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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Cut Your Vines

Cut Your Vines

With advice about time, cut your vines,
We explore the notion of time like a vine
A cutting grown, not seed, a grape vine

Producing eventually, naturally, a wine,
Or a juice, preserve, or translucent jelly:
That for which by us it was cultivated.

Cut and tied to a post, strung like wire
Along a roadway, extending back toward
A hill and over: row upon row of vines.

Turning the corner, driving by, extending
Back toward the horizon like narrow roads
Between telephone poles, telegraph lines.

Vines with nodules (those must be grapes)
Clustered, like events along a timeline
With flat green leaves flapping, keeping time

Or cupping the vine, a hand cupping wine,
Swirling it and savoring its "aged aroma:"
How like damp earth it smelled on the vine,

A cutting grown, not seed, a grape vine.
We explored the notion of time like a vine
With advice about time, cut your vines.

-Mark F. Herron
A poem recognizing time.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Have We Run Out Of Positions Yet?

Have We Run Out Of Positions Yet?

Have we run out of positions yet?
Have we every argument met?
Long ago, before language, then news
Nobody had any views
But those found in natural scenes
Not hashtags and Internet memes.
How I miss those days! For example,
I once held in my hand a plain apple;
It didn’t make calls nor record the falls
Of people in gardens or malls.
But it did have a sweet, juicy bite
Like Smith’s sassy grandmother might
On finding him gone, off to Washington
To fight against all that corruption.
“You go son!” She’d undoubtedly cry
Knowing still he’d face slander and lies
As he stood up to plead: “be honest or sweet,”
They’d send out such faux-outraged tweets.

Though we claim a high righteousness,
We then spew vitriolic ‘largess’
From positions promoting that mess
Of ‘victim-hood for self-success.’  
Sometimes I do miss, I confess,
Being unplugged, not filled with duress
Over race or age, over girls or boys,
And how no one these days may enjoy
Just being themselves, and well-met.
Have we run out of positions yet?

-Mark F. Herron
A ironic (and uneasy, complicated, critical) spin on a different poem causing such outrage and distress ("Have They Run Out Of Provinces Yet?" See:

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Shelter In Place

Shelter In Place

Perhaps when the moon comes up,
Or on a dark and cloudless night
When all the stars are visible
From this flat plain, we'll gain
That sense of perspective on how
Small we are, with our worries
And our concerns, and the great
Distance everything real is away.

But this situation has no boundary,
Like being underwater or trapped
Inside where we can hear others,
And everyone is trying to get out:
Without space, that distant horizon
Where the world opens up into view,
We remain lost, as rats in our maze
Of short turns knowing not what to do.

-Mark F. Herron
A work about our senses of desperation. It applies to many situations (including over-Internet use and how the virtual world can consume and come to seem more real or important than the real one).

Friday, November 25, 2016

Collecting Apples

Collecting Apples

It's apple season again and my neighbor’s
Lie fallen on the ground. “If they were grapes,”
My wife says, “they’d be withered on the vine.”
He lives two miles away but on clear days
I’m sure he can see our house too. Sometimes
I see his windows move, open, then shut.
They reflect the light in their swinging.

She sends the children out to gather some.
The apples, I mean, fallen on his ground.
They duck beneath the split rail fence, bags
In hand, run for some that fell this morning.
It’s obvious which are new, and as she’s been
Sending them around, it’s obvious too,
Not all his fallen apples reached that ground.
“He’ll notice this,” I tell her. “There aren’t
Enough apples on his ground, and the ground
Beneath our apple trees is bare - we’re
The only collectors of apples around here.”
“Nonsense,” she says. “He doesn’t want them.
Or why would he leave them lie, by and by?
It isn't proper there that they should lie."

