“Six – Sly Boots”


Sics his brute dog, Sly Boots does, and he smiles
when all the children scream and run about.
Mails the bill, Sly Boots does, and he grins
when he gets both the goods and money back.
Sly Boots, the killer, spreads his webs and whiles,
and when the fly is trapped, oh, how he’ll shout.
Sly Boots, the temptress, spreads her other things
and captures those whose needs assuage her lack.

Oh, so many traps to keep us worried.
Oh, so many ways to pin a lie.
Oh, so little need for all the poison.
So much need for living life unhurried.

Sly Boots, Sly Boots, please, let your anger die.
Its nicer out here with us in the sun.

“Five – Poetry. Carrying On”


Five centuries ago, there was no Bill
Shakespeare. Cervantes. No Voltaire. Moliere.
Chaz Dickens hadn’t breathed and Ariel
had not left Shelley’s corpse in Leghorn Bay.
Lord Byron’s foot was not the club, his will,
stomping jealousy into the fair.
Elizabeth and Robert weren’t ‘The Swell
and Portuguese’ that we still praise today.

Now they’ve all come and gone and left behind
just scraps of what they said, pinned to the page.
One day I’ll follow them. What will I leave?
Just pages of my own, unloved, unsigned?

I hope to leave great stories. Plays to stage.
Words for future authors to quote and thieve.

“Four – Words and a Poet”


For almost all my life, I’ve known that words
were thick like leaves upon the cottonwood,
like starling feathers on a wheeling flock,
flashes on the water, glimpsed through the clouds.
For just as long, they’ve hidden like hedge birds.
I’ve had to chase them out, and beat them good
and hard with graphite sticks, with rope and rock,
to keep them from dispersing through the crowds.

But have you, though, ever felt them when they’re right?
Have you felt them in your bones or felt them break
every heart you have, then heal them back
into one heart that beats hard as you write?

That’s why I gather words and why I take
my bones and hearts and strengthen what words lack.

“Three – Choose Three Important Things”

– A Lesson –
A New Parable of the Buddha


Three mornings in a row, the Buddha sat
and sipped his tea beneath the banyan tree.
He waited for the coming of the thought
that would define this way, this life. What’s more,
his expectation was that he would know
not just the answers but the questions that
had baffled men for centuries. You see
he wasn’t born with wisdom. He was not.

But nothing came and though his mind, a store
of eagerness, cried out, he’d naught to show.
Just then a child sat by him with a toy,
Though the child smiled wide, the toy was broken.

He sat it in the sage’s lap and said,
“The only questions are the words unspoken.”


“Two – Machines of Night”


A Lust Letter – For My Dulcinea


To my most darling, Dearest, morning’s come
and all the work of night has passed away
into its jaws. The earnest laws of man
are moving on the streets and greet our dreams
with clatter and with clash. Machinery’s dumb,
ridiculous and awkward steel ballet
will sweep us up, all of us, in the span
of sun’s day, but I swear, by all its beams:

Oh, when the sun shall pass away today,
and when the moon shall rise, when falls the tide.
Oh, when the pulse of day becomes the heat
igniting in the dark, the spark, I’ll say,

“Fear not, mi corazon, man’s day has lied.
The machineries of night are far more sweet.”

“One – The Sorrow of a God”

One morning, Zeus sat on his mountain throne
and pondered what would happen if men quit
coming to the oracle, if they stopped
fearing what they’d become if gods’ wrath came.
He paused as they talked less with him alone
and more with one another as they’d sit
in fields grown thick with plenty. His tears dropped
like stones and winter snow, much to his shame.
“But haven’t I brought everything you craved,”
his voice, like thunder, rolled across the land,
“and given it to you!?  Where are you now?
I should have kept you mute!  Kept you enslaved!”
A fat man in his field held up his hand,
“Is that a storm I hear? I’ll rest the plough.”


“Over the top. Just Before the Off.”

6:00 A.M., Mountain Standard Time, West Salton Street, Larimer County, Colorado

The crows aren’t even up yet. But I am. With flits and drips and drops of poetry chasing each other around me brain pan, I’m up. The kettle is on, there’s Bvumbwe treasure tea in the brown betty, the eggy-wegs are boiling, lomticks of toast and old butter are on the counter, my pens are filled and primed. I’m up and ready to write for twelve hours, straight.

