For a few years now, I’ve had an ongoing schtick where I invite people to give me a one-word cue for poetry. It’s a blatant cribbing of an idea I first saw in the movie, Before Sunrise, when the two main characters come across a gondola captain who does the same for them.
The cue-words were whatever people wished to send in, ranging from the ordinary to the deliberately difficult. Usually written within 15-30 minutes and tailored to resonate with the person they were written for.
Seeing how they’re stored in an inbox with fixed storage space where they will someday fade into the ether, perhaps it’s better to memorialize them here over time, instead.
Part 3 will be all the ones written from 2012 – present.
Enjoy — it has been an honor to participate in this fine endeavor of authorship
* * *
To here, you go, a stairway tall
A ladder you climb, so scared to fall
A “Sanctuary”, so some claim
Its vocal heads seem starved for fame
But somewhere far from florid farce
A love so deep, endured so harsh
That testament, amazing love
Thy kingdom come, thy god above
That cost the father: cost? The son
Redeem the sinners, all as one
And through these phariseeic roots
Rise up, thy heart, may it shine true
To speak of truth, with all we do
That everything sad is coming untrue.
* * *
The man they called Wolfram in alpha decreed
That Feynman aside, no man could succeed
At balancing wisdom and genius and mirth
So deftly that stories aplenty be birthed!
With puzzles aplenty he dazzled the crowds
And clarity, too, a gift in resound
So one day he came by a fellow named Grelling
“Conundrums I bring!” spoke he in his selling
An apple he drew, in chalk on the board,
A heterological hash, in accord
“A Ruby you’ll win,” spoke Grelling in glee
“If elephant fall, and by that, set free”
“Nonsense,” said Feynman, while messing with hair
“That task is designed for Eric William Blair.”
“I’d very much rather put up a fight
With those jolly old chaps, Will Strunk, and White”
“Well surely you can,” said old funnyman Grelling
Just make sure you make their sentence compelling!
* * *
On this fortnight in January four fine years ago
A dance for the many, but two.
The serenade in a short month prepared
Would the fine couple hear it? No.
So to dancers they played, by spotlight aglow,
A fiddle, a keyman, a mandolin, too, in tow
With voices aplenty, they put on a show
For many, a memory best savored, in slow.
“Between” was a highlight, amidst “Only Hope”
“Sweet Afton,” the spotlight, to silence eloped
A jazz standard here, a effortless waltz
For many, the feeling that time doth dare halt
And though the intended
came serenade three
That night yet still memorable
When all there felt free.
* * *
Fantastic (I missed the cue on this one…)
I never saved anything for the swim back.
I never had to, not when the cool lake waters
Promised never to let me down,
Never to betray my trust.
And under the starlit sky of Autumn nights
I would drift, wander, float
Until the wonder of the evening bid me farewell
and the stillness of silence told me it was time to go home.
* * *
She surveyed the store for signs of life
The sales reps silent, and perhaps in hiding
Nothing to welcome her but a neon pink glow
And the bizarrely detailed freckles
of whoever it was the mainstream now defined as pretty.
There were hints of lemon in the scent she sniffed,
but whatever sensory capacity she had left
was being overwhelmed by the mindless thump
of a techno trance stuck on repeat.
So she did the only thing that felt sane to her,
put her bag down, and did an Irish jig.
* * *
Diddy Reese’s cookies were the day’s divine delight
A dozen chocolate chip, their colors black and white tonight
A jagged little pill on “pause”, we hurried through the line
For Westwood’s finest treasure, known, no diamond in the rough
And much as Morissette may claim bad coincidence ironic
The wordplay that she utilized is merely to be tonic
* * *
Good luck, she said
And off I go with whatever skill I have
A Jung gun with so much of that je ne sais quoi
And a fair helping of that–whatchamacallit? Chutzpah
My diction sporadic in its creative bent,
A hearty helping of cliche, grounded by physics
Oh! Gravity…all those wonderful laws of motion
Chronicled in that Newtonian tome…Lethologica? No, Principia.
A natural bound on how high my sound and sense should jump
Even before I hit those limits set by the commissioner…
* * *
The Kowloon Walled City,
A maze of mystery
Secured its place in history
As both miracle and aberration.
