False Discoveries

                 pour Jean Charlot

    On a poster I brought back from France,

        a French artist has sketched

            a bearded Lilliputian Columbus

                in ruffled collar and tight-laced pants,

    and a native Giantess, not yet Rigoberta Menchu--

        nude, voluptuous, supinely well fed, asleep--

            just at the moment

                of the little man's arrival.


    She is a continent, outstretched beyond

        Gauguin's encounters in Tahiti.

            She is holding horns of plenty

                and must be pleasantly absorbed

    in her nightly dreams.


    He is standing atop

        the upheld palm of her right hand,

            claiming it with unfurled flag

        for his queen in Spain,

            taking it for an island east of India--

                the little Don Quixote

    smiling madly up to the Heavens,

        he, too, in dreams, though more dangerous,

            with hollow-eyed waking,

                never seeming to imagine

                    that in looking down,

                he might make a discovery

            that would cause a new world to shake.


    The physical union of this unlikely couple

        seems doomed to prolonged frustration

                        from Beyond Modesto, first published in 

                                                        The American Scholar (Spring, 1994)        



Putting On a Tie


The knot slips tightly around my neck;

the end narrows too far. The silver pin

with an A (the one my father bought me

for New York)

makes little


when the red



every time

I try

to get

it right.



I'll never get used to this choking cinch;

button-down collars manhandle my neck.

Obscenely modish, slender or wide,

for the sake

of monthly


why must I expose


in this way?



I'll never sit easy at bargaining tables:

heads no longer speak for what's beneath,

stifled words mock the stuffed shirts,

eyes warp

over sagging limbs,

and the long

wait begins

for unfasten time

to reestablish circulation.



Though passingly well strapped,

And with fealty to a strange, old code,

I worry

that I, too,

may already




up my sleeve.

                                                            from Beyond Modesto


Gibbous Moons


        I resolved to give up

        writing poetry--being too

        busy, exhausted most of the time--

        and managed to do so

        until this morning's gibbous moon

        fell without detectable speed

        in a blue sky, and first rays of sunlight

        touched the mountains, hills and valley

        with detectable speed, nearer and nearer

        to where I sat drinking my cup of coffee.


                                                            I learned the word, gibbous,

                                                            years ago from my father.

                                                            I was confused about its meaning

                                                            because he leapt from that word to:

                                                            "Hold out a right hand to waning moons,

                                                            a left one to waxing . . . ."

                                                            And I never asked him, "Which one's

                                                            the gibbous moon?"


        Here in Southern Oregon, poetry

        is one thing that never seems

        essential. It takes too long

        (to read or write); it requires--

        God forbid--"concentration," and

        a "big vocabulary"--especially

        on such a morning when nature's

        store of words--none detectably

        human--seems to say it all.


                                                            Gibbous means convex, both

                                                            waxing and waning, stages

                                                            this side of full and on the other,

                                                            as opposed to crescent or concave--

                                                            before and after "half" or first

                                                            and third "quarters"--so many con-

                                                            fusing terms, so much forgotten lore.


        Like almost everyone else,

        like my father before me,

        I've got to make a living

        on this day or any other,

        but not without times-out

        for coffee in the morning,

        memories needing definition,

        old battles between words

        and intractable nature--

        still waged by two hands,

        detectably older, reaching out

        for right and left sides

        of a standard typewriter keyboard.               Beyond Modesto



An Unrhymed Sonnet on the Relevance of Lucretius

October 2001


                    That Venus should seduce Mars at once and persuade

                    Him to abandon the war in Afghanistan (in favor of

                    Every sweetness she can devise): That the English for

                    RELIGIO in Latin be restricted to "superstition" during

                    These perilous times rather than that inflammatory

                    Cognate I noticed; That education, especially into The Nature

                    Of Things, might steadily break down yet-untranslated

                    Barriers to understanding among peoples, even during

                    Battle--All idle dreams! When last Friday's burly Apollo

                    (Or was it Phaeton?) hitched my silver Chevy Blazer

                    To his own tow-away chariot on Ventura Boulevard

                    And almost drove off; Before I, arms waving, ran

                    Dangerously through traffic and prevented an even

                    Greater violation than I had experienced heretofore.       from Beyond Modesto



Looking into the ION with Finn

      "Wir sind keine Greichen mehr."

