Monday, May 10, 2021

The Garden of Verse: These Poems Are Blooming in May

Outdoor days are back. Studies show that people feel better if they spend just twenty minutes a day outdoors. I know I feel good after spending time with plants.

“Recipe for a Curbside Strip” is an account of my efforts to keep a flower garden growing in a city by replanting the ground in front of our house after the city rebuilt our street and sidewalk. 

Here's an excerpt:

Recipe for a Curbside Strip


Begin again in Thanksgiving cold,

planting scores of daffodil starters,

those fat spuds of sunny potential,

in the city's gift of much-pebbled soil

Wait five months for the bloom,

add wild violets transferred by hand from

the fertile, weed-addicting earth of the perennial patches

out back,

plus other nameless wildthings, weeds

and a prominent invasive left to its own greedy device

Chip in some new Covid-priced annuals

(everything pretty much double this year)

Then out back again to hunt up more ground-hugging

violets to fill 

a few shyly embarrassed bare spots

like children with too much flesh

for last year's clothing


 The next two poems are responses to Covid Time.

An excerpt from:

Of Course the Poet Wears a Mask


Everybody wears a mask

the fender polisher wears a mask

the metallurgist

the surgeon in his lair

     to guard against the spatter

The actor with his shrewd demeanor

to take us into his confidence...


Who am I today?

the player asks

the politician with his broken staff

the weeping child

the disappointed lover

the confident despoiler

the rigger

the triggerman



And, finally from:

Accidental Collaborators


She turned to me, a look of distant rainbows

in her eyes

Kiss me, I said, you fool



To read the poems in their entirety, go to

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Spring Offerings from the Poets of Verse-Virtual: The Birds Are Watching Us and Many Other Exceptional Visions

It's April, and some of are all about the great -- or even decently good -- outdoors. Flowers, greening lawns, birdsong at dawn (so they tell me) and in the last hour of the lengthening day. We even saw a deer in our city neighborhood last week. It took a good long look at us, and disappeared; undoubtedly the right decision. 

Poets, it turns out, are bird-watchers. Here's a piece with a different point of view on the observing the activity at the feeder. 

Marjorie Moorhead’s inventive and satisfying poem “At the Feeder” is (almost) all about the birds. The poem describes the gang at the feeder:

“Crescent-shaped Blue Back White-bellied

Long Beak, and Yellowneck Stripe-feathered

join me at the eating spot. Large Bark-peck-pecker

comes too, then flies his blackwhite feathers red-head

back to trunk..”

            But, if we’re paying attention (and I had to go back to the first lines) we notice something different about the perspective. The tip-off comes right at the start: “she has her black eyes out


             She? With those long black eyes?... I think the birds are on to us.  


On a much different subject, Marilyn Taylor’s sonnet “Posthumous Instructions” is simply (and literally) awe-inspiring. The title clearly announces the poem’s theme To choose one stanza:

“Let me liberate the elements

that fused in me the morning I was formed

and offer them again, as evidence

that my short visit left this place unharmed.”

…But we need to read them all

We're back to birds In Mark Alan di Martino’s “To a Warbler,” but here the speaker has discovered the need to explain the unseasonably early appearance of a (once) migratory bird to his daughter. In its  inventive word music, the poem sings like, perhaps, the bird: 

“Math-eaten, climate-singed, the change

came quick. In the still small span of a few lifted lifelines—

dour warnings bedamned—our tempest tossed, its leafless trust

trussed to the wings of a hymnal, taxidermied, back-taxed

to the be-yonder.”

Our migratory birds are all canaries in the coal mine. Global warming is changing our world. 


I enjoyed all three excellent poems by David Graham. “Sea Turtle,” to choose one, is an unsentimental look at the lifestyle of an ancient life-form that persists by persisting, its challenges and responses rendered in aptly hard-bitten imagery:

“Your young will crawl toward the light

they think is moonlit sea—

pavement glittering with headlights.

A jeep will eat the eggs

ghost crabs cannot find. You'll butt

your nose raw on aquarium walls,

snap dangled fingers like snailshells.”


Alan Walowitz’s clever and eloquent poem “The nth degree,” thoughtfully provided an explanation of its title. While the poem’s first qualifying phrase – “in the meager math I learned” –captures my own background in this subject, the poem convinces me it knows what it's doing with this insight:

“I know from a close look

at those strange Celtic languages,

unless you have a vowel

it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference

between nth and nthng—“

and leaves me with a new appreciation for our own flexible, malleable alphabet: Let’s hear it for vowels!


