, I encourage you to begin, and for those who have read and rejected, I beg you to look again.


Our fate is not for hands and eyes;
its score
we hope to settle, willful-wise.
No more

can turning back the ticking face
make rest
the heavens in their steady pace
to west,

for feet can only fall within
the groove,
and, ceasing to resist, begin
to move.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


I'm on something of a sonnet kick. Shakespeare had it right, you know. It really is the perfect rhyming scheme. Three verses; it is, inescapably, the right number. Any less, and one is left wanting; any more, and one grows tired. And yet, three is not enough to bring the poem to completion, for the reader, taken by the constancy of the rolling rhymes, inevitably expects one stanza to lead to another. Something must break this cycle, and so, the final two lines. Thus, the sonnet is fulfilled, and both the poet and reader are satisfied.


If love, in longing, found a holy hand,
as palm and palm, profaner than the eye,
enfold and follow, as the two demand,
and make communion in a mute reply,

or if it sought a cheek of softer flesh
than falls upon this settling embrace,
prepared to offer up, and so enmesh,
as ought to marry hearts in happy grace,

or if it heard, again, a hushing breath,
unfinished until breathed afresh in turn
by other lips that long for sober death,
when told to love will only be to yearn,

then there is hope that heaven will arise,
although it be obscured in mortal guise.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Night

Another Monday. This is becoming a bad habit, and I'll try to break it soon. Well, thanks to summer vacation, I've taken to staying up late and watching the sky and the stars. It's a very nice change of pace from the early evenings of the school year, and has given me a chance to appreciate the night in a way I never really had before. There is a wonder, you know, in morning and night; it's just difficult to find that wonder without going to sleep very late or waking up very early. In the morning, before anyone else is awake, everything is quiet, like an empty cathedral, and the possibilities of the day seem limitless, while in the night - the late, late night, when everyone has been fast asleep for hours - a sort of second life awakens, as the stars light up the world and the drowsiness of sleep missed is forgotten and falls away. Both are full of wonder, but at the present, I prefer the night, as does this sonnet.

The Night

The night is not an old man, yet, nor I,
when stars have barely broken from the blue,
to overtake the slowly dusking sky
and bid the final limbs of light adieu.

We two, we sit, below and there, about,
and watch the other watching each in turn,
but little hope have I, a poor devout,
of demonstrating any great concern

for you, so vast in silence and in strength,
and throwing over millions in your might,
as captivated subjects lay the length
of bodies down in somnolent delight,

but I will ever wait and watch your brow,
and take my dues from sleep I disavow.

Monday, July 6, 2009


I must apologize, again, for my tardiness, but I was far, far away, with neither the desire nor the ability to tie myself down to the internet. But now I am back, and only a day late. This poem is about the difference between what we want and what we need, and how dreams often serve only to encourage the former and cloud the latter.


I'm cast, benumbed, beneath Your feet,
returned to dust, whence from the dust arose
a child's heart with child's beat,
embellished by a thousand little woes,
and still, my dreams seem just as sweet
as ever on the day they drew a close.

Such dreams! But dreaming did betray
desire bounded by a selfish seed
that led my limping feet astray
and turned my eyes upon an inner greed,
and now, I see this disarray
for what it was, and how it did mislead.

So cast my heart back on the course
I left behind me in a headlong rush
to reach the rift I thought a source,
yet barely found to be a worthy blush
of life, for now I live remorse
and seek the simple way in lull and hush.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


It is time to wake up. Everything is alive, as we must also be. It is far too easy to submit to the hot sleep of summer, and forget that there is so much to be accomplished. It is a sad life that comes to its end, to find that nothing has been accomplished, but this is the constant complaint of America. The wasted life; the lost time. Why is there so little greatness in the world? We are to blame. To achieve, we must first try. We love to dream, but dreaming is emptiness. Do, and if doing does not succeed, then do again and again, until you find the thing that you are meant to do.


O God, to whom has wisdom been revealed?
Not I, who can contain it, but the little ones, the flowers of the field
who number out their momentary days
in melodies of soft, unspoken praise,
and ever yield.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Frailty of the Bone

This poem is a little late, but forgive me; it was a very full weekend. Poems about poetry seem to be somewhat of a theme with me, these days, so I pray it's not too boring. As a final note, I was having a certain amount of difficulty coming up with a title, but Pixie Rainwater happened by, and suggested I use the one you see now, so my thanks goes out to her. I dare not post a titleless poem.

Frailty of the Bone

Words work their lively spell upon the leaf
when patience exercises empty time,
and seems the muse shall never know the grief
of inspiration ended in a rhyme;

of agonizing hours worn away
to bare a single sentence from the stone,
or dim desire lost within decay,
and broken, with the frailty of bone.

