freedom's just another word for something - i forget
freedom's just a word, they say - and yet
every night we dream - and of what?
only freedom - the door we can never shut
why else in dreams do we fly?
or care if we die?
the murmurs from a distant shore
there must be, must be something more
i ran away to find it, many years ago
walked the empty highways, in sun and snow
waiting for freedom to call my name
but the beautiful whispering voice never came
the only voice that came to me
was asking for my i d
at the end of the endless trail
the dreams were all for sale
Monday, December 13, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
outside the tightest window
beyond the dimmest star
a little man is watching
who knows who you really are
there is no use pretending
and trying to be "yourself"
he will catch you when you try to run
and put you back on the shelf
you can roll your little eyes
at the other dolls beside you
they will just stare straight ahead
so faithful, brave and true
so listen to the music
as soft as falling snow
there is nowhere to go
there is nowhere, nowhere to go
i went down to the river
to buy my dog a bone
and the river looked so peaceful
i had to throw a stone
the ripples in the water
were like a great big smile
and i sat and smiled back at it
for quite a little while
my dog walked down the river bank
till he found another hound
but the racket that they ruckused
did not disturb the peace i found
the daylight whispered slowly
until it finally bled away
i don't know what my dog thought
but i had had a perfect day
Monday, July 19, 2010
the reverend edward gorey
told a most edifying story
and illustrated his strictures
with finely executed pictures
children neither seen or heard
devoured every pious word
and satan's wiles they upbraided
as into the woodwork they faded
their elders were uplifted too
by tales so moral, stark, and true
and sat upright in morris chairs
exchanging baleful nods and glares
in shadowy conservatories
they mumbled their unlikely stories
with particular attention to the chances
of outliving their inheritances
ashen aunts with dwindling dollars
unctuous uncles in starched collars
comatose cousins on silent settees
with tired teacups on their knees
upstairs maids with drooping tresses
silent brooding governesses
manservants with creaking limbs
in hallways dark and doorways dim
parrots with small vocabularies
needy nephews sipping sherries
reptiles lost behind chaises longues
divas mumbling forgotten songs
and to complete the mournful frieze
moths who never felt a breeze
dogs who answer no human call
and cats - the worst of all
Saturday, July 3, 2010
there are things about being a cad
some are good, some bad
many over rated
but being fought over in public
by lovely women is a subject
not sufficiently rendered, i'm sure
in classic literature
heroines of ancient romances
were limited to demure glances
and did not exert their tender muscles
in interfeminine tussles
as objects of manly competition
they respected a tradition
where the brave deserved the fair
and carried her unresisting to his lair
but in this new world of confusion
metamorphosis and illusion
with the old ways discarded and mocked
and babes in arms immune to shock
the fluttering eyelid is no more
the maid steps boldly to the fore
in darkest midnight or broadest day
and seizes on her startled prey
heedless of any scandaled glance
and giving decency no chance
astounds the assembled audience
by insisting on her preference
this modern maiden, in her glory
rewriting the poet's ancient story
"has pleasures of her own to give"
who've never known them, have not lived
Saturday, May 22, 2010
my name is carstairs athelbert waterspoon, of the smithfield waterspoons, and i have ever been a poet and a dreamer. the story i am about to relate, however, is one that no poet would wish to dream, and no dreamer to poeticize.
"the ancients knew things of which we dare not dream." how often, dozing over the trove of dusty manuscripts in my study, had i repeated these words of the medieval chronicler known only as magnus - languorous words, evoking morning mist over blue and green fields.
how different the reality!
but i am getting ahead of myself. some background is necessary.
during the long winter of 1----, dr melville, who had long served as family physician to the waterspoons, recommended in the strongest terms that i devote less than my entire waking existence to my studies of the history of necromancy, and find something else to "occupy my mind" in his somewhat unsettling modern terminology. for dr melville, i am afraid, despite his many fine qualities and his impeccable background, had succumbed to some extent to the disease of "modernity" - as, alas, who among us, despite our best intentions, has not?
in any event, i responded with a smile, as i had so often before, that i did indeed have another occupation from that of an antiquarian - the occupation of poet. but of course he brushed that aside.
