#NaPoWriMo2020 – Day #24 Cashew Fruit

Most people don’t know
About the cashew fruit.
Juicy, sweet, succulent,
Too perishable to ship
In crates to foreign lands.

We know the cashew nut.
It grows inside the seed
That grows outside the fruit.
Was it engineered to grow
That way? I don’t know.

But what I do know is that
The juice of the sweet fruit
Turns to wine quickly, and if
You don’t drink the wine soon
It becomes vinegar.

To can and preserve the fruit
Is an art and a secret knowledge
Passed down from mother
To daughter. Lucky those
With access to it.


#NaPoWriMo2020 Day #23 – A Thursday sonnet

For Maria

It might be time for a shape shift moment.
This kernel of time, wedged between the walls
Of two more standardized realities
Only points us backwards on the path
Of forward growth. You can write your own poem –
This one holds out hope for a revival
And a different direction for our dreams.

Old ways benefited the chosen few.
Their poets and prophets sing of better
Days to come. They have playwrights and Netflix
Producers on the job around the clock,
Promising to protect the status quo.
I can’t say I wish them ill. Their vision
Is a museum object, best preserved, mute.


#NaPoWriMo2020 #21 #GloPoWriMo2020

Reflections on listening to a podcast about Afropessimism
(because the author’s book tour was cancelled)

Can I tell you something? A deep secret?
I am exhausted by your shallowness
And as of this morning at 7AM
I will no longer give a good goddamn
What you think about my talent and skill
As a bureaucrat. What about yours?
Where is your tact? Your sense of fairness?
Your appreciation for the art form?
I have a fairly good, if wicked notion
What you are thinking when you see my face –
My black face that does not apologize
When undermining your hypocrisy.
Fuck all this. I’m going to work TODAY.
Keep six feet away from me. Wash your hands.

#NaPoWriMo2020 Day #20 #GloPoWriMo2020 – a homemade thing

To my favorite Turkish librarian, Gozde Torun

A lovely homemade thing
From a far off distant land,
Woven with yarn and lace:
A cushion steadies my coffee cup
A pad where the mouse can rest.
How’d you know it’d be so useful?
A treasured gift of grace –
A token that holds a place –
Folded carefully in the liquor bar drawer
between the shot glasses and candles,
the napkins and cork replacements.
Woven with yarn and lace –
A lovely homemade thing,
From a far off distant land.

#NaPoWriMo2020 #19 – Troy’s slow descent into Hell

Fences – Act Two, Scene Four

In the denouement our classic warrior
(Such is the tragedy that was his life)
Loses all that was once near and dear.

The cherished love of his wife is broken
After her decision to not refuse
The result of his infidelity.

He loses the respect of his son,
So long assumed, compelled by fear,
Never inspired by true affection.

His best friend doesn’t come around
Any more, not even for a Friday drink
That once satisfied a parched thirst.

Finally, abandoned by his own sense
of taste (Yes! A multiple metaphor!),
He is left to swing aimlessly at all
Those fast balls on life’s outside corners.


#NaPoWriMo2020 #17 – obsolete technologies

I am surrounded
By ancient sacred texts
Preserved on technologies
That no longer exist.

How will I extract
The wisdom they contain?

It might as well
Be stones, pebbles,
Grains of sand on the beach –

Objects on display
In an alien museum,
Words memorized
In a drunkened brain,
Recited by slobbering lips.


Cairns, by John White Alexander. Library of Congress.

#NaPoWriMo2020 #16 – The best ever

Everything is infinitely praiseworthy
In its own unique and special way –
The sunrise, the sunset, filtered water’s
Taste, the coffee the water produces.

And even overlooked external things.
I’ve read so many perfect poems,
And heard so much wonderful music
During my limited sojourn on Earth.

Didn’t I grow up with Motown and Stax
And the Philadelphia Sound? And played
viola and recorder? And awoke
To my father’s recitation of verse

From the masters? And the coolest teachers
And mentors? And the best shipmates ever?


From the archives – The day Prince died

The day Prince died (originally posted 04/23/2016)

When I heard the learn’d oceanographer
(it was Earth Day, and our shining Prince had fallen),
When the volume, velocity and variability
of data-rich information overwhelmed the deep,
When I examined the core skills of data management
(data is just an artifact, a document, an object witness),
When I listened to it, the oceanographer’s lecture
excited our minds, with much applause from the librarians.

After the talk we walked to Brookland Metro, the full moon
overhead brightly illuminating a city in mourning, darkened
by uncertainty (our Prince had fallen like the rain).
As we approached Foggy Bottom Station, I caught a faint whiff
of the swamp beneath us, the sound of the river beyond
slowly turning, emptying into the sea.

