Thursday, March 31, 2011

Old School Privy

"Wood School", Foster, RI

I don’t know why it stands steadfastly there;
That old school privy leaning toward the ground.
So many decades lived without despair.

It saw the one room school commence to flare
‘Til sparking ashes made the only sound.
Curious how it stands steadfastly there.

Foundation stones do silently declare
A hopefullness that interest might rebound
In simple lives - well-lived - without despair.

For sixty years no effort to repair
The outhouse, wrapped in vines so tightly wound,
Yet faithfully it stands steadfastly there.

A few old scholars, weathered gray, still care
For golden rules, hope values will be found,
So they again may live without despair.

Passing years blare talk of yet more warfare!
To privy ears the fear cannot be drowned -
Why is it that I wait steadfastly here -
Few decades left to live without despair.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Empty Heart *

Lonely beauty, silent in your stark scene

Of sorrow, your empty heart of landscape,

I have no skill to paint, can only drape

The canvas - focus on a new Christine.

I trust new joys and sorrows to convene,

To sketch new lines, choose colors of escape,

Unseal my confinement in black crepe -

Create today! Tomorrow’s unforeseen.

Look there! A soft-lipped brush begins to grow,

To sprout from secret seeds in ancient soil,

Graced by sun, wet by cool tears of gray skies.

Bruises of lies now cast but pale shadow

On a palette purged of long-past turmoil.

Landscape serene - its emptiness denies.

Empty Heart is a revision of my previous poem:
   Who's There.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Who’s There

Suspense in my window, an empty scene,

Nothing in the foreground, all just landscape.

Field, forest, all potential to reshape

My canvas - focus on a new Christine*.

To say that joys and sorrows will convene;

Sketch an outline, choose colors of escape

Or seal my confinement in black crepe,

Speaks of today - tomorrow unforeseen.

Soft-lipped brush begins to emerge, to grow,

To sprout from secret seeds in old soil,

Graced by sun, watered with tears of gray skies.

Bruises of lies now cast a pale shadow

On a palette purged of long-past turmoil.

Landscape serene - its emptiness denies.

* Reference to Andrew Wyeth's painting,
"Christina's World"

Sunday, March 20, 2011

From: An Essay on Man

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan

The proper study of Mankind is Man.

Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,

A Being darkly wise, and rudely great:

With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,

With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride,

He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;

In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast;

In doubt his mind or body to prefer;

Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err;

Alike in ignorance, his reason such,

Whether he thinks too little, or too much;

Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confus'd;

Still by himself, abus'd or disabus'd;

Created half to rise and half to fall;

Great Lord of all things, yet a prey to all,

Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl'd;

The glory, jest and riddle of the world.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Silent Screams

The Great Wave off Kanagawa
from Wikipedia

Fear and trembling:
the earth out of control
renders us speechless,
words of blame erased.

We cry out for the dead
overwhelmed, submerged
by tremendous power;
scream in our fear.

Why, we pray! Yet,
why even an earth,
why stars and ocean,
why hand of gravity?

Silence, stillness.
Mute voices drowned
in abyss of absence
claim their salvation.

Posted for OneShotWednesday at OneStopPoetry

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd *

If all the world and love were young,
And truth in every shepherd's tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move
To live with thee and be thy love.

Time drives the flocks from field to fold
When rivers rage and rocks grow cold,
And Philomel becometh dumb;
The rest complains of cares to come.

The flowers do fade, and wanton fields
To wayward winter reckoning yields;
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy's spring, but sorrow's fall,

Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten--
In folly ripe, in reason rotten.

Thy belt of straw and ivy buds,
Thy coral clasps and amber studs,
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy love.

But could youth last and love still breed,
Had joys no date nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind may move
To live with thee and be thy love.

Sir Walter Raleigh
*his retort to Christopher Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to his Love"

Last Friday night I posted Marlowe's "Passionate Shepherd" and a video clip from "My Fair Lady", randomly, to lighten the mood of a previous post. Only a day or so later did I look into a biography of Marlowe, remembering that Oh, how could I forget, he's the guy that might have been Shakespeare. Most believe he was a spy entangled in the operations of a fellow spy, Sir Walter Raleigh, who was executed for his misdeeds. Marlowe's death was suspicious and he is widely believed to have been murdered, possibly due to his political intrigue. He also wrote, among much else, The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus, a play based on the legend of Faust, but without the final redemption of the protagonist in the legendary devil's pact.

