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Uncollected Poems

I've been writing poetry for most of my life. When I was a freshman at Clarion State College
(it's now Clarion University of Pennsylvania), I thought I was going to be a professional writer and even looked into doing an MFA in Creative Writing.

Yup. Another example of just how useless a college education can be.

As I unearth my old material, I'll post the stuff that I like here. Same with anything new that I happen to come up with.

Poems that don't have titles will have bolded first lines. I've tried to arrange individual poems to make everything on the page as easy to read as possible. I'm generally putting new poems nearer the top, but, again, I'm trying to make things as readable as possible while preserving the typography that I'm after. I have to say that HTML is making more sense to me than it did when I first put the page together. I'm still not able to do everything exactly the way I want, but the things that escape me aren't bothering me much.

Updated 5/27/2012

The wind howls across the dark and frozen snow
Its icy teeth tearing through my clothes
To shred my flesh beneath.

I trudge against the blast,
My head bowed and eyes half closed
Too driven to desist and too proud.

In the heart of that white terrain,
I kneel and open wide my coat
A knife sharper than the wind in hand.

Although I fear its point and edge
Know the pain and blood it brings
I drive it deep within, release a warm wet rain.

I take a piece of my own heart,
Steaming, beating still in my hand
And plant it in the snowy hill.

I water it with my own heart's blood
And sing of warmth, and light,
Of miracles and tenderness and love.

And at my call, a shoot of green,
Irresistible as time, pushes through
The ice and snow and quickly, surely climbs.

And from that shoot, a bud blood-red,
With no care for the dark or wind or snow
Shakes out her petals full and fair,

And grows.

Look! Up in the sky . . .
There she is,
--falling, falling,
God only knows how long she's been falling.

I look around frantically.
Where the hell's a superhero when you need one?
Where has Superman gone?  Is Spiderman taking a nap?
What do you mean Captain America is out to lunch??
She's falling!

*I* can't save her.
I'm just a man,
--fat, old, creaky.

Thor could save her or Iron Man.
Those bastards can fly,
They're stronger than I am,
And smarter too.
(Well, Tony Stark is; Thor's maybe not so bright.)
Dammit, where the hell are they!

I've got no cape; I'd look stupid, I mean really stupid, in tights.
I might drop her.
I'm not what she needs, what she deserves.
She deserves a great man, a hero,
For God's sake, she deserves a SUPERhero,
But I can't find one for her.

I can't even get that right.

Fine.  Fine.
Just fine.
If those sons of bitches won't do the job,
I will.
Stay on your goddam couch, Batman,
This Fat Boy will do the job for you.

But not in tights.
My heart went out for a stroll today,
In its skipping, silly, childlike way,
And found you walking there alone.

Would you please to bring my heart back home?

It will not come unless you bring it,
Regardless of the songs I sing it,
Or arguments that I apply.
Without you near, it well may die!
(Or so it tells me, though I should state,
It often does exaggerate.)
But still, from here, I clearly see,
It far prefers yourself to me.
What lock or chain could keep it here,
I have no clue and greatly fear
That, once you leave, it will but fly.

Across the fields and through the sky,
And over mountains, forests, streams,
Where panthers prey and geysers steam,
It may get lost, poor thing! or broken,
Or cast aside like a subway token.
It's safer that it never roam--

Would you please to bring my heart back home?

