Thursday, January 14, 2016

Hidden in God's Peace

Girl Fishing
—Painting by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)


In the crunchy first snow
making my way back
from a pilgrimage to Vermont
losing my old travel map
wandering in darkness
on a country road
watching a blackbird
with mirrored eyes on a night
by the green mountains
by a withered elm branch
reciting Robert Frost
in my teaching memory
wanting a lost poem back
here in this wilderness
wanting the right exit
and brunch to go forward
as my car scuttles quickly
from tangled black ice
in a grove of birch shadows
my breath freezing
with an echo’s wind
and persistent inner voices
whisper promised directions
once known by heart
praying my car will heat
and start up again
holding on
to my white metallic mirror
on the dashboard
to comb my wild hair
reaching out to
a tiny cat who quietly hisses
circling around me
my years wash away
by a burnished light
managing to make it home.



Here on Cape Cod
feeling close to a sea turtle
wanting to transplant it
as a challenge to make her
or him safe on bowing waves
running roughshod
on different bubbled buoys
without any chaotic angle
of an ocean's mimicry
with an unobstructed view
going counterclockwise
challenged in my swimsuit
to reach a dock barge
doing my rescue of a sand turtle,
knowing the turtle is untangled
surfacing a hundred miles
near my damaged anchored kayak
from a wintry series of storms,
suddenly seeing a baby whale
a humpbacked entangled one
on a back-up fishing line
near Woods Hole sanctuary
in a mud fight of survival
knowing young scientists
are doing their good deeds
making my day a memory
in my diary of a helpful arrival
as a poet-journalist
with data of a trade-off
vetted to a barrage of questions
to enlist and watch the turtle escape
to the smiles of the sunny sea
once curled in netted wrists.

 A Boat in the Waters Off Capri
—Painting by John Singer Sargent


Assailed by doubts
and plausible words
for my own spiral notebook
carrying my term papers
after class on my thesis
with a skeptical pen
held on a rhetorical wish
to have the world be blank
on my metamorphosis slate
to be able to be composed,
impassive and diminished
on the precipice of success
after the abyss of exams
the sun harvests its noonday
as a poet rambles on
drawing portraits
under a college wellspring
in a book of knowledge's despair
with red eyes sighting proverbs
to wish my delivering impressions
will translate into a poem
when sitting alone on a park bench
along the Charles River
as Robert Lowell strolls by
on his way up to Beacon Hill
thanking him for his last book
and talking about Baudelaire.



In Sacramento
small saplings are taken
and planted
from our Civil War days
when one brother
is committing Cain's deeds
by going his own way
slaying honorable Abel
supplanting a murderous sin
of hatred's cold stain
for the spring garden’s rain
sent onto Capitol Park
in a memento to pardon the fallen
for all our exalted comrades
in their straining labors
thundering the somber words
of Whitman's sweating ode
in neighbors disarmed for peace
as pollen poppies increase
in the sullen rain showers
we remember our covenant
from the park's red flowers
as the blood of our nation
amid hidden tears were shed
at Lincoln's famous
emancipation letter issued
in a lyrical proclamation
by America's favorite son
before his assassination
to ratify a better miracle
who represented us
in a pact of agreement
by an Illinois senator
who represented us
in the government
who spoke bravely in an oration
to sanctify our freedom's sake
in our consecration
from man's slavery
for forsaking love
yet asking to be
forgiving to one another
commenting on to be unafraid
but to have a sister and brother
to pass the torch of liberty's grade,
to another generation,
not yet since creation above us
gave us in loving King Jesus
in his reckoning
gave us a full pardon for all—
without any condemnation
as Lincoln forgiving us
in an irrational infighting time
by elucidating us about the laws
which forced black citizens
to carry back-breaking loads
he held out for the people's cause,
now we have a commemoration
allowing for our obligation
and bragging rights
to treat everyone with equality
by raising its transparent issue
for slavery is no human right
seeing in each other a grace
enlightened for democracy's face,
we now may praise
those living and dead
raising us up to be heard
on our annual memorial day
we magnify and chant as poets
from our coronation's quatrains
in wonders of added memory
from a city-advising editorial
or rantings in halls of justice
which exhibit our fallen flag
to survive Abe Lincoln's words
in presenting our honor codes.

—Painting by John Singer Sargent 


Great silence
in a self-revelation
across the war-weary field
drowsy from meadows
in rows of still voices
denied a blue sky
through dense forests
in a jungle rot of bones
from the dusty air
with a new hunger
shadowed by ants
asking to see one tree of life
recognizing its roots
with its own artificial limbs
Bach fugues in my head
playing me on a harmonica
as my mouth whistled away
with chords of bodies
reciting a few hymns
by a long river
demons delude you
from echoes of machinery
over disarmed mind
without stained passports
broadcasts, transports
trains of thoughts
squalls of sleeplessness
on capsized mirrors
in a vanished morning diary
as spring floods crush the ants
watching pushcarts of beggars
within a distant shot of carnage
that even the chance wind
of a camera's moment
will capture a Siamese cat
that even dragonflies
lodged in your hat
escape to obey the war's end.


