To the shade of Christopher Marlowe

My darling Kit, they’ve caught you again
no worldly stage enlarged enough
always this rank and compare
parse, parsimonious
praise too faint too late
you can’t escape


Having fun with this news item, my enduring fascination with Marlowe and (why not?) another nonet.

Another Miranda

How can I fathom this spectral procession?
Shall I rejoice that you drape sea-nymphs
with pearls, weave some glowing sea-change
to make courtiers of naught but magicked bones
fleshed, bedecked with rich coral and plumes,
your yearning after flowers? When the vision
doth fade, do we not suffer, being yet more alone?

O strange, that I should want to see beyond
this watery cave to the sunlit air whence came
this gold, these chests, these spars;
to crave speech of other, real woman or man
to see beyond this blackness, stars?

Having fun with Jane Dougherty’s invitation to imagine a story for this painting by Ilya Repin. I couldn’t resist sprinkling in some Shakespeare.

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

Of the din and of the darkness

Come, therefore, mournful Muses, and lament;

And sorrow feed, feeding our souls with sorrow,

Lost to all music now, since everything

From the dull confines of the drooping West

Death says he will undo and drag down low,

And whisper to their souls to go.

Aye, we must die an everlasting death

And see the brave day sunk in hideous night,

His rage, with razing your immortal town,

The burg broken and burnt to brands and ashes.

When night’s black mantle could most darkness prove

A true retreat of sorrow and despair,

Let us roll all our strength, and all

We shall new shadows make the other way.


Another cento, title from Piers Plowman. Click the last word of each line to find its source.

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

Literary in the Forest

Miss Havisham, dear Ophelia, let us flee

this dark house, the cruelty of misplaced

desire, the paneling of which is suitable

only for our coffins. Let us find another wood,

a brighter home of our own choosing, lush

with fern, moss-hushed, honeysuckle glinting,

scenting the sunlight and the hill-born(e)

breeze. Let us step from the shade into glade

of pink foxglove, listen for rocks’ water-song

and silence of trees.

                                            There is no revenge in pity,

no sympathy in surrender, so cast off your wrecked

dresses, your sodden tresses; care not about full-

filling hours. We will study butterfly wings, speech

of birds. We will deck ourselves with wild roses—

or toss them at the b(r)ook.