And if you need to rest awhile,
There's many a long and weary mile,
I'll brew a pot of tea and bake
A loaf bread, perhaps a cake.
You need not hurry on your way.
Tomorrow is another day,
And soon enough to take the road.
Come, cast off that heavy load,
And sit you here beside the fire,
While I pile up the those oak knots higher.
I'll sit and watch the long night through,
It is the least that I can do,
Since you were kind enough, my dear,
To bring my silly heart back here.
God the Father was hungry one evening, and He headed to the kitchen.
Pulling out the leftover turkey from the fridge,
He got the Miracle Whip and bread,
And went to the counter for a knife,
But the only one there was dull,
So He decided to take the time to sharpen it
and pulled open the catch-all drawer to get his stone.
And there, in a red-velvet box, pushed to the back behind the screwdriver,
the can opener, the fuses
and the package of push pins,
Were the pieces of your heart.
He picked up that box lovingly and looked inside.
Yup, just where I left them, He grunted, and it's time for me to do something about that.
With all thoughts of turkey temporarily tabled,
He gently, carefully carried that red-velvet box to his workshop
and set it on the bench.
Turning, He reached up to a shelf near the ceiling,
And pulled down another box,
An old cigar box, battered and a bit dusty with age,
And He looked inside to find the pieces of my heart, just where He'd left them.
Looking from box to box,
He saw that a piece was missing from each.
So with His hands
He carefully took a piece of my heart
And welded it to yours
And a piece of your heart
And welded it to mine.
Hours whiled away, perfection doesn't happen all at once!
But, in the end, our two broken hearts were one.
God, pleased with His work,
Took out a beautiful crystal case,
And set our heart inside it with His blessing
And a light, calm and peaceful, began to shine
From this heart that's both yours and mine.
He gave our heart pride of place, there in His shop
And went back to make His sandwich.
A longing for your gentle, loving touch,
Your kisses sweet and deep embrace,
So fills my heart, I cannot say how much
I'd dare to risk, what hazards I would face.

But do you doubt my love so strong and true?
Does distance make you think that I could lie?
Ay, many miles may separate we two,
And many leagues as hawk or dove may fly.

But swifter and more sure than any bird
Or even angel, are, here within my heart,
The golden beams of love which fly unheard,
Unseen, between we two so far apart,

And join us in a union strong and fast
That longer than the universe shall last.

At the end of a semester that took half my life to finish,
I gathered up all of my papers, forms, projects, assignments,
And other assorted academic falderol,
And headed for the dean's office.
I had everything in order,
Every signature in place,
I was ready to graduate,
To get out into Life and really LIVE.
But I'd overlooked one thing;
I didn't have you,
You heart, your love, your laughter,
Your prescence in my life.
I had all of the forms,
But none of the function,
No reason to care, once the coursework was through.
I never thought I'd get this far in school
Only to finish with an Incomplete.

My woman writes a poem to me everyday,
Or, should I say, she adds to it.
Line upon line of her verses,
She carefully scribes on the pages of her heart,
Hiding those pages away,
Moving them every day, sometimes every hour,
And dares me to read them,
Begs me to read them.
She agonizes that I'll find them and read them;
She weeps when she thinks that I won't.

Her inscriptions are in a woman's hand,
A bit flowery, with many curves and curliecues flowing
From the finest nib of any iron pen ever made;
Small, and delicate, spidery,
About as readibly discernable as the will of the ancient gods
In a pile of steaming sheep's guts
And written, indeed, as Leonardo's notebooks were,
To be easily legible only in a mirror.
And she composes most often in Pig Latin.

But the truest meaning of her words
Lies between the lines,
The empty spaces of her heart.
These she fervently wants to hide from me,
Denying their existence,
Living in fear that I may actually believe her
And stop looking.

Small chance that.

Her words are my life and my meaning
Far too important to ignore,
No matter how she insists I should.

But I am considering a stronger pair of glasses,
And a battery powered trouble light.
TO: God
FROM: Pete
RE:  Latest Shipment Rec'd


Pleased be advised that I've taken delivery of the woman you sent into my life.
I was quite surprised at her arrival as You had given no indication in Your last
e-mail that You were planning this addition.  We're still making logistical
adjustments for her, but progress is steady and ongoing.

In future, may I suggest You consider giving me some advance warning?

With that said, may I also compliment You on Your choice; she is quite
wonderful.  The more she's here, the more amazed I am that I ever thought
I was happy without her.  She fits in perfectly.

One concern I have, though:  You seem to have forgotten to include both
an Owner's Manual and a Repair Manual.  I hope You'll correct this oversight
asap.   And it would be very helpful if you would include a current glossary
of her most commonly used words.  She seems to speak English, but, honestly,
the way she uses it is sometimes most confusing.

Will keep you updated on our situation.

best regards,
Ash Wednesday
There's a blood-red cardinal,
Sitting on the highest silver-white limbs of a maple tree in my yard
That break the clean blue sky this lenten morning,
Fervently singing out the news of a new birth and new life.

I wish he'd shut up;
I'm trying to sleep.

I'll make a garden
And fill it with the fairest flowers
Gathered from every corner of the earth,
Blossoms of red and white, yellow, blue, purple, pink,
Scenting the air with their fragence
Delighting the eye with their color.

