All Poems by Quality

All the poems in the collection, roughly in order from best to worst, in my unique opinion. Each title links to the poem’s standalone page, where there is often more information.

   If ever the ships come to break our clan
      And carry you away,
   Remember your first days: You had to learn
      The strength in gales,
The long work carved from the long sky in rain.

   Remember the storm season when your mind
      Grasped the words for how
   We kept tight the new ice knives, and how we turned
      Their shavings out.
We held such words that the whole clan is bound.

   Cut from your brain, cut with sharpened ice
      The hours you wept for home
   Or threatened to call lightning down from space.
      If you must go,
Teach Earth truly the two worlds are close.
September 2007
A Shout of Herbal Essence
With an involved Career—
A Variance of Avatar—
A Rump of Cavalier—
And every Phoneme in the Flume
Forgets the Freight it took—
A verse from Mars, apparently,
Transmitted—by Mistake—
June 1989
The glorious backlit marmalade slides down the sky
at the end of the day at the end of a thousand years
while up behind the unprotected crowd
sweeps the terminator. That’s a wrap!
Launch the fireworks! Nobody will remember
to look beyond our brilliant works and days
and see ourselves in a spinning cloud of stars.
December 1999
tell a tale of ten-pins
catcher in the rye
four and twenty sirens
singing to the sky

when the song is over
the sky begins to fall
and down comes chicken little
vigilance and all
January 2011
Look how the rosy-fingered dawn,
The morn in russet mantle clad,
Bleeds her life out on the lawn.
Isn’t that too bad!

Classical dawn goes down to day,
One more shelf of books to learn,
While the Pierian Prudhoe Bay
Serves up drink to burn.
August 1998
In ’79, in Davis, California,
I walked at evening twilight past the school
on Anderson, thoughtful, isolated
by uninterpretable traffic noise,
when another person’s life brushed past mine.

The rush of cars receded like a wave.
Distracted from myself, I paused
as a girl passed by on a bicycle, crying.
The air held still for a long, articulate moment
until the traffic resumed.
January 2008
When a water drop arrives
And spreads its shells wide
The oysters must be envious
For how would they find
A richer smooth-layered pearl,
A safer place to hide?
April 1979
As when the fisher, lost in the wine-dark wine,
Misses the slow-upcreeping siren song
Until, with a piercing note (reminding him
Of when the mermaid tangled in the nets
At last came free, and with a final fillip,
Flinging the foam full into his face,
Vanished into the deeps), the catchy number
Sets her hook—so with a fatal jerk
Ends the classical simile.
April 2001
In Case of Republican Victory
At last the summer’s over and the earth returns to right,
With no more global warming in the clear and present fight
Where the eagle feeds on liver and the liver never learns
From views of icy clarity until the spring returns.
September 2012
Lady Liberty came to me last night,
wearing the red dress of grievances
and earplugs for the scream of consciousness.
“I went to see my friend from Rhodes,” she said,
“Father of Homebodies. Now that I’ve fallen too,
I’m really brazen! It was fun, I’m off
to visit again.” And then she stumbled away,
kicking the chains that clung around her ankles
and holding her torch down low to see the way.
July 2006
To me there is only one day.
The days you think are separate
Fold up for me like a map.
The light shines through, and all
The tiny roads and symbols come together.
My day is older than I am,
Because to me there is only one day,
Just as there is only one poem.
June 2007
Odysseus dodged the sirens. He dared not risk
Himself; instead he roped an unregarded
Crewman to the mast. Later, caution
Seemed to have been wise. As the sailors dug
The softened beeswax from their ears, the victim
Wept for the loss of the honey from his own,
Then pressed his eyes to try, to try, to try.
He, Homer,
Thought only how to hear the song again.
December 2007
The earth was bashed together from rocks,
The bunnies of dead stars’ dust, stark raving sparks
Thrown when the burning universe broke.
   Time
Writes in pencil and crosses out in ink.

In my garden, I pull the maples
That come each spring. I imagine your narrow heel
Printing an old message by the pile.
   I learned
That fire spreads to the smallest scrap of fuel.
April 2008
translation of “Der Widerchrist” from 1907 by Stefan George (1868-1933)

“There—from the mountain! there—in the wood!
We saw it ourselves • he speaks with the dead
And changes water to wine.”

Oh if you could hear how I laugh in the night:
My hour has struck • my grain is piled high.
The fish come to me to be taken.

The wise and the foolish—the people run mad •
The trees are uprooted • the fields laid flat •
Make way for the Savior’s procession!

There’s no work of heaven I do not produce.
It’s off by a hair’s breadth, but you are all fooled.
Your senses have been overmastered.

