Thursday, November 15, 2012


Going thru some old poems, I came across "Defeat," which I finished on 6 July 2010. It has a concatenation of names and events that seem especially ironic at this moment:


We are in this to win.

            --General David Petraeus, on assuming command in Afghanistan


The general says we will win in Afghanistan

The president says we will plug the leak in the Gulf

The governor says we will close the budget deficit


Senators say we must reduce Social Security

Al Gore says we must reduce CO2 emissions

And switch to renewable energy


And in every case we know in our hearts

That we are headed for defeat—in the war,

In the Gulf, in the economy, in the environment . . .
                                                        The New Verse News

Monday, November 5, 2012

Surviving Sandy: Powerless

The forecasters got it right this time. This storm would be one for the books. At 943 millibars, the barometer registered lower than in 1938, when the previous worst storm hit the Northeast.
The Northeast? . . . where once a decade a hurricane actually made it ashore and caused a few hours of power outage and eroded a few beaches? Big storms like Iniki in Hawai‘i in1992 and Katrina in 2005 hit the warmer latitudes. Wouldn’t Sandy be just another media event like Irene a year ago, when warnings proved exaggerated in the Northeast? Well, actually, the coast might not have suffered greatly, but tell the flooded-out citizens of Prattsville, Margaretville, and Binghamton the forecasts were overblown.
This time the forecasters were right, and by Monday night power was out for over 6 million homeowners in the Northeast. I was one of the lucky ones who live in “Lower Manhattan,” the term that the media used for everyone—about 220,000 people—living below 30th Street who would have no power till Saturday.
What’s it like to live without electricity in 2012? It means living in the dark from 6 pm till after 7 am. And it means a long series of negatives: no heat or hot water, no use of appliances like refrigerators, TV’s, or coffee-makers, no recharging of batteries for phones or shavers, no computer for online services like banking and bill-paying, no landline phone service, no postal service, no reliable mobile-phone service, no ATM’s. And no public transit.
All of this is mere inconvenience, however. For those whose homes suffered damage from high wind and falling trees or from flooding, the negatives are still irritating but secondary. And how about the dozens of New Yorkers dead from Sandy?
The testimony of callers to local radio stations tells the story of true powerlessness: houses no longer standing or otherwise unlivable, doubling up with friends or relative who themselves have no power but do have a dry house to sleep in, waiting 13 hours to find gasoline for the car, seeing no utility workers in the area to make needed repairs, and receiving estimates of restoration of power as late as mid-November.
Briefly, here’s how a Lower Manhattanite coped. On Tuesday, after the first night without power, my wife and I walked north to 28th Street on 6th Avenue, where we found a fast-food restaurant open and she could buy her daily cup of black coffee. Sponge-bathing by adding hot water—the gas stove still worked—to the icy cold water from the tap reminded me of similar cleaning rituals with only cold water in Paris and Amsterdam as a budget traveler in my 30’s. On Wednesday through the courtesy of a friend I was able to take a shower and wash my hair at his private club, and while uptown, my wife and I ate a hot meal at the self-service eatery on the ground floor of Rockefeller Center. Hot food was a welcome change from the tinned tuna fish and sardines on which we’d been subsisting.
But even as I write on Saturday, when our power was restored, more than a million people in New Jersey, New York City, and Long Island remain without power. They are cold, hungry, thirsty, and need sleep and a shower. They need warm clothes as the nighttime temperature falls toward freezing, and many need cars.
And they continue to testify by phone on our local 24-hour radio stations, particularly WFAN, sports-talk radio, and WCBS, all-news radio.These are the two stations I listened to through the dark nights on my black Panasonic transistor radio the size and shape of a thick smart phone, but smarter because its AA batteries lasted throughout the blackout, while I had to walk uptown to recharge my android once a day.
Finally, the fallout of a powerful storm reminds me of the role of chance in our lives: my luck living only 15 blocks south of where electricity still flowed and being able to walk there and back, the bad luck of the two boys in a car that a falling tree crushed, killing them.
Beyond “finally” is the resolve to rebuild wisely and strengthen our infrastructure to withstand the rising tide and ferocity of Gaia, Mother Earth, whom we’ve abused for too long and whom we must take into account as we fashion a new, sustainable way of life.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Newly Published