For this is not the burden; this a fraud,
a fever dream of fair, unfounded ease,
that carelessly erects a grand facade
to elevate the abject from his knees,

while all the words that fall, as autumn rain,
so sweet and sorry to the open eye,
do find their founding in unwanted pain
and spring to life from graves, wherein we lie.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Summer Storm

Last week, I found myself, quite unexpectedly, in the midst of a wonderful thunderstorm. It had been sunny only moments before, then, suddenly, the sky darkened and thick rain began to fall. The heart of the storm never got all that close, but there were some dazzling strokes of lightning and long, rolling bouts of thunder. A good storm is a lovely thing, and ought not to be enjoyed from indoors!

Summer Storm

Deep-throated, a threatening cloud
overshadows the sky.
Clothed in wet, windy shroud,
it intones a reply
in a voice, gruff and loud,
to the summering crowd:
Not a soul will stay dry!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Poor Poetry

Is it really true? The school year is... done. Of course, it doesn't seem quite real, yet, and I'm not sure what I'll do with all my new-found time. The first thing that needs to happen, however, is a kayaking trip through the beautiful lakes and rivers of Southwest Washington. Three days is the current plan. Three days of sun and water and trees, and not another soul to be seen. What better way to begin the break? And, on an entirely separate note, a poem about poetry for your enjoyment. The hardest part of writing, by far, is not the endless succession of blank pages, nor the pain of cutting huge chunks of text, nor the ache that settles into your back when hunched over a little laptop for hours on end, but the knowledge that you will be judged by what you create. It took me a long time to get over that fear, and I still struggle with it, but I have realized that it is not about proving yourself to others. You need only write for two: yourself and God. Beyond that, it doesn't matter a whit what other people think.

Poor Poetry

If words were half as high as any star,
or half as deep, again, as any sea...
And yet, no more, nor less, than what they are,
and half of what they hope themselves to be;

a listless tremble on the lip and ear,
no reliquary left upon their death,
except the thought that one, alone, will hear,
descended to the heart upon a breath,

and if I could enclose my secret self
within those words that I so poorly speak,
then I could cover them with love and wealth,
but I am all too wavering and weak,

so I surrender them unto the swords,
to pardon or condemn as they see fit.
I have no more, nor less, to give than words,
and so I give them meekly, and submit.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


Countless days of 80 degree weather and pristine, blue skies. It is summer, at last. I only wish the school year understood...


The buds have burst upon the branch,
the birds returned to nest,
the sun has woken from the east
and carried to the west,

the frost has built a fluent home
beyond the sandy shore,
the wind is whispering a song
that flows without a score,

the clouds have split apart a shroud
to bare a spotless blue,
and we have risen from the dead
to see all things anew.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Blessed Burden

These last few months have seen quite a few birthday poems. This makes three, so far, and there will most likely be more to come. As much as I enjoy shopping for gifts, I take even greater joy in crafting them. I prefer made gifts, myself, and can only hope that others appreciate them as much as I do. A made gift is a gift for one, and one alone. No purchased gift, however interesting and unique, can mirror that. How can the act of searching ever compare to the act of creating? This is for Tom.

Blessed Burden

With a wandering wind and a transient stride
to travel the concrete crack,
and a hard-shell guitar case, a promise, and pride,
swung loose on your low-bent back,
you will follow the destiny written inside -
a seed of the unseen track -

with words never spoken and notes never played
and love of the solitude sent,
such a singular treasure before you, arrayed,
that life be not lost unspent,
as a million others have mindlessly strayed
so far from the way they went.

This burden is yours, and its blessed attack
will rupture and heal the rent.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Loss and Gain

It's shaping up to be a beautiful weekend, so go out there, you fortunate Portlanders, and explore the shadowy corners of your city, laid bare in this brilliant sunlight. Listen to street music, plant gardens, walk without a purpose, and, above all, be observant. The world says amazing things when you stop talking long enough to listen.

Loss and Gain

It is in giving that I take
(a selfish gift, at most),
to prove the sorry self I make
a much appealing host,

but there is sadness in this hall
that disport cannot hide;
a crowd of empty rooms that pall
and pale so, inside,

and until they are furnished well,
my winter will remain
the only friend to fill this shell
and talk of things I cannot tell,
of loss that will be gain.

Friday, May 8, 2009


Rainer Maria Rilke once wrote, "Love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you, for those who are near you are far away." The truth of this is so great - and so difficult - that it is hard to imagine anything less attainable, or less painful. Love of Christ, perhaps, but that love - I believe, and hope - is found through solitude. His words are not perfectly true of everyone, to be sure; they are the fortunate few who can love absolutely, without separation and loneliness. But, as for myself, I see no other path than complete emptiness of self, and that is a path for me alone. No one can follow me, and no one should. It is a solitary existence that is unique for everyone. We can share our existence in the world, but we can never share the true existence of our internal selves. The soul, alone, can experience its own growth, and all other people can merely hold on to the external man. This is not a pathetic existence; it is a majestic one. But, this does not stop it from being lonely. On an entirely separate note, I extend my most absolute and sincere thanks to all of you who made my birthday so wonderful. It was neither exciting, nor surprising, but simply filled with the love of real friends. I cannot begin to count my blessings.


