From the archives: As we anticipate yet another trans-Atlantic voyage

Return to Africa Again

my wife brought me here for healing –
“the African sun will do you good.”

And here I am, bathed in family
and tribal love. My village
surrounds me. The ladies bring
fresh fruit and warm bread
and no part of it
is genetically modified.

Flesh still a bit tender from the cut,
but the stitches are beginning to dissolve.

I boil some bottled water for tea –
then watch the housekeeper top it off
with water from the tap – they say
once you have tasted from the waters
of Pindjiguiti – waters made sweet
by the blood of the martyrs,
their bitter sweat, their salty tears –
you will always remember Bissau.

The old man in Caliquisse
told me returning was part
of the spiritual deal we struck.

subway poem #9

Reading an obit hyperlinked to a blog
hyperlinked to love poems, one might assume
death were itself conclusive. It is said
Poseidon, the protector of seafarers, is
more powerful a god than the Roman Neptune,
since Greece is surrounded by the sea.

A friend asked if connections between people
had their antecedents out in space, as stardust,
or beneath us, at the bottom of the sea.
All I know is I’d rather be a mariner
than an astronaut. A shipmate told me
there are more airplanes at the bottom
of the ocean than submarines in the sky.

In part, perhaps, because I am an older guy,
I wonder why people seem so obsessed
with a poet’s sexual proclivities, as if
that’s something somehow fixed, predestined.

My favorite poets are so because of what
and how they write, not with whom or how
they spend their private moments. Poetic
sentiment is universal, ubiquitous, maybe
even transformational, if you listen.

It didn’t take me long to figure out
I might not be able to coast by on
my good looks alone. The escalator
froze tonight at Capitol South. Not cool.
Next time I’ll take the steps.

Top 100 Poetry Blogs & Websites To Follow in 2019

“I would like to personally congratulate you as your blog #ThisIsMyPoetryBlog has been selected by our panelist as one of the Top 100 Poetry Blogs on the web.”

From the archives: Experimentation in Standard Time

Autumn urban afternoons
get shorter and sweeter –

standing in the middle of I street
I await a very specific angle on the bow,
as my ship called Earth comes about:
a unique perspective on how time passes –
in the distance you can see Virginia:
how many beats per measure
are there in Standard time?

the future is reaching back to join us,
to warn us, to help us alter course
to starboard so we can pass port to port –
the present and the future,
like two ships,
passing in a storm.

I post to a blog or sing a song:
I write some non-rhyming words
that we call poetry –
and time is a social construct
a contractual agreement we accept
from fear of things we don’t know –
dawn to dusk, high noon
to the darkest part of night –

a 24 second shot clock.
I sink a three pointer
that leaves a vacuum in its wake –
the chain nets echo its refrain.

Memento Mori (from the archives)

Some Errant Wednesday Thoughts

It’s Wednesday, which means I’ll spend
the afternoon at work at the reference desk.
But I’d much rather stay comfortably at home,
sip poured-through coffee in my pajamas,
and read poems my friends post on Facebook.

And what will they say of my verses when
I am gone, done? It’s fair to be circumspect about
the other side, the end of now. Do you think
they’ll call my verses amateur (that’s what I call myself,
I’ll never make any money off non-rhyming poetry!)?

Will they criticize my work as shallow,
superficial, a bit naive? Or maybe dark,
troubled, complex (only out of a sense of charity,
of course). It won’t matter that much to me –
I’ll be resting peacefully, with the poets, by the river. 

Subway poem #7

There are no spirits lurking in the aisles
and corners. Just cartons of documents,
​details of lives. Whether well-lived or ill,
these papers tell the story – marriage, birth,
land acquired, taxes. Death. It’s all there.
No need for the rattling sound of zombies –
ghosts of events yet to come – in graveyards.

Might this be the judgement we fear? The words
and deeds, archived records we leave behind
won’t deliver souls to any heaven –
or hell. It’s just a mirage, this image
of hereafter we’ve been trained to accept
as truth, the certain object of our faith:​
​d​ried, folded, faded, in a dusty box.


If I should die before I wake —
Oh, never mind. My soul will know
exactly what to do when darkness
envelops me and she is freed and free.

Stuff my mortal remains, whatever’s left
of me, in a weighted wooden coffin
like the ones we kept in stock overseas
in abandoned embassy warehouses.
Put me on a Navy warship – bury me

at sea just beyond the 12-mile limit –
in international waters – let me sink
silently, peacefully to the bottom,
where lost shipmates are still on patrol,
and my ancestors await my return.

