Monday, May 25, 2015

Sonnet: The Beginning of the End

Sonnet: The Beginning of the End 

It all started with Enlightenment scholars
When they tried to fix stupid, and it will end 
With unfixed stupid wielding the mirrors 
Of the Enlightenment. Once Professor

Einstein called civilization an axe
In the hands of a psychopath. That guy
Was an Einstein about more than the shape
Of time, he knew the Adam in the atom.

Now people get so excited about technology
When it comes in the form of spaceships 
And devices to unlock the secrets

Of our souls, that when wars get going, they 
Can’t wait to see how lethal being smart can be.
Stupid, the original target, ends up enlightened!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Archilochus Makes A Striking Comparison, Or The First Lyric Poet Loves to Hate Love’s Eternal Beauty

Archilochus Makes A Striking Comparison, Or
The First Lyric Poet Loves to Hate Love’s Eternal Beauty


I won't do any Marys nor Sues
Nothing there for me to amuse

Bunghole so close to twat
Have to be a fool to lick that spot

Better my mates with poo on their rods
Than hairy holes for clots and clods


Give me a warrior’s bum
To plunge and to cum not
A maiden’s hairy bulls-eye
Dreaming lives just to die


The shield’s feathers form a wing.
Whenever a boat approaches the beach
I seem to gravitate.  I pray to be
Made a bush, a rock, a wisp of smoke

On a hill.  Ares is that kind of lover
Whose weapons you hold in your hands,
You smack and clang and crash and thrust,
You defecate, cough, ooze the beast

Of life, the caged animal altogether
An animal kept inside a cage
In the mind inside another cage
Where the gods gather for a friendly game

Of poker.  I love the sunbaked islands. 
Love’s my best trait.  True, it can be
Wounded, and doesn't belong
On the battlefield, though feels at home

In the trenches.  Let Ares’ wife growl
And bark, patrol the fence like a brave man  
Before sending boys on ships in all directions.
I love the islands, and love is something

To fight for.  Love’s my best trait.
Let’s try to keep it that way: Your shield
And mine make an angel with whom
Ares, too dreamy to be himself, allows

Peace to make space for another song.
That’s all we ask for, to belong to a song.
And if not, to become a bush, rock, tree
On a sunbaked island facing an open sea.


My shield is the real deal.  I call it love
But others, who knows how they roll?

My father had a shield, also real
Deal quality, but he lost it in Vegas

When his ship plowed a pedestrian
Riding a zebra in the middle of town.

The wine-reeking trouble they brought to us.
The debts they left on the table.

The hungry mouths they left behind
When they went off to show others

Their shields, when they set sail
On the high seas for eyes yet to see

Such glorious beauty as these men be—
O legacies they so proudly bequeath

Like litter on a beach that needs to be
Cleaned up before we can party.

My shield is love.  I wonder, does it
Float, will it rust if I bury it?  Will it sink

To the bottom or sparkle like a mirror
Broken in the desert?  Who knows?

The ones who might have told are gone
And there’s nothing left of them

But the eloquence of their rationale,
Its paraphernalia washing up on shore

Like random thoughts assault a mind
With nothing better to do with it.


What day is it today
Whose birthday
What matter became love
What scatter hate
What patter negate
All that came before
That took hold of all that was
At the waist and dropped
To sniff the motion
To whiff the vibrations
To sail the scent
Bent sea from end to end
To plunge and ride
To roll and abide
The monstrous breath
Life uses to get from here
To there to bear here
To there to fare
A fallen angel’s wares
Fashioning gears
To profit from tears
That be or not be
By the plus they see
What day is the best day
To have a birthday
A day when a new self
Taken from a shelf
Undoes the old
And then itself
And then the old mold
Once gold has to go
So says the new
Become now
The only then worth being
Since then became now
Anyhow wow see
How easy it is
To sail off
Scoffing at naught
In the night and day
Of now
That’s how
Big bangs bag themselves
For future dusted
Lives crusted
Busted by a lack of love
Like winter gloves
Left to freeze
Without fingers
Without a singer
Calling in the night
Bright with white
Moon in tune
With song
With high-pitched
Please to belong
Gone on a trip
A flip-flopping slip
Of the tongue
As it explores
The mouth
South behind doors
Whose locks
Mock the clock
In the race
Unwinnable so
Sinnable a trace
Of the hare
That took a nap
While the clock counted
The mounted world
By the second
Round and round
Over the same
Ground the same
Pound of flesh
Fresh from the sea’s
We how sweet
It be to free
The me
Inside the Oh gee
Sorry so sorry
Mr. Man
With a plan
A can of a plan
With faith
Faith in having
Faith in faith
To quake
A new surface
A new topside
Tide to ride
What a treat
A treaty
Of a treat
To beat the age
Of the sage
And let the flags
Fall like rags
On their poles
A new scroll
If we're to go
Going on


