Wednesday, November 30, 2011


 Villanelle for an Ending

Fragile moon, the diva is singing—
Fatuous moon, in the worlds you mirror
Unlucky stars are merely splinters—

Lovers sweep away the splinters
They call words— & broken mirrors—
Fragile moon, the diva is singing—

The lp’s a glossy pool her singing
Escapes, merging with sky and mirrors—
Unlucky stars are merely splinters

And light from lamps is caught like splinters
In lovers’ eyes, those convex mirrors—
Fragile moon, the diva is singing,

Breakable sky—Lovers aren’t singing—
They watch the lp, thinking it mirrors
Unlucky stars that are merely splinters—

After the aria, the moon will splinter—
A perfect world exploded in singing—
Fragile moon, the diva is singing—
Unlucky stars are only splinters  

Jack Hayes
© 2010

[The photo shows a piece in the Smithsonian Sculpture Garden in 1985; the image seemed to fit the poem reasonably well, & there's also an autobiographical connection in the poem to Washington, DC]

Saturday, November 26, 2011



Though he is a person to whom
things do not happen, perhaps they
may when he is on the other side.
E. Gorey

His suitcase is very big, but it's not
a cruise-ship.  He wouldn't get far
floating on it, or trying to steer
by the handle.  He needs a real boat,
since his valise is probably
filled with inconsequential,
at least to sensible people,
trinkets— some photos, framed, and a diary
that hasn't been blessed with many entries.

His topcoat is very long, but it's no life
preserver.  It isn't orange
for starters, but colorful as porridge
perhaps.  It wouldn't excite the sea gulls even
and might be scorned as tasteless
by great white sharks.  So he'll sail at evening.
With him for company, the ticket agent's
bored.  The ocean rolls colder, vacant.

His ship is very late, and the land
erodes or retreats, so the shaky pier's
his final refuge.  Something looms nearer
on the horizon—
an island or whale in the full moon's teasing
unrefined light.
Terns squawk, berating onshore breezes
that blow them near.  He'll sail all night
 if ever, but has no snack to eat.

Finally, he's very cold, though the tide
promises a ship, or to deliver
a transport to save the potential voyager.
You might say he's dissatisfied.
But if steam would pipe from smoke stacks,
around which fluttered flags of every country,
he could make jokes with the first mate.
And if the gang-

plank dropped on the other side,
stung alive by ocean's frothing all night,
he'd shake hands with the by-now jovial captain
and sagacious travelers.  That's the new man.

Jack Hayes
© 2010

This poem originally appeared in Timbuktu
[Photo shows Charleston, SC harbor; the poem was written on a visit to South Carolina in 1986]

Wednesday, November 23, 2011



Into drizzle the dogs
are put out hooting,
to squat on the flagstones, blue

flowers shut down
hours ago, so no one
gives a damn for their song,

not wives & husbands
swallowing those last puffs, slumped
between sofas' arms,

not kids bunked, peachy-
skinned plates stacked in cupboards, they'll
crash down dreaming, but

the TV's a gas flame,
Chrissakes it sputters the same way
bug-lights fry bugs, &

something's gone wrong,
dogs pant foaming,
gargling their coarse slang,

licking at broth
from the sky.  Then yellow lights
are cut off.  But

no one has switched
the tube's knob, the idiot
box keeps cooking

airwaves like the sky's cooking.
Gadzooks! dogs shout, look
out, air's boiling over!

Jack Hayes
© 2010

Saturday, November 19, 2011



It can't be a comic situation, radiance spurting energized under the skin;
it must be perturbing or itchy, like poison ivy blisters or uncontrollable acne,
but some kids are familiar with this problem.  They over-expose the
                yearbook's film.
out-dazzling flashbulbs.  Weekends, they light up the visitor's scoreboard,
                but not to make trouble.

They're not alone.  Other kids know if they dissolve solids at the worst times,
                it's not a surprise;
it's as if, for instance, a locker room's cinderblock walls were instant
                powdered drink mixture.

These aren't under control, are secrets.  And how they were taught to relax,
                they forget;
they never get dates.  Because a life's unsure when fingers sprout branches,
                or what a brain suggests
in a not pleasant voice is gas on fires already simmering and subcutaneous.
And when their eyes, shameful to them though autonomous, concentrate to
after midnight, their parents' bedroom door (so vision supersedes any need
                for ears)
they'll botch it more if they phone, confessing or laughing, the good-looking
                regular ones.

Such conditions don't merit headlines, interviews, don't receive TV's close-up
in fact, aren't claimed to exist, except in muscle-bound fantastic comics
                parents trash.
So how could you know that, in unnatural August twilight, at grown-ups'
                backyard barbecues,
one boy teenager's aware his epidermis stretches, fibrous, leaves-out, as
                steaks char?
He's dynamic as an oak, but mobile.  He towers over suburbs, looking for
                villains to handle.

