This is a very old piece of mine that was modeled on and was a reaction to a poem by a reasonably well-known author. Unfortunately, when I wrote it, I didn’t notate whose poem it was modeled after, so if anyone sees a vague (or not so vague) similarity in form and phrasing between this poem and one which they are familiar with, please send me an e-mail at, as I would very much like to go back and read that poem again, and if necessary include an attribution with this poem.

Brother Thoughts

My brother thinks with half a brain
that hinders his progress as he moves.
And I was the one who wanted
a firm strong leader for a brother.
I wanted him to be bright and capture
attention with his quickness and his wit.
I wanted him to be the best of all
the kids he goes to school
with, the leader, one who breaks
new ground with his inventive mind. Instead
he’s this rickety little kid who makes mindless
patterns on his paper when he’s confused.
He’s a stumbler who can’t do anything
right, or so the teachers say. It hurts me to see
him so abnormal so lopsided with glasses
crooked on his face. Sometimes I weep
knowing he is mine, but then he turns
and looks at me with eyes full of life.
He comes over and tugs
my shirt and I play a game
with him in the grass and his imperfections
are forgotten.

I love the dawn; her ragged edge is capped
by hazy veils. It is impossible
to see a single leaf whose veins have trapped
her light. The branches, too, are just too full
of light to view. Obscured by a fiery sun’s
occluded force’s shade, the world and you
were equally lost through light. I think no one
could reason in such love; it blurred you to
the point where I was blinded when I looked
into your eyes. I could not see a fault,
regardless of how plain it was. It took
some time away from you, self-forced default,
to sift out of the coriolis sure
proof that you were mine and I was yours.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia foundation and
Vine tendril seeking the light

Dissatisfied with the Alexandrine couplets I had written and making use of some suggestions from <a href=" have a peek here.html”>Tim Morris, I started over, and came up with the following Sonnet in Alexandrines.



A wicker basket tries to hold the plant upright,
But calling to the sun, it stretches for the door.
It’s leaves drag on the tile as it gasps and fights
For the fresh air seeping in, then, as it was before,
It’s motionless and still as people pass it by.
Although I see the slant its efforts have produced,
I wonder if it will have the strength for one more try,
And would it be my place to give it a small boost.
It seems so out of place and yet so apropos
It’s immobility a curse it cannot fight,
It struggles on despite the fact it cannot go;
And go it does or seems to, a little to the right–
So closer to the sun, so closer to the door
But when I blink it’s back to where it was before.

Smoke curls
            up from empty
     words.  I burn
a page for you and
   incense like, it
               wafts up through
                      the air, particulate and
                                          grey like
                               you, not like
                        the ink that every day
                     I spilled like
         blood only to see you
                           laughed without
                                            a smidge of human-like
                                  concern in the way your eyes
                          met mine and turned away.
                                  You stalked off to
                                           the kitchen, asked again
                      for food or milk or something; gauging
               you is difficult.
                           Perhaps your age or mine’s
                 the barrier.  Although
                            you’re masked by onyx eyes
                                and pointed ears and fur, it can’t be that
                                             your feline incarnation could be
                                                      the cause of all my lives’

The above sonnet employs a nonce rhyme-scheme of abccbaabccbadd.  After composing the sonnet as usual, I began to look for ways to break up the lines and change the wording so as to allow for doubling of meaning, abiguity, and intensification.  In the process I found the opportunity to create an additional aspect in the concreteness (visually) of the textual arrangement. It was created rather off the cuff because I saw I hadn’t posted in a very long while and wanted to put something original up, and it is a little too abstract even now, for my taste, but I enjoyed the diffusion and the layering of meaning that the self-developed workshopping allowed me to achieve.  Now if I can just do the same with something a little more concrete (memetically).


So, as you can imagine, with Josely Baptista fresh in my mind, my thoughts are focused on translation.  Add to that a class in Old English language and literature, and you’ve got yourself a dangerous combination.

