Ambrose Bierce


Despite the bitterness that hits the tongue
when you first taste his clever barbs of prose,
and one’s initial gumption to suppose
his wit just tiny pearls amidst some dung,

there is in Bierce an underlying faith
in humankind, despite his cynic’s guise;
it shows itself no matter how he tries
or fancies life a trifling, mundane waste.

His sorrow, I think, comes from knowing much
of the dark underbelly, which he fights
against by piercing shadows of the night
that meet the world of light at twilight’s touch.

To chronicle life’s whole palette is his aim,
beyond the lines and simple white and black;
and so, his characters are flawed, and lack
the standard heroes’ virtues. In his frame,

the villains wear the white hats, and the good
can be perverted or mislead by ruse;
great ladies, too, pass wind; the mighty lose
to freaks of chance, when you least think they should.

With Ambrose as our culture’s looking-glass,
we gain needed perspective on ourselves;
the less authors like him are on our shelves,
it’s far more likely that we are an ass.

07 MAY 2005

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Spring Cleaning


Today spring cleaning must begin for real:
let winter’s dull and hibernating dust
find ends of brooms; quick, scour away the rust
to let the nearing sunlight glint reveal

the sparkled surface that has long been marred
by candles and their residue of ash;
and that stockpile of season’s greetings cash,
if not gone, spend it — load up the bank card

with fresh, green plants, and mulch, and potting soil,
with cleansers, rags, and sponges, buckets, too.
So little time is left, so much to do:
Let’s move it. Put the kettle on to boil.

Forget that lazy book or quiet game
of backgammon, or sleeping in ’til noon.
Ye gods, you know it’s very nearly June,
and we’re still hibernating. What a shame.

Hie forth with mowers, rakes, and pruning shears;
dust off the cobwebs and dried leaves from fall.
Pack up the sweaters, heavy coats and shawls –
We’ve got to push, now that the weather’s clear.

07 MAY 2005

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