October through a giant copper beech

The day approacheth, just a few weeks from now - I must be leaving ye old Providence, heading west to Minneapolis.  Walking around this windy overcast morning - gray skies, gray hair, gray world - thinking of the bark on a great gray beech tree, & the gray stone of churchyards, & the grey-eyed wisdom of Athena-Sophia (you might say)... all these sempiternal things (you might say)... & of Jasper Johns' gray series, & of the strange old gray painter crouched in a gray streetcorner, in Antonioni's Ravenna film, Deserto Rosso (was it Dante?)... & so all these grays blended on this gray day, as I remembered Edwin Honig, who had so much to do with my poetry life here in Providence... & Edwin's terrific short poem "November through a Giant Copper Beech" (you can find it in at least one of the editions of the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry).

Edwin's poem is about passing things, & things that are steadfast through time...

I got into a college (Brown) on the strength of some high school poems.  & stuck around here, writing on & off, for 45 years.  I just learned a few days ago that a poem of mine has been accepted for publication in that venerable American institution, Poetry magazine.  So maybe something at least has come of it all - so many wayward years in Roger's city-state, his "refuge for troubled conscience"!

                                   in memory E.H.

This windy gray October day,
fat robin camouflaged
(hoodie?) in dogwood’s
rusty green... & then the great gray

beech I passed this morning (Slater
& Lincoln).  Elephantine,
primordial, in motion
still (old pre-Socratic critter)...

Edwin’s tree, his 100-branching
crown – the graying King
of Gray, still whistling
to Even Dove, down never-dying

Dolphin Way (led by leaping sparks
into Ravenna).  O patient
rude dream-sponge – intent
to wrestle safety shroud across stark

span! – your International Pumpkin Man
lit from within (warm
orange flame)... No harm
shall come to thee, my child – listen!

In a corner of a lumber yard
one sharp-eyed old saint
(framed by gray paint
cans, wagon) waves palm upward

toward the dark sheep-door, just
over his shoulder – where
one candle shivers fire.
An endless jet, he whispers.  Trust.


Beech tree on Slater Ave., Providence


Bronze Age harpoon


These scarlet dogwood berries
sprinkling the patio
like drops of blood, O
thou October pale marine.  Seas

mottle thy face more than they should –
scars, age-spots, drawn
across youth long gone.  Her
billows drowned there, Robin Hood.

So the copper-pronged harpoon
dove deep, to sea-floor known
before Bronze Age.  Ravens
intone their learnèd funeral tune

& crows can recognize your face, 
Cautantowwit.  The moon
be pierced to russet soon;
your soul, also, cannot erase

persistent chronic blood-pain’s trace
that stains each chronicle
of hero-miracle,
mutters Antigone (in Mary’s place).

A coral circlet rings her hair –
aquamarine, full fathom
five; another kingdom
circumscribes (asper coin-lair).

You know it, Henry Buried-Man;
your snow-confessional
remorse codes – Rez is all.
Be reconciled, sez Rabbi Dan.


dogwood in October sun


Limestone Medusa


Something inherent in the stone,
the milky, the snow-seasoned
Winnebago (Indian mound).
A pregnant plot, expectant zone...

one-stringèd salt-shanty, or tent
of tentative meeting.
Limestone Mediterranean
USA, moon-galloping... unspent

Ethiopian Edith (double-we).
String’s stretch-to-break
(real Rimini headache)
loops through Persephone-tragedy –

Tiresias whispering mother-wit
or pock-marked moon
keening her Dionysus-loon
(rive-marine beyond yon Key West

jetty).  If the Greeks could see...
but it’s not necessary.
Stout military
Perseus will refract the sea

into a trillion dolphin-heaps;
Poseidon’s jealousy
toss Cassiopeia
upside to her throne (for keeps).

The circle of the sea (deep Circe)
revolves round Galilee –
Pygmalion will be
revived in thee, Pocahontas-B. 


may the circle be unbroken


Your Persian paradise


Spotty grackles swarm the dogwood,
chatty starlings nibbling
scarlet berries, quibbling
around each drooping leaf (old

ruddy father).  They traipse a happy
nonsense o’er the remnant
garden.  Sir Thomas Browne,
strum softly til I end my Rhody

nap (it won’t be long).  Your Persian
paradise (precisely drawn)
will do for Gödel, Dante –
not so simple to sketch that Abyssinian

abyss, encircling the human plow
through history.  Your soul
is touched by lost photo
whose courteous artist limns her now –

an April child glimpsed through November
shades (All Souls, Grandpa).
One unicorn grace, selah.
O woe to me, that scarred the moon (her

face still gleams from autumn grass).
A soft Franciscan Rimini
rhymes in the memory
of your basilica (on ne passe pas).

Dear evening Matilda, 1-3-2...
(Beethoven, fowled & quartered –
decussation – weathered
sprite).  All shall be well, hums Manitou.


laundry line, old lilac, light Brownian diamond

Rhody backyard I must leave ere long


The one who got away


The raven-message in the ink gets blurred
in the dark.  Signal fades
over badlands.  Wade’s
gone upstream, Charlie – overheard

her talking about the telephone.
One with the wheel-dial
we used to use.  I’ll
call you in three days, Persephone.

