Ode to Kim Addonizio

          someday
you’ll sit across from me saying
similes explain the human 
condition—we can never be ourselves
but only like ourselves (though some of us
ascend to metaphor). 
          at first I won’t
know what the hell you’re talking about
(and maybe never). what does it even mean  
to be like ourselves if we’re not already 
ourselves? but I’ll agree because
even if the meaning isn’t self-
evident, profundity is implied; and you 
will likely remind me of girlfriends 
I used to drive cross-country with (their 
bare legs lifted, their feet out the passenger side 
window V’d like the winged heels of a Greek
Goddess, ankles crossed on the rear view mirror)— 
when all I could think about
was the intoxication of a girl’s bare feet 
in an 80 mph air stream; and you might say: 
that’s the way it is to be a barefooted 
girl—always that 80 mph wind licking your feet
until the tank runs out of gas
until the sun runs down the sky, until she finds
herself landed barefoot on the sun-cracked
asphalt of a seedy, run down 
motel where the parking shines with glass
ground to glitter after God knows how many bottles
and demands. 
          but afterward in bed,
I know, it won’t be me she remembers
but the 80 mph hour wind like fingers
at her ankles that, if they could have, would
have parted her thighs and you 
have no idea or, knowing you, you do,
what an 80 mph wind can do to the imagination
(or a hippy sundress); but anyway, we didn’t even
get that far because she’d say something like,
‘we can only ever be like ourselves
never ourselves,’ or she’d say,
‘all men ever want to do is fuck me’
and Christ, I’d want to say, is that so much
to ask? and before the end of the road trip she’d
be hitchhiking to LA and
I’d be broken down in Wichita.
maybe you’re wishing you were in LA too?
I have that effect on chicks like you.
and by the way I expect
you’re the type who reads the rhymes
in a toilet stall. goddamn those people 
know how to write—artists and poets all.
and know damned well who their audience is
and where to find them. 
          I wouldn’t be surprised 
if you came back from that temple
of runes and oghams reciting
what omen was given you to give the masses:
 
          women drinking booze
          talk of dicks and new tattoos

and that has me asking if there shouldn’t be
a comparative lit course in men’s and women’s
toilet stalls; and anyway what happened 
to you and rhyming? is nobody singing you the blues?
do you really think if Keats had to choose 
between you and Fanny Brawne,
you’d stand a chance if she recited lines 
about crumbling cathedrals and dandelions?—
in corseted iambic pentameter 
with a bouquet of rhymes? you poor 
deluded poet. have you even read your own poetry?—
lately?
          there’s more anatomy
than tits and ass that sag, though maybe yours 
were archetypal? i don’t know
but honestly, does the world really need 
more self-pitying poets eulogizing the loss
of their fearful symmetry?
we’ll soon enough all fit inside a Grecian urn—
but I feel your pain. 
          did I tell you about the time I met 
Hayden Carruth in Bennington, Vermont?
there may have been me, his publisher, 
students and admirers, but there was mostly
the red-haired woman in the sleeve-wrap leopard print 
top and black leather mini-skirt 
and I can tell you there was no talking poetry 
that night or at that table with Hayden Carruth. 
Carruth is your poet. Keats 
never knew how to treat women, but Hayden? 
I tell you, go for the man with the yellow McCulloch 
chainsaw.
          but who hasn’t woken
to some new piece of poetry wondering 
what in the hell happened 
the night before? who said what and what 
was spoken and never mind the hangover—what’s
the fucking title? I’ve been there—
a fifth of rum, midnight, some piece grinding
moves on the dance floor, moves
I’ve never seen before until, the next morning,
I’m wondering what-the-hell future I ever saw in it.
must have been the drink because I can’t
begin to explain whatever goddamn 
Picasso of indiscretion I woke to—words tossed
like underwear across the exaltation
of the page. spontaneity. sure. call it that. the kind 
you used to find at a 90s rage; 
but as I was saying: isn’t anybody, these days,  
singing you the blues? 

