Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Not Gone, Not Forgot

—Anonymous Photos
—Poems by Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA


For O, for O, the hobbyhorse is forgot.

I learned from composers, yes, but first from you,
Edward de Vere,* to obsess about big things.
Ride your hobbyhorse, childish yet true
amusement, poetry in comic flings
and tragic bouts for the public stage, long looked
at—askance—by gravest Councilors who surround.
Spied on in your very closet, you have crooked
a beckoning finger with your Not a sound

at servants beholden to Them (Right Honourable),
not you. Did you take up strong drink, good sack,
to ply with roistering courtesy these house-friends?
Some lay claims too as poets, you know full
well, clasping hold of each one’s weak or slack
humours, for your most (public? private?) ends. 

*Seventeenth Earl of Oxford, alias “William Shakespeare.”


If people will believe the Stratford man
wrote Shakespeare’s plays yet botched his written name,
bequeathed a cheaper mattress to wife Anne,
cared little for his plays’ or poems’ fame;
if people will reject the other man,
a learnèd aristocrat time rendered lame,
as his own Sonnets tell us—his chapped, tan,
storm-leathered face a metaphor of shame
that he could betray, berate, renounce his class—
what won’t we misread, fall for, snookered by
the Shakespeare Birthplace Cottage, that old lie?
Let frauds come multiple spies, each actor’s ass
a trope for either the huckster or the chump:
let one ferret-leg with Putin, the other fawn on Trump.


For William O’Daly

Written in the freshness of youth,
Neruda’s Book of Twilight
is nevertheless Neruda’s Book
of Hours.
No late bloomer à la Rilke,
the young Neruda leaps to his first
maturity at one bound.
Line for line, idiom and image,
translator O’Daly pounces
with equal spring.



Para William O'Daly

Escrito en la frescura de la juventud,
Crepúsculo de Neruda
es, sin embargo,
el Libro de Horas suyo.
No floración tarde à la Rilke,
el Neruda incipiente
salta a su primera madurez
en un solo brinco.
Línea para línea, idioma e imagen,
el traductor O'Daly se abalanza
con ataque igual.


A bullfight, that fiesta of the cruel:
those yellow and magenta capes to start.
The fun of last days, letting out of school.
A bullfight, that fiesta of the cruel:
the flower-colored capes come first to fool
the horned one not to know the red-rag Rule,
nor sense their sport means him, stuck with sharp darts.
A bullfight, that fiesta of the cruel;
magenta-yellow capes are just the start. 


Dark, dark, and yet not obscure: the keyboard tells
us, half-step relations, whole-step relations war.
Perchance a dysfunctional note-family quells
then starts disputes; again lapping the same spar
stuck in the almost-same sand, the same sand bar.
Tides flow, tides ebb, and no calm aquarelles,
but savage agitations fast and far,
fragmenting peace into separate small hells.

Heart murmurs troubled you out of the last fight.
Your first symphony ran dark till movement three
lit up in triumph: still the pounding motif.
Glee once more in this last movement—but why? Light
strikes us: new world war. Desperation spree;
what heartfelt automaton deals out how much relief?


       —Elizabeth Bishop, rejoinder to speaker Robert Lowell,
       on Bishop’s reading at the Guggenheim Museum

       for Jane Blue

Without Elizabeth Bishop’s “famous eye”
as guide, your poems would still be yours, Jane Blue.
If Marianne Moore had never honed her wry

strange antiquarian wit, that Modernist spy,
you yet could not help but perceive as few do;
without Elizabeth Bishop’s famous eye

for shorebirds, man-moths, hairless dogs, you’d defy
the odds against all poets: whether you view
just like Miss Moore who cultivated wry

lines watching steeple-jacks, you too will try
all vantages: bus ride, bench on the avenue,
with penetrant gaze like Bishop’s “famous eye”

(alluded to, as she donned glasses to read, with sly
allure). On wetland reeds, you test, draft, true
—though Marianne Moore had never honed her wry

style—your unique girlhood Berkeley to apply
those green plants, dune sands lapped salt-taffy blue,
to visions alive as any from Bishop’s eye,
honed keen as Marianne Moore’s and just as wry.

Today’s LittleNip:

—Tom Goff

We played together for the last dream time.
The night was day, and your slim form, revealed.
We ran in parallels like clever rhyme.
We played together for the last dream time.
A football field, warm green, striped with white lime;
You tackled me—we fell: the dream-soft field.
We played together this one last dream time.
The day was night, and your slim form concealed.


Our thanks to Tom Goff for today’s fine poetry!

Poets and writers in our area will be saddened to learn that Carol McNeal, owner of Carol’s Books & Things, passed away in May at the age of 86. A memorial service will be held at St. Andrews A.M.E. Church, 2131 8th St. in Sacramento this coming Thursday (tomorrow) at 11am. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to The Black Group, 6880 Wavecrest Way, Sac., 95831. (Make a note that the donation is for the Carol and Homer McNeal Scholarship Fund.) For more about Carol, go to

Head up to Placerville today, 5pm, for Poetry Off-the-Shelves poetry read-around at the El Dorado County Library on Fair Lane. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about these and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.


 For more about the Finnish Hobbyhorse Association
and a trailer for the documentary, Hobbyhorse Revolution
Ah, Will (or is it Edward?), the hobbyhorse is not forgot!
(And celebrate poetry, of course!)

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.