Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February 2012: A Month of New Poems

On February 1st, I began writing and posting a newly crafted poem here every day. I found this to be a very fruitful exercise and many of the resulting works are now among my personal favorites. I have also gotten into the habit of writing daily, which was one of the main objectives of this project.

Now that I have reached the end of the month, I have decided to pull back from the self-imposed expectation of posting a new poem every day in order to focus on some other writing endeavors, one of which is my other blog: The Catholic Sojourner.

I will continue to post works, both old and new, here at Poems and Vignettes every few days, and will probably conduct another "A Poem a Day" project in the near future.

Find all 29 of this month's new poems here.

Thanks for reading!

XXIX: little girl and little boy

dolls and plastic teacups
giddy giggles and hiccups
snowflakes tickling a pretty nose
ballet slippers and pink hair-bows
striped tights and dresses that twirl:
all such are joys to my little girl

crashing and racing hot wheels cars
collecting bugs and worms in jars
building a track for his wooden train
running around the yard in the rain
falling asleep holding a favorite toy:
all such are joys to my little boy

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

XXVIII: Abundant living goodness

There is still abundant living goodness
in the frigid heavens and under-deeps,
in the ranging wilds in their winter-peace
where tree-columned woodland halls
are filled with the music of laughing streams
that sparkle and dance despite the chill,
where hopes for a bright and blessed spring
are seen on the fingertips of thawing trees:
tiny leaf-buds still bundled tight
yet ready to shed their winter-coats,
to emerge and ripen in the golden light,
and to kindle an emerald-fire to gleam.

Monday, February 27, 2012

XXVII: The Crow-clergy

Five crow-clergy in their black vestments
were gathered in the cemetery in solemn assembly
around a few of the upright stones
whose etched words were nearly obliterated
by two centuries of weather-wear.

The sharpest-eyed monsignor among them,
a particularly large and dignified fellow,
took notice of my abrupt arrival
and, after studying me with grave reflection,
began to preach in a loud and rasping voice:

Ah! Ah! Poor mortal there!
Walking abroad in weather fair!
Treading on graves without a care!
Such a pity! Ah! Ah! Ah!

Know you not the morbid truth
that soon in such a grave forsooth,
your frame will dissolve to bone and tooth?
Such a pity! Ah! Ah! Ah!

Like leaves upon the autumn wind,
life hurries soon to its certain end!
But few who die have lived, my friend!
Such a pity! Ah! Ah! Ah!

Eternity awaits each departed leaf
and whether to joy or to bitter grief,
scant good is done in a life so brief!
Such a pity! Ah! Ah! Ah!

Then the homilist and his four companions,
heaving their immense black wings,
ascended from the graveside
together repeating a parting refrain:
Farewell and take heed! Ah! Ah! Ah!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

XXVI: Dream-foxes

Dream-foxes ever elude the hoary hunter
who now, with a baying troupe of hounds,
pursues the will-o'-wisp wanderings
of a certain sleek vixen.

Her curious and piercing eyes
glint in pensive observation
from behind ancient twisted oaks,
whose myriad mighty arms
of a sudden weave tightly together,
hemming in the hunter and his hounds.

Horns! Horns! Horns blowing!
Horns blaring shrill in the woods!
A hundred companion hunters riding!
Riding with hounds to the coverts!

The demure fox turns her brush-tail
and hastens away into the brown shadows,
fleeing under limbs and dying leaves,
in cold and wretched weather,
until hunting horns are heard no more.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

XXV: Honeyed Thoughts

Honeyed thoughts cloy the mind
with the richness of their sweet savour
steeped in nectar-wines of inspiration
mulled with clove and cinnamon
and fragrant sun-soaked breezes
infused with the perfume of wildflowers:
lavender and white yarrow,
wild rose and sage,
all the munificence of the meadow,
the felicity of the wild and burgeoning world,
heaped blithely upon a weary mortal mind.