For years upon years
A civilization alone
Mistpouffers heard often
Though those that lived there
Had no way of knowing
Whether it was just another airplane
Taking off next door at Kai Tak,
Or something more sinister,
Explosion upon explosion
As the forces that be
Tried to reclaim the place they called home
One building at a time.
Boom. One falls.
Boom. Like waves, ripping a piece off of their rock.
Boom. The city within a city. It was gone.
* * *
What? Solstice Arena hath now been acquired
By Zynga, that evil empire-inspired?
Casino made whole in blasted farm form
To take idle monies in midwestern norm?
An odd change of pace for so merry a crew
To storm midcore markets with challengers few
Oh well, a bit lucky, that fine acquisition
The Pincus collective hath claimed a position
That few can now argue is deeply entrenched
And capacity for good still be one intent
Congratulations to gamers, their chances now seen
In playing fine games that don’t need a Queen!
(Or rockets, or sailboats, or walking sticks, or cowboys…)
* * *
Upon her return from the farmers market
She found a package at the right of her door
Lacking indicia of any a sort
Besides a peace symbol and the words, “once before”.
Unusual exhibits prompt unusual comport–
She shook it, unsure of just what she might upset
Not much, it seemed: with no rattle, no crash
No slow ticking timebomb to cause any fret
“So open it!” admonished the Her in her head,
The worst was now over, the mystery said.
A stack of old photos, a memory pact
She made with a…friend, their distance then fact,
To make their pasts past, to seal it in time
A capsule exchange, that future might find
To teach them the blessings they were to each other
And help them know true those learnings uncovered
When close as they drew, they saw their true selves
Their frailties, their follies, their failings so felt
In deepest engagements, adventures embarked
A chapter now closed, but cherished, but held.
She knew her commission, and onwards, she went
With fullest of blessing in the finest advent.
* * *
(Inverted…requester sought to guess the word-cue chosen)
The 5.7 at Planet Granite is an odd beast
Curves along the outer edge of the end wall
Pink, its rocks, an invitation
For fledgling climbers, it’s a struggle
That blasted finger grip halfway up
Never seems to let them pass
So try, they do, in earnest step
To reach beyond it, up
To the promised land, relying
On their own strength, their own will
Not realizing that what will take them there
Is not a display of power
No, I tell you now: they do not earn that summit
The designer made it special
To teach that sometimes they will need to fall
And know with certainty that they will not perish
For that is what will give them courage,
Will give them the strength to make a leap
Without fear of failure, of inadequacy
In order to catch the next rock and keep on going.
* * *
oh zz top you sure do rock
and no one can deny
your beards so lush and your song tush
are just two reasons why
your shades are chic, however cheap
chicks flock from near and far
with a little luck they’ll cover up
how old you really are
* * *
Bibulous, Lugubrious, Solipsistic, Verisimilitude
Descartes! Why are you so bibulous today?
…It’s my salve, my friend, that keeps my laments away
Laments, you say? What bane hath aflflicted thee, do pray?
…Futility. Reality. This blasted horse, he neighs.
…but did he neigh? Or did my mind but envision him in the fray?
…A fortune’s fool, bereft of truth, verisimilitude sorely lacking
…A fiction; a feast for the mind’s eye, and nothing more?
I know not what you say, oy vey!
These words, lugubrious, sullen, unfit for this day!
Put this horse before you, if I may
And remember the words that once showed the way
That mind’s eye by which you pontificate
By which these solipsistic thoughts precipitate
This very act, from which your posit predicates
Is sufficient proof. I will not let you prevaricate
This truth that which your soul did dedicate.
Snap out of it, you twit! Or I’ll get Kierkegaard to come medicate
And then we’ll take that horse of yours away.
* * *
Buenos Aires, Nineteen Fifty Four.
The middle of August, on a milonga floor.
The shadows turn, boleo trails
The deal, discreet. No room to fail.
Cigarette smoke fills the air
They step outside
Into snowfall light and silent
A card exchanges hands
And they part ways.
Three lives saved, one life lost.
They wonder if it was worth it.
The question has only one admissible answer.
* * *
…Pardon me, lovely, but is that a Degas?
I’m not too well-versed in my arts
Aesthetics was never my strong suit
And all I know is that I appreciate this
For what reason? I do not know.
