Sunday, August 29, 2010

Because You Asked about the Line Between Prose and Poetry

This is a poem I love. It is by Howard Nemerov.

Because You Asked about the Line Between Prose and Poetry

Sparrows were feeding in a freezing drizzle
That while you watched turned to pieces of snow
Riding a gradient invisible
From silver aslant to random, white, and slow.

There came a moment that you couldn’t tell.
And then they clearly flew instead of fell.


Our club theme was snakes, and these were my contributions:

Sibilance of slither:
Sunlight playing on his scales
Shining chords of light.

On thy belly, pressed as close to earth as skin can be,
a forced embrace of thy mortality
Licking dust until the day to dust thou shalt return,
Tasting ev'ry day the death that comes

And does the bitter venom of this fate
squeeze out the life still nascent in thy birth?
And as thy path twists serpentine away,
dost thou take warmth or coldness from the earth?

There is a writhing in your eyes,
coiled deep inside those constricted pupils,
that no tail of snake can match,
and I freeze in fear for the strike.

Desert Snake
Shed this skin, so dry--you're itching to be free
and feel the green caress of grass.
Wind 'round rocks and sit, silent, scale on stone;
raise your head and taste the thirsty air.

without wings, free of fingers, snake senses all

Jul 11, 2010


I do not like the way a metaphor smells
when it has sat around on the counter
so long that the meaning begins to puddle
in the bottom of the bag, and the form of it
begins to grow fuzzy with green
or orange mildew.

But before that, when it has been around
just long enough to go a bit sour
and has the tang of grapes turning
to wine on the stems; when the skin
loosens and the juicy fruitness trickles easily
down your throat, with only a little
mushy bite —

those are the metaphors that speak
of warm days in summer,
and watermelon on the table
and the phone sitting silent for hours or weeks
when you wish it wouldn't.

Those are the metaphors that give you
an uncomfortable feeling
in your stomach, but only just enough
that you notice
and remember it afterwards.

Jun 3, 2010


This week our theme was based on the poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay First Fig and Second Fig. We got quite a variety. My contributions are below.

Third Fig
"Reap what you sow," it's said, and "Love
your neighbor as yourself."
Or you can reap his crop instead
for free food on your shelf.

Fourth Fig
From goals delayed anticipate
more joy eventually;
from chances taken now, instead,
you get great memories.

Zeroth Fig
A falling fig, obedient
to force Newtonian,
will travel down until it lands
and not go up again.

May 20, 2010

Lady Time

She is too grand, too swift to see
in honest gazing, Lady Time.
At her hand we rise, decline,
and the flowing instants flee.

We try our best to euphemize,
to call her by a host of names:
by years, by weeks, by hours, by days;
pretend to conquer a smaller size.

Sitting in her wrinkled presence
frightens me with thoughts of life
that fades into a dimming twilight--
senility in slow senescence.

But Lady Time has gentle hands,
though strong and forceful they may be.
She watches, listens patiently,
and hour by hour she understands.

May 18, 2010

Twenty-One Ways of Looking at an Eye

This is a team effort by the Alta poetry club. We were writing in the mode of Wallace Stevens' "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird." I claim numbers 13-18.


Bright light reflecting on retina
Dots dance before
And glaucoma waits
For another day

A circle of black ink
In a field of white
Looks back at me

So close your eyelash catches mine
So close the veins wind like a maze
Surrounding your eyes
With fitting mystery

The plate slides,
Revealing a hole
Through which photons pour
Like sand down an hourglass
And the silver halide crystals
Remember forever

Substitute eyes
He promised he’d bring us his eyes in a box.
All 30 of them rolling and clanking into each other as he walked around the classroom.
Worse than having eyes in the back of his head. I felt sorry for him.

Make up
Pulling, curling, darkening, lining,
Covering, sort-of lying eying

Tired sunburned working man
Life as purposeful as a crow,
and traces of pain in his Eyes.

The optometrist lights up my eye
And I behold the network
Feeding my vision
My flowing blood

His pupils narrowed in the light
And his ears laid back
As he saw the glassy cat's eyes
Shine to him
Calling him to fight

A man and a woman are one
A woman and a man with wandering eyes
Soon two

In my mind I wait for spinning thoughts
To alight on this paper
Each one a decision
And Megan in my peripheral vision.

Little hearts of brown
Sprout green when it's time to plant
The potato's eyes.