Around this oasis
I'll build a fence
to keep out any creature dark or vile
And I'll net over my blossoms
So that light and air and rain may visit them
But nothing that would do them harm.

And if I work with great diligence
All manner of humming birds and bees
Will come to visit my garden.
I'll welcome them in
But there is only one guest that I eagerly await.

For in this world,
There is a butterfly of the greatest beauty,
Whose wings shimmer iridescently
By light of sun or moon.
She is the heart of beauty
And her every movement enthralls those who see her.
Though seeming frail,
She carries delight upon her wings
And the man who gives her rest
Will know a joy which words cannot contain.
For her and her alone
Do I bend all my efforts,
Hoping she will find my garden fair enough
That she will take her comfort there.

And if my garden is too small to tempt her
I'll add to it again and again
And make the whole world a garden just for her
If she will come and stay with me.
Winter's bitter wind
Shaking shrivelled brown oak leaves--
Sound of warm Spring rains
Her ebony eyes
Falling into loveliness--
Woman's tender kiss
Sad coyote-song
Is like the cry of my heart
Without my lover
Cool autumn breezes
Misty rain and cricket song
Heart-peace in the night
Light and beauty flood
The dawn sky immersing me:
My lady awakes.


The sun had set long ago, stumbling wearily down the hills to his rest, drawing the clouds slowly across the evening sky behind him. Silence fell upon the trees like a shadow, wrapping them in darkness disturbed only the whispered numbers of the dead leaves dancing on a crust of snow and an old barn owl floating like a silent, gray spectre on the winter wind.

She lifted gracefully to her perch, a barren limb jutting from the trunk of a broken oak-top. The tree had fallen prey to a summer thunderstorm after termites and dry rot had weakened it. The owl scoured the area carefully for mice, searching vainly for the slightest sign of life. With a quiet squawk of irritation, she settled in against the trunk of the tree to wait.

The wind blew in fitful gusts. Now still; now fretful; now still again, as if anticipating some long-awaited event. Reaching into the eastern horizon, he parted the clouds and then retired for a moment. The leaves, their dancing stilled, waited breathlessly. The trees and shadows too grew still with anticipation. In slow, stately cadence, the moon rose into the narrow swath of blue-black, velvet sky. Her full light touched the treetops but briefly as the wind again shifted to smother the sky with cloud.

Bathed in the spectral light of a late-rising moon burning coldly through a sea of cloud, the forest assumed a surreal appearance. As the wind continued to shift, the leaves resumed their dance. The trees joined the wild careening, swaying in time to the windsong as the leaves wove ever madder circles through the shadows. Oaks, maples and beeches interlaced bare-branched fingertips as they bowed, exchanging pleasantries and partners. The pines and firs added their harmony to the night, the dancers rustling and creaking in tune with their sighs.

He stepped out from between the roots of a gnarled maple: Six inches tall, with delicate, gossamer wings; black hair falling gracefully to his shoulders; protected from the chill by scarlet jacket and hose, he looked out upon the merrymaking. From a crevice the tree's bark, he drew forth a silver horn. Setting it to his lips, he winded a single clear note. Soon a dozen or more faeries joined him, bring with them harps, viols, flutes and horns. Their music rose to blend with the wind's moaning, the sighing of the firs and the other trees' creaking as leaf and faerie danced, weaving in, around between and through the trees and shadows. . .

A small brown mouse peeked timidly from beneath a leaf. The owl disappeared from her perch, only to return a moment later with a mouse clutched in her left talon. In the east, the clouds reddened as the sun prepared to rise. As if upon some silent, unspoken signal, the dancers stilled their madcap: the faeries slipping quietly away, the shadows hiding behind the trees, the leaves falling in exhausted heaps. The owl, her repast finished, preened herself, stretched luxuriously and flew towards the small barn in the distance in which she had taken up her residence.

The barn was a small, two-story building with high, arched mows over a low, dirt-floored shed. During the haying and Autumn harvest, she usually preferred to roost in the eves of the mows above, sleeping quietly through the day until evening brought out the mice and rats she feasted upon. However, in the bitter north wind, she preferred the warm, close comfort of the animals in the shed. Flying through the hole in the wall the farmer left open for ventilation, she was greeted by the comfortable darkness, the moist heat and smell of cattle and horses, the fragrance of last summer's hay and the familiar sound of seven sets of jaws busily chewing down breakfast.