Another glows and senses he gives off infinitesimal lightning.  He's
                enigmatic, shining,
his hair's electrically curled.  What combustions, deep as tissue, are stoked
                to save this boy's world!
Meanwhile his uncle (oblivious) flips magazine pages portraying
                all-important people.

Another, his sister, sees (and is stunned, wishes to hide) white, too white,
                father's boxers
x-rayed and minutely as she sees mechanisms in every clock, in every
they're shocking as teacher's hands in see-through pockets.   And at
                dances, boys' hands fidget in pockets.
She's hopeless, she's certain.  From porch to lawn chair to TV room her eyes
                are too strong.

Listen, it's not that they lack auditoriums, courses, programs to show them
It's not that they have no teachers to lay down rules, for example what's good
                or evil.
The bad ones already are too big, the movies are moving much too fast. 
                Classmates cringe or giggle;
jocks, bullies, cool blond class presidents, cheerleaders know what to avoid,
It's not comic.  Transmogrified life's not for school, should only be penciled
                and inked.

So what if blame, as often ascribed, is traced to parents tested on fertile
                drugs, to radiation?
Through suburbs school buses still cruise.  Important villains won't ever go
                home after curfews.

Worse still, dailies ignore exigent kids.  Their existence is denied by
                ballplayers, eggheads.
They won't chat with prom queens, politicians, or earn a TV special.  Their
                parents'll never marvel.

Jack Hayes

© 2010 

This poem originally appeared in Timbuktu

Wednesday, November 16, 2011



I was a kid, and I was half-lost
in every unfriendly pasture, and
mostly, mister, they were unfriendly.
Holsteins spotted me as fast

as boys in pick-ups pounded freaks.
The cows would roll their stupid eyes
and chew like mad.  I'd kick up heels
through slop.  Then they'd kneel down to cuss.

I was a kid, and I was half-lost
in every drunken barnyard where
the old man and his buddies bragged
about their acres, tractors, herds,

and chug-a-lugged.  They hooted when
I spit up brew.  You're not a man,
they cackled.  Man, I trotted off.
Their rubber boots smelled worse than beer.

I was a kid, and I was half-lost
on every unpleasant hillside where
the probably-lopsided sheep
uprooted banks, laughed sadder laughs

than women I'd meet in redneck bars--
but that was later.  Farm boys winked.
They'd fleece me, too, just like they fleeced
their darlings.  Well, I hoofed downhill.

I was a kid, and I was half-lost
in every catch-all front yard where
the weeds were high as rusty cars.
When Out-of-Staters parked to buy


our trinkets and our squash, they'd ask,
What chores can you do, son?  You bet
I galloped fast behind a wreck.
(They never clicked my photo, sir.)

I was a kid, and I was half lost
in every late night parking-lot
where guys named Hoss and Slim would squeal
their Dusters out, and all the girls

were kissing, friend, like mongrel dogs
that yap in kennels.  And if I butted
in, guys howled, Who's horny now?
Oh, yes sir, I hightailed it home.

Stranger, in this nervous state
where German shepherds govern lawns
and rampage over flower beds
when a hitch-hiker, a lonely wolf,

stalks backwards up a curvy road,
and where the tourists brake and aim
their cameras at the wreathed barbed wire
or toward the unrepaired white church,

I figured out the law.  Oh, watch
the half-breeds reel (as natives point)
bamboozled from the gin mill, sir.
This country tends to oddities:

folks keep them trained in cross-hair sights.
And when I noticed curtains pulled
and windows glaring, I neighed loud:
Kid Brother, beat it down the line.

Jack Hayes
© 2010

This poem originally appeared in Timbuktu

Saturday, November 12, 2011



It takes over at such odd times
that lately she starts to expect it;
whenever a naughty question's asked

whether her elbow's cold on the fridge,
or her bare knees are pricked by the rug,
or if she's listening, prone on her bed,

or anywhere— on the bus with transients,
in a parking lot, out to eat Chinese,
or kicking stones from her shoe,

she feels, first, the comb push
up through her skull; high cheekbones compress,
her septum juts & curls.

Smaller eyes, which slide
toward her temples, stare at her red legs,
her claws & feathers, that stiff tail.

As she's a lovely woman,
she's such a gorgeous hen,
& mens' hands reach to take her back;

however, she doesn't need that,
spots a link fence she hadn't seen
& takes to circling.

Then she strains out the egg.
Then she clucks at the world.
She's never surprised.

Jack Hayes
© 2010

Pic shows graffiti in Chicago in 1984; the poem was written on this trip!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011



At least you can be uncertain about this life
and puzzle whether your souvenirs could be found.
Your old names have been scribbled in a list.

Shopping, you’re unsure if you need avocados;
and wasn’t there someone you’d promised to visit later?
At least you can be uncertain about this life.

You’re moody.  You shuffle the tarot, dim the lights.
The card of your distant past is the Wheel of Fortune.
Your old names have been scribbled in a list,

which must be some place, like your list of errands;
lunch with Sophie today, or next week Tuesday?
And whereas you can be uncertain about this life,

in your dream you’re Egyptian, the man is from Utah.
Next you stroll in Atlantis, he flies to New Jersey.
Your old names have been scribbled in a list.