Green as summer,
Green as glass,
Your eyes warm my world
And tint everything I see
Into green

Glass marbles
Rolling in a glass of water
On top of the piano
Of a blind musician.
Her students grimace, but play on

Something about gravity
Weighs down these eyes
And pulls them earthward.
Strain! Lift!
Look up and see the world

Glinting in the night,
A predator looks back
From behind the eyes
Of every cat.

Cross my heart and hope to die,
Stick a finger in my eye;
Cross my eyes and poke my heart
I swear that we will never part.

Darting back and forth
Unstable as an untrue heart

Open, close, open, close
I don't know which to prefer

My eyes water
Not with feeling
Sad and happy emotions
Are nothing to the potency
Of an onion

May 14, 2010

The Nurse

Her scrubs are three shades lighter
    than inky midnight blue
prepared for an all-nighter
    in a bold and helpful hue.
This evening her breakfast was
    a cold-cut club on rye,
courage for the next lost cause,
    and a sip of questions "Why?"
And in the bleary weary noon
    she smiles and laughs and prays
before a shift that comes too soon
    where she will do the same.

Apr 30, 2010

Yellow Blossoms

Narcissus blooms bow to themselves,
those beauties by the pond,
radiantly rippling
a lovely watery song.

Daffodils in hosts and crowds
all nod the elegance
of flowers smiling all around
and all together dance.

The sunflower looks up instead,
gazing at the sky
and following the glory of
the sun as she glides by.

Apr 27, 2010

The Tale of Princess Dragonbreath

Young Princess D, a little waif,
wandered off where it's not safe.
She chased a kitten, with giggling laughter,
into a cellar where from the rafters
strings and strings of garlic hung.
She blinked at them, then tasted one.
Before you could have blinked once more
she'd eaten clove seventy-four.
Where e're she went the castle knew it
'cause she carried garlic with her--to chew it.
The smell knocked out the Queen's prize goat
and would not wash off in the moat.
The courtiers fainted, the knights were mad
and took her to the King (her dad)
with clothespins clamped about their noses.
The sentence, just as you suppose, is
Princess D must hitch a wagon
and drive to live out with the dragons.
Their breath is just as bad as hers,
or in some cases even worse.
This fate, a life of dread and horror,
had passed on garlic-eaters before her,
and was a law throughout the land
for any whose breath you couldn't stand.
But Princess D, whom I admire,
found that it was not her desire
to trundle off, like so much meat, and
find the dragons, then be eaten.
"I shall not be a meal," she reasoned,
"for dragons, though I am well-seasoned."
She ran away, and before they caught her
she'd found a stream of running water
with which she scrubbed and rinsed and wrung
the garlic smell from off her tongue.
Her sentence was commuted then,
and none were sent to the dragons again,
for the law was changed that very day.
The kingdom's favorite tale, they say,
is this of Princess Dragonbreath
who brushed her teeth and cheated death.

Apr 16, 2010


Why doesn't the world come with labels?
They would tell you in convenient closed caption:
"Here is a pinecone,"and
"This is your dog Charlie,"and
"North is that way."
Door hinges would ,
hinting of [ominous music]
to warn of the unexplored, whispering,
"Here there be dragons."

Apr 16, 2010

Nursery Rap

I had help from my FHE sisters both in composing and performing this one

Yo! Didizzle, didizzle,
Da alley cat be jammin' on da fidizzle.
Da heifer she jumpin' so high, so high,
She jump right over da moon, da sky!
Snoop dog be laughin', say "gimme a what what"
He laughin' so hard he almost bust a gut.
Da dish be pickin' up what da spoon be layin' down,
So peace out wi' dis nursery rap P-town!

Mar 23, 2010

Blinking Together

The difference between a wink
and a blink
is a matter of arithmetic:
a single blink is a double wink,
or rather,
one wink is only half the other.

One eye alone can't blink, you see
but longs to.
So it winks away its halfway blinks
until eventually it spies
another eye
that winks back, and two become one.

Mar 14, 2010

after the valentines

Slightly wilted roses, thorns still on the stems,
in water colored like the midday fog above the Thames,
look out the kitchen window--where they can best be seen--
beside the spot she puts her ring when dishes must be cleaned.
Three chocolates are hidden on the upper pantry shelf
so the children will not find the few she saved out for herself.
It's two weeks since the holiday. He's mowing the front lawn;
she's driving from the dentist and knows that before long
they'll be reading bedtime stories, vacuuming the car,
paying bills and mopping spills before they drip too far.
The hearts and gifts of Valentines fade dully to the past,
reminders that this love and home are built of things that last.

