Saturday, April 30, 2011

Life in D Major (National Poetry Month: Day 30)

"The way music is formed of
cloud and fire once actually
concrete now accidental as
half truth or as whole truth"
-From That This by Susan Howe-

First the tuning, 
a few dissonant experiments to see
how everything fits together.
Then slow, start with two days
so similar that one ties into the next,
and only the rhythm of passing hours 
measures them apart.

Move gradually into rolling weeks,
arpeggiated into days that begin 
to drive forward,
carrying you along until 
they pile on top of each other;
first two, then three, then more,
and soon you are playing great dramatic chords,
with alternating Sundays a fourth or fifth above tonic, 
chiming out in concert with your goals,
your failings, your swift recoveries.

Then in counterpoint ,a descant dances in
on tip-toes, down and up,
dodging in and out of your chords
with perfect grace notes.
Her half-steps into your life seem accidental,
marked out in staccato seconds 
and boldly marcato moments,
but your schedules always seem to 
be syncopated.

A modulation, and with falling scales
it is suddenly clear before your eyes
that everything has become natural.
Trying not to go flat, you brace against the 
supports you have, and add your melody
to the duet.
Slowly building crescendo, 
and some of the earlier elements 
no longer fit, edging the harmony with 
too minor a key,
so those drop out.

Thankfully so, for now the tempo accelerates,
and you would be tripping over 
those extra eighth-notes. There are
hours you wish could be held,
a whole chorus of fermatas rained down on
the tight harmonies that resolve so well.
But the beat moves on, and you play,
amazed at how repeated days
can form such a solid foundation for
this complex melody.
Not even sure where in the piece you are,
she sees the sign and you jump

to the coda, tying earlier themes into
one concluding stanza. Follow her through 
a glissando of happy words, then
a caesura

End of the first movement.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Red (National Poetry Month: Day 29)

Roses are red,
Some jello is, too.
And herrings in stories,
and the U of U.
Pens when you're grading,
and lobsters, her blouse,
humanitarian crosses,
and bricks in your house.
Blood, also--and rum
in a similar vein.
Weddings in China,
riding hoods, velvet cake,
Christmas tree lights,
and hands that get caught.
Letters on days
for which presents are bought.
Being in debt,
or blushing, or mad;
Exit signs, carpets,
biohazard bags.
Stop lights and checkers,
and all of the rest.
But out of these red things,
the roses are best.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Investigation (National Poetry Month: Day 28)

What happened here?
   Isn't it clear?
   He fell in love--case closed.
Fell, yes. That much is obvious.
But did he jump or was he pushed?
That's the question now.
   He left a note, that's evidence
   he jumped of his own will.
A note? Not one, but dozens. More!
Is that not odd to you?
   You think this was somehow arranged
   and that the notes are fake?
Can't be. The handwriting is his,
and witnesses attest that he
delivered them himself.
   You think perhaps he was coerced?
   That might make sense of why he wrote
   such awful poetry.
But then he might have simply lacked
the talent for such things.
   What about the woman who
   received the notes, and visits too?
   Did you question her?
She knew him well and should have seen
the signs before it happened, but
she claims to be just as surprised
as everybody else.
   Is it true that she was there
   when the fall occurred?
She was, and so for now she is
prime suspect in this case.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

To Kelley (National Poetry Month: Day 27)

Yesterday you were the wind to me,
a joyful racing rushing to and fro.
Each passing scent, each touch, each gentle breeze
set thoughts a-flutter, made excitement grow.

Today you are still waters, calm and deep,
a peaceful happiness both strong and slow.
A confidence that in you I'm complete
envelopes me and rich o'er-fills my soul.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Songbird Shadorma (National Poetry Month: Day 26)

breathing blue,
lungs bursting with sky
and new dawn,
brown thrush sings--
so thirsty for the morning
he might drink it all.


