The Blank Verse Mystery, Part 022

My next hike to the cabin on the bluff
reveals a new idea. Professor O
is watching, is he not, and seems to be
aware of many things I do up here
and even in my class of Milton Works?

If this is so, then why not ask the man,
himself what’s going on and why he left?
But softly, gently; don’t be so direct.
Should I just use his medium of choice
and leave him cryptic Post-It notes just strewn
upon the dusty Writer’s Cabin floor?

So, to this end I sit with pen in hand
and contemplate just how to write haiku
and what to ask Professor O and guess
what rules are written for this type of game.
There was a thing call tanka that I read
about in all those haiku books. It sounded
silly to me then, reminding me of Tonka Trucks
I filled with rich dark earth with Todd, my friend
of youngest days, pretending to be Bud
and Joe, construction workers ploughing roads
and building cities in our great big pile
of dirt back home. This load of soil my Dad
had had delivered for his wife, my Mom,
to plant her flowers in along the drive.
But somehow now it seems that pile of dirt
had far outlasted summer planting’s need
and Joe and Bud had ample realm to rule.
Or had my Mom and Dad been watching out
the kitchen window as she fixed him lunch
with pleasant smiles, and shrunk their plan
for garden plots and let us boys be boys?
It’s funny just how smart my parents have
become since I’ve gone away to school.

These younger days I ponder as I trudge
back to the library for more research.
I need a bit more information if
with credibility I wish to speak
with Doctor O. in his own tongue.

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The Blank Verse Mystery, Part 021

by Paul Guernsey Player, © 2018/07/27

A music without melody or beat
or harmony of any pleasant type,
the tortured squeal of trumpet valves pressed half-
way down, a double-bass that croaks like frogs
and drums that walk a disrelated path
to all the rest, is noise, though Jazz it calls
itself, and precious few Principians
that fill the auditorium tonight
would rank it near as high as Headache on
the scales of beauty, entertainment, art.

The five black men upon the stage have failed
to reach the audience of whites so eager
to appreciate, so hopeful to enjoy;
but one thing’s lacking on this night. The Art
Ensemble of Chicago plays for us
a nameless noise, as music in a tomb,
and though we strain to understand, we mostly
strain to not walk out mid-phrase and leave.

There is a thing as too much art and too
much innovation. Yes, the audience
does have a say on whether art is Art,
and just how far beyond the custom one
may go before the bond is broken clean.

Confusion on the faces of the crowd
turns soon to nervous intermission chat
with smiles forced as each tries to impress
upon the others just how much the show
we do enjoy. If only we could just
convince our selves. Instead the largest share
slip out the door and not back to their seats.

That evening past I now recall with dread
as sitting in our class of Milton Works
we listen to the words of students proud
reciting their own poetry instead
of words by Milton read by our own dear
Professor H, whose sonorous and rhythmic
voice had blessed our mornings past, before
the merging of our class with overflow
from Doctor O’s bestraggled,[1] squeaky clean,
polite, but quite disgruntled student poets.

Insist they deign to read unto us all
the poems they had writ, for promised they
had been their readings, workshops; not to sit
and hear of dusty lines penned oh so long ago
by ancient man both dead and blind, no less.

At first, we others, Milton scholars now,
thought this a treat, a welcome respite from
our plight. What better way, we thought to ‘scape
the footnotes needed just to understand
the words that Milton used, and don’t forget
his penchant for the run-on sentence long.

But soon we realized just how dear a price
was paid, for listening to the dribble passed
as poem by our classmates new was pure
persuasion that the Master of Blank Verse,
and commentary fresh by Doctor H,
such blissful Paradise, was Lost when this
cold gruel of sodden self enraptured lines
o’er took our former solemn eloquence.

Slight blemish we would readily forgive,
and deeper imperfections, too, for we
are eager to enjoy our classmates’ words
as hopeful to appreciate we were
The Art Ensemble of Chicago’s Jazz.
But this we simply can’t endure, the rape
and disregard of form, the lack of due
respect for us, the audience. We strain
to hear accustomed rhyme or please, at least
the scent of friendly meter, fresh cut rye
whose planted rows are only seen on close
inspection, helping us along the way,
to guide our willing listening steps,
to march us onward home to beauty spoken
through the music in our kindred souls.
But none of this we hear, just endless streams
of consciousness and disrelated thoughts,
a random mess of dandelion greens,
a bitter tangled dross of joyless gloom.