          women drinking booze
          talk of dicks and new tattoos

stuck in my head now 
for Christ’s sake, but haven’t any
of those poets promised, at midnight,
to walk you sly along the railroad track?—
just smooth as Scratch himself?
          ‘don’t you know,
‘sweet girl,’ he’d say, ‘the kinds of rhymes your hips
could make with mine?’ 
          take me down your boulevard
of saints and swindles, where the old men leer
and the young men sing beatus vir;
where the women preen with looks as flammable
as gasoline. let’s you and me find out
the lanes and alleyways that rub against
the skin, where neon advertises sin
and preachers lick the air sweet with the carnal
and serpentine locution of the streets;
we’ll find a sidewalk curb or sway backed porch steps—
we’ll sit among the bottle caps and cups
the foil, paper wrappers, and cigarette butts
and talk about the raff we leave behind:
the drafts and stanzas; maybe here and there
a poetry worth the reading? but why guess?
go a few stone steps into the cellar
and there the mystic Madam Coriander,
who owns the laundromat around the corner,
will tell us how the roots of the raspberries finger
the sockets of a skull—

          Mary, where the thorns are many,
          where the autumn’s black leaves eddy
          do you hear the children skipping
          while your bloodless bones are slipping?
          Mary, Mary, dead and buried,
          buried beneath the red raspberries.

                    one for the money, 
                    two to elope,
                    three for the noose 
                    in the jump rope’s rope.
                    four for the crime
                    beware of four!
                    four’s for the rhyme:
                    Mary’s no more.

          Mary, Mary, in the brambles
          where the barren winter ambles
          do you hear the children’s laughter
          singing of the ever after?
          Mary, Mary, dead and buried,
          buried beneath the red raspberries. 


          —the thorns, the brambles,
the twisted vine are growing from my skull,
and children pick the berries—I see it all.
I hear them mocking the divine, their laughter,
and Madam Coriander asking if
I understand. do you? my mouth is filled
with sand and weeds are sprouting from my eyes.
I can’t decide. but do you know the spikes
of bulrush where the river dimly swims?
down by the salt-fingered pilings? I’ve been meaning
to describe the way the yellow lights
oil the river’s slippery back, the wharf,
the detritus of the clouds before they’re swept
at midnight out to sea. there’s a place
the moon goes up mechanically. behind it
the turning plate of stars goes round and round
the blinking lights. there’s not a night I’d trade
for this but I digress. the filigree
of roots, the brazen nettles, the skull beneath
the winterberry—was it winterberry?
I’m guessing you would answer: whiskey. whiskey
works just as well. you could almost mistake
the sky— let’s put it this way: let’s say
we stuck our feet out of the world’s side window,
the ocean rolling underneath. we’ll tell them
we crossed our ankles on the far horizon
and dipped our toes into the moon, we stirred up
comets and let the streaming Milky Way
wash clean our feet. (don’t ask me who the hell
is driving.)
          but we’ve been here before,
barefooted in the parking lot. don’t ask
the exit number. if I’m first arriving,
I’ll have the front desk bring your room a bottle
of Vanni Fucci (if that isn’t wine
it should be) vintage 1954—
I wonder if you like my metaphor?
but then I’m thinking back again to driving
with my girlfriend’s heels on the rear-view mirror, and 
she asks me—’don’t you understand?
we’re never ourselves but only
like ourselves: the skull, the briars, the raspberries, 
winterberries or whatever—
what Madam Coriander meant
was: in the end—but you should change the poem
to winterberries. you never
eat a winterberry raw—they’re poisonous.’
          but raspberries bleed, I say.
and by this I mean: if I hear you caterwauling 
at the trash bins in the middle of the night, I’ll always
put out a saucer-full of gin
          for you.


          Ode to Kim Addonizio
          writ by me
          January 3rd 2023
         1. this might be a little darker
             than your average Dorothy Parker.

The Devil’s Work

The reverend stood before the congregation, 
A godly man afflicted and heart-sore. 
"There's someone stolen every last donation," 
He grieved. "Funds devoted to the poor!" 
A strident wailing filled the pews. "The Beast!" 
"The Devil's work!" If little Peggy-Sue 
(At six months due) was first to cry, at least 
Her pearls and patent pumps were still brand new. 
"But Satan won't impoverish us!"  he cried,
"Those, rich in faith, are wealthy!" (After all, 
Was not the reverend's day-old car outside?) 
“But Jesus needs your money!” he warned them all; 
  Adding (with tearful prayers at the pulpit) 
  “Just a little more—praise God!—we’ll find the culprit!”

The Devil’s Work
Written on ye 21st of December 2022

North of Autumn | Ellie’s Hymn

I thought that “the final hymn” would be the last hymn I would write for North of Autumn, but it wasn’t five minutes after I posted the hymn that the current poem began to write itself out of my imagination. I call it Ellie’s Hymn because Ellie is Zoē’s deceased mother and the author of the hymns that appear in the book. These are the final words of the book and are as much a farewell to the reader.

