25 December 2013
Not that I believe but choose to believe,
Not that I rejoice but choose to rejoice;
And I will make these my projects, to
Find a sun in the faintest star, and a
Meal in a crumb of bread, poetry
In the noise of traffic, mystery in the
Cold of death. All these all and more.
I will find kisses in the hardest blow.
I will find Christmas in a flake of snow.
The Lament of Milton’s Satan
Oh where are the noble sins? How can
We tempt to betrayal when all interest
Is self interest? To blasphemy when the
Only curse is canceling cable television?
To blood when the grubby bills of trade
Are sticky with gore? How the dignity of
My defiant hell sold cheap? How comes
The glorious army that threw eternity at
Hazard in their rebellion reduced now to
Game-show hosts and sales-dinner MCs?
How I forced to trade my smoking black
Armor for fire-engine Lyrca? To stand in
Red-hot yoga pants and watch Mammon
Revel on my throne?
The Bigger & Better Inferno 2.0
— in Stores for the Holidays!
In the new ninth circle, the devils make
Us clap wildly for money. They parade
The rich and we celebrate, they drive
Italian racing cars and we thrill at the
Thrum, and when joy turns to despair,
The demons make us clap more. Our
Widest smiles turn rictus and they fill
Our mouths with shiny white teeth ’til
We choke, stitch us into fey fashions
Until we smother, slam baubled rings
On our broken fingers, then smoothly
Praise our elegance and good taste
Before they whip us to the mall and
Scourge our skins until we buy again.
Why I Was Late
On the first true night of autumn, the
Sky is polished obsidian and the cold
Thrills in its sharpness and clarity. The
Moon is a bright pearl and across its
Luster is drawn a veil of pure cloud by
An absolute artist who wastes genius
Hanging such work within the frame of
Our eyeless street, unremarked above
The rush and noise of Friday night by
All save me who stands in quiet wonder
While the take-out Turkish cools dangling
In its plastic sack. What purpose? I think
And Science says No Purpose. No purpose
Beauty and no purpose misery. Merciless
Atoms collide in blank indifference. These
Are facts. What facts? What do you know?
You measure and think all is measured. You
Explain and think all explained. You compass
Vastness and think all is within your compass.
I can find more questions in a tumbling leaf than
Ten thousand equations can answer, and neither
You nor I have begun our work. Say we are mere
Exquisite mechanisms in the mindless everything
If weak ambition, frail reason, and dead imagination
Satisfy. I say we are machines making Purposes, that
Cloud a sign of our mighty task.
Did you get lost? Dinner is cold she says shaking
Her head. Shall I tell I left her hungry while I was
Forging the world’s soul? She’d laugh kindly at my
Demented swagger, even though she is my prime
Fire and proof. So I smile and pour the wine instead.
Tick tock as we drink our coffee.
Tick tock as we check the scores.
Tick tock as we sip our cocktails.
Tick tock when we close the door.
Tick tock the clothes are dirty.
Tick tock the bills lie unpaid.
Tick tock the lawns grow wilder.
Tick tock the beds sleep unmade.
Tick tock our griefs grow colder.
Tick tock days are long in age.
Tick tock the twilight’s failing.
Tick tock the low candles fade.
On a Chapel in Newark, New Jersey
Seen from the Train, October 2014
Does God hide in the damp, does God
Hide in the gloom, does He hide in the
Wracked clapboards, grimed windows,
The cold echoes, the empty tabernacle
Of this church crowded close by failed
Factories and closer by stunted trees
Grown like weeds?
On Listening to Kane’s Bardsey Sound
While Stuck in Traffic on the Schuylkill
The cellos made me wish I was standing
On a long shore of the sea, the breeze
Strong in my face, the knife of the cold
Cutting the seams of my clothes, slow
Steel clouds above, slow steel waves
Below weakly battering the stony beach,
November and all of winter before me,
The roll roar surge swell hush hump of
The Atlantic’s vastness writing a book of
Every word in every language, speaking
Every voice telling every story, promising
To make us nothing and everything in its
For the Anniversary of a Neighborhood Restaurant
A good restaurant can make the Lord’s table
Seem a little meager. The welcome is more
General and more generous. The bill of fare
Savors sweeter and the portions satisfy, though
The fine chef rivals Old Testament Jehovah for
Ill-temper and vindictiveness if you praise His
Creation insufficiently. The cassock-aproned
Bartender practices his calling with the same
Grave ceremony as a priest, and serves you
With the same blessing and good-will from
His tabernacle of bright glass and warm wood.
I have lapsed in prayers and devotion enough
To fear my rescue in another flood. I cannot
Count my place secure on a second ark, only
Our Friday table at the sanctuary of Southwark.