Each moment, more and more is asked -
the glory of the growing things;
each memory, a truth unmasked;
each tenderness, a thorn that stings,

and all throughout, as small as I,
am yet receeding, smaller still,
so that in beauty I might die,
alone to live a brighter will.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Bud and the Bloom

I'm spending quite a bit of time, as the days grow more and more enchanting, walking the back-streets of Portland, notebook in hand and iPod set to Nick Drake. I watch for the little things; the things too easily missed. Or, as someone said to me, the things in between. It's impossible, however, to miss the carpet of cherry blossoms that covers the ground. Soon, of course, it will all begin to brown and fade, but, for this brief, perfect moment, it blankets everything in a glorious bed of pink.

The Bud and the Bloom

The bridal wreath's cast off again,
in pink and pearl petals on the ground,
supplanted by a simple train
of sober-shadowed leaves that open round

this little remnant of the bloom
that bears away the hours and the days,
asleep within a supple womb
and heedless of the sun's unhurried rays.

They coax it out of close repose;
oh, splendid bud, that beauty might arrest
my heart and eyes, as beauty does,
and hold, within me, life sublime and blest.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

One Flower

I've begun to grow attached to the idea of adding an extra line at the end of my final verses, as you can no doubt tell. I feel it lends a certain finality, by managing to be both outside and not outside the structure of the poem. It's a little like my own equivalent to Emily Dickinson's half-rhymes, which are often found to close her works.

One Flower

One flower from the bonny fold,
a thousand blossoms bright,
in russet red and royal gold
and all so green and slight,
was taken up in hand to hold,
as any hand, in passing purchase, might.

It was no wilder than those
that stood in close array.
It showed no choice pitch nor pose;
its crest, a common splay
of color as might cap a rose
or complement the hummingbirds at play.

What singular absurdity
that it should bear, beneath
its cultivated jubilee
and ordinary sheath,
a graceful heart of high degree
to cloister it upon the constant heath.

For yet, within, and so withdrawn,
this flower was as rare
as ever saw the early dawn
or drew the draughty air,
and now that it is plucked and gone,
I fear no fleeting bloom could be as fair.

But still, some other may arise,
one day, to take a hold
upon my open hands and eyes,
far worthier than gold,
and so I wait upon surprise
and wander through the flowers in the fold
for fitter heart, unfit though I, and old.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


A third and final poem inspired by the Odyssey. Are you bored by this trend, yet? This one is based on line 181 of book 24, the last book of the epic poem, and follows the same loose-sonnet form I used in 'Spring Morning.'


You fired bolts of groaning from your bow
and found your mark within a weaker frame,
entrenched, expectant of a violent blow,
yet unprepared the moment that it came
and caught the breast to cut it deep, just so,
and still the sighing breath that drew your aim.

So now, as soil saps the running tide
of crimson, pulse and pound, up from the cleft,
a fatal hope fast finds itself denied
and wonders what desire might be left,
when, with a touch, the waking heart has died
and left behind a shell, of life, bereft.

But yours is not the burden, nor the blame,
for truth cannot be reckoned as a theft.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Well, I'm off to St. Catherines, Ontario, to visit two old friends. In fact, two of the best people I know. I haven't seen them for two years, and I am absolutely overthrown with anticipation. But the upshot of this is that I won't be around till next Saturday, so I'm posting early this week, and, most likely, late next week. This poem was written as a birthday present (yes, another one) for a friend, currently recovering from an IED in Texas, who deserves just as much love and companionship as we can possibly give him. Whatever we have done for him, he has done more for us.


If pipes, and fish, and friends,
and all the finer things
were plentiful as winds
that catch the kestrel's wings,

or counted every star
that shifts across the sky,
so common from afar
and surfeit in supply,

then what would be the worth
of holding each in turn?
The heart cannot make mirth,
unless the heart can yearn.

Friday, April 3, 2009


Happy birthday, Little My.


A hummingbird, so flit and free,
upon the early morning glow;
what more exquisite thing could be
in God's lush grandeur here, below?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Under the Rain

Today was the perfect spring day. Rain was falling in a slow and soaking shower from a dense, grey cover of clouds. Majestic trees captured the water in a million budding leaves and let it down in rivulets through ruffled bark and moss. It was just warm enough to keep the damp from being chill. And, best of all, countless children made their way, in tow, to the morning market, dressed in the most wonderful collection of raincoats - frogs and plums, ducks and fairies, on and on - an endless and fanciful menagerie of youth.

