To the Snake, Anon

My reply to Jilly’s reply to the Denise Levertov poem, “To the Snake“. Full text in-line below.


To the Snake, Anon

Eat thine own tail, Ouroboros!
As I must eat my tale
and know we began only to end infinity,
leaving just our stories forever
twined, wrapped, twisted
as the caduceus we made in the forest,
our bower of staff and wings.

Would you shed me so easily?
Do you not taste of your venom?
Your lie forks your tongue
that such pleasure was not love,
the brush of our skin immortal.

My garden flowered with too much joy;
I cannot regret now
what I will bear alone.


The Snake’s Keening
by Jilly

Bright Girl, when you plucked me from
the grass and round your neck I hung
felt your seering warmth
and whispered in your ear the secrets
of a serpent’s curse
the weight of sin and shame I bare
wounded in your ears —

Bright Girl — I swore to my scaled children that certainly
you were sinless! But truly
I had no hope of ever passing your heel, only desire
and be held by you, for that thrill,
which bereft
of guilt, as the grass closed
behind me, and you with that dark
assurance in your eyes,
I shall never share.


To the Snake
by Denise Levertov

Green Snake, when I hung you round my neck
and stroked your cold, pulsing throat
as you hissed to me, glinting
arrowy gold scales, and I felt
the weight of you on my shoulders,
and the whispering silver of your dryness
sounded close at my ears —

Green Snake–I swore to my companions that certainly
you were harmless! But truly
I had no certainty, and no hope, only desiring
to hold you, for that joy,
which left
a long wake of pleasure, as the leaves moved
and you faded into the pattern
of grass and shadows, and I returned
smiling and haunted, to a dark morning.

Ground Zero

I visited Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan today
to see if poetry had taken root, like fireweed,
among the cracks in the rubble and the dead.
Instead I heard the voice of a friend

Who reminded me that
the study of death
and dying teaches

And so I stood, empty handed,
again, without the grace
to give
or receive.

For dVerse Poetics

Randall On

First we randalled the cattle into the barn,
sort of like wrangling, but longer, leaner,
maybe more handsome too, milking it all
with my stainless steel machine,
uddering, wringing.
Later a calf coming but too large,
so reaching in and chaining its fetlocks,
slippery steel in hand heaving, braced
against the post birthing a bull
they name Randall. The bellowing
of steel, milk and pull.

For dVerse Poetics

As the Adage Turns


Measure twice, cut once.

Treasure twine, split for nonce.

We’re but measured mice, cut slack.

Life’s a maze, amazed, we’re lost, we lack.

What blaze lights your path, the muse of riches?

For love nor money, wager stitches.

Worn red or black, a gamble’s set.

The eyes throw down a heavy bet.

Witless guise, weight of pride, all mulish.

Penny-wise, pound foolish.


For dVerse Twisted Adage

Sign Post

I grew up on Jasmine –
which should make for a poet
or maybe a florist,
or at least why I have allergies

We moved to Florence
but alas I could not find
the statue of David
anywhere behind the shrubs

I guess that’s the way of it –
there were never any groves on Grove
or luminous promises
on Pearl

Though I’ve hung the signs
“Life” and “Death” overhead
I hope you will forgive
this shabby poet’s corner



For Tuesday Poetics

Considering Dustin Hoffman

While squinting at the graffiti scratched on the valve of this urinal, I decide I am overdue to consider Dustin Hoffman. Probably because the guy next to me sort of looks like Dustin Hoffman, and because I am in the Port Authority bus terminal in New York City, so Midnight Cowboy et. al.

Most recently I thought about Dustin Hoffman when I helped with my wife’s 6th grade scavenger hunt in the Central Park Rambles – supposedly to evoke survival in the wild. Central Park was the best we could manage. I suggested that better survival training would be to give all the kids a blanket and a knife and no money and teach them to panhandle. Nobody thought that was funny.

I hoped maybe we would see Dustin Hoffman because he lives near the park. But there was only a homeless guy, and the kids shared their macaroni and cheese with him. We gave him a big tub of macaroni leftovers to dole out to the other homeless people who live in the park. The kids voted our outing “the best field trip ever”, there’s that.

Maybe the homeless guy was Dustin Hoffman, disguised so that he can go out in public and nobody bother him. Like his Ratso Rizzo character in M.C., but maybe this time he doesn’t have to die on the bus from NY to Florida. Here in the Port Authority it smells like bus exhaust and like the bathroom hasn’t been cleaned since 1969, so maybe like death too.

The Port Authority is still dangerous because nobody has figured out how to make bus travel upscale and hipster and boutique and artisanal like the rest of Manhattan. Yet I think the cities and towns where these buses go are much more dangerous now. Meth and OxyContin in Des Moines, Toledo, Birmingham, on and on through the lifeblood of America.  That keening sound from the wheels of the bus metastatic with loss.

Quo Vadis Dustin. Quo Vadis Ratso.



For dVerse Poetics


You can make your own holy water
At home. 
I found the recipe online,
And there’s a good YouTube video
About it.

Basically, all you need is
Water, salt (if you want a hint of tears)
And a kitchen bowl.

There’s one really tricky bit
About Transubstantiation,
And I didn’t follow everything about
“Multiplying loaves and fishes”,
But I think it’s just a matter
Of practice.

Mix the salt and water
And speak over it
That which you find in your heart
For benediction.

Or you can skip
The water and salt and bowl.
Just look in your heart

And bless
Those around you
With your love.



d’Verse Poetics – Blessings

Last Word

I’m sorry.
I don’t think my poem
Can keep you alive.

If a river of woe
Overruns your banks,
My words
Will not be enough.

I will do my best
To sit with you
And watch the sunrise
One last time.

Maybe you will hear my whisper
That you were never alone.