Sunday, February 28, 2010


Pablo Casals: The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?

In The Present

I can’t claim to be a good judge of my own poetry, at least not in the present and not very often. Since it’s mine, I love almost everything I write when it’s current, but Time is the real judge, even if it’s still just my opinion. If I find a poem that’s many years old, that I can barely remember the process of writing, and that I still like, then THAT’S the sonofabitch that I know was pretty well written and it makes me feel good that no one bothered to kill me before I could write it! (I may not be the Ultimate Egotist, but he/she doesn’t live very far from here!)

Since last year, I’ve written more poems in a short span of time than ever in my life—at least a hundred poems so far when most years or even most decades since the ‘70’s, I never produced that many. Sometimes I’ve been so tongue-tied that I only produced 4 poems in a year or 10 poems in a decade. For one decade, at least, I have the excuse that I’d taken up writing short stories instead. At times I realized that there had been whole decades where no one I knew at work or play, except for old friends, even knew that I wrote. I guess I didn’t care if any of them knew. As a perpetual elitist, maybe I thought that they wouldn’t know what to care about if they knew.

Though I like many of my new poems very much, it’s hard to know, once again, if they’re really good or if they simply please me in the present. To please myself is probably the only reason I write, so I guess things are working out.

p.s. Some people wish some of my poems were more cheerful, and so do I—but it isn’t very often true of me, so I don’t try to write it. I used to have a greater sense of comedy in some of my writing, and I miss that, I admit.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

My Old Friends

My old friends,
Sometimes I think I don’t know
What any of them are for anymore.
Does that sound too utilitarian?
Whatever it is, I guess
They may think the same or worse of me,
For the same facts are true
Going one way as going the other.

What comes and goes doesn’t change much.
I sometimes like to think
That there’s something real
And yet there’s something in the mirror, too,
Something that’s distorted, perhaps not really there,
But I expect I’m wrong, as I am about so much.
I’m just a resentful cur,
Who feels no one’s as down as I am—
Not as beat down, or as let down, or as down on himself—
For now, that’s all the barking at the moon that I can bear.

Current draft: 2/27/2010
Created on 1/28/2010 6:38 PM

Friday, February 26, 2010

Poetry Can Be Used

Poetry can be used
To look at the small moments
Or the big picture,
Whichever you like, whichever applies.

One minute I’m up to my eyeballs
In the concrete details they say construct reality
And the next I can’t keep again above the mist of abstraction
That always floats like less than feathers in my mind.


Current draft: 2/26/2010
Created on 2/16/2010 11:44 AM

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Any Good

(Bad Dreams)

It doesn’t do me any good to dream of a good game
Or to get depressed about it
Or to say it aloud or instead be silent
Or to portray it in poems laid out like a fan of Canasta cards,
All alike on one side, over and over again,
While we’re always freezing the pile
Until one can meld and go out, then count the cost.

I might as well have drowned in drool last night
As to get hung-up in this hapless countless dream where
I’ve fallen down the stairs running like a dog in his sleep,
And into a fan blade in the final moment of the dream
That chops me up like lettuce until I wake wetly,
Then I meld and ache because I find I can’t go out.


Current draft: 2/25/2010
Created on 2/20/2010 10:51 AM

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

All Lost Souls

All lost souls show themselves eventually,
If not perpetually on display.
Whether on stage or in the firmament
Many stars excel or show their beauty
For a while, but time does not last.
Time will exceed their grasp.

For the lost, the light fades in and out
And keeps the audience constantly guessing—
We see the light but know the star may be already dead.
For some, the light burns very brightly at the start of life,
For others at the end—but always it is quenched,
Whether when expected or by early notice.


Current draft: 2/24/2010
Created on 1/18/2010 7:23 PM

Lines by Willie The Shake


To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

In A Vacuum

I guess I’ve lost the depth of contact
With most of the people I used to know
Who cared to read my poetry,
Who had the taste and the propensity
To review and critique and recommend,
But now I guess there’s not enough proximity.

It’s said we see ourselves too much through others’ eyes
And I find that no less true with my own writing.
It’s hard for me to judge it or care for it
If too much of it occurs in a vacuum.
Whose fault it is I know—I can only blame myself,
And so I squirm.


Current draft: 2/23/2010
Created on 2/17/2010 10:51 AM

Monday, February 22, 2010

Even Poetry

Even poetry isn’t this unpopular,
So I guess it’s me.
First you’re alone, is the first thing we learn,
Then others die and you feel a greater sense of it.
Then after all you die and you’re alone again.
Like an actuarial clerk, I spend more time
Keeping track of life with pencil and ink
Than living.


