Friday, June 10, 2016

Rhetoric to Lettie (A Book of Original Verse)

                                        Lettie 6/12/2001 to 6/2/2013

                                        © Harold Anthony Lloyd 2016
Preface for Lettie

A household lacking animals
            Is like a Cyclops who
Half-brained has lost an ear, a hand,
            A leg, a nostril, too.

Reductio ad absurdum With a Titular Pun
                Hymn of Leisure[1]

The bible is a leisure book.
            Eternity He took
Before six days of work and then
            He loafed a bit again.

Long idleness can never be
            The devil’s work or He
Would be the devil.  “Loaf!” He says,
            “And imitate My Ways!”

I thus read Whitman, watch a finch[2]
            And hear it, too.  Such rest
Finds many miles within an inch.
            “O Loafer, thou art blessed!”

Metaphors and Similes

      Jesus Confides in Mary Magdalene

The kingdom is within.  Search for it there.
The sinner is the one who in despair
Awaits the day his chariot should come.

The kingdom is not coming.  It is here.
There are no portents, earthquakes, storms to fear
Before arrival.  Simply look within.

Tell others that the kingdom is within,
That first it’s small like seeds or leaven in
The dough but has its powers to expand.

Be mindful of the present or you’ll miss
Brief miracles of leavens such as this.
Live in the “am,” not in the “will” or “was”

And revel in the kingdom found within.
There can be no forgiveness for the sin
Of self-rejection.  Broken can’t be right.

Commit yourself at once, do not delay
To act on what you’ve found.  Though others say
That faith suffices, fruit defines the tree.

Embrace your enemy and do no deed
You’d not have others do to you.  Once freed
From difference, inner light uncovered shines.

Be humble and be open as a child.
Be curious and never be beguiled
By rules or “prophets” that snuff out the light.

For light will show whenever two are one,
Whole mountains can be moved.  Division gone,
Whole mountains cannot claim their former place.

Know rules serve us.  When bending must be done,
Bend rules to light, not light to them.  Don’t sin
By elevating Sabbaths over light.

Though I must leave you soon, I still shall shine:
My light remains in you as yours in mine,
And therefore separation never comes.

Split any piece of wood and I am there.
Lift any rock and you will find me there.
Set any table.  You will find me there.

Have bread and wine in common to recall
The need to share both food and drink with all—
And do this for your fellow flesh and blood.

As I have done, reach out to heal the sick—
Though not just those with fevers.  Heal heartsick
And troubled spirits, too.  Do miracles.

Though I have set upon a painful course,
I choose it freely--right could never force
A faultless one to pay another’s fine.

No innocents are sacrificed though I
Am willing for the sake of truth to die.
That’s what the Cross should symbolize for you.

I’m neither Paul, nor Pope, nor Protestant.
I am before they came, before they went.
I am before their Sabbaths as are you.

                             Withered Wings

                        One envies those who fly by any means
                        Above the many hazards of the ground.
            One envies fog that lifts, one envies clouds,
            One envies butterflies.  But most of all
One envies birds blessed both with song and chance
To soar with their own notes-- until they fall

And see clouds turn to rain then muddy land
And sea and soggy sand where soaring things
            Soon join the grounded bird with withered wings
            Its mother gave.  On both sides of the sand,
                        The songless ostrich buries its brief head
                        Among the living and among the dead.

            The Broken Crow (March 2012)

With a mangled wing, some black had learned to run
In vain, I thought, as fast as I could run
Negating hope of rescue.  Will to live
Ironically assured it would not live.

Feet cast their pall upon occasional thought
            Till dark undid itself.  Again I saw
                        Fleet ebony undaunted in its speed.
                                    What did I know?  I wished it all Godspeed.

Titular Puns               
                        Light Verse I

Light’s circles widen constantly around
Old Gettysburg and Auschwitz, halos that
Belie a deeper truth from Helios
Than Einstein’s constant might suggest to us.

Fresh witnesses may grow in numbers—light
Provides the possibility at least
Of ever-widening vantages that give
The lie to “past.”  Somewhere all “past” is live

Where light years match.  There telescopes can see
Whatever “was” unfold in present time--
Poor Picket’s charge plows into hostile crowds
And smokestacks belch their awful human clouds

In ever-widening circles that outrun
The claim that anything is ever done.

                     Light Verse II

Perhaps one day I’ll stumble in a place
Where I can watch “myself” walk Chambers field
In cap and gown and then walk into place
Where I can watch “myself” so watching “me”
And any watch upon my wrist.  I’ll then
Repeat the same again, again, again
Until at last I feel quite satisfied
That time runs endless ways at once and “I”
Expand in surpluses that never die.