Other poets have written rebuttals (more or less) to "The Passionate Shepherd" over the decades and I now question whether Marlowe was writing tongue in cheek in any case ---

Words, words, words--- we cannot really know what any of us is saying. How disappointed we'd be if we were certain that we could---think of the illusions that would be lost --- the mysteries that feed the soul --- coincidence that convinces.

Giacomo Leopardi

Always dear to me was this lonely hill,
And this hedge, which from so much part
Of the ultimate horizon the view excludes.
But sitting and gazing, boundless
Spaces beyond that, and more than human
Silences and profoundest quiet
I in thoughts pretend to myself, where almost
The heart is overwhelmed. And as the wind
I hear rustle through these plants, I such
Infinite silence to this voice
Go on comparing: and come to mind the eternal
And the dead seasons, and the present
And the living, and the sound of it. So through this
Immensity is drowned my thoughts:
And being shipwrecked is sweet to me in this sea

Monday, March 7, 2011

Miss Thomas

Rosemary cottage

Where I ate tiger lilies

With Margaret;

Where time dropped me off

While it went to meet a friend.

She bought the old house

Years before

To have a place

Of her own

In the village.

I met her in a letter-

Her reply to my question

About compost,

Could I buy some

At Greene Herb Gardens.

How silly really

Embarrassing now

Long ago - long story

No, compost was not for sale

But come for tea -

And tiger lilies.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Wouldn't It Be Loverly

--- a poem and a tune for a happy ending to the week---

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love
By Christopher Marlowe

Come live with me and be my Love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dale and field,
And all the craggy mountains yield.

There will we sit upon the rocks
And see the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

There will I make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroider'd all with leaves of myrtle.

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull,
Fair linèd slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold.

A belt of straw and ivy buds
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my Love.

Thy silver dishes for thy meat
As precious as the gods do eat,
Shall on an ivory table be
Prepared each day for thee and me.

The shepherd swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my Love.

"Wouldn't It Be Loverly"
from My Fair Lady
          Note: would have been loverly to erase
          distractions surrounding the video ---

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Glass Studio

I see him through the walls of his cell;
walls made of glass that blind him;
he cannot see me waving.
He found the key in his studio room,
emptied the bottles that said DRINK ME
until he fit through the little door
into the walled garden - and was gone.
Tears poured as I bashed the bottles.

I watch as she walks along the shore;
Isis, Queen of Heaven,
gathering bits of sea glass in her bag.
She sees me wave.
In her studio over the dunes
a new creation will rise
from shards of broken bottles,
battered by drowning tides.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


The Temptation of St. Anthony
Herman Saftleven
 Wikipedia Gallery of Art

Science was said to be beyond dispute, 
They taught us so in school; it was the truth.
Yet latest tides of Babel since our youth
Now flush us in a flood of ripe repute.

Our talent, skill, desire to compute 
True answers to all questions that we sleuth
Has left a bitter taste, as of vermouth;
All information found seems to be moot.

The garment of our world is mystery
Twined tempt’ly round her mantle with a sash.
Our cleverest attempts to work it free
Meet only with coy smile or whipping lash.
Though craves she chorus of our voices’ plea
To show her secret graces unabashed.

Note: The poem above was inspired by the following excerpt from the book review, How We Know, by Freeman Dyson, in the March 10, 2010 New York Review of Books. Follow title link to the marvelous article.

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood
by James Gleick
Pantheon, 526 pp., $29.95

The information flood has also brought enormous benefits to science. The public has a distorted view of science, because children are taught in school that science is a collection of firmly established truths. In fact, science is not a collection of truths. It is a continuing exploration of mysteries. Wherever we go exploring in the world around us, we find mysteries. Our planet is covered by continents and oceans whose origin we cannot explain. Our atmosphere is constantly stirred by poorly understood disturbances that we call weather and climate. The visible matter in the universe is outweighed by a much larger quantity of dark invisible matter that we do not understand at all. The origin of life is a total mystery, and so is the existence of human consciousness. We have no clear idea how the electrical discharges occurring in nerve cells in our brains are connected with our feelings and desires and actions.

Even physics, the most exact and most firmly established branch of science, is still full of mysteries. We do not know how much of Shannon’s theory of information will remain valid when quantum devices replace classical electric circuits as the carriers of information. Quantum devices may be made of single atoms or microscopic magnetic circuits. All that we know for sure is that they can theoretically do certain jobs that are beyond the reach of classical devices. Quantum computing is still an unexplored mystery on the frontier of information theory. Science is the sum total of a great multitude of mysteries. It is an unending argument between a great multitude of voices. It resembles Wikipedia much more than it resembles the Encyclopaedia Britannica.