And while we’re being philosophical, Robert Wexelblatt’s brilliant thought experiment “Six Mental Exercises” takes readers to faraway places that prove to be broadening, maybe even mind-refreshing, staycations. For example: “Pretend you are an ancient Chinese poet in ancient China.”

And “Pretend you are an ancient Chinese poet when and where you are living now…”

These are mind stretchers. As the poem suggests, in the first of these two, “the transfiguration of the smallest cloud [becomes]

more telling than a change of emperors…”

You can read these poems in their entirety, and fine works by many other poets in Verse-Virtual's April 2021 issue. Here's the link    Verse-Virtual

Sunday, April 4, 2021

The Garden of Verse: These Poems Are Voting For April

I am delighted to have three poems in the April 2021 issue of Verse-Virtual: "Nature At Least Doesn't Stop," "It's As If The Ending Has Already Passed Go," and "Put Your Hands in the Soil" were all written a year ago, just as we were all exchanging Spring Time for Covid Time.

As I have said before, when it comes to Covid-19 versus spring, glorious spring, I am voting on April. Here is the first of my three poems of the season:

Nature At Least Doesn't Stop


Or else we might think that time itself will,

the blossoms roll back into the buds.

or hover breathlessly

like a wave refusing to break,

a dawn forever on the horizon

whispering its secrets


Whatever does the moon do but change?

Yet we love it

Old men die in places we will never see

and others are driven into the streets

where their great-grandfathers sold trinkets

in the dust

We, born to happier estates,

tiptoe through gardens of remembrances,

stopping at long trains of ancestry

spreading like boxcars on lines of enabling disasters

that cruise through whistle-stop lives


Those whose lives are on the line

beg us to put away the scissors

We limber up, stretch our legs

walk our miles forward into time,

into measureless years without increments of schooling,

feeling ever the pulse of close-of-day motions –


April has no need of such reassurances,

purple spirits cross the edges of social reminders

like money

like dead letters choosing its accidental targets

in the manner of gods,

dead ends for our feet just ahead,

but none for the narcissus, the purpling grape

the color of liquid


It is we who are in need of the lamps of evening

the madness of consumption

headlines, updates, inanities


We have the stars

Stars, we beg,

come down and live among us

Here's the link to read the other two poems April Poems

This link will get you to the contents page for all the poems in the April 2021

Verse-Virtual Verse-Virtual April 2021


Tuesday, March 9, 2021

The Garden of the Seasons: Finding the Light in the Snows of February

Still Falling 

You can almost see it falling, that nearly immaterial impersonation of matter 
Light sees it, catches it
Says 'I know a secret'
It's quiet
Its plan is to slip down, after dark, 
when no one can see it,
one can almost never hear it
one can feel it, if you remove your hat
turn your face up to the sky, the deep blue night
and taste the winter
the softer air
the ambient light 
the subtly melting crystals
on your tongue 

                              Sky Writing
The sky is yellow, lemonish
pink, somewhat insinuated by the lemon ice of snow-set tones
a softer blush
an inscrutable silence
that impinges on the the skeletal branches
like jewels in your hair 


Looking down from the path, the water slips beneath our feet, intent on its own progress, 

a dance of elements, throwing off radiance, a harvest of winter sunlight, incidental, as if a mere byproduct,

an accident of water, hurrying to itself 

Photographic Evidence

Old sheds in Iowa? Another winter day on the prairie?

The fence worn, swaying to the march of the seasons 

Branches catch the powder of the quiet fall, 

Another day of timeless snow: the element that teases the senses, erases the centuries, scrambles what we think we know 


Trees yellowing their hair

Where does the color come from? what time of day or night pastels the sky with the flat edge of some tool unavailable to human fingers

Tricks of the season
Threads of time, woven 
in a soft fall 
one of those hundreds of Eskimo names whose speech 
we have yet to learn 

Saturday, March 6, 2021

The Garden of Verse Stirs Up the Garden of the Seasons: Three Poems on the Many Faces of March

The March 2021 issue of Verse-Virtual offers poems by 71 poets, an astonishing number and range of participants. In tune with the season, editor Jim Lewis chose an optional theme of "lions and lambs."

 I offered three poems written in March of last year, right before (and as) everything changed. While I didn’t quite enjamb the “lambs” in any of these, I did get “sheepish” in one of these poems. And in another I gave pride of place, in its conclusion, to "lions."

