Comments Posted By Paul Woodruff

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The word: Sun


The pathway of the rising sun
On pale gold ripples
Leads directly to me—
A great blue heron
Feeds along the shore
In new-made shadows.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On July 17, 2018 @ 10:02 am

The word: Fishing

The Tender Hook: Memorial Day

Some flip in, some flip out,
The ship’s hold open to the sky:
The sweetest one has slipped away.

I set the hook for “clematis,”
But all I found was “wisteria”:
The subtle ones are out of reach.

And Greek, I needed logoi, logoi,
But German words kept popping in:
The necessary ones swim deep,

While toxic memories of war
Leap in my net, tangle and thrash:
The bad drive all the good away.

Fishing’s an art. I have not learned
To catch and hold the fins I want:
The prize fish always swim away.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On May 28, 2018 @ 10:57 am

The word: Connection

Earring Connection

Among her bags, she snores
On the green bench,
Bags at her feet,
Bags beside her, bags
In her shopping cart, torn.

Her bright earring catches light,
The glass diamonds make
Connection between sun and me
And the mirror glass behind her.
The dark window of the coop store

Reflects me, my bare arms’
Hard won muscle gone to wrinkle.
Pride, old beauty, exhaustion,
We share: the sun makes us
Sparkle, the human seen.


» Posted By Paul Woodruff On May 1, 2018 @ 9:14 pm

The word: Ephemeral

Lurking Arpeggio

An arpeggio lurks
At the bottom of page one:
Will my fingers fall
Correctly on the strings?
Will my bow draw down
Or up, when I have stumbled
To that . . . But it’s gone,
And I am off on scales
Again. Was it good?
I want to go back and see,
But repeats are not repeats.
Notes flow and go still,
Ephemeral as the first
Bloom you see in spring,
A blue plume,
Or the first thought
Of the morning.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On April 10, 2018 @ 9:06 pm

The word: Knitting


Swivel connect
Memories click
Drop catch
Knitting times
Long past
And present tense
Birth to birthday
Infant to parent
Student to teacher
Slow to fast
Fast to slow
Fabric stretches
Stiches tear
First row
Last row
Out of sight
Memories click
Swivel connect

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On February 6, 2018 @ 9:03 pm

The word: Contracts

Fretting about Trivia

You never said I could not install
Your toilet in the living room
Next to the coffee table—all
So convenient for light reading.

And as for the flag poles
Falling off the music stands
Because I had bored the holes
Too wide—that wasn’t in the contract.

And was that boat supposed to float
Upright? How was I to know?
You named her “Turtle.” Pay your bill!
You’re so uptight about details.

Tell me next time you plan to be fussy;
I can’t read a mind that’s clouded and stuffy.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On January 28, 2018 @ 1:45 pm

The word: Voyage

In Place of a Compass

“One dream, one dream! One dream!”
I shouted at our navigator.
“One dream to a voyage.”

He did not blink. “You must,”
He said, “You must change course.”
And back he went to the bow,

Where he lay to spread his mind
To catch transmissions
From the never-sleeping gods of the sea.

We wore ship, and now astern,
Was it my imagination? Or did I see
White flumes rising from a reef?

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On January 16, 2018 @ 4:09 pm

The word: What if

It Was Love that Swallowed

The man with his back to me
In the restaurant of the Chisos
Mountain Lodge looks rather like

Craig Arnold, my poet and friend
Who vanished at the soft lip
Of a volcano in northern Japan.

What if it was love that swallowed Craig
And not the volcano? And this is he,
Sitting beside his wife, who is Japanese?

Why not? And then I see why not:
Craig is a poet. He would not let his voice
Fall silent. I would have known.

A poet, while alive, makes poetry.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On January 1, 2018 @ 1:21 pm

The word: Antiquarian

Fragments from a Restless Mind

Burrowing in our barrel of rot
Ting compost, the tiny flies
Search out old eating habits.

Meanwhile my wandering thought
Recovers words to a hymn I had loved
Sixty years ago and then forgot.

And tidying a desk turns up
Old beginnings to unwritten poems,
Fragments from a restless mind.

Every step forward kicks debris
To the surface: the flies and I
Are, of necessity,
Antiquarians of me.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On December 25, 2017 @ 6:07 pm

The word: Crestfallen

Poetry Unwritten

Mandelstam had no desk or paper;
He wrote poems on his mind
While walking by the Neva.