In return for what’s rare and what’s hard I create
The simple • a semblance of gold from the clay •
Of the tang and the juice and the perfume.

And the art the great prophet did not dare to touch:
Without clearing or planting or building, to suck
Vitality stored over seasons.

The Prince of Vermin now tightens his grasp •
He is missing no treasure • he misses no chance •
To hell with the rest of the rebels!

Caught up in the devilish fake, you rejoice •
You squander the fruits of your ancestors’ toil
And only at last do you suffer.

Your tongues will hang down as the water trough dries •
You’ll wander bewildered like sheep through the fires ..
And the terrible blast of the trumpet.
March 2012
translation of “Die Kurtisane” from 1907 by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

Here in my hair the sun of Venice toils
to make its gold: Immortal alchemy’s
illustrious issue. And my eyebrows, see
how they, arched like bridges, silently

carry you past the danger of my coiled
eyes, which have covertly ratified
traffic with the canals, so that the tide
rises and falls and changes there. To slide

a glance my way is to detest my small
dog, because my hand, untouched by flames,
invulnerable, glittering, is said

to rest in absent moments on his head.
And youths who bear the hopes of ancient names
taste the poison of my lips and fall.
March 2012
translation of “Am Turme” from 1842 by Annette von Droste-Hülshoff (1797-1848)

I stand on a balcony high in the tower
in a whirlwind of clamoring starlings
and, like a maenad, allow the storm
to root in my tossing hair.
You wild compatriot, you big show-off,
I want to fiercely embrace you
and, sinew to sinew, two steps from the edge,
to wrestle for life or death!

And far below at the beach, the waves,
as briskly as mastiffs at play,
crash and hiss as they gambol around
and flecks of the bright foam leap.
Oh I wish I could dive in straightaway,
right in the boisterous pack,
and hunt in the depths of the coral jungle
that jovial quarry the walrus!

And above me I see a pennant blowing,
as brave as the king’s own standard,
and I see the keel shift up and down
from here in my airy lookout.
Oh, I want to embark on a fighting ship
and seize the wheel in my hands
and with a swoosh like a flying gull
to skim by the surging reef.

If I were a hunter in open fields,
or even a bit of a soldier,
if all else denied I were only a man
then that is how God would advise me.
Instead I must sit, like a good little girl,
so delicate and clear,
and may only secretly loosen my hair
to let it run free in the wind!
July 2010
By my so potent art, as full as opera,
Boasting of placards in the noontide sun,
I am the one
Who found the way
To bring the song and dance to light of day.
Weak masters that they be, the dead lie down before me.
November 1999
Who, if I cried warning, would hear me among the angelic
drivers? Even supposing one should suddenly
take it to heart, I would perish under his
vulcanized radials. For the green is nothing
but the onset of terror, which we walk through calmly
only until it thoughtlessly turns to destroy us.
Every single intersection is terrible.
June 2007
The sink is full tonight.
The fridge is calm; the dust lies gray
Along the shelves; out the French doors the light
Gleams off the slugs; the pile of bills to pay
Falls over sideways onto the sleeping cat.

I’m getting out
Of here! The television seems
To offer visions of defending teams,
So curious, inscrutable, and true,
And yet has neither maids, nor aides, nor brooms,
Nor any other friend to ease my brain;
So I am fleeing on a sparkling plane
Swept for shoes, with unarmed luggage in flight,
Which indigent airlines crash by night.
February 2002
The rumpled sun wakes up to survey the earth,
glaring down the patternless stars. I stretch
and find myself observed by a broken statue,
    the goddess Euterpe,

once the centerpiece of this formal garden,
now the muse of flowers and vines run riot.
The garden is still beautiful in its way, but
    where is the music?

The sun’s blank gaze insists there is no way back:
Change was growth. I answer that change outlasts,
invents, forgets, replaces, remeasures, circles
    and breaks from its bounds, while

the raveled smoke of human endeavor waits
to turn the sunset glorious. In the dark,
I will watch as, rising, the constellations
    pattern the fields.
July 2007
Not the Standard Model President
Higgledy piggledy
President Superstar
Used to make pitches
That swung for the fence.