               Light Verse III

Perhaps one day I’ll intersect her light
And look back on my mother as a girl
As she goes sledding down steep Ninth Street hill
Where snow has frozen other traffic still.

Perhaps one day I’ll intersect his light
And look back on my lonely father in
The Presidio as he prepares to sail
For war he’s spared because his eardrums fail.

Perhaps one day I’ll intersect their light
And look back on grandparents as they sit
Among the flowers in the sun and shade
The moment that that photograph is made.

Perhaps one day I’ll intersect their light
And see first parents prior to the snake,
See Eden when it's open to us all,
See perfectly though blinded by the fall.

Titular Metaphors

When Darkness Falls on Kindred Souls (I)

Know no one can divide like souls from you.
Division needs dimension to perform
Such separation.  Having only form,
No kindred souls are cleavable from you.

Transcending space, they touch you everywhere:
They're in the breezes playing with your hair.
They're in the leaves that strike the windowpane.
They’re in the door you bolt at night again.

They’re in the darkness putting out your bed.
They're in the raindrops crying overhead.
They’re in the silence after winds are done.
They’re in the stars’ and fireflies’ lighter sun.

When Darkness Falls on Kindred Souls (II)

Old Faust, know that you need not be alone.
Know that you need no devils changing you.
Know countless other souls love as you do--
Know that you’ve never been the only one.

Know no one can divide like souls from you.
Division needs dimension to perform
Such separation.  Having only form,
No kindred souls are cleavable from you.

Transform yourself instead!  Despite the fact
You’ve snubbed your kind in your long loneliness,
You’ve common souls around you nonetheless

Who know your worth despite the ways you act,
Who offer heart and wit, who’ve never fled
And still consent to share your empty bed.

Internal Rhyme
               Pangloss and a Tree

One shadowy refutation in the night
Disproves theodicies.   Last night in bed,

I oddly dreamed of an insensate tree
Whose fruit was every body part but heads.

Both wolves and men plucked fresh meat from the tree
As unharmed sheep fed on insensate plains

And carrion crows and vultures circled round
To pick each fruit that fell upon the ground
Before it spoiled.  No hunger, rotting, pain,
What was it Dr. Pangloss said again?



As I look up and see a duck transform
Into a white hare without changing form,
That puffiness has time as well to peer
Down: “Teacher? Writer?  Poet? Lawyer? Queer?”


            Spring’s Sickle

Spring’s death!  Foul proof is in the flies
            That fetid fumes reprise
To swarm round rotting winter’s weeds
            And smoggy, acid skies.

We mourn the feverish mornings now!
            Our undertakers mow
To keep a corpse of winter till
            There comes a vigorous snow.

            Spring’s Suckle

Spring’s life!  The honeysuckle soon
            Will lend a scented rope
To garrote any wintertime
            The daffodils have left.

It’s suckle time!  Spring’s eager lips
            Are white with milky drips
That mingle with the pollen stains
            On eager fingertips.

No Aporia

                  Why We Sneeze

Of course there must be pollen in the spring
Opposing all the beauty of the thing--
Sir Isaac’s laws of opposition would
Be breached by only perfume in the wood.

            A Theodicy

Was God a boy before a man
            In Heaven as on Earth?
Would common image not require
            That bit of common mirth

That comes from plucking out the wings
            Of helpless butterflies
Before the moral lessons come?
            Of all theodicies,

Perhaps the fumblings of God’s first
            Own boyhood best explain
The fissures in the Earth, the wind,
            The body, and the brain?

Fallacy of Black and White

  A False Preacher after Picking Pears

Much like Augustine, he’d misspent his youth
Whose remnants left a slimy, snail-like trail
Of failed employment and debauchery
That marked the way to categories that

Entombed him under shameful epitaphs.
Though boxed in darkness there invisible,
He saw the light, rolled back the heavy stone
And re-emerged by force of words alone.

He married, started preaching, and thereby
Could do no wrong in God’s own language. Thus
Self-wrapped in righteous trappings, he had purged
Himself.  He found men paid him for it, too,

As well they should: by definition price
Is fair in open markets of advice.

    Preachers in Their Wilderness of Guilt

Their dictionaries tell them that midday
Lies equidistant from sunrise, sunset
No matter length of day.  Their alphabet
Requires the sun to rise and set each day.

As noon carves days into their equal halves,
Word preachers in their wilderness of guilt
Condemn with certainty that certain tilt
And inclination terra firma has

To thrust its pole in un-straight solstice wards
That raise the sun by dropping it, that force
Opposing acts at once and thus of course
Unravel scripture by unraveling words.

