No wonder you go stooped, shouldering a dead
weight as though a statue cast in lead
straddled your life. And yet the load consists
of matter which does not exist.
Cunning artificer, your artifact,
hollow as it is heavy, rides your back
in public daylight, in solipsist sleep,
granting no breather, no reprieve to drop
the secret bending you to its own shape.
First published in The New Criterion
In Winter Light
As north wind makes the year’s first snowflakes dance,
one of them drops into my hand like some
white Athens fallen into history’s palm—
a moment’s Parthenon, brief as a glance.
Rodin sculptured the world-enfolding Hand
which wrapped the empires as they waxed and waned,
enclosed the forms of Phidian snow, contained
the crystal heaven Plato’s thought had spanned.
This snowflake on a visit from the skies
may be a flourishing metropolis
with teeming markets, proud Acropolis,
which I, a moment’s god, hold as it dies.
If atoms dream in a space we cannot know,
what kingdoms claim my melting star of snow?
First published in Sonnets: 150 Contemporary Sonnets
Deep Ones Are Best
My clothing harbors secret rooms I use
to squirrel away the world, furnish a life
too avid: the precautionary knife
bad streets require, the keys I must not lose
(or I will learn one’s castle can refuse
its owner), candy wrapped in handkerchief
to palliate the unsweet tooth of grief,
mail not yet read, with its uncontrollable news.
Endowed with a fastidious proboscis,
I’m rescued by my cruet of cologne
when the whole universe breathes halitosis.
Give up my pockets?
Yes, when all I own
vanishes in the ultimate narcosis,
when clothes and skin no longer flatter bone.
First published in Sparrow
Forest After Rain
In this vague dawn that holds less light than shade,
I half sleepwalk in wet up to the ankle
here in these Catskill woods where Rip Van Winkle
stumbled upon white-bearded elves that played
at nine-pins in a secret mountain glade.
Here grow the dogtooth violets Rip saw twinkle,
and Dutchman’s-breeches a hard rain might crinkle
but not unravel, among which he’d strayed.
Mists of bright darkness (or dark light?) that float
around me seem inhabited by powers
watching this alien with invisible eyes.
Should elf with sugar-loaf hat and beard of goat
beckon me from a hammock spun of flowers,
I’d wave back cordially, without surprise.
First published in Sparrow
Rondeau Of Sleep
In fertile dark we find our earliest home,
coiled in that warm and pulsing grave, the womb.
Unbroken for nine moons, sleep shrouds us all
from pulpy foot to the still unhardened skull,
while form and fate are spun by chromosome.
Sleep shades the cradle. But grownups become
toilers whose waking hours dwarf the sum
of those lost nightly for that healing lull
in fertile dark.
Insomnia often stalks the old for whom
farewell tolls as they ghost from room to room,
knowing the longest night must shortly fall.
Could that vast sleep be but an interval?
Do we push lightward from earth’s living tomb
in fertile dark?
First published in Iambs & Trochees