March-May 2022

This posting consists entirely of new poems. All are of recent creation, the oldest being “The Guild Meets Its Match” which was written in December 2021. The New Year started auspiciously. Scruples #19 was completed in January. Months later, after multiple revisions ” A Repertoire of Baroque Opera” is fit for posting.

 

The Guild Meets Its Match

In closed ranks they sit
              or stand around the table,
united not by blood, but as kindred members.

On display’s a lump of clay
               which’ll stay that way, unless
the Meister decides otherwise.

Evening lamps brighten the hall,
               darkness shrinks into shadows,
on his watch time goes slower…

What one of a kind vessel, rendered
                from start to finish with perfection,
might he have in mind?
                Tonight the artisans expect more
than their dues’ worth.
                  On the agenda’s an attempt
to hand make a man, body and soul,
                  out of the likes of clay.

 

           

                  19.

 

The peasants arrive early,
                     armed with hoes, spades, shovels.
Day after day their livelihood
                     is tending to a field of millet.
If all grows well, by summer
                     it’ll be blooming;
come autumn ripe for reaping a harvest
                      that yields no chafe,
just grade A golden grain
                      after months of labor.

 

A Repertoire of Baroque Opera

 

The prince looks lost—which is how he feels
in a forest growing dim, where come moonshine
or starlight, spirits unseen but overheard resound.
As his lot appears more and more hopeless
he renders an aria that, moving beyond words,
rises to the occasion…

Purcell’s artistry should settle the score:
night mimicked by violins paired with cellos,
woodwinds playing from glade to glade
tweeting high and low, an oboe hoots.
Then hark the archangels—harps on hand
poised to pluck out an enchanted passage…

The last act’s staged within a clearing.
Light casts a halo around the Prince.
Hosted by trumpets, he finds his voice
in a clarion call that says and sings
about the tenor of fate — heaven help
any mortal, even a noble, who ventures
too far, too late, while hunting a unicorn.

 

December 2021-February 2022

The reprise of Scruples # 1-18 that began in June-August 2020 ended in September-November 2021.  The first posting for 2022 comprises two new poems, “Nautical Leeway” and “A Winning Affair” plus “Soul Searching’s Right of Way” which was recently published in The Courtship of Winds, summer 2021. The website is: https://www.thecourtshipofwinds.org/copy-of-toc-template-1

       Nautical Leeway

                               1.             

Sailing ships follow the winds’ commands,
do as they’re told in due course,
tacked one way, another, by breezes,
adrift when none are stirring.

Boats with motors, from yachts to cruisers,
run on captain’s orders, an able bodied,
mechanically minded mate carries them out,
a crew fathoms how and when.

                           2.

Ahoy the harbor, land based, water bound,
on high ground a lighthouse, offshore
a jetty that can withstand tidal waves,
the full force of stormy weather.
Large or small, it welcomes vessels
year round from all over, with a place
to anchor regardless of class.

By whatever means they navigate
across high seas and oceans;
stopping in between to rest assured,
spend down time plotting ahead.

 

A Winning Affair

 

Mon cheri,
before the waiter shows up,
let us, a seating of lovers
at a window table, behave badly…

What’s wrong with stealing kisses,
playing name the shade of lipstick,
keeping score on a napkin?

Our café’s fondly called Cupid.
The wines are cheap, service slow,
and after a stroll along the Seine,
where we can sit side by side
so close an arrow couldn’t miss.

In good taste, I pick cherry red,
second guess wild strawberries…
The fun we have doing foreplay
lasts until, tongue in cheek,
you accuse me of cheating.

 

Soul Searching’s Right of Way

 

So long as this trail wends
             over hills, down dales,
lies steeped in sunlight, babbled
              to by a passing brook…
on those grounds we spend a summer
              day, hour after hour,
until dusk comes, and with it
               a trail lurking in the dark.
Summer nights are heavenly sent—
               when the moon beams,
lone stars cluster together.
                In time, shadows show up,
some standing, others on the go—
                between then and dawn
they appear everywhere, without
                crossing our path.

 

September-November 2021

This posting of Scruples numbers 16 and 17 ends the reprise that began in June-August 2020. Number 18 is a new addition to the series.  This is its first appearance in print.

All told: “The idea of scruples has to do with ethics and morality: what is right and wrong. Scruples are a kind of moral compass that lets you know what’s right.”  (https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/scruples )

                   16.

Being born losers ups the odds
to dead set against us.
We game each day until
there’s none in play.