I've recently had items published in printed magazines that have no Internet presence. One is even called SNAIL MAIL REVIEW, an expression of its editors' loyalty to the printed word. The main problem is that few people ever see such a zine, and writers can never be sure if anyone reads their work in one, thus the popularity of online publications. Once a piece of writing appears online, writers can offer access to it on the Net. Such publication might be ephemeral, but it also saves trees from being made into paper.

Here are a poem and two short fictions that have reached me by snail mail the past few days. Please read, enjoy, and share.

Maryland, NY


How did this hamlet get the same name

As a state? It’s confusing: whenever I say

And say “Up?” After all, Maryland is south

Or “down” from New York City, so I have to say

It’s a hamlet upstate, near Oneonta,

And most New Yorkers have a vague idea

Where Oneonta is, somewhere in the middle

Of the state, somewhere around Cooperstown,

Somewhere the green hills roll and summer fields

Wave corn and milk cows graze and barns

Sag and cave in the broiling sun

And the withering economy, and now

Maryland, pop. 200, might lose

its post office, the heart of a hamlet

with no business district, no main street,

no traffic light, but with the name of a state.


Verse Wisconsin 110 (October 2012)





            I decided I needed a style of my own. Like Hemingway. Everyone could recognize his style. That is, everyone who read literature. That is, only a few people. But I would create a recognizable style of my own. Minimalism was in the air, so I thought I would adopt a minimalist style. I wanted to keep narrative to a minimum. That was also the advice of my creative writing instructor, Dr. Regina Lemon.




            Dr. Lemon had been published in all the cool zines: Sawd Off, Minimalist Review, Spite ’n’ Devil, and Parsimony. She also had a paperback book out. It was called Screwy. The title was sort of a pun: she was eccentric and got laid a lot. She also liked to screw screws into her skin with a screwdriver. Her book was all the rage among Goths and Punkers. It contained ads for S & M, B& D, and creative-writing outfits. That was her original way of increasing profits. Some other writers dissed her for prostituting her narrative. Others wish they had thought of ads first.





            In our workshops the instructor smoked joints and told us about her sex life. She said she was just encouraging us to open up. She said the trouble with most novices was that they were repressed. “Open up” was her mantra. If you read a piece out loud and she thought it was too guarded, she would yell, “Open up!” Then she would call on the next reader.

To read without interruption, the workshoppers competed to write the most outrageous narratives. One girl wrote about the many ways her father initiated her into sex, another wrote about the thrill of bulimia, and a guy wrote about ways he’d try to enlarge his penis. The instructor said, “Wow!” “How open!” and “Far out!”




            I wrote about how my uncle kept trying to get me to give him a blowjob when I was thirteen. He would tell me he had a beautiful dick that I would like to see and suck. He told me that he would give me a fifty for my efforts. He told me that he would write a letter to Oberlin to admit me to college. But I didn’t want to go to Oberlin. I did want a fifty, but I didn’t want to see, much less suck, his dick.

            My instructor said that I needed to open up. She told me my story would work better if I changed my uncle to my father, and if I sucked him off. “That’s Oedipal,” she said.

            I didn’t tell her that the story was really about my father.





            Then I wrote a piece in which I listed all the girls in the workshop and the various shapes of their breasts. I got the idea from the list poem, which was a staple of my poetry workshop. Karen’s breasts are pear-shaped, I wrote, Debra’s breasts are like cantaloupes, Annie’s breasts are like raisins on a breadboard, and so forth. I finished my list with “Dr. Lemon’s tits are like Jennifer Aniston’s.”

