Tag Archives: poetry

Bedtime Stories

Bedtime Stories

Late at night,
flashlight under the covers,
Ms. Nalletamby pacing the corridor.
Lights out, boys! Don’t make me get the tackie!

Giggles, and stories.
Dreadful stories of the terrs,
coming in the night, burning the farms,
for what? We didn’t know.

Of course nobody believed them,
but they were good stories.
Lots of blood and fire, and breaking windows.
So exciting.
But he didn’t seem excited, so much as


What did I care? Maumau was long over,
and was probably mostly a


Just stories.

Ms. Nalletamby storms in, shouting
What do you have? Give it to me! What is it?

A letter from home.


As I sat in the Detroit airport on April 26th, I observed an older couple sitting across from me. They were hard to miss. It was obvious that, although they had been with each other for 40 or 50 years, they still enjoyed each others company. I wish, now, that I had given them what I wrote. But I had just started writing poems, and didn’t think that anybody would like to read what I wrote. But, looking back at this, I think maybe they would have appreciated it.

April 26, 2007
Detroit Airport

She reads
The Life Of Abraham Lincoln,
laughing with delight
at the antics of Abe
and sharing passages with him.

He reads
The Federalist Papers,
smiling happily to be with her,
his glasses
two full moons
in front of his eyes.

In love, still,
40 years on,
on their way to Europe again,
like that first time, so long ago.

The world has changed around them
but they remain
the whole world to each other.

As I Stand At the Prow (A Pantoum)

Since listening to The Larger Bowl, I’ve been wanting to write a pantoum. It looks like it would be an interesting challenge, and I like the notion of using the same phrase with different nuances. I discovered several pantoums, including a few that Wikipedia linked to, that were non-rhyming, and this gave me hope, since I’m not nearly a good enough poet to write rhyming verse that doesn’t sound really hokey, and do things like rhyme “difficult” with “join a cult” and equally absurd things.

So …

What follows is, technically, an “imperfect pantoum,” since I fudged a little bit on the closing stanza, which is supposed to be in a particular relationship with the opening stanza. But, since it’s my first one, and since I’m not much for writing in forms, I think that I’ll forgive me for that.

As I stand at the prow (A pantoum)
September 4 2007

As I stand at the prow
and look out to sea,
I wonder what I will leave behind
when my wake has faded.

And I look out to sea,
hoping to catch a glimpse of land.
When my wake has faded,
there’s nothing but me and the sky.

Hoping to catch a glimpse of land
is not sufficient motivation to go on
when there’s nothing but me and the sky
to mark that I passed here.

Is not sufficient motivation to go on
the sailors that I carry with me?
To mark that I passed here —
nothing but hubris.

The sailors that I carry with me,
their well-being, love, and life suffice.
Nothing but hubris
feeds the longing for more.

Their well-being, love and life suffice
and the time spent with them
feeds the longing for more
and lends joy to the voyage.

And the time spent with them
and the wonder of what we will leave behind
lends joy to the voyage
as I stand at the prow.

More about the rings

As I am wont to do of late, I’ve written something to explain my take on the meaning of the ring:

Tears from Africa

How many of my tears come from Africa?

One thing I remember,
tears cried in a warm monsoon rain
are hidden, and can be denied,
attributed to God
as He waters His earth
in the deluge of His tears.

This one precious tear,
captured by my Beloved, and returned to me,
precious as the rarest tanzanite
entangled in the knots of our lives,
even as our lives are entangled in one another.

This one tear, as I was saying,
a reminder of all the others
cried in warm rains on a Turi hillside
for all the things lost –
things that seem so small in the distance,
but were so large, so heavy,
so chilled my hands as I held them up to warm
in the tears, overflowing from the
compassionate eyes of Mungu.

And now, glorious now,
someone to cry with,
someone with whom to be entangled,
some one with whom I may be one,
and this precious tear,
falling forever towards me,
close enough to taste.

So, there you have it. She wrote a poem about it too, back when she started designing it, but I won’t presume to post her version of it. Meanwhile, as long as I’m posting about this ring, I might as well tell you about the other one, too:


A single blade of grass
wrapped around my finger.
This is what has been saved
from the years that the locusts have stolen.