I was going to say twelve straight hours but this being the 21st century, I was pretty sure someone would assume I was gloating about being straight. Since, besides being well over ninety percent hetero, I’m also caucasian, middle-aged, male, happily Catholic, and I still use the classic pronouns, I already have enough to point fingers at. So hours, straight, it is. I don’t like to be tooooo divisive. (I’m poking fun and cracking wise. You got that, right?)

I haven’t set any trails for my poems to follow. I haven’t stocked up on first lines or prompts. I haven’t cheated and memorized poems not yet written down. In fact, I haven’t written a single verse since the acceptance e-mail arrived for this endeavor. There’s naught waiting, fresh, clean, and safe, just around my mental corner. The vista is empty. But the light is on the horizon and the sounds are rising. Can’t wait to see and hear what they’ll be like today. I always seem to write best if I let the poems surprise me, ie:

“Peekaboo, peekaboo, rhymes for you,” squeaked the poem.
“GASP!” shouted the poet.

Since I’m not required to post a perfectly edited, easily understood, full-length ode for each hour, and since a limerick or an haiku is acceptable, and forms I’m proficient in, I’m certain I’ll finish. But I want to write the best verses I can and if I start off by encapsulating expectations in little baubles of verbal concrete, that won’t happen. Will I compose a sonnet the equal of Barrett Browning’s or Donne’s? Not likely. But there should be at least a sonnet or two. I can’t imagine that I’ll have time for a sestina or a villanelle, but sonnets should be doable. There should be a little modern verse and maybe some staccato rhyme. I do enjoy staccato rhyme.

This is the first time I will have put my poetry up where other poets, people who aren’t my friends and have no reason to kiss my ass, can see it. I’ve entered contests locally but I’ve never put my words where actual poetic peers can see them. This is a huge step for me. It’s only recently that I’ve begun to accept that I really am a poet. For years I’ve referred to other writers as ‘real’ poets and myself as a scribbler and a hack. Until a ‘real’ poet read my words and told me, in no uncertain terms, that I needed to knock it off and admit that I’ve joined the club, I’ve considered myself a joke as a writer. That’s no longer the case. I’ve finally started to take myself seriously. This is the first outdoor step on that path.

This year I’ve entered only the half-marathon. I have to work the Sunday morning following and a whole marathon would have meant only an hour’s sleep before heading in to the hooch parlor to sling marys and mimosas for the hangover crowd. If it goes well this year, and if I enjoy it as much as I hope I do, I’ll take that day off next year and write straight through. All twenty-four. That’s a challenge I’d like to face. For now though, for someone as hyper self-critical as myself, twelve hours will be rewarding/painful enough. It’ll reveal enough.

Speaking of revealing, this being the 21st century, and my friends who have access to this page this morning thanks to social media and the old ‘copy/paste’ being the assumptive/snoopy types that they are, I’ll bet some of you’re still trying to figure out what I meant by “well over ninety percent hetero” aren’t you?

You naughty beasts you. Remember me? The celibate introvert who has absolutely no social life and who can keep any personal secret he wants by telling you everything else until you think you know everything about him? I guarantee you that it will take fighting your way through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered to the castle beyond the goblin city for you to ever find out the true meaning of that statement.

A poet has secrets, especially a romantic poet. I keep mine in that castle. So either gird up and step into the labyrinth OR, just sit back and forget that I said what I did because it’s obviously a red herring designed to make you come back to see if I reveal anything in these twelve poems.

Or is it?

To paraphrase Hoggle, “You know your problem? You take too many things for granted. Take this Labyrinth: even if you get to the centre, you’ll never get out again.”

My labyrinth is dangerous. Trust me. There are things about me you can take for granted. I’m just not going to tell you what they are until you reach the gate. If you reach the gate. My poems are as close as most of you will ever get.