The elephant raised by a tiger
Regrets not having stripes
And jumps a mile
When he looks in the lake
So high that his brothers and sisters
Run and hide in the bamboo
Where the wind plays percussion
In a band well known by few

The elephant raised by a tiger
Has some issues
With seeing himself
He can’t imagine killing anything
Without first feeling a threat
And he has no taste for blood
Just salad and nothing but
No matter they laugh at him

The elephant raised by a tiger
Hates the color gray
Hates the size of his nose
His ears and stumpy legs
You’d think he did nothing but eat
Red meat all day long
But you’d be wrong
To think he’d ever do that

The elephant raised by a tiger
Finds himself hiding a lot
As much as he can
Not out of fear but it just feels right
Out in the open he’s too big
Out in the open he’s too much
Of an elephant too
Himself not to be in danger

The elephant raised by a tiger
Loves his mother with all his heart
Big enough to kill
The brood’s hunger yet he
Understands not a word she says
As she sharpens her claws
On his tusks shining like
Well-fingered keys on a piano

            To His Soul

Soul, don’t let them break you,
Don’t give an inch, even if
They outmatch you.  Stand to meet them
Shield to shield--in defeat you’ll rise

Exalted, taller than you ever were.
Stand your ground, you’ll never fall. 
But if you do, get over it! 
It’s not the All!  Enjoy good times

And bear the sorrows—look past hopes
And fears, and learn to see the dance
That brings passion to the years.
By then be happy to become a tree.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sunday Surprise

Sunday Surprise

On Sundays, in the summer, I would accompany my father on long walks.  We’d dress up in our best clothes and head out, hand in hand, in the direction of St. Mary’s Church.  Once there, we’d circle the church grounds which took up a whole block between Hyde and Daniels streets, while inside the church mass would be getting under way.  We’d walk around casually, just strolling along, not a care in the world, and he’d be telling me stories about Christ and the Apostles, and how the Roman FBI had an inside man who had ratted on God.  He explained how Christ eventually got nailed to a cross, and then in three days’ time he disappeared into the sky.  He told me Christ was the greatest human being that ever lived. 

Last Sunday, we met a very handsome couple walking arm and arm on the sidewalk.  My father and I stopped and stood before them, my little hand in his, and he getting ready to address them.  He shot me a quick look, then let my hand go and patted the top of my head like he might pat our dog Lucky Angel.  He smiled, and then began to speak: 

“Excuse me, Sir, please.  One minute.  Right off, please, allow me to compliment you on the elegant cut of your jacket, and that silk tie, and those shoes, outstanding shoes,” turning to the woman, he continued, “and the fine detail in your wife’s dress, as stunning as those pearls and earrings, among the best I have ever seen.” 

The woman and the man and I had our mouths open, catching flies.  When my dad started speaking, it was like the whole world reverted to slow motion, like a soundtrack from another century was playing, and the fate of the world rested on every word. 

The couple glanced at one another, then smiled my way, the “cutest thing” they had ever seen.  My father agreed, and asked as matter-of-factly as he possibly could, “How much would you take for that watch?  My son would love it”, and turning to me: “wouldn't you love to have it, son?”  I nodded. 

The gentleman smiled, as if at a clever joke.  My father spoke directly to the woman: “Those pearls would make a fantastic gift.  How much would you take for them?”  After a quick exchange of looks, the man spoke for her: “We’re not interested, thanks, have yourselves a nice day.”

My father acted like he didn’t hear them, and continued the questing, now about her bracelet—several gold chains as thin as thread,  intricately interwoven into one.  The most beautiful thing I had ever seen, and glinting in the light made it seem to be alive. 

“We have absolutely no intention of selling it, or anything else,” said the elegant man; “Nice to have met you, and your lovely son, we’ll be moving along now, please, have a nice day.”

My father shifted left, as to block his departure. “Let’s hear from the woman, let’s hear how she feels about it?” 

The woman immediately spoke up: “I agree with him.” 

At that point my father shook his head and said: “I don’t want to say this in front of my son, but I seem to have little choice.  Are you really happy with this man, this poor excuse of a man, this peacock offering nothing but trinkets, this insecure runt who carries you on his arm like a talking handbag?  Do you really believe he takes you seriously?” 

I understood nothing, and wondered if the couple felt the same way.  I noticed the woman’s face change color, from pink to gray.  “I don’t want the pearls or bracelet so much as I want the watch.  The kid wants the bracelet, what kid wouldn’t, but the watch will make him most happy.  Let’s say I buy the watch—20 bucks enough?—and you keep the pearls and bracelet?  That sounds reasonable, doesn't it?” 

My father always prided himself on being the most reasonable man in the room.  Everything had to make sense to him or he wouldn't agree to anything.  The couple traded sour faces.  “20 bucks?” the man asked, mocking my dad.  “You must be joking?  I wouldn't sell it for a thousand, and not to the likes of you.  Now, if you don’t mind, move away!”

