On A Ferry Master, Revisited

[Note: I was happy with the first version of “On a Ferry Master,” but I felt like there was a missing quatrain. I’ve added the middle quatrain, and edited the poem to more strictly adhere to a 10/10/10/12 syllable count in the quatrains. But for line 12, the opening foot of each line is a trochaic foot, but, for the other feet, I followed my ear. The quatrains follow an a/a/b/b rhyme scheme.]


Tawny, brawny arms inked with grime and black,
loading his boat he swings them front and back,
leading cars like heavy Holstein cattle,
patting the steel heifers as they park and rattle.

Bouncing ‘tween banks his doddering ferry –
doubting drivers’ faiths whispered and carried –
Master mans a hoary helm armed for kills,
fated but to now cruise round the same pygmy hill.

Temporary shepherd cross choppy water,
tending his ferrous flock his lone bother.
Master charges a small two-axle toll,
but breathing exhaust ’tis the cost to his weathered soul.

On A Ferry Master

Tawny, brawny arms inked with grime and black,
loading his boat he swings them front and back.
The ferry master ushers his cars like Holstein cattle,
patting the steel heifers as they park and rattle.

A temporary shepherd across a stretch of choppy water,
tending his ferrous flock is his only earthly bother.
For his protection he hoards the paltry two-axle toll,
while breathing exhaust is the charge to his weathered soul.

On the Fox’s Bark

The fox’s bark is sharp and high
upon the hill below my house,
it sounds along the morning dew
and snatches at my muffled ear;
a victim of his sneaky scheme
to stalk and spoil my weary dreams,
I rise to watch him mug and laugh
and dart among the prancing deer.

On Feasting on the Years

Sitting at the corner table in the bistro,
everything around you in hazy relief,
auburn hair pooled around your delicate shoulders
in lazy waves lapping across your naked neck,
I cannot recall the taste of the bread or meat
or the sensation of the red wine sliding down,
but I remember devouring the moment —
engorged on my young lust and younger love for you.

Nothing else mattered in those gravid, timeless days,
the world populated by us and your red lips
plump as the breasts behind your tawny curls,
nourishing me more than the food between us.

Now your argent hair lays in tired recess,
winding down your weathered nape,
worldly fingers taming it behind your ear,
breasts falling behind your untouched plate,
we have more than feasted on the years.

On a Note Before You Depart

I should write very soon,
nothing long or boring,
hi or howdy will do,
thinking, that’s all, of you.

It’ll be a quick read,
kind words to you from me,
loving you on pages
inky in some places.

I hope you’ll hear me out,
before you must depart,
forgetting in stages
my young ruined heart.

On Slipping the Knot (Ver. 2)

I took another stab at my prior poem, hewing more closely to its iambic tetrameter in this version. I think it’s an improvement. Hope you enjoy.

I took a breath beyond our love,
a pause to see you go your way,
resigned to savor mem’ry’s knife,
and thrill its bitter long decay.

I’ll wrap the past in tears of joy
if after years of hurt and pain
I find the peace to staunch the loss
and call out your forgotten name.

I slipped the knot you offered me
and watched you dangle from below.
And turning from your greedy gaze,
the seeds of life I sadly sowed.

On a Farm Walk

The smell of cow dung knifes your pink nose
as you walk down the hill lined by fence,
behind the ramshackle old farmhouse
where your bygone and present condense.

You pass the goats, rutting at the dirt
in front of the corrugated pine,
blinking the ammonia from your eyes
so you can see some family line.

The woods start after the grey goats, and fall
away from house and familial cast,
with its green-roof porch and mangy old dogs
and acrid tinge of smoke and the past.

The woods is carpeted with wet leaves —
red, brown, and yellow soldier platoons
delimbed and dead on the battlefield;
your cul-de-sac under far distant moon.

The salamander so surprises
that you jump and startle just a bit
at your city ways and clumsy hands
and total lack of countryish whit.

You see the cow lounging past the wood,
and the weathered shed where father slept,
and hear the far off laughter roll down,
gathering speed to find you inept.

Standing quiet by the gurgling brook,
imprisoned by trees and rolling hill,
with a green salamander in your hand,
your open heart baring plenty to till.

On The Tree Alone

I drove along the country road,
until I saw the tree alone
standing in front the empty field,
preaching with a withered bark.

With jagged arms aloft in prayer,
it danced a sad, whispered despair;
a trunk so bent and stooped it lurched
over the burnt acre in spasm.

The cars behind me motored dumbly,
obtuse to grief and loneliness
here born by branch and deep-dived root,
I bowed my head and paused, humbly.

On Hearts Alone

I want to kiss your lips
on this busy sidewalk,
in front of all these folks
and let them balk and talk.

I want to hold your hand,
our fingers interlaced,
walking past shops and stoops
in neither hurry nor haste.

I want to stop all time,
to see you standing there,
our hearts alone meeting,
and be all I can bear.

But it’s a tale for one,
a silly song for me,
longing unrequited,
you see, my love for thee.

If I could bend your will
and change your eyes to see
the very thought that quickens
and dreams only to be,

my heart would soar above
unbound and then unchained,
and free of this tepid role,
to which I am eternally named.

A guarded heart for you
all but for the taking —
a prize you can never know
except in the forsaking.

It’s a tale for one,
a silly song for me,
longing unrequited,
you see, my love for thee.

On the Last Magic Act

I watched a magic man stuff ten scarves in a hat,
with one fisted hand tied behind his hidden back.
He bowed and scraped and winked and smiled;
the crowd all yelled and screamed, antsy and riled.

He topped his head with the stuffed bowler cap
and shoed around the stage, tap tap tap tap.
Stopping only to cuff his hands and feet together,
he now hopped into straps of taut brown leather.

A lovely girl then put him in a tall water tank
and to the glassy clear bottom he promptly sank.
He fought the chains and cuffs bravely enough,
but picking the locks proved simply too tough.

We filed away from the stage, sad and stunned,
not knowing if we should ask for a full ticket refund.
For it turns out, after all, he was no great magician,
but rather just a retired marching band musician.