All Swans in England Belong to the Queen

A collegaue of mine at Passaic County Community College in Paterson, NJ posted bits of triva on Facebook during Sunday’s Super Bowl. One of those bits read, “All Swans in England Belong to the Queen” and became the title of a poem I started writing last night and finished, for now, this morning.

Don’t hesitate to point out typos.

All Swans in England Belong to the Queen

for Queen Elizabeth I

And I assume the king too, if today, there was a king,
but there’ve been many kings to burden the throne
with their fatty thighs, their jowels slick with chicken greese,

drips of wine spotting their chins like the heads
of purple pimples and, of course, the queens, with their
crowns and curls, sitting quietly, dutifully near their spouces,

save for that one brash lady who had no time for marriage,
who creamed her face white, and unchained the protestants
from every burning stake; yes, all the swans in England

belonged to her and I’ve no doubt she took full advantage
of every bird she could. I’m sure she charged young chaps,
to swim, like eels, through marshy ponds where swans floated

across dark waters as clouds float across the sky, miscreant blokes,
predators plucking feathers so poets could dip stems in ink,
blot wrinkled parchment with stories about magic forests

where donkeys slept with faries and grim princes debated the benefits
of being or not being. Archers and bowman needed stiff plumes
so their arrows could properly split the air, puncturing apples

positioned on the crowns of unfortunate tikes. Finally, it was essential
from time to time, between beheadings and marriage proposals,
to recline under willow trees that stretched over rills and puddles

where lillies bloomed and swans drifted on warm waters unfolding wings
that stretched as angels’ wings might after heaven decreed it was time to nap.

Motorcycle Sunsets

This one is a favorite. Yup, I really, really like this poem. Hope you do too.

This Poem

Right now, there’s nothing as important
as these words, the way they trickle
down the page like a dark stream of water
or the way they remind me of bird tracks

cluttered in the snow beneath the bird feeder
or, for that matter, the fallen sunflowers
dotting the snow like the fragments
of a shattered shadow. I’ve little interest

in the flood of sunlight rushing
through the bay window, over the couch,
and onto the floor where the dog
has fallen asleep and is quietly yipping

at the rabbit she must be dreaming about,
the one I assume she wants to chase
in an open field where the grass grows
as thick as the shag carpet she’s sleeping on.

Nor do I have time for the weave of tree limbs,
oak and ash, birch and beech, that remind me
of a family holding hands, joining minds
and spirits in prayer. These words are soft

and cool, like a favorite pillow. They curl
on your lap like a old cat sinking into its nap,
purring, purring. Sadly, soon they’ll end.
The phone will ring or I’ll realize I’ve lost

my keys or the neighbor will throttle his motorcycle,
urge it to growl, unleash its dragon,
moments before he rumbles down the street
and over the hill, chasing the sunset.

Looking Glass

Ever stumble upon your reflection, accidetally take stock of your appearance and discover you don’t always appear as you would like too? Scary stuff.

Reflection

There…
in the store window

near the cookies,
pink and yellow,

splayed on a glass counter,
my face, white and old,

heavy with loathing,
above the children

who clutter
the sidewalk

to smell the sugar
that seeps into the street

each time the door
swings open

and a bell jingles
like happiness.

A Slather of Time

Generally, my poems are short, simple affairs. Recently, they’ve been growing. Successfully? I’m not sure. What do you think?

Scylla of The Odyssey/Greek Mythology

Snow

Having secured a modest slather of time,
I’d thought I pen a few words
about the falling snow, its fickle descent,
each flake, as fragile as a lost memory, silently

sliding through the morning, until finally
it finds its rest on the ceramic mushroom
in the garden or the black mailbox
where the driveway spills into the road,

but everyone writes about snow,
its grace and cold; so, perhaps, I’ll focus
on the steam rising from my coffee mug,
hot and wet, the spirits of Hades,

Odysseus’ crew, the warriors Scylla chomped
as they pulled their oars as furiously
as fear allows, and the men Charybdis consumed,
the monster’s mouth open wide,

a briney maelstrom, hell’s toothy foyer,
but all that gore, the broken bones,
would spoil this moment, the still house,
my books at attention on their shelves,

spines as straight as soldiers’,
the sun flooding through the skylight
warming the kitchen tile, and the parakeets
darting from perch to perch in their cage,

loose feathers gracing the air
like delicate flakes of snow.

Yesterday, Life was…

Have you ever needed to get away? Where did you? Here’s an idea.

.The Past

I’m preparing to go,
visit the past,
talk with whom I was yesterday.

First, I must brush this lint

off my shirt, swish mouthwash
between my teeth,
stir it with my tongue.
I considered a gift, flowers,

a small bundle, lilies, white,
clustered about a crimson rose,
but flowers never impress me,
nor does a bottle of wine

or a casserole, hot and wet,
in a brown dish with a glass lid.
I’m far too simple. Perhaps, my smile
will do, a firm handshake,

a few clever words scratched
on a wrinkled square of paper –
magic words: The silent drums of battle
pulse deepest before dawn

or Dragons breathe in poems,
where flowers grow and shadows
creep from dark caves.
And a coffee, as hot as war.

All I really need is coffee
and a few moments to untether
my thoughts, allow them to drift
over the candles on the dining room table,

through the cracks in the ceiling,
and the open window
where they can rise
scratching the aspen’s smooth bark.

Yes, that’s all I need: some coffee and quiet.
I loathe the pester of unexpected visitors.

Chardonnay

After pouring a splash of wine…

Chardonnay

The chardonnay –
gently rocking
in the well

of a glass
that reaches
from the table

as a tulip
reaches
for the sun

from the soil
you tend
with soft

hands,
your hair
spilling over

your shoulders,
your brow,
under afternoon’s

heat,
beaded with sweat,
glistening –

golden,
like the wine.

The Soft Apples

Soon, in the high school philosophy class I teach, I’ll begin a unit on Beauty/Art. One of the ideas we explore is “the beauty of uginess.” This poem is born from said idea.

 

Hendrik Reekers | Apples and a Walnut | 1836 | The Morgan Library & Museum:

The Soft Apples

The soft
apples,
fallen,

clustered
in the shade
beneath

the bare trees,
soft,
like water

trapped
under skin
painted

the colors
of brusies,
rotting, abandon

their essence,
cloud the air
below the trees

with a sweet,
pungent kiss.