Feb 12, 2010


The sky yawns wide in the bleary predawn grey,
and a wind tumbles out, showering the earth with scents and nonsense songs
and scattering the last few drops of dew.
Fingers of sunlight comb through the mountain pines
and brush out the trailing wisps of cloud,
while the emerging light dresses everything in confident colors.
Then the egg-yolk sun rises over cinnamon crumb peaks,
and it is time to step out into a brand new day.

Feb 12, 2010


I see you
across the room,
and your smile curls
around my thoughts.

You are as beautiful
as trees and sky
on a warm morning in April.
The kind of morning you wake up to
before sunrise
just to be sure
you won't miss it.
The kind of morning that smiles
at the whole world
and glows
with the promise of summer.

I say nothing.
Because your glowing smile
is not for me.

And I close my eyes.
Because I miss you more
when we are together.

Jan 12, 2010

Turning Point

This is the hour when seasons start to change.
The trees, until this moment bathed in summer light,
Were reaching to the sky, their leaves spread ever high
To catch the smiles of the sunfilled days.

They've shaken hands and waved to passers-by,
Strength pulsing out to liven leafy greenery,
Warm trunks unknotting cares and breathing friendship's sighs
Throughout the months of camaraderie.

Now with the frost encroaching with the dawn,
The wind begins to sap their strength,
And pulling inward color, life,
Their rasping leaves are shivered from their grasp.

And so ere long the cold will leave to us
Only these silent silhouettes,
Bare branches stark against the sky,
Reminding us by emptiness of Spring.

Nov 6, 2009


Crunch, scrunch, scuff; scitter scatter skiff
Such rich crisp sounds as I walk through Autumn leaves,
Crinkling under foot and cracking on the ground.
I can almost smell the aural potpourri

Swish, huff, shuttle; flutter shake, swoosh
Above my head, shivering together in the wind.
Rasp, rattle, hush; whistle rake, whoosh
Each acoustic color knelling in my ear.

And falling through the air, a leaf

Nov 6, 2009


When the ground crumbles beneath your feet
do you look down to catch your footing
as you scramble to place a toe, a knee, a finger,
beneath you to stop your fall?
Or do you look up to grasp at wisps of root
or cloud or star, to hold you up?
Do you pray to be supported or lifted?

And when the foot that stumbles,
the eye that searches, and the hand that grasps
are not your own,
then, with one hand stretched to heaven and one to help,
where do you look?

Oct 16, 2009


A ruin is always cracked, fallen pillars, their capitals crushed,
with great jagged breaks where some force
of time or might severed strength from stone and toppled
the stolid column.
A broken pillar, image of loss, is always carved, adorned,
and placed alone with its own rubble.

In this room, the walls are painted, decorated,
with a clock hung to mark the time,
like a water wheels spinning as the river flows past
to the sea.
But there is also a pillar, tall and white,
taking up space just where you'd like to walk,
blocking your view of the woodwork and your friend
on the other side of the room,
and holding up the roof.

Oct 16, 2009

I'm Sorry

I wish I knew
what I was sorry for.
I meant to write it down,
I said I would,
and now there is a blank,
an empty place,
where I almost knew you most:
your gift lost.
I am sorry that I forgot.

Oct 16, 2009

When I Have Fears

This week we all started with the same first line, provided by Nate, and wrote the rest of the poem. This was mine.

When I have fears that I may cease to be
I clutch the present tight into my fist
Lest loosing it to vanish in the mist
No future shall appear supporting me.

The hole I'd leave behind so empty seems
That thus with cramping fingers, aching tears
I hold and squeeze the feeling from my fears
And find myself in life, in hope, in dreams.

But clinging to receeding time in vain,
I'm battered, twisting, breathless in life's flow.
It softens only when I let it go
And learn to live in doubt and truth again.

May fears and pain and present find release
In peace and good and future when I cease.

Jun 19, 2009


The horizon, that boundary where
solid earth yields up to infinite sky,
so self-complete that could you go there
you would see more earth
and more infinity.

That horizon, framing up from down
and spreading out to the limits of your vision,
so that could you watch it forever
you would see yourself
watching infinity

Yes, this horizon, holding tight to my heart
and touching rib to rib in a double crescent
so whole that splitting smile from frown
hurts more than holding both together,
grasping for infinity.

