subway poem #11

The Golden Krust man died the other day.
We weren’t friends or anything, except in that
dream world where odd things flow together
in a swirl. But I was once a baker – I learned
that if you overmix the pie dough it comes
out tough and rubbery, not crumbly crisp.
In my dream, I asked him to add a dash of ginger
and some grated almonds to his recipe.

I always prefer the spinach pies to meat
and other fillings. Today I take the Red Line
to NoMa, then walk the bicycle trail to DCPL’s
temporary home for special collections, where
I hope to complete arranging the papers
of the Association of Liberated Librarians.



subway poem #7

I am fully occupied today with preparing for Monday’s class, so I am posting a poem today that never quite made it to the blog. It is a chronicle, sort of, of my early impressions of working in an archival repository. It has no name, other than “Postcard #10,” so now it will become “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.

(not a) subway poem #5

Fourteen lines is an approximation –
fewer lines, or more, may be sufficient.
But line length must be paid attention to.

It’s Veterans Day. I’m doing laundry
and checking what folks are talking about
on Facebook and Twitter – news of the day.

And the news is not good: a coup attempt
is underway in the home of the brave –
we’ve seen the play before but no one owns

the script. I’ll be riding no trains to work
for the rest of the weekend. My office
is closed and a couplet is all that’s left.

It took me all these years to figure out
I might be the spook who sat by the door.

subway poem #1

all the commuters stare at their devices​,
​some have white wires​ falling from their ears –
playing games, shopping, sending texts,
reading e-mails, getting their instructions,
directions from the great almight-Tee –

for me it’s an easy commute from the Bottom –
four stops to Metro Center, one stop
to Chinatown – but still, I pull out a book
to read to pass the time – my god is older
and less compatible with the new technologies –

it’s a short breezy walk from Chinatown
to the alley where I work – I could take
the green line for one stop, or catch a bus
down 7th St., but what purpose would that serve?

from the archives: sonnet

I was a runner in my hapless youth:
two times, four times, eight times around the track;
running to things, running from things, always
in a haste, never taking time to smell
the fragrance of the roses, know the truth.
In time, life slowed me down. I changed my tack.
I learned to walk, to circumspect, unfazed
by every shiny thing my eyes beheld.
But then the boundless sea became my Muse:
Her hidden wonders and her ways seduced
my every thought. Yet she was just a phase,
a short poetic phrase and a malaise.
This sonnet owns no ending, just a star,
to capture our attention from afar.

last day of summer – a documentary

I remember watching
news reports on TV
about the war – after
supper each night –
and the day’s body count –

and soldiers’ funerals
on Sundays after church,
and mothers and girlfriends
on the front row crying,
and smelling salts.

Occasionally the president
would tell us we were winning.
And Walter Cronkite would say,
“And that’s the way it is.”

The Lisbon Quintet – Five Sonnets

1. Bedtime prayer, or, burial instructions

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.

2. Disengaging the mind from work

Each night I dream of projects I complete,
Mainly ideas I’ve been thinking about
For weeks. And I awaken each morning
Feeling accomplishment & exhaustion.

No way to spend a August vacation,
I know. But today my outlaws have planned
A special lunch – Guinea-Bissau cuisine –
My favorite – and I can hardly wait!

We’ll save the nautical museum (I love
The ancient navigation instruments),
My favorite Belem bakery, &
the modern art museum for tomorrow

Or another day, any other day –
We can’t ignore a long-lost appetite.

3. Coffee with Pessoa at Martinho on the Praca

I write no more of love, the tales of woe,
Of romance that quickens a calm spirit –
Such stories that are songs of young and sweet
Naïveté- of passions’ fires aglow.

Today’s news crowds out former pleasant thoughts:
An earthquake, a mudslide kills the many;
A terror attack, abroad, at home, slays
The few and darkens the skies around us
With clouds of hate and unscaled walls of fear.

Let’s love today, each other, without shame
Or fear of censure, once more returning,
Once more forgiving acts of carelessness,
Mistakes we’ve made. Let’s journey while the sun
Is high and skies are clear and steps still firm.

4. Acknowledging the Muse – Pre-Eclipse

I think of you as my defacto Muse,
And I yours, at least until you tell me
we are not, or cannot be, or simply
just reject that source of inspiration

Our inner poets crave. The obstacles
Between us are many. The boundaries
That separate us are natural ones,
Neither fraudulent nor fake nor contrived –

It will be far easier to let things
Rest as they are, in peace and sanity,
And in denial. I would dare not blame
You or me, and life would just continue

As if our paths had never crossed, as if
This possibility had never been.

5. Watching photos of the total eclipse on the internet

Somewhere in the comings and the goings
I lost a day, or gained one, by my count –
Then I missed the total eclipse (but that
Had less to do with the time warp I’m in
and more to do with decisions I’ve made)
Because I was on the wrong continent.

I figured out it’s Monday. Tomorrow
Will be museum day – it’s all a matter
Of degree of intermediation
In the end, of what must be done to cure
The writer’s block that gets generated
By one’s own inhibitions. It’s taken
A week of full immersion to discard
Mine and let language flood these winding streets.


p.s. Some photos here