Now by political
Supersymmetrical
Law he is physically
Bound to make sense.
September 2012
The horror crawls in toddlers’ scrawls
And oozes through the pores of lovers;
The dark rot bleeds into desperate needs
That Alzheimer’s undiscovers.
Roll, thunder, roll, boom like the heartstrings failing,
And mumble, mortals, mumble, quailing, quailing, quailing.
December 2011
Put out your eyes as if they were a fire.
Put out your eyes as if they were the trash.
Put out your eyes: They’re just a metaphor.
Now let’s get down and mosh.
July 2001
Who and when, where and why,
What does the pain of life imply?
Almost as blue as God’s blue eye,
Aim your lasers at the sky,
And with a ringing battle cry
Sharpen the vision of the big old guy.
Me oh me, my oh my,
That should straighten out Captain Bligh;
He’ll be as soft as a Windsor tie,
And give us candy and rhubarb pie.
August 2002
Just slept when I awoke.
Just let the world go on.
Just stirred to face the breakfast and commuting,
Then hit the snooze
Forgetting self-esteem
While traffic noises merge into my dream.

Next time, to wake.
Next time, like John Glenn,
To slowly roll in space and
Hit the snooze again.
March 2005
The world is charged with obstruction of justice.
   We must stand trial. Though shaken as shocked quartz
   We sing out for sentencing: Let Clio’s courts
Judge we are still unjust as Augustus.
Generations have conned, and glommed, and scammed,
   And all are slimed with lies, grim, grimed with lies
   That tell tall tales and sell worn wares; our eyes
Are hooded, nor can hearts hope, being damned.

Yes, to all this our nature is ever bent.
   Now, self-captured, we face the difficult
Process of law: We must self-represent,
   Self-prosecute, self-judge, and bear result
Of guilt: The Inner Child’s imprisonment
   Will free chid felons to act—at last!—adult.
November 2007
Back when Barbary waived the rules,
Particularly the rule on slaves,
At least we knew where to find the fools,
Because Mercator ruled the waves.

Today the fools are at home somewhere
Rolling somebody else’s dice,
Or leaning back in an office chair
And calculating the lowest price.
April 2009
The aim and the error form one word
that gathers its storm clouds in and speaks
when the worm god in the apple meets
the stone god in the bird.
April 2009
In the world’s first night the earth lay down.
In the first light it stood again.
Now smoke strides daily above the town
And if a spark strikes, then
Take it as you must
And in a gust of days
Raise a blaze of dust
To a dusty day.
December 2011
      North Factory: without good there could be no evil
Norm Al: these are the ending days
  Texas Teachers Union: I sorted the chaos that heaven reviled
Norm Al: this is the end of days
  Texas Teachers Union: into folders to render it gentle and mild
Norm Al: the world burns down in a final blaze
  Texas Teachers Union: I doled out the color codes, taming the wild
Norm Al: overheated by solar rays
  Texas Teachers Union: and I filed and I filed and I filed
      North Factory: so it must be evil to be good sometimes
September 2013
I hope you did not miss the beautiful moon.
Let heaven’s clouds stand in for your tears.
The moon is the same to all times and all people,
only our thoughts are different. Think this:
The unchanging moon symbolizes change.
Coal black and bone white, the moon can mean
climate stability, fertile ocean tides,
one small step to magnificent desolation,
night and the rime of silver light at night,
lunacy, when the mind is drawn astray,
and love and joining what is far apart.
Let heaven’s clouds stand in for your tears,
brush your eyes and look back at the shining
monument of stone, the cat’s-eye moon.
July 2004
Higgledy piggledy
President Double-You
Utters his speeches to
Utter delight.

Misunderestimate!
Neighborhood hemispheres!
Partial aphasia was
Never so right.
April 2001
When we first met I saw a blinding flash.
The hot wind made me glad to be alive.
I hardly felt old hopes and houses tumbling in the crash.
I’ll always love U-235.

You don’t care that I am going bald.
When I collapse you stay till I revive.
You hold me close while everybody else remains appalled.
I’ll always love U-235.
March 2005
nothing depends
upon

a red seal
blaring

phrases of high
terror

on the blue
website
September 2006
I pulled on a loose thread of history
And unraveled a seam that I hadn’t seen.
How did it happen? I can’t explain.
History’s disparate parts disarrayed
And I dropped the theoretical thread.
Not kinder, not gentler, not on the mend—
Now history runs to a ragged
October 2007
translation of an untitled poem by Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)

My darling, we were children,
two happy little kids.
We snuck into the henhouse
and crawled in the straw and hid.

We imitated roosters,
and if anyone came through—
“Cock-a-doodle-doo!” They thought that
they’d heard a rooster crow.

We took some farmyard boxes
and wallpapered them inside
and lived as a happy couple
in our elegant abode.

The old cat from the neighbors’
would often come for tea.
We gave her bows and curtseys
and a compliment or three.

We inquired how she was doing
with sympathy and tact,
and since then we’ve said the same
to many another old cat.

Often we sat and talked
as if we were wise with age
and complained that it all was better
back in the good old days,

That love and trust and faith
had vanished everywhere,
and coffee was so expensive,
and money oh so rare!