“I think his wife and children planted those
Before they died," I say. "They were his pride
But he lost them; now no one's by his side.”
"But we are!" She so brightly replies.
"As we're the closest by, with his apples
We'll make him fresh pies! You, my love,
May deliver them to his door, a good neighbor."
And she insists, but I worry for our children,
As I'm not sure he's feeling so obliged.
I’ve seen him hunt along his property,
And peer or sight to shoot the deer before
They cross back into woods, over his line.
Sometimes the apples draw them, sometimes
The garden crops he grows near his home.
I think he waits till we're alone for
My wife's not been at home when he shot one,
As they turned and in their running fell,
Or tripped before the fence and tumbled down.

But in the afternoon she sends me. I dress
Brightly and walk along his fence the long
Two miles. He greets me at the gate without
A smile. "Good neighbor," I say, "my wife
Sends these in gratitude. Our children love
The apples as we hope you'll do, and she says:
It's in the shelter of others people live."
"But an old ox needs no shelter," he replies,
"And I have good fences to mark my property,"
As he points to them, then to my eyes.

-Mark F. Herron
Channeling Frost - Mending Wall, but more too.  Was thinking about proverbs about shelter.  Thought I'd see if I could likewise, construct a folksy yet (un)easy scene.  I think the dialogue is key (this one had a few more characters though - also not sure about the verb tense.  I think I got the punctuation right, and decided to add a few stanza breaks too).  Pentameter(ish).  Is a follow-up to another one about apples, and trespass small being neighborly.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Stopping By KWH With My Son On Thanksgiving

Stopping By KWH With My Son On Thanksgiving
    For Al Filreis, with much appreciation.

Whose mug is That I think I know,
Inside the UPenn's fairer home;
But Al won't see me stopping here
(On holidays, the place is closed).

In my arms, he thinks it queer
To circle round This shelter near
And dream-like and yet wide awake,
Through numerous windows peer.

He gives his hands a narrow shake,
Asks: Dad, have we made some mistake?
It's possible, I him bespeak,
But here we find all we may take

For everything's in poetry.
And as I cradle him to sleep
Of paradise I softly speak,
Of paradise I softly speak.

-Mark F. Herron
A small, ModPo referential tribute to Al Filreis and the gang at Kelly Writers House (KWH) at the University of Pennsylvania main campus. Happy Thanksgiving! 

See also: and  (and even WCW's Young Woman at a Window:

Monday, November 21, 2016

At The Beach

At The Beach

Like your new neighbors, each to each
What can you do but stare at the beach
With a cup of coffee in hand, or a beer
Regarding from your rental rocking chair
On weathered porch of a vacation home
That's yours for the week, how the waves
Crash, each after each, how the bending
Grass and thorns clump around trees,
How the scrub brush lines the trails
Over the bluffs leading to that beach;
And observe that more friends have died
Than have survived, or remain alive,
Like those waves crashing on the beach,
Rockers in their chairs, each to each.

-Mark F. Herron
An Outer Banks poem.  A touch of Robert Frost but launched from "Recognitions," by Stephen Dobyns at

Friday, November 18, 2016

I’ve Sneezed

I’ve Sneezed

I’ve sneezed the wind by the clothes she wears
I’ve sneezed the rain by her wet hair
I’ve sneezed the snow, his partner, ice
I’ve sneezed on madness as a device

I’ve sneezed the seasons, their demands
I’ve sneezed behavior with both hands
I’ve sneezed all laughter with great delight
I’ve sneezed in shadows, where they alight

I’ve sneezed with difficulty and ease
I’ve sneezed and snorted all I please

I’ve sneezed the sun, her eyes a-blaze
I’ve sneezed the moon in a foggy haze
I’ve sneezed the stars, each by its beam
I’ve sneezed this earth and all it seems

-Mark F. Herron
An artisanal poem.  I was thinking short poems are kind-of like sneezes (a pop sonnet).