Current draft: 2/22/2010
Created on 2/15/2010 11:48 AM

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Typing With Mittens On

Have I mentioned my new "convertible" red mittens? No, they're red on both sides, but there's a "pocket" for the fingers that can be lifted over the fingers or OFF of them when I need to feel things such as keyboards or car keys or sugar-free cookies. My fingers still get somewhat cold, but it's an improvement to the general warmth of my hands. And covering up or removing the finger pockets can be done more quickly than removing the gloves I'm used to using. Even with the pockets removed, the knit extends halfway down the length of each finger, so it's taken a while to get used to the additional resistance that I experience trying to move my fingers to the right keys, but it can be done. I know some of you may be thinking, like my cousin, why don't I just turn on the heat out here in the study and quit being stupid?! Answer: because neither you nor my chummy cousin have offered to pay the subsequent heating bills.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

U.S. Congress

I wish all these dumb greedy bastards and smart-ass SOB’s
In the U.S. Congress would just wake up dead one morning.
After all, what could it hurt?
How long could it take to replace them all
With someone just as vile—23 minutes?

Friday, February 19, 2010

May Have To End

They may have to end it all
By putting me in jail.
Or I may have to put an end to them
And end up in jail.
I don’t have much courage
Or I’d be able to make a plan
Or make a break for it
Or remake myself
Or insist on another take—
Anyway, just get somewhere I could
Buy my way out of here once and for all!
I could abide the horror of loneliness
If only I could avoid how long it is.
I guess that’s the Hell they speak of.

It’s failure to start that pins me here as I am,
So it would seem a little wild to see myself turned
After all this while into some kind of sucker for success.
Unlike those Dostoyevsky characters I used to read,
I don’t see anyone around I should murder yet
Except of course myself
And that’s an unpleasant option.


Current draft: 2/18/2010
Created on 1/17/2010 8:50 PM

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Everyone Soliloquy

Everyone I ever loved has drifted away—
I can only guess they must have had their reasons.
I deserted some, I must admit, but I guess
I never felt that they were being left alone.

I’ve been wrong about it all before, though—
Maybe everyone is alone behind the mask, behind the mesh,
And we can only see it from inside, not outside,
The cruel flesh and flash of hope.

Now I am he whose soliloquy sounds as alone
As that of any other tired or timid man
Who has dropped by the side of the road
And waits for, yet rebuffs, the touch of
Any holy man or passerby who nods or speaks.

I guess they wait for me as well
And have lingered long, just as disappointed
With the sounds of one more man speaking to himself,
One more man who doesn’t care for holy men or passersby
Unless they’ve paid the toll.


Current draft: 2/18/2010
Created on 2/15/2010 11:48 AM

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Too Sensitive

Tell the world that I was too sensitive,
That’s the only explanation I have,
Even though it’s stupid.
The problem was never what was too expensive
Or too far away or too beautiful for me—
It was just as is.

Maybe I was undeserving, but that’s not the reason why
Nothing could ever go right or come to me anew
Or ever stay in my darkroom. It was just bad DNA
Or some kind of kinetic or intuitive or intrinsic madness,
Not to mention that I just resent being interfered with.


Current draft: 2/17/2010
Created on 2/13/2010 11:51 AM

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Being Useful

Young Hollywood men who brag at length
About their sex and drug lives
Have no excuse for existence
And their yammering TV critics even less.
They all make a living being useless.
I myself expect some useful mobster
To show up at my doorstep with a shotgun any moment
And humorlessly blow my ass to hell.


Current draft: 2/13/2010
Created on 2/13/2010 11:32 AM

The Unconscious

I carry a cane these days
And sometimes observe the expressions of others.
I wonder if people and dogs and cats
Keep expecting me to use my stick on them.
It’s what I think about a lot for my amusement,
Not so much to strike them,
But sometimes to just tap or wave it
Until I have their bloody attention!

Still there are some people
Who need a serious beating
And there are some pets
That need to be nudged or whacked.
I wasn’t consciously planning, though,
To carry out the verdict.


Current draft: 2/16/2010
Created on 2/4/2010 11:58 AM

Struggle Between Hot And Cold

For some reason it’s colder out here
In my study than it is outdoors.
People who see me walk down the sidewalk
From the house to here must think me
Greatly overdressed for it IS often warmer outside
Than my cold quarters here would ever suggest.