This eagle now, full grown,
Perches in a dead pine on the small
Island, so young, so close, all brown.

One man hears every voice of discontent—
Stalin, at the center of his web—
Even a poem whispered to a friend.

The bird’s hooked beak, in the near
Distance, pokes against the pale
Blue of the mountain in the far

Distance. Nadezhda says it’s lie or die,
But Gulag life may be easier
Than keeping straight a crafty lie.

The young eagle’s head will turn white;
The old mountain wears away.
Its summit, crestfallen, looks benign,

But it has killed more men
Than the eagle will kill mice,
Inscribed more poems into mind

Than Mandelstam. Stalin
Is gone, but hope and fear
Cast his shadow long, unseen.

Suddenly the eagle flies,
The mountain darkens in sunset,
Poetry, on the horizon, glows.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On December 12, 2017 @ 10:14 am

The word: Peace

The Cost of Peace

The refugees from winter have landed.
They crowd into tall bald-cypress trees
By Zilker Park, or raft up at the mouth
Of Shoal Creek, or perch shoulder to shoulder
In smaller trees along the south shore.

How can there be food for so many?
Or elbow room? But astonishingly,
They are at peace with one another.

Great egrets perch with snowy egrets,
A solitary grebe swims with a raft of coots
Or lesser scaup. Gadwall also get along
With coots and grebe and bufflehead.

Cormorants, I concede, stay with their own kind.
But they are so numerous: why don’t they fight
Over a catch of fish? A human being knows
To fight for space, pecking order, sustenance.

But these poor flocking creatures—
What do they know of self-hood? Of number one?
Of the necessary war of all with all?
Of the flagrant cost of peace?

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On December 4, 2017 @ 8:04 am

The word: Age

Old Poet Does Not Believe*

How can I believe in years, or age, when the teenager
Driving that car is a grown-up and I, on my bike,
Am obviously a kid?
She hunches under her past like a backpacker shouldering a load,
While I’ve forgotten most of mine, will soon forget the rest.
Was I soaked in wisdom? Never fear: years in the sun
Have dried me out. I shrivel.
I am not guilty of flaunting a beauty I did not earn.
The young are innocent. So am I and so I must be young.
I know how much she sweats exams, college entrance,
Practices exam after exam, question after question:
Her whole future depends on what she does today, this hour, now!
But I’ve no goals left to sweat for, so every job is play.
And every morning starts my new life new—for a day.
* * *
I could believe this, I suppose, if I did not know my one exam
Ahead is one I will probably fail: I have no way to practice
The art of calm and gentle exit. So like her I practice entrances
And every morning starts my new life new—for a day.

*W.S. Merwin’s “No Believer” is a much deeper poem about age than this one.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On November 27, 2017 @ 9:56 pm

The word: Happiness

The Great C-Major
(Grand Canyon)

Gusts of wind along the precipice
Lurch the cello on my back.
(A long way down means a long way up.)

The deepest music ever made
Calls for a second cello—me.
(Almost a mile down now.)

To go upstream, climb onto the shoulder
Of the palisades and skirt side canyons.
(I fear the Adagio’s hard center.)

The other four are waiting on a ledge
By the meeting of waters, brown with blue.
(I must sit now, tune quickly.)

The first swelling chord,
My cue (Peaceful current meets
A savage tumble over rocks.)

We are trading melodies now,
Soft, then jagged rhythms
(How will I ever carry out?)

From the deep of deep canyons
There is no easy exit.
(Wind rattles the music on my stand.)

Schubert never heard his masterpiece;
His death was not in the program.
(Now the slow movement, Adagio—)

The second cello, sudden, intrusive as death,
Batters into the others’ breathless phrases.
(Choppers echo in the canyon.)

Is a rescue under way?
Someone in danger, already fallen?
(There is no key for this music.)

What are these notes? Again, again.
Magically, I play them.
(Inflatables breast the rapids)

Balance in eddies, then . . .
The sudden descent, recovery.
(A chord resolves; we are free.)

Now we are together, harmonies merge
In one vast happiness of sound,
Then stampede to a crash of loud chords.

Sudden silence.
Alone with each other and the echoes,
Still deep, still far below the rim.

But I am in love with violin two:
Her smile lifts me, her soft notes
Perfect mine. We rise together.

» Posted By Paul Woodruff On November 20, 2017 @ 8:35 pm

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