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

One Morning At 5:15

One Morning At 5:15

One of the notions amusing me
Is the one of the infinite monkeys:
The idea that an infinite number
Of typewriters, time, and monkeys
    His works as collected are complete
    Yet on we go, typing other things

Would eventually reproduce
The entire works of Shakespeare.
It seems deep, but then I realize
At 5:15, it's already been done.
    His works as collected are complete
    Yet on we go, typing other things

Laughing at them, as an infinite
Monkey seeking to reproduce,
Recreate, it has given me perspective
On catalogs, how to compete.
    His works as collected are complete
    Yet on we go, typing other things

-Mark F. Herron
This was a pop sonnet but I transformed the bridge couplet into a lasting refrain.  See also, "Time And Time Again: The Strategy of Simultaneity..." by Timothy Henry at:

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Same Poem Twice

The Same Poem Twice

Wizened by the winter
Like the berries and hips
Our chapped, pursed lips

After the streams and rivers
Lakes have frozen over,
You stand looking over

Regarding the shag ice
On juniper, the white nothing
As peaceful as it is nice

And the snowfalls:
Each different each day,
Never the same twice

That cover and frame
The fields and stone walls,
Tools glazed with ice;

In fogs or in blankets
Arrived overnight,
They accomplish or drift

And there's no going back,
As you know you can't read
The same poem twice.

-Mark F. Herron
An artisanal poem.  See also:

Sunday, November 13, 2016


(A Part One)

Living by the hospital, everything's an emergency
And we begin to wish we were deaf as well as
Jaded: "Everyone's in a hurry to die," we grimly
Joke, waiting to cross the street again, covering
Our ears from the high pain of sirens, jumping
At the body-shaking horns. Even mowing the lawn
And raking leaves becomes an unpeaceful exercise
And a lesson in the futility of upkeep and order
As the ambulances come blaring through, or life-
Flight helicopters blast everything sideways
In their descents and landings, off-loads and
On-loads, take-offs for the level-1 trauma center
Or return-to-hanger. Hour after hour some days,
Ambulance after ambulance.  It gets to where
The kids won't go outside to play and we
Can't sleep at night for the people always
Hurting each other, getting sick, and dying.

-Mark F. Herron
A study in gravity and witness, circumstance, involvement. One side (beside) of the coin (and the quicker one to write). Part two will begin: "Dying in the hospital, nothing's an emergency...), treasure time, contain questions, and be an involved affirmation instead (and end with the word living).

After The Word

After The Word
(In The Pages It Begins)

The end of the world
begins in the pages
After that first word,
in your computer screen,
Or as you close yourself
into your automobile
And as you pass through
suburbs into the city.
None of this is real
but it's where we worry
And fret, talk and argue,
and don't ask each other
Questions seeking actual
answers, but spiral
Down into our centers
as everything falls apart
On us, even as no one
anywhere moves.

-Mark F. Herron
A convincing study of language and reality.  Note it doesn't ask any questions, captures gravity and entropy; isn't open to delight.

For Heaven's Sake

For Heaven's Sake

The planet goes on being round
Long after he is underground
Lo, the trumpets sound

And after she has filled a mound
As they both lie, underground
Lo, the trumpets sound

Eternal fire deserved, they've found
In differing opinions bound
Lo, the trumpets sound

Indifferent plot of common ground
The planet goes on being round
Lo, the trumpets sound
Lo, the trumpets sound

-Mark F. Herron
A bit of ironic response to the call of Wendy Cope's "Differences Of Opinion" (and all the bickering drama...). With undefined antecedents and couched in similar romantic form/delivery, but with refrain.

In Tangled Woods Like These

In Tangled Woods Like These

In tangled woods like these, find me
In tangled woods like these
Uncertain of the rustling leaves
In tangled woods like these
I in confusion, tear and heave
In tangled woods like these
My grasping hands for branches reach
In tangled woods like these
Rough trunks, some split, some cleaved
In tangled woods like these
In final, desperate measures seem
In tangled woods like these
To block my way, give no relief
In tangled woods like these
And all seems dark, shadowy
In tangled woods like these
Until in panic, lost utterly
In tangled woods like these
I collapse, forget to breathe
In tangled woods like these
Among the settled roots cease
To be, in tangled woods like these.

-Mark F. Herron
A study in persistence, repetition as insistence, and realities. A romantic, artisanal work. This poem shows both burden and insight of rhyme. While it can be predictable, it also creates lines (or allows opportunity for creation) and ideas one otherwise would never have though of.  Like the cleaved line, but especially: "Among the settled roots cease."

On Forms

 On Forms

Whenever any Form of government
becomes destructive of these ends, it is
the right of the people to alter or to abolish
it, and to institute new government.

All experience hath shewn that mankind
are more disposed to suffer, while evils
are sufferable than to right themselves
by abolishing the forms to which they are

accustomed. But when a long train of abuses
and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same
Object evinces a design to reduce them
under absolute despotism, it is their right,

it is their duty, to throw off such government,
and to provide new guards for their future security.

-Mark F. Herron
An interesting excerpt, part of the Declaration of Independence.   Was examining poetic forms and regulation (cast in the form of a sonnet - a few bits edited out), but it has greater implications or applicability as well, especially as it comes to safety/security (which is from Hobbes/Locke/Montesquieu - the morality and right to change one's allegiance to another monarch/leviathan - there is an obligation there not just "ownership").  See:

Friday, November 11, 2016

Unpopular Decision

Unpopular Decision

Rapping their gavels and calling for order,
Judges admonish witnesses and audience
Alike, instruct jurors to pay them no mind,
As the cat-calls and chaos, outrage, shake,
And criminals by their advocates, in front
Of pundits and television cameras, smile.
Unable to tear ourselves away, we cluster in
Tight groups and question ourselves and our
Neighbors, our neighborhoods, everyone and
Everything else! Some take to the streets
In chanting protest, some sit in cafés, bars,
Some post messages telling others what to do
While busy workers and working-class parents
Attend institutions, drop children at school.
How has it come to this? Has the rule of law
Divorced civil society; do the needs of the few
Outweigh the many; does democracy itself,
Its representations, not fail to satisfy all?

-Mark F. Herron
A timely piece: study of process and decisions, roles in society, representations, using question(s) to draw and convey.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Those Complete Disconnects

Those Complete Disconnects

These complete connects
Like a street corner
Where you meet your bus
And all its passengers
Or you stop at the cafe
Or you sit down at the bar
As it starts to rain
Or you meet your sweetheart
After all these years
In front of a new sign
About another show at the
Contemporary museum of art
Or you consider a movie
Or you stand on that street
Corner like a smoker
But using your cell phone
Or you cross the street
On your way somewhere else
Or you catch a ride?

-Mark F. Herron
Just a little urban work.  Considering sustainability, hope, and what does, the question.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

All This World’s A Stage

All This World’s A Stage

Here we stand unique, evolved players
Yet behold our intertwined ancestries:
Some act thoughtlessly, like brute beasts
Grazing or stripping the forests of leaves,
And some toil insect-like, as busy bees
Building homes or hives, storing honey;
Some run with the waters downstream,
While others swim up or in columns deep
Or as microbes, infest and form colonies;
There are those who prey opportunistically
Or hunt with malice and murderous glee,
And those who avoid conflict studiously;
Some partner in relation, symbiotically
And fulfill selflessly each others’ needs,
As others fly or soar alone, endlessly;
Some form tight family units or flee;
Some spawn fecund, others sparingly
(Their many young ignored or cared fully,
Raised differently in famine or in feast);
Some nest and others wander in herds,
Some burrow, some wallow, some wade;
Some crawl laboriously while others race
To new stations out in the open space,
And some never move - fixed in place;
Some seek community and warm embrace.
But what of us? Are we actors or players;
Do we treasure life, seek it to sustain,
Act with joy, develop love and grace,
Or destroy it all and betray with hate,
Owners, users, stewards of this place?

-Mark F. Herron.  An artisanal work and follow up from my previous poem (The Cast of Minor Characters) and small discussion of poets as minor characters (casting lines).  Also examination of what a question mark does (how/what/what is it's cast?). It has a bit of prologue and epilogue too.  See below, and it was in reference also to:  “All the world’s a stage…”:

I find Shakespeare to be an interesting case. His most famous parts tend to have a gravity or fate in the sense derived from them (a cause and effect, inevitable, terrible narrative (his characters convince themselves and us)). He does lists that present as argument, evidence (and self-evidence). In that instance, what is the difference between player and actor, for instance (which is more object vs. agent? Sovereign vs. subject, landlord vs. tenant, storm vs. driftwood? (Plus, sometimes there’s magic and the supernatural - whose place is that (the author's))? I find that interesting question.

