Category Archives: OCCASIONAL VERSE



—for a friend on the occasion of his seventy-something birthday

Now as you approach that swinging door
And think this day you’ve just arrived, before
You realize you’re also leaving seventy and more,
Do not be sad, and do not fear;
You get to keep this number for another year.

What’s in a number anyway?  No more
Than abstract stuff enough to bore
To songlessness a moody troubadour
Or make a turnip shed a tear
Or take the rooster out of Chanticleer.

No, it’s not the numeral that we deplore
But tendencies of an outworn folklore
To make one seem a dinosaur
When it is perfectly, quite clear
To one’s own mind:  “I’m not as I appear.”

In one’s own mind, one is eleven evermore:
One day a cowboy, next a sagamore,
Then a young blade barefoot on the shore
Lit up by love, crushed by a cruel sneer.
The feelings do not age, they persevere.

So let us spit the bitter in the cuspidor,
Immortalize the sweetness in a metaphor
And raise our voices in a great “Encore!”
This  birthday thing’s a time for cheer,
A time for more than one more beer.

And if you come a little bit footsore,
Wearing a birthday suit unlike the one you wore
Into this life—this life that you adore—
So what?  You are still you, still dear,
But best of all, you are still here.

.Originally posted november 2013, without audio



Sticks and stones may break my bones
but words will never hurt me.”

—A Maxim for Children

Poor Charlie felt he had the right
to be as hateful as he might;
that’s freedom of expression.
He travelled with the savvy smart,
was good with words and graphic art;
they polished his aggression.

It’s not as if he didn’t know
his wit dished out a hurtful blow,
such was his intention.
He called it satire, an old trick
of literary rhetoric
to mask his condescension.

“Watch your mouth,” his father said,
but Charlie self-expressed instead;
wise warnings were ignored.
His righteousness, he came to think,
with drafting pen and colored ink
more potent than a sword.

Those on the receiving end
of Charlie’s penchant to offend
stewed in this juice.
A self-expression more inclined
toward the body than the mind
let loose.

The awful consequences came
in retribution with a claim
on Charlie’s head.
Aggression had begotten more
aggression, evening the score.
Now Charlie’s dead.

“Sticks and stones
may break my bones,”
still rings the schoolyard cry,
“but words will never hurt…”
we also still assert,
and that… is just a lie.




For celebration I would go
to a place where I was happy once
where it is possible to dance
three-legged, nice and slow—

or out into deep winter’s honest air
where love once walked
and with my stick crack open
every ice-clenched puddle there—

maybe I would haunt the bakery aisle
at Stop & Shop, ogle the cakes,
and scare some people I don’t know
with my all- knowing smile.

Forget the presents—my desire
to divest, to simplify, to give away,
and live more quietly a monk-life now
outstrips that old urge to acquire.

So at close of day, a vagrant star
might seem to twinkle loud enough
to seem to ask me how it was
to be here, to have come so far—

I would not know how to reply.
At dusk I would walk home, not
looking back as ice grew once again
on puddles, mirrors to a gridelin sky.



(On Viewing Ceramic Poppies to Commemorate World War I, for sale, at the Tower of London)

Hard flowers try to bloom and grow
(but cannot tell what soft ones know
of how to live and how to die)
plugged in a tower’s moat gone dry,
a pretentious, gaudy memento.

The tourists come, the tourists go
to see the pottery poppy show.
What causes them to want to buy
hard flowers?

Because they’re cooked-up in a studio?
And virtuous? (The quid pro quo
will go to charity).But who can justify,
however sentimental, hope to pacify
a bloody horrible hard woe
with hard flowers?