Happy Own Yourself Day

Dad’s Log 2018/03/27, Daughter’s Sasha’s 18th birthday
This what I wrote inside Sasha’s birthday card.



On my high school graduation day, my Mom gave me a card with the poem, If—, by Rudyard Kipling. Somehow, it does not seem to apply here, but I continue the tradition with this piece of literature:


Dorfl sat hunched in the abandoned cellar where the golems had met. Occasionally the golem raised its head and hissed. Red light spilled from its eyes. If something had streamed back down through the glow, soared through the eye-sockets into the red sky beyond, there would be …
Dorfl huddled under the glow of the universe. Its murmur was a long way off, muted, nothing to do with Dorfl.
The Words stood around the horizon, reaching all the way to the sky.
And a voice said quietly, ‘You own yourself.’ Dorfl saw the scene again and again, saw the concerned face, hand reaching up, filling its vision, felt the sudden icy knowledge…
‘… Own yourself…’
It echoed off the Words, and then rebounded, and then rolled back and forth, increasing in volume until the little world between the Words was griped in the sound.
Golum Must Have a Master. The letters towered against the world, but the echoes poured around them, blasting like a sandstorm. Cracks started and then ran, zigzagging across the stone, and then-
The Words exploded. Great slabs of them, mountain-sized, crashed in showers of red sand.
The universe poured in. Dorfl felt the universe pick it up and bowl it over and then lift it off its feet and up…
…and now the golem was among the universe. It could feel it all around, the purr of it, the busyness, the spinning complexity of it, the roar…
There were no Words between you and it.
You belonged to it, it belonged to you.
You couldn’t turn your back on it because there it was, in front of you.
Dorfl was responsible for every tick and swerve of it.
You couldn’t say, ‘I had orders.’ You couldn’t say, ‘It’s not fair.’ No one was listening. There were no Words. You owned yourself.
Dorfl orbited a pair of glowing suns and hurtled off again.
Not Thou Shalt Not. Say I Will Not.
Dorfl tumbled through the red sky, then saw a dark hole ahead. The golem felt it dragging at him, and streamed down through the glow and the hole grew larger and sped across the edges of Dorfl’s vision…
The golem opened his eyes.
Dorfl unfolded in one movement and stood upright. He reached out one arm and extended a finger.
The golem pushed the finger easily into the wall where the argument had taken place, and then dragged it carefully through the splintering brickwork. It took him a couple of minutes but it was something Dorfl felt need to be said.
Dorfl completed the last letter and poked a row of three dots after it. Then the golem walked away, leaving behind:

Feet of Clay, p. 91
Terry Pratchett




On Wings of Wax Unmelting

I come home now with purpose freshly made
to spin cocoons of family like the one
that shrouded me while growing up
around the ones I love,
that once they do emerge and see the world,
that they might then unfold their wings,
and shine as beacons to it,
that they might fly like Icarus to the sun,
and back on wings of wax unmelting,
and with faces grinning ear-to-ear.

My dad was infectiously good natured and innately likable. Saying that he was “warm” does not come close to describing him. He made bonds with the people he contacted and they remembered him.

Vic was the undisputed best grandfather in the world. He loved children. He could not pass a baby in a restaurant without getting in its face, with the invariable result of Dad and the child laughing and grinning ear-to-ear.

My family, my wife, his grandchildren and kids of mine never met the man – the nearly unforgivable price of dying far too young. “Your father has died.” Pack everything and go. I promised in those days, those awful, stunned with sadness days, not to do this to my kids. A promise no human man can really make, I know.

I am no longer mad at him, for just as I and my son are one, I and my father are also one.

Poem and prose dictated as a series of text messages while driving through Knoxville, Tennessee. “Sobbing Through Knoxville” could have been the working title. Poems can strike at the strangest times and places, and with a power not entirely my own.

Poetry, a Definition

Functional Definition of Modern Poetry

Poetry is like Race. If a person inherits a fraction of a Race’s blood, that person IS that race. If a piece of writing or spoken word contains Any attribute of Poetry, that piece IS a poem. This paragraph, for example, contains a simile, so by this definition is a Poem, although it was written purely as prose.


The Saddest Bid for Immortality Ever Devised

I used to transcribe my poems on the blank pages of books by famous poets. I imagined they would ride into the future like remoras suckered to the belly of a powerful shark. But the librarian would always find them and black them out. Later, she resorted to excising the vandalized pages with a ruler and a blade. Those stubs at the end of Paradise Lost in the Mount Laurel Public Library? That’s me.

by Charles Rafferty

published on poetry.com, Poem for Wednesday February 28, 2018, [ http://poems.com/poem.php?date=17591 ]

This piece is labeled as a poem on poetry.com. Its use of the remora metaphor qualifies it as an example of the genre, but this is not my definition, and to me, this is not a poem. To me, only one of the below truly defines poetry. If a piece of writing…

moves the reader or listener emotionally,

contains rhyme,

contains meter,

contains a simile or metaphor,

contains alliteration,

is written in all lower case,

…the piece is a poem. Pick the strongest answer.

My definition of Poetry

Poetry is the artistic use of language to produce an emotional effect.

This seems broad enough to encompass most everything that claims to be a poem, as the above Rafferty work, while implying that there might be higher levels to which poets might aspire. Some poems might, perhaps be more artistic than others. Some might be more successful at moving the reader emotionally. Some might be more valuable than others. But this definition presents the problem of defining exactly what is Art, a more daunting question, still. What makes one use of language artistic and another not? Does the definition also require the participation of the reader’s emotions? What moves one to tears may leave another untouched.

Some possible attributes of Language as Art

I realize I am on a slippery slope here, but I will venture onto the ice, nonetheless. #mixedMetaphor #humor

Part of the Art of Poetry is in communicating something without saying it. The concept is demonstrated without pronouncement or even being named.

Poetry is the music of words, as well as the words of music.

And my favorite reference on what makes poetry, and here again we lean for support on our old friend, Art. I am not saying poetry is about following formulae or rules. It is about the creation of an effect by use of words, alone, and that sometimes, meter and rhyme can be your friends. Good, true, and loyal friends.

True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As those move easiest who have learn’d to dance.
‘Tis not enough no harshness gives offence,
The sound must seem an echo to the sense.
Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows,
And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows;
But when loud surges lash the sounding shore,
The hoarse, rough verse should like the torrent roar.
When Ajax strives, some rock’s vast weight to throw,
The line too labours, and the words move slow;

From “An Essay on Criticism”, by Alexander Pope


Your comments are most welcome.