The poem "Sipping About" laments the absence of normal 'spring weather,' whatever that is. And also takes note of what was, last year, an almost snowless winter.  Here's the beginning:

Skipping About 

All winter freakishly quiet 
as if someone had put a bag
over its mouth 
and told it, sternly, 
to calm down, 

we have other things to think about...

Lions come in for a cameo at the end of this poem. 

          The poem "Stoppage" bears witness to that strangest of moments last year when the world seemed to stop. Here's the beginning. 


Thursday afternoon
They canceled the world
The trees began disappearing from 
my neighbor's yard, one by
incautious one,
forced to stop growing
by powers who knew better 
The cars on the street sheepishly parked in front 
of neighbors’ houses by those 
who have too many vehicles 
for their driveways 
strangely disappear 
           I miss them 

To read the rest of these two poems, 
and the whole of the poem "March Winds"
go here Robert Knox  

To access the full range of poems available in 
the March 2021 issue, see Poems and Articles 

Sunday, February 7, 2021

The Garden of the Seasons: The Winter King Is in the Skies


Slipping By Unnoticed

All the little roofs

All the quiet worlds 


the fading of the night

All the magic taking place 


Someone is drawing on 

the heavens

with the paintbox 

of the sun




It's Further

The clock of the seasons 

winds down 

cray-pas, watercolors, pastels, 

pencils with 

those liquid-like paints

We groundlings 

can manage a season 

without color

because the color is in the sky

 First Comes the Gold

Do not ask 'what color 

is the sky?'

It is the color 

it chooses to be

when the sun slices 

its rays so thin, 

the colors slide into view

Those who are more 

accustomed to seeing 

find a place as well 

on the dance cards 

of time

twilight's winter fashions

the unsung songs 

the dances of the animal 

masks, the brilliance 

of lost sunsets

escaping the prison house 

of transitory beasts

Charcoal Blue

Our city

somebody's city

city of mineral kings

abstractions made stone

The birds have fled

the lines are sharp

the sky is smoke

the music gray

The water swallows 

the light

breathes a long story 

in a hidden tongue

 Moving Parts

That someone, 

that invisible hand

who deals out of sight 

of earthlings

to keep things moving

whose sheep are 

the gray ships 

of evening

seamlessly, silently

going somewhere

when there is no "where"

we'll ever see


Nothing stays put here

The ineffable is eff-ing

How dull is our light

How certain the dark hands

that wash their fingers 

in our humble water

and conduct their shadows 

across the highways 

we will never see

This Plant 

Has never blossomed

so much white or shown 

such ribs

It births its multitudes

in a nursery of snow

Party Lights

Whatever's going on 


a festival of light 

and color

dances, songs, or simply 

too much electronics

It's only a room, a cellar

upstairs the giants are 


Do Not Believe

Everything you hear

Ah, those pale and flimsy 

cottony briefs

wave in a sea of blue

But fires burn on 

a distant continent

an ocean, maybe

with a self-consuming love



Thursday, February 4, 2021

The Garden of Verse embraces the Garden of the Seasons: Three Poems in February's Verse-Virtual

We want it lighter: A seasonal message for the mid-winter in a northern climate. I have three poems in the February issue of Verse-Virtual, the poetry journal, and community, I have contributed to regularly since the final month of 2015. All three reflect on seasonal themes belonging to the end of the year. The holidays are behind us, and lots of winter lies still ahead, with vaccination-rendezvouses likely on our minds. Nevertheless these three story-poems look back on the holiday season and the winter solstice.

The poem "Twilight Kingdom" recalls a long-ago period in my life when I explored early winter twilights on the site of a no longer worked farm, with spirits in the air. 

The poem "We Went to Pick the Greens There" remembers a group of long-ago friends making an unconventional Christmas celebration. no family, no children, no parents. 

And the poem "you want it lighter" describes a solstice day expedition to another city to pay a holiday visit our daughter 

I'll post that poem below:  


You Want It Lighter 

Solstice Day:

Just wait,

whole seconds more of light coming tomorrow. 

You can see it in the silver-blue water of the harbor

pale with the reminiscence of ice: change is in the air.

We inch our way around the sun,

the suave conjunction of planetary influences

apparent, momentarily,

from a bridge over the Schuylkill River,

until clouds reform

to swallow the moment.

We arrive in the city of Daughterly Love

to find the light charmed into strings of tiny stars,

skilled hands brightening short days with carrot soup,

homegrown basil, morning mimosas

and all those other gifts of practical affection. 


For the others see Verse-Virtual