I’m reading the Wife’s Lament, right, which I can without affectation retitle Lonely Wife Blues.  After all, the scholar who came up with the title “The Wife’s Lament” back in the day was simply seeking a descriptive handle by which to reference a text which its scribe left untitled.  Some people will tell you that authors weren’t concerned with titling their works until the advent of the printing press and the possibility of widespread printed publication.  I beg to differ.  I think that SCRIBES weren’t all that concerned with titles, but authors (in what small sense authorship as we know it existed in a pre-literate culture) always titled their works, and always shared that title with their audience (reader or listener).  What, you think Homer just started strumming and people lined up to listen?  Well, OK, maybe he could have, but I guarantee you that what he did was say something along the lines of “And now I give you the story of Odysseus and his remarkable journey,” or something along those lines.  It’s basic; it’s intrinsic; authors title their works.  In any case, that was a humongous old tangent.  The point is that you can give the Wife’s Lament any old title you choose as long as people understand what you’re talking about.

So I get to thinking, what modern poetic form most closely approximates the alliterative verse of Anglo Saxon culture, and I realize, we have a form today that is strikingly similar.  When I say strikingly, you’re not gonna belive how striking it is.  So what is Alliterative verse?  Basically what you’ve got is a “line” divided into to half-lines, each of which has two strongly weighted syllables, at least one of these syllables in each half-line alliterating with one in the other half line.  Of course the rules for determining a strongly weighted syllable get pretty complex, as do the iterations that can be used within that basic pattern, but nevertheless, that’s pretty much it.  In modern verse, we have something commonly referred to as the blues line.  Basically, it has two half-lines, often (though not always by any means) joined by alliteration on the stressed syllables, with the lines repeating and/or rhyming at the end.  Remove the requirement for rhyme and you’ve got the updated version of Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse.

What follows is my translation (and I use the word translation advisedly; this is not a transliteration or a traduction or a paraphrase) of the first several lines of the Wife’s lament into unrhymed strongly alliterated blues lines.  I have tried to stay true as much as possible down to the word level, and always at least to the level of the half-line.  I think it works as well as any translation can.  What do you think?

Lonely Wife Blues

I’ll sing you a song    ’bout my sad sad life,
’bout my sad sad plight,    though I say it myself;
and my miserable lot    after i matured.
I’ve been there before    never badder than now.
I’ve suffered torment    been sent away,
just like my man was    away from the masses,
when he caused a commotion    and filled me with care.
I wanted to know    just where he was,
So I went on a journey    and looked for a job:
Couldn’t make no friends    in my miserable state.
My poor man’s kin    considered it great
(though they tried to hide it)   that they’d parted our hearts,
as far away    as the farthest lands.
My man’s life was lousy;    he longed for me;
he had me live like him    in the horrible trees.
I didn’t have no friends    nowhere in this nation.
didn’t have no friends    didn’t have no joy.
So when I found him    and he made me happy
didn’t know he weren’t lucky    that he’d lose his mind;
didn’t know he’s contrivin’    a homicide.
He had a happy appearance    we promised and vowed
we wouldn’t be parted    ’til death did his part.
We said we wouldn’t be parted,    but that was a lie,
cause I’m sittin here now,     and just want to die.

[To be continued]

At the request of a friend I am posting the following humorous verse.

At the Club

A Farce

“The act of esteeming worthless; pointless” – floccinaucinihilipilification:

I’ve a constant pinging tintinnabulation

that I can’t escape no matter my gyrations.

So I sit and ask Doc Smith’s interpretation,

and he tells me it’s just due to loud vibrations

and a cure is pointless in his estimation.

It’s the gin he’d drunk that in my estimation

caused his analysis of my problem to devolve into mere floccinaucinihilipilification.

To identify the causative vibrations

of my now quite painful tintinnabulation

will require a dowser’s skilled interpretation

of a hazel wand’s erratic quick gyrations.

And I’ll prob’ly have to go through some gyrations

to allow me to obtain an estimation

of the price to stop the noise zithromax pills. Interpretation?

Why it’s simply that quite a lot of exclamatory and self-exculpating floccinaucinihilipilification

will result when I explain my tintinnabulation

and request the end of those blameworthy vibrations.

I sure hope the ceasing of those foul vibrations

will allow me to be rid of these gyrations

and will end this dreadful tintinnabulation.

Otherwise, my search, by any estimation,

will be bound to endure a considerable amount of floccinaucinihilipilification.

If the singer’s very flawed interpretation

(And I’ve very loosely used “interpretation”

for the rather less than musical vibrations;

though I don’t mean to be engaging myself in any floccinaucinihilipilification.)

and the dancer’s un-interpretive gyrations

could be stopped, then, in my humble estimation,

I could find the cause of my tintinnabulation;

but between the effects of my tintinnabulation

and the music and the dance, interpretation

has become impossible. No estimation

can succeed. I’ll have to live with the vibrations

and just sip my beer and watch the strange gyrations

of the dancers. And it begins to become obvious that the floccinaucinihilipilification

of the tintinnabulation and the cymbals’ loud vibrations

gives a weird interpretation to the dancers fierce gyrations;

and though no one pays attention, my estimation of the situation is that it can all reasonably be chalked up to a simple matter of a lot of floccinaucinihilipilification.

If George Bush wants to win the race he’ll have to free
his campaign from the taint of missing WMDs.

If Edwards wants the liberal nomination then
He’ll have to show the delegates that he could win.


Poor examples no doubt, but worth the exercise.

Writing a Sestina

I only write one line. That’s all I have to write.
I keep the meter tight. No need to run across the line-ends.
Each is clear, and each one stands alone.
So each one stands alone, I only write one line.
The line ends. It is clear that that’s all I have to write.
No need to run across the meter, keep it tight.

The meter is kept tight so each one stands alone.
I need to bear my cross and write the only line I ever had to write.
The line ends. It is clear the line ends. It is clear the meter is kept tight.

And all I have the right to do is stand alone and write
the only line I need. To bear my cross I need to run across the line
-ends. It is clear I have but one right line, whose meter is too tight.

I know to stand alone It must be exactly right.
It must be exactly right, with no need to run across another line.
Alone, the line ends it. Is clear meter just too tight?

It’s all I can write. One line– I write across the page, alone, struggling to be clear, clinging tightly to the pen through just one last line.

I wasn’t really happy with yesterday’s poem. It failed to keep rigorously to the requirements of the rhyme. The one below is slightly more satisfactory.

Look in the interstices
  of spider webs and flowers.
To purge the inner vices
  look in-between the hours.
If you would find true pleasure
  in aromatic spices,
it’s not in what you measure;
  it’s in the interstices.


Beaches call; stony clamor
of silence rings through dead air.
Dead air receives the stammer
and sinks without a sound. Where
are the calls of the sea birds?
This silent screaming teaches
me the power of no words
as I sigh on the beaches.


endless.   Here
is the bison,
lost to us when
longbows departed.
I see it rifled
buried. Achilea
eventually is grown,
or killed; élan
returns when man,
murdering being,
noticing the lack,
overcorrects. Ex-
too little  for
sinners like us,
underhanded. Re
supply, re-support.
All heaths dead.

I think all heartfelt love poetry, composed in the moment and to a real lover, is probably pretty cheesy. I know for certain that mine is. All the technique and craft I normally hope to employ are right out the window. Nevertheless, here’s a cheesy, heartfelt love poem composed for my wife on Valentine’s Day.

Argument To His Lover on Valentine’s Day

I’ve seen you self-destruct and seen you win
Your way past snags Odysseus would rue.
I’ve seen you, with your clothing all askew,
Stare down an erring kid, and finally, when
They sat in meek submission, seen you grin
In pardon, turning pique to cheer in two
Quick seconds. All the things I’ve seen you do
Seem meaningless the moment I begin
To contemplate your physical perfection
Which I know that you would argue is fictitious.
Your face would make the very form of face
Blush to be compared to your reflection.
To argue with me surely would be vicious
So shut up and wrap me in my Love’s embrace.