#NaPoWriMo2020 #8 – repeating a line from an ancient poem – celebrating two modern songwriters

From Odes of Pindar, Olympian II

For Bill Withers and John Prine

Ye hymns that rule the lyre,
What gods, what heroes shall we celebrate?
This week we lost two men I never met
But truly adored. Songwriters whose lyrics filled
My life, at various times, with sweetened thoughts
Transferred from their words and melodies.
Both served their countries first –
Non sibi sed patriae –
Both discovered in mid life they had a song
To sing, and thankfully, to share.
Both refused to sell out to the white ghost
Who peddles fame and fortune in exchange
For one’s soul. Bill Withers and John Prine.
Rest you both in peace down by life’s river.

#NaPoWriMo2020 #7 – a poem from a news headline

How to Wear Face Masks Without Fogging Up Your Glasses


I have this problem – this is important to me.
Once a week I brave the invisible threat

And go food shopping in the neighborhood,

Carefully practicing social distancing.

My anti-viral mask makes me feel safe –
But my glasses soon fog up.

Washing the lenses with soapy water
Before going out seems to be a useful trick –
If it works – the soap film prevents the moisture
Of your breath from condensing on the glass.

A better solution is one I may actually try:
Insert a rolled up tissue just inside
The top of the mask to pre-absorb
Any of your breath’s escaping moisture.

#NaPoWriMo2020 #6 – Bosch’s Garden, an ekphrastic poem

(take the tour here: https://archief.ntr.nl/tuinderlusten/en.html)

My body is missing that uphill walk
Each day from the Metro to the Mecca.
Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights
affords me reprieve as I start the week.

The dragon tree – a plant that heals and dyes
A crimson red – is my first stop. I drink
Her blood and feel at once her curing power.
Reptiles seek terra firm where they can.

The owl is a nighttime bird of prey
Always watching, eyes wide open, spirit
Beast of the gods. A lion devours
A deer without compunction. His nature

Dictates relieving hunger pangs. So what?
A serpent wraps himself around a tree
That bears sweet fruit – tree of good and evil.
The pink fountain no doubt is feminine:

Her dotted eggs await incoming seed.
The darkened Moors below also await.

NaPoWriMo2020 #5 – untitled

This poem has short lines.
It is optimized for Twitter
And your cell phone screen.

Your face still haunts me.
It second guesses my actions
And double checks all I say.

We live in lockdown.
I miss the freedom to travel,
Occasional lunch with friends.

But things could be worse.
It could be death by fire
Or flooding without an ark.

Happy Birthday Booker T!
“You can’t hold a man down
Without staying down with him.”

These lines are getting longer.
It’s a natural progression.
And I overran the 14-line limit:
It cannot be a sonnet.

#NaPoWriMo2020 #4 – a recurrent nightmare

My nightmare is always the same –
I am working in a hot, noisy engine room
And I have to pee. But the watertight hatch,
For some reason, is closed and locked.
So I pee in the bilge. Then, when I go
To pump the bilge, the pump breaks –
So I have to fix the pump. But the parts
I need are on the other side of the hatch.
It’s a centrifugal pump with close clearances.
Who the hell came up with that design?
Soon it starts to stink (because I’m not
The only one peeing in the bilge – it could be
Worse. Let’s not even go there.)
My nightmare always ends unresolved.

Lockdown sonnet #11

To Rona (AKA, the corona virus, COVID19)

Rona, you were never a passing thing,
A good time girl who tiptoed daintily
Through the sweetness of our days,
Leaving a faint trace of a summer memory.
OH. HELL. NAW! Rona, you came upending
All our ho-hum lives, taking us
To new levels of thinking and being.
Rona, you were never a one-night stand.

I knew you were trouble when you
stuck your head in the doorway
And flashed that cunning smile.
My mother warned me about girls
Like you. Still, instead of chasing you away,
I brought you fully into my embrace.

Lockdown sonnet #10

The volunteer activities I cram into my weekends
Bring me great joy and fulfillment, satisfaction.
Even with the requirement to juggle things
From one Saturday to the next, I thrive on it.
But today, in the midst, we hope, of the lockdown,
The chores that once occupied my mind are absent.
So I am doing a binge on Amazon Prime selections
Since we terminated our subscription to Netflix
To avoid the social programming therein.
What’s in store for today? A friend recommends
Counterpart, Cold War spy thriller, supposedly,
Though we know what that deal was. And then
There is Star Trek – Discovery, not quite my cup of tea,
Although I was an early saint to outer space’s devotion.

