A Fire Was In My Head

Two Stanzas of an Incomplete Work
31 July 2011, 6:23 pm
Filed under: Draft

I haven’t quite figured out what to do with these.  They’re two good little quatrains, but I don’t think either follows the other directly.  They don’t make up a full poem yet, to say the least.

As adults we lose our sense of play, and as an “adult society”–that is, a society which has progressed from an earlier, larva state, a central cultural myth–we seem to have lost our taste for rhyme.  Why is that?  Where does it leave us?  Do we have to press so unhaltingly “forward”?  Should we remember and savor more than we do?  I think so.

The above questions marched through my mind when I wrote the poetry below.


Lo, what’s become of our dear schooltime whim?
The words have slunk away to the new young
As light bejewels a silver jungle gym
but not the backturned children whence were flung.

The posies all have petrified to coin.
(We might improve our floorboards and our sidings,
but bored we ask and boring they rejoin
about some soon-to-be-forgotten tidings.)


Gift of God Blues
18 June 2011, 5:46 pm
Filed under: New Poetry

Gift of God Blues

Music is a gift, babe,
yeah music is a gift of God.
Music is a gift, babe,
oh yeah music is a gift of God.
And more music from your ruby lips,
well, babe, I think I’d rather not.

Beauty is a gift, babe,
yeah beauty is a gift of God.
Oh beauty is a gift, babe,
yeah it’s a precious gift of God.
Oh and all you got of beauty, babe,
is just those shiny things I bought (that you wear everyday).

Love is a gift, babe,
love is the gift of God.
Love is the gift, baby,
you know love’s the greatest gift of God.
And the love you showed me, babe,
it’s the gift I wish I never got.

Amen God.

Keep on giving.

Just spread it round the flock.

Kept Promises
23 August 2009, 2:32 pm
Filed under: New Poetry

Kept Promises

Ghastly crackles down below the wheels
sliding up the gravel drive to the old house—
the engine gives a little shake.
Wrapped as if in snow by darkness
and cool nebulae of dew
I draw no more form
than these pines I think,
the weeds and the azaleas looming,
mountains many miles north,
all of this I’ve ever known.
This night does not invite a sleep:
I have come in his car to his place
to read his books with his face.

Map Dreams
16 May 2009, 10:37 am
Filed under: Draft

Here is a meditation on spring rain.  It isn’t quite W. C. Williams.

Map Dreams

Once rain falls
for six days
and no one
on the city grid
meets my eye
or shakes my hand;
they are hunched
and I am hunched.
We keep to our hoods
and stooped shoulders,
regard our toes;
we are nowhere:
on these days
I return to my pillow
soggy and ready.
Closing my eyes
to the flood
I anticipate
a little esper:
Drifting in a dry sky
of crisscross lines
falling in a dream
to dry, dry oceans
full of hurricanes
like borgesian swans.

More Pop Lyrics
11 May 2009, 10:28 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’ve updated the American Pop Lyrics page.  Lynyrd Skynyrd, Beyoncé, Sleater-Kinney and more!

Pop Music
19 April 2009, 1:29 am
Filed under: Influence

From the time when I was very young, nothing has ever stuck with me the way popular music has. Something about the bravado of its rhythms and attitudes has always struck me as a very playful and worthwhile approach to life. Good pop music lyrics manage to speak volumes much better than any actual musty volumes can. And in my present rationale, the ability of a pop lyric to linger, both in word and melody, in the brain, repeating itself almost at random–well, this residual pleasure represents the apex of poetic ambition. If poetry is the stuff of moments, one may judge it partly in its ability to persist out of print.

In the spirit of persistence (and of fun) I offer up a list of popular music lyrics that have made it their business to squat among the furrows inside my head.  Surely this exercise does more to venerate the genre than any attempts on my part to produce originals, which could only look and sound flabby in comparison with the rich backlog of exemplars. You may find it here, or underneath the “features” link to the left.

My personal definition of “pop” is a broader one than is used by most contemporary music critics. As a rule, I use the term to signify music from the 1940s or later that has been commercially produced and recorded in a way that makes it generally available to the public and can (read: should) be sung along with. This working definition allows me to include much of the hip-hop that, for commercial and less savory reasons, in presentation is largely segregated from the rest of American music. With a few exceptions, I do not include the world of jazz, which fascinates me in a very different way. Besides, so much jazz music contains no lyrics in English or any other spoken language.

The inaugural selections come from Chuck Berry, Outkast, and Paul Simon. Enjoy.

A Poem from California
17 April 2009, 1:58 pm
Filed under: New Poetry | Tags: , , , ,

The title of this poem does not refer in any way to the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, save that I read that book recently and found the phrase apt. I wrote it in direct sunlight on yellow paper, the sun being the measure of all things in California, the ultimate force of that place. Or, rather, the sun was part of the reason and the circumstances at the poem’s conception. The other part is the person about whom it is most nearly written–I will never claim not to distort partially even the purest feelings and qualities in the translation from life to verse, so no real people will ever appear in my poetry–and to whom I have dedicated it.

Remains of the Day

for Kristen

You freckle in the light
with the surface of all plain things.
The swimming pool shimmers.
I puzzle under an open sun,
comb the freckles,
big, brown thumbs, prickles
of sun come up
to the surface to shimmer,
breathe in the light.
I puzzle of a night: they remember,
breathing in the dark,
wordless as hums,
shineless, shuffling buckles.
You and I know what
sun did or did not.