The shadorma is a six-lined poems with the syllable counts of 3/5/3/3/7/5. Do you want to read more shadorma? My favorites from that page are The Peculiar Mosquito by K. Thomas Slesarik and Shadorma by Heidi Mordhorst. When you're done reading, go ahead and explore the rest of the site. It is an excellent poetry blog called The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Recipe: Mud Pie (National Poetry Month: Day 25)

First you need a stick for stirring,
  sturdy but not over-thick.
Test by listening to how
  it sounds when fencing with a rock
or spinning in the air: faWoosh!

Next a brother who will help
  turn on the hose in the right place.
Strong and smart best friend, somehow
  he never seems to be the one
who gets in trouble. spaLoosh!

The stick will break, so use your feet
  to mix the mud just right--
until it gloops onto your shirt
  when you squeeze your fingers tight.
Test it against the wall: kerSplot!

If it sticks it's perfect but
  keep testing to make extra sure.
When you're ready form it up
  into a dozen flattened balls.
Knead them with the stick. blaWhop!


This poem was inspired by a prompt from the Lantern Review blog.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

An Angel's Sonnet (National Poetry Month: Day 24)

With weary step you make your mournful way
To weep again together o'er your Lord,
To cleanse and wrap his body, then to pray
And sing a parting hymn in anguished chords.
In this dim light, for sun has yet to dawn,
'Tis hard to see at first with tearful eyes:
The stone that once had sealed the grave is gone!
Alarm o'erflows your hearts with fearful cries.
Fear not, beloved! Come, and see inside.
Why look ye for the living 'midst the dead?
I know that ye seek Jesus, crucified;
He is not here, but risen as he said!
Tell all the world Christ lives! He reigns above
And soon will come to visit you in love.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Mother's Sonnet (National Poetry Month: Day 23)

How are you gone to where I cannot come?
Lost beyond doors unassailable
Nor e'en to be approached, my blessed son;
The way is hedged-up, guarded, terrible!
The watch is fixed and sleepless day and night.
It will admit no other to come near;
The seal is set, the stone secure and tight,
Preventing those who'll not be held by fear.
But even could I pass beyond those portals
I could but cold hands and cheeks caress
For you are passed beyond the reach of mortals-
I felt the nails and spear in my own flesh.
As son of God grief could have passed you o'er
But now, dear son, I ne'er shall see you more!


Today is the day of mourning that followed Black Friday.
I chose a sonnet because it is the traditional form for an expression of love, and also because today (April 23) is recognized as the birthday of William Shakespeare. The Shakespearean sonnet (of which this is an example) is the most common in English. You can read the Bard's orginals here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Idyllic (National Poetry Month: Day 22)

Plato said we look at trees
and see mere shadows of the TREE
ideal and metaphysical
that trees may well resemble but
never can be truly like.

He did not know that love can turn
the shadow into truth.
My tree becomes imbued with life,
perfection just as pure
as any TREE you care to dream
in ideal abstract form.

So when I say you're beautiful,
life's best in every way,
it's not just what I see but how
you very truly are.
And when I hold your hand I touch
PERFECTION's Form revealed,
for you, my love, are always and
forever my ideal.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Shell (National Poetry Month: Day 21)

She scoots along, sliding 
through the crowd like 
the sly snail who 
is forever in half 
ready at an instant to 
into his portable bunker.
Ears and eyes, tail inside,
he presents an impassive
and inscrutable face.
He is safe
in a dangerous world.

Her shell, too, is made 
of spiral, smooth white
mixed with bitter, 
brittle notes.
Behind her earbuds she 
is unassailable.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ergo Sum (National Poetry Month: Day 20)

If you would be a speaker of good verse,
you must, for at least one time in your life,
     dactyl the verse in all things.
     I dactyl and therefore I speak!
I speak, and so iamb.
  -Renes Decartes
   (loosely translated from the original)


You may not know (I didn't) that every day Garrison Keillor shares a poem on NPR. You can read or listen to past poems at 
On Monday he read one by Marge Piercy titled Where Dreams Come From that I recommend for you.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Postlude to a Promise (National Poetry Month: Day 19)

Twelve villages rebuilt at last
upon the scorched and blackened ground
now thrive where once the scars were worst.
Memory of painful past
is softened by the blessed sounds
of life renewed and slow rebirth.