As the sun climbed slowly higher, the owl could feel the breeze as it freshened, moving through the now barren apple and pear trees which stood between the house and barn. She could hear the rattle of wooden plates, the splitting song of a silver-bitted axe as it drove through chunks of red oak. Cattle tended, wood split and stacked, she could hear the farmhouse door creak cheerfully open and shut. As her great yellow eyes drowsed, the last thing she heard the burping of the cattle and a woman's song lilting on the air.

The sun was sitting just on the edge of the sky when she awakened. A draft of cool, early evening air had rushed in through the closing door. The horses and cattle were again downing their hay. The evening's milking done, they lay leisurely enjoying their meal. Wide awake now, the barn owl lightly scanned the shed floor, but the mice had long ago to avoid her winter roost. After carefully preening herself, she set out to her favorite hunting spot in the forest. Coming to rest upon the barren limb of a broken oak tree, she scoured the area carefully for mice, her great yellow eyes glowing dimly, sweeping the snow on the forest floor, searching vainly for the slightest sign of life. With a quiet squawk of irritation, she settled in against the trunk of the tree to wait.

Life's Most Important Lessons:

The best way to sip hot tea is slowly;
The best way to enjoy a fine cigar is with hot tea, slowly;
The best way to enjoy a woman is slowly;
The best way to enjoy Life is slowly with hot tea, a fine cigar and a woman--

but not all in the same bed at the same time or hilarity will ensue.

Her words come to me
Her love flows through me
Her passion inflames me
Her loving arms claim me
Every day.
If the beauty of the midnight sky
Took form and walked the earth,
And all the brightest stars that shine
Found rest within the depths of her eyes;

If warm summer air,
Fragrant with honeysuckle,
Were her breath,
And the fluid movement of
River and cloud graced her every step;

If Grecian nymphs from myths gone by
Should follow in her wake,
A pale reflection of her enticing allure
And sensuality;

Her beauty still would fade like ancient sighs,
In the sun-bright aura of your face, your smile, your eyes.

For Joan

I touched the tears from your blue, blue eyes.

They were sooty black;
Water and make-up mingled.
You laughed when I said women shouldn't cry
Because they look like chimneys in the rain.

I looked through your tears into your blue, blue eyes.

My eyes are brown;
And yet I too have seen the same ache,
The same pain that darkens all joy,
The same wound that denies all healing
Deep within my eyes.

Oh my child, my child, my precious child.

I am no god to heal,
No physician to cure,
No nurse to bind your wounds

But all that I am yearns to be.

Two Studies

At Twilight

Clouds hung above the sea,
Painted in long sweeping strokes
By the red-gold sunset;

The sea begins the evensong overture,
And the wind joins her,
Sighing softly in harmony;

Stars, carefully positioned overhead,
Slowly brighten
To gently illuminate the stage;

The rocks gather along the shore,
Patiently anticipating the evening's performance,
Climbing atop one another for better seats.

And against the backdrop of sea and sky,
Night enters and assumes her stance.

At Dawn

The evening draws to a close.
The sun, who, because of his heavy schedule
Missed last night's performance,
Now climbs slowly from bed.

As he stumbles into the morning,
He sees his own image mirrored in a pool,
And blushes.
The red hue fills the sky.
A solitary cloud blushes in sympathy.

Below, the breeze yawns and drifts
Into a nearby wood,
Breathing through the trees,
Shaking them gently awake.

Sighing, the world leaves behind its dreaming,
And begins another day.

Thankyou Note

Crowded room.
Making carefully calculated steps
I pick my way through.
Hurried greetings
As friends discover my presence
And, just as quickly,
Forget it.
Alone again,
I find myself pressed into the corner of the wall
Like a dandelion between the pages of a book.

The evening lengthens, and I,
Pondering to myself some snatch of Sophocles,
Or Eliot,
Arouse to overhear some bit of conversation:
"Well I wouldn't be seen dead with him. . . "
Or something like that,
It doesn't matter, I'm not 'him'
And 'he'
Probably wouldn't be seen dead with her either.

It's time to go.
Of course, it has been,
Ever since I got here.