Friday, February 24, 2012

XXIV: Winter Trees

There is not one clinging leaf remaining
in all of this wild and rugged wood
and the wind speaks with only a vacant whisper
without foliage to stir into song.

This entire stark assembly
of gloomy oaks and elms
awaits the glad growth of springtime
to clothe their bare brown bones.

Until then, they make no attempt
to hide their skeletal silhouettes
which, in the uppermost heights,
reach with tiny brittle fingers,
like exposed fibrous roots
sprawling up, grasping at the air,
hungering in vain for vital nourishment
as if the trees were planted upside-down,
their verdant crowns hidden away
in dark and frigid soils
until that mirthful season
when a million joyous leaf-banners
will be unfurled in this place again.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

XXIII: The Star Child [Chapter Two]

I recommend reading Chapter One before reading this piece.

The child's hands were empty, so they
looked to his face where they saw
deep sorrow brimming his eyes of grey
but great wisdom too, and they knelt in awe.

With a smile of kindness, he bid them rise:
“I am not Divine, though I dwell on high;
I am simply a Watcher from the Outer Skies,
who at unexpected times draws nigh.

He then stretched out a fragile hand
and gave them light to understand.

They saw that he had, on many occasions
in the course of the history of the Earth,
appeared to people in diverse situations
and offered them a gift of singular worth:

Namely, that each one greeted thus by him
would be asked to utter a single wish;
and whether that utterance be good or grim,
fair-minded or foul, wise or foolish,

it would be fully granted just the same,
the foremost desire of their heart to claim.

"It is true, I am granting you each one request,
by my powers which soon will be unfurled,
for what you judge the wisest and best
for yourselves and for your weary world.”

At this, the children, with their eyes alight,
were rapt with joy, their hearts were thrilled
and upon their faces, smiles bloomed bright
knowing one wish of theirs would be fulfilled.

And so Elaina and Johan each bethought
of what one thing they most have sought.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

XXII: Dusk

All of the fragile leaves
have long since fallen from these trees
and now – now a gentle wave of wind
follows the sloping earth
down to the surface of the river,
the blushing bride of the diminishing sky,
while a slow-burning kaleidoscope sunset
scatters gilded red and orange light-splinters
beyond the cityscape, beyond the nape of the land,
to escape the emerging shadows of the night.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

XXI: A dove falling from a clear blue sky

You flew so far and stupendously high
into the infinite and blissful sky
with white wings fluttering in golden sunlight
and small eyes vibrant and sparkling bright.

Can one indeed survive the resplendent vision
of the heavens and earth in splendid collision
at the coruscating horizon, while soaring in flight
to fly faster and farther to a more blessëd height?

O! Did you cross into the starry expanse
to greet Boötes and Orion, and venture on perchance
before swooning in ecstasy and tumbling down fast
until the wide earth received you perishing at last?

Monday, February 20, 2012

XX: Old Jack

Old Jack was a cross-eyed and crooked-legged
hook-nosed gent who daily begged
for his bread while holding a flask of gin
which he often poured into his toothless grin.

The polished and proper passers-by
never lowered to him a caring eye
for their nostrils gave them sufficient vision
that the old chap was worthy of their derision.

Until a little gold-haired girl,
a dainty thing in lace and pearl,
came skipping by one Sunday in June
right past Jack who was whistling a tune.

Releasing the hand of her mother dear,
she ran back to him without a fear.
She had a nickel she had thought to bring
for the offering basket at Christ the King.

She placed the coin upon Jack's knee,
and smiled at him quite cheerfully.
"I like your whistling," said she to the man,
then back to her mother's side she ran.

As on they walked, the girl smiled back again
and Old Jack beamed with his toothless grin.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

XIX: The Well-Intentioned Mr. Foxen

Wherein two children encounter a friendly fox who provides them with some confusing and impractical advice.

"Let's move on from here," said Jonah Craven the Crow,
"this fellow will be of no help, don't you know?"