"it is still just words you are dealing with," he insisted. just words, indeed! his own words were such that i would never have politely refrained from challenging them, had they been uttered by anyone else. he shook his white head. "i would almost allow the poetry to count as something a bit different, if your subject matter dealt with something later than king arthur."
i smiled and allowed this, too, to pass unchallenged. what would he have me deal with - some modern nonsense like the crusades?
"what would you have me do?" i asked. "chop wood? traipse through the woods collecting mushrooms or sighting birds? you know how delicate my constitution is."
"have you considered playing checkers?" the doctor asked.
i was a little surprised. he had tried to interest me in chess a few years previously, with unfortunate results. i had proved so helpless at the "ancient" game that the poor doctor had to essentially tell me what moves to make in order to provide him with "competition" and the experiment had been abandoned. i could still hear him crying "no, no, no!" as the winter winds howled outside my study.
"i didn't know you played checkers, doctor," i answered. "you have never mentioned it before. rather a plebian game, is it not?"
"hardly. there is evidence of it being played five thousand years ago - who would have played it but kings? canute played chess, but tilgath pileser iii played checkers. in any event, it is not i who play, but hank thorne down at the fire house. he told me the other day he is looking for a new player, as old abner adams passed away around thanksgiving time. i thought of you - as you are so unsuited to chess, you might well be a natural at checkers." the doctor took his glasses off and began cleaning them with the blue handkerchief he kept for that express purpose.
"it will get you out of your study - and the fire house is so draughty it could almost count as outdoor exercise." this was a long speech for the doctor, and his eye twinkled a little uncertainly as he paused for breath.
"play with hank thorne!" i laughed. "i hardly think so, as he is not exactly a gentleman, is he?"
"oh, but there you are mistaken. the thornes are quite the oldest family for miles around - hank is the direct descendant, in the male line, of thaddeus thorne, who claimed the land around here from the woolly mastodons, the arctodus simus, and the other ancient inhabitants."
"hmph." i was a bit nettled by this apparent denigration of the claims of the waterspoons. "i suppose you - or hank thorne - have the papers to prove this claim."
"indeed i do."
"well then, bring them along. and if i am satisfied as to their authenticity, i will humor you and hank thorne and accede to this outlandish suggestion." and then, in defiance of the doctor and to demonstrate my total independence of him and his strictures, i took out my pipe, stuffed it with the local wild weed, and lit it.
and so it was, that on a windy afternoon a week later i found myself sitting across from hank thorne in the old firehouse on main street with a checkerboard between us on a barrel that might have held grog for general burgoyne's or general washington's troops. although i had myself verified hank's bona fides as a gentleman, i soon found that was he was as uncommunicative as any peasant or his cow.
i won the first four games, although hank had to constantly point out moves i was "forced" to make. this "forced move" element seemed to me immeasurably superior to anything in chess, relieving one of the necessity to think. i have always distrusted thought, as interfering with inspiration.
it occurred to me that perhaps hank was letting me win, as a prelude to proposing that we play for money. country mouse that i was, i smiled inwardly at this transparent ruse by my new friend.
suddenly the fire house began to shake violently, and i jumped up in alarm.
"no need to be perturbed," hank assured me, in his slow but perfectly enunciated speech. "i have had the checkers magnetized, so there is no chance they will be shifted from their proper positions."
"yes, but what - what is causing this?" i exclaimed. there was another, even more violent tremor, and then the shaking stopped.
hank looked up at me curiously. "why, what do you think is causing it? the old ones, of course."
i stared down at him blankly.
"do you mean to tell me, sir, that you have lived in these parts all your life - as dr melville assures me you have - and are not familiar with the old ones?"
i began to stammer, but stopped and asked myself just who this fellow was, to presume to address me in such an interrogatory manner.
"i am afraid i spend most of my time in my study," i answered stiffly. "perhaps some mentions of these old ones have indeed filtered through to me. if so, i may well have filtered them back out, as of no interest to myself or my life's work."
"interesting," hank thorne murmured. "interesting. is your study built on some extremely firm foundation, sir, that you have never yourself felt the rumblings o four ancient friends?"
"of course the study is built on a firm foundation," i responded. "as is the whole ancestral dwelling of the waterstones."
hank thorne pondered this, and took a pipe from his pocket. "do you mind if i smoke?"
"of course not." what a question! what did he take me for, a methodist cleaning woman?