(birthday January 12)

Taking the underground
subway to the museum
waiting to view Sargent's portraits
as an adolescent
watching with my binoculars
his watercolors
dabble in splendor
as if dreams of great art
create a lucid light
opening the Jamesian door
of my imagination
in panels along the hall
helping ease my own solitude
from my downcast eyes
along the fine arts wall
brushing away a fainting time
of first family aristocrats
in Venice or Boston
flirting with the scholarly critics
with the gall of an artistic life.

 Brook Among Rocks
—Painting by John Singer Sargent 

(birthday January 15)

Dreaming of a heroic past
by a classical poet's
Russian birthday cake
around Christmas time
on many colored candle lights
recalling your exiled time
you sense Stalin's breath
nearby the riverbeds
already living under
a faint grassy grave
not forgiving a sentence
ambushed by your time
yet his heart aches
to pass over
the crimes of his era
as an unripe sun bakes
over his iconic memory
reminding him of divined days
of his strolling by the Neva
with poetry in your meditations
hearing fainting sounds
from the body of saints.



Watching this French film
here betraying scenes
from my own cultural past
in a discreet dialogue
on food, couture, politics,
my family ties in Grenoble
are still close to my words
hearing the Alps eagles
and other mountain birds
outlasting a critic's audible
screened arrival visiting me
there is nothing not bathed
in the wounds of my poet's time
hoping after the Paris demise
life is worth saving us from grief
from a noble collapse
of embarrassed survival
before my eyes of disbelief.

 The Bathers
—Painting by John Singer Sargent


The visit
of the poet Wordsworth
to Tintern Abbey
recalls his boyish days
of a pure mind resting
as an easy hermit
learning high thoughts
about these natures’ woods
by the earth's sycamore
in a shadowy forest
forgetting wintry despair
between curved rocky fields
separated in a childhood
of crispy red leaves on hills
turning near a few pastoral trees
as lyrical shadows rest
wanting to share
his own natural beliefs
here in the Wye's burning sun
a neon butterfly glows
on a water fountain basin
over a whispering breeze
winding by a low bridge
scented with pale pastel
covering a greensward landscape
in the wind's shell
waving by emerald grounds
of a caroling bluebird
he lingers at this horizon
in sounding ironies of nature
by the song of a wilderness
swelling into grey watercolors
from adamantine drains
outside a fingal's cave.


(January 5, 2015)

Your serious serial music
plays on from ethereal
sonic booms
making one delirious
from your electronic themes
deconstructing the past
assuming a new modernity
alighting Big Apple clouds
as shadows
of my early wintry dreams
at the cold snowy windows,
yet an adorning sun enfolds us
in your bereavement today
inviting and reinventing
Boulez's atonal vision
showing charming shadows
of a rhythm's acoustic tempo
watching you conducting
the Philharmonic as a boy
my uncle having the score
on my lap and legs
today no shroud can hold you
or beg more at your loss
as heads toss
from your vast audience
in France to intoxicate us
you supplant your notes
from your disarming baton
as critics note the transparency
from a feverish symphony
waiting at the visitor's room
for you to sign your autograph
on my concert program.

—Painting by John Singer Sargent

(Jan. 10, 2016)

The great singers
accessed our emotion
as in 1978
my family and this poet
heard you narrate
Peter and the Wolf
by Prokofiev
at the Philadelphia Symphony
whatever love we can send
from the lamp-lit air of our city
you are a mirror of our persona
from our own enjambed words
the love we send out is true
standing in a long line
from an awesome journey,
a living legend and visionary,
who can keep up
in your talented studio
recording your notes
we will remember this date
knowing you are not yet
through with your study
of Kabbalah with the great I am
as you rock as a seeker
to find a higher power
may you sleep
hidden in God's peace
as a lamb, David Bowie
in this hour.


Today’s LittleNip:


The woman plays
at the virginal
we watch through
the tilt of the mirror
by the soft light
entering a Dutch door
touching the harmony
in Vermeer's focus
at the white jug
along the wall
at angles of cello
along the floor
from shadows
at the linen drawer.


Our thanks to B.Z. Niditch for today’s fine poems, including the tribute to David Bowie. For more about John Singer Sargent, go to

And a note that SnakePal Robert Lee Haycock has been appointed Director of San Francisco's DeYoung Museum in San Francisco! Congrats, Robert Lee!


 The Music Lesson (c. 1662-1664)
—Painting by Johannes Vermeer