Grace made this little linen hanging
with palm greenery, with
red specks for eyes.  So Phoebe
set to compass-pointing in a painting –

hand-prints, fingerprints, green
dolphins breaching in
a fling... theremin
flute-song – ghost dance for Iowa

maiden (midden remains).  400 years
in Utah, seems like,
they danced.  A snake
coppered up in a trance – cheers

for the livid buffalo (the one
who got away)!  I
don’t know, Charlie –
she’s pretty mad.  The whole corn

crop is blown to smithereens.
Hazel threw her whistle
in the purple thistle –
thorns crown hills.  Train-horns...



Grassroots gun control : thoughts of a bystander

Yet another mass shooting on a school campus (Oregon).

I'd like share a few thoughts - though I'm not well-informed on the issue.

First : here we have another tragedy, yet more victims of our own political impasse.  We can't seem to get beyond the gridlock brought on by the NRA and its ideology - that is, the notion of Americans' inalienable right to own guns, and the idea that this right is under threat from liberals, police and politicians.

Second : listening to the traumatized public response by local leadership in the wake of the outrage, I kept hearing this message - "We don't even want to talk about the perpetrator.  His name shall not be mentioned."  I think I understand the emotional and practical motives behind this position : first, we want to cast out the agent of this suffering - we want to exile him from the community he has harmed.  Second, we don't want to give any media publicity to the deranged persons who engage in such deeds : their pathological narcissism & hunger for publicity is often a feature of these crimes.

Third : these two aspects underline the fact that what we have is both a political impasse and a community trauma.  Perhaps we need a new approach, a sort of end-run around the NRA.

I haven't done enough research even to say whether or not this is a new idea - probably not.  But here's the concept :

Maybe we need a grassroots, locally-based initiative to deal with the weapons in our communities.  Not a project focused on political initiatives, legislation, or regulation - that's already happening -  but rather a community-driven effort, which makes use of recent advances in data-collection and social networking.

I'm not suggesting any let-up on the anti-NRA, pro-gun-control political work.  I support that movement wholeheartedly.  This would be a complementary effort.

Neighborhoods and communities would take ownership of the problem.  They would do so by conducting a voluntary inventory/public awareness campaign.  Each neighborhood, each community, each town would take responsibility for its own weapons oversight - and would share their information with each other, and with local law enforcement.

The idea would be to take an inventory - street by street, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, town by town, region by region.  It would be done by local volunteers.  The questions on the survey would be as simple and direct as possible :

1.  Are their guns in your home?
2.  How many such weapons?
3.  Who owns and takes responsibility for them?
4.  What is your reason for owning a weapon?  What is its use?
5.  What can we do to help prevent gun violence?

It would be essential to undertake this on a grassroots basis : that is, not simply in cyberspace, on some social-media platform.  These of course would also be essential tools - but there would have to be an actual, human, local resource or center of operations.  Each neighborhood would need to be aware of the project and take responsibility for it (in collaboration with others).

Initially I imagined the survey would also try to discover if there was evidence - criminal, behavioral, etc. - that the presence of guns in a particular home might be an immediate threat to the community.  But there are reasons why this part would probably be inadvisable and unworkable.

Nevertheless, I do think one facet of the problem lies not with the weapons, but with the people who obtain them.  The NRA uses this argument in their propaganda - but there's a reason they do.  Addressing the psychological, behavioral, and social pathologies which lead people to commit such crimes seems absolutely necessary.

I realize there are law-enforcement and social-service programs already in effect, which try to deal with this dimension.  But possibly something equally local and community-based could be attempted in tandem with a neighborhood weapons inventory.

How do we undertake preventive measures - how do we work with people consumed by rage, irrationality, hatred?  How do we prevent them from acting on their violent delusions?  How do we address their problems?  I don't have the answers.  But the inevitable (and understandable) ostracism, judgement, and expulsion of perpetrators - after crimes are committed - seems insufficient.

Are there innovative means by which local communities could forestall such tragedies, without infringing at all on anyone's rights or liberties?  Can we take action - on a neighborhood basis - to confront the problem directly?  Rather than standing by, passively, while the lugubrious, gridlocked political debate grinds on & on?


Atlantic weather


Set adrift down Providence streets,
blown along by chilly air,
this autumn Atlantic weather
in the Ocean State... gray cloud-fleets

follow birthday Hobo, his big-baby
muttering – a nonsense
tremolo from Jonah’s
whale-gut habitat (her kingdom’s maybe

someday).  Like Apollinaire slaloming
dolphin-rime atop a marble
door in Rimini, warbling
his trompette marine (something

about a Frisco treasure chest
in a hurricane eye) – or
Bluejay Slocum, Shaker
salt in pauper’s Dauphin-quest...

your sailor’s air, so fortunate
pipes down from the future
on Ariadne lure.
Hookline for deep sinker – bright

hand who flew from the poop deck
waving from waves his
palm-leaf radius
(JJ-pendant, octahedral speck).

Wisdom’s justified in all her children
plays out the line from high-
strung Miriam.  Sky milk-
train sounds – all home free then.


October periscope