Wednesday, January 18, 2017

farewell song





in the depths of heaven
the ocean roars
shed a tear, shed a tear
for the circus is no more

*

the sun sets over the highway

the last track drives away

the clowns watch the trucks disappear and head off to begin their new lives

as panhandlers and fitness gurus and hedge fund managers

all except one, chunky, the oldest of them all

who is determined to find the last pie baked by the last widow on the last windowsill

and hit donald trump or vladimir putin in the face with it

the big tent has been cut up to make napkins at burger king

the bareback dancers pack their bags and they too hit the road

back to philadelphia and cleveland to get jobs as life managers and creative consultants

the ringmaster and the magician make plans to start a maoist alternative to breitbart

the magician’s apprentice goes back to a trailer park outside elko nevada to take care of her 12 younger siblings

moe, the cook, lies down by the side of the road and cries

manny and mac and mose, the roustabouts, enroll in management courses at the university of phoenix

the elephants go back to africa

the lions go back to mars

the horses run away over the playgrounds filled with needles

the lion trainer and al the acrobat hatch a scheme so complicated it can not be described here.

suffice to say they will not settle for a few lousy billions

ed the elephant keeper buys two bottles of wine and a chicken salad grinder, toasted, with cheese, and starts hitchhiking to the northwest territories

alice the acrobat stuffs the trapeze into her bag, with plans to call it a work of art and get at least 15 million dollars for it

they all make plans to meet again for a reunion at the arby’s roast beef outside las cruces new mexico in 2047



ars poetica





poetry is hard to write
and if you write some every night
most of it is hopeless glop
into the garbage to be dropped

poets who live for all time
only write one or two lines
that anyone really remembers
the rest are only ash and embers

their names are known, but ninety-nine
percent of their well-gotten rhymes
are no more read than the reports
of arizona traffic courts

no other human occupation
produces such a tiny ration
of success to total nothingness
with no excuses to profess

so, poet, persevere
the world will shed no tear
you must weep for your own self
as you moulder on the shelf

your failure to communicate
is only humans’ common fate
like all you take your lumps
as darkness triumphs



Tuesday, December 27, 2016

agatha





by alice marston sternwall

agatha was a solemn child
with no desire to run wild
while other children played with balls
agatha dreamed of stately halls

lined with books by ancient sages -
how she longed to turn the pages
containing the wisdom of the ages -
agatha’s life went by in stages

she remained solemn as she grew
she loved the old and scorned the new
and ne’er embarked on slope so slippery
as caring ought for fads or frippery

if romance ever touched her heart
she gave no sign, but played the part
of one whose only love, forsooth
was pursuit of eternal truth

agatha gained a name of sorts
the god of fame with her did sport
two books of epigrams, quite terse
spread slowly through the universe

a fearful illness wracked her being
she realized her days were fleeing
doctors and priests alike she spurned
but sought to gather all she’d learned

into a final testament -
then to her acolytes she sent
an invitation to attend
a gathering before her end

attracted by her flickering flame
the mothlike followers duly came
and found poor agatha almost gone
with little hope for the next dawn

they gathered round, from many nations
when to their sudden consternation
a violent storm outside was heard
obscuring the sibyl’s final words

then when the thunder did retreat
the faithful begged her to repeat
her prophecy - but , broken-hearted
found agatha’s spirit had departed



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

thus doth it end




mr z had things to say
and he posted them every day
then one day to him it occurred
that all his passionate words
in the cloud were just floating away

he suddenly got to his feet
and went outside in the street
the world was deserted and bare
only he was taking the air
he fell to the ground in despair

he resolved to mend his ways
and care not for censure or praise
to become a wandering minstrel or monk
or a sidewalk-sitting drunk
or just lay there forever in a daze

at length hunger attacked his frame
and to his eternal shame
he went inside for a bite
the old thoughts returned so bright
and he got back into the game

mr z has things to say
and he posts them every day
with his trusty laptop and phone
and pizza delivered to his home
he wouldn’t have it any other way



Sunday, October 16, 2016

blue hour




a languid young lady named lou
wore a dressing gown of blue
her silver mirror reflected
the scarlet life she had selected

a perfume bottle of green
contrived to complete the scene
she heard a knock on the yellow door
she had passed this way before

her saucy maid entered the room
with an air of impending doom
oh miss lou, she cried
there is a gentleman outside

to say this is very hard
but he is from scotland yard
and it is his unpleasant task
some questions for you to ask

thank you, lily, said lou
i know that your heart is true
leave us now if you please
with this gent i will shoot the breeze

lou greeted her unwelcome guest
with an air that would have impressed
the queens of england and france
if they had been there by chance

the detective’s name was bash
he sported a gray mustache
and without further ado
he delivered this message to lou

madam, i think it best
that you do not resist arrest
i have a charge to relate
approved by a magistrate

that on august twenty-sixth
you were seen in company with
a man named albert bend
who came to an untimely end

and was found with four bullets in his head
unmistakably dead
in an alley behind a chip shop
where his body had been dropped

his previous movements’ history
had remained a mystery
though we searched from south to north
only now has a witness come forth

to fil in the lacunae
of the deceased’s last night and day
as a result of this information
i must ask you to come to the station

of course, replied lou with a drawl
wait a moment while i put on my shawl
for the night has a noticeable chill
but i always cooperate with old bill

outside a car was parked
a black sedan, unmarked
with lou settled in the back seat
it rolled away down the street

evincing no sign of regret
lou lit a cigarette
and watched as the streets unfurled
in the fog enshrouded world

the trip went on and on and on
were they going to drive until dawn?
though she did not break into song
lou knew that something was wrong

this was not the way to the yard
her captors played a strange card
all lou could do was wait
to learn the decree of fate

she felt they were near the river
and indulged in a ladylike shiver
at the sound of a midnight clock
the car pulled up to a dock

life is but a dream
it won’t do to shout or scream
and on that note, my friend
our tale comes to an end

a languid young lady named lou
wore a dressing gown of blue
she never knew what was false or true
and neither do i or you



Saturday, October 15, 2016

the street




andy woke at midnight
and listened to the rain
remembrance of reality
overflowed his brain

betty lived across the hall
she had trouble sleeping
especially when andy
was awake and silent creeping

chandler was the landlord
or maybe the concierge
he had terrible dreams at night
and in daytime terrible urges

danny lived around the corner
in a cardboard box
he had seen and done it all
and was immune to shocks

eddie drove a taxi
up and down the street
he kept his brogans polished
and his fingernails filed neat

frankie was a player
for eternal fame
if coach would only put him in
he could change the game

gilda was a night person
slept but once a week
but did not take it kindly
when called out as a freak

harry was called “the horse”
for lack of imagination
among his fellow tenants
in the chambers of degradation

irma was a “floozie”
a word now obsolete
but she brooked no nonsense
when she walked the street

johnny was the leader
what he said went down
but what good did it do him
when everyone left town

karen wrote a novel
and lost it on the bus
and then went home and hanged herself
without any fuss

larry was a wino
who had once been a preacher
murder was his mama
and hard knocks was his teacher

maggie was a mother
who ran away and hid
she just couldn’t help it
she didn’t like kids

nick was a cowboy
born out of time
if he could have rode with jesse james
it would have been so fine

olive was a poet
her fingers often shook
as she wrote down her secret thoughts
in a

little red notebook

pete was a dreamer
with long and hairy arms
and wished that more women
would appreciate his charms

quigley was a dreamer too
his dreams ran deep
most of his fellow humans
thought he was a creep

ricki was a sleeper
would have liked to sleep all day
but society had taught her
that that was not o k

shirley only wanted
to be left alone
all humans were her siblings
and all the world her home

toni heard voices
in the walls and in the air
inside or outside
they were always there

uncle joe had a mustache
which sometimes did droop
he was not a member
of any organized group

vinnie was a gambler
whose luck had run dry
he sat on the sidewalk
and watched the world go by

wanda was a pushy sort
who aggravated many
and when she counted up her friends
she found she had not any

excuse me for a minute
while i catch my breath
an old friend is calling
and his name is death

oh young people
hear my words
the street is for the people
and the air is for the birds

zeroes on the wheel of life
zeroes in my brain
zeroes are beyond counting
we will meet again



Tuesday, October 11, 2016

a king






adapted from the akkadian



a mighty army took the field
to no opponent did it yield
a king rode forth with upraised sword
urging on his thundering horde

cities fell like windblown flowers
nations knew their final hours
empires heard, from sea to shore
the laughter of the god of war

the victor king, whose name is lost
his enemies’ last defenses crossed
he buried them in burning waves
and made their kings and queens his slaves

upon the conquered lands laid waste
towers and castles he now placed
and monuments to his own fame
as eternal glory he did claim

philosophers rushed to his throne
sculptors etched his face in stone
artists painted him for the ages
scribes with his story filled up pages

of all the lackeys at his call
the poets had least shame of all
and sung and scripted the monarch’s praise
in endless verses all his days

eventually the great king passed
assured his memory would last
inscribed in stone, and words, and song
in archives vast, and towers strong

the years went by, then centuries
as swiftly as a summer breeze
new kings rose up, to glories new
demanding each of fame his due

our king was lost beyond time’s mist
as history’s unending list
of mighty heroes onward scrolled
and tales of him no more were told

jackals prowled, and pilgrims stumbled
through his palaces as they crumbled
the ruins fell beneath earth’s crust
and all the poems turned to dust