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23 September 2006

By What Write

It’s an unnatural act
A deed quite untoward
Denying life, the prime fact,
And the business of living
To pummel a keyboard
And pretend one is giving

As though one’s best thoughts,

Than mere words far more nimble,
Could ever be caught
Or fill more than a thimble

As though it would matter,
Granting wisdom unequaled,
As though hordes would flock
To the art or its sequel.

Juvenal wrote

Out of frustration
So he claimed
After must gestation

Of frustration ingrained
Not only did he dote
On obsequious scriveners
And writers pretentious
But also on livers
Of modes ill-portentous.

Such savage indignation
Fires determination
Of many an ink-stained wrist-cramped wretch

But that life leaves so pained
Satiric inclination
Suggests one should stretch
For more joyous inspiration.

Others, like Orwell,
So he claimed
Wrote from a sense of injustice ingrained
As a desperate warning
Of dark future gathering

As a basic defense
From obsequious blathering

But as Orwell admitted

We toil and perspire
Above all for adulation
Imagined, desired

Though the chronicling fool
Inflamed his just ire
Yet idolatry, exaltation
Adds the most fuel
To the passionate fire

Of artistic creation

Orwell wrote
With certain conviction

That no person sane
Would withstand the affliction

Of digging a moat,
Round a keep thick with pane
The muse thus to deliver,
From life’s noisy friction
That gurgling river

An island internal
Isolation eternal
Sacrifices infernal
While behavior external
Conscientious, fraternal
And suitably diurnal
Mask doings in the keep
The nocturnal kept deep

As for imagined rewards
In the eye of the mind, Ego’s prism
Whence the self always shined:
In the moat float the boards
Of ghost ships adored, anointed with chrism

The Muse pays in kind

No wonder
That Greek
Lost his sight
So pale, so bleak
Is the light
In the keep
It’s only right
That tears rise
From disordered eyes
For just such can weep
Over such a blunder

Something not human
The daimon, the muse
Hands us the knife

To cut loose the earth
Its full pleasure refuse

A phantom our wife

We project onto numen
The cause of our strife

While declaiming to those
Our reflection illumined
Who, much amused,
In fret or repose,
Already live life.

© 2006, Doug Tarnopol

21 September 2006

Owed To Romans Earned, v.2


Beauty equals truth—
A judgment unknown
Where attacks are not critical
On paper alone.

To a gentle poet
From a gentler place
Comes this message proxy
With irregular pace
And hesitant rhyme
On heterodoxy
In a more brutal time
From those who would know it.


Running on the verge ill bodes
For poets dangling, like properties,
Whose owners want odes.

To whom much is given,
Should know when to seize—
Or what—and how avid—
Or risk being riven
When betrayed by a sneeze.

Poets, like a cat, tell lust
“Have no shame!”
The pet drones “Yes!”
But risks the blame.

To those loaned fame
Danger is rife
Not only to those
So brave or absurd
As to follow with deed
What had merely been word.

For history teaches
That support thus contracted
Is tacit and fragile.
To the furthest reaches
Of musings extracted,
Each facet must be agile
Lest the price be exacted.

Better to be sweet-toned
To patrons here present
With alexandrines well-honed
Over dormice and pheasant.

Better yet an epic,
Moral, patriotic—
And, dear Scheherazade,
Scorn the exotic.
No place on this plinth
To glory the Attic:
Save imperial facade,
It’s quite problematic.

Better an oration,
Fawning, pattering,
Strewn freely with awe
And due measure of flattering.
For that power gusts raw
When defied by a smattering
Of lines stolen true
From one’s own creation.
Best it stick in the craw
Than beg ruination.

(For your consideration:
In the oceanic hue
Of divine generation
Dyes the sanguine flaw.
That’s just what will do
To cover the splattering
That always attends the birth of a nation.)

princeps’ principle
Can never allow
Juvenile verses
Or satirical prose.
For satyrs can hollow
More than pitiless foes
The ruse that the ruler
Is something invincible.


Hoarse voices from afar,
Sound ashamed to me.
Blameless them, unlike we,
Who (for now) can shun tact
Toward the powers that be.

But not they, oh, not they
Of form Italic
Who, as careful as a tumbler
In a tightrope act,
Leaned as far as they dared,
Fearing the fall
To a black, lonely shore
Bereft by the sea—
Or rolling on the floor
Like a common chick pea.


In the capital of the empire
Where those unlucky poets
Made their home,
By sweeping steps
Of constant conviviality,
A poet, perhaps luckier,
Convalesced and died young.

Fertile, individual, versifier romantic,
A Prometheus unbound,
Died in Rome
From an infection of the lung.

But he was never prevented
To sing what he sung.

© 2006, Doug Tarnopol

Owed to Romans Earned

Running on the verge ill becomes
Poets dangling, like property.
To whom much is given,
Should know when to seize—or what—
And how avidly.

For history tells that such support
Is at best tacit—
From whom much is expected.

Juvenile satire can tell us little.
Or perhaps too much.

Better a martial epic—quick and
Or an oration that bends in awe
Of the power that gusts past us.

Sweet-toned to present patrons;
Hellish rulers past presented.

Or as careful as can be
A tightrope act
To avoid a black, lonely shore
Or crushed like a chick pea.

Copyright 2006