line breaks

I awoke unable to remember
how or why we write poems

or make these line breaks

alerting us to another way
of reading and seeing

now I remember

meanwhile
rainwater collecting in buckets
shone like something holy

[first posted 17 Jan 2015]

howl

dog on the bed
like a polar landmass in the spring
I would give anything
to be like you
yours is an empire of the skin
mine the meandering way within
an island off the compass of the world
go howl your howl
let it be heard

[first posted 1 Jan 2017]

the price of light bulbs

you sit at your table writing
while I sit at mine
I’d like to have coffee with you sometime
a glass or two of wine
discuss the price of light bulbs
or the intricacies of verse

there are subjects far worse
such as love
loss
domesticity

it would all be with the greatest civility
though I cannot remain serious
for too long

I knew a girl once made me laugh so much
I could have wept

but now she’s gone
and I am undone

so here’s to you
and whatever it is you write
so feverishly
uneasily
at your table

I am unable to stand the light
for much longer
at any price

[first posted Jan 10, 2016]

from another ocean 

tales were told at table

that night
and when it came to my turn

I said
why is it always my turn

and the answer came back
you’re the only one

here
so I recounted the days of my

youth
which I missed grievously

and told
of sorrows and lost loves

and worse things
wearing my heart wide open

recalling
the story of the whale mother

singing
to her stolen calf unceasingly

even
from another ocean

not even love

you said you’d show me a good time
but now it’s past time
and I’m uncertain of the days

my mother’s people came from Italy
but the limestone Auden praised
means not a thing to me

nor all the masters at top table
I’d like to name them
when I’ve had a few

they mutter sonnets in their soup again
they should be locked away
for what they did to me

we have no culture but the one we made
a gaudy hit parade
tinsel and after-shave

what is a good time anyway
you never did quite say
before you went

oh how the masters would lament
not even love is heaven sent

fall

death was not so difficult
like falling from a plane

down through all the centuries
to learn it all again

and still I fall
fall and fall

until I learn
once and for all

to write with greater reach

write poetry in
the rhythms of common speech

headland 2

I often walk
this stony beach
uncomfortable upon the feet
but conducive to the mind
though I would rather not make rhymes
but wander to a place I know
around the headland
a mile or more
a little bay
a sheltered cove
where I arrange the stones
just so
bereft of any rhyme
or reason
hard to find
in any season
not on maps
nor in guide books
I only find
when I don’t look 

tryst

pale hart in the copse at dusk
under stars
that bristle on a chinless heaven

faith
I have none
these things are random

I turn up my collar on the night
knowing
she is already gone

Bell Lane 2

where is the bell
in Bell Lane?

summer has departed
and nothing is the same

love has gone forever
and nothing now remains
but words

there rings the bell
in Bell Lane

in so many words

consider the geography of your utterance
its highlands – valleys – plateaus
its backways tracks and roads
then you will have traveled a good way in a day
and know where the line-breaks go

I was taught poetry by a map-maker
a walker
a man of the lakes and fells

this is what he tried to tell me
in so many words