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The House of Dying

Here I am, in a Brooklyn backyard, reading Donald Hall,
A book of 1970s poems called “Kicking The Leaves”
From around the time when he moved back
To the old New Hampshire homestead where his
Great-grandfather farmed from after the Civil War

Until the year before the so-called Great War.
I’m told he still lives there, frail and old,
And recently The New Yorker published
What one could only read as the poet’s note of farewell.
Yet here I am, watching the birds in April

While the trees are budding and the difference
Between a male and a female sparrow becomes apparent:
The males marvel, posed but alert,
As the females shake their wings and asses,
A call for assistance from the reproductive branch.

On the pages, I return again to “the house of dying”,
A phrase written in the middle of life
And a terrific title for a book
That a person could write when he is done
Jotting down the lines of this poem and the next

With a cheap plastic pen from the Algonquin Hotel
And done sitting here, in this cathedral of spindly maples,
As cardinals, robins, finches, and brown thrashers
Descend from on high, like prayers
No one needs to answer.

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Elements of Style

I don’t use emoticons
Or exclamation marks
And I don’t capitalize words
To make them brawl and bark
I use italics sparingly
Like fish sauce or Danish Blue
Lest my paragraphs become
Potpourris or cheese fondue.
 

Language is like music
With precision, grace and mojo
Exaggeration makes the world
Pocket-sized and so-so
From Shakespeare to Updike
They never needed an air hammer
The real power-tool for the job
Is a little thing called grammar.

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Prayer

I pray, dear Lord,
To draft and scribble
Until the day You say, “Quit!”

And summon me to
The main library halls
To reassess my writ

Oh, let my work
(Wherein I praise Your creation)
Find grace when your angels read it

And let not St. Peter
That grouchy librarian
Stamp it A WASTE OF SQUID

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Twelve Bar Blues

Feed the cat
Feed the birds
Glance at poem
Change a word
 
Boil some water
Grind some beans
Brush your teeth
By all means
 
Turn the dial
Morning news
Lover’s kiss
Twelve bar blues

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Hobo’s Lullaby

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Thanksgiving Limerick

The Europeans followed Hernán Cortés
And made a new world of freedom and show biz
Oh, that sweet American thing
Where thanks we give and bring
And remind turkeys of La Révolution Française

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Umbrella

Umbrella

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Three Limericks

There was a man who never said Oops
They called him Putin the Russ
He ordered Quiche Lorraine
Then said to Ukraine
Move your border away from our troops

There was a man, Putin of Leningrad
Who read a newspaper want ad
He became maître d’
At The Cagey Bee
Serving Pie in the sky a la Vlad

There was a man named Vladimir
A cutting-edge buccaneer
With his new Putin app
He’d take a face or map
And make the lines disappear

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Made by Human Hand

Open doors distract me
Closed doors confine
It’s hard to find a door
That I don’t seem to mind
 
I like the simplicity
Of these ancient quarters
Walls white as snow
Floors dark as water
 
Revolutions take all colors
Even hurricanes have names
Dictators claim the benefit of doubt
But their dead are still the same
 
Searching the stars above
Led to only earthly treasures
So I read my King James Bible
For its smell of burgundy leather
 
It takes such limpid rhymes
Regret comes second-hand
Man’s search for tangible beauty
For things not made by human hand

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Sonnet 1

The Great Molasses Flood of 1919
Killed twenty-one men and a closet queen
It was ten years before the stock market crash
But stuck in molasses, you don’t think about cash

Horses were trapped in the sticky mess
And very nice people shot them to death
Even the elevated train was destroyed
What a let-down for Sigmund Freud!

The tank was filled just to spite Prohibition
The country, like the booze, was in bad condition
It’s amazing what a population will entertain
To keep their supply of fermented grain
But the lesson to be learned is that tacky goo
Should be in kept in small jars labeled “George W”

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