My instructor smiled and said, “Make that like Angelina Jolie’s.”




            That was my last workshop. Since then, I’ve been working on my style alone. Is it

open enough?






I-70 Review, Summer/Fall 2012



Star and Bit


Herman Kennedy was a bit actor who played Uncle Emil in three episodes of the popular television series The Five Sisters. Like Herman, Emil is a German name and that helped him feel comfortable in the role. The five sisters were named Gretel, Gudrun, Gertrude, Gretchen, and Grace. Herman was particularly fond of Grace, the youngest and the only child of their father’s second wife, Colleen; after all, Kennedy is an Irish name.

Herman’s bit concerned Uncle Emil’s visit to the girls’ family for Grace’s Sweet Sixteen birthday party, to which the 30-minute sitcom devoted three episodes, like the rising action, climax, and falling action in classical drama. Herman, 45, played a man in his early 50’s, while Peggy Faust, who starred as Grace, was 21 and “playing down” to a sixteen-year-old. Peggy was also half-German and half-Irish, so Herman took a special interest in her.

Peggy Faust was a natural redheaded beauty from Ridgewood, Queens, where German-Irish marriages are not unknown. A drama major at Queens College, she had been discovered by Iris Kwirn, the Broadway director who taught in the drama department. Herman had seen Peggy play the roommate of Kimberly Smith on the college-campus sitcom Kimberly and liked her spirit and her body.

In his first episode, Uncle Emil has an avuncular chat with Grace in the Hartmann-family kitchen. Rehearsal time for a sitcom being limited, Herman and Peggy

decided to meet before their first rehearsal in order to practice their lines together and build rapport for their TV relationship. Herman had attended St. John’s University, just down the Long Island Expressway from Queens College, so he mentioned that up-front when he phoned Peggy to set up their meeting at La Tartine, a little storefront bistro in the heart of the West Village.

Herman arrived early and took the table in the glassed-in corner of the restaurant, facing the door. When Peggy walked in and looked at him, it was desire at first sight for Herman. For her it was just a chance to size up another actor who at best might become an occasional cast member, in this case a man twice her age, though he looked pretty youthful in his black leather jacket and khakis. His receding hairline had enlarged his forehead, he wore a fashionably scruffy beard, and he had a slight bulge above the beltline. She imagined him made up with gray at the temples, bifocals, and a corduroy jacket—a perfectly serviceable Uncle Emil.

Herman acted friendly, constraining the physical attraction he felt for this lively young actress. She was almost as tall as his six feet and had a trace of Queens in her professionally trained voice. After they’d ordered, they both looked around the restaurant, at the original tin ceiling and the water colors of maritime Brittany on the walls, then out the window at the flow of pedestrians.

“You know,” Herman said, “we’re only about two blocks from the brownstone where Carrie lived in Sex and the City. Lots of tourists, mostly women from the ’burbs, take photos there every day.”

“Yes, and then there’s Magnolia Bakery, just down the street from Tartine, where they go for the cupcakes.”

“A while back, people used to visit the Village to see where E. E. Cummings lived.”

“And Edna St. Vincent Millay.”

“So you know the nabe?”

“A bit. Last summer I took classes at H B Studios, a few blocks from here. I walked around with a guidebook. I’d love to be able to afford a place in this area.”

“From the way your career is going, it won’t be long.”

“O, Herman, you’re sweet to say that. Where would you like to live?”

Herman fell silent. He already felt that his career would never take him to the level of success that Peggy would likely attain. To live in the West Village would be a pipe dream for him. He started to wish that Tartine served alcohol.   

“I’m just happy to have a roof over my head. Right now that’s in Flatbush.” 

Flatbush, she knew, was a neighborhood in transition, demographically challenged on one end and gentrifying on the other. She placed Herman about midway.

“It must be so cool to see a place, like, changing month by month,” she said.

“Sometimes cool, sometimes depressing, and sometimes year by year.”