Thanks for a lovely evening.

The Morning After

Arising from a dream-infested sleep,
I tumble groggily to my feet
Out onto the hard-cold floor.
I wipe the muddling sleep from my eyes
And peer out into a gray, barren morning.
Stumbling into the kitchen, I set the kettle on,
Hoping against hope that the magic of caffeine
Will reanimate my sleep-sodden mind.
Pouring out the steaming water,
I watch as it blackens in the cup.
The first sip is terrifying, as objects
Once comfortingly vague and smooth
Suddenly assume sharp, clear lines,
And I realize that I'm standing barefoot,
In purple-dotted, baggy pajama pants,
Badly in need of a shave.

With this clear truth,
Another day begins.

On that day when I taste Death's bitter cup
I shall seize it by both handles
And drain it at one draught

And coming before God
And looking back upon my life
I shall say,
'Thank God that's over with.'

Lost again in dark brown eyes
An endless depth to fall
A well of passion springing
A tender woman's soul

Her honeyed lips I long to kiss
Her skin to touch, caress
Her arms entwined around me
Complete my happiness
But can I ever win her heart
And truly call her mine
As well might I command the stars
And bid the sun to shine

Beyond my grasp the stars and sun
Are fated now to lie
But heart's completeness is near to hand
I'll have her or I'll die

She eats tacos for breakfast
I never knew angels even liked tacos
But they must
At least the only one that I know does

She likes tomatoes, too
The nymphs of Ancient Greece
The naiads and dryads
Whose supple bodies tempted men of yore
Never tasted a tomato
But the nymph who has captured my heart
Feasts not upon the air, nor aether, nor ambrosia, nor nectar
But tomatoes

Perhaps no nymph nor angel she
No creature of mythology

But when I see

enchanting eyes
beguiling smile
lissome limbs
tender breasts

I am persuaded myth is true
To this my heart attests

She walks in beauty. As the night unfolds
Her inky wings across the world and wide,
My love, a spirit kind and true, who holds
My heart, my soul steadfast against the tide

Of bitter, ancient, aching memories past.
A man beguiled can live from day to day
And never know the pit of hell in which he's cast
To stumble lonely, bloodied, lost and fey.

Such a man, I, wandered lost, with heart
Half dead, and spirit broken yet unbowed.
Deceived, I thought I lived, but only part
Had breath, had life; the rest was wrapped in shroud,

Until her words, her eyes, her smile, her grace
Restored, returned me to my rightful place.

For Lisa

A dank, seeping cold.
A damp, creeping cold
That clings to hard, smooth walls
Or slithers through shadowed halls
In silence.


rays of






These cells and bars,
My prisonrefuge,
I built to keep you out.
I have no need of visitors.

For Doris Cooper

(In the midst of my Spring,
I realized within myself
The bitter frost of winter.)

Spring was her time.
When Winter shouted
And chilled our souls,
She walked clothed in Spring.

And where she walked
Was warmth;
And where she sang
(softly, slowly, sweetly)
was light.

She was Spring:
She nurtured,
She tended,
She grew

But Spring has passed;
And I am left wandering
Across this green grass,
Beneath this blue sky,
Among these birds and trees
Searching for Spring.

Briefly lit

disconnected moments when pain and fear are covered by
alcoholic haze, submerged in bursts of short lived laughter,
transient freedom from our lives, ourselves.

We cling

to those brightly lit bubbles
trying to rise upon them above our grey morass,
clutching them to breast with fervor no lovers know.

But they break . . .


we crash to earth again and bury ever deeper into the gray.
Tomorrow we'll ride again. . . and fall. . .


again. . .

And the air reverberates with our silent scream.

Distraction--A Dialog

"More potatos?"

'Her hair is black, like a midnight winter sky in deep December when the clouds are so thick you could walk on them; black like a raven's wing; black like the devil's thoughts on a bad day.'

"Did you watch the game Sunday?"

'Her eyes are pools even darker than her hair; interstellar night with a single star that shines in each. I lost myself in her eyes once and found myself a lifetime later.'

"I loved watching T.O. fumble."

'Her lips are full and red; soft, sweet, luscious; her smile burns through me like a laser, piercing my heart, burning my soul, welding everything that I am to her.'


'I'm sorry; were you talking to me?'