Ahhhhhh, 7 o’clock draws on apace. Time to stop rambling and babbling and, dare I say it, titillating, although I do enjoy them so.  There are paper chargers to mount, pen-lances to couch, and verses to best in the lists. The hunt is afoot and I am away! Let the writing commence! Tally-ho~!

A First Post, and Hello.

Good evening.  It’s an interesting day for me to be making new acquaintances.  I’ve spent the afternoon bar-tending for the memorial of an old friend.  Cycle-of-life and all that, I guess.  As they leave, so do they enter.

The e-mail regarding this endeavor encouraged me to make an introductory post to familiarize myself with the system.  My own blog is on Blogger so there’s certainly a learning curve but it seems pretty intuitive, so far.

The aforementioned epistle also encouraged me to let you know a little about myself.  To quote Doctor Evil, “Very well.  Where do I begin?”

Part of me wants to answer jokingly with something clever but I’ve been trying to crawl out of my introvert’s shell recently and I believe I’ll try being honest.  Honesty is good, yes?

I’m a native of Minden, Nebraska and I’ve Iived in several places in the wonderful state.  I have a fondness for ranch country and one of my passions is the Nebraska Sandhills.  I never tire of them.  If I feel the need to reconnect with who I am or to slough off something unfortunate that has been thrust upon my psyche, a trip to the Sandhills and I’m fine.  The only place in the world that I feel as passionate about is Rio Arriba Couny, New Mexico.  Must be a desert thing.

I’ve also lived as a homeless vagabond in Paris and Heidelberg, so my life hasn’t been all tumbleweeds and branding irons.  I’m a former auto mechanic. I’ve run kitchens and fed hundreds at a time.  I ran a kitchen for the Salvation Army and fed their summer camps and day camps.  Through them, I taught children to cook.  I lived on-site and worked in a kitchen in an assisted living facility for the mentally ill.  Although not a resident, I sometimes didn’t leave for weeks at a time.  My companions being, for the most part, schizophrenic or paranoid or bi-polar.  Once upon a time I found myself bagging groceries for tips.  No wages.  Just tips.  I’ve been a Benedictine monk hopeful.  I never made the vows but I’ve lived in two monasteries and spent time attending Mass in two more.  I still go on retreat to one of my former homes.  It’s been a wild life and I’m happy to have gotten this far, still vertical and breathing.

With the exception of a span of just over three years, between 2009 and 2012, and parts of 2007, 2008, and 2009, when I was living either in those monasteries or Maryland, I’ve been at home on Fort Collins, Colorado.  It’s a fascinating town that may have finally grown too big and pushy for this old farm kid.  Or maybe I’ve just grown too old for such a young and vibrant place.  My 52nd birthday was yesterday, so that may be the case.  I’m told you’re only as young as you feel and it doesn’t seem that ‘old’ has reached all of my bones yet.  Perhaps it’s because I work with a crowd of youngsters who never let me slow down long enough to feel my age.  Or maybe it’s the knowledge that I’ve just gotten to be twice as old as my father the last age my father attained in life.  Either way, I’m still usually found in sandals and hoodies and short pants, even in three feet of snow.  I’m a kid at heart, complete with cool bicycles and toy ray guns.

I’m a poet because I love to be.  I wrote as a young man but in the late 1980s I gathered everything together and slowly fed it to a smoldering barbecue grate.  I started writing again when I was wandering around Europe in the early 1990s.  Little scraps of writing happened periodically until about 2007, when I realized that I wasn’t writing honestly.  Certain that I couldn’t and never would, I wrapped everything: bar napkins and coasters; scraps of brown grocery bags; the backs of receipts, etc.; in Hefty bags and duct tape, including my European notebooks, took the bundle to the landfill, tossed it in front of the dozer, and watched it go under the blade.  That pile of scribbles won’t be seen again until Judgment Day.  Not even then, if I can help it.

I swore that I would never write again.  Not being ‘good enough’ was too much of a disappointment.

