VALEDICTION SPOKEN IN A MELANCHOLY TONE WHILE ALL ALONE AT SUNSET ON A GRASSY KNOLL IN THE PRESENCE OF SEVERAL QUAKING ASPEN TREES FORBIDDING MOURNING

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So much I liked
what you appeared to be.

So much I came to love
the you I seemed to see.

So much for wishing, wanting
what I fancied to be true.

So much for you.
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VALEDICTION ….FORBIDDING MOURNING

THE MAN WITH THE BUTTERNUT GUITAR

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THE OLD GUITARIST

His pale blue bones bend
graciously, fragile as fossils
round the place of song

blue is the very world
that grounds him, clothes him
in arrest against blue stone;

blinded eyes shut out
all but his vision of
impending things ; they fall

into the hole of the guitar
where his limp thumb plucks
beauty out of tightened strings.

Pablo gave us this old man
when pitiful and melancholy
were the palette’s only colors

and a gessoed tabletop
the only panel ready to receive
the pentimento of his pain.

This is what it comes to,
the blue painting seems to say,
a blindness, poor and old and

left to suffer homeless
in a world of monochrome
under a dome bereft of stars.

Cold, cold, except for one
dear possibility, colored warm—
the promise of a butternut guitar.
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the-man-with-the-butternut-guitar

COME SEPTEMBER NATURALLY

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Come September
naturally we dry hydrangeas

all those mop-head pompoms
on the ancient hedge that keeps out
strangers like an overbearing mother
to the native sedge along the drive.

Naturally, the timing must be right:
late morning when the dew has dried

on a cool sunny day when blooms
no longer in their prime (not quite passé)
hint at new colors and a bit of stiffening like
paper in the petals gives a mild forewarning.

Catch it now
the ghost still breathing in the flower

whispers to a knowing hand—
strip off my superfluity of leaves then
stand me to repent in crystal water
so my cut stem grieves a bit

until all tears are spent
and I am all evaporated power.
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COME SEPTEMBER NATURALLY

IN THE SHALLOWS

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Long thoughts linger in the shallows,
lollygag along the beach
where the tidal waters whisper
lisp and slur their primal speech

where the ebbing wavelets licking
cling a moment to the land
spit their spume, leave little riddles
and blanched shells that suck the sand

edges shift in fickle fractals,
zig damp earth with zags of brine…
though on strolls here in the shallows
bare feet seem to toe a line

as if taunting trekker troopers
swooping seagulls squawk and yell
why is every footstep schlepping
its old burden… parallel?

One quick glance over a shoulder,
the horizon’s still out there…
oh, to lightly walk on water
or to gull-glide through the air

perpendicular to margins
on imaginary paths
of green beckoning blue sparkles
above dreadful depths of wrath…

still I turn now, stop in stillness
water clear, ground safe below,
standing easy in the shallows
staring where I dare not go…

there’s a staying thing that anchors
to the habits, terror strong,
stronger than the heart’s desiring
though desire lives deep and long.
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IN THE SHALLOWS

UNDER THE DOG STAR

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Under the dog star, weary, wilted,
watching dark’s descent compress
all things to a lonesome distant barking
and a jittery sleeplessness—

I try TV for company
knowing I won’t find it there
but needing noise and light
against the stupifying humid air—

ah, perfect! Verdi’s Requiem
enters the room: air-stabbing bows
of violins, the maestro’s frantic waves
and all the choral mouths agape with O’s—

it is the final movement, the Libera Me:
“Deliver me from everlasting death…”
it screams, wails, rushes to a supreme hush
of sorrow’s softening under the breath—

and in the silence afterward, deliverance
from dark, and grief.  Hair of the dog, what
power this sad music has, to liberate
when other helps are absent and the need is great.
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UNDER THE DOG STAR

PALIMPSEST

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The earnest monastery scribe begins
to scrape: he must expunge, obliterate
a text of Archimedes. Tonsured pate
bowed over parched and pumiced skins,
stone bench stone-cold, to his chagrin
hemorrhoids, indigestion complicate
his task. But laborare et orare, so he meditates;
offers up his troubles in atonement for his sins.

Beyond clerestory walls descendant sheep
are growing new skins in a lilac breeze.
Fra Pennafolio envies how they graze
oblivious, while lately he’s been losing sleep
fighting dark avengers of Hippocrates.
For help, he rubs his cabuchon of chrysoprase.

He must not let it faze him.
After all, in frugal fact, parchment is dear
and perfect skins are rare. He must persevere,
erase and rewrite without fear.
It is a holy labor, surely in the angels’ care,
to cleanse away the pagans for a book of prayer.
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PALIMPSEST

THUMB THING

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I wish I were deft as young chums
who know how to twiddle their thumbs
typing texts of their own
over cellular phone
as swift and correct as they come.

But I’m not only old, I am dumb
and forced to the pure tedium
of one finger indexy
(it’s not very sexy)
O fee, and fie-fo, and fo-fum.

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THUMB THING