                    Phillip Otto Runge


                    O Finn, Classics' Instructor--on the point

                    Of pointing at so many monosyllablic Greek words,

                    On the point of raising your voice for emphasis,

                    On the point of knowing you are only inducting

                    Me, not everyone else seated at the Souplantation

                    In Brentwood, West Los Angeles, all of us

                    Facing at least two ways, this January, 

                    Two Thousand and One--


                    Instruct, in timely fashion, old habits of mind,

                    by pointing them out to me in all their gorgeous

                    Minutia, down the long page, down to the dirt-scraped

                    Nail of your index finger so recently deep dug

                    In neo-Virgilian loam, only to surface again--

                    Athlon of hard books and loose soil back home.            Beyond Modesto




At the End of the Day



                    At the end of the day, the day hadn't really ended.

                    Though somewhere the sun had set, though somewhen the polls

                    Had been closed, a winner projected immediately thereafter

                    (Almost an hour, however, remained for voting in the Panhandle),

                    That projection was recalled, counter called, then just called

                    "Too close to call." And yet it wasn't really the end of the day.



                    Votes had to counted and recounted, chads picked up off the floor,

                    Lawyers hired and debriefed, judgments made, judgments appealed,

                    Appeals reversed, rules overruled, opinions rendered. And yet

                    It still wasn't really the end of the day.



                    Some Otherwhere the sun had risen right at the moment it had

                    Set in that Formerwhere. The old millennium ticked on under certain

                    Calculations or miscalculations, merging secular science with oldtime

                    Religions with lunar calendars. Would somebody please define for me

                    A "Paschal full moon" at Easter before the end of the day?



                    Meanwhile our memories don't stop ticking either: they peel back

                    Scenarios we thought were about to happen. When precisely

                    Was it we realized we didn't have to survive Mutually Assured

                    Destruction, not yet to see the rising tides from icebergs melting

                    Into The Sea Around Us? Though they asked us, "Could this really

                    Be the End?" of the day.



                    But my eyes adjusted to bright sunlight as I exited the artificial

                    Darkness left behind in the Bruin Theater in Westwood Village.

                    Though victory had been declared (prematurely?), an incredible

                    Scenario hijacked jet planes to collide with twin towers just nine

                    Months and eleven days into what major populations of the Earth

                    Were convinced was the millennium. But no tragedy since Oedipus

                    Has ever really been the last one, at the end of the day.



                    Dies Irae, Day of Wrath, Day of Judgment, Graduations, Birthdays,

                    Yahrzeit, Happy St. Patrick's Day or Anniversary--every reason to

                    Grieve, every reason to party, to invest in the future, Postumus,

                    Though lovers' arm link above the moving waters of the Seine,

                    The Euphrates, the Ganges, the Humber. It is not the end of the day.



                    Mirabeau must have had foreknowledge that the Old Regine

                    Could never die, notwithstanding Madame Guillotine, for

                    The Goddess Reason requires humanity to measure the Nile

                    At full flood once a year, find a rosetta stone for translations,

                    Never to sleep. That's her Empire of Diurnaltiy--never, never,

                    Never! to reach, however we stretch it, the end of the day.



                    I do admit a great fatigue. It eventually dulls even

                    The Goddess of Reason, when she is tempted to imagine

                    Another god, Morpheus, Bringer of Sleep, whom she loves

                    In visible darkness, makes trysts with in moonlight, whispering

                    Sine Die, dreaming deeply at rest, at the end of the day.

                                                                     from Beyond Modesto