Mr. Craven had expressed his skeptical thoughts
while perched on the shoulder of young Antonio Potts,
whose little sister Lydia stood by him quite meek
wiping a small tear from her tender white cheek.

Mr. Frederic A. Foxen, striking a very dignified pose,
peered at the children down his long spectacled nose.
He had listened to their tale of getting lost in Deep Wood
and his heart moved with real pity for them where they stood.
He tugged down on his waistcoat, straightened his tie,
and proclaimed with an important gleam in his eye:

A fortuitous meeting!
Fortuitous indeed!
Listen carefully, my sweet ones,
for my words, if you heed,
will elucidate
an efficacious
to your

Antonio and Lydia's brows both furrowed at this obfuscation.

The fox continued on without one hint of trepidation:

From Henceforth, little Sixpence?
To Thenceforth, bold Eightpence?
From Hence onward to Thither?
Therefore: to Thence from Hither!

Wince fifth along a further sixth fence
which will take a bleary princess and a weary weary prince
out to minced and withered heather
in knotted and cloudy weather!

Antonio glanced over questioningly at his wide-eyed sister
but saw that she was as confused as he by this fine-dressed mister.

He then said softly to Mr. Foxen the Grand:
"I'm afraid, good Sir, that we don't understand."

"What did I tell you? Let us go!"
said an increasingly impatient Crow.

"Let me more word myself plainly,"
said the gentlefox, quite insanely.

He then spoke forth a stirring oration,
which was quite wise in his own estimation:

Hither Dither, you are Hither
and being Hither, you cannot go Thither.
(Not directly, to speak correctly.)
If you Ponder, and head Yonder,
arriving Yonder, you would then be Thither.
And being Thither, Hither would be Thither
and then Thither would Hither surely be -
but Yonder would ever be Yonder, do you see?

A profound silence fell upon that part of the wood,
but the fox thought that surely he had been understood.

"Of course they do not See!" squawked Mr. Craven, becoming quite intense.
"Nor do they Hear, Smell, Touch or Taste your words for they are full of Non-Sense!"

The fox, quickly straightening up, spoke indeed plainer this time
but in his exasperation and duress he made no attempt to rhyme:

You do not Belong here.
You do not Beshort here either.
In fact, you should not Be here at all!
You cannot go Forward, you cannot stay Here -
you must go Back, children, go Back!

"At last, I think I understand you now!"
said Antonio with an unfurrowed brow.
"Just point out the way to go Back to me."

"Child, I haven't the slightest idea of that," said he.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

XVIII: The gossipmonger holds his tongue

Jacob chuckled like an undertaker enjoying a secret joke,
a wry insight into an otherwise tragic circumstance
and who, being unable or unwilling to fully cloister away
such privileged and weighty information
when among the unenlightened persons there present,
chuckles to himself, and smiles in amusement, at them.

Friday, February 17, 2012

XVII: The Sovereign of the Night

Twilight brings a certain air
of florescent violet brilliance fair
as brittle diamond sparks appear
in ancient assemblies bright and clear.
And when the moon rises like the sun
to rule the darkness when day is done,
like a smiling king over a blessëd land
with a flaming sceptor in his hand,
the stars all kneel and dim their light
to honor the Sovereign of the Night.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

XVI: cheeky little cannibals

Some vagrant dropped the remainder
of their KFC meal in the open road
and now it has attracted
a frenzied score of hungry sparrows.

They are busy picking clean the bones
of their chicken kindred.
But know they not
the taste of bird-flesh?

See the little sprites feasting freely
upon deep-fried fowl carcasses
seasoned with eleven herbs and spices,
pausing only when an approaching automobile
causes them to swiftly scatter.

But just as swiftly, they all rush back
to their cheerful and lively repast
- such cheeky little cannibals.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

XV: An abrupt arrival of adventure

A stream-of-consciousness alliterative experiment.
An abrupt arrival of adventure
brings bands of battling brigands,
who conspire to conquer courageous comrades
and to deal out a dim and dusty death.