The children’s games are over,
and everything comes to dust,
money, the days, the planet,
and faith and love and trust.
July 2010
Symmetry: She is the lovely ideal
I’ll marry and live with until I die.
I’ll always respect her, never lie,
And if we fight I will appeal
For cool fair words together,
Not storms of fierce cold weather
When she tells her ugly lie
And loses almost all her appeal
So disrespectfully. How can I deal?
Symmetry wants me to suffer and die.
August 2007
Speak now, or forever hold your gall,
  Squirming down within,
Sun-hot and as busy as a mall,
  Fervent as a sin,
Steadfast as the bullet-spattered wall
  Outside your fortress keep
Where your enemies are put beyond recall.
  When you hear the beep
Speak now or forever hold your call.
August 2007
Dear terrifying terrorists
  Who tear our liberty,
    The ship of state
    Secures the gate.
  Do you have ID?
Freedom is biometric.
  Americans stand tall
    With iris tints
    And fingerprints
  And DNA for all.

Cameras, cameras everywhere
  Nor any thought to think.
    It makes a fella
    Smooth an’ mella.
  Hick! Anotha drink!
I know more than her mother
  About my darling Kimmy.
    With infrared
    I see her bed
  And the winsome Kimmy shimmy.

We map the social network
  To find the central spider.
    If you call Iran
    Or Afghanistan,
  We call you an insider.
No keyword goes unnoticed.
  You used the words “expire”
    And “magazine”.
    What does it mean?
  When do you open fire?

Our database is Biblical:
  Sinners change to pillars
    Of rectitude.
    We must conclude
  The saintly are the killers. (That’s not us, is it?)
We collate your drivers license
  With your tax return.
    Discrepancies?
    Wait here, please,
  And burn, burn, burn.

We follow procedure carefully.
  We’re honest, never fear.
    Secret warrants
    Flow in torrents—
  Shh! You didn’t hear!
If you make us mad, we’ll show you
  The picture of perdition.
    A furtive flight
    Will draw by night
  An extraordinary rendition.

From a list of fancied furies
  Invented by committees,
    With random rules
    The ship of fools
  Defends our tender cities
As gallantly as Procrustes
  And as stupidly as is clever.
    You’re in a cell
    Or off to hell
  Or safe and sound forever.
August 2007
Sodium light is the ship’s sky,
Mercury light its green thumb.
Our former address, the blue eye,
Blinks in the light of the old sun
But shelters her gaze from no one.
November 2007
translation of an untitled poem by Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)

I used to have a handsome fatherland.
The oaks were tall
and violets gently nodded in the breeze.
A dream was all.

He kissed me in German, spoke to me in German
(I still recall
the joyous sound); “I love you” were his words.
A dream was all.
August 2010
How doth the little neutron bomb
Improve its fission yield,
And pour the waters of its heart
Across the killing field.

How brilliantly it scores the sky,
How neatly fells the thrush,
As if it heard our hopelessness
And tried to beat the rush.
February 2012
Albuquerque
carborundum
silicosis
lemonade
March 2012
translation of an untitled poem from 1874 by Wilhelm Busch (1832-1908)

They tucked in drinks and hashed it out,
That monkey business, see?
That Darwin stuff, what an affront
To human dignity!

They drank a bunch of tankards down,
They stumbled out the doors,
They grunted and scratched and made it home
Scrabbling on all fours.
April 2012
translation of “Der Narr” from 1904 by Wilhelm Busch (1832-1908)

He wasn’t dumb. His intellect was sound
Enough to get him through his daily round.
It’s just that he
Thought he was pope. He said it happily
And so often that they were alarmed
And finally sent him to the funny farm.

A good friend visited while he rehearsed
Distraught complaints—in fact, he cursed:
“Tarnation! What is with these guys?
They say I’m crazy and I don’t know why.”

“Yeah, well, that’s what people do.
They have enough of Popes with one.
You’re number two.
And that is just what they can’t bear.
Listen, you should be aware:
The smart keep mum.”

The crazy man went still as if in thought,
And his good friend went quietly on out.

And see, it wasn’t even two whole weeks
Before they met each other on the street.

“Hey,” called his friend, “Now what’s the scoop?
I guess you had to give up being pope?”