"something other than firm foundations may be involved here," hank continued after lighting his pipe. "i shall have to consult quardley. quardley, you see, has always held that there are those whom the old ones have singled out, who will be spared when they, that is, the old ones themselves, return to reclaim the universe. but he has always assumed that those so chosen are well aware of their favored status." he looked at me challengingly.
he had lost me. i sat back down. "and who is quardley?" i asked politely.
"he is an apothecary, over in wilsonville. and a volunteer fireman, of course."
"of course. shall we continue our game?'
hank seemed to play with greater speed but less concentration than before - perhaps because he was preoccupied with the "old ones."
he won the next four games, and i took my leave, agreeing to return in three days time, on the following tuesday.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
the ice cream man
a million jobs and it's just my luck
mine was not to drive an ice cream truck
but to sit all day behind a desk
dealing with the mad and the grotesque
but o how much more satisfying
in the soft twilight as day is dying
to bring smiles to children and take their pennies
joy in their lives they hardly had any
until they hear the longed for bell
announcing that now - now all is well
as they stuff their metabolisms with slush
over the world there falls a hush
o wise men in your chambers and courts
with your investigations and reports
will you deny the occasional spark
that lights this universe so dark?
i'll never tell
many strange dreams i tried to weave
into what i really believe
but something always broke the spell
so now - i'll never tell
Friday, April 23, 2010
it must be sad
to be a cad
and have women every hour
fall like flowers
into your lap
when you're trying to take a nap
or want some solitude
to sit in a somber mood
and create unflinching perfect art
but how can you start
when these myriad creatures
with their softly shifting features
will not go away
but multiply every day
lining up for miles
in kaleidoscopic styles
and wind through city blocks
stopping the tower clocks
of the haughty bourgeoisie
who hate art and poetry
o apollo shed a tear!
but poet, try to persevere
though the world be misbegotten
you will never be forgotten
your words will be on lips
when thinking machines and rocket ships
are wiped from time's black shining slate
immortality shall be your fate
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
there once was a landlord named jake
who had for a tenant a thirty foot snake
he grew so fond of that boa constrictor
he knew in his heart he could never evict her
she was the best friend he ever had, oh
but over his life there fell a shadow
he worked all day at the missile base
and came home at night with a sad face
many tenants in rooms along the street
sat in the gloom staring at their feet
and conceived passions for barely sentient creatures
mental death was one of their features
and the missiles - when would they go off?
the silence was broken by an occasional cough
and a slurp from a bottle of schlitz or bud
the collapse of the universe was in their blood
the windows in the bars were dim and blue
the used car lots were silent too
with burgers and marlboros on their breath
they waited in the shadow of meaningless death
you can't love a snake unless you give it a name
that's part of the game
but words came slow to jake's brain
on the dusty window it began to rain
the snake used a hundred square feet of rental space
but jake took it with a good grace
not so mrs harvis down the hall
who did not care for reptiles at all
and neither did jack d hubbatak
a retired spaceman with a bad back
who lived upstairs in a one room flat
with a seashell collection and an orange cat
he and mrs harvis put their heads together
whether in fair or stormy weather
and drank tea and stayed up late
complaining about the government, life and fate
mrs hervis was forty-four years old
her hair was orange and her eyes were cold
men had betrayed her, religion too
her children were worthless through and through
she did not care much for other females
of their troubles, she did not want the details
her only desire, and it made her eyes grow wide
was revenge against the world before she died
joe archibald was another tenant
he could say "i'll kill you" like he meant it
he had a machime gun tattooed on his arm
and was completely devoid of charm
joe was prowling the hall one night
something just did not feel right
he heard the throbbing music of fear
for which he had a most sensitive ear
he started down the creaking stair
past jake's well-barricaded lair
of the snake he was not scared a whit
in fact he'd like to have a go at it
he put his ear to jake's scarred door
a thing he'd never done before
on the scuffed and worn linoleum
a vision suddenly came to him
jake was nothing but a commie rat
joe was absolutely sure of that
talking to his snake? that was a load -
he was really talking in code!
he was an un-american deceiver
talking to a hidden receiver
probably planted in the snake
it was almost too much for joe to take
"peeping through keyholes, eh, fellow?"
hubbatak, more than a little mellow
swaying in his slippered feet
sneered at joe without missing a beat
"what's it to you anyway, hubbatak?
wasn't peeking through no keyhole, i was peeking through the crack.