In 2011, a friend who knew I enjoyed poetry and had tried my hand at it ‘once-upon-a-time’ asked if I could help him write a love poem for his girlfriend.  I gave him some pointers, which included advising him of the use of random sentences, my own example being, “With the egg money, I bought a kite.”  He asked if I could write that poem and I said that I thought I could.  When I came back to him the next day, he had decided that poetry was ‘too hard’ and he was going to try something else to impress his girl.  I, on the other hand, had this:



With the egg money I bought a kite,
strong and flat,
that would stand on its tail and

howl at the moon.

With gut twine and hope I flew it at night;
and the strength of its heart poked holes in the
white-soft pupil of the blind lunar eye.
With a thrill and a cry, I felt its tug,
I knew not where,
and it danced out of sight and let me believe
that it was high in the wind and beyond;
that it was the jewel of my wandering dreams

cast up from the far volcano of sleep.

We were awake in the night, my kite and I.
With a broad knife and bold I severed the twine

that spread between the moon and my sighs.

As a bark high and wide my kite leapt
and it flew away on the tide of the wind;

swinging not on gut twine but on a rope of random stars.

And soft down we fell in the dark,
my kite and me.
With the dawn came the cock and the crow
and the hen and the egg and the clutch

and I stole the hen’s new eggs . . .

and I sold them . . .

And with the other egg money . . .

I bought a kite.

After composing it, I sat down with a pen and paper every day, for the rest of the summer, and for over seventy days, I was able to scribble at least one poem a day.  Not all of them were anything readable, but I was enjoying their composition.  For the six years since then, the poetic well has sustained me.  Sometimes to a greater degree, and sometimes to a lesser, but poetry is increasingly a real source of sustenance.  Food for the soul.

–  One side note –  I recently entered ‘The Other Eggs’ in a bards battle and it placed in the top ten, out of over a hundred pieces submitted.  I’ve entered the same contest four times in five years, eight poems total, and placed six of them in the top ten.  I’ve never won but twice I’ve had both of my entries judged as Top Ten Finalists.  To my way of thinking two in the ten is better than one at the top. –

I discovered that the poetry that had disappointed me earlier in my life, the poetry I had destroyed, had done so because it was based in the anger and disappointment in my life.  It was very ’emo’, as the cool kids say, but I’m not ’emo’ myself.  I’m a vagabond and a happy-go-lucky wanderer.  I’m a painter with bright colors.  When I make love, it’s with great joy and reckless abandon.  Or was.  That’s something I gave up in order to be a monk and when that dream was set aside, I never took it back up again.  I’m sure you know what I mean.  It’ll come back around one of these days, almost certainly.  I love to laugh and scratch in the dirt with sticks like a child.  I play with toy trains in the middle of the night, just to watch the lights race around my house.  I build model airplanes.  I play video games.  I do things that bring me joy and I love to share joy.  My ‘now poetry’ is romance and joy and happiness, for the most part.  Back then, it wasn’t.  It was me recording misery and then using the words to inflict it back on myself.  Some people can write misery very well and in a way that doesn’t seem maudlin.  I can’t.  Or not often enough to make it a forte.  I simply thought I could.  And should.  Hence the disappointment.  It was feeding misery and it was starving me.Since the writing of ‘The Other Eggs’, though, poetry can fill me with an exultation that I don’t get from so many other things.  I also write love letters for the same reason.  Sometimes I write them anonymously and leave them in little nooks and crannies downtown, for strangers to find.  I get the same thrill from that as I do when I write a sonnet for Louise Brooks or Queen Victoria or Anais Nin, just a few of the goddesses of my idolatry.  Sometimes I write them for Dulcinea, my own ideal, not unlike she of the love of Don Quixote.  Those I share on my blog for my friends.  I will still occasionally compose something not especially happy, something ‘dark’ such as

“One Day in the Clover”


One day,
five by five abreast,
we’ll walk
with little steps.

All of those who will
be the same,

we’ll walk.

And the artists will stand
with the poets
and the prophets
who saw
for themselves
and not for the mob.

To the dim
behind the paint sheds.

I wonder how
the dandelions
will taste
on the wind that day.

I wonder if
the wind will be sweet
. . .
sweet like clover jam.

I hope so because
I know
I’ll be among them.

I am not the mob,
nor of it.