He slyly answered, “Oh, I get it.
You sure are a nosy one!
I know exactly how it works.
We all have our little quirks
But you’re crazy to admit it.
The wise keep mum.”
July 2012
The placing of blame is a difficult matter.
It isn’t just one of your government games.
You may at first think I’m a nabob of natter
When I tell you a wrong must have three different blames.
First of all, there’s the blame that we sell to the papers,
Like “We need more budget,” or “Here are the facts:”
“It was one of the previous president’s capers,”
Or “It will secure us from terrorist acts.”
But I tell you a wrong must have inner defenses
In case of a breach of the Ligne Maginot,
Else how can the bureaucrats keep up pretenses,
Or the leaders tell whether to hunker or go?
Blames of this type must be tightly constructed,
Dense with uncheckable inside details,
Such as “New personnel who were not yet instructed
Bypassed the rules and deleted e-mails.”
But above and beyond there’s still one blame left over,
A blame as well hid as the Fountain of Youth,
A blame that no human research can discover,
Or at least we hope not, because it’s the truth.
June 2005
We are neoformalists,
Totally monotonous.
We read a book on how to scan
In the prehistoric time,
Programmed our computers and
Checked the answers line by line.
We are so creative, man.
You know because we used a rhyme.
Totally monotonous,
We are neoformalists.
June 2007
translation of an untitled poem by Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)

A girl stood by the ocean,
sighing long and longingly,
for she was much affected by
the sunset on the sea.

“My lady, this old story?
Allow me to ease your mind.
It goes down here in front of us
and comes back up behind.”
1979
Swift as a chimney swallowing a barn,
We swallow down the governmental yarn:
Let’s knit our network of prescription plugs;
We who fly freely need to live on bugs.
May 2000
This Thought is not Conclusion -
A Paragraph beyond -
Step Lightly - to the threshhold -
And out, and easy on -
February 2012
Blasting through the sky
Like a nuclear device,
Through the towns I fly
Blinking once or twice.
Rudolph’s nose is hot
With meteoric light—
What fun to visit every tot
Within a single night.

Jingle bells, jingle bells,
No one else can hear.
My jolly sounds are swallowed in
The vacuum to my rear.
December 1999
Three counts for mountebanks out of the eye,
Seven for the turf lords with their telephones,
Nine for candidates, doomed to lie,
One for the media with its high tone,
On the television where you learn to buy.
One count to fool them all, one count to blind them,
One count to fix on so they’ll never look behind them,
On the television where you learn to buy.
November 2000
The age of opportunity,
When the net was paved with gold,
When anything went and fortunes were spent
As favored by the bold,

Is past, and all that still remains
In the years-long bubble burst
Is no champagne, and real pain,
And a lot of stuff that works.
January 2003
Dance, dance, Jesus dance
The macarena.
It’s a miracle,
It’s a no-braina.

Pipe a merry tune,
Pied or crucified,
And lead believers to
The hillside.
June 2003
Lunch comes in at the mouth,
And weight goes onto the thighs,
And all we learned in our youth
Is hatred of exercise.
I lift my fork to my mouth,
While reaching for the fries.
December 2005
Busy young fool, unruly Donne,
How dost thou thus
The vaporous
Condense to a strange thought and a strange pun?
December 2007
Summer is in the eye of the
storm of the iris of the
garden of the flight of the
whirling maple.
April 2008
As in the Iliad, Book 20, when
at last Achilles makes his way to fight
the Trojans, blind Homer has him pause
and shout a taunting speech at his opponent
Aeneas, who then, nothing daunted, stretches
the moment of suspense until it breaks,
holding forth like some Demosthenes
in an even longer speech where he accuses
Achilles of dallying around with words
when he should be thrusting hard-edged bronze:
even so
the election season carries on too long.
October 2012
I met a robot from Aristarchus Rim.
It smiled because it heard me hum this tune.
And then it held out an AC power supply—
It said it was the finest on the moon.

And I said: “Oh, no no no, I don’t (bzz) no more,
I’m tired of losing track of the score.
No thank you sir, it only makes me whir,
And then it makes me want a little more.”

I met a robot out at Vesta Complex.
It smiled when I had come in through the lock.
And then it held out a box of silver-112—
It said it was the finest in the rock.

And I said: “Oh, no no no, I don’t fry no more;
I’m tired of thinking there was a war.
No thank you friend, I’m still on the mend
From the time I tried it once before.”

I met a robot from Enceladus Port.
It smiled because it had so many things.
And then it held out a dewar filled with fluorine—
It said it was the finest in the rings.

And I said: “Oh, no no no, I don’t (wff) no more,
I’m tired of losing track of the score.
No thank you droid, it only makes me annoyed-
It’s even worse than H2SO4.

I met a robot came from Silicon Gulch.
It smiled ‘cause it was happy as could be.
And then it held out a three-phase heterodyne
CMOS epitaxial IC.

(What a chip!)

And I said: “Oh, no no no, I don’t live no more,
I must be losing track of the score.
Thank you my friend, let’s go on a bender
Like we’d never been on one before.”