As winter presses from the soil
the roots and knots, the endless starts
and stops of seedlings trying to grow,
so too do passing seasons toil,
massaging fear from grieving hearts
until at last they let it go.

And so this loved and lovely queen,
whose eyes great seas of tears have spilt
at thought of claws and dragon's guile,
has come at last to feel and be
at home in smoothly tailored silk,
in honeysuckle crowns, in smiles.

The love and health, the joy and mirth,
are miracles she has bestowed
in the kingdom's days of trial.

They have been kept . . . the promises of princesses.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Promise the Fourth (National Poetry Month: Day 18)

Hush, dear, hush. I'll dry your tears.
I'll hold you close and share your fears.

I shall not die - these wounds are light.
I need nothing but the sight
of you. Oh, sweet, I've missed you so!
When morning comes I'll take you home.

Yes, the horrid beast is slain -
you needn't look on it again.
Its body lies there where it fell.
Hush, dear, hush! All will be well.

Oh? How could I be less than brave?
I had a daughter here to save.
Remember this, for this is true:
Love conquers all. And I love you!

Such, then, was given the very best
true promise to a dear princess.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Promise the Third (National Poetry Month: Day 17)

Beneath bleached clouds that listless drift
dry as the earth and near as stiff,
three years she's lived upon this cliff
   the color of bones.
The girl no longer winces when
the dragon's scales brush on her skin.
Its breath blows through her hair so thin;
   gives never a moan.
She hardly notices the stench
in which she and her world are drenched
and which for months had made her retch
   and kick the white stones.
A thousand times she slowly crept
away while the foul dragon slept;
it caught her even when she leapt,
   from precipice thrown.  
She does not dream; dreams are too weak.
Nor does she hope; hope, too, is bleak.
But dreamless, hopeless, yet she speaks
   in darkness, alone.
Someday, someday I will be clean.
Somehow, somehow I will be free.
Sometime, sometime I will not be so very hungry.
   she softly intones.

Whatever occurs,
these words,
they are hers.
   The words are her own
lost promises of princesses...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Promise the Second (National Poetry Month: Day 16)

Hear ye, hear ye, criers cry,
proclaiming far and wide,
Let it be known in the King's name
announced on every side:
We summon all Our subjects who
hold this Our kingdom dear
to gird themselves, to take up arms
and banish every fear.
A fortnight hence commemorates
the second passing year
since the horrid eve on which
Our daughter disappeared.
With passion and great eloquence
the heralds then retell
the mournful tale of tragic loss
this populace knows well.
'Tis not the princess only who
has not returned again;
the dragon ate each rescuer,
the kingdom's bravest men.
Few seek her now, for all have failed
as prophecy foretold,
yet still there's hope for one who is
strong, noble, good, and bold.
The woman who pronounced her fate
when she was nine days old
declared she'd one day rule as queen:
to this her father holds.
He promises great titles, wealth,
a wagon filled with gold,
the very crown from off his head:
there's nothing he'll withhold.
The proclamation being read
throughout the mourning land
reminds all that the man who saves
the princess wins her hand.
And so a few more haggard souls
head off to their sad fate.
They won't know who's the chosen one
until it's far too late.
Such things are hard for one to see
and harder to relate;
it's almost as though this foul beast
were keeping her as bait.
Even when facing dragon fire
and fear that it creates,
few men are there who can deny
conscience and king's dictates.
Fewer still will not be lured
by fame and all that is,
like beauty, wealth, glory or praise,
promised of princesses. . .