“That’s a pretty good line, Herman. Have you ever been a writer?”

“Only when I’m auditioning for my sitcom partner.”

Maybe this guy is more interesting than a bit player, she thought as she lifted a forkful of quiche Provençal to her mouth. But I wish he wouldn’t look at me so intently.

Maybe I should stick to our script, Herman thought as he chewed his saucisson. I’ll never get anywhere with this star, but, man, she’s a looker.

            “So, Peggy, how do you see this Uncle Emil of yours?”

            “Well, of course, he’s Dad’s brother, and there’s sort of like a sibling rivalry between them. Dad wants me to be a conventional sixteen-year-old, smiley and a little wild about boys but, you know, dutiful to her parents all the same. Uncle Emil never had kids, was a plainclothes detective who took early retirement and now sort of, like, butts in to his brother’s family’s life. He gets invited to my birthday party just because, like, he’s family and lives close by.”

            “A detective, eh? Is he kind of suspicious about you, like a snoop? I see that he’s always asking questions.”

            “Yes, it’s like he’s conducting an interrogation and the laughs are supposed to come from the insinuating way he asks them and, like, the way I react to them. I get to do a lot of eye-rolling and ‘O Uncle Emil’s!’”

            “So should we play it like a parody of Law and Order? Like when the detectives are questioning a suspect or like a trial scene?”

            “You better ask Stan, the director, about that. I’m not sure parody is, like, what attracts the audience for The Five Sisters.”

            “Or the makers of SaniLax. . . . Okay, how about I play Uncle Emil like Columbo’s younger brother—sort of a wack-job who means well but can’t stop insinuating that his niece is headed for trouble?”

Peggy smiled, and Herman realized she might not even know who Columbo was. I’d better edit my references more carefully, he thought, or I’ll emphasize the age-gap.

Man, I wish she was a few years older and I was younger. Still, maybe I have a shot.


            That night Herman practiced his lines with unusual rigor. He imagined Peggy before him as he read her lines and then spoke his lines with increasingly less reference to the script as he memorized his part. He finished just before midnight. Buoyed by a sense of accomplishment, he allowed himself a shot of Jameson’s, and then another, though he knew he should stay on the wagon. After Letterman, he went to bed, but thoughts of Peggy made him restless. Sleep came fitfully, and then brought him a dream: a beautiful orange-haired young woman beckoned to him from the stage of an empty auditorium, but try as he might to leave his back-row seat, he was held in place by a seatbelt for which there was no mechanism he could unfasten.

When Herman played Uncle Emil, the bit went well, though the sound track gave most of the laughs to Grace’s eye-rolling and “O Uncle Emil’s.” In the second of his episodes, Uncle Emil attends the birthday party and gets to dance very briefly with Grace, looking a little foolish trying to match her spontaneity. Herman relaxes and just lets Emil’s struggle between his inner devil and his detective’s controlled demeanor play freely. Then he’s on the fringe, giving a few approving nods when Grace kicks up a storm dancing with a teenaged boyfriend. Somehow his bit wins plaudits, and Stan Intaglio, the director, talks to Herman about extending his role beyond a third episode.

            As Herman left the studio, he ran into Peggy at the door.

            “Hey, Peggy, you were awesome!”

            “Thanks. You were pretty good yourself.”

“How about a drink?”

Her cheerfulness changed to wariness for a moment, and then she smiled and said,

“No, thanks. I’ve got a date.”

            “How about tomorrow? Lunch in the Village again? I’ve got some good news to tell you.”

            She paused and then said, “Let’s make it a cup of coffee. How about Donegal about an hour before we shoot tomorrow?”

            “Cool. See you then.”

            Peggy’s reserve made Herman’s elation over Stan’s words leave him like the air from a punctured tire. He knew he should have dropped the idea of meeting with Peggy as soon as she’d said she had a date, but his hunger for her gnawed at him. And the Donegal, a dingy Irish pub down the street from their studio—what she’d proposed made him feel defeated.  He headed to the Donegal alone and knocked back a couple of boilermakers. He liked the buzz he felt on the way to the subway and on the trip home to Flatbush.