Jun 11, 2009

Another one to read aloud

Sometimes my mind and eye forget
how wide and high the sky can get.
When all the walls are tall and wide,
befalls I'm called and stalled inside,
and though I know I go 'neath all
I don't or won't, e'en so, recall
the loud and rowdy clouds that grow
around and down the mountain's nose.
But goomy rooms yield to the round,
bright moon at noon that soon astounds,
and I remember
because today I saw
a double rainbow.

Jun 11, 2009

For Today

Thank you for friends,
for pretendings and endings,
and for hope

Thank you for tasks,
for relaxings and askings,
and for mistakes.

Thank you for songs,
for longings and dawning,
and for sighs.

Thank you for meals,
for kneelings and feelings,
and for tears.

Thank you for today
and for hope.

May 28, 2009

Starless Night

Stairs of flashing lightning climbing up into the clouds--
clouds swimming about in their own thunder,
whispering to each other
with thrums of summer rain.

May 14, 2009


When wind is winding where it will,
Through grass and tree, o'er stone and hill,
And lifts the wings of beetles high
Above the reach of earth-bound eye,
I reach and welcome life's rebirth
And feel I'm breathing with the earth.

May 14, 2009

Blank Lines

Much is made of
reading between the lines,
hearing what isn't said,
pulling meaning from the spaces
between words.

But the meaning is not in the blank,
the nothing,
the empty.

Take a page devoid of writing,
a room without a speaker.
They are truly empty.
Their between has expanded,
filling the margins,
the aisles,
till it seeps in my ears and eyes and all I have is one long

space, breathless,

It is only by surrounding,
even breaking the empty white
that it is palpable, palatable.

The frame bestows the meaning;
do not get lost in the picture
as you read between the lines.

Apr 3, 2009

Driving at Night

lane lines lead me through life,
like driving at night
talking to him, we exchange pleasantries,
passing with a courteous flip of the turn signal,
and I work and walk beside her for weeks,
accelerating in a one-way choreography.
near-disaster barrels past,
a roaring eighteen wheeler,
a wake-up call to watch the road.
the monotony of tail-lights,
winding out before my eyes,
takes most of the steering out of my hands,
and I follow the traffic,
go with the flow.
the car behind me, headlights glaring off the mirror,
is trying to get around me,
so I pull over a bit and let him by.
and you, in the blue four-door,
with out-of-state-plates,
are driving beside me for hours,
until I wonder if we have the same destination.
then green signs, and seconds later an exit ramp,
and we go our separate ways,
driving through the night.

Mar 26, 2009

To Josh, upon finding him absent to an opera on poetry night

While you were waxing operating
We at Alta were dramatic
In our woeful desperation
For poetic inspiration.
No rhymes would come; we all were wrecks
The thought itself's enough to vex.
And so until your full confession
We will suffer from depression
Desperate for poetry.
Please grant this fond wish for me!

Feb 22, 2009

February Fourteenth

Roses and Violets - poetic cliche
Red for love and Blue for truth
Colors invoked ev'ry year on this day
By the smiles of love and youth

Flowers perennial, buds ever new
Roses of the heart and eye
Beautiful Blossoms reminding of you
Violets constant as the sky

Though 'tis still winter and all here is white
Frozen 'neath deep banks of snow,
Sharing thses colors in mutual delight
Warms our hearts and flowers grow

Roses and Violets for my Valentine
Mine are yours; will you be mine?

Feb 16, 2009

Ode to Josh's Shoe

note: Josh was sitting with one leg crossed over the other so his foot was up in the air

Josh's brown shoe looking sideways at me
Three feet up and it sees so much
But the world's still sideways

Laces pulled tight holding tongue well in place
Bow hanging low, dangling to and fro
'Cause it's an important, slow job

Sole firm and stern feeling glad for a rest
From keeping his feet off the cold of the street
Through snow and ice

Sock hiding there, riding safe, soft and tall
Unseen and humble, cushioning everything
Like toes and ankles

Jan 29, 2009


Paper snowflakes drift across the window,
and icicle lights drip from the roof,
splashing white on the gravel yard,
covering it with snow.

Stockings are anxiously whispering of Santa,
but you can hardly hear it
through the patient glow of the luminarias.

Tonight, they flicker
to welcome the Christ-child to their home.

Dec 1, 2008

A Quick Note

I'm going to start off by importing all of my posts from the Alta Apartments poetry club blog and reposting them here. After that I will post my poems and drafts that I have in hard copy from those club meetings, followed by some older ones. Current writings will be interspersed as they occur, along with works by other authors that I like.

General formatting: I will put the date of the poem at the end of the post, and any attributions at the beginning.