Lockdown sonnet #9

There is a sort of spiritual healing
taking place in government today,
thanks to Rona. Forced into party strait
jackets to support various sides
of the impeachment hoax, many
Unwillingly, members can finally seek
the unity of purpose and collegiality
that heals their souls. All our souls.

The black ladies are making a quilt
with large, oversized white hands.
And there is a peeping Tom in the window,
maybe the artist himself. Maybe some other.
A black cat creeps across the floor,
and a new world is forming outside.

Lockdown sonnet #8

For Vanda

I compare every new and pretty voice
To my safe bets, Mariza and Amalia,
And that’s not fair. How can the new ones meet
That standard? But they try and they deserve
To be heard. Fado is my antidote
For the blues the lockdown brought. But the songs
Of old don’t really address the anguish
and the uncertainly of the present.
Never mind. Folks are starting to panic,
Important events and milestones cancelled
Or postponed. Isolation takes its toll
In time. Mariza told us she was tired
Of singing all these sad old weary songs.

a quilt is a collage is a poem

The black ladies are making a quilt
with large, oversized white hands.
And there is a peeping Tom in the window,
maybe the artist himself. Maybe some other.
A black cat creeps across the floor,
and a new world is forming outside.
Romare Bearden was such a poet!


Lockdown sonnet #7

I’m reading Transgenerational Trauma.
I should be planning my day of telework
at home, surrounded by distractions.

No one sits within six feet of me –
social distancing is the new rule.
Garland Nixon is broadcasting

On Radio Sputnik. At noon the pope
is giving a special prayer and Fatima
in Portugal is consecrating the world.

My mask is not stylish but effective.
Everybody on Twitter has something
Snarky to say about the corona virus.

I took my Vitamin C with coffee –
We’ll keep the barking hounds at bay.

Lockdown sonnet #6

A new fountain pen arrived. Nice feel, heft.
German import. Overstock. Priced to sell.
A bit slow on capillary action
At first, as new pens often are. An ink drop
Spilled on my hand and down to the floor.
Should have done this in the kitchen. Trouble.
In paradise. Wife will be enraged.
No refuge will there be from her scorn.

We are both going crazy trying to predict
the unknown unknown. When will it all end?
Meanwhile, I’m preparing a short talk
About how the Portuguese invented
The plantation system memorialized
In the Cape Verdean art form: Morna.

Lockdown sonnet #5

See the line at Trader Joes this morning?
Wrapped down the block and around the corner –
Each shopper six feet apart from the next?
Whole Foods is still out of Vitamin C
And limiting frozen pizza to four
Per shopper. Good prices on naval oranges –
Stocking up to stave off scurvy, rickets.

Press conference on standby – gotta get
Latest developments on the crisis.
Never mind the moral imbecility
Of the press corps – the message seeps through
Their banterings and raillery
(And that’s being charitable. My goodness!)
The time to learn the news is nigh.

Lockdown sonnet #4

Work meetings on Zoom today –
Two confirmed cases on campus
Mean shutdown until further notice.
But the library can never completely close
So there’s telework for all library staff –
Eight hours per week on site.
This ain’t a poem, it’s a list, too much
Is happening to restrict it to 14 lines.

Taxes postponed. What if it’s all a fraud?
Read some good Angolan history today –
Precolonial stuff, and an Amilcar Cabral
Essay: History is a weapon – all for my
Docent course, even though this week’s
Walk-through at the museum is cancelled.

Lockdown sonnet #3

Writing my own poems gave me
A deeper appreciation for poetry
Just like writing my own play
Helped me better understand drama.

Keeping a written record
is a small “d” democratic Art and
the expressed urge to write
is a small “r” republican Virtue.

Both strengthen the body politic.
But both require a voyage, not a visit,
as Mrs. Brooks’s The Chicago Picasso
would be pleased to know we learned.

The present quasi lockdown provides us
Space and time to take the journey.

Lockdown sonnet #2

Nobody has bandwidth
To focus on the senators
Who profited from inside information.

We are at that point
In late empire. Justice has removed
Her blindfold to put on
A breathing mask.

It’s a good time for thieves
And rogues. And dirty politicians.
And it’s a good day for poets
Witnessing the birth of new genre.

We’ll all be safe. Besides, we’re in lockdown,
And the pens are full, and the coffee is hot,
And the bookshelves are overflowing.


Again, but broken out of the straitjacket:

Lockdown sonnet #1

Silly me. I always thought
sitting on the dock of the bay
was about Seattle and Bremerton –

It was the only bay I knew,
it fed and housed me well
and gave me countless hours
of solace and meditation.

Time and distant love altered the equation.
One seeks to close the gap
that separates and isolates.

Today we are socially distant,
trying to flatten the curve.
We stay at home. We elbow bump
instead of a goodnight kiss.