Perhaps the exquisite lighting work
That makes me feel the serenity in the scene
The footsteps, light and measured
As they learn their clie…sublime.
Or perhaps it’s the nostalgia,
So long it’s been since I’ve returned
This gallery, as if it had been taken away from me
Obscured by Christo’s hand to make me look closer
To appreciate just how precious it really is.
Tell me, is it a Degas?
Or just me, delusional?
* * *
To what should I attribute this journey to sea?
A heart for adventure? A mission decreed?
And what of thy mind, thy psyche, thy thoughts?
In calmness they stay, or unrest, thou hath wrought?
To hope do they lean, or panic unbridled?
Serenity reign, or stomach unsettled?
Regardless, I say–the journey is near
And embarking on it commissions no fear
For blessed assurance will be by my side
And for want of nothing, my time, I will bide.
* * *
Inara! Today is not as it seems
Merely held for tea, companion? No! More, we decree
To faraway lands we sail, we seek, we journey
Suddenly free, like a flower set to bloom
A jewel, now finally paired to filigree
So onward we go, in the shadow of this hegemony
Soon to be? No, never will we let that be.
* * *
Ellington’s keys…the 9:20 special
at the Darktown Strutter’s Ball.
“Corner pocket,” he says, without a moment’s doubt.
The joint is jivin’, the beats are flyin’
Home? This is it. He can’t sing it,
But he sure can swing it.
It’s revival day, the late, late show,
The first swingouts in years
Coupled with hits on the ones
And a clarinet on top
Welcome back, they say
We ain’t got no rent party here
But the community? It never died.
Frankie’s here, Norma, too.
Steven’s along for the ride, so’s Chazz.
That plaque’s gone, but we got something better now.
So come on in. Floor’s fresh, you can hear the stompin’
Because the Savoy’s back, and you’re invited!
* * *
Scandinavia classified the octopus as a mammal
So as to recognize how intelligent it was
And confer to it humane protections it would not have otherwise.
Blasted cephalopods…nobody cares about them
Nothing more than a bunch of slimy suction cup-wielding symmetricals
Stereotyped into oblivion and forgotten by history.
At least Zoidberg got to leave a shell behind.
But no, most of ’em are so unremarkable
That they’re known by the number of appendages they have.
Seriously? It’s like calling Homer Simpson “Eightman”
(Well…he does eat a lot of donuts…)
Ah fudge, perhaps we’ll never care about them
Until those giant squids climb up the continental shelf
and begin their march to world domination.
In which case, we’re all screwed.
* * *
Whew! Time has been scarce lately
But such is the sign of a life well lived
That sometimes, it is the joys of real life,
The sights and sounds winning over the superfluous
And while captioned cats have their place,
While short videos have their moments of vibrancy,
It is the scent of a dawn’s new air
That brings forth the adventure!
* * *
Speak to the common man of worldview
And in return, receive decree
Of what the pursuit itself ought be, with echoes of philosophy
That allude to wisdom in the empty vessel
That Sartre-approved pursuit of nothing
Or just one thing at a time
But speak to the rescued man of such things
And in turn, he proffers a question: “Don’t you see?”
That all things sad will be made untrue
That hearts and hands unite
Under the banner of one lion
Whose triumph is ordained, is confirmed, is promised?
The ransom, in his eyes, ought not be squandered
On simple safeties, pleasures, comforts
But explained with the joy it confers upon those who know it
So that others, too, may live because they see.
* * *
Anno Hideki was troubled
For Gainax, funds were not to be
And series truncated, animators cut
A closure cannot be done for free
So, his pencil lowered, his glasses glowing
He declared with alacrity:
No matter, all. Do closeups of everything
Inanimate, beside the action
That viewers need not see
The overthinkers will do the rest,
Declare it, “synecdoche!”
So money they did save
And beer was had by all.
Until that blasted 17th angel
Was had with Ode to Joy
* * *
Schmosby in the kitchen
Thanksgiving on the way
Pledging there’d be no chicken
On this grand feast of a day
A Turducken, what, you say?
No, that’s not the Schmosby way!
TurTurkeyKey or bust!
…and that, kids, is how we lost that day.
* * *
Late, late, late, here I’m horribly late
With writing back on a timely base
Oh, what then, should I say?