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[1] bestraggled – straggly

The Blank Verse Mystery, Part 020

by Paul Guernsey Player, Copyright © 2018/07/27

My English major perk of access to
the Writers Cabin out upon the bluff
grants me exclusive use on Wednesday nights.
As on this night just after evening’s meal
I stroll and listen to the chapel bells,
the carillon’s sweet music played for all
to hear by organist in residence,
that call the steadfast few to Bible readings,
prayer, and faith’s true healing testiment.

But I intend the Cabin’s solitude
to use to catch up on my reading not
of Bible verse but blank, the next full part
of Milton’s epic poem, due to be
discussed in class tomorrow morning, sharp.

As usual I settle in upon
the cushioned floor and close my eyes for just
a moment, and reopen them to find
that dusk has fallen ‘cross my study time,
a blissful nap enjoyed, and now I must
employ my flashlight just to read, or light
the candle that I brought, which always seems
the nicer way. As embers of the sun
that set below the western prairied plain
themselves burn out and slowly fade to black,
I finish up, my chapter read, with notes
enscrawled upon the margins, circled words,
and arrows pointing all around the book.

A good night’s work, I pack my things, put out
the candle, switch my flashlight on and sweep
its beam across the floor, to catch the stray
forgotten things I always seem to leave.
The floor is clear of all my stuff, except
for one stray Post-It by the door that I
somehow had overlooked or stepped upon
on my way in. A yellow Post-it note
with three lines neatly printed in a hand
that seems familiar now, Professor O’s –

from th’ Ethereal Skie
to bottomless perdition
adamantine chains


– the very lines I’d quoted in my essay
several weeks before for Milton Works,
but here transposed into the haiku form,
as only our esteemed and missing Prof
would do, and on the back I read the words:

Enjoyed your haiku reading.
Not bad, for a newbie.

I know now not to call his name or look
about. He is not here, but near enough
and keeping quite good track of me, it seems.
I smile, stick the Post-It in my text,
my instant favorite bookmark tabs my page.

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The Blank Verse Mystery, Part 019

by Paul Guernsey Player, © 2018/07/26

We cousins find seats right up front in Cox’s
Auditorium to hear the man
of Milton, Mass., the bright and spritely R.
Buckminster Fuller[1]. He who brought to life
the Geodesic Dome has come to Prin.
to lecture us on things of great import
and small, of salvaging the Earth from waste
and how he came upon the strongest shape
for building structures of the smallest weight.
The Triangle, he tells us is the true
and primal building block, and not the square,
at least it was for him the shape that thrust
him to success and fame and taught him more
than mere tensegrity.[2] Geometry
of Thinking truly is Sir Bucky’s life:
to Synergeticly[3] attempt to find
the General Principle because the small
and isolated parts will only mask
the nature of the integrated whole,
and Natural Law’s discernible by the mind.

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[1] R. Buckminster Fuller, born in Milton, Massachusetts. 1895-1983 (Bucky’s Principia lecture would be among his last).

[2] Tensegrity – “‘tension + integrity’. Buckminster Fuller, building on the highly original sculptures of Kenneth Snelson, coined the term, to indicate that the integrity of the structure derived from the balance of tension members, not the compression struts.”

[3] Synergetics – “is the system of holistic thinking which R. Buckminster Fuller introduced and began to formulate. Synergetics is multi-faceted: it involves geometric modeling, exploring inter-relationships in the facts of experience and the process of thinking. Synergetics endeavors to identify and understand the methods that Nature actually uses in coordinating Universe (both physically and metaphysically). Synergetics provides a method and a philosophy for problem-solving and design and therefore has applications in all areas of human endeavor.” “The word Synergy is a companion of the word Energy — en-ergy vs. syn-ergy; -ergy: do work; syn- synchronization, the with-ness prefix, the integrating prefix; en- the separating, differentiating out prefix; Man has specialized in isolating things out and has discovered many things this way, but has not discovered any great principles by isolation.” – Bucky


Dad’s Workbench

A bat is a frightening thing when confused and trapped inside an enclosed space. We finally extracted the toothy furball with the aid of a fishing net, which he had chewed his way through by the time we had him safely outside.

