An Abortive Conversion

No one would ever know how close he came
To being saved. He was so heavy-laden,
Ardent for rest; his life a worthless trade-in.
What good under the sun, under his name
Was there to hope for in continuing
In despair and far from home: a trucker
To whom Christian radio promised succour.
He kept an eye upon his wedding ring.

At least the children were in bed, the dirty
Dishes implying she’d done as she should.
Now, suspecting that the truth would hurt, he
Scented her sleeping breath and felt how damned
They were, laughed at himself for having shammed:
Another damaged child would be no good.


‘These smug pilots have lost touch with regular passengers like us. Who thinks I should fly the plane?’ — caption of a cartoon by Will McPhail, The New Yorker, Jan 9 2017

I used to call you friend, though now
For many years you’ve been
An infrequent image in the mind;
Less often on a screen—

A flaneur and a poseur just
As I was in our youth;
We’d stroll about and drink back when
A greater share of truth

Was claimed for what one might suppose
Less mediate: IRL
Was understood unspecified
Yet for a spell.

You were a cynic—nothing then
Was unfit for a joke:
Not satire, no, but irony
Filled what you wrote like smoke

That often blurred the meaning, if
You stood for or against;
You seemed to feel it all absurd,
Or so I sensed.


I see you’ve published something new,
As much or even more
Like a smothered bonfire built of words
As ever before;

And followed the link to your old blog,
Still going…dadaism
Juxtaposed blatantly with something
Else…an inner schism:

A hashtag and a rainbow flag
To mark a cause and date
Subverting your long held commitment
To the inchoate.

Years ago you took a seat
On a flight to somewhere far
From where we lived back then. (I’d guess
You still don’t own a car!)

No doubt you’ve been back more often than
I have, despite the cost
In carbon to a world your kind
Imagine almost lost!

And if I sometimes feel my age,
I know that it could be
Far worse: I might perceive the same
Insight, hilarity

In a cartoon where a passenger
—the joke is so inane!—
Avers the pilot’s out of touch,
Thinks he should fly the plane.

By Heart

We know that only which we know by heart.
A poem otherwise is just a smear
Of feeling. We retain no proper part

Except, perhaps, a few lines from the start,
Plus the aforementioned vague atmosphere.
We know that only which we know by heart:

The ancients used no clichéd verbal art
But, pointing to their chests, felt ‘We are here’.
Of that feeling we retain no proper part

(At best a simulacrum, so I fear);
No, we stand dry upon a bony pier
Where, knowing only what we know by heart,

We know but little. Now it’s with a smart
I fail to fully picture you, my dear.
Of feeling we retain no proper part.

Though tears are drawn forth by a doorframe chart
And photos emblematic of each year,
We know that only which we know by heart;
Of feeling we retain no proper part.