Poetry is the journal of the sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air. Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable. Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away. Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance - Carl Sandburg..........Poetry should be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one's soul, and does not startle it or amaze it with itself, but with its subject - John Keats .........Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge - William Wordsworth ..........Poets utter great and wise things which they do not themselves understand - Plato .........No man was ever yet a great poet, without being at the same time a profound philosopher. For poetry is the blossom and the fragrance of all human knowledge, human thoughts, human passions, emotions, language - Samuel Taylor Coleridge .........One demands two things of a poem. Firstly, it must be a well-made verbal object that does honor to the language in which it is written. Secondly, it must say something significant about a reality common to us all, but perceived from a unique perspective. What the poet says has never been said before, but, once he has said it, his readers recognize its validity for themselves - W. H. Auden ...........Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash - Leonard Cohen .........There is a pleasure in poetic pains which only poets know - William Cowper .........Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood -T. S. Eliot ..........Poetry heals the wounds inflicted by reason - Novalis...........He who draws noble delights from sentiments of poetry is a true poet, though he has never written a line in all his life - George Sand .........A poem is never finished, only abandoned - Paul Valery ........A poet is a bird of unearthly excellence, who escapes from his celestial realm arrives in this world warbling. If we do not cherish him, he spreads his wings and flies back into his homeland - Kahlil Gibran.............Poetry should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance - John Keats..........To be a poet is a condition, not a profession - Robert Frost........A poem is true if it hangs together. Information points to something else. A poem points to nothing but itself - E. M. Forster.........Publishing a volume of verse is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo - Don Marquis...........Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things - T. S. Eliot ..........You can tear a poem apart to see what makes it tick. You're back with the mystery of having been moved by words. The best craftsmanship always leaves holes and gaps so that something that is not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash or thunder in - Dylan Thomas .........Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words - Paul Engle......... There is not a joy the world can give like that it takes away! Lord Byron


Denis Mair - USA


Khaju Kerman Park

       ---Written while attending the Second Iranian and World Poets Congress.

         Khaju of Kerman was mentor and friend to the poet Hafez.


This park is a nook of many nooks

Set in rock so humans can draw near

And grow friendly with the mountain

Nooks for all flavors of contemplation

Nooks as theaters for conversation

A secret system of water ducts

Lets greenery adorn each rocky scene

As if by handiwork of jinns

I stroll the rocky promenade at twilight

In velvety air heed that realm beneath silence

Where a poet’s heart-sounds echo forever


On Hafez Day the big heart of Iran

Opens to let me walk in Khaju Kerman Park

I gaze across the highway at a sister mountain

Its massiveness mirrors the size of this one

Above that massif, the moon lights up a cloudscape

Wreaths of silvery cloud are just as intricate

As whorls and furrows of any monolith

Each realm has been given a scale of time

To develop its own panoply of forms

Between cloudscape and landscape I walk in reverie

May our human works last longer than clouds

May we gracefully make way for people to come

Like travelers going out the gate towards Esfahan

Where a Holy Quran was once kept upstairs

We are all passing through a gate

Beneath the arcane book of Heaven

Wherein the scales of all realms are written


On this day dedicated to a poet

May my thoughts find a fitting place

Here where my kind cavort amid greenery

Along this edge of massive rock

On stone paths hewn by selfless hands


                        Shiraz  2011





Riddles in Green



The central pillar is so solid and definite

The tier above consists of firm supports, each shaped like half of an arch

Above that, tiers are hypothetical, each limber tip bowed by its own weight

The furthest ends are held up and out toward the light

So delicate that light can shine into their interior

Though flat, there is depth in their will to gather light

They are a slow fountain expressing the quest for light

Where have I seen this shape? It looks familiar to me

As if it comes from somewhere inside me.



I sit on the stump of a chopped-down forest giant

It is hard to imagine the sturdy pillar that once stood here

Or to see a ghost canopy spreading above my head

The pillar’s firmness was a virtue in the plan of a living thing

Now wrenched into a different scheme, it becomes a trial

To my posterior, an armless armchair of discomfort

Why does it seem familiar, and why did I gravitate to such a seat

As if I too had gone through a history of being chopped down?



The gash in a steep mountainside in Chiapas

Is the big brown scream of patient lives that once anchored this slope

Is the big brown scream of farmers who can’t take products to market

Is the big brown scream of fields in the valley, now buried under mud

Further down the valley, a whole mountain buckled and slid into basin land

Because green canopies were wrenched from dreams of gradual growth

Why do they seem so familiar, those howling machines with steel teeth?

