What Hasn’t Been Said

What hasn’t yet been said about one’s true
Love? What remains for me of you to say?
Your glist’ning eyes do pierce my heart right through,
As lashes long upon your cheeks do play.

How lips so delicately flushed 
Are parted by your laugh, revealing teeth
Flashing and white, while hair so dark, smooth brushed,
Does run in rivulets o’er neck beneath.

Your skipping legs do blur through leaf-strewn fields
And down bucolic trails where you call me
With but a look. How winter’s days you shield
Me from the cold and share rough blankets weighty.

But these are all new things to say of course,
For one’s true love is so rarely a horse.

meter: iambic pentameter
form: Shakespearean sonnet ABAB CDCD EFEF GG

A Meeting with Death

David Walters was just sitting down to breakfast, espresso and a croissant, one cool morning in early May. As he perused the paper, The Daily Beacon Chronicle Gazetteer, which featured an article on a string of home invasions in the area, across the table from him appeared a man. The man was nondescript, like someone who works at a gas station or the Department of Motor Vehicles; not tall, not short, not fat, not thin. He had a blank expression on a blank face. 

David looked around. “Where did you come from? Who are you?”   

“Me? I’m Death,” said Death.

“Like the Death?”

“The very same.”

“Why are you here?”

“Everyone asks me that as if the answer isn’t obvious. It’s your time to go.”

David stared blankly. “Go where?”

Death tipped his head up and back, the reverse of a nod, to indicate a spot somewhere over his right shoulder. “Go, pass away, depart, kick the bucket, buy the farm, give up the ghost, meet your maker, shuffle off this mortal coil, become like poor Yorick (I knew him, Horatio, a man of infinite jest). Die.”

A puzzled expression settled on David’s face. “Is this some kind of joke? Are you really Death? You don’t look like Death.”

“No, but you do! Ha ha,” said Death. “God, I love that one. Gets me every time.”

David smiled weakly, then grew serious. “Well how is it supposed to happen?”

Death looked meaningfully at the croissant in front of David.

“I choke on a croissant? Seriously?”

Death shrugged. “Sorry. You don’t get to decide.”

“No, clearly. Look, I don’t mean to be rude but this really isn’t a great time.”

“No?” Death was taken aback. “I’m just doing my job, you know.”

“I know, I know, but I really can’t do this right now. I’m busy at work and I’ve got my kids and my wife to think about. I was planning on living for another thirty or forty years. I mean, I’m only forty-five”

“Hmm, thirty or forty years,” said Death. He leaned back and drummed his fingers on his chin. “I generally run on a pretty tight schedule. I am not sure I can allot another thirty or forty years for you.”

“Really. This is a bit hard. I mean, here I am in the prime of life, or close enough,” said David self-consciously, “and along you come to bring the whole thing crashing down. It’s terribly inconvenient; a real nuisance.”

“I am sorry. But it is our policy.”


“Ah, yes. Me and the other Deaths.”

“There are other Deaths?”

“Of course. There are other people than you dying right now. I can’t be everywhere at once; well, actually I can but not in that sense.” Death stared off in a thoughtful, puzzled manner like he had confused himself.

“Then in what sense do you mean? Are there other copies of you?”

Disgust showed clearly on Death’s face. “Copies? Absolutely not. I am unique. There is only one Death.”

“You said there are other Deaths? How can there be others if you’re unique?”

“You are familiar with quantum mechanics?”

“No,” David said flatly.

“Ugh. Well, in quantum mechanics, particles can be in one place and not be in that place, but rather be in another place altogether, all at the same time. It’s kind of like that.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Jeez. Okay. Take electrons, for example, one of the basic building blocks of atoms with protons and neutrons. They’re particles, right?”


“Wrong. Electrons, like quarks and gluons, are really fields, continuous fluid-like substances that act like particles only when we take into account the effects of quantum mechanics. Every electron in your body is a field that is a particle only when treated as an excited state of the underlying field.”

David’s head swam and his eyes began to droop. “Science never was my strong suit.”

