Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Amazed to discover it's been so many months since
my last posting. I'll make amends by offering a
much too lengthy poem. This one comes from
an exchange with my former student Anna Burke.
Our rule is that we use one-word titles, and the
return poem must use that one word somewhere.

Haven't worked in forms for a time, so I burdened
Anna with the following. Now she has to use the
word "Sestina" in her reply (sorry Anna).


Speak of the Devil's a saying said
when a person just spoken-of enters a room,
or: Name him, the Evil One's here; Lord,
Your recipe has worked us up so
that we're always a changeable weather system,
each whiff of our sweetness edged with grim.

Call evil "Devil," fob guilt on that famous Grim
Eminence? When all's done and said
such naming misleads, it's clear this system's
arranged to give madness maximum room:
forever we're all at least half so 'n so's
unacceptable to a scourging Lord.

That's us -- but You made us this way, Lord.
We seek relief from split nature's grim
desiring, the very air we breathe so
in-out complex, cheering words must be said
to cover the ugly: the living room's
where we have to hang out with Others; the system

demands that we not insist how the system's
rigged to send praises to you, "benign" Lord,
our eyelids sewn shut in the Time-Out room
as we hide the sides of us sere and grim,
pursuer, pursued. Unkept brother, it's said
we fake a surplus of good in us, sew

each rip in life's cloth of gold, when it's torn so
cheerily faux-repaired -- the system
afflicts us with guilt for unkindly words said,
a threat of low grades from our teacher-Lord
with more snarky sides seeping through. Forgive grim
assessments of human nature, there's room

for change, blowing fairy dust through the room
to make all more comfortable, yearning so
to escape from cynics like me barking grim
pronouncements of evil as part of Your system;
confess, you like us that way, dear Lord.
"It's God's fault I'm handsome," the Devil said.

This poem, said the Devil, alive in my room,
razzes the Lord that He's culpable, so
should redact His system, unbearably grim.

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