Now on the valley floor, smashed by boulders from a landslide they set loose?



The samiras whirl down in bucketfuls I gathered as a child

Winged seeds, or packets of possibility are otherwise spread

Into caches, to be forgotten by scrambling scavengers

Or to fall from lips that were licking sweet pulp

Most of the pips and nuts have to be squandered;

Only a few can lodge in special folds of earth

Why does it seem familiar, seeing all the living nuggets

Hurled with hopeful intent into the maw of void?


                            Trivandrum, India




After a Talk with Lo Ch’ing


Chinese literati landscape painting is fading away.


The rabbit from which they plucked fur for those wispy brushes has long ago

  gone up to the moon.

Tang Yin got light-headed from painting fans and was brained by a butterfly wing.

Fan Zeng’s noble hero got a sore neck from the autumn wind.

C. C. Wang accidentally crumpled his latest masterwork and soaked

  it in ink.

Wu Guan-zhong cannot find a pupil to inherit his mastery of white walls.


Chinese literati painting is fading away.

Painters have been known to stare at asphalt roads, forgetting

  scenic destinations.

One was even seen dallying at a betel-nut stand, talking to a girl

  dressed in red.

They tie rice paper in knots, or beat it against the Great Wall.

They paint crowds of stick-men with eyes, while drunk and listening to



Chinese landscape literati painting is fading away.

The security guard has activated the alarm and you have to

  be out the door in twenty seconds.

Chinese literati are no longer seen on the landscape, because

Chinese literati no longer paint landscapes.

There are no landscape literati

And there are no landscapes to be seen by literati.

There are missiles in Wang Wei’s mountains.


Chuang-tzu hid the universe in the universe, and literati painting

  was in that universe, so it is safe.

But in our universe, literati painting had to swallow

  a load of scrap iron.

It was wounded in soft places; it was broken and couldn’t pass down.


Literati painting is fading away, but so much the better.

A ghost is softer than soft, and will not be harmed by sharp edges.

A ghost occupies any shape, and assumes more forms than steel.

Literati painting is dead, heya heya

Long may it occupy men’s dreams!




Me And George


My life lies splayed out across the years

In serpentine course through town and city

I need an old friend to prod the memory-snake

And let me feel it stretch into the past.


The tail goes back to industrial suburbs

And a sad-eyed boy

Who studied the scenery on the stage

To avoid being drafted into the sound and fury;

Then the story bends toward a college town

Where he missed some friends that fate appointed

Being rapt in imagining the hearts of others

Inside the many marks he learned on paper;

Then it makes its way to a Far-East sojourn

Tilting at windmills of someone else’s culture

Hitting the wall of Third World awakening;

Then making a loop to the Midwest

To weather the storm he brought back with him;

Then lost windings homeward, coast to coast

One coil always wrapped tenderly around a child

Many convolutions abysmally submerged.


Finally it climbs out, shakes off the flute-song of ancient books

Winding schoolward again to study its own land’s culture

Allowed to crawl into a classroom, to teach

‘Freshman Composition’

Which is how it ran into George.


George: quick-witted student and instant pal

You kept our class alive,

Late-met friend to remedy my lonesome youth

You stood out like a ‘Bud’ sign in a dim bar;

Nothing was serious or simple to you

And the rest of that Warren rat-pack

From the favored heights of rusty Youngstown,

But you were good-hearted and tough-minded.

Your remarks were cloud-enclosed captions

In a comic co-written by God and Satan;

You played your thoughts on heavenly piano

      (no talk of your tormented fingers).


When my marriage exploded, you and Dave Kelly

Let me and my daughter move into Animal House;

You taught her duets and Beatles tunes

She guarded Dave’s keys so he wouldn’t drive drunk.

Three wild undergrads and a grad-student father

Kept house with a sweet-tempered first grader.


Of course our household scattered soon

I went to work in Philadelphia, then on to China;

You went to law school, then on to New York

Piles of letters have passed between us

As I continued my wandering ways

And you served, and made a life for yourself

As Public Defender at a courthouse in the Bronx.

Now you’re getting prickly and hard-bitten

Still you’re best for sharing thoughts and poetry.


That’s why I don’t need this moment’s tyranny

And I think of George, to touch the memory-snake

To help me keep what’s mine from ten years back,

To give this memory-snake a nudge

So I can know the road I came on

And own it every inch of the way.


I am more than these sensations through beady eyes

Sidling up distractedly to flowers and grasses

To flicker my tongue at the wind is not enough

A friend helps me live in the snake-body of my whole life.