“That cannot be!”  The word-wound preacher says.
“There’s sin in arctic winter solstices!”

Double Entendre

            The Sinister Side

Some Siamese twins were sewn in such a way
No surgery could safely sever them.
Thus, ethics kept all saws and knives away--
At least until the left sinned.  How condemn

Him?  Was it right to hang the right with him
Or should the left be left to spare the right?

Of course, the un-twinned found such straights applied
To them as well.  Though sole outside, inside 
Their single skulls twin souls or more were tied
As saints and sinners knotted just as tight.

Pun Unstated
  Key to My Heart

If any key could pick my heart, I’d say
B minor could be mine—or maybe A.


Though I must sound to live, I live to sound
Which means of course my logic must be sound.

Reductio ad absurdum

        Safe From Apocalypse

I don’t think Jesus can come back.
            He’d save and yet abort
Inchoate, countless, Christian souls
            Apocalypse cuts short?


Earth cast my shadow on the moon.[3]
            The lights had somehow crossed
Themselves.  The moon shrank to a “p”
            Instead of Gallic “d”

(Which imitates the “dernier”
            Of waning moons in French--
“p” imitates the “premier”
            Of waxing moons in French.)

The moon came back yet still was crossed--
            It grew into a “d”
Instead of “p” to end eclipse
            Of language and of moon.

       A Man of Good Taste

He buys books by the yard and hue,
            By how their covers feel.
He purchases pianos, harps
            And lyres whose measures fit
The rooms he’d furnish.  Dishes, too,
            Piled in his kitchen show
Much taste as do the various stains
            Of chocolates down his chins.

      The Bitch

How could a bitch presume some right of way?
The March of Dimes has called for help today
And one old woman turns round on a dime
To march and mail her check in proper time.
(The woman knows her science.  Some have borne
Mean genes that hurt their babies when they’re born.)

She shoos a gaunt and pregnant dog that blocks
The sidewalk by her closest postal box.
She doesn’t hear the whine.  She thinks instead
Of several bits of Faulkner she’s just read
Where “moral” whites have somehow treated blacks
No better than that that bitch within her tracks.

            The Fires in Alexandria

A fiend fired up five hundred thousand heads
Once full of vivid thoughts wound tight within
Papyrus locks.  Rolled characters burst in
Brief ghastly flames of oranges and reds.

Fires fed upon the signifiers, not
The references of course--though we were blind
Thereafter to whatever was unsigned
And would lament such “history” except

The fires in Alexandria roar on.
In countless crematoria still burn
Roles, characters un-tethering in turn

More precious objects lost.  As days roll on,
More athenaeums vanish—at least till
The trumpet sounds if sound it ever will.


I’ll never speak of what prose did to us--
It’s much too wretched, much too scandalous.



An alphabet unlocks me locking me
With combinations of but twenty-six
Quite different chords that I must choose to fix
Around the necks of thoughts I would set free.

            “Free” Verse Is Hardly Free

There are duets in meter and in rhyme
Not found in solipsisms of “free” verse--
The forms push back with their responses, too,
That poets can consider as they sing
Unshackled from their first dogmatic notes.

            A Horse & Soldier Have a Drink

He rode a snowy horse he’d painted green
To slip past Yankee snipers he had seen
Within the verdure.  Naturally he’d made
That different mount renounce its proper shade.

Both paused beside a lake to have a drink
Where sounds of waters made the soldier think
Of mysteries that unseen depths suggest
Until he noticed in his moment’s rest

That he’d observed a lie.  He saw the dam
Then wondered how the artificial could
Have any depth.  The natural of course
Raised no such questions and was less complex.

Therefore, to his surprise the soldier found
The unnatural to be the more profound.


              Fear and Far Away
(Inspired by Montaigne, Book 1, Chapter 3)

Disquiet souls, we rarely stay at home
To savor that uniqueness heaven gave
Us.  Far from self and heritage we roam
Enjoying not the vantages we have.

Why would we wander off from our own place?
Why would we not reside there openly?
Why would we wish for any other place
To flaunt ourselves?  We lack audacity.

We search the various regions of the earth
For havens where desire and self both might
Dare speak their names and dare display their worth.

Yet, ever seeking out such havens, we
Defer ourselves and to our heirs’ delight
Conserve our all for days we’ll never see.


Had (i) alphabets appeared some later time,
Or (ii) ancient inks less durability,
Leviticus might yield to God’s pure slate
And save more souls than any priests could do
If “saving souls” is something one should do.