Gloss on a Passage From Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way
Text1 Commentary Image
When a man is asleep, he has in a circle round him the chain of the hours, the sequence of the years, the order of the heavenly bodies. Instinctively he consults them when he awakes, and in an instant reads off his own position on the earth’s surface and the time that has elapsed during his slumbers; but this ordered procession is apt to grow confused, and to break its ranks. Wrapped more tightly than
a tourniquet
wound round heaven, instinct
conducts us, bloody
placenta of
dream dripping
The cat
is purring
the two year
old pulls
its tail. Then
it is
Suppose that, towards morning, after a night of insomnia, sleep descends upon him while he is reading, in quite a different position from that in which he normally goes to sleep, he has only to lift his arm to arrest the sun and turn it back in its course, and, at the moment of waking, he will have no idea of the time, but will conclude that he has just gone to bed. Book slips through fingers
the foggy mind
remembers, dreamless, until
the smell of morning
lures consciousness
to mistakes;
ready to sleep.
I watch
the dog play
in snow,
a frosted
streak of
umber. Or
is it
a small child?
Or suppose that he dozes off in some even more abnormal and divergent position, sitting in an armchair, for instance, after dinner: then the world will go hurtling out of orbit, the magic chair will carry him at full speed through time and space, and when he opens his eyes again he will imagine that he went to sleep months earlier in another place. Off our rocker we
slip, merge, emerge,
engaging the globe in sense,
sensing the smell of
sorcery or
physics or
History lives.
The smell
of roasted
and the feel–
the rough
armchair gives
me back
my childhood.
But for me it was enough if, in my own bed, my sleep was so heavy as completely to relax my consciousness; for then I lost all sense of the place in which I had gone to sleep, and when I awoke in the middle of the night, not knowing where I was, I could not even be sure at first who I was; I had only the most rudimentary sense of existence, such as may lurk and flicker in the depths of an animal’s consciousness; Make it personal.
Tie it to me
with duct tape and still lose it:
identity. Eyes
darting this way
and that way–
Who am I?
and be defined.
In dark,
the candles,
wax gone,
still flicker,
float on
fumes. The smell:
of cavemen.
I was more destitute than the cave-dweller; but then the memory–not yet of the place in which I was, but of various other places where I had lived and might now very possibly be–would come like a rope let down from heaven to draw me up out of the abyss of not-being, from which I could never have escaped by myself: in a flash I would traverse centuries of civilization, and out of a blurred glimpse of oil-lamps, then of shirts with turned down collars, would gradually piece together the original components of my ego. The chasm surrounds me
echos of past
times, lives, loves, places, faces
cross my mind. I climb
from life to place,
place to face,
face to love.
earth, and roots
cut off
roughly. Hear,
the finch. Feel
water drip
down your back.

1 Text is taken from Proust, Marcel. Swann’s Way: In Search of Lost Time. Trans. C. K. Scott Moncrieff et. al. New York: Modern Library, 1998. 4-5. The original text is a single paragraph. I broke it up into the divisions above.

I. Impotence

“It seems to him there are A thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world.”

You try to break out of your cage
In a feat of fearsome strength. You pace
Behind the bars, and, in your rage,
You try to break out of your cage.
You’re in an unforgiving age;
Society will not embrace
You. Try to break out of your cage
In a feat of fearsome strength, then pace.

II. Power

“The movement of his powerful soft strides is like a ritual dance around a center”

Ignoring bars, in cyclic scope
He plots his path, pursues his prey.
Though never a breath of tight held hope
Escapes the bars. In cyclic scope
He circles with a steady lope.
His eyes, on fire, would like to flay
Offending bars. Instead, to cope,
He plots his path, avoids decay.

The ‘sh’ slid out– shameless, thoughtless,
after I, careless, kicked the couch,
an ‘i’ piled up– a perfect scream
issued as pitch increased, increased.
The ‘t’ breaks, trembling– torn
from my lips, like my nail, lost now
but lingering, drips to a stop, stunned
as blood– like copper, leaks
from my cuticle, cut off.

I like to titivate a lot;
I titivate with all I’ve got.
My titivation knows no bounds.
Although my titivation’s sounds
Sometimes annoy my patient spouse,
I titivate the whole great house.
I hope you know just what I mean
When I’m done even the pipes are clean!

… I told you to beware of doggerel didn’t I?


A few Double Dactyls for your reading pleasure. They’re hiding… Can you find them? Come out, come out, wherever you are … Please note, the following verse is childish, silly, and sometimes ascerbic. It’s the type of stuff you might expect to find on a bathroom wall, really. Enter at your own risk and

Beware of Doggerel

Wearyin’ Spearean
Thomas E. Porter was
Lecturing Shakespeare to
Students with gall:
Half of them slept while just
One writing poetry
Captured it all.

Apery Japery
David D. Silva was
Teaching linguistics by
Playing a tape.
They can communicate
Scientists claimed as they
Signed at an ape.

Narrowly Arrowly Archery teacher
Ms. Maxwell was watching as
All the class shot.
Students shot bulls-eyes with
Striking consistency,
Errorless. Not!

Serenade Masquerade
Ms. Manning teaches her
Poetry patiently but is betrayed.
She’ll fail them all cause they
Can’t tag Aubade.

Languages Anguishes
Sandra Wise speaks in a
Language that none of her
Students can grasp.
So though she lectures them
All that they hear is an
gravelly rasp.

UPDATE:I went ahead and finished the sonnets for each of the standard forms Gave a presentation on Sonnets for a class. Wrote this while working on the 8.5×11 tri-fold brochure on sonnets that I created as a handout. It has examples of all the major types of sonnets, covers all the basics of the sonnet form, offers some options and alternatives to traditional sonnets, and provides some exercises in sonnet writing. If you would be interested in obtaining a copy, e-mail

If you would like to write Petrarchan then
You’ll need to learn your rhyme and meter well.
Your prosody should flow and weave a spell
That’s wrapped round mind by page, round page by pen.
You cannot write one with an ear of tin,
Nor can your import be an empty shell;
Your sounds should ring as lovely as a bell
And after you have eight lines written, when

You start the sextet, change your mode of thought,
Bring some new aspect, or new thought to light,
And change your rhyme to indicate that fact.
And also, to be great, you really ought
(If you would like your poems to take flight)
To end with something that the octet lacked.

Shakespearean sonnets are a different beast.
Their rhyme scheme is much easier to master.
One benefit of this (and not the least)
Is you can write Shakespearean much faster.
Each quatrain builds upon the last and so
You move more slowly to your final lines,
Which lets your poem have the ebb and flow
Of sinusoidal functions and designs.
Can this form be as potent as the other,
Especially using female rhymes as I,
Or is it time to move on to another
And let this humble sonnet justly die?
Well, not before the ending couplets written,
And you with Shakespeare’s facil form are smitten.

Of Spencer’s sonnets it is justly said
That interwoven stanzas keep it tight,
Although I think it hardly fair to wed
One tercet to the next. It is not right
And has somehow a quite incestual feel
And makes it hard to build a proper plight.
If you will try them I’ll make you a deal
That if you think it just cannot be done
And tempting it zaps your poetic zeal,
I’ll let you write one that is merely fun,
Does not have all the import sonnets should,
Just hums along until you finally run

Out of babbling words and find you could,
With no more effort, have made something good.

Come, faerie, dance with me
Where shaggy sea meets rugged crag.
In mist by shores where fisher folk
Set out to see what fortune brings;
You slip through curtains of the mist
To dance away with me.
We dance to drums and pipe
By flickering light of bonfire brands;
We dance, ’til they begin to fade,
Together find a fresh-lit gleam
Of half forgotten dreams. And then
The music sleeps. I end.

Note: This is what happens when you pull words only from context, and learn from books without teachers… you write a pair of poems in which triolet rhymes with bet, rather than hay. Oh well, live and learn, maybe I’ll try to rework these sometime, maybe not.

I. Written
You try to write a Triolet
in a modern coffee shop. You do
not dare to rhyme. They will not let
you try to write a Triolet.
They see tradition as threat,
would ridicule if they but knew
you try to write a Triolet.
In a modern coffee shop, you do.

II. Shared

Card carrying connoisseurs contend
the triolet trespasses thought,
relays wrong word, wrong repetend.
Card carrying connoisseurs contend
all ears eschew each end-stopped end.
Regarding rhymed repeating rot,
card carrying connoisseurs contend
the triolet trespasses thought.