Comments Posted By Paul Woodruff

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The word: Imperfect

Caveat Lector

Don’t read another word!
I warn you. However much
I write, rewrite, revise,
Slant in some rhyme, touch or retouch
This poem—a word to the wise—
In the end you can be sure
In spite of all that I will do,
All my great expenditure
Of effort, of my devout and true
Allegiance to perfection,
And though it’s no more absurd
Than life itself to warn you
Of this, my coming dereliction,
Be advised no matter how I try
I will abandon this—this object
(Should I dare to call it poetry?)
Open to the gaze of the public eye
Without the slightest self-deception,
Knowing it is imperfect.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On September 16, 2017 @ 11:07 am

The word: Tea

A Century is Nothing

Lady-come-to-tea: a game
She played with her great aunt
When she was small.
At eighty she plays again
With my small girls. It’s all
Laughter and make-believe
And crayons in tiny drawers,
One for each girl, who now
Have little girls themselves.
A century is nothing: the game
Will go on, the tiny cups
The crayons and the laughter,
Always, lady-come-to-tea.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On September 4, 2017 @ 4:27 pm

The word: Warmth

The Great Corrector

The sea is the great corrector
Of every Excess: it does not tolerate
Too much warmth or a steady calm.
Change is always rising from the deep:
Wednesday, sun’s heat leaves warm
Air over the chilling waves;
Thursday, warmed air draws cool
Mists from the surface of the sea.
They gather, soften rocks and trees,
Then give the eyes a total rest.
Fog stills the sparkle of yesterday.
Horns blow. Ships feel their way.
Next day, a colder sea pulls breezes
From the steaming land. Fog lifts,
And all is as it was before:
Wave points glisten, hills rise clear,
Light pricks spruce trees on the distant shore.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On August 22, 2017 @ 12:50 pm

The word: Loyalty

More Wood
For Wayne Henderson

Figured grey cherry matched planks
I have saved for over forty years,
Honey maple, spalted pecan, not
So long as the burr oak stout
Unturned bedposts up attic. Black
Walnut is fairly new—oh, I have
More wood than time, more dreams
Than nights to dream them in, more books
Than lives to write them in, more . . .

But it is the wood I see and touch,
Spit on to bring the grain to light.

Fragments of mesquite are waiting
Till I fix my lathe; the clutter proves
My loyalty to wood, my prayer
Always to have more wood than time.

» Posted By PAUL WOODRUFF On August 1, 2017 @ 8:57 am

The word: Enthusiasm

Pyotr Illych

The violin in his Andante
Cantabile pours into me
And you the same sweet
What-is-it that is alien
To us both

Though we have always known
It (now we hear it for the first
Time). Is this how he felt,
The composer in attic alone
And not alone—

The strange familiar surprise
Of a new melody from somewhere
Else, pouring into his soul, brand new
And unforgotten, ancient tide
Of enthusiasm?

» Posted By PAUL WOODRUFF On July 25, 2017 @ 3:32 pm

The word: Catalyst

Caveat Lector

Don’t read another word!
I warn you. However much
I write, rewrite, revise,
Slant in some rhyme, touch or retouch
This poem—a word to the wise—
In the end you can be sure
In spite of all that I will do,
All my great expenditure
Of effort, of my devout and true
Allegiance to perfection,
And though it’s no more absurd
Than life itself to warn you
Of this, my coming dereliction,
Be advised no matter how I try
I will abandon this—this object
(Should I dare to call it poetry?)
Open to the gaze of the public eye
Without the slightest self-deception,
Knowing it is imperfect.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On September 16, 2017 @ 11:05 am

The Mountain at the End of the Lake

You change me but do not change:
The unmoved mover moves by being loved,
Blind to his soft influence.

Memories, dreams of height
Blow through the alpine gardens of my mind.
The scent of hopes fulfilled

Or, more often, postponed
Still draws my face each night toward sunset
Fading behind his clouds—

Cold catalyst, remote
Collector of clouds and long glances,
Pale summit beyond change.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On July 4, 2017 @ 11:40 am

The word: Transient

Promise Me

“Hold still!”—Photographer’s plea

There must be something beautiful that holds
Long enough to be seen well, and loved.