Friday, April 15, 2011

Promise the First (National Poetry Month: Day 15)

Nine days past, in early morn
this daughter of a king was born
Now is the time for augury,
for second sight and prophecy.
She's come to have her fortune told,
to learn just what her future holds.

Into this broth of herbs and bone,
a teardrop and an eyelash throw.
Now add honeysuckle flowers,
candle wax that watched for hours
with nursemaids who strict vigil kept
in the chamber where she slept.

Breath of queen, then breath of king,
and now the future can be seen:
clever, happy as a child
in temperament not over-mild;
a sickness in her seventh year,
but she'll recover, never fear.

She'll grow in beauty day by day,
be regal, strong in every way.
Men shall come from many lands
in hopes of winning her fair hand.
For years they'll seek her; all shall fail--
one noble man at last prevail.

She'll save her people when she's queen,
grown wise and strong from where she's been.
Sorrow she will find in full
but joy shall doubly overflow.
These are the things my magic says,
fair promises of princesses. . .

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Prelude to a Promise (National Poetry Month: Day 14)

Within the night a shadow crawls
across the face of wooded hills
and launches as a ship would do
from shore to bay, then out to sea.

No moonlight casts this silhouette
for stars alone look down tonight
upon the empty black expanse
from which no constellation shines.

The shadow sinks into the deep,
doubly drowned in dark'ning gloom,
for clouds grow thick and shroud the sky
extinguishing the feeble light.

Wet mist tossed up from jagged waves
is blasted skyward 'til it meets
a horde of droplets hurtling down,
shrieking in the ragged night.

Wind screams with rising fury as
the squall becomes a hurricane
that rages on the open sea
and beats its fists on all in reach.

Yet through the hail, the bludgeoning,
a presence mingles with the clouds
and forges on through wet and storm
unshaken by such violent hate.

Dark wings of leather taut as tents
stretch wide against the thund'ring rain,
beating back against the wind
and conq'ring even this dark foe.

Into slit nostrils comes a scent
borne by a straying, wayward breeze
who, bearing fragile thoughts of home,
was press-ganged to this awful war.

It smells of smoothly tailored silk,
of honeysuckle crowns, of smiles.
A tongue of flame licks at the night
and gleams in hungry, shrewd black eyes.

The dragon flies for leagues unseen
unfailing in its long pursuit
for in those scents it tastes again
sweet promises of princesses. . .

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dalinar (National Poetry Month: Day 13)

He is weak,
a man who thinks
the world relies on him.
To be saved
he obeys
these words and teachings,
a forgotten king.
This man may become
our only hope, though
it is
so difficult to see.
Remember this truth:
Strength before weakness!
Remember this truth,
so difficult to see.
It is
our only hope (though
this man may become
a forgotten king)--
these words and teachings
he obeys.
To be saved,
the world relies on him:
a man who thinks
he is weak.


This poetic form, an adaptation of the reverso, is particularly appropriate for its topic. The poem is a reference to Dalinar, a character from Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings. Dalinar lives in a world where palindromic repetitions are a fundamentally valued aesthetic.

For true reverso (in which the two halves are separate poems rather than concatenated as I've done here), read Mirror Mirror by Marilyn Singer, or check out this site.

The reverso is distinct from the palindrome poem, in which the words, not the lines, read the same in reverse. Some examples of palindrome poetry can be seen here or here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Okra (National Poetry Month: Day 12)

Green and gummy.
Not much flavor either.
Fried? Stir-fried? Curried? Succotashed?
I'll pass.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Harmony (National Poetry Month: Day 11)

The stars are shining brightly in the sky,
still winking at each other in the night.
As comfortable hours drift slowly by
they reach through darkness, inner fire alight.

Still winking at each other in the night
two lovers sit outside beneath the trees.
They reach through darkness, inner fire alight;
they smile and listen to each other breathe.