Then I said: “Oh, no no no, I don’t live no more,
Not if I’ve forgotten what for!
Thank you my friend, let’s go round the bend
Like we’d never been around before.”

optional verse for college students who don’t like their faculty advisers

I met a robot, a professor at school.
It smiled because it thought it knew it all.
And then it declared the date my thesis was due.
It said I should get started in the fall.

(Due in May.)

And I said: “Oh, no no no, I don’t study no more,
I’m tired of stayin’ up until four.
No thank you creep, it makes me want to sleep,
And then it doesn’t let me any more.”
May 1985
Let the firebrand awake!
Call on demon, duck and drake!
There’s no time to rape and pillage
As we charcoal every village,
But still we’ll slaughter like Stallone,
Till these ashes are our own.
March 1999
Be or not be to beweep,
Miles to go like tremulous sheep.
Doom is dark. Dingle’s deep.
Constellations o’er us beep.
Now I know my ABC.
I think I’ll write some poetry.
May 1999
Oh say, can you see, by the light’s early dawn,
That daring young man on the flying dugong?
There seldom is spurred a less probable bird
Till Willie comes home from the war!
November 2001
The boy flew off the burning deck.
He fell to Earth I know not whether.
But everywhere that Mary went
Were little bits of leather.
August 2003
A delicate rhythm befits the informal age.
We thin our iambs with numerous anapests.
No strong stresses must taint the ironic tone.
Oh, and I almost forgot—we write no end-
stopped lines, not without special dis-
pensation. Also—what the hell, forget it!
Everyone thinks it’s free verse anyhow.
June 2007
tiled like a bathroom
tiered like a wedding cake
tired like me
going down one tube
and then another
October 2007
My heart aches, and the blackest hellfire fiend
Rings my ears as if Titans had ball-peened
My brain for all eternity, or longer,
Unless there’s a way to say it even stronger.
January 2008
What fun it is to mold your craft
to an artificial constraint!
Artful and crafty is what it is,
and art is what it ain’t.
January 2008
Then...

In the beginning was the word
That told us everything we know,
And nothing else can be inferred.
We know because it told us so.

... And Now

Man explains. God disdains.
No one else has any brains.
August 2009
When Cupertino smites the air,
office workers leave their desks
and crowd into the Apple Store
to grasp in lust the latest phone,
though not one knowledge worker asks
how is the obvious well done?
February 2010
take me home
taxi ride
to the address
where I reside
in a building
with a driveway
and a number
on the side
September 2013
The roses are dead.
The violets are, too.
And it’s better unsaid
What I think of you.

Heedless Saint Valentine,
Buried in clover,
Don’t you dare tempt me to
Do it all over!
February 1999
le do zilcrino
tu’a do co’u jimpe
ge’ecu’idai
2001
O Generation of the entirely snug
  and entirely impenetrable,
I have seen poets versifying in the dark,
I have seen them with uneven lines,
I have seen their volumes full of gibberish
  and heard unlikely theories.
And you are smarter than they were,
And I am smarter than you are;
And Hopkins lives in the anthologies
  and cannot even write criticism.
February 1979
Now, what does a seahorse use for a rocking chair?
It could just rock in its place—but that’s pretty boring,
Especially if we want to be clever now.
So let’s invent one! And give it sprockets—or maybe...
Hydraulic! Of course! And powered by ocean currents,
Using vanes that go round—and weights for the rocking!
Wow! That’s an invention! We could earn cash like water!
Hey, I’ll write to the Patent Office, if only
You will do up those drawings they always want.
February 1986
I would like to turn everyone’s attention to a writer who, unlike many others, continued to swim after making his splash,
Namely, the lighter-than-water Ogden Nash,
A verse humorist whose primary compositional principle
Is to stubbornly remain the exact opposite of inwincible,
And whose general working method is to mix up long and short lines in a way so maddening and so funny that in the end you have to conclude that he’s a genius or a whiz,
Which he is.
But that’s not the funniest part, the funniest part is when his wife says, Oggie dear, and he says, yes what is it my darlingest pollywoggy,
And she says, Oh, nothing, I just wanted to find out what you would say when I called you Oggie.
1997
First Witch:
Why do we three draw the sea
With perigee and syzygy?

Second Witch:
To get the media enthused,
The viewers used and disabused.

Third Witch:
That will be when they’re confused.

First Witch:
Where’s the orbit?

Second Witch:
Round the bend.