Under the Rain

The rain, rebellious, drops down,
to make a mirror of the land
in silver puddles scattered round,
where little feet cavort, unplanned

and happy in the heady scent,
the splash of water on the brow,
to dash and dance in merriment
beneath the bent and dripping bough

that briskly works, but works in vain,
to keep the sapping soil dry,
as curled leaves collect the rain
and loose it with a pattered sigh,

and all around, fresh, fleeting shoots
unfold and open in the spray
that satisfies their thirsty roots,
so long denied and hid away.

This is the season, this the press
of life, awoken in the seed,
when somber clouds and damp duress
bring boundless joy to our need.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Into the East

Another poem inspired by the Odyssey. This time, the opening verse (in slightly modified form) is taken from lines 3-4 of book 12. Homer has an amazing ability to, at one and the same time, encapsulate the gritty and blood-soaked reality of ancient Greece in the beautiful language of nature and divinity. I restricted myself to the latter here, however, so no blood and guts this time around. This poem is also substantially longer than usual, but you can chalk that up to an extended gestation period - I've been working on it for about two weeks, now, whereas most of my poems are written in an hour or two over the course of one afternoon.

Into the East

Summering dawn has her dancing grounds there,
the sun has his rising sheen,
in the chimeric lands of the once-everywhere,
which no mortal eye has seen,

for hull cannot carry the compassing rose
on gossamer winds that fly
from ambrosial sands where the white goddess goes
and cormorants furl and cry,

and days are all one in the bright birthing bed,
as never a dusk to descend
with sable-soft coverlet crested in red;
beginning there begets no end,

and rolling of time reckons out a return,
as fresh as so many before,
to rise on the fires that endlessly burn
beneath the impregnable shore

where, youthful, the years of the old ages, fell
and free of the cindering star,
in arc through the firmament, wild and well
as ever the fields, afar,

name numberless days in Olympian song
that humans cannot harmonize;
our half-lilted note does not linger so long,
but sinks with the sundown, and dies,

and yet it remains in the land of the dawn,
where wakes every morning anew
the canticled sun, as the shadows flee on,
before the bright-carpeting dew.

Monday, March 16, 2009

One Word

It has been very difficult for me to write, lately. Part of the trouble is a lack of time; I meant to set aside an hour or two each day of Lent to write, but that has periodically fallen by the wayside in the crush of everyday. I still manage to fit in a bit, and sometimes more, here and there, but I know it is not enough, and I work to improve on that every chance I get. The real problem, however, is that I know I must write, whether or not I am inspired - this is the essence of the reality of writing, as opposed to the insipid dream of writing - but the longer I spend between productive evenings, the more difficult it becomes to make use of the time I have. And yet, however painful it becomes, and however much my muse seems to fail me, I will continue to write. I realize, now, that this is where my true desire lies, and no number of fruitless hours spent before an empty computer screen can ever measure up to the possibility of the beauty I am beginning to see. Also, it does not help that my comma key has begun acting up. Who would have thought that such a little piece of plastic could become such an insurmountable frustration? So here's a little, one-verse poem. It took far longer than it should have to write, but it says what I feel, and what more can I ask?

One Word

A single word is worth a thousandfold,
that doze upon the page in disbelief,
when labored forth in blood and sweat to hold
the quiet heart that quickens underneath.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Coffee and Conversation

I've been spending quite a bit of time in coffeeshops, lately, writing and reading and watching, and I am always struck by how long people can talk on and on about absolutely nothing. Conversations are rarely meaningful, these days, and when they are, they don't usually end in a good place. Surprisingly enough, the most interesting conversation I've heard in the past month occurred when an old bum sat down across from a business man in his late 30s, who was journaling, and began to question him about what he was writing. Eventually, the talk worked its way around to what the man was doing with his life, why he was writing, and what he really hoped to accomplish. All of this, however, came from the bum; for the business man, each answer was like pulling teeth. He neither worried about, nor cared to know, where he was going, and why. Eventually, though, the bum got the man to warm up to him and drew him out of himself in a true platonic dialogue. It was remarkable to watch, but even more remarkable to realize how happy we would all be if we thought as much about our destiny as that bum did.

Coffee and Conversation

So many words, that tumble out
and stir the rising coffee steam,
obscure a silent, wasting gout
that tears the stitches from the seam

between the body and the soul.
Each twitch expands the ragged rent,
and still the words are wrought to pull
a thread where needle never went.

As empty voices settle down,
and hope upon a hopeless way,
where conversation sets a crown
of motley fool's bells aplay,

we think to take some health from this,
from sounds that merely signify
the helplessness of life amiss,
unspoken in a speechless lie.

But still we talk, and still pretend
to hold a weak community
through conversation without end
and days endured unhappily.