In the depths of a woman's eyes
There's a shadow that lingers still
The tracks of her bitter tears
A void that she cannot fill

In the depths of a woman's soul
There's a heartache that lingers still
A hurt that defies all cures
A pain, a fear, a chill

In the depths of her true love's heart
There's a peace that's calm and still
A devotion to her healing
And a pledge he will fulfill

Five Impossible Tasks

If I could catch the sun
And tie a cord to it
And fly it like a kite;

If I could weld
A silver chain to the moon
And place it 'round your pretty neck;

If I could capture the bright blue sky
Pour it into a crystal flask
To set upon your table;

If I could gather seven bright stars
Blue-white, orange, green and red
And bind them to your brow;

These silly words of mine might frame
The beauty of your eyes, your face, your name.

Daughter of the Noonday Sun and Midnight Sky
With her father's hair and her mother's eyes.

Bright gold her hair gleams.

Fathomless blue, her eye seems
By fires lit from deep within her heart.

Her soul, a single captured star, to chart
A lover's course thereby, is free,
Yet searches over land and sea
For her own, her mate, her lover true.

All the words of poets down through
The ages, so much idle wind,
Cannot frame her beauty within
A couplet, sonnet or rhyme.
These foolish words of mine
Whirl wildly, like moths at a flame,
Yet were I to give Beauty a name,

Her name is known, when all is said and done:
The daughter of the Midnight Sky and Noonday Sun.

Rolling hills and soft green fields,
The woodlands and the streams,
These are the hallmarks of my home,
The comfort of my dreams.

I've walked the fertile, broken fields
Beneath the sun and stars,
And broke my back with labors hard
Before I went to wars.

But now at night the stars are strange,
No comfort do they bring.
My distant home calls out to me
In every song I sing.

I am a warrior born and bred,
And fighting is my way.
No worry cowers in my heart,
No fear of bloody day.

My hands are steady, hard and sure,
My eye is bright and keen,
And yet I long to walk in peace
The hillsides fair and green.

But now at night the stars are strange,
No comfort do they bring.
My distant home calls out to me
In every song I sing.

Oh, comrades, brothers, warriors all,
Our blood beats in our veins.
The battle joined, we sweat and fight
Till victory be gained.

The guns erupt and shake the ground
Like demons roaring, crazed,
While pulsing, throbbing walls of sound
Pound soldiers bruised and dazed.

O warriors, comrades, brothers all,
Our blood now stains the soil,
But others will enjoy the peace
Bought by our deadly toil.

And now at night the stars are strange,
No comfort do they bring.
My distant home calls out to me
In every song I sing.

The struggle won, my limbs grow cold,
I battle for each breath.
My sight grows dim, but I can see
The gray, grim shade of Death.

Don't leave my broken body here
Beneath a foreign sky.
Bear back my ashes to my home,
Swear this before I die.

But now at night the stars are strange,
No comfort do they bring.
My distant home calls out to me
In every song I sing.

Orphan of War

Upon the fragments of life you sit.
The rubble was once a house, which,
But for the intervening hate of two peoples,
And the bombs which are the offspring of that hate,
Might have stood long after you had fallen.

In your terror, you cry.
And those screams are echoed
By the mounds which surround you,
Reverberating through time;
Mingling with those other screams
Which came before you,
And shall follow after.

Perhaps, someday, Man will learn Peace.
Until then, the glory and justice of the war
Your parents died of,
Must be your comfort;
And the hate which bred the war,
Your sustenance.

Internet Interruptus

I miss you so goddam much I can't sleep, can't eat. Don't want anything but you.

You're not real:
You're just an electron dance over copper wire;
You're just a string of binary data, magnetically encoded on an aluminum platter whirling at 7,800 rpm inside a metal case setting at my feet;
You're just electro-chemical reactions in soft tissue encased in bone.

Missing you isn't real either:
The ache in my chest is just stress from days without sleep;
The pain in my guts comes from not eating;
The tears I'm crying are from the smoke from my cigar.

I don't know how I lost you;
How can you lose what you never had?

I still hear your voice, static and all.

I miss you so goddam much I can't sleep, can't eat. Don't want anything but you.

Midnight's deepest blue
Pierced by two
Bright-shining diamond stars:
My lady's eyes