The flutter of goldfinches in the white birch
Quiets before binoculars come to hand,

The beauty of a child in the brief moment
Of her good behavior turns aside,

The blown birch seeds that drew the finches
Yesterday are now all blown to ground,

Children grow and leave and live their lives,
Their color held in albums fades away,

Nouns and names, well known, squirm out of reach
Before I tell you all the things I see,

Unless we see them hand in hand, silently,
So I and you know what the other sees:

Promise me our love is never transient,
That something beautiful at least holds, still.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On June 26, 2017 @ 10:00 am

The word: Aplomb

The Dao of Recovery

Invincibility is no great trick
If you know where to put your weight.

Levity is best in the upper
Story if you want to rise,

And in the lower, gravity
Is recommended, for rising

To face the next punch
And then another. Keep the same

Grimace, like the painted clown
Who falls on his side and flips

Back every time. He is all air
Down to the soles of his shoes.

There, at bottom, a certain weight
Gives him imperturbability—

Unconquerable aplomb—
So long as his head is full of air.

Gravity has no pull on empty
Heads. Tempted to gain weight?

Drop that thought, drop every thought
You can. Only the vacant mind is wise.

Erase my teaching, clear your head:
Reduce, reduce, reduce, and rise.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On June 17, 2017 @ 7:22 pm

The word: Warrior

The Franklin Stove

This fire is my companion, so long as it remains
INSIDE the Franklin stove. I don’t want it roaming
About our living room: it must be contained,
Since it can’t be tamed. Could fire share its home
With fuel—lose its fierceness, lose its heat?
Water would do the trick, drown its appetite
To oxidize my life and everything I love.
But then I know it would not still be fire.

I understand: As deep as “fierce” is fixed in “fire,”
“War” has been planted in “warrior.” War must be held
Apart, so as not to burn the ones I love.
No one can take war out of the injured heart
A warrior carries home. The iron has not been cast
That would contain its heat: Warrior, beware!

» Posted By PAUL WOODRUFF On June 4, 2017 @ 10:59 am

The word: Aroma

Rising Islands
For Lucia

The sweet decay of leaves
Clotted under aging
Black oaks, and the mist
Of green dust scattered
From majestic heights
By white pines, blend
To an aroma that weaves
Memories over sixty years,
And more, of summer revels,
Readings, firewood sawings,
Adventures in a birch-bark
Canoe (with a nimble
Brother), islands that sink
When you grasp their twisted
Tamaracks and step out
Onto their mass of moss and roots,
Sink like memories and rise
Like memories when you pull back
And the methane bubbles burst
From decay into bright sunlight.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On May 29, 2017 @ 11:40 am

The word: Circuitous


The route from ground to saddle
And from saddle to ground
Is circuitous. But, once begun,
Not optional. What goes up
Comes down, in time, one way
Or another.

Mail, however,
If correctly addressed and adequately
Stamped is rarely returned.

How you come
To ground is matter for choice,
Most times. Head first is not
Recommended. Feet are best
But if you cannot find them,
Try your buttocks. If they fail
Your shoulder will do in a pinch,
Though a painful one.

Rising higher
And higher without return
Is an ideal hard to achieve
In practice, but you can always
Hope your address is correct,
And you carry the approved postage.

» Posted By paul woodruff On May 13, 2017 @ 3:20 pm

The word: Crepuscular

Frolic till the Shadows

Crepuscular creatures come out to play
In the soft light that grows at break of day
And again in the evening as the sun goes dim
We frolic till the shadows of night close in.

Our time is short between day and night
We must love as we can in the waning light,
And think as we can with shadows in our minds:
It is only to enliven us that Death sends signs.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On April 25, 2017 @ 7:28 pm

The word: Happy

The Good Life

I float like a gamma ray
Through a crystalline structure
Of traffic down the avenue
On my bike. The gate is nothing
For me. It opens wide.

A Marine takes my helmet
Another my bike at the portico
Go right in sir. He’s been asking
For you all day. I burrow
In my pack for a shirt. I have
Been aswim in the warm air.

No need sir. But I’ll be cold
I say. My T-shirt reads
Oedipus Tex, a favorite, only
Slightly torn. The lady coming out
As I go in recognizes me
Which is a surprise. I dress
Better going to Buck House.

An intern hands me a sheaf
Of paper. Too hot for email
She says, sleek as a model
In stiletto heels and a sheath
Dress tight to her figure.