            That night he learned his lines with a vengeance. In the third of Herman’s turns, Uncle Emil joins the family to clean up the morning after the party. He’s disheveled and hung over, his condition making him the butt of jokes from his brother and sister-in-law.

Grace briefly sticks up for him, but when he tries to hug her, she makes a face that indicates he stinks and should stay away from her. The laugh-track mocks his untoward behavior and unkempt appearance. He then sheepishly makes his exit.

“Jesus!” Herman said after he’d finished learning his lines. “If I don’t play this bit like gangbusters, there’s no way Uncle Emil will be welcome on the show again. Maybe Stan has already changed his mind about me. No, I’ve still got a shot.”


            At the Donegal an hour before shooting Uncle Emil’s third episode, Herman felt anxious. He’d fought his whiskey thirst at home, knowing it would be best to be sober when meeting Peggy. At a table away from the bar, they ordered coffee. How Herman wished he could pour a shot of whiskey into his cup, but he concentrated on Peggy. She looked so young and vital, and she was just across the table from him.

            “You said you had some good news to tell me,” she said.

            “Yeah . . . did Stan say anything to you?”

            “About what?”

            “About bringing me back for other episodes. Cool, eh?”

            “Oh, yes. That is good news for you.”

            “I figure if I hit it out of the park today, he’ll offer me a new contract. So let’s make sure we score during the clean-up scene.”

            He raised an imaginary liquor glass as if to click it against her imaginary glass, and then he lowered his hand on hers.

She felt his clammy fingers on the back of her hand and stifled an impulse to

withdraw it in revulsion. She smiled vaguely and said, “Look, Herman, you’re a good guy and an awesome actor, but, like, I’m at a point in my life when I’m not looking for complications. . . .” They both knew that “especially with an older, less successful man” was the implied conclusion to her sentence.

            He knew he’d blundered. Shrugging, he replied, “Sorry. My enthusiasm for playing Uncle Emil got the better of me. I’ll behave.” And then he smiled at her in a way that hardly reassured her.


            The scene went reasonably well, but Peggy seemed uncharacteristically stiff as Grace, and Herman felt all too much like he was Uncle Emil. After the shoot was over, Stan left the set and went to his office. Herman followed, fearing the worst, and knocked on Stan’s door.

            “Oh, Herman, I’m glad you came,” Stan said. “I just wanted to thank you again for all you’ve added to The Five Sisters. Our ratings with Uncle Emil have been good. If we can work you in again, I’ll be in touch with your agent.”

            “Thanks, Stan. Isn’t there anything definite you can offer me?”

            “Not right now. Sorry. And I’ve got to get out of here right away to meet the wife.”

            Stan turned back to his desk to gather papers to put in his briefcase, a sign for Herman to leave, and he did. He wasn’t stupid. He knew that Peggy must have told Stan

that he’d tried to come on to her and that she didn’t want him around anymore. The star

must be served. The bit player had lost her approval and lost his job.

            When he hit the street outside the studio, Herman needed a drink. He reached the dingy Donegal but passed it by. He didn’t want to run into anyone from the cast of The Five Sisters. He’d already met one sister too many in there. He struggled to put the vision of Peggy Faust out of his mind until he’d replaced it with the bottle of Jameson’s waiting for him faithfully in Flatbush.



Snail Mail Review 4 (Fall 2012)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Reflections on 9/11

Reflections on 9/11


            9/11 this year falls on a Tuesday for the first time since the day of infamy in 2001, 11 years ago. “7 come 11” the well-known dice roller’s prayer goes. My prayer is for no copycat to make 9/11/2012 infamous.