Death continued, undeterred. “This is of course fundamentally because of particle-wave duality. Like photons, an electron can act as a particle and also as a wave. This wave-like property of a particle can be described mathematically as a wave function and squaring the absolute value of the wave function gives the probability that a particle will be observed near any given location.”

“So you’re a particle and a wave. Here but not here? Elsewhere, with all those other dying people, but not there?”

“Exactly. Now you get it.”

“Do you know everything? I would have thought that Death’s knowledge would be a bit more, Stone Age, if you will.”

“Well, not quite everything, but I’ve picked up a few tidbits over the years.” Death cleared his throat and shifted in his seat. “So, about this pickle.” He trailed off.

“Look, isn’t there anything I can do to put this off? It’s really inconvenient, what with the golf weekend coming up and all.”

Death brightened visibly. “Golf? You play golf? I had literally no idea.”

“Oh yeah; a few pals of mine are coming into town and we’re going to play all weekend; weather should be beautiful. Do you play?”

“Oh, I love the game. I don’t know iron from wood, or a hybrid from a hole in the ground but I love it. Fresh air, clubs, knocking balls, aiming for birds as often as the hole. And I can get a tee time any time I like. Just do that,” Death snapped his fingers, “and oh look, a spot opened up for me. It’s always someone’s time after all.”

The smile faded from David’s face. “I usually just call in advance. I don’t generally have to kill anyone to get a tee time.”

Death shrugged. “To each his own.” He rubbed his hands together. “Well, keeping you from your golf outing is the last thing I’d want to do, especially considering the wife and kids,” Death said with a wink. “I’ve reconsidered. Have your thirty to forty years. Just one condition. I get to play through with you once in a while.”

“Of course; sure, sure. Anything you want. Just join in, no need to ‘free up a spot’ and all that. My friends wouldn’t appreciate that.”

“Ha ha, no, no, of course. Well, I’m off.”

A few moments later David’s wife Rebecca entered the kitchen. She wore a puzzled expression. “David, do you know that man?”

“Oh, you saw him did you?”

“Yes, it’d be hard to miss him. We passed on the front walk.”

David shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “It’s a bit odd, but, well—he said he was Death.”

“Death?” she said incredulously. Her fingers massaged the bridge of her nose. “David, what are you talking about?”

“He said he was Death and it was my time to die. What else can I say? But he let me off, gave me another thirty or forty years like I asked. We found that we have a mutual love of golf.”

“Oh, so golf finally did something for us?”

“Now, Rebecca, don’t be like that.”

“Is that today’s paper?”

“No, yesterday’s. Why?”

Rebecca dropped a newspaper on the table, opened it and pointed. “Look familiar?”

There, staring back at him on page 2A was a nondescript face with a blank expression, like someone who works at a gas station or the Department of Motor Vehicles.

“I don’t understand.”

“He was trying to rob us, David. This is the guy that’s been breaking into houses around here. They identified him yesterday. His name is Thomas Harville. It says he suffered some kind of psychotic break and also became a kleptomaniac.”

“But—but, he said he was Death. He knew all this stuff about electrons and waves; said that’s how he got around. I mean, there’s got to be a scientific explanation somewhere. It can’t just be magic.”

“David, you are so gullible. He’s an out-of-work quantum physicist, and you are a moron.”

David stood up and sniffed, head held high. “I may be a moron but at least I know the difference between an iron and a wood.”

“What does that have to do with—?”

David held up his hand. “If you need me, I’ll be on the links.”

“He stole your golf clubs.”

“I said I’ll be on the links.”

Not Playing Possum

Not quite satisfied with the first version of this, I adapted it to create a rhyme scheme for version 2.

Version 1
A bloody scene all scattered wide, first cold
Then warming in the burning sun. But not
To last, the multitude of worms work quickly.
The possum’s face a lifeless rictus grin,
Eyes open staring fixed and blind in death.
Do not avert your gaze but listen well
For if you give attention, he will speak:
‘You are ever becoming what I am.’

Version 2
A bloody scene all scattered wide, first cold
Then warming in the burning sun, begins
To waste. The multitude of worms fill the mold.
The possum’s face a lifeless rictus grin,
Eyes open staring fixed, a look so fey.
Do not avert your gaze but listen well
For if you give attention, he will say:
‘You too are blood within a brittle shell.’

meter: iambic pentameter
form: Version 1 – blank verse, Version 2 – ABABCDCD

The Sailor’s Lot

The sailor harnesses the wayward winds
To strike out to the deep and catch the West.
A tiresome life of shifts, the sailor’s test,
The wooden world does tie the men as kin.

A world apart, the service and its duty.
The daily scrubbing with the holy stone,
Alert to quarter deck’s call, then up wind-blown
Rigging to set tops’ls all in their beauty.

The ship’s routine, a perfect dance performed,
They run to Neptune’s realm through foam and spray    10
That spatters hawse and bow to seize the trades,
And day by day both sea and wind are warmed.

But fickle wind then fails. Stalled in dead sea,
The doldrums seize the ship. Days wax and wane.
While sun bleaches the sails all set in vain,
Capricious wind ignores the sailor’s plea.

At last the earth exhales its sweet, sweet breath
And grasping royals now begin to fill,
Then speeding toward the Cape, the captain’s will.
South, south away, away from mortal death.            20

Back, back homeward, routine again they sweat.
Decks holystoned, hammocks piped up. At noon
Position made, all hands to dinner soon.
Drummed orders, hammocks down, the watch is set.

A sail on dawn’s horizon. The command
Is ‘Beat to quarters’. Gun crews clear the decks
For action, lest the bulkheads, hammocks vex
The crews, their guns run out, slow match at hand.

And now the men alow are at the ready.
Aloft they tack into the wind to cross                30
The prize’s path. But their hope turns to dross,
The friendly signals shown, its course keeps steady.

The trades are strong. Wind on the beam they race
Toward home. But, sailor’s dread, a gale now drives
The ship headlong. It drifts to lee, no grace
Grants the high cliff. The men yet strive
But she founders. All hands gone with no trace
Down to the bitter depths, a deadly dive.
The sailor’s labor, sweat, and toil erased,
No mem’ry of the sailor now survives.            40

meter: iambic pentameter
form: expanded Petrarchan sonnet with varied rhyme scheme


Gnawing, biting, bleeding, wounding
Yet not ever killing. Hanging
On, a chained ball dragged, reminder
Constant of what’s undone, ended
That will not return, not ever.
Orpheus walks out from Hell, but
No Eurydice then follows.
Look, or don’t look back, it matters
Not. There’s nothing to regain there.
Gone, gone, never coming back now. 
Forward is the only option,
But it forces him to turn back.
Hold, great singer, hold fast. Forward
Go. Let not its teeth ensnare you.

meter: trochaic tetrameter
form: blank verse

On Work, or: Why You Should Listen to Me and Get to Work

“Hesiod, the poet himself, a man of many talents blessed by the Muses, once told his brother Perses, “Work the work,” (ergazeo ta erga) and never has a truer word been spoken.

Work is the lifeblood of man, that which gives one purpose in an otherwise squalid and pointless existence.

Don’t get me wrong. I stay as far away from the stuff as is humanly possible. If Hard Work and Physical Labor approached me with a winning lottery ticket for a cool $50 mil. I would run a mile. It’s not so much that I object in principle to working, or “hard work” as it’s usually put by those who subject themselves to the experience, the actual blood and sweat of work, so much that I object to it in practice. I’m a thinker, not a doer, and people like me (specimens of such estimable class and value) are few and far between. Our talents and our energy must be conserved and directed toward the idea of work, the essence, the Platonic ideal of the thing, not the action. If something needs doing, I make note of it to any and all in earshot and wait for someone to do it. Perhaps it doesn’t get done. Do I worry myself about that? No. The execution, the alleged “hard work” of a thing is not my concern. The real work has been done between my ears. There is the achievement of man, in the thinking, not the doing. 

In truth, I work. I work very hard; most people just don’t notice, which, if we’re being honest, is their failure, not mine. Try as I might, the work I do just does not get the recognition that it deserves, a true crime against humanity if there ever was one. 

Build a school? No thank you; but I know where one is needed. Clean up the polluted river? A fantastic idea, of which I actually thought, so off you go. I think City Hall needs new leadership, so why don’t you run for mayor? Someone better do something about that pothole on Main. Cars drive too fast down my street; why doesn’t someone do something? Clean up the park, build houses for the homeless, adopt a shelter dog, recycle, stop air pollution, grow your own food, feed the hungry, clothe the needy.

I have all these ideas and no one will execute on them. 

It’s as if no one wants to work anymore.”

Excerpted from an interview with F. Rutherfords Finklehouse-Shays, heir to the Finklehouse-Shays diamond mining empire.

This “essay” or short story (or perhaps satirical monologue, as was suggested to me, would be better) was written for the monthly Symposium at the Soaring Twenties Social Club (https://soaringtwenties.substack.com/). The topic for the November issue is “Work”.

Sun and Cloud

It rained and rained so black in midst of day
Relentless life falling from heaven high,
Th’imagined battle, cloud and sun, that he,
Hyperion, might shine and see at last
Your glory in the full splendor of dawn
And you adorned in sun’s full raiment bright.
But clouds, bulwark of Zeus, do guard so jealous,
Sequester with lightning and thunder that
Which he does wrongly think belongs to him.
The sun does persevere, prevails without
A fight when clouds pass, as they must at last,
Fighting in vain against the wind’s sure tide.
And now Hyperion has his brief moment
To see you and adore you now before
The clouds return, as surely they must do.
But you can laugh at their prepost’rous game,
And laughing conquer would-be conquerors.

A Poem for You, Part 2

“Hello dear, I wrote you a poem.”
“Is this one actually for me or is it another passive-aggressive revenge composition?”
“No, Mabel, it’s actually for you.”
“Go ahead then, Gerald.”

Along the alabaster arc of joy,
Stretching beyond the mind’s membranous skeins,
The heart cavils at dull, dull persiflage.
Time’s bright shadow lengthens now.
A moment, grant just one. That is enough.

(aside) “That is enough.”
“What, dear?”
“Nothing, nothing.”
“Do you like it? It’s iambic pentameter, like Shakespeare.”
“Is it? I couldn’t tell. Don’t let Shakespeare know you’re comparing yourself to him.”
“That hurts, Mabel. I am trying.”
“What does it mean?”
“What does it mean? Ah, well, that’s for the reader to determine.”
“I see. So it doesn’t mean anything.”
“No, it does. Would it help to hear it again?”
“No! No, no; wouldn’t want to spoil my first impression. Just give it to me.”
“Do you like it though?”
“Oh yes, I love it. I thank God every day for your poetry. In fact it’s exactly what I was hoping you’d bring me. I need some kindling for the fire.”

The Shadow of the Sun

Come, take my hand and run with me to find
A place unknown, and hand in hand we’ll cross
Through skies so clear and bright, wide seas and deep,
Running against both time and fate to where
The mist lies deep in valleys and the high
Mount calls, where deep things wait in places
We forgot. We ride to battle, drums and horns,
Clarion call to glory, but we laugh
And dance and sing, escaping thund’rous din
To wander moonlit shores and drive our ship
Into the blazing shadow of the sun.

The Beach: A Sonnet

The rolling sea did call to me so sweet
Where crashing surf meets yielding sand, two worlds
Colliding, foes locked in combative feats,
The sea, the stronger, strikes the land all furled.

The shore, deceptive refuge from sea’s ire,
Does grant a place to view Neptune’s domain,
The deep that beckons to the soul’s great fire,
A watery grave where silence does reign.

Enter the surf and taste primaeval fear
Between two clashing giants, sea and sand.
The savage surf did roll and cast me here.
Upon the shore again I take my stand.

I left the beach then for I hate the weather.
I have sand in my shorts that chafes my nethers.

This poem was written as part of the monthly Symposium at the Soaring Twenties Social Club (https://soaringtwenties.substack.com/). The topic for the October issue is “The Beach”.