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William F Dougherty

Clerihews

I
Edmund Clerihew Bentley
lampooned illuminati intently:
his quatrains on names, with a closing flick,
liberated burlesque from limerick.


II
Ezra Loomis Pound
wrote cantos polyglot and profound:
cognoscenti find them tinglish,
even some collaged in English.

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Black Knots

[Moodpomes: Calendar of Correlatives]

At twilight scrawny starlings screech
like harpies hunting empty streets,

braid trees and ledges in high-pitched fuss,
knotting in rows at hollow dusk

like charcoal beads tightly queued
entreating night's protective hood,

unless a hawk-cry snaps their thread
and black beads scatter, half unsaid.


(Pub. in Descant, Texas Christian Literary Journal,
Vol.25, No.2.)

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The Gardener's Curse

This lapidary labor stirs a curse
Like sculpting marble blocks with callused hands
And polishing the surface to rehearse
Set ranks of wayward words the verse demands
To play an emerald tune on emerald line
And signify above the duple beat
Some metaphor that holds to the design
Or at hairpin turn, makes its sense complete.

Poems are never final, just abandoned,
As artifacts beyond minute repair,
Vainly arranged, then grudgingly stranded:
A moment's monument—a grasp to share.
Like Adam's Curse, to carve in stone means pain,
But only heart creates: the opened vein.

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Wallace Stevens: The Click of Marbled Orbs

(Sonnet as Keynote to WS)

The stout man puffs on his Havana cigar
And picks canary chords on his blue guitar,
Fashions flawed words and spindrift sounds
Into day-glow verbs and glass-blown nouns.
How much the notion of a supreme fiction
Derives from bric-a-brac and spiffy diction
None knows. Say his thickest absolutes
Derive from blue rotundities of fruits:
His crispest jugglery performs the feat
Of hardening stealthy points into concrete
Trombones, sausage-makers, cattle skulls,
And pettifogging buds. His monocle's
Univocal, a prop that lets him see
Glories in pewter, and mere poetry.


(Published in The Wallace Stevens Journal, Fall 2005. Vol.29. No.2 p.304)

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From Mad To Verse

(Old note on the day Ogden Nash cached in.)

Jabberwock, ode to a skylark,
he'd used any device (licit or il)
slyly to entice words to a lip tease;
that harlequin in word-paint on a stanzaic trapeze,
slapstick Houdini of phonetic cajolery
hocus-pocused versentences into breathless, paragraph-long forced (Holy Moly)
marches until they began to huff and puff, then yank them somersaulting
into rhyme-ribbing drollery.

Alas and alack, from mad to worsa,
his quipster's pen stalled, smack in mid-snicker,
candy still dandy and liquor quicker,
that clanging prankster,
that tricktionary, syntaxical most-wanted gangsta
bequeathed us pun-ditry of snigger and flashery-
crackerjack, whip-snap, impish, funny-boned, taffy-pull
Ogden Nashery.

[...] Read more

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Roman Sentry

A soldier's curse is not the copper pay,
stationed here in this gods-forsaken place!
I'd bribe a centurion to leave today.

Anywhere! —lug my shield on the Appian Way
or guard the quarry slaves in rocky Thrace.
A soldier's curse is not the copper pay.

The land is weary, fit for thorns and clay.
The towns are crowded with a bearded race.
I'd bribe a centurion to leave today.

This hill is bald as a skull, cold and gray,
—and I left my woolen tunic back at base!
A soldier's curse is not the copper pay.

Sentry for rebels crucified today—
last year in Rome I won a chariot-race!
I'd bribe a centurion to leave today.

[...] Read more

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Villanelle on a Proverb

The heart once broken is a heart no more.
—Edna St. Vincent Millay


The proverb says that time confers relief,
heals a crimson gash or knits whole a bone
and years unlock a knuckled fist of grief

that clenches emptiness in disbelief
to keep one's wits from being overthrown,
while time, the proverb says, confers relief

from cleaving wounds, paradoxical thief,
that also tears apart fused hearts grown
beyond the lock of knuckled-fisted grief

half-hearts collapsed empty in unbelief
at finalities beneath lids of stone,
while time, proverbially, confers relief

[...] Read more

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Lamia in Blackburn Wood

[In the form of traditional folk ballad.]

I

In Blackburn Wood a maid betrothed
that rode a garlanded mare
by cutthroat maimed for maidenhood
writhed in crimson there.

Dislimbed beneath a shrieking sun
and left for carrion-kite,
the savaged maid survived their beaks,
and slithered into night.

II

By summer's end, to Blackburn Wood
a sheath of night returned;
beneath its hood and tapered robe
maiden vengeance burned.

[...] Read more

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