Sonnet to William Wilberforce, Esq.

Thy country, Wilberforce, with just disdain,
Hears thee, by cruel men and impious, call'd
Fanatic, for thy zeal to loose th' enthrall'd
From exile, public sale, and slav'ry's chain.
Friend of the poor, the wrong'd, the fetter-gall'd,
Fear not lest labour such as thine be vain!
Thou hast achiev'd a part; hast gain'd the ear
Of Britain's senate to thy glorious cause;
Hope smiles, joy springs, and tho' cold caution pause
And weave delay, the better hour is near,
That shall remunerate thy toils severe

from The Task, Book I: The Sofa

Thou know’ st my praise of nature most sincere,
And that my raptures are not conjur’ d up
To serve occasions of poetic pomp,
But genuine, and art partner of them all.
How oft upon yon eminence our pace
Has slacken’ d to a pause, and we have borne
The ruffling wind, scarce conscious that it blew,
While admiration, feeding at the eye,
And still unsated, dwelt upon the scene.
Thence with what pleasure have we just discern’ d
The distant plough slow-moving, and beside
His lab’ ring team, that swerv’ d not from the track,

from The Task, Book II: The Time-Piece

England, with all thy faults, I love thee still
My country! and while yet a nook is left
Where English minds and manners may be found,
Shall be constrain’ d to love thee. Though thy clime
Be fickle, and thy year, most part, deform’ d
With dripping rains, or wither’ d by a frost,
I would not yet exchange thy sullen skies
And fields without a flow’ r, for warmer France
With all her vines; nor for Ausonia’ s groves
Of golden fruitage and her myrtle bow’ rs.
To shake thy senate, and from heights sublime

Sean Penn Anti-Ode

Must Sean Penn always look like he’ s squeezing
the last drops out of a sponge and the sponge
is his face? Even the back of his head grimaces.
Just the pressure in his little finger alone
could kill a gorilla. Remember that kid
whose whole trick was forcing blood into his head
until he looked like the universe’ s own cherry bomb
so he’ d get the first whack at the piñata?
He’ s grown up to straighten us all out
about weapons of mass destruction
but whatever you do, don’ t ding his car door with yours.

Wake Me in South Galway

Wake me in South Galway, or better yet
In Clare. You'll know the pub I have in mind.
Improvise a hearse — one of those decrepit
Postal vans would suit me down to the ground —
A rust-addled Renault, Kelly green with a splash
Of Oscar Wilde yellow stirred in to clash
With the dazzling perfect meadows and limestone
On the coast road from Kinvara down toward Ballyvaughan.


All day they stream past, petitioners
for understanding, accolade, critique.
I read them all, a vast anthology
of jumbled genres on a common theme:
affliction. So I parse, interpret, scan.
I graph dysrhythmias, dysmetrias;
I eavesdrop on caesuras for unsaid
murmurs, gallops, rubs, snaps, flutters, clicks.
The perils of misreading harrow me —
beware the treacheries of metaphor! —
the elephant that squats upon a chest
is not a burning heart or waterbrash.

To you

How will it taste — the beer the gravedigger
will drink after bestowing your dirt coat?
What will he say — you keeled the outrigger
too south, & when the breakers rolled, no boats
heard your Mayday? & will he ask his friends
at the bar — if someone calls a Mayday
& there is no one at the other end
of any radio, did Kevin A.
González really exist? O second
person, what would you do without you? Where
would Kevin A. González hide? Our bond
is over. The red of the rockets’ glare