O – An alphabet poem

Je dois m’excuser encore une fois auprès des lecteurs francophones et hispanohablante ; l’anglais seulement ici aussi. La próxima vez: corto y dulce y trilingüe!

O – An alphabet poem

For AVW and a fair number of other people

AVW hands over mouth, version 2, from charcoal drawing by William Eaton, 2019A is for Amanda going to work. (Criminal law, we may end up calling it.)

And B for this bee between my breakfast and knee.

C certainly for cummings and the canty Ferlinghetti, still whispering from ledges which I walk below. (Although, for this ditty, Tara Bergin’s “If / Then” gets credit also.)

D for my mother dead five years ago. (I’ve been skimming the daily notes of her last nurses – notes about bowel movements, bed sores, hallucinations.)


E for equality! Equality of opportunity, mortality, depravity! I’m thinking in particular about how hardly have I noticed somebody doing something obnoxious than I realize that I do this obnoxious thing, too, and often on a regular basis.

F for the fountain playing in my ear,

And G for the grass under my feet,

And H is Eliot, T.S., who found in his memories, failings and misdeeds – well, a kind of Hell. I know how he fell, I know how he felt.  (As you may pronto.)


And I, O I was also just thinking again this morning that one of the greatest decisions I’ve made in my life was to stop paying any attention to the news.

And now a young woman has spread her blanket on the lawn right in front of me and wriggled her shorts down over her hips. She doesn’t look at all like J, who, like so many young people these days, is searching-begging desperately, perhaps futilely, for decent, meaningful work. As I e-mailed my hardworking young son, my heart may break because of all the lovely young woman I meet who are struggling to find good jobs, or any jobs. (And, btw, you may not read this in the newspapers, but I’m telling you: it’s worse for young men.)

But K’s still for kolors – for a white Lycra thong with matching white bra, for shades that are dark and toes a light blue; far beyond us the sky, not a cloud in view.

This is a love poem.


With Monsters hovering around the edges.

And I have been reinvigorated, too, by a mannered, intentionally naïve poem I wrote when I was 14. This morning I rediscovered the text, long forgotten. (As if at 14 one could be intentionally naïve! As if my naiveté will ever go away. I think of Michael Jackson trying to change the color of his skin.)

O again

My defined benefit Pension! (There can never be poems enough about the greatness of defined benefit Pensions!)


Please attach your brief autobiographical statement here. Quixotic, querulous, quaint perhaps. But fit as a fiddle, and can recommend my linguine with pine nuts and mint.

And begin every day with a little reading, if not Reading in the Raw. (After having adjusted her thong to try to get as all over an all-over tan as may be legally possible in a public space, she cracks open her paperback, which, she later tells me, is Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence. And I would like to add that while some poems do seem to write themselves, this poem is not one of them.)

And so we come to Marvell: “Let us roll all our strength and all our sweetness up into one ball, and tear our pleasures with rough strife, through the iron gates of life.”

Tangent to aside, aside to tangent, slowly but surely we knit our nests. But, jeez, haven’t I worked hard enough?


AVW hands over mouth, version 1, from charcoal drawing by William Eaton, 2019You

Naked, with your hands over your mouth as if you were afraid you were going to blurt out what you really wanted to say,

Skipping not just past v, but through any and all alphabets

To me, expecting to die without ever hearing your words, nor finding whatever clumsy words I might say to help us find love,

EXcitement and peace.


Y? I know what you’ll say. I heard you say one version of it once when we were eating spaghetti. But what are the real dangers? What are we protecting ourselves from?


— Poem and drawing by William Eaton. My previous pro-pension poem was Au Palais-Royal, Paris, 2019.


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