For my poetry tribute to Dani after 50 years,

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TIME (early)

This soothing balm,

Safe for tender mucous membranes of the mind



A slight drying of the tissues may occur.

If the salve fails,

Once in a while, when the wounds are precious,

Would the purchase price be refunded?

(And the moisture?)


ON A ROCK (Spring, 1959)

On a rock,

Restrained from the water by a rust-reddened rail,

You sit,

Guarded by the slowness of your book.

Though the pencil adds the proper finality,

I know you are not reading as you think of me,


We both wish I could bring myself to speak,

But my mouth is occupied,

Mashing a pretzel,

Sharing its moisture with the salt.


NO DIVING (Summer, 1959)

A waste of paint,

No better than TEDDY ’55 who sought immortality with tar,

And now yields unknowingly to the imperturbable wave,

His hope.

We cannot plunge into that vague green liquid,

There are rocks–

Not even deep enough to hide beneath the sun’s reflection.

Once, when the sun was brighter,

Before a thousand TEDDYS,

Yet after a thousand thousand,

We were here together,

And could no speak.




How could it be,

How, John, could it possibly be,

That a letter–

For whose reading I could not delay this morning

In my rush to the public library–

To my wife,

From her literary friend in Berkeley (three thousand miles away)),

Who heard from a mutual acquaintance in San Francisco,

Casually commenting on a clipping

Received over a month ago from his love–

Whose name I happen to know–

In Lincoln,

Tells me you are dead.


It caused me no wonderment that

When, after six years of ever decreasing frequency of thought

And absolutely no correspondence

(One fall, I remember),

At three a.m.,

We elected Harold the champion non-writer of the summer,

To break a three-way tie),

We found ourselves face-to-face

With the same Daumier.

We talked about your bandaged foot and crutch

As if you had fallen since we parted,

The day before.


Without the Daumier,

My heart in its leaden way,

Would have absorbed the bitter blow,

Much as we absorbed “not-Harold”–

To bagpipes.

But now my mind is in the act,

And …

I am ashamed to let it in,

For it befouls the atmosphere

Of your last beautiful act,

Your Icarian descent.


“Try to be objective,

It’s nice of you to try to put mythology in this poem,

Maybe you could even bring in Brueghel,


To honor are as well as literature.

He loved them both,

He taught you both,

As you taught him.

And do not even be afraid to do it badly,

For he never ridiculed your worst efforts,

Only your best.

But let’s be honest,

For all you know, the plane exploded

On the ground.

One really can’t expect to get the whole story,

As for a six-month pregnancy

In a seven-month marriage.”



Death is the whole story,

And yet the part I cannot understand.

I can understand

The Christmas card,

Unopened Modigliani

Which was supposed to impress you

And embarrass you

Into making an appointment.

The six years.

The Daumier.

I can even understand the public library,

But they do not belong,

And Death I can’t absorb.

December 1959 (between Christmas and New Year)


SUNY Springhamton (1973)


On this spot, this inch of ground,

there was once some grass and a yellow flower,

shaded by the branch of a crab tree,

and asking nothing.

One day (perhaps it was an accident)

the surveyor stuck the leg of his theodolite

directly through the yellow flower

and crushed the grass

with the sole

of his rubber


Leaving only a patch of mud,

which turned to dust

as soon as

the crab tree was cut down.

But soon enough the dust was covered by a decent coat of gravel

to accommodate the cars,

though the cars did not accommodate the gravel

and wore it down to dust

and then to mud

and then to dust again

by tire after unrelenting tire.

Until the dust was put to rest,


by proper, cool, smooth, and rational



Once before, not far from here,

there was a human being and another human being,

(but of that other sex)

who sat together under the shade of the crab tree,

and loved.

One day (perhaps it, too, was an accident)

an infant came and stuck his bloody head

right through their love

and crushed them both

with the stench

of his rubber


Leaving only a mud of marriage,

which turned to dust

as soon as the infant grew to be a child.

But the child soon became a rather decent student,

to accommodate the system,

though the system did not accommodate the student

and wore him into child,

and then to infant,

and then to child again,

by trial after unrelenting trial.

Until the student was put to rest,


by proper, cool, smooth, and rational



I am the disinfected fruit of that union of two souls,

standing on the tombstone of the grass and flower,

thinking that perhaps today

Mr. Rockefeller will come

to see my graduation.

Perhaps, then, they will turn on the fountains

(or one of them)

for the Governor,

who is,

after all,

a most important man.

I never saw the fountain play,

though I spent four years watching.

God, but it’s hot in this bloody gown,

on this bloody concrete

standing here,


just as I waited for the trees to grow.

Perhaps it would not be so hot

were there a tree to shade me.

I heard there were some big trees,

put in for a day,

when Mr. Rockefeller came

to dedicate our campus.

But they were taken out the very next day,

when he had gone,

and since there seem to be





I guess the fountains will not play.


It is difficult to stand straight as I should,

because the tombstone under my foot

is crooked.


Yes, I have discovered a crack under my foot,

a definite crack,


under my gown,

nobody else can see.

If I slip off my shoe,

there, my foot is bare–

yes, oh, …


It is a blade of grass,

returning from the grave,

tickling my toe.

If grass can be resurrected

from under a gown of concrete,

why not me,

from under this gown of cloth?

Why not indeed?

nobody even noticed the shoe,

nor the other one.

The shoes are my Senior year,

my Junior year the shirt,

my Sophomore year the pants,

and there go all those

Freshman undies.

So, what remains, wrapped in this funereal robe?

a human being, that’s what


(but every so lightly)



toe caressing

a blade of