He also does levity and unity (that seems more sustainable, but often less fulfilling, lighter fare). Yet in his tragedies, it’s amazing how things hold together even as they fall apart (circumstance and character). And we return to them deliciously, time and time again - is there sustainability there (if only in warning of what not to do)?

I find sustainability to be an interesting question or idea in writing (the next wave, perhaps?) - can one have sustainability in a work, or is it an idea or lesson that must be learned, that must be advised or conveyed?

(And that’s what questions are for! It’s what they do. Minor castings indeed. For instance…)

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Cast Of Minor Characters

The Cast Of Minor Characters

Like a great fish swimming
Through riffles in a split cold
River, upstream of a bridge:
In its western island channel,
The dry shore lined with minor
Characters casting their lines
Into the rush: the hero takes
A hook and runs with it until
The line snaps, or leaping, she
Wrests hook from her mouth
And splashes back into the dark
Hungry waters: the protagonist
Spits his flies back out, tangles
Lines, and finally, snagged
Along his side like Jesus, and
Landed by a licensed angler
Under the jealous gaze of
Her competitors, is released
Back into the narrative, where
He meets the hero’s spouse or
A lover, dances with her,
And seduces us readers too.

-Mark F. Herron
An artisanal work (and meta too), considering the cast (its many meanings) of minor characters, subjects and objects, the readers' and the poets' roles as well…   While not planned, compare/contrast that with this (early Yeats).  Do/don't they do the same thing(s)?:

Tuesday, November 1, 2016



“The White Ship sunk” played on Henry’s face
All hands lost, including Prince Adelin
Save one man - a butcher named Berold
Who to the rock, Quillebœuf, kept hold,
To the rock, Quillebœuf, that tore the hole
Through to the White Ship’s inner hold,
Let in the ocean, black and cold,
Let in the ocean, black and cold.

Berold of Rouen amidst groans and ruin
Listened to the ship and the drowning men
Almost all night with Geoffrey of Laigle
Who slipped beneath the waves ‘ere day
Off the rock,Quillebœuf, that tore the hole
Through to the White Ship’s inner hold,
Let in the ocean, black and cold,
Let in the ocean, black and cold.

William escaped in a small life boat
But back he turned, Matilda to save,
And as he approached the thrashing fray
All the drowning men grabbed hold,
Like the rock, Quillebœuf, that tore the hole
Through to the White Ship’s inner hold,
Let in the ocean, black and cold,
Let in the ocean, black and cold.

They dragged him under, desperate men
Though he cried of their duty to save him!
Drunk on the wine that he’d served them
They cared not, nor could they swim,
Near the rock, Quillebœuf, that tore the hole
Through to the White Ship’s inner hold,
Let in the ocean, black and cold,
Let in the ocean, black and cold.

As that boat sank beneath those waves,
So England sank into anarchy;
The fealty of nobility in Normandy
Cost Henry his legitimate monarchy
On the rock, Quillebœuf, that tore the hole
Through to the White Ship’s inner hold,
Let in the ocean, black and cold,
Let in the ocean, black and cold.

-Mark F. Herron
An artisanal poem and historical work.  See:

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Vanishing Field

The Vanishing Field
   For John Merriman and Jay Winter

Movie cameras used during the war
Captured scenes from a single perspective.
Projected back home on theater screens
Bound by walls, curtains, a proscenium arch,
Set before plush rows of seats (a few
Empty, but most occupied by families),
They played out their narrow fields of view
Even as they panned, surveyed the land.

In the camera's silent record of battle,
Its focus fixed on some vanishing point,
Soldiers ran or fired, mud or sand blew up,
Then extra troops rushed into the frame,
Dead set upon crossing those enemy lines
As all around them men were vaporized.

-Mark F. Herron