As I step over the threshold
And shut the door behind me,
I think for a second that I feel
A small draft of cold air strike me
Before I realize that it’s me who’s
Brought a small draft of warmth inside
And if there’s any struggle, this heat I bear will lose.


Current draft: 2/16/2010
Created on 2/14/2010 3:46 PM

Monday, February 15, 2010

Witness And Judge

There’s a thousand ways to die, they say,
And that may be so.
There’s only one kind of death when a parent dies,
And that is hard-to-bear.

We go on with our pursuits and affairs
Or let the time play out for life
And try not to think of it,
But it never really goes away.

We avoid such questions as
“What would your mother think?” or
“What would your father say?”
We spend a lot of time silently hoping
That no one’s watching today.

They aren’t apparent
So we can’t see how they take it
When we start to wheedle or whine or lie and cheat
And that’s somehow worse than when
They could still get in our face for it!

They’re the kind of ghosts we dread,
Worse by each individual’s standard than if
Frankenstein, Hitler, and a lady with a beard
All showed up at your birthday party
With pamphlets and sticky kisses,
Then very disgustingly licked
All the dessert forks and the cake knife, too!

It’s bad enough to be you or me, however the wind blows,
Without having a constant witness and judge in our head!
“Oh, quit that! Get that finger out of your nose!
What would your Daddy have said?”


Current draft: 2/15/2010
Created on 2/10/2010 12:01 PM

To My Cousin, Distant And Near

I wish I could be a better friend to you
Or be more help with things,
Instead of this lump of clay
That knows how to talk.
As we get older, I realize,
Talk gets even cheaper
Because the old stuff’s been proven
So often to be so worthless.

But I’m not gonna kiss you,
So that’s that!


Current draft: 2/15/2010
Created on 2/15/2010 11:48 AM

Is It Safe?

You ask me if your emails
And other info left on the Internet are safe,
And I don’t know the answer.
To the best of my knowledge,
No one is ever safe.

Are we in jeopardy?
Who can say? We can but wait.
In the meantime, if I were you,
I wouldn’t even cross the street
Or ride the express to Heaven’s Gate.

Current draft: 2/14/2010
Created on 1/19/2010 12:41 PM

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Lucille Clifton

Did you ever hear the name Lucille Clifton?
She died yesterday before I’d ever heard of her.
I surfed somewhere on the Internet
Where they quoted one of her poems in full.
Yes, I liked it, and so I read a second one—
And now I regret never knowing her name,
Never knowing Her at all.
She was a black woman eleven years older than I am
And probably had little in common with me
Except poetry, which is to say,
At least a portion of Everything!

I think the world is poorer now, though
I don’t know any way to inform them
Except by writing this, even when I’m unsure
How anyone will ever know who I am!
Maybe in an ideal world
One poet will lead to another,
Like dominoes that fall.


Current draft: 2/14/2010
Created on 2/14/2010 4:27 PM

Another Other Poet's Poem

won’t you celebrate with me
by Lucille Clifton

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

Jackass (On Valentine's Day)

I was just thinking that I'd ask you
If you have any clones of yourself
You could spare, maybe one
Who could avoid the detrimental effect
Of being the object of my desire
On Valentine's Day.

I just want one who could come and entertain me!
However, as most men discover most of the time,
A woman is seldom the kind we want her to be
And probably neither are clones!
In short, if I'm a jackass with a real woman,
How could I improve the outcome with a specious one?


Current draft: 2/14/2010
Created on 1/20/2010 10:43 AM

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Silver Spoon

A silver spoon gives satisfaction, they say,
But so does a wooden one, in a pinch—
It’ll keep you from starving just as well.
Meanwhile, more misery is shown
On the TV news than you can reasonably process
And you’re tempted to not care or maybe not
Even notice the wretched children of the earth
And their disasters. It seems as though there are some
Whom shaking earth and bad stars from afar may strike
Repeatedly, without even pausing to aim.

“Nothing’s fair!” the heavens submit
Before anyone can even dial 9-1-1.
All this while God himself subsides
And Madonna thrills the world
Because she sleeps with younger men
And we worry ourselves sick that some other celebrity
Has hair that may be falling out fast beneath his faux fur hat.


Current draft: 2/13/2010
Created on 2/12/2010 12:56 PM

Friday, February 12, 2010

Portrait Of A Painter

I cannot say how much I admire
How much you attempt
And how much you accomplish
As if you had plenty of time to spare.

If I had the time myself,
I think I’d rush by
Just to fall in love with you
For a moment or an eon,
But as it is, I barely have time
To say that I’d like to!