Sonnets for Lettie

Sonnet on Time

The conjugations of “good” grammars have
Time flowing from the past.  Yet, words allow
Diversity of current.  We say, too,
That time flows back from future days:
“The future is unfolding as we speak.”

Or does time just swirl round in circles so
Poor Judas hangs himself repeatedly?

Don’t currents cross?  But how? Must they not freeze
Since “current” cannot move beyond the “now”
And yet be current?  Yet it moves?  Time both
Conveys the ship and clock it threatens, too,
With icebergs of itself within itself?

Or does time just swirl round in circles so
Poor Judas hangs himself repeatedly?

        Though Others Mow the Air

Though others mow the air as well as ground,
I’d plant, not pull up magpies if they grew
On this side of the sea—I’ve often found
Much bloom in others’ weeds right where they grew.

I’ve natural doubts when others weed the air
Or ground with artificial notions of first class--
Can lawns be lovelier the more we pare
The buttercups and violets from the grass?

Do we improve the skies by weeding birds
With poisons or with guns because some hate
"The magpie" (merely words)? Of course not.  Things

Trump words instead.  I weep when others mow
The heavens and the earth "to better" things
That are more wondrous left alone to grow.

            Fame Is Not A Quiddity

Fame is not a quiddity.  It flies
As fast from good men as from derelicts.
And yet one rarely finds biographies
Unmotivated by it.  Fame directs

Most inquiry.  Mere accidents serve up
Both subjects and the recompense of those
Who write for fame themselves.  As tomes pass up
The truly great and vile, times therefore lose

Extraordinary lives of men and crows
(And other souls) and images of those
Unnoticed by the foolish eyes of fame--

Except where art for art might yet reclaim
Such losses from the void—the Muses may
Still dictate tales that others tossed away.


The prints of many years of young men’s feet
Prove treacherous upon a college stair
Where fossils of past youth can trip up feet
With dips and waves in steps no longer square.

The present makes its tricky fossils, too.
The gnomon’s shadow fades with darkness. Too,
Our own prints bounce in mirrors on the walls
And dive each time a mirror of us falls,

Those glasses that would twist us in reverse
In backward fossils of ourselves. Our verse
Must get us right yet somehow never freeze

Us in the fossils of our meters.  These
Must capture us and yet not capture us:
Mere servants, words should never master us.

                   A Little Festival of Verse

If Lettie is my cuckoo or I’m hers
Why not a little festival of verse
In honor of ephemeral boundaries of
Stupidity, duplicity and love?

Why can’t the songbird (without playing fool)
Adopt the cuckoo hatched within its nest?
Why can’t the cuckoo choose to spend the rest
Of its brief days with such melodious fowl?

Why can’t the two rely upon the woods
To justify their integration?  Pines
Grow with the oaks, the maples and the vines
Ignoring tenses, syllables and moods.

Why can’t the two of us be either bird--
Or neither since the thing declines the word.

Puns Direct and Slant 
                  Lettie Going Deaf
How better life is now than once it seemed!
Each piece exchanged for peace is witty trade
That wiser ears and years have deftly made--
Though mail still rouses crashing through the flap,
The new assistant handles matters deemed
Too meager now to interrupt a nap.

                 Handel’s Wager
       (Behold, I Tell You a Mystery . . . .)

Forever lost before nativity,
He rose at birth from out a vaster sleep
                                          Than death.

He knew first sleep must reach back endlessly
While calendars can measure second sleep
                                          Of death--

Which means if second horns should waken us
They would do less by ending shorter sleep
                                          Of death.

His basis sound, that English German thus
Had basses sound that horns end shorter sleep
                                          Of death.

  A Wake Asleep February 19

I died last night within my sleep.
            The symbols stopped at once.

One’s worlds collapsed to airiness
            Then eeriness that came

Too fast yet held too fast to stop
            Signs seeping back with time--

I duly kept a wake in sleep
            On that first night of death,

And time a wake involved dissolved
            The timelessness of death.

Outdoing even Lazarus,
            I died yet never did.   


                 The Argentine

I can’t believe that Borges could be right
That day is but reflection of the night
When sentiments of reason and of rite
Divide the very things he would unite.   

Miscellaneous Schemes for The Reader to Identify

            Dream on 11-11-11

We lay in cross-dug holes within the ground
Arms properly stretched out, feet overlapped
Until He lined us up above the ground

And told us plainly that each one He tapped
Would disappear.  He gave no rational ground
For what He did.  He simply started, tapped

And people disappeared as minutes ground
Toward me--though I escaped when I unnapped
Before He reached my place above the ground.