I reread my poem “That Tuesday Night,” which was published in the anthology AN EYE FOR AN EYE MAKES THE WHOLE WORLD BLIND: POETS ON 9/11, and thought about what has changed since 9/11/2001:


That Tuesday Night


That Tuesday night, after the towers

burned & fell down-

town, after watching them crumble—

unlike the one Paul Newman

saved in Towering Inferno

from the plaza in front of Rosenthal

Library, after walking home

from the subway in the yellow

summer twilight, gagging

on the acrid air and looking

at the thick sooty column rising

downtown where the towers

had loomed Gargantuan on the skyline

for over three decades,

I went to wash my face,

as though cold water and soap

would wake me from this dream

of violence and violation,

and saw that man in the mirror,

red-rimmed eyes, yes, but

the same sagging sixty-five-

year-old skin, the same thinning,

graying hair above the same lined

forehead, and I knew that he

was lucky to have lived

to sixty-five—too young for WW II

and Korea, too old for Viet Nam

lucky to have lived his soft

American life without much fear

from abroad, except spotting airplanes

as a kid and catching a breath or two

as JFK stood down the Russians in ’62,

and in the glare of the bathroom light,

the sirens screaming just up the street

at St. Vincent’s, I knew nothing

could ever make me

safe again.


For one thing, St. Vincent’s Hospital, which gave Edna Millay her middle name for having been born there, no longer exists. 16 stories high, the hospital gave up the ghost two years ago and is now being dismantled brick by brick to make way for a billionaire realtor’s 30 stories of luxury condos. There goes the neighborhood.

Worse, if a similar catastrophe occurred downtown, there’s no hospital nearby to treat victims as St. Vincent’s did. How will Villagers survive an infarct or a hemorrhage?

The view has changed. I can now look downtown from Greenwich Village and see the very high tower of a new building at the WTC site being clad in stainless steel. And I wonder who would feel comfortable working daily on the top 30 or 40 floors.

Periodically, police helicopters hover over the West Village. I wonder if they are up there because Code Red has been declared, or are they overhead just to remind us of the War on Terror and keep us scared, like the subway signs that warn us backpacks and shoulder bags might be searched at any time, like the soldiers in camouflage with German shepherds on leash who patrol Penn Station, like the announcements to say something if you see something . . . suspicious.

I end the poem wondering about ever feeling safe again. Actually, I didn’t feel safe before 9/11 and had warned Cheryl, now my wife, about the likelihood of a terrorist attack, most likely, I thought, in the subway. Though Cheryl and I never mentioned 9/11, it was likely factored into our motivation to marry on 5/15/2002, legalizing a long-committed relationship.

On the original 9/11, we were out of touch until that evening: I was at Queens College and she, I thought, was at her office in SoHo. Subway service was suspended and phones were down, so I remained on campus watching TV replay the scene some students and I had watched from the library plaza: the burning towers falling. When the trains began to run again in late afternoon, I returned to Manhattan and went to Cheryl’s apartment. My knock on the door woke her up. She had pulled an all-nighter at work and gone to bed at 8:45 AM, just before the first plane plowed into the towers. She still didn’t know what had happened. I told her to sit down and I turned on the TV so she could see for herself the live coverage of the devastation a mile away.

It’s been a few years since we rehearsed our plans for getting in touch if we happen to be at different places, and if we survive, during the next calamity. But I am probably no safer, just inured to our dangerous times.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mass Shooters Offered Registry

Mass Shooters Offered Registry

            Fairfax, VA -- The NRA announced today a registry for mass shooters in order to give each individual a chance for a decent period of public attention before the next one makes a media spectacle of himself. In the wake of the recent mass shootings within three weeks of each other in Aurora CO, Oak Creek WI, and College Station TX, Lawrence Luger, an NRA field representative, explained the rationale for the registry: “We just want to organize the interval between the headline-grabbing actions of a few men who have, please note, obtained their weapons legally.” In addition to managing the traffic, the NRA will provide registrants with membership privileges “including lifetime defense against limp-wristed critics of gun ownership.”    