Two lovers sit outside beneath the trees.
As dawn seeps slow before the coming sun
they smile and listen to each other breathe
soft words of hope and joy and day begun.

As dawn seeps slow before the coming sun
new warmth awakens. Voice and light within
soft words of hope and joy and day begun
fill up the sky and echo on the wind.

New warmth awakens voice and light within
dark thunderheads that gather tight in crowds,
fill up the sky and echo on the wind.
The sun grows dim and hides within the clouds.

Dark thunderheads that gather tight in crowds
Shout thunder and glare lightning carelessly.
The sun grows dim and hides. Within the clouds
a mist of tears grows heavy but unseen.

Shout thunder and glare lightning! Carelessly
the light of sun and stars is lost and still
a mist of tears grows heavy. But, unseen
before, rain falls and all is cold and chill.

The light of sun and stars is lost. And still,
an inner fire remains by which to see:
before rain falls and all is cold and chill,
there is yet time to make apology.

An inner fire remains by which to see
there's hope in tear-washed eyes longing for growth.
There is yet time to make apology;
there's time to clear the clouds around them both.

There's hope in tear-washed eyes longing for growth,
so hand in hand they talk and smile because
there's time to clear the clouds around them both.
They laugh at silly things each says or does.

So hand in hand they talk and smile because
the stars are shining brightly in the sky.
They laugh at silly things each says or does
as comfortable hours drift slowly by.


This is a poetic form called the pantoum. I've encountered them before, but this is my first attempt at writing one myself. (A pantoum does not have to follow a rhyme scheme, even though I chose to here. It would have been easier to write without that added restriction.)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Courage (National Poetry Month: Day 10)

Spring gives me hope, for spring is courage.

Spring is not joy and warmth.
Spring is not beauty and color.
Spring is not tenderness and singing birds.
Spring is not weekend picnics and falling in love.
Spring is not blossoming flowers and lengthening sunlight.

What is spring?
Spring is new leaves.
Not a few leaves, or even hundreds,
but thousands upon thousands.
Leaves adorning every tip
of every twig of every stem of every branch.
Leaves growing beside twisted knots,
beside scarred wood, beside wrinkled bark, beside broken limbs.

These are wrinkled trees, older than memory,
than generations, than buildings, than nations.
Knotted trees that have seen enough years to know
that summer is short, that autumn will come,
that their leaves will always fall
dry and lifeless and brown.
Broken trees that know winter is cold,
is dark, is long, is inevitable.
Scarred trees that know their branches will be left bare,
left empty, left bereaved, left once again alone.
And yet in spring these trees sprout leaves,
sprout leaves, sprout leaves, sprout leaves.
And yet these trees sprout leaves!

Spring gives me hope, for spring is courage.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

a time for gifts (National Poetry Month: Day 9)

Spring is a time for gifts, a time
when seeds lift high their tender sprouting leaves
in selfless offering to the wide sky
and say, this is my best, my all;
fed from the strength i stored
all winter long

The wind is laden thick with gifts of song
from birds that other times keep still
but now reveal a hidden purse of notes.
it is not much, they say,
but here. you need this more than i

Between your house and mine you've planted bulbs
and flagstones in the soil.
The stones, perhaps, are gifts for careful feet,
or else for flowers trying hard to grow.
Your home is full of laughter, friends,
and children who bring gifts they wrap
so carefully in ten small fingers.
There's little left to give.
And so I carry two small chairs outside
and hang a feeder for the hummingbirds.
thank you, I hear you say.
this place that you have made - 
it is good


This is a companion poem to a time for truth from November.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Storm Breaks (National Poetry Month: Day 8)

Lightning pillars crack.
Thunder crumbles, skylines shudder,
trestles crumple. Sheets of wind
rip free of raindrop riveting,
and clouds come crashing down.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

