for my students of Creative Writing 1A, 1983)
Along the shore I see them ranged in rows
A random grouping; lines not straight, in piles
And clusters, clotted moist and deep with sand.
Each is unique, their colors glowing, real--
Such vibrant sea-pink, violet, coral, white--
A panoply of beauty, delicate, ethereal, translucent
And all, dead.
Their empty sides reflect diluted light,
Their colors fleeting, fading, dim and die
The while they cling to stretch of barren shore
As if their essence welded to the sand...
Almost as if the seaweed could return,
Regenerate, grow roots, and with a drop
Of water, not so salt as sad, revive
That life which once they held and nurtured safe.
Within lies water, sullen, rank and dead,
No longer wedded to the dancing sea,
But bitter dregs of that which gave them life.
What parable is here to dwell upon?
What question rings against their hollow sides,
And shouts its message to the lonely shore?
Just this...when they were yet alive, and full
Of creatures, each within and each alone,
Each lonely creeping road crawled safe and staid,
Some anchored to the stones which held their lives,
Some floating in the eddies of the sea.
At will of wind and wave, none chose a path,
But only moved, all purposeless and vague.
Now, shells dishabited, they lie and wait
For what, they know not..but they gleam and glow
With light which living ocean creatures blocked,
Their clumsy bodies lying in the way
Of any beauty, sluggish, sodden, still.
Now, hurrying from rock to weed to leaf
Are myriad creatures, never tied to shells,
Which scurry on a path their feet can choose,
And use what shell they visit, each at will.
If but our shrinking spirits can release
That thrall that cuts us off and marks us "mine";
If we like creatures venturesome and bold
Can leave the shells which shield and separate
And let them lie, then we can hope two things...
At first, the freedom, life without the shell
May grant us motion, energy and skill
To choose our path--to move and change and grow,
To interact, to meet and know our world.
Then, as we leave behind our careful walls,
Abandoning those things which separate,
The beauty we once hid can be revealed
To glow with lucent radiance, to turn
From something dead and shuttered to a thing
Of lambent loveliness, a kind of taut,
Transparent beauty shells could never hold.
For my friend Sandy...August 1984
The Harper's Love Song
A harper sits within the hall
As silence settles over all
Who gather 'round the fire...
And one calls out, "Give us a song
To while away the night so long...
Sing to us of desire!"
A silence falls among the crowd
And no one moves or speaks aloud,
But waits the Bard's reply...
At length her voice they hear her raise
"I'll sing to ye my truelove's praise,
Which none here may deny...
Alone I've sung the songs of war,
Of glory and of battle's roar,
Of valiant deeds and true...
Alone I've sung of queens and kings
Of elves and gods and many things
Which I myself ne'er knew...
And yet to sing has been my life...
A bard no man would take to wife,
Though all have sung my fame...
Alone I've sat within your hall
And cried the names and fame of all
Yet my hand none would claim...
And so I sing a song made new
A song in praise of none of you,
But of another's life...
You ask a song of deep desire,
I'll sing to you the raging fire
Of my love for my wife...
Her hands are raised in daily toil
To give me of the richest spoil
The world's goods can afford...
No sickness, weariness or pain
Prevents her hand each day again
From granting me reward..
Her face is ever turned to me
Though all the beauties one might see
Pass by her eyes each day..
She yet has eyes for me alone
And all her love is but mine own,
And all her smiles my way....
Her body's slender lissome grace,
Despite my age, thinks no disgrace
To grant me passion's will...
No shame or modesty she shows
But under my caress she glows
And bids me drink my fill...
Her praises of my talents ring
More true than any song I sing,
Or any other's praise,
For she sees to my very heart
And honors that within my art
That love for her displays...
Indeed her love for me, so strong,
Is my defense my whole life long,
Against the ills of life,
Like the five points of this my star,
Her beauties my defenses are,
And she my Goddess-wife..."
The bard her ringing harp lays down,
And to the silent, listening town
Makes boldly to aver...
"No more the minstrel here I'll be,
For she is my heart's destiny...
From now, I sing for her!"
A silence falls within the hall
As striding swiftly, lithe and tall,
The harper leaves the place,
And disappears into the night
Where music is her love's delight,
And moonlight is her face.
(for Briana, 1996)
I sit here, turning the tools in my hands,
Wishing to build something worthy of my love...
But what? What can I do,
That can even begin to match the reality
Of who she is
And what she brings to me...
A poet, a rhyming trickster, I,
With much to say, of little substance;
And yet, now, for the first time,
I have material worthy the poet's pen,
And I cannot use it...
Every time I have tried
To tell her
Who she is to me,
What our love means to me,
I fall mute,
frustrated by the wonder
Of the reality
Which so far surpasses the description...
Then I remembered...
The power of a stormwind...
Incredible beauty, fleeting as a breath,
Changing even as we gazed...
"Oh, LOOK"...but when one did look,
the wonder was different...and one had missed that
Which drew forth the exclamation...
You just had to be there...
And I realized
That is how it is for me
There is never a moment
Empty of wonder,
Never a time when I could not
Write rapturous sonnets in her praise...
But the moments fleet by
like flaming sunset clouds,
Wrapping me round with fleeting beauty,
And fading into other colors,
Even as I gaze on what was just there...
I love her...
I love her as I love
The wonder of every varied moment of living...
You just have to be there.
(for Brie, on an ordinary day --1998)
Wondrous graphics from