Their efforts are ever eager and efficient,
fueled by a frothing and furious fate,
and although we are garbed by garish goodness
and hear heavenly horns of hope,
they, in their injustice, insist on inflicting injury
from the jury of jeers they have joined.

We must kindle our kindred in kind,
with the love that lingers in the lives of the loyal,
while our moon moves through many mists,
navigating the nebulous night of need.

O! the outrageous offensive offspring
of the putrid and poisonous perfume of pride
that quells the quick-quivering quill
and reduces regal responses to rubbish.

See! the sly scintillating snake is stamping
tickets to take travelers to a terrifying toil,
and urging them unbridled to an ugly underworld
where vixen vultures full of venom
wield wild and wicked witchery
like some xenophobic Xerxes
yearning to yellow the yield of the youthful,
full of zest in the zenith of their zeal.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

XIV: Valentine Love

one overpriced Hallmark card,
some heart-shaped chocolates
in thin foil wrappers
and a dozen red roses
bought from the back
of a pickup truck
on the side of the road

Monday, February 13, 2012

XIII: Old woman at the bus stop

Old woman at the bus stop
sitting sullen and alone,
what gloomy destinations
overwhelm the horizons
of such barren bleary eyes?

In a flimsy weather-worn coat,
oversized on your frail frame,
and with a dirty blue knit cap
pulled down too far
over your stringy grey hair,
you crane your thin neck out,
searching the oncoming traffic
in silent anticipation,
hoping for the hissing bus,
while tightly gripping
the dingy duffle bag
sitting at your weary feet.

Disappointed, you are then
back to vacantly watching
the ceaseless boisterous traffic
on Broadway at noontime,
passing you by like a river,
rumbling and rushing away.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

XII: The Pursuit of the Phinëal

This started off as a poem but it quickly became a vignette with a life of its own.

A girl in a crimson cloak ran through the forest clutching a bundled infant. She was pursued by a pack of wolves, their long tongues lolling out over vicious fangs.

The girl stumbled and fell. The wolves closed around, their eager eyes intent on their helpless prey. The girl huddled with the infant against a sprawling oak tree, and appeared to be whispering words rapidly to herself.

The largest of the wolves, a black sinister beast, growled low with dark pleasure as he approached. His snarling companions moved aside to let him draw nearer to the children. Jaina could smell his ghastly breath, but she continued, with head down, to pour forth her fervent invocations.

The black wolf raised his head proudly and spoke: "At last - the Phinëal of the World!"

Jaina looked up with sudden boldness into his evil yellow eyes: "Begone, foul devil - we have powerful friends!"

"Oh yes - and where are they now, my dear?" he said, grinning.

He moved his hideous fanged mouth down to snatch away the bundled babe from her arms.

The infant stirred and began to cry.

A jolt of terror passed through the lesser wolves and they backed away.

"Fools!" said Gurn the Black, for indeed it was he: chief lieutenant to Vorhist, the Scourge of Mankind. "Victory is ours this day!" His companions raised their snouts and began to howl with glee.

The haughty and fierce demeanor of Gurn as he savored the prize within his grasp was terrifying to behold.

But his expression quickly changed to that of terror when the immense oak tree behind the children was quickened to life. A cavernous maw suddenly opened in the truck and let forth a tremendous roar!

Some of the wolves immediately yelped and turned to flee, but they were caught up by thick oak-arms and hammered brutally to the hard earth.

Gurn, having recovered quickly from his surprise, stood resolute with a few of his bold comrades, and growled ferociously.

The oak opened two large furious eyes which held Gurn's gaze fast in spite of himself.

An expression of true fear passed onto Gurn's face and he was as if frozen, spellbound.

Jaina shut her eyes and pressed the infant close to her, as the forest was filled with a tumultuous noise of rushing tree limbs, twisting, yelping, breaking, howling, tearing, pounding - then silence.