Sorry to be late sir I say
The rehearsal ran way overtime
At the Kennedy Center.
I understand he says. Do they
Understand your play?

They do now, I say. That’s
Why it took so long. Broadway
Was easier. Give me a mo
While I read this. He drums
On his desk.

Here’s what
You do I say. You can sell
Anything. Why not sell
Compassion? Good idea
He says. The intern takes
Notes and flirts with me.
We are ogling each other’s
Legs, which are bare. He
Does not notice. You’ve
Saved my bacon once again
He says. No problem
I say always happy to help.

The Marines salute as I
Take off the OT shirt and mount
My bike. A gamma ray again,
I float through crystal.
Life is good I say. Life is good.

» Posted By paul woodruff On April 3, 2017 @ 12:18 pm

The word: Fantasy

Fear or Ragged Cutting

A dream of dull dado heads
Haunts my night: the blades
Cutting too rough a groove
To suit my fantasy of seals
Of splines to dados holding all
Parts together of my pedestal.
Will the table I am making stand?
Will the rough men now in DC-land
Cut smooth or ragged deals?
Will my dreams of peace and progress prove
No more than fantasy? Beds
Of fragrant roses dying as night fades?

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On February 14, 2017 @ 9:31 pm

The word: Electric


After the first pulse
The electric whales
Moved up and down
In the narrow depths

Their passengers,
Dining on red tablecloths,
Swapped hot stories
Of blistered paint
And tawny mornings.

Seeing this,
The savage tympani
Along the banks
Fell silent
In holy dread,

While the clockwork
Mermaids, decorously
Ticking down upon
The hastily scattering
Rocks, laughed.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On January 20, 2017 @ 12:12 am

The word: Adventure


The nights are cold now
Outside, green ferns
Turn brown and brittle. Time
Marches, blasts beauties,
Desiccates the mind.

Inside, a child finds
Pebbles on the floor
And a little time to have
A small adventure
Of discovery.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On January 8, 2017 @ 10:41 am

The word: Eudemonic

After Conquest

The old man advises
A conquered people: Think
One eudemonic thought
At break of day
Or as your head falls
On your pillow:
A blessing, a memory
Of comfort
Or a phrase of music.

Murmur of grandmother’s voice,
Brightly painted breakfast nook,
Fragrance of ripe-cup cantaloupe,
Faint remembrance of stove gas,
Grandfather’s deep-voiced silences.

Sarabande of Bach launched
From a dotted figure
Leading to a chord, ends
With a fall of two octaves,
The lowest sad, promising,
Note, after a deep breath.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On December 14, 2016 @ 9:59 am

The word: Relevant

The Loving Eye

The little blue heron shadowed in the tree—
Snowy egrets there in plain sight, now dusk
Settles wind and everything but fruit bats
Awakening for their nocturnal hunt—

How may I see them relevant to me
And to each other? A conquered nation waits
For its new overlord’s commands, but the moon,
The totally relevant moon, rises before dawn.

As you to me, we cast the gift of relevance,
Gathering light, always (we hope), the loving eye.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On November 29, 2016 @ 9:32 am

The word: Frenetic

Summoning Peace

The unhurried cellist dwells on a cresc
-endo, bow lying almost still, long
On the quivering string: we hold our breath
One breath in a thousand beating chests.

Between me and the hospital bed where you
Toss, wanting but not wanting your release,
Cars kettle like rising hawks in the gyres,
The frenetic gyres of parking garages. Hear me:

The brown fisherman’s still line stands
Upright in unmoved waters. Look across:
A horde of great white egrets in dark trees,
Flightless till the pearls of dawn fall, waits.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On November 13, 2016 @ 8:17 pm

The word: Shame

Let Wonder

Let wonder rhyme
With shame and the eye
Turn outward, forget it
Self and rhyme with awe:
Try to know what
Has no center (not me)
Anyway), fame or infame.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On November 2, 2016 @ 6:59 am

The word: Space

Emend my last line to read: “To learn younger trees by heart.”

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On October 25, 2016 @ 9:54 pm


Rot in the white birch
Brings it down like an aging
Memory, clearing space
For awakenings of green
On the forest floor
Drenched now with new
Light, teeming with the urge
To learn younger trees.