April Evening (National Poetry Month: Day 7)

open, screenless,
let in on warm night air
the ceaseless sound of cicadas


This form of poetry, the cinquain, was developed by Adelaide Crapsey in the early 1900s. has a collection of her poems, and links to more by her and other poets. My favorites on that page are November Night and Amaze.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Windows to the Soul (National Poetry Month: Day 6)

The choice of glazing
will define a building's character.
Some box-like offices are set
with regular, rectangular, unimaginative glass
whose only purpose is to remind
that a world exists somewhere outside.
Bay windows overlooking greenery
invite a restful afternoon,
telling those without and in
to value both beauty and time to breathe.
Skylights in a vaulted ceiling say
We dine happily here.
An oriel gives promise that a princess lives within.
A dormer is economical; its hopes are more restrained.
Some buildings have huge picture windows,
or even an entire, extravagant wall of clear glass.
Others have portholes, casements, fanlights,
or a hundred other types of aperture.

Think what it says of our Architect
that we each bear, above our life-breath's door,
a transom crowned with two,
yes, two!
perfect rose windows.
Most glorious of glass, reserved for cathedrals.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Crescendo (National Poetry Month: Day 5)

Stars mill about in subdued conversation
pausing to wink as they speak over drinks.
Glasses and laughter comingle together
and glittering light twinkles in their champagne.
The great luminary they wait for delays,
preparing his august appearance tonight.
A hush stills the crowd in advance of his coming
and all watch the carpeted stair he will climb.
Announced by his glowing attendants, he's seen!
A crescent of smile slowly rises to view.
Then, stately advancing, he enters the hall
and graces it with his full presence at last.
So noble he stands! So great and so grand!
The stars join in bright, meteoric applause,
and usher him into the welcoming throng
'mid the coattails of comets and spiraling gowns.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Winding (National Poetry Month: Day 4)

Out west the roads shoot straight and true
like sunlight through the day.
The land's as smooth as evening sky,
wide as the milky way.

The roads in Georgia twist and swerve
'round hills and over bends.
You never see past that next curve,
much less your journey's end.

But what I once thought limiting-
those hundred thousand trees-
I've now seen dressed in shades of Spring,
in variegated greens!

Such wonder! when at every turn
a forest comes in view
that with each winding, weaving step
seems to be birthed anew.

A desert road is beautiful
with stunning, open space.
Its grandeur is of sunsets, stars, 
horizons to be chased.

But life is lived much closer here
with beauty all around;
a path too straight can't find the things
close by that should be found.

Were I a road in Georgia's hills
I too would twine about
to see the trees' green tapestry
link hills and streams and clouds.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Stormcrowds (National Poetry Month: Day 3)

Hello there, please don't mind
me pressed against your side
beneath this cafe awning.

It's fun, since you're so pleasant,
to have another present
who recently was jogging.

So many passers-by
take refuge from the sky
and push us close together.

Who knew this many folk 
unhappily half-soaked
could hide here from the weather?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Thunderstorm (National Poetry Month: Day 2)

Gray tour buses pause,
   swing wide their doors.
Their passengers crowd out,
   pour down the steps,
   press past each other,
   murmur in the dark.
Flashbulbs pop,
   illuminate the night,
and everybody cheers.


Two more links for your #poemaday benefit:

  • Robert Brewer at Poetic Asides is posting daily poetry prompts along with his poem. Submit your 5 best at the end of the month to his contest.
  • Big Tent Poetry posts poetry prompts every Monday and provides a place to share your works.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Poems (National Poetry Month: Day 1)

Roses are red,
Violets are blue
April Fool's poems
Don't have to rhyme.


The first day of April each year
is a time that all pranksters should fear.
Their jokes, since expected,
are quickly detected,
and the struggle for laughs is severe.


I discovered that Serena of is hosting a blog tour for National Poetry Month this year. In addition to blogs participating in #poemaday, the tour will include reviews of poets and poetry collections. She also keeps a "MrLinky" url collection for sites participating in the tour. I encourage you to explore some of the creative space out there.