Confusing… should you lose your cool or dance?
But you’re sure you lived last in either Ireland or China.
At least you can be uncertain about this life;
Your old names aren’t your own, they’re dreams for lists.

Jack Hayes
© 2010

Pic shows graffiti in Chicago in 1984; the poem was written on this trip!

Saturday, November 5, 2011



it was lonely underneath
an early sun,

and he was gone,
like an apple core thrown away.

He couldn’t be hidden
In that flatland

the wild herbs, the seeds,
like eyes, saw him,

the thousand seeds.
Through the short grass,

in snake country,
to the horizon, they waited.

Wild flowers, the pollen,
like eyes, saw him;

and the morning crows

Jack Hayes
© 2010

Thursday, November 3, 2011



Aurora, arch or whorish, spreads herself thin,
the horizontal, divine, clean gal, I mean,
and whorish I say because so rosily
posed, so photogenic, she reclines,
stretches herself like laundry hung out to dry,
while, Maudeline, lechery's itching my eye-
balls and lids seedily... those aren't underclothes,
but clouds, skimpy cirri, floozy's gauze,

she apparels herself blushing in, and lies
as earliest cars to the world sigh and buzz.
What's squintily dawning on me, Maudeline?
Prior to real sunrise her shame's a tease
over each erect and horrent pining pine,
so early birds chide and horrifically keen
"break it up" to us past the out-of-place moon.
Day will, like cops, break into our room,

since Aurora will betray anybody.
Pink-fingered, she—antiseptically sexy,
just, above frustrated traffic, half-undressed
strokes, strokes, as the banker strokes money,
and Maudeline, she'll put the finger on us,
it's time to shove off, love, for cash and the rush.
What's in my eye?  Aurora and dollar signs.
Love, ourselves we're losing as we come clean,

because only love's blind.  But blinded by light,
as autos give up the ghost in parking lots,
as industrious birds, hemming and hawing,
work and scold, the quotidian's sold and bought.
Dollar, dolorous, voluptuous new things...
I'm reddening.  Who's singing?  Darling, so long.
Aurora, bourgeois whore, gazes at, unfazed,
us: nightingales in a stateside zoo.

Jack Hayes
© 2010

This poem originally appeared in Timbuktu

Nightingales in a Stateside Zoo

Why preserve poems written 20 to almost 30 years ago in a contemporary blog?  This was the question I asked myself when I tried to decide whether or not to actually bring this blog into existence.  First answer—a personal & idiosyncratic one: I’m a completist.  My later poems are all preserved on The Spring Ghazals & The Days of Wine & Roses blogs, & so ultimately I knew I needed to dedicate a blog to these poems, the oldest/youngest member of the three.

Oldest/youngest—oldest poems, written when youngest.  & these are a young man’s poems & different in many ways from the poems I later wrote in San Francisco & Idaho; there’s more formalism, less spontaneity—or more control if you will!  Many of us have these characteristics when young I suspect; this must be what Bob Dylan meant when he wrote “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now,” tho perhaps he was still too young when he wrote that to see how true it is.

A brief history: I moved from Vermont to Charlottesville, VA in July 1984 to attend the University of Virginia MFA program with a Henry Hoyns fellowship in Creative Writing—a tad over than 26 years ago as I’m writing this; roughly, a third of a lifetime. 

A few of these poems actually pre-dated Charlottesville; "When Summer Broke" & “Dogs as Chorus to the Late News” were written in Burlington, VT (but revised significantly, I believe in Virginia), while
“The Déjà Vu Villanelle” & "Hen-Woman were written in Chicago during a visit there in 1984 right before I moved to Virginia.  Two of these poems also were actually written right after my move in 1989 to San Francisco—“Asleep at the Wheel” & “Frankie’s Flight.”  But these seem more at home with the Charlottesville poems.

A fair number of these poems were published in “Timbuktu” & “Little Friend, Little Friend”—many thanks to the editors should they ever pass this way!

A few quick notes: the poems will post in the order they appear in the book itself, which like my other poetry books is available here.  The book is divided into four sections: "Mutant Heroes," "American Dreams, "New Arcadia" & "Advent"; each section will be labeled.  Once all 36 poems have posted, the blog will become archival—still available to read, but with no new content after the final poem.  Finally, in a departure from my general practice when posting poems on my other blogs, I will post a photo from my Charlottesville days with each of the poems.

The book's dedication reads as follows:

These poems were written in another world, in another life, & after many years they are finally “on the record.”  I dedicate them to the people whose presence made them possible:

Brittany, Christopher, Eberle, Eddie, Elizabeth, Jenny, Jill, Jonah, Keith, Lana, Lisa, Mari, Meghan, Molly, Priscilla

Hope you enjoy them!

The image shows an illustration of nightingales (Luscinia megarhvnchos  - Nachtigall) from Naumann’s Naturgeschichte Der Vögel Mitteleuropas  (1905).  The image is in the public domain.