All:
Let the destined show begin.
December 1999
I will go down to DC again, to the crowded Mall and the Pool,
And all I ask is a mandate and a Hill without a fool,
And some calm polls from the newsrooms and the end of the correction,
And the great luck of a swan song before the next election.
January 2001
Bring me my prose of turning cold.
Bring me my narrowing of ire.
Bring me my beer, O crowds unpolled.
Bring my extinguisher of fire!
October 2002
Some say the world will end in trash,
Some say in spam.
From what I’ve seen of spending cash,
I think I have to favor trash.
But if there is a traffic jam
As alternate demises clash,
Then which one will claim the blame,
Piles of junk or piles of scam?
It’s all the same.
February 2005
Be not the first by whom the new is tried:

A. Wait until it’s fully cut-and-dried.
B. Hold off till you’re sure that no one died.
C. But claim you were and write the field guide.
D. We can all try at once and not collide.
February 2005
Better safe than storied,
Better shade than glory,
Better homes and gardens
Until you get your pardons.
November 2006
I saw a goth girl on the train one night
who wore a steel ring in her lower lip
and carried a sharp purse with stark white stripes.
She fixed her makeup
using a pink Hello Kitty compact.
January 2008
Confusion is only natural,
although counterfactual,
thanks to your long experience
of comprehensive ignorance.
January 2008
Mumbledy jumbledy,
Susan Lynn Elliott
Lives on a diet of
Chocolate and tea,

Thereby refuting her
Antireductionist
Views on the nature of
People and me.
1985
Barnacles bound from the harrowing sound
Of the Bailiwick’s Barnacle Bake.
They run to the sea and they call as they flee,
“We will hide in the great salt lake!”

The guests at the fest had ingested the rest
Of unescaped barnaclekind,
So the Bailiwick’s hands were out searching the lands
To find out the things they could find.

The barnacles looked, but the ocean was cooked
And had run far away from the sands.
They went back to partake of the Barnacle Bake,
Avoiding the Bailiwick’s hands.
December 1985
translation of an untitled poem by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) into Lojban

le xuncutcpi su’o slaka
fo le spidja canai pleji
.i gauku fi le tego’i cmene
lei rijno ze’u vreji
April 2003
Itsy, Bitsy, Tiny and Few,
We have a nuclear weapon or two.
Itsy, Bitsy, Tiny and Free,
If you are cowed you’ll listen to me.

What do you get when you conquer the Earth?
Way too much cash and a sense of self-worth.
How do you act when you’re such a fat cat?
Who do you think’s at fault for that?
Always the United States.

Itsy, Bitsy, Tiny and Bomb,
Give us the cash and you can stay calm.
You will starve in poverty too
Just like Itsy, Bitsy, Teeny, Tiny and Few.
December 2003
If I had my druthers, I would live
Snug in an airtight house with picture windows
High on the central peak of Herschel crater,
Mimas, Saturn, and lose my Friday nights
Staring in fascination at the rings.
Well, not this year. But while I’m getting ready
I use my Friday evenings writing mail
To dear, dear friends who live too far away.
June 2004
As time passes,
Asses rhyme:
To climb Parnassus
Surpasses crime.
January 2008
Ich weiß nicht was soll es bedeuten
Daß ich blauäugig bin.
Lügt mir der Spiegel an, oder
Hats einen zweiten Sinn?
September 2012
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder who you are,
Up above the world as far
As the driver of a car.
July 1991
The Weekly World News and the National Enquirer,
Always aiming higherer,
Have taken the idea of news as entertainment to its logical termination
Of skipping the news entirely and leaving nothing but the sensation.
Entertainment
Is a secret industry codeword for debrainment.
October 2000
Who can know the future?
Who can know the past?
Who can know the present
However long it lasts?
Even Aristotle,
Even Thomast Nast,
Even HAL 9000
With the help of Gormenghast
Could not count the ballots cast.
November 2000
Double, double, cosmic bubble
By the Law of Edwin Hubble.
February 2001
There’s one birthday that I’m pretty sure pretty much everyone will pretty much forget,
To their regret,
And I don’t mean the day that brash lllama logged in,
No, I mean the real birthday of the real Nash, comma, Ogden,
Than whom no writer wrote less bashfully
Or more Ogden Nashfully.
August 2001
I set the goals that make the whole world run.
I keep a database on everyone.
I change the future when I make the fads.
I write the ads, I write the ads.
January 2002
Hang your head up on the wall:
Summer goes before a fall.
All that growth is lush as Eden,
And you’re packing up for Sweden
To collect your Nobel Prize...
When they recognize your lies.
Tripping goes before a fall:
No one’s always on the ball.
March 2002
Humpty Dumpty lies in state
Like a glycerin-shiny fashion plate,
And all the King’s loyally breakfasting men
Will never photograph food again.
July 2002
For all the bird’s misgiving,
  From all the beaux esprits,
We thank on this Thanksgiving
  The heavenly emcee
That turkeys spring eternal,
That corn grows from the kernel,
That death, the gate nocturnal,
  Locks with a vernal key.
November 2002
From the arc of the ankle
To the farther ear,
From the grapes and the bunions
To the grin of the last chevalier:
Take a pull from the flagon
Of all future revelry;
In the armor of spirits
May you find meaningless cheer.
April 2006
don’t be a slave
in labor’s maw
when you can work
for Tatmadaw
Myanmar Shave
December 2006
When the forts of folly fall,
Will the victors comprehend
How you sought to meet your end:
To scale or to defend the wall,
Or scale and then defend?
February 2007
A tiny snack can justify
Heaping plates of dessert. But why?
Here is the crucial fact:
Cake is the opposite of pie,
And opposites attract.
July 2007
The ear—the plug—the fate of a churning nation—
the roar of jets—the murmur of indignation—
the editor of Acceptable Condemnation
issues a book of hierarchy and stations.
April 2008
,somewhere i could never travel
madly beyond
any understanding thy
anfractuous head
  lines like headlights
and thy
  illuminating space
running
  driving elbow colon
send he said the rubber
bands flying but they broke i
think the rubber bands still are
  flying