"it's not the same thing at all
and besides, it ain't your call."
inside, jake seemed impervious
to all the fuss
but another door opened down the hall
and miss maisie muldoon, willowy and tall
barely glanced at the two combatant gents
as past then she serenely went
hubbatak and joe didn't scream or shout
but forgot what they were arguing about
maisie worked two blocks away
in mrs wilson's all night cafe
the moon looked down and seemed to say
is it her fate to carry a tray?
Saturday, April 10, 2010
life is so sad sometimes you just want to cry
and maybe even curl up and die
and then you roll over and look up at the clear blue sky
and st michael leans down and says, what's wrong little guy?
so maybe things aren't really as bad as all that
but i wish i had a press card in my hat
and could visit the president of the united states for a nice little chat
and eat hot dogs and ice cream all day and never get fat
and could walk up to people on the street and just say hi
and look them right in the eye
did you ever wonder why
it's not that easy, sweetie pie?
maybe some things are just meant to be
dogs bark, and birds sing in trees
humans alone in the evening breeze
watch the skies and scratch and wheeze
and try not to be taken by surprise
by fate's sly tricks and reality's lies
each in his own pathetic disguise
helpless as the waters rise
the hammer of heaven is always raised
and will surely fall one of these days
no more devilish despair or prayerful praise
and no one left to be amazed
had a cool hat
churchill wanted one
just like that
but his regimental tie
caught the marshal's glittering eye
steel drums in the london night
bongos in the dawn
molotov folded the london times
folded it with a yawn
through the kremlin played
before the final alien raid
ant men from a distant star
finished off the caviar
little angel midnight
waited in the rain
for raphael and st jerome
hitchhiking from spain
gabriel in the shadows
watching bombers loading
ike lit up a lucky
with a strange foreboding
i ain't never been to the zoo
or the opera either - how about you?
when morning comes the little stars go hide
in the embrace of dawn - the blushing bride
he shot himself in the head
one wall turned black, the other red
Sunday, April 4, 2010
comrades raise a glass with me
in defiance of sobriety
though some may deem it blasphemy
i say that drink will set us free
free from the stress of stroil and strife
from squalling brat and scowling wife
shall fate forever twist the knife
or life be ever slave to life
oh precious nectar that dissolves
the endless cloud that e'er revolves
around the weary wanderer's head
from your embrace must we be led
down duty's dark and dreary path
or follow the illumined swath
you cut through universal gloom
to ease our unavoidable doom
comrades raise a glass with me
in defiance of sobriety
though some may deem it blasphemy
i say that drink will set us free
when you leave your body
your body don't leave you
it drags you around like a comatose cow
up and down the avenue
well my body left me
left me so sad and blue
sitting on the sidewalk
without a mumbling clue
whistling policemen pass me by
laughing schoolgirls too
highbrow ladies with birds in their hats
doing the old soft shoe
seems the whole world has a purpose
a reason to be up and about
can't they see that my poor head hurts
why do they have to shout?
blinking in the sunlight
i got the sidewalk blues
world oh why did you break my heart
and what scoundrel stole my shoes?
Friday, March 19, 2010
arabia is far away
and stretches out in every direction
but though you cut it up every which way
there's nothing but sand in every section
bury my heart in a golden tomb
at the end of the earth, if there's any room
i want to go to china before i die
to see if everything i was taught was a lie
i'll pay some wise old sages a call
we'll sit and talk, beside a waterfall
weary waitresses and bored detectives
fill the hallways with vile invective
hotel down by the railroad tracks
dead shoe salesmen never come back
i woke up this morning with a feeling of despair
and looked around for my teddy bear
but someone had slipped through the bars of my cell
and carried poor teddy off to hell
Saturday, March 13, 2010
life is like a mangy dog
sleeping in a hollow log
with hardly room to scratch or sneeze
his only company the fleas
that without even saying please
feast upon his mortal flesh
yes, life is quite a sorry mesh
a web of futile desperations
solitudes and dissipations
and as the flame of life grows slim
and dreams of glory fade and dim
the dog rolls over on his side
with nothing left to hope or hide
and hears on high the sudden scratch
of a hunter's cigarette-lighting match
and through the mist a waning moon
murmurs, it will be over soon