Mort Caliber, NRA press secretary, said, “We are fed up with left-wing media types whining about ‘the right to not live in a nation plagued by mass shootings where the mentally ill can get military-grade machine guns,’” as Karl Frisch of the Thom Hartmann Program puts it. “As far as we know,” added Caliber, “non-shooters are no less loony than any gun owner.”

Asked about the possibility of restricting the availability of assault weapons like the AK-47, Niccola (“Nick”) Uzi, president of Citizens for the Second [Amendment], replied that gun owners feared any such restriction would set a dangerous precedent. “First,” he said, “they take away your banana clip, then they ban your shoulder-fired grenade launcher, next they come for your heat-seeking missiles. What’s next—your drones?”

When asked if hunters needed such sophisticated weapons in the woods, Uzi replied, “Here in Idaho, we have some mighty big deer.”

Meantime, the registry is off to a blazing start, with names posted from almost every state. “The favorable response to this public service,” said Mort Caliber, “proves that even mayhem and violence can benefit from a bit of organization. Leave it to the NRA!”

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Our Perishing Republic

The news being dominated by Penn St. and Aurora, I’ve been thinking how common the course of cruelty and violence is in America these days, though much of it flows unreported, in families, schools, and the workplace. Sandusky and the Aurora gunman both sought out innocent victims and imposed unspeakable but all too common abuse upon them. Meantime, men in authority dither or connive: Coach Paterno stands accused of having sacrificed Jerry’s victims on the altar of gridiron self-aggrandizement, while neither Obama nor Romney will even mention guns in their tut-tutting about the Aurora massacre, and we must suppose that the next “national tragedy” will unfold soon enough. The father of a boy killed at Columbine, with the ironic name of Mauser (a major German weapons manufacturer), told Chris Matthews last night that the American people have given up on gun control, because the NRA and its lobbyists have worn them out promoting the idea that the Constitution grants our citizens the unassailable right to own ammo and firearms, even assault rifles with 100-round magazines—“for deer hunting,” says Senator Rob Johnson (R – WI), with a twinkle in his eye. And I think of Jeffers’ “Shine, Perishing Republic”: “While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening to empire, / And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, and the mass hardens . . . // But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from the thickening center; corruption / Never has been        compulsory. . . .”

Thursday, July 19, 2012

New Book Review

I have a review of two fine chapbooks up at

Please check it out. The same issue of WHLR has a review of my book AFTER SHAKESPEARE: SELECTED SONNETS, if you'd care to access it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Are You Carryin'?

“In an average year, roughly a hundred thousand Americans are killed or wounded with guns.”

“When carrying a concealed weapon for self-defense is understood not as a failure of civil society, to be mourned, but as an act of citizenship, to be vaunted, there is little civilian life left.”

From “Battleground America,” by Jill Lepore, THE NEW YORKER, April 23, 2012

Friday, May 4, 2012


The last three weeks have been busy for me as a poet. On April 15, I joined about two dozen other poets for the launch of TOKEN ENTRY: NEW YORK CITY SUBWAY POEMS at Manitoba’s in the East Village. I have two poems in this anthology, which also includes such poets as Grace Paley, Billy Collins, Langston Hughes, and Hart Crane:

On April 28 I taught a haiku workshop at the 5th Annual Suffolk County Community College Creative Writing Festival:

The online journal RIGHT HAND POINTING chose my poem “Reënactment” as one of 12 poems for its special issue devoted to poems of no more than 30 words:

EYE SOCKET, an online poetry journal out of Portland, OR, features four of my poems in its May issue:

Please check out my work and leave a comment at the site.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Women Retaliate against VA Abortion Statute

          Washington, Mar. 3. Women members of the Virginia legislature have introduced a bill that would require men to undergo vasectomies upon reaching puberty. This law would seek to balance the pending legislation that requires women who desire an abortion to first have an intrusive sonogram of their uterus, a procedure that includes the introduction of a sonic wand into the birth canal.