She slowly opened her eyes. On the ground there was a multitude of scattered leaves and piles of fur and bone. The tree had straightened back up, and the limbs were gently swaying in the light breeze. She turned to see the tree-face, but it was gone.

She let out a sigh of relief and sat up. She looked down at her little brother, who now appeared as calm and contented as ever.

"Well, Ilanu, that was close - too close." The infant smiled up at her.

Jaina heard a soft clink behind her and turned to see a hinged door opening in the tree.

She backed up to see a small very wrinkled old man, about three feet tall, emerge. He was dressed in woven oak leaves and had small vines plaited in his grey hair and beard. He looked up at the children with bright brown eyes and then at what was left of the wolves. He chuckled to himself and said, “well, that’s that!”

He then looked again at Jaina and Ilanu with sudden solemnity. "You had better come inside now,” he said. “The Enemy has suffered a small setback here, but he will soon strike again - and much heavier this time, for we have injured his pride - we must hurry!"

The door closed behind them as they entered the tree. Any trace of the door vanished, as a deep rumbling could be heard far in the distance.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

XI: The Farmhouse

There is a wheelbarrow in the yard
full of withered marigolds.
The dry wind is sighing
from across the barren cornfield.
The besieged sun in the grey sky
provides only a meager warmth
and from somewhere miles away
a passing locomotive engine
sends out a long mournful note
as it pursues its errand southward.
A house with crooked shutters
and cracked and curling paint
peers, through smudged windows,
at bands of blackbirds out in the field.
Brown leaves slide across the porch
under a dusty wicker rocking chair
which creaks back and forth
in the silent breathings of the air.

Friday, February 10, 2012

X: Snowfall

Soft morning snowflakes,
like tiny winter-sylphs,
descended from the low-lying
grey heavens in slow downy flight
and caressed the stone cheeks
of Mr. Nathaniel E. Thornton,
who stood, with blank eyes,
proudly atop the monument
of his grand patrimony
in the old and venerable
cold and cavernous
cemetery at Cave Hill.

The snow formed
a delicate white cap
upon Mr. Thornton's stately head
and settled on the dark and bare arms
of all the trees serenely standing
in reverence about him.
The evergreen firs were wearing
white winter-coats by mid-morning,
and kept vigil above the sleeping residents
who were dreaming cold winter-dreams.
The air was hushed
but for the wind whispering
through the trees,
like the discourse
of a few restless spirits
wandering among the oaks and elms,
obelisks and headstones
in the cemetery at Cave Hill.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

IX: The moon at daybreak

The frozen silver moon
still has the full strong wind
as it sails the blue sky-waters
over a wide and gentle realm.

But it is melting away in the heat
of the brilliant morning-flower
blooming golden out beyond
the slumbering green hills.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

VIII: Shoreline

Waves of salt tears
are washing billions
of miniscule
crystal shards,
while bizarre
porcelain cups
and bowls
cast up from
deep and dark
merfolk realms
are presented
as gifts
to the rippled shore
by warm
and delicate
water fingers.

At times,
a blind and battered
is stranded in a wet
sandy crater
still hungering
for its briny food
while white sea angels
with long wings
are tossed about by
salt-laced airs.

They fight
valiantly against
the bitter wind,
and cry as if
for some
lost loved one,
despairing of
finding them
in the expanse
of the wide and
raging sea.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

VII: A Second Chance at Desperation

Having furnished the fuel for your own funeral pyre,
you prepare to recline upon the furious fire.
You struggle for courage as the flames fly higher -
it’s all that you can do.

But the plentiful rains will suffice
to redeem your life at half the price.
Risking it all, you roll the dice -
it’s all that you can do.

Monday, February 6, 2012

VI: An Evening Walk

The wet streets were shining
under the gas lamps.
Cold air was blowing
under a mist-cloaked moon.

Along the sidewalk,
Albert stepped with leisure,
having nowhere to go.
With the rain finally ended,
he folded his black umbrella
and wielded it casually as a cane.