I know better than to say:
  Give no thought to when.
There’s nothing to wish the ache away
  But that we’ll meet again.

Give to the intervening hours
  As much as absence takes
But nothing more—our love is ours;
  And the bonds affection makes.

To you alone the keys
  Who, friend and lover, part;
To you the secret codices
  And chambers of my heart.

Ellie's Hymn from North of Autumn

North of Autumn | The final hymn…

Sorry I’ve been away. Between trying to lace up all the jobs delayed over the summer and finishing the novel, North of Autumn, I haven’t felt much like taking the time to write a post. This last hymn in the novel took me quite a bit longer to write than the others. And maybe not longer, but I never felt myself in the right creative space. There is no S-Bahn or U-Bahn to ride in middle Vermont. I can’t explain it, but European public transportation really makes me a happy and productive poet. The good news is that I’m within pages of finishing my second novel. I’m winding down my carpentry now and will be spending still more time writing. I’m already planning my next poems and am eager to start my next novel.

I’ve seen them sometimes out alone,
  Out walking roads too late
For any business but their own—
  Lost to what they contemplate.

I’ve seen as they have seen: the grim,
  The few remaining rags
Of autumn strung from the black limb,
  How every hour lags.

I too, without a place to go
  And nothing to my name,
Have wandered through the rain and snow
  And would have said the same:

There’s only guessing at what may
  Or may not come tomorrow,
But I have seen enough today
  To know the taste of sorrow.

    by me, 
    October 29th 2022

North of Autumn | Hymn # 17 The Garden Snake

I’m back in Vermont today. One thing I don’t miss about city life is the noise. Most of Berlin’s streets are off the main arteries and offer truly beautiful neighborhoods, villages within the city with streets shaded by trees, full of cafés and singing birds. The birds will almost perch on your plate if you let them. And these streets can be right around the corner from major thoroughfares like the Kudamm or Karl-Marx-Allee and you’d never guess it, but walking along any of the main arteries is real punishment for the ears—the tire noise of automobiles and the furious snarl of trucks. You would think that a car or truck’s exhaust system or engine would be the main producers of noise but they’re not—not remotely. The single most problematic noise is tire noise and the decibel level of that noise is dramatic even at lower speeds. Tires are largely what make city streets loud and it’s predominantly harmful to ones hearing.

Traveling on the trains, the S-Bahn and U-Bahn, isn’t any better.

The newest S-Bahn is a drastic improvement, quiet as a cathedral, but I only rode one of these. The rest of the above and below ground trains are god-awful. They have no air-conditioning and so Berliners open the windows and by the time the trains have screeched their way through curving tracks, metal grinding against metal, and traveling through the angry echo chambers of the tunnels, it will be a wonder if all Berliners aren’t deaf by their fifties. Between the busier streets and the public transportation the assault on hearing is non-stop. I’m particularly bothered by it having tinnitus. I remember stepping into the underground parking garage beneath the flat where we stayed and thinking I wanted to live there. There was no noise. It was pure silence. Most of Europe has really got to get it’s car-centric cities under control.

The field out back of my house, deep in Vermont, was blissful with the sound of crickets and tree frogs. The air was moist and August-sweet.

Anyway, I wrote this latest on the flight back, 37,000 feet on Aer Lingus.

  What has the snake to do with malice
    Who never once harmed me?
  She takes my garden for her palace
    And grants me tenancy.

  She wears a robe from tongue to tail
    That glitters in the sun—
  A turquoise rippling through the swale
    Surveying what I've done.

  I think that if she could she'd choose
    To demonstrate her wit.
  She'd have me read to her the news
    And let the weeding sit.

  But then again perhaps snakes know
    Where all our monsters dwell—
  The gardens where our foibles grow
    (She knows them all too well).

  But I don't mean to be untoward
    (We're both the other's guest).
  If nothing else then going forward,
    Let each by each be blessed.

  Hymn #17 The Garden
  by me
  August 17th 2022 

North of Autumn | Fables

Because I still sketch all my poetry by hand in sketchbooks. This was written while visiting the Botanical Garden. Written for the book but also a touch personal.

  Forgive me if I'm worse for wear.
There's nothing I've to show
For writing poetry here and there.
I should take care, I know—
The ant instructs us patiently—
The winter will be long—
But where would summer's evenings be
Without the cricket's song?