"Cows in Mysore"


In that district of cow stalls, their haven is a palm-grown promenade.

They return at twilight from their routes, alone or in twos and threes

They thread their way past intersections, all motorists giving way

By day they comb the city, browsing on provender left in baskets

Each cow has a route; checking for kitchen scraps at certain spots

South of Mysore's city center, there is this special palm-lined street

Every few addresses is a stall for cows, right among people's houses

The contentment of cows is not a commercial slogan here

This interspecies street brings back my fondness for cows

I learned it from my father's long deep sniffs of appreciation

In Sirsi's Marikamba Temple, also at twilight, I see altar-stalls

Where a pair of cows are rubbed down with ghee each week

I feel fondness, expressed by someone else's buttery hands  

In Banavasi's ancient temple, the cow-statue breathes delight

It sits before the sacred lingam, on the same level with visitors

Humble at Vishnu's feet, it is the true storehouse of a special spark

From its expression, I know it was browsing on fragrant flowers

This thousand-year-old cow sculpture was touched by many hands

Each day worshippers touch its face, then touch their head or heart

After centuries of touching lightly, just a patina on the still-rough stone

Just a blush beginning on skin of fruit, not like in Hangzhou

Near Tiger-Run Monastery, where Happy Buddha's belly and face

Are rubbed each day, with covetous touch, for good luck 

After a thousand years, the marble shows a glassy sheen


                                 Trivandrum, 2015




Bait of Pity


Earthworm,  poor earthworm

Poor earthworm crawling on the cement

You are burned by sunrays and can’t go back

You came up when dew was in the grass

You and your kind try to crawl everywhere

Earthworm  I feel sorry for you

I bend over to pick you up

You still have a little moisture

Like lover’s lips in a daydream

I lay you in a patch of damp grass

Let you die with your nose in the dirt

Earthworm  you remind me of something

Like all the things that venture

Onto hard, unwelcoming places

Like a song that makes no difference

Earthworm do you know what you are losing?

If you don’t, I’m here to know it for you

I lift you into shady grass

I’m not angling for anything

You and your kind ask for little

Yet you serve as muscle for the soil

Earthworm  you are not just a symbol

I’m not dangling sympathy in front of anyone

I am on the pavement too


                   Los Angeles, 2003





My Waif


The hard poem I’ve wanted to write for a long time

Resembles a beggar-child in my mind’s eye

Wandering the streets of Rome after WWII.

He has big, gleaming eyes.

An American soldier gives him chocolate

Sneaks away with him to roam the city.

A school-leaver makes the best tour guide

Especially in a place with many ruins.

The soldier brings the boy nylons from the P.X.

You can speculate on these stockings in Rome.

Maybe the kid has an older sister at home,

Or maybe he has no home at all.

That child’s eyes can pull your heartstrings

His money-angling tricks will make you laugh.

In normal times such a clever child

Could surely make something of himself.

For a time the American soldier is tempted

To adopt the boy and take him across the sea.

But red tape in the service is three times thicker

Than civilian bureaucracy.

Later, the soldier is discharged and sent home;

One day he sees this headline in the paper:

“Youth Gangs Run Rampant in Rome”

And the next wave of Mafia activity

Is now expanding to American shores.





So Says the Peacock
Get a look at this ornament. How does it make you feel?
See how my eyespots can look at you from all angles.
See how kaleidoscopically I enjoy the beauty of your crest from all compass points of my tail.
With all these eyes I know where the best seeds are. Come and I can show you the 
   best forage spots.
All my eyespots sway gently in the breeze. Imagine how we will gaze together on the perfect garden!
The refracted light from my feathers gives an appearance of liquid depth.
My neck-color reminds you of a pond seen through the trees at twilight, or your nighttime hideaway in a thicket.
My tail feathers snap closed, then suddenly fan out again.
I’ve been told the sensory effect can be overwhelming.
It takes a lot of testosterone to keep these feathers growing long and bright. It’s said that
  testosterone in my blood increases my risk of infection.
But I have a strong enough constitution to parade these feathers before you.
If you select a well-ornamented specimen like me,
you can feel rest assured: many peahens in the future will be hypnotized by the tails of our sons.
As their father, I’ll give them this gorgeous advantage.
Even the humans who keep this garden have taken a cue from us.
(That poet in L.A. who calls himself Bowerbird has the right idea.)
Ludicrous apes, they suppose that with gibbering sounds they can mimic the effect of our resplendent tails!



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