Daily Archives: August 17, 2003

Death of a Family Farm

The Amish said they’d raze the barn for scrap;
the other buildings nature would unbuild.
As for the rest of it, all useless crap,
new owners can do with it what they will.
When we moved there, my father tried in vain
to make do without livestock for a while;
but ninety acres’ yearly crop of grain
was not enough for us to live in style.

At nine years old, I spent the summer’s back
behind the tractor, clearing fields of rocks,
to keep the plows from jamming in their tracks,
and played at night with pebbles in my socks.
The kids from town looked down on the farm boys,
whose business kept their parents’ stores afloat;
they had all kinds of new and fancy toys,
while we had rabbits, and wore cousins’ coats.

It got to be too much for mom and dad,
whose upward mobile attitudes died hard;
and then, the blizzard winter years were bad —
the final hand that dealt the losing card.
We moved to California for the sun,
and ’cause the schools were better at the time;
a culture shock, for sure, but once begun,
we grew up in that world into our prime.

But we were different from our urban friends.
Our parents were much older than theirs were,
and maybe not as hip to all the trends.
There definitely were differences, for sure.
They kept the farm; dad’s brother worked the land,
and shared the profits and the loss each year
We went back “home” for funerals and planned
someday, for one of us, a farm career.

After dad died, I moved back for a spell,
and tried to make that rural place my own;
but once again, the winters were like hell,
and things had gone to pot, or overgrown.
So now, since no one else expects to move
back there, we’re letting go of all the land.
Let someone else who’s got something to prove
Take over, and from that place, make their stand.

17 AUG 2003

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Iambs and Trochees


the world
to sane,
I will
not fail
to write.

These words, though just
small things, can burst
through walls; there must
be words of peace.

Inside my head the world
is pure, and thoughts, like rain
that falls to earth in spring
can cleanse the hearts of men.

To me, there is no better act
than this: to heal the wounds of hate
by writing of the joys of life
to feed the hungry soul’s delight.

Upon the page these words seem small and weak,
but in their pale disguise they hide a strength
that breaks the bonds of man’s insane desire
and lifts aspiring minds above despair.

How can these words release the world from strife and woe?
With what strange force does language steel our broken hearts?
A glimpse of hope for future times — strong poet stock
that with their arts, seek beauty and forsake the dark.

Perhaps it is just wistful whimsy, still it could yet come to pass
that the bold rhetoric of failure is replaced with song
and some new speech of love and beauty may dethrone the damned
expression of the cynic’s pen, and rule a juster race.


Can you
Hear that

Pound the drum, and
Light the signal
Fires! Tonight we
Fight for freedom!

On the field of valor
we shall triumph over
all that come to meet us.
Can you taste the glory?

Never mind the pain and bleeding
Suck it up and just keep swinging
Listen, if you stop, you’ll hear it —
Celebration for the victors.

Find your rhythm and stick to it bravely
Cowards never taste of life so fully
Just remember all your children growing
They shall take your torch and keep it burning

Don’t cry out, the enemy is drawing nearer
Bite your sword, the metal will revive your spirit
Give me your long knife, I’ll cut your tunic from you
And your family seal, I’ll give to your proud widow

They will toast your deeds there by the hearth fire’s glowing embers
Your young sons will lift aloft your bloody battle armor
History will keep your name alive and in our myths and legends
Longer than the seas are wide, until the mountains crumble.

17 AUG 2003

This week (and for the next few weeks) the emphasis is on rhythm. The exercise was to write a poem using iambic feet, with each successive stanza adding an additional foot (first stanza, monometer, last stanza, heptameter).

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A Boston Busker’s Tale

I sang a song for sixpence in the streets of Harvard Square
Like Tracy Chapman did — I needed food
But you need some extravangance to make your money there
Most likely, all you’ll earn is attitude

I tried it in the subway, on the Blue line, heading back
and got a few more pennies in my hat
Enough to pay the trainfare, but not more to end my lack
A Boston busker’s seldom sleek or fat

And on the Green line, give it up, that’s penny pinching land
For people listen, but give up no dough
Your voice will ring and echo, for the reverb is quite grand
But the rate of earning is so very slow

The Red line from JP to Alewife, that’s a risky route
through Roxbury deep pockets are not found
And often the performer there is looked upon with doubt
If there is not a subway cop around

Through Chinatown, the Orange line is overcome with noise
There’s not much point in playing down that track
And visiting the strip-clubs, often poncey college boys
Will need to bum the fare on their way back.

My favorite spot? Along the Charles, despite the rotting stench
that floats above the river like a cloud
You may not get much money, but at least there is a bench
where you can sit and play, however loud

In short, there’s not much money to be made just playing songs
Unless you are a juggler or clown
And even then, you’ll draw a crowd, but not a paying throng
It’s never been an all that giving town

So sing for sixpence if you will. And me? I’m now employed
With cash enough to grocery shop and dine
If I see you on the street, I will be overjoyed
And to your meagre coins, add one of mine.

17 AUG 2003

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The Letter: a triolet

The letter informed me I’d won an award
For a poem of great style and merit;
A copy, but “personally” signed by the board,
The letter informed me I’d won an award.
And if their symposium we could afford,
Ten thousand bad writers could share it.
The letter informed me I’d won an award
For a poem of great style and merit.


A recent discussion on the triolet reminded me of a poem I wrote in 2002 after a brief interaction with the folks at The International Library of Poetry

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