    hang it
  all can there be only
one cantos but
  no shantih shantih shantih
July 1978
Split the hair - when you face the music -
Blow after blow - will roll aside -
Violence dealt to the batted belfry
Spent on your hair and not your hide.

Loose the flood - like a snake oil seller -
Gush after gush, and swear it’s true -
Cro-Magnon creditors! Credulous cretins!
You’ll escape yet from the peer review.
August 2005
Walk off, walk off, Voltaire, Rousseau,
Walk off, walk off, the game is lost.
You can still publish sharp cartoons,
But not deny the Holocaust.
February 2006
So wie Wolken, weiß und weltumfassend,
sahen sich einst die Europäer an.
Nunmehr scheint die Sache fies und fließend,
und wer noch dran glaubt, heißt Republican.
June 2009
Red-winged blackbirds are all we know
On earth and all that we need to know.
Forget the government and its taxes.
   All you need to know

On earth is that earth is run by people
Who want you to pay for a greener lawn
Or listen to birdsong tapes and forget
   All you need to know.
July 2007
On August 21, 1969, a spacecraft arrived in Earth orbit from interstellar space. The world’s attention was captured by the opportunity, and programs were quickly instituted to attempt communication with the extraterrestrial visitor.

By 1977, progress was sufficient for the visitor to explain its purpose in traveling the stars. Its practice, it said, was to search alone for developing civilizations. It stayed with each until it could contribute something of its own which that civilization understood.

Twenty-three further years passed before the visitor announced the achievement of its goal. It shortly departed Earth, leaving this poem.

If you know what you can see,
listen to the fireflies
turning through the atmosphere
with a snow of cries.

August 1983
importing lark song,
we become haiku poets,
crashing Basho’s bash.
May 1999
The haiku warned me:
“May explode into meaning.”
Farewell, farewell world.
September 1999
’Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have double-crossed.
February 2000
Roses are rose and violets are violet,
But freedom’s expensive and violence inviolate.
December 2002
Or, Better Loud Noises in the Night than Secret Police
Over the hills and over,
Under the darkest sky,
I fly in a batwing bomber,
And nobody asks me why.

To George it is for the voters.
To the colonel it’s for the dead.
To me it’s so that my daughter
Can grow up free of dread.

There are the flames of Baghdad,
Aligned with the target grids.
I know as we kill the terror
We terrify the kids.
March 2003
Ours is not to reason why.
No one does that any more.
Ours is but to bomb from high
Till everybody else is poor.
October 2004
The Internet loads mysterious codes
Its wonders to perform;
It plants the kernel with its stacks,
And seeds ideas in dorms.

Blind believers, ants with pants,
We build more than we planned;
The network is its own compiler,
That we can’t understand.
December 2005
Death, be not sad, though some have called thee
Loutish and headstrong, cuz it isn’t so:
You always keep your stereo turned low,
And take some other guy instead of me.
May 1998
Seinfeld and Roseanne Barr,
And Taps for Fred Astaire.
I only hope that I’m that big a star
When I go off the air.
July 1998
The U.N. has a resolution
Well, you know
There’s a lot to talk about.
While we’re practicing our elocution
Well, you know
I wonder how it’s turning out?
But when you talk of troop deployments,
Don’t you know that we can’t count that high?

Don’t you know it’s gonna go
All wrong?

(Repeat for each Middle East crisis.)
August 2006
Beauty has teeth, teeth beauty; farewell, wits,
That’s all you know as you are torn to bits.
March 2007