It is enough.

And look,
there is grass everywhere,
even where there was none
before the locusts
ravaged everything.

Almost everything.

They left
this one blade.

Dernier Café au Lait

cafe… and it was all over much too soon, and before we knew it, we were drinking that dernier café au lait …

Dernier Café Au Lait
July 14, 2007

Dernier café au lait,
sweet and bitter,
the sugar melting slowly away,
going, gone, and remembered,
the taste lingering on the tongue
long, long after the last drop
dries on the page.

John and Sam

While in the Newark airport, we walked past the Sam Adams restaurant, and the following was inspired:

John and Sam
July 15, 2007

While John Adams was off busy
forging a nation, and all that,
Sam, his brother, or cousin, or something –
who can remember? –
was pursuing a more practical trade.
Men will always need Sam’s trade –
indeed, John’s product will often
drive a man to Sam’s, even as
Sam’s will make a man think
he knows something of John’s

The Killjoy

Jardins des LuxembourgUpon arriving at the Jardins du Luxembourg, we immediately noticed that nobody was sitting on the grass. Strangely, we didn’t assume, from this, that it was forbidden, but that they … um … didn’t want to? I’m not sure I gave it much thought. Perhaps I chose not to believe the obvious.

Anyways, we found a delightful manicured spot of grass, threw down our scarves as blankets, and lay down to read “The Silver Chair.”

We got through about a chapter when the gendarme came up and yelled at us about being on the grass, and how it was strictly forbidden. We reluctantly joined the other refugees perched on hard iron chairs on the walkways between the spots of beautiful welcoming grass to continue our reading. It seems a great shame to have such a gorgeous park and not allow it to be used in the obvious manner.

And apparently this was his whole job, for the rest of the time that we were there, we watched him chase off perhaps a dozen other people who were misled by the beauty into thinking that it was there for them to enjoy.

The Killjoy
July 13, 2007
Jardins du Luxembourg, Paris

Do you remember what it was like
to be young and in love,
to feel the soft grass on your bare feet,
to lie in the cool shade
and read to your lover
about another time and place?

Do you ever wish to kick off
your iron-soled boots,
and, with a quick glance about
for your fellow gendarmes,
toss aside your official hat
and coat, and sit, for a moment,
beneath the poplars you
so jealously guard?


I thought I had posted this quite some time back. Apparently not. These are some observations while floating down the canals in Amsterdam, getting brief glimpses into the lives of people with their homes tied up to the banks, and them getting brief glimpses into mine.

Windows (or ‘Anchored’)
May 4, 2007

We drift slowly past
a thousand lives
tied up to the river bank.
A peek in the window,
nothing more,
and then the boat moves on.

They sit at dinner
and argue about the bills.
She yells at him, then
looks out at me,
and I move on.

He sits before the bookcase,
books to the ceiling
All his friends there on the shelves
Dickens and Balzac and Tolstoy
to keep him company
on lonely nights.

She stares out the window
and the strangers in her front yard,
wishing she could go
where they have been
see what they have seen
longing to be far away
while I long only to be home.
She waves, timidly, sadly,
and we float past.

Here sits only a cat
always at home
for all places are alike to him.

A hundred faces from
and hundred windows
on their way to Nasau
and sun and sand.
Are they going to, or from?

A thousand lives
tied up to the river bank
and we,
we float past
wishing, perhaps, to be

Time Is Money

Important men
having important conversations
determined that we all know
how important.

Calling to encourage you
to focus on what works,
rather than doing what doesn’t work.

And that this eleventh hour deal
was big enough for me to
interrupt my busy schedule
of waiting for my delayed flight.



A postcard of the sunflowers,
rather like a Chick tract,
a blasphemy, in the hands of too many people.
Like CliffsNotes of the Brothers Karamazov,
condensing into ninety-six pages
two years of Fyodor’s tears.

One can almost, but not quite, imagine,
concealed far beneath the half of a half of a half-truth,
the great Truth, waiting patiently to be discovered
but waiting in vain, for we don’t even know
that there’s something to be discovered.

And then, picture Vincent, at the same time
amused and flattered, depressed and enraged,
that everyone in the world
has an imperfect copy
of this gift to a friend.