Should I throw myself at thine mercy?
Should I carefully keep grievance at bay?
Should I introduce whimsy, wit or wisdom?
Oh, anything, please, if I may!
And thus endeth the rap contest
The crappiest in all history
The mic drop elicited guffaws
And Emi-not retreated to his cave.
* * *
Kierkegaard was silent
Amidst the fine salon
Overshadowed by Sartre
Clobbered by Camus
He wanted to shrink into a bug
But Kafka beat him to it.
What then, should he be?
Need he suffer this cacophony?
Or could he carve out his own plot
And pursue it as one ought see?
He did, mind you, quite well–
And his words, to this day, let him be.
* * *
Bacon! A delight to eat.
Midnight! A time for meat!
Narwhals? They don’t exist!
What’s that, you say? “Bullshit!”
An exit song for a film
Of redditor life, forever dim?
Nay, I say, Yao Ming, my witness
For awesome times in shoulder fitness
To shades of blues on Monday night
Right now we’re there, for zombie fright
A stone’s throw away from Mission Cliffs
A fine place to go to dance with the stiffs!
Or real live people, if that, you prefer,
Come one, come all, do not defer!
* * *
Mexican wrestler Ted!
“So awesome!” Barney said
When robots he walloped
with fisticuffs dolloped
And mask no longer fixed on his head
Waitaminit now, that’s lame!
A limerick? Low! Oh, for shame!
This here doppelganger
For architect, not a banker
What is this, just a game!?
* * *
So what is the point of your department, dear sir?
Is it outfitted full of the brave?
Or some twenty-five dimwitted dullards…oy vey!
Who can’t fight their way out of a cave?
I refuse to acknowledge such insult to me!
En garde, you dastardly villain!
By my sword I shall prove thee a blowhard today
So come on: draw! This, to you, I decree!
“Oh crap, what a pickle I’ve invoked now,” said he
And blast it, I’ve got dysentry
It’s either crap my pants here or surrender to pee
Gee, now how can I get myself free?
So exasperated, he draws that big magnum
And points it at sword-wielding Steve
And Dr. Jones ran his way to the toilet
In time to let himself be.
* * *
A mirror is so much harder to hold
The contours of our personalities
Difficultly jagged, in all fairness,
No more sage than child
At times a glimmer of hope
At times a shade of sorrow
Ignorant in the moment,
Of ten thousand joys still yet on the horizon.
What do we make of the words of the promise?
Of Timshel, Agape, Alithea…Eloi?
On those days when a hunger self-sustained
Speaks to a story yet unfinished?
Do we concede ourselves to the winter
And take in the world as it is,
Or does the lily speak of something greater
Of some brilliant samwise destiny
In which all the present struggles dissolve?
…Someday we’ll know.
* * *
Beauty, Intrigue, Amusement
A tardy bard was rather lame
For leaving fields fallow
A month, almost, before he rounded
Back to parchments hallowed.
A story aching to be told,
A pen averse to paper!
“Come on, dear mind!” exclaimed the scribe
“Concoct intrigue, a caper!”
But nay, thine head refused–a sigh
No beauty in his grasp
The story elusive, cliches abound,
Too dull to draw amusement
So slam his quill and slosh his ink
He did over his canvas.
For though a writer, not to be
Jack Pollock no less the Artist.
* * *
To Mandelbrot the fractal’s claim
was simple, strong…those, one and same
A towel, laid in ordered plot
Would easily fill a parking lot
With pattern clean, with ordered line
Resultant structure? Work divine
Said Koch to he, why reduce?
The order in snowflakes, less abstruse!
So mathematics love in common
They sat to talk, their greeting? Welkommen!
* * *
What are we to make of nothing?
The empty canvas, the wordless screen
Should quickly we contribute sheen?
To sculpt the clay invites critique
To write the song, never unique
Inspiration eternal, all thoughts derivative
Why bother on anything more than tentative?
But for the joy of making something anew
Inspired by others? No matter, good cues!
That into the world we bring forth a light
However fleeting, still grand yet, a sight.
* * *
Today we gather for high tea
In a peculiar formation, our lot
With some in formal gown and cover
But some, befuddled, not.
To what future shall we toast this day,
A lazy Saturday noon?