He moved in and out
of elm-shadows shifting in the wind,
and passed by quiet shops,
their eyelids closed for the night.

He encountered
several solitary strangers
walking towards him.
He nodded politely,
but their solemn faces,
still as bas-reliefs
in the half-light,
showed not a flicker of fondness
as they passed him by
without any hint of greeting.

The man may as well have been
composed of pure spirit,
rather than his own warm flesh,
for all the acknowledgment
he received of his corporeal presence.

He entered into a more vibrant district,
more brightly lit, and with a wide view of the sky
in which white wisps of clouds
chased swiftly across a blind void.

Revelers abounded in the streets,
comradery the keynote,
enjoyment of good company
the evening's occupation.

But that lively neighborhood
was shrouded by a growing fog
in Albert's dim and weary eyes.

He passed through
the midst of the people,
like a vapid ghost,
unnoticed and unknown.

He heard their conversations
and their shared laughter.
He felt the collective warmth
of their gathered humanity.

And finding a vacant side street,
he escaped into its shadows
as a cold rain began to fall again.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

V: Still Wondering

I am still wondering,
after all these years,
why the sight of a sparrow
hopping inside of a bush
thrilled my heart
nearly to tears.

Why, when larger joys
failed to touch me,
would something so small
pierce me through with bliss?

O fair-fellow,
with bright eyes
and a bit of twig in your beak,
did you see me peering at you
through the windshield of my Honda Accord
parked in a Burger King parking lot,
caught up in a sudden unspeakable delight?

The noises of the highway,
the rush of the world,
were hushed for a moment,
hushed for a moment.

with a tiny flutter-rush,
you were gone.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

IV: Wheeler Avenue

Rows of white houses sit, like frowning old men
who, having nothing more to say to one another,
proceed to drowse away the remnants of a grey afternoon
in the breezes of a mild and timid winter.
The trees loiter in the yards, with crooked arms raised,
trying to remember their leaves
which, like long-forgotten dreams,
have been lost forever in the wind.

Friday, February 3, 2012

III: contents of a cardboard box

a rusty nail, a broken bell
a little rubber Orca whale
tangled strings, cicada wings
two hot-pink plastic rings
a rubber band, shells and sand
a lead soldier with a missing hand
acorn caps, a pouch that snaps
a Disneyland brochure with maps
a jaybird feather, a strip of leather
two broken stones that fit together
Cootie lips, big paper clips
some stale Ruffles potato chips
a bouncy ball, a tiny doll
three old keys and that's about all

Thursday, February 2, 2012

II: The Full Octave of Time

With a casual stride,
the full octave of time
takes hold of ambition
with its myriad tendrils -
binding hands and feet
and cerebral genesis
that would fain be
gamboling along like a child,
gambling it all like a fool.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I: Penultimate Augury

Grey limbs of trees
stone walls, weaving out
grasses stiff and refusing to sway
clots of birds, drifting around
quaffing a drink,
lingering in assembly,
then moving on
risking it all, venturing out.

Be not blind, watch
those simple beings, their flight
hear their speech, twittering
then screeching, wailing
hitting the winds now,
over the waters and away.

Unfold your polite hands,
rub an eye with a finger
only to break the searing eye contact.

Look to the window again:
the wraith staring back,
does he frighten you?
the ghastly visage,
the thin image,
look beyond and through him -
he is gone.

"A Poem a Day" Project

In order to instill in me the worthy discipline of writing every day, I have decided to post one newly composed poem here daily. I will denote these new poems by successive Roman numerals, to distinguish them from the other pieces posted here, which have been both old and new.

Hopefully, this commitment to post a new piece of writing here every day will motivate me to be more prolific than I currently am. After all, to be considered a writer, I should actually be writing, not thinking about writing, waiting for the intermittent lightning bolt of inspiration to compel me.

And so, I begin today with "I: Penultimate Augury"

(Find all of the poems in this series here.)