The basement was a place of mystery, even without such unexpected company. Unpleasant smells greeted the visitor upon descent of the steep green stairs. But here Dad kept his Black & Decker drill and saw, and all his other neatly organized tools and remnant bits of projects past. The plywood table and chairs for Mom’s preschool, brightly painted, clean and bright emerged back up those same dingy stairs. Our neighbor kids and I were first to test their solid dependability.

basement once had bats
dank and smelling of cat shit
here, dad’s workbench tools

by Paul Guernsey Player, Copyright © 2018/07/24

Delving into the Traditional with Lillian on HAIBUN MONDAY,
my first haibun and very first entry at d’Verse

We Visit Different Worlds

We visit different worlds in secret thought,
embark together via words to realms
invented by another, shared by all,
or to a living place we have not been.

We share this gift, this talent all assuming,
night from day and day from darkest night.
We creatures thus unalienably
endowed by our Creator, Nature’s God*,
our skills kept honed by speech and written page,
can never altogether be enslaved.

We visit different worlds together led
by artists’ boundless vision, slavers’ dread!

Paul Guernsey Player © 2018/07/22

in response to I VISIT DIFFERENT WORLDS, by Keith Garrett

*The United States of America’s Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, and Roger Sherman, 1776/07/04

The Blank Verse Mystery, Part 018

by Paul Guernsey Player, Copyright © 2018/07/21

“Bashō, Buson, Issa, then?” I rattle
off the final three haiku, as done
a month before, this week, by Doctor O:

I like to wash,
the dust of this world
In the droplets of dew. [1]

Lighting one candle
with another candle–
spring evening. [2]

The snow is melting
and the village is flooded
with children. [3]

Sincerely I attempt to add their moving core
into the dimly ‘luminated room,
and wonder as I hear my voice’s soft
refrain within the safety of the hand-hewn,
hand-split logs if anyone is here
and listening to the haiku masters’ verse;
perhaps the ghosts of Midwest Pioneers
who cut the trees and split these very logs,
a world away from seasons of Japan,
but at the very time when axe struck trunk
it just could be that one of these three poems
was being brushed in calligraphic strokes [4]
of ink or paint upon a scrap of paper
unaware its mission was to carry
meaning on to poets and to kings.

The words unroll and fill the room with love,
or that is my sincerest true intent,
to give the verse its due respect and awe,
regardless of my weak and smallish grasp,
and as I listen to myself I think
Professor O would not be unimpressed.

The last verse ends without a change in state.
I pat myself and look around the space.
“And that is that,” I smirk and say aloud.
I pack my things and put the candle out,
and as I lock the door and turn to go,
I take relieving bites of cookie, magic
chocolate chips, and all.

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[1] Bashō, Matsuo (1644 – 1694) Japanese haiku master;

[2] Buson, Yosa (1716 – 1784) Japanese haiku master;

[3] Issa, Kobayashi (1763 – 1828) Japanese haiku master;

[4] “Stretching back 5,000 years to the time when China first created the kanji writing system, the ancient art of Japanese calligraphy, known as shodo, maintains its position as one of Japan’s most revered art forms even today. Along with Buddhism, the introduction of kanji to Japan around the 5th century transformed the country forever. Shodo, or “the way of writing,” is an art form of careful strokes that together compose kanji characters, each either demonstrating a specific meaning or existing simply for beauty’s sake.” –

The Blank Verse Mystery, Part 017

by Paul Guernsey Player © 2018/07/21

Three haiku printed Post-it notes in hand,
an extra cookie, chocolate chip, in pack,
the very next new moon since the event,
the hour matching that of thwarted kiss,
I sit cross-legged on the wooden planks
behind the writer’s cabin’s chinked log walls.
By candlelight I ponder my next move.
Unwilling to believe in magic acts
of disappearing volunteers from stage,
or vanishing professors from the bluff,
repeating to myself my favored theory
of last month’s events: The silent flash,
not too hard to explain; I’d found an ad
for flashing dust in Magic Magazine;
(the basement in the library does house
some very interesting, if obtuse things).

He knew that I was there. Professor O
if wanting to escape unseen, had only
to emit the flash completely blinding
night-accustomed eyes, slip out the door
and hide until I finally went away.
But why then did he not return to class
or even leave a note of explanation
for the school? Impossible to know.

But one experiment I can perform
to satisfy my curiosity
and prove no hidden magic held within
the haiku verse had anything to do
with anything I thought I might have seen.
For now I’m starting to believe that drugs
I took in former days affected thought,
the counselor’s explanation for my sight.

But if I so believe no magic was
at play, why do I hesitate to speak
aloud the lines Professor O had read?
I shake the cobwebs from my head and start.

“Bashō, Buson, Issa, then?” I force
the words out from myself into the night.

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