these faint scratchings summon my ghost
two thousand years buried, recalled
from heaps of refuse like a trail of coins
(history’s map) to an underground stream

we try to comprehend dreams of glory
this timeless need ground to dust in empire’s outpost
turned again to mud (feet marching and marching)

tangles of wire and old box TVs are monuments to ambition
covering glimmer of our past in these swords and plowshares
engraved on slim scraps of wood and bones of ordinary lives


A cleave poem for my friend Merril, who I know has already read this article about a recent discovery of ancient Roman writing tablets in London.

How to Ruin Your Feet as a London Tourist

Because it would be uncool
to wear the happy shoes—tennies
with a dress—you go for the red.
They’re German, surely made
for walking. You’ve trod the cobbles
uphill and down, but this endless maze
of pavements, well. Short glory of grass
in gardens, a cool fountain longing
but tick tock: castles, galleries galore
museums, shopping, the M&M store.
By the time the big red bus drops you
who knows where, your feet are gone
and dreaming of green hills at Dover
how the Romans built all those roads
in sandals, the sea at the bottom
of every white cliff


NaPoWriMo prompt for Day 19 is a “how-to” poem. Poetic Asides asks for a cool or uncool poem.

Innocents Abroad

On stage of this world’s stage we see the play
of poems, songs and laughter—nobler view
than groundlings with their beer or tourists who
find rain to usher homeward from the Globe

and next day, gazing down from Greenwich train
we sigh at houseyards’ laundry, weeds and junk—
forgetting cities live and pulse and breathe
beyond the graystone, ancient sites we trek
with weary feet and spinning, weary minds

Thomas Jefferson’s brain

on display today in London
bastion of civilized contradictions
fossils skeletons stuffed specimens
on the spectrum from dinosaurs to dolphins
seen through all these shades of humanity

from Adam man alone has the past as burden
a future dimly seen through history twisted
mislaid misrepresented cut down on a whim
like a thousand-year-old tree collected labeled
arranged by color and date and purpose in glass

cases to admire our own wars and weapons
teeming termite-hills of fear and greed
the paper trail of our forbears magnificent
jumble and the thing I want to do I cannot

make heads or tails of these Latin lines
translate virulent wonder into beauty
a POINT neat and prim as Jefferson’s
handwriting logical legible underscored

for the good of all people

I am processing a weekend trip to London which included a visit to the Natural History Museum, the National Maritime Museum, and the British Library’s exhibit on the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, where I was captivated by Thomas Jefferson’s handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence.

How Poetry Saved My Life (in London)

in cars, airports, airplanes, trains

this tote carried me and my goods

in iambic pentameter, Wallace Stevens,

I wish that I might be a thinking stone


(to admire far-below surroundings

of fair-furrowed hay-gold,

corn-green fields: why

you prospered, why

Saxons wanted you)


holiday humanity at the wax-works

shouting and camera-flash but here

in his corner, Dickens, and yea verily

Shakespeare, standing


then after the kerfuffle over Baker Street

while hungry, footsore we rattled

in the packed train all subterranean

children on our way to who knows

where or why: a song of apple boughs

pasted on the wall, Dylan Thomas,

and I was green and carefree

under the new made clouds

and happy as the heart was long