Friday, April 30, 2021

11 Goodbyes to Poetry Month 2021

Skyscrapers in New York City
As promised mid-month, here are the remaining 11 poems I've written during April (aka "National Poetry Month"), based on prompts from New Jersey poet Alicia Cook.

The first prompt was "those blue narrow streets." In the resulting poem, I declared myself Superman while walking to work.

I've listed the other prompts at the bottom of this post, and I've added a few notes for context.

Today's poem "Life Is Short" is, oddly, my favorite.

That, or yesterday's. The one with the penguins. 🐧

Working Class Hero

I follow my shadow

with the East River at my back

on a cloudless morning

after an evening rain.

I bound a skyscraper

in a reflection of still water

along these narrow blue streets.

I am Superman.


I Married Bugs Bunny

Gossamer in cellophane.

I was so excited to win

the prize at the boardwalk arcade

that both feet left the ground.

I was a lucky duck,

brought back to earth

by the gravity of your forbearing smile.

Mine, mine, all mine!


David Bowie mural in Jersey City

Eight Line Poem*

Is there life on Mars?

Life only exists where there's water,

in lakes hidden below the icy surface.

Here on earth,

it's a God-awful small affair.

Life only exists where we let it:

Take a look at the lawman

beating up the wrong guy.


Prayer nut exhibit at The Cloisters

Mysteries of the Rosary**

Each decade of my life,

I have stood in admiration

of a single prayer bead,

cloistered at The Met:

a high school field trip,

a very New York City date,

a visit with my children,

a visit alone,

a visit with my wife when our children had grown.

The intricately carved boxwood bead,

six centuries old,

opens to a triptych of Christ’s early life,

and shuts with his crucifixion.

Each decade of my life,

the display-case reflection of my aging face

mixes with this immutable art.

Each detail demands more reverence,

and I take a slower look.



Prepare for the stresses that will come.

I fear the lesson of Earth Day.

We have sacrificed our young.

The day, already late.

Prepare to be saved.

Youth will revolt. 

By God’s grace,





In honor of the birthday of the Bard,

I offer just this stanza and couplet.

From less than half a poet, my regards.

Less than half a sonnet to put up with.

So cheers to you! A writer's life is mad:

a cocktail of the good, and of the bad.


In a Spring Still Not Written Of (revised)

  (In homage to "In a Spring Still Not Written Of" by Robert Wallace, who died April 1999)

I have been pushed into something new:

this poem.

This poem is a cool, deep lake,

and I can’t swim.

I see you on the shore:

Calm, indifferent, cross-legged,

on elbows half-lying in the grass.

While I drown. 

I am flailing with words,

dwindling in the distance, 

unable to move or summon

the carelessly beautiful and young. 


Hyperrealistic sculpture of a couple

Prelude to a Kiss****

Look straight in her eyes. 

Silent, head and heart aligned. 

Keep a neutral spine. 

Lips poised, Euclidian curves. 

Let parallel lines converge. 


Our Song*****

I remember when we met:

your red hair,

the kindling flame,

and the smoke that rose. 

Lifting me like an olive branch.

I remember when we married:

the incense and cut flowers,

your mother's dress,

and our friends on the church steps.

You, my homeward dove.

I remember when we parted:

the ash in your hair,

the blended notes of burning violins,

and us, just us, suspended in time.

Dance me to the end of love.


Teddy bear in a purse

How I Imagine Santa’s Workshop******

I can drive there,

our old car warning of a baby on board.

The valets are penguins, of course.

And, once inside,

I am surrounded by pets

who have died:

the dogs, just as gullible;

all the ageless hamsters

I replaced on the sly.

The one and only Spy Cat,

hero of our made-up stories,

eyes me coldly, inscrutable to the last.

I tell them all,

“I have come to take you home.”

Ted, the talking bear, awaits our return.

In your bedroom, alone.


Life Is Short

In the month of April,

I wrote all these poems

for you.

Promise me you'll come back.


The other prompts

*- Inspired by David Bowie's song "Life on Mars" and written on the day of the Derek Chauvin verdict. On Bowie's album "Hunky Dory," the song "Eight Line Poem" leads into "Life on Mars." The image is a favorite mural in Jersey City.

**- When my wife and I recently visited The Cloisters museum in Manhattan, we realized we had the same favorite exhibit, which we've seen on display in the past. Read more about this extraordinary rosary bead.

***- Written on Earth Day, 4/22. A "nonet" is nine lines long. The first line is nine syllables, the next line eight, the next line seven, etc.

****- This is a "tanka," a haiku capped by two lines of seven syllables each at the end. This hyperrealistic sculpture is on display under a bridge at Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ.

*****- This is another poem inspired by a song, Leonard Cohen's "Dance Me to the End of Love." Earlier this month, I also used lyrics from a Dylan song for another poem, so this completes my April 2021 music trilogy. 🙂

******- Inspired by a quote from Charles Yu’s “Interior Chinatown”: “There are a few years when you make almost all of your important memories. And then you spend the next few decades reliving them.”


That's all, folks!

The images here -- except this one -- are mine, mine, all mine!

Friday, April 23, 2021

Images of Thota Vaikuntam's New York, via Prisma

Bow Bridge, Central Park

New York City can be an optical prism.

Sometimes my Google Photos folder will reflect back images of New York in black and white; other times in vibrant color. Here's a folder of New York City images, auto-stylized by Google in recent years, through 2020.

In 2021, I'm beginning to appreciate New York as a blank canvas.

Recently, I've been experimenting with a favorite photo app called Prisma. Caitlin Dewey of The Washington Post once wrote how Prisma "convincingly redraws your smartphone photos in the style of 33 famous artists."

She explained, "Prisma uses an AI technique called neural network processing to generate an entirely new image based on the one you give it. It detects patterns in your photo, and in the work of the selected artist, and uses the rules pulled from those patterns to make a third, combined image."

This month, I selected the Indian artist Thota Vaikuntam. Posted here are 9 of the resulting images, reimagining my favorite city in the early spring of 2021.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Midway Through Poetry Month, 2021

Snowfall at night in the suburbs
A front-porch American flag amid the snowflakes, see "Rispetto."

11 down, 11 to go.

On a lark, I decided to commit to a writing a poem a day on this, National Poetry Month, following prompts posted by New Jersey poet Alicia Cook.

As she explained on Instagram, her 22 prompts for April (one for each weekday; weekends off) are based on things top athlete @tommy_rivs has said. As Alicia notes, "Tommy is fighting for his life, and his wife... is writing about it in the most heartbreaking and captivating way."

The first two prompts were: 4/1- "Not Today"; 4/2 - "Don't Get Dead."

On the second week, I decided to mash up Alicia's prompts with a five-day challenge at the Shut Up & Write! site: 4/5 - "Grand Canyon in the Dark," using a SU&W Mad Lib-style structure; 4/6 - "Some Runners Are Jerks," in the form of a quatrain about "your grandmother's hands"; 4/7 - "Ever Since I was Little," as an acrostic on the topic of temptation; 4/8 - "Set up your Fortress," in the form of a villanelle; and 4/9: "Bob Dylan Lyrics," in the form of a tanka.

On this, the third week, I'm mercifully back to following only Alicia's prompts. The need to write something every day has also prompted me to explore different types of short-form poetry (the cinquain and rispetto): 4/12 - "Reverence"; 4/13 - "Be as Quiet as Possible"; 4/14 - "Until Next Time"; and 4/15 - "Whispers Before Screams."

Below is what I written so far, along with a few photos. I will try to write another 11 prompted poems this month. I'll see you on the other side.


Not Today

Last night was hell.

In bed, reaching out to you,

I felt the fingers of my left hand

sliced with paper cuts,

one by one.

When I woke, you weren’t there.

Our bed was bloodless;

my hand, whole.


“Not today,”

I grasped in time.

“Not today.”


Haiku, the Movie

Life lessons from "Speed."

A bomb is made to explode.

Your job? Don't get dead.


(What's in a Name?)

Clueless Bob,

Who has never been to the Grand Canyon,

Loves Nancy,

Whose heart is the Grand Canyon in the dark

And whose skin crawls when I write poems about her.

I cheer when I finish a poem.

And cry when I start a poem.

There is nothing I want more than to write a poem Nancy loves.

But I cannot fathom her heart. Signed,

Clueless Bob


(Doggerel at Short Notice Is My Specialty)

“Some runners are jerks,” my grandmother said.

Her hands still withered; while others are dead.

It’s useless to judge, I thought in reply.

Some flowers are weeds; some oceans are dry.


Statue of Psyche and Cupid at The Met in NYC


Demons have tempted me

Ever since I was little

Silently shifting shape

Intangibly, by degree, year after year

Reimagining your face



A Writer’s Villanelle

Set up your fortress.

Sing words that never die.

A poem can be your chorus.

Think of the angels and aurochs,

the refuge that art provides.

Set up your fortress.

Our only immortality is what we express.

Our silence, suicide.

A poem can be your chorus.

Defend what you profess.

Protect what you certify.

Set up your fortress.

Treasure the inviolableness

that durable pigments supply.

A poem can be your chorus.

We cannot keep what we possess,

but what we write can survive.

Set up your fortress.

A poem can be your chorus.


Simple Twist of Fate

A bridal bouquet,

suspended midair, destined

to land in your arms.

You don’t need a weatherman

to know which way the wind blows.


Cemetery, with New York in the distance


With every graveyard

we pass in our car,

my young daughters hold their breath.

Behind me,

in the back seat,

I hear their exaggerated gulps of air.

In the consequential silence,

I hold my own breath,

out of respect

for both the dead and the living.


A Good Boy

I was taught to be 

as quiet as possible.

And so I am.

With one exception:

I scream when I write.


Stars over a parking lot in Teaneck NJ
A parking lot in Teaneck, NJ


The earth,

"Until next time."

The moon, "Another Month."

Meanwhile, stars glimpse eternity,

then die.



The whispers of snowflakes become screams at night.

It’s the sound of accumulated power.

They’ve obliterated every star in sight.

Their fury grows more intense by the hour.

Together, they herald a magical time:

Flattened landscapes, the grace of consonant rhyme.

Remnants of this storm will echo undeterred.

The whispers of snowflakes demand to be heard.

Attached here is a collection of other poems and images, "Greetings From 2020."