Innocuous inquiries into wit,
Or nine mysteries doubloon?
We do not know for why we gather
The host has yet to show
But soon the banquet will begin
With all in peace with one other.
Let hearts thine sing, let souls then rise
To joy we gather round
For on this Easter lily’s day
We hear the union sound.
* * *
Blasted jib! It won’t unfold
Across these oceans racing bold
Those tassels cross in odd direction
Confounding me on wind connection
To tack? To drift? Of what, my options
To fascinating lands far from rocks, and
Seas run deep amongst these lands
Adrift, I fear…no sight of sands
Afar or near, wherever art
That siren song, titanic views
Of glacial fog and northern lights
Of these, await…for another night.
* * *
[Taking a page from Kate Rusby’s Radio Sweethearts, and maybe a little bit of Nothing Left to Lose]
One morning at dawn, treading
beneath the ocean’s song
The gentle, light whisper
Of generations gone
Wafted through the air
A music of everlasting rhythm
An ebb, a flow, a promise
To keep time immemorial
Carried forth to present day
The great unknown
Calling us into dancing
Through sleight, through sorrow
Through seventy times seven a restoration
To carry forth on the promise
That the joy that was is yet to come
And yet to come, much greater.
* * *
On the stretch of Harlem, five-forty Lenox,
In the days of depression-era blue
A rhythm of air steps befitting to dreamers
Made all who entered, as two.
From two begat triples, the circle, the rock
Much credit to Shorty and Bea
In the stories of Frankie and Norma, they shined
As the movement began a great sea
And from that great sea flowed community
That would care for each other in need
When paychecks were thin and their dwellings in jeopardy
The neighbors would throw a party
And from the hat, would come proceeds to clear–
A collective declaring as family
That forces could bend, sure, but not break
And in union could together be free
And though small at first, the rhythm would grow
Its carefree joy proving infectious
A counterculture of hope for all nations
With a song that time could not silence
* * *
To the Atticus buried deep in thy soul
In winter seasons, at times disheartened
By the blindnesses of the broken,
Affect, the lynchpin for injustice
In the name of self-preservation
But so often a mask, so often a disguise
For the fear of threat from those unknown,
Of extraterrestrial terrors, or so they seem
When the reference point tangibly near
Is the depths of darkness they know in their own hearts
…while they proclaim, “them, but not I.”
Finch, be not downcast.
Someday all that is will be made whole.
And on that day, you’ll see the Spring
In poppies, in lilies, in frankincense and gold.
* * *
Bella, bruisewort, aster everlasting
A dance of white and gold
The eye of day, a light refreshing
Finished, a story told
To winds, received by harsh commission
Restored by third day’s light
A simple song it brings to life
of destiny saved by submission
The dance of daisies, sprouting bright
For travelers they do hail
The coming of sweet blessed tomorrows
By Cross promised, without fail
* * *
If Nintendo was our surrogate mother
Raising us with her creations
Then Mario is our Other
On which we conferred aspirations
In saving the Princess, oft whisked to other castle
A frequently changing treadmill, on which we wore our tassels,
A frustrating, furious run to save girl Toadstool —
Ah screw it, day out is nice, I’m off to read by the pool!
* * *
Prayer, God, Will
Jack in his letters to Malcolm spoke
of the virtue of the prayer of common folk
The privilege conferred, from God to man
Of a listening ear, a hug, a hand —
A king to his child, permission to plea
At any odd hour, disturb his decree
And ask as do many, thy will be done here
But account, too my wishes, my thoughts, and my fears
…an honor divine, that we may be children
In kingdom now coming, and nevermore pilgrim.
* * *
O the folks who try to stump me are legion
With ‘carbuncle,’ ‘squalid’, no reason
Nor rhyme they expect, but merely to baffle
With obscure lexicon, their apple
To entice, the verse perchance soporific
The purveyor of such? Seldomscientific
In language, in literature a joy
For occasional publication, or ploy
To entertain on oft a weekend night
And give to odd messengers, a light.
* * *
Hello, I am a robot
With seldom a word, nary a thought
A faceless facade in a ocean of people
An okcupid with a brutal romantic needle
To weave a simple tapestry of verse and odd rhyme
As merely a means of passing the time.
* * *
And with that, goodnight.