The Story

The Story

I must tell you this.
You must listen.
You’re thinking, no I don’t, but
you keep reading, wondering—
And here it is five lines in
or even more, if I
get all wonky with the line
breaks and these long parentheticals—
leading you on,
leading you nowhere,
leaving you wondering
How did I let this happen?
Why did I listen?
What did he say?
How did I get here in
The End?

Poem again

Is This a Good Time?

I look out the window
At the last moments
Of the last moments
Of the day,
When streetlamps get the idea it’s dark,
And hound dogs bark when they’re put out to stay,
And Mom calls to ask,
“Is this a good time?”

And I say what I always say,
“It’s always a good time, Mom.”
Though Mom doesn’t really call
Since she passed away.

But now would be a good time, Mom.
You must have news—it’s been years.
Even no news would reveal so much,
If you would reach out and touch me here
In my living room lit by a streetlamp in the dark
Listening to the neighbor’s dog’s lonely bark—

Is this a good time? I ask the night.
Is this a good time?
“Don’t bother,” the dog bays,
“The night never answers.
“The night never cares.
“Only the moon rises.”

Another fond memory from Irving, Texas

Davy Crockett Junior High, 1960
Survival of the Fittest

Smart Guy.
Think you know all the answers,
Smart Guy?
How do you like that, huh?
How does that feel?
Gimme that. Lookee here. The math homework.
You don’t mind if I borrow this, do you,
Smart Guy?

You might want to throw in a few errors in addition—
to avoid any possible suspicion
that it isn’t your work.

Yeah. Right. Good idea. Thanks. See you around.
Hey. You’re in Hull’s History right?
Why don’t you sit next to me at lunch?

New photo, new poem


I am not a good man.
No need of a god to confess
that one to,
to offer penance—
passion’s ashes and a spent bag of wind—
every god’s treasure:
Another sorry old man
like Himself.

Or so the old ones say.
Not old like me, you understand,
but older-better, wiser, deader:
Eternal life, salvation, all of that.
That’s not what I’m after—what comes after.
I’ve had a glimpse, caught a whiff.
That changes things, the small disaster.
Tenses shift.
Time is altered.
I have not been a good man.

The wino I know

I know

the wino

who lives on your block.

He doesn’t speak

and doesn’t walk

very well.

He lives in Hell,

though technically

he’s homeless,

no address,

lives rent free

between the

Dumpster and the


till winter comes,

numbs his toes.

Then I don’t know

where he goes.

The wino

I know

has noplace else to go.

Lucky Oligarchs With Lots of Cash

Lucky oligarchs with lots of cash
Are looking for someplace to leave it.
The price of grace has just gone down—
They can scarcely believe it!
Future futures are headed south,
Their assets all are frozen—
Difficult choices must be made
When one’s among the chosen.

“We’ve been through worse,� they remind themselves,
Though when, they’ve all forgotten.
“We’re lucky oligarchs with lots of cash—
“We’ll buy up all that’s rotten.
“What care we if we must give up for now
“A house, a boat, a politician?
“We’re lucky oligarchs with lots of cash—
“Our lives are a sort of mission,
“To sell the world back to itself
“For a modest and reasonable commission.�

To Helen

Sarah and I made a visit to the Edgar Allan Poe Museum here in Richmond. It was a dreary, rainy, melancholy day—perfect, in other words, to visit Edgar. In the middle of the place is the Enchanted Garden, said to be fashioned from the descriptions in a couple of Poe poems, one of which is a favorite of mine, “To Helen.” There are two Poe poems so named. This one was sent to Sarah Helen Whitman, unsigned, untitled. She took it to a friend for a “psychometric reading.” You see in the photo how much she liked it. That Poe was quite a charmer, I must say.


I SAW thee once — once only — years ago:
I must not say how many — but not many.
It was a July midnight; and from out
A full-orbed moon, that, like thine own soul, soaring,
Sought a precipitate pathway up through heaven,
There fell a silvery-silken veil of light,
With quietude, and sultriness, and slumber,
Upon the upturned faces of a thousand
Roses that grew in an enchanted garden,
Where no wind dared to stir, unless on tiptoe —
Fell on the upturn’d faces of these roses
That gave out, in return for the love-light,
Their odorous souls in an ecstatic death —
Fell on the upturn’d faces of these roses
That smiled and died in this parterre, enchanted
By thee, and by the poetry of thy presence.

Clad all in white, upon a violet bank
I saw thee half reclining; while the moon
Fell on the upturn’d faces of the roses,
And on thine own, upturn’d — alas, in sorrow!

Was it not Fate, that, on this July midnight —
Was it not Fate, (whose name is also Sorrow,)
That bade me pause before that garden-gate,
To breathe the incense of those slumbering roses?
No footstep stirred: the hated world an slept,
Save only thee and me. (Oh, Heaven! — oh, God!
How my heart beats in coupling those two words!)
Save only thee and me. I paused — I looked —
And in an instant all things disappeared.
(Ah, bear in mind this garden was enchanted!)

The pearly lustre of the moon went out:
The mossy banks and the meandering paths,
The happy flowers and the repining trees,
Were seen no more: the very roses’ odors
Died in the arms of the adoring airs.
All — all expired save thee — save less than thou:
Save only the divine light in thine eyes —
Save but the soul in thine uplifted eyes.
I saw but them — they were the world to me!
I saw but them — saw only them for hours,
Saw only them until the moon went down.
What wild heart-histories seemed to he enwritten
Upon those crystalline, celestial spheres!
How dark a woe, yet how sublime a hope!
How silently serene a sea of pride!
How daring an ambition; yet how deep —
How fathomless a capacity for love!

But now, at length, dear Dian sank from sight,
Into a western couch of thunder-cloud;
And thou, a ghost, amid the entombing trees
Didst glide away. Only thine eyes remained;
They would not go — they never yet have gone;
Lighting my lonely pathway home that night,
They have not left me (as my hopes have) since;
They follow me — they lead me through the years.
They are my ministers — yet I their slave.
Their office is to illumine and enkindle —
My duty, to be saved by their bright light,
And purified in their electric fire,
And sanctified in their elysian fire.
They fill my soul with Beauty (which is Hope),
And are far up in Heaven — the stars I kneel to
In the sad, silent watches of my night;
While even in the meridian glare of day
I see them still — two sweetly scintillant
Venuses, unextinguished by the sun!