» Posted By paul woodruff On October 25, 2016 @ 1:55 pm

The word: Starlight

Was Starlight Enough?

The blanket of darkness,
Before it bleeds out of the sky
At dawn, should be safe
For every living thing.

The stars point us the right
Way but do not show us
Predators our Prey.
Unless we amplify
Star power.
Was starlight enough
To know that the blurred figures
Lurching toward us in the eyepiece
Of our stolen starlight scope
Were to be killed?

The scope magnified every photon
In green till we thought we could see
What was what, in 1970
In Cambodia, where we were not
Supposed to be at all.

Who were these runners?
And who were we by starlight?
How much light must I have
(Or make) to see the truth
Of life or enmity or love?

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On October 15, 2016 @ 8:00 am

The word(s): Carpe Diem

Harvest Season

The harvest of days?
They are all taken, all,
In the harvest of hours.

Golden flowers fall
In still waters, float
Like reflections, drift

Like unmanned boats
Beneath sky-pointing brothers
Calling bees to pollinate.

None stay. Those others
Taken to a vase, will waste
Away. Few are truly seen

Or felt or smelled or tasted,
Carpe diem? No. Taste each long.
Let its tart sweetness
Linger on your tongue.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On October 8, 2016 @ 10:39 am

The word: Happiness

Where to Play

For R.R. McD.

A certain activity of the soul
Is happiness (the philosopher said),
So do not let it idle too long
In heavy traffic. Avoid red lights,
TV, political conversations.

My soul or yours tonight?
You’ve been busy in mine
Ever since the evening you
Sent us a loving text and died.
Now I wish to visit yours.

When do you have an opening
For active souls? I am free in ‘96
And would love to meet you there,
Or ‘99. Whenever. Happiness
(He said) is a certain activity of the soul.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On September 18, 2016 @ 9:20 am

The word: Legendary

The Nameless

We have too few myths
To go around. The rain
Lilies leap and bloom
After each storm, month
After month, indefatigable.
Look! They fill this triangle
Between 35th and 38th Streets,
And more, more. They are as many
And as nameless as the dead
(Those who knew their names
Are also dead, in Aleppo or Sudan.)
Hyacinth and Narcissus will not be
Forgotten. Legendary boys
Live on as flowers, but these
Nameless dead have no
Future as legend. No poet
Has the power to make them so.
The lilies, beyond count, rise
And fall, cast seeds, and go
Nameless into oblivion.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On August 22, 2016 @ 10:36 am

The word: Close


These I can open, as I wish, or close:
This window for a breeze or wind-drift rain
(The shutters in my little writing house,
Which has no glass), the valve of my garden hose
When plants droop thirsty or rise well-slaked,
The covers of the bed where we have lain,
The trap-jaws for an unsuspecting mouse,
The oven door for when my pie is baked

(Which will not feed this mouse today). My mind
When I hear things I’d rather not be told,
And when refugees are desperate, my soul.
Sometimes open, sometimes closed is kind.
Knowing how and when to love’s the art
Of closing well or opening my heart.

Readers on this site might like to look at Yehudi Amichai’s last great work, Open, Closed,Open.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On August 5, 2016 @ 3:04 pm

The word: Jug

Life Not Still

Round table top canted on taut
White canvas, pencil limns a bowl
Of fresh-picked loquats, some with leaves
Green beside pale yellow ovals
Nestling in pottery now blue.
To the right, further back, a large jug
With one handle and a lip
For pouring, the color of red earth,
Its mother. The wall behind is lavender.
A tint of cherries gives the lemonade
A pinkish cast, while the hand is black
That tries to insert a clean, transparent glass
And fill it with sweet tart lemonade
But cannot break the boundary of this art.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On August 1, 2016 @ 9:31 am

The word: Ephemeral

The Multiplication of Moons

If you know how to summon a wind
On the night of a full moon, you can
Put a moon on every wave. Beyond
Counting they dance across the waters.

So it is with the sun, if you wash
White sheets and pillowcases, set
Them capering on the line, each fold
To capture a sun, flash sun on sun.

Ephemera and epinuktia like these
Call for a welcoming eye, and unstint-
Ing soul. With what generosity of dreams
Are you pregnant now, unknowing?

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On July 25, 2016 @ 12:32 pm

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