My Nerudian Ode

I wrote an ode in the style of Pablo Neruda–short lines, straightforward language, celebratory of something.  My ode celebrates the pre-dawn.



Ode to the Pre-dawn


Nightly mystery

and portent of dawn,

both are yours—

a residue of terror,

filtered down and

swirled with hope.

You wrap the back deck

in autumn’s first chill,

and fill the air with

the sharp whir of tree frogs,

thrumming in choral refrain.

You dabble in glows—

my studio lamps,

drawing me downstairs;

the inward glow of coffee’s

aroma and gift of heat;

soda-lit parking lots

silhouetting trunks;

blackish-purple horizon,

washing out toward town,

clouds absorbing city lights

in a sooty, diffuse orange—

backlighting the cedar spires

that rise from the waterway.

The deep, metallic buzz

of neighboring HVAC units

lends a bass rumble

to the pre-dawn chorus.

Stars flicker

in their final watches.

An unseen smoker

hijacks the air.

How can one little cigarette

supplant all other smells?

Back indoors, only I stir,

wrapped in caution,

muffling every sound

so that this fragile,

pre-dawn stillness

does not shatter.


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A Literary Tie to Rodney Dangerfield?

  1. The rodney-dangerfieldIt’s true, and you’ve probably seen it.  In the movie Back to School, Rodney Dangerfield’s character recites and is inspired by Dylan Thomas’s famous villanelle, “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.”  The poetic form known as the villanelle is a tough one to write, requiring two regularly repeating lines, or refrains.  The greatest challenge lies in creating refrains that are strong enough and flexible enough to be worked into the poem over and over without becoming tiresome, stodgy, or insensible.  Oh yeah, and they have to rhyme.


When I set out to write a villanelle, I took as subject matter the unadorned architecture of strip malls and used it to reflect on the general blandness of day-to-day suburban life.  So my poem is not as lofty as Thomas’s, but I believe I stayed true to the form.  Here is my attempt:





As featureless as dried mud, dull and beige,

and failing to attract my loyalty,

two strip malls squat, wherein bides this malaise


that has no cure.  It’s not an every-place

but a paean to mediocrity,

as featureless as dried mud.  Dull and beige


storefronts house businesses of middling taste.

We frequent only one of them, maybe

two.  Strip malls squat, wherein bides this malaise


that Walker Percy calls the modern state

of mind, its exterior equally

as featureless.  As dried mud, dull and beige,


absorbs despair in fissures, like numbed rage,

convenience dictates that we visit the

two strip malls.  Squat.  Wherein bides this malaise,


the sting of reality dissipates.

Markers of class are difficult to see.

As featureless as dried mud, dull and beige,

two strip malls squat, wherein bides this malaise.



*photo courtesy of


Part 4: Guess Who

I’m sure I forgot something.  Always do.  This is happening.  This has happened.  This has happened!!  I didn’t know this would be the day.  As good a day as any, I suppose.  But it’s like I always think when I hear of a fatal accident:  they didn’t know that this was the day they would die.  They just got ready for work like they always do.  They had plans and loved ones.  Plans for those loved ones, plans with those loved ones.  But then I comfort myself–restore some equilibrium–by remembering that people just live, until they’re not.  They’re conscious . . . of being conscious.  No, not usually.  It’s something else.  Nobody thinks about dying, at least not in any sustained way.  Maybe if they’re terminally ill, but even then, don’t we have a nagging optimism that things will work out in our favor?  I do.  We don’t want to be one of those who thinks, “That will not happen to me.”  But we do, at least until something really floors us.  Even then, though.  As long as we’re still breathing, there’s hope, right?  Anyway.  Circular thinking.  Enough.

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Things to do.  I have to break the news.  I have to . . . “MOVE!!  There was NO one behind me!  WHY?!” . . . Don’t have to do it right away.  Is this freedom?  At least until the money runs out.  Freedom for an afternoon.  Interim between slaveries, what it amounts to.


I’m going to miss this turn on purpose.  Good sense of direction.  Has to cross a main road at some point.  South.  Traffic not bad yet.  Afternoon fog.  Odd.


* * *


Only one here . . . “Ice in the trees is melting.  It keeps popping and crackling above me.  I feel like it’s gonna crash on my head.  Sounds like it’s raining, too, even though it’s not.”  Better not hit ‘send.’  She’ll know I’m not at work.


* * *


No one here but me, the ghosts, and the deer.  How strange for rain-sound to be quarantined in the woods.  Isolated noise?  Roosters–two of them–crowing a few acres away.  Sun ignoring them.  Rain patter on my right but not on my left.  Stubborn fog, thickening here and thinning there, but not lifting.  Horse-hooves on pavement.  Other side of the hill.  I am not alone.