Aug 13, 2022
Botanischer Garten
by me

North of Autumn | Hymn #5 ‘Haute Couture’

This was largely written on the M10 Straßenbahn and the 200 bus going to the Zoologischer Garten; and was, believe it or not, inspired by a woman actually sitting next to me at a café who was discussing French fashion (though in German). The words in Italic are pronounced the way the French would pronounce them (read with the meter), otherwise the rhymes and meter are a mess.

  There sat a woman next to me
    Who praised Paris and Haute
  Couture! How fashionable—Mais oui!
    Their personages of note.

  I almost butted in to say
    We have our 'noted' too
  Sometimes they visit the café
    Doing what they do—

  The firefly's unmatched attire,
    Radiantly on trend,
  Ensembles few to none acquire
    (I tell you as a friend);

  Regard the swank and rakish crow,
    The black accoutrement
  The perfect compliment to snow
    Too timeless not to flaunt;

  As well I hardly need explain
    The glamor of September,
  The catwalk of an Autumn lane,
    The season's boho splendor—

  The chic sangfroid of Maple trees
    (Decidedly iconic).
  But rest assured, my dear (do please!),
    I drank my gin and tonic.

by Me
On the M10, Berlin, August 6, 2022
From the Kupferstichkabinett Museum Berlin.

North of Autumn | Thursday’s Letter Hymn # 17

The U2 must like me. I wrote this poem in one sitting, getting on the U-Bahn at Schönhauser Allee and getting out at Sophie-Charlotte-Platz. That doesn’t happen very often, but I can see how Emily Dickinson wrote so many poems in so short a time. The ballad hymns almost write themselves. The short lines, 8s and 6s, don’t give much scope for over-thinking, especially if one rhymes. One goes where the rhymes lead. The trick is to make them seem wholly coincidental—as if the poet had no idea, none at all, that the poem was rhyming. And if the reader doesn’t notice, all the better.

  I otherwise would hardly write
    (These poems are hit or miss)
  But here I sit, alone tonight,
    Still thinking of your kiss.

  Just so you know, a storm came through;
    The garden is a mess.
  You ought to see the honeydew.
    They're floating more or less.

  The mellons drift from row to row,
    And peas are here and there.
  Don't bother asking if I know
    Which vegetables are where.

  But I can tell you either way
    The mellons are delicious,
  The flesh— so cool, so sweet. To say
    Much more would be seditious.

  I washed the dirt from some tomatoes;
    Diced and tossed them in
  With several waterlogged potatoes—
    (The soup's a little thin).

  The weather teaches us, I guess,
    What is and isn't ours—
  But have I mentioned, nonetheless,
    How beautiful the stars?

    Thursday's Letter
    Written on the U2 on August 31
    by Me

I’ve extended my stay in Berlin until the middle of August. The weather in the poem was inspired by weather, not in Berlin, but back home in Vermont. Something like a small tornado or wind sheer came through and dropped trees across roads, on top of cars and rooftops. That got me thinking about the garden and raspberries in our backyard.

Also, another picture from the city of my birth.

North of Autumn | P.S. – Hymn #7

I’m writing this on my smartphone—a new trick for me. Not sure what it’s going to look like when I publish it. I’m in Berlin again. My father died earlier in the month. I knew he was in poor health and had hoped to see him before he died. In the meantime, my daughter has taken up temporary employment with Germany’s NASA—the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft and Raumfahrt, or DLR for short. Also in Berlin. So here I am. I haven’t had time or the place to continue writing North of Autumn. I have had time to continue working on the poems. I just finished this one while riding the U2, the U-Bahn line between Ruhleben and Pankow, stopping at Sophie-Charlotte-Platz.

  Whatever rakes the attic floor,
There won't be any ghost;
And if there's scratching at your door,
A gust of leaves at most.

Though I may whisper my good-byes,
Who hears the Thrush's song,
Who's seen which way the Raven flies
Will never stay for long.

I'll have crossed the fresh-laid snow
And left no trace behind;
The summers that I used to know
Will since have slipped my mind.

P.S.

Life is itself enough to scare
The living half to death,
No need for supernatural fare
To steal away our breath.

Finished on the U2 July 28th 2022
by Me

The hymn steals lines from a sonnet I wrote many years ago but was never satisfied with. I don’t think I ever posted or otherwise published it. Also, a little something from Berlin: