(Being, as it were, a misanthropic poem
of no import)

The five geraniums sit
in a tight cluster
on a tin tray:

a well-meaning colleague
has rescued them from
impending cold and placed

them on the corner
of a desk in my classroom.
The classroom is also hers.

In fact mainly hers.
Ugly as sin they are,
and potted, still blossomed,

the lower leaves shading
into curled yellow;
they elbow together

like Victorian ladies
jammed into a paddy wagon.
Scooped from the world,

they lose decorum and
wilt, like old newspapers
on bulletin boards.

They’ve had their due.
I’ll just put the window
up an inch or two.



55 thoughts on “POEM OF THE WEEK

  1. “The Kindness of Others”. Whoops, missed this in the master doc of poems, in alphabetical order. Will take care to see that all are published here eventually.
    misanthrope? or misanthose? [I made this up: Greek: mis> hate+ anthos>flower]. Cf. “Guilty” a couple of weeks ago, on the potted hydrangea that was left outside in the cold. Jane was not sure about that one, perhaps suspicious that “things happen” when partners harbor varying regard for certain things. hmmm.


    1. “Hmm” indeed. What is it the Burgess men have against geraniums (though I quite like the bundled paddy wagon ladies gloss on the species)?


  2. “Getting to Know Josie, Fifteen”

    Beautiful, mystical….. Josie made quite a splash her first times at Sebec, in more ways than one, lifting everyone’s spirits. I remember Dad and I taking her water-skiing, and half-through she lifted one ski and started mugging happily at us as we looked back. Dad turned to me and said, “She’s a pistol!”
    queries: ‘veil’ for ‘vail’? moonstruck lake/ring of sun: is this harmonious, or is that too much to ask of this surreal poem? I feel invited to imagine a real event as the impetus for the dreamy imagery: a tumble back off the boat. Is that the effect intended, if one can ask for the intention?


    1. Re: vail–I wish I could say that this vail carried its connotation of a lowering ( a respectful lowering, perhaps like a salute) into the poem at this juncture but the fact is I did not at the time of composition know that that connotation for vail , or vale, or veil existed. We have here I think an embarrassing instance of my history as a spelling moron and I stuck the wrong word in the poem. The intent here should have dictated “veil” and will in future printings of this poem. Hate to give up Jon’s inventive tumble off a boat as part of the mix but fact is fact and should prevail. Prevale? Preveil? HFB


      1. OK, veil, edit made. Maybe I went on the wrong path of the “you”: not the person identified in the title but the voice of the narrator ~ a universal typological “you”, the narrator and everybody who has/might experience a sensation. So, the imagery of magic, imagined, and the magic of sailing—I wonder, as a non-sailor, if I missed this connection, sailing is like fantastical voyages in an unreal world— is metaphoric for the positive feeling of “getting to know”….
        better? On the bridge looking forward to a new, amazing future….?


    2. I’m still fascinated and so intrigued by this poem, which feels like Hugh is leaving me clues of who we were, of what it was like to discover the wind and the lake, and to be “sailing….fantastical voyages in an unreal world” as Jon put it, from that point of view. Not as a child, but at 15…learning to take risks, perhaps, to tumble into a sail or into the water, or into a future. Of course it is obscure, as memory must be, more emotion and imagination than anything. I treasure being named in this poem. Thank you, Hugh, with all my heart!!!


  3. “Homer”: Homer! oh, that Homer. Well, he was a good dog if highly colorful character. I remembered once he disappeared for 3 days at McD, only to return with a milk carton in his jaws, leaking around the fangs. It turned out that he needed us—to open the milk carton! I like this poem, which may remind of the prosy-anecdote poems of the author.
    ‘pea brain’ is a bit harsh, especially for a creature of such odyssean calculation and wandering ability, but it gets at the primal instinct of our wolf/permanent puppy pets. Our Anabelle is happiest either lying in our laps or trying to kill a possum in the backyard.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jon

      This work or a version of it was by Hughs computer this evening
      I was also able to help him retrieve an old photo which is on FB


  4. “Home from the Sea”: one thinks of the Baltimore aquarium, of course. In Toronto now it’s a “Ripley’s” aquarium: not bad, with walk through plexi-tubes where the sting-rays lounge on the top…. In this poem, with its concise 3-line stanzas, there’s an interesting turn “come winter.” One hesitates to ask for authorial intervention, but I’m not quite sure of the sequence. I thought at first we were imagining real-world down-and-out suppliants in the parking lot area of the aquarium, which would be very Baltimore-like, with its side-by-side tourist area/urban issues, but I wonder if, perhaps more likely, we are asked to think of the water inmates in metaphoric, anthropomorphic terms. Either way, very powerful, but I’d like more direction: are we moving outside the aquarium, or are we moving into a higher degree of metaphor? Jonathan


    1. HFB comment in response to JSB question. Given the choices you define, the answer as far as intention is concerned lies in the social irony: creature comforts afforded sea creatures in contrast to the poverty of the human creatures. Or more deeply: the widespread support of government for one specie and the casual neglect of the other. Also, although I don’t know how this next factor colors the situation–but both species in this contrast are to a large degree “dislocated” in their present environment.


      1. Excellent, thanks! Creature/human makes the poem very powerful, and I also like the ‘dislocation’ angle. Very nice.

        In academic literary theory, we are told that we can’t wonder about the ‘intention’—the ‘intentional fallacy’ of the New Critics, and for structuralists, post-structuralists, narratologists, only the words exist, no biographical person, and even if you could ask the author there is no reason to expect him/her to know what the hell they were doing or to be truthful to you or themselves if they thought they did. But I’m glad I committed this literary sin by asking the author.


  5. “….Yorktowne Plaza”: nice slice of life, contemporary life, suffused with collocated yet disparate items….starting with the archaic spelling/strip mall phrase “Yorktowne Plaza”. Of course, Google Images has an image or two of even “Yorktowne Plaza.”


  6. “Fog”: sorry for the line spacing: WordPress is not flexible enough to handle, as far as I can see, in this theme. But I wonderful prose poem, presented to me and Geoff to check out in Edenwald a couple of weeks ago, and there’s a lot more “anecdotes” prose poems in the works…..


    1. The author said he wrote a reply, but I don’t see it. Over the phone he reports he’s keen on the idea of revising the poem by using WordPress limitations. Frost’s tennis net, I suppose. Interesting; I was going to suggest a 15-16 syllable line, or even iambic 14-ers (can be sing-songy, e.g. Mary had a Little Lamb–though Buddy Guy’s version really hits hard). The author is also working on other anecdote poems, including one on a Katahdin family trip. He’s fascinated by the memory of the details—Doug told him, to his surprise, that he was not there; Dad suspects that Kurt Kusiak was there, visiting with Dave, but is not sure. Anyone remember, send details to Hugh!
      I talked of the great artistic promise of not remembering everything and filling in the missing plausibly, referencing Patrick Leigh Fermor’s wonderful books (2, and a posthumous third) on his walk across Europe as an 18 year old in the 30s, books he started 50 years later, with only memory and some scattered notebooks and maps to help him out.
      Better stop: commenting on your own comment is a bit like talking to yourself.


  7. “Glen L. Martin Airport”: a profound if indirect memorialization of a tragedy for the area, and in particular for McDonough. Besides pondering human dissolution into material, and the human as one part of the non-human universe, there is beautiful use of language to portray machines as animals, very different ones. Nice change of perspective, movement from claustrophobic stutter-stop of a traffic jam, the delicate distance of a small airplane, the horror of massive machinery…. Also an ongoing ‘cup’ theme. Emotional impact, but well thought-out poetry.

    I hesitate over the colon after the first stanza, which leaves everything that follows until the full stop a long, tangential description. Over-balances “moment”. I'd put in a period and then change to a finite verb, not participle, or a comma/ colon but a full stop more quickly, editing to start tangents in new sentences or sentence.

    So I suggest. A recent New Yorker piece by Louise Erdrich on Philip Roth (who I consider a great prose stylist, with my favorites being Sabbath's Theater [not for the faint-hearted or prudish], American Pastoral, The Plot Against America [relevant, again]) has her daughter correct Roth's pleasure at her reading "Huckleberry Finn" with the reply "It's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and then Roth: "Everybody's a copy-editor."


  8. ‘Edenwald Suite’: lovely slice of life, a sweet suite of three views. Time, backwards and forward, nostalgia/’news’, with a characteristically sharp eye for nature and its cycles coexisting in parallel to human concerns, at once oblivious to the human condition and symbolic of it. The author has done Edenwald proud.


  9. Drowned Squirrel: as with Doves… the author injects temporality and change into observation of nature. Whereas often a humanist/romantic nature poem provides a static, painterly image, here the direct gaze is the starting point for a directed meditation on the cycle of life. In my internpretation, in Doves… the author contemplates the disruption of the doves in correlation to change of trees, seasons, etc. In Squirrel…., the very static corpse of the squirrel is envisioned as food for a raptor, and at a larger level it’s all a melding metamorphosis of past bodily form into a new form…both poems really about the fluid, slow, inevitable reconfigution of atoms, I think; a nature poem that is humanist in its perspective and thought, but post-human or para-human in its implications.


    1. Startling, striking image from the get go . . . an ugh first visceral response , then well, right, that’s nature . . . like then towards something onward, and other, rising in thermal spire – I feel more at ease by the end


    2. I have to share with all how much I appreciate and enjoy this dialogue. We live in a world of diatribe, yet here there is listening and responding, writing and receiving, remembering and restoring.

      Such a pleasure and honor to observe and “dwell within these distances” and their proximities.

      Love to all, Rosemary


  10. I love doves, and their screwball panic attacks when somebody comes by. I have two questions though. When I think of a windfall, I think of the fruit on the ground. Has the tree fallen? And (quibbling), apples seeded instead of pitted?

    Liked by 1 person

      1. on point b, you may be right [the author agrees, ipse dixit, personal communication]; on point a , at the very least, confusion arises since the conventional meaning of “windfall” in the context of apples references auto/self-picked, or wind-agency fallen, apples [the author agrees with the surmise that here the implication is just that the tree has fallen because of wind]. Those ‘pitted’ apple images remind me of stinkbug-struck apples. Stinkbugs are now here in TO, and we may have to cut down our 3 backyard appletrees. Anyone have advice re: stinkbugs?


    1. I find this poem charming,which is a weak way of saying I am getting a clear picture of the experience and the feeling. A good feeling. But one line or reference doesn’t jib for me. A note that doesn’t fit. That has to do with “…I wonder in their new / dominion…” Where did that come from?


      1. The author and his readers are still chewing ‘Doves..’ over, though a new posting has been put up, so below is a replay of last week’s hit. On the query, I’d read “I wonder… how they [in their new dominion] count..


        Below on the lower slope
        of the abandoned orchard,
        the mourning doves

        have taken hold
        of the windfall tops
        of apple trees, one

        especially, hollow and split
        evenly down the middle,
        north to the one hand,

        south to the other,
        the leaves still green
        but curling inward.

        The doves preserve
        the courage of desperation
        then scuttle into the air

        so late I might have caught one
        in my hand if such a chance
        were in the scheme of things.

        Now I wonder in their new
        dominion how they count
        their odds, what insistence

        they inaugurate for winter,
        what their reach is into spring,
        when out of twenty,

        four trees will still bear,
        dropping pitted fruit
        for bees.


  11. Deer Story: I confess I’m not a fan of center spacing, but a great verse representation of a story, a narrative, two guys and a yarn, two brothers, with colloquialisms, emphasis on the parts an oral story would emphasize, the self-deprecating humor about hunting fashions, hindsight remembrance of survival of an outdoor challenge, the bit about the kids not wanting a ride to school, etc.
    I’m not a fan of guns, also, it is true, but as a socio-economic vegetarian not an ethical one I have no problem with “well regulated” hunting, as the phrase in quotes means in English, if strangely not always understood that way in other contexts, and I know some people in west Jersey who wouldn’t mind some help with the deer hanging out in the yard like squirrels….For a good book on native hunting in British Columbia, as well as land rights etc. , there’s Hugh Brody’s Maps and Dreams, which I am currently reading.


  12. That slight lift over a bump/threshold reminds me of the driveway curb of my growing up home – we called it the “thank-you-ma’am” for its rhythm – held similar sense of return.


  13. Crossing into Maine: another good poem on the Maine theme. The first gods: Zeus, Poseidon, etc? More likely, native divinities. But to what extent is Sebec primeval: what was its state before modern dam systems? Am I wrong or was there no Sebec Lake in its current configurations even a 100 years ago?

    Image from Google Images, selected from hundreds from search “bridge” and “into Maine”. The poem evidently articulates emotions many feel about passing over the hump back into Maine.

    Don’t forget to confirm with the author by leaving a note that you enjoyed this poem and continue to be impressed by the high quality, depth of meaning, articulation in verse, poem after poem, and there is a lot more… Authors always wonder, did anybody read it? What did they think? A random meeting may reveal a huge fan of publication X, who knew? Are there other readers? Do they ‘get it’?…


    1. The Piscataqua Bridge is definitely a landmark to the Lake, even though it’s not quite halfway there for me from Bernardston, MA. It’s name similarity to the Piscataquis River in Dover must be more than coincidental, but it’s meaning is unknown to me.
      I’m 83 today, and am fortunate that I can still travel to the Lake, witness its moods, hear the loons at night, watch the sun come through the cottage window in the morning, and even sometimes get there early enough to catch the “ice-out” season.
      I’m past the time, but not the memories of dipping for smelt in Millinocket and ice fishing on the Lake with Joe Lunt.
      Great memories for me and memories of my whole family, even Grandmother Mabel Towne at the Lake once.
      Good poem, Hugh, but my favorite is, of course, “Deer Hunt”.
      John I. B.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. thanks, John. Good question: anybody know? Online I get the Abenaki root beskas ‘branch (of a river)’ and -tekw (river). There’s also the Piscassic river, Piscataquis County, and Piscataquog Mountain (NH)


      1. Yeh, it’s always an Odyssey going to Maine….I don’t believe you have been over this bridge, though. You’ve crossed from Quebec, down the Arnold trail, and once flew into Portland, and then up 95 in a rental….good trips, still…


  14. Conversations with Marty:

    Dog walking is Zen.

    And people meeting. Just this last weekend:
    a. at Humber East park, Anabelle thrashing about a 8′ tall, and thick cane patch, making a racket looking for field mice. Passing group of dog walkers: “Is your dog ok?” “Yeh she’s just nuts and won’t come just now.” “Well, we got to wait and see this dog that is making so much commotion!” Ana extricates herself from the far end and circles back like a little brown bullet. “Woh, we were expecting a big dog; what is that a puggle?” “No, a souped-up dachshund, gotta go, she’as at the mice again” (taking care to pronounce it Germanic style, daks-hund, whereas there seems to be a Toronto way of saying da-shund, with typically Toronto prim insistence on “correcting” the correct pronunciation with the mis-pronunciation. Ah well, language is what is becomes, even if I study the ‘rules” of golden age Greek and Ciceronian Latin. )Anyway, I eventually coax her again to zoom out in triumph as a golden brown blur and I clip her up…only to realize, her halter is gone. Go back to look for it, but the cane is impenetrable.

    b. Nice fella at the Ravina park (a ravine, you may gather; one of those covered-over streams in Toronto that eventually makes it way down to Grenadier Pond in High Park; it was training ground for troops before the first WW, then an ice rink and then an outdoor pool, now a baseball field) approaches with his dignified rangy dog. We talk about rescues, like Ana and his dog, which he says is half shepherd and collie. Reading our minds, he says “some people say it’s part wolf, as is the case sometmes with the rescues from up North…well, maybe some coyote, who knows” (and you don’t have to go north to see a coyote pass your path; I’ve seen three in the past year; two Jane and I saw at Humber East a few weeks ago— and so, she concocts a tall tale of Ana wrassling with a coyote in the cane patch, only to escape without her harness, left in the hungry jaws of the bamboozled coyote— bald eagles now too, down there at Humber East park, so say the nature photographers). Ana does her bumptious genital sniff of the dignified scruff of a dog, with his far-away nobody’s-really-my-master primordial gaze, who actually is very Zen. The owner explains the dog’s miserable early life and his gradual metamorphosis into a noble, patient creature—and the two dogs inhabit the same space calmly as we talk, before we are on our way, the northern rescue content in his place with the owner he picked out, in his earnest, serious way, and Ana eager to show off her daredevil circus-trick frisbee catching…


  15. I’m guessing that this dates Iraq invasion era. Not that we are free of the Iraq war era, or the one in Afghanistan. Feels odd to me to be living in a time of searingly truthful documentation of the lies and waste of the Vietnam War (PBS Ken Burns doc; movie The Post) and we have to just keep drudging on through our two longest foreign engagements with no end in sight.

    More to the point: the poem gives a humane and balanced perspective, with consideration of the mindset and emotions of a soldier in a terribly pressured situation. The focus on guns, with attribution of agency to the implements, I must say, reminds me of the basic and relevant truth that guns kill people. That’s what they are made for. If you have a hammer, everything starts to look like nails. Top that off with the ongoing complete misunderstanding of the 2nd Admendment, ironically anti-conservative in its innovative and twisted re-writing of it, and you have, well, a pretty hopeless mess.


  16. ‘Clarice’: as is typical of the author, an extraordinarily profound poem for a family member. Also another in the very successful Maine-themed poems. Nice balance of rounded stones and turned hills, setting up perfectly the hill of Clarice. The tone is peacefully still, yet steadily mobile—as the river.

    As in previous weeks, the images are acquired from Google Images, randomly but vaguely linked to the poems’ contents. Often the collocations seem apt, or ironic, or provocative, or intriguing. I hope this one does too, one of those at least. That may be the county bridge in the painting, I guess. Or perhaps the famous covered bridge.

    Query: ‘in truth’: what is the connection, what does it add? In the very least, I think we need another beat in this line. Is there a hint here of a funereal moment for the river? Should that be teased out more? Or would this be too much pathetic fallacy, esp. since the poem is admirably Zen-like in its perspective on the river and time.


    1. I remember this poem well which I believe I first heard at Gram’s memorial ceremony or some point shortly afterwards. I liked it and felt it gave a proper closing to Gram’s life. For nearly every summer afterwards when in DF I would go to this bridge and stand looking north. It was near, as Gram used to say, “the graves,” the stones for Lyle, Neona, and others I didn’t know except as stones. It was the poem that brought me there the first time, and I kept coming back to contemplate the ages.


      1. well, there may be no north and south in poetry, or rational spatial mapping, but which bridge are we talking about? Our grandparents are buried in the main town cemetary, not the Dover one. I guess I can ask the author later tonight in Towson. Of course, an author may choose to fend off rational real-world correlative interpretation (as Homer often replies to my queries).

        Liked by 1 person

  17. Aunt Eva told me that when she was about to deliver a baby, they contacted her husband, but he couldn’t come because he was about to be up at bat in the baseball game soon. Another age — practically no divorce, obviously.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thannks, John. Amazing. These kind of stories are great; we’ve heard some, but many we have not—I never heard that one. And I never heard much about Walter’s Eva being selected to be a farm wife by Walter out of the local workhouse, for instance.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Aunt Eva poem: Opening image is from a Fedco Trees newsletter reporting a (different) letter from the (only 101 years old) Eva Burgess; this was found at http://studyres.com/doc/16354460/low-resolution.
    A different and older Eva Burgess in the family, wife of Walter Burgess, Hugh Burgess’ grandfather, lived on a farmhouse of historical heritage: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_and_Eva_Burgess_Farm . More detail: https://npgallery.nps.gov/pdfhost/docs/NRHP/Text/97000312.pdf. Unfortunately the farmhouse burned down in 2013.

    Liked by 1 person

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