          Maryellen Cox-Chambliss, one of the two female sponsors, says her bill will be more forgiving than the male-sponsored mandatory sonogram law: “After all,” she told the press, “our bill allows men an alternative to the vasectomy, and that is to undergo digital prostate massage as part of a monthly STD exam.”

          Men inside and outside Virginia have complained loudly about the unfairness of the women’s proposal. Guy Claiborne, a twelfth generation Virginian from Lynchburg, said that while the mandatory sonogram law is consonant with the hallowed tradition of introducing various objects into “the female vagina, men require personal control over the sanctity of their bodily orifices.”

          Gov. Bob McDonnell continues to say he is ready to sign a less-intrusive form of the mandatory sonogram bill into law “as soon as the lady folk stand down and give us a break so we can continue to bring progressive change to our great Commonwealth.”

          Ms. Cox-Chambliss accused the governor of grandstanding to secure the vice-presidential nomination at the GOP convention this summer. “It’s well known that most American men want to keep women in their place. But,” she warned, “a Santorum-McDonnell candidacy, with its harsh anti-feminist stance, would push the few thousand women who remain loyal to the Republican Party into the Democratic fold.”

          Sen. Mitch McConnell, a sworn foe of President Obama’s reelection, has urged Gov. McDonnell to back off the sonogram issue and advises advocates of the vasectomy or prostatic massage legislation to exclude white men over 65.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

New Poem Online

Right Hand Pointing, an online poetry journal, has posted its latest issue today, March 1st. It includes a short poem of mine called "Prelude":

Friday, February 24, 2012

Review of my book AFTER SHAKESPEARE

I am pleased to report that the first review of my book AFTER SHAKESPEARE: SELECTED SONNETS ( is now at the PEDESTAL
I hope you will give it a read.

The reviewer, Eric Greinke, is a well respected poet, editor, and critic. We have never met.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Don" and "Doff"

            I’m now old enough to recall words that have been lost to everyday speech since my childhood in the ’40s. There are the “SAT words,” like “eschew” and “ubiquitous,” which the College Board expected high-school juniors and seniors to know for college prep exams. Such words we find now in old novels but rarely hear on the street. “Ubiquitous” got a boost in the ’50s when it was spoken in a margarine commercial that ran ad nauseam. Yes, the ad was ubiquitous, “found everywhere,” for a while, then faded away. And then there are the everyday words, like “don” and “doff,” which entered the language centuries ago:

A pair from the start, both date to the 14th century, with "doff" coming from a phrase meaning "to do off" and "don" from one meaning "to do on." Shakespeare was first, as far as we know, to use the [latter] word. . . . He put it in Juliet's mouth: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet. / … Romeo, doff thy name; / And for that name, which is no part of thee, / Take all myself." (Merriam-Webster Online)

            Today we still hear the word “don” in “Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly”: “Don we now our gay apparel, Fa-la-la” etc., a line in which “gay” almost needs to be translated today, not to mention the need for revising the word order. In my boyhood, “Doff” held on in the expression “doff his hat,” which my father did when greeting a lady on the street, and Red Barber and Mel Allen, baseball broadcasters in the ’40s and ’50s, would say a batter doffed his cap as he crossed home plate and acknowledged the cheers for a homerun. Roy Campanella and Yogi Berra, both All-Star catchers, were said to “don the tools of ignorance” when strapping on their shin guards, chest protector, and mask.

            When was the last time, if ever, you heard “don” or “doff” in conversation? Which once-common words that have lost currency do you recall? Like the names of the dead, old words die when human beings no longer remember or use them.

Friday, January 6, 2012

King of Cryptic

My first publication of the new year turns out to be an essay on a ubiquitous insect, which I call "King of Cryptic." Please check it out online at WILDERNESS HOUSE LITERARY REVIEW: