12: Ghazal for Dylan Thomas

Hoist me a pint of ale in the old boat house;
Seek shelter from gust and gale in the old boat house.

Wield me a poem, you bardic Procol Harum:
Turn a whiter shade of pale in the old boat house!

Breezes of Laugharne, perpetually fresh!
Nothing ever goes stale in the old boat house!

Jonah me, Moby me, humpbacked and blubbered:
Spend three days in the whale of the old boat house!

Come to the confines of your monastic keep:
Lock yourself in the jail of the old boat house!

Message me in a bottle, lyric lord of Wales:
I’ll send my fan mail to the old boat house.

Let druids rise up from their moss-grown graves
And bless each rusty nail of the old boat house!

Heron and cormorant, he-gull and she-gull
Soar and wade and sail past the old boat house.

I praise your psalm-shed, beer-brawny word-worker:
Hosanna, hurrah, and hail to the old boat house!

11: Anthem

This melody never staggers, grows old,
this song from an Elvis-bearded age.

It blooms and blushes me more than it should!
Dreams blister like bread, memories burn,

pungent under starblossoms and
moonfruit. My struck tongues rave:

no lie, Horatio, this is where it’s at.
All you fractious muses, bustle me close,

fiddle me measures to boast of.
Shove me suavely into another day.

10: Blue

Blue-black crows
veer above slate-blue roofs,
over smoke-blue smokestacks
in the sea-blue sky.

Bluebirds blab
among the blue moons and bluebells
in this blue-blood state
of blue laws and blue flu.

Denimblue slackers,
azure poseurs.

Navyblue sailors
cursing a blue streak.

Flowers violetblue,
pansyblue, lupineblue.

Let me sing my deep new true-blue song
to you, O baby, misty midnight blue.

9: Spider

O Holy One
who governs the vast and endless spaces
between the galaxies,
yet cares for the sparrows sold two for a farthing,
you fashioned this wee eight-legged engine,
geometer of lethal gossamer,
fly-slayer, death-weaver, rain-catcher,
critter I swat with a furious slipper
if I spy him in the bathroom.

I cannot discern your purpose in making this creature,
bane of housewives, arachnid mascot of Halloween:
perhaps you meant to give your human poets
an example of patience and measure,
of fatal and unswerving concentration,
architect adept
at storm-sturdy structures of air and thread.

8: Books

Harvard undergrads
used to read books
on the Red Line train.

How many eyes nowadays
scan print and paper?
Virtually none.


I’ll still carry
three or four paperbacks
in my tote bag,
the poor man’s Kindle.


When I was sixteen,
I hid a copy
of The Colossus
in my jacket pocket
at Steve & Cory’s wedding.

Thirty years have passed
since I bought my first volumes of verse:
Eliot’s Four Quartets,
Rimbaud’s Illuminations,
Heaney’s Field Work.

Eliot because it was cheap,
Rimbaud because it was French,
Heaney because Mr Waldron
said he was good.

The printed page
is bread to me,
life and light,
shelter and sustenance.


Sure, I’m as guilty
as the next guy
of checking the iPhone
during a dull commute.

But there are times
at home alone
I’ll pick up a book,
an old favorite,
weathered, seasoned,
and pace from room to room
reading aloud
to the four walls,
to any muse or angel
that might be haunting me.


Wystan, Estlin, Theodore, Marianne,
you wouldn’t be the same
as lucent type on a small screen.

You’re most at home
in dead-tree editions!

I lift your pages
and kiss the verses
as the priest
kisses the Gospel.

7: Anatomy of a Poem

Start at the heart, if you can stomach it.
No lily-livered words. You’ve got the gall
To lung forth consonants, to spleen your vowels.

Compose your verses from the convolute
Vessels and arteries of the living language.
Give each line spine and sinew, might and muscle.

Full-blooded rhetoric with pounding pulse,
Or placid meditations deep as breath:
Give it your best shot. Go with your gut.

Nerve it all up in the skin of sound.
Let dry bones live. Make eyes taste, fingers hear.
Sing the body, electric, intricate.

6: Spy Pond Chronicles

Nudge me, Prosper, out of these dank thicks!
Sound me a selah, round up a blessing.

Recover. Breathe. Tell the beads.
Recall Reverend Peggy,
her horseradish wit,
her martini smile.

To thole. To endure.
Where’s my letter, Miss Sheila?
How is Heather doing?

Apple juice, my starlet! My miracle
of a thousand Burger Kings.

Obstreperous doxy
of a fading September,
I’ve got bills to pay.

You know what’s what, Sexton Jones.
Don’t muddle the vestry.

Connive to make glorious lumps of lingo.
Shelter against the muggies,
sing the four-letter serenade
to loutish bursts of rain.

Thunder me, Anselmo!
Shrive me, Brian!

Make friends with Vermont,
frigate about the shallows.

What’s the frequency, Emily?
Who pilfered the mushrumps?

Dance till your nerves cry Uncle:
there won’t be a sequel
to this chick flick.

5: Franconia

The ski chalet,
a wooden two-story
in Lafayette Acres,
Franconia, New Hampshire,
north of the Notch:
its owners
left it vacant
during the summer.
Someone needed
to look after it,
and so it became
our family’s (rented)
vacation home.

I miss your sights:
Echo Lake,
the Frost Place,
the Hillwinds,
the Grateful Bread,
Polly’s Pancake Parlor
(that’s neighboring Sugar Hill,
but no great matter),
Bishop’s Ice Cream,
the Village Store,
the Dutch Treat.

I had a yellow ten-speed,
handlebars taped sloppily
with feeble masking tape.
I’d ride this bike
from Lafayette Acres,
down Magowan Hill,
past the River Gale,
under the overpass,
up Route 18
to the center of town,
a dozen or so buildings
dotting either side
of the sleepy one-lane road.

I miss the Old Man
who crumbled to earth
some years ago, ’03 it was,
the God-hewn rock-face
on the side of Cannon Mountain.

I even miss the names
of your old-time politicians:
Gallen, Sununu, Gregg.

I miss your thunderstorms
and fireflies. I miss
the drive-in ten miles away
on the road between
Littleton and Whitefield.

I miss being young
and writing elate poems
to your thousand-foot mountains,
mere hills compared to what
other places boast.

I miss being a fidgety passenger
in the back seat
of the ’76 Monte Carlo,
gobbling up the ribbon
of Interstate 93.

I miss the hum
of summer bugs.
I miss the golf courses
where Dad played golf
and I caddied
enduring bad language
when he’d hit one
into the rough.

Franconia, with your dirt roads,
with your rocky River Gale,
with your staid white church—
Our Lady of the Snows—
which I maybe entered once,
you magic’d my childhood,
empearled my adolescence,
and mothered a hundred poems.
And so, this note of thanks.

4: Out of Tune

St Lucy’s bells ring out this noon:
A sluggish Saturday, a bummer.
My mandolin is out of tune.

A long slow crawl past May and June,
Past hot dogs, burgers, to late summer,
To this tame time, this sad-faced noon.

Drenched are the rooftops of this town:
My new home, fortyish latecomer
Sick of the city’s strident tune.

Tonight the clouds will balk the moon,
Choke off its glow, that dulcet glimmer
Like music from a silver bell. This noon

Finds me indoors, dry as a dune.
Rain beats time on the roof, dull drummer.
I pluck my harp. It’s out of tune.

I’d sing. I’d yodel, hum, or croon.
I’d blare the Jam, the Damned, Joe Strummer:
But bells bemoan this rainy noon,
Their lamentations out of tune.

3: Tambourines

Tambourines at dusk-fall
peal luminous sound-pearls,
bright noises shaken
from an earth-black drum:
fireflies, forest-stars,
blips of celestial sonar.

Rattled beads of light
clatter their gold-glow-echoes
in the thickened gloaming.
Spangles, jangles of glory.
Sparklets of felicity,
which darkness cannot comprehend.