My Favorite Poem About Antiquity

Ode On A Grecian Urn
by John Keats

Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal—yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea shore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e’er return.

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,”—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.


Somehow, long after day has ended, the windows in the cafe
fog over just on the side facing the street—
as cars pass by, they glow and fade in the night window…

Somehow, three giant antennas, narrow pyramids of metal lattice,
pin the city’s edge to wilderness, the rolling hills and trees, and
announce the freeways, as the red lights atop them throb in the morning mist…

Somehow, on certain days, the whole ocean sucks up
into the sky, grey, and rushes out across the valleys
and everything and everyone sags, heavy in the day-lit fog…

Somehow, we’ll hurtle down streets tonight, the A/C clouds
the windshield, and the streetlights hum in brightness
while the roadsigns rise from the night, naked…

Somehow, I wake up before you, before dawn, and while I
ready coffee and wait for the mountains and our dog to awake I
let the smell of oatmeal blanket me as it steams from the cooker…

Somehow, I remember my grandmother’s house in winter when,
small enough to crawl next to the floor heating vent, air rushed past my hair—
and somehow, love, you are one of them, these subtle phantoms of season and memory…

Straight Shakespeare

Let’s talk, for a moment, about the Sonnets—
you know, those Sonnets, the ones by Shakespeare,
specifically, the ones to the beautiful young man
whom Ginesberg called Shakespeare’s boyfriend, but…

But I prefer—I really do!—to imagine
that Shakespeare was totally, completely
balls-deep in pussy and lovin’ it
heterosexual (and really
how could you conceive Ophelia without being a bit mad over women),
totally straight, except that
as an artist
as a man dedicated to beauty and therefore truth
(or is it truth and therefore beauty?)…

…as a poet, well us poets you see,
us artists, even the best of us,
mine for gold; we pan, we dig
we search and search for new territories, and
amidst the chivalrous age
when the whole world bowed
to the clarity, the soft and bright hum
of woman
Shakespeare stopped to notice
stopped to show us
and how they become subtly
beautiful creatures.

Haikus For My Dog

Fraught with heavy dreams
He sleeps on the rocking chair
Little chihuahua


His nose gulps the air
Pleading eyes and frantic paws
I know you have meat


Morning shifts through blinds
He wakes and stretches, ready
It’s time to pee now