Open-Hearted Surgery

Machines assist but only doctors heal.
Some specialists in fact are so well-heeled
that they take to their heels while patient queues congeal
to link up foursomes. Golf’s a crowded field
and par takes practice. Dying patients feel
partaking in robotics ought to yield
a surgeon clone equipped to play the part
of a caring healing doctor with a human heart.

(ottava rima; last line has, appropriately enough, an extra beat)

Open House

It’s open house in the dead folk’s home today.
The bright sun shows no shadows. Empty light
laves limestone markers. Children outside play
but here, inside, the shadows wait for night.
Entombed regrets accumulate, give way
in turn to melancholy tunes that fight
for breath to give them more than memories’ sounds.
All fades away, subsumed by fresh-turned mounds

of humid soil. The scratched panes of this hearse
reflect no light. Inside, no mirror marks
the driver’s breath. No notepad notes his curse
and no one’s here to count the motes and quarks
of flesh half gone to Hades now, or worse.
The shovels striking arrowheads throw sparks
illuminating tribes no longer here.
Silent watchers wait the lonely bier

to weight it down with yet unspoken words
and stories told in futures we can’t fear.
The dead folk’s home is mindless of the herds
of scapegoats buried here the awful year
the plague achieved majority. Two birds
whose plumage blacks no-future nights don’t hear
no-words the chauffeur’s phantom wants to say
but pose with wings up poised to fly away.

They cannot budge. No mortals live inside
the dead folk’s home, not even feathered things.
These birds are props set here back then as guides
for visitors, and scarecrows guarding rings
among the mausoleums. They deride
the hopes their makers had, and doleful pings
(no wind makes them emit) elicit but
wan silent echoes of their task to shut

down hopes of succour for us everyone
who man this dead folk’s home, where honoured bones
and humble dust exchange their finite fund
of molecules. The children’s (playing outside) mobile phones
don’t penetrate this atmosphere. The dun
and acrid ether draws no tears. No moans
disturb the mounds and hearse. No Vespers douse
no comfort lights. It’s always open house.


The peroxide-blonde possum looks alien strange
but she says with the passing of the seasons she’ll change
into something, into something we know of.

She grins like a fool and wears styrofoam horns
that she picked from the litter thrown down from a dorm
like they’re something, a valuable something.

She climbs down the locust tree avoiding the thorns
and follows me home watching out for loose dogs
that hunt something, and to them she’s a something.

I put a bowl down on my porch and we share my Mac meal.
She eats like a starveling with tales to conceal
about something, a frightening something.

I ask her no questions, she tells me no lies.
I give her the rest of my milkshake and half of my fries
and we’re onto something, a companionable something.

I sit in the rocker. She sits under the swing
and we talk without words if that makes any sense
about something, a valuable something.

Then she leaves in a flash of upended blonde fur
and somewhere I guess she is half up in a tree
waiting for something, an I-don’t-know something.


Persephone glowers at the buds and flowers pre-announcing Spring.
She winces fearing Winter’s powers soon will return to fling
finger-freezing sinus-seizing ice and wind around
and to stomp the budding flowers down in the refrozen ground.

Verbal-Rorschach Prescriptions

What I write, the words, and their images and rhythms,
serve as records of ‘me as subject’ — my perceptions
that a psychologist can analyse, as can algorithms,
to examine the feints and parries and deceptions
in my verse and worse to show personality
and emotional functioning if any. There I go.
With a Rorschach here, and a decision tree over there
they’re no limits to what psychology claims to show.

Losing My No-Claim

King Arthur strides the camel lot his pointy shoes besmirched.
His thoughts had been on Guinevere; my dromedary lurched
and he, descendant from lost kings, had cannonballed in mire.
His crown when found warn’t one to wear till hosed off, cleansed with fire.
Perhaps it were a mite still warm; my monarch has scorched hair.
No airy heir, no hirsute hare, no night’s disordered garters
appease my king who cries he’ll fling my camel on the dump.
The bishop hastes to intervene, ‘Harrumph, it’s but one hump,’
but Arthur’s mad as when a lad and Merlin called him Wort.
I’d remonstrate had that a chance, but should I head him off?
He might then think of ‘Off their heads’ — the court might lose a toff
I’m passing fond of, seen it’s me. We’ll trot to Coventry,
my dromedary and my cat, my bagatelle and me
and wait the king’s displeasure out. Who knew he wore her heart
crocheted in silk on where he sat? I’ll send him Spandex hose
in the hope that they and passing time will end this morning’s spat.