            Graffiti on the Sphinx

The Sphinx displayed a riddle on its side:
“They spawn ‘worlds’ including, too, themselves.”
Some answered with “at least two mirrors” while
The lettered Sphinx kept “words” inside itself.

            Parasites and Bears

Foul leeches, ticks and tapeworms dine
            On flesh they’ve left unkilled
While clean and righteous Sapiens dine
            On animals they’ve killed--

Which means of course that murder’s fine
            And mercy’s filthy.  Skilled
In such good manners, too, bears dine
            On men and beasts they’ve killed.     

            Quilting Me

I quilted me and wrapped me round
            Myself against the night
In contradictory patchwork sewn
            Up lovely, rare, and right.

         Losing Face

Ask soldiers what it means to lose one’s face:
Abandoning too soon some wretched place
Or blowing off another person’s face?

      When Hour Has Come To Quit

When hour has come to quit let’s trust
            The heavens take away
Our motivations so we just
            Sleep on that happy day.

       Iron Petards

Some people stuff their fellows in
            Iron categories yet
Don’t understand they’ve ironed themselves
            As well by doing that.

    No Distance Sunders Kindred Souls
Since spirit takes no space, no pigeonholes
Hold it.  No distance sunders kindred souls  .

       Instilling Revelry

There's revelry in words--though sometimes still
More revelry in reveling in still.

         Three But One?

God's so complex he must be three in one
Though only one religion's right for him? 
            Four Eyes

"Behold bespectacled God's agent who,"
Says number one, "is called to rope the stray
And tug it back on course, drive wolves away
Before the slaughter.  It's God's work he'd do."

"Observe the man with careful glasses who
Abandoned worldly exploits--great minds may
Set out an earthly or a spiritual way
And he chose Heaven's," so says number two.

"He raised his intricate, high palace to
Make tangible what Paradise," so say
The third man's lips, "awaits believers.  May
Its glorious spires inspire the sinners, too!"

"Inspire it does," the fourth agrees. "I pray
There is indeed that awful judgment day."

         Sum ergo credo

Sum ergo credo.  How can we
In right mind wont our piety,
Want weight of unbelief

And loss of easy “virtuous”
When God instead may offer us
Forgiveness and relief?

            Angel Cake

Sometimes when flipping calendars
            Our eyes will fall upon
A date.  We’ll wonder whether that
            Could be our other one,
            Our other day of cake

While knowing it’s just silliness,
            Our wondering such a thing.
There are no dates beyond the dates--
            Though reason, too, will play
            And have its angel day.
Translations for Lettie

Du Bellay’s Regrets, Number 1

In nature’s bosom I’ve no wish to pry,
No wish to find what cosmos truly is,
No wish to sound dark depths of the abyss,
Or sketch grand architectures of the sky.

The ink I use has not so rich a dye,
Nor does my verse explore such loftiness:
Down here I merely write about what is--
Though good or bad--by chance I versify.

My lines hear my complaints if I’ve regret,
I laugh with them, my secrets, too, they get
As trusted secretaries of my heart.

I do not wish to comb or curl them, though,
Or hide them under gallant names as though
They’re more than merely jottings on my part.

Du Bellay’s Regrets, Number 38

O happy is the man whose life is spent
With others like himself!  He need not feign,
Fear, strive or envy.  He can peacefully reign
In his poor home ambitionless, content.

The miserable cares of more accomplishment
Can’t tyrannize or otherwise restrain
Him when all wealth he wishes to attain
Is heritage that comes from his descent.

He’s not preoccupied with others’ rank.
For his great hopes he has himself to thank.
His court, king, patron, and his boss he is.

He never risks his wealth in foreign states,
Nor risks his life for other men’s estates,
Nor wishes greater wealth than now is his.

Du Bellay’s Regrets, Number 51 (To Mauny)

Let’s look for pleasure in adversity.
We have no good of which we are assured;
Yet, in misfortune we can hope, assured
That ill luck like all luck shifts constantly.

Wise sailors flinch at Neptune’s charity
Since sunny days have never long endured,
And random storms of course must be preferred
To constant fear of what might lurk at sea.

Thus, virtues are enhanced by storms we bear.
Whenever fortune dims our virtue, we
Find strength and light in our adversity;

When good luck tricks us with its lying face,
Ill fortune culls out flatterers we face
And helps to make our own self-knowledge clear.

Dante on Fame

Earthly fame is nothing but a trace
Of wind that first approaches, then departs
And changes names because it changes place.

[1] The meter is of course standard protestant hymn meter.
[2] Hannah the house finch is nesting under my front porch 7/15/2011.
[3]December 21, 2010.

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