I had a slow year in publishing new poetry, although I won the Elgin, so that's okay. Here are my Rhysling eligible poems for 2013:
POEMS PUBLISHED IN 2013
If We Are Alone
If we are alone, this galaxy is ours.
We can explore, exploit, destroy, or plunder.
We will find worlds that orbit other stars;
the universe will still be full of wonder.
If we are alone, they will not hear us call;
the rocks of other planets will lie mute.
We need not safeguard creatures huge or small,
nor share the worlds with sapient or brute.
But humans will forever feel alone.
Why, we will ask, is ultimate truth veiled?
Are there no other beings, just cold stone?
And we will wonder if the gods have failed.
From world to world it may be ever thus
unless they, too, are searching, seeking us.
Analog, May 2013
This peach business, J. Alfred --
what's your issue?
Do you need to use a tissue?
Afraid of soiling your formal array?
No doubt the hostess would be aghast
if her fruit bowl were disarrayed by one of your low caste.
Or is your dental bridge too loose?
And you would die of shame if it came away
or if you slobbered the peach juice.
If the latter, J., don't even think of apples.
Of course ladies who talk of Michelangelo
would offer a tangelo
and not mere apples at this time of year.
(Champagne and tea and cocktails, never beer.)
No question, they would scorn a man who is afraid
of walking on the beach with a mermaid.
Maybe you're concerned the peach
would give you bad breath, J.
Onions, peaches --
entirely different creatures.
Or -- you think the peach is poisoned!
Good call, J.
Think of that!
I'd offer a bit to that cat
the one that curled around chimneys.
Best of Ohio Poetry Day 2013
(Ohio Poetry Day does not have a website)
Cats Are Poetry
Cats are poetry, this we know.
Mahasamahtman is working on becoming a Sanskrit epic
with lots of animal gods and worshipful mice
though presently he has settled in a basket
where he eats all the slant rhymes that fall from my laptop.
Azrael (subtitled Le Floof) is a Japanese Noh drama
translated by some stylish flapper-poet
into 1920's slang. He resents the implication
that his pounces and end rhymes are feminine
because after all, Noh drama doesn't rhyme.
And right now he's scratching the door of my bedroom,
wants to try on my red kimono and steal my katana.
Tyrael? Tyrael has himself confused with a sonnet
though he has fifteen lines
and loses the meter while licking my head.
He slams like a door, but only when hungry.
And ah Lurker. Sweet ancient Lurker
once the queen of the whole anthology,
nay, the whole National Library of Felinoetry,
now beset with gaps gnawed by literary critics
in the fabric of her antique manuscript.
She, oh distinguished she, believes in compression
for she was once an Senecan revenge tragedy
and is shrinking herself down
first to a ballad
then a cinquain.
Her fur is gray and terse
soon she will be a haiku
then just an on-gi.
On Velvet Feet, Poet's Haven, Spring 2013
Five Senryu for Isabella
exquisite fur, eyes, and tail
a purring sculpture
a child totters forth
she greets him with dignity
do not toy with me!
she is blind
but walks so softly
she sees you first
a blind cat
a fearsome swordswoman
she lies at his feet
but we know who's queen
On Velvet Feet, Poet's Haven, Spring 2013
He walks sidewalks, knowing he will step here on a
crack, there stumble on a clump of grass, tomorrow
he will get a job, next week knock up
his wife, the child will be ill-favored,
spiteful. She will grieve, but for
him there is no disillusion.
Gods such as he
know all but
I mean, it was awfully convenient,
that he was always an outsider:
Jew among Nazis, foreigner among Americans.
Suspicious, when you think of it,
that he used his tie as a belt,
that he was so spiritual in a vague way—
God does not play dice—
like he never really belonged here.
Yet unlike with Diana and Elvis, nobody wanted
to beatify him, maybe because he didn’t die young.
Suppose the whole light-speed limit was a ruse,
a way of keeping us here in the solar system.
He had to invent a whole improbable physics
to go with that: light beams bending, time warping.
Do you really believe that?
by Mary Turzillo
Taro finds a sea turtle
belly-up, helpless, tormented by thugs:
he rights it, cradles, gives it back to the sea.
Another sea turtle, immense
as from woodcuts of monsters devouring Kyoto,
walks out of the tide, finds Taro
But Fisherman Taro, doused with sea-spittle
Come, come with me. The huge turtle
named Ryujin, sea kami,
tows him to ocean's root:
a palace refulgen
with kanju, chrysoberyls that make the tide fall.
and manju, alexandrine plates that make the tide rise.
The kanju are scales
the manju also
The palace is a dragon.
In its deepest coil, Ryujin presents
Princess Otohime. My daughter.
the turtle you returned to the sea.
Otohime's beauty sponges away Taro's recall
of fishing and Miyagi, his home.
Taro, Otohime's consort now,
lives in a palace. It stirs now and then,
scales as chrysoprase, corundum, coils serpentine.
Ryugoju, seabed, origin, center,
coils jealous around princess and fisher.
Taro yearns to see his mother.
Otohime (salt tears) agrees, gives him a box. Do not open.
He forgets to ask why.
ready to sleep years, centuries, aeons,
Taro walks inland,
finds Miyagi's streets
buzz with cars, light-blaze, women in brief skirts.
have you heard of Taro, the fisherman?
Urashima Taro? Yes.
A legend. Walked into the sea
to rescue a turtle. Never returned
but his footprints on the beach were lined with jewels.
Taro asks of his mother.
That was long ago, they say.
She has been dead three centuries.
He sinks down.
All he knew is the dust of burnt offerings;
he is wayfarer in an arid, metallic land.
Bereft on a city curb,
he remembers the box
It will bring back my world.
an echoing dragon sea-heart opens
The dragon's jewel-scales flex. First the kanju,
call the sea back to the dragon
so the tide sinks,
and folk wonder has the sea abandoned us?
The dragon flexes again
and his belly-scale manju rippl
and the water rushes inland.
All is awash, lights put out,
temples cars people crushed
as an anthill engulfed
until finally the vat opens
where the folk grow electricity,
with billion-jellyfish poison
and, not having sea turtle shells,
folk tumble, sicken, and die.
The sea washes Taro back
to the palace-dragon,
which coils, then yawns.
The princess closes the box.
But no man
can live three hundred years
Taro ages and fails, blood staining salt water. He dies.
The princess weeps.
The dragon, flood-weary, sleeps.
"Tohoku Tsunami" first appeared in Lovers & Killers, Dark Regions, 2012
I'll be reading from Lovers & Killers, mixed with other poems new and old, at Deep Cleveland. That's
LOVERS & KILLERS is about serial killers, treacherous love, all the stuff of nightmares, stuff you love reading about, but don't want to happen to YOU.