(How fine it’d be, though, to be in love
With a lady of such finesse,
Who paints so much more
Than her own eyes and lips!)


Current draft: 2/12/2010
Created on 2/9/2010 4:01 PM

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I'm not a curmudgeon--just ill at ease and therefore vindictive and vicious.

Plow me back into the soil and I'll poison the planet.

That's how I see it, anyway.

Lady Severe

The mature woman pictured on the Internet
Was probably only a little older than me,
Yet I realized I’d been thinking of her
To myself as “the old doll on that blog”
And thought I should take a second look.

She does look a little severe, I thought,
But she’s still pretty foxy, whatever her age,
And it wouldn’t be much to confess that for a while
I dreamed about a roll in the hay with her or
Even just an exploratory kiss
Between Mars and Venus, so far apart,
Or between this circus clown and Her Majesty!

Of course, I’m about as likely to meet a Queen
As some mythic movie star like Marilyn Monroe
Or some historic heroine like Joan of Arc.
I can’t help but wonder if she’d be very angry
If I very politely lifted the hem of her dress?!

Bless her, she looks like
She hasn’t been kissed for way too long.
Maybe she’d like it, despite her words and glances,
Even if it mussed her hair or wrinkled that dress.
I could chance it. (Take a cha cha cha chance!)

Her hard earned wrinkles
Would not dissuade me,
I’d give it a try even if I had to climb over a fence!
But of course there’s my own wrinkles, and I’m no prince.
I might fail to impress her at all—
She might rather kiss a snail.

Sometimes these things can sneak up behind you
Or you look up and she’s such a Beauty
Right there in front of you!
You wish suddenly
That you were a handsomer and a richer man
And that your quiet charms were evident
Instead of all your faults!

With all her own life and death problems to distract her,
She probably wouldn’t be ready for my sudden clumsy onset
Or my neuroses trying to climb on top of her.
My apologies, dear Lady Severe,
For being so rude—but fuck it, I don’t care.

I’ll just remain very quiet over here,
Though I’m tired of solitude,
And you can keep your head buried in that book
And I’ll dream deep about parting your legs
And we won’t have to face anyone or discuss any look!

Still I wish you would talk to me,
Talk to me, talk!
Just because I was born like this,
With ennui and awkward conversations already in my head,
Doesn’t mean I like the stupid shit I talk about!


Current draft: 2/11/2010
Created on 1/18/2010 11:41 AM

The Air I Breathe

Maybe I’m wrong and it’s my solitude
That I need most of all.
It has long been the air I breathe
And it might not gladly suffer a sea change.

So, should lady luck in a watery manger
Slip into a mermaid suit with an aqualung
And manage to please me with her underwater dance
In spite of all the danger,

There is no telling
How much or little influence
Might come to fruition between us
And spoil the front of my pants!


Current draft: 2/11/2010
Created on 2/6/2010 7:36 PM

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Too Much In My Head

I suppose I live too much in my head
And not enough where people can see I’m making a mess,
But there’s nothing to do and nothing to say
That would make it turn out all right.
It would still just be fucked up.
If you worked in Washington D.C.,
You could make a bill out of it,
But it’s improbable you could make a poem about it.


Current draft: 2/10/2010
Created on 2/8/2010 2:13 PM

I Have Turned Loose

I have turned loose of everything,
I sometimes think,
And it’s close to being true.
Whatever remains isn’t much,
Doesn’t justify my attitude,
Won’t rectify my course
And in hard times won’t even help me
Rationalize my way out of a paper bag!

I’m trapped and haven’t hung on to much
Beyond the pettiness of the physical world.
Not much of that, either, but
Any character or any morality or any well-being,
That’s certainly all gone to hell,
Or quite diminished, and that’s as good as gone.

Gonna buy a new dump-truck,
Gonna Make a new plan,
Learn to spell my name right,
Empty my trousers of sand.

Whatever else there is,
I misspent it or I abused it
Or maybe I simply misspelled it.
I outlasted some parts of myself in an ill wind
That blew no one any good, yet
There is no merit or gain in any of that!

I’ve reached an age where near companions
Say, “You’ve made it this far, so why worry?”
I don’t know why and I don’t know why not, either.
I wish I could give it all up,
Just fling aside my attachment to it
Like it was a soiled old work-sock,
But I can never pitch it far enough!
It lingers still!

Gonna buy a new dump-truck,
Gonna Make a new plan,
Learn to spell debt and debtor right,
Empty my bedpan of sand.