Damascene Sonnet

You lose some things you cherish as you pass
Through life’s transitions. Letters you received
May not survive a flood — first drafts of poems
You wrote get lost in shipments — coffee mugs
Disappear, book collections may not stay
Intact when divorce or death part the waves
Of time. Friendships and associations
You thought would be there in your grayer years
May only survive a season, or not —
And reasons for a friendship come and go
Like tides that flood and ebb and flood again.
The things that last a lifetime, then, are rare
And few, and even random….so enjoy
The fleeting now, breathe deeply, smile freely.

empire sunset

at the end of time
sunset will seem to last

a thin red strip
on the horizon,
thinning, flickering

in its futile attempt
to stay, to widen
to reverse time –

but we all know
that time only reverses
itself in poetry –

and in Superman movies
when Lois Lane dies

and the Man of Steel
reverses Earth’s rotation
to forestall, reverse
her death’s circumstance.

At the end one might
even be persuaded
that that sunset is itself
a beginning –
a dawn, not a dusk –

but that would be
a deception.


I’ve dodged some bullets
in this life. Cigarettes
won’t take me out,
nor alcohol or drugs
though I may get run over
by a car in the crosswalks
in this town. And there’s poison
all around, in the food,
in the water and air
that might just be the cause
of my eventual demise.
But it won’t be sudden death
or overtime. No, this game
will end in regulation time.


some days I think my poetry making
is done. I try to turn a verse or two
and it all falls flat – no rhythm, no rhymes,
no magic, just words and punctuation.
I need some time at sea to stir things up
a bit. A trans-Atlantic crossing would
be optimum – a paddleboat up the river
will suffice. I’ll always and forever
be a man of simple pleasure. But the air
we breathe is full of negativity.
All the canaries are dead, heaven-bound
in this brave new world where skepticism
is not allowed. A heavy fog surrounds us.
Which sentinel species is next in line?

Still life

my ideal still life painting would contain
a non-microwave safe cup and saucer,
a piece of ripened fruit, a wind up watch
with a leather band, and a book, hardbound,

with several bookmarks and tabs. On a desk.
And maybe reading glasses, depending
on the reader’s (and the painter’s) needs.
I’d stare at that canvas, and wonder

if he (or she) drank tea or coffee, hot
or lukewarm like I like it. I’d wonder
does the book have poetry inside it,
the bookmarks and tabs for his (her) favorite

passages. I’d hang it beside my wife’s
painting of the river ferry crossing.

To Conrad Kent Rivers – a sonnet

To Conrad Kent Rivers – a sonnet

“To teach? To write. Above all . . to learn how to write and rid myself of color consciousness and ignorance.” – Conrad Kent Rivers

The internet won’t tell me why you died.
Or how. You were young, your best years ahead.
It was tragic – life snatched away so early
and with so much more poetry still pent up,
unexpressed, unshared with a cruel world
unworthy of your gift to it, to us.
I found your letter in our collection*:
I still see traces of your unfulfilled
trajectory. Well acquainted with your
hopes and fears, I’ve learned the “private idiom”
you sought, still feel the “joy in the seeking.”
I left two lines aside to close this poem –
your words work best: “I wish time had no end
for black poets; we need time to forget . . . ”

Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, Howard University. Rosey Pool papers. Correspondence, Box 82-2, Folder 133

A sample of his poetry:

Fairview – The play (the next day thoughts)

What did we watch last night?
What ritual did we re-enact?
Was it an altar call
(it certainly seemed like one)
For guilty conscience whites?
Or was it a crystal ball

(I didn’t mean to make a rhyme)
(But oh, yes, it must have been!)
For conscience-ridden blacks?

Or was it everything

For everybody (in the audience
And on the stage, on both stages).
And why wasn’t there
a curtain call at the end?
Why was there no end?

Yes it was immersive.

Yes it was interactive.

The invisible vertical membrane
Perpendicular to the edge of the stage
That we have come to believe in
Was forever smashed.
And we are ruined forever for any play
We subsequently see
If we expect that craziness
To every happen again.

Now I am confused.

Who were the players?
And who the hell were the watchers,
Conducting surveillance
From an all-knowing vantage point?
And were we, my wife and me,
Players or watchers? I’m not sure.
And does it work on smart TV?