Perhaps I was
but at the calling
and the rolling
of the
paradigm shift,
I stepped back
and I looked forward
. . .
to the paint sheds
. . .
and I chose
to smell
on the wind,
to feel
deep inside,

the dandelion.
The clover.
The wind I cannot change.
Or stop.

Not the paint,
the benzine,
the blood-honey
diesel splash
that will blaze
and smoke in cylinders,
flash-burn like life
used to
in true hearts.

It will burn,
you know,
beside the roads that day.

And I won’t smell the cordite

that will drift calmly,
after the fact,
behind the paint sheds.

I’ll lie down beneath it,
the dandelions
and the clover,
staring heaven-ward

just an
old-fashioned poet

who made a choice

rather than to yield to

the mob.

I hope that they notice that the clover
is sweet . . .
and soft . . .
and what it cost them.

For me, it was free.

I can do dark.  I just don’t like to.  Those poems are notable in my catalog also because they’re free form.  I prefer sonnets and sestinas.  I love to try to find the door that opens inward into a closed form, to push on it, and to see the wide world that’s in there.  I’m more confined by free form than I am by sonnets.  Strange, I know.

That poem, by the way, was a response to a particularly galling day among the savages, watching what modern media does with words and with feeling.  I’m still not convinced that that won’t happen, by the way.  That we won’t all be taken out and shot one day for thinking outside of an unfortunate norm.  For meaning what we say and saying that which isn’t ‘beneficial’, whatever that may mean.  By and large though, joy is what I do.


And that’s an introduction to me as a poet and as a person.  One poem on a hot June day has turned into 200+ sonnets, several odes, numerous rhythmic rhyming pieces and about an acre-and-a-half of free form.  I couldn’t stop now if I tried.  And I’ve tried.

It should be worth mentioning that I idolize Elizabeth Barrett Browning and ‘The Sonnets from the Portuguese’.

Emily Dickinson, I would give almost anything to spend a morning baking coconut cake in that Amherst kitchen then devouring the entire thing with her over a pot of tea.  I have the recipe for that cake and someday I’ll bake it with someone whose writing I admire.  Maybe just someone whose poetry I want to sit and listen to all day long.

One of the prizes of my poetry collection is a good condition first edition of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s ‘Wine From These Grapes’, still with the dust jacket and rice paper insert.  I found it sitting on top of a stack of bad, paperback science fiction, next to a dumpster, when the college kids moved out.  What sort of savage throws something like that away?

Rabindranath Tagore.  What a joy to read his ‘Gardener’.

Pablo Neruda.

Anna Akhmatova.

Maria Tsvetaeva.

Billy Collins, especially ‘Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes’.  I frequently have to explain that one.

‘The Song of Solomon’ from the Old Testament is such beautiful love poetry.

I adore Maggie Estep’s ‘Scab Maids on Speed’.

I am crushed to the depths of my soul by Wilfred Owen, especially ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’.  Just because I don’t willing ‘do’ dark, doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy and admire it.

Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Soldier an’ Sailor Too’ is why, although I have MacMillans and Bealls, Calders, Taylors, and Edmonstones in my background, I wear a Black Watch kilt.  ‘But to stand and be still to the Birken ‘ead drill. Is a damn tough bullet to chew.”  The Birkenhead Drill.  Such nobility and sacrifice.

The list goes on and on.

Will I ever write anything that deserves to be on the list with those poets and their works?  I hope to.  If I have an ambition, that would be it.  I’m not there yet, that’s for certain.  But I have hope.  I have joy.  Although I may be disappointed in the end, I believe I will always have a love of poetry to keep me trying.

That’s why I’ve joined this marathon, or rather ‘half-marathon’ in my case.  I work on Sunday morning so, logistically, I wouldn’t have the time to finish a 24 piece marathon and still get enough sleep to see me through work.  I’ve joined the marathon because it’s another challenge, something less competitive and therefore more enriching than a bard’s battle..  We don’t improve by being complacent and we can’t best a challenge if we don’t face it.  I’m looking forward to facing this one with all of you.  Best of luck finishing.  I look forward to reading, and hearing, what you all have to say.  I’m grateful that you’ll let me listen.