Current draft: 2/8/2010
Created on 1/15/2010 5:00 PM

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

I Can’t Say

I can’t say I write the kind of poetry
That I’d like to be known for,
But it’s all such poems as I might read
And might enjoy if they were someone else’s
And no one was looking over my shoulder.

Current draft: 2/9/2010
Created on 2/1/2010 3:34 PM

Past Readers, Present Poems

I wonder where all my past readers have gone? I don't check my Site Meters very scrupulously or spend much time at decoding them, but the numbers are worse than they used to be. Also, when I was popular (or just stumbled across with frequency), I used to have more comments from strangers as well as more comments from steady readers, both of which indicated that some visitors did more than glance at the posts with glazed eyes. I have to confess that I liked that!

Things have changed. Gossip says that Twitter and Facebook and such have drained away readers from the blogs, and that may be true. I think my glamor and appeal have simply evaporated, leaving me as some kind of unattractive canker sore on the buttocks of the universe!

Even so, it's all good, for it's left me with more time for writing poetry, a craft that will, equally with blogs, NOT earn me a living, get me laid, or pay for my front-row ticket in heaven, but it will please me on occasion to have constructed or created a few more things that are "new under the sun"!

If you also write and would care to swap critiques, I'm not sure that it would be "great", but I am a little interested. The worse thing I will say to you is that I may not have anything to say at all, but you could try. If you'd like to tell me what you like most or dislike most in one or more of my recent poems, I would be interested to hear it. My ego is a pretty large one, so you probably won't kill me. I'll just get petulant, at worst. I am tired of writing so much in a vacuum, though.

And if you'd like to risk it, I'll see if I can say something constructive about your writing.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Look Straight

What good does it do to be this way
When we know how little good it has ever done,
Whether on graveled streets or paved,
Whether on the way out the back door running from the cops
Or the weary way back in through the front door from coffee stops.

Everybody kick-start, try to look smart, look straight,
Everybody toke right, ride steady, break apart smooth,
And try not to get caught or get too greasy while we wait,
For the road to your execution and mine, says the gypsy teller,
Is straight ahead—it’s “already grimly near and grimy”, she laughs.

Current draft: 2/8/2010
Created on 2/5/2010 7:17 PM

Pejorative Words

I feel so tired,
I feel like I’m struggling with the whole world.
I probably am.
I have always been uncooperative,
Single-minded, stubborn, even relentless.

I don’t suppose that there are many “nice” words for it—
They are probably all pejorative and unforgiving,
But still I like the things I think! I always have.
But I don’t like feeling tired without perspiring
And I don’t feel like I can keep on slogging.

Current draft: 2/08/2010
Created on 1/21/2010 2:31 PM

Sunday, February 07, 2010

What Kind Of Gun

I don’t know what kind of gun
Or guilt you’d bring to bear
If you came here for a long-delayed revenge or
If instead you departed where you were among the hounds
For your own impromptu comfort,
But I can’t go around being worried about it,
About whether you hit or whether you miss.
For all I know, such an endeavor
Might be doing me a favor
If you just sweetly kiss my ass goodbye
And blow my brains out in a hurry.

Created on 2/3/2010 1:18 PM

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Astrological Ann

Ann was both mystical and star struck,
But she studied at a physical science on the side
To keep her feet firm on the ground
While she searched the scape of our eyes
And the scope of the solicitous skies
For ever-brighter stars!

Friday, February 05, 2010


I can’t get my hat on right in a hurry
(Not one of the six or seven that I own)
Or button my shirt up straight without delay
Or remember when my battery was charged
Or when I changed my pants
Or which pocket my keys are in
Or if the yardman comes on this or the next Thursday
Or even if this is Friday when the garbage truck comes!
I guess it’s possible I may have ALL of them right,
But I’d rather remember!

Monday, February 01, 2010


Raskolnikov sits on the toilet and thinks,
“Nobody sees me here. But if I was the
Invisible man full time, would I then lose all restraint?”
Despite his stink, he still smells paint—it simply will not fade!
“If I could disappear, though, none of that would matter!”

But his chance of being fully invisible,
He found, was slim or next to none.
Everywhere he went, he saw, they’d see him or smell him.
Sometimes they seemed to sense him
When he wasn’t even there!

Raskolnikov takes to his bed in a sweat,
Then wakes up with a start and far too loudly mutters,
“Does it matter, does it matter—
Whether I’m as guilty as I feel
Or as guilty as I think?”


3rd draft: 08/14/03
©2000 Ronald C. Southern