Luck, as it so happens, can run
short or long, change direction,
swing from good to bad.
Our lot takes chances by choice.
Dealing with all kinds at any time
makes us gamblers for life.

                  17.

His eminence, hours into a tedious
speech about theology
in everyday space and time,
reaches a mute point.

Say no more, Aquinas, listen as heaven
revels, high strung harps pair
with dancing angels, corpus diem,
around the head of a pin…

To tell the truth, you’ve shown
they can in so many words.
Still riddled with doubt
is the nature of their gender,
be it male, female, or neither?

                     18.

Out of hunger, not pleasure, a pride
                        of lions leaves its lair at dawn,
 bright and mighty on the prowl…

 Until noon they have time to kill, cunning                                                                                                                                                  embodied in every move,                                                                                                                        their tour de force an ambush…       

 

Sun o’clock— the only shade around
                          grows under acaccias.                                                                                                                           Bloody lions gather there to share                                                                                                                                                               the spoils in all fairness—
 by merit, rank, age, gender,
                           without any growling allowed.

 

June-August 2021

Three by 3 of March 2021-May 2021 reprised Scruples, numbers 10 thru 12.  Numbers 13 thru 15 are the continuation. Their original posting dates were: 13 & 14 September-November 2017, 15 March-May 2019.

“The idea of scruples has to do with ethics and morality: what is right and wrong. Scruples are a kind of moral compass that lets you know what’s right.”  (https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/scruples )

                 13.

One good look at the Danube—
                     from bank to bank—
shows it flowing south, of course,
                     broad and deep, a full length
                            channel, the current
                                     more slick than surly…
As far as colors go, teal can appear dark
                      or light, except for a short time
                                    within sight of Vienna…

There the water turns blue, the river waltzes along.

               14.

If a bull enters
            a crowded café,
those near an exit
            can sneak out.
Others are better off
            hiding behind a chair,
or under a table…

Alone, at the bar
            a matador on a binge                            
sips another manzanilla…
            Today he fought badly,
more afraid than brave,
             his passes too safe,
spared by a stroke of luck
              during the toque de muerte.

The bull glares back from the bottom
              of an empty glass,
headstrong, looking for revenge.
               Once in the ring,
there’s no escaping a hangover. .                      

                      15.  

Let’s sing Happy Birthday together.
Those who can remember
the words, still carry a tune,
please gather around the table.

Someone should lower the curtains…
another bring in the cake…

How many candles are lit?
Our lot awaits with bated breath
until the time comes to blow
them out, while we’re able.

 

 

March-May 2021

Three by 3 of December 2020-February 2021 reprised Scruples, numbers 7 thru 9.  As promised, there’s more to come!  Numbers 10 thru 12 are a continuation, along with readings of two of them. (Author’s note: number 10 was originally posted March-May 2016. The reprise is slightly edited in terms of format and word choice).

All told: “The idea of scruples has to do with ethics and morality: what is right and wrong. Scruples are a kind of moral compass that lets you know what’s right.”  (https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/scruples )

                   

                   10.

Today was meant for me
                   to find a starfish                                                                                                             with seven arms, another   
                                   map stowed in a bottle,
                                             a mixed bag of old coins…                                             

The best beachcombing comes
                      after a storm;
                           as soon as the tide lies low,
                                   more and more
                                            flotsam shows up…

Whatever does can make
                     any day’s luck good
                            or bad… sometimes both.
                           

 

                       11.

Honey—a bunch of Huns
                   is heading this way—
                           astride the mountain road,
                                                raging at full gallop.

While I fetch the wagon,
                    take a last, fast look
                             around—make the load
                                                  good and light.

Those fiends won’t find
                      a soul to greet them,
                               much less do their bidding.
If all goes well, we’ll ferry
                       the river by dark,
                                hide on the safe side…
Elsewhere, only a miracle
                         can save our home,
                                 sweet home, from                                                                                                                                                                   the likes of them.

 

                       12.

Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder?

How much depends
on the way it’s concocted—
in a half filled glass, with
or without water, one
to three lumps of sugar.

As for when, anise tastes
bitter from the first sip…
After a few more, spirits
fresh out of the bottle 
serve memories right, stir up
mixed feelings.

December 2020-February 2021

Three by 3 of September-November reprised Scruples, numbers 4 thru 6.  As promised, there would be more to come!  Numbers 7 thru 9 are the continuation. What’s new are my readings of them.  (Click on the play icon to initiate).

All told: “The idea of scruples has to do with ethics and morality: what is right and wrong. Scruples are a kind of moral compass that lets you know what’s right.”  (https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/scruples )

 

                     7.

Bigfoot is back in season, should
     show up the more it snows,
             leaving fresh tracks
                   there and then.
After a while, trails will
      appear, clear cut
             enough to follow.

Mounting a search party
      takes some choosing.
Members must be as brave
           as savvy, able bodied, get
               along well, willing to bear
                        the burden of proof.

Once mustered, our mission
        is to make contact
              with this man,
                       beast, or both.
If it looks harmless and
        waves a white flag,
                so much the better.

 

                 8.

Too bad for the jar
of jellybeans
on the top shelf,
as a cat
with a sweet tooth
shows up, all
at once, out
of curiosity.
Worse comes soon
after, when
he starts pawing
around, by
and large, closer,
closer…

Their worst off
would be
if, in due time,
he devours
the strawberries,
key limes,
every cherry,
a whole lot
of tutti fruttis.

           

               9.

After a while the fountain appears,
        as moving as ever, water galore
from the mouths of cherubs
         streaming into a pool.
The coins come from elsewhere,
         airborne, toss ups
that started out as small change.

They lie, by chance, scattered
         about, some sparkling
like new, others mistaken
         for moss.
Those down the drain, sight
         unseen, might
be twinkling in the dark.

 

September-November 2020

Three by 3 of June-August 2020 reprised Scruples, numbers 1 thru 3.  As promised, there would be more forthcoming.  Numbers 4 thru 6 are the continuation.

All told: “The idea of scruples has to do with ethics and morality: what is right and wrong. Scruples are a kind of moral compass that lets you know what’s right.”  (https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/scruples )

              4.

At first, the youth
could barely twitter his flute…
He’d need years of practice
to grow up,
                into a musician.

One of the streams in the forest
                                    edged a glade.
Kindred spirits gathered there.
While he soloed, they chirped, croaked,
even hissed.

His pluck and striving
                           pleased the gods.
They´d never overheard a mortal so hip
                           at such a tender age.
Only Dionysus didn´t listen. No
           boy could play
country like his kid, Pan.

 

                    5.

The rules of this boardinghouse’re
                                        etched in stone.
We can’t miss the tablets—
                                         they stand on
eye level shelves in the parlor—
             one for does,
                       the other donts.

Our landlord lets rooms to strangers.
                      He’s in the business
                           of saving souls.

 

                     6.

In Medieval times wives wore
chastity belts when their spouses
weren’t around. All were leather bound
and lockable…some lined with silk,
others bejeweled.

The keys were custom made
from precious metals.
If her husband was a noble,
he’d have chosen gold; gilded
with their family crest.

Women were deemed the weaker sex;
fair prey for troubadours wandering
from castle to castle, waxing poetically
about forbidden fruit.
They were also musicians who could
make a lute sound sweeter                                                                                          than plums, as bitter as quince.

 

 

 

June-August 2020

The first publication of Scruples was in three by 3,  December 2013-February 2014. Numbers 1 and 2 were complimented with sound files.  The latest, #17, was posted in March-May 2020. This is their first reprise with more to come!

All told: “The idea of scruples has to do with ethics and morality: what is right and wrong. Scruples are a kind of moral compass that lets you know what’s right.”  (https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/scruples )

               1.

Last night a meteorite fell
on our lawn. It’s as big
as a birdbath, but not
smooth and round, or white.

This one’s the darkest
we’ve seen since moving in.
Pitch black I´d say.
Also, more furrowed.

Around here, they come from
time to time. So far,
none’ve hit a house, just
backyards. Our’s landed
beside the rose garden.
Thank heaven it didn’t
singe any.

              2.

The gate opens easily
because its hinges’ ve been oiled.
Now he can come and go
without feeling guilty.

But what about the latch?
Rusty…a spring’s missing…
another’s in pieces…
Tomorrow, next week, month,
it won’t work at all.
Then he’ll be locked out, or in.

                3.

Lazarus´s alive. He’s eating breakfast
with his sisters. On the table
there’s fresh fruit, hot bread,
enough tea for everyone, including
well wishers who’ll soon
be swarming in like locusts.

Mary and Martha´re crying, but not
for joy. A pall’s fallen over the room.
He’s confused, angry…says
he was on the way to heaven
when it turned into a back
road to Bethany…that
their meddling in his afterlife
did more harm than good.                                                                                                  Published  in The Columbia Review         

 

 

March-May 2020

A rarity in three by 3 is a posting of only new poems. “Soul Searching’s Right of Way”, Scruples #17,  “The Advent of Spring” were written between January and May 2020. They’re also posted in the order written.

 

Soul Searching’s Right of Way

So long as this trail wends
                        over hills, down dales,
lies steeped in sunlight, babbled
                         to by a passing brook—
on those grounds we spend a summer
                         day, hour after hour,
until dusk comes, and with it
                          a trail lurking in the dark…
Summer nights are heavenly sent—
                           when the moon beams,
lone stars cluster together.
                           In time, shadows show up,
some standing, others on the go—
                           between then and dawn
they appear everywhere, without
                           crossing our path.

 

        Scruples

                  17

His eminence, hours into a tedious
speech about theology
in everyday space and time,
reaches a mute point.

Say no more, Aquinas, listen as heaven
revels, high strung harps pair
with dancing angels, corpus diem,
around the head of a pin…

To tell the truth, you’ve shown
they can in so many words.
Still riddled with doubt
is the nature of their gender,
be it male, female, or neither?

 

The Advent of Spring

 

Before sunrise many will congregate
around the church in utter silence,
all eyes uplifted, towards the steeple—
clerks, merchants, butchers, bakers
mingle with bankers and lawyers,
the mayor amongst them, standing alone.

The time of their lives is about to change—
 now that winter’s waned spring
 should be promising, a warm welcome
 for kindred spirits who kept out
 of harm’s way by staying indoors.
 And so, as the town stirs, windows
 open, streets become walkable,
 fountains bloom in every plaza.

 The vigil lasts until first light.
  By then bells ring free of the icy grip
  that had stilled their tongues.
  Crystal clear they chime, a blessing
  upon those also beholden
  to the season’s better nature.

 

December 2019-February 2020

“Seasonal Unemployment,” “How to Succeed in Apiculture,” and ‘The Industrialization of Silk” were posted in three by 3, September-November 2014. Subsequently, the poetry journal miller’s pond published them in their winter 2017 edition.

This reprise offers three by 3 followers another chance to read the poems together under the theme “Working conditions.”

 

Seasonal Unemployment

 

Once I was a scarecrow
with acres of corn in my care.
I watched generations of seeds
grow up and flourish.
They made me feel alive.

Since then, with each harvest
leaving me less to do,
more to reflect on,
it´s becoming
as clear as clouds
that I´m no longer
needed by the farmer
who made me his
stand in.

Now, autumn´s night frost
freeze dries my stitches,
and every day almost
winter winds pick them apart.
Limb by limb, I´m losing
all my inner support:
straw´s running out,
a broomstick’s severed.

In a barn, somewhere,
there´s a man
weighing his good fortune.
And here I am — over the hill,
facing a field full
of nothing.

 

How to Succeed in Apiculture

 

Plenty of bees swarming around
his hive, others flying in,
and out…

With veiled enthusiasm,
he’s there to take stock of the boxes,
prying not to upset any
while looking for honeycombs.
Those chosen for culling
should be found dripping, larger
than a man’s hands.
For stowing, his back’s strapped with a knapsack
which, like always, should soon be bulging;
by the end of summer,
much too small.

As for the bees, they’d
be a wild bunch without him;
their nest no more than a batch
of wax branching from a tree
nowhere near this pasture sown
with rye and clover.     

 

The Industrialization of Silk

 

One summer, with the Empire in full bloom,
the mulberry trees stood leafless,
their branches alive with
tea colored cocoons.
Legend says that some fell
into a bucket of boiling water,
ending up as threads ready for weaving.

The first bolt was rushed to Court—
a fabric so fine it tingled, so light
it fluttered from hand to hand.
Finally, after much discussion
and no consensus, the Emperor decreed
that only nobles who paid taxes
could trade in silk.
He also forbade exporting
the eggs, with good reason…
Outside his realm, rulers
were as greedy as thieves,
and ruthless.   

That was millenniums ago.
Now all sorts of bolts, from crepe
to taffeta, are produced, worldwide,
on high-speed looms. And thanks to genetics,
the larvae eat less, grow faster, spin
larger cocoons. Even the dirty work
of boiling is automated; no longer
done by artisans on a small scale.
Given today’s growing demand for silk,
the worms need to be massacred.