Category Archives: Poetry

Museum of Joy: Ursine

William Holbrook Beard the bears

William Holbrook BeardThe Bears

The great blue bear
rises at dusk, over the scrolled light
of day, in early spring.

Stars stuck in his paws like thorns,
his long stiff tail
hung on a peg
like the handle of a black iron skillet,
he unwinds, the grandfather
of all clocks
and collects his tolls
ticking over the bed of dreaming earth.

All kinked with winter,
the bear hugs to himself
the great cold swarm of far suns,
the ten thousand and one torn and curdled veils
of she who he so loved
that when, in her den, he raked up her must
from the litter
of her splendor
the bear could only seek her as prey.

The bear dips and pours, gigantic ladle,
dips and stirs
muddying the black water of the cauldron
with cold milt.
Prospecting for roe, he slaps meteors
like salmon
from the milky way.

You who have eyes, drink in this dark.

In holy greed the bear laps at stardust,
the sludge of nebulas, the seep
of blue honey from a drowsy hive
of black holes,
until his tongue
is buzzing with sisters.

You who have eyes, taste
in the salt of tears
the sting of sweet jesus in mother night.

I’m feeling rather bearish today. This happens to me in May. I wrote the poem, The Great Bear, back in, um,  May 1995 or so, and posted it on the Tent Show in May 2010. I still like it. And it is May.

A Cento of Early Ezra: No Whisper Speak

Bade No Whisper Speak the Birds

I stood still and was a tree amid the wood,
For I was a gaunt, grave councilor,
I did not like to remember things any more.

I have curled mid the boles of the ash wood
Strange spells of old deity, ravens,
Ivy fingers clutching through the crevices

Lest blasphemy be writ against my name;
Wistful for my kin and none about me
Save in shadows that come mewards

Flesh-shrouded, bearing secrets. All that
With strange sadness, hold the earth
In mockery, and are kind, with seas between us

Call the utmost singing, torn, green, silent
Bade no whisper speak the birds.

According to Wikipedia:

The Latin term cento derives from Greek κέντρων (gen. κέντρωνος), meaning “‘to plant slips’ (of trees)”. A later word in Greek, κέντρόνη, means “patchwork garment”. According to Hugh Gerard Evelyn-White, “A cento is therefore a poem composed of odd fragments”.

Last week I picked out from the “poetry month” doorside display at my local library Ezra Pound: New Selected Poems and Translations (New in 2010). As I was reading some of Pound’s earliest poems from A Lume Spento,  the muse’s scalpel began to twitch in the big left hand of the cortical homunculus, slicing and dicing, pushing collops of cruelest April (crueler than Eliot) into collage, a cruller twisting of cakey Pound. There is conflict between past and present tenses in the stitched phrases that I can’t resolve, so I let it stand until it’s stood.

Poem: Fallen Angel

dark angel new albany

Fallen Angel

The chrysalis is broken;
smoldering flesh
trails a crinkle of smoke:
Bloomed wings
tangled in a smiling rope
will shine.

The corroded ikons peel from your breasts:
Saints of snow panting for scripture
will shine out
like a high and narrow gothic window
lets in stained light
to the gloomy charnel of bread and wine.

This is the broken shadow
of promises kept:
Ragged edge;
knife soothed
in a pitcher of razors,
will shine.

Note: This is an old poem. Seems like yesterday, but I wrote it about 1990. It was the last poem of a chapbook I put out, called The Bread of Wolves.  Almost 30 years ago. I also posted it on the original iteration of the Tent Show on Salonblogs, probably 15 years ago, but not here on WordPress Tent Show ’til tonight.

You are old, Father Omed.

The Kindly Ones, Thou False Oaf


The kindly ones await you
with furious patience

graciously weep for you
tears of blood

rivulets of corrosion
gnawed into their cheeks.

Brushing the snakes
out of their eyes

they pull tight
the twitch and flex of leather

of wing
of scourge

pull tight
raw hide weave

on the shining


The wrathful lordosis
of flanks

blacker than black
unvexed nightmares

thighs unmoved
but not slow

of low coals

snatches of pale fire
gelid coils

of unhymned lightning
the terrible

swift soar
and lash

too kind to be kith
cold to be kin

the infold
of cruel fates

infer below thou
false oaf.

Steal This Meme: So Comfortable, Very Smart

trump wwi crosses so comfortable very smart

Trump, the Twitter certified @realDonaldTrump, called a travel lid today. That means he didn’t leave the White House. He was very busy tweeting. He did no honor to veterans, to the people of this country, or any one else today, but at least he didn’t wasn’t lying while standing in front of the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery.

tomb of the unknown inscription crop twk


Here, lies are solemn.

Here, lies are told
in the cadence of boot heels ringing on stone,
in the snap of a bolt shooting home
in the breech of a polished rifle, held at port arms
in white gloved hands.

Here, we fold our flag
and tell ourselves
the soldier died bravely
in a just cause.

Dead men cannot lie.
Here, all causes are lost.

Here, the living let stones tell the lies
the dead cannot.
To sooth sore hearts, tales are told
of glory in battle,
and courage under fire.

Here, the paths of glory
discolor marble
a shade of brown like dried blood
scuffed into the paving stones
by the slow turn
and turnabout march
of the Guard of Honor
in roped off sacred ground
in front of the Tomb of the Unknown.

Here, lies are told by Presidents and generals.
Here, chiseled stone names no names.
Here, the truth lies sleeping under stone.

Under lies, the truth rests,
but not in peace.
The dead have chisels that cut the heart.

Poem: The Rain falls in Belleau Wood

belleau wood fresh graves

The rain falls in Belleau Wood
Birds fall dead from a sky of fire in California
The President’s helicopter is afraid to fly
The Presidential motorcade refuses to leave Paris
The President is watching Fox News and tweeting it
from his Presidential suite and cannot hear
the silence
of the eleventh hour
of the eleventh day
of the eleventh month
the silence of the guns
the silence of the dead
The rain falls in Belleau Wood
but nobody can hear it
because the President’s umbrella won’t open
to catch the drumming of tears
because the President’s helicopter is afraid to fly
because the Presidential motorcade refuses
to drive from Paris
The rain falls on Belleau Wood
but it really isn’t
the wreaths are dry
birds fall from a sky on fire
ghost rain plays taps on soldiers’ graves
The President is watching Fox News and tweeting it
from his Presidential suite in Paris and cannot hear
the silence of it
Tell the poppies still blowing in Flanders fields
The President isn’t coming.

Via NBC: Trump cancels visit to Belleau cemetery due to bad weather, creates storm.

Grendel’s Laundry List: Fling Out Broad / For That I Came

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

As a rule those who were least remarkable for intelligence showed the greater powers of survival. Such people recognized their own deficiencies and the superior intelligence of their opponents; fearing that they might lose a debate or find themselves out-maneuvered in intrigue by their quick-witted enemies, they boldly launched straight into action; while their opponents, overconfident in the belief that they would see what was happening in advance, and not thinking it necessary to seize by force what they could secure by policy, were the more easily destroyed because they were off their guard.

Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

The happy ending is justly scorned as a misrepresentation; for the world, as we know it, as we have seen it, yields but one ending; death, disintegration, dismemberment, and the crucifixion of our heart with the passing of the forms which we have loved.

This death to the logic of emotional commitments of our chance moment in the world of space and time, this recognition of, the shift of our emphasis to, the universal life that throbs and celebrates its victory in the very kiss of our own annihilation, this amor fati, “love of fate,” love of the fate that is inevitably death, constitutes the experience of the tragic art…

Joseph Campbell, Masks of God vol. 4: Creative Mythology

Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.

Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon