Daily Archives: May 16, 2022

Magellan Song

revised from 2015; original post 2009; poems originally written 1994 or so

when I speak to you
of the way this is 
your eyes widen in surprise 

(or astonishment – the right word
makes so much difference
when one tries to describe the way this is)

it seems sometimes
that there are no right words 
to carry my full meaning

do you think 
I would speak to you
of hearts or say forever

that I would use tired words
remotely resembling
those dry and familiar forms

if I instead had language
that could make
how I feel more clear

all I have for you is known and common
a few small words
offered too early and too often 

I promise you
if I had been alive in mythic times
I would have invented language 

that would have
the syllables
I need

every word would have been a nail 
in the ark that saved
all the couples of the world

the covenant bow
that was revealed 
after the rain had dried 

would have colors
only you 
would be able to see 

I would have been clear enough
to have torn Babel down
all on my own 

if I had the right tongue 
I could reform history 
with improbable, impossible words — 

if I had the tongue
I need to speak my mind today
I swear I could remake the world 

hold it in the corners of my mouth
then offer its fresh contours to you
in a song of Magellan – 

a circumnavigator
now just barely remembered
but once his name

was the leading edge of a legend
an arc of hope
from known to unknown

if I could speak the words I need
I would conjure him
spell him into life this morning

put him to use as we sink our toes
into this cold Atlantic sand — 
look at all that horizon out there – 

its dark line
the promise
of unseen shores –

to reach it we will need new vocabulary 
but for now this is all
I can bring myself to say: 

come closer
stay close to me
sunrise can’t be too far away

This City Is A Garden

Inspired by Worcester journalist Bill Shaner’s phrase describing the city’s attitude toward the unhoused.

This city is a garden
and they are the weeds 
who keep popping up

in the cracks
of what we want to believe
is true 

about the state of
the heart
of our common wealth

This city is a garden
and they are the weeds
who keep showing up 

in places we pretend
we want to protect
and preserve

This city is a garden
and they are the weeds
we say we are willing to replant

in better beds somewhere else
in tiny pots somewhere else
Maybe they’ll be OK then

but in the meantime 
let’s have a mean time
and find them however we can

This city is a garden
and they are the weeds
disrupting our postcard campaigns

What we really want 
is a more manicured view
of who we are

than the one we see
when they show up
on corners

with cardboard signs
forcing smiles toward us
to make their empty hands seem

less a reflection 
of who we really are
and more a cartoon we can dismiss

This city is a garden
and they are the weeds
we long to uproot

and toss even farther aside
until someone else can figure out
how to fix the soil against their return

This city is a garden
They are the weeds
as are roses in a cornfield

if their presence
gets in the way of power’s idea
of progress or profit or propriety

This city is a garden 
being readied
for harvest 

Who knows who will have the say
on how soon today’s roses
will become tomorrow’s weeds