I knew his tone would make my father angry.  I couldn't understand why the man was getting so upset.  My father’s reacted calmly, resting his eyes either at the ground or at the guy’s wrist, and scratched his chin.  With his free hand he pulled a pistol from the pocket of his jacket.  Here we go again, I thought.  Dad’s mad, now. 

“Either the watch for 20, or all for nothing.  You left me no choice.  Make a decision.”

The man, his face frozen like when your cousin tells you your parents aren't yours, lunged at my father.  The pistol went off, and the man’s wrist was suddenly strawberry jam, his hand hanging from a sliver of pink muscle, and the watch my father so badly wanted to give me suddenly returned to whence it came, gold-dust, glass, and little gears on the ground at my feet.  The woman jumped like a cat, straight up and several steps back.  The man was screaming in agony while my father and I looked on.  The woman hastily began to unsnap her jewelry; ears, neck, wrist, and stuff it all in her purse, and then she plunged its embroidered purple leather into my hands.  I was wondering where purple leather came from and thinking about purple cows, purple pigs, and purple snakes.  My father took the purse from me, and instructed me to scrunch down to pick the gold from the blood and flesh recently part of this man’s uncooperative hand.  He had never stopped screaming, and was holding his forearm just below the elbow and dancing on one foot and then the other, rocking and screaming.  My father told the woman to help her man, to get him to a hospital: “he’s likely to bleed to death on the street.”  She jumped into action; one hand on the man’s shoulder, the other gently holding up his handless arm while leading him away.

My father pocketed his pistol, and handed me back the purse.  With my hand warmly engulfed by his, we walked off in the direction of our house, where my mother waited for her Sunday surprise, which my father, in all those years, never failed to bring home.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Transcreation vs. Translation

My trancreation puts itself against John Kinsella’s translation of the French.
I’ll put mine last as is only fair.  First, Baudelaire’s sonnet:

La Musique

La musique souvent me prend comme une mer!
Vers ma pâle étoile,
Sous un plafond de brume ou dans un vaste éther,
Je mets à la voile;

La poitrine en avant et les poumons gonflés
Comme de la toile
J'escalade le dos des flots amoncelés
Que la nuit me voile;

Je sens vibrer en moi toutes les passions
D'un vaisseau qui souffre;
Le bon vent, la tempête et ses convulsions

Sur l'immense gouffre
Me bercent. D'autres fois, calme plat, grand miroir
De mon désespoir!

Kinsella’s translation of the above


Music often carries me away like a sea!
Toward my pale star,
Beneath a ceiling of mist or in a vast sky,
I cast anchor;

My chest a bowsprit and lungs billowing
Like sails,
I scale the back of waves gathering
As night drops its veil;

I feel all the passions of a stricken
Vessel vibrating inside me;
The fair wind, the tempest and its convulsions

Upon the immense gulf rock me.
At other times, becalmed, great mirror
Of my despair!

My trancreation of the above French and English

by Charles Baudelaire

Music often like the sea lifts me high
Toward my dimlit star
Under a mistthick ceiling, or beneath sky
Unending, I throw anchor;

Bowsprit-chest cresting, lungs brave
As open sails,
I surf the scales of schooling waves
As night drops its veil.

I sense all its vibrations,
A doomed vessel’s passions inside me;
Nice wind, the storm’s convulsions,

The infinite gulf’s rock-a-by. 
Otherwise, calmed, still
It shines with my despair.

Now I ask, what is more exciting, more true
To the spirit of Baudelaire but the transcreation
Of moi?

Saturday, August 20, 2011


The greatest poet of his generation
Reaches out for validation
Like a little boy saying, look, look, look
And you can hear the applause of a book

In the wind.  Assholes are born, not made.
They live in their own perpetual shade.
When others breathe deeply with sun on their lips
They lose their grip.  They grade

Themselves higher than the rest.  They test
Our capacity for forgiveness,
For empathy with the worst of the worst.
I think I have that, and it's for the best

When dealing with the greatest poet
Of his generation.  After all, he's not
Only an asshole.  Something in his verse
Redeems his petty space on earth.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Quartrain for Obama

Can't wait for Obama's memoir.
All his hopes and the way things are.
Sly, apologetic light's on the pond;
A faint ripple in a god's song.

Friday, June 3, 2011

(Sappho: translated from the 7000 plus versions in all known human languages)

He is More than a Hero

Obviously he’s with the gods, that one
Facing you, leaning over the festive table to feast
On that voice and that sweet spellbinding
Laughter of yours—that’s why the caged

Bird beats its wings against my breast
At the sight of you.  Only silence makes sense
With my tongue a sacked temple—a quick
Burning cooks me from the inside out— 

I’m blind; and my ears drone like shrine
Gongs hammer-struck.  I’m pouring sweat,
Shaking in my seat; my skin’s pale as grass.
And, it seems, this close to death.